If someone asked you to get in your car and just to start driving on the highway and didn’t give you a destination, saying “Lets just drive and see if we can find something exciting,” would you waste the gas and wear and tear on your car on a frivolous exploit like that? I know it sounds like a dumb question, but statistically this is how the majority of society lives their lives. Statistics state that only 3% of society sets specific goals. The majority just live their lives day-by- day, paycheck-to-paycheck.
The majority of society lives reactive, not proactive lives. They respond to things as they come, instead of before they come. They let circumstances and their emotions dictate and shape their lives, instead of preparing and planning their lives to their God given heart’s desires. Thus, they make their lives stressful,unstable and unfulfilled.
Imagine working for an employer who did not appreciate or reward anyone for doing an outstanding job. The employees’ moral would be low. Many of the employees would be moody, calling in sick, and some would quit, because of the lack of incentive to work. Unfortunately, many individuals treat themselves identical to the example above. They work, but have little or no incentives for their life. Therefore, their life becomes unmotivated, boring, and unhappy. From time to time, they experience immediate gratification that they indulge in, but soon after they are left with an insatiable emptiness.
This is like playing soccer without scoring a goal or playing golf without a hole. The game would become monotonous and unfulfilled. Many people go through life on a day-to-day basis, not having any idea where they’re going or where they want to go in life. What a scary, frustrating, and depressing way to live, especially when we were given the God-given gift to plan and live our lives according to the desires He has placed in our hearts (or wants to place in hearts during our prayer time with Him). God has given us all talents and gifts that He has custom designed to fulfill our every desire and to meet His purpose, at the same time giving us great peace, fulfillment and joy in our lives.
Sadly, many individuals pass up this right for various reasons, such as low self-esteem, fear of failure or laziness. Many have aborted their dreams because what someone told them: “You’re not smart enough to go to college”, “They don’t hire your race in that industry”, “You’re too short”, “No one is going to give you a job; you have a criminal record.”
As a result, they end up living a life someone else has shaped for them, because they have accepted someone else’s belief about themselves. This is the lie that so many individuals live with. This is where the bad attitudes, depression and stress come from. Individuals, whom live their lives with this mentality day by day, can’t handle stress well when something goes wrong, because their lives appear so frustrating, hopeless and meaningless already.
It is important when traveling through your life journey to have the right road map. You can only get that through prayer, reading and studying God’s Word. However, you must expect problems and difficulties. God warns us in His Word to prepared for troubles and difficulties and commands us not to give up. God uses the trials and tribulations in our lives, while traveling on His path, to develop our character and to strengthen us (James 1: 2-5).
Greatness takes time; successful people aren’t born overnight. They are developed over time, after being tested and tried through trials and tribulations. I remember getting frustrated as I landscaped my yard one day, my wise old neighbor would often encourage me, by saying, “Ray, Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
A woman who is pregnant anticipates having much discomfort, sickness, and pain for a period of several months. She has weighed the pros and cons, and has assured herself that without a doubt, a precious baby is well worth the wait and the pain. It is human nature to gravitate to what is easy, pleasurable, and comfortable. Yet, the truth is, what is easy, comfortable, and pleasurable is not always good for us. Stuffing yourself with junk food, reclining back in a lazy boy, lighting up a cigarette and going to sleep, can be easy, comfortable, and pleasurable for some people, but I can guarantee that 5 out 5 doctors will tell you that it can be very detrimental to your health.
Others have set goals, but are too lazy to organize their goals in a detailed written plan. It sounds impressive when they tell others; however, they have taken no effort to research, study, and chart out how and when they will meet their objectives. It is like a man walking into a bank asking for a loan to start up a business, without having a business plan or a foreman telling his crew to build a skyscraper with just materials and no blueprint. This sounds illogical and foolish, yet it is how many people live their lives, never having a specific plan.
How do we get started in planning our lives? A good starting point is to pray. God says in the Holy Bible that if we delight ourselves in Him, he will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalms 37:4). He will place desires in our heart that glorify Him and bring us joy, purpose and blessings. I personally ask God daily to purge out of me anything in my heart and mind he does not want me to have. This way I can be sure that I am always in His will. I used to be scared to do this, thinking that by doing that, God would extract all the fun out of my life. I have learned that this is untrue, as a matter of fact, it’s just the opposite.
God tells us in the book of Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you” (Jeremiah 29:13).
God will give us the wisdom to be realistic when setting goals; otherwise we will end up frustrated and unhappy in our pursuit. If you have a laser focus of being a NBA basketball star and you’ve been cut by your high school team for the last three years, maybe you should focus on another career you would enjoy and are good at and plan to entertain your love of basketball by joining a city or church league. We have to be mature in our goal setting and that means to thoroughly identify and evaluate our God-given talents and desires. When selecting a goal, it should be exciting and rewarding. Don’t over-analyze your wishes, dreams, and desires, just write them down. Many people talk themselves out of their dreams by immediately building a case against them.
At the correctional institution where I counsel a multitude of youth with low self-esteem, I often start the topic of goal setting by asking the following question, “If someone came to your cell door and told you that they had approval to take you to work at a job in the free world, any job you wanted, but you would work for free, what job would you choose?”
The purpose of the question is to prompt the individual to start envisioning themselves in a career and environment that they would find exciting, stimulating,fun and fulfilling. Many of the individuals after asking this question still will say, “I don’t know” because many of them feel they are not smart enough, or unqualified. I then will follow up with the following questions: what magazines and books do you like to read? What types of television shows do you watch? What do you like to talk about? These questions are geared in a way to get the individual to start thinking about what things are interesting to them. Once you have zeroed in on your interests, now you have a foundational base to work from.
When an individual is placed in a career or lifestyle that is not interesting to them, you will find a bored, unhappy, and frustrated human being. With all the freedom we have in the United States, many enslave themselves in careers and lifestyles that they hate. The following are some common reasons:
Fear of failure
How does one get the confidence and motivation to start setting goals? First, there must be a sincere desire to change. To stimulate the desire to change, we must strategically place ourselves around people, places and things that will help to promote a positive change towards our goals.
When I decided to become a freelance photographer, I hung out with photographers, I read books about photography, and I studied other photographers’ work in publications and in galleries. Many aspects of my life evolved around photography. I internalized the goal I had set; the goal of becoming a professional photographer. I envisioned myself vividly, taking photos at celebrity, sporting and news events. As I continued to keep this vision, I was also acquiring knowledge in the field, which was adding confidence and faith to the pursuit of my goal. Every day I was feeding my goal with positive stimulants and self talk which in turn was giving me more and more momentum to accomplish my goal at a rapid rate. Within three years, I had won first place in two national photography contests and had obtained a job as a photojournalist for a local newspaper, which gave me press credentials for many professional sporting and celebrity events.
This dream started at a very young age, when my friends and I would catch the bus downtown and purchase posters of our favorite professional football and baseball players. We used to talk on the bus on the way to the shop, how cool it would be to be a photographer on the field, taking photos of our favorite athletes. That though gave birth to a desire that gave birth to a goal, which in turn with the proper nurturing gave birth to its reality. I grew up having a low self-esteem relating to education. I performed poorly in school up until the 10th grade, mainly because I felt school was boring and I had no realistic exciting plan of what I wanted to do with my life.
When I developed my love for photography, it changed everything. I started envisioning myself owning a successful photography business. I was enlightened that school now had a purpose. I then started to diligently study and practice the art of photography along with the other courses; rapidly, my low self esteem dissipated away. I started believing that I was creative and smart. As I started to embrace this new thought process, my grades started improving, and so did my creativity. The key is once you make the decision to visualize your goals, you must immediately act on them.
Proverbs 29:18 (King James Version)
18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
You must make it a habit to visualize your goals, write them down, get photos that pertain to your goals and hang them up around the house and take them with you in a folder or binder. Search for advice and mentors who can help guide you with your vision. Volunteer for organizations that are related to your goal. this is the best way to find out if your desires are accurate. It is also a good way to feed your vision with faith.
The more vivid the vision becomes, the more confident you will become. Remember, if your goal does not motivate or excite you, you won’t stick with it too long. If you do, you will live an unhappy life. Continuous focus on a rewarding exciting goal will keep you motivated. A wise man once said, “That if your mind can believe it and your heart can receive it, then you can achieve it.”
The Bible says, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). I can believe my car will take me to point A to point B, but if I don’t act on it by turning the key, what good is my belief? Many times a goal can seem too overwhelming to obtain, but we must learn to attack our goals piece by piece, and not all at once. Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Automotive, said, “Anything is easy, when you break it up into small parts.”
Goal setting is not just for careers; we must learn the skill of setting goals for every area of our life. This includes our behaviors, social life, health, family, spiritual, recreation and other personal areas. It is paramount that we develop and maintain a well-balanced lifestyle. The true meaning to success is maintaining a happy well- balanced life style under God’s supervision. Many individuals have flourished in one or more areas, while they have sacrificed other areas, which in turn infected their flourishing areas.
There are many actors and entertainers in the Hollywood spotlight who appear successful when you look at all the money and fame they have; yet, their personal lives are in turmoil because of drugs, affairs, depression, irrational spending sprees, and hostile behaviors. Their lives are out of control, and they know not what direction they are going in; their lives are in utter chaos. They did not plan or set appropriate goals for a well-balanced life, which will eventually lead them to failure.
Below is a method to avoid this downfall. Once you have decided on your goals, I advise you to follow these steps precisely:
Goal Action Plan
1. Write out your goals, as well as a detailed plan on how you will obtain them
2. Write out the values (rules) you will commit to live by.
3. Include detailed goals such as: career, family, behaviors,
4. Make 2 columns, one for your goal, and the other for how you will obtain it.
5. Structure your goals as follows: Daily, Weekly, 1 month, 6 month, 1 year, 3 year, 5 year, 10 year.
6. Pray about it.
S- SELECT A POSITIVE GOAL
U- UNLOCK ALL NEGATIVE THINKING
C- CHART YOUR COURSE
C- COMMIT YOURSELF
E- EXPECT PROBLEMS AND DIFFICULTIES
S- STICK TO THE PLAN
There are so many proven strategies to obtain success. Yet, though we might have the ingredients to a winning plan, many forget that we must obtain the self-discipline to accompany the plan or else the plan is meaningless. Self-discipline is the key ingredient for success to any winning plan. Procrastination is the archenemy of self-discipline. I heard one pastor put it this way: “procrastination turns a problem into a crisis.” To win the battle over procrastination, we must learn to concentrate on the gain and not the pain.
Building Success Habits
The motor behind positive change is in our habits. The will to initiate the process of developing positive habits is the barometer in which one can use to tell if an individual is sincere about change. At work, I have individuals all the time telling me they are willing to change, however when I give them an assignment and they don’t do it, this informs me they are still unwilling to make the commitment for change. When an individual truly wants something, they will make changes in their schedule to allow themselves to obtain it. The issue is that most people don’t have a strong enough desire to change. One successful business man put it this way, “successful people just do what unsuccessful people don’t want to do.” It takes a 100% non-compromise commitment. This chapter will assist you in creating a winning strategy.
Setting the Atmosphere for Success
When a man wants to impress a woman he like on a first date, he will likely take her to a romantic place where there is soft music so she can feel relaxed for a good conversation. He might meet her at the door with flowers to convey to her that he feels she is a special person. He will carefully decide what outfit he will wear, get a fresh haircut and carefully select what cologne to put on. He will clean and wax his car and then determine what radio station or CD he will play and the volume of the tone, making sure it’s not too loud where it will annoy her, but not too low that it doesn’t alter the atmosphere. He is taking time in planning the atmosphere, and setting the mood for a successful date.
The place where we are in life today, whether positive or negative, is a reflection of the atmosphere we have surrounded ourselves with. Successful individuals prioritize settings and maintaining a positive atmosphere. Unsuccessful people set forth a negative atmosphere; most are unaware they are doing so.
Here are some of the components of our atmosphere which either positively or negatively affects our beliefs which affects our attitudes, and helps dictate our actions/behaviors: Peers
If you’re always negative and angry, one or more of the above components is setting your mood. Remember that association brings along similarities. In other words, what or whom you associate with is what you’re similar to, and the experts say you will be the average of whom you are hanging out with. A wise person once told me that if you want to fly like an eagle, you can’t run with chickens. If we want to be successful, we must strategically place ourselves around the components which successful people utilize. If you want to be unsuccessful, do the opposite. It is simple; successful people just do what unsuccessful people don’t want to do.
Here are some steps to get you started in setting an atmosphere for success:
· Evaluate all the components of your atmosphere and identify the negative and positive ones. Then take the initiative to replace the negative with the positive.
· Set some positive, exciting and realistic goals for yourself to keep you motivated and positive about life.
* Smile more. It is a scientific fact that people who will themselves to smile, even during stressful situations, have a better attitude along with reduced stress. Besides, it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown.
· Look in the mirror and analyze your body language, such as your facial expressions. Ask yourself, “Do I look approachable or unapproachable?” Negative body language can poison a positive atmosphere.
· Watch the voice tone. The experts say that it is only 10% of what you say and 90% how you say it.
· Most importantly nothing sets the atmosphere better than prayer, reading God’s Word and praising God for all he has done for us. You might believe you have nothing to be grateful for.
There is a book by David Smith, If the World Were a Village, where he explains if the world was a village of a 100 people:
Only 26 would have to eat regularly.
31 of the 38 school aged children would go to school. Most of the girls would not.
76 villagers would have electricity. There would be just 24 televisions and no more than seven computers.
When we look at our lives from this perspective, I believe most of us can be thankful for what we do have.
Change your Life, by Changing your Mind
I often hear: “I act like this because I was born this way”…“I’m from this hood”… “It’s because of my color” or “I’m just like my dad or like my mom; it runs in our family.” We are financially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually based on our beliefs. Every behavior we have ever done first started with a belief. We all have negative and positive beliefs, which give birth to negative and positive behaviors. Our beliefs, after a period of time, become our reflexes which respond instantaneously once we are faced with encounters that trigger our ingrained beliefs. For example, I know gang members on my unit that will on reflex assault anyone who disrespect their gang regardless of whether they are close to going home or not, because they were taught and conditioned by their gang to have that belief, to the point where it developed into a reflex. However, many of them regret later that they responded this way, due to the fact that they get “time-adds,” and other consequences that make their incarceration even more uncomfortable and dangerous. They often say the following after thinking about their actions, “I just flashed,” or “I blanked out.” In other words, they acted on instinct during an encounter that triggered their belief process. Drug addicts, alcoholics, insecure, depressed, abusive and emotionally unstable individuals suffer from this same epidemic. They are prisoners of their own belief process. Many feel that a new environment, relationship, or career is the answer, but the truth remains unseen. Their problem is their beliefs and no physical or environmental change is going to necessarily make a change until they make a change in their thinking. For example, a laptop computer, no matter where you travel with it, will work the same. It will only work different, if you change the software not the location.
If an individual believes that he is a no-good, mean-spirited loser, just like his deadbeat father, because his mother told him this, his behaviors will dictate his belief. He will behave irresponsibly, unconfident, possibly abusive and will most likely ignore his parenting responsibilities. This belief was given to him by his mother, and he decided to believe it, because though he might have not have had a good relationship with her, he instinctively trusted her judgment as a parent. Sadly, this is the case with many individuals in society. They have believed others’ beliefs about themselves that were not healthy and for the most part untrue. We live in a society today where individuals unknowingly program themselves with negative beliefs through their selection of friends, music, television programs, movies, publications etc… There are rich kids in rich neighborhoods that have never stepped in or driven through a gang-related neighborhood, however, they talk and behave in mannerisms that would make you think that they grew up on some of the meanest streets of South Central Los Angeles.
These beliefs and mannerisms came to them through the gangster entertainment industry. They have identified with something they admired from these gangster icons, the hardcore image: power, respect and invincibility they deceptively portray in their videos. They assume that replicating the artist’s beliefs, which they hear and see in their music and videos, will produce the same results in their life. These beliefs are meditated on and chanted over and over by the youth and are locked into their subconscious part of the mind, because it’s cool, has rhythmic beats and talented vocal delivery by the artists. As I said previously, these musical messages have the power to bypass the conscious state in the left hemisphere of the brain and enter the subconscious on the right hemisphere of the brain, which then unknowingly transfers it back to the left hemisphere of the brain, which then unknowingly transfers it back to the left, which influences a person’s beliefs, emotions and behavior without the individual’s permission. The medical profession has discovered the violent music in rock and rap, triggers the “fight” or “flight” chemical of the brain, which unconsciously creates violent and rebellious behavior in individuals. Is it any surprise that crime is at an all time high in this country? More and more of society have come to tolerate thug mentality and others to embrace it due to its entertainment value and the emotional high they receive from it.
Many youth are adopting these artists’ lyrics as their own self- talk, thus living out the artists’ fantasies in their own virtual reality world. Yet, we still wonder why so many members in our society are so rebellious and disobedient. On the flip side, there are many who are thriving with success because they have developed positive beliefs. Many of them have come from very challenging upbringings, yet they made a commitment to believe only the positives about themselves and their situations, no matter what they encounter. I have spent an extensive amount of time studying and reading about exceptional individuals like these. Much of my reading has come from studying biblical characters. It was an awesome revelation for me when I discovered that just by changing my belief, I could change my life. All of us have some beliefs we can change for the better. Below is a simple module on how are thought process works:
I use the Acronym B.E.A.R. which is:
Beliefs +Emotions +Actions=Results.
B.E.A.R. Module-Copyright Rayford Johnson 2009
Developing a Positive Thought Process
1. First, evaluate your current beliefs- positive and negative ones. This means look at the patterns in your life. There is a belief attached to our every emotion and action. The easiest way is to identify the results from your actions and keep working backwards until you get to the core belief. The brainstorming questionnaire below, will assist you in this (use a scratch piece of paper for this exercise):
My belief is:
I was____ years-old when accepted this belief.
My belief comes from:
The significant events and influences behind me accepting this belief are:
I believed my belief to be true because:
My belief is true because:
My belief is false because:
My belief is positive because:
My belief is negative because:
My belief gives me the following feelings:
After my beliefs give me these feelings I act out or behave in the following way:
I want to change this belief because:
I don’t want to change by belief because:
2. Write out your beliefs in a simple sentence. The positive and negative ones.
3. Think about where the beliefs came from, and if they are true or not. Write this out in detail. Relax and look at the list of your core beliefs and think back at where they came from. Did they come from your family, friends, music, books, religion, television or a past experience? Look at your beliefs from all angles, not just from your perspective, but also from the perspective of others. Then make two columns on a piece of paper, listing the good and the bad points of your beliefs. For example: in the negative example above, the individual believed going to school was “a waste of time”, but the results proved that their belief was untrue. They also believed school stopped them from having fun. This was only true because they believed that learning was not fun, however in the positive example, the individual believed learning new and exciting things was fun. The results for having this individual.
4. Make a commitment to replace your negative/untrue beliefs, with positive/true beliefs: remember good values produce good results; bad values produce bad results. Good values are those which align with your God given conscience. If you violate your conscience you have violated your self-respect. A good place to get good beliefs which align perfectly and peacefully with my conscience is the Holy Bible. The Bible, God’s Word, has positive beliefs to fit every area of our lives. It not only fits every area of our life, but it produces great results too. For example, this is a belief the Bible has about how to respond when we are disrespected:
B.E.A.R. Module Example-Copyright Rayford Johnson 2009
Good Tact, Bad Tact
Many people go through life clueless of why it is so hard for them to make friends and maintain stable relationships and employment. They have the mentality that it is them against the world and that people in general are out to get them. They live their whole life from one crisis to another. They believe that most people are too sensitive, have no sense of humor and don’t like them. Therefore, they walk around in life with a “chip” on their shoulder, being very defensive and unpleasant. They believe if everyone and everything changed to their liking that their life would fall into place. They are oblivious to the fact that it is their own behavior which is creating their problems.
To condense the above paragraph into two words, they have “bad tact.” They have poor communication skills which equal poor relationships, and brings forth ongoing problems.
A successful salesperson once said to me, “Communication is only 10% of what you say and 90% of how you say it.” Individuals with bad tact are like a bull walking into a china shop attempting to deliver a message. They may succeed in delivering the message; however the bull will break up a lot of merchandise in the process. These individuals are reckless with their words, not caring about another’s feelings; their only goal is getting their message across to their satisfaction or amusement.
The following are examples of statements that people with bad tact make:
“Is that gray I see? You’re getting old, huh”
“Are you gaining weight?”
“You’re too skinny”
“I didn’t recognize you without your makeup”
“You’re losing your hair, huh?”
“I like your car, but you should see John’s”
“Your nose is pretty big”
“I didn’t know your ears were that big until your haircut
” “What’s that spot on your face, is that your birthmark?”
You would be surprised how many individuals spend countless hours, worrying and distressed about their physical insecurities. They don’t need us to remind them of it, even in a joking manner. They might laugh at the joke, but many times it’s just a mask to cover up how they were hurt by a reckless comment. It’s okay to have a sense of humor and to joke, but be responsible. Joke with people about appropriate subjects that won’t offend them or damage their self-esteem. We all have our own insecurities; think how embarrassed you felt when people have gone out their way to comment on yours.
Karen Carpenter was a well renowned female singer in the 80’s who heard a reporter referring to her as “chubby.” Her self-esteem was so hurt by that comment that she became obsessed with losing weight. It developed into anorexia which she soon died from. Proverbs says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.”
Dampening Someone’s Glory
“That’s nothing, I caught a fish this big.”
“That’s good, but my grade point average in high school was 3.8”
“That’s all? I made over $50,000 last year”
“You did a good job, but that’s easy”
“Your car is nice, but I would have waited and got the newer model.”
Think how good it feels when you accomplish or win something that you have worked hard at. Now, do you need someone to put a dark cloud over your achievement by minimizing it? Of course not! So don’t do it to somebody else. Be humble and happy for others‘ accomplishments. Don’t rush to try to compare and challenge yours with theirs; they won’t appreciate it and neither would you.
34 He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.
Speaking the Mind
Many individuals boast about being a “straight shooter” or “telling it how it is.” They take great pride that they’re bold enough to say just what’s on their mind, without sending it through their cognitive editing room. In essence, they don’t care what others think or feel, just as long as the missile from their mouth hits the target. They say what they say with emotion, and conviction. Some use profanity, and when they’re done, they feel the satisfaction of a housewife who has completed her spring-cleaning. They don’t care about the damage or casualties they caused at the time, again, as long as they hit their target. Yet, when others return fire on them, by recklessly speaking their mind, they are appalled, offended and sometimes deeply hurt. Motivational speaker John Maxwell had some great advice about confronting others. He explains you must sincerely care about them, and you must demonstrate it in your mannerisms when you’re confronting them. People respond better to constructive criticism when they know that the person doing it truly cares for them.
Proverbs 29:11 (King James Version)
11 A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.
James 1:19 (King James Version)
19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
Active Listening Skills
Learning to listen attentively before speaking is a good habit. Nothing is more annoying than having someone interrupt your sentence to give a comment. This leaves them with the feeling that they’re not important or not interesting enough to be heard by that individual talking over them.
Basic manners is learning to say“Thank you”and“You’re welcome,” to anyone who consents a kind act towards you. Most individuals do not mind assisting others, as long as the person demonstrates appreciation. Nobody wants to feel used and unappreciated. Make it a habit to demonstrate appreciation, even in the small things. Next time someone offers or gives you something, give them a big smile and a “thank you” or a “no, thank you.” Never take anyone’s kindness for granted or for weakness.
There is a proverb that says, and rightly so, that “Profanity makes ignorance audible.” Many individuals use profanity as adjectives, conjunctions, and nouns. Many believe that using profanity gets their point across stronger or makes their joke funnier, and it is usually because there is an audience that believes the same thing. Why? Most could not even give you an answer.
The profanity they are using makes no literal sense in their sentence structure. This is ignorance, because they are using words out of habit without even knowing or acknowledging their meaning. These words inappropriately describe obscene and sexual elements of our society, and are immoral, disrespectful, and inappropriate in our communication with others. The use of profanity is a clear sign that one needs to expand one’s vocabulary and do a check-up and clean up of their personal morals and values.
Attire comes down to common sense. I remember working at a group home and coming on shift after about four of our residents had come back from a job search. They came into the house discouraged, claiming they were the victims of racial profiling. Granted, these teenagers had their hats tilted, braided hair, pants sagging, with their shirt out, walking like a “gangster mob.” They didn’t understand that when walking into someone’s business establishment, asking for a job, they must display standards required for a position in their establishment. Remember when you go for a job interview, you’re asking to work for them, so don’t expect for them to change a policy or standard for you. I told them that when you start your own business, you can wear the clothes and hair however you want, but when you ask to work for someone else, you must sometimes humbly conform to their policies if you want employment (unless it’s immoral).
Good tact is the key to successful communication, even with those who are difficult to get along with. Treat others as you want to be treated” is the key. We accomplish this by putting ourselves in the shoes of the person we are communicating with. Visualize things from their perspective and not just our own. Practicing this will give you a deeper understanding and knowledge about people and life in general. You will obtain respect from others and some long lasting friendships to go along with it.
The Bible says that “you reap what you sow,” (Galatians 6:7) meaning that if you plant seeds of hostility, you will get a harvest of hostility. If you plant seeds of kindness, you will get back a harvest of kindness.
Here are 12 Key Points of “Good Tact”
1. Be humble; don’t brag and praise yourself.
2. Be sincerely happy about others’ successes; don’t compete with or attempt to minimize them.
3. It’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it (Watch your tone, facial expressions and body language).
4. Do not gossip and use profanity.
5. Do not point out other’s insecurities, unless you can sincerely help them.
6. “Edit” your thoughts before talking
7. Go out of your way to sincerely compliment and help others.
8. Listen to others as you want to be listened to (Make yourself see it from their perspective).
9. Remember that attitudes are contagious.
10. Remember the rule “you reap what you sow.” Talk and treat others as you wanted to be treated.
11. Attempt to find and see the good qualities in everyone (It helps give you a more positive outlook on life.).
12. Make it a habit to be nice, polite and appreciative, even over the smallest things.
The root to life’s frustrations are problems. Problems come in two categories, which are the uncontrollable and the controllable. Being able to properly identify which category your problem falls into will alleviate a lot of the frustration and distress.
The Uncontrollable Problem
The uncontrollable problem can be identified as an issue controlled by nature, such as weather or aging, or something that is in total control of another person or organization.
In these instances, stressing and complaining is useless and unproductive. This is when our interventions come in, exhibiting our levels of maturity. Below are some good examples of intervention and coping methods:
Identify the Problem.
Find the positive side of the problem. Look at your problems as challenges.
Realize that all successful people in life have faced the uncontrollable; however, they utilized problems as strength builders.
Do an honest examination of yourself. Could it be your attitude, or action that caused the problem? Many times I have discovered that a change in my attitude or change of habit has diminished many of my problems. It’s a humbling experience, yet with great rewards.
Relax and maintain your self-control and integrity. When relaxed, we think clearer and more creative, which is a key ingredient to problem solving. Keep your integrity under the most severe trials, tribulations, and persecution. Integrity is a great confidence booster. Make it a rule to treat others as you want to be treated, regardless how they act. Spewing out insults and hostility is a quick fix, however it leaves a long lasting bitter taste, which can also trail long-term consequences. Do not let others’ stupidity towards you become your own.
I have seen how the contrast between integrity and immorality will expose the wrong or ignorance of the immoral, often bringing forth repentance or a rally of support to the one operating in integrity, verses the one operating in immorality. Regardless of the outcome, integrity will leave you with an unexplained inner peace, confidence and joy that no person or circumstance can take away.
The Controllable Problem
Unfortunately, some individuals place many controllable problems in the uncontrollable category as soon as the problem raises its ugly head. Anger and stress can handicap us mentally and disable our problem solving and creative abilities, thus creating a bigger problem.
The following is an effective strategy that I personally use to solve problems, which I have learned from studying the testimonials of well- balanced successful individuals. All of these concepts I have discovered have come from Biblical principals.
Get the Big Picture of the problem. Examine it from all angles, not just your own. Try to see the problem just as clear from the opposition as from your side. Weigh the pros and cons to each potential decision. After you have done this, write down the problem in detail. The majority of the time our creative imagination creates the illusion of the problem being 10 times larger than it really is. The imagination makes the problem grow bigger by feeding it “what ifs?” Writing down the problem almost always reduces it, alleviating most of the stress. Keep writing throughout the entire problem solving process.
Examine your attitude, actions, habits and values. Again not just from your perspective, but from the oppositions. A few minor changes to ourselves might diminish the problem all together or make the problem solving a whole lot easier.
Identify your resources. Below are a list of some helpful resources. Remember we shouldn’t attempt to utilize others as resources, until we know clearly we are incapable of doing it ourselves. Using people to do what you can do yourself will leave a bitter feeling by others towards you and will “burn bridges.” No one likes to be exploited, but they won’t always tell you that.
Evaluate own abilities and potential
Non Profit organizations/Businesses
Strategy/ Action Plan
After you have obtained the needed resources, it is time to plan a strategy. We must look at our resources as pieces to life’s chess game. It is also a must that we see the big picture, not just the today but 1,5,10 and even 20 more years down the road. A great chess player views the entire board and examines not only every one of his potential moves, but those of their opponent.
7 Steps for Problem Solving
1. Relax and make sure your decision is based on common sense and integrity and not from pure emotions or feelings. Make it a rule to never make a decision which goes outside the parameters of your values. Again, this is operating in integrity. Remember, one bad decision could delay you from reaching your goals, sometimes prevent you from ever obtaining your goal.
2. See the big picture and write down the problem in detail.
3. Examine your plan by weighing the pros and cons. Pray and go to the Holy Bible, to see what God has to say about your problem. Use the index, to find your problems subject for quick reference. Memorize faith scriptures that address your issue, and make it part of your self-talk. If you’re still unsure what to do, and if time permits, obtain wise counsel from a parent, church counselor, minister, mentor or friend. Make sure it’s a resource with Godly wisdom. After you have received counsel, pray and make sure God had given you a peace within about the situation. If you don’t have peace, seek counsel until you get it.
4. Write out your plan in detail. Rehearse it in your mind to perfection. Have a plan for what could go wrong, so you’re not caught off guard.
5. Implement your plan.
6. Review the outcome of your decision. Ask God to show you, how you got into the predicament in the first place. Try to identify if it could have been avoided. If you find out that you could have prevented it, then pray and study God’s Word for a wise strategy from preventing it from happening again. Remember good habits will prevent many of life’s problems and will strengthen and sustain you for those uncontrollable ones. A good sports team reviews tapes after a game for a critique in order to make the necessary changes from their mistakes and to hone in on the successes. We must learn to do the same in order to fine tune are problem solving skills. Remember that experience is one of life’s best teachers.
7. Continue to pray for wisdom and understanding.
Building an Exciting Life Model
When I was growing up, I remember being thrilled going to the department store to look for a “cool” looking model to build. I would spend long periods of time pacing back and forth down the isle scanning the shelves and the photos on the front of the boxes for the perfect model to take home and build. There were always a wide variety of model planes, cars, and aircraft carriers and so on to choose from. The decision was which one? After I cautiously had made my selection, I would have to choose what color to paint it. I would carefully hold up different colors to the model, trying to use my imagination to get the perfect color to fit my model.
If someone would just have given me a model to build that I didn’t like, let’s say for my birthday or Christmas, though I would be grateful, I probably wouldn’t have been motivated to build it. Building a model is no quick project if you plan to do it right. You have to spend long periods of time carefully reading the instructions and methodically applying the information in putting intricate pieces together to bring harmony to the vision. One piece out of place or missing can ruin the image of the model. Building a model is a long tedious task. Who would want to waste their time building something they know their not going to like?
Our life is a model. This is where the term “role model” comes from. A positive role model is an individual who has built a successful balanced lifestyle by following the right values and instructions. A negative “role model” has built their life following immoral values and instructions.
Sadly, many never take the awesome opportunity and privilege of selecting the perfect life model for themselves. They just go through life building useless model trinkets. It’s fun while their building, however the let down comes when it is finished and it come apart on them as the satisfaction dissipates away.
For example, some are lured to the “gang model.” The picture on that visual box looks exciting and adventurous. The “riches” and “street prestige” look very appealing. Yet, many have opened this box, and followed the instructions to a “T”, just to find out that what they built does not look at all like the front of the box. What they really built was a life full misery and a deadly trap for themselves and their loved ones.
Many have chosen to build life models given to them by others for the purpose to appease others. For example, a father tells his son, “I am an accountant, and our family comes from a long line of accountants. It would be disappointing to me if you would be the first to break this tradition.” The son now feels an obligation to build the life model of an accountant; however, the young man really has a strong desire to be a fireman. He hates math, and the idea of sitting in an office from 9 to 5 makes him nauseous.
The son graduates from college and becomes an accountant at a respected firm; however, he is unhappy. He feels unproductive, often dreaming how his life could have turned out, if he would of put his foot down and pursued a firefighter career. Constantly thinking about it, he goes into a deep depression, which leads him into drinking and doing drugs to escape the pressures of reality. If things couldn’t get worse, excessive missed days of work brought on by his depression results in him being fired and his father’s disappointment.
Unfortunately, there are countless stories just like the above two, where people go through life building models they don’t like. The successful, happy and fulfilled person is the individual who takes the time to dream, pray and research what the perfect life model for them is. Then once they envision what they want on the visual box (which are exciting and interesting things) of their model life, they open it up by taking action and then proceed to get wise Godly instructions.
They discover that studying and applying instructions is exciting. School and reading books become interesting and exciting. They see that as they apply the knowledge and wisdom from their instructions, their dream model is steadily becoming a reality. What does your life model look like? Is it boring or exciting?
Here are 3 steps to building a rewarding and exciting life model for yourself:
1. Visualize what the picture looks like on your front of your life model box. If it is not attractive, exciting and rewarding, you probably won’t have the motivation to complete it and why would you? Plan your life model to be interesting, fun, exciting and rewarding. Get a visual picture in your mind and then write it down. Find pictures in magazines or newspapers related to your life model and make a “Vision Book” that you will look at daily to keep motivated. In planning, ask yourself:
Where would I work for free?
Who would I like to help?
What are my deep interests and hobbies?
Where and how would I like to live?
What are my values and is it God’s will for my life?
What do I want my income to be?
Do I want to get married, and what type of person would I want to marry?
Am I the type of person someone would want to marry? And if not, what must I do to become that type of person?
Do I want a family?
2. Get wise Instructions.
3. Don’t Quit!
It is Our Responsibility
Role modeling is the most awesome responsibility an individual will ever take on. The reason why is because role modeling shapes the characteristics of impressionable minds, either for the good or bad.
We should all have it in our hearts to be positive role models. In order to become an effective and positive role model, we need the tools to do so. The most important tools are the values of our character. Our values are our beliefs and it is our beliefs that dictate our behaviors. When we are role modeling with negative values, we are infecting young, impressionable minds that observe us. We are encouraging them to act out these negative beliefs with negative behaviors. When we role model with positive values, we can clone positive beliefs and behaviors.
There are some athletes and entertainers who have said, “I’m not a role model.” What they fail to realize is that role models are chosen, not self-appointed. Role models never know specifically who they are acting as a role model to. There is a huge market in today’s society for role models. There are a lot of youth from broken, abusive, and neglectful homes who are searching for a hero to give them some direction: someone to trust in, admire, and pattern their habits and behaviors after; someone who can demonstrate how to get their needs and desires met. For example, a young boy watches his father beat his wife into submission, so the boy has learned he must threaten or beat others in order to get his way. That same boy observes his father verbally disrespect and cheat on his mother and cover up and justify his affairs with lies. This boy has now learned to disrespect women and to lie to get his lustful needs met.
A young girl hears her father bragging about how he cheated a little on his taxes to get a huge refund check and then later overhears her mother on the phone telling her friend how her flirtation with the head supervisor got her a profitable promotion. The girl has learned that lying is profitable and that she doesn’t need a diligent work ethic to get what she wants. She has learned that by flirting with men she will get her needs and desires met.
Another boy watches his older brother sell dope on the corner then takes his profits and gives some to his mother for groceries; the remainder he spends on some stylish clothes and on his beautiful girlfriend. The young boy has now learned that it is okay to sell dope if you help your family out and that beautiful women are attracted to dope dealers because they have the latest style clothes and plenty of cash. These images have been reinforced by the music videos he watches over and over which display young entertainers with stylish clothes, expensive jewelry, and material items as they boast about their criminal activities as beautiful women throw themselves at them and their enemies creep away in fear. The boy has learned from his role models that violence and crime will meet his needs and desires in a quick, exciting and pleasurable way. However, he has not been truthfully informed by his role models about the harsh and possibly fatal consequences that await him if he chooses such risky endeavors.
Much of society is under the false assumption that our youth choose only role models that they like. The fact is that our youth are choosing role models who are demonstrating to them how to get their needs and wants. It is not whether they like the particular role model or not. If you are stranded and about to die of thirst in the desert and an individual you dislike drives up and offers you a ride in an air-conditioned vehicle, stocked with a chest of ice cold bottled water, are you going to pass it up? This is many of the youth’s perspective in today’s society. If the youth are not taught other options on how to meet their needs and desires, they will often in desperation use the first option they observe that is appealing and that appears realistic and successful.
Are you showing someone how to get his or her needs and wants met in a positive or negative way? We have to remember that people are watching and observing us all the time, even when we don’t know it and don’t want them too. Often young people choose role models even if they don’t like or respect them. I see this all the time as a youth correctional counselor. A young offender who hates his abusive father, but yet has imitated his father’s behaviors due to the fact that it met his needs. His father got him to do what he wanted by abusing him and now the son makes others do what he wants by abusing or threatening to abuse them.
Sadly, the role modeling for youth and adults is coming from the entertainment industry. Some of these entertainers have developed and cultivated worldwide thug cultures through the power of music. This music has installed thug values and beliefs, which have produced the popularity and glorification of thug behaviors. They have successfully role modeled to millions that thug behavior can meet all your needs and desires. This is role modeled by their flashy music videos and magazines in which they show off all their lavish “riches” in their “gangsta paradise.”
I remember having a conversation with some gang members during their recreation program about some of their favorite gangster rap artists and why they liked them. I also talked to them about why they liked staying in their gang. They would reply with words of praise for these rap artists and talk about their insight and street wisdom and how they admired their keen entrepreneurial skills these entertainers utilized to build their financial empires. They talked proudly about how their gang was a tight knit family that took care of each other and about the pride they had in representing their “organization.” When I brought to their attention the immoral things that their favorite rap artists and gang promoted and embraced, they quickly rationalized and minimized it with a barrage of excuses.
Yet, my next set of questions caught them off guard. I began to ask them one by one, questions like, “Knowing what your favorite rap artist talks about in their music, how they boast about their mistreatment of women and the criminal activities that they are involved in, would you want or allow your daughter or sister to date one of these gangster rap artists?” One by one, reluctantly these individuals gave me the answer “no”, often followed by a long explanation. Then I asked, “Do you, or if you had a son would you raise them in love?” “Yes” was the overall response. I then followed up and asked, “Would you want or allow your son to join your gang or want him to hang around your favorite gangster rap artists, knowing the violent atmosphere they cultivate with their words and actions?” Again, an overwhelming majority said “no.”
I began to close the discussion by asking, “why would you praise, participate and attempt to emulate a lifestyle or person that you would not even want your son or daughter to associate with? Isn’t that hypocritical?”
I remember letting a caseload of mine who was an Asian gang member make a phone call in the parole agent’s office. During the call, he was speaking in his foreign tongue; he appeared stressed, and looked as if he was fighting back tears. When the phone call ended, he sat down tensely in the chair directly across from me, and started shaking his head, turning his head from me, side to side, as if to distract me from seeing his eyes, which at any moment appeared ready to release a river of tears. He finally told me that his younger cousin was killed in a gang-related shooting. “I feel it’s my fault”, he kept telling me. He explained that when his cousin was about in junior high, he started becoming rebellious to his parents. His cousin wanted to hang with him and his gang, because it appeared they were having all the fun. He explained to me that his younger cousin looked up to him, and would have listened to him if he told him to obey his parents. But instead of directing him down the right path, he allowed his cousin to hang out with him. After the ward was incarcerated, his younger cousin became more entrenched in the gang lifestyle with his older cousin’s associates, and his gang affiliation eventually cost him his life. The ward was now afraid to be released, knowing that his parents, and other family members, would blame him for the death of his cousin.
We have the power and responsibility to make our family, community, and world a better place or we can assist to make it a miserable place. Yet, it starts by us as an individual taking up the awesome responsibility of becoming a positive role model.
We must live and act according to life’s big picture, understanding the chain reaction of our every action. Let’s ask ourselves, “What are the pros and cons of my actions and how do they effect and reflect on my family, my society and me?”
“Fatherly Advice from DMX”
DMX Interview/Sister 2 Sister Magazine Interview
October 2006 Issue:
Jamie Foster Brown (Interviewer): “How do the kids deal with it when things are in the paper about their father?”
DMX: They’re used to it by now. My son is about 5’8, 5’9, 13 years-old, yeah so you know, I ask him just to see what’s going on, how much sh#t he’s got to deal with. He’s like, “Nah, ain’t nobody saying nothing,” Then I was like, a’ight, first time somebody opens their f#@king mouth, you take their face off. He already knows that.
The Success Action Plan
“Plan your work and work your plan.”
Oftentimes, I talk to and counsel wards who display a sincere desire to change. They might have obtained their GED or High School Diploma, learned a marketable vocational trade, and successfully completed all their required Board-ordered requirements. I was talking to an individual like this the other day that did a good program during his incarceration and was paroled, but was brought back due to a violation of his parole for associating with his former gang peers. For that four-month period that he was out on parole, he had obtained a job, enrolled in college, and had even made his college football team. Yet, he had tainted his success strategy by allowing himself to go to a party with old friends, many of whom were gang members. That one negative decision that night infected the positive routine and goals he was diligently working toward. Basic math will tell us that positive times negative= negative.
Our decisions in life are like a chess game, with earth being the game board. When we move to a place on the board just because it looks good, enamored by all the glitz and glamour or just by mere convenience, we handicap ourselves. A wise chess player looks at the whole board and the opposition’s pieces, and attempts to formulate speculations of the opponent’s strategy. A bad strategy will inevitably get us check-mated and taken off the board. This happens, over and over, to those who return back to our facility after violating parole; they have been taken off the board and placed in the penalty box. It is obvious they need a better life management strategy.
God is the master chess player because He has the aerial view of earth’s chessboard and has the guaranteed winning strategy. He knows our opponent’s strategy (our opponent being the devil) before the opponent knows it. Though we might on our own move into a checkmate position, he is able to bring us out every time with His wise and miraculous working power. We must learn how to hear from God, the great chess strategist, in order for us to obtain our plan, purpose, and strategy to bring forth His perfect will in our lives.
We also must be aware of the distractions the enemy, the devil, will deploy on our soul in order for us to lose God’s reception and pick up his. His weapons of destruction are packaged in music, visual imagery such as TV, movies, videos, and publications, all of which are utilized by him (Satan) to formulate the trends and culture of our society.
God’s Word is the weapon to discern and annihilate the demonic elements from Satan’s arsenal. Again, these demonic weapons are formed to sabotage the frequency of God’s transmission to us in an attempt to replace God’s strategy for our lives with his (devil).
When we’re walking in God’s perfect will, He will open and close doors for us. You won’t even have to turn the knob once you have made that connection with the Father. It will be as if you made the connection with your foot on the matt in front of the grocery store door; it will open up automatically. I’m talking about doors which will lead you to being blessed in every aspect of your life. The safest, most fulfilling and joyful experience in the world is following God’s strategy for your life, which is His perfect will.
God’s strategy is to set us up in an environment of positive peer pressure, not negative peer pressure. Setting ourselves in a negative peer pressure setting, no matter how positive we are, is like swimming upstream; eventually, we will tire out fighting the temptations and will then flow back with fast rushing current of carnality and sin.
We can look in His Word and find great leader such as Abraham, Noah, David, and more who sought out God’s strategy through prayer and obedience. Then we see those who later went away from God’s strategy on their own, only to meet tragedy such as, King Saul, Solomon, and the many other kings of Judah and Israel.
In order for us to obtain His strategy, we must first hear His voice, which comes only through praying, reading, and obeying His Word. Only then can we enter the peace,joy and fulfillment of being in His perfect will.
“Quick, fast and in a hurry” is the motto by which the thug mentality lives by. The “gangster paradise” is an attractive dream, because it is presented with a “get rich quick” theme. And unlike earning wealth the traditional way, through hard work and education, it is believed to be by many, a pleasurable, fun and exciting venture. However, the dilemma that arises for many is that if they believe they cannot be a pro athlete or rapper, the only alternative some believe they have is to obtain their dreams of wealth through criminal methods. Before I go on, I will tell you that this chapter will present legal creative ways on how almost anyone can make a lucrative income, without a college degree. I am not discounting the value of a college degree, because I know it opens up many doors, but to present to you an alternative way of thinking, which I learned from successful individuals.
Hollywood has assisted in providing graphic and visual images of the benefits the thug life can get someone in just a brief period of time. The majority of the wards I work with tell me that the lust for wealth will be their biggest temptation when they hit the streets. Hollywood’s messages convey to society that if we muster up the courage and confidence to act like a thug who lives their life care free and recklessly, then we too can reap these luxurious rewards. The business industry knows selling this destructive dream is a big money maker. The sad part about this is that there are so many who believe the lie and go out and try to achieve it. Many have left our institution and were killed behind the thug philosophy of: “I’m going to get rich, or die trying.” This phrase or belief came from a song by the rap artist, DMX. I have had many wards who have indicated to me that this is the core value in their life.
The mentality often teaches that going to school, steady employment and living with moral values is for “squares” and some will say you’re a sell-out for living this way. This idea creates negative peer pressure on youth, in which some have developed inferiority complexes: often because they have obtained good grades or come from a family that holds on to good values. Everyone wanting to be portrayed as a thug wants to act and look hard, and wants everyone to believe that they grew up hard. They believe it lends them “street” credibility.
Making Cash Creatively & Legally
The other day I was informally counseling a very angry and frustrated ward at his cell door. During the conversation, which started off about me confronting him about his escalating hostile behavior, he blurted in an angry but desperate tone, “I have nowhere to go!” He then proceeded to vent very heatedly that he “didn’t care” and that he was going to get out and “gang bang” to the fullest. The ward that recently came from a lock-up program had an extensive history of violence within the institution. Besides having nowhere to go, he had little to no family support which was emotionally weighing on him heavily, which resulted in him lashing out on others with verbal and physical abuse. He was a hardcore gang member with tattoos draped all over his body, including his face. His core belief was that society would reject him, therefore his only alternative was to go back to the gang who would accept and support him. Yet through the emotional pain I discerned in his voice, I knew that this was not truly what he really wanted.
That week I held a small group entitled, “Making Money Legally” where we discussed how to start a small business on a shoestring budget. During the group, the ward told us about a witty invention he had thought of a few months back; it was actually a great and realistic invention (which I promised not to mention). There were about four in my group, and they became really enthused about the invention, and we spent most of the group talking about a marketing plan for the product. Great creative ideas were being tossed back and forth during the session with excitement. Another expressed his interest in the vending machine concept I had mentioned. He conveyed to me with deep conviction “I’m going to do that!” When we came out of the group, that individual with the great invention who had been negative and frustrated the day, before, came out enthusiastic and confident. He requested me to get some information off the internet relating to his invention, than he asked to use the phone, in order to instruct his brother to patent his idea before those who were in the group steal it.
Many of these wards feel that based upon their criminal record and tattoos, it is unlikely they will be able get a good paying job or no job at all. I was presenting to them a realistic alternative called self- employment. That is, if no one else hires you, hire yourself. Many of them were self-employed on the streets, however their business activities were illegal and immoral which brought them to prison. Yet, some I talk to at the prison, admit that they are still ready and willing to step out for another opportunity for success at their illegal business ventures, this time believing they are smarter and craftier enough to stay under law enforcement’s radar. Though it is true that there have been some thugs or crime lords who went to their graves old and grey, and were able to duck under the law enforcement’s radar during their stay here on earth, there is a higher law enforcement that they didn’t escape. It is called the Kingdom of Heaven where God reigns as King and Judge over the entire universe. Listen to what God the almighty Judge has to say about those who break his laws:
6 The house of the righteous contains great treasure, but the income of the wicked brings them trouble.
11 Dishonest money dwindles away but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.
27 A greedy man brings trouble to his family, but he who hates bribes will live.
8 He who sows wickedness reaps trouble, and the rod of his fury will be destroyed.
(What God said through a prophet to Israel after he brought them out of slavery in Egypt.)
Curses for Disobedience
15 However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:
16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.
17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.
18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and
19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.
20 The LORD will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.]
21 The LORD will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess.
22 The LORD will strike you and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish.
23 The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron.
24 The LORD will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.
25 The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth.
26 Your carcasses will be food for all the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and there will be no one to frighten them away.
27 The LORD will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured.
28 The Lord will afflict you with madness,blindness and confusion of mind.
29 At midday you will grope about like a blind man in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you.
A little later in this chapter I will present some of the self-employed concepts and life skill resources I share in my groups.
I was raised to never rely on just a job, because I was told a job can be taken away from you at any time. I was taught by mentors to build equity in yourself by learning a trade or starting a small business, marketing a needed product or service. It is a gift to be able to start and operate a part-time or full-time business in something that is your passion. I believe that an individual should always have a moral, legal plan to earn a living with or without a job. A job provided you fish; a business makes you a fisherman.
Along with being a Youth Correctional Counselor for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (formerly, the California Youth Authority), I also own and manage a photography business, a network marketing business and co- own and operate some rental units. My father was entrepreneur- minded, and he imparted that same mentality into me. He also had a habit of reading motivational books. I still read those success books from his collection, and they still continue to bless and motivate me.
I remember the satisfaction my friends and I had in grade school when we would go from street to street washing cars. We would feel so proud counting our money; then we would go out right after and blow it on pizza and video games. Though all the money vaporized away in fun, the experience and the lessons stayed with me for a lifetime.
Just out of my teens, I came across a young successful black businessman named Michael Bolden who owned a financial planning company. He held weekly free classes on financial planning. In the class, he discussed goal planning and duplicating the habits of successful people. At the end of every class, he would go over the following formula /acronym for success:
S- Select a Positive Goal
U- Unlock All Negative Thinking
C- Chart Your Course
C- Commit Yourself
S- Stick to the Plan
At this time, I was also faithfully attending Calvary Christian Center, a church with a solid youth ministry which helped teach me the Word of God, and blessed me in every area of my life. I was busy, no time to get into trouble. A mentor once told me, “Too much idle time, turns into evil time.” I was strategically placing myself in and around positive and motivational people, places and things. I was learning the meaning of the proverb, “Association brings about similarities.” I had learned after a few hard knocks that it’s a lot easier to be successful in life, when you place your self in an environment of positive peer pressure, rather than the negative. This is a concept I’m always teaching and emphasizing to my caseload at the correctional facility.
I currently have a few financial mentors, some who are millionaires, others who are self-employed and making six figure-plus incomes. These are not all relationships in which I waited for these individuals to come to me: I was proactive and initiated an encounter with them. Stop waiting for a mentor or program to come to you; get proactive and go to the mentor or program.
They taught me how a small business can transform itself into a corporation and obtain significant tax advantages. They also taught me how to develop a financial team to form partnerships, to obtain investment property, and why it is important to have a lawyer, accountant, or tax attorney along with a financial planner in accompanying your business strategies.
Through these teachings, I have learned how to set up a profitable small home business for under $300. They have taught me their successful business habits, told me which books to read, and have given me a lot of constructive criticism. My association with them has brought about blessings in my personal life (For more information about business resources, you can log on to my website at www.thugexposed.org)
Below is a brief summary of business ideas, some which I have had some success in utilizing. Remember, before taking action on a business venture, contact your local city hall about information about obtaining a business license, permit and registering a business name. It’s also a good idea to go to the library or bookstore and get a book on how to start and operate a small business.
Wholesaler: Purchase items off the internet wholesale, and resale them at retail at: swap meets, auctioning sites such as Ebay, or to local retail stores on consignment (stocking your products in a retailer’s store, and then split the profits with them.)
Vending Machines: While working a regular job, discipline yourself to save up about $2,000. I was told by a very successful businessman in the industry, that on average, a soft drink vending machine can profit approximately $300.00 a month (he stated this is on the low end). You can purchase a used vending machine for about $1,100 or less: look for deals in the classifieds, Internet and the yellow pages. Next you need to find a discount wholesaler to purchase your sodas. You can start with discount stores such as Costco, Sam’s Club and others, also check the Internet. Many businesses will let you place your machine in their business for free, in that you are providing a service for their customers. You can negotiate this yourself, or there are companies who will negotiate the contract for you, at about a price of $200.00. Figure in about $200.00 or less to stock your sodas. Not including the price of your business license and permits, which are usually low expenses depending on your city or county, your start up cost is about $1,500. With the remainder $500.00, you can purchase business supplies and place the remainder in the bank. Being conservative, you can speculated a $300 profit a month on your business. Remember, your still working your regular job. Put all the profits in the bank. In five months you willhave another $1,500: duplicate the process and now you are profiting $600 a month. In three months duplicate it again, and you are making a $900.00 profit a month. Keep duplicating-I think you got the picture (A millionaire in this business shared with me this system).
Network Marketing:Find a reputable company-Many will have a low out-of-pocket investment, in which you can make a substantial amount of money in a short period of time while working a regular job, doing the business on the side. I have a friend who made a little over $14,000 last month, through his multi-level marketing business. He has only been in the company for four years, but he now does his business full time. The advantages of multi-level marketing, is that it teaches you leadership, accounting, people and marketing skills, along with a host of other successful habits, which you can utilize in every aspect of your life. There are many rich and successful individuals who endorse multi-level marketing, despite all the critics. It teaches individuals the skills and mind-set to be company owners, rather than company employees.
Photography: Learn the skill of photography. Show up at community events and say that you would like to give them a special offer, which is to take photographs for no charge, but that you will have the photos available for viewing and purchasing if they like them. Pass out your business cards, set an appointment to come back for a viewing and ordering session or return promptly back the same day with the photos from a 1 hour photo lab, or digital prints from a computer. Keep the originals for viewing on a large piece of construction board, album, and collect orders for duplicates and enlargements. There are many good books on photography and on the business of photography. Many photographers, such as me, use a website to post photos and collect orders after photographing an event. Do some research and talk to other photographers before you decide to get started.
Real-estate Investing: Get a job and maintain it, meanwhile apply for a secured credit card at a bank. Certain banks will open a line of credit for you for as little as a $500 deposit. They will give you $500 of credit, which is at no risk to them, and on your end, you will earn interest for your deposit. After you have developed a consistent history of making your payments on time, you will develop a good credit history, which you will need for the purchase of your first property. Discipline yourself to save at least 20% of your pay check. I read that most individuals in Japan practice this principal (no wonder why they have the money to come here and buy up some of America’s top companies). Get four of your friends or trustworthy investors (check the internet for investment clubs) who collectively save up about $10,000 (this is an estimate; the amount you will need will vary on your location). The concept here is that many people don’t have enough money to qualify for a home loan by themselves, but with a small team of individuals, they can qualify. Get a lawyer and form a partnership: open up a business banking account. You and your financial team can purchase a duplex, which has two units that you can rent out. Pay your mortgage (loan payment) on the property, and put the profits back in the bank, to save up for your next property. I and a few business partners bought a duplex years ago which had a mortgage of about $500. One side of the duplex paid for our mortgage, the other part we put back into our bank account. You and your financial team can make a commitment to each invest a portion of your income back into the business from your current paycheck from your job. In my group, our investment amount was about $180.00 a month each (you can ratio this out depending on the portion of each investor). Continue on, until you have enough to invest in another property, and then just continue to duplicate the process. Do your research by talking to realtors, investors, bankers and reading books on real-estate investing and developing partnerships.
Website: Learn web design by reading books and taking classes or find someone who has that skill, and create a website that will draw the attention of the public, or a particular interest group (keep it moral), and has content that will keep them coming back. I use photos that I have taken from current events on my website, which keeps people coming back to see what other photos I will have on my site next week / month. You can then sell advertising space on your site. To Host a site can cost less than $30.00 a month, leaving you a huge profit margin if you can get enough visitors to your site. The current average advertising rate on websites is about $20.00 per thousand visitors; meaning that if you can get content that is exciting enough to bring a least 500 visitors a month to your site, then you can charge a business $100 a month, to have their banner ad on your website.
Offer a Service to a Non-Profit Organization: If you have a talent, service or trade, you can offer it as community service through a non-profit organization. For example: an individual who is a good artist might offer their services to a senior citizen home teaching the residents water painting, or an individual trained in landscaping may offer their services to maintain the yards of disabled people. Income would come through grants or donations from various institutions and corporations. I have done this myself in teaching photography to inmates and youth in inner city programs. I would write a formal proposal, which would include per project or annual budget operating costs along with my fee for my services. Instead of starting my own non-profit organization, I contracted my services under the umbrella of an existing non-profit group, which was in line with my mission and services. Doing it this way also saved me from a lot of “red tape and paperwork.” The best thing about this concept is that you get to create your own job, along with offering free services to people in need within the community. The library is the best place to get information on writing proposals and getting funding to service non-profit organizations.
· Invest in the Stock Market: You can buy books and attend seminars on investing in the stock market. Many people don’t do it because they think they need thousands of dollars to get started. You can now get started on-line for under $50.00. Go to www.sharebuilder.com for more information.
Getting Started on Your Own
Here is a basic 7-step system I recommend in getting started on your own. I created this system based off information given to me by my personal mentors, books, and a lot of trial and error. This is just a base system; I advise that you customize it to fit your needs and goals. this is what I give to wards preparing for parole:
1. Set Short and Long-term Goals: Starting without a goal is like starting off on a treasure hunt without a map. It’s difficult to stay motivated and on course if you don’t have a clear destination.
2. Obtain Wise Counsel: Set a counseling appointment at a junior college, church or non-profit resource center with a counselor. Explain to them your entire situation, along with your goals. They are set up to assist you in many other areas besides school. They often network with employment, housing and financial aid agencies. They can assist you in charting out a plan to achieve your goals, along with referring and providing to you many helpful resources. They can refer you to classes and workshops in your community to help you with the following topics: employability skills, vocational training, cooking, paying bills, budget planning, relationships, parenting skills and more.
3. Housing: Depending on your situation, whether your coming out of high school or college or being released from a correctional atmosphere for success. The following are some options you might consider:
Get a Roommate: A roommate can be a blessing or a nightmare. You want to get a roommate that is responsible and has good values. The benefits of having a roommate is that rent and utilities can be cut in half, which leaves you more money to put into savings for your future. I have had roommates where we agreed to buy food in bulk and split the grocery bill. This created a great savings in my living expenses, which helped me to utilize the extra money to put into my side business of photography. Where can you find a good roommate? The bulletin board at a local college or church, where they also might have posted, rooms for rent. The classifieds in your daily newspaper, and there are roommate service agencies in the phone book and on the Internet. Make sure you do thorough interviews with the candidates you are considering.
Studio Apartment: This is an inexpensive apartment, in which all the appliances except for the bathroom are in one room.
Non-Profit-Rehab/Transitional programs: Many churches have these programs, which assists individuals by providing housing to those who been released from prison, are homeless or who have a substance abuse addiction. They also provide counseling, employment training and assistance, along with other helpful resources. The best way to get in contact with these types of programs is to attend a counseling session at your local community college, church or community outreach program, they network with some of these programs on a regular basis. These agencies will lead you to financial assistance, which might provide you emergency money to stay in a hotel or other placement, if there is a waiting list for the program.
4. Employment: Prepare a solid foundation for your long-term goal. Remember it is important to choose a career or business that you will enjoy. If you don’t, you might make a lot of money; yet, you will be a miserable wealthy person. Do not forget the majority of society spends most of their time at work, so doing what you enjoy, will improve the quality of your life. It is wise to look at every job (that is a moral job), no matter how little the pay, as stepping-stones to your goals. These jobs will provide you invaluable training and experience for the next step in your goal process.
Education/Vocational Training: I have discovered in my own life, that when you have an exciting goal, it’s a lot easier to stay focused in school. This leads to you knowing why your going to school and the value in it. The following are some inexpensive ways to obtain training:
Volunteering: Find a business or organization that utilizes the skills that pertain to the field you are working towards, and find out if they have a volunteer program. If not, put in a request to volunteer. For example, if you want to be a youth counselor, request to volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club. If you’re an aspiring artist, volunteer to create some public service posters for an anti-gang and drug campaigns. If you want to be a fireman, many fire stations have an apprentice or volunteer program. Most jobs ask for experience. Volunteering gives an individual not only experience, but training, which makes them a lot more marketable. Always ask for a letter of recommendation from the agency you have volunteered with. This will give your resume a big boost.
Junior Colleges: This is one of the least inexpensive ways to get solid training in your career or business R.O.P. (Regional Occupational Program): This is a program I utilized in high school to learn the trade of photography. They also offer it to adults as well. This program trains high school and college students in a variety of career and business fields then provides them an opportunity to gain real life experience in an actual business.
Labor Union/Unemployment Office: These are both agencies which provide employment and training in various work fields. Check your phone book for listings.
Interviewing: You must look, act and be the part of the business establishment you’re requesting to be employed at. This means you must fit the employee profile of the company or organization. For example: if an individual is going for a job interview at United Parcel Service, it would not be a good idea to walk into the interview chewing gum, using profanity, sagging pants and tattooed down. Why? Because U.P.S. is a professional business establishment, that deals with professional individuals and businesses. They want to hire individuals who display themselves in a professional manner. They want to hire individuals that will appropriately represent their company. Therefore realistically, if an individual wants a job with U.P.S., they should attend the job interview in professional attire, with professional mannerisms. I recommend for those who have visual tattoos to cover them or get them removed. If you can’t afford to, there are many non-profit organizations that provide grants to have them removed for free. Study the business or organization you are applying for, and observe how their employees dress, their mannerisms and job duties. Know the history of the company, their mission statement and their operational procedures; this will help you greatly in the interview process.
5. Investments/Savings: It’s not how much you make; it is what you do with what you make. A wise investor looks at the money from their employment as seeds and knows if they want a good harvest they can’t eat all their seeds. A good rule of thumb for savings is to save 10 percent for long-term (Money Market Account/Stocks/Real-estate) and save 5 percent for an emergency fund. The experts say to have six months of savings in the bank in case of a hardship. The most important investment is in the Kingdom of God. Due to God owning everything, He only asks for 10% of our income which is called a tithe (Which is God’s in the first place.). An offering is money given beyond the tithe (This is the seed for financial increase). The greatest investment one can make is into the Kingdom of God, which its business is to provide and minister to the needy and to gather and save lost souls from entering eternal damnation. We should all give without the intention of getting something back. God promises in His Word if we give with a right heart that He will give a greater blessing back to us. God rewards His servants for being good stewards over His money. God wants servants that He can trust with His money and resources, so he can use them as instruments to bless others. In other words, God doesn’t mind giving to someone, who He can get it back from. This is how God accomplishes His Kingdom Work here on earth.
8 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. 9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 12 “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
6. Free time/Recreation: “Too much idle time leads to evil time”, a wise mentor once told me. Make everyday as productive as possible. To keep your lifestyle healthy and balanced, each week incorporate the following: physical workout (gym/athletics), (church, Bible study, prayer), community outreach/volunteering (volunteer in the soup kitchen, visit the elderly, or be a mentor or big brother to an at-risk youth), personal development (if you are an artist, work on your craft during your free-time, take classes, enter contests and exhibits), entertainment (movies, bowling, fishing.)
Read and gain a deeper appreciation about the world and the Holy Bible by educating yourself about what’s going on in your community, country and world. Reading will help you become a better conversationalist and improve your I.Q according to the experts. I have a friend who is extremely knowledgeable about current events going on in this country and through out the world. He utilizes his wealth of knowledge in his investing because he given him the advantage of having a global view of the world market. One day he gave me some wise sound advice. He told me one of the secrets of his in-depth knowledge; he reads three magazines faithfully: the Economist, Keplingers and National Geographic, along with listening to news on public radio. He was right. In a short period, my knowledge increased rapidly, and during the process I obtained more in-depth knowledge, faith and appreciation for the Holy Bible. I was now able to gain a fresher perspective and clearer picture on the various beliefs, cultures and prophecies described in the Bible through out the world.At the same time, I also have been utilizing my new global knowledge as an aid in my investing in the stock market.
7. Peer Association: Over and over,I will continue to say,association brings similarities. If you want to be the right person, associate with the right people. The experts say you will be the average of the individuals you hang around. Take a good look at who you hang around, and then ask yourself, “Is this the average I want to be?” If the answer is “no”, then take the initiative to create a new positive peer group, which will encourage you to go in a positive direction. You can find a lot of these positive peers during your free-time activities. A wise person creates an environment where there is positive peer pressure and avoids environments where there is negative peer pressure like the plague.
Here is an anointed prayer I received from a ward, given to him by his mother, from her church. This daily prayer has truly blessed me. I believe it will do the same for you (I have modified that prayer a little.)
Rayford L. Johnson
Heavenly Father, I will now pray in the power of your Holy Spirit, by the authority of your written Word and in the name of your Son Jesus Christ, our Anointed Savior.
I bind, rebuke and bring to no effect: All fear and fear-related spirits, doubts and unbelief’s, pride, arrogance, complacency, selfishness, division, discord, disunity, rebellion and witchcraft spirits, disobedience, confusion, disorder, envy, jealousy, gossip, slander, evil speaking and filthy communications out of people’s mouths, lying, scorning delaying spirits, slothfulness, lust, gluttony, poverty, greed, the fear of lack, harassing and tormenting spirits, addicting spirits, thieving spirits, obscene spirits , seducing spirits, false teachings and gifts, manifestations of lying signs and wonders, spirits of the Anti-christ , and all occults.
I break all curses that have been placed and break the power of negative words and attitudes going out of the mouths of the people. In the name of Jesus, I destroy all generational curses and diseases. I render useless all prayers not inspired by the Holy Spirit, whether psychic, soul force, witchcraft, counterfeit tongues, or prayers out of ignorance that have been placed against me.
I loose God’s will in my life and, His blessings of prosperity, deliverance, healing and salvation, in the name of Jesus. My steps are ordered by the Lord. The Holy Spirit leads me into all truth. I discern between the righteous and the wicked, between those that serve God and those that don’t.
I take authority over this day, in Jesus name, that it is prosperous for my of my soul, body, spirit and finances. I plead the blood of Jesus over every area of my life. Let me walk in your love and show forth your glory. I thank you Lord for your righteousness. I thank you Lord that I have a God kind of faith an ever increasing, limitless faith.
I pray for the ministry you have called me to be a part of and to walk in. I thank you for the financial support to do the work unhindered by lack. I thank you for help to assist in the work. For intercessors to hold the ministry up in prayer at all times, we stand firm untied in spirit and purpose, working side by side, centering in on the Gospel work. We follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness and long suffering.
I put on the full armor of God according to Ephesians 6:14-17. “ No spirits of retaliation can come against my family, my possessions, my investments, nor me. When trouble comes, it will not see me, my family or those on my prayer list, for we are hidden in the shadow of God’s wings and covered with the blood of the Lamb.”
In Jesus name, Amen.
“Father as a Pastor”
I have six older siblings, two sisters and four brothers, two of which are from my father’s side to whom I’ve never met. Reason is my mother killed my biological father when I was three years old. My father was a very abusive man and from what I’ve been told was somewhat a drug addict. Anyway my mother killed (stabbing him three times) because he threatened to kill us (me and my brother) and her if she did not agree to his ways. See my father was a control freak and didn’t want my mother to socialize and have friends. Basically never to leave the house and my mother wasn’t having that. She was up until the day he threatened to kill us and the attempt to come through with his threat, which cost him his life. I wish things didn’t end up that way, but unfortunately they did, and my father died and my mother was given 12 months for manslaughter on the account of self defense. During the time of my mothers incarceration, there was an issue of who would have custody of me and my older brother. Me and my brother have different fathers it really wasn’t a question of who would take care of us seeing that his father was still alive and a pastor, well deacon at that time or maybe minister, well something like that. Well after me and my brother testified as good as we could on my mother’s behalf, my brother’s father was given custody of me who then was known to me as my surrogate grand father, but quickly came to be my father. Life with my brother’s father was somewhat boring. See my “popa” was a very, very religious man in Christ, who believed without any doubt in God and the truth and tried his hardest to persuade or shall I say force me and my brother to believe and accept Jesus, at a young age, which was his biggest mistake, because it caused both of us to rebel or rather stay away from church at the end.
Let me explain. My pop had an obsession with church that is the only way I can describe it. Me and my brother went to school Monday Friday in church. The same church we attended Monday Friday night as well as Saturday revival and Sunday’s service. This was an on going daily thing until my mother returned home from jail. I loved pops and never hold that against him cause I know he did it out of love, the good thing is almost every church in the Bay Area and some in Sac knew me from when I was young and my brother and pops. So that’s cool, not to mention when ever I do go to a church that he has preached in I get some weird type of attention especially from the females around my age. Anyway when my momma came home I was gratefully given back in her custody as well as my brother. My mom tried to get us to church at least every other Sunday, but eventually stop trying. Growing up with my mom I hate to say, “ made me extremely rebellious as a teenager. See me and mother are exactly alike and that’s not a very good thing. She thought that what she did was alright and I thought she was a pain in the a*s, but I loved her to death and extremely grateful for her life (believe it or not) any way, I started getting into an abundance of trouble so fast it finally added up and after my second visit to the hall I was introduced to CYA. Shortly after my pops passed my brother never really was a troublemaker and is the good boy out of us all. He took his father’s death harder than I did. Forgive me for not grieving. I actually look at it as a blessing, he was sick and is in the place he knew he would always be. A place for sure without any doubt that his soul resides, Heaven. See even though I didn’t remain a church goer, I am still very Christian. I just choose not to accept the knowledge that I have, because I am not ready to see the “truth” of the whole matter, it frightens me. Did I make myself clear when I stated the “truth”. I know what exists and what is the truth. But, I cannot and will not accept it in till I am fully ready to dedicate. All I can do is wait and ask God for patience and hopefully it just won’t be too late.
“It’s not easy to change”
I do not consider myself to be a gang member. When I was younger there was a group of people I hung out with. We did do some crimes together, but we didn’t have a certain group who was our enemy, so we never set out to hurt people. We shared the same views and basically hung out together. I did not get my beliefs from these people, but they did support them. I grew up around my own race and established my views from my family as I was growing up. And since I grew up around my own race these views became stronger. I started going to jail from an early age and learning the jail house mentality, which contributed to these views even more. So basically what it comes down to is I was taught to think a certain way all my life and it’s not easy to change something like that, especially in this type of setting. I have, however, matured a lot and have learned to not let my views affect other people. I give respect where it is due and I have an open mind to others views.
“The Life of a Miscreant”
We are juvenile delinquents, hoodlums, gang bangers, drug dealers. We come from various backgrounds ranging from rich to poor, functional and dysfunctional families. We are black , white, brown and yellow. Some of us were raised in a world of religion: Catholic, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Baptist or Methodist and some of us were raised atheist. Yet we all have one thing in common: at some point in our life we broke the law and were caught. Some of us were convicted of felonies and sent to CYA, some were let go on probation are back in society portraying the same behavior prior to getting arrested. What are the reasons for these immoral acts? Why continue living life as a criminal? You will soon have your answer.
You see, we are young when we develop our “bad habits”. Most of us had no guidance or sense of direction in our lives. So therefore, it is inevitable that we acquire a life of misconduct. We simply followed the examples given to us by those unforgiving streets. But this alone doesn’t justify our actions, does it? Oh, no, it goes deeper than this. Some of it has to do with peer pressure. Some can even say it’s hereditary. Within the last decade and a half, scientists have conducted research to ascertain if criminal and violent behavior are passed on through generations of family members. Whether their theories are accurate or irrelevant, they many be true in a sense, but not likely.
Juvenile miscreants, like me, totally demolish their theory that criminal and violent behaviors are hereditary. I myself came from a middle class family. Although I wasn’t raised by my parents, my grandparents instilled in me a sense of direction and taught me right from wrong, polite and impolite, moral and immoral. They introduced me to religion, which was supposed to be a frame of reference to show me the ideal lifestyle and set me on the path of “righteousness”. They worked hard to show me that there are rewards from being kind and considerate. They stressed the importance of education. Never pushing too hard but keeping a firm grip on my activities. They supported me at my football games and wrestling matches, and they came to my school concerts to watch me play the drums. I was not spoiled with materialistic stuff, I was spoiled with love and attention. Their affection for me was obvious. So how did I go wrong?
The reason a kid like me gets into trouble is merely curiosity and the rush of adrenaline. Who hasn’t gotten into trouble as a child? I guess some kids perpetuate their lifestyles as criminals a bit more than others. Our indulgence in crime becomes addictive. We begin as thieves, stealing candy and toys. Then some of us get introduced to drugs and figure we need money to buy materialistic things. Better clothes, jewelry and more drugs. Why more drugs? To sell of course. It beats robbing people, so we think it all ties in. You meet the wrong people, join a gang and that’s where your old world ends and new one begins.
At this point, we are uncontrollable. Family begins to wonder why you stay out so late. You begin lying to them. You stop caring how much you are loved because you have your homies who you think love you. You want to prove yourself not only as “down for the homies” but your importance as a young man. In school you pick fights, get suspended, then stop going to school altogether. You hang out, do drugs, drink beer, go out at night and shoot off a gun your homie stole from his dad and at this point you think you’re invincible until you end up drawing the last straw with the police.
So now you’re locked up. This isn’t your usual 1 night, 1 week, 1 month stay. You go before a judge and he gives you 4 years! You think to yourself”, are you serious?”. But eventually you begin to accept it. You still have your homies who got locked up before and after you. But now you can’t party any more. Can’t steal, can’t do drugs together. What do you do? The only thing you can do, gang bang and fight for a reputation as a tough guy.
By this time some type of hatred has been embedded inside you. You tell yourself it wasn’t your fault that you got locked up and begin pointing the finger. Barely a week into your commitment you start to become anxious at what you might do for the next 3 yrs. 11 months and 3weeks. You began to stress out. All of a sudden you miss being home when at the time you spent your whole days roaming the streets. You think you’re the only one who has a right to be mad at the world. But unfortunately, every single inmate feels the same way. No one is capable of adjusting to each others emotional tribulations. You become very irritated over little things. He keeps staring at me; he scuffed my shoe; he bumped into me without apologizing. Next thing you know you lash out and fire(assault) on the next guy who said the wrong thing.
The funny thing about fighting is that for most inmates, it’s like a drug. Violence brings adrenaline; adrenaline brings you the release from reality. It’s an escape route you take so you don’t have to confront the issues you were sent to jail for like stealing, gang bangin, doing drugs, and the like. And now people notice you ain’t no “sucker fish” and began to respect your mind.” Now all you care about is maintaining your image. The abusive talk and fighting never stops. But little by little you start to realize it’s only a temporary escape, on the spot pleasure. Staff start to confront your ill behavior, now staff is the enemy for trying to do their job. But you don’t see it that way.
It takes about 3 years to realize you need to change your act and then it takes about another year and a half to actually do something about it. This is if you have a conscience. You began to realize that it’s you who has to adjust not the staff, not your family. You find other things to do to occupy yourself other than fighting. I workout, read, and do school work to cope with time. Every now and then you write your family. You set goals to obtain for when you get out. Regardless under the circumstances of confinement, you have to put up with daily occurrences: strip searches, one hour out of your room, lack of food you get, people talking trash to you because they had a bad day.
Now the only difference is that you’ve developed some self control. You have values all of a sudden. You realize how important your family is, how important your freedom is. You think of ways to keep you from getting locked up again, and what got you locked up in the first place. By this time you realize you’re a young adult and hold more responsibilities when you get out. Now all of a sudden right when your time is up, you decide you want to change your life, be the person your family wanted you to be. But more importantly, you want to be the person you wanted to be which is anything you want, as long as it’s not illegal, and won’t get you into trouble. It’s never too late. The first step toward a positive change is realizing you have issues that need to be altered. And although you are confined physically, your soul is released and runs free. This is the life of a miscreant.
“I learned to hate them for that.”
Let’s start this essay off by saying that it’s evident that I’ve got a problem being told what to do, especially when I feel that they are telling me to do it because they have authority over me.
Also before I can get to the root of the problem, which would be my problems with authority figures. Since I was small I’ve had a problem with police and officers of any sort, because they seem to think that they are invincible because of their badge and status that they hold above me and certain groups of people.
Since I was small I’ve had to deal with authority figures only doing things I didn’t like. For example; taking my family and friends to jail or even myself. I learned to hate them for that. You had your gang vs. police shoot outs and when the police shoot my family or homies on top of taking all of us to jail, I gained fear of authority figures. So it’s human nature to hate what you fear and can’t concur.
Now that I’m in jail, I’m always being told what to do by staff, sometimes teachers and I don’t like it and have a hard time accepting it and that causes an NFI (not following instruction behavior report) or other things that staff label not doing what you are told.
“Dogs with dreams”
(Fresno Bulldog Gang Member)
It’s amazing how you people say dogs don’t have any dreams. We’ll first of all I’m a dog and I have many goals to become someone in life and give birth to many souls..
So I ain’t much different from you, in fact we’re all the same human beings. It’s just that I’m out to do a job and that job is to claim fame.
So don’t criticize us because we weren’t fed with a silver spoon in our mouth, it’s amazing how you people could judge us dogs and still find it hard to realize that we are all the same human beings .it’s just that we make decisions in life that lead to mistakes but we get up and try again, and ask for God’s sake so remind yourself before you judge a book by its cover to look in side and don’t say dogs don’t have any dreams, because mine are full of pride.
“I was always with it.”
The gang lifestyle was never forced upon me nor was it glamorized in my eyes. The gang lifestyle surrounded me and after a while consumed my whole physical being. The store clerk gangbanged, some of the security at school gangbanged, everyone in my projects gangbanged. We as people are a reflection of our community, a mirror of our environment – for the most part.
I never sought acceptance. I was naturally accepted, so by me getting jumped in or on my hood was just saying, “I’ve always been from here, but now I’m officially down for the set”. After that nothing really changed. I was always ‘with it’ so I just stayed with the business.
I was looking through immature eyes. Now that I’ve grown, I’ve matured in my understanding, but still hold firm to my beliefs. From being locc(d)ed up I have submitted to the “prison politics” in here and although I have matured, I still choose to push my organization and my hood because I do believe in both although it holds ignorance, there is also wisdom.
If I had a chance to leave it all right now, I would decline based on we all have a turning point in our lives and ‘we” are the ones, the only ones that can make that change. When my turning point comes then I will consider it, then until that point in my life comes I am a dedicated soulja to the cause and loyal to my homies.
Mad A#% Cripin’
“Why I’m in?”
Coming from a one parent family I turned to the streets for what you’d call a father figure. Therefore “gangstas” and “thugs” became my role models; they took me in without a hesitation. They taught me what I needed to learn in order to survive in the ghetto streets. I continue to strive because it’s all too familiar to me; it’s what I know best. In some odd form the streets are “homey” to me. I was once taken in by “my people” when I asked for guidance and now it’s my turn to do the same to those in need.
“In a way, this YA saved my life”
I didn’t have nobody at the house putting pressure on my back talking about you better go to school. My mom was doing her own thang. The only person that was trying to get me on the right track was my daddy, but based on he didn’t stay with us it was kind of hard to keep up with me, but until this day, I still remember him coming to the house when I’m not at school and trying to wash my mouth out, like that was gonna really do something.
I remember being young and seeing one of the neighborhood drug dealers counting his money sitting on a clean as# car surrounded by hell of females, that’s when I told myself I want to be just like him. That was fifteen years ago, now looks where I’m at.
The environment I live in, it’s hard to make it without doing something negative, based on you ain’t seeing too many people waking up early to go to work, I’m surrounded by dope fiends and bums and high school drop outs and ex convicts. In a way this YA saved my life.
I look at it like this, why should I work 9 to 5 and only get $300 to $400 dollars a week when I can make that in two or three hours. I knew I was doing wrong and one day I would get caught but that’s life. Everything you do in this world is taking chances.
Most people out there that do criminal stuff don’t have to do that. They just want to do it for the f*#k of it. Sometimes it makes you feel good when you take something from a person when you have a gun cause somebody took something from you with a gun so it’s like a favor for a favor. Everybody wants to have a family a nice car and house but do you have a nice paying job for all that cause drug money can’t do it. You might get it all but soon as you get caught and everything is in your name, the police gone take it. I know based on I seen it happen to a couple of my uncles.
“I didn’t come up in a dysfunctional home”
I’m a nineteen year old Mexican that grew up in Southern California. I lived in a middleclass neighborhood in the city of Santa Ana. I didn’t come up in a dysfunctional home, my parents or none of my family members are gang members. I began to like gang members at a very early age. My house was across from a park so when I came out of school I went home. Both of my parents held fulltime employment so then I would go to the park and hang around my older homies, I liked their style they would always have drugs, guns, money and people were scared of them, so as time passed I knew a few of them pretty good. I learned how to play handball so my interactions with them grew, I got older and they gave me a nickname. I began dressing like them and sometimes they would give me beer. Then later on I got jumped in and I was one of them. I felt comfortable being around all the homeboys, I did a lot of things and gained my respect.
“I felt like I was part of the family that I didn’t have at home”
I was born to parents who were gang members in 1975. My first memory of being exposed to gangs was when I was about 4 years old, I can remember being at a park in Sacramento with my mother, father, and some of their friends. While we were about to leave, a diesel truck drove through the parking lot. The driver of the truck said something out of his window to my father. My father responded by jumping on the truck and pulling the driver out and started to beat the driver in the middle of the parking lot along with some of my father’s friends. After they pulled the driver from the truck some guys jumped into the truck and drove off in it.
Since that incident I can remember many more like it. Growing up I began to look up to other people who did negative things like victimizing people. I first joined a gang in 9 ’. Once I joined the gang I felt like I was part of a family that I didn’t have at home. My mother was into drugs and my father was locked up in prison almost all of my life. My father being locked up left me and my brother without any type of positive role model in the household. In order to fill that void I looked towards gangs and other older gang members for role models.
While I was in the gang, I was exposed to more negative behaviors like drugs, sex and doing time. Back when I was in the gang, our idea of having a good time was to get high and look for trouble. At the time, I didn’t realize that self destruction was the only road I was headed for by choosing to involve myself in the gang lifestyle. Being in the Youth Authority and participating in treatment groups has shown me that being a gang member and choosing to live that lifestyle leads to nothing but negative consequences like being a drug addict, locked up in prison or worse.
Who cares out there? I’m not sure anyone cares what happens to someone with the mentality of a thug truly, to every person out there do you care? Not to disrespect anybody because some do care, but with the eyes of pain in these insane times I see more hate than love. Because, I’m not wanting nor willing to change. Some of the aspects of myself.
I see mamas out there leaving their babies behind so they can kick it with us thugs. Some of us just don’t care whether these mamas get back to their babies to give them love and care: But aren’t we the ones that created these lil’ ones just yesterday?
It seemed I was living-n- a lonely place; but sooner or later I realized that these bullets will dissipate and all that will be left is my children with rage, filled with colors that are war paint. Filling their daddy’s shoes, singing the county blues that they give us unlikely to survive past the age of twenty five because we have the attitude to “ride or die”, and stay high, while we try to survive.
But why? In the beginning I asked who cares out there, but who cares in here? Inside my here temple seems like a black hole that sucks up love from somewhere above, but it keeps being replanted to satisfy my trick habits. Care some do care and to me the some counts because even though I was deprived their love shines deep inside.
This here goes out to all the homeboys and homegirls as well as my family that was here for me during my hard times for keeping my head up so I could shine like the brighter star I am. I’m grateful to have y’all in my life. And also to my sister ——, I mess you dearly and I’ll always cherish the memories of me and you together. I luv you sis, for life!!
“I wanted and enjoyed being seen as an animal.”
Because of the way I and my peers saw ourselves, I didn’t care about what happened to others, I wanted and enjoyed being seen as an animal. I t gave me an edge and power that I had not know before. My relationship with women varied depending upon how I meet her and who she was. Because of my activities I scared a lot of women away and the other that did stay wanted and enjoyed the way I was. They wanted to be with someone they thought people knew as hard or crazy. So they were there for nothing but sex and recognition. But because of my activities I hurt my mother and my family and I even drove some of their friends away and hurt myself in doing so.
“8-Day’s of Stress”
I’ve got eight days left to this place they call CYA. But instead they should call it “the house of jokes”, because that’s what it really is. Right now I’m stuck on a lifetime decision that will mold my future one way or the other. One way I could go is, go get high, start selling that drug I love so much, that good old methlcrank. I have learned more scams to breaking the law then I wish to admit. From white collar crime to credit card and check fraud, from internet hack sites to cooking almost every drug there is. If I take the route I’m not going to nickel or dime I’m going to sell hundreds of pounds I will become a cartel, a known drug lord, I probably won’t even live in the U.S. and if my day comes when the law says no more, no more drugs into the country, no more illegal weapons, that is the day that law will have to take a human life, my life, because I will be ready to take their life or anyone at that matter who tries to stop me, because I refuse to go back to a jail setting. I rather die then go back. The other way I could go is get out and have a simple life. Let me explain, I want to get out and get into weight lifting and mountain biking. I want to be a healthy eater, get into boxing and learn how to salsa dance and learn to do the tango and other dances. I want to support my own self to be my own man. So like I said, I have two choices, live a simple life or become a millionaire cartelling over night or die trying. I’ve got eight days left…..
I pray that those who have read this book have internalized and developed the skills of the four principles I discussed in the introduction: Awareness- how to identify thug mentality; Knowledge- to gain a deep understanding of it; Wisdom- and how to apply the knowledge; and a desired Mission- to enlighten the growing multitudes lost in the spiritual darkness of the thug culture with the previous three principles.
I want to take some time to clarify the purpose and mission of this book. I didn’t write this book just for it to be a “good read.” The interviews I conducted with the wards that are contained in this book are not to sensationalize but to bring clarity (clearing up the misconceptions) and to validate the information presented. Also the interviews were placed here for other gang members to see their rivals, just not as rivals but as individuals with real emotions, dreams, heartaches like themselves. Gang members have conveyed to me the as a real person who might have gone through or come from a similar life experience. After reading some of the stories from his peers in the book, a ward told me the other day that he looks at his rivals in a whole different way now. He was surprised to find out that behind some of those tough masks lay the many insecurities and emotional pains that led him into the thug culture. Many of the wards that I have let read these stories have said similar things. This is part of the mission: to reduce violence by letting gang members see their rivals not as just rivals, but as real individuals as themselves, with families who care for and love them.
The core Mission of this book is to expose the lies of the glitz and glamour of thug mentality, by teaching the four principles in this book: awareness, knowledge, wisdom and mission. Throughout my 16 years of counseling in group homes and correctional facilities, I have discovered that when you teach these principles with the right heart, it will awaken the conscience of an individual and prep their heart for change.
Once the conscience (heart) is awakened, this is when the battle begins within the person’s soul. This process can begin a tidal wave of emotions that many feel are too unbearable to deal with (feelings from past sins and painful memories such as abuse from their childhood). Gang members have explained to me that these feelings of overwhelming guilt, shame and emotional pain can be more excruciating than physical pain. So many I talk to have lived committed multiple murders for which they were never caught and don’t care to remember, due to the nightmare of guilt which is associated with them. They believe that formulating a numb and heartless mindset protects them from experiencing these emotions. They live their lives strategically avoiding and running from God and morality, because just the mere presence of Godliness convicts their conscience. This is why many dive head-on into these evil and rebellious cultures, and are boastful about representing immorality by their foul language, obscene tattoos, substance abuse, etc. This is why “gangsta” music is so embraced, because it condones and praises evil behavior, and is a quick fix for their ailing conscience. So instead of the individual feeling the overwhelming feelings of guilt for their sins (which can lead to repentance), they replace it with a feeling of pride. This is the lie of thug mentality.
The thug mentality mind-set says, “I don’t care,” as I stated earlier in the book, a famous cliché is “I don’t give a f%*@.” But the truth be told, they’re too afraid to care, because caring means feeling. That’s why evil is stylized and embraced within the thug mentality cultures, because the more evil the presence, the further away they are reluctant to give their life to God. The process of repenting and forgiving brings forth emotions that many feel they can’t handle. So instead of receiving the awesome love and peace from God through forgiveness and Salvation, they search for peace elsewhere, in substance abuse, sexual perversion and other reckless, thrill-seeking behaviors which only bring forth more guilt once the high is gone.
Yet, thank God there are some willing to take that brave, painful journey to deliverance through Jesus Christ. However, once they arrive there, it is vital for them to connect with a Godly culture that will support them. In world full of cultures which condone sin, where are youth to go for support? This is why many turn back to the immoral cultures from which they came, even though they don’t want to, because after they received Salvation, there was no Godly culture in place to take them in.
This is where the church, non-profit organizations and individuals in the community must come into the picture. If this Godly culture is not in place, many will go right back into the thug culture. Yet getting them to accept this culture is easier said than done. As we all know, if a culture is not interesting or exciting, the youth won’t embrace it. Earlier I told how I made my transition from an immoral culture into a moral culture as a youth. The culture cultivated by a church youth group had created an exciting atmosphere of love, peace, friendship, music, entertainment, recreation, education and outreach which all pointed back to the Savior, Jesus Christ. Every week I looked forward to the fellowship within that youth group, and some of those friendships are still strong and are a blessing even up until today.
I know from my school-age years, that it’s natural for youth to desire to be cool, but the definition of “cool” from the past, which was: smooth, laid back, calm under pressure, stylish has been synonymous with prideful and evil behavior. Many of these popular cultures now define “cool” as being thuggish, “gangsta,” eccentric, conceited and sexually promiscuous. My mission is to assist in re-creating and promoting cultures that will re-define “cool” as being morally good, fun, exciting, loving and stylish (however not in a prideful way). Why can’t cool be staying true to your God-given conscience through living a life of integrity, and a willingness to deny selfishness to help a neighbor in need? The problem I see in some non-profit organizations and even churches, is that in a desperate plea to save the youth, many of them have attempted to blend in elements of the immoral cultures into their programs. Believing this to be a good marketing technique for their organization, they have in essence tainted it with not only immorality, but also contradictions.
For example, I have seen well-intentioned organizations put on an after-school dance, in order for it to be supervised closely by adults, assuring there would be no alcohol, drugs, gang activity and sexually promiscuous behavior. But during the party they allow the DJ to play music that promotes sexual promiscuity, drugs, alcohol and violence. Then the following week the organization holds an anti-gang and drugs workshop. I remember a time I went to speak at a Christian high school, and a faculty member-in an attempt to get the students’ attention-got up during the assembly and asked for a volunteer to get up on the stage and sing their favorite rap song. An eager youth dressed in gang member attire hopped on the stage, grabbed the microphone out of the faculty members hand and begin to rap a Snoop Dogg song, which was about “slangin” (selling) dope in Long Beach. I couldn’t believe that after the staff member had listened to the words that he actually encouraged the rowdy assembly to rap and dance along with the youth, which they did ecstatically.
Sadly it appears to be a growing trend with some churches that as certain types of immoral behaviors or cultures become popular or accepted by mainstream society they jump on the bandwagon. They then attempt to integrate and modify it-or should I say counterfeit it-into the church culture to make church more appealing to the public. Just the other day I was looking at a local church’s website that was advertising that they play secular (worldly) music in their church service. The problem with these tactics is that once the world sees the church begin to compromise, the church begins to lose respect and credibility in the eyes of those in the world that are desperately seeking truth. This trend is a great tragedy and a violation of God’s law. Let’s look at what God told Israel, after he pulled them out of captivity from Egypt. During the time of their captivity many of the Israelites had turned from God to embrace the pagan lifestyle of the Egyptians, but God corrected them, saying:
30 Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable yourselves with them. I am the LORD your God.
So how do you replace an immoral culture with a positive one?
First, it will take a team effort from individuals with the right heart willing to pull together all their talents and resources. But there is no reason for you to wait to join or assemble a team. Remember that a component of the mission is to “teach-one to teach-one,” so start where you are. We all know someone who is being held captive to thug mentality.
It is important to spend time in prayer, in order to obtain a clear direction for your mission. Here are some ideas I believe God put in my heart regarding methods for promoting a revolution for an exciting and Godly culture that youth will be drawn to embrace through the Holy Spirit.
Create Public Service Announcements: make them interesting, funny, scary (example: dangers of drugs and gangs) and cool. What can be used as a PSA? Posters, commercials, plays, movies (short films to be broadcast on websites like YouTube.Com),websites, and podcasts. What’s so great about the Internet is that you can take this message in these formats worldwide in a matter of minutes. Other effective methods are clothing (with positive mission statements), art, music, dance (praise dance), sports camps, community functions and workshops.
In the facility where I work, the wards and I just completed a short film in honor of Victims Week. We all had a lot of fun putting the project together. At the same time, some marketable job skills were taught to them, such as script writing, digital editing, music, videography, computer graphics and theater. However, most important was the gratifying feeling we all had in putting out a powerful message against gang violence. If I get permission from my institution, I will place the movie in front of a worldwide audience on YouTube.Com.
Who must get involved? Community and religious leaders, teachers, mentors, organizations, businesses, schools, churches, students, law enforcement, athletic coaches, etc. I encourage more non-profit organizations (churches, job placement agencies, living assistance programs, vocational schools) aimed at reducing crime to get more aggressive against this thug mentality. For example, we need more volunteers and mentors going into the prisons, juvenile halls and group homes. Many assume that once inmates or those in youth or rehab placements come to the end of their stay, they’re just going to walk through the door of these non-profit agencies. Most of the individuals don’t know about these organizations, and if they do, the “streets” often sidetrack them before they reach the door. That’s why it’s important for organizations to make their presence known and become a part of the planning stage of these individuals’ transition back into the community.
I think about the multitude of non-profit and religious organizations out in the community, the majority of which are rarely or never seen within the correctional facilities. Visiting those in prison is one of the commandments in the Bible.
34”Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37”Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40”The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41”Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44”They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45”He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46”Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
I challenge not only on the non-profit organizations, but also you and the individuals within the community to act on this mandate: those who worry and complain about the rebellious youth and crime after reading the newspaper or watching the news, but never take action. As they say, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” and the problem truly is when those in society sit back and watch and hear about all the crime, yet decide to do nothing. A good illustration was in the movie Spider Man, when Peter Parker (Spiderman) knowingly allowed a criminal to go free for selfish reasons. Unbeknownst to him, that same night the criminal he didn’t apprehend would kill his Uncle Ben during a carjacking. Parker, tormented with the memory of this guilt, vowed to make amends for his irresponsible and reckless decision that night by becoming a crime-fighter for all humanity.
All of us are capable of doing something against the epidemic of thug mentality (especially now that you have learned the four principles). To continue do nothing is to commit the same travesty Peter Parker did.
I pray that those with the love and courage to take on this mission will have the mind-set to take the four principles in this book, to “teach-one to teach-one.” This will keep this curative cycle alive, creating a new cultural foundation of divine truth and salvation through Jesus Christ, which in turn will give birth to peace, love, hope, purpose and joy in the lives of many.
God bless you, Rayford L. Johnson
If this book has been a blessing to you, your feedback and testimonies would be greatly appreciated. Email: email@example.com
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