Friday, 24 December 2010

Top of the Criminal Tree.

We have seven and a half Christmas trees in our home this year, which I admit is kind of ridiculous.  Three of them are little artificial ones in the 3 bedrooms occupied by our 4 kids.  The Big One is in our sitting room and one is in our wee "family room".  The latter is very exciting for me because it's the first real tree I've ever had!  Some of the proceeds from it went to the homeless,which was a bonus.  We have two tiny wee trees as mantlepiece decorations too.  That's seven so far.  The half tree is the one in the picture.  We got it a number of years ago and it is literally half a tree which is designed to be wall mounted.  As you see, we have it between our front door and the storm door.

I love Christmas trees.... and trees generally, actually. 

There's a phrase that has cropped up from time to time in discussion with prisoners as a prison chaplain and that phrase is "top of the criminal tree".  Prisoners are, like the rest of us, a diverse bunch of people.  Some of them, though by no means all, are "career criminals" - their very identity is as a criminal.  Their ambition has been to be top of the criminal tree.  If it's violence-related, then part of this has been that they have striven to be seen as tougher, harder, scarier, more vicious and brutal than anyone else.  (Sadly, this seems often to have had its origins in "care" where the only way to survive and thrive as a vulnerable child/young teenager was to be tougher than anyone else there.)

Top of the tree.... as I write this I'm glancing at the top of (my first real - did I mention that?  Yippee!) Christmas tree.  The top of our real tree is a long single "stem" whereas the artificial trees all taper more evenly, in a triangle shape.  The top of a Christmas tree, especially a real one, is a lonely spot, when you think about it.

This hasn't afflicted me on previous Christmases but many times this December when I've looked at Christmas trees I've thought a lot about the phrase "top of the criminal tree" and remembered so many conversations I've had with prisoners - including some who're very notorious and whose crimes where heinous - who speak to me about how their ambition was to be top of the criminal tree.  Yet when they got there they looked round and saw that, after all, it wasn't so fab.  It was in fact a lonely place to be.  

Some of these individuals genuinely regret the path they chose.  Some of them want to reinvent themselves as "pro-social", as social workers would say, good guys.  This isn't easy for various reasons, and not just their own temptations and proclivities. Once you've got the reputation for being a hard man it's not easy to persuade people that, actually, you don't want to be that person any more.  You're quite likely to find yourself left alone up there, in a place you no longer want.

Please, this Christmas, if you're the praying kind, would you pray for the toughest, hardest criminals who've got to the to top of the criminal tree in their locale and realised it's not been what they expected - people who want to mend their ways.  Thank you, friends.

And Merry Christmas, y'all!  Thanks for dropping by my blog x

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Snow Day at Church.

As I write, Him Indoors is trudging through the snow to tell any brave souls who turn up at church this morning that the services are cancelled.  As well as snow we're having thunder and lightning.  In November!  I wish I'd never seen the film "The Day After Tomorrow"....

A story is in my head today that my dad told me years ago.  There was once a minister in a rural parish who woke to see that there had been heavy snow.  He at first assumed that no one would come but then decided (as Him Indoors has) that he should go to the church building just in case.  His manse was next door to the church. 

At the time the service was due to start, he looked out and saw that a solitary tractor was approaching driven by a local farmer.

"Well Jock", the minister said, "since it's just you and me, I think we'll cancel the service today".

"Oh now then, meenister, if I went out to feed the cattle and only one turned up I'd still hae to feed it".

The minister felt duly chastened and climbed into the pulpit and went ahead with the service - hymns, sermon, everything.  At the end of the service, at the door, he said, "Was that all right for you, Jock?".

"Jings, meenister, if just one cow turned up I would hae to feed it but I wouldnae gie it the whale lot"!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Prisoners' Week 2010 - sixth post.

One of the first prisoners I got to know - let's call him Fred - was a committed (no pun intended) Christian who was very strong in his faith indeed.  He had become a Christian after his crime was committed but some years before coming into prison.  This meant that he had had the opportunity to become well established in a church. 

When he went to prison, the people in his church were supportive of his wife and also of him.  He was visited, and prayed for, and written to.  Some days he would get ten pieces of mail - very unusual, to put it mildly - and the letters would be from people in his church.

Because he was one of the first prisoners I got to know I didn't at that stage realise just how unusual he was.  Most prisoners who are Christians have only come to faith since coming into prison.  Most prisoners who are Christians don't have a church back home praying for them and loving and supporting them and their family.

I had read the book of Acts in the Bible many times in my life before becoming a prison chaplain, and meeting Fred, but I had never really noticed Acts 12:5 until then. 

"So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him".

Peter, the gung-ho hothead of Jesus's disciples, that we love, who was devoted to Jesus and yet so human and flawed, prone to doubt and panic, once promised Jesus that he was ready to go to jail for Jesus or even to die for him.  In the end he got the chance to do both, but not before he had panicked and denied three times even knowing Jesus at all.  He was imprisoned for preaching about the risen Christ - but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.  And Peter came out of prison unscathed, earlier than expected and with his faith intact.  He had somewhere to go when he came out of prison, too, after Rhoda got over the shock, anyway.

In Prisoners' Week, the Church is encouraged to remember about, and pray for, all prisoners (as well as the victims of crime and staff).  In this post I just want to add, though, that if you're a Christian, it is important that you remember that in prisons all across the country will be Christian prisoners who are your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Many of them will be very new in their faith, with lots and lots to learn and very possibly much of the baggage and mess of their past still to face up to and deal with.  They are not like Fred with a church back home to pray for them and to go to when they get out.  They need your prayers!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Prisoners' Week 2010 - fifth post.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn said: "If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them!  But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.  And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" 

Isn't that an interesting quote?

As a prison chaplain, I see one of my functions as to tell Churchworld about Prisonworld.  Quite often I get opportunities, which I value, to speak to church groups about my work.  And I have this blog - albeit unofficially and semi-anonymously. 

 I do these things because I am aware that by definition, prisoners are out-of-sight-out-of-mind, as I said earlier this week, and so it is hard for Christians to remember about them.  Prisoners' Week serves an important purpose therefore.  I am not blaming anyone.  This time four years ago I had given very little thought in my life to prisons or prisoners at all!

However, reflecting on Solzhenitsyn's quote, I'm wondering if something else is happening too.

It's not just that we forget about prisoners.  We perhaps choose to forget about them.  Not consciously.  Not on purpose.  But in some mysterious way for our own welfare we do, perhaps.

It is well known that people in this country will give far more generously and willingly to animal welfare charities than to mental health charities.  The mental health charities are also the poor relations to the physical health charities.  One reason for this may be that animals are not just cute and fluffy but are "other" or "them".  People who have cancer or blindness or deafness or have muscular dystrophy are to those of us who don't, also "other" or "them". 

Mental health is a different thing, though.   There are so many sliding scales. and most of us, deep down, would have to admit that we're on the scale in one direction or another.  We're a little paranoid, or we're a little depressed, or we're a little prone to hysteria, or whatever.  At least, we'd have to admit it if we thought about it.  But by not thinking about it, we're protected from disquiet.  This is a factor, perhaps, in our unwillingness to think much about mental health charities when it comes to allocating our giving.

Prisons can be conveniently compartmentalised, in a literal physical way, as separate from the rest of society.  By doing so, we're able to feel that offenders are "other" or "them" and we are safely "us".

The reality is, though, that we're not so different from offenders.  There's a sliding scale there too.  Christians know it as sin. 

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Coffee & Custody.

It was my privilege a few days ago to attend a coffee morning for Prisoners Week.  It wasn't "in aid" of Prisoners Week in a money-raising sense.  In fact it was a free coffee morning.  It was for Prisoners Week though and was held in a prison.  The prison is a low security one, or this wouldn't have happened of course, but members of local churches (and an imam from the mosque) were invited in to the prison to have coffee with the prisoners.  The coffee and cakes were served by the chaplains and some of the prisoners.  The rest of the prisoners who came were served along with the public.

Some prisoners' artwork was on display and one of the prisoners read a poem he had written.  Also on display was some photos of some of the charity efforts that prisoners had been involved in.

What was lovely about the occasion was that, without any orchestration, the tables all filled up with a mixture of prisoners and public who were able to chat in a relaxed way.

The purpose of Prisoners Week is to remind folk in the churches to care about and pray for prisoners, and the chaplains who organised the event were hoping that this would help with that aim.  Hopefully the attendees would go back to their churches and talk about the event.  It was also hoped that the prisoners would have the opportunity to learn that there are people out there who care about them enough to give up a Saturday morning to travel to the prison to come in and chat to people they don't know, and that they - the prisoners - would sense that they were loved.  Interestingly, a couple of the prisoners commented that they thought it was a great occasion and it was good to be able to show people that prisoners can be "nice" and "normal".

The prison where the coffee morning was held is for people at the end of their sentences and one of the privileges is that the guys can wear their own clothes.  Because of this, a few of the public in attendance whispered to me (being a woman it was clear I was not a prisoner) "How do you know who's a prisoner and who's a member of the public?"

I loved that question.  "Exactly!" and "Yussssss!", I thought.

Monday, 22 November 2010


Yesterday I was blogging about the Scottish Prisoners Week theme of "More Than A Number".

It's not just the actual prisoner number that contributes to the "just-a-number-ness" of prison. There is obviously much more than that involved. When a prisoner begins his sentence, his first hours in the jail will see him "dehumanised" by the handing over of his own clothes and the donning of prison issue clothes.

In many prisons in Scotland the colour of your shirt will show which hall you have been assigned to (leading amongst other things to sex offenders being obvious to other prisoners, amongst whom they are very unpopular).

The dehumanising process of coming into prison - the "dog boxes" in the prison transport vans and the "dog boxes" in the prison reception, the allocation of a number and the change into prison uniform - known as "mortification" - is not accidental. It is deliberate and is to give offenders very firmly the message, "Right, then, sonny. You might have been a big hot-shot on the outside, top of your criminal tree. But in here you're just a number. You're the same as the rest of them. The sooner you buckle down and accept this new reality the better you will get on".

There is a certain apparent and appealing logic to this thinking, but in my humble opinion it's deeply flawed.

For every offender who needs to get this message, who's got too big for his criminal boots, I think there must be twenty others who already think they're nothing. (I've plucked the number twenty from the air - it might be a lot more). The point is that, however many offenders come in cocky and arrogant and needing humbled, many times more than that come into prison with a pick and mix of: mental health issues, addiction issues, past childhood abuse/neglect/trauma, illiteracy, social inadequacy, learning difficulties, bereavement issues and/or guilt. Far from needing mortification and dehumanisation, what they need is healing, restoration, hope, encouragement, education, healthcare, addictions support, and (to be radical) love .

Even those offenders who do need taken down a peg are unlikely to be transformed for the better by the mortification process. It will make the hard man harder - he will be angrier with the authorities by the end of it than he was at the start, and determine that he will not let the system break him (as he sees it).

More Than A Number is a great theme for Prisoners Week. It would make a great motto for all our social interaction actually.

I posted the following a few weeks ago but feel that it fits this post too and it's so well worth repeating I'm half-thinking of printing it off and framing it!

By Judge Dennis Challeen:

We want them to have self-worth
So we destroy their self-worth

We want them to be responsible
So we take away all responsibility

We want them to be positive and constructive
So we degrade them and make them useless

We want them to be trustworthy
So we put them where there is no trust

We want them to be non-violent
So we put them where violence is all around them

We want them to be kind and loving people
So we subject them to hatred and cruelty

We want them to quit being the tough guy
So we put them where the tough guy is respected

We want them to quit hanging around losers
So we put all the losers under one roof

We want them to quit exploiting us
So we put them where they exploit each other

We want them to take control of their lives, own problems and quit being a parasite...
So we make them totally dependant on us.

More Than A Number.

This week is Prisoners' Week (see yesterday's post). In Scotland we have as our theme this year "More Than A Number". I think it's one of the best themes in years. It's surely obvious that people are more than a number, and yet I do think we need to remind ourselves frequently lest we miss the obvious.

We all have numbers these days. I must be known to "The Authorities" by many different numbers, including my passport number, my national insurance number, my driving licence number (and the number of points on it, ahem), my bank account number, my patient number, my Tesco number, my PIN numbers, my blood donor number, my work ID number, and so on and so on. I don't mind this really as it's an efficient way to run administrative systems.

However, in Prisonworld, the numbering system makes me a little uneasy. It's not that I think it's wrong or should be abolished. I can see it's administratively essential. But the unfortunate side-effect seems to me to be dehumanising psychologically.

The number you are given as a prisoner stays with you for the rest of your life - if you get another prison sentence you will be given the same number. This means that, as the cartoon suggests, the smaller the number a prisoner has the longer ago he first entered the system, although he may have been out of prison for years and years in between sentences.

Recently a prisoner returned to our establishment who was with us a year or more ago. When I looked at the list of "transfers in" and saw his surname, which is quite a common one, I realised that I knew it was him by his number. I don't particularly have a head for numbers (I've been known to forget my PIN number at the bank) so I was surprised to recognise a prisoner in this way.

Some prisoners don't seem to mind their number at all. I think it's sad that they've become so institutionalised that it is their "normal". Some even get their prisoner number tattooed on their body - occasionally with a barcode design!

Me? I don't want to lose my discomfort with the prisoner number. I'm not opposed to it. As I said, we've all got lots of numbers these days in lots of administrative systems. But in Prisonworld it is such a symbol of the one-size-fits-all dehumanising system that I will be quite content if I go through the rest of my time as a prison chaplain feeling slightly awkward every single time I have to ask, every day, "What's your number?"

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Prisoners Week 2010

(Cartoon courtesy of Jon Birch's "The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus".)

There are National Days and International Days and Special Weeks and Months and The Year of The Whatever all the time.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Prostate Cancer Awareness Month do a good job, for example. I was pretty scathing when I learned that Friday was World Toilet Day until I read what it said on the website, when I had a change of heart. There are some thought-provoking statistics there.

Today is the start of Prisoners Week.

Prisoners' Week isn't really for prisoners. When you're in prison, every week is prisoners' week. Prisoners' Week is designed to remind people, especially in Churchworld, of prisons and prisoners who are otherwise out-of-sight-and-out-of-mind. The Bible tells Christians that they must remember those in prison as if they were in prison themselves but, with the best will in the world, they are difficult to remember.
Society sends them to prison to get them out of the road and this is so successful that it is easy to forget about prisoners, although I always say to church groups that when they see the Reliance Van (our company car!) that can serve as a reminder to us to pray. Inside those vans will probably be prisoners - each in one of the "dog boxes" which are truly horrible.

The purpose of this post (you thought I'd never get there, eh?) is to encourage you to pray for prisoners this week. Sometimes that idea irks people and they say, understandably, "But what about the victims, AnneDroid?" What about them? It's not an either/or. It's not an either/or in the sense that we can and should pray for both prisoners AND victims. We don't have to choose! But also, it's not an either/or in the sense that sorting out who is a prisoner and who is a victim isn't always as simplistic as you might think. I would guess that most prisoners are also victims in some way or another - often back in childhood through abuse or neglect, but also in adulthood too.

If you would like to pray for prisoners, you can pray for them any time :)

But if you'd like to make a special effort to pray for prisoners in Prisoners' Week that would be totally fab.

Here is the Prisoners' Week prayer from the website:

Lord, you offer freedom to all people.
We pray for those who are captives in prison
and those who are affected by or involved in their imprisonment.
Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exist.
Support with your love: prisoners, their families and friends,
prison staff and all who care.
Heal those who have been wounded by the activities of others,
especially the victims of crime.
Help us to forgive one another, to act justly, to love mercy,
and walk humbly together with Christ
in his strength and in his spirit now and every day.

(Of course you can use your own words instead if you like...).

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The AMAZING story of Jacob de Shazer.

We've been very blessed at our church over the last year by the presence of "Proby The Second", our lovely probationer Paul, who - sadly for us but not for his future congregation - is about to leave us for pastures new, with his lovely wife and family.

Anyway I was so impressed with the story he told us on Sunday as part of our Service of Remembrance for those lost in warfare, that I asked if I could re-tell it here.

It was about Jacob de Shazer who I confess I'd never heard of. He was a bomber, who as part of America's retaliation against the Japanese for Pearl Harbour, set off to bomb the Japanese. He describes how he was full of bitterness in his heart and that, as far as he was concerned, the more Japanese he killed the better. However, he ran out of fuel and had to parachute - into the hands of the Japanese who held him as a prisoner of war, in very grim conditions indeed.

After two years' harsh imprisonment, he came into possession of a Bible and started to read it. He was so affected that he became a Christian. Romans 10:9 which says "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" impressed him particularly and he never looked back, knowing from then on that God was real and "we can't hide a thing from him" and then "the hatred went out of my heart". All his hatred for the Japanese vanished - an act of God without doubt.

After Japan surrendered and the war was over, he was flown back to America. He finished college then went back to Japan in 1948 as a missionary. Amazing!

Lots of Japanese people became Christians, partly through the ministry of Jacob de Shazer, whose return to Japan astonished them in the circumstances.

Undoubtedly the most remarkable and significant convert, Mitsuo Fuchida, who read a tract about Jacob de Shazer's experience and then went to the Bible and became a Christian (and a friend of De Shazer), had been the leader of the attack on Pearl Harbour.

That Fuchida and De Shazer should become friends after their past mutual hatred is amazing, isn't it?

By contrast it's a very little thing, and you may wonder at my mentioning it here, but for me this is a powerful illustration of something also very marvellous that I've seen recently. Last week it was my great privilege to be speaking at a meeting to raise awareness of Prisonworld amongst some church people. The previous night the previous occupant of the position of Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons in Scotland, and a Prison Governor had been speaking. The day I spoke, I was preceded by a Prison Officer who gave a virtual tour (through powerpoint) of a Scottish maximum security jail. This officer happens to be a committed Christian. Between his talk and mine the audience heard the remarkable testimony of a former prisoner, whom I count it an honour to call a friend. Then I did a muddly kind of summing-up. What I appreciated more than anyone in the room, probably, was what a special thing it was for the prison officer and the (former) prisoner to be sharing the platform as brothers in Christ, as equals.

This link
will allow you the opportunity to hear Jacob de Shazer tell his own story, by the way. Not long, but well worth listening to.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Two minutes silence - 1919 in London and 2010 in a Scottish jail

"The first stroke of eleven produced a magical effect.
The tram cars glided into stillness, motors ceased to cough and fume, and stopped dead, and the mighty-limbed dray horses hunched back upon their loads and stopped also, seeming to do it of their own volition.
Someone took off his hat, and with a nervous hesitancy the rest of the men bowed their heads also. Here and there an old soldier could be detected slipping unconsciously into the posture of 'attention'. An elderly woman, not far away, wiped her eyes, and the man beside her looked white and stern. Everyone stood very still ... The hush deepened. It had spread over the whole city and become so pronounced as to impress one with a sense of audibility. It was a silence which was almost pain ... And the spirit of memory brooded over it all." From the Manchester Guardian, 12th November 1919.

At a Remembrance Service today, it was my privilege to read that amazing newspaper excerpt along with two poems. The poems were Dulce et Decorum Est from WWI, by Wilfred Owen whose parents received the news of his death so near the end of the war just about the time that the Armistice was declared and This Place Called War by Joanna Carman about her brother going off to Afhganistan, which he survived only to be killed in Iraq at a later date. I also read a bit of Psalm 139 which I used so often at bedsides when I was a chaplain in the hospice movement but which seemed as appropriate here.

I always find Remembrance Services very moving and I'm so glad that 91 years after the first silence was observed, we are still doing it, and yet - as we all are - I'm obviously very grieved that the first world war did not after all turn out to be the "war to end all wars".

Today was only my second experience of taking part in a Service of Remembrance within a prison and both times I have found it to be moving in another way also. Prisonworld is, no doubt of necessity in some ways, a very them-and-us culture. Inevitably, the "screws" and the "cons" end up viewing each other (in practice rather than literally) almost as alien species, just as a result of the way the system operates. Even if you've never been in a prison, if you've watched the BBC series Porridge you'll know what I mean! Inevitably there are other camps too - senior management, the social work department, etc, working together but separate somehow. (I often think that chaplains are like Switzerland, "neutrals" in the midst - not because we're better people or anything, just that our job is different).

The Remembrance Service in prison is a very unusual and special occasion because we meet simply as human beings. There are ex-forces people among both the prisoners and staff, and both prisoners and staff may have relatives past and present who have fought or are fighting in war. All of us watch the news and all of us see, too often, the sad images of young people returning home from Afghanistan in a coffin.

There is something poignant and powerful about a prison Remembrance Service and I feel privileged to have been there today.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Prisoners - the right to vote?

This newspaper article, like many others in the press this week deals with the recent news that the British government are going to have to face up to the European Court of Human Rights' decision that UK prisoners should be allowed to vote.

I am really delighted that UK prisoners are to be given the vote. In reality, I think, not all that many prisoners will want to exercise that right, and, even if they did, they aren't such a huge percentage of the population that the outcome of any election would be really affected.


(1) Britain has traditionally smugly seen itself as being one of the "good guys" in terms of human rights but must walk the walk as well as talking the talk. If China (see the photo above) can be giving prisoners the right to vote, who are we to cast aspersions on their human rights record whilst being so proud of our own?

(2) What we in society want our prisoners to gain whilst in custody is a sense of responsibility. Yet what prison actually does is remove all responsibility from offenders, taking away almost all their power to decide anything, institutionalising them, and in fact infantilising them. Allowing and encouraging prisoners to vote would help a little to mitigate against this negative process, allowing them some autonomy and enabling them to feel like stakeholders in the society we want them to contribute to rather than damaging.

What has made me sad this week, though, is the tone of much of the "red top" tabloid coverage of this in the media, and also the government itself's presentation of the thing. It is being presented as a Bad Thing that we are having to give in, at last, very reluctantly, to this pressure when really we would much rather not. I find that sad and disturbing. (Mind you, and I'll leave my rant on this for another day) much of the media coverage on offenders upsets me, so I shouldn't be surprised.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Please Give Blood.

This is my brother, his wife and their little boys, the youngest of whom is the inspiration for the plea to give blood.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

International Prison Chaplains Association group photo 2010

This photo was taken by Helmut Munikel and shows the group of delegates attending the International Prison Chaplains Association conference in Stockholm. The place we are standing in the photo is the City Hall in Stockholm, which is where the Nobel prizes are awarded each year.

By the way, I'm the one in the white top in the middle of the group who is looking the wrong way. Sums me up actually - I've always been "easily distracted". Many people are familiar with the Myers Briggs personality theory. I'm quite a fan of it actually. The first two times I did it were ten years apart and both times I came out as ENFP, which if you don't know Myers Briggs will mean nothing to you. Anyway, some wag has written a different prayer for each of the different sixteen personality groups and the prayer for the ENFP category is: "Dear Lord, ...oh look there's a bird...". This resonates with me, I have to confess and so I think it's quite appropriate that I should be looking the wrong way in the photo!

The conference was such a blessing to attend. I'm so grateful for the privilege of being able to go and still processing the experience in my mind. Above all the fellowship of more than 300 fellow chaplains from 69 countries was such an encouragement to me. At the end we had to stand around the meeting hall - all of us - holding hands for the final benediction. We sang "You raise me up" together, literally raising our arms whilst still holding hands at each chorus. Normally such an occurrence would seem to this worldly, hardened, heavy-rock-loving cynic to be a total cheese-fest but on this occasion I was moved to tears. I was holding hands on my right with a Northern Irish prison chaplain and on my left with Patriarch Bartholomew in full regalia. Normally, I work either alone or in a team of two (my Roman Catholic colleague is part time) and so it was incredibly encouraging and uplifting to be reminded that I'm part of a worldwide body of prison chaplains, only a very few of whom were at the conference of course, who are my brothers and sisters in Christ with the same passion as I have to see prisoners meet God and share my testimony (and that of the writer of the hymn "And can it be"): "My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose, went forth, and followed thee".

Monday, 6 September 2010

Isn't this awesome?

Our good friend Nathan, who is a very talented guy, made this film. I think it is amazing. His sister Sarah makes her debut as the star - quite a talented actress it turns out. Enjoy.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

International Prison Chaplains Association conference, Stockholm 2010, part two. Conference Declaration.

Conference Declaration

August 20-25, 2010
Clarion Hotel, Stockholm

The 6TH International Prison Chaplains’ Association Worldwide Conference held at the Clarion Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden from 20-25 August 2010, attended by 320 participants from 69 countries representing all regions in the world, with the theme ”Forgotten People”

Bearing in mind the wonderful biblical stories that reveal the unconditional love of God and His Mercy and Compassion and who fulfils His promises;

Considering that the 25th year of IPCA is a time of thanksgiving and gratefulness for the blessings that it receives, it is challenged to proclaim justice that heals and restoration to the prisoners, to the victims and to the community.

Recalling the various international and national standards on the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty and in particular the laws that recognize the right to life, the dignity of the human person and the laws affecting the youth.

Coming together as one community under the guidance of the spirit committed to uniting, encouraging and equipping a global network of prison chaplains; and pursuing the creation of a better environment for those affected by crime, having deepened our solidarity and having been awakened to a more creative way of doing prison ministry;

Being deeply concerned with the increasing urgency of the need to revitalize our prison ministry programs to respond in pro-active ways to the following issues and concerns:


Observing the common issues and concerns presented during the conference, we especially take note of the following violations of the rights of the persons deprived of liberty in many countries:


Believing that the problems of the prison situation are far more serious now than at any other time in the long history of our involvement in prison ministry.

Feeling an inescapable responsibility to bring to a higher form of struggle the need for a renewed solidarity among all those working towards a more humane treatment of prisoners and building an environment where conversion and reconciliation can happen.

We, the 320 Prison Chaplains and Prison Workers:

• CALL UPON the government of each country to give high priority in improving prison environments and ensure the observance of the UN Standards, Principles, Covenants and Recommendations on the Treatment of Prisoners, the “Forgotten People”;

• CALL UPON all churches and other agencies, to take effective steps to respond to the needs of those affected by crime.

• CALL UPON the MEDIA to report accurately and truthfully news on criminality and avoid sensationalism.

• URGE NGOs and Government agencies who are involved in the care of the forgotten people to constantly meet for networking and strong collaboration.

• RE-ITERATE our plea to our church leaders to sincerely address the emerging concerns of the forgotten people, especially in assigning ministers as prison chaplains and in setting up structures that will pull together resources of the community in their service.

• REALIZE THE URGENT NEED to re-assess and re-formulate plans of action and programs reflected in our Declarations.

• REAFFIRM our option for Life and we appeal to leaders of government with laws on death penalty for a stay of execution and to promote the culture of life.

• URGE the leaders of all nations to seriously consider the question of the death penalty and to make a sincere effort to abolish it.

• CALL on all sectors that value life and have a high regard for it, to join efforts, to increase public awareness on the evils of the death penalty and to constantly pressure our governments to denounce cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment that diminishes the person.

As we go back and return to our prison mission areas we bring with us new sources of energy born out of our own experiences of being loved by God.

Equipped with this strength and refreshed by the interaction with co-workers, we are now more confident to be witnesses of God’s Unconditional Love to all, especially the FORGOTTEN PEOPLE - THE PRISONERS.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

On the day that increased recidivism rates are announced...

By Judge Dennis Challeen

We want them to have self-worth
So we destroy their self-worth

We want them to be responsible
So we take away all responsibility

We want them to be positive and constructive
So we degrade them and make them useless

We want them to be trustworthy
So we put them where there is no trust

We want them to be non-violent
So we put them where violence is all around them

We want them to be kind and loving people
So we subject them to hatred and cruelty

We want them to quit being the tough guy
So we put them where the tough guy is respected

We want them to quit hanging around losers
So we put all the losers under one roof

We want them to quit exploiting us
So we put them where they exploit each other

We want them to take control of their lives, own problems and quit being a parasite...
So we make them totally dependant on us

I heard this quote, from an American judge, at the conclusion of a very interesting program, "Think Tank", on Radio Scotland today. If you've got a spare half hour, and you can do it within the week before it's gone, I do recommend that you listen - click here. I've already listened to it twice today as it is along similar lines to some of the debates I heard at the IPCA conference in Stockholm, which I'm still processing in my little brain and will be blogging about soon.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

International Prison Chaplains Association conference, Stockholm.

Long time no blog!

Sometimes it´s quite hard to blog about prison chaplaincy - there is so much that is very interesting indeed but can´t really be said publicly! However I am currently somewhere so cool I´ve got to share it.

From 20 to 25 August it is the International Prison Chaplains Association conference in Stockholm and I am incredibly privileged to be here. It is particularly special as it is the organisation´s 25th anniversary. We arrived in time for tea last night and our first session was great to be part of. Quite often prison chaplains can feel quite isolated in their work, especially in smaller jails where there isn´t a big team. So it was cool to be with prison chaplains from Oceania, Asia, Africa, North, South and Central America as well as Europe. (I am the only chaplain from Scotland). Singing Amazing Grace with two or three hundred other prison chaplains is an experience I wish I could bottle to produce in the winter on a fed-up day.

There was a difference in price of 100 euros to get a single room so of course I opted to share. I was quite nervous about who I would be "twoed up with", as the prisoners say, but have been reflecting on how much more anxious must prisoners often be when they are made to share a cell with someone who may be dangerous/volatile/up to no good in some way. My Hungarian "cell-mate" seems lovely by the way.

Last night at tea I sat with a Canadian chaplain, two Cubans, two Africans and an Englishman; this morning at breakfast I sat with a Catholic chaplain from New Zealand and a French Canadian chaplain from Quebec. This afternoon I will be attending workshops - I´ve chosen one by the UK´s own Baaroness Vivien Stern and also one by Bruno van der Maat of Peru.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Corrieyairack Challenge.

I have a wee album of photos (click on the photo of Him Indoors to see the rest) of some of those who did the Corrieyairack Challenge. It was a great experience. The money raised goes to an outdoor centre called Badaguish which caters for people with disabilities/special needs.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Ben Vrackie

Blue-Eyed Boy, Flora the dog and I climbed Ben Vrackie today, beginning at Moulin, and adding a loop through Killiecrankie on the way home to make it 10 miles. Depressingly, I am exhausted and my feet are sore. The reason this is depressing is that a week today I have a 17 mile sponsored hike for the Corrieyairick Challenge, the first half of which is all uphill. Anyone have a quad bike I could borrow? Click on this photo and hopefully you'll see the photos - we have a really beautiful country.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Carn Aosda and The Cairnwell.

I took three of our kids up Scotland's two easiest Munros on Saturday. The reason they're easiest is that although they are the height of Munros, the car park is already quite high. Blue Eyed Boy renamed Carn Aosda as Ben Asda so of course it made sense to rename The Cairnwell as Ben Tesco. The mountains themselves bear all the scars of their winter use as a ski resort so aren't very pretty in the summer, but the views of surrounding hills and mountains are great. It was very windy indeed, and there was a fair amount of whining on the way up, particularly from Penultimate Child and Youngest Child but it was all forgotten of course on the way down. Flora the dog had a fab time as usual. If you click on the picture on the right you'll see the wee album of photies.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Loch Turret and Ben Chonzie

On Thursday I did another walk, alongside Loch Turret and then up Ben Chonzie (my second ever Munro). Just Flora and me, although on the top of Ben Chonzie I met two people I'd spoken to on Schiehallion last Saturday! It was a beautiful day really. Click on the picture here and (hopefully) you'll see the album of photos. And I do have a perfectly reasonable explanation for having a miniature of whisky with me - it's to do with my next-door-neighbour actually.


Last Saturday I climbed my first Munro, Schiehallion. Here are the photos (click on this one and you should access the album). It was a beautiful day, and were I fitter, it would have been perfect. Instead it was a struggle, but it left me feeling nicely virtuous! We really have a beautiful country here in Scotland. Flora was my companion for the journey. The last part of Schiehallion is a scramble across boulders. I hadn't realised that and wondered what I would do if the dog fell and was injured, seeing as I can barely lift her, never mind carry her down a mountain. However, I think her low centre of gravity and four legs make her as nimble as a mountain goat and she was fine.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

"I have a dream" - in Scotland, in 2010.

In this country we have moved a long way from the mindless ignorance of the past which I am just old enough to remember, in which people who were black, Asian or Chinese would be described in slang terms which they found offensive but which people didn't realise were wrong, and which were used by the most decent of folk. Certainly it was prejudice but at the ignorance end of the scale rather than the hatred end of the scale. I am so glad that we have, in this country, moved such a long way beyond that in my lifetime. I'm not saying we're there yet, but we've come a long journey and that's great.

When I was a student, I worked in a Chinese takeaway and got to know the guys, who were from Hong Kong. The guys who ran our local shop at the time were Pakistani Muslims whom I got to know well, too. I don't think a single one of our four children were delivered by a white British person and I couldn't care less (incidentally I deeply LOVE all those who were involved in the delivery of my children, even though I couldn't name them now!)

As I say, I'm tremendously grateful that we have moved so far as a culture. It was a joy to me that the BNP did so disastrously at the General Election. I am pleased that our kids are being brought up properly with regards to tolerance and respect (and better even than tolerance and respect, they barely even notice the colour of people's skin).

However, it has been bothering me recently that those of other cultures who don't look any different from the Scottish masses, in other words who have white skin, are still being subject to racial abuse.

Two examples are on my mind at the moment, particularly. I saw the teeshirt on the left on a website which sells teeshirts and hoodies with funny slogans (I fancied a new hoodie with a funny slogan but haven't found The One yet). The old me wouldn't have given this one much thought. However, I know a number of travellers, and am in general quite interested in the gypsy culture, perhaps because I love my caravan and could live in it if I was a single person. They have made me aware of how resentful they are, quite rightly, when they are called "pikey" or "gyppo" and when they are assumed all to be thieves. The Romany people, which some, thought not all, travellers, descend from, are an ethnic group who were treated brutally by the Nazis, who have their own language, and who should not be subjected to racism. No one should be subjected to racism.

I said there were two examples bothering me. The other one is the anti-English vitriole that Scots feel free to give vent to, especially, but not only, around football. In 1990, my friend Jean and I went to Turkey on holiday (pre-kids, back when I had a life). The Turkish people are generally friendly but we became aware that they particuarly liked Scottish people. Eventually we asked about that, and we were told that it was because if England play Turkey at football, Scottish holidaymakers will invariably support Turkey - which they of course like. "Anyone but England" is not, when you examine it, really acceptable though, is it?

Him Indoors and I grew up with the "Anyone but England" notion, the same as nearly all Scots. We are ashamed to admit that it's only in the last couple of years that we've even begun to feel vaguely uncomfortable about it. Seeing as poor old Scotland hasn't made it to the World Cup finals in South Africa, we intend to support England. This has attracted some derision, but we can cope! I was struck by this comment on Him Indoors's Facebook page by That Hideous Man: "In a year's time I will have lived in Scotland as long as I did in England. About the only thing I dislike about this country is the pitiful, and pathetic anti-English racism that rears its ugly head every time a ball-game starts. If you ask me, its a blight on an otherwise wonderful nation..." A couple of days later, I was told virtually the same thing by an English member of staff at work.

Is it just banter? That's what we're told. Whether it's anti-"Pikey" or anti-English, it's just a harmless bit of banter. But it's not harmless if it causes needless offence.

We've travelled such a long way in my lifetime in terms of our racial tolerance, but we're not there yet. We have to remember that all races should be treated with respect, even if their skin is the same colour as ours.

These are the two examples that are on my mind at the moment. But I could have mentioned the apparent acceptance in the media of hatred of the French, or of poking fun at red-headed people ("gingers") and don't get me started on bigotry (when I rule the world, Rangers and Celtic will be abolished. Glasgow United will be formed, and the spare players donated to Airdrie United). Don't get me started on sexism either - strong men are admired but strong women are despised as "ball-breakers"!

Jesus said we should love one another as He has loved us.

Monday, 24 May 2010

You know you can talk to me...

I had to interview Him Indoors while he pretended to be a prisoner in need of tea and sympathy. This was for an assignment for a counselling course I've been doing. I am hopeless at role play and try to avoid it at all costs, usually, but by the end of this I was quite believing that the man in front of me was not in fact my husband but a fictional prisoner called Willie Ross worried about his 14 year old stepson going off the rails and blaming his wife for being too soft with him. This is the second half of our counselling session.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

A Very Long Life Well Lived.

My grandmother died earlier this month. She was 103. On Wednesday we had a lovely funeral service and celebrated a long life well lived. She was a very remarkable woman. Brought up as a farmer's daughter, studying at university in the days when not all young women had such an opportunity, a life as a primary teacher and a wife and mother (of my mother), she was remarkable for her character. She had a phenomenal memory (I wish I'd inherited even half of her capacity to remember people and funny stories), she was a "grafter" who found it harder to relax than to work (I am the exact opposite, unfortunately) and she had wonderful honour and integrity and goodness.

Her faith was lifelong and it was appropriate that her funeral service was held in the same church she had worshipped in since the age of five when the family moved to the area. Of course she never lost "incomer" status, technically, as she wasn't born in the village! My parents, brother and I lived with her for quite a number of years, and benefitted from, amongst other things, the soup that she made EVERY day. We called her the "Soup Dragon" - behind her back obviously - after a character in the old BBC television children's program "The Clangers". Her soup was great, as was the clootie dumpling she always made for anyone's birthday, and the pavlova that appeared if we had visitors.

Having a member of the family live for 103 years is an enormous privilege. I have been so much more abundantly grounded (can you be abundantly grounded?) in stories of my heritage and I'm also very glad that our kids are all big enough to remember their great gran.

I've been thinking, too, about what it means to have been around since 1907 in terms of the changes there have been in the world since then. I can't quite get my head round what it must have been like to live through such changes. I'm old enough to remember the first computers people had in their houses (the ZX81 for example) and when calculators came out. I remember when there was no such thing as videos, never mind DVDs. My children can't imagine how we functioned without mobile phones. I saw the first moon landing on television (I wasn't even at school, I want you to know) and I was at the launch of the QE2 (in my pushchair). But compared to the changes and the events that my gran lived through, this is nothing!
Through Google Images I've been looking at some photos of 1907, such as this car, a Ford Model R (the famous Model T was yet to come), and this tram at Edinburgh's Tollcross.

And I've been looking at 1907 in general (I love t'internet). For example, in March 1907, a month before my gran was born, the parliamentary elections in Finland were the first in the world with woman candidates, as well as the first elections in Europe where universal suffrage was applied. 1907 saw the birth of John Wayne and Daphne du Maurier. It was the year in which Robert Baden Powell led the first scout camp (on Brownsea Island in England) and the year in which the first taxicabs with taxi meters began operating (in London) as well as the year of the second Hague Convention.

My gran was born in the decade in which Orville and Wilbur Wright were getting us off the ground, and in which Einstein and Freud were proposing theories of relativity and psychology respectively. Picasso introduced cubism to the world the year my gran was born and plastic was invented two years later. For some reason the fact that my gran was born two years before the invention of plastic amazes me more than anything!

I knew my gran wouldn't last for ever, and she was ready to go, but an irrational bit of me secretly thought that as she'd always been there, she always would be. So I'll miss her, but I'm glad she's free at last from her frailty, and enjoying eternal life instead.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

A Little Bit of Porridge.

Are prison chaplains the answer to the prayers of prisoners? I like this a lot - it's very funny.

This clip doesn't show that the outcome, for attacking the chaplain, is solitary confinement - exactly what the prisoner was needing!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Today isn't for the Faint Hearted

Christmas Is Really For the Children, by Steve Turner

Christmas is really
for the children.
Especially for children
who like animals, stables,
stars and babies wrapped
in swaddling clothes.
Then there are wise men,
kings in fine robes,
humble shepherds and a
hint of rich perfume.

Easter is not really
for the children
unless accompanied by
a cream filled egg.
It has whips, blood, nails,
a spear and allegations
of body snatching.
It involves politics, God
and the sins of the world.
It is not good for people
of a nervous disposition.
They would do better to
think on rabbits, chickens
and the first snowdrop
of spring.

Or they’d do better to
wait for a re-run of
Christmas without asking
too many questions about
what Jesus did when he grew up
or whether there’s any connection.

It's Friday, but Sunday's Coming!

My friend Norma's mum and dad were in Benidorm recently and saw this. Amazing, isn't it?

Religion Causes Wars.

I've a fair amount of sympathy with the "religion causes wars" argument that is used so frequently by atheists. Obviously there's truth in it. Lots of terrible atrocities have been committed in the name of religion.

However I don't think it's ultimately persuasive. Christianity being the religion I am most familiar with, I'll use it as my example.

I come from a part of the UK where there is a lot of sectarianism. People from birth are told they are Protestant or Catholic. This, to me, is not religion at all but politics and tribalism. In my experience, those who are ACTUALLY Christians (whether Protestant or Catholic) are not involved in sectarian hatred at all. A Christian is a repentant sinner, aiming (though frequently failing of course) to follow Jesus' teaching, and to love God and their fellow man. Where I come from those who march in the Orange Walk or join paramilitary organisations are NOT those who love God and their fellow man and pitch up at church Sunday by Sunday.

It's tribalism, cultural indoctrination and politics that are behind so many of the bad things done in the name of religion. I agree that this is appalling but don't find it compelling as a pro-atheism/anti-faith argument.

There are bad apples amongst people of faith and atheists both.

However, in every town, village and city in this country, I know that Christian people (and no doubt other faith groups) are giving sacrificially of their time, their talents and their money to help their community, without thanks. Mums and tots groups, old folks' lunch clubs, youth clubs, social action campaigning, fundraising for third world causes, and loads more. Of course you can spot flaws in Christians. They're just human beings and aren't claiming to be better than anyone else (you can't become a Christian without humbling yourself to see your sin) but they're often really decent folk.

Atheists do good works too btw - I'm just saying I'm fed up with "religion causes wars" as an argument because I just don't think it holds water. SIN causes wars.

I put this argument earlier today to an atheist who replied by saying: "You raise a good point. I would suggest, however, that the same people would be doing good deeds in the absence of religion. I am an athiest who is constantly helping people and I volunteer for charities. I dont think you need religion or god for this."

I had already said that atheists do good works too and of course I wouldn't for a moment claim that only believers do good things. However, the great privilege of my job is that I meet guys who have come to faith following a criminal past. These individuals most certainly did NOT major in good works before becoming Christians!

Becoming a Christian can and does change people (including offenders) for the better and I have seen that with my own eyes.

I confess that I am by nature extremely cynical, which is why I have so much sympathy with atheists (it's pretty much a miracle God enabled me to be a believer at all given my personality - proof on its own of the existence of God perhaps). However the evidence that persuades me most if I start to doubt, is the evidence of a truly changed life. No, these offenders don't become perfect, and neither have I yet, but very often the change in them is absolutely astonishing.

And as a footnote for those of us born and bred in Churchworld, by and large these guys are entirely unfettered by all the pettiness of the institutional church and "get it" (the point of putting faith in God) FAR more clearly than many a seasoned (jaded?) churchgoer.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

"I don't think that's quite what you meant, darling".

Him Indoors will be going to Peru in a few days' time with the Vine Trust as part of a fact finding trip for church leaders to explore how their congregations might get involved in supporting the work there in the future. I'm sure I'll be mentioning more about it in due course.

Our own four children are at various stages in their understanding of the difference between our privileged lives in the UK and the difficulties of people in countries like Peru. But they are also at different stages in their understanding of the English language, apparently.

Penultimate Child, who is ten, and proud of knowing more about the facts of life than Youngest Child, who is nine, had obviously been listening carefully-ish to our friend June tell our congregation about the lives of street children in Peru and the dangers they face. She was talking to her sister and myself about daddy's forthcoming trip, and about Peru, when she suddenly dropped her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Mummy, is daddy going to Peru to try to stop girls becoming... *whispering even more quietly now*... PROTESTANTS?".

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Things Not to Say to Prisoners.

I have a gift. It's a talent. I am able to say precisely the wrong thing. Effortlessly. Not always but sometimes. I just open my mouth and put my foot right in it.

I once told a man with an artificial leg that he didn't have a leg to stand on.

Another time I was talking to a lady as we watched children having a snowball fight. I said jokingly, "I'm allergic to snowballs", in response to which the lady introduced her friend... whose name was Mrs Snowball.

Foot in mouth disease strikes me in prison too.

A very shy prisoner used to come into my office quite often and just sit and say next to nothing. Making conversation was hard work. One day (it was the 5th of November) I happened to say, "It's Bonfire Night tonight". As the words were still leaving my mouth, I thought, "You dumpling - this guy is in prison for wilful fireraising." Oops.

This week I was having a chat with a young prisoner who had been reflecting on growing up as the son of an alcoholic father. He was telling me that he and his partner had been talking about their desire to make sure their own children don't grow up with the types of memories he has. We were talking about how drinking alcohol is fine if you can drink in moderation, but if you can't drink without getting drunk, you are better not drink at all. I was explaining that I myself am quite happy to have a glass of wine and then just go on to coke. I noticed that his expression suddenly changed and, although he didn't say anything, he looked absolutely astonished. It was then I re-thought my statement that after a glass of wine I move on to coke. "Er, I mean Diet Coke. The drink. Not cocaine" "Ahh! Right!" - the penny dropped. Good job I noticed his misunderstanding or it would have been all round the jail that their chaplain was a cokehead.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Watching Your Daughter Grow.

I have a 14 year old daughter so I was moved by this post. I had come across this collaborative blog because UHDD flagged it up as she has a (very good) post on it too.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Are Prison Chaplains Just Naive?

Anyone who studies counselling is likely to come across Carl Rogers and his three core conditions, namely congruence (being real, genuine), empathy (understanding) and what he calls "unconditional positive regard". The counsellor must treat the client with unconditional positive regard. I think it could be argued that a simpler word for unconditional positive regard is "love". The counsellor must treat the client with love.

I have often reflected in the 32 months I've been a prison chaplain that much of what is contained in the two A4 pages of job description I was given could be summarised in an instruction to "love" the prisoners. Of course, the Scottish Prison Service, my employers, do not tend to use such language and nor would anyone expect them to. But I do see my role in the prison, at least in part, as being to love the prisoners.

I've had two interesting conversations recently which have awakened me to the fact that this is quite likely to be misunderstood by non chaplains.

A number of weeks ago, a prison officer asked me whether I got fed up sometimes with some of the prisoners who were unlikely to change and who had unpleasant attitudes and behaviours. He had noticed that I had been willingly giving a lot of time to one particular young man who, it was generally felt, was likely to be a lifelong habitual offender due to his background as a child and his pattern of offending thus far, along with his attitude to authority. As we talked it dawned on me that this officer thought that I was blind to the prisoner's faults and that I was naive to be giving him the time of day. It was great that we had that conversation as I was able to explain that we do not, as chaplains, divide prisoners in our minds into two groups - the bad guys and the good guys. On principle we treat them all as if they were "good guys", not because we are blind to their faults (far from it - some of their offences and attitudes are extremely offensive) but because we intentionally choose to treat them that way. As a Christian, I believe that I am to love everyone. I believe that everyone is made in the image of God and although that bit of them can be suppressed and repressed very thoroughly, it is my job to look and look for that bit and draw it out and encourage it.

The other conversation I had was similar in a way. I was contacted by email by a lady who writes for a German business magazine. They have a regular piece where they compare and contrast two people doing the same job in different parts of the world. For some reason they had decided to have an article on prison chaplains (not sure why, in a business magazine!) and had randomly picked myself in Scotland and a chaplain of a maximum security prison in Jamaica. We had a fascinating three way phone conversation. At some point in that conversation I said, as above, that I thought my job was to love the prisoners. A week later, I was emailed with some questions of clarification, including the question of whether it was always possible to love prisoners who had done bad things or had bad attitudes. My response was that love is not a feeling but an act of the will. Loving prisoners is not based on how lovable they are but on my intention, with God's help, to love them.

If prison chaplains were blind to the faults of the people they meet, or if they believed everything they heard (we certainly don't!) then, yes, naive would be the word. If prison chaplains choose, as an act of the will, to love those they work with and to look for the vestiges of the image of God in them in order to draw that out, then this is not naivete.

(Note: Non-Christian readers, unimpressed with talk about being made in the image of God, may relate better to the idea of how we treat people affecting how they behave. If I treat a man as a useless good-for-nothing, that may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I treat him instead as someone with the potential for change, with the potential to do good for his family and community, then this may result in his behaving better.)


I know that like me you will have been overwhelmed as we've followed the news from Haiti. It is unimaginably awful. This evening I found this blog which gives insight into what it is like there just now. I'm sure there are other blogs too. For people like me who know no one in Haiti they help to personalise the story and help me see that (unfortunately) it is all too real.

I was of course also interested to hear on the news that the prison was affected by the earthquake. A few people died but most of the 4,500 prisoners have escaped. I am imagining that this will cause additional problems for the people of Haiti. Some of these will be dangerous individuals and some will be desperate individuals. The police are already stretched to capacity without being able to pursue all these fugitives.

Monday, 11 January 2010

You Have a Friend Request.

Two of the great loves in my life are Facebook and Jesus - not, hopefully, in that order. Who knew that you could combine the two in this teeshirt? I love it. Not in the sense of wanting one. Not in the sense of being willing to wear one. And He needs a better profile picture. But it makes me smile all the same.