The Unexpected

expect_the_unexpectedHas there ever been a time in your life when something unexpected happened to you? Something you had not planned on or anticipated? I must say that for me being in a federal prison was much unexpected.  Never in a million years did I expect to be here. I’m sure you, too, have had many unexpected events or times in your life that you did not see coming. Maybe it was a raise or promotion at your job, or the sudden death or illness of a close friend or family member.  Maybe you can remember those out-of-the-blue unexpected gifts that you received for no particular reason. Money that just happened to show up when you needed it the most. Unexpected instances will always occur in a lifetime – some good and some bad.

While in prison I have gone through a lot of unexpected moments…..unexpected changes to my daily schedule, unexpected closure of the compound, or the unexpected meal menu change. Better than those moments, I love receiving unexpected books in the mail or the unexpected letter from a friend I haven’t talked to since the start of my sentence. In fact, I was totally surprised to receive three positive and uplifting letters from individuals that I have not talked to since I left my teaching position over three years ago. They were unexpected gifts and brought a huge smile to my face!

What are some of your unexpected moments in life or unexpected gifts you have received? How did you react? Were they good or bad moments? Now think about this: What would you do if Jesus unexpectantly stood before you today and started talking with you face to face? Would you be scared, frightened or filled with joy? Unexpected moments or receiving unexpected gifts are what make life interesting. How you react to those moments is even more important. It defines your character. Look at the people in the Bible who had unexpected visits from Jesus: Mary and Joseph, Saul (Paul), Abraham, and Peter are some examples. How did they react when Jesus confronted them? Now think about the character of these people. They were or became a man or women of God. How they responded to their unexpected moment with Jesus defined who they were as a person.

My unexpected prison sentence does not define me as a person. What defines me as a person is how I react to my prison sentence and what I do about it. This unexpected event in my life did not waver my faith or turn me away from God. Instead, it made my faith stronger, making me rely on God every step of the way, doing the things He wants me to do for Him…..even behind these walls. When you have unexpected situations in your life, how are you reacting? Are you thanking Him for the unexpected good times and relying on Him more than ever on the unexpected tough times? I look forward to the unexpected times in my life that God will put in front of me in the months ahead. Yes, some will be tough. But I truly believe the unexpected good times will drown out the bad times by far. God puts these moments in front of us for a reason – reasons we might never understand. But He knows what He’s doing, and that’s all that matters.

Thank you all for the continued unexpected letters, gifts, and prayers I have received these past few years. God is using you to further His kingdom as much as He is using me. Keep looking forward to those moments in your life when God appears in front of you and says, “Surprise!” He’s full of surprises and unexpected moments and loves to see how we will respond! Make it be a “Yes, Lord!”

Let Your Light Shine

Let-Your-Light-Shine-560x414I’ve been a Christian all my life, getting baptized when I was one month old. I was raised in a Christian home where we prayed and attended church every week. In my lifetime, I’ve taken many religion classes in school, attended hundreds of Sunday School classes, and have been involved with many youth ministry groups. I’ve also attended  church services and Bible Studies as long as I can remember. But not once have I learned how to teach God’s Word while being an inmate in a prison.

Granted, I never imagined myself in prison in a million years, and there probably is no college religion class on being a witnessing inmate to other inmates. I have witnessed to many kids and adults about Christ in my short lifetime, leading Bible studies to young kids, youth, and other adults. But witnessing to prisoners is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I must say I’ve been pretty sheltered throughout my life. I went to a Christian grade school, attended a Christian college, and even taught at a few Christian elementary schools. I’ve worked at Christian camps and most of my friends and family members are Christians. Notice the theme here? So to sum things up, I haven’t been in many dangerous situations or surrounded by many non-Christians. I’ve lived a very safe life. When I came to prison my eyes were opened to all sorts of situations and circumstances that shocked me, and still shocks me even today. This is an evil place and Satan rules here!

When witnessing to someone outside of prison, the person I spoke to generally listened, sounded interested and even asked questions. They were very respectful. When witnessing to an inmate, one is ridiculed, laughed at, argued with, and the inmate is as stubborn as can be. They give no respect at all. They have their own opinions and love to take the Bible out of context. No matter what I say or prove, their hearts are so hard that a chisel can’t even crack it. Inmates in general are stubborn, selfish, rebellious, and only want to do things their way. (I admit, I could see myself that way before prison). When a conversation on God or church is on the brink of the horizon, I sometimes cringe because I know where it could lead, but I also say a quick prayer. I’ve learned my lesson a while back not to cram Christianity down people’s throats. When the time comes, approach the topic gently. Arguing does absolutely no good.

There are so many “lost” souls here. And most of the people I hang with on a daily basis are, unfortunately, part of the lost. It hurts me to think that unless these people change their ways and come to know Jesus, I’ll never see them in heaven. There is no easy way to witness to inmates in prison, even those you are with every day.

But, after all I just said, I do believe I have found the secret to witnessing to other inmates. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For the Lord does not give us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgment.” God does not want us to be scared when witnessing. Instead, He gives us sound judgment to do what is right. Also, Matthew 5:16 says “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and give praises to your Father in heaven.” I love the first four words – let your light shine. So that is what I try to do. Of course, I fail at times. But I do choose to smile, to lift someone up when needed, and encourage others. I chose to make people laugh, to say thanks, and to compliment. I choose to be an inspiration and to show that Christ is living in me.

An inmate once came up to me and said, “You are always smiling, even when you run the bases in a softball game, you are smiling.” Another person told me, “I want what you have!” I said, “What do you mean?” And he said, “You’re always happy and in a good mood and can get along with anyone.” I told him that I want my life to reflect Jesus, and once you get to know Him, your life will be happy also.”

Ephesians 4:29 says “Do not let unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful in building others up, so it’ll benefit those that listen.” Prisoners don’t want to be preached at. They want to learn things on their own. So they do it by observation, by watching how others lead their lives.

People everywhere are always watching and listening, especially when it comes to other Christians. They want to see how Christians live and how we lead our lives. If you lead a life by letting your light shine, you can and will inspire and impact others to live that way, devoting their life to God.  People are watching! You preach more with what you do than what you say to them. May you let your light shine today wherever you go, so that you, too, may lead others to Christ.

This Little Gospel Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Shine!

Please pray for inmates who need to know Christ; pray for chaplains who work in our prisons; pray for me as I witness to others in this place.

Rain Rain Go Away

“Rain Rain, Go away, Come again some other day”

rainHow many times have you said that in your life? Probably quite a bit, especially before a golf outing or going to a ball game or picnic or even a day at the Lake. Rain can spoil a variety of outdoor activities. And when being outdoors kills time the fastest here in prison, the constant rain is keeping us inside, doing rainy day activities instead.

It just turned June 1 and we have already passed the rainiest spring on record in Dallas. The weather forecasters say we could pass the all-time wettest year with months to go yet. The temperatures are cooler, which I love, but being cooped up inside for hours and even days on end can get to a person. Of course, we find things to do inside our unit. There’s a lot of book reading, card playing, and board gaming that takes place. And then there are those that cook and eat non-stop when they are bored.

Just the other day I had my first “ironed” cheese sandwich! Yes, you read it correctly. We don’t have a grill or hot plate or even an oven, but we do have an iron….one that we use to iron clothes, and yes, to even grill, or I should say, “iron” our sandwiches, too! HA! It’s pretty simple actually. There are six steps that one must do in order to make a successful “ironed” cheese sandwich:

  1. Clean the iron.
  2. Turn the iron on low hear (we don’t have Pam here so too high of heat will make the bread stick to the iron, destroying the sandwich).
  3. Butter both sides of the bread.
  4. Place the iron on the sandwich for a few minutes, checking it often.
  5. Flip the sandwich to iron the other side, repeating Step Four.
  6. Clean the iron.

And there you have it – a freshly “ironed” cheese sandwich! It tastes wonderful, too!

Besides the ironed sandwich that was made this past weekend, pizzas, pies and cakes were made, as well as other items, too! All were made using a microwave. I should write a cookbook called “Microwave Fun” with the recipes I’ve learned in prison using only a microwave. Rainy days can be fun! You just have to get your creative juices flowing and have an appetite to eat all day!!!

God obviously created rain for a reason. Some people absolutely hate the rain; others love it. Take farmers, for example. Without rain, their growing season would be over and their farms in jeopardy. Without rain, would the flowers blossom like they do or the grass turn a dark green and blow in the wind? Without rain, would the leaves on trees grow or the lakes be filled to capacity? Without rain, would the rivers and creeks create such scenic waterfalls? I could go on and on about the beauty that rain creates. During the rainy season when I lived in Hawaii, 200 hundred foot waterfalls would shoot off the sides of the mountain whenever it rained. Beautifully stunning! Where does our drinking water come from, or bath or sprinkler water? Rain!! When God created the earth He put everything in its place for a reason. So next time it rains and your plans are spoiled, give God thanks for the beauty He created and how  it is used for our good. He did it all for us…..because He loves us! Rain is a Miracle from God! Enjoy this song as you consider the rain!!! Maybe it will take the dreariness away! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VKy69sE4VY