Showing posts from April, 2014

We are not ashamed!

The apostle Paul, known for his fiery personality, stated boldly in his letter to the Romans: “I am not ashamed of the gospel...” In another letter he describes all the abuse and torture that came about as a result of this bold stand. But he stood by it. In today's culture, we're seeing a segment of society that I can only label as cowardly. They love to shoot off their mouths, but they'll only do it only under a cloak of anonymity. This is especially true on media web sites, where newspapers and television stations not only report the news of the day, but also invite comments from readers. The only thing is, the readers do not have to identify themselves. I find this offensive on two counts. I don't think the media should allow it unless there are names and addresses. They insist on that if you send a letter to the editor. Why not apply the same rules if you wish to comment on line? And, it's only a coward who fires away at targets while refusing to

Unlimited power in Lansing---no one watching!

There's a little band of people in Lansing with far too much power. I realize that I'm starting to sound like a broken record (for those who remember a crack in vinyl discs that prompted a repeat until one lifted the needle), but why is no one paying attention to the Michigan Parole Board? Thanks to former Governor Engler, these people are no longer civil service employees. They are appointed by the Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, who is appointed by the Governor. It's incestuous! This board is not affected by the Open Meetings Act, so no one may know what happens in closed meetings. The Parole Board interviews with Michigan prisoners are not recorded, so a decision by the board regarding parole for a prisoner is based on the hearsay of just one board member. Inmates are not allowed to appeal Parole Board decisions. In fact, if the PB says it has “no interest” in considering parole at the regular review time, an inmate may not even ask why. I

Visiting prisoners---some Holy Week thoughts

I was speaking with David Schuringa, President of the fine prison ministry CROSSROAD BIBLE INSTITUTE. We were discussing prison visits. He told about the first time he went behind bars, and he expressed his surprise at the great times he has had since then visiting prisoners. And then he made this statement, one that I keep uppermost in my mind: “I think these are the kind of people that Jesus would like to hang out with.” Do you ever wonder in whose company you are the happiest? One of the first answers that comes to mind is the company of people. But those of us who have labored in church over the years, especially in the music department, know that it's not always pleasant there. Mark Twain once said, with tongue in cheek, “Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company.” Another answer that might quickly surface is that of's fun to be with family. But that's not always ideal, either. Mark Lowry, musician and comedian with

Drama behind bars?

All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts... I've heard those lines by Shakespeare many times, but never like this. I was sitting in a large circle in the gymnasium of Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon, and the actor so powerfully delivering these lines was a convicted criminal. One after another of these thespians stood up and recited their lines flawlessly...obviously the result of hours and hours of memorization. I was a special guest at SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS , a national program that is the brainchild of our special friend Curt Tofteland. Why Shakespeare, in this environment? Well, here's how Curt explains it: "Shakespeare Behind Bars was founded on the beliefs that all human beings are inherently good, and that although convicted criminals have committed heinous crimes against other human beings, this inherent goodness still lives

A sad, short story...may it make you sick!

I never cease to be amazed as to how human beings treat human beings. It was a simple telephone call to the HFP office. Could we help a guy just released from the federal prison system? The situation was desperate. The short answer was no. There are agencies that handle things like this. We don't. HFP works as an advocacy agency for persons IN prison, and only in the state prison system. But then the lady from this re-entry agency went on to tell her story. The man was injured while he was in the federal prison system. She informed me in a calm and matter-of-fact manner that the injuries left the man a paraplegic. No surprise. No emotion. Just the facts, ma'am. He entered as a healthy man...he departed as a cripple. John Doe became eligible for release...and was then released to what was called a half-way house in the Detroit area. He went there because he had no family, no friends, nobody to care for him. A paraplegic. Alone. The kind of person Jesus ta

GM & MDOC---Side-stepping the truth

Question: What do GM and the MDOC have in common? Answer: When it comes to the truth, both sidestep the issues. If you've been watching the hearings on television, General Motors is having a difficult time. The company obviously knew about defects that could cause problems, but failed to act in a timely manner. The CEO just kept side-stepping the real issues. But, the truth wins out. GM failed to make necessary corrections, and lives were lost. No getting around it. If you were at the HFP forum to discuss hospice care in Michigan prisons Monday evening, you heard heart-breaking stories from wives of two prisoners who died behind bars last year. Representatives of the Michigan Department of Corrections and its health-care provider CORIZON could only side-step the issues. But the truth won out. The MDOC failed miserably in these two instances. The facts as described by these two women were shameful, and no one could shake their stories. The interesting thing is th