PART FOUR– Bernalillo to Moon River (cont.)
Archie and Cathie moved out of Ashgrove, renting an acreage from Cam Peat on McNally Road. Marilyn and I found a home to rent at 5 Queens in West Lethbridge, owned by Eugene McNeely. This was Marilyn’s and my twenty-third home together, and my fortieth home personally (the number forty represents a full term or generation).
Here was another situation where people were trying to sell their home. Failing that, people often decide to rent to make the mortgage payments and have the property tended. It is also more saleable when occupied. Some owners try to make it look like they have no intention of selling, even promising renters they won’t sell, but then list the home and sell it, leaving the renter to look for yet another place. This would be our final rental home. We had had enough of renting.
At this time, two incidents disturbed me. One was that the rental papers hadn’t been filled out properly by McNeely. We discovered that we were perfectly liable for an extra month’s rent, with no way out of it. I was alarmed that I hadn’t red the agreement more carefully, paying particular attention to the blanks filled in. It seemed like a fraudulent, manipulative move. However, Eugene had no intention of defrauding us, and he corrected the error.
The other event occurring at the same time was also disturbing, given my weakness or fault with money matters. We bought a barbecue from a private party at an apartment block on University Drive. When we returned to the car, we found a parking ticket. I have always been bothered by such incidents, always careful where I was parking, yet always on the watch for free parking, if available.
However, the signage wasn’t proper. I had parked, got ticketed, and discovered that it was no ordinary fee. Whereas most parking tickets might be perhaps $5 to $10, this one was $30. I was alarmed. Examining the signs, I went to the police station on 6th Avenue South and laid out my case. They investigated and canceled the fine.
“But why did these two things happen?” I wondered to myself. Here I was, trying hard to avoid trouble and punishment of sorts, yet I was careless about contracts and careful about money. Why?
Around this time, I received a vision from God. It came October 6 or 7, 1987.
I saw a group of about seven bearded men dressed in black ancient clothing (something one would imagine the Sanhedrin of old wearing). They were murderously angry, with teeth gnashing, seated in a semi-circle in judgment and railing upon a man who was before them. This man was sitting casually on a chair, with legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles. He was the picture of faith and peace. They were condemning him to death, so much did they hate him, yet he sat there as though it was their doom and not his, not that he was angry with them, or seeking their hurt. He was merely unafraid. I knew I was that man.
As with other visions, I wondered if this vision would come to pass quite literally, though none others ever had. I also related the vision to the two unpleasant financial scares I had just suffered. While they were highly insignificant financially, I believed that the Lord was showing me that a time would come when nothing would faze me, that even in the midst of being condemned to death, I would be at peace.
I expected this vision to be fulfilled many years hence, not feeling anywhere nearly as confident in even small matters as was that man under threat of death itself. I would come to marvel when the vision was dramatically, almost literally fulfilled, much sooner than expected.
Danny was goofy as a child. It seemed to be a form of retardation. One day as Archie and his family were visiting us at Queens, I decided to pray with Archie for Danny, asking God to heal him. Danny changed that day, though it wasn’t dramatic or all that apparent. In the following days, Archie and Cathie reported a distinct and lasting improvement in him, one which became readily obvious to all of us. I was very thankful.
Who says there is no God?
I believe Marilyn and I met Dave Neufeld on the course at the Land-O-Lakes Golf and Country Club in Coaldale. We had been spending a fair bit of time golfing, particularly at Indian Hill where we had a membership for one year. We also golfed at the Henderson Lake and Bridge Valley courses in Lethbridge, and at Magrath, Raymond, Stettler, Bashaw, Alix, Great Falls, and Helena.
Playing eighteen holes at Coaldale, Dave defeated me by a few strokes, because I wasn’t familiar with playing on hillsides and skillfully choking down on my grip.
Dave professed to believe in the Lord. He had been mayor of Coaldale, not long before. He told us about how he was beaten by his opponent because of something that was perceived by the public and portrayed by the media as indiscretion, if not outright pork-barreling on his part. Dave’s pastor had come to him seeking land for a church building project. The opponent got wind of it and made it sound like Dave was granting prejudicial favors to his evangelical associates (and perhaps he was; I don’t know); he declared it lost him his bid for a second term.
While we golfed, and once when Dave visited us at Queens, we talked about Jim and Tammy Bakker, who were the subjects of scandalous publicity in the media at the time. Dave was shaken by what he called their fall from grace. I was rather taken aback by his darkness and gullibility, though I had seen this sort of thing many times with evangelicals professing faith in Christ.
I said to Dave, “Jim and Tammy Bakker didn’t fall from grace, because they were never standing in grace in the first place. They were phonies from the get-go. Don’t you know that? How could you possibly be deceived by such patent charlatans?” He was rather offended, particularly, it seemed, that I should dare talk that way about a brother and sister in Christ.
I told him Jim and Tammy were false teachers, as phony as three-dollar bills, and therefore I wasn’t guilty of speaking evil of those who were the Lord’s. Rather, I was to be credited for denouncing evil and falsehood, for exposing false representatives of Christ.
I confess I was indirectly speaking of him, since he was of the same mind and spirit. I could have been direct. More and more, I have learned to be so. He was offended because he was as guilty as the Bakkers.
“What, then, do you have to say about other ministers of the Lord? What about Jimmy Swaggart, for example?” he demanded of me.
I responded that Swaggart was another phony, and that all televangelists had nothing to do with God, nothing whatsoever, except to bring disrepute to the Lord’s Name by using it for their own gain.
I said there were no exceptions, that no man having his name and himself in lights, affiliated with a formal religious organization, and seeking financial donations, truly represented God. I said, “God doesn’t work that way, not in the least.”
I then expanded on Swaggart, saying that he was a self-righteous Pharisee, a legalist, and that he too would soon fall and Dave would see it.
Dave scorned me and what I said. He was quite cynical. We would see the profit of his scorn in time to come. A few years later, Swaggart was exposed as a voyeur. We would also see what would happen to Dave.
Trevor enrolled at the University of Lethbridge and lived with us four months. He found it very hard because we were very hard on him. I found the whole family selfish, irresponsible, and undisciplined in lifestyle, especially Trevor. I look back and regret being hard, yet somehow I’m persuaded that hardness was needed to meet hardness.
As we sat in our living room at 5 Queens, a snowball hit the picture window. Immediately, I jumped up and ran out the front door, saw two kids, and grabbed one. “What are you doing?” I abruptly asked him. It turned out that they were throwing snowballs at each other and accidentally hit our home.
I felt bad about my scared and scary reaction and invited the boy in for milk and cookies. He came and had some, but I could tell he really didn’t know, and was afraid of, what he was getting himself into. It was just another one of those inexplicable, wild, and angry reactions I have had so often when confronted by something that seemed to threaten me.
One day Ben Hafichuk and I played hide ‘n seek in the house at Queens. Ben was no more than five years old. It was my turn to hide after we had taken our turns a few times, which made it increasingly difficult to find a fresh hiding place. Then an idea came to me: I would go to Trevor’s bedroom where he was studying at his desk near the window, with his back to the door, trade sweaters with him, and sit at his desk while he disappeared for a few minutes.
As I sat at his desk, Ben came in searching for me. He was aware that Trevor had been studying there. The chair I sat in was backed towards the bed, but I turned around and watched Ben come in. Still, though he looked at me, he didn’t see me. Ben then got down on his knees right behind me to search for me under the bed.
As he was looking, I tapped him on his back. He looked up at me and gave me an expression hard to forget. Instantly, I saw incredulity as I had never seen it before. The expression, “He couldn’t believe his eyes,” was in full blossom. It seemed impossible for him to believe it was me sitting in that chair. I marveled at his struggle of unbelief, his conflict of deciding between perception and reality.
I had to laugh. Ben didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! It took him a few moments to come to terms with what was happening. He didn’t know who had found whom.
I learned that one of the best places to hide is right in the open.
Lucy, one of Lois’ sisters, called her on November 11, 1987 to say that Ian Ford, her brother-in-law and my uncle, had died. Lois had been listening to the radio and heard how there was a mudslide on a highway at the west coast the day before. Two men were working; one fled one direction to safety, and the other fled in another direction, only to be swept away. His body was found a month later. The perishing one was Ian. Lois knew it was Ian before Lucy said anything, though no names were mentioned on the radio.
As a kid, I recalled Ian, the slim, tall, dark, handsome Royal Canadian Air Force man. He had been my favorite uncle. I wondered why God took him the way He did. Some day, not long from now, I will know. This much I do know: My entire family on the Szmon side has shunned me as a leper.
The day would come when Ian’s wife, Gloria, would perish in an unexpected way.
I had seen in a vision where people would be bringing us handfuls of money, not because we asked for it, not because we earned it, not because we should be paid for what we were doing, but simply because they wanted to give. Paul began to bring great offerings, as did Archie and Lois and her sons. It was as though God compelled or inspired them to do so (depending on whether they were doing it grudgingly or willingly).
As our savings began to accumulate, we were given to buy a car, an ’86 Ford from Dunlop. Archie had bought our ’73 green Ford F250 and put it to good use for Archie’s Handyman Services. Trevor had dubbed the truck, “Shake ‘n Bake” because it had no air conditioning and vibrated slightly on the road (he was clever at word plays).
It was nice for us to move up a little notch.
One day while watching the news on TV, I saw four or more American soldiers marching in formation, two behind two. I suddenly saw them in spirit as Roman soldiers. This could have been a triggered identification to a movie I may have seen with a few Roman soldiers marching in like formation; however, I believe it was being revealed to me that Rome had not fallen, as it may appear, or as people believe today.
After all, we are in the days of the feet of iron and clay. Iron represented the Roman Empire. The existence of the kingdoms depicted in the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar, as he related it to Daniel (Daniel chapter 2), has remained until the Kingdom of God is established in the days of the feet, which would be destroyed by a stone cut out of a mountain, without hands, and cast at those feet.
One day I was led to go to Archie’s, not knowing what was waiting for me. I don’t recall how it began, but soon demons were snarling at me in and through Cathie. I began to command them to name themselves and to come out. There were many names, none of which I recall. Cathie’s face was contorting, her voice changing at times. We must have spent two hours or so in prayer.
I came away from the event knowing that something still wasn’t settled, but I was at a loss to know what to do about it. There seemed to be an impregnable compartment in her that was inaccessible, and I seemed to have no choice but to leave it that way. Cathie had confessed some things, but rebellion didn’t seem to be one of them.
It seemed that she had more of a victim mentality than that of a perpetrator (sinner/offender). Her focus was on her childhood and how she had suffered. She wasn’t taking responsibility for herself, and she wasn’t repentant at heart. Though she seemed to be slightly different for a time, nothing really changed.
While deliverance and transformation was impossible without repentance, the Lord was using the occasion to rebuke me. I had been proud of the way I wasn’t afraid of demons and how I’d been able to handle them. In this case, I was a bit haughty and proud with them and got nowhere, though it might have appeared otherwise at times.
I sensed my pride and walked away defeated and sorry. I wouldn’t have the confidence or faith to expel demons for a long while thereafter. God had arranged the occasion, and a significant, if not the primary, purpose of it, I believe, was to humble me.
In all of His holiness and power, is God playful? Does He have a sense of humor? We think both. Here is Paul’s recounting of a strange, entertaining event from the Lord. He writes:
“Either the summer/fall of ‘87 or ’88, while I lived on Missoula Ave. in Helena, Victor and I went golfing one day, likely the weekend. I think I caddied, as I didn’t have clubs. Victor found a new golf ball during his round.
When we got home, I walked over to Albertson’s to pick something up (pre-organic days!), and when beginning my walk back through the parking lot, I heard a rhythmic noise. The parking lot was fairly empty, and I was past the point where most cars were parked, so between where I was walking and to the south where I heard the noise, there was open parking lot and, beyond that, 11th Avenue, a one-way heading east.
The noise was a fairly distinct click, followed in the next second or so by another click, getting louder, coming closer. As I looked south I saw, coming right at me, a small white ball traveling fast and low. I stooped down like a shortstop fielding a ground ball, and the ball flew right into my hand with perfect timing, my stride bringing me right into position to field it, not having to move back or stretch forward. It was amazing.
What was more amazing was that it was a golf ball, the same make and number as the one Victor found at the course, that very same day. I looked around and saw nothing whatsoever to give me any clue how the ball ended up coming at me with that trajectory. I saw no car that gave any indication of having been the origin of the ball, and I doubt that someone could have thrown the ball that hard from a moving vehicle. As for teeing up, the nearest backyards were pretty far away, behind houses, across a major street, and driving a ball there with that kind of power would have been just plain nuts, though people do nutty things.
Anyway, there it was, the same as Victor’s ball, landing in my hand, which was the most interesting part.”
Let some statistician calculate the chances of each of us receiving a golf ball with same name and number, the same day, in the way that we did. My interpretation of what happened is that God was giving us a token of our being called together. He was being playful about it with His sons. And as I was in a more likely position to find a ball while golfing, God was showing us that Paul would receive the same, no matter where he was. “He will make his calling good,” God had said.
Who says there is no God?
One day I expressed to Paul how I would love to be able to drive a ball 300 yards or more off the tee, straight onto the green, and never have more than one or two putts to finish. I wanted that perfection. The Lord spoke to me and said, “You will be able to play that perfect game of golf; I will give it to you.”
I thought, “How can this be? It would take years of practice and, even then, who can attain to such skill? Will it be by miracle? Why should I be able to play a perfect game of golf, anyway?” Despite my unbelief, and though it would take many years, it would happen, not only for me, but also for Paul.
We had hardly moved into 5 Queens Road, with Eugene McNeely having promised us he wouldn’t sell, when he listed the house with realtor agent, Mary Dudley (nee Cohen), and blamed it on her, saying she was pressing him to list. I should have known better than to believe him.
When Mary came by to discuss an open house, I was upset with her and made it known. When the open house came, she brought her husband, Wayne, with her, likely afraid that I was going to bite her, though I don’t believe I was so hard on her that she should have been afraid.
Her husband was a professing believer, attending Victory Christian Church in Lethbridge. He did his best to do his Christian duty and witness to us, as though we were bereft of anything good. Mary was aloof throughout the entire visit. Not long after, we heard they had divorced and something tragic happened to him, though I don’t recall what it was. I do recall that his business, Dudley’s Stucco, which had been around for years, went down.
With all the moving we did, we thought it was time to have our own home. We had been bounced around from home to home and treated as second-class citizens by landlords, other homeowners, realtors, and prospective buyers. We were tired of strangers coming into our home and looking it and us over.
What a surprise we had in store! With generous gifts coming in, we were now in the position to place a modest down payment on a home with an assumable mortgage.
I say “assumable” because no financial institution would grant us a new mortgage, seeing we had no credit rating. The law was that anyone could assume a mortgage already in place by the seller. Our conviction and lifestyle was one of cash and no credit. We had been debt and credit free since 1975, therefore having established no credit rating. Our only option was an assumable mortgage, if we had a sufficient down payment.
Isn’t it ironic that financial institutions won’t lend to those who demonstrate sound financial responsibility? Isn’t it ironic that they’re least likely to lend to those who apparently need a loan most, out of distress? Banks aren’t there for the client. Their policy is to secure clients who’ll profit them.
The world doesn’t at all operate according to the principles of the Kingdom of God. The two (the world and the Kingdom of Heaven) are in exact opposition to one another. One is about giving, the other about getting, no matter if one is the lender or borrower. One is about right, and the other about might. That’s the way it is.
We began to look at homes at open houses, but nothing we saw attracted us. We didn’t want a ho-hum house, with off-white drywall (Gyprock) and stipple ceilings, and ten feet away from a house on each side. We didn’t want a house similar to so many others, though we didn’t know just what we did want. We began to list the features to look for, one of those being a setting with breathing room. Perhaps an acreage was in order?
At an open house, we met Jim Saunders, a RE/MAX real estate agent, who began showing us homes. He tried hard to assess our situation, though we weren’t forthcoming with all the information and weren’t certain of what we wanted.
I was also a bargain hunter, which I admit with shame. Why should one be looking for something for nothing? Why should I get something for cheap, when it’s rightly another’s? Why should I expect men, rather than God, to provide for me, even when I wasn’t in need? “Covetousness,” is the plain answer. Can’t God afford whatever He is pleased to give me? Jim Saunders viewed my attitude with some contempt, I believe, and he wasn’t entirely successful in his attempt to conceal it. Who could blame him?
I soon discovered that when a buyer deals with a real estate agent, the agent really has no loyalties to buyer or seller. Who’s paying his commissions? In the end, I think it’s the buyer, the ultimate consumer, though it could be argued otherwise. So what it boiled down to was my relationship with the agent, which, because of my miserliness, wasn’t good. If it had been good, he might have tried to serve me more favorably. Having a poor relationship with the realtor, he wasn’t motivated to see that I receive a fair deal or good service.
At the outset, Jim knew that we’d need an assumable mortgage. We also made it very plain to him, upon his questioning us on things like location, that we were firmly against living at Moon River Estates, a “white elephant” acreage development about 20 miles west of Lethbridge. This was a development he mentioned because there were often several acreages for sale at any time below the average prices one would find in urban locations.
Why didn’t we want to live there? Many reasons:
1) Moon River had been floundering for several years, the pipe dream of former landowner, Alan Orr, who, I suppose, was looking to make his little fortune.
2) Lots weren’t selling, resulting in poor values.
3) Some people who lived there had gone bankrupt, leaving houses vacant for extended periods.
4) The distance was twenty miles from Lethbridge (far for the area’s tastes).
5) Phone service to Lethbridge was long distance (this was at a time when long distance rates were much more expensive).
6) Phone service was party lines with three families to a line, disallowing convenience and privacy.
7) Living out of town would be costly for us, for service personnel, and for visitors, driving to and from Lethbridge. It would be especially costly for families with children involved in various urban activities.
8) The Moon River water system was private and crudely devised, not set up to meet the needs effectively, but just to be able to say there was water provided.
Moon River Estates? We didn’t think so.
END OF PART IV
COMING NEXT: PART V – MOON RIVER TO HARVEST HAVEN