Updated: Aug 15, 2019
Wednesday , December 19 2018 -
Today believe it or not, I didn't have a whole lot of time to read in my Bible as much as I wanted although, at the encouragement of Kathie, I started reading the book of Job yesterday evening, and got through chapter 9, almost halfway. Job really had it bad. Worse than bad! He lost his whole family, 10 children, his business, and was so inflicted with disease he could no longer stand to be alive. Everyone abandoned him, his wife told him to curse God, his friends blamed it on some secret sin, and Job complained to God in the bitterness of his soul (Job 7:11). He wanted death rather than pain (Job 7:15) yet he still recognized God created him, granting him life and lovingkindness (10:10-13) and preserved his spirit (10:12). He was ready to argue with God about his situation (13:3, 13:15), yet he at the same time recognized God as his Redeemer (19:25) regardless of his circumstances. Reading Job makes me thankful to God it hasn’t been worse, although Kathie has been severely attacked physically. And, like Job, going through this ordeal for the past four years has at times caused me to go through some real soul-searching, asking God to reveal things I need to repent of. No doubt, one of the reasons God puts trials in our lives is not just to test us, but to refine us and to shape us into vessels he can use more and more.
God has a purpose for everything, although we may not know it at the time. Again, God has been showing me, day after day, that he wants our total and complete surrender. Abandonment. I am to give everything to God. Not just my possessions, but my attitudes, anxieties, emotions, worries, temptations and trials. Something God showed me through a chapter in the “Christians Secret to a Happy Life” by Hannah Whitall Smith today is that I also must give my service to him.
I've been here in prison, now over two weeks, I've been gradually getting to know other men. Some I believe are truly innocent, as am I. Others most definitely recognize they made mistakes and truly regret them. Take Jim, who grew up just down the road from where I live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, in Lexington. He came to talk to me last night, and I mentioned there was a man here that graduated from Fishburne Military Academy in my hometown. He told me “Well I went to Fishburne”. He went for half a year because he got in trouble at Rockbridge High School and wasn't keeping his grades up. He’d been playing baseball and was very, very good at it. But he got involved with the wrong girl and ended up partying all the time. He's convinced that cost him a certain career in Major League Baseball, he was that good at it. He's been in prison for 13 years for selling methamphetamines behind the Stuarts Draft High School, about three miles from my home. Please pray for the right time for me to share Jesus with him. He leaves on in January for a halfway house in Bristol.
Anyway, I've been frustrated that it seems slow going in sharing my faith, but so far, I'm primarily just listening, although I do talk about being a Christian and being involved in Ministry. But I also need to abandon my witness to the Lord as well and my weakness will become my greatest strength, because it's got to be God controlling conversations and circumstances, not me. I have to fully surrender that to him, as well. I've often contemplated how little I've had opportunity to share the gospel on a one-on-one basis during my life, simply because I was around few non-Christians, apart from those quick in passing, like clerks in stores but now that's all changed, and it's got to be Christ working through me.
In that same vein, Kathie keeps telling me to look out for the baker (Genesis 40). He may well be my cellmate, I don't know-- I've already seen a big difference in him since I got here-- indeed my prayer is that my life be marked in such a way that people will want what I want. There's a lot of bitterness here on behalf of many of the men. Some I am certain are lost cases, even if they hear, but I want others to begin coming to me and asking why I am different. I want to be a living, walking testimony to the grace and mercy of God. I cannot contrive any words to speak to anyone, but God must provide the opportunity and words. One poor man, 75 years old, got here recently after being moved from South Florida. He is so cold here. He told me he was arrested and imprisoned five years ago because a lifelong friend died and left him all his stuff, and whoever was helping him clean it up transferred everything from his friend’s computer on to his. They had no idea there was child pornography on his friend’s computer, but it was in his possession, so here he is. He claims he is totally innocent. He has three degrees, including two in religious music from a famous music school in Chicago. He told me he was Episcopalian but years ago when he gave up the music and became a computer programmer. He is another one I would really like to speak into his life.
And there was still another man who out of the blue, while waiting 40 minutes for a move to happen so I could go get my blood drawn, told me his story. He seems very bitter at the system. Maybe partially justified since he claims to have turned his life around after serving his sentence. He's back for 2 years for a probation violation, because he cursed out his probation officer. Why he started telling me this, I have no idea for the most part, right now, I'm just in a listening mode.