the astounding prison diary
of david berkowitz
VOLUME APRIL 2005
THE INVISIBLE KID, and
THE RED LAKE MASSACRE
Many are wondering what is going in the world. Acts of senseless violence have left us numb. And we're asking the experts why.
On March 21 a sixteen year old high school student brought a gun to his school and began to shoot people. He finally turned the weapon on himself leaving a total of ten dead.*
His bloody rampage sent our nation reeling. It was the worst school shooting since the 1999 Columbine massacre which killed fifteen.
In my area, in February, a 25-year old man walked into a crowded shopping mall with an assault rifle. He then began peppering the area with bullets. Approximately sixty rounds were fired, according to the local newspaper. Miraculously only two people were wounded, one of them seriously.**
I saw a color photograph of the 25 year old as he wasbeing led into court in handcuffs. The sleeves of his orange jail jumpsuit were rolled up to his elbows. So I happened to spy some odd tattoos on his forearms. Family members were in the courtroom too, His father was weeping.***
Acts of sudden and intense violence have become a sad characteristic of modern day America.
In spite of our technological advancements and our high standards of living, we have come to accept random violence as part of our culture. For many troubled young persons having a gun, mixed with feelings of anger, alienation, self-loathing, and bottled-up emotions make for a powerful but lethalexplosive force that could burst into unchecked rage at the slightest provocation.
My heart has been heavy because of these tragic events.
Therefore I plan to devote much of my April journal to the topic of youth violence.
As a minister, and as a man who once walked down the path of violence, I hope that what I have to say will be helpful and insightful.
There is an answer to the "spirit of violence" that is sweeping our nation. There is hope.
THE RED LAKE MASSACRE
I vividly remember the Columbine High School shootings which left fifteen people dead, most of them students, including the two young gunmen and a heroic teacher. It was a brutal killing spree of pent-up anger and a desire for revenge over real or imagined hurts. It was unnecessary, and it made no sense. Columbine left our nation stunned and devastated and asking lots of questions.
Now it has happened again. History seems to have repeated itself, this time in the little town of Red Lake, Minnesota.
On Monday, March 21, on an Indian reservation in a remote area of the United States, a sixteen year old Jeff Weise brought a gun and ammunition to his school. He then began to shoot his fellow students. In the aftermath, five students, teacher, and a security guard were slain.
Later it was learned that this young man also killed his grandfather (whom he was living with) and his grandfather's live-in girlfriend.
Jeff Weise also killed himself. A total of ten peopledied,
According to an article in the New York Times for Tuesday,
March 22, 2005 (pages A-1, A-16), Jeff Weise walked through the
corridors of the 300-student Red Lake High School at about 3 p.m. firing off rounds from a handgun. I would assume his rampage was over in less than ten minutes.
Some of the ensuing reports I heard over the radio said that, like the two Columbine gunmen, who were also teenagers, Jeff Weise was fascinated with Nazism and Adolf Hitler.
Several who knew him said that Jeff Weise seemed to be an angry and aloof kid who was into the dark Gothic scene. That he experienced several sad and traumatic events in his youth, to include the suicide of his father, and his mother’s ending up in a nursing home after a serious auto accident.
Additional reports said he dressed and acted differently than his peers. That he was sometimes teased by the other kinds. Also that he had been the victim of bullying at school.
All told, it was a bad mix. A string of grievous personal tragedies and having to live with his grandfather and his companion, Jeff was clearly a troubled man with probably no one to pour his heart to and perhaps no close friends.
And according to additional news reports, Jeff Weise made frequent visits to a pro-Hitler chatroom on the internet where he frequently left postings of adoration for Adolf Hitler.
An article in the New York Daily News for Friday, March 25, 2005 (page 24) said that Jeff was on the controversial anti-depressant drug Prozac. Also that additional evidence had been uncovered by investigators that he had been planning the attack.
The Daily News article went on to say that Weise hadapparently posted on his own web site a 30-second animation titled "Target Practice" in which a person with an automatic rifle shoots several people and does some other acts of violence before putting the barrel of the gun in his mouth killing himself.
I could see that Jeff Weise was ripe for the demons ofhate, anger and revenge to do their dirty work on his mind.
Everyone is asking "why?' Family members, neighbors, school officials and law enforcement all want to know why this young man, Jeff Weise, who should have been dating girls and playing ball, instead became a lonely brooder suffering from deep depression, suicide attempts, talking about Hitler anddeath, and then finally killing nine people and then himself.
Each person seems to have his own theory. From Prozac to having experienced crushing blows like the suicide of his father and a crippling accident that has left his mother confined to a nursing home, the question following "why" is "could this tragedy have been prevented?"
We'll never know with a certainty. But this troubled soul had been crying out for help for a long time.
According to an article from the New York times dated Saturday, March 26, 2995 (A-7), "Family Wonders if Prozac Prompted School Shootings" by Monica Davey and Gardiner Harris, student Jeff Weise had been taking anti-depressants because ofhis depression. He had also attempted suicide once by cutting his wrist.
The Times' story said that Jeff had been receiving mental health counseling, and that he had been hospitalized for at least 72 hours following the attempt at taking his life. He clearly tried to reach out to others and communicate his pain because he had a web site in which he posted his thoughts and feelings. Also according to the article,Jeff Weise had aninternet posting which read:
"I had went through a lot of things in my life that haddriven me to a darker path than most choose to take.....
"I split the flesh of my wrist with a box opener, painting the floor of my bedroom with blood I shouldn't have spilt...
"After sitting there for what seemed like hours...I had a revelation that this was not the path."
I have since read several more articles from variousperiodicals, and they’re all basically the same. Other than reporting on the victims and the impact of this tragedy on the local community, there were no answers.
Some of the news stories reported that Jeff Weise would often wear dark clothing and that he was "obsessed with death."
Living on a Native American reservation with its poverty, and its higher than the national average rates of addictions to drugs and alcohol, its youth suicides and the high rate of "accidental" deaths for Native Americans under the age of 20, for Jeff Weise death was a close presence.
In such a world as his where Jeff's dad took his own life leaving his son with the guilt, and having to fend for himself and live among in-laws, how could such a young man live the American dream of hope for a good future?
"Hope" was not in Jeff Weise's vocabulary. There was nothing in his life to give the word hope any meaning.
Furthermore, I do not believe that Jeff Weise could see passed his own little world of despair and crushing disappointment. And I would not be surprised to learn that he had a lot of anger towards God.
The kids who insensitively tormented and bullied Jeff, a boy who was already suffering from an overload of emotional pain, were only throwing dry logs on a long smoldering fire.
They were no doubt ignorant of this young man's growing anger at life's seeming unfairness. And they were, in a sense, helping to make a human bomb that would one day explode in a burst of violence.
But until this day came, it appears that Jeff stayed onthe faceless internet posting his self-absorbed messages, while pleading for someone to take notice of him and show concern.
I read some of his postings that were published in various newspapers. Interestingly, I never saw any of the responses he received or if he got any.
For awhile, however, he managed to unleash some of his anger by writing his praises for Hitler on a pro-Nazi website.
I think that the Fuhrer's idea about a "Final Solution" to get rid of the unwanted touched a common thread in Jeff. There were a bunch of local teenagers whom he thought needed to be taught a lesson. His tormentors had to go. Eventually he snapped.
Jeff Weise knew where his grandfather, a "long-timeofficer with the Red Lake Police Department," kept his guns and ammunition. A tragedy was about to unfold.
RED LAKE AFTERMATH
It's been a couple of weeks since the Red Lake tragedy.
Of no surprise, as the world and the media move on to other things, this even will probably fade from the memories of most
The experts and professionals, however, will be quietly digging through the life of Jeff Weise for awhile longer. But I don't believe there will ever be clear-cut answers as to why this sixteen year old went on his shooting spree.
I certainly don't know all the reasons. Yet what I do know is that Jeff was a lonely, angry, depressed and troubled boy who probably thought the whole world was against him and that fate had cursed him.
His father's suicide must have devastated him. But Icould not find any articles that gave Jeff's age when his dad took his own life.
I am certain, however, that Jeff needed a close friend.
He did have family living on the reservation. But having kin nearby doesn't mean there's a deep bond. Nowadays many family members are more like strangers to one another.
Jeff Weise needed someone to show him love and a healthy dose of attention. He needed affirmation that someone cared about him. Perhaps, too, that if he had one individual to tell him "I value you" and you are a "worthwhile" person, this disaster could have been averted.
He was on medication for his depression, and he wasinterviewed by a professional after his suicide attempt.
Nevertheless, as is often the case, his cries of despair went unheeded; he didn't seem to know whom to ask for help or where to find it.
Obviously there were many factors which came into play for this to happen, and many negative events in Jeff Weise's life converged to produce an explosive mix.
Choosing to murder someone, though, is always the wrong choice.
In our culture where young men are taught to act tough and hide their emotions, and where it is thought to be childish to ask for help, it's improbable to think that troubled adolescents will open up and talk freely about their difficulties, or about the seeming meaninglessness of their lives without lots of coaxing and encouragement.
Men are taught to keep a straight face and to be rugged. Guns, too, can sometimes be a part of this. In the movies and in books such weapons are seen as problem solvers. It's easier, young minds may reason, to dispatch a person with a firearm than to work hard at trying to have a good relationship with that individual.
Like Adolf Hitler's "Final Solution" to get rid of
"undesireables", a gun or knife seems to provide a quick remedy.
Unfortunately Jeff Weise was ready for this. He was open to violence. He felt he had run out of options. His cries for help went unanswered. No one loved him, so he thought, and he saw no hope of things changing for the better. Thus he would take as many as he could with him to a dark grave.
What a waste! I am convinced that this did not have to happen. The Red Lake High School shootings were preventable.
Jeff needed real friends.
April 1, 2005
On February 13th a twenty-four year old man walked into a mall crowded with Sunday afternoon shoppers and began to open fire with his Hesse model AK-47 Soviet assault rifle. About sixty rounds were fired, said one report. Fortunately and miraculously, no one was killed. But two men were shot. One of them, a 20-year old National Guard private was seriously wounded.
The Hudson Valley Mall where the shooting took place is in or near the city of Kingston, New York. This is not far from where I am. So the local newspapers were filled with stories about the rampage. As expected, in the days following the shooting, the media began to look into the psyche of this troubled man. He was obese, socially awkward, lonely, and he wore all black clothing to the mall that day, even down to his sneakers.
With his rifle in tow he must have looked like a Navy Seal on a mission. The report said he was also a high school dropout.
In one article, Ulster County District Attorney Don Williams was quoted as saying that Robert Bonelli Jr., had a "lurid fascination" with the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado. And the same article said that a "cache of mews reports and other materials" about Columbine were found in Bonelli's home.**
While another report said that Robert Bonelli Jr. had two friends, both in their early 20's, who had just been charged with making and setting off pipe bombs, although this had no apparent part in the mall shooting.***
Nevertheless, in this case we have a troubled young man who vents with a gun while his friends, although not participants in the shooing, were obviously antisocial. They more than likely reinforced Robert's violent behavior. After all, these three made pipe bombs together for fun.
From all the information that has been given thus far, I could tell that this is clearly an unhappy man who probably believes that he has no future. Yet it appears that Robert has a loving father. His dad, heartbroken, was calling out to his son in the courtroom during the Grand Jury proceedings.
Expectedly, however, a newspaper article for February 17th ended with the standard often used response. Ulster County Police Chief Paul Watzka said that various law enforcement agencies will be looking into this matter to see if thereis anything else "we can learn" about what happened.***
Learning of these senseless tragedies and the loss of lives touches a nerve inside me.
Jeff Weise and Robert Bonelli Jr. should have been living lives filled with hope and promise. Instead they ended up destroying themselves and harming others. Yet in the deepest part of my being I believe that somehow, if I had only known these young men, and if I could have befriended them, perhaps these tragedies would not have occurred.
I also believe that, hidden beneath their pent-up anger, frustration, and feelings of powerlesssness, was a spark of hope that, somehow, life would finally make sense. That their plans for violence would not be necessary. Unfortunately, however, if there were periods of time when Jeff and Robert felt this way, no one ever came to their rescue. They had no one to fan those sparks of hope. And their desperate cries forhelp went unanswered.
Eventually they would both drift down the wrong road, and each would make the terrible choice to use violence in order to battle the real or imagined wrongs that they felt were done to them.
Jeff Weise chose death. The community he tried to hurt will continue to exist, while he will be written off as an aberration.
Robert Bonelli Jr. is alive, but he's facing his rampage.
Yet he will have many years, however, to think about what he did. And his father, meanwhile, will have to watch his son age in prison.
Finally, there will be the various law enforcement agencies, mental health professionals and social workers who will spend countless hours trying to figure out what went wrong with these two. But I do not believe there will be clearcut answers.
Without God in a person's life, anything can happen.
(c)David Berkowitz April 7, 2005
"The Invisible Kid" (front page headline from the Times
Herald-Record, Feb. 15, 2005, Middletown, NY.
**Times Herald-Record, Feb 15, 2005, by Ben Montgomery and Paul Brooks
***Times Herald-Record, Feb. 17, 2005, by Paul Brooks
****Times Herald-Record, Feb. 17, 2005, by Paul Brooks, Middletown, NY.
As a rule prisoners seldom talk about their cases. There are men whom I have known for many years, that I see every day, yet I have no idea what they're locked up for. Their crimes and the circumstances surrounding them are never discussed.
They've chosen to keep this part of their lives low-key and private.
There is an unwritten "Don't ask-Don't tell" policy that we instinctively adhere to. A man learns this when he first comes into the system. No one needs to know your business.
Of course certain inmates like myself have a "high profile" case. So most of the guys know about my situation.
And some of them have had their cases written up on the law books because they filed appeals.
These books contain various court decisions, and may give brief details and generalized histories of the crime, resulting arrest, trial, and court proceedings. Thus any inmate could read about another man's alleged serious errors that were committed by the prosecutor or judge during his trial.
I have found, however, that those who are adamant about their innocence are usually very vocal about it. They're quick to proclaim their guiltlessness, and they will talk to any sympathetic perssn they could find. While those who are guilty of the chrages against them stay silent. They, like me, seem to have accepted their fate.
Knowing this, I am suspicious of the reports I sometimes hear about a man getting arested for a serious crime, and then while he's confined in the jail to await his trial, he confesses to fellow inmates.
Prosecutors somehow seem to find those one or two prisoners, usually with long criminal records of their own, who are ready to swear in court--usually in exchange for leniency--that so-and-so admitted to them that he did indeed commit the crime he was arrested for.
In all the years I have been incarcerated I don't know of a single man who had ever confessed his guilt to fellow prisoners.
Of course this doesn't apply to those who enter the jail boasting of their criminal acts. This happens, too, but it's usually among gang members or with the younger men who want to quickly assert themnselves and gain what they think would be a more prominent position in the pecking order.
The men who boast know they're guilty, and they don't care. They only want to make themselves look tough.
Yet for those who protest their innocence from the moment of their arrest, it is extremely doubtful they would secretly confess to having done what they were arrested for.
I will always remain skeptical of the latter. To admit one's guilt to another inmate while at the same time proclaiming his innocence to everyone else, is silly.
Prosecutors are sometimes successful with this tactic, but not always.
(c)David Berkowitz April 15, 2005
GREEDY FOR GAIN
If you ever want to make lots of trouble for yourself and cause your loved ones a lot of grief, be greedy for gain. The Bible says that the "love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Timothy 6:10a.
Avarice is a poison that can ultimately destroy your soul. Judas Iscariot was infected by it. For several years he lived and walked with Jesus. He saw the Lord open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf.
Judas saw the dead being raised to life. Yet for some inexplicable reason Judas' heart was never moved by these miracles. Instead, as the gospel narratives reveal, he was a "thief" who managed to get put in charge of overseeing the moneybag.
While multitudes from all walks of life put their focus on the Lord and His loving power to heal and help the hurtng and downtrodden, Judas turned his attention to coins.
Eventually Judas' greed caused him to betray Jesus and sell Him to the religious authorities for thirty pieces of silver.
Yet this is not just a tale from the Sriptures. It is a story that's for today because the world is filled with greedy men.
We, too, like Jesus, could be sold out by any one of them.
And this has actually happened to me!
I have been betrayed for money. Even as I write this, there is a man who's trying to market me and turn me into an item to be sold. He's intent on riches and fame for himself, or so he thinks.
But what can I do? I could pray for this individual, and I could plead with the Lord to have mercy upon him.
In the end, however, unless he turns from his selfish ways, he shall not prosper.
Yet this is the path he has chosen. How sad!
(c) David Berkowitz April 22, 2005
BEING ABLE TO COMFORT THOSE WHO ARE GRIEVING
In spite of my own struggles and the difficult and
disappointing situations I seem to be encountering these days,
the Lord has been granting me precious opportunities to touch
the lives of my peers.
The hardships a man faces while incarcerated are many.
t's more than being confined to a cell for a certain number of
hours per day. It's more than having to eat bad quality food
or being far from one's home.
Death, for example, is a special enemy for a prisoner.
Everyone has to face death, of course. But I am referring to
the passing away of a man's loved ones.
The pain of losing a family member is by far the worst of
Just this month I've had opportunities to help two men who
have suffered devastating losses. Their grief has been clearly
etched on their faces, and I don't blame them for showing it.
One of these men has been in prison for almost thirty
years. Then came the news that his wife died suddenly, and he
was not prepared.
While another man lost his last remaining family member.
His uncle, whom he was very close to, died unexpectedly from a
heart attack. Now he's alone, and he told me how frightened he
is to now have no one beyond these walls.
Both of them have cried in my arms. The men from my
chapel fellowship have also been helping them to cope. All we
could do is pray for these guys and try to be there for them in
their times of need and deep hurt.
(c)David Berkowitz April 25, 2005
VOLUME AUGUST 2005
The Comforts of the Lord, His Coming Judgment of Sin
Even though the sun was unrelenting as it beat down upon us, today was a time of joy for the Christian prisoners and their families.
This was a day when the members of my church were able to go to the prison’s large ball field to spend time with their families and friends. It’s a gathering that we have every year, and it runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Approximately 175 persons attended, including some of our volunteer ministers whjo regularly come into the facility to teach the bible to us or to conduct worship services. For me it felt as if I were in a public park as people sat on picnic tables and as children zigzagged around me.
This event was paid for by the inmates. We scrimp and save all year for it. Nothing comes out of the State’s treasury or from taxpayer dollars. Even the food is purchased by my congregations and it’s prepared and cooked in the prison’s kitchen.. The event is also supervised by my chaplain.
About twenty members of the Manhattan Grace Tabernacle Church from New York City attended our event, and we were able to worship with them. We also provided for their meals, and we gave them all the bottled water they could drink.
I had a lot of work to do when I joined the clean-up crew when the event finished, but it was well worth it. To have been able to play volleyball with a bunch of kids, and to have seen inmate fathers laughing with their sons and daughters was a happy occasion.
(c)David Berkowitz AUGUST 6, 2005
A BROKEN SPIRIT
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, Oh God, Thou wilt not despise. Psalm 51:17
I spent much of the morning reading and meditating upon Psalm 51. A broken spirit and a penitent heart—these are things that were important to King David, a man who loved his Creator, but a man who plotted the murder of another man, and who also committed adultery.
Because of his sinful acts King David ultimately brought shame to his nation, and even caused the enemies of Israel to mock and blaspheme David’s God..
As the Biblical account goes, when King David’s sins were exposed by the prophet Nathan, he became a broken and tearful man. David recognized his wrongs and quickly repented. But his heart was shattered. And even though God forgave David and he was allowed to remain as the nation’s king, his life was never the same.
Even David’s family was cursed. As a result of his sins, his own household became filled with turmoil and betrayal; because there are consequences to sin, and God is no respecter of persons. Both kings and peasants must eventually reap bitter fruits when they allow sin to overcome their lives.
Yet King David’s transgressions and the harsh and bitter fruit he reaped as a result of them caused David to draw closer to his God. He flooded his bed with tears of repentance while the God of mercy and comfort surrounded David with forgiveness, love and grace.
For a prolonged season of time King David walked a path of grief and pain that I myself know so well. Yet in the long run, perhaps David’s struggles with sin and its consequences may have helped to stave off pride that could have developed in such a great ruler?
Who knows that if David had not fallen, he may have eventually grown proud and self-sufficient the way many kings and leaders do? He may have begun to think that his own political and military skills made his kingdom secure, and that it was not the powerful hands of the God of Israel who protected and watched over the land.
Thus I am realizing that for those who love the Lord, all things will ultimately work for our benefit. The Savior is able to make even the crooked paths straight.
(c)David Berkowitz August 10, 2005
This must be the hottest day of the year thus far. It’s been hot and humid all summer, but I do not recall a season like this in recent memory.
Right now it’s eleven o’clock in the morning. On most Saturday mornings I wash clothes, but not today. The heat is to oppressive.
And as I write this journal entry I’m noticing that not even my wasp neighbors are stirring. Some of them have parked themselves on the metal base of my window just below the meshed screen. And as they passively watch me, I think they’re struggling to breathe just as I am. Not even the biggest one of the bunch is making any effort to fly across the cell to get a sip of water from my sink.
The heat and humidity is also taking a toll on my sleep. I seldom get more than four hors of sleep in weather like this. Last night, for example, I was apparently sweating so much that when I got up around three o’clock I discovered that my pillow was soaked. Of course I found it almost impossible to get back to sleep on a pillow that had become like a wet sponge.
I have no appetite either. So I will skip lunch. But at 12:45 there’s going to be a worship service in the chapel, which I plan on attending. It will run until 2:45, when at this time, I must return to my cell.
The chapel, however, is going to be hotter than the building I love in. It has no windows. And while there are a couple of large industrial fans in the chapel which run constantly, in this kind of weather all they’ll do is circulate hot air in an enclosed room.
I’m counting the days to autumn.
(c) David Berkowitz August 13, 2005
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love Thee.
There is heartache and upheaval going on in Israel now. The Israeli government under the direction of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has begun to evict all the Jewish settlers who now live in the Gaza territories. This is a land these people struggled to develop and risked their lives to live in.
I know by that the holy Scriptures reveal that God has a special plan for the Jews. They are the apples of His eye. Yet even in this grievous situation when large portions of what I is now the Gaza territories are being turned over to the Palestinians, God is still in control of things.
Personally, I do not believe God approves of what’s being done. But what I think He is hoping to show the Jews through this is that their own government cannot be depended upon to keep them safe. Instead, it is the Lord alone that the Jews must look to for their help and deliverance. Their trust in politicians or religious or military leaders must come to an end.
According to the Bible, at some point in time many more troublesome events will happen in Israel, as well as to Jews living throughout the world, that will cause them to have no choice but to look toward heaven for their help.
One day Jerusalem will be surrounded and overrun by her enemies until her Messiah gloriously and supernaturally appears to establish His throne and take command of the earth (Zechariah 14:1-11
(c)David Berkowitz August 19, 2005
OVER AND OVER
Wherefore I Will yet plead with you, saith the Lord, and with your children’s children will I plead. Jeremiah 2:9
I awoke this morning with a sense of dread, not in the things of God, for my heart is restful and I have God’s peace. Rather it is a sense that something horrific is coming upon the United States of America.
These are desperate and urgent times. I can feel Judgment in the air. And while I know it may sound negative and scary to many who are reading this, I must express what I believe to be true, and write without fear of offending.
As the Lord said to the prophet Isaiah, "Write my words down in a book and tell my people they are rebellious. They will not heed my instructions nor my words. Instead they want their seers to speak unto them "smooth things’ and lies." (Isaiah 30:8-10)
Is it any different today? Even those who do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, or who may not have any religious beliefs at all, are sensing that our world is changing. In their hearts, I believe, they know things are not right, that there’s trouble ahead.
So are we coming into a time of judgment? Are we really approaching a period which the Bible calls the "Day of the Lord," and the "end times"?
And if so, what must we do about it, and what does this "prophesy" stuff mean?
It means that God’s word is real and true, and that what has been written many centuries ago in the ancient scriptures, is applicable to our day.
Most assuredly, therefore, at some point in time, the myriad of prophecies which concern the "last days" must begin to manifest. And if they do, then what will this mean for each individual?
Is God trying to warn us? Is He presently trying to call our nation to a state of repentance? Is God telling us to turn from our sins and place our trust in Him?
I myself, do believe that God has been speaking. His words have been going forth, but not all of us are listening.
I also believe He’s trying to warn us. For the Lord is a being of love, and He is not willing that any one should have to perish in Hell.
Over and over, again and again, God pleads with humanity. With generation after generation He pleads for people to turn from their wicked ways. And one day, maybe very soon or perhaps many years from now, the Almighty creator will stop His urgings, and then the final period of judgment will begin.
For now, however, over and over God cries, "Repent!" The Lord is begging us, "Follow Me and live. Do not turn from Me or forsake Me, oh nation once blessed!"
(c) David Berkowitz August 20, 2005
This morning I was able to finish my work assignment early which allowed me the chance to go to the recreation yard for about an hour.
Fortunately the outdoor yard was not as crowded as it normally is during the weekends or during the night hours, because on weekdays most of the prisoners are at their work assignments or in school.
And after what seemed like endless weeks of hot and humid weather, today was perfect. There was no humidity, and the sky was a deep blue decorated with dozens of powder white clouds. For me, today was also a day of spiritual productivity. God, I know, allowed me to go to the yard with a purpose, even though when I first went outside I had mo specific plan other than to get some fresh air.
I had been walking for only a short time when I ran into "Brother Charles", and elderly black man who uses a special walking cane to navigate, He has health problems, and he hasn’t been attending chapel services like he used to. So we talked for awhile and I tried to encourage him with God’s word. Charlie said, as our conversation came to an end, that he would try to make it to church this coming Sunday.
After this I met up with "Willie". As with many of the men who are doing a life sentence—he has to do at least thirty years—Willie was feeling depressed because, he told me, his family stopped coming to see him.
Willie dejectedly said that for the past few years his family has been promising to pay him a visit on both Christmas and Easter, but they never show up.
I told Willie that, when all is said and done, it’s about Jesus Christ. He’s the only one who’s promised never to leave or forsake us, and Jesus keeps His word.
Many times, I went on to say, well-meaning people will make promises to do certain things, but they will fail to keep their word. But not so with the Lord Jesus, I said. He will stay with us forever.
Note: "Brother Charles" and "Willie" are not their real names.
(c) David Berkowitz Auguest 23, 2005
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
1 Thessalonians 4:17
It is a gorgeous and sunny day here in Now York. The hot and oppressively humid weather that had left me drained and drenched for much of the summer, has disappeared. Today, like yesterday, the air is warm and fresh.
I know, too, that very soon the first signs of Fall will begin to show themselves. The leaves will slowly begin to change color.
Then, near the end of the Fall season, and shortly before the first of the morning frosts arrive, endless flocks of geese will be passing overhead, flying in near perfect formations, as they make their journey to warmer climates.
On and off throughout the day I’ve been looking up to the sky where I could watch the clouds as they float across the sky, changing their shapes as they go.
As each cloud disappears over the horizon, I cannot help but wonder if my sojourn on earth will soon come to and end. I hope so. I long for home.
(c) David Berkowitz August 24, 2005
FOR SUCH A TIME
For we are sold, I and my people (the Jews) to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish.
God is faithful to always make a way of deliverance for his people.
Once upon a time, when the Jews were enslaved by the Persians and they were forced to live in captivity, a series of events happened which allowed a young Jewish slave woman, Esther, to be elevated to Queen under King Ahasuerus.
The king, as the story goes, was taken in by Esther’s beauty and gracefulness, and he did not know she was a Jewess.
At this time, too, and evil and prideful man, Haman, who had recently been promoted to a very high rank of leadership by Ahaseurus, wanted to have the king issue an order for all the Jews living in the empire to be put to death.
When Ether’s uncle Mordecai got wind of this treacherous plot, he informed her about it. She, in turn, takes it upon herself to cautiously approach the king. She had a plan worked out to hopefully save her people.
Fortunately Esther was allowed to approach the king. She won his favor and her request that the Jews be spared was granted. Meanwhile, Haman, the one who plotted all this , was hung from the gallows.
Esther, as the story reveals, was placed by God into her royal position for such a time. And God, I believe, is doing the same today. His plans are being worked out for good, whether we could see His hands at work or not.
(c)David Berkowitz August 26, 2005
NIGHT IS COMING
I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day" the night cometh, when no man can work.
Suppose it is true, as many of Israel’s holy prophets have written in the Old Testament, that this world has a divine appointment with the Judge of the Universe?
The New Testament writers have likewise said the same thing. In the book of Revelation, for example, the end time scenario is clearly played out, although it is cloaked in mystery and symbolism. But its message is clear. There is a time coming when evil will launch and all out assault upon mankind that will continue until the sudden appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will burst through the heavens to put a quick end to a prolonged time of chaos. At this time He will establish His throne in Jerusalem, and His coming will save the world from annihilation.
Suppose, too, there really is a being called Satan? That, as the Bible says, he is a great deceiver who works tirelessly to lead men and nations astray, and to their destruction?
This I say to those who read my words: the Bible is the Word of God. It is trustworthy, and it is true. It warns us, and it points us to the Truth.
Nevertheless, until the great Day of Redemption comes the earth is headed for a dark time of tribulation. It will be difficult to proclaim the truth, and many who at tempt to do so may end up paying with their lives and dying as martyrs. They will suffer, yet they will triumph.
The time to reach the world with the Gospel is now.
(c) David Berkowitz August 31, 2005
REMORSE OVER BAD JUDGEMENT
I made a big mistake and I'm paying for it. The Bible
asks the question, "Can two walk together, except they be in
agreement?" (Amos 3:3). How true! God's Word is filled
with good advice. If only we would heed it!
A little more than two years ago I was befriended by an
attorney who wanted to involve me in a youth mentoring program.
Everything he said sounded so good, but he was not a Christian.
And even though God's Word says not to yoke up and enter into
any kind of partnership with such a person, I tried to reason
it out. I teamed up with this man. My motives were good. I
wanted to do the right thing. But because I did not follow the
Bible's instructions in this matter, I went off course. After
two years, I realized my error.
I was devastated when the attorney made off with hundreds
of my belongings to include childhood and Bar Mitzvah photos,
photos of my parents, hundreds of letters, my college
transcripts, personal and legal documents, and much more.
It was in November of last year when I first discovered
this man's true motives: to use me, and to cash in on our
casual relationship. And I did indeed learn a powerful lesson
by getting burned. I pray, too, that I will never make this
Nevertheless, the Lord chastened me through my blunder.
He did not let me off the hook. For God is no respecter of
persons. He had to discipline me, and there were times when I
felt His displeasure because of my poor choices.
I have been going through a grieving process over this.
But I am also on the road to recovery. At one point, however,
I was thinking of stepping down from my position as pastor of
this prison congregation because I had become uncertain of my
ability to truly hear from the Lord.
I do not want to dare stand behind a pulpit to preach to
men if I cannot discern what God is speaking at any given
moment. To many souls could get hurt by a minister who speaks
from his flesh, and not from the Spirit.
God, though, strengthened and encouraged my heart through
this experience. I am still grieving. I suffered personal
loss. And I suppose my ego has also been hurt.
After all, it is painful and embarrassing to realize that
one has been duped and deceived. That somehow a con man
penetrated my defenses and played me for a fool. Yet the Lord
has been a patient teacher. I'm wiser now, and much more
cautious. I will forever be more discerning. I will continue
to be forgiving, too.
(c)David Berkowitz January 20, 2005
Ye shall have a s song in the night---- Isaiah 30:29a
After last night’s Bible study class in the chapel I went to the recreation yard to spend time with my twenty-four year old friend, Danny.
He and I spent our allotted 90 minutes talking about God and rejoicing in His goodness.
Under the bright glare of dozens of high intensity security lights that make the aluminum razor wire perimeter fences to glitter like tinsel on a Christmas tree, we spoke about what God is doing in the lives of the men who belong to our church congregation. And we talked about what God may have in store for Danny; he has six years left to serve on his sentence.
Danny grew up in a housing project in the Bronx. Although he had some family members who would take him to church when he was a kid, Danny told me that he found life in his home to be “too strict”.
He told me that when he was a teenager he longed for the seeming freedom of the streets. He wanted to hang out with a wild bunch of his peers who regularly gathered on certain street corners in the daytime or in the public park at night.
Because of his background Danny also got involved with Santeria (a type of witchcraft) and his family’s fascination with images of supposed saints, idols, and magical incantations that they used to try to bring health, wealth, and happiness into their lives.
As Danny tells it, it was assumed that he would eventually drop out of school and become a loafer. Most of the young men in hisSouth Bronx neighborhood were living the same way, fatalistic, and with little hope for a good future.
Eventually Danny’s criminal activities escalated. He was stealing whatever he could in order to survive. It was a daily struggle to find cash.
He told me that he even once held up a man who happened to be a Christian. Danny said that while he was pushing his victim around the man kept telling him, “May God bless you.” Years later this stuck with him.
Then, as his unlawful conduct began to come to the attention of the police in his neighborhood, and the “heat” started to come down on him, Danny took off to stay with relatives on Long Island. Yet he continued to steal and pull stick ups.
As it goes with almost all malefactors, however, if you continue to do illegal acts, you’re eventually going to get caught.
And Danny got caught! He was arrested and then placed in theNassau County jail to await his trial.
Facing lots of prison time in a county known for being tough on street crime, Danny decided to take a ten year plea deal. But also while he was in jail Danny asked Jesus Christ to forgive him and come into his life.
Today he is one of the stronger Christians in my congregation, and he sings in the choir, too.
I am confident that Danny has a good future. He’s also old enough and wiser now to see the bigger picture. That the fast life of the streets is only and illusion and a lie.
(c)David Berkowitz July 22, 2005
Now the just shall live by faith:
But if any man draw back, my soul
Shall have no pleasure in him.
With each passing day I am realizing more and more that this Christian life can be as painful as it is joyous. That if we are to walk by faith, we must pass through circumstances that are difficult in order to mature our faith.
Anyone could claim to have faith in God. But only those who have been tried in the furnace of fierce testings and afflictions are qualified to make the claim that theirs is genuine.
In Christianity -- let’s be honest—there are probably just as many failures as there are success stories.
Yes, it is true.
Many who have responded to the hearing of the gospel with “gladness” (Mark 4:16) eventually fall away from their profession of faith with persecution and hardship. (4:17)
While others, after receiving the gospel, allow the “cares of this life” and the “deceitfulness of riches” to choke their faith and kill it. (4:18-19)
Finally, there are those who, over the process of time and through much affliction, bring forth a plentiful harvest of true spiritual fruit. (4:20)
I spoke on this subject during today’s service. I pleaded with the Lord not to allow me to ever give up no matter how hard things get. Besides, what would be the point of quitting now?
(c)David Berkowitz July 16, 2005
They come in and out of my cell during the daytime. They don’t seem to have any fear of humans, and it’s as if we have a mutual understanding not to bother each other.
I’m talking about a small nest of black wasps that have made a home for themselves on a small ledge outside my window.
My window has a screen welded to the inside portion of it. It’s not a fine mesh screen , however. Instead it is a common institutional–type heavy iron screen with uniform rows of metal strips that only allow me to poke my fingers through the holes. Thus an array of flying bugs could come and go as they please.
I am living through an oppressive heat wave. It’s been so hot for weeks on end that it seems as if the summer has been here forever.
Fortunately I have a small 6-inch oscillating fan. Every inmate is allowed to purchase one through the prison’s commissary. I could use six!
Nevertheless my wasp friends visit daily. They fly in, one at a time, zip around my head for a few seconds, and the make their way to the sink. It’s water they need.
A lot of men are scared of these creatures. They’re spooked by anything with a stinger in its tail. Yet I am convinced that this little family of wasps could sense that I like them. I’m serious!
There happens to be nests of wasps in lots of places on the facility grounds. I’m in a remote area that’s surrounded by woods. And since almost all the prisoners keep their windows open in this heat, human - wasp encounters are common. But I only recall one time, many years ago, when a man got stung. He sat on one.
My wasp neighbors are welcome because they seem so tame. I’ll sit back and watch them. They sense no danger. They’re not aggressive and they know to keep their distance. We simply have an unspoken arrangement to share the sink. Yet I envy their freedom. They have no comprehension of what it is like to be confined to a cell.
(c) David Berkowitz July 26, 2005
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