The Prayer For Joy

(Presented September 2015 at the Protestant All-Faith Worship service)

We as Christians are known as peculiar people. I believe this is in part because of our response to adversity. (Titus 2:11-14) James tells us “to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials,” not because we are masochists who enjoy pain but because we know that “the testing of our faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2)

God told both the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah that the sorrow and mourning that the people of Isreal were experiencing would be replaced by joy and gladness. (Isaiah 51:11, Jeremiah 31:13) We will experience mourning, sorrow, crying, and pain while we are in this life. (Revelations 21:4) But Solomon wrote, “To everything there is a season. A time for every puirpose under heaven.” (Ecclisiates 3:1) Those struggles that we go through are only temporary and we must fix our eyes firmly on God.

Joy is not produced by the absence of conflict or struggle, rather it is what results from those trials when we understand them from God’s perspective, and when we experience His presence in the midst of the storm. (Isaiah 55:8-9, Daniel 3:25) King David rejoiced when God answered his prayers to rescue him from the hands of his enemies, “I will shout for joy,” he said, “and sing your praises for you have ransomed me.” (Psalms 71:33)

Joy is somthing we experience in spite of our circustances. It is a gift we receive when we stop trying to get it. It comes when we surrender fully to God and let His Holy Spirit work in us and through us. The Apostle Paul told the church at Corinth about the experience of the churches in Macedonia. How during a time of severe trial they experienced an overflowing joy that caused them to give generously, even though they were extremely poor. (2 Corinithians 8:2)

Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22) The fruit of the Spirit are not for our consumption. The fruit produced in our lives goes to feed others, so that the seed of God’s message may be planted in them.

Jesus told his disciples, “If you keep my commandments you will abide in My love… These things I have spoken to you that my joy remains in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:1011) Joy is the reward for odedience when we stay faithful and continue to trust God during adversity. However, when we sin, we disrupt our relationship with God and the fruit withers and dies. We must like King David confess our sin and seek God’s forgiveness. “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me…Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” (Psalms 51:10-12)

When King David wrote the 119th Psalm he was meditating on the value of scripture. He said, “Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.” (Psalms 199:11) The writer of Hebrews says that, “The Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit.” (Hebrews 4:12) That is why in the book of Nehemiah when Ezra the priest read the scriptures to those who had returned from captivity in Babylon, they wept. But Ezra told them, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10) We can prepare ourselves to face adversity by spending time in the Word. We draw strength from reading about how God has been faithful to those who came before us. We believe the promise that “He will never leave us or forsake us” in our times of adversity. (Hebrews 13:5)

Even without adversity we should be joyful. Isaiah said that “we should go out in joy and be led forth in peace.” (Isaiah 35:10) Even creation is filled with joy and if we won’t speak out the very rocks will cry out. (Luke 19:40) The psalmist said, “Shout with joy to God, all the earth!” (Psalms 66:1) “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad…Then all of the trees of the forest will sing for joy.” (Psalms 96:11-12) We are commanded to “tell of his works with songs of joy,” (Psalms 107:22) because “You, Oh Lord, have filled my heart with great joy.” (Psalms 4:7)

The Apostle Paul told the Thessalonicans to be “be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) When we realize all that God has done for us in the past, what he is doing for us in the present, and what he will do for us in the future how can a Christian not help but be joyful? “The Lord is my strength and shield I trust Him with all my heart. He helps me and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” (Psalms 28:7) No wonder King David was a man after God’s own heart.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew words for joy refer to gladness and mirth. The general usage was applied to the state of the mind in any pleasurable experience. In the Psalms it appears as a natural consequence of the individuals fellowship with God, who is the source of joy. In the New Testament, the Greek words for joy refer to exultation or delight.

Joy should not be confussed with happiness, which is an emotional state that like all feelings is highly influenced by our present experience. Joy is not an emotion, but a characteristic of the Christian life. It is a conscious response we make on a daily basis, made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us.

Lastly, when Christians live in right relationship with one another our encouragement and humble service can impart joy. Paul wrote to Philemon, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement because you brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” (Philemon 1:7) We can cause others to experience joy by “being like minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” (Philippians 2:2)

My prayer for you dear Brothers in Christ, is that you will be “filled with inexpressible and glorious joy as you receive the goal of your faith, which is the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

November 2019 Letter

(Excerpt from a letter)

Greetings Brother,

Mama says, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  With all the negativity going on in the world around us it is clear to me that people don’t listen to their mamas!  From the president on down shouting rude, derogatory, inflammatory rhetoric has become the norm.  From two-bit, tin pot dictators shouting “Death!” to their enemies to hate groups of every color and creed preaching doctrines based on imagined superiority or persecution to self-justify their acts of terror, the world has reached the brink of a new age.  An age where civility and reason no longer have the power to persuade, and arguments are won by the person with the loudest voice.  A world were lone gunmen strike without warning after posting diatribes on the internet; police kill unarmed suspects simply because they perceive every response as hostile; teachers are trained to carry guns and shoot to kill, even if the attacker is their own student; and candlelight vigils end in further tragedy.

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving.  A day of remembrance for an intrepid group who fled religious persecution in Europe to start a new life in the new world.  While we tend to focus on the feast, it was what led up to it that was important.  The Pilgrims were a religious sect of Christians that held different beliefs than the state sponsored church in England.  They spoke kindly when faced with insults.  They acted with dignity when faced with angry mobs.  They lived lives of simplicity in a complex society.  They were the victims of hate crimes, state sponsored terrorism, and socio-economic discrimination just because they wanted to live free in peace to worship God in their own way.  So, the Pilgrims chose to go to a land which few people had seen and of which little was known.   They were entering a new age.

An earlier attempt to carve out an outpost in the new world at Jamestown by others had mysteriously ended in failure, so they were heading into the great unknown.  The journey was difficult, and some did not survive.  All that was waiting for them was hard-work, deprivation, and unimaginable suffering.  The land was full of dangers and the process of building a community in the wilderness was difficult.  If it wasn’t for the fact that they made friends with the natives of the area they wouldn’t have survived.  Through it all they held strongly to their faith in God.  They trusted Him for their provisions and did not curse Him when another person died.  After their first successful harvest they chose to give thanks to God.  They didn’t claim victory in God’s name.  They didn’t pat themselves on the back and congratulate each other for a job well done.  They humbly acknowledged that God was faithful and had supplied what they needed to live.

As Christians living in this era, we don’t have a new world that we can travel to so we can start over.  Until Christ returns to lead us home, we must live in this world.  In his high priestly prayer Jesus prayed:

“My Prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be sanctified.  My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

John 15:15-21

The writer of Hebrews said our focus in this world must be to run the race of life with patient endurance, to keep our eyes on the prize (Hebrews 12:1).  The Apostle Paul described the importance of having self-discipline in order to win and not be disqualified (2 Timothy 4, 1 Corinthians 9).  The Apostle Peter wrote to the members of the early church encouraging them to be like-minded, sympathetic; to love one another; to be compassionate and humble; to not repay evil for evil or insult with insult, instead repaying evil with blessings (1 Peter 3).  To be a “peculiar people” using the old King James version of 1 Peter 2:9.  As Christians we are called to be the modern-day Pilgrims living a lifestyle that distinguishes us from the society around us.  We are to be strangers living in a strange land.

Our speech is one area where we can distinguish ourselves from the world.  James the brother of Jesus cautioned about the power of the tongue, noting that praises to God and curses to man can’t both come out of our mouths (James 3).  We must speak the truth in love to everyone and use words to build up not tear down others.  Ephesians 5:19-20 says that we are to “speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  We are to create a soundtrack of praise to accompany our lives.

During Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem the Pharisees asked Jesus to silence his disciples and the others who were shouting “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” But Jesus replied, “if they keep quiet even the rocks will cry out” (Luke 19:37-40).  As Christians it is our role, our responsibility, our mission in life to give praise to God the Father and Jesus Christ his son.  We need to acknowledge that everything comes from God, even in the midst of our darkest circumstances.  Sitting in jail Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns at midnight, and then God moved in a mighty way not only saving them from their situation but also saved the souls of the jailer and his entire family (Acts 16:25-34).  It was because of experiences like this that Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  You never know who might be listening to your testimony of praise and the effect it will have on them. 

In Psalms 106:1 it says, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, and his love endures forever.” This is what the Pilgrims did that first Thanksgiving.  They declared a day to acknowledge what God had done for them, giving thanks for the harvest, their religious freedom, and their lives.  Here we are 378 years later commemorating that first Thanksgiving and adding our voices to theirs, praising God for what He has done for us.  

You are in my thoughts and prayers. You are not forgotten. Your Brother in Christ.

January 2015 Testimony

(Presented at the Protestant All-Faith worship service)

They say that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I tutor for the GED program and on several occasions my students have introduced me to their people in the visiting room as “the guy who’s helping them get their GED.” Now I’m proud of that because they recognize that I want them to succeed, but that is nothing compared to what happened to me recently.

I’ve been walking the yard with a guy who introduces me to his home boys as “the guy who helped him get through the death of his mother.” We used to lock together in the same cube over on the east side of the prison and he knows that I’m a Christian. Not because I preach at him but because I lived my Christianity in front of him. And when his mother died I made myself available to him immediately. I didn’t have to say much, but rather walked the yard in silence with him and listened, like Job’s friends who were of the most comfort when they sat and mourned with him in silence.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:13-16 that we are to be salt and light. We are going to have an impact on those around us when we make ourselves available and show others that same love of God that we ourselves have experienced. Francis of Assisi said that “we are to preach the gospel and if necessary use words.” Our actions really do speak louder than words. My friend is not a Christian yet, but I’ve sown seeds into his life that one day may bear fruit. I take every opportunity I can to encourage him, watering the seed and trusting in the Lord of the harvest.

Update November 2019: I’m still in contact with my friend. We are both trying to put our prison experience behind us and move on with our lives. We are both off parole now and have successfully transitioned back into society. We are both working and have family obligations. The first time we met in the free world we hugged, drank coffee and spoke for several hours. He shared with me that during our time in prison I was responsible for helping him keep his cool on several occasions when his emotions were running high which kept him from busting several guys heads who were getting under his skin. He’s a big guy who can hold his own but a fighting ticket would have cost him his parole, elevated his detention level and would have sent his life in a totally different direction. He told me about his experience going to his mother’s grave site the first time after he got out, eight months after her passing. His mother was a believer and he is convinced that she is looking down from heaven and watching over him. At the end of our get together I gave him my pastor’s business card and told him that if he ever needed to talk to a clergyman, I highly recommended this guy. (I’ve quoted his opening sermon stories several times in my news letters.)

Before I went to prison I had difficulty expressing empathy, situations involving death made me uncomfortable and I was always at a loss for words. In a place where men purposefully toughen their hearts and shedding tears is a sign of weakness God worked in me to soften my heart, gave me peace in the midst of the storm, and loosened my tongue and my pen.

Farewell Address to the Church

(Presented at the Protestant All-Faith Worship Service at STF in October 2016)

I’ll be going home on Tuesday, so I wanted to take one last opportunity before I leave to encourage you my Brothers in Christ.

God is faithful, He “will never leave you or forsake you” (James 1:5). I have learned this lesson well during the last 8 years. I have been in some tough spots and have been roughed up a couple of times, but I was protected from any lasting harm. From these experiences I have also learned that “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). In every case I have grown closer to God, stronger both spiritually and emotionally, so I can say that “I consider it pure joy when I face trials of different kinds, because I know that the testing of my faith has developed perseverance” (James 1:3). And God will do the same for you.

In order to succeed, I have learned to make spending time alone with God my number one priority. I read and study the Word every day. Through it God has revealed to me my purpose and how I can live a victorious Christian life (Psalms 119:105; James 1:25), so that I can testify that “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Meditate on God’s Word, allow it to marinate your heart and you will be “like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither” (Psalms 1:3). Through meditation on Scripture I have seen myself in God’s mirror.

Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is like breathing, when you stop you die. Pray about everything (Philipians 4:6): your meals, your cubemates, your family and friends, your enemies, your future and yourself. Make prayer the first thing you do and not your last resort (James 5:13). And if you aren’t sure how to get started, start with “Help!” and end with “Thank you Jesus.” And know that the Holy Spirit that dwells inside you will be praying on your behalf (Romans 8:26-27). Prayer has been my lifeline, a way to speak with the one who knows me better than I know myself.

As I leave here I am taking my Bible and my beliefs with me. I know that these are the only true source of rehabilitation. No MDOC program can transform you the way God can when you allow Him to renew your mind (Romans 12:2). In closing I leave you with the words of the Apostle Paul from II Corinthians 3:11, “Finally Brothers, goodbye. Aim for perfection, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

Restoration and Renewal Testimony

(My personal testimony presented to my Keryx Brothers shortly before I was paroled by the MDOC in 2016.)

My name is Tim and I attended Keryx 10 here at STF and I sat at the table of Timothy.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.”

John 3:16-17

God reached out to me, to each one of us, in an act of sacrifice beyond our comprehension, to save us from ourselves and our self-destructive acts of sin. A free gift with no strings attached, but He knew that if we accepted it our lives would never be the same.

I gave my life to Christ when I was a teenager at an alter call at the end of a Christian music concert. Once I became a Christian God promised that “He would never leave me nor forsake me” (Deuteronomy 31:6), that He would be my Shepard if I would be His sheep (John 10). But I was young and immature, and I failed to develop and grow in my faith, so in the course of time I wandered away as sheep are prone to do (Isaiah 53:6).

Through a series of bad life choices I found myself in a dark place, cut off from everything and everyone I knew. But God was faithful and found me in my cell at the county jail. He reminded me how much He loved me and I renewed my vow and earnestly repented. For the first time in years tears flowed as I poured my heart out to God, surrendering every area of my life, confessing every sinful habit and committing for faithfully serve Him.

One of the first Bible verses God gave me to memorize was Psalms 51:10-12, and for the last 8 years I have meditated daily on this prayer of King David:

“Create in my a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast (right) spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me by your generous Spirit.”

Psalms 51:10-12

This passage clearly identified for me that after my act of confession and repentance it was God who must act to bring restoration and renewal to our relationship. It wasn’t something that I could do, because only God has the power to make things new (Revelations 21:5).

According to Webster to restore something is to put it back in its former position. And to renew means to make new again, to start over. Only God could restore that feeling I had first experienced at the alter call so many years ago. Now I have that experience of Joy in my heart every day. God has given me a fresh start, a clean slate, a new spirit within me. He is growing my faith and continues to reveal Himself to me in His Word and miraculous works on my behalf.

I have been transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). And as a result God has given me new strength (Isaiah 42:31), a new attitude (Ephesians 4:23), and a new sense of purpose (Jeremiah 29:10).

Not only has He worked in me, but He has worked through me to share God’s love with others, to serve the church, and to encourage and disciple my younger Brothers in the faith. God has also been restoring my relationship with my family, and this prodigal son will be going home Tuesday. I can’t have back the life I had before and don’t want it if I could. Instead I am looking forward to my new life in Christ, and the plans He has for me.

In closing, my prayer for you my Keryx Brothers is:

“Do not lose heart. Even though your outward man is perishing, your inward man is being renewed day by day: for the light affliction you are dealing with will last but for a moment and is working for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Do not look at the things which are seen, rather at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18


(An original poem I wrote in prison based on the promises of Scripture and inspired by reading “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren in April 2016)

Until I realized I couldn't do it on my own,
God could do nothing for me.
Until I asked for direction,
God couldn't show me the way.
Until I confessed my ignorance,
God couldn't teach me.
Until I laid down my burden,
God couldn't carry it for me.
Until I searched for Him,
God couldn't reveal Himself to me.
Until I died to self,
God couldn't bring me to life.
Until I emptied myself,
God couldn't fill me.
Until I surrendered,
God couldn't give me victory.
Until I submitted to His authority,
God couldn't free me from my bondage to sin.
Until I hungered and thirsted for righteousness,
God couldn't satisfy my appetite.
Until I obeyed like a child,
God couldn't treat me like a son.
Until I admitted my weakness,
God couldn't strengthen me.
Until I walked by faith,
God couldn't prepare me to run the race.
Until I acknowledged my purpose,
God couldn't use me.

Christian Community

(A talk presented to my Keryx Brothers in 2016)

Since my Keryx weekend in 2014, in addition to my faithful attendance at church and the weekly Keryx grouping I have read and studied about what it means to live in Christian community. So as my time draws near for me to go home I believe it was by divine appointment that I’ve been asked to present this talk summary and what it means to me.

Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book “Life Together” had a lot to say about how we should live together in Christian community. I would like to bring out a few points from the book that are especially true for us here in prison and how it relates to Keryx.

First, “we should not take for granted the privilege we have of openly living among other Christians. Visible fellowship is a blessing that not all of our Brothers and Sisters around the world get to enjoy. The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” When we come together on Sunday nights for Keryx how many times have you been uplifted by the worship music, a testimony, or simply the enthusiastic greeting of a Brother? I know I have.

Secondly, “we need to recognize that as Christians we need other Christians in our lives to speak God’s Word into us.” We need our Brothers when we become uncertain and discouraged to speak God’s Word into us to provide certainty and courage. In our Keryx small groupings as we share our Christian walk together we have the opportunity to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep. To encourage others and be encouraged ourselves.

Third, we realize that “in a Christian community each individual is an indispensable link in the chain. Not only do the weak need the strong, but also the strong can not exist without the weak. As a body we are only as strong as our weakest members. Therefore we must do all that we can to strengthen all our members.” Keryx creates a unique opportunity for us to get to know one another for who we are in Christ and how we can best serve each other in brotherly love.

Fourth, Christian community requires forgiveness. “We must forgive each other on a daily basis and it occurs without words as we pray in intercession for one another.” C.S. Lewis once said that “to believe in the forgiveness of sin is not so easy as I thought. Real belief in it is the sort of thing that very easily slips away if we don’t keep polishing up on it.” We close every Keryx meeting with the Lord’s Prayer, reciting the words “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Reminding us forgiveness is not a natural action but the key to working out our salvation.

Fifth, in the Christian community, “thankfulness is just what it is anywhere else in the Christian life. Only he who gives thanks for little recieves the big things. We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things?”

“If we do not give thanks daily for Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measures and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” Like many of you I’ve been tempted to quit Keryx, but I stuck it out, got involved and worked to make our community a better place. I thank God daily for what we’ve got, confident that the best is yet to come.

And finally, “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. We are summoned from the outset to combine as creatures with our Chreator, as mortals, with the Immortal, as redeemed sinners with the sinless Redeemer. His presence, the interaction between Him and us, must always be the overwhelming dominate factor in the life we are to live in the body.”

Romans 12:12-14 says, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts: and though all its part are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one spirit into one body, and were given the one Spirit to drink.”

Keryx provides us with a unique opportunity to live life in Christian community. To be the hands and feet of Jesus, ministering to one another and witnessing to the lost and wounded souls on this compound. Individually our lights may not seem like much shinning into the darkness that surrounds us, however, when we come together we are like a city on a hill that can not and will not be hidden.

The Sherpa’s Perspective

I have previously described the Keryx weekend as a mountain top experience, and having worked as a member of the Inside team I now have a sherpa’s perspective. Sherpa is actually the name of an ethnic group of people who live in the mountains of Nepal, central Asia and work as porters for mountain climbing expeditions in the Himalayas.

The Outside team members are the mountaineering guides who have dedicated their lives to leading candidates up the mountain. They lead the expedition from the base camp to the summit, instructing the candidates and encouraging them every step of the way. Their vision, planning and experience make this adventure possible.

The Inside team members are the sherpa’s. We’ve been to the mountain top before and it changed our lives. Now we have made the choice to serve, to give back in appreciation to the mountaineering guides. Enthusiasm from our own mountain top experience has caused us to invite our friends, the candidates, to experience what we’ve experienced.

Our role is to assist at the direction of the guides, taking care of the routine tasks that make the adventure possible for others. Cooking, cleaning, running messages, entertaining; all the details of camp life that go on behind the scene. I’m not saying we’re indespensible, but the journey goes smoother since many hands make light work.

The Candidates can’t make this journey without their guides or their sherpas. They don’t have the experience, knowledge, or strength to climb the mountain safely or carry the necessary supplies to reach the summit, it requires a team effort. No one climbs Mt. Everest alone, but each person’s experience is unique.

The view from the top of the mountain reveals the beauty of God’s creation. Looking down from the top, everything becomes clear. The world takes on new grandure. Now that you have a new perspective you’ll never look at things the same.

It has been a privilege to share this view with those who are no longer candidates, but rather, Brothers. We share something in common. We accepted the invitation, we made the journey, we learned from our guides, and we have been changed.

We are grateful to our guides and will now join them and our new Brothers to meet weekly to share about what we’ve learned, to continue the journey along the lowland paths, encouraging one another, and looking forward to the next expedition.

In the prisons where Keryx is active, the 3-day spiritual formation weekends are held twice a year. After completing the weekend, the candidates are invited to join the 4th day meetings. Once a week Keryx members gather together with outside volunteers for a time of worship and small group meetings. Once a month there is an Ultreya, a special meeting with an extended praise and worship time and a program with prayers and testimonies, typically attended by more of the outside volunteers and their spouses.

The newest Keryx members are encouraged to participate on the Inside team for the next spiritual formation weekend. Keryx provides an ecumenical environment where men from different religious traditions meet to strengthen and encourage one another in the faith. Keryx is open to everyone regardless of religious affiliation, however it is distinctively Christian.

During the Keryx weekend the Inside team works at the direction of the Outside team to provide a number of services including: food servers and kitchen workers, musicians and sound technicians, porters, Palanca and Prayer team members. Members that are not actively working the weekend are invited to join a Prayer Vigil where people from around the world cover the event in prayer 24/3.

As an Inside volunteer I worked as a sound technician twice and in the Prayer room once. Running sound allowed me to relive my own weekend experience as the same words were repeated, giving me chills at times as the power of the Holy Spirit was active in the room. Watching men raising their hands in worship, bowing their heads in prayer, and crying as the emotion was expressed was humbling. Listening as words of encouragement, testimonies, and praise were spoken by those leading and those following was empowering.

My weekend in the Prayer room gave me a totally different perspective. In the Prayer room Inside and Outside volunteers prayed for whatever was going on in the hall. We prayed for the speakers, the listeners, and the workers. On each table in the hall were pieces of paper and the attendies were encouraged to submit prayer requests, which we then prayed over individually. Some were simple requests or words of thanksgiving and praise. Some were heartfelt pleas for healing on the behalf of family and friends. Some were heartbreaking cries for help to restore relationships or intervention in situations you couldn’t possibly imagine. Some were prayers of salvation or forgiveness of sin. All were genuine.

They say that prayer changes the one who prays, and I was certainly changed as I lifted up requests from people I did and sometimes did not know. I added my voice to the choir of “Amens” as others took turns lifting up these faith-filled, hopeful, and urgent requests before the Throne of Grace of the Almighty God.

I can tell you from hearing the testimonies of the Outside volunteers that they experienced the same life changing power that I did as an Inside volunteer. In fact many of the Outside volunteers have served in Keryx for 10, 20 or more years across multiple prisons around the state. They don’t keep coming back because of the food, the accomodations or the scenery; rather they come both humbly and boldly to share the Gospel with those who need it. The have responded to a call on their lives to participate in the work of the church serving the “least of these” both the lost and those who have found the light.

Mountain Top Experience

A mountain top experience is a time in your life when you experienced God in a deeply profound and meaningful way. A time when you felt closer to God than any other time in your life. It is the pinnical of both emotional and spiritual awareness. It is a life altering encounter with the Almighty. While the euphoria of the emotional component made fade over time, the power of the spiritual component should grow and increase.

The mountain top is not the culmination of the journey, but is in many ways the starting point of the next. You can’t live your life on the mountain top, as much as you would like to. Life is really lived out on the hills, valleys, and plains.

They say that lightning never strikes the same place, in the same way twice but mountain tops are a frequent target. We need to take the energy we absorbed on the mountain top and channel it into action. This may be to prune away the old dead parts of our lives and burn them up. It may be in stepping out in obedience to follow a call into ministry. Or it may be to return to our daily lives with renewed purpose and vigor.

Mountain top experiences are something that every Christian has at least once in their lives, when they are born again. But God wants us to continually seek him and when we do we will continue to have new mountain top experiences. Each one a unique and personal encounter with the living God, who loves us and wants our undivided attention, so that we can clearly hear the message He has especially prepared for us.

I wrote this meditation after I participated in a Keryx spiritual formation weekend while I was incarcerated in the MDOC.  This is a three-day short course in Christianity modeled after the Cursillos in Christianity.

Cursillos in Christianity (Spanish: Cursillos de Cristiandad, “Short courses of Christianity”) is an apostolic movement of the Roman Catholic Church. It was founded in Majorca, Spain, by a group of laymen in 1944, while they were refining a technique to train pilgrimage Christian leaders.

Cursillo is the original three-day movement, and has since been licensed for use by several mainline Christian denominations, some of which have retained the trademarked “Cursillo” name, while others have modified its talks/methods and given it a different name. In the United States, Cursillo is a registered trademark of the National Cursillo Center in Jarrell, Texas.

The Cursillo focuses on showing Christian laypeople how to become effective Christian leaders over the course of a three-day weekend. The weekend includes fifteen talks, called rollos, which are given by priests and by laypeople. The major emphasis of the weekend is to ask participants to take what they have learned back into the world, on what is known as the “fourth day.” The method stresses personal spiritual development, as accelerated by weekly group reunions after the initial weekend.

Today, Cursillo is a worldwide movement with centers in nearly all South and Central American countries, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Austria, Australia, New Zealand Aotearoa, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and in several African countries. The movement is recognized by the Holy See as member of the International Catholic Organizations of the Pontifical Council for the Laity in Rome.

This retreat is also used by Episcopalian/Anglican Cursillo, Presbyterian Cursillo/Pilgrimage, Lutheran Via de Cristo, Mennonite Way of Christ and various interdenominational communities as Tres Días.

Analogous retreats: The Cursillo method is used by ACTS, Encounter, Antioch, Search, Awakening (college students), Cum Christo, DeColores (adult ecumenical), the Great Banquet, Happening, The Journey (United Church of Christ), Kairos Prison Ministry, Kairos (for older teenagers), Emmaus in Connecticut (for high school age teens), Gennesaret (for those living with a serious illness), Koinonia, Lamplighter Ministries, Light of Love, LOGOS (Love Of God, Others, and Self) (Lutheran teen), Teens Encounter Christ (teen ecumenical), Residents Encounter Christ (REC) (a jail/prison ministry), Tres Dias, Unidos en Cristo, Via de Cristo (Lutheran Adult), Chrysalis Flight (Methodist Youth), Walk to Emmaus (Methodist Adult), The Walk with Christ (interdenominational), Anglican 4th Day (Anglican Adult), The Way of Christ (Canadian Lutheran adult), Tres Arroyos (Charismatic Episcopal Church). and Journey to Damascus (Catholic hosted Ecumenical with weekly reunion groups for alumni) in the Corpus Christi, Houston, and Austin, Texas, areas.


August 2016 Letter

(Excerpt from a letter)


As you leave prison know that you don’t go out in the same condition as you came in. According to 2 Corinthians 5:7, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” Also know that you don’t go alone. Hebrews 13:5-6 reminds us that God has promised that “He will never leave you nor forsake you. So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper: I will not fear. What can man do to us?'”

In addition to God watching over you, Jesus interceding for you at the right hand of the throne, and the Holy Spirit dwelling inside you, you have your Brothers in Christ rooting for you. Know that you are never alone or far from our thoughts, no matter how may miles away you travel.

No matter what labels or names man may call you, the only name you answer to is “child of God.” Claim the words that the Lord spoke to the prophet in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you not to harm you; to give you hope and a future.”

It has been both an honor and my solemn responsibility to tutor you in school, mentor you in our shared faith, and to call you friend. I have every confidence that you will complete your education and accomplish anything else you set your mind to. Jesus said in Mark 9:23, “all things are possible to him who believes.”

Remember the lessons I have taught you: study hard, take notes, and share your new found knowledge with others. Keep asking the questions: Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why. Wherever you go make sure to seek out a mature Brother in Christ to mentor and befriend you. Don’t be afraid to admit your weaknesses. Remember the words the Lord spoke to the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

Until we meet again, whether it be in this life or the next. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling. And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.”

Your Brother in Christ.