PART ONE – Darkness to Light (cont.)
Even while I was in a spiritual search, I was still very capable of the worst of sins and the “best” of sins. I recall a simple, friendly, enthusiastic, hard-working couple who wished to buy a mobile home (the fellow’s name was Sonny). They did not have a down payment to qualify for financing. Terry Johnston urged me to inflate the selling price, fake receiving a down payment, pretend that their parents had given it to them, and apply for the loan.
Homes Canada worked with Frank Hickey, the loans manager for the Bank of Nova Scotia. He questioned the transaction, being very skeptical. Terry Johnston coached me to bluster my way, which I did, railing on Frank, who was consequently perplexed and insulted, though confounded, it seems, not knowing for sure whether I was lying or speaking the truth and angry that he was not accepting my word. We got the loan, we were guilty of fraud, and I earned an enemy in the financial world.
On the other hand, Sonny and his wife were super happy to have their very own home, though modest, one they could not have hoped to have otherwise.
I was happy for the new home owners and hoped they would never default on their loan.
And I would remember this offence against Frank.
A customer came purchasing a mobile home. He told me that his education in forestry was so high that only one or two others in the world had it. Soon after beginning to work in the forest, however, he fell mysteriously ill. After extensive medical investigation, it was discovered that he had an extremely rare allergy. This allergy was specific to a common coniferous species of tree, which is what most forests are made of, at least in Canada. Consequently, he was forced to discontinue his career, which had barely begun.
So, lightning does strike in the same place twice, not often maybe, but it does.
Murray and Ila sent their nephew, Robert Garneau, to me for a job. I got him building steps for the show homes and doing other odd jobs. Robert was a hippie; he had the language, the long hair, smoked pot, drank, swore, and lived loose in general. He and I had several lively discussions on spiritual and philosophical matters. We would agree and disagree. He was quite cynical of anything to do with religion. Why was I talking to him about religion when I didn’t really believe myself, except that I was searching for answers?
I wonder what became of him. I’ve known others much like him who didn’t live long.
I met Lawrence Hipkiss in Prince Albert. Lawrence, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, was a smoker (many AA members seemed to be at that time and maybe are today). He sold Filter Queen vacuum cleaners and was very good at it. He took me on a demo. This demo had a successful close, which was not unusual because, according to him, his average was eight or nine out of ten. He was an expert, and his demo was wonderful to watch, though I really didn’t have the knowledge to fully appreciate what he was doing. He had them almost literally eating out of his hand. I was amazed.
I later came to realize some of the tricks of the trade, which were impressive, but misleading. For example, sales people were trained to suck up a steel ball bearing with the open end of the hose, a ball not much smaller in diameter than the thickness of the hose, which the machine would suck up with ease. One tends to think it would be hard to do because of the ball’s size and weight, but the large surface area of the bearing actually makes it easy. Uninformed observers, however, assume the machine has great suction.
The Filter Queen’s design was used to dramatize the event. It had a round canister collecting the contents. The hose enters its side and directs the contents sideways in a continuing circular motion until they come to rest on the bottom. One could easily hear the sound of the bearing revolving along the wall of the canister. Before the bearing came to rest, Lawrence opened the canister as the couple eagerly leaned forward to see.
They marveled, not realizing that if he had done that with much lighter and smaller particles, like salt or sugar, it would not have been nearly so impressive. Their Electrolux could have done just as well or better in sucking up a ball bearing that size, had they thought to try. It could have done just as well if it was years old.
While other brands were touted to be so great, Electrolux was truly one of the best, if not the best at the time and for decades after. The people at this demo had purchased an Electrolux system only months before Lawrence and I visited them with Filter Queen. By the time he was through with them, they were trading their machine for a fraction of what they paid, for something that did not work as well.
I’m not saying that Lawrence deliberately tried to deceive them. I don’t know. I do know that I have seen many demonstrations of various products in homes, at fairs, and at exhibitions. The demonstrators are practiced in their presentation, which is often not a fair presentation of the reality. The buyer is to beware, indeed (see Violence Is Rampant on the Earth). I have spent thousands as a sucker, not realizing the subtle power of trained, cunning sales personnel.
Think about it – what match is the average homebuyer in negotiation with a realtor salesperson who is trained to handle potential buyers and sells homes as a profession? Or how many know how to deal on a vehicle with a professional salesperson? It would pay for the average buyer to hire a purchaser to do the job and give him or her a commission.
Passing through Dauphin in my travels, searching and full of questions, I went to see our parish priest, the “Very Reverend” Monsignor Gregory Oucharyk. He gave me a Douay Bible, which I proceeded to read from cover to cover, Apocrypha and all. I red every word, including the statistical, constructional, and genealogical portions of Leviticus, Numbers, and Chronicles, the details of which can bore many to death, if they ever bother to read them.
I didn’t want to miss a thing, likely hoping the Bible had some kind of mystical power to effect a change in me. By the end of Revelation, the last book, however, I was not a whit wiser or changed. I understood nothing at all. I couldn’t even grasp that Jesus Christ was the central figure of the entire Bible.
During that period in 1972, I began to pray at the office and at home. Night after night, I knelt by my bed and cried out to God in quiet desperation. “If You are there, God, if I can talk to You, if You are willing to show Yourself, please, please do.” The emptiness within and dissatisfaction with the things of this world grew so intense, I came to feel that unless God answered, I had no reason to go on living.
Socially, I was a misfit, a loser, a square peg trying to fit a round hole. I recall going out with my neighbor, Brian Toews, and his girlfriends, Janice and Isabel, and being completely out of synch with them. They were light and frivolous, enjoying themselves, and I was miserable and lonely.
I called Abe Friesen, an independent plumber, to service Homes Canada’s furnaces in the mobile homes. He ended up spending hours talking to me about God and the Bible. I gave him many an argument, as I did with all those who tried to reason with me against my “enlightened” convictions.
Today, New Agers share the same millennia-old concepts of self-godhood, beginning with Adam and Eve, and think they have something new and superior. I was there, and New Agers simply do not believe me when I tell them so. That is how I was with others, and that is how it is for all those who think they have been enlightened by most philosophies but particularly this one. Everybody likes to think they have power to do the impossible and don’t need God. They are so wrong.
I also had a roommate, Warren Potts from Regina, who was the branch manager for the TCC Finance company. We had several talks on spiritual matters, but he was not interested. He believed he was a Christian because he was a patriotic Canadian who believed in democracy and the Saskatchewan Roughriders. I marveled at the definitions people had of the term “Christian.” But I was now on the verge of finding out the true meaning….
That year of 1972, in my search for life’s meaning and purpose, I decided to fast for three days and three nights, without food or water, searching after God. I had spent several nights over months struggling at my bedside, begging for God to show Himself. I was empty, lonely, desperate, and I contemplated suicide. I could see no worthwhile purpose in my life. Very soon after my fast, I had a dream, likely on July 10, 1972.
The dream began with a voice that cried out, “The Indians are coming! The Indians are coming! They are raiding our gardens! Hurry up, everybody! Get your guns! The Indians are coming!” It seemed I was one of the servants in a great household or community of some kind. I headed to the back of the house and into a porch where the armaments were supposed to be. I looked on the walls and saw guns and bows hanging, but they were all broken and useless.
The voice then said to me, “Never mind, then. Just go out and see what they are doing.” I went out, and as I stepped out the back door, I walked into a beautifully verdant and fruitful garden, with bountiful trees amidst low shrubs and plants full of fruit.
There I saw American natives, dressed as they and we dress today. They were clean, respectable, and full of peace and joy. They were harvesting fruits and vegetables. The women were gathering into their baskets and aprons, and the men into baskets. Plainly, they were anything but a threat.
As I watched them, I partially understood their spirits, and I knew what was happening. They were gathering, yes, but it was their garden, not ours. And they weren’t doing so for themselves, but for us. They weren’t taking; they were giving, willingly, joyfully, and thankfully.
I walked into the garden, through it, and past these super friendly people. Arriving on the other side, I found myself on city streets, with buildings round about. It seemed that I was walking south in Calgary, past what seemed to be the McMahon Stadium on my right. Then I approached the edge of what was at once the block, the neighborhood, the city, and the earth.
Suddenly, everything went very still and silent. Not a thing could be heard, felt, or seen moving. There were people to my left and behind me. We were all facing in one direction, lined up along this edge. Something was happening.
As I looked ahead, out on the horizon, I saw a great white building on the right of my viewpoint. It was rectangular in shape, and it seemed to be three or four stories high, yet thousands of stories high. It had windows all over it, each window covered with a cloud. It had a large entrance, also covered with cloud. I could not see the bottom of this building, which was concealed by the horizon. It began to move slowly and very smoothly leftward in my view. The smoothness seemed like that of a great ship or barge on glass-smooth waters.
When it came to be directly in the middle of my “screen,” it stopped. The clouds covering the entrance dispersed to reveal a large, spacious entry without doors, with several wide steps up to it, something like what one sees with great governmental buildings. The building appeared dark inside.
On each side of the entrance stood a giant man, armed with spear or javelin, standing at ease, feet astride, with weapon arm stretched out to the side, holding the spear upright. These men seemed to be twelve to sixteen feet tall, and they were glorious. I judged them to be angels guarding the entrance.
Then a red path mysteriously formed on the floor inside the building, proceeding to the entrance and the stairs. It seemed like a flowing red carpet, wide enough for two persons to walk side by side on it. Two men appeared, walking on the carpet as it formed. It came down the stairs, and they came down the stairs. They walked slowly and steadily, relaxed, with glory and dignity. The path was approaching us, and they walked toward us on the path.
All people stood, transfixed, not knowing what was happening. As the two men approached us, I suddenly realized that one was none other than Jesus Christ! I became very afraid, because I also realized that this was what I understood to be the “Second Coming,” Jesus Christ returning to earth to judge and reign.
Why was I afraid? I was born and indoctrinated as a Catholic. The Catholic Church teaches that if one has a mortal (serious) sin on his soul and dies in that state, or if Jesus Christ comes while one is in that state, the soul goes to hell to burn forever in horrible torment. Ten trillion years later, there is no parole; it is just beginning. Was there not good reason to fear, seeing I knew I was not right with God and it was too late to change?
I had never ever been so afraid before.
Just ahead of me, and a little to my right, about ten or fifteen feet away, two men stood with their backs to me, apparently farmers, looking at what was unfolding before their eyes. One said to the other, “What’s going on here?” I knew what was going on, realizing that it was indeed Jesus Christ and the end of the world. I did not say it, but I thought to say to these men, “What the hell is the matter with you?! Don’t you know what’s going on? It’s the Second Coming of Christ, that’s what’s going on!” I was overcome with fear and desperation.
As the two men on the red path drew nearer, Jesus being on the right, and the other man on His left, I saw His face. What a face! I had never before, or have I since, seen anything like it. Plainly, there is nothing like it. He was Love, Wisdom, Peace, Power, Beauty, Perfection, and Authority Incarnate. He was Lord not by position or title only, but by His very nature.
His face was distinctly Jewish, yes, Jewish, yet it was universal. Seeing His face, I could readily understand the meaning, value, and importance of the Second Commandment: “You shall not make to yourselves any graven image or likeness of anything….” I perceived that any picture or statue one might make to portray His face would not only misrepresent Him or fall short of the true, it would be unavoidably blasphemous. It would be a product of man’s imagination, which is at enmity with God, as the Bible declares. Any pictures or statues I have seen of Jesus, no matter how skilled the artist, are abominable compared to what I saw. They are an outright lie, born out of vain and foolish notions.
As He momentarily looked at me, I noted there was no condemnation in His face at all towards me, despite the way I was. My fear was because of my unbelief and sin, and because of my lack of understanding. Plainly, He was not there to condemn or punish. Yet, in the light of His character, I was found to be vile. I felt so dirty, so corrupt, entirely unworthy of Him and the man with Him.
Should I fall on my knees? I found that very difficult, being proud. Should I fall prostrate? That was even more difficult. I also knew that if I did fall before Him in body, I would not be doing so in heart. I knew that my corruption was unacceptable in His sight, and my trying to honor Him was vain and impossible by my very nature. I dropped to my knees, groveling in mud, it seemed, though there was no mud except for perhaps me. I was doomed, and I knew it.
Jesus was dressed in robes and all royal attire. He had a neat beard, not short, not long, and His hair was not long, as usually depicted. He was taller than the man with Him. The man with him was also distinctly Jewish, but not universal as was Jesus. He had the same kind of hair and beard, and he too was dressed in royal clothing. I did not know who the man was. As he walked, he kept focused on Jesus’ face. He was glowing with admiration. The time would come when I would understand more of this dream and what I saw in that man’s face.
The man tenderly held the Lord’s left hand in front of him at waist level. They two together also seemed to be carrying a cushion before them with something on it, but I do not recall seeing or knowing what it was. While Jesus looked ahead at the people, the man seldom did – he would take the occasional glance, but mostly his gaze was fixed on the Lord’s face. Jesus sometimes raised His right hand and acknowledged the rare person in the crowd. He did not acknowledge the two farmers, and He did not acknowledge me. I was condemned, not by Him, but in myself.
As the two men drew near, the path continued without stopping and turned to their right (my left) along the front of the crowd. They continued walking past the crowd. The moment they had turned to their right, the great white building, which had remained in the background, still in the middle of my view, began to move in the same direction as the men, to my left. It moved at the same slow, steady, smooth pace.
The dream ended, and I awoke with my sleep shirt soaked with perspiration. I was absolutely terrified, though slightly relieved that it was but a dream, and not the reality. Yet it was so real that when I awoke, I wondered if it was not a revelation of what was absolutely established to take place, with no hope of change.
The effect of that dream, though terrifying, was that I would try my utmost to change my life and seek after God to be accepted of Him, whatever that would take. I shared this dream with many, who marveled at it.
Who was the man walking at the left hand of the Lord? Years later, I would know.
For a week or two after that dream, I was greatly troubled, and I didn’t know what to do. I found myself pondering how the dream had begun – with the Indians and how happy and at peace they were. I wondered what they had to do with the Second Coming. I then received another dream, a word dream only. A voice posed this question to me: “Victor, why do you think those Indians had such peaceful faces?” Suddenly, I knew, yet the voice gave me the answer: “Because they had spiritual, not physical, food.”
After these dreams, I set out to eliminate all vices and practice all virtues. In my attempt to live a good life, one I thought I needed to live to be acceptable to God, I soon learned how impossible that is. If a man can catch the wind in his fists, he can live a righteous life. I became despondent, feeling so helpless. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to be good. After all, wasn’t it the good thing to do?
I set out to try to change my life and rid myself of my sins, to make myself pleasing and acceptable to God, but I soon realized the impossibility of such an undertaking. My vices had me bound, and there was nothing I could do about them. I was about to quit altogether after weeks or months of trying and failing, when I had a third dream, in which I was encouraged to go on.
In this dream, I was in a dark basement at the bottom of a long set of stairs. There was an open door at the top, with light shining in. I was squatting on the floor, naked, and defecating (purging myself, as I later understood). I heard a voice from the doorway saying, “For one and a quarter, you have had the word; for one forty-five, you will have the life (or ‘light,’ I don’t recall which).”
I took it to mean that I was to go on, that I was almost there. In that persisting, I would reach the desired goal. The dream encouraged me to continue seeking after God and striving to be good, as impossible a task as it seemed.
Meanwhile, I was subject in both mind and body to all the mundane and worldly events and influences around me….
Adam Hladysh worked a short time as a salesman for me at Homes Canada. Through him, I met Gary Fry, a friendly fellow who worked in the Burns meat processing plant. Gary told me that there were times when they had to reject as many as one in three swine carcasses because of their great parasitic content. That fact stuck with me, though I didn’t do much about it for some time. I would need a little coaxing from behind.
Near the end of 1972, Ron Cole came with his wife Karen to Prince Albert, looking for a job, and I hired him. His wife was a Mennonite, cheery and patient. It seems he had had some kind of Christian conversion and was received into the Mennonite community. He had attended their Bible school, where he was hurt emotionally. He became very bitter and nasty.
I tried reasoning with him, though I myself was not a Christian at the time, but he was not to be reached, so cynical and bitter he was. He didn’t succeed with us and soon left. He wished to pursue training as a social worker.
A social worker! Why is it that social workers need so much work done on themselves? How is it people presume to free prisoners, being prisoners themselves? Is it because they think they will find freedom by working to free others? Or do they refuse to admit their wrong and be corrected, and decide to prove themselves right after all? A little like consultants who, failing in their practical occupations, decide to consult others in those same occupations. Or like people who, not coping in the world themselves, go to a Bible school, seminary, monastery, or convent to escape the world, then presume to advise others on coping in the world.
I didn’t realize what was happening to me, and I had no idea what was coming. My life was about to change dramatically in a way I didn’t expect.
The Second Dimension
The Feast of Passover
In February of 1973, Homes Canada hired George Lynn, a tradesman in his early sixties, with a Scottish accent, to service their mobile homes. Prince Albert was his first assignment. When he arrived, he called me at home.
I still remember the day I went to George’s motel room to greet him. As I walked by the window to his door, the curtains were open and I saw an elderly man sitting in a chair, doing nothing. He wasn’t watching TV, and he wasn’t reading anything. He just sat there. That struck me as unusual. He seemed to have something I was seeking. Peace? Contentment?
It was not long before I found out that George was familiar with the Bible and quite eager to discuss its contents. Before the evening was done, he was talking to me about God and Jesus Christ. In the following days, when he discovered I was Catholic, he tried to convince me of how corrupt the Roman Catholic Church was. He related some of the specific gross and indecent sins prevalent in her of which he had heard. He only succeeded, however, in making me angry – I had no idea the Catholic Church was guilty of such crimes, and I couldn’t believe it. I thought this to be nothing more than ignorant and bitter Protestant propaganda.
Given wisdom by God, he steered away from criticizing the Catholic Church and delved into Scripture, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ and His love and sacrifice for me. He told me how I needed to receive and submit to Jesus Christ as Lord of my life. He made it clear there was nothing I could do to save myself – I needed to be born again, and I needed the Almighty and Only Savior to do the job. He shared hundreds of Scriptures with me for hours each day. I recall many verses from the apostle Paul’s epistles:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 KJV).
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV).
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36 KJV).
“You don’t want to be there, Vic,” George said.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 KJV).
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23 KJV).
To encourage me to believe the veracity and authority of Scripture, George shared with me the words the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV).
The Scriptures that stood out to me the most, and seemed to be the clinchers for me, were:
“But what says it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 10:8-11 KJV).
After a few days without apparent success with me, George said, “I have been praying for you, Vic. I’ve been asking the Lord what is holding you back from receiving Him, and I believe He has answered me. Do you know what it is?”
As he was about to say it, I said it for him, “Yes, I do know – it’s pride.”
“Yes,” he said.
I was too proud to humble myself and confess Jesus as Lord. It was embarrassing to me.