Dear Brothers and Sisters at Pilgrim,
Grace and peace be yours abundently in Jesus Christ. How can we ever thank Him enough for His life in us? With Him, we can face anything, without Him we can do nothing. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him and he with Me. (Rev. 3:18) This opening of the door can be thought of as opening / yielding one’s life to Jesus, letting Him into all the circumstances of life. Repentance is surrendering areas of our lives we have long managed ourselves. May God give us all the grace to acquire this spiritual habit.
I heard good things about Darrell’s sermon Sunday. I know from recent experience that there is life after death. I was in here for a few days before I realized I was resisting being here. It was just too hard. The experience was overwhelming. The evil was almost overpowering. My heart was numb. But then I began to yield to God and started thanking Him for this hardship. The joy of His presence has become very real and very sweet. Thank you so much for your prayers.
It’s still real hard, and I miss my wife and family more than I can say. But I am assured that God is here, He is helping us and we can trust Him. There is purpose in it all.
I’m reading Bonhoffers’ “The Cost of Discipleship.” He felt that it’s the Christians duty toward God to oppose tyranny, to oppose a government which no longer follows “natural law” and “the law of God,” I do not say we should oppose government in the way Bonhoffer ultimately chose to do. But as non-resistant bearers of the Truth, we should not sit by as “the quiet in the land” while society around us falls into ruin. Rather our lives should be a prophetic protest, an expose’ of Satan’s tyranny, and we should not hesitate to oppose His lies with the Truth, by word and action. This was the way of the early Anabaptist.
It’s taken some time to figure out what has happened to me. When a man comes into the prison system he gives up quite a number of things basic to his identity:
1. Wife and family.(while I expect to see them frequently, it means painful separation for a time.)
2.Productivity and work. (What is more basic to a man’s identity? )
3. Privacy. (try moving in with 13 men–all criminals whom you don’t know–in a room about 700 feet square and see if that doesn’t help you appreciate privacy.)
4. Security. (See above.)
5. Dignity. (You are strip searched after every visit, by male guards, but these days you never know…)
6. Responsibility. (You are left trying to figure out what you should do with your day,many basic decisions are made for you)
7. Friendship and acquaintences. (You have to start over, and you don’t know who you can trust.)
I know now what it’s like to have one’s identity battered and shaken right down TO the core. But by the grace and mercy of God the CORE is holding strong even though it feels like most everything else has been stripped away in one fell swoop.
It feels to me that what I have left is my identity in Christ. And I have to work out from there. What does He want me to do now? How does He want me to live? Some things are emerging:
1. To be devoted to Him without distraction.
2. To enter in full time pastoral ministry. This calling was conferred upon me by the commissioning at Pilgrim. I want to be true to that. And it feels like the primary calling is to Pilgrim through prayer letters of encouragement and in whatever other ways I’m able to support the team.
3. To somehow serve as a voice for truth wherever I am.
4. To help people find the Savior as He leads the way.
Please pray that God would help me reconstruct my life.
I stand a good chance of getting into the landscape crew next week w hich would allow me to get to work at 6:40 am mowing grass and other landscaping projects 3-4 days a week. All the mowing is done by electric push mowers They’re usually done by lunchtime. This job will pay me $20 of your federal taxes per month! (Due to budget shortfalls, the pay was recently cut from $40 to $20.)
I’ve been relaxing a lot regarding safety issues here. But I had sobering reminder at lunchtime. Last evening I was finishing up Michael O’brien’s “A Father’s Tale” sitting at my bunk and was completely transported. Other inmate asked me at lunch today about a conversation that was going on at the time I was reading last night. I told him I didn’t hear any of that conversation that was going on right in front of me, I was so engrossed. He gave me a stern warning that I should always be aware of what is going on around me. After all,this is prison! He said he witnessed someone getting killed at another institution. A man was reading a book and somehow had insulted another inmate, or ignored him. The other man went back to his cell, got a lock or something and killed him on the spot.
This has gotten long enough. I’ll write more later about the daily routines and so forth.
May God’s prescence and power be with all of you,