May 5, 2006
I believe that bitterness is to the soul what cancer is to the body. I have seen for myself the effects of a bitter spirit, and it is tragic.
Because I am a “Mobility Guide” during the morning hours, a part of my job
consists of helping and escorting the prisoners who are partially or completely blind.
So earlier today when I was summoned to the D-North cellblock to pick up the man I would have to escort, it happened
to be the same guy I had to take to the Infirmary this past Monday.
I found my Native American friend to be as bitter as ever. He was complaining non-stop during our walk through a succession of corridors enroute to the Infirmary. He bickered with the correction officers when we got there, and he bickered with them
on our way out. And while he was being treated for his medical problems he argued
with the nurses. He’s definitely not a “happy” resident.
I told him, “Bob,* you have to let go of things.
You’re going to end up with a heart attack.” But he quickly
replied that he will never stop being angry about the Vietnam War and his years in the military that left him sick with Agent
Orange poisoning and a body scarred by shrapnel.
Nevertheless, “Indian Bob” is a decent person. I’ve known him for years and he is well versed in the law.
He’s well respected by the men in the general population and they hold him in great affection. Yet I think that if he doesn’t get rid of the bitterness that’s eating away at him, he probably
won’t live much longer.
*Bob is not his real name
May 7, 2006
Thou hast enlarged my steps
under me, that my feet did not slip.
During this morning’s worship service my chaplain called for testimonies from anyone who recently
had some answers to prayer.
So when it was my turn to speak I told the congregation how the Lord Jesus healed my
body from excruciating pain in my lower back and along the sciatic nerve in my right leg.
I was in this condition since the fall of last year, I explained. I was
in pain all day long.
I then went on to say that, according to the prison’s medical staff, my condition
(degenerative joint disease) was going to get progressively worse. I was told
that at some point I may even lose control of my bladder and, as a last resort, I may need surgery.
Yet throughout this ordeal I continued to pray and trust in the Lord. Then I said to the church, one morning I awoke from sleep to discover that the pain was almost gone. And within a few days all the pain vanished as mysteriously as it began.
I said that I have no doubt Jesus the Messiah answered my prayers. My hope, I told the congregation, was and is in Him. God has
always been good to me, and I let the men know it.
May 8, 2006
This morning I had to travel to and from the prison’s Infirmary to escort a sight-impaired
man who needed his medicine. Then in the afternoon I went with the guys from
the Intermediate Care Program to the recreation yard. It was a very productive
time because I was able to spend almost two hours with Paul. During our conversation
he confessed to me that he was struggling with depression.
And later on, after I left Paul, I went to talk to Bill.
He was sitting listlessly on a bench. His sad countenance was a
giveaway that he too was suffering from the same malady.
In my opinion depression is like a carnivorous demon that eats away at the soul of a
person. It can crush and oppress a man’s spirit.
Depression, on occasion, also surfaces in my life.
But at the same time I know that God loves and cares for me.
Paul and Bill, however, do suffer from several recognizable “mental health”
issues. I told them, though, that they should never feel ashamed when the dark
clouds of despondency come. Through Jesus Christ, I assured them both, we can
have the victory. His light, I explained, could replace the darkness and send
Satan to flight.
May 10, 2006
ALWAYS WITH ME
I am with you always, even
unto the end of the world.
I had a quiet and uneventful
morning. I only had to escort a sight-impaired man to the sergeant’s office
for an interview which lasted about twenty minutes, and then I was done.
This afternoon, however, I was with the men from the E-North cellblock. And while I am grateful for the chances to help whom I could in this special unit, I must admit that sometimes
a “spirit of depression” tries to gain entry into my mind. But when
I sense this beginning to happen I will pull back a little and pray.
Because of my job which I prefer to call a ministry, I am surrounded by men who are in
dire circumstances, and who also suffer with varying degrees of mental illness as well as spiritual oppression.
Some of their inner despair, I believe, comes from the realization that each man has
damaged or even ruined his life. They’ve also destroyed relationships they
once enjoyed with their families. This they are living with continuous regret
in addition to whatever guilt each one may feel as a result of the crime or crimes he committed.
Depression, therefore, is a natural outcome of a life lived badly. And I too have wrestled with it. It comes from having to deal
with my own memories, failures, and regrets. But I have also observed a spiritual
aspect to some depressions in a number of these men: I’ve had both kinds
in my life.
Yes, I know that Christ has forgiven me. In
His eyes my sins and failures no longer exist, and I am glad. Yet at times the
reality of being separated from my father who recently turned 96 breaks my heart. The
pain of being away from him is beyond words to describe.
Nevertheless, God’s grace is able to sustain me.
I also believe He understands my pain and my occasional struggles with depression.
Likewise I am reminded that Jesus has promised to be with me always. This
is the most important thing.
May 19, 2006
Within the past few weeks my prayer life is being renewed and revitalized. I pray every day. But for a couple of months, however, it
has been had to pray. The depth of my prayers has been shallow, and heaven’s
“Throne of Grace” seemed inaccessible.
Now, for whatever reasons, a new season of devotion is awakening within me. I have become more energized, and I’ve been able to arise before dawn most mornings to seek the Lord
in the privacy of my prison cell, whispering prayers to Him confessing my sins, asking for help with my shortcomings, and
gladly interceding for those who are in varying degrees of need and distress, as well as for different situations in churches
and in nations.
The Lord Jesus helps and encourages me to pray.
And for reasons I cannot explain my heart has been heavy for the orphans in Rumania.
Tens of thousands of these little ones, and many who are now in their teenage years, are destitute, lonely and hungry. They do not know Christ. They’re
living in despair.
Among my prayer list are hundreds of people in crisis.
There is Carolyn M. (Norfolk, Virginia); Robert M. (in prison in Virginia; Molly (who was recently left paralyzed
from the chest down after a horseback riding accident); David W. (who has a wasting
disease and lives in constant pain; Michael M.
(who is in a New York City hospital and
is dying from AIDS); Tim (a man
in his 40s who suffers from paralysis and is confined to a nursing home in Indiana),
and there is Margaret who is in deep depression.
There is also “Pastor Kelly,” a youth pastor in Lexington, South Carolina, who has a serious medical condition. And I just learned this afternoon via a letter that my dear friend and brother in
Christ, Lars, has been diagnosed with a cancer called “Myeloma.” He
is in intense pain, too.
The list goes on, and there are enough needs and problems to keep me on my knees for
a long time. Thus I hope that other Christians will join me in prayer for these