He Is My Destiny

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Waiting to meet a friend for lunch, I enjoyed a blast from the past; all the way back to about 1960, as Vince Gill’s voice crooned throughout the restaurant, “I’ve been cheated, been mistreated.  When will I be loved?  I’ve been put down, I’ve been pushed ’round.  When will I be loved?”

In those days I was just a child, glued to a black and white TV screen as the Everly Brothers performed their big hit on American Bandstand.  How could I know the sad truth that echoes behind those lyrics?  The sad truth that has probably been one reason the song has endured over the years; recorded and/or performed not only by Vince Gill, but also by Linda Ronstadt and a host of other artists.  The sad truth that life is hard had not yet become a reality to me.  Little did I know that I would soon grow to understand all too well the feeling of being cheated or mistreated; a feeling with which almost everyone can relate.  How could I know that the burning question in the broken hearts of mankind is indeed, “When will I be loved?”

King David certainly understood such pain. In Psalm 55 he moaned…

My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.

Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me…

For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; 
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him.

But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.

Pondering the significance of the song while driving home from lunch, I was talking to the Lord about how we usually handle such things.  Immediately I heard the lyrics of another familiar song in my spirit; “You’re looking for love in all the wrong places.”  Another sad truth!  Books could be written—and have been, I’m sure—chronicling the mistakes people have made while searching for a love to fill the void of hurt and despair that was left behind by violations of trust and broken confidences.

Once again, we can look to King David…

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved…You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.
 Are they not in your book?Then my enemies will turn back
 in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise,in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can man do to me…For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.  Psalm 55:22, 56:8-11, 57:10

When we encounter the love of God, the same love that David experienced, we too will praise Him, and we can then sing another enduring song from the 60s…

I will follow him, follow him wherever he may go

There isn’t an ocean too deep

A mountain so high it can keep me away

I must follow him

Ever since he touched my hand I knew

That near him I always must be

And nothing can keep him from me

He is my destiny

 

The Wonder of Our God

 

Cousins Barbara Eva Leonard Eddie etc 1955 corrected

 

Growing up, we lived near the families of two of my dad’s brothers and I was close to a couple of cousins who were about my age. As my younger siblings began arriving, so did younger cousins—all of whom we considered the “little kids.” It’s amazing how distant five or six years seem during our formative years, and how such age differences shrink into insignificance as adults.

Crystal was one of the little kids, so after my family moved away when I was seventeen we lost touch for many years. About five years ago Crystal started calling occasionally and we’d talk awhile, but still didn’t know one another well. Eventually though, we discovered that we are both passionate about God in a way that many others in our extended family are not; and a spiritual bond began to form.

The last few years have been very difficult for Crystal, with catastrophic illnesses plaguing her husband that have left him permanently disabled; a multitude of other cascading problems; and, in just the last year, she lost both parents as well as two of other close family members. Sinking into a place of deep despair, she continued crying out to God and, as always, He has been faithful. I share the background of Crystal’s difficulties to illustrate the wonder of the sufficiency of our Lord, even in the midst of our most desperate times. In her words…

Super close up of delicate blue wildflower blank Ava - Copy

I was walking the puppies, and out near the edge of our mowed lawn is the wilder part where the more natural grasses grow up to a height of about 18 inches.

It’s early spring and the wildflowers have just started to bloom here and there. Over the years, as I’ve taken photos of our flowers, I’ve found that some of my very favorites are the tiny wild flowers. At first glance, looking down at them from about five feet above, they don’t look all that impressive. But when I bend down and focus on the tiny blooms, some not more than an inch across, I am amazed to see the glorious details of the little petals and stamens, complete with pollen.

This day, walking near the edge of the lawn, I noticed a lone grouping of three fronds of one of these little Missouri wildflowers. It was white and delicate with little yellow stamens.

I wondered, “Will this little flower survive without anyone but the good Lord up above watering it and caring for it?” I also pondered the question, “What good will this little flower be?  If I hadn’t just happened to walk out here, nobody would even have enjoyed its beauty.”

Just then, a huge black-and-yellow-striped bumblebee, about an inch long and a half-inch wide, buzzed in and landed on the tiny wildflower. This is the kind of bumblebee I used to see growing up in Northern California where we used to love to catch them in the lupine bushes in quart glass Mason jars because we always liked to hear them “sing” as they buzzed.

It was always fun to find one that had lots of pollen dots on its back legs, gathered and distributed along its travels. I’ve since learned that many flowers don’t pollinate unless a bee comes along to do it for them.

So, here was this little lone wildflower and I watched, mesmerized, as the big bumblebee adeptly and carefully visited each and every little open petal.

I felt ashamed that I had so quickly judged the seemingly insignificant wildflower. I wasn’t the only one to enjoy its beauty—I was but one of many, including the Good Lord up above, the angels, and all the other birds and bees flying about.

Suddenly I didn’t feel like such a lone wildflower living out in the wilderness. The Spirit spoke to me and said that I am never alone, but that God Himself always makes plans to visit me and deposit within me bits of Himself, where they can stay forever, producing His life. Then, as I am filled with Him, I can be like the bumblebee and spread the beauty of His love to other flowers (people) I come in contact with.

May we all decide now to be like industrious little bumblebees, pollinating with His life all the wildflowers and cultivated flowers with whom the LORD allows us to interact.  We do this by sharing His light; by walking in His light. We do this by not reacting badly, even when others do so. We do this when we shine with His glory because we have been swimming in it ourselves, and it just exudes out of us effortlessly.

What wonderful details and symmetry God has placed on our little blue planet!

So today, praise Him, especially if you identify with being a lone little wildflower living out in the wilderness because…

He knows the way that I take;
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10

 

Faith of our Fathers

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With Father’s Day approaching, my thoughts turned to my dad and words from an old hymn echoed in my mind, “Faith of our fathers, living still…” My dad’s faith definitely lives on, so in his honor I’d like to share the eulogy I presented at his memorial celebration on March 9, 2009.

Richard R. Kain (1925-2009)

Dad left us a week ago and, as we’ve planned for this memorial service, I’ve not once thought of him as being in this casket—every thought has had more to do with the joy he’s experiencing in heaven—indeed, he’s more alive right now than we are because each of us is still in the process of growing old and dying.  He’s been there and done that, and death can no longer touch him.

So we gather here to celebrate his life—a godly man who was a husband, father, grandfather and friend; a man who loved peanut butter, followed closely by cornbread and fish, a man that we will never forget.

Several days before Dad went home I sat beside his bed in the early morning hours and asked the Lord what He would want me to say at the memorial service and, with Dad sleeping peacefully beside me, I wrote these words:

I sit with my dad in the darkness, but the dark is not really dark for the glory of God is here.  I’m certain angels are here too, and the time is coming soon when he steps into eternity and they escort him home.  Moments, hours or days—it’s very close.  This is a godly man, completing his last assignment on earth—dying.

I’ve observed death many times but its strange watching it happen in my dad.  I’m sure it seems like yesterday to him that he was a child—that he met Mom—that I was born.  Yet, it’s almost done.  The truth of God is evident—life, like the grass of the field; springing up, blossoming, flourishing and then dying in a brief moment in time.  Oh, but it doesn’t end here.  Dad has just begun to live—he’s run his race within the limitations of time and space and I sense that, even now, Jesus is pointing to him and telling all those around to watch the death of a saint—instructing the angels, who long to look into the things of redemption, mercy and the grace that is available to man.  He must be saying, “Look at Richard—this is how it’s done.  All of his human frailties are as nothing—this one loves me—no, even more, he adores and worships me.  And I adore him.”

Perhaps Dad tarries here for a bit as Jesus puts the final touches on his mansion—a beautiful dwelling in God’s city of golden glory—a home where there are no weeds to pull or sprinklers to fix—the perfect place for him to luxuriate in his Lord forever.

And surely, within that cloud of witnesses in heaven there must be such excitement—his mother just dancing at the prospect of hugging her son again—his brothers and sisters joyously anticipating his arrival; ready to show him around and introduce him to the joys of heaven that they’ve already come to know.

Oh, and there’s more.   My dad didn’t see himself as much—he didn’t have a clue about his value and the impact of his life.  But he was—no, he is—an evangelist and an encourager—and a singer.  Can’t you just hear him shouting and singing praises to God, as one after another the many people who are in heaven because he lived and was faithful are introduced?  A child from the days spent in the church nursery for whom he prayed, as he loved on him.  A friend or co-worker that was so impacted by his testimony that they gave their life to God, but Dad never knew it.  And then, there are those he never met because they were halfway around the world—lives that were changed by his faithful giving and his prayers.

We’re told that the believer will receive crowns of righteousness and life.  Can’t you just see Dad with his crowns standing before the throne and joining with the 24 elders to lay them at the feet of his Father in joyful adoration and worship?  And can’t you imagine God saying, “Richard, get up.  You are a joint heir with my son, Jesus—you are also my son and I want you to just get out there and enjoy the treasures that have been laid up for you!”

We see the shell of the man—Richard Kain, this saint of God who the Lord once told me was a pillar of the Church.  We see a body that lived 83 years and 8 months—a body that remained remarkably strong right up to the end and certainly didn’t look its age.  But that body, as dear as it is, is not my dad.  My dad is alive and he can see with vision as sharp as an eagle; he can hear with ears that comprehend frequencies far beyond human understanding.  He can sing with a powerful voice—not just the very nice and pleasant voice we’ve heard, but with the voice of a master singer.  Oh, and he can not only walk, but he can run—I can imagine him running and jumping and dancing around from the sheer joy of being able to do so without any pain in his feet, legs or knees—walking all over heaven and meeting all of his neighbors, and nobody telling him he can’t go out because he might get lost.

As he joins with that great cloud of witnesses, I’m sure there’s one more thing he’s doing—he is loving us.  He’s praying for his “sweet, beautiful, pretty-thing wife.”  He’s praying for his sons and daughters.  He’s praying for his grandchildren.  And he’s joyfully anticipating that moment when each of us, in our own turn, joins him in Glory.

Dad’s life is not over—it’s just beginning.

One final thing; Dad no longer needs our prayers, but my prayer on his behalf is that every one of his descendants will make the choice to develop a relationship with God—that Dad will ultimately receive one of the greatest desires of his heart—to be able to spend eternity with his family—including great, great-great, and great-great-great grandchildren yet to be born.  My prayer is that not one will be lost, even down to a thousand generations, but that all will enter into the fullness of Christ Jesus.  Because there are two certain truths that can be spoken of my Dad—and I speak in the present tense—he loves God with all of his heart, and he loves his family with a boundless love that cannot be measured.

…the time has come for my departure.   I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.   Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.  2 Timothy 4:6b-8

 

Seek Him First

(This is an except from “I’m Still Standing,” a series of essays based on my journals during my encounter with breast cancer.)

Who would have thought so many would turn out to hear what this nondescript young man had to say?  What was it that stirred up so much interest—even among those who were sick and tired of hearing any discussion regarding politics or religion; or among those politically-correct individuals who sought to avoid controversy of any kind, preferring their “live and let live” philosophy that rejected any interference or judgment by others?  It certainly wasn’t his appearance.  He looked like any other 30-something guy; casually dressed in a way that didn’t make any sort of statement; and he didn’t have those movie-star-good-looks that the tabloids loved.  But there was something different about him.  Was it the humorous gleam in his eye?  Or the intriguing way he spoke in what seemed to be riddles?  Was it the way he seemed to be speaking directly to you when you were standing way in the back of a crowd?  No one seemed to be able to put a finger on it, but there was a certain charisma in his manner that divided people—they either loved him or hated him.  He was considered a dangerous terrorist who wanted to bring down the government to some, and a peace-loving pacifist to others.  So here they were—common everyday working people, stay-at-home-moms with their kids, reporters, clergy, politicians, celebrities and unknown businessmen—all gathered around and hanging on every word he spoke, just trying to figure him out.

He had a lot to say that day; touching on legal issues, personal accountability, lifestyles, and even the meaning of life.  Amazingly, the crowd remained quiet.  He was such a captivating speaker that they were literally speechless.  Then his manner seemed to change—for a moment he seemed genuinely puzzled as a new thought occurred to him.  “Why do you worry so much about things that really aren’t all that important?” he asked.  “You shouldn’t be so obsessed with your jobs, your finances, with how you’re going to afford to buy a house, with the cost of that new outfit or car or vacation, or even with where your next meal is coming from.  All you really need is faith in God because he knows what you need even before you do.  All you really have to do is look to him first and everything else in your life will fall into place.”  Oh boy—he’d done it now—if the crowd was just divided before it was polarized now.  Yet they remained quiet, almost mesmerized, as he continued speaking, with each person forming his own opinion of just who this guy was, and just how relevant were the things he had to say.

Such could be the scene should Jesus preach what has come to be known as The Sermon on the Mount in a public forum today.  And the simple truth he set down originally is as valid now as it was then, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34, NIV)

It’s so simple we miss it—no matter that it’s written over and over in God’s Word—we still miss it.  “Seek him first.”  It means just what it says.  It shouldn’t be a complicated or difficult-to-understand instruction.  After all, the concept of diligently seeking after something is not foreign to us.  If we desire the love and attention of another person we go after it with everything we’ve got—romantic dinners, gifts, doing all of the little things that would please the object of our affection.  Or, if it’s a career we want, we perform and perform and perform to keep the boss happy—late hours, heavy workloads, compromised ethics—we do whatever it takes to get that bigger check or promotion.  We understand these pursuits, but when the Lord says, “Seek me first,” we don’t seem to get it.  We don’t seem to understand we need to pursue him just as we would pursue anyone or anything else that’s important to us.

And what of his admonition not to worry about tomorrow?  After all, worry is such a normal part of life.  It’s so easy to do it.  Who among us doesn’t worry about something?  Aren’t we supposed to worry about our kids, our health, or our finances?  Aren’t we supposed to worry about threatening global issues like poverty or war?

As a teenager, I remember worrying about what would happen during the Cuban Missile Crisis and, a few years later, about Viet Nam.  For my parents it was World War II and the Korean War; for my grandparents, World War I.  And today, the terrorism and doomsday scenarios are worse than ever before, even in fictional accounts.  Have you ever watched 24, or read a Clancy or Ludlum novel?

Jesus is still the solution.  His word remains true—he doesn’t make false promises, and he promised that if we seek him first all of our needs will be supplied.  Therefore, worry should have no place to rest in our lives.

So why is something that sounds so simple so difficult to implement?  I believe it’s largely because Satan knows how to manipulate us, and worry is just another face of fear.  Life is hard, and we routinely face painful and difficult situations and/or decisions.  And when fear wears this disguise it often appears legitimate—sometimes even admirable.  It appears as concern for things that are our responsibility—the financial stability of our family, the well-being of our child, or issues regarding our health.  But when worry appears, fear has done its job.  Fear has turned our attention away from the simplicity of God’s command and focused it on the “what-ifs” of life.

Part of my own struggle to overcome worry is recounted in a journal entry:   How do I re-focus and get rid of worry?  It remains just as Jesus said—I must seek him first.  And, in order to do that, I must give him ownership of all of the things that concern me.  I must ask myself, “What is the worst-case scenario, and if it happened would God still be there for me?”  Yes!  As promised in Romans 8:38-39, nothing can separate me from his love.  So, it comes back around to wanting him more than anything else—it comes back to seeking him first.

But worry is accepted—even expected—as normal behavior, and I’ve been criticized for not being logical when I’ve refused to worry about certain things.  I’ve been accused of being unrealistic, irrational, or impractical.  I’ve been told that “the world just doesn’t work that way” or that I need to “get real.”   Others have tried to put me on a guilt trip for not worrying—surely they’re more well-adjusted than me because they worry about things that are important, and I’m being irresponsible if I refuse to do it too. But the ways of God are not understood by man’s logic, so I must come back to faith—I must trust what he’s said in his Word—I must live outside of worry because my God is bigger than any problem I face—he’s bigger than the cancer, he’s bigger than the chemotherapy, he’s bigger than the radiation.

This, then, is the foundation of my faith—God is real and his Word is true.  Jesus said it—I believe it—I must always seek him first.  My life is his and he is my refuge, my place of rest, my peace, and my hope.  He meets my every need.  What more could I want?

Moving Mountains

“Moving Mountains” is an article that grew out of my journal entries during 2006 when I was fighting breast cancer.  It is included in my book, “I’m Still Standing”.

Mountains. How I love the mountains! And I’m not alone—any season of the year will find many heading to there to relax—from mountain climbing or biking to snow skiing or sledding; from swimming in a mountain lake to skating on its ice; from gathering around a campfire on a warm summer night to relaxing in front of a roaring fireplace on a snowy winter night, the mountains are an amazing retreat. Flower-carpeted hillsides in the spring or snow-capped peaks in the winter, they are things of such majestic beauty and grandeur that any description seems inadequate. But mountains also have another side. They are places of terrible danger. Every year we hear of hikers being lost, of people being stranded in the snow with tragic results, of swimming or skiing accidents, of avalanches. Perhaps the difficult, dangerous aspect is why we so often think of the problems or challenges in our lives as mountains that we must climb, ever straining to get to the top. Certainly cancer, or any other disease for that matter, can seem like a mountain. So, as I contemplated my diagnosis and the long and difficult treatment that it would entail, I also contemplated what Jesus had to say about mountains. In his words, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20b, NIV)

How often have I read this verse and visualized a physical mountain on the horizon; questioning or doubting the meaning—assuming that my faith is too weak because I know that the mountain is simply not going to get up and reposition itself no matter what I say or pray. Not that I doubt God’s word; I just don’t expect to see a mountain move.

But what if the mountain is really something in my life that is just too big for me to overcome? What if it’s financial trouble? What if it’s infertility? What if the mountain is cancer—or death? What if it’s a problem that’s so massive that I can’t see any way through or around it? Faith will move those mountains—yes it will—I know it will! In fact, it may appear to everyone else that the mountains are still there—but suddenly, for me, it can be as if they no longer exist. Even death? That’s a biggie. But yes again! Death is impending sooner or later for all of us—but death is only the end of physical life, and none of us is even promised a tomorrow, let alone a week, a month or a year. So if I really believe what God has told us—if I really believe that death is swallowed up in victory and has no sting—then what’s the big deal? The big deal is my own fear—fear of pain, fear of loss, fear of the unknown.

So, what will I do? I can cower in fear in the shadow of the mountain, worried about the very real dangers ahead—worried about the pain of surgery, the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Or, I can worry about what will happen once I get to the top of the mountain—what if I find a mountain range ahead instead of a wide, pleasant valley flowing with abundance? What if I find an uncertain future filled with another illness or metastasis? I have to face those fears head-on and recognize them for what they are—challenges that have been placed in my way by a devious, cruel enemy which can be removed with faith. I get to decide who wins. Fear or faith is my choice. Which will it be? Two reactions that are diametrically opposed; but one leads to anxiety, sorrow and defeat, and the other results in peace, joy and victory. No contest—faith is my only choice.

This is the foundation of my life—God is real—his Word is true—my life is his—he is my refuge, my place of rest, my peace and my hope. Oh, he may deliver me in different ways—sometimes he will take me through a mountain before he removes it. I may come to a mountain and realize there’s a tunnel—a day by day way to keep on keeping on. I can’t see any light at the other end, but I know it’s there and I just have to keep going. Once I’m through, I look back and the mountain has disappeared—vanished into thin air as if it never existed. By faith, the mountain has moved. Or, if it can still be seen, it’s now just a little blip up against a far-away horizon, nothing more than a molehill.

Other times I may have to climb a mountain, encountering one challenge after another along the way—the landslides, storms, wild animals, hunger and pain of life—but I keep on—and finally I arrive at a summit to find a vast panorama of beauty ahead. So I continue on my journey, occasionally glancing back, and once again the mountain has disappeared—it’s shrunk down to the size of the distant hills.

I’ve lost count of the mountains my Lord has moved for me. He’s proven himself over and over, even when my faith was so weak there was hardly any at all—so weak that it wasn’t any bigger than a mustard seed. And so, as I consider the fact that the cancer is something for which I must be treated; as I recognize that it’s not an easy battle; I also realize it’s really a non-issue because my God is the mover of my mountains.

A Message of Hope

(Excerpt from “I’m Still Standing” which is a series of essays that were born out of my struggle with breast cancer in 2006-2007.)

Every time I think of Enid’s I hear a phrase from the old hymn, “There is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God.”  So what, you may wonder, is Enid’s?  And, surprisingly, this place of refuge is not a church or chapel or ministry center—it’s a wig store.  Labeled with a cancer diagnosis, it’s where I went when I was struggling to cope with the idea of losing all of my hair.

Years ago, in the days when nurses wore those perky, white, starched caps, I had a short, curly, red wig.  Keeping my long hair neatly up and under my cap was quite a challenge so I would hide it under the wig—much easier and quite a time-saver.   But it’d been a very long time, and now it wasn’t for convenience—it was a necessity, unless I wanted to go around bald or wearing a scarf, thus branding myself as a cancer patient; and that idea just didn’t work for me—I wanted to look and act as normal as possible.  I wondered if I could even find a wig that would look natural, so off I went to find the store.

Five minutes after I walked through the front door of Enid’s I felt like I’d entered some other dimension where it was party time.  All around me were women with no hair, laughing, talking, and trying on wigs and hats, browsing through lingerie and swimsuits, checking out pretty pieces of jewelry and selecting make-up.  Enid, a cancer survivor herself, and her staff were more like cheerleaders than sales ladies; encouraging everyone, patiently helping us try on style after style and telling us how good we looked, teaching us how to cope, answering questions, sharing their own experiences—they’d been where we were now.  I can’t imagine a support group that would have been more helpful—it was as if everyone had checked their diagnosis at the door and entered an arena of hope.

Hope—an intangible orientation toward the future, expecting something that is not yet a reality—a belief that there can be a positive outcome even when all evidence says otherwise.  Hope that is not seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But, if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:24b-25)  Hope is often what keeps us going in the face of adversity.  It may motivate a rescue team searching a mountain for a missing hiker, a teacher working with a learning-disabled child, an unemployed man searching for a job so he can provide for his family, a terminally-ill patient looking for a cure, a lonely person looking for a friend—or me, looking for relief in the midst of my pain.  There were times during my treatment when I identified with Job as he cried out to the LORD, “What strength do I have, that I should still hope? What prospects, that I should be patient?  Do I have the strength of stone?  Is my flesh bronze?” (Job 6:11-12)  But I knew I could trust God’s promise that, those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint, (Isaiah 40:31) so I held on.  And God did not disappoint me.  One morning as I awoke I saw a vision of a blank sheet of bright yellow paper floating before my eyes and I was comforted, for I immediately knew without a doubt that this was him telling me that the next page in the book of my life was before me, a page full of hope.

The LORD also encouraged me with a living example of His love, described in Psalm 147:11, the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love, as I observed the joy of my son, Kevin, as he anticipated his wedding; and the look on his face as he watched his bride, Rachel, walk down the aisle to become his wife.  Her hope was evident too—that of the bride preparing herself for her bridegroom, fully confident in his love; knowing that he would be there to welcome her into his home; to love her; to honor her; to protect her—and I remembered that we, the church, can rest in that same kind of hope because we are the Bride of Christ.  And once again, instead of crying like Job, I was able to rejoice like David; I could find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 62:5-6)

I still go back to Enid’s.  I use the excuse that I need to pick up some make-up or a scarf; but the truth is that there are a lot of places I could buy those things, and I really go back because I love to be there.  I love to visit those amazing ladies who probably don’t even realize what a wonderful blessing they are.  I love to see hope in action!

A Scary Dream

Snakes.  I HATE SNAKES!!!   So, needless to say, I wasn’t enjoying the dream I was having with three ugly black ones threatening me.  Little did I know when I awoke, trembling with fear, that by nightfall I would be praising God for that dream.

It was an epic kind of dream with at least 8 different scenes, and it occurred the night before my appointment with the oncologist to discuss treatment options.  The first surgical pathology report had come back less encouraging than expected so he gave me all the statistics regarding re-occurrence and long-term survival.  For the type and size of cancer I had the percentages of difference between chemotherapy or not were very small, so it was a difficult decision.  But the doctor wasn’t much help—he wouldn’t tell me what to do—it had to be my decision.  Home I went with, armed with numbers, and talked it over with my family, but they didn’t have any clear answers either.  At some point I remembered the dream, and when I went back and looked at what I’d written down that very morning I was astounded.  The overall context of the dream implied that I was on some type of journey and, while I really couldn’t see where I was going, as long as I kept my eyes fixed on the LORD I knew would arrive safely at my destination.  There was even a knowing in the dream that I needed to be somewhere at 3:45 PM—I didn’t know where but I knew it was important—and only in retrospect did I realize that my doctor’s appointment had been at 3:45 PM that day.  So, back to the snakes…

I was alone in a bed in the living room and I saw three snakes—they’d all been contained in a glass aquarium in the corner but 2 had escaped.  A man came in and then quickly left, saying he’d send someone back to take care of it.  The second man, who was dressed like a maintenance man, came in armed only with a belt in his hand—I was pretty worried; how in the world was he going to protect me with a belt???  In the meantime snake number one had somehow disappeared from the dream.  I wondered again how the man could possibly do anything with a belt, but he cornered snake number two and made it get into the aquarium.  It escaped again though, and I was really upset because it was very long and dangerous-looking.  Surprisingly, the man didn’t seem very concerned.  He continued to do battle with snake number three—it was the worst; big and black and very ugly; and then it reared up over the top of the aquarium and puffed up like a cobra with its wide hooded head and hate-filled eyes—spitting and striking at everything in reach.  The top was still not on the aquarium and I was so scared that it was going to escape and come after me—its head kept coming way up over the rim before the man would beat it back down again with his belt.  The man glanced casually over his shoulder at me and said with a shrug, as if it were no big deal, “Death is really mad today.” 

When I started seeking the LORD regarding the meaning of the dream it became clear that the fist snake was the tumor that had already been removed, the second was the threat of metastasis, and the third was death.  As I prayed about it, I knew that God was showing me that I needed to go ahead with the chemotherapy and I felt his assurance that if I did, snake number two didn’t have a chance.  But then it got really good because the Spirit of God showed me that Jesus himself (and, even now, I get tears in my eyes just writing about it) was the man who came to me in the dream with the belt of truth to restrain death.  Wow!  I’d read many times about the armor of God, as described in Ephesians 6:10-17, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  Just imagine the protection that is available to us if we’re wearing the full set of armor when Truth is all it takes to restrain Death!

So often I hear people insist that God no longer speaks to people in dreams; that he spoke that way in biblical times, but there’s no way anyone will ever convince me of that.  Much has been written about dreams in recent years, and I could reiterate argument after argument as evidence that he still communicates this way, but my proof is personal experience.  Over and over he has comforted me and provided direction during the night hours—time I used to think was wasted as I slept away approximately a third of my life—time I now eagerly anticipate as each night provides a new opportunity for my body and soul to rest while my spirit encounters the Spirit of the Living God.  Amazing encounters are recorded in my dream journal…

…Some very clear messages in my mind as I awoke this morning, “Life itself is a risk; life requires faith; and, importance or value is not determined by appearance.”  Pretty significant and encouraging thoughts in light of the fact that I am in the midst of chemotherapy; every day is a struggle to keep on trusting God; and I’m completely bald…

…A dream this morning in which I was identified as one of God’s elect with the ability to encounter the realm of the Spirit—and to find rest there.  As I prayed about it I was led to 1 Peter 1:1-2 where the Apostle Peter wrote “to God’s chosen people” who were “living as foreigners” in distant lands.  He encouraged them that, “God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.  May God give you more and more grace and peace.”  How interesting that my name, Barbara, literally means foreigner or stranger—and yes I am a stranger here, in this world but not of this world, and much loved by my Father…

I don’t know all that transpired last night, but I do know that I fell asleep in a chair in my living room and I went somewhere else—I was in another dimension—I felt myself taking off.  While I was there I recall a man coming to me—he seemed like a dear old friend—familiar—and I was so glad to see him.  He was glad to see me too.  I asked if we were together in body or in spirit and he just smiled and said, “What do you think?” and I knew it was spirit.  I don’t know what else may have occurred between us but at one point he said, “Cut that off,” and used his hand to cut off something I couldn’t see.  I’ve wondered who this was—was it my great-grandfather, the circuit riding preacher from the early 1900s whom I never met?  I don’t know, but he knew me and loved me, and I had the sense that he was removing a generational curse. Lots of other things happened during that night and I don’t remember them all but, just as I was waking up, I peeked to see where I was because I really wanted to stay in that other place.  I saw a vision of a couple of old, black-and-white televisions with pictures flickering on the screens.  I said, “Lord, if this is not supposed to be, let it stop” and both immediately quit—the one closest to me just seemed to fizzle out.  There’d also been a bunch of junk lying around on the floor but it was suddenly all gone and my living room floor was covered in new potting soil.  God has done a work in me during the night and I’m on new ground—the way is cleared for a new thing to grow.  Yes!!!  Thank-you Lord!!!

And then, on my dad’s eighty-first birthday (how I love God’s timing!), I received an amazing gift.  Another dream—an assurance that the victory had been won and that the curse was dead.  It was another epic in which I seemed to be battling an evil martial artist all night long.  He was so powerful that none could stand before his skill or his weaponry, but I kept evading him somehow.  Finally, his evil became so intense that he was destroying even his own warriors, and just when it appeared that there was no more hope for me one of his weapons turned upon him and he was suddenly nothing more than a pile of sawdust.  The scene changed and a delivery-man came to the door and handed me three take-out-food containers.  I opened the first and it was empty.  I opened the second and it was empty.  I opened the third and it was the dust.  I woke up and instantly knew that the snakes had been defeated—the tumor was gone; any metastatic disease was gone; and death had been defeated—nothing but dust with no power to harm me.  I remembered that Jesus is Truth and Death cannot stand against him.  Then, a few days later, the LORD gave me the perfect verse to sum it all up, “There they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous.”  (Psalm 14:5)  It just doesn’t get any better than that.