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Monday, June 8, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.,

I checked in at the front desk--my identification papers approved, my car keys passed in, my tag given me to wear when walking down the halls.

"It is a pleasant start," I thought. So it continued when meeting other personnel.

Then it was a matter of waiting at those electronically controlled doors.

Finally, I came upon a happy woman seated in a small office. Out her cubicle windows she could see in all directions, even around corners with help from surveillance cameras.

"How's it going?"

"It's going ok!" she responded cheerfully.

I made my way into a small room where there were copies of the Big Book, some hymnals, and various translations of the Bible. Someone had scrawled on the board: "God is love."

Chairs didn't match; but that didn't matter. There was a table for resting a book or two. There were a couple of windows that welcomed the morning's sun.

I waited. And I waited some more.

Then finally my friend appeared--head bowed, shoulders stooped.

"Not having a very good day?" I inquired.

No answer at first.

"I'm dealing with a lot of problems right now. One has to do with another inmate."

Ooops. Personality conflicts?

"Did you make it to Bible study last week?"

"Yeah. And the week before that."


Conversation wandered back and forth. Slowly John began to brighten up a bit.

"Are you praying and reading your Bible as we talked about?" I asked.

"I'm trying. Some days are better than others. And I go to the services, too. There is one group that comes in here where the singing is really lively. I never miss when they come in here."

So we continued.

Talk centered on family (not close to my friend; some hostile, in fact), job possibilities upon his release (dreams are highly spun; practicality awaits), God (sometimes feeling near, sometimes not), plans for going faithfully to AA meetings upon release (determined). . .

"I have some Bible passages I want to share with you. I think they fit what's going on in your life," I offered.

We read some Psalms together--specifically 37, 91 and 27.

"These are vitamin tablets for your spirit," I explained. "Read them often, in small doses, throughout each day until they kick in."

There sat before me a very complicated personality. (Yet, aren't we all?) He had done some really nasty things? (But then again, haven't we all?) His future was unpredictable? (Of course, the same could be said for most of us.)

"You have half your life ahead of you," I pointed out. "With God, you can be disciplined to create a whole new 'you.' 'In Christ, we are new creatures. . .' That's the key--leaning on the Lord all the way home."

"I know," John responded with a deep sigh.

Would he make it? Time would tell.

In the meantime, I counted it a privilege to be his friend.

Jesus said, "You visited me in prison. . .As you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto me."

Sitting alongside John, I was seated alongside Jesus. What an honor.

As I left Maine Correctional Center / Windham, I smelled spring's freedom all around me. One day, John would do the same.

In the meantime, he counted on a Christian friend or two to draw close to his heart in hope.

Maine's Lakes Region is replete with singing firesides, boating thrills, flowering gardens and evening parties. Tucked in among these happy frills are those who cannot reach such borders yet. These persons are called "incarcerated."

Remember them in your intercessions today. Remember them with a visit to where they sit. Please.