Presenting some noteworthy goings on in October:
We had a visiting speaker at church on October 4. His name is David Hogan. When our minister introduced him, he made note that Dave had ‘seen’ thirty-three confirmed people raised from the dead. In that context ‘see’ is a way of saying someone has been a party to some miraculous event that obviously involved more than mere human agency. If one successfully commands, say, the growing of arches in flat feet, one has ‘seen’ said arches grow. I guess that using the verb see, as opposed to something like cause, is a way of minimizing the chance that anyone will be inclined to take glory and credit from God.
Dave is an American who has been based out of Mexico for about thirty years. He’s a tall, lean guy, whose overall demeanor is that of intensity personified. He vaguely reminds me of the John Brown image in that famous painting of Harper’s Ferry. Dave told us he’s run something like ten marathons this year. He’s in his early sixties. Faith for raising people from the dead apparently has great health benefits. His eyes had the appearance that they were seeing both the physical and spiritual realms simultaneously. Something like that. I’ve never seen anything like it. He was refreshing in one particularly remarkable and tangential way: having lived so many years in rural Mexico, answering primarily to the Creator of the Universe and not an earthly boss, he had none of the cowed and compromised presence of one who is hemmed in by political correctness and all its endless petty threats.
The chairs in our morning worship area are arranged in a U-shape, with the musicians arrayed inside the U. David walked a circle around the music gear, speaking to us as he made the rounds. Early in his talk, he said something on the other side of the room from me like, “Satan will try to stop you from doing what it is that God has called you to do.” As he continued his circuit, he went to on describe something about how Satan uses lies to thwart our destiny. I zeroed in on that declaration, mulling it over in relation to my own life. I lost track of what all David was saying as he continued. He finished up the thought: “…remember who God says you are.” He had stopped walking and was staring right at me. He stared for several silent seconds and then let out a slight groan. Then he was off again.
I listened to the rest of his talk, very distracted. It was no stretch to think that his 45-second sermonette on Satan and lies was directed, in part at least, straight at me. The gist of his point seemed to be that Satan can inspire lies about you, both in the minds of others and in your own, creating hindrances to God’s plan. And in the face of those lies, it’s important that anyone of us should remember our place before the only opinion that really matters.
I’m well-acquainted with lies from hell and how they can spread like a wildfire that burns away any semblance of reputation and public good will. And I don’t need any help in wrecking my public image, thank you very much. I’ve received multiple prophetic words over the past 5+ years that have simmered a faith in me that all would eventually be made right. “There have been a lot people saying nasty things about you, mostly out of jealousy. Over the next seven years, those people are going to come to you, tearfully asking forgiveness; because God is going to give you something that can help them.” That was in February of 2010. A slew of other encouragements followed over the next few years.
Then the ‘words’ dried up. In fact, in mid-September this year I made a mental note that I hadn’t heard much from anyone in a long time; probably in over a year. I even sought out an established prophetic prayer ministry at our church in September, only to find it was on hiatus due to our planned move to a new building. Through this blog I’ve documented what I think are ways that God has been dealing with me directly, with very little in the way of outside human prophetic encouragement from people who don’t know me. It’s those surprise encounters with strangers that consistently can penetrate my skeptical suspicion.
Within days of my search – BLAMMO – God (I think) spoke to me in that starkly public way, through a decidedly respected voice. I never saw the David Hogan thing coming. It was subtle and huge. It’s one thing for someone to speak to you that way in private; it’s another thing entirely when God inhabits a pregnant pause right in front of a room full of attentive people.
Thank you, Lord, for that pleasant change of pace.
A few days after that gratifying kick in the pants, I got sick at work with aches and dizziness. I went home early and then continued straight on to bed. I had planned to start a three-day fast that same evening. ‘I’ve read on the internet so it must be true’ that fasting is a good way to fight some illnesses. I went ahead and skipped dinner to start the fast, while already feeling awful. I didn’t die, apparently. But I spent much of the next sixty hours wishing I were dead.
Fasting is rarely a pleasant experience, at least not within the three-day limit I normally fast (Those individuals more intrepid and holy than I will tell you that after about the third day, it gets easier). The hunger is a given and is almost incidental to a greater struggle. Telling oneself NO continually and for however long, in the face of a very normal expectation of a YES, can be wildly challenging; especially when the YES (in this case, food) is abundant and well within reach. If any part of me is the least bit entitled or spoiled when I start the fast, then somewhere usually in the second day of fasting, that entitled or spoiled part will be giant and angry. Successfully saying ‘no’ to the angry giant for several days is a great way to develop confidence in one’s self-control. There’s no better way I know of to test and strengthen my own resolve than to abstain from food for a few days.
There’s a particularly obnoxious physical side-effect of fasting that they don’t tell you about in the Bible – it’s very easy to get dehydrated. I can see how you would be taking in less water that you’d normally get from fruits and vegetables. And if you typically have water with your meals, then you won’t be taking in that regularly scheduled water. So I’ve learned to increase my water consumption radically when I’m fasting, in attempt to offset the dehydration. Somehow, though, no matter how much water I drink, I cannot make up for the lack of water that I’d normally be getting in or with my food. So I get dehydrated; which means I can’t sleep well. I’m rarely hydrated enough to stay asleep long enough to cheat my way through several hours a night of not being aware that I’m really uncomfortable. So instead of sleep being any kind of relief from physical misery, it becomes part of the challenge.
During this recent fast, I was already achy and crazy-headed from being sick. The fast presented its own brand of psycho-spiritual-physical carpet-bombing, which included barely sleeping for the duration of the fast. Add into that mix a headache that was apparently made of lava; and by the third night, I was not a stable person. I drank thirty-two ounces of water a couple of hours before going to bed, in a desperate attempt to sleep through the night. Instead, I woke up at about 1am, wired and immediately aware that I had no chance of going back to sleep.
Which brings up an essential point about fasting, at least with regard to my own motivations. The thing isn’t just an exercise in self-denial, although there’s great benefit in developing the ‘no’ muscle. Many people, self included, use fasting as a means of blasting ‘self’ out of the way, so as to pray with more focus and possibly hear God more effectively. I generally go into a fast with some intent to pray a definite agenda over the course of the thing. During this most recent fast, my agenda went by the wayside due to illness, I guess. I wasn’t working a program so much as I was just trying to survive the experience. I was praying a lot, but more so than usual my prayers were often some variation of, “AAAAUUGH! KILL ME NOW. NOT REALLY. MAYBE.”
This has turned into way too much info about that fast. The sped up version is: I woke up at 1am during max discomfort. I prayed a lot of groans along with some legitimate intercessions and praises. I fell asleep again at around 3am, woke up at 5am and then decided there was absolutely no possible good reason to continue fasting through my intended abstinence of breakfast. In other words, I gave up. (WEAK.) I broke my fast at about 5:30am, approximately five hours earlier than I had planned. I fell asleep again.
Four hours later, I awoke feeling drained and listless. I’m typically back to being about 95% of Me, four hours after I’ve eaten a decent break-fast. And I hadn’t gotten sick enough long enough to justify still feeling so crummy, I figured. I decided to take a walk in order to blow out the cobwebs. I got dressed and then headed out into the day.
The fresh air and sunshine were a welcome change from the distress of the previous night. But my stride was short, weak, and sluggish. That’s not typical post-fast form, so I assumed that I’d been sicker than I realized. I prayed about some particularly humiliating events of the previous few weeks. That led me to praying about one guy in particular, who actually wasn’t involved in humiliating me. I’ve known him for several years, but only in passing. I wondered if some recent circumstances weren’t designed by God, in part, to let me see this guy in a new and more clear light; with the intent that I should pray for him, at all, and more effectively than I would have before.
I settled in on talking to God about this guy for about a quarter of a mile’s worth of shuffling along. I remember praying something like, “Please show me Your heart for him.” Immediately I ‘felt’ some kind of sensation move from the top of my head down into my body. I was in the process of thinking, “Hmm…weird. I wonder if that was some kind of spiritual…”, when a sudden sob heaved out of me. Tears from nowhere ran down my face. I was caught up in the act of crying when I realized I had no idea why I was crying. I hadn’t been the least bit sad. I was tired and pretty strung out from the previous few days; but not sad at all.
It took me a few seconds to make the connection that, immediately prior to the waterworks ambush, I had asked God to show me how He feels about the guy in question. And then there was the sensation of something moving down into me. Then the tears. So, I think God answered that prayer immediately and with some drama. His ‘heart’ is grieved for the guy. This is what I decided while looking around to see if anyone noticed the theatrics. “That man right there is inexplicably crying while taking a walk!” I didn’t see anyone.
Two weeks later, I told Mary about that whole thing. While I was talking, she was mmhmm-ing on the other end of the phone call. Turns out she had the exact same thing happen to her when she first prayed about Robert. Mary and I live in stereo. No joke.
I had a noteworthy dream on the morning of October 12, a couple of days after the fast. The dream was a first-person perspective and featured a snake. After some introductory views that I can’t remember well, I focused on the snake:
The snake is dark green and apparently ‘standing’ about one foot in front of me; his body is perpendicular to the ground. My view is of the back of his head and a few inches of its body. I wonder if I can safely grab the serpent just below the head without being bitten.
The next view is of my hand wrapped around the snake’s body, just below the head. If a snake has a throat, I have wrapped my hand around his. He is facing me. He tilts his head to my right, and I can feel the side of his head touching my top finger. He appears to be assessing his predicament. Next I see him wildly thrashing his head from side to side, either trying to bite me or escape. I am not concerned.
Next view is wide-angle view of a snake standing with much of its body off the ground. It appears to be about as tall as I am. I guess it’s the same snake I’ve been dealing with. I hear a voice say something to me about how some player in the dream is getting tired: either the snake is getting tired from standing, or the charmer responsible for it is getting tired of charming the snake to attention.
I wonder silently if this snake is capable of spitting venom to blind its victims. I hear the voice say, “This one is accurate from out to a mile.” I look back at the now-miserable snake I’ve been restraining. His head is crushed and collapsed on my hand. A clear liquid, presumably venom, leaks benignly onto my skin. The voice says to me, “I had just gotten him to stand up all the way.” The implication was that I was undoing some work that the charmer had been doing with the snake. END.
Pretty interesting dream, on its face. It’s especially interesting if you consider that dream snakes are widely regarded, amongst the wild-eyed Charismatic set, as emblematic of demons. Maybe some demonic entity assigned to me is running out of steam. That would absolutely fit with a confluence of potential big events in my life over the next few weeks. Time will tell.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken to considering how differently we all might act if we truly knew and believed that God loves us. No matter how wretched one’s upbringing and subsequent life circumstances might have been; if only that one could know absolutely that the Creator of the Universe adored him or her, then that person’s life would likely look very different than if they live without that comfort. When children know beyond a doubt that their parents love them, those children have a quiet peace about them that stands in stark contrast to those kids for whom more is uncertain. How much more can we relax in the glow of known love from our Heavenly Father, if only we know that it’s there, that He’s there.
Anyway, that was something I’d been mulling over for some days when I went into Pei Wei to get some lunch last Friday. I had been running errands, driving across town in torrential rain. The streets ran with water inches deep for a while. Pretty intense. While I waited for my Shrimp Thai Dynamite, I remember an incident about a year prior, in that same restaurant. My friend Charles Slagle had called the busser/server to our table and dropped some pretty specific prophetic knowledge on him. I watched the proud- and hard-looking man go from scoffing to near tears as Charles told him God was aware of how much he was doing to take care of his parents. Charles has a way of delivering such words with a singular and peaceful warmth that cannot originate from simple human concern.
In the midst of that recollection last Friday, I noticed that my own busser/server girl looked especially glum or morose; at the very least she seemed preoccupied and unhappy. Out of nowhere I said to God, “I’ll tell her anything you want me to,” and then I immediately wanted to take it back. What if He wanted me to say or do something embarrassing? Me me me. She went back behind me to the kitchen area. I figured God wouldn’t tell me anything anyway; I’ve only gotten what I consider to be one and maybe two words of knowledge about someone while awake.
The young woman re-appeared and wiped down a table near me. She looked like someone who needed to hear that God loves her. Is what I observed. Then I immediately wondered if that was from God. “God loves you.” It seemed pretty lame and generic, as far as prophecies go. Like I might as well just start singing, “Jesus loves you, this I know…” there in the Pei Wei. But I had told God I would do it. I didn’t have room to question myself out of the commitment. I ate my meal in silence, considering how strange life can be when you start paying a particular kind of attention to things.
When I was done eating, I watched for a chance to talk to the woman. She and another employee were delivering plates to a table near me. After they had finished, she turned and walked right past me. I said, “Excuse me…” She said something and continued on, presumably thinking my “Excuse me” was in regard to our close proximity. I followed her around to the grill area. “Excuse me,” I said again. She turned around to face me, looking uncertain. I said, “Do you mind if I tell you something?” She said no. “I think I’m supposed to tell you that God loves you.” She softened and said, “Thank you. I really needed to hear that.” I continued on: “In case there any question or doubt in your mind, the Creator of the Universe loves you,” and I pointed at her. She repeated her thanks. We had some brief parting words, and I walked out into the bustle of a city that was shaking off a flood from an hour prior.
On the way to my car, I told God: “I figure there’s no real down side to me telling her that. If it was from You, then it all went just as planned. If it wasn’t from You, then at the least it wasn’t a lie; and she was encouraged.” And all it took was for me to get over myself enough to do it. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized telling the woman God loves her was exactly in line with my musings of the previous couple of weeks. If we know that God loves us, we’ll be more inclined to live a life that reflects that love. That’s pretty foundational stuff right there. So the message that seemed somewhat cheap and trite (“God loves you”) was, in fact, one of the more important things that she could ever hear. I’m not saying I definitely heard it from God to tell her; the important thing is she needed to hear it. We all need to hear it. Because it’s the truth and of a nature that can change our lives completely.
On Sunday, October 25, Brad McClendon visited our church. It’s been about a year since I’ve seen him there. His talk was focused primarily on living every day the way Jesus did, doing what He saw the Father doing. That is, we should consider each day to be a new opportunity to hear from God and do as He wills. Sounds simple enough – wake up in the morning; ask God for the daily agenda; and then go do it. I’ve thought about that lifestyle quite a bit over the past few years. People like Brad seem to actually be able to do it. I haven’t gotten anywhere near the kind of clarity; primarily (or at least in part) because I’ve never submitted myself entirely to the process. If I were to ask God what He wants me to do on any given day, there’s a chance He might have me do something embarrassing or tedious or inconvenient. So I tend to hang out in the margins, comfortably under-utilized and blandly safe. Less than.
Until Monday, that is. Brad inspired me. Monday, as I made breakfast, I asked God, “What would you have me do today?” I felt like I was stepping in front of a speeding train. Immediately I had an impression about the man I was scheduled to meet with later than morning. He’s the director of alumni relations at a school I attended in late elementary grades. We had exchanged a couple of emails by way of making a time for me to go up to the school on Monday and look at some old yearbooks. We had never met in person or otherwise communicated outside of email. And there he was, showing up as a possible response to my request for marching orders from God.
“I knew it,” I thought. Some guy I’ve never met, and I’m supposed to go ask him if he knows Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Or something like that. I groused and eventually figured there was nothing to it but to do it. I finished breakfast, got dressed, and then drove over to the school.
At the school the receptionist called the alumni director to the entrance to greet me. He was immediately engaging and friendly. I completely forgot about my apparent leading from God. The director took me back to his office and showed me the yearbooks I’d requested. We visited for several minutes before I even looked in the books. He was someone who clearly had lived an interesting life. He triggered my generally-unacknowledged desire to be an interviewer. Just like Larry King or Charlie Rose, only nothing at all like those guys. While we were visiting, I noticed the alumni director had some crutches leaned up against the hutch behind his desk. I remembered the God thing. I pushed the potential awkwardness out of my mind and dug into the yearbooks.
I was looking primarily at the class that I had been a part of in late elementary school. It was fascinating to look through the following six years’ worth of annuals and see how my pre-adolescent friends had turned into teenagers and then eventually high school seniors. While I was reminiscing, we even got a surprise visit from a woman whom I’d not seen since sixth grade. She’s still very involved with the school and made a special trip over to see me. She was actually the first girl I ever bought a gift for. I’m ending sentences with prepositions all over the place. It was a little heart pendant, I think. I wonder if she kept it. I didn’t ask her on Monday, because she’s married with kids, and we’re something like thirty-five years past that gift. How does thirty-five years happen?
After I perused the annuals, the alumni director showed me around the campus. A lot can change about a school building in thirty-five years. The director was on his crutches during the tour, so it was impossible to ignore the opportunity before me. It wasn’t until I prepared to leave that I began looking for a way to drop the Jesus bomb. Thing is, I had gotten very comfortable with the man during our brief time together. He’s a friendly, easy-going guy. I judged that he’s the kind of guy you can immediately trust with your own kids’ lives, if necessary. It didn’t hurt that I had seen what I think to be the text of a scripture from Ecclesiastes on his desk.
So it was with surprisingly little hesitation that I asked him if I could pray for his injury. His expression agreed with me, that neither one of us had woken up that morning expecting us to end our meeting like that. He said “Alright” or “Sure.” I stuck out my hand and he gripped it with his own. I prayed a brief prayer and commanded healing in the name of Jesus. No big deal. (?) “You never know,” I shrugged and smiled. He agreed and said he needed all the help he could get. He’s a great guy, and I hope he’s healed by now.
There be the high points of October 2015.