Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sorrow and Suffering

He was a Man of Sorrows
and familiar with suffering.  
(Isaiah 53:3)

The Son of Sorrow
Staring Down Forever
With an Aching View

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Lord's Supper in Prison

Here are a few sentences from the document "Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry."  These words reminded me of the importance of the Lord's Supper in the prison setting.

Solidarity in the eucharistic communion of the body of Christ and responsible care of Christians for one another and the world find specific expression in the liturgies: in the mutual forgiveness of sins; the sign of peace; intercession for all; the eating and drinking together; the taking of the elements to the sick and those in prison or the celebration of the eucharist with them. All these manifestations of love in the eucharist are directly related to Christ’s own testimony as a servant, in whose servanthood Christians themselves participate. As God in Christ has entered into the human situation, so eucharistic liturgy is near to the concrete and particular situations of men and women. In the early Church the ministry of deacons and deaconesses gave expression in a special way to this aspect of the eucharist. The place of such ministry between the table and the needy properly testifies to the re-deeming presence of Christ in the world.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Troubling Stats

Here are some troubling stats from Prison Fellowship:

  •  2.3 million Americans are behind bars
  •  92% will be released from prison
  •  2 out of 3 will reoffend within three years

Like Prison Fellowship, New Life is determined to break the cycle of crime and incarceration by the power of the Spirit.  Nothing is impossible for God.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What I'm Reading

Here is one of the books I'm reading.  I actually have 2 or 3 books that I'm juggling but this one here is a gem.  It's Ken Sande's take on Resolving Everyday Conflict.  Sande claims that conflict is not an abnormal thing - it is an expected part of our reality in this fallen world.  What differs is our response to conflict.  We have a certain fallback position that comes naturally to us: typically, it's either fight or flight.  Sande uses the words attack & escape but the idea remains the same.  Whatever you choose to call it, a person will either respond with force (physical, verbal, etc.) or seek to avoid conflict.  Sande says that the Gospel of Jesus Christ promotes a third way: The Way of the Peacemaker.  Jesus said: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." (Matt. 5:9)  Sande gives four G's to help resolve conflict in a practical manner.  G1: Glorify God.  G2: Get the Log Out.  G3: Gently Restore.  G4: Go and Be Reconciled.  I've found that conflict in the prison ministry setting can be messy.  It's tough to tell the truth without the other person becoming defensive.  Many inmates have fight as their fallback position.  However, they've learned to suppress that urge because they realize fighting will get them in trouble - then they'll end up in "the hole" (solitary confinement).  Instead, they exit the room and choose flight.  That may be better but it is not ideal.  God calls us to Peacemaking not avoidance or peace-faking.  It's not an easy path but it is preferable.  Of course, prayer is absolutely key so that the Spirit will shape us into people who speak the truth in love.

Friday, August 12, 2011

RAGBRAI 2011 Reflections by Gary Verhoef

I asked Gary to write some reflections on this year's ride across Iowa

What a great cycling year again.  Although I’ve done many RAGBRAIs, this one had an added dimension….Pastor Rick was part of our Pella team.  The added dimension is what he termed “Pedal for Prisoners”.  I subtitled it “Pedal with Purpose”.  You see, Rick challenged us to use this opportunity to build financial support for his ministry.  In this way, we could be a catalyst in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In practical terms, that meant raising funds to enable the New Life to present the gospel to those behind bars in Iowa.

So the miles that we rode had a deeper sense of urgency than ever before.  And getting through the challenges of the ride took on new meaning.  The oppressive heat of the week long ride was the greatest challenge.  It would be easy to succumb to the easy way out, and go back home to air conditioning.  But our team stayed the course.  The relentless hills on some days were a second challenge.  I kept thinking of how those hills represented precisely the challenges of ministry.  Again, it’s easy to give up and retreat to easy street.  In ministry, God doesn’t promise things will always be easy.  He does promise that His plan is not only right, it’s for the furtherance of his kingdom and also for our personal spiritual wellbeing.

Finally, there is always a goal; an end.  For RAGBRAI, that goal was dipping our bike tires in the Mississippi, after starting  a week earlier at the Missouri River.  And that sense of accomplishment, that reward, is something that God puts in us to help us along the way of life, as well as in ministry.

Corinne and I are pleased to be a part of Rick’s ministry in this way.  I challenge you to become part of New Life, too.  Maybe you can Pedal with Purpose next year and at the same time Pedal for Prisoners.  God be praised!  

by Gary & Corinne Verhoef

Monday, August 8, 2011

Salt for the Kingdom

I heard this song at my nephew's baptism this past Sunday.  
I forgot how much I loved these lyrics.  
They inspire me!

Bring Forth The Kingdom 
by Marty Haugen

Verse 1 
You are salt for the earth, O people,
salt for the city of God!
Share the flavor of life, O people:
life in the kingdom of God!

Verse 2 
You are a light on the hill, O people,
light for the city of God!
Shine so holy and bright, O people:
shine for the kingdom of God!

Verse 3 
You are a seed of the word, O people,
bring forth the kingdom of God!
Seeds of mercy and seeds of justice,
grow in the kingdom of God!

Verse 4 
We are the blessed and a pilgrim people,
bound for the kingdom of God!
Love our journey and love our homeland:
love is the kingdom of God! 

Bring forth the kingdom of mercy,
bring forth the kingdom of peace.
Bring forth the kingdom of justice,
bring forth the kingdom of God!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

No More Throw-Aways

Friends - Here is an article that I wrote for the Local Paper - The Pella Chronicle.

August 5, 2011

No More Throw-Aways

Pella — We live in a disposable society.  If something is broken, we rarely fix it.  Instead we trash it, then run to the store to buy a new one.  Sometimes it’s prudent to buy something new rather than try to fix the old model.  A few years ago, the CD player on my home stereo system broke down.  When I went to the technician to get a cost estimate on the repair, I found that it actually cost more to fix the old one than buy a brand new CD player with a capacity of 5 discs.  So I bought the new model and scrapped the old one.

Sometimes our society treats people like products.  Instead of fixing people who are broken, we’d rather throw them away or at the very least push them to the margins of society.  In this way, they won’t be able to interfere with the more functional models.  Brokenness can take many forms.  The brokenness may involve physical, mental or emotional disabilities.  Or the broken individual may carry the baggage of family dysfunction, substance abuse or criminal behavior.  So we ask ourselves, why should we go to the great trouble of fixing the broken when the cost is tremendous?  Why not just throw them away?

God says no.  The God of heaven and earth refuses to throw his children away.  Instead, he gently restores the broken ones.  Listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah:  But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from Abraham my friend, I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying,

“You are my servant. For I have chosen you and I will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”  (Isaiah 41:8-10, NLT)

Last September the churches of the greater Pella region made a bold move.  They decided to begin a new prison congregation in Newton.  The Spirit moved the churches to reject the old adage of “lock the door and throw away the key.”  Instead, the Spirit inspired the churches to approach the prisoner with the love of Jesus Christ.  The Spirit encouraged them to emulate the character of God by not throwing the prisoner away.  Now the new approach would be a Christ-like stance of restoration, renewal and hope.

Last November I received and accepted the call to be the pastor of this new prison congregation.  It’s called New Life.  The name contains layers of meaning but summarizes the Gospel.  In Christ, the prisoner receives forgiveness of sins.  In addition, God gives the prisoner a new life in which he gains the strength to follow Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The old criminal lifestyle fades into the rearview mirror as he moves forward in faith to embrace Christ.  The road isn’t always smooth but the prisoner gains the support of the Christian community while pursuing the path of discipleship.

Please pray for New Life as we seek to restore broken individuals imprisoned in Newton.  And may the Holy Spirit restore each one of us so that we seek to restore rather than throw away.

Pastor Rick Admiraal is the pastor of New Life, a new prison congregation in Newton.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Two More Pics

Here's two more photos from RAGBRAI - in Lewis, IA on day one of the bike tour with a Giant Bike!

Answers to Prayer

On day one of RAGBRAI, Gary V. asked me to pray before we rolled down the road.  So the anxious group of bike riders from Pella Cycling Club paused for a moment to pray.  And I prayed for three things: protection, providence, and presence.  I prayed that God would protect us and keep us safe as we biked across the state of Iowa.  I prayed that God would provide for our physical needs by supplying us with food & drink.  I prayed that God would make his presence known to us through creation and the hospitality of a stranger.  I believe God answered that prayer in the affirmative.

Pastor Rick, Dick and his son Grant (Left to Right)
God protected us as a club of bike riders, preserving our lives.  We had one close call.  My new friend Dick from Newton had an accident on the final day.  Dick hit a crack in the pavement then did a full flip over his handlebars.  He landed hard, tearing some muscles in his shoulders and skinning his knee.  Fortunately, his helmet absorbed the impact of the blow.  He was taken to the university hospital in Iowa City and released the same day.  All of us were relieved to see him (arm in a sling) at the finish line.  He rode the bus back to Pella with us.

God supplied us with food and drink.  Some kind people gave food & drink away for free.  Others set up road-side stands but charged a fair price.  I really didn't see anyone ripping people off.  We tried to stay hydrated.  We tried to stay energized by consuming lots of calories.  Townspeople along the way provided for our needs in churches, food-booths, restaurants, and general stores.  At the finish of each day, there were cold drinks and snacks provided by the Pella cycling club.  Our needs were met.

Gary S. took this photo.  It was even more beautiful live.

God made his presence known to us in creation.  We took off early on Day 3 and witnessed this beautiful sunrise outside of Carroll, Iowa.

My daughter & I had fun riding part of RAGBRAI together.

Finally, God made his presence known to us in the hospitality of a stranger.  On Day 4 I had the privilege of riding the last 6 miles with my daughter.  What fun!  On the way to Altoona, we stopped for free watermelon from a church.  By giving refreshing fruit to a bunch of bike riders, I believe they were demonstrating God's grace.

Thank God for answered prayer.

Pastor Rick
New Life

RAGBRAI photos

Tire Dip at the Mississippi River.  I made it!

New Life Riders: Pastor Rick & Jay rode day 5 together - Tough Day!

RABRAI = Rag-Pie!

This fruit smoothie was just what I needed.

Gary rode for New Life & organized the event for Pella Cycling Club.

A crowd of riders in Brooklyn, the community of flags.

In South Amana with a man who rode RAGBRAI on a longboard!

Riding through town on the final day.

In Walcott - German theme in this pass-through town.

Happy to get 'er done at the high waters of the Big River!

We tented it out all week.  In Altoona, we could sleep inside with AC
at the Lutheran Church of the Cross.

It was fun to visit with Rose & my daughter in Altoona & Grinnell.

Texting Rose south of Bondurant

On Day 3, many of us did the extra Karras Loop
for a 100 mile day, earning this patch.

New Life riders Corrine & Gary with friend Tim

New Life riders Corrine & Corinne.