March 31, 2018

On the night the Buddha was to attain enlightenment, he sat under a tree. While there, he was attacked by the forces of Mara (evil, temptation, desire). As the story goes, they shot arrows and threw swords at him. But as the weapons approached, they turned into flowers.

About 550 years later, Jesus of Nazareth was alone in the wilderness and was attacked there by the forces of evil, temptation, and desire. He was offered to have his appetites fulfilled. He was offered fame. He was offered power. He didn't run from any of these offerings. He didn't hide from the experience, either. He sat with it for 40 days and let it pass. When he walked out of the wilderness, the arrows and swords had become flowers.

What would Jesus' life and ministry have been like without this experience in the wilderness? It seems to me that the flowers he took with him from the wilderness became his best friends--his compass, his identity. They sustained him, an innocent man, when he was mocked, tried, and condemn...

March 26, 2018

* I leave the housing unit each day at 7:00am for work, so I usually don't notice what happens at 7:45am, Monday-Thursday when the Camp Officer arrives. How should I describe her? If you're a Harry Potter fan, you know what a Death Eater is. It's a dark, ghostlike, evil creature which sucks the joy from its victims wherever it goes, replacing it with despair. That's an eerie, harsh, but accurate description of this officer. It's not uncommon to hear other officers say, "Let's do that Friday," which translates into "Let's do that when she's here or not here depending on how they want the situation to play out for us." I hardly ever interact with her, but still never make eye contact. Our Maintenance group recently went into work late on a Thursday, and at 7:45am I noticed inmates dancing in the hall. It quickly became apparent they had been watching the parking lot, noticed there was a replacement for the Death Eater, and begun the celebration. Within 2 minutes, everyone knew "She's not...

March 21, 2018

Most of us are our own worst critics, so it's important to practice loving kindness to ourselves. However, when we're really hurting, we can exert so much effort dealing with our own suffering that we lose track of what we do to those around us. When we're suffering, even from self-inflicted wounds, it's also easy to project our feelings of anger or shame onto others. Unfortunately, the closer they are, the more damage they endure. 

The most difficult aspect of being at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp is dealing with the reality that I have caused pain to those who loved and trusted me. Being here, there is nothing I can do to help clean up the mess. That's frustrating. There is also the realization that my mess left some permanent stains that will never fully clean up. That's sad. 

In the midst of all this mess come the writings of the Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön in her book When Things Fall Apart. Much of her writings are about the practice of loving kindness which is the derivative of th...

March 16, 2018

In a typical week at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, I'll go to the Protestant chapel service on Sunday afternoon, the Mormon service on Monday evening, the Buddhist meditation service on Thursday afternoon, and the Catholic Mass on Friday afternoon. There's no way any human, even me, needs this much church. But there's nothing cheaper for me right now than time, even if most everything else is essentially free, thanks to the American taxpayers.

Everyone, at some point in his/her life (hopefully always) is on a quest for truth. That search is at the heart of all religions which attempt to explain 3 existential questions--who we are, why we are here, and where we are going. The specific answers to those questions are in many ways impacted by the language and context by which we frame those questions. Let's face it, our beginning point of reference is impacted by history, culture, and science. We can't help that, but we can keep asking the important questions.

I recently read a transcript...

March 11, 2018

There is plenty to complain about here at Bastrop Federal Satellite camp, but most of us realize conditions could be much worse. There are those inmates, though, who feel compelled to express their displeasure in writing. I wish I had a Nut-N-Honey bar for each time I've heard, "I'm going to write that bitch up!" The Bureau of Prisons, being a federal agency, is ripe with forms, including those to help facilitate inmate complaints about a particular condition or the action/inaction of a corrections officer. 

The complaint process begins with a Form BP-8, filed with the Camp Counselor. This is true even if the complaint is about the Camp Counselor. After 30 days of no resolution (note the obvious assumption), a Form BP-9 can be sent to the Warden.  If there is still no resolution, a BP-10 can be sent to the Regional Director followed by a BP-11 which is sent to the BoP Director in Washington, DC. An inmate's odds of getting some relief are generally inversely related to how often he comp...

March 6, 2018

We all have unconscious blind spots. I've written about them before here. Because of spiritual blindness, we often delude ourselves, forgetting that our attempt to grasp perfection and purity on our own merely strengthens our imperfections. Our resolve is rooted in and fed by a personal weakness that's already our problem. It's a sad Catch-22.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968), the Cistercian Monk, has much to say about our deep and unconscious habits and attachments which we can't recognize. I struggle with Merton, but I keep coming back to his writing, punch-drunk, reading a section 4-5 times before I start to get it. Sometimes I never get it, and then sometimes I'm overwhelmed with it's simplicity and audibly exclaim, "WOW!" One of those wow moments was Chapter 35, entitled "Renunciation" of his New Seeds of Contemplation.

Merton writes about the difficult and painful situations we sometimes encounter. We can't find our way out, and we can shut down because we only have faith in ourselves. Fo...

March 1, 2018

* It's been over 13 months since Donald J. Trump was sworn into office as President, and the picture frame here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp that should contain his picture is still empty. The picture of Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions has been up for 6 months.

* Robert Flynn, in his book Holy Literary License writes about the 1936 meeting of the Baptist World Alliance in Berlin. Attendees included John Sampey, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who expressed gratitude to Hitler for prohibiting German women from smoking cigarettes and wearing red lipstick in public. Southern Baptist Convention President M. E. Dodd defended Hitler's persecution of the Jews, whom he declared were guilty of "self-aggrandizement to the injury of the German people." A Boston pastor wrote, "It was a great relief to be in a country where salacious sex literature cannot be sold, where putrid motion pictures and gangster films cannot be shown."

* We had a major shakedown of th...

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones