A Door of Hope

The years was 1984. I had recently left a job working for an electrical contractor and moved to the town of Visalia in the San Joaquin Valley of California. I was studying for the electrical contractor’s test so that I could begin my own business when a friend of mine called. He had been contracted to install some gas pumps at a small mini-mart in a nearby town and asked if I would do the electrical for him. I had no idea what was required for I had never wired a gas dispenser. He was installing used equipment which meant there were no instructions, but being the adventurous soul that I am, I dove into it with him. Between the two of us, we were able to establish a fully functional system, passing all inspections. He then contracted for a second job which was much more involved but similar.

After a month of difficult labor, I finished the job which was to net me three thousand dollars, a tidy sum in those days and twice the amount of the first job. Susan and I were to be married in two weeks. We had found an apartment but renting it had pretty much depleted my account. It was a joy to receive a check for two thousand with the anticipation of the final payment coming in several weeks. With my wedding just a week away, I now had the money I needed to put deposits on the utilities and have a nest egg from which to work as I sought to begin my new business. We had the cash to buy a refrigerator; however, we decided to put it on the credit card instead of writing a check. It was an interesting decision for us both because we preferred cash to credit.  Four days later, I received notice from the bank that the two thousand dollar check had been returned for insufficient funds. My checks began to bounce, racking up returned check fees. Even the tithe check to the church bounced. I went to my friend’s office to ask what had happened. It must have been a mistake, I thought to myself.

As I walked away from his desk, I felt sick to my stomach. His explanation was that he had not been paid and that is why the check had bounced. The other thousand that I had counted on for the honeymoon would not be coming either. I climbed back into my truck stunned. I worried my way back the forty miles from Fresno to Visalia to our almost empty apartment. How would we make ends meet, let alone pay for the honeymoon on which I had already placed a deposit?

Susan was working and living in Fresno at the time. I would not be able to talk with her until that night. I had the rest of the afternoon to sort out options. Through the turbulent years of being in the Air Force and then through a divorce, I had learned the art of bringing my soul back into alignment with my Father and finding answers in Him. This was not a problem to solve on my own. I needed to find peace in His nature regardless of the circumstance I faced, and then from that position, work through the problem. So I walked, and as I walked, I shared my heart with my heavenly Father. I rehearsed the frustration of my situation. I spoke to Him about the pain of having been betrayed by a friend and a brother in Christ. I had been raised to believe that the man was the bread winner, and yet, here I was with no money. I had no job or even prospects, but as in the past, a feeling of peace began to descend upon me as I walked with Papa. I still had no clear path, but His peace let me know that He was in charge and would walk with me through it.

That night on the phone, Susan and I prayerfully decided to pay for the necessary deposits and bank fees from Susan’s account. Both of us had read the book Reese Howell’s Intercessor. He was a man who had to learn to walk by faith in God’s ability to provide. In his testimony, we had learned the principle of the first need is paid first. What was not due was a future need. We were blessed that the refrigerator was not part of the problem and realized that the thought of using the credit card was from the Holy Spirit. God does not give us more than we can believe. Getting all the deposits covered and paying the bank for the fees left Susan’s account very low, but we had had enough for the day we were in.

Thus began a journey for the two of us on a path that has wound around many a daunting mountain over the thirty-one years we have been married. That first year set the tone that would keep us through many trials and much tribulation. My business was just getting started, but with Susan’s salary and the small jobs I could get, we saw miracle after miracle of God’s provision. Most of the time we had just enough to pay the bill that was due at the moment with nothing left over, but always enough to give a tithe to the Father. I put many miles on my tennis shoes that first year coming to peace about our finances. I believe that the training we received then bore the faith and trust for what was to come.

My business began to grow, and after ten months, Susan was able to quit her job and stay home. She was due to give birth to our first child in two months. God even used a YMCA auction for us to pay the hospital for our baby’s birth. The money for the auction having come from her boss who had decided to put in place a sick leave policy he had not heretofore had.  Without knowing the need, he asked Susan the week before she left how much time out sick she had had over the years she had worked for him. He then paid her for her accrued sick leave retroactively! It was just enough after tithe to pay for our bid on the hospital birth. We believe that God wanted us to know that it was His provision, and because we both held a high value for tithing ten percent of our income, He always provided enough for both.

Interestingly, the hospital had auctioned off a ‘well baby birth’. Our little girl was born in distress, however, as her heartbeat diminished with each contraction. The doctor decided to deliver her with forceps. These measures were not considered ‘well baby birth’. The Kaweah Delta Hospital decided in their generosity toward us to include all extra charges with no extra charge to us. God has some amazing ways of taking care of us.

For the next thirty years, I installed electrical systems for gas stations beginning with a contact I had made through the friend who had failed me. As my reputation spread so did the work. I was able to provide so that Susan could be a stay at home mom which was crucial for our two children. My income rose and fell with our need, but always, God was faithful.

It was after both our girls left home and were sufficiently out on their own that the work dried up. California had run out of ways to further upgrade service stations in order to lessen the impact on the environment. The recession had come to California especially in construction Coupled with the housing crisis, it left us with an income of sixty percent below what we had made the year before. The next year was worse as the contractors I had worked for hunkered down to survive the lack of work. By the third year, we no longer had the income or savings to keep our home. We lost it after twenty-three years. God had already been speaking to us that it was about time to let go of the business and come to work for Him. We had no idea what that meant or how it would play out. We only knew that God was asking us to enter the door that He was holding open for us.

I was sixty years old at the time and though God had always provided just what we needed, there wasn’t enough to invest for our retirement. In fact, that first year of our marriage, He let us know that He was our retirement. I was not a pastor by trade, though I have mentored and counseled some people over the years. However, it was not an income source. God was asking me to walk each day out in obedience to Him. He would be my boss. He would provide.

Thus began a time of learning much about provision and what that looks like from God’s perspective. For us, it meant a path that would challenge us more than we had ever been challenged before. We have been ‘homeless’ now for four and a half years. During those years we have stayed with friends, rented hotel rooms, camped out in a tent, and spent a few nights in our car at Walmart, our least favorite. We have been given many promises about a dwelling place that God had selected just for us and who we are, but we have not seen the fruition of it, yet. However, we have seen kingdoms of darkness fall, land that was defiled set free, and provision coming in different ways than expected.

I write this article from a campground in Fresno County as spring returns to the land. It is beautiful here with wild flowers blooming and the hills green and verdant. The abundant rain this year has the river next to us running up to its banks. It is called the Kings River. It is lovely, but not what we had envisioned when we told Him we would walk this path with Him. In fact, we have stayed in many places of immense beauty that our Father created for us to enjoy.

I want to qualify this story. Most would question our sanity about walking this out for so long. How do we quantify God’s path for us? Are we to judge the words we hear from God by how we think it ought to look? I have learned that such thinking is the fastest way to being offended. If these last five years has taught me anything, it is that God’s side of the equation looks entirely different than mine, and therein lies the rub, as they say.

I think every word and every promise that I have received has looked different when it came to pass than what I thought would look like when I heard it. The scriptures say that the things of the spirit are not naturally discerned. Oh, how often I have interpreted a word from the Father by the natural man. My soul is ever ready to come up with an interpretation that, quite frankly, portends the easier road. My soul wants to retire, my spirit craves adventure. As you might guess, my soul has a little trouble with my spirit from time to time. I have been angry, sad, crushed, raging, and offended by the way it appears that God has treated me at different times, but He always calls me back to who I am in Him and who He is.

The fact that I misinterpret what He is saying does not mean that His words are not borne of love and executed in kindness. I tend to interpret His word to me in a light most favorable to my benefit in the natural. I have found that to be a mistake. The work He desires to do is to mature Susan and me into a daughter and son capable of handling His kingdom business with integrity, purity, and power. That has been our highest desire in our journey, but sometimes, the road has been more challenging than we expected. I imagine that an Olympic athlete would say the same things at times.

If we are to be His bride, His sons, then everything that would allow a flaw to stay in us must be revealed and dealt with. Everything. There can be no compromise. If there is a spot or wrinkle then He is limited in how much He can pour His power through us without harming us. Yet, such a life is very hard if we believe that God’s blessing is to make life wonderful and easy. We think that we are rich, but we are really poor because we do not see the love of God in truth. It is a loving Father who has designed us to be so much more than we believe ourselves to be. By not clearly seeing and understanding His way, we end up with a form of Godliness while denying His power. Jesus died to purchase a bride who is much greater than we can conceive. We easily fall prey to religion, casting off the real (walking in relationship with Him) for something with no substance (living by rules and regulations that we embrace instead of His nearness). He knows the best path for us so that we might find true life instead of a substitute.

My heart hurts for those trapped in systems which are powerless to save. If we are not walking in His ways, learning to be dependent on Him and free, then we are most miserable among men. I want to be a man after His heart. I want to live dependent on Him in every way, but many times I chafe at such a position. I want some of my own ways, yet I don’t understand how those ways blind me to the seeing His love in His works in me.

This is our journey. This has been part of God’s path for us. A middle chapter in the story God is writing in each of us, my wife likes to say. Each of us, in our uniqueness, has a journey before Him that is awesome. If we are to be free then there will be discomfort and challenge. I bless you today to find the center of His path for you and walk it out with Him to the fullest extent. I bless you to realize that the difficult times do not last forever, but they do bring about an exceeding weight of glory. I bless you to walk in His strength and courage to blossom in His design in you.

I leave you with this word that I received from Him on July 22, 2015:

I have set My affections upon you so that you might know life. I do not lead with a carrot or by promises which do not find fulfillment. I lead with your agreement. My choices for where I lead are hemmed in by your yes and your ability. I will not lead where you would faint, but I will challenge your concept of what you can deal with. When you look at the temporal as an example of my kindness you miss the truth. The temporal is not My highest goal for you. You were designed to see it through to the end, but you are not a machine. You are like an athlete. The ability must be worked into you. The mechanics are all there to win, but they must be honed and sharpened until there is no extra or waste. Let me do my perfect work in My time so that when your day comes you will be ready and not falter in the race. When the baton comes to you, will you be ready? Will others who have carried it before you or after you have to make up for your lack? It will not be if you let me train you fully. Rest in me and in the fact that I am able to train you for the full race so that you will lack nothing of all you need to be.

It is now the end of May in 2017. Twelve days ago God said to me that He was giving us a place to rest our feet. This morning, I finish this article from a mobile home on the property of a friend. We were all set to pack the tent again when God opened the door for us to rent this home. We could not ask for a more beautiful view. We awake to the sun rising over the mountains, horses grazing in the pastures that surround us, and a profound peace that we are where we are supposed to be for this time in our journey. The home is everything God has promised for this season. Our feet have rest for the first time in nearly five years. It is here that God has some new lessons for us to learn in a different environment. We will be challenged in different areas, but upon each of us will be the unmistakable fingerprints of a loving Father who has our best interest in mind.

I bless your path in Him today that you might be able to see with a new perspective and know much deeper His love and kindness over you. I bless every trial in your life to be re-framed from His light so that you might walk in the freedom He so graciously desires to give you.


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