42 | Are You Going to Heaven?

July 2, 2008
Wednesday, 5:00 p.m.
Letter #42: Are You Going to Heaven?


Dear Family,

Greetings! I just walked back from dinner and was amazed at the amount of smoke in the sky. Supposedly, there’s somewhere near 1,000 fires in California right now. Any more of this soot and ash, and they’ll have to ship in fresh air from L.A.  🙂  Well, I want to let you know that spiritually speaking, this prison is on fire! God is doing a great work here. Thank you for praying for me!

I love sales and marketing. I love studying what makes people respond to things they would have never considered normally. Knowing the dynamics of how our Great Creator made us helps me understand even better how to live, give, and minister to the ones He has called me to serve. God gave me an idea a few days ago, while I was reading the Word. I looked at my state-issued mug. I can tell it apart from my cellie’s mug because, like our skin color, mine is tan and his is a deep brown. I wondered if anyone else could tell it is my mug, and it was then that I realized how much advertising space that mug contains.

I took a long piece of masking tape (thanks to your letters, which are machine-opened, checked by hand, and re-sealed with wide masking tape) and taped around the bottom edge of my hard-plastic mug. Then I neatly wrote on one side—the side that usually faces me—in large block letters: GOD LOVES YOU!! and darkened the letters so they could be read from two tables behind me.

On the side facing the guys who sit at the octagon-shaped, four-seater, stainless steel tables with me, I wrote in neat dark block letters: ARE YOU GOING TO HEAVEN? Don’t know? Ask Me How!

I finished it up just before breakfast two days ago and brought it along. Now, I’m a fan of the Christian T-shirts, fish on the car, etc. insomuch as it gets real conversation started with people—Christians and non-Christians alike.

Personally, I never put the fish on my car. Those of you who ever rode with me know why. Though nearly immune to accidents—only a tiny scratch here or there—I seemed to have an incredible ability to unnerve people with my driving. (You just wait to see what 15 years of the pedestrian life does for my driving skills!) As a result, no fish.

I certainly didn’t need anyone blaming God for my driving! And, the great phrase—by St. Francis de Assisi, I believecertainly rings true: “Preach often. When necessary, use words.” But, my apologies to dear Francis; my actions alone are not enough. I must speak the Words of Life. My glorious salvation compels me!

All this to say, the “cup ad” being cool, I was prepared to back up its message with both my words and lifestyle. Walking to breakfast, I prayed and asked God to bless my feeble effort. Not two minutes into the meal, a guy named Johnny (see Quote of the Day at the end of this letter) asked what was on my cup. I passed my cup to his table for him to read.

His cellie, Chris, a young man of about 22, answered the question facing him (“Are you going to Heaven?”): “Nope! I’m not!”

“Okay,” I said, “and I guess you’re not asking how, either.”


“Well,” I responded, “at least you know! The Bible says, ‘These things are written that you may know you have eternal life.’ ” (See I John 5:13.)

Johnny returned the cup to me, commenting that he liked it that I got in that “parting shot” at Chris. Later that day, they sent over 6 books for me and my cellie to read, and Chris asked me if I wanted to borrow some of his magazines he gets. I thanked him—and thanked God, because this was the first time that Chris had even acknowledged my existence, other than nodding or saying hi as we passed each other.

Now I’m noticing all the guys with shaved heads, proudly displaying the names of all their ex-girlfriends or the area code they grew up with—until the city got too big, so they gave him a different area code. Wow. All that available advertising space if I just shave my head … nah. My cup will have to do. Surely, I can say with the Psalmist, “My cup runneth over!” God is good.

A guy died today. He’d frozen up with a seizure-like symptom about a week ago, and he was taken to the hospital. We learned he didn’t survive, and all his stuff was just packed up and shipped off to his family today. He was a tall, slender, middle-aged white guy who lived on the bottom tier of my building. Kinda sobering.

None of us is guaranteed 80+ years of life. I wonder if we knew we’d be dead a week from now—would it change how we live? Sure it would. Are YOU sure of where you’re headed if they come to pack up your stuff next? Work like it’s your last … enjoy it like it’s your first. –CD ’08  🙂

Thanks for your prayers and letters. You are my encouragement and joy!




Quote of the Day: When asked by Johnny what I want to do when I get out, I told him that I really care about the guys here and that I want to come back—to keep coming back, to minister. He said: “Just get addicted to drugs. You’ll keep coming back. Worked for me!” Great. Duly noted.