Prison Prayer Guide
"Fling wide, you ageless doors of destiny!" That's Psalm 24:9's way of saying get after it. The verse came to mind entering the sally port at Pelican Bay State Prison last Saturday. I was escorting a first time visitor, Matthew Green, to chapel service. We had the hour ride, and our whole lives, to prepare to get inside, but that moment when the electric glide of the barbed wire slides open marks the reality of the opportunity like bright sunlight streaking across the concrete yard. Matthew's guitar case cast a pointed shadow as we made our way under the tall guard towers. I'd never heard him play but if his sound matched his smile it would be an honor to accompany him on my saxophone. We had a few highlights to jump start the service; Gabriel, coming to chapel for the first time during his four year sentence took an immediate shine to Matthew's enthusiasm. Roman was celebrating his very last day behind bars as he was due to return home in twenty four hours and David, one of the trustees, just received his bachelor's degree in behavioral science. The acoustics of the cinder block chapel make every whisper seem loud as a ringing bell. We tuned up and I followed Matthew's lead into a chant of leaning into the Lord's love. The Gospel always sounds better when it's sung and Matthew's Mississippi drawl gave the music a timeless timbre that had the inmates on the edge of their Naugahyde chairs. Preaching time is reaching time and our conversation settled on the most radical section of the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our sins AS we forgive others." We joked about the 'typo' on the bumper sticker that says, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven." "It would read better if it said, "Forgiving!" We agreed it would be a world changer if Christians were known for their forgiveness instead of their political intolerance, but the first step in the process is to learn the math of seventy times seven when it comes to forgiving each other. We prayed for help in receiving and passing on forgiveness and came up with a visual aid. Every prayer has two wings, one opens asking for help, and the other takes flight when we offer to help someone else. We all stood up with our arms open to the possibility and when the service ended walked back into our lives, as per normal, a few feet above the ground. That's what happens when we have 'church, up in here.' I hope someday you'll get to join us. Hint. We need a drummer.