October 28, 2010
Thursday, 6:30 p.m.
Letter #157: Prepping for Baptism
Greetings! A great man turns 75 years old today. My grandpa is a man to be admired: one who lives his life well, loving his God, his wife, his family with everything that he has. It has been said once, “Exert your talents, distinguish yourself, and don’t think of retiring from the world until the world will be sorry that you retire.” (Samuel Johnson, whoever that is.) Grandpa never has retired; he just changes ministries and occupations as God leads him. A life lived well!
I received sad news this past week: someone close to me died at only 15 years of age. While I did shed some tears over the loss of life, I am comforted in the fact that she had many happy years with our family. Harmony (the cat) will be missed.
In her short life, she brought much joy to each of us—far more joy than any self-absorbed creature should be capable of bringing, you’d think. With cats, companionship is a one-way street. They don’t need to be with you … no, you are simply privileged to be graced by their presence. But if you happen to be nearby, then by all means, you are expected to pet, itch, or tickle her. If you don’t know where she is, look for the latest item to be brought into her house … she is sitting on it, no matter how tiny, tall, awkward, or human that thing might be.
My mom was always Queen at our all-boy house—until Harmony came to reign, quietly, yet with authority. She could be coaxed to play the piano and was genuinely easy-going as a hostess, but even good pets get old.
I remember telling her goodbye just before leaving the house to turn myself in. I knew I’d never see her again, and the reality of that day came this past week. Death is difficult. Loss is hard. But, I’ve gained so much by being here—I wouldn’t want it otherwise!
This week I had the joy of counseling my former co-worker, Charlie, who is young in his faith and growing. Desiring to be baptized, he’d somehow missed the baptism classes on three consecutive Wednesday nights, and was devastated that he wouldn’t be able to be baptized.
Because he paroles in December, thus due to be shipped back to California at any moment, the chaplain realized time is of the essence and asked me to counsel him one-on-one. We set an appointment to spend a yard time together, since he doesn’t live in my pod.
As we talked, it became apparent how harsh of a lifestyle change Charlie will need to make soon. The old lifestyle of crime, fueled by drugs and bad friends has been exchanged for a lifestyle of godly character, fueled by the Holy Spirit and good friends. Charlie is so worried about running into his old “friends” that his mom is moving to a different city so he can live with her there.
We talked about the symbolism of baptism—the dying to the old self and the raising of the new self. As Romans 6:4 says, “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” (NLT) This act of obedience to God gives testimony to others about the new life Charlie is walking in.
During our time together, Charlie came to an assurance of his salvation and realized the seriousness of the call of God on his life. God has given him a big heart of compassion for the homeless and for terminally ill children, especially. He plans to begin college classes as soon as possible and immediately join himself to a church in the Walnut Creek area that is a solid, evangelistic, growing body of believers.
We spent much of our time speaking of keeping a godly lifestyle, per Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19–20. Just after giving the directive to “make disciples” and to “baptize them,” He tells us as His followers to “teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.”
As he puts off the old and takes up the new, Charlie’s greatest challenge is simply to abide in Christ, walking in the Spirit. We prayed together, and I encouraged him to begin spending much time in the Word, in preparation for the sure battles ahead.
What a privilege to see Charlie, one of the 10 California inmates (and 74 in the institution) get baptized by the chaplain last night. He was beaming ear-to-ear, despite his nervous thoughts, making such a public display.
I believe he’ll do well, and I believe God has big things in store for him. He’s euthanized the “old cat”—the self-centered, me-oriented, time-wasting taker of space, and is risen with Christ to the new man God has him to be. May he run the race before him, like my grandpa, with endurance, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of his faith.
Thank you for your prayers!
P.S. Any words of encouragement for Charlie? E-mail me back, and I’ll pass them on.