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"An Inside Perspective"

November 2004


                           


My Dear Family in Christ,

Ever precious greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! Here at Trenton State Prison, one of the 5-0-P’s (standard operating procedures) is to have specific count times. Throughout the course of every twenty-four hour period we have approximately six count times.

The idea is for the Administration’s actual head count on paper to match exactly the number of physical bodies in the prison. The counts are at regular predetermined times throughout the day. As count time nears, everyone in the jail gravitates to where they are supposed to be for that count time. For most of us, that place is our cell. No matter what I am doing, I must be in my cell at these times. Certain men, such as those in the kitchen, work through the count. They are therefore counted by the custody staff in their place of work. These are said to be on the out-count, meaning out of their cells.

The count usually takes about forty-five minutes or so. During the course of it, the officers go around to every single cell in the whole prison and actually count the men one by one. There are approximately two thousand prisoners housed in this prison. When all the officers turn in their count sheets they are then added up by the center keeper. The count is finished when the number of prisoners on paper matches the number of actual bodies in the cells. Then, over the intercom, we hear the announcement, “The count is clear in all areas.” This means that everyone is where they are supposed to be and that no one has escaped. Movement can again begin in the prison and everyone goes back to doing what they were doing before that count started.

Once in awhile, the count does not clear. For whatever the reason, and they may be varied, someone is not where they are supposed to be. The count does not clear until said person is then located. Usually, when that person is located, if it was not an error on the officers part in counting, he will go straight to the hole. If it is an error on the officers part he may receive a disciplinary charge. The counts are taken very seriously.

It has been my observation, after fourteen years of daily count times, that with discipline, these times can be a tremendous blessing to us. It is written, “And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told Him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. And He said unto them, ‘Come ye yourselves apart unto a desert place, and rest awhile: for there are many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. ‘“

I am mandated by prison policy to have daily count times, the question is, do I use them wisely? The Lord has ordained for us to have daily communion with Him through devotions; special, divinely appointed, spiritual count times. It is written, “And after six days Jesus taketh with Him Peter, and James and John and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves:and He was transfigured before them.” Apart by themselves---with Christ---that is where the blessing is. It is during our spiritual count times that we see Him transfigured before us. Are you using your devotional count times wisely or are they just another lawful deed done to silence your gnawing conscience?

The reason I say that count times have been such a blessing to me is because they slow me down. I don’t know about you but I need to be slowed down regularly. Count times can afford us an opportunity for prayerful reflection on the day’s unraveling events. Also, they may provide us a chance to search the Word freshly and tweek our walk. If need be, we might even catch a cat-nap!

If it was not mandatory for me to be in my cell, I wonder what blessings that I might miss by just continuing on “about my business” even while calling it His business? It is written, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful [worried] and troubled about many things.” She was missing her spiritual count time! The Son of God incarnate was sitting in her very living room, yet, she was still found working right through the count!

Right now, as you read this, Jesus is waiting in your quiet place---go to Him---repent of missing your time with Him. Of Mary, who discerned the moment, Jesus said, “But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” She loved to sit at His feet, she had found the sweet spot.

I don’t want to be found working through the count because the Lord may then just put me on the spiritual out-count! When the count is taken on high---”Oh Lord, I want to be in that number!”

I wonder with so many burnt—out Christians today, pastors and laymen alike, are we utilizing our spiritual count times wisely?

“Have you seen Him transfigured before you lately?”

JOYFULLY IN JESUS,
LOVE PHILIP

“REMEMBER THOSE IN PRISON AS IF CHAINED TO THEM”