66 | “This Only Happens in Hollywood”

December 11, 2008
Thursday, 5:00 p.m.
Letter #66: “This Only Happens in Hollywood”


Dear Family,

Greetings! So?!? How was the Magic Kingdom? I’ve prayed that this year’s Family Vacation would be fun and restorative.  🙂

Thank you so much for everyone making an extra effort and sacrifice for me to have such a special visit on Saturday. It was a treat to have my brothers all together at once! Fun conversations and fellowship, especially with Mommy and Daddy there too. I was blessed! It was like old-timey Family Pow-Wows, without the drama of a Major Decision (buy or rent a trailer? stop for a city-wide concert in Kokomo, Indiana—or not—? sign autographs for raving fans?). This time it was just “tamales or tacos?”

Though not many inmates were at Visiting (16 vs. the usual 30+) to hear us sing “Angels We Have Heard on High,” I received a bunch of positive comments. The cops were the most vocal in their compliments, asking where we’ve sung, for how long, etc., but my favorite comment was the one I heard secondhand, through my buddy Ed, who was my neighbor at Elmwood. He came up to me and said he’d heard that we sang a Christmas carol “for the families at Visiting” and that his friend was there. I told him it was a blessing for me too—to sing with my brothers again.

“Well, my friend said it was awesome—that he was clapping hard. He said to me, ‘Ed, it was so nice—I mean, stuff like this only happens in Hollywood, you know, the perfect Christmases.’ ”

Keith’s brother, who also heard us, turned to Keith after we finished and said: “Wow! Did that really just happen?” Thanks, Bros, for being such good sports about it. I know I haven’t always made the best guesses about receptive audiences (thanks, Brian, for the great memory of the walk-away-mid-song audience), and certainly convicted felons can be an intimidating audience for any sort of presentation—but especially religious songs, sharing the gospel, and the like. Thank you. A few guys have asked me when we’ll be doing a concert for the whole yard. Lord willing, it will happen!

I received a couple of special blessings recently: a couple of guys I’d ministered to at Delano are now here. Raul told me how meaningful it was when I served communion to him (saltine cracker and grape Kool-Aid) the night before I left. He’s now playing guitar for the Spanish Worship Team here!

Mike Guerra, my other buddy from Delano, gave me back a New Testament Bible I’d given him at Delano. Throughout the Bible, there are places to write notes on what you’re learning through the Word. Well, Mike passed it around to the Christian bros at Delano, and they each wrote notes about their walk with God. What a rich blessing this is to me—guys I invested in, talked to, prayed for, and cried with—to have a written record of their faith in a time of crisis is special.

God is faithfully expanding the reach of our on-the-yard daily Bible Study. Every day, we used to have between 6–8 guys. Now, we have a consistent core group of guys, plus those of us who can’t make it every day, so we average 15–20 men each day! Tomorrow, I’ll be presenting a message for the first time. (I often contribute but haven’t taken the time to prepare a message before now.)

My college studies are moving along nicely—I’m nearly on time with my projects, and I’m on track with my reading and writing assignments. Thank you for praying for me. I appreciate your prayers that I would use my time wisely. A couple of other prayer requests:

  • Keith’s brother (who has been visiting him for two and a half years) was just denied a renewal of his visitation rights. Keith has had a big spiritual impact in his brother’s life.
  •  Lorenzo, my cellie, is now “confident” that he’ll be heading home next month. This has been his assertion since June, unfortunately. I’d love to see him go (in the best sense of that phrase), especially since the anxiety is heavy on him.
  •  The chapel clerk, Casper, was upset that I got permission to practice piano during the Buddhists’ chapel time (authorized by my chaplain and the Buddhist guy). Please pray that I’ll continue to be able to utilize this time to train the worship team one-on-one in reading music, singing in parts, etc. I love you guys!