Hard times change life for new author

Posted: Sunday, November 09, 2003

When a person learns the process of change, that person will acquire the courage to change, according to the author of a new Christian book, "Courage to Change."

"That's it in a nutshell. When you teach the person the process to change, whatever's inside them will come out, and they'll have the courage to change," said Kenai resident and author Robert R. Blair II, who will have a book signing at the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 15.

Designed as what he calls a study manual, Blair's new book gives readers a step-by-step guide on embracing change and becoming all God wants them to be.

"Courage to Change" contains advice derived directly from Scriptural passages included in the text, concise definitions of terms used in the passages and knowledge Blair gleaned from life experiences that took him from a God-fearing upbringing in Iowa to the depths of despair in a world of drugs and alcohol to a surprise invitation into the realm of Christianity.

"The inspiration came in 1985 when I was in jail in Iowa for armed robbery," Blair, 46, said during a recent interview.

"I was sitting there on the edge of my bunk and my next awareness was being on the floor under my bunk, curled up in the corner like I was trying to get out through the wall," he said.

Blair said he was staring at the gold Giddeon's Holy Bible that came with the cell.

"I was in awe with a sense that I was a pathetic individual."

Blair unquestionably believes the event was a visit from Jesus Christ, and the time had come for him to turn his life around.

He spent the next two years devouring everything about God he could get his hands on.

After serving 20 months of a 10-year sentence, Blair was out on a special parole to the Teen Challenge program for troubled youth.

"The word said, 'Work with your hands. If you steal, steal no more,'" Blair said.

"I started commercial painting. I started my own painting company and became a general contractor," he said.

But then, being repeatedly turned away by religious elders because of his past criminal record, Blair slid backward and relapsed into drug and alcohol abuse from August 1991 to August 1994.

"It was exactly three years just like the prodigal son," Blair said, describing his return to substance abuse as being similar to the Bible story of the three years the prodigal son strayed before coming home to his father's house.

After another go at drug rehabilitation, Blair began attending Kirkwood College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and worked on campus as a disc jockey on a Christian radio station.

There he met Francis Frangi-pane, organizer of the River of Life Ministries, and studied under his tutelage spending many classroom hours with him for the next seven years.

Work on "Courage to Change" began.

"Change won't come until we have a realization that all that hurt us is in the past. That's our first hurdle," Blair said.

"The purpose of writing the book is that when I share with other people, I get people set free so they can become all they were created to be."

Blair said that when people get to a point of desperation over debt or a bad habit like smoking or lying or rage, they are at a crossroads.

"When their desperation ex-ceeds their fear to change, they're ready to move to the next step," he said.

"When I was in jail, I was through making deals with God. I was in total despair. I didn't care.

"People believe that all there is is this segment between birth and death.

"But the Bible says we are to leave an inheritance to our grandchildren. It's not just an inheritance of money it's an inheritance of integrity.

"People need to make the change in the current life before death," Blair said.

While "Courage to Change" can be read and worked privately by readers, it also may be used as a companion text for self-improvement workshops Blair conducts with his wife, Polly, who edited the book.

Currently training is done in a 10-computer station classroom in the couple's Kenai home. Eventually, they plan to build a retreat house on their property to continue teaching the process of change.

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