PART FOUR– Bernalillo to Moon River (cont.)
While Marilyn and I were visiting Paul in Great Falls, we took a walk to the Magic Mill, which was in a mall. As we passed through the double-door entrance, a middle-aged couple was leaving. I was a bit uplifted in spirit at the time and, as I momentarily set eyes on the man passing us, I noticed that he was very likely (and perhaps gingerly) sporting a toupee. Though he was a stranger, I felt like saying, lightheartedly and sincerely, “Hey, nice hairpiece you have there!”
Inside, we immediately met Al, a hairdresser standing at the entrance to his salon. He was smiling like Carroll’s proverbial Cheshire cat that had just swallowed the canary, yet he somewhat nervously looked beyond us as he watched the couple we just passed leaving the mall. Paul knew Al, so we decided to say hi.
Al could barely contain himself. It turned out he was so relieved and proud of a fresh-out-of-the-oven accomplishment. He just had to express himself to someone, and we happened to be the nearest, soonest available people. He came sauntering over and said, “I finally, finally finished a super hard-earned deal on an expensive hairpiece. Lots of sweat equity in that one! I feel like celebrating!”
I asked him if it was the couple that just left. “Yes, it was,” he replied, surprised. He anxiously asked, “How did you know? Do you know him? Did you notice something?”
Barely able to hold back from bursting out laughing, I told him what I had almost said to his client as he was leaving. Al instantly choked up with a curious mixture of amazement and uneasy relief, and he blanched at the thought of what could have happened had I said what I had felt like saying, or may still happen if it was that obvious to the casual onlooker.
“You’re kidding!” he said. “You’ve got to be kidding! Oh, no! That noticeable?! I put a lot of work into that job – the guy was so self-conscious and skeptical, you wouldn’t believe it if I told you! I have never had anyone like that before. I had to do a lot of talking and adjusting that hairpiece to make the sale. I don’t know what I would have done to you if you’d said it!”
He then proceeded to tell us, in some detail, how he spent months massaging this fellow’s fears, and preparing the perfect hairpiece that would be virtually undetectable. We had the impression Al had multiple visits with the client wherein he adjusted the wig, hair by hair. At times the client was ready to “throw in the toupee,” afraid he wouldn’t be able to pull off his re-entry into society with the new look. He was especially worried people would know he was “rugging” it.
With Al’s craftsmanship and bedside manner, he had put together a combination of artistry and psychological counseling to equip this fragile fellow with all he thought he needed to go forth into the world with a new persona, which would increase his confidence day by day until he was truly a new man. His life seemed to hinge on it!
And there, as his client left the hair salon, Al’s hard-earned satisfaction came so close to being shattered by a stranger’s sincere, lighthearted compliment!
We all burst out laughing and have laughed many times about it since.
But… questions have remained with me years later: How did I see through that toupee in the dusk? Why did that man catch my attention? It wasn’t as though I had never seen anyone in a toupee before – Uncle Bill Atamanchuk, my second earthly and totally bald father, wore one. Why did I feel like saying to a complete stranger what I felt like saying? And why, oh why, didn’t I say it? (I confess there is the mischief in me that makes me wish I had said it!)
And what would have happened if I had said it? I can imagine, and I am so tempted to draw a scenario for you right here and now, but this is really supposed to be my true life story and not a book of humor or fiction, although, if someone asks, I just might do it as a complimentary side order. Nah… I’ll do it now:
As I sat in Al’s barber chair, strapped in and unable to move or breathe, stiff as a board, paralyzed with fear, except for trembling, I felt the cold steel of his freshly-sharpened razor against my choking throat. I knew he wasn’t bluffing – this was for real. Who knew my life would be on the line for a silly remark in good humor to a total stranger? And it wasn’t even that – it was sincere, warmhearted, seemingly harmless, and for this I get what is more than just a ‘close shave’?
“You think I sell one of those every day, or every week, or even every month,
huh?’ he quietly, calmly murmured. ‘Soohh, show me that thing you so loosely use when you open that big mouth, my friend. Why don’t we start there? And don’t bother glancing at the entrance for someone to intervene. It’s now after closing and the door’s locked for the night.’
I saw he was going to take his time and thoroughly enjoy himself. It was perfectly obvious he no longer cared about his career or clients or sales…. I had his complete attention… and he had mine.
Seriously, decades later, Paul had an explanation for the event and its purpose as an allegory from the Lord for us:
As men try to cover their bald heads with toupees, so they try to cover their spiritual nakedness with pious fig leaves, aided by professional religious hirelings. These posturing phonies are, at heart, every bit as insecure as the bald man, though they often try to hide it through false bravura when exposed. Their painstakingly-constructed coverings are destroyed, and they are devastated within, when the Light of God shines on them, though externally they may continue to posture and fool men.
What man takes great pains to create, God can destroy in a moment. And this honor is given to His saints, those who walk with Him in the Light and thereby judge all things. It is an effortless work, flowing from the Fountain of Life Who resides in His Body.
“Let the holy ones rejoice in honor. Let them sing for joy on their beds. May the high praises of God be in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hand; to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the written judgment. All His holy ones have this honor. Praise the LORD!” (Psalms 149:5-9 HNV)
At some point rather early in our marriage, I got to heavily indulging in unbelief. It was then that Marilyn seemed to take over our spiritual responsibilities and tried hard to keep me believing, often getting very frustrated and angry with me. I had a heavy-duty problem with covetousness most of my life, and it didn’t go away when I became a Christian. If anything, it seemed to be magnified, though we had been giving up to 50% of our income away in tithes and offerings one year. The love of money has deceptions and contradictions.
I was greatly distressed when Paul had to leave Magic Mill before he got another job. To me, it was loss of income, out of my pocket, not just his. Greedy, covetous, and selfish of me? Indeed! Why could I not be pleased with the fact that we had time to spend together? Why could I not recognize that God was the Provider in all things at all times?
I went on and on about it for days until, one night, when we should have been sleeping already, I was continuing on about it, and Marilyn got so angry she started pulling my hair! How horrible I could get.
As Solomon’s proverb says:
“He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house…” (Proverbs 15:27 MKJV).
What I had yet to learn, and would learn, was the meaning of these words from Solomon:
“He who troubles his own house shall inherit the wind; and the fool shall be servant to the wise in heart” (Proverbs 11:29 MKJV).
The world rushes headlong, not only toward destruction, but is in destruction while it rushes. Priorities are confounded, based on gain and selfishness. Big is small and small is big. What’s important and what isn’t? Aren’t they the “little things” that count? And hasn’t the preacher said, “All is vanity,” after firsthand experience of the things that occupy men?
While visiting with Paul, a song came in my sleep (I heard a chorus of women singing it):
Hello, my friend, and where are you off to?
Won’t you stay and make a friend you can talk to?
Stop and tell me how you’ll find a way to catch the wind….
Believe, you don’t have to hurry.
Relax, you don’t have to worry.
You’re not the one that has to do it all right now….
Look around and people are dying.
They hate to walk; they’ve got to be flying,
But six feet under, their relatives and friends are cry-y-ing….
Take a lesson from the big dinosaur;
He didn’t get too very far.
Give an ear and hear the sparrows tell their story to you….
To win a race there are a thousand in a throng,
But only one of them is destined to be strong.
Will you tell me nine hundred and ninety-nine are wrong?…
Take a lesson from some of the grasses;
Look and see that they are eaten by asses,
But after asses go, the grasses stay behind to grow….
You needn’t live to others’ expectations;
You’ll give your heart too many palpitations.
Do what you can for now and gently put the rest away….
Take it easy, the night has a reason;
For everything there is a time and a season.
You’ll never find a tree that bears its fruit all the time….
Easy does it friend, don’t be in perplexion.
You never lose because you fail to make connection.
You only lose because connection is so important to you….
Where were you when the world was without you?
Where will you be when it goes on beyond you?
Do let go and everything will be okay…
Do let go and everything will be okay…
Do let go and everything will be okay….
In spring of ’87, we saw an extraordinary sunset with the mixture and blending of several beautiful colors. There seemed to be some sadness of departure in the scene.
Death and parting are never easy between loved ones, whether they be righteous or otherwise, but with the righteous, there’s the sure hope of coming together again, the hope of resurrection, of a sunrise.
While there’s sadness in the departure of the precious, there’s also a solemn beauty to temper the sorrow with promise of better things to come. It’s only by faith that we perceive the spiritual sun will rise again soon.
Coral and lavender,
Beauty and Sadness
Shedding tears, saying,
“It’s alright, it’s okay!”
Gently passing away.
In spring of ’87, we were informed Delores had ovarian cancer. There was nothing we could say or do. It seemed that God had sealed His judgment on her with an insurmountable finality. How long do we think we can tempt God and delay obedience before we have crossed the line of no return? Because He is patient and longsuffering, it seems we can wait forever, and then finally comes His judgment – much too soon.
Fred had gotten upset with me, saying, “Victor, take your hands off my VCR, my computer, and my wife!” Lois pointed out that his VCR broke down without recourse, his $4,000 IBM computer malfunctioned and he couldn’t get it serviced, and now it was his wife. Fred had all three of his angry wishes granted.
However, it could be said I messed up all three. After all, I didn’t help the VCR and computer any.
All this while, Marj Harris of Stettler visited us whenever we were there, and wrote letters when we weren’t, to which we replied. She was sending offerings, and we accepted them. One day I had a vision of her. I saw her sitting, very fat, stuffed and dull, full of rot, which seemed as excrement, ready to burst through the skin.
She was full of religion, but without spiritual health or reality. I had to tell her so, and of course, when I did, she wasn’t pleased. What was worse, she attributed the vision to me, not to the Lord. She resented the one who was merely the messenger. So what’s new? It seems to me her reaction only confirmed what I had seen.
Why have I had such ugly visions of people? Some would say they aren’t of God, that God is love and would never picture His people or anyone in these ways. I know differently. God is not as people like to think. He is not this emotional softie that wouldn’t hurt a fly or speak a harsh word.
“God sees us as perfect in Him,” it’s often said. That is simply not true. He shows what we really are, and what we are is not at all pretty, to understate it. It takes the pure grace of God to see and acknowledge ourselves as we are.
Furthermore, He doesn’t show what we are to condemn us, but so that He might notify us of our need, so we might be moved to seek Him for our salvation. Those who refuse His true perspective continue to perish, while those who see and confess themselves as vile sinners are delivered and begin the painful, yet sure and immensely rewarding, transformation into His image and likeness. They come out of their pits of darkness into the light of day.
I mentioned Bruce Payne of Victory Christian Church, whom I had met in 1983, who was proud and heedless, but thinking himself quite spiritual. In one of these years, word came that he had taken training at a Victory Christian Bible school and gone to Pincher Creek, a city less than an hour’s drive from Lethbridge, to start a church. There he fell into an adulterous relationship and thus ended his ministerial ambitions.
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 MKJV).
And do these people repent? I have yet to see it happen. Why? I would be joyful if any person made an about-face and came to the Light, be it Bruce or anyone else. Rarely does it happen.
We were hard on Archie and Cathie, and they were hard on us. There was continual conflict throughout, while we tried hard to teach and to discipline them in the ways of the Lord. They resisted us, and we tried all the harder to break through to them, to impress them with their need to walk in faith and righteousness. Cathie was always arguing, even belligerently, while Archie was often moping. We had a very difficult time with them, and they would most certainly say the same of us.
One evening while we were babysitting for them, we told the children to brush their teeth. They all obeyed but Erin, who was about eight or nine years old. She was often one to loll around.
I lost it. I grabbed her, picked her up, and held her in the air. I yelled at her, saying, “Are you going to brush your teeth, or not?” She was shocked at my reaction and behavior; crying, she went and immediately brushed her teeth.
I was often angry, and I do mean often, with everyone. It would be years before I realized what was eating me, and how thankful I was to see the light at the end of the tunnel when it happened. Thereafter, I would still get angry, but not uncontrollably.
We spent much time not only teaching, but rebuking and disciplining, Lois, Trevor, and Mark in everyday matters – housekeeping, cooking, hygiene, sanitation, manners, perspectives, attitudes, schoolwork, how they spent their time, reading the Scriptures, and all things that presented themselves.
I recall making the boys do and redo essays, correcting them in their grammar, spelling, punctuation, and expression. I was appalled at the slack standards and requirements at school. Considering that I was far from proficient in writing, I wondered how it was I could legitimately criticize the high school educational system for how poor it was.
Paul was also dealt with on many matters. Many of his needs were the same. He needed to learn proper housekeeping, punctuality at work, presentability, industry, persistence, wisdom in spending, and diligence in seeking counsel. Most of all, Paul needed to be disciplined in his inordinate affection for women. He was constantly on the alert for a potential wife.
We traveled back and forth to Helena, Stettler, and Lethbridge. While we were ever welcome at Paul’s and, for the most part, at Benson’s (though at times Lois wanted to be left alone), we were seldom, if ever, welcome at Archie’s. Between those three homes, we traveled and ministered from 1985 to 1987.
Paul describes a dream he had while working at Davis Business Machines, and his situation: “Within the first year that I began working at Davis Business Machines in Helena, MT , I had a dream wherein I saw, in the backroom where inventory was kept, a pile of machines and goods designating my sales, and a pile designating Lyle Barker’s, the older, more experienced person who was their principal salesperson when I was hired on. The piles were relatively the same size.
I came back a short time later and saw that my pile was much higher, going up towards the roof of the warehouse, and wider as well. I marveled at the difference. Within a short time, this happened in reality, as my sales took off, and Lyle never progressed. Eventually, after another year, he left the business and soon moved to Australia.
I had been giving generous offerings to the Lord, and fasted for seven days in 1987, which seemed to be a breakthrough event, being given to acknowledge and look to the Lord in all things. That August the Lord said through Victor that I had been brought to a place of repentance, and that He would begin to bless me. All of these things happened.”
In August of 1987, there came a breakthrough in Paul that I cannot now define. Something happened so that he changed for the better, though there would still be a long road ahead. He seemed partially delivered from internal restrictions and began to have the freedom to think more for himself and to trust God. Paul found the words I spoke at that time.
August 26, 1987: “There has been a breakthrough. The Lord will now begin to bless. Financially you will now prosper as you have never prospered before. In your comings and in your goings He will now begin to bless you. He will give you what to say and what to do.
You have come to a place of repentance where the Lord has granted you mercy. There will continue to be trials and hardships. There will be stumblings on your part. Temptations will come and you will have to surely resist them, ruthlessly so. God is with you to help you and keep you. But honor Him in all things at all times. Withdraw and/or withhold nothing from Him, for when you do, He will cut off His abundance till you repent and resume your obedience.”
These prophecies came somewhere in the late eighties. There was more to them, but these words are the only portions I recall:
Of Paul: “I will hook you by the nose and take you back where you came from. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Paul recalls these words being spoken shortly after he arrived in Great Falls, after being kicked out of Archie’s home at 249 Columbia Boulevard.)
Of Lois: “I will churn you as butter.”
In August of ’87, during a time of discouragement, I received words from the Lord in song. I had nowhere but onward to go and was persuaded that these words held true and someday would be fulfilled.
(Click HERE to listen to “The Work of God,” or to read the lyrics.)
Jesus said, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” At the time I wrote this, I sincerely thought and desired that I would give anything and everything. I haven’t changed on that except that the Lord has given me more since then, and the more I have, the less possible it seems that I can give all. Only by the grace of God can we give Him everything, and it’s not without pain if we have that which is valuable to us to give.
But being a jealous God, we must surrender all to Him. And He is faithful, as He patiently and mercifully enables us to do His will.
(Click HERE to listen to “I’d Give Anything,” or to read the lyrics.)