Answering your emails and comments… and why.
I am starting a new series of posts that I plan to call “jimmied letters”. They are replies I write to emails and comments on this blog. I think they are potentially very helpful to other’s that may not read them otherwise. I hope they are useful to you, and I also pray they are greeted with the love intended.
Why are they called “jimmied letters”
Well, that comes with a story…
While I was locked away from the world, I found myself in the darkest scariest place of my life. As I went further down into that rabbit-hole-of-justice, trying to follow my calling to the Lord, I met the Devil face-to-face. Surprise! But through this adversity, I stayed strong and loyal, and God found a way to use me.
When I first arrived in prison, they sent me to a type of holding center that is meant to be a temporary layover for processing and classification, and a place to await permanent housing in a state facility. But the system is a little broken, and you can find yourself confined in one of these facilities for months or even years at a time.
When you arrive at this facility, you are not greeted with smiles or friendly faces. You are mocked, humiliated and treated as sub-human. And that is just from the guards! You should see what the prisoners do to you!
Now there are 4 levels of inmate security classifications. I was a level 1, which is basically a lamb or a bunny. But the worst of the worst are a level 4, which is something more like a ravenous wolf or a hungry lion. Level 1′s and level 4′s are never supposed to meet under any circumstance. Well in this facility…. THEY MIX THE LEVELS! This is something you simply DO NOT DO! But I guess, who was I to argue with the law, especially with both of my hands and feet chained-up and while wearing a suit made of paper?
A level 1 is a first time offender, and someone just passing through and in trouble for, not much more than a traffic violation. But a level 4 is an animal of a different sort. They are there for many years, most doing life sentences, for very violent crimes like murder.
Well, as I arrived I quickly learned that “Game recognizes game” and as I had NO “Game” to speak of, I was quickly found to be a fun sport for a man who had a life sentence, and no television to occupy his time with. This was my new bunk mate. Imagine two men and a toilet, in a cell the size of a guest closet. Now imagine that one makes video games for a living has never littered or been drunk, and the other used to rob and kill drug dealers for a living. Sounds like a logical match-up, right?… Ah, good times… good times.
Anyhow, so there I am with my Bible-in-hand, a smile on my face and nothing but good intentions, staring into the eyes of my new LEVEL 4 killer Muslim companion. Now lucky for me, I am 6’5” and a hefty size, but still no real match for a killer with intent to create mischief with an “infidel“. So, with some blessings, I got the guards to move me from “his” cell before any real violence could happen. God had watched over me, so far, on my journey into Hades, but what He had planned for me next was completely unexpected. You see the guards don’t seem to care too much about you as an inmate. And they really don’t like having to lift a finger to do ANYTHING in a place like this. There were 5 tiered floors to this cell block, with 250 open-barred cells, with two men per cell… and with 500 crazy loud inmates acting like animals, well, they could care less about you. So they did the absolute easiest job they could to relocate me. They moved me to the cell right next door, and into the room of his best friend! UGH!!!
So, with a little gentle persuading “PLEASE, PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE WITH HIM!” They moved my Muslim friend’s friend into the room next door with him. Ah, how nice of them to help me out and give me two neighbors in one cell that absolutely hate me. Well, as you can guess, the next several nights were filled with these two men, making-up any and every story they could think-up to make me despised by all. And they sang songs late into the night and made jokes about me and my parentage. I am sure my mother would be pleased to hear them. And the best part was when they got their other friends to pass notes and to agree to beat and kill me! Ah, such sweet neighbors. Thank you Lord, for letting me know how King David felt as he wrote his Psalms of distress. (That was actually serious and not just sarcasm)
So as you can imagine, I stayed in my cell 24/7. I never showered and I bathed in the sink in my room. I hid the best I could when the showering schedule rolled around. This was twice per week that they did this, and there were no guards present on my tier because they were watching the showers way-down-below on the first floor. Which is a good thing since there was a stabbing or beating at least once a week down there. But unfortunately, I was housed on the 5th floor and my door was wide open and I could not close and lock it even if I wanted to… and believe me, I did want to! This was NOT a safe situation. And as you can imagine that hiding is no easy task for a guy that’s 6’5” especially when you are in a room about the size of a standard automobile. I never spoke to anyone. I had no friends. I was alone and shut-off and a prisoner in a prison-within-a-prison, because these two men had been there for 3 years each, and still had not been transferred to a proper facility. After 3 years of living like this, I can to some extent, understand their need to be entertained. But what they did to me was nothing shy of monstrous and inhuman. But such is the nature of the beast, and as of yet, I was still completely unharmed; only by the grace of God. My soul was still on fire for my mission, to understand and head my calling, and so I prayed, “Lord, I am here to do Your bidding. How can I help anyone like this? I came here to be of service. I trust this is part of Your plan for a greater good, but I can not see it. But I will trust in you Lord. I will trust in you”… and the next day, God made His plan known.
There was a man in the cell on the other side of me, not the one with the jerks. An old gangster named Jimmie. He was a tough older guy who spent most of his adult life behind bars, for some “stupid” petty crime or another. And it seems this old gangster was tired and fed-up with his old ways, and I heard him asking his friends for advice on God and religion. I heard him, because he did this by yelling at the top of his lungs in his amazingly loud voice to people 15-20 cells away. He was so loud, in fact, that you would check your ears for bleeding.
Everyone loved Jimmie. He was loud, crude and funny. He knew how to play to the people behind bars. People loved to razz him and make crude jokes to him, and he loved giving as good as he got… But, Jimmie was miserable inside. I could hear him in his cell, since he was so close by, and he had such a loud voice. He was looking for answers to his life, and he honestly didn’t know where to look to find them. And here I was only one cell away, with answers locked-up and hidden inside me. I had not talked in weeks. I was a ghost (With fears becoming a ghost). You would have thought my cruel neighbors would have let-up on harassing me by now, with so much silence from me. But they didn’t, they just got better at it with practice. So how was I supposed to have the respect and authority to reach the heart of a man like Jimmie and teach him what he needed to know?
Then one day, after listening to Jimmie asking his friends again for answers and not getting any solid Christian advice, and getting an inmate’s slightly misguided and skewed interpretation of it. So, I took it upon myself to write a letter. I had very little paper and a small stubby pencil to write with. But I made do and wrote him a letter, folded it, put his name on it, and tossed it right in front of his cell. The contents of the letter told him that, God heard his prayers. And if he really wanted answers to shout-out from his cell “I want to know” and I would hear him and give him the answers he sought. And sure enough Jimmie did find the letter and he seemed quite surprised to find it. But he did, in fact, shout-out very loudly “I DO WANT TO KNOW! I AM A KNUCKLE HEAD! I DON’T KNOW THESE THINGS, HELP ME BROTHER!”. No one answered him, but he was patient and waited.
So everyday I would painstakingly write an anonymous letter to Jimmie, and each time without him knowing it was me. I would listen carefully for him to find his letters, and then feel a great deal of joy and satisfaction when he would discovered it with excitement, and then shout-out his gratitude to whoever was listening. He would read each letter quietly, then out loud to his bunk-mate. He would then pass the letters around to his many other friends. This all became a bit of a mystery and word was spreading around. People wanted to know who this mystery writer was. But, the letters were moving, to where I have no idea. But the message was moving, and it traveled with a voice of its very own. I have no idea how far the letters spread, I am not even sure if they were any good. But I was trying to help… and they really seemed to.
This went on for several weeks. Me in silence, trading away my lunches for papers and pen, and Jimmie greeting my letters with joy and sharing them. All the while, I was persecuted by many and feared for my safety. “Throw him off the balcony and see if he can fly!” they shouted at night. But inside I did not fear as much as I could have. I never wept. I never lost faith. In fact it grew stronger and stronger each day.
And then one day, I heard a voice, it sounded a lot like Jimmie. And he whispered, which was out of character for him, “Psst, take this”. It was a note and it read, “Hey, is that you sending me these notes? It has to be you. All these other guys are too thick to get it. Don’t be afraid man. Come out and take a shower. I got your back. None of these knuckle heads would dare go through me to get you. Come feel the water man. It’s refreshing”
Could it be that I actually made my first friend? I had never seen Jimmie’s face before, but he came by when it was time for showers on our tier. I didn’t take Jimmie up on his offer, but I shook his hand and assured him, that “Yes the letters were from me”. It was my first time seeing Jimmie’s face and he didn’t look like his voice. He looked a lot like the actor Hank Azaria, who does the voice of Apu on the Simpson’s, only an older, rougher and tougher version of him. But he had the looks of a person who really cared. And there I was, shaking the hand of a man that would later help me make some friends in a place I once knew as Hell.
Little-by-little, the shouts that came back at night quieted down… Though the shouts that were going out still came from the evil guys in the room next door. Until, one night when I heard a song break through the din of 500 voices all talking at once. I recognized this song, I knew this voice. It was a Christian song sung from the heart, by a man of great skill and a powerful conviction. I knew this was him because only he sung like this. And only he has ever sung this special rendition of the song. And my heart leaped as I heard Tony sing with a voice of a mighty angel, and suddenly 500 voices fell silent as he sang his song to the Lord. That man was respected by everyone who knew him. He was once a very violent man and he had great skills in battle, but God had called him one day like Paul, when he was shot three times in a gang hit. But as he recovered, God removed the scales from his spiritual eyes and he was called into service. He was the kind of man you wanted on your side, not only in battle but to call a friend. And when he talked, men took heed. He was a mighty warrior of God that I knew from when I taught in the county jail. I knew him because he taught right along side me.
He was as my savior that day, because through him, God set me free. He was the only person who could do this, and God had sent him right there to me, in this one facility out of dozens, only a few cells away. In a single afternoon he corrected everyone around about who I was, and how I got there. He sent out notes called “kites” on my behalf. And then he went and talked to the guys next door. And all-of-a-sudden it was “Quashed” and no one ever threatened me again. No more calls to hurt or kill me, no more songs, no more jokes. And like that, as quick as it all started, it had ended. I was free to start over and preach the lessons that started with Jimmie.
Though he never knew it, Jimmie laid the foundations to my ministry. The souls I reached were first reached by my letters to him. He paved the way for God’s word to be preached, in a place so foreign to me. Jimmie went home before he could see my ministry flourish. He had been in and out of prison for most of his adult life, but I think this was his last visit… in fact, I am sure of it. Because Jesus moved him to a different path… that came from God using me.
Thank you Jimmie for all the support and for believing in me when no one else did. So I dedicate this series of letters, that I get from my readers, to him. And I call it “Jimmied letters” Because I hope they too will set you free.THIS IS MORE THAN A BLOG, IT’S A MOVEMENT IN THE MAKING.
Stay tuned, big things are coming! AND if you liked this spread the Word!