I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfuly made:
marvelous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
I turned fifty years old today. I did not tell anyone in here
that my birthday was coming up. Birthdays are not a big deal in prison, anyhow. Still, I did spend my day rejoicing
in the Lord, thanking Him for all He has done for me.
In Biblical times, every fifty years the Jews celebrated a
special Jubilee (Leviticus chapter 25). And these Jubilees were important and sacred.
When the trumpet (shofar) would sound throughout the land on
a fiftieth "Day of Atonement" (Yom Kippur), which always falls on the first day of the seventh month in the Jewish calendar,
the priests were to proclaim liberty to all those who were in captivity.
Slaves were released by their owners. No one was to remain
in bondage to anyone. All debts were cancelled. It was a time for a new and a fresh beginning.
So, looking at this from a spiritual standpoint, now that I
am 50 years old, I am ready for a fresh start. And I hope that now is the time when the Lord will place a new anointing upon
Perhaps, beginning sometime this year, God will start to use
me in new and different ways. This is the hope of my heart. For like the prophet Isaiah, each day my voice shouts to heaven,
"Lord, here I am. Use me!" (Isaiah 6:8).
June 8, 2003
A CLOSE CALL
Every correctional facility is fraught with danger, and no
part of any facility is exempt. Not even the chapel. Prison is an unpredictable environment.
This morning my chaplain had a close call when, during the
closing minutes of our worship service, an irate inmate known for his propensity to violence and having recently lost his
mother to an untimely death, stormed towards the podium where my chaplain was standing. He then stood before the chaplain,
fists clenched in defiance, and began to berate and yell at the minister.
From my vantage point by the back door, which is some thirty
feet away, I could see his veins popping out along the sides of his neck. It was an extremely tense situation.
My chaplain stood quietly with his head bowed in a show of
humility, which I believe was very wise in such a volatile atmosphere.
This inmate, who is doing a life sentence for a brutal homicide,
lashed out ferociously. He stood in front of the entire congregation accusing my chaplain of not caring enough about his loss,
or of praying enough when this mother unexpectedly took sick.
No one wanted to see this prisoner become violent. I was praying.
All the ushers and elders of the church began to pray. I know my chaplain was silently praying too, and I am glad that he
Our visitor, Reverend Benjamin Mackey, a former drug addict
back in the 1970's but now an honest family man and evangelist, who comes into my facility one Sunday morning per month to
preach, was also watching this unfold; he too was praying.
June 9, 2003
A CLOSE CALL
After a loud tirade which lasted about four minutes---although
it felt like twenty--this inmate made an abrupt about-face, marched up the center aisle, and barged out the door, still in
Then for about one minute after this man's departure, there
was an almost dead silence except for the whispering voices of men in prayer.
Finally my chaplain broke the silence when he asked us to join
him in prayer for this person. We did so even though he had already left the building.
I know that many of us understood this mourning man's grief.
He lost his mother, and he was not able to be at her side.
He is angry at God. But of course God did not take his mom;
Nevertheless, my chaplain will be required to file a report
of this incident, and he probably already has. None of us want to see this prisoner punished and penalized. Yet he was out
of control and he did make theatening gestures.
He also said many cruel and unkind words to an anointed man
of God. My Chaplain is a New York State employee, and it is against the law, not to mention a serious violation of prison
rules, to verbally threaten with violence and to intimidate an employee.
God was with my chaplain, however. We were all thankful for
the Lord's divine protection. It was almost as if an invisible barrier formed beteween the chaplain and this enraged individual.
This man has bulging muscles. He is a weight lifter, and he
plays on a football team. He could have hurt my chaplain severely.
Surely God was in control and He always is.
June 10, 2003
During last night's Bible study in the chapel, a man was set
free from the demons of death, suicide and mental illness which have plagued him for many years.
The two ministers who came to the study, Keith Peters and Barbara
Hust, felt led, near the beginning of our gathering, to pray for those inmates who were going through various struggles.
The Holy Spirit immediately singled out Jose, an Hispanic man
in his late 30s. So Keith went up to him, gently put his hands on each side of Jose's head, and then began to pray out loud,
while we who were in the congregation silently prayed along.
Jose is a tormented individual. Long, ugly brownish scars run
up both his arms, beginning at each wrist, and extend almost to his shoulders. He has several brutal scars traversing his
stomach too. These are all from his many attempts to commit suicide, to mutilate himself during his episodes of self-hatred
For many years Jose has been in and out of psychiatric facilities.
And while he has been incarcerated, he has been in and out of the Mental Health Unit's ovbservation area. He battles depression
and sometimes he hallucinates.
Several years ago Jose's mother passed away. He often cries
to me about how much he misses her. I can relate to this as the ache in my heart for my mother has never gone away, not even
after thirty-five years.
Yet the Lord has been merciful. God has heard the cry of Jose's
heart and he touched this man in a special way. He walked our of the chapel beaming. His liberation is complete. Now he must
June 11, 2003
At approximately 11:30 yesterday morning the telephone near
the officer's desk in my cellblock rang. Seconds later the officer called out my name.
When I reported to his desk, he told me that I had a visitor.
I immediately became concerned because I was not expecting anyone. So I kindly asked the guard if he would call the visiting
room so that I could learn the name of the person who had come to see me.
The visiting room officer then told my cellblock officer, who
in turn told me, the name of my visitor. I instantly recognized it as a reporter from a major New York City tabloid. I then
informed the cellblock officer that I wished to decline the visit.
I was both annoyed and disappointed by this. I just don't understand
why, after twenty-six years of incarceration, the media still tries to pursue me. I have nothing against the media. But I
do not have anything to say to them, either.
I have learned through several sad experiences, that the news
media really isn't interested in my life today as a remorseful person and as a Christian. In recent years I had shared some
positive things with them, only to have my comments twisted around in the cut and splice world of news production.
Now I wish they would leave me alone. Thankfully most of them
are doing this, with a few exceptions.
By God's grace I have moved on with my life. I have continuous
sorrow over the past, for the horrible things I did, and for the people whom I hurt. I cannot however do anything about this.
All the wishing in the world will not change anything.
I cannot look back anymore. I must continue to look ahead.
June 14, 2003
Each prison cell at this facility has one screened window.
A majority of these windows either face different cement courtyards, or they face the window of other cellblocks, or the walls
of nearby administrative buildings. While still other cells have their window facing the blacktop recreation yard with its
heat absorbing asphalt, as opposed to the more open side in which a lesser number of cells face our dirt and gravel ball field.
Furthermore, where I am now living is healthier than where
I was residing previously.
My former cell was just above the tables where the inmates
gather to play cards or other board games. These tables are on the ground floor which also serves as a dayroom. My former
cell was ten feet above them.
The problem with this is that so many prisoners are chain smokers.
Thus while I was living at my previous location I developed a chronic cough. Many times during the recreation period, which
runs from 6:15 to 11 p.m., seven days per week, I could not catch my breath. My cell was filled with a haze of smnoke.
Now, where my new cell is, underneath me and on the first floor,
is what's called the "pit area". The men gather here to leave the cellblock to go to their work assignments or to leave the
building for other reasons.
No one is allowed to smoke in this particualr area. Thus the
air is cleaner, although there is still a haze of smoke here, too, although the level of smoke is much lighter.
It was a hassle to pack all my things, drag everything to the
opposite end of my building, and then unpack. but it seems to have been worth the effort.
June 15, 2003
Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together
This was a day for the healing of some deep emotional wounds,
and for the spirit of forgiveness to move throughout our congregation bringing restoration and peace.
Last Sunday I wrote about a frightening and potentially explosive
situation that occurred when an inmate charged to the front of our chapel and began to yell at my chaplain. This prisoner
blamed the minister for the death of his mother, accusing him of not praying enough.
God answered our prayers. This man could have gone to solitary
confinement for his actions. Instead my chaplain spoke in this prisoner's behalf, and he was allowed to stay out of lockup.
This in itself was a miracle.
Today, however, something even better happened. This man came
back to the chapel to attend our worship service. He received permission from my chaplain to go up front to the podium to
address all of us.
He stood before the congregation and humbly apologized for
his actions. He shared his embarrassment and sorrow over his outburst. He explained about the pain he was in over the unexpected
loss of his mother. Then this prisoner asked for our forgiveness as well as forgiveness from the chaplain.
He went on to speak for several minutes, taking full responsibility
for his actions. When he finished talking he turned to the chaplain and they both embraced each other. It was a sight to see.
I was happy at the outcome. Everyone was. Christ was honored
and a sense of peace filled the building. Tension and anger seemed to flee. The remainder of the service went smoothly. There
was rejoicing in the Lord.
June 16, 2003
When I arrived at work this morning at the prison's Intermediate
Care Program (a fancy title for a Mental Health cellblock), I learned that two young men tried to commit suicide over the
weekend. Both of them, in unrelated incidents, decided to cut and slash themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
My job is both a ministry and a challenge. I cannot be in the
Mental Health cellblock all the time, only every Monday thru Friday in the mornings and afternoons. But as a Christian and
a caring person, I try my best to help each man as best as I can, be it a listening ear, or maybe only to write a letter
home for a prisoner who cannot do this for himself.
Fortunately, the first cutting incident was more like a cry
for help by a man in his early 20s who's doing several multiple life sentences, and who will never be released from prison
because of the arrangement of his sentences which exceed the human life span.
The second inmate, however, is in his 30s. He made a far more
serious attempt at suicide by slashing his wrists and cutting himself on other parts of his body as well. The corrections
officers who were on duty at the time had to wrestle the raxor out of his hands.
This inmate had to be rushed to the hospital. He came close
to dying. Now he will probably spend considerable time at the Central New York Psychiatric Center in the rural town of Marcy,
This is the place where those prisoners who are exhibiting
several mental problems get committed to until their condition stabilizes. At such time an inmate will usually be returned
to the facility he came from.
Because of the seriousness of this second man's attempt, he
will probably be at the Psychiatric Center for up to several months, or longer if needed.
June 17, 2003
The first incident, as I shared in yesterday's journal, was
more like a cry for help and attention. The second man, however, seriously injured himself. He had multiple slashes and cuts,
and had he cut himself any deeper, he would be in eternity right now. He lost a lot of blood too. Thankfully he will survive.
Shortly after I first came to prison in 1978, I made several
suicide attempts. As a result, I ended up at the same psychiatric hospital that I mentioned yesterday.
At the time I had been displaying bizarre behavior and I was
having difficulties coping with prison life.
And all of this was going on when I was confined to an isolation
cell at New York State's Clinton Correctional Facilitity in the tiny town of Dannemora, which is near the Canadian border.
During this period of my life, even though it was almost 25
years ago, I remember my feelings of dread, despair, and hopelessness, as well as a lot of self-hatred.
I wanted to die, but God watched over me. Now my days of self-destruction
are over with. But I still vividly recall the desire to die and end it all, juxtaposed with a deep longing to live and survive.
I am certain that these two men are experiencing the same or
June 19, 2003
Interestingly, the Bible describes the lives of criminals and
those who do bad things as being like a troubled sea which is full of unrest. It is never calm.
And while the sea is in its agitated state, it casts up all
the mud and dirt that was on its bottom, polluting it (Isaiah 57:20,21).
Tragically, both these men have a history of suicide attempts
as well as other forms of self-destructive behaviors. Neither has any inner peace.
I believe, therefore, that unless each man encounters a radical
life-changing event, they will probably continue along their downward paths.
I like these guys. I care about them. I hope they eventually
get out of prison and succeed in life. However, I regret to say that the way they are now, simply walking out of a prison
is not going to change anything for either one.
Nevertheless, I will continue to pray for them,. I will try
to help them whenever I can, provided, of course, that they eventually come back to the Mental Health cellbloclk and do not
get transferred to another facility.
At every opportunity I will continue to tell these two that
God cares about them, and that He will never give up on them.
I will tell them that suicide is a waste. Life is precious
and God can give each of these men a new start as well as complete forgiveness and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
June 21, 2003
NOTHING TO PROVE
Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
With the whole day free, I have decided to spend as much time
as possible in my cell reading and praying, and physically resting from a busy week. Besides, it's pouring rain outside. So
for me this is the best place to be.
Moreover, during my morning's devotional time the Lord spoke
to my inner spirit with many words of encouragement. I would like to share some of this now.
Shortly after I became a Christian, or one might say, a Messianic
Jew, I had fallen into the terrible trap of believing that I had to continuously perform various tasks of Christian service.
I was putting a lot of effort into doing many "spiritual" activities.
Looking back to these early years, I felt I had to earn not
only the Lord's love, but also the love and respect of other Christians.
I knew that many Christians were skeptical about my salvation
experience. some still are. And I remember feeling like a failure when I received reports from some of my new Christian friends
who tried to share my testimony with their neighbors, and with those in their respective congregations.
I recall feeling deep pangs of rejection, and I found myself
questioning the value and validity of my own Christian life. I was a young believer. I began to doubt the Lord's love for
me. And this went on for a number of years.
June 22, 2003
NOTHING TO PROVE
So in retrospect, it is easy to see how I quickly fell into
the performance trap. I felt that I had to work very hard to win the approval of other Christians, and to show them that,
yes, I truly love Jesus and that I am really one of His children.
Thankfully, however, as I grew in my faith and as I became
more rooted and grounded in God's word, He was able to deliver me from this bondage.
Today I know the Lord loves me for who I am. His love is a
free gift that doesn't have to be earned.
My spiritual walk is so much easier too. I do not have to prove
anything to anyone. This is true freedom.
June 24, 2003
PRISONER IN DISTRESS
Yesterday evening my friend Al and I decided to go to one of
the prison's recreation yards to get some fresh air. Normally we would have been in the chapel for a worship service. But
the ministry team that was scheduled to come in had to cancel. So Al and I found ourselves with some free time on a nice night.
As we were walking together Al and I were approached by a prisoner
of Jamaican descent. We could tell by the look on his face that he was under lots of stress.
It was only several weeks ago that he first began to attend
some of our chapel's services. I remember praying for him when he went for his first time. He had come to the altar seeking
Now Al and I were trying to encourage this man to share what
was on his mind. He told us that he had learned that his wife was found to be HIV positive. In other words, she had been exposed
to the AIDS virus.
He has been incarcerated for about six years, and he only has
a few years left on his sentence before he could go home. This man almost began to cry. He knew and understood, when he received
the news, that his wife had been unfaithful. She confessed to him over the phone that she had slept with another man. Sadly,
and unknown to her, he was carrying the AIDS virus.
My heart went out to this fellow inmate. Al and I spent about
thirty minutes talking to him as other prisoners passed us by in their circular travels around the yard's walking path.
June 25, 2003
PRISONER IN DISTRESS
Al and I were silently praying as we took our turns speaking
to this man about his situation. Neither of us wanted to give him bad advice or speak within the framework of our limited
human understanding. As Christians and ministers, we wanted to give him words of encouragement and genuine spiritual help.
This prisoner was in deep distress and he was devastated at
the news he received. Yet in these kinds of situations the Lord is faithful. God gives wisdom to those who ask for it. And
He seemed to give Al and me the words to say. We embraced this man and we shared some Scriptures with him too.
The best part is that, while this prisoner was certainly hurting,
he did not hesitate to tell us that he wants to forgive his wife.
I'm sure this woman was lonely. At the time she needed companionship.
They also have two children. And now that his wife has been exposed to AIDS their relationship is taking on a whole new dimension.
I am no marriage counselor. Al and I told this man to continue
to seek the Lord and to come to the chapel for fellowship. We promised to each continue to pray for him, and as we were ending
our talk he told us that he definitely felt better.
Al made him promise never to lose faith in God bvecause of
this setback. And as for now he is going to handle things once he's released from prison. Al and I fully trust that God will
guide him and give this man wisdom.
We both promised him that we will keep all this confidential.
No one who is reading this journal knows who this man is.
June 30, 2003
This morning I received a tremendous blessing when a man, who
had become a Christian only several weeks ago, asked me if he could say a prayer for me.
His name is Jose, and he has a long history of mental illness.
I wrote about him in my journal for June 10.
I was so touched when Jose, in a humble and soft voice, and
with his thick Spanish accent, stood before me with a big smile on his face and said, "Brother David, would it be alright
if I prayed for you?" I told him that I would be pleased if he did so.
Jose then promptly closed his eyes, bowed his head, and with
his right hand on my forehead, uttered a simple prayer in Spanish. He spoke to the Lord for several minutes, then he was done.
When we both opened our eyes I was met with another big smile.
I was smiling too.
Jose was so pleased to do this. I suppose that he wanted to
show his gratitude for all the times I prayed for him.
Nevertheless, today this prisoner was used by the Lord to encourage
Jose's act of love and kindness was yet one more signpost along
life's oftentimes rough road that God is with me. The Lord guides each of His children along the way until we're all home