"An Inside Perspective"

August 2010


My Dear Family in Christ,

Ever precious greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
A couple of times a year I assist Sister Debbie with the “Inside Look.” It is our bi-annual magazine designed to put a face on prison ministry for you. Its goal is to encourage those who donate their time and treasure to see that God really is changing lives in prison. Perhaps with all the pride of life these days, prison is the last bastion of truly broken men. It is written, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such that be of a contrite spirit.”

To begin, I peruse our congregation for six men that I believe the Lord will use. I seek after men who have repented, and come out of sinful lifestyles, thus surrendering themselves to the Lord. To come out of sin in prison and to commit yourself to Christ publicly is to invite reproach, and for that, I give these men much credit. Christians in prison are thought by some to be soft, but I rebut, by the grace of God we are indeed the strongest of all men. It is very easy to sin; try not sinning if you think you are so strong. It is written, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” Do you rule your spirit or does it rule you?

After I have chosen the men, I then give them their marching orders stating in writing exactly what I require from them right down to the word count. The men are at different stages of ability when it comes to writing and formatting their testimonies; as such, I am prepared to do the typing with Carlos’ help. He is the fastest typist in the jail and likens himself to a Spanish savant on the keyboard! I keep telling him pride comes before the fall! Ha! I have also enlisted Brother James Scott to do the final editing. He has been a great help to me and always does a great job.

As you well know, it has been a hot summer. No doubt you can imagine that it is magnified inside a prison cell. During one of the recent heat waves I was typing out one of the testimonies. I had my headband on and was dripping sweat as I labored to get this last testimony done so James could begin editing it. I finally got it finished and was copying it onto James’ disk when, lo and behold, it was already on there! There had been a lack of communication and it had already been done. I was fit to be tied! I had just sat there typing for all that time in the blistering heat for nothing. I wouldn’t see James until the morning and I stewed in my spirit all night over “my issue.”

When they busted my door in the morning I came flying out of my cell in pursuit of James. I just had to tell him what I went through. I needed someone to take the blame even though I knew it was really no one’s fault. I guess I wanted empathy with my sufferings to satiate my longing for justice.

Anyway, I saw James down at the officers’ desk. He was fellowshipping with one of our officers who we will call Officer Grace. He loves the Lord and us, and he constantly dispenses grace to James and me. I then steamed down to the desk and was so fixated on getting “my issue” out and voicing it to James that I missed my daily portion of grace!

I explained the whole situation to James in front of Officer Grace. The whole time I was talking to James though, Officer Grace kept saying to me, “Would you like to be on the imaginary shower list?” That is prison code for, “I will give you a shower and not mark you down on the list and then you can get one later too!” We are only supposed to get one shower a day, so in the heat we are always looking for grace. Say perhaps I have a visit in the morning and then church in the evening. When should I shower? I know that in my cook-box of a cell, ten minutes after I shower, I will smell like a goat. So any offer of an extra shower has monumental value to us! I missed mine.

After I got “my issue” all worked out with James, which I knew I would, as he is my best buddy in the Lord, I went back to my cell. As is my habit, I reflected. I quickly realized I hadn’t really listened to what the officer was saying to me. I had heard him, but I hadn’t listened! All the while, Officer Grace had been offering me an extra shower but I was so fixated on voicing “my issue” to James that I had missed my grace. Now, because of that fixation on “my issue,” all I had to look forward to was smelling like a goat. ?

It is written in the Psalms concerning Israel that they, “. . . limited the Holy One of Israel.” They were so fixated on their “own issues” that God was not able to bless them as He would have liked. What “issue” are you fixated on that hinders the fullness of God’s grace in your life? Beloved, is someone trying to give you an extra shower? Be careful saints or you too may miss your grace and end up . . .