Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 2012


    
As 2012 becomes 2013, the night is long & the weather cold.
Advent, meaning coming, is that time of preparation & waiting that leads to celebration.
Hope, peace, joy & love are words of intention for the four candles,
one for each week in the season of Advent in the Christian tradition.
As I send out a prayer of gratitude & deep intentional prayer for those affected by tragedy,
I realize that our reading for last week began just this way.
She could have been focussed on her pregnancy as a tragedy. 
Instead Mary's Magnificat reflects her hope, peace, joy & love.
She praises God & celebrates God's justice.
 
Numerous women who are incarcerated here at the Dane County Jail
share a similar view of their experience.
Instead of focusing on the tragedy of their incarceration,
they are grateful to & trust in the Creator that gave them life.
They share in worship their understanding that they have done something wrong
& they have a lesson to learn.
They view God as Mary did; caring, blessing & merciful.
 
This season I am grateful for what they are teaching me
& pray for all of us who are struggling with tragedy or challenges of life.
God has promised care, blessing & mercy & I will trust in the promise today.
 
peace, Julia
 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

November 2012

I was disappointed that my September blog was not accessible, especially since I shared a poem from a young woman. So I will include her poem again this month.
Thoughts of a Pod Inmate
A place where freedom doesn't ring
People come & people go
No real relationships
Not much to go off of but the thoughts in your head
Living Life is not an option
Subject to ways you're not used to
Words from others seem so abstract
No one you can really trust
No drugs to keep you running
Gotta dig deeper into emotional pits
This definitely is how you don't want to live
Reality is afar
Reinventing yourself is a must
The future is always unknown
Jail/prison is a hard place to be & not just for the one who is incarcerated. Families & friends, even colleagues share with compassion the difficulty of incarceration. There is a new support group for those in that category. Especially as we enter in the holidays, a time when it very hard to be away from those we love, this may be an important support.
The group meets every 1st and 3rd Wed. of the month from 7 pm- 8:30 pm
@ The Urban League Rm. 101, 2222 S. Park St.
For more info. call 233-9751
Peace, Julia
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October

Names really are important, whether we like them, or not. In the women's worship service in the county jail the chaplain instructs us to pray for the person on our right by name. If we don't know the person's name, we need to ask her before the prayer time begins. We pray for each other by going around the circle, each person praying for the person on her right. I attest to the fact that when I hear the inmate on my left praying for me by name, her prayer resonates deeply within me. Then I have the honor of praying by name for the inmate sitting on my right. She can experience that same feeling of being blessed, of receiving a special blessing just for her. And so on around the circle, we all are blessed.
 
 
This is from our volunteer organist, Marian Korth's blog. I feel the same powerful honoring in our 'naming prayers'. A few weeks ago we spent some time exploring the meaning of our names; Kimberly—leader of the warriors, Michelle—who is like God, Nicole—victory of the people, Laverne—like the spring, Keelie—beauty, just some of our names around the circle of worship. For unique names like LaCreesha—full of light, there is a free website that has the definitions for them all! My personal favorite: Melissa—honey bee. We could also embrace what our parents or those who named us intended for us in our names. How do we live out the meaning? For several women who knew the meaning of their names like Sandra—defender of humankind, her name is an honor. Our organist's name come from the root Mary—sea of bitterness, another reason she is not exactly thrilled with her name. She is a cheerful presence in our worship circle and does not reflect the meaning of her name at all!
 
Our gospel scripture for this week of naming was from Mark 8:27-30, Who do you say that I am? Jesus was concerned about his name too. Who do people say I am? What does it mean to each and every one of us to know that the Jesus who walked this earth cared about what people thought of him? Peter called him the Christ, the Messiah. He was living out the meaning of his name—with God's help. Peace, Julia

 
 
 
Websites I am connected with:
www.thejweaver.com 
www.backyardmosaicwomensproject.org     
www.malc-online.org
PEACE

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thoughts of a Pod Inmate
A place where freedom doesn't ring
People come & people go
No real relationships
Not much to go off of but the thoughts in your head
Living Life is not an option
Subject to ways you're not used to
Words from others seem so abstract
No one you can really trust
No drugs to keep you running
Gotta dig deeper into emotional pits
This definitely is how you don't want to live
Reality is afar
Reinventing yourself is a must
The future is always unknown
 
By Melissa Baltus
 
It took courage to write this poem. It reflects the struggle to survive in a difficult place. What is so admirable about this young woman, is her deep desire to reinvent herself; the struggle to stay out of trouble in the pod, the recovery plans for the future, the seeking of healthy relationships or the changing of those relationships that are not working. This is the daily life of every person incarcerated. Isn't this the daily life of every human being? The struggle to survive in our world. Perhaps some of us work harder at it than others, but if we suspend judgement & just be there for each other, the journey maybe somewhat easier. So that the next poem may say,  A place where freedom rings.
 
peace, Julia
 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Rise Up

For several years we have been worshiping with the stories of women in scripture under the guidance of Miriam Therese Winter's theological reflections, litanies and prayers alongside Meinrad Craighead's illustrations. Our focus for worship for the next two weeks is Rise Up, as we ponder the story of Tabitha(Hebrew)/Dorcas(Greek). Almost every week the lectionary texts support and enhance our chosen story. This week the prophet is told to "Stand and listen!" in Ezekiel 2:1-5 and he shares the experience of being lifted to his feet by the Spirit. In Acts 9:36-42, Peter lifts Tabitha, a beloved woman who was "...always doing good for others and had given much to the poor", from death to life. As we share in worship in the next two weeks we will ponder together how we are being lifted into a life of the sacred. What does scripture say to us of how we are to stand up and listen? 
 
Last week as I was leaving the jail to be gone for a week to a workshop with Joanna Macy, an incredible spiritual leader doing good for others, there was a young woman whose mother is dying. Stand up and listen! I went to see her just after she was sentenced to several years in prison and her grief was overflowing. It was a blessing that I had spent an hour in spiritual care with her the previous week as she sorted out her pain. What was her primary need in this moment of despair as she cried out to me, saying "How did I get to this place; that I am in jail and cannot see my dying mother? She needed to see her mother one more time; to say what she so desperately needed to say. And perhaps her mother needed to hear what she had to say as well. That is a very complicated process when one is incarcerated. Upon return today, I learned that our hard work in the moments before I left, bore fruit and she was allowed to visit her mother's bedside. My prayer is that she will rise up from her grief and find new life in the difficult journey she faces and that she will stay connected through our sharing of letters.
 
Let our communal prayers rise up for this jail ministry and the many men, women and children who are affected by incarceration so that we may rise together in lives of doing good for others and giving much to the poor. May we stand up and listen as a daily spiritual practice.
 
 
 
Websites I am connected with:
www.thejweaver.com 
www.backyardmosaicwomensproject.com     
www.malc-online.org
PEACE

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May

Last week in chapel I was informed of the death of a young woman who had just been an inmate worker at the jail. It is always a shock to experience an abrupt end to a young life and we had so recently had her with us. In each group and with every person I shared the news it has been the same sense of disbelief.
 
Everyone had the same experience of her, she was polite and kind; a good listener and a good worker. She has a gentle and lovely smile. She was the first to encourage others who were despairing. She gave us the gift of her presence as she walked the halls and diligently did her work.
 
I am glad I knew her, very sad that I could not have done more and now will not get the opportunity to know her better out in the world she found difficult to navigate. I knew she was afraid to return to her life outside of jail. Her death is a reminder to continue to work hard with other young women to assist them in making plans and putting in place the support systems that help them stay sober but that will also help them stay alive.
 
May the peace that passes all understanding be with us all. Julia
 
 
 
Websites I am connected with:
www.thejweaver.com 
www.backyardmosaicwomensproject.com     
www.malc-online.org
PEACE

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

hijack

Please ignore any strange emails from my address asking you to check out a  website. My email was hijacked. Hope all is well now. peace, Julia

 
 
 
Websites I am connected with:
www.thejweaver.com 
www.backyardmosaicwomensproject.com     
www.malc-online.org
PEACE

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April



We recently completed a section of our third tapestry for the jail chapel. I would like to share with you the reflection the young woman wrote upon completion. Not only did she write well about it, it is a beautiful piece. 

Dream Big.  I chose the hearts and flowers because I want to be able to do the things I want to do…have a house, go to college, get a nice job, move. The heart is for the love of myself, my children, my family, my friends. The rose pierces the heart for the good. I like roses, my favorite is a white rose. At the birth of each of my three sons I was given a rose and these roses remind me of them.
                Crosses mean a lot to me, all crosses. I like the design of the Celtic cross. I am Catholic. I believe that our Father died for our sins so we can have a better chance at our lives. Pink makes the cross stand out. It is a hopeful color and goes with dreaming big. You can't dream if don't have hope and you don't have hope if you can't dream.
                The star and the moon mean everything is going to be alright. If I look up into the sky and still see the same things day and night I know I'll be all right. I believe that all I have to do is wish upon a shooting star and everything will come true…with a bunch of hard work.
                God's purpose for me is to learn new things in life. I just learned how to create a tapestry. I also learned not to be selfish & to be a better parent. I am a better person in general. I write my kids every day. I try to call them every month. I am learning new techniques for the world; signing up for college, finding my own home, saving money & not spending it all, learning to depend on myself, my kids & God.
                To work on this Tapestry Project I get out of the cellblock and spend time with a person who cares for me and everybody…someone who doesn't downgrade. It makes me happy that I can use my talent for something. I think with every weave God came through me and showed me my way. God is still showing me how to continue on the righteous path.
 AMEN



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March

In my first eight years of this ministry I experienced the death of two young women. In this past two years there have been many more. What does this say about the the wider culture we are serving?  I would like to invite you to join me in prayer around the issue of hopelessness & addiction and pray into hope & recovery. Perhaps there will be changes we need to make in this area in our own lives, perhaps there is someone we know who needs our tough love or friendship, perhaps we will be called to a specific action. Let us share this burden and rejoice together in the good things that come from the gift of prayer. peace & gratitude, Julia
 
 
 
Websites I am connected with:
www.thejweaver.com 
www.backyardmosaicwomensproject.com     
www.malc-online.org
PEACE

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 2012

Because tradition has it that St. Valentine ministered to prisoners, I always feel like its a special holiday for people like me! This ministering goes far beyond the jail to volunteers and women who have returned to their families and communities. With our annual meeting coming up next week, February 21, there is a sense of accountability that arises. I am accountable for the work I am called to. I feel it is important that this experience of accountability not only challenges me but brings great joy as well. I hope that these two women, who come to the jail ministry from very different perspectives were able to draw from the ministry and continue to feel supported by it. Here are their reflections:
 
"One of the new things I started doing in 2011 is playing the piano for the women's worship service in the County Jail. In February I started playing the piano in jail twice a month. Last week when I was there, we had to wait about 15 minutes after the service was over before a guard came to escort the women back to their cell block. While we were waiting one of the women asked me if I knew the song, "Dona Nobis Pacem." I said that I'd heard it, but I didn't have the music for it. I suggested that we go to the piano together and I'd try to pick it out with her singing it. After we did that song, other women joined us and a spontaneous Christmas Carol Sing-along broke out. It was so much fun!"

 Psalm
73, an excerpt...again...so powerful, in the enduring love, compassion and care of our God.  i am always so grateful when these appear and i see these struggles of mine, of those i see around me, the crazy shames, regrets, actions and reactions that come with this being human, are truly truly nothing new.  and for thousands of years, we have had the gift, the opportunity to just tap into grace.  all we have to do idsaccept it?  and do it continually perhaps.
 
"I realized how bitter I had become,
how pained I had been by all I had seen.
I was so foolish and ignorant-
I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
Yet I still belong to you;
you are holding my right hand.
You will keep on guiding me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever." (NLT) Psalm 73:21-26s
 
 
 
 
Websites you can visit to find out more about our ministries:
www.backyardmosaicwomensproject.com    
 
 
www.malc-online.org

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January

I have been so impressed with the strong volunteer focus of Madison and Dane County's Observence of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Ministry. I believe that MALC's Jail Ministry holds the same qualities. Our annual holiday celebration in December brought together many dedicated volunteers from differenct threads of this ministry. I also believe that the Litany of Re-Dedication we read together at the Overture Center event is a very concise statement for us for 2012. It ends with:
 
We believe that this is no time for our apathy, silence or complacency. We must work unceasingly to lift this nation that we love to a higher destiny. this is a time for our vigorous and positive action, so we pledge to lift high the banner of peace, justice, reconciliation and beloved community in our day and in this community.  
 
Another thread in this tapestry of thought is the book, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. I have not read it yet, but I hope to challenge myself because I do not think it will be an easy read, but a necessary one. It is especially important here at the jail where racial imbalance is so obvious for both men and women and our task as chaplains is to bring hope and healing.
 
One more lovely prayer from poetess, Maya Angelou:
 
Father, Mother, God,
Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.
 
Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share what we have
with those who have less.
 
And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.
 
For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.
 
For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.
 
For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bath them
in the river of your healing.
 
For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.
 
For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.
 
Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the
world that which we need most--Peace.