53 | Poolside

September 9, 2008
Tuesday, 7:00 p.m.
Letter #53: Poolside


Dear Family,

Greetings! I’m writing to you while relaxing poolside this evening, since I thought you may enjoy an update on what I’ve been up to recently. If, however, you’d rather not be updated, feel free to just go back to doing whatever horridly dull activity you were pursuing prior to this, and you’ll never get to the part of this letter where I explain what I mean by poolside. Yeah, I knew you’d wonder about that.

Well, for some great news: I was blessed to receive some piano books this week, with many (105!) beautiful praise and worship songs inside! I spent several hours “practicing” and sight-reading through the songs, playing on my bunk as if it were a keyboard. I made no mistakes.

On Sunday, the worship leader asked me to sing a solo, mentioning the song “I Will” that I recently wrote. Well, I’m hoping to teach that one to the choir … so I sang Chris Tomlin’s “Wonderful Cross” instead, which adds a beautiful chorus to “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” It was the first solo I’ve done in prison, and it was warmly received. I was thanked by many of the guys afterward, and some in chow line called out to me. One of our hearing-impaired inmates said I sounded like Chris Tomlin. (Well, I was playing the same notes, singing the same tune, and praising the same God as Mr. Tomlin … )

After the service, I got to play a bunch of songs for the worship leader, Darryl Evans, and introduce him to a whole array of uplifting, inspiring, and God-honoring music. He is going to work with me to begin incorporating some of them into our future worship services here—Praise the Lord! I’m blessed to serve with humble men of God whose only agenda is to glorify the King of Kings and make Him known!

Prayer request: for more practice time at the piano and with the choir. I asked my chaplain, Young, if he would endorse my idea: that I would practice in the chapel library, where smaller services are held—the Mormons while we meet in the main chapel room Sunday mornings, for example—whenever it’s not in use during another religion’s service in the main room. I’d happened to find out that no one uses the library and its piano during Islamic services on Fridays and Buddhist services on Tuesdays.

Knowing that an officer or “outside staff” or volunteer has to be present for me to be in the chapel, it seemed to be the perfect plan, to me. The chaplain wholeheartedly agreed! So, today I asked the leader of the Buddhist group if I could quietly practice down the hall in the library. He graciously agreed to let me.

I told the chapel clerk—who, since our chapel is the main office for the Native American chaplain—is also the assistant to the Native American chaplain and has the personality of Native American soil, that I’d be in the library, next door to his office. Not five minutes into my practice, he knocked on the door, and I let him in. He let me know this would be my “last time” practicing there. He wasn’t smiling. I explained how I’d received permission from Chaplain Young and then from the Buddhist guy (carefully staying under authority).

He shot back, “Yeah, but is Young here, and does he care about all the problems going on?”

“No, Little Pouty Face, Young isn’t here,” I thought to myself. “Oh? What problems?”  I restrainedly asked.

“All the problems that will come when all these other guys who always beg me to come in here find out you’re here,” said Heap’um Cow Hooie.

I feigned a smile. “Well, I’d certainly be glad to let the other guys (he’d named two) have a turn practicing too!”

Limping Eagle thought I hadn’t grasped the extreme seriousness and magnitude of the situation. “There’s a thousand guys on this yard, and they all want to come in here. It’s not fair to them.” He threw in the fact that he’s done 15 years (for scalping? I wondered … ) and closed with the reiteration, “This is your last time here.”

I had visions of Custer’s Last Stand and vowed to try to win this one for the Palefaces everywhere. Just before the door to the chapel library closed behind him as he walked out, I “spurred” on my final comment, giving it my best “shot.” “Well, I’ll talk to Chaplain Young about this,” I humbly said, grateful that the door locked him out, leaving me to practice for two quiet hours.  🙂

Please pray for the peaceful resolution of this situation! (Don’t you dare say “How.”)




Inside the Water Cube

Thanks to a neat overflow from the shower next door to my cell, a very special pool of water has found its way under my door. I made myself a cup of Kool-Aid, and I’m now sitting poolside. My handy little fan provides the gentle breeze. Maybe I could bring in some sand from our volleyball court—except it’s just dirt. Well, at least the cup of Kool-Aid is real. Ahh …