Tag Archive | pencil

Imagine you have just been arrested! Now what?

arrestedImagine you have just been arrested – for a crime that you may or may not have committed.

Your life has suddenly been put on hold – for who knows how long. You may have small children at home. Who will care for them? You may have a job. What will happen to that? Think of all the ways your life will be disrupted.

Imagine how helpful it would be to talk to a chaplain, someone who could help you think through and pray about the changes that are suddenly happening to you and your family.

In 1970, forty-four years ago, an organization called Madison Area Lutheran Council (MALC) was formed to address this need, along with several other needs. The idea was for Madison area Lutheran Churches to work together to provide a ministry to inmates of the Dane County Jail, as well as to work collaboratively to address other needs (like coordinating the collection of food and clothing for humanitarian relief organizations in Dane County and in other parts of the world). Over the years, other (non-Lutheran) churches have become involved in this ministry, as well.

chaplains

Chaplains John and Julia

Currently, MALC employs two chaplains who work in the Dane County Jail. The Rev. John Mix is chaplain to a daily average of about 800 men in jail, and the Rev. Julia Weaver is the part-time chaplain to a daily average of about 150 women in jail. This ministry is entirely supported by donations from churches and individuals. (You can check out their website for more information about the organization: http://www.madisonjailministry.org/)

As some of you may know, I’ve been involved with jail ministry for the last three years. As a volunteer, I play the piano for the women’s worship service twice a month in the chapel of the Dane County Jail in Madison. In this role I’ve been privileged to hear some of the stories inmates tell of how being in jail has changed their lives, and of how helpful the chaplains have been to them.

One woman talked about how being in jail, talking with the chaplain, and worshiping God with other women in the jail chapel had taught her humility. When she was first incarcerated she thought she was a better person than the other inmates. She was in jail for a mere white collar crime – income tax evasion. She would never hurt anyone or do drugs or commit any of the violent crimes other inmates had committed. But during her months in jail, she learned that God loves all of us despite the mistakes we make in life. And we all make mistakes, just different mistakes. The chaplain provided the opportunity and the atmosphere in the jail chapel for this time of sharing, learning, and spiritual growth to happen.

Another woman sat in jail for two years, accused of killing her little boy who was three years old. When she was arrested, her brand new baby was taken from her and put in foster care. She never saw her baby again. Eventually the trial and sentencing processes were completed and she was transferred to prison to serve time, a 13-year sentence. (She claims she never hurt her little boy. She says her boyfriend was too rough when he tried to discipline the boy, and she is terribly sorry she was not able to protect her little boy from him.)

During her two years in the Dane County Jail, she came to the women’s worship service whenever she could, usually twice a month. She was one of the kindest, gentlest people I’ve ever met. I’m sure the hours she spent in worship services and one-on-one with Chaplain Julia were a tremendous help to her in dealing with her grief.  (I wrote about Maria’s Story in this blog about a year ago.)

yellow pencilIn order for this kind of jail ministry to continue, someone needs to pay for it – salaries for the chaplains, and money for materials like Bibles, paper, and pencils. At every worship service, Chaplain Julia passes around a basket of paper and pencils. Each inmate is invited to write down her prayer requests so that Chaplain Julia can continue to pray for her throughout the week. Chaplain Julia tells the women they can keep their pencils if they need them. Everyone keeps a pencil. Inmates don’t have junk drawers filled with pens and pencils and other odds and ends like most of us have in our homes. A pencil is a valuable gift – a tool that inmates can use to write down their thoughts, or to write letters to loved ones.

JAZZ for the Jail is an annual fundraising concert to raise money to help support this jail ministry – from salaries to pencils. If you are in the Madison area this Sunday evening, I invite you to join us for a wonderful experience.

Chance Allies - 3 heads small

Chance Allies – David, Tisha, Lucas

Chance Allies, a jazz group, will be performing. The group includes a female vocalist (the Rev. Tisha Brown – a UCC pastor), a pianist (Dr. David Allen – a pediatric endocrinologist), and a bass player (Lucas Koehler – the professional musician of the group). Chance Allies was created to do fundraising concerts for churches and other non-profits in the Madison area. Their style of jazz is primarily the smooth jazz from the 1930s and onward – George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and so on – the kind of music I love to sit back and listen to. (You can preview their sound at www.TishaBrown.com)

Love Mosaic

Created by the Backyard Mosaic Women’s Project

In addition to the concert, there will be a silent auction for works of art (mosaics, quilts, and other works) created by inmates and by friends of the jail ministry. There will also be desserts and beverages.

The suggested donation for the Jazz for the Jail fundraising event is $25. The Concert starts at 7:30. Come as early as 6:45 to see the works of art on display for the silent auction. The fundraising event will take place at Messiah Lutheran Church, 5202 Cottage Grove Road in Madison.

If you want to learn more about the jail ministry…
If you want to see (and bid on) some beautiful works of art…
If you want to sit back and enjoy an absolutely delightful concert…
If you want to feast on rich desserts and lively conversation with some friendly people…
Then I invite you to join us for the JAZZ for the Jail fundraiser this Sunday evening at Messiah.

Please feel free to call me (608-212-6197) or email me (mariankorth@gmail.com) if you have any questions. Hope to see you Sunday!

 

Attitude

In today’s reading of “The Monastic Way” Joan Chittister, OSB, said, “The attitude we bring to every day will determine the character and quality of that day.”

For me, that’s a timely statement to read on a Monday morning. That’s when I look ahead to everything on my calendar for the week and everything on my to-do list, as I try to plan my week. That’s a task that really needs to be done with a positive attitude.

starry skyChittister continued today’s reading by quoting Oscar Wilde, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

As I look at my calendar for the week I see three significant days coming up – Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, and a “play day.” Regardless of what’s on my to-do list, this should be a very special week. I can see “the stars.”

Last year before Ash Wednesday I took a dozen hymnals down from the shelf and played through all the Lent sections to remind myself of the wonderful church music that has been written for the Season of Lent. I created a songbook consisting of 83 of my favorites from among these hymns and gospel songs and named it, “Songs about the Love of God.” I’m going to add the following item to my to-do list for this week – play through “Songs about the Love of God.” I expect I’ll keep that item on my to-do list for the next six weeks – not because I won’t get it done, but because I’ll want to keep doing it.

Valentines DayValentine’s Day was one of my favorite holidays when I was in grade school. Every year we decorated a great big box and set it on a table in the front of the classroom. On Valentine’s Day, everyone brought valentines for all their classmates and dropped them into the box. In the afternoon we had a Valentine’s party with cake, cookies, and candy. A few students were selected to distribute the cards from the box. We all opened our cards, and then I realized that every single classmate really liked me enough to give me a card. I guess everyone in the class realized that. It probably helped that our teacher had sent a list of classmate names home with us the week before. I remember going through that list and selecting just which valentine I wanted to give to each kid.

Valentine Candy BoxIn addition to the party in school, another thing that made Valentine’s Day extra special was that my brother and I pooled our money to buy our mom a beautiful, heart-shaped box of chocolates – which, of course, she shared with us. I have lots of happy memories of Valentine’s Day.

“Play Day” is something new that Mim and I have started doing a few times a year, when it looks like we both may be having a completely open day on our calendars. Since we started doing assisted living in our home over ten years ago, we are responsible for care giving 24/7. To give ourselves a break, we occasionally schedule at least a six-hour stretch that someone else will be caring for our residents so that we can “play.” That may be going out for lunch, seeing a movie, or shopping for fun (not just for groceries). From 9:00 to 3:00 this Friday is our planned “play day.”

This should be quite a week! In many ways, a mid-winter gift from God.

One more thought to share. Yesterday I read the book, “Great Quotes from Great Women” (compiled by Peggy Anderson, published by Simple Truths, LLC, ©2010). One quote stayed in my mind, and it relates to both attitude and God’s love, apparently the themes on my mind this week. Mother Teresa said,

I am a pencil in the hand of a writing God 

who is sending a love letter to the world.

That quote is packed with meaning. It provides an image that I am going to try hard to remember for Ash Wednesday and for Valentine’s Day, and for many other days, especially days when I need to see the big picture of life, and to think about how I fit into it.

Pencil