Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sinners and Saints, All Saints Day

As I prepare for my Nov. 1, 2015 sermon at Saint Andrew United Methodist Church I am called to preach this message: That we are all sinners and we are all saints, if we choose to be,

"For all have fallen short of the glory of God."  (Romans 2:23).

It seems a bit complicated, but not really.

Please refer to my story, my heartfelt poem, "Not A Saint" from Oct. 21, 2015, where I remorse in my own frailties.  In this poem, I relate a need for forgiveness and how blessed others are who have found freedom to walk in the Light of Christ.

As citizens of Saint Andrew United Methodist Church, who is this Saint we are named after?  What is his legacy and his background, that we should be the saints of Saint Andrew?

Saint Andrew from Loyola Press...
St. Andrew was a fisherman who lived in Galilee during the time of Jesus. He often followed John the Baptist and listened to his teachings. One day, John saw Jesus walking along the road. John said to his followers, "Behold the Lamb of God." He told his followers to go and talk to Jesus. He wanted them to know that Jesus was the One for whom they had been waiting. Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus and spent an afternoon with him. Early the next day Andrew found Simon Peter, his older brother, and told him, "We have found the Messiah."

Both men gave up their work as fishermen to become apostles of Jesus. Andrew was one of the first to be called. He seemed to take delight in bringing others to Jesus. Andrew was the one who told Jesus about the little boy who had the loaves of bread and the fish, the beginning of a meal that fed more than five thousand people. It was Andrew and Philip whom the Greeks approached when they wanted to see Jesus. These events indicate that Andrew was a man who was easy to approach, a man you could trust.

Like the other apostles, Andrew became a missionary. He preached about Jesus in the area around the Black Sea. Tradition tells us he preached in northern Greece, Turkey, and Scythia (now the southern part of Russia).

Andrew died as a martyr. Tradition says that in Patras in Greece he was tied to a cross shaped like the letter X. Ever since then, a cross in the shape of an X has been called St. Andrew's cross.

The name "Andrew" is a Greek name meaning "courageous" or "manly." St. Andrew lived up to his name.

It's my desire to follow the example of Andrew and "be a helper" to Jesus who is easy to approach, is able to relate with the common person in love and compassion and let them know by deed and example that indeed we have found the Messiah!

Friday, May 27, 2016

My Woes of Visiting A Doctor (a rant)

Why do I have such a hard time going to the doctor?

The irrational side of me seriously considers there to be health care conspiracy. The medical industry wants us to spend money any way possible. If we're ailing, they want us to visit doctors and clinics as much as possible, and if we're well they want us to confirm that on an irrational regular basis one co-pay at a time.

In my experience, when I finally get to the doctor the staff treat me like its a privilege to see them, and even if I have an appointment for a simple consultation I have to wait for hours. Below is the poem I wrote while waiting after I counted the flooring boards and ceiling tiles, rearranged the gloves in their cases to be in order by size, estimated the number of tongue depressors and Q-Tips in the jars and see how bright the ear light was in illuminating my little cubicle of a room. Even the broken TV in the room seemed to mock me whispering, "You can't watch me even if you wanted to, so I'll sit up here on the shelf to remind you how boring this experience is."

My Doctors Visit

I sit in a doctors room for hours at a time.
Nil to see or hear, except my teeth grind.
The nurses they greet,
All the patients so sweet.
All the while I'm losing my mind.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I've Got Friends in Low Places

As I was leaving my post the other night, an inmate yelled through the window, "Drive safe Mr. Koerner, see you Wednesday!"  I replied, "Ok, thank you."  Normally that would be a nice farewell, but the fact the inmate knew my schedule without me telling anyone bothered me a bit.

Most of my readers know I work in Corrections.  I am a Correctional Officer for the state of Florida, and formerly a ReEntry/Transition Specialist and prison educator.  My goal is to become a Chaplain one day.

It's a hard job that pushes me to my physical and emotional limits.  I have dreams about it at night and some weeks I get little done other than work.  At the prison I have twelve hour days, 60 hours one week, 24 hours the next, then I do it again.

The reason I do it is because God told me to, plain and simple.  In the prison dormitory I supervise about 130 men.  Their crimes range from everything imaginable, including multiple DUI's, sex offenses, fraud, drug crimes and murder.  Some will be released this year, some never.

When I was a Youth Development Agent for the 4-H program, every summer I taught summer camp for children of incarcerated parents.  I could see the developmental wounds their upbringing had caused and decided something had to be done.  Yes it's good to help the kids, but more importantly I told myself, "What we need to do is get these parents out of prison and have them raise their kids in a home of love and positive virtues." Then I ask, "Lord, how can I help with this?" Then an opening appeared on the Dept. of Corrections website.

97% of Florida inmates will be released from prison.  When they do, will they take care of their families or recidivate (commit another crime)? Is there anything I can do to make a difference? I cannot answer this question because only time will tell. But what I do at work is treat the inmates like human beings who deserve respect and hold them to the rules, policies and procedures.  I do not give special privileges to some or degrade any. I hold my dormitory inmates to a high standard and expect their best (but prepare for the worst).

My experience thus far has been a positive one.  I don't know if I'll remain in security for a long time, but working with these men in some capacity is something I feel the need to continue. My inmates are responding to respect with respect back to me, and I appreciate it. It is creating a positive environment that is more safe than it used to be.

It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones. - Nelson Mandela


Thursday, May 19, 2016

I'm A Lucky Man

I was nursing my wounds the other day, feeling sorry for myself until I met Willie.  Willie and I have the same work schedule.  We leave the house at 4:45 in the morning, report at 5:30, work a twelve hour day until 6 PM, get home around 7 and in bed by 9.  Then we do it again the next day.  The difference is Willie does it on a bicycle and I drive a truck.

I first met Willie when I nearly hit him on his bike early one morning.  Then I would continue to see him every morning and every afternoon.  Finally while looking for him I saw him, and stopped to introduced myself and we became friends.

God bless Willie and all the other folks working hard to make ends meet for their families.  My story reminded me of my favorite Montgomery Gentry song, with partial lyrics below, Lucky Man.  I am so blessed.  I hope my readers will realize all the blessings in their lives and reach out to others who may not be as fortunate.

"Lucky Man" is a song written by David Lee and Dave Turnbull, and recorded by American country music duo Montgomery Gentry that reached the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and stayed there for two weeks. It was released in January 2007 as the second single from their album Some People Change.

"Lucky Man"
See this home video on YouTube by Matt Alves

I have days where I hate my job
This little town and the whole world too
Last Sunday when the Bengals lost
Lord it put me in a bad mood

I have moments when I curse the rain
Then complain when the sun's too hot
I look around at what everyone has
And I forget about all I've got

But I know I'm a lucky man
God's given me a pretty fair hand
Got a house and a piece of land
A few dollars in a coffee can
My old trucks still running good
My ticker's ticking like they say it should
I got supper in the oven, a good woman's loving
And one more day to be my little kid's dad
Lord, knows I'm a lucky man

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Kind Word is Like a Sip of Water

Before I became a Correctional Officer (CO) and was in the process of considering the position, I received some wise advice from a CO Sergeant of 25 years whom I highly respected, and is now retired. She said to me, Mr. Koerner just remember, your job is about care, custody and control. Be firm, fair and consistent and tell the inmates don't mistake my kindness for weakness. As new CO again, I perform my job by those words, and I've not regretted it.  Kindness de-escalates tension which creates a safer environment. Conversely, there are times when a situation is serious and procedures need to be followed to the letter and kindness doesn't seem so kind anymore.

On my to work a few days ago, these words of clarity came to me, "A kind word is like a sip of water to dry lips. Give someone a drink." So I did. When an inmate passed by me I'd say "good morning" or
"How's it going?"I even admonished some with that new quote, and told them to pass it along. They said they would.

Then at the end of the day on my way home I got to listen to the NPR Orlando show Friends Talking Faith by the Three Wise Guys, and heard this:

The Dalai Lama once said, "My religion is kindness." Perhaps in this often angry, fearful and rancorous political climate in our nation, it’s time for people of faith to stand and be counted on the side of kindness. For it’s only through the spirit of kindness that we’ll be able to fashion a society, a culture and a nation fit to live in. – Reverend Bryan G. Fulwider

From Friends Talking Faith, May 3, 2016 – Faith & Politics: Difference between Separation and Distinction. 

Show someone kindness today, and give thanks to God for kindness received.