Friday, December 18, 2009


By Charles Moncrief

One of the featured speakers at our prison ministry’s Christmas party was Stan Harris, a motivational speaker known as “Dr. Stan” or “Dr. Breakthrough” ( A tenth-degree black belt in karate, Dr. Stan holds his audience’s attention by an interesting presentation style and by smashing things. The inmates especially enjoyed his resilience when about ten of them hit him in the stomach -- after telling them to avoid injuring themselves by keeping their wrists stiff. He had asked for three volunteers, but he was a gentleman and didn’t want to dampen their enthusiasm!

Maybe I should write about the lesson of shaking off life’s assaults and insults by standing firm and letting the assailant take the inevitable self-inflicted wounds. But as a Priest I have to tow the party line and say that life itself neither assaults nor insults. Besides, I’d like to yield one of my future slots to Dr. Stan and let him do a better job on the subject. I want to write about something else.

Dr. Stan handed each of twelve inmates a thin wooden block. Written on each 12” x 12” x 2” block was a personal barrier to success in life. During the speech, as he described a particular barrier, the appropriate inmate held up his block for all of us in the audience to read. His dramatic finale was to use his hands, feet, and head in a series of karate moves to break all of the blocks in rapid succession. The obvious symbol was that of smashing the obstacles in our own lives. Less obvious are the necessities to develop our God-given abilities, and to recruit others in our efforts to overcome them -- even if all they do is present us the names of our obstacles. I’ll leave those lessons to your personal reflection.

The label on the first block was “LIMITING BELIEFS” and is the subject of this article. Dr. Stan described the beLIEfs that limit us, pointing out the destructive effect we encounter when we allow the pronouncements of others to affect us. Here are some examples I’ve come up with.

“You’ll never amount to anything since your grades are so low.”
“You can’t succeed at anything, so stay home and tend to housework.”
You can’t work in this industry because you were fired (laid off?) from this job.
“Stick with what you know.”
“The one who molested you is a victim of sex addiction and not a pervert.”
“The person who robbed you is a victim himself, having been abused as a child.”
“You’ll never lose weight and you will never appeal to anyone.
Come on, admit it. You were partially at fault because of your seductive dress.
How can God love someone like you?

Now, a word from my Sponsor. A friend told me it was hard to believe God could extend grace and mercy to inmates in a maximum-security prison.
How should I know? I still haven’t figured out how God could extend His grace and mercy to me.

This article’s original posting date was December 18, a week before Christmas. Bear with me if I departed somewhat from the serious nature of this blogsite, and if I appear to be insensitive to the pain and suffering of crime victims by writing about my ministry to the perpetrators of your victimhood. Nothing could be farther from the truth. My heart aches for those featured in stories on this site. If I were addressing this article to a readership totally accepting of a personal God, I’d say that this God’s heart also aches.

Now back to my article. I wish to invite each of you to make a list of the lies (yes, they were lies) told to you in the first five years of your life, then a list of those told to you since that time. There’s nothing hard and fast about age five, it’s just a number for now. And don’t get too selective about their destructive effects during your life formation. If you remember who said them, feel free to write the person’s name (or the persons’ names) beside the list items.

Once you get the lists built, delete any of the items you feel didn’t really make the cut.

If you no longer have anything left on the lists, that is OK. (It’s also a good thing, if you were honest with yourself.)

Now you need the following materials:
Some cellophane (Scotch) tape, spray glue, or wood glue
A cardboard sheet about the thickness and size of a telephone directory cover (remember “phone books”?)

Now attach the lists to the cardboard.

Now get someone to assist you by holding the cardboard securely by its top and bottom ends.

Now make one of those horrible sounds you hear in karate shows. If you don’t know the sound, then fake it. A lion’s roar would do just fine. Be sure not to pay any attention to the look on your assistant’s face when you do this.

You have two steps remaining.

With all the force available to you, smash your fist through the lists. If you don’t smash the cardboard on the first try, use some sort of tool to rip it once -- and only once.

The final step is to wrap the pieces with holiday paper, ribbon, and a bow, with a tag to yourself (from yourself too, if you wish, or from me if you need somebody in the “From” line), and place it under the Christmas tree. On Christmas Day, throw it into the trash without opening it.

Yes, I know. This is about as cheesy as some of the rhetoric that you get from motivational speakers and multilevel marketing hucksters. If my method is too spaced out for your tastes, then consider any other means of breaking free of the barriers that constrain you. It may be one of the best Christmas presents you ever gave to yourself.

And to those you love.

And to those who love you.

Grace and Peace,
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  1. I am always amazed at the amount of prison ministries available.

    When was the last time you heard of a victim's ministry. It is a lost ministry and one which is ripe for the harvest.

    This doesn't mean I don't support a prison ministry. It just means there is a big hole left by these prisoners. You know there are millions of them in prisons. For each prisoner there are even more victims.

    No one is caring for the victims. No one is giving victims the coping skills needed to go on with their lives.

    Victim's are everywhere, in your churches, in your schools, at work and in our families. This Christmas my prayer is for justice victim's of crime.

    I'm sorry if I seem overly sensitive. My niece Lacey Gaines was strangled and stabbed recently. She had just turned 20, she leaves a 2 yr old son who is too young to be left alone. My brother and family now have a heavy load they must carry with them the rest of his life.

    They will have to face fear, hatred, heartbreak it will stay with them, it does not go away. My brother had to identify the body of his little girl, he saw the strangle and stab wounds. He has to live through an investigation and if and when they find the killer(s) he'll have to live through a trial, then parole requests where they'll have to relive the murder over and over again.

    Now there are some real life obstacles, who will help him overcome them? My brother and his family's lives are changed forever. Forgive me if I seem unforgiving.

    All I want for Christmas is JUSTICE. I think God does TOO. Jesus had to die. My faith is in God. But sometimes I think Justice lives only in Heaven.

    Pray "On earth as it is in Heaven," pray for "LIMITS" on disturbing the Peace for victim's of crime.

  2. Cherry,

    I know the need and the pain (Exodus 3:7b), so I always try to tread softly when using examples from my prison ministry. Your reply tells me I might consider treading more softly; for example, the content of the article could have been from any setting, and it was unnecessary -- and perhaps insensitive -- for me to establish context.

    While many churches sponsor support groups for needs such as divorce and grief recovery, it's true that they don't tend to address this need. My reasons for this are not popular with most of my colleagues. I've written bits and pieces on a subject titled "The Pretty Church" and would like someday to publish this as well for just the reason you mention.

    We could exchange ideas off-line, both about the Christian elements you bring up and about a work-through on your idea. I'm ready to participate beyond this blog, but at least it is a start that this venue exists. Its strength depends on the contributing writers and guests who might post articles as well.


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