Showing posts from September, 2012

Blessed are the dreamers

Two men unknowingly gave hope to prisoners over the weekend. I saw it in person. I have never met Mark Carpenter and Bob Johnson, but they had a dream and they refused to be defeated by the naysayers. Their idea was to create an entry in the ARTWALK competition in Grand Rapids, called LIGHTS IN THE NIGHT GR. They wanted to release thousands of real Chinese lanterns, lifted aloft by the heat from actual flames, over the river in downtown Grand Rapids. The fire chief didn't like the idea, the Mayor wasn't pleased, others said this wasn't genuine art, some said it had been done elsewhere so it wasn't even original, and then on the night of the scheduled release came rain. Undaunted, the pair rescheduled the release for last Friday night and this time conditions were perfect. The moon was shining and winds were calm when thousands upon thousands of Chinese lanterns were released. It was an amazing site. Marcia and I watched from the lounge of the Marriott Hotel

Bad news, good news

As the assigned organist for our Sunday morning worship service, I was sitting right under Pastor Nate's nose when he informed the congregation, "I have bad news and good news for you today. The bad news is that you're not in control. The good news is that you're not in control." Boy, did the President of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS ever have to hear that message this week. On day one of the business week, I was startled by a telephone call from a prominent attorney who has agreed to help us with James, who had been promised a deal by the state for critical testimony in a murder trial. The state is now hesitating, and our case is not being helped by a judge who is refusing to discuss the matter. The frustrated attorney finally headed out of town in his car, hoping to catch the judge unawares. Whoa! On day two, I received a disturbing message from the sister of a prisoner. Harry has been informed that there's a contract on his life. He's afraid of be

Going to the dogs

My friend Dodie doesn't belong in prison. She should have been out long ago. She hasn't been treated fairly, and there's no guarantee that things will ever change. But rather than sit and whine about it, she is involved in the most amazing program. it's called MI-PAWS (Michigan Inmates Providing Assistance Work & Service). It involves dogs. It's a program operated jointly by the Humane Society of Huron Valley and the Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Dodie is one of the inmates hand-selected to participate in the program. She is expecting a new dog any day will be her 12th! Each dog lives around the clock with inmate handlers for eight weeks. The women work with the animals on different aspects of training which will make them highly adoptable at the end of their stay. It's important to point out that these weren't choice dogs to begin with. Some have been abandoned by their owners, or just surr

HIS MEN---still singing

A fine Christian ensemble is quietly observing a milestone of exemplary kingdom work. Exactly 40 years ago, a few friends and I focused on the hope of forming a small male chorus. We invited 13 singers and a pianist. In that the other guys were better singers, we agreed that I should be the director. Our base was in Holland, but our members also came from the Muskegon, Grand Haven and Grand Rapids areas. Some would think there should be a constitution with the formation of a group, but nothing was that formal. There were no bylaws or organization goals. A few simple goals included love of music, love of God, and a desire to use our music to help others. As director, my personal goal was to present simple, familiar gospel music in good taste. There was the issue of choosing a name...but the suggestion from a singer's mom quickly won approval: HIS MEN. The members bore proud ownership of that name, as they immediately began raising funds for worthy organizations. In

Politics no, justice yes

HFP stays out of politics. Our support comes from a broad spectrum of wonderful people from just about every political persuasion, and we respect all of their opinions. With that disclaimer comes this information, about a candidate for the Michigan Supreme Court. I must confess that I usually know very little about the Supreme Court candidates whose names appear on the Michigan ballot. But some months ago a good friend, Professor Keith Findley---co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project---called our attention to the fact that a colleague was running for Supreme Court here in Michigan. Bridget McCormack is a professor at the University of Michigan. But here's the information that caught our attention: She is the founder and co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the U of M Law School. This is the only Innocence Project in the State of Michigan that handles non-DNA cases, and this was the first exclusively non-DNA innocence clinic in the country. This clini

I have a secret

I get my Bible lessons in the most unusual places. As a church musician, I am often busy practicing at the time of adult Sunday School or Bible study sessions on Sunday morning. But I do not go without Bible study. My good friend and retired pastor Al Hoksbergen and I set aside an hour a week for a little libation and discussion, and this invariably turns into a meaningful lesson for me. This week, I got a bonus. Al and I were asked to do a funeral service. A 90-year-old charter member of our church had died. I know of no one who does a memorial service better than Al. He doesn't have a "canned sermon" on file for funerals. He not only meets with the families, but then relies on his many years of ministry, preaching, teaching and counseling, to find a perfect match of scripture and the current situation. The title of the message was "I Have a Secret," and the scripture passage was from Philippians. The Apostle Paul, writing from a prison where he