"An Inside Perspective"

April 2004


My Dear Family in Christ,

Ever precious greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! It’s Tuesday night about eight o’clock. Carlos, my cellmate, has gone out to the gym. We have both set our hearts to diet seeking to lose a few pounds over the summer season. I am going to eat my evening portion, one can of black beans, blah! I set the can inside my homemade cook-pot and turn on the two stingers (electronic heating devices) and wait for the beans to heat up. Twenty minutes later they are warm and I gratefully eat my meager meal. Hunger, is indeed, the best seasoning! (smile)

Carlos comes back from the gym and we settle in for the evening. I do a little reading and as usual, by ten o’clock, I am sound asleep. Not much later, Carlos follows suit. “All is well”---or so we think! It is written, “But as the days of Noah were... they were eating, drinking and marrying... and they knew not till the flood came and took them all away.” They were not doing anything sinful, as it were, they were just living their daily lives. They went to sleep thinking, “All is well.”

The next thing I know, it’s four o’clock in the morning and I am ‘standing” in my cell sound asleep! How I got up I do not know. I open my eyes and I see a flaming fire! I am still not cognizant of whether I am awake or dreaming and instinctively I scream---”FIRE!” I awake immediately praying, “Lord please don’t let the police hear that!” The cell is full of thick gray smoke and I can hardly see. I run toward the cook-pot which is now a ball of flames, along with the towel it is sitting on, and the very paint on the wall itself is ablaze! My stars! All is not well! I start beating down the flames with a towel as I see Fire-Marshall Sprout, still half asleep, flying out of bed, grabbing a bucket and beginning to fill it with water Unbeknownst to Carlos, the bucket is full of my morning shower supplies, my towel, soap, etc. In a panic, he continues to fill the bucket getting a “A” for effort. Meanwhile, I have put the fire out but the cell is radically full of smoke. We are praising God for waking me up as we swing open the window and turn on the Tarts. Still no police. All is not well—--but getting better!

Panic has settled down to a steady adrenaline rush and we begin to pray. “Lord, please don’t let the police come now.” If he does it is straight to “the hole” for both of us. The entire wing and tier is full of smoke and we need twenty minutes at least, for it to clear out. I peep out the bars with my mirror to see down the tier. Oh-no! There is a cop fifty yards away pacing back and forth smoking a cigarette completely unaware of how the Lord is currently shaping my character! De-de-de---Lord have mercy.

As the Lord answers prayer, about twenty minutes pass and almost all the smoke is gone. Carlos is lecturing me about my forgetfulness in unplugging the cook-pot. A point well made and I receive it with head hung. We thank the Lord for the huge exhaust-fan on the ceiling that just “happens” to be on. Also, for the brand new, now we know, non—functioning smoke alarm system installed just two months ago. Grace-grace-grace!

I peep back down the tier and you guessed it, here comes the police with his flashlight! I turn the light off and yell, “Sprout, here he comes, as we jump into our respective bunks and throw the covers over our heads. He shines the light in the cell as we feign sleep and he keeps going only to turn around and come back. He says, as I hear him sniffing, “I smell smoke in there!” I sit up and say, “No problem officer, we had a burned out stinger.” He leaves, as I worshipfully think, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...”

I forgot to unplug the cook-pot, the water evaporated and started the fire. I went to bed thinking “all was well” and woke up in smoke and flames! Not only me, but because of my neglect, another was in the flames with me! That is how it will be for unbelievers. They will go to sleep thinking all is well but they will wake up in the smoke and flames. Are you bringing them the gospel as a good Fire-Marshall should or are you just sitting comfortably on your laurels living for yourself?

A preacher once had a tailor for whose soul he was much burdened. Frustrated at the apathy of the tailor the preacher decided to go visit him at his place of work. He quietly approached the tailors shop and then instantly burst through the door and said, “Were you expecting me?” The frightened tailor responded, “No.” The preacher replied, “What if I had been death?” and left without another word. It is said that that very illustration troubled the conscience of the tailor with such deep conviction that he repented and came to know the Lord.

Let us, “Preach the Word; be ready in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” People all around us, everywhere, everyday are going to sleep thinking “all is well” and apart from our intervention in their lives, with the Word of Life, they will wake up in the flames!