Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Prayer Requests

+++ Our prayers go out to Randy Bowman, who may not know it, but he already has the most precious gift of all. Help him to see the treasure of your love, which is his in abundance. +++ We lift up Michael Glass who has never before turned to you, but now is trying to find a new life by turning his life over to you. Strengthen him and give him peace. +++ We lift up Kristina Casner, who seeks to learn more about being a Christian. Help her find the answers in your word, and feel your love all around her. +++ We lift up Darrin D.T. Taylor and his family. We celebrate his devotion and his love for your word, and we give thanks that he has placed his faith in you during the hard times. Help him keep on believing in good times and bad, and bless his family to live always in your love. +++ We pray for our sister Blanca Andrade, for the new life she has received, for the new direction and the joy she feels in her heart. We celebrate that these are your gifts to her, we give thanks that you continue to bless her and strengthen her to grow in grace and understanding of your will for her life. +++ We give thanks for Hope Benefield, and her willingness to speak the Good News to others. Let her feel your guidance and help her grow in wisdom and understanding of your Word. +++ We lift up Jacqueline Wimbush and her family. Help them stay together and give each other the support they need in this time of trial, and reunite them if it is your will. +++ We pray for Brandie Robinson and all the women in prison at St. Gabriel, LA. Let the distress they have suffered in the Hurricanes be replaced by the peace that passeth understanding. Help them find their way home. +++ We lift up Patricia Collins, Virginia Robbins and her children, and Pam Ritchie and her family. +++ Beverly Martin needs to feel your. Help her to know you are with her now and every day of her long sentence. Strengthen her and do not let her lose hope. +++ We pray for Dean Teetsel. Help him renew his faith in you, and encourage him to live each day for you. +++ Thank you for your healing mercies poured out upon our brother Steward M. Johnson. Continue to strengthen him and heal his heart and soul. +++

Friday, January 27, 2006

Good News! Celebrate God's graciousness...

The time has come for the Spanish version of "A New Day in Christ" to begin taking shape! Our sister congregation, Nueva Vida, and their pastor Ruben and Cecilia Albarracin are leading the way within their own congregation and the other Spanish speaking CP congregations. Keep them all in prayer for guidance and direction. Keep us in prayer that we can see how to facilitate this process of God working through the people. I can see God's hand pushing this forward. We received a letter from a former employee of the church, more than ten years ago she was a nursery worker who had long since moved on and off our radar. She saw a devotional in the prison where she is currently residing, and she recognized the address. She wrote a heartfelt letter to our pastor emeritus, Hugh Parsons, who is currently assisting at the CP Columbian mission church in Houston, Nueva Vida. It happened that he was with Ruben and Cecilia when he received the letter which had been forwarded from our offices. I believe his reaction upon receiving the letter, and his outpouring of support for the devotional calendar ministry was the inspiration God used in moving Ruben and Cecilia to volunteer to lead the project. Its absolutely amazing when things happen like this.

In other news, we are beginning preparations for our Lenten Walk on the Way to the Cross... More information as it becomes available, but part of this will be a mailable piece which we want to make available to the public. And better news still, the band is in rehearsal with several new songs and many familiar ones to prepare for the Easter early service. (We sometimes call it "Sunrise Service" here in Houston, but the sun rises at some ridiculous time, and we are doing well to make it to worship by 7:00!)

Celebrate that God works in ways we can not understand. All our best efforts are nothing compared to the will of God! Amen and alleluia!

Monday, January 23, 2006

do not dwell on the past...

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19

God, you are making all things new! Thank you for the streams flowing in the wasteland. You give us a new start, a clean slate, to begin our life again in your love.

We pray for Randy Bowman, to find that while he has been searching all his life, you have been with him all along. Help him, and us, recognize the good gifts you have given to us, and help us make our lives our gift to you.

We pray for Annie Dixon and Linda Lane, for your help and protection as they struggle to overcome addiction.

We pray for Lisa Pennington, as she trys to find the new direction for her life, shine a light to guide her and keep her on the path to you.

We pray for Rachel Zapata, Dolores Martines, Helen Oliver, Brittney Kindle, Brandy Yancy, Amber Ford and Irma Garcia. Open their minds to your word, and open their eyes to your works in the world. Help them support each other as they work out their way back to you, and strengthen and fulfill their desire to remake their lives and reconcile their will to your will.

We pray for Silvana Andrade, her daughters and her mother. Help them learn to live for you, strengthened by you for their journey.

We pray for Roseanne Cordove and her daughter. Help them both hear your voice, see your path, and find their way out of the hardship they now endure. Teach them your ways, so that they will know you and live for you.

We pray for Brenda Chandler, help her find the strength in her faith to renew her covenant with you and to throw out the things in her life which are against you,

We pray for Debbie Rogers and her sons, show them your purpose for their lives, and give them the courage to follow you,

For these your children, and for all of us, we ask for your guidance, and we ask that you give us the heart to hear your word for us, and the courage to follow your will, even when it seems contrary to what we want for ourselves. We pray in the life changing power of your son Jesus, Amen.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Miles and miles of blues...

"Jesus is Lord of Picayune, Mississippi Welcomes You"

First paved road in the South, Old Hwy. 45 in Lee County, Mississippi.

free world

i’m going out into the free world and farm
i’m gonna paint me a big red barn
don’t wanna do nobody else no harm
i’m going out

i’m going out into the free world and farm
buy me a mule won’t need no car
don’t wanna grow nobody else’s corn
i’m going out into the free world

i’ll put my hand to the plow
won’t let them keep me down
i’m going out

i’m going out into the free world and farm
have me some chickens in my front yard
don’t wanna fight nobody else’s war
i’m going out

i’m going out into the free world and farm
i’m gonna spin me some very fine yarns
don’t wanna be where i can’t see the stars
i’m going out into the free world

i’ll put my hand to the plow
hold my head up proud
i’m going out

kate campbell
© 2004 large river music (bmi)

Dear God of new beginnings, please help all of us who are starting over. For those who are starting over after the loss of a loved one, help us go out and begin living and begin feeling love again. For those who are starting over in a new place, help us know that you are here with us, that we are surrounded by your love, and need not be afraid. For those who are starting over after a long illness or depression, help us go out and treasure every day as a gift from you, to put the suffering behind and begin working toward the new life you have for us. For those who are starting over after being incarcerated, let us go out into the world, confident in your love, aware of our weaknesses, trusting in those you have sent to help us.

For Allison Frost, Katonya Bass, Lisa Parker, Yvonka Wilson, Sarah Zapata, Aimee Tanner, Jason Bean, Juan Rivera, Marie Gonzaba, Candise M. Conger, Jaqueline Martinez, Mary Johnson, Tammy White, Cindy and Pamela Jones, Sheree Gee, Stephen Hamm, Debbie Little.

Oh God, like little babies we take our first unsure steps out of the dark places we have been for so long, into the bright light of the world. Help us seek your will for us, and give us the strength to put our hand on the plow and hold our head up when we go out. Amen.

p.s. Kate Campbell is an inspired and inspiring songwriter and performer. "Miles of Blues," "Jesus is Lord of Picayune," and "free world" are on her newly released cd "Blues and Lamentations" which can be heard and purchased at www.katecampbell.com, or if you want to get out of the house, go to Barnes & Noble and buy them. (If you go to the b&n @ westheimer & voss, say "hi" to Dan for me.)

Monday, January 16, 2006

God of blue Monday...

"Even though the fig trees are all destroyed, and there is neither blossom left nor fruit, and though the olive crops all fail, and the fields lie barren; even if the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be happy in the God of my salvation." Habakkuk 3:17-18

My car is wrecked, the house payment is behind, my business is being investigated by the IRS and I suspect my bookkeeper has been taking a little under the table, The kids are in trouble at school, my wife is so mad I'm expecting any day for my clothes to be on the curb when I come home, and I keep having this strange pain in my left shoulder, but, you know, I think everything is going to be all right in the end. Is this a modern day Habakkuk, or just a fool? Who knows? God knows!

Into every life some rain must fall. Into some lives, it seems to be monsoons! If our peace of mind is dependant upon the circumstances of the day, these rainy days will lead us to lamentation and despair. But if we accept and really believe our profession that God is in control, then we will be able to celebrate in the face of hardship. Does it mean we'll never experience hardship? No, but that we can keep our perspective and work through the obstacles, with our eyes focused on God. There are some people who can always give you a list of grievences, every time you see them on the street. It seems life is simply a matter of one day being worse than the one that came before it. But those who are living in Chirst, no matter what their circumstances are, have an uncanny ability to share joy with all they meet. Praise God for them, and pray count me among them!

Remind us that you are not just the God of Sundays and sunny days, but also the God of blue Mondays, bad hair days, and every other day. Help us place you first in our lives, and know that you are always with us, so that even if everything else may fall away we will always have you. We lift up Frances Garcia, her kids and her parents. For Wayne Milton and Ann Marie Sonnon, and for Lydia Sanchez, we ask your blessing. For everyone who feels despair and hopelessness, help them turn to you and find hope. We give you thanks for everyone who crosses our path to remind us of your love, and those who shared your joy with us, especially Nancy, who was and is the inspiration of "New Day in Christ" Ministries. We celebrate her life, and we praise you that in her life, we came to see you. Thank you, Dear God of Monday and every day, for our beloved friend Nancy. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Prayer Requests

We receive many prayer requests each week, and our goal is to list each one here in order to share this ministry with you, wherever you are. If you have been reading along, you know that many of our requests come from inmates in the nations federal, state and local prisons. Often their letter says simply, "Keep us in your prayers." Other times, they convey the details of their situation. And a few share their darkest fears and deepest secrets. So, while we recognize that God already knows what is in our hearts, we lift them up, by name, and we ask if possible for you to join with us. May you receive a blessing in sharing and caring.

Great and wondrous God, creator and redeemer of the Universe, magnificent and mystifying, maker of all things good and true, you created us in your image to be in communion with you. In our human weakness, we have turned away from your glory, and chosen a path of our own. But still you wait and hold out your loving hands to receive us. Forgive us for turning away. Remake us as you intend us to be.

We pray for your children, prisoners who are alone and isolated from their families, for those who struggle with addicition and mental health issues, for those who are trapped in anger or denial, for those who are drowning in depression and despair, touch them with your healing love, and make them whole. Guide and direct their lives to a path of reconciliation and renewal, and help them find their true soul buried under years of denial. Let them experience a rebirth of love in their lives, and open their eyes to the possibilities of true joy that exist in relationship with you.

In community, we lift our prayers for Andrea McCullogh for healing and recovery from illness and addiction, and for her family members who have stood by her through every hardship, strengthen and unite them in your love. John and Chassity Cooper, who are separated for a while, help them remain together in heart and mind through your love. For Beverly Beave, Leslie Simms, Tifany Terry and for Lorraine Hinderberger, and for all parents who are no longer able to provide for their children, help them find peace through prayer. Protect their children, help them grow strong in body and spirit, and if it is in your plan for them, show them the way to reconcile as a family someday. We pray for Shannon Sturgeon and her fiance, help them grow in love together, and provide them with the patience and strength to weather any storm life may bring. We raise the names of Sophia Nason, Kendra Porterfield, Chauntyse Anderson, M. Rhames, Imani Anderson, LuJuan Simmons, Margaret Rhames, Tonya Young and Aisha Dorsey, Mary Baker, Londa Copeland, Louise Manns, Cheme Vereen, Deanna Maes, Phyllis Goodwin, Glenda Ingram and her husband and children. Montevie R. Burks and his children, James R. Kemp, his wife, Terrie Simms-Imafidon and her family, Amic Peck and her children and their care taker, Jesse J. Archueta for healing from cancer, Larry D. Henderson and Janie Chesser, Larry Anthony, Jeanette Pickett, and all who are in distress. Be with them Lord, and help them find their way.

Our belief in Jesus Christ gives us the confidence to lift our heads in the light of your love. For we know that no greater love exists, and that is the love you have for us. We celebrate your Love, the Word, Jesus Christ our Savior! Amen.

Just a drop in a bucket?

2005 calendar distribution: 19,435

Is Our Prison System Working?

“Without a moral and spiritual change of heart—transformation—released inmates will likely return to temptations, associations, and activities that stimulate more criminal actions.”
—Charles W. Colson, Founder and Chairman of Prison Fellowship, an Operation Starting Line partner

The Facts:

6.9 million men and women were living under correctional supervision (incarceration, probation, or parole) in the United States as of year-end 2003, compared to 3.2 million in 1990.

Some 3.2 percent of the adult U.S. population, or 1 in 32 adults, were incarcerated or on probation or parole at the end of 2003.

More than 60 percent of prisoners are re-arrested within three years of their release (Offenders Returning to Federal Prison, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1986-97).

If recent incarceration rates remain unchanged, an estimated 1 out of every 20 persons (5.1 percent) will serve time in prison during his/her life.

Roughly 14 million Americans face the likelihood of going to prison (Newsweek, Nov. 13, 2000).

As of Dec. 31, 2000 (the latest data available), state prisons were operating between full capacity and 15 percent over capacity, while federal prisons were 31 percent over capacity.

The Taxpayer Cost:

$19,800 per year to incarcerate one prisoner (does not include welfare costs frequently associated with the inmates’ dependents)

$80,000 to build one prison cell

Estimated $450,000 to arrest, convict, and imprison one drug dealer for five years
Note: Drug treatment or education can be provided for 200 people for this same cost, according to the Drug Reform Coordination.

Estimated $40 billion to incarcerate America’s more than two million inmates each year (Diminishing Returns: Crime and Incarceration in the 1990s, The Sentencing Project, September 2000).

The Faith-Based Solution

Of the inmates who completed a faith-based program, the likelihood of their return to incarceration was reduced by two-thirds—The Criminal Justice Policy Council in Texas

A study of two prison rehabilitation programs (faith-based and vocation-based) conducted in two Brazilian prisons shows that although rates of recidivism (rate of re-arrest) for both prison programs were lower than the national estimated average (60-70 percent), the faith-based program showed a significantly lower recidivism rate (16 percent versus 36 percent for the vocation-based program). (Texas Journal of Corrections, February 2002)

A 2003 University of Pennsylvania study shows that graduates of a faith-based prison program in Texas were 50 percent less likely to be re-arrested and 60 percent less likely to be
re-incarcerated, when compared to the matched comparison group. (July, 2003)

Participation by prisoners in multiple in-prison Bible studies conducted by Prison Fellowship (an Operation Starting Line leader) reduced their recidivism by 66 percent. —Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences’ Justice Quarterly

New York Theological Seminary’s 12-year study of an in-prison seminary program at Sing Sing showed a similar 60 percent reduction in recidivism.

NOTE: All statistics were compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics unless otherwise noted.

Source: Operation Starting Line http://www.demossnewspond.com/osl/presskit/2005/2005statistics.htm

Thursday, January 05, 2006

One body

"In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." Romans 12:5

"I am praying and ask God to be my savior, because I have been trying to do it my self, but I know I need God." O.W.

"...I received a Devotional calendar from you all and I love it! I have a lot of fellow sisters that is in the dorm with me, and they would like a calendar. We only have one stamp, so we are putting all their names in one envelope. Thank you, from Gadsden Girls *God Bless!*"

"I just would like to thank you so very much for my "A New Day in Christ" devotional calendar. It is going to make such a nice addition to an old grey desk. I look forward to including it in my morning meditation. In Christian Love, H.B."

"...a Christian brother of mine had this calendar sent to me here at Fremont Correctional Facility in Colorado, and it was such a blessing to get... it has inspired me very much and I'd love to see if you could send one to my mother-in-law. Could you also send one to my x-wife? I know this would lift her up... she has taken on a lot of responsibilities, and I know she could use some reassurance from our Father God." C.M.

"...about four months ago my calendar was destroyed in a unit shake-down. My days & months has not been the same. I have decided to write and ask if you would be concern enough to please send another one to me for the New Year 2006. Also if you could send one to my loving mother in Dallas, TX." S.T.

"I am an inmate in the TDCJ Holliday facility. I write in regards to getting you to mail me 'A New Day in Christ' devotional calendar... I'm not sure if the calendar cost or not, but the truth of the matter is I wouldn't have the funds for it. Another prisoner that was here had one that he would let me read each day, & I found it to be very inspirational. It helped me get through each day." Mr. R.W.

"I'm writing in concern about the devotional calendar I see so many of the guys have. What a wonderful way to start your morning in reading a scripture from God's work along with a testimony from one of the authors. I would very much appreciate it if you could send me one of these devotional calendars. I'm seeking to have a personal relationship with God. I know that God lives inside of me. Jesus have set me free and delivered me from so very very much. I know Jesus lives, and by me knowing this I can face each day's challenge. Jesus is lord of my life now and forever." T.J.

"I am presently incarcerated a the Mark W. Stiles Unit. I was previously assigned at the C.N. Stevenson Unit, at which time my cell-mate shared his daily scriptures with me. Now that I am here at the Stiles Unit, I no longer have access to the daily scripture reading, so will you please send me one of my own." J.E.H.

I really didn't have much to say this morning. But thanks be to God, they say it all. Amen.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Years wishes...

I know a young man who knows nothing about God. Absolutely nothing. Having no experience with spiritual formation in his youth, he has been left to figure things out the best he could. And being a bright, talented young man, he's done pretty well in most of his efforts so far, but now he's stuck. We spent 10 hours in conversation Sunday. Weighed down with family problems far beyond his ability to cope, over and over he kept asking "What should I do?" What should he do? And what can anyone possibly counsel him? Without the shared foundation of belief in a loving God, it is as though he has no compass, and he must discern every situation on an ethical standard of his own design. So he tries to work hard, be straight with people who are straight with him, and maintain loyalty to his family. But now his loyalty is being challenged. Without faith in God, and knowledge of the redeeming love of Jesus Christ, there's no way out of the mess he's been pulled into. At one point, as my understanding of the situation began to veer toward a hopeless disaster, I just threw up my hands and said, "Well, you're just going to have to become a Christian to get through this with any peace of mind."

The look he gave me seemed at once hopeful and enraged. As if there existed a flicker of hope that maybe faith was the way to peace of mind, but then rage at the very suggestion that his carefully constructed humanist values system could be inadequate to guide him in this complicated situation. I know he wants to do the right thing, but who determines what is right? I am praying for him today, and for everyone who feels caught in a hopeless situation.

Persistent God, take shape in our world, fill every void with your love and guide wandering souls to you. For those who search for answers, be in our dreams, and keep on trying to reach us even as we try to push you out. Teach us to serve others in a way that lets them see you in our actions, and in the love we give, find a path to knowledge and acceptance of you. For you will never ever give up on us, even leaving all the others to search for the one lost sheep. Forgive our arrogance and our failure to accept you. Keep tapping at the door, and never give up on your world.

Today we lift up Evangelist Corvalis Hodges, Erika Arroyo, Terry Trujillo her husband Richie and Richie Jr., Shari Vig and her family, Jo Ann Morris, Mark Anthony Montelongo, Brenda and Malik Cato. Wherever they are today, let them feel the moving of the Spirit in their lives, lifting their burdens, lightening their heavy hearts, and bringing them into communion with you.

We pray for all our friends, especially those who are in financial difficulty. Comfort our worry, heal our broken spirit and restore our confidence. Steady our nerves, and teach us how to be good stewards of the gifts we have been entrusted with. Provide for us in abundance, and show us your way to live.

We pray for those of us who believe but have doubts; we have so much difficulty in reconciling the world's view with what we know of your loving-kindness. Forgive our failings of faith, for we want to be your children. And for those who have never, ever believed, find the crack in the armor, seep in between our thoughts, until without even knowing, you have become the underpinning, you have set the foundation in stone, and when all our vain attempts at human valor fall away, be there to catch us, and build us up in the strength of your will in our lives.

We pray because we believe. Help our unbelief. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.