Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No More "White Cane"!

The air was still crisp as I walked across the 9th fairway on my way over to the fitness center. I'd gotten into the habit of trying to swim and take a jacuzzi and sauna nearly every day. Suddenly, my mind was filled with a thought that I couldn't shake. I'm not certain where it came from, but it wasn't just stopping by for a second. It wanted an answer. "Of all the kids in the family, you are NOT the one that anyone would have figured would end up in jail!"

Could it be true? I had to think about it. Certainly, I had never been a trouble maker. Now my little brother....he could have ended up in prison! In fact, part of his high school years were spent in a private school because of a bad choice he made. The judge told my folks it was either a private school, or he could go to the State Reform School for Boys. I think it was probably an easy decision. (At least I hope it was.) But he was kind of a renegade growing up. He loved fast cars and getting a little wild and crazy at times. He would have been a candidate for the "Steel Bar Motel" before me.

And my sister. Well, I will probably never know all of her story. But, she did do a few things in college that they put people in jail for. Some "recreational use" of some certain substances that society frowns on. I know that people can go to jail for that kind of stuff. And I have to admit, I never did venture into those kind of activities. Surely she could have found herself a "guest of the county" instead of me...couldn't she?

My older brother...well he's a different story. Almost everyone would tell you that he certainly would not be a candidate for an orange jumpsuit. But, well, I know a little bit more about his life than most people. And, he made a few decisions along the way that officials might frown on. Decisions that put some people behind bars.

As I walked and thought about this issue, at first I was totally convinced that if the news media were asking all of my friends or the people I grew up with, they would all be shocked that I would ever do anything to send me to "Club Fed." I'm sure they would say things like, "he was always such a good kid. I don't think he ever got in trouble at school." Or, "Mark! The Mark I knew was so squeaky clean...they must have the wrong guy!" Even as I looked at my life, I was doing a pretty good job of convincing myself that I was just never "that bad"...certainly not prison material.

It's funny how Satan does such a good job of blinding us...at at least me. I actually believed the lies I was telling myself. I didn't see my life for what it really was. It was filled with sin and bad choices from my early childhood. A black-out drunk by the time I graduated from high school. Easily an opportunity for multiple DWI's and a couple of leaving the scene could have been on my record. I was caught shoplifting when I was about 10 years old...but no one ever knew. Countless sexual relationships before marriage...and some with married women. I certainly did NOT have a life that was squeaky clean. But in my mind...I just didn't see it.

But on that spring day, walking toward the fitness center, God allowed me to have a Damascus Road experience. It wasn't filled with a bright, blinding light like Paul had, but for the first time in my life, the scales fell from my eyes. Satan couldn't keep the reality of my life hidden from me any longer. God was allowing me to see my life for what it really was...allowing me to see ME for who I really was. And the picture just wasn't very pretty.

Before I went to prison, I wasn't really a fan of the song "Amazing Grace." It was just too familiar...it seemed like it was the "one" church song that was always played. I had never really bothered to pay attention to the words, but I had the melody line down. While I was in prison, I heard and sang that song a lot. I even learned the story behind the song, and the man who wrote it. I learned what God's Grace is really all about! Every time I sing the last line of the first verse, my walk that morning comes to mind. "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see" That is the story of my life for the past four years. God had given me the gift of sight...not natural sight, but spiritual sight. And because I have that gift, I've been allowed to see the sin of my life...an opportunity to turn and run in the opposite direction of the choices that I made for years. I no longer need a "white cane" because of my blindness...it has been substituted by the cross of Christ and my vision has been restored!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


The snow is gone and the bright colors of early summer surround me each day as I walk near our condo. I see the occasional golfer, but I tend to keep my head down...not really wanting to be seen or recognized. Some days, the guilt just feels too heavy to bear and it seems I can barely place one foot in front of the next.

God's majestic creation greets me at each turn. The spring wildflowers on the hill. The deer and her fawn that jumped from the bushes as I walked past this morning. The greens on the golf course seem vibrant and so neatly manicured. So unlike my life! My world these days seems so uncertain...so fragmented.

Paula and I have decided to divorce and the pain is like my guilt...unbearable! I can't imagine my life without her. I can't imagine life at all right now! Everything is such a blur. Most mornings I don't recognize the image in the mirror as I stand in front of the sink. "Who is that man?" "Why is he so...what-unhappy? angry? lost?" Lost is probably the right word. All of my life it seems that I have had a plan. I've known where I was going...what came next. So much has changed.

I find myself getting angry...but at who? I can only blame myself, but I want to share this blame with someone. Surely someone could have done something! Surely Pastor John should have done a better job of checking up on me-holding me accountable. Even Geoff said he would be an accountability partner, but he never once called to make sure I wasn't going on-line and chatting again. Can I blame him? Or pastor? It just doesn't seem fair today that I'm in this on my own. But as I reflect, that's what my actions were saying I wanted...to be alone so I could spend as much time as I wanted on-line, talking to my "friends". My "friends". The stupid irony of all of this is that they don't exist. It's not like I had an affair with a real person. If that had been the case, I would have someone to go comiserate with. But my "friends"...my "affair" was with someone who never existed to begin with. The reality hits me like Mac truck! Everything wasted! My career! My marriage! My possessions! My reputation! All for something that never existed to begin with...like a mirage.

I feel so disjointed. I don't seem to fit anyplace. It feels like my anchor rope has been cut and I'm adrift. I know there are serious rapids ahead, but I don't know how long it will take to get there. Bad news! I've never gone over rapids before, but I think it might be dangerous. I just feel so lost!