Greetings Dear Friends,
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the prayers offered up for my family and I this past year. And thank you for all the cards and letters. I wish it were possible to answer every one of them! If you didn't get a reply from me, I hope you can take this as a personal "Thank You!" I get so much mail at this time of year it's almost embarrassing. Many of my fellow inmates get little or no mail. So when I carry my stack back to the cell I try to hide it. (I'm not trying to discourage you from writing, keep the mail coming!)
This is Christmas Day, 2017. I'm sitting here at my favorite spot at the end of the hallway in Richmond Hall, right beside a steam pipe. The concrete floor I'm sitting on must have a pipe under it too, because the floor is nice and toasty. A ventilation fan is roaring just a few feet away, affording me the privacy of singing out loud or praying.
When I first got here this morning I was feeling rather gloomy.
I'm still here.
Last summer we found out I was supposed to go to a halfway house on Dec. 15 and be sent home on home confinement the same day or the next. I was ecstatic!
But I'm still here.
It was a bitter pill when I found out on November 1 that my halfway house was canceled due to budget cuts. We then went to a lot of trouble to apply for release straight from prison under an alternative home confinement program. Many people have been praying about this.
Nothing's happened. I most certainly am still here at FCC Petersburg, on Christmas Day, 2017.
Sorry, dear friends! It appears your prayers weren't answered.
I admit some tears were shed into my pillow one night.
Or... were our prayers answered? Is it O.K. with us to get a "No" from God? What is evidence of strong faith? Getting what we prayed for? When our prayers aren't answered in the way we wish, can we still be happy in God? Isn't that evidence of strong faith too?
I admit, it's been tough. I'd rather not stay here a single minute longer than needed!
As I sat beside that steam pipe this morning trying to nurse my rather gloomy faith, I thought of that wonderful hymn portraying Jesus' incarnation:
Thou didst leave thy Throne and Thy Kingly Crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me.
But in Bethlehem's home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
"Oh Come to my heart Lord Jesus!
There is room in my heart for Thee!"
I realized that once again I had slipped into the all too common fault of focusing on circumstances instead of on Jesus. This world IS INDEED a gloomy place without God.
OH COME TO MY HEART LORD JESUS, THERE IS ROOM IN MY HEART FOR THEE!
Sitting there with my back to the prison wall, I realized I needed to claim the promise of Revelation 3:20 once again. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with Me."
Years ago, I learned this verse is not only for the sinner turning his life over to the Savior for the first time. The context indicates this promise is for believers who need a change of focus.
This promise is for those who are lonely and in need of a Friend. For those who are broken and weary of life. For those who are in various kinds of prisons.
In all my 52 years, there has never been greater joy than this experience of fellowship with Jesus the Messiah. We all know the pleasure of sitting down to a good meal with a dear friend.
This is the Meal of Meals with the Friend of Friends. It's a most delightful meal of Nourishing Milk and Living Bread and the best kind of Wine. And it's all Free. (Isaiah 55:1-2)
This Fellowship Meal "Brings Good News to the poor; heals the brokenhearted, deliverance to the captives, recovery of sight for the blind, and opening of the prison to those that are bound." (Isaiah 61:1-2, Luke 4:18-19)
"Hey," I thought to myself, "I'm not in prison on this Christmas morning, I'm free!!" And I remembered that years ago I had given up my freedom to Christ. This means the Federal Government couldn't take from me what I had already given away.
THIS CHRISTMAS MORNING, I'M OUTA HERE! I'M FREE! If the Son makes us free, we are free indeed!
Jesus is the ultimate Psychologist. And He makes house calls anywhere in the world. if we answer to His knock, He comes in. He mends our broken hearts, and helps us sort through the shattered dreams of our lives. He pours healing balm on our disappointments. He opens our blind eyes allowing us to see things we've never seen before. He delivers us from our prisons, the things that bind us.
His Living presence is better than getting what I want. I would a thousand times rather be in here with His peaceful, loving presence than out there without Him.
"This is the Year of the Lord's Favor!" Jesus declared in that synagogue many years ago. With that He ushered in the Year of Jubilee when everyone's debts are canceled and the slaves are set free.
This is the Good News of Christmas.
Together, on this Christmas day, let us throw open the doors of our hearts to Him. THERE IS ROOM IN OUR HEARTS FOR THEE!
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 1000
Petersburg, VA 23804
Christmas Day, 2017