Category Archives: Mafia

Pursuing Your Passion

Years ago I wrote a book and I sold the movie rights to FOX studios.  They wanted a screenplay written. I had never given much serious thought to writing a screenplay for the big screen or the small screen.  After writing a book and being approached about a screenplay, I thought, “Hey, that’s what I want to be in life – a screenwriter!”

They asked me to write it with an Academy Award winning writer.  The writer invited me to lunch at their home.  It was an informal lunch eaten around the pool with the producer of the project and myself.  I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn from successful Hollywood individuals, so I thought the best course of action was for me to keep my mouth shut and take it all in.

I learned the writer, like me, had never gone to school for writing.  I learned the producer had built up an international production company in Scandinavia and sold it for a huge profit, then moved to Hollywood and started a new company in a new country.  Instead of retiring, he started over and continued to work hard.

During my time working with both of them, I was given a crash course in writing for a studio.  It was like a private lesson in screenwriting.  Looking back now I can see that I was already losing interest in writing for Hollywood, the more I learned about the business.  What I thought I had wanted, I was realizing was not my passion.

Even though I was unsure about my next steps in life, I learned valuable lessons and kept pushing forward.   In the end, my show was not picked up by Fox, but I learned enough to write my own western screenplay and sold that to History Channel.

Through my contacts on that project, I was able to secure a writing/consulting job for a movie production company in Stockholm, Sweden.  I grew up immensely while going through this Hollywood period of my writing career. The screenwriting work was a chance for me to work with people from all walks of life.

People like to talk about overnight success.  I learned that successful writers toil away for years before they get an opportunity to shine, and even then, they may end up losing it all.

Projects will come and go, but the people you work with along the way are important, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.  Work hard on every project, big or small, and always go above and beyond.

We each have our own paths with unique wants and needs.  If we follow someone else’s path we may have limited success, but it is fleeting.  We are all on our own journey, and as long as you keep learning from every opportunity and developing your skills, no project is a failure.

Opportunities often come in life when we least expect it, and they often come from unexpected people or places.  Work hard, keep a positive attitude, treat everyone with respect and pursue the passions that God has put in you – and you too will fulfill your purpose in life, even if you aren’t sure what it is right now.

Philippians 2:3

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,

Ecclesiastes 3:1

   There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 

Clarity Of Purpose

Regardless of who you are today, you had dreams and goals in mind when you were young. Maybe you dreamed of playing professional baseball or maybe you aspired to be an astronaut.  

Life happens.  As a result, those dreams may have fallen by the wayside. Why is that?  A lot of times we settle for jobs we don’t love just for the paycheck, so we can live.  The cash starts rolling in and now you have a lifestyle that you have become accustomed to.  You cannot change and do what you really want because you have so many obligations. Does this sound familiar?

I understand this situation very well because that is how my life played out.  I was on that treadmill for almost forty years.  I did things I did not like, only because of what I could put into my pockets as a result.  Many times, I tried to convince myself that I liked what I was doing. Even though I detest gambling and alcohol, both played a role in my livelihood.

I learned how to “take action,” or bookmaking, from an older gambler named Mark. Mark had been a bookie for at least twenty-five years when I met him.  In fact, I am sure he is still taking action to this day – well into his eighties.

I had expressed interest in making money through bookmaking and loansharking (also known as shylocking) to a number of men associated with the Los Angeles cosa nostra family.  They all knew me as a kid who worked hard and brought in cash, so they put me in touch with Mark.  I began to work for him, and during that time I mastered the art of running a sportsbook.  This was in a time before either cell phones or the internet.  We used a series of payphones, hardlines and answering machines to run the business.  We got our updates on odds and point spreads from what was known as the “Island Line.”  We also had Las Vegas contacts who helped with lines and laying off some of the action.   Mark pulled in a great living from sports gambling and he also ran some after hours card games.

I took to this “job” because I liked the attention, and most importantly, I liked the cash that came with it. I used to tell myself that the money I brought in gave me the freedom to do what I really wanted to do in life.  Looking back that is funny because I can tell you this: I never did much of anything else.  I spent all of my time running the business and living it.

It’s important, to be honest with yourself about your gifts, your goals, and your dreams.  You must decide if what you are doing or will be doing is right for you.  Does it align with your values? Is it what you were created to do?

You will most likely spend years working at something to get it working well enough to put dollars in your pocket.  This where your own personal values come into play.  When I was young I had some vague, at best, personal values – and it showed in how I conducted myself.  Once you have a good personal value system in place, the decisions you make will help guide you toward lasting success.

Clarity of purpose is key to living a successful happy life. Once we find our purpose in life, it will help guide and shape our decisions.  In the end, being successful looks different for every single person.

I was lost for so many years until I came back to living a life that wasn’t about my desires but about God’s purpose for my life.  I was lost and broken, but I could never understand why I  was feeling the way I did.  When I found my faith I realized that life was not all about me, it was much bigger than that.

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

2 Timothy 1:9

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.

 

You Get Out What You Put In

There are a few simple rules in life.  One of those is you get out of life what you put into it.If you look back throughout your life history you will come to the same conclusion.

Take stock of your life today.  Are you reaping the benefits of years of work put towards a goal? Or have you been coasting, putting off the work?  Are you letting your circumstances dictate your schedule, or are you making your goals a priority with your time?

So you want to write a book?  I hear this a lot.  What is stopping you from writing?  Common answers: no time, no money, I don’t know how or I do not have the education.

You want to write?  Then you must write.  Everyday you write so you get better. Writing is like a muscle and you have to use it in order for it to work properly.  You have to become a wordsmith, a person who is constantly working on their writing so that they become more proficient.

Writing has got to be one of the cheapest hobbies around, because all you need is some blank paper and a writing instrument. I have a friend, Matthew, who has written six books – good books – in eight years.  Three have been published and the others are in various stages.  He has written screenplays and edited other people’s work, all while holding down a full-time job.

He is married with a child, is active politically and he never went to school to be a writer. He just does it, day after day, until it becomes second nature.

I train a number people in all shapes and sizes in the art of boxing. One group really stands out –  the fighters in Rock Steady Boxing Minooka.  They all have Parkinson’s disease.  It has been over a year since I first watched Leslie Stahl from 60 Minutes do a story on Rock Steady Boxing.  Leslie’s husband has Parkinson’s and he started training at Rock Steady Boxing.  The difference in his life has been huge.  Before the video segment was even over I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.  I went to the Rock Steady Boxing headquarters and took a weekend seminar on working with Parkinson’s patients. It change my life. I realized that everything I had learned and trained over the years could actually be used to help others fight back against a debilitating disease.

My first Parkinson’s fighter has been training with me for almost one year, three times each week.  His wife is his “Cornerman” and she trains with him every workout too.  They have stuck with it and pushed themselves.  They have missed very few workouts in the entire year. All of their progress has been amazing.  It has improved their strength, balance, coordination, footwork, speed, form, posture, health and cardio. Why?  They show up even when they do not feel like it.  They show up when they are tired or have other things to do.  It is important to them.  This is the same for all of us, no matter what age or fitness level. If you put in the time, you will see results.

If you wish to improve your body, you have to do the work.  Any magic plan that promises fitness with no work is a lie.

Have you ever noticed that when you really wanted to do something, you found the time?  When you really do not want to do something, or it is not a priority, something will always come up. If you are just doing something for money or just doing enough to get it over with – it shows.  Quality in = quality out.  Mediocre in leads to the predictable outcome.

The ability to get good at anything takes a lot of work, but to do so as a full grown adult is rare. It is not because we can’t, but because we are not willing to invest the time or go through the hardship of change. We have, to be honest, harsh and merciless with ourselves and most people are too sensitive get a lot better at anything.  If you never intend to work hard, then anything you wish to do well – will be impossible.

This extends to living a Christian life.  If all you ever do is go to church once a week and sit through a sermon, do you really feel you are giving God his worth?  We are all sinners and not one of us is perfect.  It is a constant battle to live a life that honors God.  If you work on every day, you will see change. If you continue to just show up weekly at a service what can you really expect?

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

Proverbs 13:4

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Life With Purpose

There are hundreds of books dedicated to finding your life’s purpose, yet still most of us are not much closer to actually realizing it.

It’s the standard answer to the question ‘what do you really want to do?’  I’d like to make a difference.  So you would like to help people.  Have you investigated ways in which you may be able to help? What can you offer? These are some of the questions you can ask yourself to start.

Long before we can help others we have to get things right in our own lives.  We must learn to live our lives based on our beliefs and standards.  Do you walk it like you talk it, or do you just tell people what they like to hear?  When we know what is important to us, we can live our lives based on accomplishing both short and long-term goals that bring us toward the life we wish to live.

Start “trimming the fat” in your life.  Do the activities you participate in right now bring you closer to your goals?  Do you spend hours watching sports or TV when you could be reading or learning?  Do you take care of yourself by eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep? Do you have people in your life that drag you down instead of lift you up?

Keep in mind that the way we live each day and what we do for recreation is what our lives become. We are what we do as much as we are what we eat. That also goes for the type of people we choose to spend time with.

Sometimes we must do things we do not like to pay the bills.  Think about life for a minute and answer this question: If you could do anything what would you do?  Now that you know what you would be doing, ask this:  What are you doing to get to where you wish to be? What is really stopping you?  All these situations, including your current one, are temporary – steps along the way of life.  Life can just be steps to nowhere or steps towards a lifetime of purpose.

I have been up and down in life.  I’ve had many toys and no toys.  Today, I could care less about any of that stuff. I do not care about wearing something with a logo, I do not care that I live in flyover country.  I am happy being me – I enjoy each day.

How many people do you know who seem to have everything in life, yet are not happy?  Maybe they have tied their purpose into stuff or a position.  Maybe they are looking for purpose in another person or they are chasing a high.  Those things bring nothing but heartache.

If you live your life seeking the happiness you see in a tv show, a movie or a magazine, you will never find what you are looking for in real life.  It’s all made up. Every single show is scripted, with many people studying it to make the most impact so they can make money. There is no reality in the media – only in what you see day to day around you.

I used to decide how to spend my time and my money based on what I would get in return – what was in it for me.  Would it make me “happy?”  Then, a few years ago I began to change.  I started to do things for others around me, not expecting anything in return.  Making a difference doesn’t begin when you leave to help people in a third world country, and it doesn’t begin when you give lots of money to a charity.  It begins when you find something you can do for someone around you.  Use your skills to be a blessing to those around you.  

Have faith, trust in God’s plan for your life. Know that you are equipped with everything you need to fulfill his will. You too can live a life with purpose.

Romans 8:28

And we know all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to His purpose.

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Proverbs 3:6

In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

Failure

There is no escape, no way to hide.  It will find all of us at one point or another during our lifetimes.  It has been said that a book of failures would be a great book to read, so that we could learn from other’s mistakes.

Have you ever noticed that there are never any “failure seminars”?  There are plenty of speakers on the topic of success.  You can catch a motivational seminar online or in a conference room in a hotel most any weekend.

I have failed at so many things I could not even list them all here.  The good news is, I took a valuable lesson away from each one.  One of the best thing about pushing yourself hard and ultimately hitting your goals, is that our minds tend to gloss over the periods of heartbreak and failure, focusing instead on our successes.

One day I decided to take up a new hobby: prospecting for gold in the mountains and deserts of California.  I really did not know much about it at all, but when my wife and dog and I hiked in the mountains we had seen several people panning for gold in the streams and it got me interested.  I started reading everything I could about gold prospecting and the history of the gold bearing regions in California.

The next weekend, instead of heading off on our usual hike, we packed our lunch, a few shovels, and some tools we had picked up for gold panning.  We headed to the East Fork of the San Gabriel River.   We parked our car and hiked a mile or so up a path along the river.  We found a giant boulder and I started digging out buckets of dirt and passing them to my wife who would pan it out in the water.  We dug for hours and found nothing, not a trace of that elusive gold.  We did have a great time! Our dog fished in the river, we enjoyed the sunshine, cool water, amazing scenery and our hike.

We went back to that river many times.  Each time we dug deep holes and found nothing but black sand and tiny gold flakes in our pan.  One day, an older prospector came by our hole to chat.  He told me where I should dig based on his experience.  Later that day we found a small “picker,” which is what you call a tiny gold nugget that is big enough to pick up with your fingers.

We were doing almost exactly what the 49ers did during the gold rush.  Instead of iron pans, we used plastic pans, and unlike them, we were not trying to make a living from it.

It turns out that most of the gold is still there, undiscovered.  The early miners took the easy gold that they could find near the surface. It is back breaking labor with little payoff to keep digging and looking for the deeper gold. I enjoyed it because it was a challenge and a treasure hunt.

We graduated from panning to setting up a sluice in the water. The next stage was learning how to metal detect in the Mojave desert – which meant getting out there in the early hours before the temperatures rose.  Hunting for gold nuggets in the desert with a metal detector is called “nugget shooting.”  We joined the Prospector’s Club of Southern California, which gave us access to claims all over the region.  Then I graduated to operating a dry washer in the desert.

I learned to love the peace and quiet of the dry, desolate Mojave desert.  We started finding “color” almost every time we went out.

I wanted to find a good sized nugget with my metal detector before I left California, but it was not to be.  On my last attempt before moving, a solo trip early in the morning, I saw some fellow prospectors find a gold nugget just a few yards away from where I was looking.  I guess you could say I failed because I never found that fist-sized nugget I was seeking.  Instead, I would say that I gained some useful knowledge and made some great memories.

Prospecting mirrors so much of what we do in life.  Each one of us is seeking some kind of treasure.  There’s no guarantee you will find that big nugget.  Successes and failures: they all come with valuable lessons.  I look back on the hours I spent digging dirt holes and wandering the desert not as a failure, but as some of my favorite memories.

My friend Mark and I spoke about the topic of failure this past week.  After a successful high school and college wrestling career at Oklahoma State, where he was a two time All-American, Mark began his mixed martial arts career with the WEC (World Extreme Cagefighting).  He did well enough to be picked up by the UFC when they bought the WEC.

When I first met Mark, I noticed that he carried himself differently than most of the guys I knew, and he was open about being a Christian.  Mark was not pushy with his faith, but he was setting an example by the way he lived and he was always ready to lend a hand to anyone who needed one.

I trained with Mark for his first fight in the UFC, which he lost.  It was a bad loss, but he was back to training within a week.  Mark Munoz went on to have a long UFC career and while he never won the belt, he always left the ring a winner.  He was voted as “the nicest guy in MMA” by the UFC.  I learned from Mark that in MMA, a loss does not equal failure.  When you keep fighting, improving and moving forward, you are succeeding, regardless of what the outcome of any one fight may be.

Mark told me that if you have a fear of failure you will fall backward.  If you embrace it, you will take away a valuable lesson.  We all fail.  We have to learn from it and keep moving forward.

Resilience, Adversity, and Desire: A real champion in life, whether you are fighting in a cage, prospecting for gold, or trying to get a promotion in your job, is the person that shows resilience even when they fail.  Adversity is something to use to make us better, not break us down.  We will all face it, but how we view it and push past it will define us.  Desire is what will make you get up each day with determination: study harder, work harder, train harder.

Mark also reminded me that what we speak about every day is what we become, so choose your words wisely.

 

Romans 5:3-5

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Proverbs 24:16

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

Luke 6:45

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

 

Decisions & Identity

 

Taking responsibility for your actions is the first step towards changing your life’s path, and yet, after those first few steps, there is life – staring you in the face again.  Tomorrow, next week, five years from now – you alone must continue to make good decisions to stay on your new path.  Along the way, you will face let downs, failures, and setbacks.  Don’t let those times define you or your future.

Life After the Army

My Army friend from the last two blog posts is now retired.  When the structured life of the Army became a thing of the past – his deployments were over, the men he was responsible for were home living their lives – he found himself looking for a new identity in his life. One day, he started looking for that identity in a bottle.

Many people turn to a bottle of alcohol, pills – prescription or not – or even food as a means to numb pain.  The familiar mind dulling power of alcohol was a choice my friend made because it allowed him to temporarily forget the pain of the past and blur out the struggle ahead of trying to return to a “normal” life after his life of service.  The problem is, each day brought the same problems and the same pain.

He explained to me that after his retirement from the Army, he was depressed.  He thought about ending it all at his lowest point.  Statistics show that every single day 20 veterans commit suicide.

Thankfully, his survival instincts kicked in and reality hit him.  He had a loving family, he had lived through deployment, and yet there he was, feeling sorry for himself.  He sat there and was completely honest with himself. He was at one of those places where the next choice he made would again affect the rest of his life.

Looking back on his life, he realized that when he was given things. he always ended up failing in the end.  But, when he worked for something, he always succeeded.  He knew the path to overcoming depression and creating his new identity would be hard, but he knew it would be worth it to recover.

A Champion’s Identity

One day a few years back when I lived in California, I walked into the gym to get a workout in with the fight team.  At the gym, that day was a man named Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, a professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter.  He was not well known in America at that point, but internationally and in Japan, he was a big star in the fighting world. My coach told me that I was going to train with him that day.

Mo and I became friends and we used to go get something to eat together after fight team practice. He signed with Strikeforce MMA, and after one fight he was going to fight Gegard Mousasi for the light heavyweight championship belt. He took his training seriously.

He won that fight live on network TV and a few days later we were enjoying a meal together.  I was surprised by his calm demeanor.  He had just won the championship belt in a major promotion, so I had no idea what to expect.  He was the same man I knew before, except he had become a world champion.

Mo lost his championship belt in his next fight, handing him his first loss as a professional fighter. Once again we were out eating a few days later, and he was still no different.

“Losing is no big deal, sure I want to win, but everyone loses. In my life, I have had more wins than losses, so I never worry about it or feel sorry for myself.  Tomorrow is another day.  I think about all those who will never have a chance like I have in life.  When I win I just go to my hotel room and watch TV, I don’t want to be out celebrating. If I lose, I go out and share the time with everyone else.  It is the losses that make you, not the wins.  The wins are easy.  It is coming back and picking up the pieces and getting right back to what you love.” – King Mo

He explained that all those titles he had won didn’t mean anything. He has no idea where any of the belts or medals even are at this point.  What he cares about is the ability to compete, because that is what he loves, that is his identity. And, in the bigger picture of life, what he believes really matters is your family and those who are close to you.  He then went on to say that having compassion for other people is another part of his identity.

He walks it like he talks it.  We had another conversation a few weeks ago, just after he lost a fight to Cro Cop in Japan, and he told me he was already back working on his craft.

My Identity Crisis

While I had wanted an out from the increasing pressure of wearing a wire for the FBI for eight straight years, there was still a part of me that was crushed when the FBI told me I was not going back to Brooklyn, my days undercover were over. The Mob was my identity, I didn’t know who I was without it.

I had a few weeks alone in Canada to really let the reality of life sink into my mind.  I was frightened, not at the prospect of someone coming after me, but because the real world was an unknown. I had not been around regular people much since I was a teenager.

I would then have another two years in protection to really think over my life.  I sat alone for most of those two years, thinking about my past and worrying about my future.  I was determined to take my fresh start and make life work the right way this time.

I have fallen, I have made bad decisions along the way, and I will fall again.  Each time I learn from it and I become stronger.  I was only able to change myself up to a point.  Then the day came that I let God into my heart, and now I no longer have to make the journey alone.  He has the power to change and guide me.  Now I live with faith instead of fear.

Matthew 6:34

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone, and the new has come.

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. – C. S. Lewis

 

The Turning Point

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DCIM101GOPRO

 

I wrote about my friend who went into the Army to change his life last week, but how did the first of many turning points in his life come about?

In the 1990’s my Army friend’s mother passed away.  This threw his life into a tailspin because he had largely relied on her for his lifestyle.  With her went the business, the house, the cars etc.  He still tried to live the same lifestyle and it did not work. He ended up with no car working at a hotel where he cashed his paycheck and carried around the cash in his pocket.

One week he was robbed and he couldn’t pay rent to the friend he was living with, and as a result, he was kicked out.  He moved from place to place.  He knew his chaotic lifestyle was not working to get him ahead, and that it was time to make a drastic change or he would end up on the streets.

He faced his fears and took that first step: walking into the US Army recruiting office. He was then forced to tie up loose ends before going to basic training. It was there that he began to understand what his previous choices had done to his life.

Another friend of mine changed his life around completely in the last few years.  He came to this country from the Ukraine with his parents and they settled into the close-knit Russian community in Hollywood. He was soon part of a Russian gang, doing and selling drugs.  He was taking up to thirty painkillers a day along with anything else he was given.

He started doing armed robberies for the rush and to hustle up money.  In his words, “The devil took over for awhile.”  He was picked up on a weapons charge and it cost his parents around a hundred thousand dollars in lawyer’s fees, but he continued on the same path.

The pills and drugs distorted his thought process, until one night at a rave he nearly overdosed on a mixture of strong drugs.  He describes that experience as being in hell for many hours.   When he finally came home he found his mother reading the Bible and crying because she thought he was dead.

Something clicked inside him that day, and he knew that he would be dead unless he turned his life around.  The guy he did armed robberies with had his house shot at one night and disappeared.  Many others in the Russian community had died from drug overdoses.

He knew that he needed to go to school, establish a career and help his parents pay off the debt. He realized that all of his problems were the results of his choices, and that all the pain his family was dealing with was because of his life actions.  A lot of us never take into account how much our choices affect others, both directly and indirectly.

He took the first step and threw away his pills.  He went cold turkey – no rehab, no group, just stopped.  It was a difficult six months, but after he got over the withdrawals he knew that he could accomplish anything that life threw at him.

My friend Andre, on the other hand, has made good choices since he was very young,  but things haven’t always been easy for him.  He grew up with a father that did cocaine and gambled, never paying much attention to him.  If Andre had turned out bad, it would have been no shock to anyone.

There were key turning points early in Andre’s life. One was when he wanted a BMX bike so badly and his father laid out a challenge for him that seemed impossible for him to accomplish.  When he met the challenge, he decided there wasn’t anything in life he couldn’t accomplish.

He made a decision that he would never do anything his father would do or did, so that he would not end up like him. Andre used his father as a reverse role model.  If his father drank, he never would.  If he gambled, Andre would not.

He went on to get a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and an master’s degree in Social Ecology, both from the University of California at Irvine.  He kept his eye on his end goals, and he uses his story to encourage others and has been a huge encouragement to me personally.

Andre’s Ted Talk, if you would like to see more of his story is here: http://tinyurl.com/TedX-Andre

Regardless of the hand, you’re dealt in life, our current circumstances boil down to our own choices.   It is difficult to accept and many never do accept it, because it is just easier to blame others or bad luck.

My life has had many turning points, and one I remember happened at an Italian Restaurant in Culver City, California. I was at what is called a “sit down” in the mafia world.  It is where two higher ups decide your fate. At the meeting I was told that I was now out of an operation we had going on.

I was so mad that when I left the meeting I was planning revenge.  I felt that I deserved to remain part of the operation and that they were stealing from me by taking it away – nevermind that it was all stolen money, to begin with.  As I analyzed the situation and looked back on everything I was invested in and angry about, I began to see my life for what it was – a series of bad choices that had left me an angry criminal.   I had wasted my life and I knew that I wanted out of it altogether.

It would be only months later that the FBI offered me a way out.  I began to make different choices.

God had another plan for my life, I just didn’t realize it yet.

No matter who you are or what your life has been like in the past, our lives are shaped by the choices we make. Throughout our lives, there will be many turning points where life can become something else.

Big changes in your life can grow out of very small seeds of the choices you make.

Matthew 13:32-32

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.