26 | The Next Level

May 25, 2008
Sunday, 2:30 p.m.
Letter #26: The Next Level


Dear Family,

Happy Lord’s Day! Though I haven’t been to church in probably 28,000 hours (the number God gave me when I asked Him—I guess that’s what? Four weeks …) I was blessed by a very fruitful discussion at this morning’s Bible Study. I also spent much time in prayer on behalf of each of you as you serve in your various churches. It rained some today, and I hope it was limited to here, since Oakridge Church is holding services outdoors today, with a picnic bash tomorrow as well! God knows your needs!

Recently, God has been preparing me to be ready for “the next level” of something; at first, I wasn’t sure of what. The fact is, I’ve been so incredibly filled with every area of blessing, that my life actually became comfortable. Uh-oh. (Cue “Jaws” theme.) It was all “too” good. No more issues with my cellie (again, more on Jonathon later), no more Anthony the Porter issues, and I’d heard from all of my family members and a few close friends, besides!

I didn’t want to write home about how great everything had become. After all, I’m supposed to be doing “hard time” right? This was starting to turn into the church Men’s Retreat 2008 that got horribly mixed up with the movie “Groundhog Day.” I just felt as if God was going through this training phase before He’d thrust me into something tough. I prayed, preparing for a long stint in the hole, no family visits ever, long delays at the mailroom, or facility-wide extreme lockdowns. I told God I was ready and willing for whatever was “the next level,” and I thanked Him for all my many blessings.

The next day, I received receipts that three of my family members were cleared to visit. Uh … God? I’m still ready. …

The next day, we got “Yard,” for the first time in two and a half weeks. Oh, it wasn’t just any Yard. This one sported a bright sunny day, with 80° temperature and a 7–8-mile breeze blowing. The whole time. I played two full games of basketball, full-court, and was barely sweating. The last play of the game, I stopped suddenly and pushed off with my left foot to drive the ball around a guy in front of me. My left foot shoved—my right foot didn’t move, and I rolled my ankle. I felt a bolt of pain as the loudspeaker announced, “Yard recall … Yard recall!”

I straightened up and looked down at my foot protruding grotesquely from the side of my shoe. “Trouble,” I thought.

However, the poorly constructed boat shoes had actually come in handy, giving out completely. My foot had simply torn through the side fabric, and it was over—no pain! On top of that sigh-of-relief moment, the guys were referring to me as “Michael Jordan” for a move I’d pulled the previous play: Driving hard to the basket after stealing the ball and running it past one defender, I had three defenders in the “key” under the basket. I leapt from the free-throw line in front of the largest guy on the court. I shot the ball between my legs, just to the side of him, landed, taking two steps, and jumped, tipping in my rebound between the other two guys, putting our team ahead.

I returned to my room and wondered to God when it was going to get tough. When was He going to take me to “the next level?”

During showers, I got a packet of items from Justin, the guy who’s been giving me Scripture to read each day. It had a whole pad of writing paper and several blank sheets, his home address (since he’s leaving in three weeks for parole), and a new pen! “God, I’m ready when you are!” I told Him.

That night, I went over to Justin’s door to thank him. He told me how much I’d benefited his life and that he’s written to his mom about me. I’m on their church’s prayer list.

I was overwhelmed with emotion and had to hide my face, thanking God. “But, God!” I cried out. “I’m ready to do something great for you! I want to suffer for You! I want it to be hard! Use me, God!”

Back in my cell that night (Friday, two nights ago), God let me know what He’s been preparing me for. He hit me hard: “Are you ashamed to speak my name?”

“No, God!” After all, everyone here knows I’m a Christian. “But, where is the harvest of souls?” I asked myself, thinking back. I thought back on my life … maybe one-and-a-half dozen people I’ve led to Christ in my nearly 29 years of knowing Him. How pathetic! My own thoughts were convicting me now. Here I am a “salesman,” and I’ve not even “closed the deal” an average of one a year!

“Okay, God,” I told Him. “I’ll bring you up in my conversations, and I’ll plant and water the seeds of Your Word and Your encouragement You prompt me to give others. I’ll be sensitive to Your Spirit in these ‘fields, that are white (and orange!) unto harvest.’ Send me, ‘like a lamb among wolves’ (see Luke 10:2–3).” And God is faithful! He is increasing my witness in this place! Pray for the men here! They are hungry to hear the Word! More update tomorrow …