Thursday, February 27, 2014

Can God turn deserts into oases? Come and See!

Our team returned yesterday from 3 days in the Oaxaca mountains, definitely off the beaten track. Felt almost like ‘Yanquis bandidos’ in a long ago scene from Butch Cassidy + the Sundance Kid! Miles before we turned off the highway, my Jeep companions pointed to a vague line snaking its way up a distant mountain and disappearing beyond… into the heavens?
‘We’re headed up there!’ they motioned. I was sure they were teasing me, but an hour later there we were, looking from the opposite perspective: down rather than up, bouncing around in the back seat from rock face to cliff side, suddenly turning bends, confronting large trucks and barely avoiding swerving motorcycles, wondering how there could be life in the midst of these brown cactus- barrens, let alone towns with people.
No need for Mexico City speed bumps out here!
I’ve been in desert-country before, but this was really bleak… until we got over the top and the views across the canyon proved magnificent! Fields sprinkled the mountainsides; villages clung defiantly to their terraced tops. Winds cleared our afternoon view, but in the evening they whipped in banks of dense fog that spring unexpectedly upon us, rolling around and around, until they opened to a candelabra of glittering stars in the heavens that civilization so often hides.
Kind of like life, right? We tend to get lost in the details and lose the Big Picture!
I drew plenty of parallels to my last 4 months’ journey on this stage of my missionary trip. Endless dry terrain, rocks, bumps, bleak terrain, blind curves… unsure of what was coming next, but waiting for the heavens to open and reveal a once out-of-reach glory such as we’d never been seen before!
Can God turn deserts into oases?
Truly, the Lord is at work and has led me to see what could not have come to light in the valley.
3 wonderful experiences shone through the fog and what had before seemed just a dark valley and barren sky. Nothing is or happens without purpose. God has purpose in all He is and does. His kingdom unfolds in time + purpose. In our complexities, we need to see His simplicity like Jesus: see what Father is doing and follow Him.
1st: Saturday’s Youth meeting shifted sharply when Pastor Brent began sharing about Erica, the 88 Days, how her disappearance touched so many and the irony of how we had been having coffee only a short distance away when Tim found her body on New Year’s Eve. Brent was standing directly in front of me. I stood and took the mic and shared how Erica’s heart was always for youth. At 16, she’d saved her own money, raised funds and bought a school bus so youth like these could attend gospel meetings. As I spoke, the Holy Spirit fell: Ingrid, our interpreter, started weeping, others too and soon Pastor Adonias… and me… and Brent all ended up in a big wet hug, together at the front while the young people watched it all play out before them! Many had heard part of Erica's story and had been praying for us, but now their eyes saw this manifest outpouring: the fruit of God’s love!
2nd: Sunday’s service and about 50 received Jesus as their Saviour! A wonderful harvest with an equally wonderful church response as workers immediately responded to come alongside and + personally counsel and pray with them!
Then a time of ministry to married couples followed and I felt pretty lost, alone and even sorry for myself; like only ½ there without Erica by my side.
I longed for the meeting to be over and began to gather my things together.
But God had other plans and soon people were gathering around, asking me to pray with them!
I felt completely inadequate.
One young woman brought her newly engaged girlfriend and asked for prayer to help prepare her heart for marriage. I agreed and as I prayed, the new fiancee began to tear up. Ingrid was busy interpreting elsewhere, so the friend who had originally asked for prayer stepped in and interpreted for me.
More couples surrounded us for more prayer. The need was evident, so this young woman and I became a spontaneous prayer- translator team over the next hour. After this, Jackie (that was her name) shared with me how Erica’s story had deeply touched her heart, and when Ingrid joined us again, I found myself praying Erica’s Deborah anointing over both of them –warrior women who will not accept the devil’s ‘No’ for an answer, but will stand for truth against this world’s injustice.
God poured out His Spirit again and soon all of us were weeping.
Erica’s legacy is not in vain: He is raising up more Deborahs!
3rd: Yesterday we had an evening meeting with the Sheppards and their church in Puebla. Pastor David has translated my Come Follow Me discipleship booklet into Spanish and after I’d shared about how we need both Word + Spirit wings to cut through enemy confusion, another lady approached me. She was leaving to work the night shift in the local hospital, and I told her I saw her like Florence Nightingale: a Lady with a Lamp, shining light into the darkest places.
As her story unfolded, it turns out her name is Luz which means ‘light’ and she has been using these translated booklets in her work as a psychologist, helping suicidal patients find hope!
She has such a compassion for her patients that she even takes her break-time to encourage them in the Scripture and prayer!
That did it for me! Seeing God work it so my booklet was now encouraging suicidal patients to keep walking where Erica had fallen victim opened the heavens above and the fountains of the deep again!
Imagine: actually meeting a lady here in Mexico named Light using the light of my newly translated booklet to shine against that very darkness that sought to extinguish Erica’s light.
The ways of God are truly beyond understanding!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The 3 Miguels

One of many highlights from the Fuerza Agape Youth Conference we took part in yesterday here in Mexico City:
Remember a movie called The 3 Amigos? Well, I got The 3 Miguels yesterday: all in a row, one after the other, for prayer at end of the meeting. All 3 with our son’s name! What are the odds on this?
M1 spoke pretty good English, but rather than prayer for himself, he asked if I could pray for his friend: M2, who’d never been to a Christian meeting before.
M2 stepped forward, out of the crowd: 16 years old? not tall, with tattoos, piercings and rings all over his ears, lips and nose, black leather jacket, black hair, in fact, his whole countenance looked downcast black.
But he had been all day in the meeting and now he wanted prayer.
M2 didn’t raise his eyes and only briefly did they meet mine, but I felt the Father’s love for him so deeply and I knew in my heart nothing was going to stop Father from engaging this prodigal with nowhere else to go.
He stood in front of me, head down. And I began to pray… just simply that M2 would see, hear and know Jesus as the Father’s love-gift in the midst of his confused and confusing sin-sick world. I took authority over anything that would try to separate him from this love. As my hand barely touched his forehead, his body suddenly started to quiver, then shake and weave from side to side. Tears broke from his eyes, flowed down his cheeks and M2 fell out of control, forward, right into my arms which could barely keep him standing! It all happened so quickly and
unexpectedly, all I could do was stand there, holding his virtually collapsed form against my frame, praying healing for his heart, mind and whole being. I felt tears saturate my shirt. Something wonderful was indeed happening!
Time was giving way to eternity; a once-closed heart was opening to the infinity of Father’s love.
His arms held, then folded and tightened around me, almost like in a wrestling match he was determined not to lose.
Then just as suddenly as he’d put the hold on me, he now released me. I raised his chin, lifted his head upwards, looked into two very different, now clearly bright eyes, and asked him if he wanted to receive Jesus. He replied he didn’t know what that meant.
Now I could have tried to explain this in my very incompetent Spanish, gone for the kill and got him notched on my born-again, new converts belt, but I felt to not pressure him and called his friend M1 in to show M2 the Jesus Way!
M2 gracia’d me and I felt a simple assurance that M2’s born-again experience would not tarry long after such an encounter with the Father.
M1 + M2 walked away together and next in line appeared M3: much younger, only 7 yrs old? and this little guy had decided he wanted prayer too, all on his own! Jesus’ words rang in my heart:
‘Don’t forbid the little children to come to me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven!’
When I got home last night, I remembered my 3 Miguels and wondered whether our roads might meet again?
Some prayers definitely take less time for answers. Today M1 came to me right after church and reported: M2 gave his heart to Jesus immediately after they’d left me and confirmed his commitment in church this morning!
You don’t always have to hit a home-run. Just get a runner safely on base and let the Father bring him home. He is well able to complete what He’s begun.

Friday, February 21, 2014

God-cidents: His plan unfolding!

We arrived in Mexico City last evening. Our flight was late, but we were right on time!
I mean: after 88 days of Enduring, what’s being delayed a couple hours in a comfortable lounge? Waiting no longer reacts with impatience the same as it did before. We landed right in the fullness of God’s time.
This trip was birthed out of this time of waiting. In fact, it was on New Year’s Eve – as I wrote previously, at the very same time Tim was running from the cop’s sirens and into the blackberries to find Erica, I was having coffee only a mere 50 yards away! Pastor Brent from Windword Church + I were talking about what could possibly break the mystery and bring revelation of Erica’s whereabouts and, sensing I was stuck in that waiting period and needed a change after 3 months, he invited me with him on a Missions trip to Mexico in February, where he ministers to growing churches in Mexico City and then further south in Oaxaca. The invitation to do something different than just wait felt good in my spirit; my family even encouraged me, ‘Dad, go for it!’ But before I could confirm, news of Erica’s discovery New Year’s morning changed our lives forever and Mexico disappeared from the picture!
Then, in between New Year’s and her funeral, an eagle (one of our STC students) came to visit me with a Word from the Lord:
I was going to take a trip in February, then for 1 year I will revisit places we’d been over the last few years,
then for 10 years following (that would take me past 75!) lots of new opportunities will open for me to share what the Lord is doing, and then I will re-focus on home and pour into our grandchildren.
Sounded good to me: especially the last part, because I’m a firm believer in relaying the vision and passing on the inheritance to our next generation!
Plus a trusted friend was there to witness to this word’s truth + timing: its messenger knew absolutely nothing about the February Mexico invitation! Additionally, I don’t believe in trying to self-fulfill prophecies, so I didn’t agree or disagree: I just held it in my heart.
Then a couple weeks ago, other Canadian missionary friends in Puebla, Mexico, phoned to tell me they had translated my Come Follow Me discipleship booklet into Spanish and just added I should come and see what was happening and take a rest too! They had no knowledge of the previous invitation either, but I figured if these two pointers to Mexico were in fact the Lord, then He was bringing it together, without me trying to make it happen.
I re-contacted Brent; his invitation still stood,  a seat also was still available on his same flight + the drive to Oaxaca would take us right by Puebla, so they could simply drop me off to stay with the missionaries for a few extra days.
And then Guatemala came into the picture! I’m the kind of traveler who continues to look further from where he’s already at. I’m always wondering what’s on the other side of the mountain, around the bend, or just beyond my present grasp. After all, a man’s vision must exceed his grasp… or what’s a heaven for?! 
Now, we just happen to have other Canadian missionary friends who live in Antigua, the old Spanish Central American capital, and when they heard  I was going to southern Mexico, well! Wouldn’t you know it? they just had to renew their visas outside Guatemala in early March and would be there right at that time – coincidence?
I have come to believe less in accidents or coincidence + more in God-cidents during this faith journey.
So rather than take the 20-hour bus ride through a somewhat questionably insecure Chiapas, I found a  1½ hr flight from Mexico City to the Guatemala border for only $10 more and decided to splurge! Why not?  I soon booked the necessary flights and the journey extended to a further week in Guatemala, with only a relatively short return bus to the Mexican border and flights back to Mexico City and Canada the following morning.
And wouldn’t you know it? The Lord has taken care of even this! Our last year’s homestay student just happens to
live in Mexico City and has invited me to come and be with his family that very evening, rather than just wait at the
airport. Hospitality in action, eh?
And to top it all off: Windword church took up a love offering and paid for my plane ticket. More generosity to me! I think I’m loved!
So here I am discovering new friends: more hungry + thirsty Mexican eagles! Gotta love their flag: it depicts an eagle eating a snake! Now that’s the right kind of symbolism in action: eagles destroying snakes!
Jesus up: devil down!  
No, I’m not lazing on the beach getting a burn-tan, but by the grace of God and His people’s love + generosity, I am once again on one of the front-lines where the kingdom of God is advancing against drug cartels, child prostitution, religious ignorance and self-interested pollutions of heart, mind and soul.
This is resting, refreshing, and restoring, all at the same time.
I can’t just sit home in pain; when He opens the door, I have to mount up and fly for both Erica and I!
Thank you, all of you, for loving, praying, believing and helping in so many ways to make this healing reality!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Surreal Love

Yesterday was a most auspicious and amazing day for me!
A series of appointments which held potential for either great pain or joy just seemed to fall into place without any particular planning on my part.
Kind of like the prospects for Canada’s hockey team at the Sochi Olympics, eh?
First: I had to face the AirCare test again, never a joyful expectation for me.
Then lunch with a friend, and later in the afternoon, I was to have coffee with Tim, the man who had found Erica’s body after our 88 Day Marathon Search.
Life with Erica had always been dramatic, but Life without Erica for those almost 3 months became stuck in an ongoing, seemingly never-ending mystery. I felt unable to move, either backward or forward. Days dragged by, one like another, one after one another. Whatever hope our few leads gendered only vanished just as quickly as they appeared and proved fruitless.
Life was numb, unreal, with little cohesive focus and clear meaning.
Without purpose. Nothing made sense.
And no sense is either nonsense or God-sense. But somehow I chose to trust God would somehow bring His sense out of all the apparent nonsense. After all, that’s Who He is and what He does best!
As we walked into our coffeeshop, Tim described his last month since finding Erica as ‘surreal’.
I especially noted that word because it described the same way I’d felt during the previous 3 months. I’d even used that same word to describe my predicament.
‘Surreal’ defined: a style of art and literature stressing the subconscious or nonrational significance of imagery arrived at by exploitation of chance effects, unexpected juxtapositions.
In simpler words, you can’t make reasonable sense out of what’s happening to predict a sensible outcome.
Described my situation and feelings perfectly.
After all, last Valentine’s Day we’d been together in Hawaii, enjoying lunch on the beach, afternoon snorkelling, exploring a whole new world of colour and life just inches beneath the waves!
But today I wait for her familiar ‘Hi Hon!’ on my cell phone, her footsteps running up and down the stairs, her hugs… but she’s not there. The phone is silent and so is our house. This reality doesn’t make any acceptable sense… it’s ‘surreal’ and I long for yet another glimpse beneath those waves to see what we saw together then again.
It’s no mere coincidence he used that same term: both our live’s directions have been forever changed. My ‘surreal’ described a life suddenly broken, his a startling encounter pointing to new life! My ‘surreal’ had shattered; his turned for healing.
Both our Emmaus-like Journeys have become the reality of Metamorphosis Road… where worms become butterflies and lives change from glory to glory into His image. Together we are now moving from mystery into revelation where His Light gives meaning and the past unfolds as His-story: scripted, directed, redeemed by The One who turns what the enemy intends for evil into our good for His glory!
Oscar can neither come close nor comprehend this kind redemption!
Neither coincidence nor accidents compare with God-cidence.
Tim had never before met Erica. However, he had met our son, Michael while he was putting up new posters downtown after our November family press conference. He said he’d talked a bit with Michael and from that meeting on, he felt strangely connected, involved in the search for this unknown woman.
When he actually found her body, he immediately knew it was her. However, when he contacted police and told them where she was, they were unable to find her after an initial search, so they didn’t believe him, charged him with mischief and put him in jail for the night!
But something more had changed in his life! God was at work and He was not to be denied! God’s ‘surreal’ invaded Tim’s ‘real’ and he would never be the same.
As he related more of the details over coffee, I mentally pieced our stories together and realized that at that same time, a friend + I were having coffee within 100 yards of where Tim was then encountering Erica!
Later that New Year’s Eve, I was home trying to finish a post on how finding Erica was connected with a fresh revelation of Jesus for the New Year. It wasn’t flowing easily and I thought I could perhaps put it off, but then I felt a distinct urgency that I had to post it that night and not leave it till New Year’s Day.
It was God’s Timing: He was moving from the ‘surreal’ of mystery into revelation and I needed to move with Him in His time!
And so today I want to share this fresh encouragement with you from the Lord of the ‘surreal’. This is no mere random act of chance or coincidence that we are seeing unfold here:
1 The Lord chose Erica to be found on New Year’s Day. The timing is significant and this cannot be lost to us. He alone is God who speaks + makes all things new!
2. Somehow God chose Tim to find he:, a man thinking he was running from the police who weren’t even chasing him, running from God, but running into Erica. Though dead, her bones still spoke life into his confusion and like the body that touched Elisha’s bones and sprang to life, soTim’s now being changed and longs to realize and walk in his new identity as a child of God with a Heavenly Father who loves him!
He’s no longer content being an outward-professing Christian without the inward reality.
He’s thirsty for the real thing and it ain’t Coca Cola or anything else found in a bottle.
He and others with such thirst just need to change brands and drink from Holy Spirit wells of living water they’ll find springing up inside that never run dry!
3. And I’ve got 2 more new eagles’ wings: 1Pet 1:11 speaks of suffering + glory that follows! The Friday, January 10 AbbyNews proclaimed: ‘Rejoicing in the Midst of Sorrow’ as its headline for Erica’s story. The Lord made sure He got front page coverage on the day of her funeral for what He was doing in and through us!
4. Pastor Larry Keegstra’s team just returned from their almost 3 weeks’ missions trip to Uganda, ministering in Kids Camps + Crusades. While there, they used a good portion of over $2000 donated in Erica’s memory to finally dig a viable well on the Uganda Jesus Village acreage. Fountains of living water are flowing in the promised land!
5. I passed AirCare! Past problems and fears no longer have their same height since I’ve passed through those 88 Days. 8 speaks of Resurrection and double 8 therefore speaks of our inheritance of Resurrection power released in multiple generations! The enemies’ mountains are really mole-hills. Let God lay your Goliaths low!
6.I’m going for a couple weeks on 1st a Missions trip to Mexico with a pastor + missionaries + then into Guatemala for a week of volcano-conquering with friends.
7.It’s Valentine’s Day: I know it’s late, but please remember: love one another + especially hug your loved ones today, everyday while it’s still today and we are here together. As I wrote here a few days ago:
Yesterday is History. Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is a gift, that’s why it’s called The Present.
Our life consists of God’s special gifts: relationships which He has brought together and we share in His Presence.
This is called Love and His kind of unreasonable and ‘surreal’ love is well able to encounter this upside-down world and shock its walking dead out of their zombie-like existence.
Jesus’ love does not accept death as its final answer.
I know that now more deeply now.
I’ve seen Him in action through my sweetheart.
You'll always be my Valentine, Dear. I’ll always love you!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I first wrote this on my journey in 1973,
a short time before I became a Christian.
Kind of feel like I’m at a similar place of healing again.
Can one be born again again?

Metamorphosis Road

Forget your hope and lose your past
And soon you’ll find freedom at last;
Destroy your loss, defeat your fear,
Sorrow to drown needs only a tear.
But love... love continuously
As day meets night to become day again
So love… love through all
Brings the rainbow in rain.
Although some may say there’s no gold at the end
And following its course means a lifetime to spend,
Look back from your twilight and clearly you’ll see
The means which you chose are now what you be.
And Love, our One Meaning
Shepherds His fold
To the end of life’s rainbow –
Metamorphosis Road.