Today was one of the most beautiful days I’ve had since I’ve been here. If you’ve read my post Cashing in on God’s Grace then you know my friend Cash and how God changed a former gang leader from the Crips into a true man of God. From fighting the Bloods to pleading THE Blood, this man is not the same person as the one I met a year ago. My dear friend is leaving on Monday to go to the drug program at a different prison. He’s been down for twelve years and had six more to go when he was given the great news that he was granted clemency by the President, cutting his remaining years from six to two. So today I planned a going away party for my brother to take the place of our Bible study. I made three pizzas and a cheesecake for the occasion.
Have you ever had someone say something about you that was untrue? Have you ever felt the pain of the knife sticking out of your back when someone tells others things about you that are false? The pain of being falsely accused, slandered, gossiped about and your character maligned through people that spread twisted facts and half-baked truths is unlike no other, especially when it's done to - seemingly - forward an agenda. We've all had this happen to us at one time or another and, when it does, it can stir anger in even the most patient person.
Have you ever been at a place in your life where you weren't sure exactly what to do and you really needed the Father's help? Have you ever found yourself begging God to give you the answer on which way to go, what to do, or what to say in a given situation? We have all had times like that. I know I sure have. Recently, I have been put in a situation where I have had to make some very difficult decisions, decisions that will affect my entire future. As I was walking the track, like I do every night after dinner, I found myself begging the Father to reveal to me exactly what I needed to do in this situation.
Sukkot. Plural for sukkah: a temporary dwelling place, a tent. In many ways, this prison camp reminds me a lot of the Christian camp our congregation used to rent out every year to celebrate this great feast. It has a lake, a baseball field, sand volleyball, a cafeteria, a gymnasium, a horseshoe pit, and picnic tables that allow us to just sit and enjoy the crisp air and sunshine. I praise my King that this is definitely only a temporary dwelling place, though. Sometimes it seems like I’ll be here forever, but in reality, it’s only temporary. It’s only for a season. And I would like to share with you what this “season” was like as Blake, Cash, and I did the best we could with what we had.
Prison church is beyond interesting. It's a kaleidoscope of craziness. There are inmates from every culture and background and only one Christian service. So imagine for a moment charismatics, Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, members of the Church of Christ, and a host of other denominational affiliations all piling into a chapel about the size of a one-car garage. To call it strange would be an understatement. There's an out-of-tune piano and worship is led by a volunteer senior citizen from a local church who insists on giving us a five-minute-long history of where each hymn we sing comes from. And yes, we're forced to sing all five verses of every hymn. I grin and bear it, though, even laughing at the thought of everyone seeing Pastor Jim Staley singing hymns and going to a Sunday church service. Although it's not my favorite thing to do, I come for the sake of the guys and the relationship I'm trying to maintain with them.