Work, sing even when challenges come

Posted: Friday, February 17, 2006

In many parts of North America, robins are the harbingers of spring, a breath of warm fresh air at the end of a long deep freeze, a sweet song at the twilight of winter.

What, then, were 30 of these red-breasted day brighteners with a song doing in our Michigan backyard on Valentine’s Day?

Are we to expect an early spring?

No one knows for sure but these early birds certainly captured our attention, bringing pleasant possibilities to mind.

And that’s a good example for us all.

A few years ago, Krystle Nyquist was the star relief pitcher for the Foxes, a Lemont, Ill., Little League softball team when she was called on to pitch in the third inning of the season opener.

The foxes were trailing 6-1 when she came to the pitcher’s mound but her arm was so good over the next five innings, her team pulled off an 11-8 victory.

Krystle’s pitching pleased the crowd, but what really captured their attention was the duct tape covering the name of her team’s sponsor, a local bar.

“I hate alcohol, and if I wore the uniform as it was given to me, I would have become a walking billboard for the bar,” she said.

Local officials said the tape made Krystle out of uniform and told her she had to remove the tape or face suspension.

This 14-year-old ace reliever explained she had lost her grandfather because of cirrhosis brought on by acute alcoholism and argued drinking was so offensive to her that she simply couldn’t conform to their demands.

Even the threat of suspension for the season if she didn’t comply could not move her to compromise her convictions.

In 1921, Lewis Lawes became the warden at Sing Sing Prison. No prison was tougher than Sing Sing at that time.

When Warden Lawes retired, some 20 years later, however, Sing Sing had become a different place.

Writing of the change, Tim Kimmel says it had become an institution where humanitarian treatment changed the lives of the inmates. Those who studied the success at Sing Sing said the credit belonged to Lawes, but he said he owed all his success at the prison to his wife, Catherine, who by then was buried outside the walls.

Catherine Lawes was a young mother of three small children when her husband became the warden at Sing Sing, having plenty to do without getting involved in the problems of hardened criminals, but she was determined to make a difference in their lives and set out to do so.

“My husband and I are going to take care of these men,” she said. To Catherine, this meant studying their records and finding ways to change them.

Observers said it was as if Jesus walked the halls of Sing Sing from 1921 to 1937, lovingly ministering to men who had neither known nor shown much love up to that time.

When Catherine died in a car crash, a crowd of tearful convicts was granted permission to walk to her funeral, about a mile from the prison, to show their love for one who dared brave the dangers of Sing Sing to show the love of Christ to them.

Those who refuse to compromise their convictions and are able to hate sin while loving sinners, are rare birds.

If we can develop enough of them, people will flock to the churches to learn how to keep working and singing even when storms come.

Roger Campbell is an author, radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist from Waterford, Mich.

He was a pastor for 22 years and has been a guest speaker in Alaska churches from Anchorage to Homer.

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