PART THREE– Israel to Bernalillo (cont.)
In such trying times, I often look for sin or fault with myself. Here we were in Lethbridge in great turmoil, and though we knew John Taal, and he was a believer (so we thought), we weren’t free to contact him for help or direction.
I asked myself, “Should we be free to contact him? If so, why weren’t we doing it?” Could it have been the critical letter I sent him? Surely, he was only trying to help, and I’d merely been biting the hand trying to feed me. I decided to call him and apologize. Marilyn didn’t agree. She said I would be vexed. Again, I didn’t listen.
I paid the Taals a visit, apologized, and it was as gravel in my mouth. There was no peace about it at all. John’s wife mocked me, and he was entertained by his wife’s conduct. He included her as a believer in judging matters when it was clear she had no faith whatsoever. He wasn’t gracious, and I wasn’t settled. Marilyn had been right again.
But there was more to come, to my surprise, though it would take years.
We spoke to Fred and Delores on the phone, and received a letter from them some days later. We hadn’t told them our needs, as was our direction from God. In the envelope were two things: a much-needed financial provision of $700, which would cover our rent, utilities, and food, and a more precious spiritual gift, a message, which said:
“God is ready to assume full responsibility for the one wholly committed to Him.”
Those words would be permanently etched into my soul from that time forward. They were haunting words, but in a positive way. I wanted the fulfillment of them above anything else, a complete commitment, trusting God in entirety.
Wouldn’t it be just exhilarating to see God catch you when jumping off a cliff, so to speak? Wouldn’t it?! I believe that’s exactly what He wants. Not tempting Him, no, not at all, but believing and obeying Him in the face of impossibilities, making apparently irrational choices.
I wondered at how Delores had the spiritual problems she had, yet also had revelations, insights, and words to speak, which couldn’t be denied as of God. When I asked her about the words, she and Fred had nothing to say.
(Years later, I heard that Kathryn Kuhlman had spoken or written them. Delores had red a lot of so-called Christian books. Internet searches show that Andrew Murray wrote them. They are, “God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.”)
Was this the Lord giving me a breakthrough after apologizing to the Taals? We didn’t make any connection at the time between the apology and receiving the provision. I believe if there had been a connection, the Lord would have quickened it to us. On the contrary, I felt I had practically betrayed the Lord by backing down on a spiritual rebuke John Taal needed and deserved.
I was hoping that an opportunity to “correct the correction” would come, though I rarely found such things to be in God’s plan. A Scriptural example is when the first generation of the children of Israel weren’t willing to fight the enemy in Canaan, not trusting God. God got angry and sentenced them to wander in the wilderness for forty years until that generation died out. Hearing that rebuke and regretful of His anger, they changed their minds and decided to fight after all, but God wouldn’t permit it. They tried anyway and were defeated.
My experience has always been that trying to right an error with God is out of order, an artificial arrangement that can’t retain God’s blessing. However, I would be wrong in this case (God often seems to have exceptions to the rule). The time would come when I would have an opportunity to speak to the Taals again, both husband and wife, which was important.
And truly, as a nation, the second generation of Israel did have the opportunity to take Canaan, forty years later, and they were successful.
In one of these early years of walking with the Lord, He spoke words such as these to me (not precise wording, but certainly the precise spirit and essence): “They will come to you accusing, crying ‘Law! Law!’ But they hate My Law because they hate Me. They will come to you declaring ‘Grace! Grace!’ calling iniquity ‘grace.’ They will have the fruits of their supposed ‘grace,’ but I will give you and those with you to bask in the grace I have granted you.”
I think it was a fit of desperation or escapism. We got the idea of joining CUSO, a Canadian federal foreign aid program, and going overseas or wherever they needed us. To do that, they suggested we begin to develop a record worthy of acceptance, which would include community volunteer work and cultivating relationships with those in authority, such as pastors of churches, so that we might use them as influential references. Holy hoops!
Well, we tried. We started volunteering with English as a Second Language. I loved instructing English, and the students seemed to appreciate me. The trouble was that I clashed with the supervisor. One evening, we came to the word “congratulations,” and in teaching the students how to say it, the supervisor put the emphasis on “grat” and I corrected her, putting it on “la.”
Whether I was right or wrong, she was in power, didn’t like being corrected before the students (as nice as I was about it), and we were out. This was fine with me; I came to realize I wasn’t about to join some church or suck up to a “reverend” to appease the government in its artificial scheme of qualifications, just to go live in a mud hut in 120-degree heat, eating parasites for however many years, to serve some bureaucrat’s crazed invention of charitable international works at our expense.
I’d rather eat sour grapes!
Again, we were out of money. Again, we were struggling. Then Marilyn had a vision. She saw our home sealed by the enemy. Nobody could enter or exit, and we were trapped. But then she saw the Lord break through and free us.
We had $3.50 left in our checking account at the Bank of Montreal at the Park Meadows Mall. I withdrew $3, left 50 cents to keep the account open, put $2 in the gas tank and gave Marilyn $1 for groceries.
It just occurred to me that 3 ½ is a significant number in Scripture. We could have had any variation of amount. Why 3½ dollars?
Around this time, Marilyn had another vision. We were on the side of a mountain, near the top, but trapped on a narrow ledge. There was no path forward or back, and there was no possible way out for us. The vision showed the Lord come to deliver us.
Soon after Marilyn’s visions, I said, “I’m waiting no longer.” I decided to head down our street, offering my services as a handyman. That day, I repaired a man’s gate latch and water taps. I repaired a lady’s shower, cementing loose tiles back into place, and brought home a deacon’s bench to refurbish.
That day, my handyman business began in earnest and increased. I realized that in the past year or more, the Lord had been developing in me an interest in being a handyman. He had been leading all along. Why, then, didn’t He tell us? Why let us stew and sweat?
He had to deal with my attitude. Who was I to determine that I would do nothing or go nowhere unless He related to me in some certain way? After all, I realized that though my motives and independent spirit weren’t right, Westlock and working under Hansen was part of the program and His will for me. As the proverb goes:
“We make our own plans, but the LORD decides where we will go” (Proverbs 16:9 CEV).
But who was I to be a handyman? I wasn’t experienced at all, and I had few tools. The Lord said to me, “I am the Able Handyman.” I called my business Able Handyman Services, knowing the Lord was “Able.”
I quite enjoyed the business for many reasons: I was my own boss. I had variety – in this kind of occupation, there are so many different things one can do. The Lord had put an interest and enjoyment in me for repairing and building things.
The income was the best I had ever had. Relatively speaking, many people weren’t earning as much or more than I, but of those that were, many didn’t have the advantages I had. I got to meet people from many walks of life. I was learning a variety of good and useful things. And finally, my schedule was flexible; I could come and go freely.
It was good.
We printed fliers and I headed out to distribute them door-to-door. On 3rd Ave. S., I dropped into a building that had activity in the basement. It turned out to be Hazel Hill, wife of George Hill, leading what appeared to be a women’s Bible study or something like that.
When I met her, there was an instant clash. I saw black enmity, a hatred in her eyes. I was told this was the Victory Christian Church she and her husband founded. When I got home, Marilyn and I prayed and received that Victory was “a witch’s coven.” This was in the spring of 1983.
At some point, we asked about Women’s Aglow and received that it was a club of, and for, “rebellious women, lawlessly doing their own thing.”
We asked about FGBMFI and received, “Not of God.”
We asked about many religious organizations, realizing that just because people do things in His Name doesn’t mean He is with them in it. As He said:
“Not everyone who calls Me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do what My Father in Heaven wants them to do. When the Judgment Day comes, many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord! In Your Name we spoke God’s message, by Your Name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!’ Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you wicked people!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 GNB)
What can be confusing is that there are genuine believers involved in these churches and organizations, yet deceived, because they aren’t believing and obeying God. They prefer the social benefits of this world, and the glory and praise of men, instead of the praise of God. So then are they genuine believers, after all? What’s the difference if they don’t obey? What kind of belief is that?
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 MKJV
(14) Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship does righteousness have with lawlessness? And what partnership does light have with darkness?
(15) And what agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever?
(16) And what agreement does a temple of God have with idols? For you are the temple of the living God, as God has said, I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
(17) Therefore come out from among them and be separated, says the Lord, and do not touch the unclean thing. And I will receive you
(18) and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.
By now, along with occasional phone calls, we were beginning to have regular correspondence by snail mail with Paul, as much as two or three letters a week, talking about everyday occurrences and what the Lord was doing with each of us spiritually. Paul was roaming throughout several states, picking up odd jobs like landscaping and waiting on tables in restaurants. Though we were apart for extended periods, we had a special bond that couldn’t be explained or denied.
Around this time, Paul had a dream, which he relates here: “Sometime in the early 80’s, I dreamt I was running along, taking long strides and gliding along nicely, but then I ran out of strength. I then saw Victor running very fast, not the same kind of long strides but seemingly effortlessly, with his hair flying straight back as if to emphasize great speed.”
There would come times when Paul would weaken in his walk and I would be quite exasperated with him. But that would change, thankfully!
Going door-to-door drumming up business in the spring of 1983, I met “Father” Chauvin, who tested me with the repair of a water-damaged ceiling in the washrooms, which I repaired to his satisfaction. From there, he gave me a fence to paint and other miscellaneous jobs.
One day, he asked me to oil the sanctuary (a big job for me) and the wooden statue of Jesus. The sanctuary walls and ceilings were all wood that required oiling. I had a conscience crisis, knowing the Lord had delivered me out of the Catholic Church. If I wasn’t supposed to be doing anything with them or their practices, what was I doing there?
I reasoned that I wasn’t a Catholic, had no intention or danger of being one, and externals weren’t the issue. Knowing I had no respect for images, and not having the conviction or inspiration that it was my time and place to speak against Catholics or their practices and doctrines, I took on the job.
Rationalization for mammon’s sake? Could be; likely was, but I’m not sure. I did feel free to go ahead with the work. I also appreciated getting to know Mr. Chauvin, and he treated me well.
While oiling the six-foot statue, I had a strange reverential sensation, though not intense. The statue was a representation of the One I loved, the One Who loved and saved me. I was kept from falling, however, and I received more understanding, not of the value of having images, but of not having them. They can have a power that is anything but healthy for the soul.
(In retrospect, I would now refuse the job.)
Mr. Chauvin wanted me to use raw linseed oil for all the wood in the sanctuary. When I spoke to Randy, a knowledgeable salesman at Freddie’s Paints, he firmly advised against it, but Mr. Chauvin insisted that his fellow priest, a master carpenter, strongly recommended it. I told Mr. Chauvin what I was advised, but he was firm in his resolve. I went ahead and began to apply the oil with a roller on the walls. As I look back, I should have brushed it on, but I knew that it would take so much longer and cost them so much more. Or I could have done a test patch to show them how it worked.
However, I applied the oil with a roller, and as I rolled, I had to wipe the wall down repeatedly with absorbent rags because the oil was bleeding. The wood wasn’t raw, but finished; with what, we didn’t know. It could have been varnish, so the oil wasn’t penetrating as desired; it also dried very slowly.
I purchased and used a whole sack of rags from Canadian Linen to do the job. About five p.m., I left for the day. All my equipment remained in place, including the many oil-drenched rags in a cardboard box in the sanctuary aisle. Yes, for those who already know what I’m talking about, your breath is almost taken away, right?
While at home having supper, tired and expecting to relax for the evening, I had this urge to go back to the church. I resisted it, but soon decided I would go back. As I entered the sanctuary, I saw smoke rising from the cardboard box.
I looked and found that the rags were already developing burn holes. They were on the verge of bursting into flames. Realizing that we were having a case of spontaneous combustion, and knowing that the rags needed air, I quickly began to take them out and hang them on my ladder. They stopped smoking, and there’s no doubt a sure disaster was averted.
What if I hadn’t gone back? A fire was only minutes, if not seconds, away from breaking out. The whole chapel was oiled! What a raging blaze that would have been! And I had no insurance or any way to compensate for the damage.
I have often wondered what would have happened had the church burned. Would the Catholic Church have sued me? Would their insurance company have sued me? I don’t know. I wonder how many would have desired my services as a handyman after burning down a church! If a barnburner is an impressively successful event, what is a churchburner?
I also wondered if the Lord was gently rebuking me for servicing an image and not speaking up. I do know that He mercifully spared me, regardless.
Who says there is no God?
On another track… about sex during marriage: It went without saying that we wouldn’t have sex during menstruation, as the Bible taught. This only makes perfect sense to those with any. However, a debate arose as to the direction in Scripture concerning the seven days from the time menstruation stopped. A woman was still categorized as unclean:
“But if she is cleansed of her issue, then she shall number to herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean” (Leviticus 15:28 MKJV).
Though my wife was in disagreement, I couldn’t in good conscience partake of sexual relations in those seven days after menstruation. When once I succumbed to temptation, a great glob of semi-dried blood came forth. That was sign enough for me that the seven days were to be obeyed.
As in ceramics, trucking, and everything else, a genuinely low price is never low enough for the miserly. It was seldom low enough for me, a bona fide miser. My rates as a handyman were at first a mere $8 an hour, a quarter to a sixth of what some others would have charged.
To one man, $8 was too much, though he had a professional occupation. I tried, by conscience, to charge no more than I thought I needed. However, it didn’t work out. I found that I was sought by the miserly for my low prices and despised by them and others for those prices.
How soon I had forgotten the lessons in trucking just two years earlier! I soon went to $10, then $12, $15, $18, $20, $24 and $28 per hour. The more I charged, the more business and respect I got, and the better the customers. I had many very good customers.
Candy Beny hired me to paint their house. Paint jobs can range from economy to excellent. The problem is that many want excellent results at economy prices. Candy was one of those. In those days, one could do a one-coat job and not really get by, two coats for better coverage, and three coats for professional results, depending on the quality of paint, of course.
I used a paint of decent quality, having learned that it saves work and trouble. It can make a big difference. However, there was no paint at the time that could give excellent coverage with one coat. I warned the Benys that one coat wasn’t enough, but they were selling the house and didn’t wish to pay me half as much again for a second coat.
I was foolish enough to accept the job on those terms. When it was done, and I had taken all the prep work down, Candy meticulously went over it and found the expected lack of quality in a one-coat job. She refused to pay me until I turned the job into what would be expected with two, if not three, coats.
I spent extra hours to do what I could to cover some areas without losing my shirt. When I was done, Candy was out, but her husband, Milt, was home for lunch. He was more lenient, seeming to recognize the situation for what it was, and he wrote me a check. I headed straight to the bank and cashed it.
Good thing. I heard later that Candy was livid when she carefully examined the work, swearing she never would have paid me. From then on, I was more emphatic with people about one-coat jobs and refused to do them unless it was super clear that it didn’t matter to them. Even then I might have refused.
While doing a job for Brian Bickerton at N.B. Peat’s Real Estate, I met a salesman who was very shy, so shy that he would turn red when talking to someone. “How can he be in sales?” I wondered.
One day, I had a glimpse, a peek in a window, if you will, to his “inside.” For a few seconds in our conversation, he had a strange outburst, so unbecoming and unlike him. It wasn’t unfriendly toward me, but it was of a spirit that I saw could be ugly if allowed free rein. It occurred to me later that his shyness was a control placed upon him from above for his good, one he needed. I felt that he might even be dangerous otherwise.
I contracted out some cement work for one of my customers. Bruce Payne was the carpenter who took on the job – building a set of front steps.
Bruce was also a member of Victory Christian Church. When we got into some discussion on spiritual matters, I found Bruce to be harsh and cynical, thinking he was righteous. He wouldn’t listen to me or respect anything I had to say. I knew nothing, and he knew it all. What would become of him? We would see.
Ask my wife or my son – anyone who knows me – whether I have often had bursts of anger, though I am the Lord’s. I will mention here and elsewhere the ones I recall and which have bothered me over the years.
Marilyn and I met up with Muriel Mediwake at Zeller’s in Lethbridge. We had not seen them for a while, and it was bothering me that, in my understanding, she hadn’t been obeying the Lord and remaining at home when she had children, according to the Scriptural counsel (Titus 2:5). I asked her about that. Her reply was, “The Lord will be the judge of that.”
I got angry and hotly responded, “Yes, He will be the judge of it, and He is right now. When you see His judgment, you won’t like it one bit.”
I think she repeated her statement and remained silent. We then walked away.
I think that something else was eating me at the time with Muriel. I think I felt spiritually betrayed by them. She and Merv were professing faith, but while they were very friendly, I didn’t see from them the kind of fruit I expected to see, like agreement with the Scriptures, except according to their preference, and parting from fleshly religious works (they became active members in the Victory Christian Church).
Many claim the blessings of the Bible, expecting to receive them, but have little, if any, use for obedience. That bothered me, perhaps particularly because their lives were in part instrumental in leading me to receive the Spirit of God.
Nevertheless, my outburst bothered me. Was I wrong? Was she right? As I consider many years later, I don’t see that it was my business to tell her what to do, even if she was wrong.
Fred and Delores Molnar brought my parents to Lethbridge to visit us. We hadn’t seen my parents since the visit to Dauphin in the fall of 1980. Fred wanted to take us all out for dinner.
At the restaurant, he ordered some wine. I don’t remember if Marilyn and I had any, but I wanted to resolve the issue of whether it was right or wrong to drink. I recalled how, years before, my father would press me to have a sociable drink with him and I, by my new, perhaps puritanical, evangelical convictions, had firmly refused him.
I asked the Lord now, and He said, “Better not to drink.” He didn’t say it was right or wrong. I later found out, as you will read, that in Fred’s particular case, it was indeed “better not to drink” with or around him.
The next day, as we sat in the living room having a snack, the Lord suddenly spoke words to me that brought a large choking lump to my throat. He said:
“These four will be destroyed in their sins. Be thankful.”
I could barely control myself, trying to push back the tears. My parents and uncle and aunt were going to be destroyed in their sins? There was no hope for them in this life? And I was to be thankful? How could I possibly be thankful for such a thing?
Was I supposed to tell them? Was it a warning for them? I didn’t believe I was meant to say anything at the time, so I didn’t.
We visited a bit more, my father gave me some advice on my truck, and they parted. I suddenly realized how good it was to have a father’s well-intentioned and knowledgeable advice. It felt very good after living for years of being without benevolent leadership and counsel from another experienced human being. How taxing it was, always being wary of strangers who weren’t necessarily out for our best interests, particularly in things we had little or no understanding about, like mechanics.
It was so hard to have to be with my parents, in division, and knowing what I knew. I would ponder the “be thankful” part of the words I heard for a few years, and the answer eventually came.