Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Mystery cries out for The Revelation of Jesus Christ

88 long days, almost 3 months, have passed since Erica’s disappearance. My continued ‘Are we there yet?’ pleas have even tired me out. 2014 beckons on the horizon, a New Year dawns, but her whereabouts are yet shrouded in mystery. Destiny itself seems lost, and I often feel stuck, just coping with the day-to-day, struggling to somehow stay ahead of the darkness. For our 34th anniversary in July, I wrote in her card: ‘I look forward to opening up new horizons with you!’ but these words now feel empty, mere letters on paper.
The unknown is puzzling, baffling, painful and frustrating, a mystery that cries out for revelation!
Doubt + fear presume the worst: the New Year will herald no better news than this end of the old.
And a lack of any substantial evidence only heightens the confusion: are these death throes or birth pangs?
I’ve cried out, ‘Lord, You know where Erica is! Surely it’s not too hard for You to reveal this secret to one of your prophets, or just a simple, humble member of your body or even me, her husband?’
But silence.
Only a few unsubstantiated leads that led nowhere. A 12-second video that beckons me to follow her out of the picture as she steps into an unknown beyond. How could she simply vanish from the centre of Abbotsford on a Saturday afternoon, one of the busiest times of the week, without anyone seeing her?
And so here I’ve waited: seemingly stuck, at the end of a trail without further leading.
It’s a road somewhat parallel to what the disciples walked that Friday afternoon when they took Jesus’ lifeless body down from the Cross and laid it in the tomb. It appeared to be the end for so many hopes + promises, now dashed, without purpose, making no sense, seeming nonsense, begging God-sense. His previous words of resurrection must have sounded like my meaningless clues, pointing nowhere. Darkness begging light. Limited horizons. Challenging and defying like closed stone fortresses, barring, foreboding, forbidding any access, let alone forward progress.
And similarly I sense mystery and apprehension pervade much of today’s Church’s outlook as we stand at the end of the old and beginning of this New Year. We seek reality to promises still seemingly distant and beyond our grasp on both personal and global stages. Unfortunately, we often hear more pathetic speculations than prophetic revelation.
Well-meaning but nevertheless empty platitudes. Pollyannesque feel-goodisms, bereft of substance.
Mere New Year’s resolutions when our hearts cry for resolution.
Just like my many attempts to turn off the last 3 months’ nightmarish reality show and switch to the more positive gospel channel.
However, there is a balanced Word + Spirit resolution to our searchings. Those who wait on the Lord will rise up on both wings. He lifts us out to bring us in. For me, resolution of my Erica mystery is inextricably linked with the revelation of Jesus Christ. He alone is my solution. When He died on the Cross, He proclaimed a triumphant gospel: ‘It is finished!’ and the veil that separated us from God was torn in two, supernaturally from top to bottom.
The Way was then opened, once and for all, and still is: Jesus has been removing veils from troubled hearts, depressed minds, and lost souls ever since.
Erica, my bride, is not hidden from His sight, nor is His will for His Bride, His Church.

My life in retrospect has been like a play: acts with crises when God has miraculously and mercifully intervened and broken through those personal horizons of fear, doubt and confusion just when I was ready to give up.
My search for truth led me from ‘higher education’ to the end of my rope. Much like Ecclesiastes’ Preacher, I searched out money, politics and religion and found them all wanting. My backpack + I explored Eastern Europe and communism’s empty promises, crossed the natural and spiritual deserts of North Africa and the Koran, wandered from oasis to oasis in Israel, but I came back unsaved and more miserable than ever until… God revealed His Son in me. Words broke spontaneously through my own heart and lips and I gave up ‘the pursuit of knowledge and found the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ’! It was definitely a revelation beyond myself.
Years later, pastoral discouragements again brought me to the end of myself and I confessed my frustrations to Erica. I felt I’d gotten a 3-fold bad RAP: Rejection, Anger + Pain out of life and ministry. She prayed for me and a mere week later God broke me on an Ag-Rec concrete carpet and sovereignly walked me through healing in the Father’s Heart like I’d never before experienced. For my rejection He gave me His unconditional Acceptance; for my anger, the peace of the Prince of Peace, and for my pain, He carried all my grief + sorrows + released a flood of Joy through me! 4 hours on the Father’s operating table and I got up a changed man and we both knew the difference.
Again a few years later, I’d just come back from my first Asian Missions trip and fever racked my whole being. My doctor said it was the flu, but after 7 cycles of drenched sheets every night + not eating for a week, increasing hallucinations left me dangling in a never-neverland of nightmarish dreams. But at the darkest hour, I heard a voice, His Voice speak: ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ and I knew He was and would bring me through.
I was miraculously healed just before malaria’s final wave threatened to sweep away my life.
A few more years, and this time Erica’s life hung in the balance one night and God intervened again.
He gave me the first part of Job 23:10 ‘He knows the way that I take’ and with a renewed confidence that His way wasn’t finished, I felt Him remove the burden and Erica was restored by the next morning.
This time I stand at a similar crossroads and He has given me Job 42:5, the final chapter:
‘Before my ear heard of you, but now my eye sees You.’
I want nothing less than to see Erica, my wife, my bride, again and I am convinced her revelation is contingent on a further greater revelation of Jesus in my life. Like the Emmaus Road disciples, my eyes have not always recognized Him walking with me on this journey. Yet I want to see and know Him more for who He is and embrace His purpose in this. He alone can break the bread and open my eyes. And in His eyes I know I will see her.
The mystery of Erica is revealed through the Revelation of Jesus!
He alone makes all things new. That’s what The New Covenant entails and releases! And that’s what we and His Church need to see and hear at this crucial time in our world’s history. Our preoccupation with speculations have become distractions; only a focused prophetic revelation of Jesus Christ can uncloud our vision.
We have learned to analyze our complicated problems better than accept His simple solution.
We need renewed vision, not just more visions.
We need Son-glasses to see Him and what He sees, The BIG Picture, and effectively do what we see Father doing.
‘The testimony/ revelation of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’ (Rev 19:10)
He alone merits our undivided attention. Kingdoms fall; only Christ’s heavenly kingdom fills.
Seeking insight, increase, and power as means and ends in themselves disregard His firm admonition to ‘Seek Him and His kingdom!’
Answers to our own personal plights as well as world peace come through a fresh, vibrant walk from glory to glory, even if it means going through floods and furnaces of suffering. The answer to our cries for a ‘word’ of direction lies in a greater revelation of The Word Himself – Jesus Christ by the revelation of His Holy Spirit.
He must increase so I can decrease.
Lord, Fill us with Your Word + Spirit, so we will be less filled with ourselves + more prepared to receive + give You to the world’s hungry + thirsty.
Life is a paradox: ‘Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it!’
I do know one thing in this mystery: it’s been proven in our lives and ministry over the years.
Jesus is with Erica + she is with Him. Whether she’s already in heaven or still on earth, I don’t know; but they’ve walked together since she was 5 years old and He has never forsaken her, nor has He now.
I trust she will be revealed both in His time and place.
This is more than just a New Year perspective. Jesus makes all things new!’ and so I have this confidence:
He calls us to move forward. The dawn breaks, the horizon of God’s destiny beckons us to follow.
I am not stuck and neither are you. So let us press on, laying hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of us, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward with a new day breaking overhead.
I must continue to answer His call to ‘open up new horizons’ even though we cannot do this physically together.
I know Erica would agree.
Thank you for your continued love + prayers. They mean so much to our family.
We pray this New Year will open up the treasures of His Heart to + through you + your loved ones!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

It’s Day 70 since Erica disappeared from our home that October Saturday morning and getting ready for Christmas just isn’t the same without her here with us.
The outdoor lights are up - she always wants lots of lights!  A candle burns in the window, literally and spiritually,
a hopeful beacon to guide her home.  Our tree is up too - it’s gold + green this year: symbolic of what is pure, refined, precious, and filled with promises of hope + life. Our grandkids, Anya, Zander + Judah, hung the last few ornaments and crowned it with an angel whose electric wings fan the Spirit throughout the room! 
And if you bend your ear close enough, you can hear many voices singing with her; ‘myriads of myriads, ten thousands of ten thousands and more thousands’: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to all men!’
And my heart cries for peace this Christmas, for the Prince of Peace to rise from His pillow in our boat, speak to the winds + waves and calm our earth’s stormy waters. There’s such great need for peace + healing in our world today: so much pain, so many tossed about on life’s troubled seas, at the mercy of seemingly merciless tragedy.
Millions of refugees flee this world’s wars; countless believers suffer persecutions; others are entrapped in bondage, human trafficking and slavery.  And our home just feels empty without Erica: our Mom + Grandma + my wife.
Will we ever make it to the other side of these troubled waters, this mystery, that still-shrouded, distant shore of revelation + resolution? I’m sure the disciples had similar questionings during their boat-ride with Jesus.
They had just witnessed an amazing miracle: He’d fed more than five thousand with only 5 loaves + 2 fish,
but then Jesus changed scenes and invited them into a boat with a simple ‘Let’s cross over  to the other side.’
‘The other side’, outside their comfort zone, on to the next glory, to celebration … through the storm. 
And as they finally did, I am confident we also will reach ‘the other side’. Not only to arrive at that seemingly still far-off goal, but a greater revelation of who Jesus is, His purpose, who we are in Him and who He is through us.
We will know Him even as we are known.
But for now I wait, and hearken back to a Christmas just a few years past when God broke us out of our comfort zone and invited us on His journey to break open new horizons: not quite feeding five thousand, but still a multitude.
Erica had tired of our traditional Canadian Christmas celebrations centred round just our own family. We’d always reached out to others in our community: invited those who had no family to join us for Christmas dinner, adopted + cared for families experiencing hard times, ministered to the poor on Skid Row and the downtown East Side.
 Many times we’d filled our church Need-Meeter van with food + presents and spent Christmas mornings handing out coffee and turkey sandwiches to homeless street people… and sought to lead our children by example.
But Erica’s heart hungered for more and so she prayed God and urged me to come up with something different for that Christmas and move us to ‘the other side’.
My mom had passed away earlier that year, so we no longer sensed the need to stay home for Christmas with our immediate families. Indeed, Michael + Kelsey were off to Mexico with her family, while Ryan, Sophia + Anya were going to Brazil with his. Even our own children were not going to be home, so the time seemed right.
Why not Christmas in Africa? with Uganda Jesus Village, an orphanage of  63 victims of war, famine and disease?
Erica + I had been there two years before, leading a month-long school and had come to know and love this group: some had even been child soldiers in in Joseph Kony’s LRA army, but we had taught them that ‘in Christ’ they were no longer rejected orphans; they were now accepted, beloved sons and daughters. So Erica’s heart desire to spend Christmas with these less fortunate began to take shape.
Instead of looking for presents under our tree, we would instead take some to those who had none.
And the plan came together. Flights were confirmed, the money came in, tickets were purchased and Erica went on a shopping spree. The MCC, a local thrift store, became her regular stop as she made her list and checked it more than twice;  it kept growing and growing and our suitcases filled to overflowing! British Airways graciously allowed us more luggage for charity purposes, so between us, we had 6 extra bags to fill with all manner of goods not readily available in Uganda. Erica prepared for months, gathering:
Clothing -she matched sizes for each from oldest to the youngest, Kevan, a little 6-year old girl suffering with AIDS.
And school supplies - crayons, pens, pencils, note-paper, books.
And food - snacks, treats, goodies that these children would have never otherwise seen.
And lots of love.
December got hectic with ministry and the unexpected. I’d just returned from 2 weeks’ teaching in Vietnam; then our house weathered a demon-rat attack and our downstairs needed restoration; plus a friend + I were leaving for Finland to lead a 10 days’ Father’s Heart seminar. Amy too had spent the previous August with the UJV kids and longed to return, so the plan was for her + Erica to meet me in England and we would continue on to Uganda together. Amazingly, our plans unfolded accordingly on schedule!
We arrived in Uganda a week before Christmas and Erica went to work to see her dream fulfilled.
We moved into Maria Prean’s Guest-House, a virtual oasis of peace in the heart of Kampala, the Ugandan capital, and our suitcases became veritable cornucopias of blessing. God multiplied what we had brought, for there always seemed to be ‘more’ of  just the right things for the right people.
Unfortunately, most of the UJV kids were going to their Ocholi home in the north to Gulu for holidays, and although that discouraged Erica temporarily, she soon found others that needed what she had, and not just from her suitcases. She had made room for many in her heart.
Celebrating Christmas properly had to include a dinner of course, and if those originally invited weren’t able to come,  so like the Matthew 22 parable, invitations now went out to all who had no place, no food, no family, no one to celebrate Christ’s birth with. The guest list kept growing as we heard of more and more with no place to go.
So once again Erica went shopping: with Amy + Kira and the UJV mamas, for all the necessities of a true feast.  And then 2 days of cooking. Uganda doesn’t have many turkeys, but chicken is always a suitable substitute.
They made multiple visits to the market for what our suitcases hadn’t carried. Cooking itself became quite the test: one charcoal burner couldn’t sufficiently cook enough food, even a day ahead of time, so we hired a cook. He moved the operation inside when the rains came and that’s how Kira’s kitchen ended up covered in ashen cinders!
And finally it was Christmas morning! Time for church + we headed off through a thunder + lightning downpour! The deluge turned dusty roads into slippery mudslides, as deceptive as any icy Canadian road and our van slid between the ditches on either side. Pastor Gerald preached his heart out, one little guy kept stealing Baby Jesus out of the Nativity play, but it all worked out for good.
And the Christmas story unfolded once again into reality.
We returned home and in true Ugandan fashion, the power went out just before the guests started arriving.
But that couldn’t stop a virtual international Nativity scene from taking shape: we didn’t have any shepherds,
but about 25 crowded the dining hall: UJV staff,  Mama Rose’s children, Remi’s 2 boys, Teacher Mike, Lorna, Peter, Memory + 3 girls from the slums’ Father’s Heart choir, Stuart, Kira + their newborn Kaehler played our Holy Family, their Australian friend, and  2 Austro-German ladies, visitors in the Guest House. They didn’t want to intrude but, ‘No problem!’ Erica countered, ‘There’s room for you too!’ + they not only came, but even offered to buy the sodas for everyone! The multiplication was happening: all one BIG happy family!  We couldn’t fit everyone into Stuart + Kira’s house, so Ann the Kenyan caretaker opened up the Guest-House dining room and joined us too!
It was a truly Biblical banquet:  the poor, fatherless, and widowed, those who were alone, without families, those were the ones Erica had always wanted for Christmas, and she got her wish.
The chicken was a bit tough, the matoke a little bland to our Canadian taste, but there was beef, rice, potatoes, yams, and it was all good + there was more than enough, and whoever wanted  went back for thirds. And not just for food, but warmth, love and Jesus showed up in our midst! 
Then time for presents! We may not have had 3 rich wise-men with their loaded camels, but I’m sure Erica’s suitcases disgorged more than they were naturally capable of carryings: a fire truck for one of Remi’s sons; a pink Bible case for Lorna that Amy had ironically bought at an Abbotsford UJV fundraiser years before. It fit her Bible perfectly + she loved it! Erica had packed miraculously:  just the right presents for each one! She’d even found some embroidered towels for the German ladies! And as Ann, the caretaker guest in her own Guest-House, opened hers, tears started flowing down her cheeks, and she confided this was the first Christmas present she’d ever received!
And that made it all worthwhile!
Night began to fall, and it falls quickly along the Equator, so we moved our party outdoors into the garden to take photos to remember it all. Then Memory picked up his guitar and everyone joined in singing, worshiping and dancing to Africanized Christmas carols. ‘Jingle Bells’ never quite sounded like that before!
Then Erica requested ‘Silent Night’, first in English and, so our lady-guests would feel at home, in German. Strains of ’Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht’ cut through the African darkness and more tears streamed down the Austrians’ eyes. Tears of emptiness, loneliness and sorrow: all turned to joy as our African Christmas bore its fruit.
Finally, time to head home and all our guests piled into one pickup and it too was filled to overflowing! We were left to clean up floors, tables + dishes, but that was a small price for such a great blessing we’d all experienced. 
Christmas’ true meaning had been rediscovered and we all went to sleep filled and fulfilled, happy to have been part of this ongoing miracle of Christ’s birth where He is born again in hearts that have made room for Him.
And so, this Christmas, barring an expected miracle, there will be an empty seat at our dinner table. But I choose to look to + remember the many chairs and hearts Erica filled at times like that Christmas  in UJV, and in this way pointed to and led us to experience ‘the other side’, to Christ, the true meaning of Christmas and beyond.
Thank you so much for your prayers, love + support + we pray the Lord’s blessing on you + your families throughout this New Year. We still hope to have more good news soon. Our love in Jesus, Henry, Erica + family