RISK ROUNDUP—In celebration of this Thanksgiving, I’ve asked our chief financial officer, Mr. Wally Haney, to share a special message with our readers.
Besides being a Risk Manager for 34 years, Mr. Wally also serves as a minister to all mankind.
At the top of his Thanksgiving list is family.
“Thanksgiving should be more about family and being thankful for having your loved ones close,” he said. “And it’s about being able to pour into them what you’ve learned about God’s love.
“From Abraham on down, the Lord has poured into His people. And they have then poured into their families. And then those families have passed their blessings, knowledge and love on down into their families. It’s like a flow.”
Mr. Wally likes the timing of the Thanksgiving season, most especially what it leads up to.
“After October, I love the way that November brings us to a season of Thanksgiving and everything that represents,” he said. “And then going into December, it just keeps getting better.
“It’s like an orchestra. It starts out real slow and then builds to that great big final whoopee — Christmas and the celebration of Christ’s birth.”
But, Mr. Wally also believes we’re called to be at that big whoopee moment every day of the year. Because we never know, with the people that we encounter, what’s going on in their lives.
“We need to share about Jesus and the message of His birth,” he said. “It’s a message about hope and second chances. And divine intervention. We seem to have gotten away from family and Christ-centered living. And we need to refocus.”
He notes that all the heavy lifting, all the big jobs concerning salvation, have already been done — by Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross.
“The battle has already been won,” he said. “We don’t have to do anything. It’s already done and accomplished. All we have to do is walk in it and stand in it. For not only ourselves, but everybody else we come in contact with.”
Understanding God’s Love Through Our Own Families
Mr. Wally noted that God’s unconditional love for us, and His great gift of sending His Son as our Saviour, becomes even more meaningful when a parent considers how much they love their own children and grandchildren.
“You love your kids with everything in you,” he said. “And one of the reasons that you have kids is to understand the price that the Lord paid when He laid His Son on the cross.
“You just can’t imagine doing that for anybody, much less a whole bunch of folks that don’t even like you.”
He said you don’t love your grandchildren any more than you love your own children, but there’s a difference.
“The only thing I can relate it back to is, in a kind of semi-sort of way, it’s like the way the Lord loves us,” he said.
“With your kids, you love them more than anything. But you can see your own failures and inadequacies as a parent — in that you raised them and see yourself in them.
“But, for your grandkids, you don’t see any of that. It’s just pure, unadulterated love. Mushy love. Unconditional. And that’s how God loves us times a million. More than words could ever say.”
“He sacrificed His Son for us and we can’t even comprehend it. We can’t understand the truth of how much He really loves us.”
Mr. Wally & Ms. Tonya Haney And Their Grandchildren.
A God Of Second Chances
Mr. Wally believes that you only get one time to make a first impression, but every new day offers an opportunity to give a new impression.
“The Lord blesses us, he said. “And he doesn’t bless us for us to keep it. He blesses us to sow into the world. Into other people.”
“People need to know that God is a God of second and third chances. And He never even remembers what He’s forgiven us for, unless we bring it back up. To Him, it’s as far from His thoughts as the east from the west.”
Unfortunately, many people have not heard the message of God’s goodness and they don’t give Him a chance to work in their lives.
“Some people are afraid that they can never live up to what God’s done for them,” he said. “And that’s true. You can’t. But you don’t have to.
“All you have to know is who He is and who you are. And not just believe in Him, but receive Him. Know that you belong to Him. And when you mess up, all you have to do is get up and dust yourself off. And say, ‘I messed up.’ And He’ll say, ‘That’s okay, come on. We’re still walking.'”
“But we want to beat ourselves up. Or beat other people up and say, ‘You sorry Rascal.’ Well, we’re all sorry Rascals. Except the only thing we’re worthy of is through Him — and He paid for that.
“Please understand, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. There’s nothing you can do to make Jesus love you any more or any less than He does right now. You can’t go above the top. He already has you at the top.”
God’s Mercies Are New Every Day
Some of the things Mr. Wally has learned about gratitude and being thankful for God’s new mercies every day is to be aware of each moment and each breath.
“In this life that we live, there aren’t any guarantees,” he said. “We live each year, day by day, and you just have to be thankful, in this moment, for what the Lord has given you. Be thankful He’s given you breath. As long as there is breath in your lungs, it’s not too late to repent and seek Him.”
Mr. Wally remarked on how a moment’s time, the space of a single breath, changed the future of the thief who was hanging on the cross beside Jesus at Golgotha.
“That thief is in paradise with Him today, because he asked Jesus to save him,” he said. “The other thief who was on the other side is not.
“It was in the Lord’s authority to grant that person mercy. And that’s what He wants to do for all of us. He’s already paid the price. All we have to do is receive it.”
Mr. Wally explained that anyone reading this post can be saved today, right now. “You just need to believe that Jesus is the Son of the Most High, that He was born of a virgin birth, that He died and was raised again from the dead, and that He lives today,” he said.
First Spiritual Steps
Mr. Wally was asked about the beginning of his journey of faith and how he first learned to maintain his attitude of gratitude.
“I can contribute it back to when I was in the fourth grade and went to the First Baptist Church’s Vacation Bible School,” he said. “That’s when I received Christ.
“Since then I have always felt like I was special. Not special, like above anybody, but special in WHOSE I was. In that I belonged to Christ.”
“I didn’t always act like it. I didn’t always show it, but I knew I was different,” he said. “And I think that if you know the Lord, the Holy Spirit is in you.”
He was also asked to share about his prayer life, such as does he pray in the morning, at night, or all throughout the day?
“”It depends on what’s going on,” he said. “With my second job as a school bus driver, I certainly pray every day when I get on the bus and am starting down the hill. I say a prayer over the bus and over my kids and over the rest of the buses.”
(You can read more about Mr. Wally’s school bus ministry by clicking here.)
A Powerful Prison Ministry
Talking about Thanksgiving, being grateful and serving others in a Godly way, brings up another subject close to Mr. Wally’s heart.
Each fall, he and several other ministers and community leaders go inside prison walls to help save souls in an Aged and Infirmed Facility as part of an international prison ministry, known as Kairos.
He noted that his life has been changed by being involved with the special ministry and the prisoners he’s met who live out their lives behind bars.
Mr. Wally explained that being “a good ole boy” from the south, he used to have certain notions. (Note: He explained that good ole boys aren’t too bad. They’re not this and they’re not that. But they always come to help you when you call.)
“Well, good ole boys can have ideas in their heads that aren’t necessarily right, just because they’ve always been there,” he said.
“I used to be a big supporter of capital punishment. I believed if someone did the crime, they should be put down. Executed. And the sooner the better.”
After watching a televised video of the hanging of a world-renowned terrorist, his views changed dramatically.
“I don’t remember if it was when I was sitting there watching it or later that night when I went to sleep,” he said. “But I felt as if I could hear him say, when he stepped into hell, ‘They have lied to me, they have lied to me, they have lied to me.’
“He was screaming that they’d lied to him about what he’d see and experience after death. And that none of what he’d been told was true.
“Well, hell is going to be hot and it’s going to be bad. It’s going to be worse than anything you or I can imagine. And I have a pretty vivid imagination.”
Mr. Wally said the experience of envisioning the man’s horrible fate brought tears to his eyes.
“As bad as he was, and all the horrible things he’d done, I still didn’t want to see him suffer,” he said. “And the Lord impressed upon me that He hadn’t wanted that, either.
“I haven’t had any family members that have been murdered or experienced anything else as horrific, so I’m just talking from a good ole boy’s point of view.
“But I believe, as long as they’re on death row, these men and women have an opportunity for somebody to come in and tell them about Jesus. As long as there’s breath in their lungs, there’s an opportunity for salvation.”
(So, if you’re reading this, realize you can change your life today, right now, this minute, too.)
There But For The Grace Of God
Besides helping people in need and putting God first in their lives, good ole boys are also known for getting into some hijinks a time or two during their youth. Mr. Wally was no exception.
He said he also used to have some anger issues surrounding college football, which is another family Thanksgiving tradition for many. He took his troubles to the Lord, and after skipping attending or even watching games for several years, got a handle on his anger.
“These are 18, 19, and 20-year old college kids playing football,” he said. “If you can’t watch a game without getting ticked off, then you don’t need to watch.”
Some other past problems also haunted him. And before he had the strong relationship with God that he has today, Mr. Wally came to a point in his life where he wondered, “If this is all there is to this, I really don’t want this.”
He said he took a step closer to the edge and thought, “You know what, this world would probably be a whole lot better off if I wasn’t here.”
And then he took another step closer and thought, “You know what, I’d probably be better off to just go ahead and do this thing right now.”
And that’s when he told God he couldn’t live like that anymore. And God healed his heart and soul in one moment and turned his life around.
“When that happens, you just start kind of growing more into what he has for you as life comes about,” he said.
When Mr. Wally shares his previous darker experiences with the prisoners during Kairos, they’re always impressed that he could mess up, be forgiven, get a fresh start, and even inspire others.
“They’d say, ‘You did that? Then I guess there is hope for us,'” he said.
But… Mr. Wally noted that he didn’t want to share his past blunders or even go inside the prison walls, until he was instructed to do so by his Good Lord.
Kairos Volunteers Go Behind Prison Bars To Meet The Men Inside, With An Emphasis On “Listen, Listen. Love, Love.”
“I participated in different ways until the third year,” he said. “Then the Holy Spirit told me to go inside. And at first, I felt too ashamed to tell my story. But God told me He wanted me to.
“He always makes good from bad and this was a prime example. And after I’d told the story, it was like somebody had lifted a weight off of me. And the next time I told the story, I gave more details.
“God used me and my past mistakes and He got all the glory of it. After I participated and went inside, I was hooked. It’s just a great thing when you are doing what you know the Lord wants you to do.”
Mr. Wally has now participated in a dozen Kairos in 13 years, only missing the year when he had a heart attack. (You can read about that experience here.)
“I’m an old vet now. And I’ve found out through the years that I have more in common with those men inside there than I do 90 percent of the people out here,” he said. “Because they’re a lot like me. I could have been there just as easily.”
(Yes, there but for the Grace of God go us all. But thankfully, our Lord takes our messes and makes messages out of them. He can do it for you, too.)
72 Intensive Hours Over One Weekend
Mr. Wally noted that this year’s Kairos was a great success. “The Lord was greatly glorified,” he said.
By this point, I’d become extremely curious about how the entire process works, so I asked for a sample breakdown.
Mr. Wally said that, over the course of one weekend, the prisoners are given a series of approximately a dozen different messages, as well as other activities — all Holy Spirit led. He said the Holy Spirit also decides, through the group leader, who will give each particular message.
But he noted that the prep time includes six months of hard work, with 35 hours of intense meetings.
“It takes a team of people from outside to put on this event,” he said. “And during the process of all these meetings, we bond. We become as close as family.
“And then we go inside and we bond with all the prisoners, too. When it’s over, the 25 of us who participated from outside and the 25 prisoners who participated from inside have all bonded. We basically have 50 new brothers.”
Mr. Wally said the first contact is made on a Thursday afternoon, when the volunteers go in for two or three hours, just to meet the prisoners and share a cup of coffee.
“They come in like lifelong prisoners who’ve been locked up,” he said. “And you just can’t imagine it, you have to experience it. As they enter, you think, ‘This is a lost cause. There is no hope for these people. They’re gone.’
“But on Sunday afternoon, after they’ve been through a 72-hour crash course of the Holy Spirit, and the Lord intervening in their lives, you see years removed off their face.
“Instead of them running around with their walls built up and a scowl on their faces, all cautious and withdrawn, you see little kids that have tears running down their faces, with smiles and happy expressions.”
Mr. Wally said that during last year’s program, one gentleman stood up during the “open mic” session and explained that there had never been anyone in his entire life who’d ever told him they loved him before Kairos.
“His mama had never told him she loved him,” Mr. Wally said. “He’d never had a girlfriend who told him that. Nobody had ever told him they loved him until we told him we loved him and he heard about how much God loves him.”
During the special weekend, the prisoners become visible to themselves and others as God sees them. Their inner child comes back out. And they’re given the opportunity to take advantage of what Mr. Wally has noted before, “If you have breath, it’s never too late.”
Outside Participation In Kairos
For persons interested in participating in prison ministry efforts, Mr. Wally said there are opportunities to contribute financially, come to the involved churches and help to prepare meals, or donate funds for meal tickets.
Church youth also get involved, creating placemats for the prisoners.
“One thing the men really love,” he noted, “is these placemats from kids who’ve drawn on them in crayon. The kids can’t put their entire name on them, but they can put their first name and their age.
“So, one prisoner might get a placemat from ‘Bryan, age 5.’ And because the Holy Spirit is involved, the guy who gets it might just happen to have a grandson named Bryan.
“Or it’s another non-coincidence like that. (A God thing.) The prisoners never actually eat on the placemats. They fold them up, put them in their shirts and take them back to their bunk.”
Continuing Education (& Enlightenment)
I asked Mr. Wally if he ever gets to see any of the Kairos graduates again. He said prisoners can only attend one Kairos program, but special meetings are held in the prison chapel once a month. During that time, there’s an opportunity to reconnect and continue the relationships that were created.
“We see some of them again, but not all,” he explained. “There are about 300 serving time in this facility, which is dedicated to older and ill prisoners. Some of the sick ones will get better and transfer out to another prison. But a lot of them, the only way they’ll ever leave is feet first.”
I asked if any of the men were able to keep their new child-like faith and hopeful spirits.
He said some do and some don’t. He said a few return to the way they were before Kairos, as life is harsh inside prison walls.
He noted, “You just can’t imagine taking a dog and locking it up for 30 years and how rabid and mean that dog would be. Yet, these are people that they’ve done that to.
“So, some of them never come back to the meetings, but most of them do. And that’s the way it is in life. You can’t make anybody receive or participate. All you can do is let them have an encounter or an experience with the Lord. It’s their responsibility to continue that further.”
There’s an extremely large yard outside of the Aged & Infirmed Facility, surrounded by fences, barbed wire and guard towers. There are picnic tables, basketball goals and a large track, where the men walk in laps.
Most of the prisoners spend a lot of their day outside. And sometimes, they get a little extra reminder of how much God loves them.
You see, every weekday, as Mr. Wally picks up his school bus and drops it back off, his route takes him behind the prison. As he drives by, he always blows the horn. The men know it’s his bus and him saying “Hello.” The little beeps can be translated into “I haven’t forgotten you. God will never forget you. He loves you.”
The Way You Treat People Is Important
Returning to the subject of Thanksgiving and “giving thanks,” Mr. Wally and I discussed the importance of being grateful every day. Not just once a year on Thanksgiving. And not just on Sunday mornings for church.
I’d also heard that being grateful can create even more abundance in your life and I asked Mr. Wally his view on this thought. He said he feels that when you regularly count your blessings, you become more aware of them.
“God will give you 100 times more than whatever you give Him,” he said. “He always does. And He has so much better in mind for us than we could ever think of.”
Regarding God’s purpose for putting us here, Mr. Wally said we’re here to share the message of our creator’s love, and blessings, and to serve others.
“We’re to be His servants,” he said. “We’re to be His hands and feet.”
He also emphasized that how we treat others is a crucial component of the message and its influence.
“You’re supposed to treat the least and the lost as you would the President of the United States. If the President came in, would you just say, ‘Yeah, well, Trump is going to be in town today, I’m probably not going to see him.’ No.”
“As you excited as you are to see the highest official in the U.S., you should be that way with your fellow brothers and sisters you see every day. But we don’t put value on some people. We take them for granted. And we don’t make a difference. It’s our responsibility to make a difference.”
He also acknowledged that everyone has good and bad days, but Christians are called to be overcomers.
“Like anybody else, I also have bad days,” he said. “But what you have to realize and work on is — every bad day is an opportunity that you miss to make a first or new impression on somebody.
“Even if someone has been around you all their life, you are still supposed to know, that when they see you, they’re going to see Christ (in you.)”
He noted that persons who profess to be Christians, but who act in non-Christlike ways, could be the reason some people are actually turned away.
“We don’t have an option in being good examples,” he noted. “We’re not physically nailed to the cross, but when you accept Him, you know the price He paid. And the very least you can do is everything else.”
“For the rest of your life, everything you ever do or say reflects back on Him. What you owe Him is everything.
“And you want everyone to be able to tell that you really love Jesus. And that you’re a Christian. You want people to be able to identify without knowing who you are — WHOSE you are.”
Getting To Know God
I asked Mr. Wally when his faith began to grow even stronger.
“It was probably 25 or 26 years ago,” he said. “I believe I had a type of ‘fire insurance’ in fourth grade, when I accepted Christ. But I was not a Yosemite Sam. I was not a rooting-tooting, gun-toting, Christian warrior.
“I believe if I’d died, I would have gone to Heaven. But I was not the effective Christian that we’re all called to be. We’re all called to stand up for the less fortunate and do the things we’re supposed to do.”
One of the things that Mr. Wally said Christians are called to do is — when they get knocked down, they can’t stay down. They have to get back up.
“You’re going to get knocked down, that’s part of it,” he said. “But you have to get up. Then, once you are able to get up, you have to help others get up. And that’s the whole thing — getting up and helping others get up.”
“Another thing is, when you’re in the Army of God, you don’t stand still. You have to keep moving forward day by day. It’s not any great difficulty, you just have to know that you can’t stand still.”
He explained that you can ask for help and God will help you.
“He not only helps you, He does it all,” Mr. Wally said. “But he wants a willing vessel. He wants to be your buddy. Like your little buddies in first or second grade, He just wants a relationship.
“It’s like I saw Tommy over there, and I want to be his friend. But I didn’t want to talk to him. We’re never going to be friends, if I don’t talk to Tommy or he doesn’t talk to me.
“The way you become friends is to get to know somebody. You interact and talk with them.”
Listening For His Voice
Mr. Wally noted that even though God is the maker of the universe and knows all and did all, He still wants a relationship with each and every one of us.
“The same way you have relationships with human beings, you can have a relationship with Him,” he said. “You talk to Him and you listen to Him.
“Listening is the key. A lot of people talk to Him, but most people don’t listen to Him. He’s talking all the time; we’re just not listening.”
Sometimes, we may not be listening because we’re so busy and rushed. Other times, we just may not believe that God would want to speak to us.
“You may think, ‘That can’t be Him talking to me.’ But everybody has heard Him at one time or another,” he said. “Because when you’re standing there and going to do something you know is wrong, you can’t tell me you haven’t heard a little voice say, ‘Don’t do that.’ Everybody has heard that voice.”
Mr. Wally stressed that it’s important to be receptive and listen for God’s voice.
“He talks to everybody. You just need to get to the place where you can hear Him above all the other stuff. He talks to me all the time.” He laughed, then continued, “But, a lot of stuff, I don’t want to hear.”
Mr. Wally said an older Christian man once told him he could almost guarantee when God is wanting you to do something, because it’s whatever you don’t want to do. Because He’s breaking your pride.
“It’s not always like that,” he said. “Sometimes, when He’s talking, it IS stuff I want to do. But a lot of times, it’s what I don’t want to do. I’ll want to do this or that. And He’s like, ‘No, you’re not going to do that. You’re going to go here and do this.'”
Mr. Wally said that one of the ways God made it easier for him to understand His messages was by putting them into a language he could understand. He said years ago, he’d had a harder time relating to people than he does now.
“I’d get upset with somebody,” he said. “And I’d have it reasoned out that I can act this way or say that in retaliation. But I could hear God say, ‘No, you’re not going to do that. You’re going to treat them like you would if they were one of your children.’
“And I’d say, ‘Awwwwww. I’m not going to do that, either.’ And God would persist and say, ‘Yes, you are.’
“When you’re focused on treating people the way you’d want your own child treated, it becomes easier to show kindness to people and it becomes a lot easier to behave better.”
Mr. Wally noted that everybody messes up sometimes, but needs to keep in mind how they’d respond to their own child in a similar situation
“You wouldn’t be as hard on them,” he said. “Even if you’ve told them to do it five times and they haven’t done it. And there’s no excuse. The Lord is going to remind you, ‘Well, you’re the one who needs to work on it.'”
Sometimes, Mr. Wally said the Good Lord will double-down with an even stronger message.
“He’ll say, ‘Why don’t you just treat them like you do your grandkids?’ And then it’s kind of ‘Katy, bar the door.”
I had to laugh at Mr. Wally’s “God tone of voice.” I’ve heard others describe how God talks to them and it’s precious to me to hear any translation.
“God wants to speak with everybody,” he said. “He wants to talk to you, because He wants to relate to you, so that you can be the best of friends.”
“He would be better friends with me, too, if I’d let him. I still hold some stuff inside. I don’t mean to, but I just do. That’s part of the human condition. We’re all that way to some degree.
“It’s part of the daily struggle of releasing and being completely open to let Him come in and pick and choose what needs to come out of us and what we need to let in. That’s what He wants to do. We hold Him back.”
Mr. Wally said God’s work with him is perfect on God’s side, but can be messed up before its final completion via his own responses.
“If I’d quit trying to help Him and listen to Him more, I’d be better off,” he said. “When I let Him do something, and I do it through Him, it’s always successful. Because it’s Him getting the glory.
“The only thing unique about me is my DNA. And that came from Him. So, there’s really not anything original about me at all.”
How We See Each Other
Mr. Wally said that when we look at each other, we imagine the worst. But God looks at us and imagines the best. And that no matter where we really are in the process of growing and learning, He sees us in our finished state.
He said it’s strange how life works out. He remembers how he felt in school about the bus drivers, custodians and lunch room ladies.
“I didn’t look down on them, but I didn’t hold them in as high a regard as I should have,” he said. “I didn’t realize the responsibility they have.
“Whereas, at this point, if somebody had told me 25 years ago that I would be where I am today, working at the school, I would have laughed hard. I would have thought, ‘There’s no way that could happen.'”
Mr. Wally feels blessed that God has given him the opportunity to minister to his bus riders.
“Anytime you’re interacting with the students, you’re sowing into them, as well as everybody else you come into contact with,” he said. “What’s in you is what’s flowing out to other people. And whether it’s positive or negative depends on you.”
Mr. Wally said he’s picked up little children from manufactured homes where the grass has grown up over the windows.
“You could smell the students when they started up the bus stairs, because they hadn’t bathed in a week,” he said. “Their moms and dads were nowhere to be seen. There are some horrible situations.
“But you can kind of smile at them and say a kind word to them and they’ll have a smile come on their face. Like, there is hope. There is love in this world. You just have to look for it.”
In conclusion, I asked Mr. Wally if we could practice daily gratitude and have everyday be like Thanksgiving.
“Well, every day IS Thanksgiving,” he said. “It’s whether you realize it or not that’s important. You have to know your purpose. The purpose of your life. Why do you exist? And the answer to that is to receive love and to give love.”
So, some the things we’ve learned from Mr. Wally in this article are:
- Love your family and keep them first;
- Pass down an appreciation of blessings;
- Live each day for Christ and be a good example;
- Know that the next moment is not given; and
- Realize there’s always a chance to accept the Lord’s love.
Let’s follow these guidelines. Let’s strive to fulfill our purpose of receiving and giving love. And if we do that every day, then every day CAN be Thanksgiving.
Best Wishes For A Happy Thanksgiving To You & Your Family From Our American Risk Managers Family.
(Photo Credits: Feature – Chazz H; Prisoner – Donald Tong/Pexels; 3 Crosses – Pixabay; and Placemats – Unknown Children Volunteers.)