Monday, August 26, 2013

September hosts multiple “sky events”

It is unlikely that the “authorities” will let me outside after sunset to view the western sky, but perhaps you can, wherever you are on the evening  of September 8. According to Astronomy Magazine, the period right after sunset is an optimum time to see Venus and Jupiter.

If you look to the west-southwest about 45 minutes after sunset on September 8 (Sunday night), you will see the waxing crescent moon. The planet, Venus, will appear as the brightest object very close to the crescent moon. Above and slightly to the left of the moon will appear Saturn. Nearby stars form the constellations Virgo and Libra. Each night Venus and Saturn appear closer in the western sky.

If you are an early bird, and get up before daylight, you can see Jupiter and Mars, the Red Planet, rising in the east. Jupiter rises above the horizon around 2AM on September 1, and rises a little earlier each week throughout the month. You can’t mistake Jupiter for any other celestial object. It is brighter than any other point of light at that time. The smaller Mars rises later, after Jupiter, and appears low in the eastern sky by 4 AM September 1, then climbs higher each week. You can tell Mars by its red clay hue.

If you have a telescope you might be able to spot Comet ISON toward the east about two hours before sunrise. An asteroid named “324 Bamberga” will also make an appearance in September, closely approaching Earth on September 13. At 140 miles wide, that’s a darned big rock! Astronomers say there’s no risk of Earth getting hit by Bamberga, thank goodness. It is in an elliptical orbit that brings a close encounter every 22 years . We won’t see it again until 2035.

Since childhood I’ve always been fascinated by the stars and planets in the night sky. When we were young my two brothers and I spent many hours observing through a telescope we’d gotten as a Christmas gift from our parents. There aren’t many places  darker than an orange grove in Florida, far from city lights. 

I pray that one day I will be able to do that again. In the meantime, let me know if you see any of these sights in September.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013


The past few weeks I have been fairly incommunicado with the outside world, which is not an unusual circumstance for the majority of those serving life in Florida prisons, but it is for me. For most prisoners, imprisonment is a deep pit, a sinkhole from which nothing escapes. My main focus has been on legal issues pertaining to my imprisonment, researching in the law library for an upcoming court case which I would rather not go into at this time, since the Florida DOC is one of my most loyal readers. Instead, I will tell you about my recent experience with the first Kairos program at this prison, a  three-and-a half day Christian weekend that occurred July 18 – 21st.

I went through the Kairos program in May, 1982, at Union C. I., Raiford, after several friends pestered me for two years to sign up for it, saying it would change my life. It did. A considerable portion of my survival in prison over the past thirty-plus years I owe to my commitment to reaching out to others, something that was demonstrated and learned by the good people who came in and brought Kairos into prison so many years ago.

There are so many lost people in prison, so much negativity and evil, so little hope, that when dedicated people from “free society” volunteer their time to enter these fences to “love the unlovable,” oftentimes it has a life-changing effect. Friendships and relationships that I formed over thirty years ago have continued to the present day, and still impact my life. I could go on and on.

Once you’ve gone through Kairos, you can volunteer to work subsequent weekend programs, which is how I found myself at the first Kairos held at Okaloosa C. I., an otherwise godforsaken place. Thirty men were signed up to participate in this program, and another dozen or so graduates from previous weekends at other locations volunteered to work.

Although one of the big draws of Kairos weekends is the “outside” food brought in, the participants quickly discover that the Kairos volunteers from the community bring something that is otherwise unavailable in prison — unconditional love. The “free men” are dedicated Christians associated with various local churches, but one’s religious persuasion does not dictate the prisoners’ selection to participate. Some are not Christians.

Men give a series of talks about various aspects of spiritual life, group discussions ensue, and the men have a lot of time to reflect on where their lives went wrong, and what kind of people they want to be in the future. A lot of singing and prayers lift the men’s spirits and focus their attention on higher things than the day-to-day confusion that dominates prison life. For about twelve hours a day, all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday, men are able to leave the “normal” prison life behind, and aspire to a more positive existence.

Along with two other men, my “job” over the weekend was in the “prayer room,” converted from the small chapel library. Before each talk, the person giving the talk would come to the prayer room, and several men would pray that God’s will would be done, and his words would touch the men’s hearts. Never underestimate the power of prayer! It has a great impact on those who are praying, for sure. I needed the rare opportunity to focus on spiritual matters for a few days, to become re-involved in my prayer life, and pray for my family and other friends and loved ones. The opportunity gave me a needed boost.

In the meantime, I saw noticeable changes for the better in a number of the thirty men enrolled in the program. Hardcore convicts broke down and cried, and asked forgiveness for those they had wronged. Will it last? I hope so. For some of the men, it is a life-changing event. For others, they will succumb to the slippery slope and slide back into the pit. It is a fact that over time, Kairos changes life in prison for the better. It develops a community of positive role models in the prisons that affect others for the better.

It is too early to expect many noticeable improvements in this prison after just one Kairos. In the week since Kairos ended, there have been several instances of gang violence, assaults, and stabbings. Certain housing areas have been locked down in an attempt to cool things off. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I will continue what I’ve been doing, walking the straight and narrow, striving to improve myself, and seeking freedom from this unjust imprisonment. I am deeply grateful for the help of those who believe in me. God bless you all.


Here is the link to the Kairos International web site:

The people of Kairos have been called by God to bring the light of Christ to the darkness of hearts that have been hardened and hurt…
We believe in bringing the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to all incarcerated individuals, their families and to those who work with them inside and outside the correctional institution, and that our ministry experience develops in ourselves, inmates, their families, and those that work with them the desire to continue ones personal growth in Christian community…