September 14, 2008
Sunday, 3:00 p.m.
Letter #54: A Gift from the Lord
How Great Is Our God! I’m so grateful we serve a loving, gracious Heavenly Father Who loves to give good gifts to His children! (Matthew 7:11) God tested my faith Saturday morning. I’d received a letter from Mommy last week (Ha! Just one of the 3–4 letters I receive from her every week!) 🙂 saying that she was going to visit me on Saturday. I was excited, because I wanted to take a picture with her, something I’d forgotten to do on her last visit. Daddy told me on the phone that she was coming early.
Yet, as I finished getting ready Saturday morning, God prompted me to ask Him for one of my sisters to visit me. “But … ” I quickly reminded God that I already knew who was coming to visit me. My mother does not lie. Neither does she pass up an opportunity to see her favorite son. (See my “Dear Family” letter written on or around June 1, explaining that she drove five hours south to visit me for an hour at Delano, despite knowing I was being transferred to Soledad, just one and a half hours away, the very next day.) I mentioned this to God, in case He’d inadvertently removed that fact “as far as east is from the west” or thrown it accidentally into the “Sea of Forgetfulness.”
He hadn’t forgotten and told me again to ask Him. I patted the tickets (to take a picture with Mommy) that I’d already put into my shirt pocket. It didn’t intimidate God at all.
“Okay … I ask that, if it be possible, one of my sisters could visit me … today.” I wasn’t very convincing, but I knew God could do it.
Imagine my joy at God’s faithfulness when I walked into the visiting room to find Katie—and my mom! Sure, it was a small issue, but a good reminder to me that God is in the details of our lives. I kinda committed to not question or hesitate so much when God asks something of me in the future!
Yes, it was a very nice visit; thanks to Aunt Shanna for watching the girls so we could visit. I pocketed a few Skittles candies. As I was being customarily strip-searched after my visit, I palmed them as I removed my pants. At the point where you “squat and cough” facing away from the officer (who knows me quite well by now), I strategically dropped the Skittles. I only wish I could have a picture of the officer’s face—it will stay imprinted in my memory for quite a while, I am sure.
Trinity preached in church today! He gets the opportunity every so often, but aside from leading Bible Studies on the yard, I’ve not heard him preach before today. He was going to speak on forgiveness, so I chose “Power in the Blood” as one of the hymns. Trinity requested that I sing “How Great Is Our God,” one of his—and my—favorites. Neither of us has made it through that song without shedding tears before God in recent memory.
I checked with the worship leader to make sure it was okay with him for me to lead the guys in worship rather than playing and singing it as a solo. He said, “Of course!”
I asked, of the 100-or-so guys, for a show of hands for who had heard the song before. Maybe five. I told them to sing out and assured the rest of them that they’d catch on quickly. I sang the first couple of verses and could hear many guys joining me on the chorus.
I then called out the words to the chorus: “Name above all names, worthy of all praise, my heart will sing: How great is our God! How great is our God! Sing with me: How great is our God! And all will see how great, how great is our God!” We sang it over and over, finishing with the chorus a cappella. Hands were raised, and tears of gratefulness to a great God Who forgives sin flowed.
I’m telling you, it is a treat, not unlike being with the earthly poor but spiritually rich people in India praising God, to be in such a group of societal cast-offs and screw-ups who lift “hearts and hands and voices” in praise. What an honor, a privilege, to serve God here!
Trinity got up and shared powerfully from Matthew 18. I heard of his abusive childhood at the hands of a dad who worshiped Satan and tried to kill his wife and kids. Years in foster homes and juvenile detention centers followed, until his life turned to God after he married a godly woman. He called for the men to forgive those who wronged them—and to forgive themselves and move on. He called for commitment to Christ and the forgiveness He alone can give, as I softly played, “How Great Is Our God.”
As Trinity later told me, “The Spirit of God fell on that place, Brother!” More than 50 men prayed to receive Christ’s forgiveness. Please pray that they begin to walk in His ways … “And all will see: How Great Is Our God.”
September 15th marks the 200th day I’ve spent in captivity, which, if I remember correctly, is longer than that Great White Shark lasted at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and it got more visitors than me, though not by much. Now, if only I can outlast the Orca (Killer Whale), who only last some 10 years in captivity, I’ll be doin’ great.