Sunday, May 19, 2019 -
In one sense, the past 48 hours have been one of the toughest times since I’ve been in prison, and in others, it has given me great reasons to rejoice.
First, for the hard part, probably even worse for me emotionally than Christmas day, no doubt the most depressing day since December. Yesterday was my only granddaughter’s first birthday party. It didn’t bother me so very much having to miss it, until Kathie told me all about it in our phone call last night. Evelyn apparently was her usual charming self, and she got to eat the first sweet thing she’s ever tasted – her very own cupcake! Kathie was just bubbling over with joy as she was telling me everything, and then she told me how excited William (and Josiah – JZ) also was. But about 8 minutes into the call, I just lost it. Tears welled up in my eyes and I began to cry. I suppose it hit me all of a sudden what I’d missed – something I’d never be able to capture again. I had to politely end my call a little early, and I was a mess the entire evening. I hadn’t felt this way since December, for the prayers of many all over the world have truly sustained me. Kathie and Victoria both sent me encouraging messages via email, and that helped some. I re-read the letter a brother I’d never met from Virginia Beach sent me quoting verses in Psalms 37, and read the whole Psalm.
Then this morning, Kathie sent me an early email saying she had a very vivid vision when she suddenly woke up this morning, and I was standing next to the bed with a gentle smile on my face. I’ll have to get more details from Kathie when she comes to see me tomorrow. I don’t know what to make of this sudden appearing of my presence back at home, but I pray it becomes a reality soon. Every man in our Saturday Bible study is leaving soon, either to go home or to another facility. So I wonder if my purpose and work here are finished.
I thought back to the time in 1984 during the early morning hours that I’d bled to death, and a missionary from Bombay said I’d appeared at his bedside – but I didn’t say anything at that time either. That man immediately fell on his knees to pray for me, and I was miraculously revived after some time, earning me the nickname “Lazarus” at our local hospital for years.
Then, a few days after I arrived at Ashland Federal Correctional Institution, my cellmate told me he had a recurring vision, or dream, that he would have a cell mate who would be responsible for changing his life. He told me he’d probably had this same vision 16 times over the course of a year. But like most of the men in prison who claim to be Christians, a lot of things in their lives don’t bear witness with a true disciple of Christ.
However, over the course of the last 5 months, I’ve seen tremendous improvements and developments in his walk with the Lord.
But then the other day, he made a statement of something he wanted to do when he got out that was very uncharacteristic of a believer. And I chastised him for it. I won’t go into details.
The other day, when we were discussing the possibility of early release, the Lord led me to tell him, “You know, what you need to do, and you need to do it before you get out, is to make Christ Lord of your life. You need to completely surrender to him.” I can’t remember if he even said anything to me at the time. He may have concurred, but I don’t recall.
But yesterday, during our group Bible study, there were six of us studying Matthew 6. One of the brothers here responded to my query about his prayer life, because we’d had a previous discussion about it, and I know his prayer life may be the most powerful of anybody’s I’ve ever met.
Just a little side note, this 41-year old was saved in prison about ten years ago and has been involved in multiple homicides and tried for two of them, has been shot himself three times and wants to go back to his former neighborhood and family as a missionary of the gospel.
Not only did he discuss how to have a more powerful and purposeful prayer life, but he also discussed his experience with fasting, as we examined many Scriptures pertaining to both prayer and fasting.
Then today, the chaplain’s message was on Mark 8:31-38, where Jesus tells us to take up the cross. The persistent word for us the he kept saying over and over was “surrender.” That we must, as true Christians, surrender our lives to Christ DAILY. “J” was there, right up front, and one of the first things he said to me afterwards was, “Well, I guess I’m going to have to surrender!” Praise the Lord!
The other really fantastic news I had was from Kathie Friday evening, when she told me her doctor’s appointments that morning had revealed the “growth” she was concerned was cancer, was in fact not. In my heart all along, I knew that to be the case, but Kathie could now breathe a sigh of relief and can both rejoice in the Lord.
And so, as I walked the 2 ½ mile walk around the track today, I had much to rejoice and thank the Lord for – and I spend the better part of that 40 minutes just praising and thanking Him.
As disheartened I became yesterday evening, I still have so much to thank my heavenly Father for.
And one more added thing – another of the brothers here, who had been completely backslidden when I first met him, has spent the past several days talking about his life and how he needs to permanently surrender his life to God. He talked about it with me the whole way back from the chapel service!
So thank you for your continued prayers. I am definitely seeing God answer them!