March 30, 2016

I've written before about Entrepreneurs here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp and how they are an active and necessary part of the service, retail, and distribution industry. I've also discovered there is a thriving Black Market of produce that seems to simply walk out of the kitchen. In my job of "veggie prep", I'm the man who cuts the onions, bell peppers, jalapenos, carrots, and tomatoes. It's not unusual,  while in the middle of cutting onions, to notice 4-10 onions gone from my pan should I look away for more than 5 seconds. Some  I try to stop. Others I don't. I've discovered that this underground economy has a name. It's called the Prison Hustle.

 

Here's a little background. It's not uncommon for an inmate to receive little or no financial support from family or friends. Most prison salaries start at $19/month for a 40 hour week. Email can run from $20-$40/month, or stamps $10-$15/month, which means that a visit to the commissary to purchase food or OTC medications is out o...

March 27, 2016

True confession from me here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp.

 

For many years now, I have merely pretended to understand the doctrine "substitutional atonement" as it relates to Jesus' death. It truthfully makes no sense to me. Substitutional Atonement is the Christian doctrine that says that before we could be forgiven, Jesus' blood sacrifice was required by God to atone for the sins of humanity. When I think about that, it gets a little weird, in an ancient Middle Eastern sort of way. I have serious doubts as to why God's love and grace, which is supposed to be unearned and boundless, has to be "bought with a price" with blood, particularly human blood, so that I can get eternal fire insurance. Once I gave up on the doctrine of substitutional atonement, I began to understand John 1:1-3. It's been about love, not sacrifice, from the very beginning. Jesus wasn't an afterthought to correct our mistakes.

 

Richard Rohr puts it this way. "God in Jesus moved people beyond the counting, weig...

March 21, 2016

I read this over four months ago in the Buddhist meditation service at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. So far, these weekly services have been the best Christian meetings I've attended here. The irony of that statement is not lost on me. I wonder if it's possible to be a believing Christian and a practicing Buddhist. In my case probably yes, as I would suck at both. Anyway, here's what I read.

 

Caught in the self-centered dream, only suffering.

Holding to self-centered thoughts, exactly the dream.

Each moment, life as it is, the only teacher.

Being just this moment, compassion’s way.

 

I have no idea who wrote this, and at first reading it made little sense. Here's what I now think it means.

 

It seems to be progression. Self-centered thoughts emerge from our subconscious, reacting without thinking to situations that might, but seldom do, call for self-protection. We can't help that, as we often just unconsciously react out of fear, anger, avoidance, or judgment. We do that instinctively. But...

March 16, 2016

Sixty million years ago, when a rather large meteor hit our planet and drastically changed its environment, the dinosaurs were doomed to extinction. They just didn't know it yet. It may be happening again, as I believe we are in the midst of similar slow death to institutionalized religion in America. To my untrained eye, I don't see one singular meteoric event that drastically changed the landscape, but the world is changing. Maybe the change is caused by science, maybe it's technology, or maybe it's institutional suicide. Whatever the cause, unless something changes, institutional religion will be essentially gone from America in 50 years. I doubt it will adapt. If you're a baby boomer like I am who grew up in the Bible belt, that's tragic. If you doubt this trend, ask your kids. (In an unrelated conclusion, I'm also convinced that spirituality in America is alive and well and will thrive well into the next century, but that's another story.)

 

There are isolated locations where this s...

March 12, 2016

There are inmates here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp who have been incarcerated or "down" for a long time. They started at a Medium or Low Security Prison and worked their way here either by good behavior or by not getting caught in bad behavior. While the definition is regrettable, almost all these men are institutionalized. 

 

They have developed coping skills that helped them survive violence and a gang related culture that permeate those medium and low security facilities. I learned early on not to stand behind them, as they think I might have a weapon. When I laughed at the possibility, I received a response somewhere between puzzlement and anger.

 

This will be difficult to explain to someone who hasn't been around people who have been incarcerated for a long time, and I wonder if I fully understand it myself, but when an inmate feels no respect for a long period of time, he often develops an insatiable but twisted need for r...

March 8, 2016


Before many pickup trucks were equipped with four wheel drive, it was much more challenging to drive in the mud of Northeast Louisiana. There was mud everywhere in the winter and spring, and it was a place where teenage boys of my generation were known to create their own fun with a truck and some mud. To hone our driving skills, we created a game called Mud Hog'n. It was a simple game. We would find an extremely muddy piece of ground with standing water, preferably 50-75 yards long. Then we would attempt to drive through it without getting stuck.

It was best to start fast, but that trick never worked through the difficult middle part. Sometimes my truck (really my dad's truck) would slow to a crawl as the tires continued to spin. Just before I came to complete stop, I would throw the truck into reverse, get some traction, then back into drive, continuing this back and forth process until I was moving again. The key was to use the process I knew should work (science) but use it intui...

March 7, 2016

Dr. Robin Dunbar, a psychologist at Oxford University is the originator of Dunbar's Number which is a rough measure of the stable relationships that individuals can maintain. His studies have shown that from Neolithic villages to the centuries of Roman legions, humans seem to have historically organized themselves in groups of 100-200. His most recent study shows that regular social media users average 187 Facebook friends. Other details of his study are that we average about fifteen people we would call close friends and five whom we would rely on in times of crisis.

Hopefully you are a member of a social or religious group through which you have developed relationships. Perhaps you've also done this through your work. What if you ate, slept, showered, peed, watched TV, worked out and just otherwise looked at these same people 24/7? What if they were hardly ever out of earshot, even when they were having emotional phone conversations with their spouse, girlfriend or child? Can you im...

March 1, 2016

When I was little, I often suffered from upper respiratory infections. My ingenious mom had the perfect remedy which she called the "Chest Cloth." It was a cotton kitchen towel that was thoroughly coated with Vicks Vapor Rub then heated in the oven. She would pin it on my pajama top, so I could go to sleep with the warm, soothing aroma of Vicks. I was convinced then, as I am today, that there was/is mysterious healing power in that cloth, even though it was like cardboard when I awoke the next morning.

 

Even as an adult, during allergy season, I rubbed Vicks under my nose each night before bed. I readily admit some may think this strange, but not as strange as doing it all the time, as I've done the last few years regardless of whether it's allergy season or not. You might try out the mystical healing powers, but don't expect it to work unless you BELIEVE. I've often wondered whether in some countries it might be an effective female aphrodisiac, but sadly I have never been to nor heard...

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones