There have been many times in my life when wise people have told me how foolish I have been. I appreciate their concern while at the same time I’ll lament the “safety” of the predictable life they live. I am grateful they are watching out for me, yet I am confounded by the way that believer’s sense of adventure seems to have forsaken them.
I’ll have to admit that I don’t understand the grey of their born again world, when I’ve found that there are a multitude of adventures designed by God to display the rainbow of His faithfulness.
I only say these things in this way to hopefully jostle some of you awake and get you to finally get out of that religious boat of yours and encourage you to do some “water walking.”
All of us have our favorite bible stories. For some, it’s the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Many enjoy hearing again about three Hebrew boys who refused the command of the king and were sentenced to die in the fiery furnace and lived to tell about it. For others, a favorite story may be as recent as when that cantankerous, self willed fisherman, Peter, got out of a perfectly good boat in the middle of a perfectly bad storm and took a few steps on top of those threatening waves.
As good as those tales are, there’s a great difficulty after hearing them told so many times and in so many settings. We’ve heard of their conquests, their exploits and their victories so many times that we’ve forgotten that they were just men. No different than you and me, other than when and where they lived and with few other minor differences.
Gideon was a coward at heart. Elijah ran and hid from a woman. Samson took what the Lord gave him and used it to “show off” and eventually win the girl. Saul went to the witch of Endor and had a séance. Simon Peter pledged his allegiance to the Messiah and days later denied that he even knew Him at all.
Point is, they were men. But, our favorite stories should no longer be retold so that we can once again idolize the men in those stories; they are, at best, “supporting actors.” We really should quit making them into the “headliner” of the show. Truth be told, they aren’t even “supporting actors”; you and I both know it’s the Spirit of God inside of them that should get the recognition.
For whatever reason, we’ve come to accept the fact that those men were exceptional men who did exceptional things and nothing could be further from the truth. They were just men. For the believer, there can only be one “exceptional man” and none of us are him and we will never be him.
So, the reason I’m about to share a personal story is not so that you will think of me as an exceptional man. Fact is, you will likely join in with those who considered me to be the fool. I don’t have a problem with that any more. I’ve come to realize that any of us at our best are little more than jesters in the kings court. Court clowns of the kingdom, with all due respect.
Before we get started, I feel that it’s important for me to say that this story took place many years ago. I’ve had a few adventures with the Lord, yet every one of them was too long ago. Why is this so crucial to keep in mind? Because, I’m prone to “stay in the boat” much more than to trust Jesus as Lord and walk on water again. I’m just a man. No different than any one of you reading this right now.
About 14 years ago it was scripted that I be a single father who had the joy, responsibility and the burden of raising three girls by myself. Poor girls, even then I knew they were doomed to a life of being macho. Apples make apples and dogs make puppies and true to form, each of my daughters wears the pants in their respective worlds.
I’d made my way through the world of construction and although it tended to be seasonal, I’d managed to provide for them. Rent, utilities, clothes, shoes and daycare costs and all the other expense of parenting were mine alone to bring home.
I had just been hired to work on a new shopping center in Medford, Oregon. The project superintendent said there was to be at least six months worth of work there. I was pleased and relieved upon hearing this. It meant I would have those few months of not having to look for work and more than that, it also meant that I wouldn’t have to spend my days sitting by the phone waiting and hoping that some contractor would call.
The next day, my first on this particular jobsite, I was given my assignment for that day and set about to do my best and hopefully ensure that I would be one of the last to go when layoffs did start.
It hadn’t even been an hour that I was there. Standing near the top of an eight foot step ladder, I was put some finishing touches on some metal stud work that another employee had overlooked. The floor of the building was recently poured concrete that had cured and because of that particular application, it was shiny, which told me that it was also slippery. I took more than ordinary care to set up properly. The last thing I wanted was for any one to get hurt.
Like most accidents that happen so fast you don’t remember exactly how they happened, if you remember what happened at all. The one thing I do remember is getting up off of the concrete, checking for open injuries and once I realized that all I’d done is give myself an awful headache, I went to the superintendent to let him know that I had to go to the emergency room.
The doctor told me that my head, neck and back injuries were sufficient to warrant his order that I not return to work for, you guessed it, six months.
By the time I left the hospital, it was too late to make the trip back to the job. I knew that everyone had gone home. Giving the man in charge my “off work slip” would have to wait until the next day. Although the drive home was difficult because of the pain, I was able to at least comfort myself by knowing that I would be able to sign up for workmen’s compensation and that my income would be reduced, but it wouldn’t stop altogether.
I woke on time the next morning to get my daughters out of bed, fed and off to their day in school. After depositing my youngest girl at her pre-school I headed to the jobsite.
I walked up the bosses’ desk and handed him the doctors’ orders. Without even looking at it, he set it aside and looking me straight in the eye, he said, “I don’t even know who you are. You’ve never worked for me before.”
I ran quickly through my defenses to his statement and much to my dismay I then realized why he delayed my previous days request to fill out the paperwork for that job. No paperwork meant, no workmen’s compensation, which also meant that his insurance premium would not increase. I found myself at the mercy of a merciless man.
Other men could testify that I was working there when I got hurt, but they also knew that if they did, they would more than likely be fired from the job. No one there was about to take that chance.
The pain in my body was nothing compared to the pain in my soul. “What am I going to do now?” was an unspoken cry that echoed in my mind. My joy had turned into fear. My gladness became gloom. Provision decayed into poverty and having no legal recourse with that scoundrel of a man, I went home to do the only thing I could do.
“Lord?” I began my petition as soon as the front door to our apartment had closed, “What am I to do now?”
“I don’t understand any of this. I don’t know why this has happened. But I do know that you are faithful and that although I may not care for any of it, you have good reason for allowing this. I’m not saying that I trust you completely, but what I am saying is that I trust you to keep me trusting you.”
His reply was Exodus 14, verses 13 and 14 and although I didn’t know Him then as I know Him now, I knew it was His voice and His directive to me to read those words.
"Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace."
Without going into all the theological issues that some would love to take me to task on, let me say just this.
I was graced to see that He said to “stand still” rather than “be still” and the difference is enormous. You can be at work and “be still”, but you cannot be at work and “stand still.” I realized that what the Lord was telling me to do was that I was to do nothing at all. All that I was to do was to be inward. To love Him, trust Him and by standing still, to obey Him.
I was cheated out of my legal right to receive compensation, but, as it turns out the last contractor I had worked for paid for his employees insurance, as well as unemployment insurance. I signed up for those benefits that day and after reviewing my application, the man at that office told me that I was eligible for, you guessed it, six months.
I could see His hand in all of this and after our conversation; I was allowed to see His heart on the matter.
Like any other American male, I had been conditioned to believe that a man was only a man when he worked, when he provided. But, what I was to learn in those next six months you won’t learn in even the most prestigious bible colleges and although it may be taught from some pulpits; as with all spiritual truths, it must be lived or else the learning of it is useless.
The command was to “stand still” and that’s exactly what I did.
Of course I had the joy of getting my girls up and off to school. Cooking, cleaning and playing with the girls when they got home were daily things that I delighted in. It was what I did with my “off time” that may be the reason so many have called me a fool, or at least hinted at it by telling me I was being foolish.
When all the house work was done and the girls were away from home, I would sit in front of the T.V. and play golf on my video game system. All day.
I didn’t spend my days in some religious activity. I read some in the morning and began my days with a “Good morning, Lord.” Prayer, but as far as what most would consider “time well spent”, I did none of that. I did what any other child would do with their free time, I played golf.
The days at home alone were trying. If you think it’s easy to “stand still” after years of working, then try it yourself and you’ll see what I mean.
The afternoons were spent on the school playground across the street, where my daughters and I would swing, teeter-totter, fly our kites or play “tag.” We even picked up an aquarium at a yard sale and words fail to describe the magic of just watching our fish.
Dinnertime became one of our favorite times as well, because I’d spend the night before, either making a cake or baking cookies. They knew that a special dessert had been made just for them by the one man they knew they could count on to be there and be there just for them.
My injuries were enough to keep me from my job, but not enough to keep me from my girls. Even had I’ve been able to work, the word of the Lord was clear.
Six months of days went by as if spring time had come and wasn’t about to leave.
The last seven days of my unemployment benefits were those times when our life went from simple pleasure and the real adventure was about to begin. I hadn’t been released by the doctor and I certainly hadn’t been released by the Great Physician, so although there was one week of income left, I didn’t begin my job search.
Looking for a job without His express will to do anything other than “stand still” was not something I was going to do. I’d learned too much in those six glorious months to want to grieve Him in that way. This is something you will have to live for yourself before you will understand what I mean.
The rent was due and I didn’t have the money. I knew that an eviction notice was about to be served and for a sliver of a moment, I was tempted to panic. By His Spirit in me, that temptation didn’t find its mark in my heart and I sat down to play another round of golf.
The day came to appear in court on the eviction and I was looking forward to what the Lord was going to do next. I sat beside the landlord in the courtroom. Funny thing is, it was just he and I in there that day and realizing that he was only doing his job, I felt no ill towards the man. We sat side by side and conversed easily about this and that.
The judge came in and only seeing the two of us sitting there talking, he asked where the other party to the eviction proceedings was. I raised my hand and told him that I was that person. He marveled that the one evicting me and I could sit there and talk as if we’d known each other for years.
After a brief admission from me that the landlord was within his rights to evict us, the judge granted his petition and my daughters and I were given 72 hours to move out. The real adventure was about to begin.
Peace that passes understanding was mine. Left to myself, I would have been beyond frantic. If left alone in this situation, I would have been overwhelmed by desperation and fear. All I had was immeasurable joy and a confidence that He is faithful.
After leaving court that morning, I loaded up all of our dirty clothes and headed for the Laundromat. The only care in the world I had was in keeping the colors from the whites and remembering not to put in too much bleach.
Just as I began to fold the first load out of the dryer, in walks a man, not much older than me and we just smiled a greeting to one another. After he’d started his wash, he came over and introduced himself. “Hello, my name is Larry.”
“Larry, good to meet you. I’m Don. I saw your RV out there. You just passing through?” I was curious about him and his dilapidated old motor home.
“Naw, well, I don’t know. I’m a traveling evangelist and I’m not sure why the Lord sent me here.” He answered easily and his ease of talking about the Lord was remarkable.
In the next couple hours we’d told each other the circumstances of our lives when we first heard about Jesus. Stories through the years of that experience or some situation came up and we enjoyed telling one another of the great things that God had done for us.
I told Larry about the events of the past six months and the order of the court to vacate. Larry asked me what I was going to do; I told him that I was going to do exactly what I had been doing for the better part of those 180 days. I thought it polite to invite him over for some lunch and I also thought I’d have some fun and show him just what I had done for those months.
After a pleasant meal, I took my favorite video game chair and moved it within the reach of the cords attached to the controls, which had attached me to golf for so many days and evenings. Larry was beside himself when I showed him what my intentions were for the next three days.
“Brother,” he nearly shouted “you’ve got to do something. You can’t just sit there and play video games.”
“Really? Why not, Larry? The last word I had from the Lord was that I was to ‘stand still and I would see His salvation’ and since I don’t have another sure word from Him, this is all I am going to do.” Was my reply.
“Well, I think you need to pray for wisdom and I don’t think it’s very wise to sit there and play golf. I mean, what is that going to do for your situation?” His question under any other circumstances would have been reasonable. But, these were anything but “any other circumstances.”
“Larry, I’m doing right now all that I plan on doing until the Lord makes it clear to me what it is that He wants me to do. I’ve learned in the past few months that, more often than not, ‘common sense’ is mistaken for His will.” Was my quick, but gentle response to his incredulity.
“Okay,” he said as he reached for the door “I’ll be praying for you and I’ll come by tomorrow to see how you’re doing.”
“Larry,” I said my good bye “I’ll be looking forward to it.”
After the usual events of the morning; breakfast, clothes and off to school, I had made up my mind to set a new high score. I was on a mission and like a child who has a father who takes care of all of his life; I sat down with that as my only goal for the entire day. By His presence, not just with me, but within me, I didn’t have a care in the world other than that golf game.
My next visit from Larry just left that poor old man of faith in a state of panic as I refused to yield to his quoting scripture after scripture that, he hoped, would incite me to join him in his fear and cause me to do something. I learned how folks will use scripture in order to get someone else to do something that will, at least, make them feel peace; even if it means that the other person must disobey.
An hour or so after he’d come to “inspire” me, he left to tend to some business in town. I returned to my mission for the day. I completed that quest just before the girls were out of school. I finished that round with an unbelievable 18 under par. It was a good day.
The morning of the third day began just like it had for months. “Good morning, my loves.” I’d greet my children. In choir like unison, they’d almost sing “Good morning Daddy.”
Shortly after I’d returned from dropping them off at school, my new found friend showed up again to see just what in the world might have changed. I could tell by now that he would be insistent on forcing me to see things from (his) biblical point of view.
I opened the door before he had a chance to ring the doorbell and welcoming him inside, offering him some coffee or breakfast and some other courtesies, I sat down in my usual chair, but this time the golf game was on “pause” as I gave Larry my undivided attention.
“How come you aren’t packing?” He was nearly in shock. “You have to be out of here at midnight!”
“I know that, Larry,” I said with heaven-sent ease “but, my answer is today the same as it was yesterday. Until I hear from the Lord, then this is all I will be doing.”
“Yeah,” he began with a hint of sarcasm “that is until the Sheriff comes and puts you and your kids out on the street in the doggone middle of the night.”
“I understand that,” I began with a little more directness “but, what you do not understand is that this is something I have to do, and the one thing I refuse to do is to submit to the fear that you seem to enjoy.”
“This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in a Christian.” He retaliated, “I don’t need to sit here and watch this insanity that you call ‘the will of God’, this is just plain stupid.” After invoking that unsolicited blessing, Larry slammed my door and nearly ran to his motor-home.
I smiled and returned to the possibility of an even better score. I had 14 hours left before I would have to unplug my game system and leave. What was going to happen and where we were going to go are the two thoughts that only served to move me to behold His face and tell Him “thank you.”
It must have been an hour or so later that the phone rang. Odd, since the contractors know I’m off work until further notice, the phone had not made a sound during the day for quite some time.
“Don,” the traveling evangelist said “this is Larry!” He sounded either scared to death or excited, either way, this was not going to be a normal conversation.
“You WILL NOT believe what just happened.” He shouted those two words and I had to move the receiving end of the phone away so the sound wouldn’t deafen me.
“Larry, I’ve walked with the Lord for a good season now and I’ve learned that nothing surprises me any more. What’s going on?” I answered with a calmness that can only be described as “not of this world.”
“I was driving down Oakdale Ave., here in Medford, right? I don’t know where I’m going and I sure don’t know anybody that lives over here.” His voice lowered as he continued on with his story.
“All of a sudden, the Lord tells me to stop in front of this house. Right? I said ‘But, Lord, I don’t know the people that live there.’” The tempo in his words quickened and I braced for another episode of “move the phone or lose your hearing.”
“Don, the Lord said ‘I didn’t say that you knew them or didn’t know them. I told you to stop.’” My evangelist friend was on the verge of learning what the Lord had taken six months to show me.
“So, I stop. Right? Then He says to me, He says ‘Go up and knock on the door.’”
“This whole thing is getting crazier by the minute and I’m thinking I may have spent just a little too much time with someone like you.” He said in jest.
“Okay, Larry, then what?” I opened the door for him to continue on with his experience.
“This lady opened the door and I says to her, ‘Ma’am, I know this is going to sound crazy, but…”
“Oh, this happens all the time. Tell me why has the Lord sent you to us?” She interrupted him before he could begin his defense of his apparent insanity.
“Then her husband comes to the door, so I tell both of them about you and your situation. Don, you won’t believe what they said!” His attempts at continuing to not believe were expiring even as he spoke. I was thrilled for his sake and what it was that the Lord was, at that very moment, showing His well-meaning son.
“Well, come in. There’s the phone. We need you to call your friend and tell him to go find a house or apartment. You see,” the husband reported “we had a gift of $1600 show up in the mail and we were not aware of any need, until now.”
As the man continued on with his side of the story, I imagine that Larry’s jaw got closer to the ground than it had ever been.
“You see,” he went on “the Lord has given us a place in the Body to provide housing assistance to single parents. This is the first time that someone has come to us concerning a single father though.”
By the time I found an apartment that would accept our application, it was 4:30. Just 7 ½ hours left before the Sheriff would come to escort us and our belongings to the street and more than likely take my daughters into protective custody in a temporary foster home.
I appreciate that you’ve read this far and though there are several other details to share and a multitude of lessons to glean from here, let me fast forward the story for now.
Larry followed these folks to the new apartment complex and after paying the first and last months rent and an equal security deposit, they handed the remainder of the cash to me with a request that I use all of it for groceries. I’ve never seen them since.
They came in obedience to His word to them, did what they were told to do and left as silently as they’d come.
So, there we were; an old, tired evangelist. A single dad with three girls. A small four door sedan and an antique motor-home. This was the moving equipment and the moving crew to move all the furnishings of a two bedroom home, an innumerable host of stuffed animals, an aquarium and a video game system.
Out of the old apartment, across town, up three flights of stairs with our stuff. Even though I had been living this life of faith, this still amazed and strengthened me in more ways than words can say.
At exactly 11:59 p.m. I locked the door to our old home, placed the key beneath the “Welcome” mat and went home.
I have many things that I could say. A multitude of the things I’ve learned from this, but I must leave you with just a couple of them.
First of all, my faith, or lack of faith, has NOTHING to do with His faithfulness. That is the “mustard seed faith” that so many misrepresent in our day. It’s not my faith in this or that, it is and can only be that “the faith I have, when I have it and why” are resident within my heart only because He has placed it there for that particular season. It may or may not be “there” tomorrow. That’s up to Him, but one thing is sure, whether I am a man of faith or not, He is Faithful.
Finally, and you can take this to the bank. Don’t keep on believing that the Lord will tell you to do things that make sense. I’ve learned that there are many times we mistake Gods’ will for us because we color it with our fears and read in His word whatever words we feel we need to be comforted, when the fact is, He usually has something altogether different to say and you can rest assured that it is indeed Him speaking when the command is that you “die to self.”
Any command that does not begin with this is only your thinking it’s Him speaking to you.
His order for me to “stand still” was the same as His saying that “dying to self” is the same. After all, what can a dead man do? Nothing.
If you still believe you are supposed to always DO something or else God won’t move on your behalf, then when you get to heaven, ask Lazarus.
Sometimes “doing nothing” is every bit as pleasing to our Father as “doing something.” But, that’s not for us to decide. As Lord, as our King, it’s His sovereign place to say.
A command to “stand still” requires the same obedience as His command to “Go.”
Until then. Golf? Anyone?
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