Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,
This week's cooler weather has been a huge blessing. At the end of July, we experienced what fellow inmates have been warning me about almost since day one---the hot, humid Petersburg summer. We have no air conditioning in the housing units, except for the TV rooms and I don't go there. Indeed the dire predictions weren't far off the mark. On at least one day the heat index reached 110 degrees. Even the outdoor rec yard was shut down. At midnight the temperature in our unit was 94. By morning, it had dropped to a "bone-chilling" 89.
What did Jesus say it costs to follow Him? "...He that forsaketh not all that hath cannot be my disciple." In this stunning declaration, Jesus confronts us with an exchange that must be made: "Give up everything in your life in exchange for Me." What kind of exchange is that? Is it reasonable?
I propose it IS reasonable, the most reasonable thing in the world--provided we have a proper grasp of REALITY.
Let's start with people, those dearest to us-- father, mother, wife, husband, children, "yea and our own lives also."
Reality check: We can't hang onto anyone. The dearest person on earth to me can be taken away in a heartbeat. My own life is fragile, like a vapor, or like grass which is growing in the morning, withering by afternoon.
What about other things considered to be important: possessions, wealth, power, pleasure, fame? Is it reasonable to exchange these for Christ?
Reality check: Everything in the above list is visible, tangible, enjoyable---and extremely short-lived. Nothing lasts.
"He calls for me to leave all for His sake
Lands, houses, family, loves--
But His call is to leave what is only
an ILLUSION of security." (Martha Kilpatrick in "Adoration")
Nothing is truly secure, except one thing--the thing Mary had. "One thing is needful," Jesus said, "and Mary has chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her."
In a world of empty promises, delusionary dreams, transient relationships, we have a Rock that can't be taken away.
Tears filled my eyes recently when a young boy sent me a card with these words scrawled on the inside:
Oft upon the Rock I stand
Faint of heart and weak of knee
But the Blessed Rock of Ages
Never trembles under me.
Those who've found the Rock testify that yes, to leave all in exchange for that Rock is a reasonable option; in fact, it's the only option.
This is good for me to remember in right now. My family and I are in another period of uncertainty. I'm being called by the U.S. Attorney's office in Buffalo, N.Y. to prepare to testify at the trial of a fellow believer also charged in the case. Three years ago I was found in civil contempt for not testifying, and jailed for 40 days The prosecutor has made it clear that refusal to testify this time could mean substantial time added to my present 27-month sentence.
Please pray for wisdom and grace as I face these decisions.
In the meantime, life here at Petersburg has settled into a rhythm. Your prayers have helped my family and me so very much.
I meet men of all backgrounds. The other day I was introduced to "Fidel" from Cuba. Another gentleman of Eastern European descent said Mother Theresa was his great-great aunt. Thank you for your prayers for these men and all of us poor sinners here.
God gives us many wonderful glimpses into His goodness. A special blessing has been extra time to observe the bees and butterflies at work among the flowers we planted on the compound and watching our giant sunflowers grow to 11-12 feet. (I've never before paid this much attention to the common sunflower!)
In several places on the prison compound, petunias are growing up through the grass in areas where new soil was hauled in last year. I scavenged a bunch of them and trialed some in a bed. They look like Wave Petunias. "Thank you Lord, they're just what I was wishing for!" Hopefully we can collect seed (forgive me, Pan American Seed--patent owner) and plant them around the compound next year.
I've recently discovered another one of life's simple blessings. A heaping teaspoon each of Maxwell House instant coffee, cocoa powder, coffee creamer and a packet of sweetener stirred in with 3-4 oz of hot water from our 205 degree hot water dispenser topped the rest of the way with ice from the ice dispenser makes a mocha worth comparing to anything from Starbucks. I must confess it's become a daily habit.
As you can see, my life here isn't so difficult.
I'm reading through the Martyrs Mirror right now and am almost ashamed at how nice I have it compared to people in prison back then and many around the world right now.
On pg. 570-571 there's a touching account of a young man Algerius, who was executed for his faith by being scalded with hot oil, then burned to ashes at the stake. From his dismal prison dungeon he wrote a letter to his fellow brethren before he died. He testified of the unspeakable joy Christ brought to him in that terrible place. He closed the letter with: "Written in the most delightful pleasure garden of the prison, called Leonia, the 12th of July, A.D. 1557.
May the Christ he died for
The Christ we live for!
Kenneth L Miller 08464-082
Federal Correctional Complex
P.O. Box 1000
Petersburg, VA 23804