March 23, 2009
Monday, 2:00 p.m.
Letter #77: Still Smiling!
Greetings! I’m excited—my new niece is a week old today! Congrats to Brian and Shanna on Aliya Grace’s arrival into the world. I’m glad you guys took my counsel to drop the original idea of naming her after me (Christopher Grace) and not to include the additional middle name (Aliya Ingrid Grace) due to the current negative publicity surrounding those initials.
God is blessing and growing the ministry here. As believers, we’re trying to make a concerted effort to reach out to those around us and look for ways to minister. What makes this difficult for me is that I spend a lot of time in my cell working on my college studies and other projects.
When I come out to dayroom, I take a shower and maybe make a phone call, and then I have time to visit. This time is limited—1½ hours each day (unless I’m at church, Bible Study, music practice, or a visit), and I’d like to fellowship with my Christian brothers. Recently, however, I’ve made a point of introducing myself to the new guys and encouraging them to seek God while they’re here.
Most guys experience a “come to Jesus” moment in at least one of the phases of their journey. It is as if God takes His “captive” audience and uses the harshness of the situation to bring men to their knees, much like a soldier experiences in the foxhole. Rare, indeed, is the atheist in prison, and scarcer still in the county jail, as everyone is making deals with God while fighting his case. By the time they arrive here at the Big House, many have lost hope, resigning themselves to merely existing day to day.
With nothing of any significance to look forward to, life becomes consumed with the elation of the mundane (“I got to take a shower today” or “I got to exchange my socks yesterday”). Many have either left their families behind or their families, in shame, have left them behind.
Knowing that reaching out to God in this time of need is a common reflex, I find that bringing Him into a conversation is relatively easy. I imagine that difficult economic times can produce similar opportunities to point others to God!
I’ve had a particular blessing this week, as three individuals came up to me and commented on my smile. One was my first building cop, who had transferred to a construction project at the prison and recently transferred back onto this yard. He saw me on the yard and yelled out: “Hey, Christopher! Still smiling, eh?” He’d been one who was sure my smile wouldn’t last. Well, God’s grace has lasted! So, my gratefulness for all He’s done continues.
Two inmates came up to me at separate times in the dayroom and asked me how is it that I can “always be smiling?” I told them each that my recognition of all God is doing for me, despite my unworthiness, produces the joy inside. I can’t help but smile when I think about how good my Heavenly Father is to me! I thank God that He’s replacing my selfish, self-serving heart with one that wants Him more than anything.
I also thank God for His hand of protection over me. He fights my battles for me! Even this week, as I unintentionally fouled someone on the basketball court, the guy got mad and got in my face, but God gave me words of peace to speak, diffusing the situation.
While in a game a couple weeks ago, I fought for a loose ball and inadvertently left my elbow where another man’s nose planned to be. He puffed himself up, got his face inches from mine and said naughty words. 🙂
I looked at him (not by choice) and grinned, saying: “Bro, I didn’t mean to foul you, and it wasn’t bad enough for the referees to call it, either! Just calm down.” He told me he would “hurt me bad” the next time it happened, so I had my elbows removed. Surgically. Nah, but the point is, people are going to be … people, but God will ALWAYS be God!
So, no matter what special person you’re dealing with, remember that you don’t have to fight this one! Humble yourself. Be the one who ushers in peace. After all, your Dad is bigger than his dad. You win.