July 17, 2019
Today is my 64th birthday and I’m not in the least bit discouraged or depressed. The Lord God Almighty has provided me with the best birthday gift imaginable.
I began my day, as usual, awakening between 7 and 7:30 am, walking downstairs to fill my “whirley” with hot water for my morning instant coffee, and then went to send Kathie my ritual good morning email. I had six emails by 7:30 this morning – two emails from Kathie telling me happy birthday, and an email from my sister Lois, my daughter Victoria, and one from Janet Stasulli of the 419 Fund, all telling me happy birthday. But these emails are not what I’m referring to. “E” got on the terminal next to mine and said good morning, and that he’s trying to “figure out” his girlfriend. I asked him, “What do you mean?” He accepted Christ not long after I arrived, and has been faithful never to miss a Bible study or prayer ever since. I’ve seen a remarkable change in him, thinking back on it.
“E” replied to me, “She’s become all ‘Christian-y.’ I talk to her on the phone, and she’s different. She doesn’t curse anymore. I’ve changed, and she’s changed. I’ve said I don’t want to be unequally yoked, and so she’s changed. Maybe my daughter will change too. It’s a really good thing.”
These few words made my heart leap for joy. Because I am beginning to see the multiplying effect I’m praying will happen through the lives of these men I have befriended. Who knows what God might do!
I got back to my cell, rejoicing in the Lord, and picked up “The Daily Bread” devotional, which I get from the chapel. Today’s Scripture was from II Corinthians 2:1-17, “But thanks to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and MANIFESTS THROUGH US THE SWEET AROMA OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM IN EVERY PLACE. FOR WE ARE A FRAGRANCE OF CHRIST TO GOD AMONG THOSE WHO ARE BEING SAVED AND AMONG THOSE WHO ARE PERISHING; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the Word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak Christ in the sight of God.”
This has been my prayer since I arrived in prison: that others would want what I have – the peace that surpasses all comprehension (Philippians 4:7).
The Holy Spirit then instantly reminded me of two other encounters I had yesterday, where God was subtly trying to tell me my time here at FCI Ashland is not for naught. The first was around 1:00 pm when I was walking the track in the rec yard with “Texas,” who’s been “dumping” on me about his significant anger problem and being constantly bothered by the numerous demons flying around this place. He’s angry because he says he doesn’t deserve to be in prison, nor do I, and that we are both here because of political vendettas. I always just listen to him but tell him when one gives his life to Christ, He will remove the anger and make him a new person. At one point he said, “You never get angry about anything, do you? Not even about having to be in this place?” I said, no, I know God has me here for a purpose, and I need to make the most of it. I used to have an anger problem when I was a young boy but realized when I became a teen that my anger was always getting me in trouble, and it was something I could not control. So, I told God it was something I couldn’t deal with and asked Him to take it away. And He did! This morning, “Texas” told me that he indeed asked Christ into his heart. He’s been telling me for weeks that God put us both here in this prison for him, so he can get his life right with God and turn it around.
Then I also remembered what one of the Christian brothers who is living in “C’s” unit told me at supper yesterday when I asked if “C” found out when he is leaving for the camp in Indiana. He told me it won’t be until August, but then he told me, “You know since ‘C’ moved back to R unit, I’ve seen such a big change in him spiritually!” “C” is another who has told me over and over again that God allowed me to come to prison so I could meet him and be friends with him for the rest of his life. The fact that this brother would tell me how changed “C” is now thrills my soul!
My current cellmate, “JB,” also just told me this week that God keeps bringing people in his path here in this prison he can learn from. He found out today he is leaving soon for a camp. I had prayed over him for that!
Today my class was canceled, so I went outside to do my 2 ½ mile fast-paced walk and ended up walking about 3 ½ miles with “J,” my former cellmate. He, too, reminded me today that God brought me here to this prison just for him! I said that’s what “Texas” keeps telling me, too. But he retorted, “Yeah, but I told you that first!” “J” is even fasting now two days a week!
So, I praise God today that despite the fact I sometimes get discouraged, apparently the sweet aroma of the Lord is manifesting itself through me to others around me and is even beginning to spread to others outside these prison fences. To that, I just praise and rejoice in the Lord. God has given me the greatest gift I could ever imagine – His sweet aroma manifesting itself through me!
To top it off, “C” made me a delicious cheesecake in celebration after chow tonight, and “J” gave me a leather cover he had made for my radio in hobby craft. They and a handful of other men, including “E,” sang happy birthday and we enjoyed the cake and fellowship. I had two pieces!
In His service,