PART FIVE – Moon River to Harvest Haven (cont.)
When God gives us a choice or command with conditions, He’s teaching us the rewards of choosing the right and the consequences of choosing the wrong. We must experience both the bad and the good. I have all too often made the wrong choice. Am I the only obtuse one here? I believe I’ve met a few others.
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but on account of Him Who subjected it in hope; because even the creation itself shall be freed from the slavery of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that all the creation groans together and labors in birth together until now” (Romans 8:20-22 EMTV).
“If I had to live my life again,” I’ve heard people say, “I wouldn’t change a thing!” I marvel at such a statement. If they mean they accept they were often wrong and were bettered by the consequences they suffered, as under a faithful Creator, okay, I can buy it, but I don’t get that sense from them. I think to myself, “Have they learned nothing? Did they live their entire lives in a thick fog or padded chamber?” Even those should teach someone something.
As God is my witness, I would change plenty, if not for the fact I know what has been has had to be. It has had to be so I would know better and be better off for this world and the next. If someone were to suggest I live this life again, without any change in myself or gain for the world to come, I would say, “Are you kidding me? Forget it. I’m not in the least interested.” Yes, I would.
It seems to me that anyone declaring they wouldn’t change a thing after spending a life in this world is either lying, was born perfect… and remained that way (and we have enough evidence to know that has never happened), or was born a blooming idiot… and remained that way.
Nobody was born perfect. And many have been born liars and idiots, I having been one of them.
I’m grieved and ashamed to report this, but if I’m to be true to the purpose of this Theo-autobiography, I must tell it, along with so many other shameful and unsavory details about myself.
God had given us a wonderful home, our first. The feeling of it was also wonderful. As I said, it greeted us with a welcoming hug. The blessing of the Lord was in the feeling. Marilyn was so happy to have it.
And I ruined the whole thing!
Based on the soon-discovered depressed selling prices of other houses in Moon River, I began to suspect I had paid too much. I fretted and stewed and fretted and stewed and fretted and stewed. Soon the joy was taken away and the house became a trouble rather than a blessing.
I was suspicious of Bill Syme, of the realtor, the building materials suppliers, the contractors who had been involved, and everybody else. The blessing was gone. We would never again experience the peace and joy we had of the home when first introduced to it.
Still, I set out to finish the home, which was its new and raw state. Being of logs, the house was settling. I spent many pleasurable hours adjusting and reframing the distorted window frames. I caulked and chinked the logs and did the finishing of the home inside and out. It became very comfortable, practical, and enjoyable, insofar as one might enjoy something in a fleshly way without the joy of the Lord. Had I not complained and doubted, the accompaniment of the joy of the Lord would have made it all infinitely better.
It seems every time God gave me something good, I looked the gift horse in the mouth, never satisfied, always doubting, fretting, and stewing. If there was any appreciation, it was soon gone. What’s worse, I imposed a miserable atmosphere on Marilyn and everyone else. How grievous it must have been to the Lord! It surely was!
We had been at Moon River six months. Just after midnight, we were abruptly awakened by loud stomping on our front deck. Investigating, we found the windows smeared with bar soap. It was Halloween.
The previous evening, we had politely declined involvement in this event, keeping our front lights off and turning children away that came to the door.
Halloween is by no means harmless; it is an evil event anyone having a genuine relationship with the Lord would reject in a heartbeat. I suppose that for our stance, we were singled out for tricks (nobody else had tricks played on them).
Not one to let something as petty as this go by (out of fearfulness, though I didn’t realize it then), I headed to the neighborhood the next day, door-to-door, to find out who did it. Nobody owned up to the mischief, but I concluded it was Alan Orr’s boys, seeing their suspicious facial expressions and Alan’s attitude when I questioned him about his sons. With veiled contempt, Alan denied his children did anything. There was nothing I could do, so I dropped it. But it seems God didn’t, as evident by developments soon to come.
There were great and popular expectations for 1988, particularly among some evangelical Christians. There were those who surmised it to be the year of the Second Coming of the Lord, perhaps primarily because 1988 was the 40th anniversary of the state of Israel, which declared itself a nation on May 14th, 1948.
For us, it was the year we received the home God promised us. It was the year Lois and her boys came to Lethbridge. And it was the year Sandy McClimens, our new neighbor across from us, asked me the peculiar question.
If anything significant was happening, it certainly wasn’t visible to the world. Should we assume something wasn’t happening because not evident? Didn’t Jesus say, “The Kingdom of God doesn’t come with observation” (Luke 17:20)?
Paul was the first to bring offerings, and they were generous. Then came Archie, and he gave generous offerings. Then came Lois with hers, which were very generous, as well. Never did I charge them for anything unless it was something tangible they bought from me; never did I ask them for anything, as the Lord had taught me; and several times, I told them they didn’t have to give so much.
Several times, I asked Archie, “Are you sure? You don’t have to do this!” He would reply each time with certainty, “Victor, I have to give it.” There were times when I felt somewhat awkward about it. The vision I had in 1984, however, of people lining up to give us handfuls of money was happening.
How could God be so generous with me when I didn’t deserve it? How could He give me so much when I was such a miser and so concerned about how much I was paying for anything? There was no explanation. I can only say the Lord gave to me in spite of the way I was. It’s called “grace.”
Besides, it wasn’t just for me.
Who says there is no God?
While passing through Park Place Mall around Christmas of 1988, I dropped into a music store. A salesman (whose name was Richard, I believe) was demonstrating a Korg electronic piano. I wanted to be able to play one. Making it look so easy to play, he sold me on it, and I bought it.
I also found out he professed faith in Christ. I’m not sure, but perhaps it was because he attended Victory Christian Church, I told him what the Lord had told me – that Victory was a witch’s coven. He seemed rather disturbed.
Meeting Richard a few weeks later, he told me he had gone to Victory Church and asked them if they were a witch’s coven, and they denied it. Therefore I was wrong. Wow!
“Would they have admitted it if they knew they were one?” I asked the foolish fellow. He didn’t want to have anything more to do with me.
The following Sunday I happened to see George Hill, the founder of VCC, preaching on TV. He was all worked up, preaching on 2 Peter 2, a passage about false prophets and those who spoke against dignities. The material he covered was quite coincidental with the subject matter Richard and I had discussed. The Sunday after that, George presented “Part 2” of the same subject. There was little doubt he was substantially disturbed by the conversation Richard and I had.
One day in January of 1989, Cathie found Nathan in possession of junk treats they wouldn’t buy or give the children. Where did he get them? He told her he met his grandmother (Archie’s and my mother) when walking to school, and she gave them to him.
“How strange!” we thought. “How could this be?” She lived in Manitoba, several hundreds of miles away. And why would she do that? We hadn’t heard from her, except for the odd letter. I had to recognize, however, that my mother wasn’t always honest or open with us. But we were gullible, at least momentarily.
Then there were reports Nathan had been shoplifting at a local convenience store. We talked to him, and he admitted he had made up the “grandmother” story. This event was unpleasant, but it was something that could be expected of children, although we had hoped better things in our attempts to teach and direct them in moral values.
What was most disturbing, however, was that parents and children reported they witnessed Nathan in daring and dramatic indecent and vulgar public behavior. Nathan was no more than eight years old.
This was shocking to us, and we knew we had to take corrective action, but what? We got together and had each person in Archie’s family directly and personally denounce his actions and then separate him from the meal table indefinitely. Whenever Marilyn and I visited, I didn’t permit him to be present. I waited for the Lord to give us what to do next.
Days turned to weeks, which turned to months, which turned to years.
At the time Nathan was disfellowshipped, Archie had a vision. He saw Nathan standing on the outside balcony of the upper floor of a building. The balcony had a rail filled with sharp horns facing inward to keep Nathan from escaping. Archie said it signified an imprisonment designed for Nathan’s protection and good. I agreed with him.
Karen Barbie visited us at Moon River with an assistant from Green Haven Garden Center to advise us on landscaping. We had some discussions on spiritual matters. Sometime in 1989, I had a vision of Karen’s heart, very hard and compressed, like that of a black Indian rubber ball. She turned out to be very bitter toward us after I told her about it.
I meant and intended no evil, but I suppose she thought I was criticizing or condemning her, which I wasn’t. I had no desire or reason whatsoever to do so. Perhaps I was unwise in divulging the vision to her, but I was hoping there would be some kind of breakthrough for her.
When we bought a used Ford LTD at Dunlop Ford back in 1986, we called the former owner, who had traded it in for a new Ford Taurus. We took his hand-me-downs, not that we minded. Our thinking was so small at the time, having had so little for so many years, that we were impressed he was able to buy a new Taurus.
Now we were shopping for a new car and bought a 1989 Toyota Cressida at Stu Sinclair’s Midtown Toyota, a car superior to the Taurus. I had a bit of a problem buying a luxury car, but we did. It was our first new car in nearly 15 years of marriage, the third new one I had ever owned.
We had shopped around and the manager had already quoted the Cressida to us at under $30,000. However, the salesman, Bill Gerlock, was pressing us for $34,000, though we told him we already had a much lower quote from his own boss. He seemed not to understand, or he simply ignored me. I was annoyed with him and complained to the manager, who wrote up the contract for the price he had originally given me.
However, I was sorry for having complained on Bill. He wasn’t there much longer. Perhaps he just wasn’t suited for the job or I was the cause of his departure. So many situations I could have handled so differently, more considerately and wisely, instead of selfishly, but I just didn’t.
Today, I would choose to patiently reason with him, rather than be annoyed. I’m so sorry for those situations. Bill, I apologize to you.
Before this event with Bill Gerlock, we met his brother, John, who was selling Mercedes-Benz and other imports on 3rd Avenue South. We had a friendly talk about spiritual matters, wherein he told us he was actively involved in the Catholic Charismatic movement.
Since the incident with Bill, John was cool towards me, even when I was shopping for a certain book at his store, Dove Christian Supplies. But his coolness may have been due to doctrine I had shared with him that was contrary to his, including my take on the Charismatic movement as a counterfeit move of God, rather than what took place with his brother.
Besides Green Haven coming out to make landscaping proposals, we had Peter Van Hierden of Meadowlark Landscaping give us an estimate. I then did a rare thing. When Peter asked me what I did, I told him I was a prophet. I certainly had nothing else to present to him – having no job or other occupation. (So often I was asked over the years, “What do you do?” and I always fumbled for an answer.)
We later learned Peter and his friends and partners of Meadowlark, George and Casey Overbeek, got quite a laugh out of my reply. We didn’t know at the time they were of Reform Church background, which meant they didn’t believe in modern-day prophets, apostles, or gifts of the Spirit such as miracles, visions, dreams, prophecies, and tongues.
Most people reject the idea of any kind of prophet in this day but a false one, but on what basis? While they profess to believe only the Bible, they have no Scriptural grounds to dismiss the possibility of a true modern-day prophet coming in the Name of the Lord.
They fail to recognize the invalidity of their favorite Scripture to defend their position, which says, “The Law and the prophets were until John” (Luke 16:16). After John, there were other prophets mentioned in Acts – Agabus, for example. Furthermore, the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians about five different ministries God gave to Christ’s Body, called “the Church,” including prophets:
“He Who descended is the same also as He Who ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things. And truly He gave some to be apostles, and some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:10-12 MKJV).
These same people believe the congregation of saints joined in one Body at Pentecost, which was after the Old Testament “prophet days,” after John, after the Lord’s life in His flesh, and after His death and resurrection.
Rarely did I ever tell anyone I was a prophet. It didn’t matter to me whether I was one or not, or what I was called, though I considered myself greatly privileged God should relate to me as He had chosen.
It’s what a man does that counts, not what he titles himself or what others call him. More importantly, it’s what God does through him; I can take no credit for virtue or accomplishment. And what a man is will be determined by fruits, accurately discerned by those who have the knowledge, ability, and right to judge fruits.
Few are they who really know anything concerning these matters, simply because they don’t know God or His ways. Ironically, those least qualified to judge are first to adamantly assume that right and power. Isn’t that interesting?
Of the landscapers we approached, we chose Junji Kuno, owner of Southern Alberta Landscaping, because we viewed his work on other properties and liked what we saw. Though we followed through with him, we saw potential problems from the beginning.
There was a language barrier, his English being poor, but we felt we could deal with that obstacle. A more serious problem was that Junji seemed to pick some large figure out of the air for an estimate, with the intent of making a little fortune on every job he took on. “Hmmm…I wonder how much they’re willing to pay. I’ll try the sky….” As we proceeded, he declared his goal of being a millionaire.
Perhaps the greatest problem was one of utter lack of consideration for his client. Getting him to begin the job on a promised date was like pulling teeth with one’s fingers. He kept promising three days to a week, but would never make it. Finally, when I threatened to cancel, he made it out.
When he did finally come out, he’d do a small amount of work, then disappear for several more days until we would call, in which case, the process of promise and failure to fulfill would resume. It slowly dawned on me he was trying to please several clients at once, not wishing to miss out on contracts, taking on too many, and serving none (at least not us) with due diligence and respect. It was frustrating. Meanwhile, it might rain and the work would be further delayed, when it should have been done before the rain came.
Once, when on the job, I was asking for an extra tool, which was almost worthless, to adjust Hunter heads in the sprinkler system he installed (one can find them lying on the ground at Eljay Irrigation, the dealer). Junji replied, “You can get them at the same place I got them.”
I was spending several thousands of dollars for his landscaping, enduring his selfish procrastinations and inconsideration, and though he frequented his irrigation equipment supplier and could get what I needed for nothing, he refused me. I was amazed. Perhaps I magnify things out of proportion (I’ve been known to do it), but I interpreted his attitude as one that passed beyond disregard to contempt. What a foolish man!
Then I found that while appearance was one thing, quality of work was quite another. In several respects, the work was negligent and shoddy. I wanted him to buy his stock of trees and shrubs from Green Haven, seeing Karen Barbie had spent time with us and didn’t get the job of landscaping. Junji did get some stock there, but what he got from them, he simply stuck into the ground without decent preparation of a hole and root ball. The trees he supplied from his own stock weren’t cared for; they were dry and root-bound. Naturally, none of what he planted did well.
Consequently, we had some trees and shrubs die on us, including a Burr oak. Green Haven made good for it. Irv Leishner gave us excellent service, but I think it should have come out of Junji’s pocket, not Green Haven’s.
As the landscaping progressed, there were many things about which Junji was very uncooperative. It seemed that if we had ideas and preferences, he was almost insulted. He found any extra considerations to be a waste of time, though we were prepared to pay him for anything not in the original agreement.
Finally, Junji laid our driveway with paving stone, but the stone quickly showed signs of unevenness, so I called him to look at it. He wouldn’t do it until I first paid him for it (it’s not as though I was negligent in promptly paying him for his work, in installments, as the work was done). I thought, “What is this? He hasn’t done the job to my satisfaction and now he wants to be paid for it before it’s done properly? What chutzpah! I don’t think so.” He never came out, and he never got paid for paving our driveway.
The last I heard from him was when he called in the latter half of November of that year to blow my sprinkler lines out (a part of the agreement). By that time, lines would have been well frozen several times over. I had already arranged to get someone else, paying them for a service I was supposed to receive free of charge from Junji. I suppose he was still trying to collect for the stones without saying so. In any case, he didn’t succeed.
Why am I taking all this time and space to tell you about our landscaper in a Theo-autobiography? Not sure, but I think it’s to express that these kinds of things exist both for me and for you and that they have their significant impact. I would like to expose them as a travesty on the wellbeing of all.
In my view, these are oft-tolerated crimes that should have no place in any society, though they happen everywhere all the time. One way of dealing with them is to expose them, something very few are willing to do.
Solomon said: “When you take an oath before God, put it quickly into effect, because He has no pleasure in the foolish; keep the oath you have taken. It is better not to take an oath than to take an oath and not keep it” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 BBE).
After committing ourselves to Junji Kuno, we discovered another sprinkler system installer who charged the same price, but paid much more attention to detail and future needs as the greenery grew. However, when I had asked Junji if he would do only the landscaping while we hire others to do the sprinkler system, he insisted it was all or nothing. So we left it, not wanting to lose his services altogether. It brought me to fretting and stewing, as was ever my evil custom. Had I been hasty by hiring him in the first place?
In so many cases in the past, though it didn’t seem I had done the right thing, often it worked out, or I found out there was a purpose accomplished in my apparent oversights and mistakes. However, I still had the worry habit. The fact I always worried bothered me, so I said to the Lord, “Lord, if everything works out with Junji in this landscaping… I will never worry again!”
Famous last words. The Lord put me through the paces with Junji, as I have described, although things did eventually work out. Did I stop worrying about things? Not at all. I have been the world’s worst worry wort.
Is it right? No. Is it excusable? Not that I can tell. Is it shameful? What is there to be proud of? Is it grievous to God? I would think so. Is it sin? Apparently. What can I say? I have no excuse, no explanation, no defense – unless perhaps one….
The apostle Paul had great spiritual gifts and revelations, but he also discovered a weakness in his flesh that greatly grieved him. When seeking the Lord about it, he found God had sent a “messenger from Satan” to “buffet” him.
“And by the surpassing revelations, lest I be made haughty, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be made haughty. For this thing I besought the Lord three times, that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may overshadow me. Therefore I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am powerful” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 MKJV).
There has been much speculation as to what his “thorn in the flesh” was – poor eyesight, facial disfiguration, disease? All error. I know what it was. Paul was constantly troubled in mind. One could say he was anxious, fearful, and worried. Was it his choice to be so? No. Was he able to do anything about it? No. God sent an evil spirit to trouble him to keep him humble. God told him the thorn was to remain there, His grace for Paul being sufficient. Paul accepted his trouble after God’s three refusals to have it removed.
So it has been with me, as the Lord has shown me. I know I’d be one arrogant jackass if it was not for my infirmities.
In one of these years, we decided to contact InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at the University of Lethbridge because they had some information on New Age philosophy. Jeff Cullen, the president of the group, lived in Fort Macleod and passed our way each day to and from Lethbridge. He decided to pay us a visit.
We talked for a few hours. I posed to him several doctrinal matters, with which he was unfamiliar, and I asked him several questions he couldn’t answer. If he did answer, it was with apology and vagary, something many evangelical Christians might classify as a mixture of diplomacy, tact, humility, and love.
I thought, “Here’s a man presuming to lead an outreach organization to save souls for Christ at a university campus, and he doesn’t know anything. What does this say for their worldwide organization? It has nothing to offer the world, not being sent or anointed to preach the Gospel. Its conduct is presumptuous, taking the Lord’s Name in vain.”
Jeff left, rather perplexed and confounded. It would be years before we’d see him again, but the next time, he wouldn’t be so passive or apologetic.
During 1988, 1989, and thereafter, Paul was regularly in touch by phone, mail, and occasional visits. Lois and her sons were in constant touch with us, and we were in touch with Archie and his family by phone and by visits. At times, Archie’s children would come and stay with us. Though we now had our home and were no longer on the road, we still ministered to them.
One day we headed up to Waterton Lakes National Park in the foothills of the Rockies for a picnic. I have enjoyed the federal and provincial campgrounds, the sights and smells, mountains, falls, rivers, forests, log cabins, and wildlife. I once enjoyed getting together with people for camping, tenting, fishing, and fireside socializing. But I constantly longed for some kind of action or experience, perhaps hoping we would meet someone to commune with along spiritual lines.
Now we were learning that these events in and of themselves, for themselves, were no longer acceptable in the Lord. Pleasures and appeasements in this world no longer had the power to attract or satisfy. Indeed, in pursuing or indulging in them, they became a burden and vexation. If while on the Lord’s business, these things happened to come along, fine, but even there, the pleasure wasn’t in these things; our fulfillment was in the Lord’s business. “I have meat to eat you know not of,” said Jesus to His disciples. The true fulfillment is ever from above.
On October 17th, 1989, at our Moon River home, I was talking to the Bensons about a vision I had. In the vision, I saw a long, high-walled building, which seemed a block long or more. Every fifteen feet or so was a door. Inside those walls were known to be untold treasures of every kind. They were reserved for those who had the faith to enter by any of the available doors they chose. Telling the vision to them, Mark said, “I’d like to have those treasures.” I replied, “You have them.” We were to see in later years how amazingly true that would be for Mark, time and again.