Survival Challenge

Survival Challenge

In a 30 day survival challenge, a person is totally living off the land; eating what can be caught and prepared, facing the weather, away from family and normal everyday routines.  An importance is placed on knowing the main dangers of the setting for the encounter. These expeditions take place in a variety of settings including desert, wilderness, and arctic environments and in a variety of different countries, with a varying number of participants, yet all with the common goal of surmounting the natural world to survive. During this time, things are experienced that may be attempted to be related to loved ones, but they will never totally comprehend, no matter how hard they try.

When out in the elements, a shelter is constructed from available materials.  In this survival situation, your whole focus becomes on your next meal, water, fire, and shelter.  There are a limited number of tools and items that can be taken by the participants in a survival challenge. You are not really going anywhere or making any progress, and at the end, your only accomplishment is that you survived.  

Energy has been totally spent thinking, observing, and planning in these surroundings, where you are always trying new food items and devising creative plans to catch things. At the end of the experience where you’ve had constant exposure to the elements and been completely terrified at times, you are totally exhausted, and can only go home and crash, finding that family does not understand what was experienced or the full impact on the physical body. These demanding challenges test mental, physical, and spiritual endurance and resources, with a successful outcome putting us in a position of self-reliance, which feeds pride.

Numerous parallels can be drawn to corrections work, where our survival challenge takes place in a variety of settings, such as Bureau of Prisons, County Jail, or a State Facility, each location having its own unique set of daily dangers.  Here we are trying to find or build our own shelter, having left the security of our home. Every day presents a degree of difficulty in corrections work, however, not every day is a hard day during a survival challenge. Sometimes your concerns are more minimal if you have enough food and water to make it through the day because of an abundance you got the day before.  Incidentally, you may have to eat the same thing every day for a long time without any variety. In corrections, you may need to draw strength from the same set of verses for a long time. You’d like to have something different or may want things to change, but it’s profitable to return to the fundamentals, finding that some of the same passages from the Word of God are able to sustain you, like they have so many times before.  

In a survival situation, things that a person would not normally eat begin to taste good.  In order to discern, you have to be eating all the time. Job 6:30 “Is there iniquity in my tongue? Cannot my taste discern perverse things?”  We are to “abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good”(Romans 12:9); requiring us to feast on the Word of God daily to be able to discern the difference.  If we don’t, we may find ourselves feeding on destruction, thinking it’s good.

Seasons in corrections work can feel like a survival situation; we get in the mode of going from shift to shift, day to day, mandatory overtime to mandatory overtime.  As months role on, and we are routinely short-staffed, vulnerability mounts as extra duties pile on and additional demands draw our focus. Our professional tools are limited by out departments, but the Bible has an unlimited amount of tools in it that we can utilize in our personal survival challenge of corrections work.

May we remember, there is more to life than just surviving; even though our loved ones cannot fully understand, they need us to do more than just make it.  In corrections, the survival challenge is everyday.

Keeping Rank

Keeping Rank

Reading I Chronicles 12:23-38, the phrases “ready armed to the war,” “mighty men of valour,” and “such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war, fifty thousand, which could keep rank; they were not of double heart,” stood out to me.  The idea of “keeping rank” particularly arrested my attention as I was impressed that these men had a “mind to war”; in other words, they had a “heart to fight.”

A heart to fight is necessary to “keep rank” while working in corrections, and it’s important that each one of us have such a heart as we stand beside each other.  You can be taught how to fight, becoming familiar with all the moves, but if you don’t have the heart to fight you will not put them into action, endangering yourself and others. Circumstances arise where we have to engage physically, and they are increasing more and more.  In our position, we do well to be prepared to fight all the time. Yet more than this, we must be prepared to fight a host of different temptations, like anger, anxiety and depression, that attack us at times when we least expect it.

Those dreadful threatening emotional encounters are real battles which are just as demanding and even sometimes more draining and harder to recover from than a physical encounter.  Fighting these formidable foes and winning will be a spiritual battle that begins with a realization of who God is and what He has done for us. He is real. Christ was tempted in every manner.  He was wounded for our transgressions. He suffered for us. He will never leave us. These thoughts help us be armed and ready for internal war.

God can give you a heart to fight.  Understand, His gifts and callings are without  repentance. The weariness of the battle, bitterness, or apathy may have tempted you to lay it down temporarily. Psalm 119: 28 “My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.”  Ask God for renewal and strength to reclaim your heart to fight.

Have you ever been in the position where you handled a situation and you executed some moves you weren’t really trained in by a human hand? You’d never done anything like that before, but found that right there, in the midst of the battle, “God taught your hands to war and fingers to fight.” During the aftermath, there is a sense of utter amazement.  It may have been in a time where a situation was prevented from escalating or was de-escalated, yet you can’t even comprehend how or why the words that were spoken produced the desired effect.

God teaches us how to fight the battles we take home with us such as depression, anger, and despair that have the potential to leave the greatest scars. A heart to fight is necessary to defeat the intrusive thoughts, nightmares, unexpected triggers, degrading experiences, and horrific images. There are places that incidents, may take us emotionally, into battles we never fought before, but God is there to teach us then also how to surmount those unpredictable oppressive opponents.

As times continue to change in corrections work, our heart to fight must be enlarged to encompass the increased battles that are brought on by the new nature of corrections we face today.  Other officers are counting on you to have a heart to fight, and so are your families back home.

 

Integrity

Integrity is where it all starts and encompasses every realm of our lives.  The dictionary defines integrity as “entire, the unimpaired state, particularly of the mind; completeness; moral soundness, purity, incorruptness, uprightness; honest, and whole.” This is quite a goal in corrections work.

Valuables are often locked up securely or kept in a secret place.  One of the most priceless qualities we can have is integrity, yet it is so easy to lose and the least guarded.  Maintaining integrity can be easier when there are no temptations around or when you are surrounded by others who have integrity, but it’s often hard to maintain integrity working in the hostile environment of corrections, whether it’s integrity of the body or the mind.  The devil knows how to work on our integrity with the particular struggles that we have as individuals in relation to the multiple facets of our duty. Ever have a sound, noise, or a voice that’s irritating? You can handle it for a while, then you have got to leave. What if you can’t leave? Your integrity will need to be maintained on purpose or destruction is inevitable.  Protect this valuable possession.

Samuel Richardson said, “Calamity is the test of integrity.” The body will lose some integrity due to age and other corrections environmental stressors. Our mind can lose integrity by intemperance and by the constant attack from the harassing load and constant weight of corrections work. Even so, there are practical things we can do to combat those losses.  Most importantly, spiritual integrity can increase continually: the older you grow in the Lord, growing and maturing as a Christian, the more integrity is gained. This is possible because of Jesus Christ. He is complete and entire. We are to have the unimpaired mind of Christ; Philippians 2:5 “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  This encompasses the life of integrity that God calls us to live, including treating those in our custody right, using whatever level of the force wheel is necessary.

A Corrections Christmas Day

A Corrections Christmas Day

The family gathers round

They are missing you most

But they understand your duty

And the importance of your post

 

Thank you for your faithfulness

At your station this Christmas Day

I want to express my gratefulness

But it’s more than mere words can say

 

There is no one to pass the turkey

Or ring the Christmas bell

As you fulfill your vital mission

Checking cell by cell

 

It is still Christmas Day

Yet there are no halls decked with holly

And the scenery behind these walls

Is anything but jolly

 

No shared holiday traditions here

Of tinsel strewn upon a tree

And mistletoe under which to kiss

Or praying child on bended knee

 

Here in this concrete city

There are familiar things today

Of miserable choices and clanging steal

From which you’d like to turn away

 

One has responded to the call

Hope arises in my mind

He has brought a gift

A precious treasure to find

 

From Bethlehem’s manger to Calvary’s Hill

All the way to this jungle of concrete and steal

He has brought hope and peace for you

Strength and comfort that are real

 

The manger of Bethlehem was lonely and lowly

For our dear Saviour’s birth

May you fully comprehend

The excellence of His worth

 

I am thankful for you corrections officer

And for this gift of salvation today

So you can have the best and what matters most

This blessed Christmas Day!

 

In the Hands of the Master

Tactical Triumph

Escape is not retreat. Rather, escape is a tactical move that allows you to get back into the fight. The reason you work to escape is so you can come back to fight again; it enables you to get repositioned for engaging.

As corrections officers, we have temptations that are somewhat universal for our profession, they are common, but look what God promises here with the things we face: “a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it.” I Corinthians 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

There are tactical moves we have learned in training that we use to get out of holds, to free ourselves from the grasp of one who has seized us.   We practice many different scenarios, but in our profession, we cannot predict every scenario that we will engage in physically. However, God has provided an escape for every temptation we will ever engage in spiritually, including emotional disturbances from our duty that grip us.  

What “temptation” are you facing today?  The temptation may be anger, fatigue, financial, despondency, callousness, depression, emotional isolation, paranoia, relationships, or countless others; whatever it is, God has provided so we will be able to “escape.” This provision allows us to “be able to bear it” as we fulfill this position He has ordained for us on the line that protects society.  This escape cannot be made on our own; we need Him.

Corrections work tends to entice our flesh to find a way to escape from what we have seen, felt, heard, and smelled that plays over in our mind and has so permeated our being yet we cannot find a way to express to another person, finding relief.  There are different things each of us are drawn to try to use out of desperation, convenience, or familiarity, and although some of those things may bring a temporary numbing, anything other than God’s methods and moves is of no true remedy. Let’s practice His tactical moves.

 

Positioned for Growth in the Corrections Environment

Our service in corrections is carried out in a harsh environment.  As an officer, so much of our time is spent in this place of isolation, where we are often short-staffed, and without the encouragement of someone one coming to minister to us.  Consider with me that we can grow even here in this place, totally dependent on God, just as a lily.  Matthew 6:28b “…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.”

Lilies grow in some harsh environments, with no one attending to them.  No one is there weeding around them, picking the bugs off, or cultivating them.  Luke 12:27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

The word arrayed here and in Revelation 7:9-14 indicates “beauty.” “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes…. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they?  And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” We don’t have to have people around us to help us grow; many martyrs died alone, continuing to grow, even in the pain of death.  A person doesn’t carry on to death in strength unless they are growing.  Even in death, they got closer to the Lord; we can also as corrections officers.

Lilies can be found growing in a rocky area, without much dirt.  It’s amazing how hard it is to uproot them, growing and holding tight where you wouldn’t think.  It wasn’t ideal conditions, but they are still growing and strong because nutrients were there. If we are going to grow while fulfilling our duties in the corrections environment, we will need to get our roots down deep in the Word of God to have the supply of necessary nutrients.

“How in the world?” is an old saying that I’ve heard for a long time.  How in the world do they grow? We have considered the lilies, how they grow: they toil not, they spin not.  Now let’s consider ourselves:  Even though it is a rough, unnatural, and seemingly forsaken place, we know God has ordained our position in this service of corrections (Romans 13).  God provides everything we need to grow in this world of corrections.  We are not of the world, but we are in it right now.  I Peter 2:2: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” There are times when growth is slow, but we can grow where God has planted us, right here in midst of serving in corrections, even though there are extreme difficulties, pressures, and circumstances.

Why do we grow anything?  Certainly, it is to produce mature plants for our pleasure and benefit.  God wants us to grow for His pleasure and our benefit.

It pleases God when we grow and we get the benefits!  What are some of the benefits of growth?

  •   Peace of mind
  •   Comfort
  •   Wisdom
  •   Discernment
  •   Freedom from the world
  •   Freedom from things that addict us

As we grow, God may use us to help a fellow officer be encouraged and strengthened in the hard and rocky soil, or perhaps we could help one get the bugs picked off his leaves, so he can thrive. Proverbs 27:17Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” We can benefit from each other.  Even as we are desiring to grow and doing the things needed for growth to take place, we may find ourselves getting angry at work, losing it, and blowing up.  You may sometimes tell yourself as I have, “I don’t need to blow up, I need to grow up.” II Peter 3:18: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”

As the walls of our work surround us, may we be reminded of the lilies, growing even in the most unusual places, and find our source of nutrients and support in the Word of God.

 

Headed for the Brow of the City of Corrections

Photo from dc.florida.us

Headed for the Brow of the City of Corrections

As we walk and work in the city of corrections, I see some parallels for application from Luke 4:16-30 in which Jesus was led to the brow of the city.  It is a curiosity to me, but He allowed them to lead Him a high point of the city. The Bible doesn’t say how they led Him, maybe by the arm, but He willingly walked on His own.  The full intent of those leading Him was to cast Him head long; then the Bible says, “but he passing through the midst of them went his way.”

What leads you to the brow of the city?

  • Some are led by pain, grief, and sorrow.   Isaiah 53:4 “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and    carried our sorrows”
  • Some are led by anger.  Proverbs 25:28 “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city  that is broken down, and without walls.”
  • Some are led by others. Galatians 5:7 “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye      should not obey the truth?
  • Some are led by failure.  Proverbs 24:16a  “A just man falleth seven times and riseth up again
  • Some are led by fear.  Isaiah 41:10 “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:  I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee: yea; I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

There are all kinds of ways to be led to the brow, especially in the corrections environment. By God’s grace and mercy, we can pass through the midst and go His way.  It is a serious matter, we cannot afford to be cast headlong.

Everything that He did was for us and to teach us.  It has taught me that no matter how far someone or something has taken us or led us off our path, we can turn and go His way, if we have trusted Christ. Even if we allow ourselves to be taken, as He allowed himself to be taken, we can still turn, pass through the midst, and go His way, the way of the cross.