Saturday, February 14, 2015

God is Moving

And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21

It has become clear that it is time for me to move again. Just like it was when I moved here to the Keys in September, God is directing things. I find myself once again in awe as I watch Him move. I am going to try, with God’s grace, to tell you the story without writing a book.

The story really starts even before I moved here from Portland, OR, in September 2014. Almost from the day God converted me (8/22/2014), I have had the impression that He is preparing me for something specific. From the beginning, it has seemed likely that I will wind up someday doing face-to-face, one-on-one evangelism – presenting the gospel to those who God needs to hear it. I heard the term “Bible worker” and that seemed (and still seems) like a pretty good description of what God had put on my heart. This idea was already there even before the chain of events that led to me packing up everything and moving here back in September. 

Once I got here (WHNJ on Big Pine Key, FL), there was work to do and my focus was on that work; thoughts of Bible work were on the back burner. My work included (but was not limited to) driving my “boss”, Pastor Juanita Kretschmar, up and down the Keys to church services and prayer meetings. I also found myself involved in the lives of a flock of exotic birds that God has entrusted to this ministry. (I often got to feed and clean up after them.) As an unpaid volunteer, I also had ample time to spend re-acquainting my brain and heart with God’s word. I studied the sanctuary and worked through several sets of Bible studies. I felt almost desperate to know my Savior better, and that same lovely Savior gave me the time and opportunity for that to happen. I thank Him.

So by the end of the year, it seemed things were settled nicely. I still had only the vaguest notion that sometime in the future I would possibly get some training and start doing Bible work. Some time in December, my dad informed me that he had been impressed to place an announcement in his home church bulletin in Goldendale, WA, saying there would be a new Bible study group meeting on Sabbath afternoons. The topic was going to be the Holy Spirit and revival. This got me very excited and when he told me a couple weeks later that people were attending and studying, I was thrilled! God was definitely moving. Mind you, at that point I had no clue that I would have any part in any activity in Goldendale other than to pray for the church.

Right about the first of the year, it came to my attention that there was likely going to be an opportunity for me to engage in paid work here in Florida. This potential situation seemed to be a great fit all around and I started to pray about it, assuming that it was a no-brainer that I would accept the position if it were offered. One “catch” was that the position would require a time commitment, probably at least one year. I didn’t see any reason that would be a problem. At the time, I told some people who knew about this position that, “unless God dropped a brick in front of me”, I would almost certainly accept any offer.

Almost immediately, within a day or two, it seemed like everyone around me was mentioning “bible work”. These mentions were all brought up by others and, since this kind of terminology doesn’t normally pop up in daily conversation for me, they caught my attention. I had to ask God if He was trying to get my attention somehow. I wasn’t ready to claim that these were bricks falling, but there was no question that there was something brewing.

Right about this time (mid-January) I started following Jennifer Jill Schwirzer on Twitter. If you don’t know her, she is a sublimely gifted singer/songwriter/composer. I first heard her music on the radio station (WHNJ) and immediately recognized her unique talent. At one point, I started exploring her web site and discovered she had written some Bible studies based on the book of Revelation. I downloaded the first one and was immediately blown away. (I’m getting sidetracked a tiny bit here, but it is worth it.) The series is called The Lamb Wins and was such a huge blessing for me. Following the Lamb through Revelation and anywhere else He leads is now my sole focus in life. Also worth checking out is a 2-CD musical production Jennifer (and associates) produced. You can download the Bible studies here, too.

Getting back to the main story, something else I spotted on Jennifer’s site was a link to Adventist Frontier Mission. I had never heard of this organization, but I thought if Jennifer deemed it worthwhile, I should probably check it out. So I did and was blown away. I quickly found myself asking God if this was something He would want me to be doing. I pored over the site, read the stories, and checked out the current postings. I hadn’t decided that this was definitely where God was leading me, but this certainly had my attention.

A day or so after this, I was on Facebook. Sister Schwirzer and I had engaged in some email correspondence due to my completing The Lamb Wins Bible studies; we had become friends on FB. I was casually looking at her Friends page and a face popped up that I had not seen for over 25 years, somebody with whom I worked in the NYC Van Ministry back in the late 80s. I was delighted to see him. One reason was that I still owed him money from all those years ago and had never had a chance to pay him back. So I sent him – John Baxter – a message and Facebook friend request, then proceeded to go eat lunch. It so happens that the people with whom I was eating lunch were also people with whom I had worked in NY. I mentioned to them that I had just messaged John Baxter on FB and reminiscing commenced. Then somebody said, “I wonder if John is still at AFM?” (AFM is Adventist Frontier Missions.)

This was the brick. Not only did it turn out that John Baxter was still with AFM, he is the Recruitment Director. This was too much. During the near-sleepless night in prayer that followed, I had to accept that God was, at the very least, letting me know that I was not to commit to this previously-mentioned position. I had prayed repeatedly and consistently, asking for God to direct my path. I have to believe that He actually does that if we ask. For me to have accepted a position like that in light of these developments, it would have seemed like I was slapping God in the face. 

So John and I talked on the phone. He thought it was a fine idea for me to apply to be considered for a call at AFM. I spent a couple of days praying, gathering information, and rounding up references. A few days later, I submitted the application. About a week later, I got a call from John. He let me know that he reviewed my application and discussed it with a couple of his associates. The consensus was that it would be a good idea for me to wait for the 2016 application cycle and, in the meantime, walk some more with Jesus and possibly  get some Bible work training. To that end, John suggested I pray with my dad and see what he thought about the idea of praying with his church and seeing if they might be able to use a Bible worker. This did not seem like an unreasonable idea so I picked up the phone and called my dad. (For those keeping track, this phone call happened on the evening of 2/1/15.)

For my dad’s benefit, I briefly ran through my conversation with John. Dad almost immediately stated, “It won’t work.” He proceeded to list the reasons why and I had no valid arguments with which to counter. All things considered, it sounded kind of crazy. Even though I was mostly convinced my dad's objections were valid, I was impressed to keep talking. I said to my dad that maybe we should take another approach. I suggested we forget about Bible worker training and Holy Spirit study groups on Sabbath afternoons. Forget about all our plans and schemes. What would happen if we prayed to God, submitted ourselves to Him without reserve, and asked the Holy Spirit if He would like to do something in Goldendale. If He wanted to use us, we were His to use. The more we talked, the more we both got excited. We agreed to pray this prayer through the month of February and see if anything happened.

As that conversation wound down, my dad mentioned that I would need to record something so he could share this idea with folks he has been studying with. The next day, I took my laptop down to the park and made a little video that basically gave a version of this story and invited others to join my dad and I in this faith experiment. Due to some technical difficulties and slight miscommunication, it was another week before this recording was seen by anyone. That was earlier this week. Without going into detail, I think it is safe to report that the immediate response was extremely positive. To put it in perspective, I will let the words of my dad speak for themselves. One day, early this week, he was still saying the equivalent of “It won’t work.” Less than 48 hours later, he said the following: “I don’t know if I should say this, but if I were you, I would get up here (Goldendale) tomorrow.” 

That very atypical statement from the normally conservative David Carl was enough to persuade me that God was telling me to move now. Add to that other respected and trusted voices expressing a sense of urgency (e.g. “I don’t think we have time to wait.”) and the decision was plain: I would leave as soon as I could without traveling on the Sabbath. It is early Sabbath morning as I am finishing this story. My plan is to depart first thing tomorrow morning. This will include driving across the southern part of the country to Los Angeles, spending a couple of days there, then heading up to Goldendale to see just exactly what our God has in mind. During this trip, I will almost certainly be visiting with beloved family members and dear friends. I feel so very blessed.

One of the reasons I wrote this is to let you all know what is happening… keeping you posted. I hope it serves that purpose adequately. But even more important to me is that you will know through the hearing of this story how much God has changed my life.* It is a story of learning to trust Him more and more every day. I know I can trust Him for everything, including helping me to trust Him even more! (He proves this to me constantly.) So when, after submitting myself to Him, I hear a voice in my ear, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it,” I can, with complete confidence, start walking.

*My prayer is you will realize He can change yours too.

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