35 | The List, the Lunge, and the Lesson

June 15, 2008
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #35: The List, the Lunge, and the Lesson


Dear Family,

Happy Father’s Day!

Today began as a bright, sunny day but was clouded by an instruction from someone who said I needed to send the chaplain a “Request for Interview” form in order to be added to the church “List.” I sensed myself getting anxious—I didn’t want to miss yet another Sunday service. Arriving here on Monday, I’d barely missed one, then had to skip last week’s due to my “Orientation” status in my adorable white cotton jumpsuit with ties like clown pom-poms up the front of it.

The pastor who holds Wednesday 1:00 p.m. services was sick, so I missed that, too. I prepared myself for another disappointment, breathed a sigh, and gave the expectation of attending church to God. Blessed “Yard Release” was announced, and I shot outside in my very best Sunday clothes, my trusty Bible under my arm.

I made a beeline for the chapel area of the yard, walked past the fence, and waited until everyone else had been ushered inside before my information was noted on the church List. The good news is, now that I’m on The List, I will be called to chapel services, even in the event of a facility lockdown or no yard, etc.

I realized as I went inside that gratefully, my days of “hoping” I’d get to go to church (DeLame-o Prison) are over. Praise God!

I immediately met the pastor, a big black guy who is very down-to-earth and likeable. I said I’d be glad to serve in any way they’d like me to and mentioned I’ve played piano. He told me to talk to the choir director, who had already been told about me, I guess.

Another tall, middle-aged white guy, Gabriel, was on piano, tinkling around as people came in. I firmly did NOT want to bump anyone off a piano bench. For the beginning announcements/prayer time, another guy (“D”) was playing softly, elevator-style. As it came time for the congregational song, both Gabriel and “D” told the choir director they didn’t know the song. He looked at me, hopefully.

I smiled and tried not to look (or sound) piano-starved as I practically lunged for the bench. Praise God. They didn’t let me up from the bench for the entire service—I played a few more hymns, several play-by-ears along with the Spanish songs, and ending “exit” music.

“D” shook my hand with both of his, afterwards, asking for some of my “anointing.” Many guys told me how I was a direct answer to prayer for revival in their church. (I’m hoping they weren’t praying for church pianists to be sent to prison.)  🙂  Gabriel told the choir director how relieved he is that I showed up—now he can play for the Hispanic church services, Thursdays at 1:00 p.m., and I can play for the choir practices, which take place at the same time! I’m just grateful to serve!

God is richly taking care of my needs. Remember what my main disappointment was about prison, before going in? That I would have to have a job. I didn’t like the idea of spending hours working in the kitchen or making socks or whatever, when I knew my days could be so much more productive if I just stayed in my room! Well, God is good. Here at Salinas Valley, jobs are extremely scarce, and it is likely that I won’t get a job for several months! (Meanwhile, I earn “good behavior” credits just as if I had a job.)

True, it means I don’t get all that pay, but at $0.13/hour, I’m sure I could find some more profitable use of my time. With no time off, and taking into account that they deduct 55% for my “restitution,” I’d get paid $121.68 for a year of work.  🙁

There’s a large forest/hill fire burning nearby, making a bunch of the guys nervous, as the smoke covers the sky at times. With absolutely zero vegetation on the yard and cement/metal buildings, we are in no danger, but the drama is fun.

It was interesting to me that most of the guys, focusing on the fiery hillside, completely missed one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen in creation. The sun, partly obscured by the gray smoke and ash spread by a strong breeze across the sky, shone forth as a fluorescent pink circle directly overhead. Awesome, the contrast of colors and the dramatic picture it was to me of good shining through destruction. God reminded me in that moment, that in all things, I need to look up. If I get caught up with my surroundings, problems, despair—ever had a “fire” of responsibilities you had to put out?—I could miss the promise that God is there. The “Son” will continue to shine, and even (if we look to Him!) more brilliantly than ever. Look up!

Praying that God enriches your days with His grace and mercy! I love you all.