Peace and blessings to all in Jesus Christ!
LESSONS FROM GOD'S CREATURES
Today I had a close encounter with one of God's special creatures. I was sitting comfortably under a shade tree with my bare feet stretched out in front of me, engrossed in a book. A couple of men were sitting at a picnic table near me. The table rests on a concrete pad which has a hollowed out space underneath it.
I was interrupted from my reverie with "You'd better hold real still, Miller." I looked up, and about 8 feet from me was a black and white furry critter heading straight toward me. Again the advice from the picnic table, "If I was you, I'd hold read still." I WAS me, and I felt the urge to bolt. But to extricate myself from my comfortable position meant moving fast. I was sure my approaching friend could move faster. So in the interests of self-preservation, I stayed motionless. But my heart pounded.
Mr. Skunk came right up to my bare feet, and I felt the tickle of his gentle black nose as he sniffed my feet for about 30 seconds. Then he turned tail and ambled back to his hole under the picnic table. I breathed again.
A couple of the guys joked about the smell of Miller's feet driving the skunk away. Could be. If so, it was the first time I beat a skunk at his own game.
A lesson: Perhaps God was reminding me that it's best to face our problems rather than run from them. Running from problems almost guarantees we'll face them later at unexpected times. Just ask a certain relative of mine.
As a young girl, she ran behind the house to get away from an approaching skunk. Alas, she learned that a problem evaded is not a problem eliminated. Because as she rounded the far corner of the house, she encountered the same skunk. Running too fast to stop, she executed an artful leap right over the puzzled critter, who kept right on going his way.
That story has become part of the Miller family lore.
The second encounter happened as I was enjoying the camaraderie at the pavilion this evening. A fellow inmate was feeding the birds. He opened a Little Debbie snack and put some crumbs into his open hand. A lowly sparrow hopped onto his fingers and began to pluck morsels right off his hand. What struck me most was the look of great pleasure on the face of my fellow inmate as he fed that little bird a few feet from where I was sitting. It was a look full of tenderness, even love. That look of sublime pleasure reminded me that our Heavenly Father derives great pleasure in helping us, who are of "more value than many sparrows."
How it must grieve Him when we take our eyes off His super-abundant provisions and focus on our needs and problems. That's a sure way to sink down, as walking-on-the-water Peter would attest. Of course life is full of problems and we must face them (see skunk story above). But thank God, we can face them walking beside Him, with one hand in His and His peace in our hearts! (Isaiah 40:11b, Philippians 4:4-7)
Picture the look of pleasure on His face when we reach out to take of His provisions!
Thanks again to all of God's people for your love and prayers,
Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,
I'm sitting here at my bunk slicing off generous slabs of mozzarella cheese, piling it on saltine crackers. This, along with a peanut butter and jelly tortilla, plus a pack of mackerel and more saltines, was my supper. Oh, yes jalapenos also. With the alternative being "chicken spaghetti" over at the chow hall, I decided to have my own supper. Overall, the food isn't bad, but sometimes one wishes for more variety in the menu.
I already look forward to a hearty country breakfast of eggs, bacon, home fries and toast. That breakfast is now two months closer by the grace of God!
Since the beginning of my incarceration two months ago, I've received many, many cards and letters. While I can't seem to answer each one, please know that each is a treasure. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the outpouring of support in letters, finances and most of all, prayer. My family is so grateful also for all the support at their end. Our home church, Pilgrim Fellowship, has stood by our family in countless ways. May all of you Pilgrims, especially, be blessed!
God has been so good to me here. I've gotten to know quite a few of my fellow inmates by name. It's a huge blessing to find a place of belonging and fellowship, particularly among God's men. A group of about 15 men from both the protestant group and the messianic group meets once a week for prayer. These men are very sincere believers and this time of prayer (much of it silent prayer) is a huge blessing. If anyone has a prayer need you'd like for us to pray about, drop me a line and we can have these prayer warriors in here get to work. We've also started to team up in two's and pray around the track as we walk. That would be a great time to pray for your needs as well.
A friend from New York sent me transcripts of an interview with a Romanian Brother named Roman Braga who suffered 11 years in prison during the communist era, some of it in solitary confinement. He escaped to freedom he said, INSIDE the communist prison. "Those... who believed in God discovered for themselves that true freedom is inside, it's not outside. In solitary confinement I discovered communion with God, with Christ, in the interior, in prayer and conversation with God; true freedom. The communists could not control that!"
This brother experienced this reality: "If the SON sets you free, you will be free indeed." Can the SOUL who is truly united with Christ be imprisoned? No more than you can put Christ Himself in prison!
The other day while standing in line waiting for a door to be opened, I overheard a sad story. An inmate who had spent 42 years in the prison system was about to be released. About a year before his release date, he discovered he had inoperable cancer, and would soon die. He had nowhere to go on the outside. He begged the prison to allow him to stay and die there, the only place he knew. But the FOB couldn't help him. As he came to the day of his release he told everyone, "Watch the news! Watch the news!" Sure enough on the day of his release, there was a bulletin on the Richmond evening news. An old man who had just been released from Petersburg, was arrested for robbing a bank across the street from the bus station where prison staff had dropped him off some hours before. The news showed a stoop-shouldered elderly man being led away in shackles, on his way prison. He got his wish.
As my fellow inmate was telling this story, he gestured toward the cell in which this old man stayed just before his release-- about 20 feet from where I stood. As I pondered this tragic story, I saw a spiritual lesson.
One of the greatest tragedies in the world is when people return to the bondage of sin---and die there. Why do they go back? Maybe people go back to that prison because they like it, and it's the only life they know. But maybe they return because nobody on the outside cares enough to take them in.
Think about it.
Federal Correctional Center
MAY 8, 2016
First of all I thank God for my mother who taught me right and wrong and the fear of God. Second I thank Him for my Beloved, the mother of my children. Blessed be these women.
There was a lockdown the other evening. The next morning I found out what caused it. At another housing unit, a certain inmate was suspected to be in possession of a cell phone. The officers were after him, and he moved through the building, desperate to unload that phone somewhere. He ducked into my friend's cell (who was out at the moment) and tried to hide it in there. The officers tore the room apart in search of the phone, found the various pieces of it and took the culprit to the SHU. (Special Housing Unit, and you don't want to go there!) Owning a phone is a high level offense, near the same level as attempted escape and the unfortunate fellow could get up to a year extra time. Strangely, the man was only "thirty days from the door," meaning he was scheduled to be released in a month.
I thank God for the opportunity to love and forgive my fellow man. The other day I went to the chow hall for lunch with my laundry bag in my pocket. This is a very common practice among the inmates. You wolf down your lunch, and head right to the commissary for your weekly purchases before the lines get too long. The laundry bag is used as a shopping bag, and putting it into your pocket saves a few minutes of time because you don't have to go all the way back to your housing unit to get it. That day as I entered the chow hall, an officer asked noticed the bulge in my pocket. "What's in your pocket?" I pulled out the offending bag. To make a long story short, it was taken into custody by the officer, and I still haven't got it back, and it's given me a wonderful opportunity to turn a little irritation into love and forgiveness by God's grace. You can pray for the staff in here. They don't always have an easy job.
The Bible study the other evening was invigorating. The speaker has been here several times and is very engaging and sticks to the Word. However, his views about sickness and disease are somewhat different from mine. Three weeks ago, after the service, I brought him a question which he promised to answer. And the other night he remembered. He apparently spent a good bit of time researching the question. Because he answered it very thoroughly from the Scriptures In a very spirited way with the kind of relentless logic an attorney uses. (Which he is.) We then had a few exchanges in the Q & A session. I think the exchanges were very respectful, but we were not able to resolve all the differences. Afterward I went up to talk to him and his wife. Since they both seemed conservative people, I brought up the situation that brought me here. They both looked at me intently and suddenly there was a flash of recognition. They've been following the situation for a long time. "I've prayed for you many times!" he exclaimed. They were both very affirming and supportive and it was so encouraging to talk to people who know, understand and care. God is so good!
For about 8 days there hasn't been much to do on the landscape crew because of all the cool and rainy weather. But this week promises lots of work--for which I am very grateful. I was blessed to be asked by the landscape crew supervisor to start some seeds for the flower beds on the compound. The seeds they had planted all died. As I was sifting the potting soil the first time-- thinking about the fact that I actually get to work with soil, and seeds and flowers, it brought tears of joy. Thank you Lord! While not quite on the scale of Milmont, the zinnias, celosia, sunflowers and morning glories are growing well.
THE DEATH OF A DREAM.
Seven years ago, my wife and I came back from a visit to Ireland with a dream. By God's grace we would uproot our lives, and move with our family to the edge of Europe and help spread the Kingdom Vision with our brothers at Dunmore East. The possibility of raising our children in Ireland, obtaining Irish citizenship, and thereby citizenship in the E.U. was very attractive. I could imagine our descendants scattered across Europe, bringing Light and Truth in a place where the Kingdom Vision is hardly represented--while we lived out our old age in a cottage by the Irish Sea.
That dream seemed to have received it's final death blow the week before Christmas at a Cracker Barrel where a dear friend and I had just finished lunch. I received a call from my attorney who informed me we had just lost the appeal and I would need to serve my time.
The other day I was sitting under a tree in the compound here at FCC Petersburg. (Not a juniper tree--see Jonah!) A chainlink fence about 10-12 feet tall with razor wire at the top was off to my right. A double row of these fences goes all around the compound. A pickup truck is constantly circling the compound monitoring the perimeter.
As I sat there looking at that fence I realized THE DREAM is dead. It was a time of deep pain and crying out to God. The questions that came to my mind were; "What saith my Lord unto His Servant?" and "Lord what wilt thou have me to do?" What are you teaching me through the death of this deeply cherished dream? What should my dream be now?
The answer came from Bonheoffer's's "The Cost of Discipleship" which I am presently re-reading. In discussing the cost of individual discipleship, Bonheoffer makes the point that Jesus is our Mediator not only between God and man, but between man and man, and in fact the Mediator between us and everything else.
If we are to "hate" father and mother and brother and sister, and wife and children, yea and our own lives also, and if we are to love Him above everything, it means He stands between myself and all other people and between myself and the world too. If we wish to follow Him we can no longer relate directly to people and the world. He stands between my wife and I, my family, my church, my friends, my job, my nation, and my own interests and desires. He stands there teaching us how to respond to all things, all circumstances in such a way that accomplishes His Fathers will. He stands there waiting for us powerless ones to invite Him into every situation we face. Isn't this what it means to have Jesus as Lord, First in everything? Isn't this true discipleship? Isn't this the positive side of self-denial--the turning to Him ahead of self?
As I sat there under the tree thinking about my Dream, I realized that Jesus stands between us and our most Cherished Dreams too. Dreams realized and dreams un-realized. The broken, shattered dreams that fill us with heartache and confusion.
I realized that by the grave of perished dreams stands the Living Son of God. He beseeches us to gaze on Him with eyes of faith. "I am the Resurrection and the Life!" He declares. "Will you believe Me, and follow Me into the unknown? Will you make me your Dream?"
"Be Thou MY VISION, Oh Lord of my heart!
Naught be all else to me--save that THOU ART
Thou my best thought by day or by night
Waking or sleeping They Presence my light!
-St. Patrick of Ireland
Ken Miller 08464-082
Note: We need to pray for our dear Sister Lisa and her daughter. God will show us how.
April 20, 2016 Dear Brothers and Sisters, "Verily, Verily I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." (John 12:24-25) There is always an indefinite time between spiritual corn-planting and the harvest. If that time could somehow be compressed or removed and we could immediately see the glorious reward of "dying", wouldn't we all choose to give up our lives? But that's not how the universe works. "When the days were accomplished," Mary brought forth God's Son. "When the days are accomplished", our spiritual harvest will be gathered. It takes a process of time. Our problem is often spiritual short-sightedness-- in truth, a lack of faith--which results in the inability to "see" the fruit that will come from "hating our lives in this world." If we focus on the short-term inconvenience and pain of giving up our own desires and ambitions, we’ll likely draw back, forgetting that preserving our lives now means sure death later. May God give us a vision into the future harvest, a vision which will inform our decisions in the present. "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." It's hard to know what all I should write. So much has happened in the last two weeks or so. I've settled into somewhat of a routine, by God's grace. I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to a new cell 2 days ago. this meant leaving an 18-man dorm for a 4-man cell. I love the change. It's much quieter and much more peaceful. The vulgarity and profanity at the larger dorm was almost unbearable at times. The bunk I had was an upper bunk with springs. Depending how you roll around, the springs emit a sickening "crunch." One is always concerned about dropping pretzel crumbs or other undesirable material on the man below. Plus, with my length-challenged legs, I always had to strain to get myself up off a chair at the end of the bunk, up over the end rail, and onto the mattress. Getting down was even worse, especially in the early morning darkness while the men around me were still sleeping. Now, in the new cell it's much more convenient. While it's not the Ritz Carlton, I do have a bottom bunk which eliminates the need for advanced gymnastic skills. My bunk has a sturdy steel frame which means the man above me doesn't shake the whole bed as he moves around. The cell even has a tiny sink which is usable and a toilet which is not. My cell mates are Don, Luke and Adar. (Not their real names.) They have built up a reputation for keeping their cell "ship-shape." So much so that when it comes time for the bi-weekly inspection, the unit leaders often show the inspector this cell as a representative cell. So I have a high house-keeping standard to live up to. Even leaving your Bible lying on your well-made bed goes against protocol. I learned that the hard way already. But the guys are super nice and hardworking. Adar is on the cleaning crew for this unit and buffs the tile floor in the hallway every three days with windex. The floor in here SHINES. I'm sure this has helped propel ancient Richmond Hall to the top of the inspection list, a fact all of us are quite pleased about. Please pray that God would help me be a faithful representative of the invincible, irrepressible life of Christ, wherever He puts me in here. The other significant blessing: I was given a job on the landscape crew--the job I wanted. I started yesterday, and for the last two days actually managed to get some dirt under my fingernails again, as we cleaned up flowerbeds and trimmed shrubbery around the compound. The best part is being allowed to get outside into the sunshine and fresh air while doing something useful. Like every other aspect of prison life, one has to adapt to a different set of expectations. Let's just say, I know from personal experience now, that private enterprise is far more effective than state run systems! For every hour "worked" we might actually WORK for 10-15 minutes. Hopefully I will earn my pay, the grand sum of $20 monthly. The other big news this past week was the 36-hour power outage here at Petersburg Low. There is no back-up power. So tempers were fraying a bit by the time the power came back on. We were locked inside our building (Richmond Hall) during that time except when we went to get our meals and during a fire drill. For two days we ate peanut butter and jelly and bologna sandwiches because the kitchen was out too. Amazingly I still like peanut butter. The outage was reportedly caused by someone unthinkingly turning off a steam condensate return value, which shunted all the condensate from the massive steam system here into a basement enclosure, filling it with three feet of water and burning up a main transformer, which strangely, is still installed in that basement. I talked with one of the maintenance fellows who was on the steps starting down into the water to turn off that value. Suddenly, they heard popping electrical noises. "Stop!" yelled the supervisor. If they had gone in, the maintenance man told me, "I'd be lying in the morgue today." Praise the Lord for His protection over those men! I praise the Lord also, for all your care and prayers! Love in Christ, ken