For weeks after my LINY trip in October 2014, I obsessed over the fact that I had quite possibly squandered a fabulous opportunity. I’m no stranger to that train of thought, after spending much of my life either passing by or destroying any number of great chances. I was convinced that I had done so yet again and that I’d left more on the table, so to speak, than I could bear to imagine. That desperate wallowing continued until one evening just before Thanksgiving.
I was driving home from work, and I realized the extent to which I’d been thinking about the burning leg thing and how much I wanted to experience it again. It was time to let it go and to live in the present. I prayed a prayer of surrender and told God, “I figure the opportunity will arise again. In the meantime, I’m not going to stew about this anymore. I surrender that concern to You and Your timing.” Done deal.
Only it wasn’t done. Three blocks later, I shouted and doubled over with shock as the muscles down near my left knee lit up with a sudden burst of heat. I clutched my leg and expected to look down and see flames. The sensation dissipated and vanished. I stared back and forth between my leg and the road in front of my moving car. The feeling had been very similar to that which I’d experienced in that same thigh, higher up, several times over the years. Only this time it was hotter, more sharp and abrupt. Was God messing with me? Was El Diablo messing with me? Did I imagine it? I asked God to protect me from any diabolical attack or self-inflicted fantasies. My knee remained quiet, and life went on.
I started December 2014 with a three-day fast. I then planned an additional five-day fast, to begin on the second weekend of the month. Just prior to that weekend, on Thursday, I became aware that there was a warm, painless spot on my left hand. After a few minutes, I recognized the sensation as the same as what has appeared in my legs periodically for the past five and half years, and most notably in the preceding couple of months. The affected area was around the fatty base of my thumb. I resolved that I would do nothing to disturb this hand sensation.
I started the five-day fast the following afternoon. My intent was that I should intercede strenuously on behalf of one particular person for the duration of those five days. My hand warmth persisted into the weekend. I spent all day Saturday in intercession. That was the first time I’d done anything like such focused and singular intercession for so long a time. By Sunday I was burned out on intercession. Who knew that focused and intense concern for others could be so draining?
My hand was still warm, and the spot was growing. I asked God to show me who the spot was for, if anyone in particular. At church, as a man walked past me after the service, the heat in my hand burst in intensity. I talked to the man and explained the situation. He told me he had a surgically repaired injury in his right hand, not his left one. The injury no longer bothers him. The only issue he has with his left hand is that it gives him trouble when he’s fretting a guitar beyond a certain amount of time. I didn’t have any confidence that all this hand warmth hooplah would be about what sounded like a stamina issue. But the heat in my hand had pulsed when he walked by. He agreed to let me pray for his hand, and I did. There was no evident and immediate change in his hand.
After that prayer my hand continued to manifest the warm spot. I doubted that the man at church was the intended target, if there was any such target. I had nothing to base my conclusion on, since I hadn’t ever figured out what the hotspots are about. Sunday carried on, my hand stayed warm, and I got tired of fasting. Sunday evening I decided that two days was long enough for a fast, even though it was short of my intended five-day goal. I broke my fast with what I have come to recognize as a characteristic lack of fast-breaking discipline. While I was gorging on the ‘break fast’, I thought, “This is gluttony.” And then I continued gorging. Within the hour, the warm spot in my hand had vanished. Outside of a few faint twinges the following day, the hot spot in my hand was completely gone.
I couldn’t help but notice the possible connection between my rebellious eating and the abrupt departure of the HS in my hand. It was reminiscent of the same abrupt departure I precipitated just prior to my LINY trip and other times. I hadn’t promised God a five-day fast; so, assuming the HS was something from Him, I doubted that He’d hold a two-day fast against me. I believe more that it was my deliberate indulgence in behavior that I had only just considered a sin that had prompted the end of the hand HS.
This situation provides a new wrinkle to This Whole Thing. I’ve never considered my eating habits to be sinful. More to the point, I’ve never thought much at all about how God might regard the way I eat. But suddenly I’m aware that He might actually care, and not just a little. I have lived a life that proves the point that sexual lust is a destructive force; and I have seen, by way of hot spots that come and go, that God is involved in showing me the error of my ways. Now it appears he’s shown me something about sinful eating.
Some time in January of 2015, I developed a hot spot in my left foot. I can’t remember now how much of my foot was engaged. I just remember the warmth appearing and my awareness of it growing over a period of about a week. It’s been long enough ago that I don’t recall anything about anticipation or excitement that the HS was back again. I know how I lost it, though.
I was reading my way through a message thread on an political internet forum that I read too much. The message thread was about a newsworthy person’s life taking a bad turn. In the midst of the comments, someone dropped in a screen shot from a cable TV series. The screen shot was what a stuffy schoolmarm such as myself would classify as pornographic. This is on regular cable TV now? It’s easy to get out of touch with what all the hep cats are watching when you don’t have a TV hooked up. I’m apparently way out of touch.
The image hit me like a brick in the head. It was a surprise find, so I hadn’t been doing the usual preparation for averting my eyes if I know something’s coming along that I don’t need to look at. The ambush nature of the screenshot image, along with my own years-long abstention from porn and actual human woman sexual relations, along with an old propensity to lust for things I should not, resulted in me being very interested in the scene. I hung out on it for a bit, thinking zero righteous thoughts, and moved on down the thread. I pretended to myself that I hadn’t already decided to go back up-thread to the image for a longer look. I find that wanton sin is much easier when I do not allow myself the chance to get an objection in edgewise.
After I finished reading the rest of the message thread, I moseyed on back to the screenshot and wore it out with my eyes. Funny (ha) thing is, not two days before then, I had been reading some essay on lust. The author made the point that seeing something inadvertently is unavoidable. It’s the willful second (third, fourth, etc) glance or gaze that reveals and feeds lust in our hearts. Double-digit hours after reading those wise and timely words, I willfully and deliberately scrolled back up to the scene for a lusty soak.
After a few seconds I moved on to another message thread about whatever else was going on in the world, without giving much critical thought to my behavior. My foot was cooled off within the hour. I noticed the climate change and did give that some critical thought. Mostly I concluded “There’s no way I’m ever going to be sin-free enough to usher in whatever is supposed to be the full manifestation of whatever this HS activity is.” That may or may not be true; but I think that fatalistic conclusion is even jumping the gun.
I’ve probably mentioned this somewhere else in this blog; but I have prayed many times during the past few years that God would specifically show me what behaviors and attitudes in my life He wants to eradicate. I think these HS things are possibly His way of doing that very thing. Rather than being strictly (or at all) a preliminary signal that supernatural power is pending if I can just manage to not screw things up, maybe God mercifully provides these HS appearances to show where and how He sees the things that need to go. In that sense it’s like I am walking around in a giant spiritual/physical model of the game ‘Operation’. God provides the electrically-charged side that I shouldn’t touch with my clip. Eventually I do touch that side and the alarm goes off (the heat goes away). Thus, a problem is revealed.
Is one theory. I do not know what the HS are for. All I know about them is they seem to appear on no particular schedule, and the only consistent thing that precedes their departure is some willful sin on my part.
****Most of the above was written starting in Jan 2015 and completed 4/12/15. The following was written on 4/12/15****
Fourteen days ago I got numerous independent encouraging confirmations that a great struggle in my life was possibly coming to an end. To the extent that I believe I have a destiny in God’s grand plan these days, it seemed possible that there was about to be a revelation of same. This has been an excruciating lifetime in the making, if it’s really a thing. The idea that SOMETHING BIG was maybe finally going to happen held a definite appeal. “Many people will be affected because you have said ‘Yes’ to God,” is what one prophetic friend told me.
Thirteen days ago I engaged in deliberate sin, the likes of which God has directly instructed me to avoid. I awoke the next morning in a wretched state, feeling for all the world like something beloved and essential was gone from me. The short version of the story is I don’t really know what changed in me. But something changed in the structure of my spirit. It wasn’t an emotional thing, and it wasn’t physical. But something was changed. For the worse. As Mary pointed out, it is possible that I grieved the Holy Spirit, causing Him to leave the inhospitable climate I had forced into place.
Whatever the change was, it wasn’t a fleeting thing. A full week later, I was still disoriented and getting panicked. What if I had blown my chance at fulfilling a God-appointed destiny, for the sake of some stupid sin that I KNOW God told me not to do. This after spending most of my life floundering in uselessness and finally seeing the brightest possible light at the end of the tunnel. There is Biblical precedence for God demonstrating such exacting expectations. Moses was denied access to the Promised Land after committing what looks from here like a relatively minor infraction in the desert. And Moses was undeniably one of God’s most humble, faithful, and obedient servants. God is serious about holiness. I am not as serious about holiness as I should be.
I confessed and repented. I begged God to let me know if I’d blown it. I wanted to know either way, so I could move on with some peace of mind. I had two dreams during a span of four nights that seemed to indicate all was not lost. During one of the dreams, I was driving by myself at night. Due to some problems with my glasses, I was having trouble seeing the road. I tried to adjust them while driving and ended up running off the road. I went into a long, dramatic, sideways slide in the shoulder dirt. While sliding, I looked across the road and saw a police car waiting in a speed trap. There’s no way they didn’t see me making a spectacular scene, a mere fifty feet away. After my car came to a rest, I waited for the police to come bust me. Instead, the police car started up, drove out on to the road, and proceeded in the same direction I’d been traveling. I couldn’t believe they didn’t approach me. Then I woke up.
Assuming the dream was from God, I interpreted thusly: my vision is impaired, and that impairment is affecting my progress. God had seen my grand disobedience and didn’t hold it against me. He did, however, leave the impression that He’d be watching things farther up the road. Mary concurred with my interpretation. Thus spake the wild-eyed Charismatics.
(And I’d like to drop in a major endorsement for Mary in Ecuador. She’s talked me off the ledge more than once this past week. We are actually spiritual twins, which is a pretty unbelievable story in its own right.)
How to improve my vision? As Mary says, feed spirit and not the flesh. I spend too much time gratifying temporal impulses. Such behavior is the opposite of that which bring any one of us closer to God. (“Do not satisfy yourself,” the voice told me several years ago. DNSY. DNSY is a big part of my destiny. DeStiNY. GET IT?) Specifically, I need to be reading the Bible more often. I know well enough by now that reading the words of the Bible isn’t as much a literary discipline as it is a spiritual necessity. There’s something about reading the Bible that gives life to one’s spirit and keeps (in my case) me on a path in which sinful decisions are far less likely. It is a transforming thing that isn’t available to someone until they are regenerated and restored to right relations with God via accepting Christ’s offer for redemption.
For a few weeks before this episode I’d had a nagging inclination to pick up the Bible and read more than I actually did. And for a few weeks there was always something I’d rather do than read the Bible. So I didn’t, much. Now I have another manifestation of sin and chaos proving that I should pay heed to those nagging inclinations, rather than being deliberately occupied elsewhere.
In addition to having a couple of encouraging dreams, I heard the name of a friend spoken into my half sleep/half wake this past Monday morning. There was a common title at the beginning of her name. “Title – first name – last name.” That’s all it was. I repeated the name in my head when I heard it, then jumped to attention. I realized that I’d ‘heard’ her name in my dozing spirit. The name itself wasn’t so out of place in my brain, since we’ve known each other for over thirty years. What made the thing stick out was the title before her name, that I wouldn’t have assigned to her had I just been randomly thinking of her in my almost-sleep. In addition, her name popped into a marked lull in conscious brain activity as I was dozing back into sleep. I didn’t ‘think’ it there.
I prayed for her the rest of the week and went a few times to the store where she works. I figured I should tell her what had happened. We haven’t been close in many years, and there’s no telling what she’s heard about me by now. But in the event that God had spoken her name to me, there could be worse things than letting her know that I’d heard her name spoken into my sleep. Right? Because that’s not weird at all. “Hey, Old Friend. Here’s the deal…”
Anyway, on my third trip to the store in as many days, she was finally there. She finished talking to a customer, and I approached her. She mistook me for a customer at first and then recognized me. We exchanged greetings and I said, “I’ve got a weird one for you.” And I told her the brief story. She confirmed my suspicions. “That’s really weird.” We were in agreement. I told her that I’d traveled several thousand miles last year, based on such messages in and around my sleep. Trying to somehow give the process some legitimacy. “HAHA SEE IT’S OK I FLY ALL OVER THE COUNTRY BECAUSE I HEAR THINGS IN MY SLEEP (cue ‘Twilight Zone’ music).” I told her that it was the title spoken in front of her name that had gotten my attention, because it wasn’t anything I’d have thought up on my own. “And that’s all I have,” I laughed nervously. She laughed nervously. “Have a good day,” I laughed nervously some more, and she replied in kind. Ha. And I walked out. I’m pretty sure a customer had been standing next to us, waiting her turn to talk to my friend. So that was likely an interesting consult there in the paint aisle after I left.
I will trust that God had some reason for me telling her what I did. It’s not important that I understand why. Or maybe the goal wasn’t to tell her so much as to keep praying for her. Live and learn. The obvious best course of action would have been to tell her something like, “I think God tells me things about people, so that I can then tell them and they will know that He’s aware of what’s going on with them. It’s so that they will be comforted or encouraged. He does a lot of this stuff when I’m asleep.” I didn’t say that, because I was embarrassed by what I thought she would think. I decided for her what she would think about such a message. There is still much getting over myself to be done.
There also appeared in my left hand a small hot spot sometime early in the week. I first noticed it when I picked up a tennis ball during my walk to work. I bounced the ball a few times and then held it still for a bit. “Why is this ball so hot? Ah. It’s not the ball. It’s a HS.” DUN DUN DUNNNN. So those are apparently not out of the question, which was good to know.
The hand HS came and went throughout the days, on no particular schedule. I also noticed my left thigh burning with that same familiar warmth for much of the week. The last time I remember the hand HS being present was at the bank on Friday. The teller was processing my transaction, and I felt the heat in my hand. I looked at the teller’s left hand, which appeared fine. I scanned her face for any trace of left-hand pain registering there. There was none. And I thought of the man at church whose hand didn’t burst into song when I prayed for it. Mostly, I just wanted to finish the transaction and get out of there. I didn’t say anything to the teller about her hand. I haven’t noticed the hot spots since then.
All of this to say I don’t really understand what’s going on. Something is definitely changed in me. It’s something I can best describe by way of noting its absence. Prior to March 29, there was something in me that was growing excited, anticipating something great. The thing that was excited and anticipatory in me is now gone. There’s an awkward, quiet hole where that thing was, and the things that remain are now settling uncomfortably into the void that it left behind. Dreams still happen, and words in my sleep, and hot spots. But without the excited anticipation, I’m not sure that I care.
If nothing else, I need to just turn the concern over to God and carry on with life. He is still God and I am created to worship Him, no matter the circumstances I or others create for me. I’ll be fasting this week, for the first time in over a month. That might be interesting.
****The following was written on 4/21/15****
The nagging sense of near-despair remains, mostly as a low-grade depression. Hope is seemingly deferred. I’m still doing a lot of second-guessing, even in the face of God using me to be part of a blessing for someone in need. I had a dream this past weekend that directly reflected some (unknown to me) circumstances in a friend’s life. The end result was that the dream was one piece of a puzzle which, when fully assembled, has provided my friend with comfort in a trying time. I am grateful and humbled and little disoriented to have played that role. And I’m quick to go back into full-on Navel Gazing Mode. “What have I lost by being disobedient?” I cannot know the answer. And I’m spending a lot of time turned inward, fretting about something I cannot change. I’m pretty sure I said the same thing a week ago.
So no more mention of the gross self-absorption. I will say that the closer I’ve gotten to God, and the more He’s revealed Himself to me and through me, the narrower the way has gotten. Every time I reach some level of awareness regarding sin and God’s opinion of it, the bar is apparently permanently raised. As metaphors crash all over the place. He no longer has the grace to watch me flop around in that same sin and rebellion. There’s to be no taking satisfaction in knowing that I’m less debased now than I was fifteen years ago, or a year ago, or even one month ago. His standards are demanding, for the good of my relationship with Him and for any utility I hope to have in His service. Say that more generally: His standards are demanding, for the good of our relationships with Him and for any utility we can hope to have in His service.
I started writing this post in January, to chronicle the ongoing mystery of the hotspots. The finished product is different than what I’d originally intended. The end.