"An Inside Perspective"

February 2018

My Dear Family in Christ,

Ever-precious greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! Lamentingly, it is the slow season for the New Jersey gardener. Yet, as I daily walk the grounds of this prison, doing my day-to-day winter chores, I can’t help but to see how potentially beautiful the grounds “could be.” By the grace of God, prison has taught me, through the Holy Spirit, to see spring in the dead of winter, Life in the midst of death, and hope springing up from the depths of despair.

As I walk, I instinctively think to myself, “Oh, look over there, I could put a nice circular bed; the light would be just perfect, and the mums would look lovely against that dingy building.” Or perhaps, “I could cut a berm of Black-Eyed Susans along that fence line and then fill it in with multi-colored Celosias between each Susan.” A perennial frame as it were, filled in yearly with colorful annuals. Hallelujah!

On a side bar, for those of you yet to discover my beloved Celosias, know that you are really missing something special! They are multi-colored annuals, each plant with a single color, growing to three feet or more. They are also extremely hardy during the summer heat. More so, they are also virtually bug proof, even while flowering gloriously all the way until the first frost. I like to plant them in waves, about every two months, so as to have them in their fullness throughout the whole year. As a matter of fact, Celosias are so hardy that I can dig them up and pot them one day, use them on a banquet table the next day, and then put them back in the ground the following day! They will hardly miss a beat! (I digress)

No matter what I do though, I just seem to naturally see things for what they could be and not for what they are now. I think I am an eternal optimist by nature. Don’t get me wrong though, many people say, “Prison should never look beautiful.” Others offer (myself included), “As long as I am gonna be here for 30 years, I might as well bring some Life to this place!” These two perspectives clash in the hearts of some – but not in mine. I always choose Life. I personally have a “manifest destiny” attitude. I am going to expand and do as much good as I can, for the most people, in every situation, and everywhere that I possibly can. Therefore, year by year I conquer more and more of the grounds leaving a trail of beautiful flowerbeds wherever I go. I will not be constrained!

Last year, at the close of the season, I even went on a tree-planting binge. Our previous Lieutenant had maliciously forbidden trees in the open grounds. I knew that authorities come and go here fairly regular, so I still had a few small trees growing very quietly off the beaten trail in clandestine areas. I was awaiting the change of the proverbial guard. Eventually said change came, and my trees, mostly mulberries (via my nemeses – the geese), are all now strategically planted throughout the grounds, with my beloved sugar maple at the center!

It is written: “For we walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)

As believers, we too are to see the world, and most especially men and women, not for who they are now, but for who they “could be” in Christ. The Lord saw me preaching, and not as the lying, thieving, alcoholic that I was. He saw me as the lover of souls that I am now. He saw me loving the unlovable, while I saw only my next fix. Grace! Grace! Grace! (Zech. 4:7)

Wonderfully, there is never a slow season for Kingdom gardeners. In our day-to-day walks we need to see how potentially beautiful people “could be” if we but shared the Word with them. Those without eyes belch out, “Prisoners can never be beautiful.” Others simply say, “Come and see a Man. . .” But by the Holy Spirit, our hearts should now see Life springing up from the cold dead winter of sin. Does yours? Instinctively, we should envision, “He is a natural encourager; he could be a teacher of the Kingdom kids!” Let us see the eternal frame of God’s plan filled in with all the flowers of the Lord. Hallelujah! On a side bar, even in here, I am surrounded by multi-gifted men of God; mighty trees planted by the Lord Himself. They are men after the Lord’s own heart, virtually satan proof as they walk in the fullness of His Spirit. Men so hardy in their Christ that they serve Him and men with all their hearts, even while doing 30 years’ time behind bars. They are eternal optimists of the highest heavenly caliber who hardly ever miss a beat. I am humbled and very honored to serve amongst them.

Now, as believers, our manifest Kingdom destiny informs us that we must expand and do as much spiritual good as we can, for the most people, in every situation, and everywhere we possibly can. Therefore, year by year we are to conquer more and more ground for the Lord. By the power of His might, we must plant and nurture more and more flowers in the garden of our God. Know this, as believers we are the eternal flowers our Father has planted in the fallen garden of this world! We are to bring forth His sweet heavenly fruit for all the world to sample. Beloved, let us. . .