175 | Orange Is the New Black

May 16, 2011
Monday, 8:30 p.m.
Letter #175: Orange Is the New Black

Dear Family,

The Great Pumpkin strikes again! I’ve been moved from the J-Unit where I lived happily for a year, dressed entirely in blue like my fellow Smurfmates, and I am now in the G-Unit, where we look like a heavily tattooed pumpkin patch in our solid orange coordinated pantsuits. I’m not a Fall, so it does nothing for my complexion or self-esteem. Dressed for church, I look like the recipient of a bad spray tan that somehow missed my face and arms. It’s really quite nice. And, in a twisted version of peer-influenced marketing, socialized imaging, and crowd-sourced fashion trending, it’s not so bad to be dressed all in orange when everyone else is all in orange too.

I hear you clicking your tongue, shaking your head and saying how sad it is that I’ve obviously become institutionalized. Hmmm. Then I guess you have never been to AT&T Park to watch the San Francisco Giants play. You couldn’t pick me out of the crowd, dressed in my orange-wear. The only difference here is that the hotdogs come with the price of admission.

I’m blessed to be in a very low-key pod—a lot of guys are older than me—with a lot of Christians, including two other elders from the chapel. We have a Bible Study every night after dinner which I facilitate.

In the other pod, I had five pens I’d let guys use that were never returned to me. On my second day in this pod, two different guys asked me if I needed a pen and each gave me a pen.

The pod is clean, and our unit manager, Ms. Mariscal, is very nice to deal with. She gave me the best job in the pod before I’d even unpacked—a line server—but I had to politely decline since it prevented me from being able to do other ministry I know God wants me to focus on right now.

I received a very significant blessing this week too. The chaplain came by to visit me and brought one of my family’s CDs. My parents had sent it in as a chapel donation over six months ago, along with several other CDs, created by friends of mine. Those other CDs were all placed into the chapel library, and I have one of each in my cell.

Since my CD clearly has my last name emblazoned on its face, the chaplain never released it to me six months ago, fearing I may get flak from either the guards or other inmates (I didn’t think the CD sounded that bad!) and it may come back on him for blame. (I’ve received approval now to have modified copies of my CDs sent in, with “stealth” names that don’t include my last name.) Anyhow, the chaplain didn’t want to let me listen to my CD, but I persuaded him to leave it a few doors down with one of the other elders—which he did. I now have it, and I’ve listened to it for the first time in many years. It brings back so many crazy memories, and I’m so grateful to God for His favor that has allowed me to have some privileges I never once thought possible.

Thank you for your faithful prayers for me. I’ve been going through an interestingly difficult situation that has drawn me closer to the Lord. There are so many opportunities for ministry all around me, and it is easy to be overwhelmed by them; it is easy to feel inadequate to affect any change in people, to know what to say or do that will meet the needs, heal the hurts, answer the questions, and support the needed growth.

I feel ill-equipped and alone at times, facing big issues, the giants of today. Humbled by what I believe God is asking me to do, I cry out to Him to provide the strength in my weakness and be my supply for the wisdom I need. The enemy loves to point out my failures, my uncertainties, my lack of knowledge, and cause me to doubt the effectiveness of Christ in me. Ahh, but he forgets so easily that I can do all things through Christ, that the Lord is faithful who has called me and also will do it, that my God gives wisdom freely to all who ask Him.

So, I’m putting on my armor God’s given me, and my two offensive weapons—prayer and the Word of God—and fighting this one out. I trust in His victory, already secured on Calvary over our enemy, and I know great things are ahead as I press on toward the mark of His high calling.