A Plan for All Seasons: Thanksgiving
“What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.” That is something to sing about! One thief on a cross talked negatively about God and perished. Another thief on a cross nearby talked positively to God and awakened that day in the sheltering forests and fruitful trees of paradise. No matter what suffering is holding you up, at the end of every day that you pour out your heart unto God a bit of paradise will also surround you. Be Thankful!
I begin this final segment of my Thankfulness series with a story about a young man who was unthankful as he hitchhiked from San Francisco to Eureka, California. My adventure began back in a tiny wilderness in Pennsylvania after I became convicted of spending too little time with God. I repented and spent some real quality time sitting in the woods in prayer and being still and listening to God. On day one, He told me to call an old and dear friend in Eureka, California who, I had not spoken to in years. Her name was Sharon. When I called, she began weeping and asked me to pray for her because she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. On day two, God asked me what I was going to do about Christian children starving to death in Haiti and on the third day, God told me to go out west to Eureka to pray for Sharon.
I drove to Cleveland when I began to worry that my friend might die before I got there. When I prayed about this, God told me to park my van in Cleveland and fly to San Francisco. I only had barely enough money to drive my VW van to the west coast if I lived on homemade sandwiches, so I asked God, “How will I pay for the flight?” He reminded me that I had a few hundred dollars in an account set aside for evangelism. As I remembered that account, God said, “If you use that money to make this trip, I will reckon it for evangelism. I went to the airport knowing because of a court case I had set for another month ahead in Nevada, that I would be gone for some similar time. When I went to place my vehicle in storage, I found that the cost for that far exceeded what I had. When I prayed about this, I recalled that I knew one brother in Cleveland, who I only had met once, but I could not remember his name. I knew the big church he met with, and also that they were not listed in the yellow pages as policy and in this case, not in the white ones either. If I could not find an economical place to park, it would be nearly impossible to go to California.
Praying and looking through the yellow pages again, I felt drawn to a very non-descript sounding little fellowship house, in fact I think that was its whole name. A young Christian man answered and I began to tell him my dilemma. He interrupted, “Don’t I know you? Is your first name David?” Within seconds, we were shouting and rejoicing together. I, by some divine intervention, had reached the only brother that I knew in that entire huge city. He quickly met me at the airport; he led me and my van to his fenced backyard where we parked it and returned me to the airport just in time to catch my flight!
I still had to hitchhike from San Francisco to Eureka and my first ride only took me across the Golden Gate Bridge. I had been so thankful when he had picked me up because the coastal fog was damp and bone chilling. Fortunately, the blue Navy pea-coat I was wearing protected me like I was in a warm cocoon!
This first person to pick me up had opened the passenger door, saying “I know its cold out there, but you better take that wool coat off before you get in. I keep this car like an oven.” He requested I throw my stuff in the back seat, but I only tossed my pea-coat back there and placed my back pack between my feet. He was very interested in the good news of God’s Kingdom and had apologized when he had to turn inland and let me off and back into the cold. Just after his car disappeared over the rise, I discovered that I was much colder than I wanted to be. It was then that I realized I had left my pea-coat on his back seat.
It was a long series of rides that day and I was still a long way from Eureka and I complained every time I got out and back into the chilling weather. It was close to nightfall as I stood on an on-ramp in a town a ways north of San Francisco, waiting for a northbound ride, and I was still blaming God for not reminding me to retrieve my coat, now eight hours behind me. I was still complaining when a patrol car swept down on me. The officer jumped out with gun drawn and demanded, “Where is it?” I tried to calm him down and asked, “Where is what?” “Don’t play that with me, you know what. Where is that blue Navy pea-coat?” It was the painful truth, I didn’t have a blue Navy Pea-coat and oh how I missed it, but I sensed it was best not to even say anything about that.
The officer commanded me to get into the back of his police car and drove me quite a ways to the police station. This was a new experience for me. The area in front of the front desk was large and open. They ordered me to stand on a certain line and not to talk or try anything. One big sergeant came over and gruffly asked, “What are you smiling about?” I could have answered “Because this only hurts me when I cry,” but I honestly stated, “I am not smiling at all, sir.” After a long time, a kindly officer came over and handed me my wallet and apologized, saying “Sir, we are sorry about the mix up. You are free to go and if it would help, we’d be pleased to take you somewhere to spend the night.”
I still had to ride behind that screen, but we struck up a conversation right away that continued all the way to Cloverdale where I had determined to spend the night with a brother in the Lord I had known previously. Right away the officer began. “It is sure a good thing you didn’t have a blue pea-coat,” he smiled. “If you had one, we would have stopped looking for the robber that hit the convenience store right down the street. We found where he stashed the money and the gun but not him or his blue coat. We had you under observation off and on for 15 minutes before the robbery and no one saw you in a pea-coat…so we kept looking and we found him wearing the coat and he confessed. If you had a blue pea-coat you would be spending a long time behind bars and we would have stopped looking for that criminal. You know what? It is amazing how much that guy looks like you!”
Again, for brevity sake, I am connecting some stories out of chronological order, but they all are true events. In my upcoming book which is all about what shall be, I will have a chapter about many other miracles which brought deliverance to me and even colonies of animals. These stories are not about me, my friends or my enemies. They are about how God brought practical and spiritual supply to keep me restored and energized on this great journey and adventure called knowing Christ. “It is no secret, what God can do…What He’s done for others, He will do for you.”
As soon as I got to Eureka, due to some emergency circumstances, I had to call Sharon immediately. It was 5AM. Because she didn’t want to waken her two sons that early in the morning and hear us discussing her cancer, we met by the zoo in Redwood Park. Years before, she was a partner in my life prior to my receiving Jesus as my personal Savior. She left me because of that decision. Sometime after that she got wonderfully born again but she already had someone else in her life. I cared very much about my “little sister in Jesus” and felt strongly led to lay hands on her and pray for her full and complete healing. I did not give her a welcoming hug, but instead, took both my hands and sort of rubbed and scratched her head at the same time. With smiling face she asked, “Would you do that again?” I paused and reflected before I spoke, “I will if you believe this is the time to pray for you to be healed.” “Yes, I would like that very much,” she replied. We prayed a brief prayer and thanked God for the healing. Neither of us felt anything (not that feelings necessarily have anything to do with healings), but we both agreed she was healed.
She informed me that she was going to be hospitalized at 10AM for more biopsies and a possible complete mastectomy. Later that afternoon I visited her and learned she would be there a few days. The next day when I visited her hospital room, she told me that the doctors could find no trace of the cancer which had started spreading beyond her breasts. She said they needed to investigate further but she was very concerned about the woman, also her age, who had been transferred to her room from another part of the hospital after a long stay. This woman was suffering from some incredible rectal pain that literally left her screaming at the top of her lungs for long periods at a time. She was an atheist I believe and had no interest in listening to Sharon when ever she turned the conversation towards God. Her medical team was totally baffled about the cause of her pain and no pain killers gave her any relief. Sharon and I quietly prayed together for her as soon as she got a brief lull in the pain and instantly fell asleep.
Just minutes later a group of young people from Sharon’s church came into the room with several acoustical guitars. They began playing a hymn before they noticed the drawn curtain or heard the terrorizing screams of the roommate resuming. The group apologized but between great groans, the woman told them to go ahead and serenade my friend. The screams continued even as she held a hand over her own mouth to try to muffle the sound. The group told Sharon they would sing just one more song and leave. I had never heard the tune before, but it was very calming and soft. It was called “I AM.” Parts of the lyrics were: “This is my name, My name forever, By which I AM to be remembered. From generation to generation: I AM…I AM.” (Exodus 3:14-15) The woman seemed to get a little quieter and the group continued to sing I AM. Less and less groans were heard and Sharon and I joined in singing with the group. We continued for far longer than anyone had intended because it seemed that was what we were now supposed to do. We all began to get eyes filled with tears as we noticed the woman now very quietly singing with us until the presence of the Lord was sweeter than Evening Scented Stock.
Suddenly the woman began breaking out into bursts of laughter and shouted: “It’s gone! It’s gone!” Sharon leaned off the top of her bed towards the woman and asked, “Now would you like to invite Jesus into your life?” Her answer was “Oh, Yes, Yes, Yes,” mingled with deep shaking sobs and laughter. Both women were released in the next couple of days. The other woman’s doctors never did learn what possessed her, but everyone was clear about who delivered her.
Sharon lived some additional years until her sons could fend for themselves and she was attacked once more with breast cancer. Satan often does this. He hits you twice when you were only expecting one big fight. I didn’t learn about Sharon’s second attack until I was praying about going to Haiti as a Missionary. The church she now attended had come into an error called the doctrine and deeds of the Nicolaitanes (you need to read about this threat to true Christianity in Revelation Chapter 2). The Nicolaitanes are church leaders that “conquer and over-control the people so that these conquerors of the people direct all that happens instead of Christ and the Holy Spirit directing the Body of Christ and encouraging the functioning of everyone.” In other words Nicolaitanes suppress and kill the functioning of the Body of Christ, the church, which are His hands and feet and mouth and heart on the planet. I called that church to see what hospital she was in when they informed me, “We don’t know you. We have a round the clock watch over her room and we will not permit you to see her.”
That so called church no longer exists, thank God, but Sharon’s testimony lives on. It is not my place to judge what she did near the end so I won’t, but she asked everyone not to pray for her healing this time. She said it had nothing to do with any pain or a lack of willingness to fight the disease, but that she truly desired to go and be with Jesus more than anything else in the world. From what I heard, hundreds of acquaintances, friends and family found salvation in the Holy One of Israel through her testimony and love.
Sharon’s mother was one of the people drawn deeper into the heart of God by the way Sharon made her transition. I didn’t go to Sharon’s funeral as I like to remember people alive but I did go to see her mother in Los Angeles. We reminisced about what an outstanding human being her daughter had been. I was on that entire trip deeply seeking God about whether I was simply to help starving people in Haiti or personally go there. Sharon’s mother put me up in the guest room and fed me a great breakfast before I hit the road. I use that phrase because I was hitch-hiking again. Although most of my adult life, I have actually driven a great deal, most of these stories seem to be connected someway to an activity that was, at one time, very safe and popular in the western states.
I usually traveled very light in both stuff and green stuff. It was very warm when I left the home of Sharon’s mother and I had 90 cents with me now. My surgically reconstructed ankle was bothering me as I spotted an ice-cream stand near the freeway. I had placed my Bible on my nightstand the night before and now I opened it on the outdoor table as I finished my cone. I opened it to “Glorify the Lord in the midst of the fires in the Isles of the Sea.” (Isaiah 24:15) It was only a few days later I was told by a retired missionary to Haiti: “They burn wood all over the countryside to make charcoal and sell it to the people in the cities.” Then he added, “That whole place is in the midst of the fires,” and for emphasis restated “in the fires!”
As I prepared to get up I picked up my Bible from the table. It slipped from my grasp and I succeeded only to retain it by one flap of the cover. When this happened, a twenty dollar bill slipped out of the bible to the ground. As I picked up the twenty, the Spirit of the Lord said, “So you will know that I am calling you to Haiti, I am going to give you exactly twenty dollars on this trip every time you need money.” I did not know how long my trip would last, but that in the near future I had to be back in Reno for a trial to compensate me for an intentional injury inflicted on me by my supervisor while I was working geothermal exploration.
I headed to the freeway and got a ride instantly. The young man said, “I am just going a short way, where are you headed?” I was musing about what God had just spoken to me, and with my sense of humor, replied: “Haiti!” If you have never been to Los Angeles people drive fast there and in what seemed like seconds the driver whipped into a gas station and pulled out his checkbook. He wasn’t at the pumps, so I asked him what he was doing there. He said that God had told him to write me a check. I didn’t want to take it as I already had a twenty, possibly placed in my Bible by Sharon’s mom, so I asked him: “Well if God told you to write me a check, how much did He tell you to write it for?” He looked at me like I was supposed to know and said, “Twenty dollars.”
When my lawyer answered my phone call with new information that there would be no trial; that under a peculiar law they had made an offer I had to accept or forfeit everything. He advised me to accept the offer I agreed and said I would be there on the previously appointed date. Believe it or not, before the ride from the ice-cream stand I don’t recall ever getting a ride where the people had some direct connection to Haiti, but those next two weeks were filled with rides with Haiti connections. I finally went all the way back north to see another brother in Christ in Redding, California, just because I had the time and loved him. I had gone through a number of 20 dollar gifts by then, and now was broke. I needed some stamps and a haircut. (I wrote 14 page letters even back then.)
My friend in Redding introduced me to a doctor who had been in a serious car wreck, lost all his nerve to do operations, and had become a landscaper. I looked forward to talking with this new Christian doctor and by now, I was thinking about setting up some medical clinics in Haiti in remote areas. I had just prayed in my heart for some way to earn 20 dollars for the stamps and haircut when this brother and doctor frantically asked me to pray with him. I asked him why he was so frenzied and he said: “I am supposed to be finished with a large landscape job and the man called me to say if I don’t finish today, I’ll get nothing. Pray with me right now,” he demanded. I began to tell him that he was an answer to my prayer when he begged me to stop talking with: “Please just pray now that somehow God would do a miracle and send me a landscaper to help me today.” As soon as he finished praying, I announced, “I am here.” He said, “What?” I repeated, “I am here…I am your landscaper.” We fellowshipped all day, wiped that job out in record time and everyone was happy. When he tried to pay me I refused and said I was blessed to help him. We exchanged addresses and I planned to head to Reno the next morning. My friend Eddie, with whom I was staying, woke me up that following morning, with an envelope and note from “the doctor.” The note said he wanted to thank me again for my help and never met anyone before who wouldn’t let them pay them for their work. He said he asked God if he should allow that and closed with something like, “This sounds crazy to me, it bothered me all night, but I’m sure God said just give him twenty dollars.”
I can’t make this long story short, but I got my necessities, went to Reno, signed some papers and shook hands with my attorney, thanked him for his service, took a check from him and headed for the elevator and a flight back to Cleveland. There is one little glitch to this story. My attorney was a Christian, but I was a tough client for him. You see, he was an anti-Charismatic and believed all those wonderful things God wants to do for all His children had passed away. I know I am some kind of a wonder to many (Psalms 71:7), but I always felt like my lawyer would disinfect himself after coming in contact with me, if I wasn’t his client. I wanted to get down to the ground floor as swiftly as possible so my smile didn’t cause him pain. Just as the doors were closing to the elevator, someone stuck their hand in causing it to reopen. I was so focused on getting out of there that I didn’t notice that it was my attorney who had boarded and now was standing next to me. Neither of us looked at one another.
Suddenly, I felt a closed hand tapping against my thigh. Call it whatever you want but I don’t like men touching me in any even semi-private places. A holy kiss is wonderful, but don’t mess with my legs. The tapping resumed and I looked down. It was his hand alright…on my leg. I gave him a direct stare in the eyes. He looked to me like he was scowling. His hand was still there and I think we both felt like two scared jackrabbits. As I continued to look down, he opened his hand to reveal a twenty dollar bill. I guessed he would now be smiling but he didn’t appear to have changed his expression. The last thing he ever gruffly said to me was: “God told me to give this to you.” Bless Him Lord. I am thankful for good attorneys and anyone who can truly hear God’s still small voice.
Some people are content that they were saved long ago and still are and there isn’t a thing wrong with that, but I am an action man. One of my early teachers said he would rather live a few years like John the Baptist than live a long life of boredom. Some people see me like the apostle Paul, a man with some serious eye problems who lives like the off-scouring of all things. I had lunch with a priest from the Church of England who was familiar with my writing and liked it. He said, “Some people don’t like you because you are a prophet.” We will soon enough see about that, but I was most touched by a now old Christmas card from a dear faith practitioner close to ninety years young. It said something for which I and all of us can be most thankful for long after history has forgotten us and all things are made new. It simply says, “You are a Son of God.”