Unlikely DestinationNew Every Morning | June 21, 2021
A maximum security prison seems an unlikely destination when seeking a transformative encounter with God. Yet, I recently experienced God as never before amid high fences, barbed wire, legions of guards, and multiple checkpoints, while in the company of extraordinary men and women.
I attended the Fund for Theological Education’s Leaders in Ministry Conference held at the historic Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tennessee. During the conference I participated as a roundtable leader and mentor pastor to a fresh crop of FTE Fellows as we faithfully engaged the conference theme, “Builders of Beloved Community.” A site visit to the Riverbend Maximum Security Prison was part of this phenomenal experience. …
After we successfully navigated the extensive prison checkpoints, officials escorted our group to the chapel, a small room with cinder-block walls and aged wooden benches. When we arrived, the incarcerated persons warmly greeted us and engaged in mutual dialogue around matters of faith, rehabilitation, transformation, redemption, forgiveness, and ecclesiology. Many lessons struck me as significant during our all-too-short encounter with these amazing men.
—Michael W. Waters, Freestyle: Reflections on Faith, Family, Justice, and Pop Culture (Fresh Air Books, 2014)
Can you remember a time when you encountered God in an unlikely place or in the presence of unlikely people? Join the conversation.
Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it.
—Hebrews 13:2 (CEB)
Prayer for the Week
Help my generation rise to meet the challenges of our day with courage and integrity. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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Have to think very hard, have no inside a prison experience, but did communicate with an inmate, he’s out now, have not heard from him since, think he was reunited with family, hopefully doing well. Other experiences (serving in a homeless family shelter, mission trips to the Mayans in Mexico, Onondaga) in New York) don’t come as close to that, but were very meaningful in other ways.Gave three choices for Bible study with our new Pastor starting July 13th. There have been strong, serious, and smooth efforts for a good transition, continuum of pastoral care. Thank You, Lord.
I’m very ready for breakfast. Blessing and prayers for all the NEM community. Thank You, Lord.
Expecting a hot day, but cooler night temperatures
I lost the first set of comments I was working on so here goes another try.
The last one I can remember is Friday’s conversation with a young man who works in a store we have visited only twice. The conversation was heartfelt and revealed circumstances in both our lives. He related that he feeds the homeless on Sunday’s by himself. I gave him some money to facilitate this endeavor.
Megan and I spent a wonderful day together yesterday. We shopped in Pittsburgh’s strip district which is where the semis once came every early morning to deliver perishable consumables. It is now an eclectic mix of many shops. We had ice cream and I had many warm and heartfelt conversations with many of those working in the various shops. One in particular was with a man who, with his family owns a Mediterranean store. He and I spent time discussing the foods of our cultures which are mostly identical.He helped me find many things and will have his brother make a spice blend just for me. We had ice cream and also visited the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh which we were both excited to return to since it only reopened this week. We each took out many(!) books. It was a lovely day.
Prayers for Ally’s job lead, may it come to fruition and may she and David grow healthier. Prayers for Jill and her family as they struggle to navigate the fine details of family togetherness and harmony. Prayers for Lou and her friends as they visit together. Prayers for Robert and his church and transition of the pastors. May all go well and may all feel valued and appreciated.
Two thoughts come to mind – when I was able to meet my prison pen pal who was released. I had been writing to her anonymously and she did not know we would be meeting. She spoke broken English and she was overcome with emotion. Secondly, while volunteering with the young moms program – trips to the zoo, running errands with the mom I was mentoring.
And, unexpectedly this morning, during a lengthy texting conversation. God was in the midst, of two people texting. His timing is perfect, I simply must be responsive to the movement of the Spirit.
Storms rumbling through here. Hoping to eat with my friend this evening – she is planning to grill out if the weather holds. If not, I will swing by our favorite Thai place on the way there and pick up dinner.
The day I left for the beach, my phone dropped while I was watering flowers, and the screen shattered. My friend tried to replace it, unsuccessfully. Thankfully this morning, I took it to a repair shop by school, and now I am back in business.
As a former corrections case manager, I can affirm that a prison seems an unlikely place to meet God or God’s people. However, when we are stripped of freedom and the temporal things to which we give importance, God is there and meets us where we are. Through my work, I encountered men who thanked God for their incarceration and for how God used the experience to change them. Knowing them and working with them changed me, increasing my empathy and stretching my ideas about how God works.
David has a Dr. appointment Thursday. I think he may need an increase in his dosage for antidepressant. I hope to talk to the supervisor of the non-profit today, just to make contact. Please continue to pray for this, and that I can reestablish a productive routine before I return to work.
Robert, my home church in Alabama gets a new pastor next week and was very sad to see their pastor’s last sermon yesterday. We are Methodists and understand the system. Sort of. I will never understand why they move someone who is having a fruitful and effective ministry. I lift up all churches and pastors dealing with change. Julie, sounds like you had a wonderful day with Megan. My hometown had a Carnegie Library when I was growing up. The building still stands and is owned by the arts council. Its a beautiful space and wonderful venue for rotating art exhibits and musical events. I too enjoy learning about other cultures and having ice cream. Will be in prayer for the folks you encountered. My BIL’S mom grew up not far from Pittsburgh. He said visits to Pittsburgh were a highlight growing up. Jill, praying for you and your family during your time together. Lou, I pray you enjoy your time with friends. Prayers for us all as we attempt to return to some normality. Blessings to all.