October 26, 1997
Edited, SEPTEMBER 25, 2008
"And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me" (Isaiah 6:8).
Editor's Note: Our house was foreclosed upon by the holder of the second trust deed in April, 1997. He allowed us to stay there until July 4th, 1997, when the new buyer to whom he had sold it moved in. We moved up the canyon one mile, into a beautiful guest house owned by Lenny's brother and wife. While we were visiting my family in Neosho in the fall of that year, 1997, I wrote a journal entitled "Of all the Gin Joints in the world." It was written almost one year after I finished the first eight chapters of the book. I'm including it here because it gives the flavor of the situation we encountered when it became apparent that God really did want Lenny to be a witness to an adult men's Sunday School class in a local Baptist church here in Neosho, MO.
Chapter Nine, Verse Nine
The title to this journal chapter ("Of all the Gin Joints in the World"), came to me yesterday and when I told Lenny, we both laughed out loud. It's a paraphrase of a line spoken by Humphrey Bogart in the movie, "Casablanca." I think the quote goes something like this: "Of all the gin joints in the world, why did she have to walk into this one?" As I recall, Bogart was "in his cups" when he uttered this lament. At the time this line came to me, I was staring into my bowl of oatmeal in my mother's kitchen. Over breakfast, Lenny and I were discussing the strange situation we found ourselves in. Of all the Baptist churches in the world, why did God have to send us to the one right across the highway from "the true church" where my relatives attend? Why? Lenny laughed and said he'd asked God the very same thing. "Why this Baptist church? Why this town? Why this state?" The answer? A resounding silence.
As background, my Grandma Daisy was a Smith. She had 9 sisters and 2 brothers. They grew up walking the straight and narrow path outlined by the Churches of Christ (which I call the "true church" because when I was growing up, they taught that they were the only ones going to heaven). I don't think they preach that anymore, but from comments I've received from my family about the Baptist Church, I would guess they still think it in some secret corner of their minds. Anyway, one of Grandma Daisy's nephews married, oh horror of horrors, a Baptist! This, no doubt, caused his mother to fling herself into judgment and worry herself to death!
In spite of what the C of C refers to as possible doctrinal error here or there, these Baptist cousins are very sweet people who love the Lord with all their hearts. They had invited us to church with them about two and a half years ago. It was a lovely worship service, and yes, I must report that the Lord's presence was there and His sweet Spirit filled that place. From that time until this, the Father has laid that church on Lenny's heart. In his daily meditations, and in many, many dreams, he has seen himself sharing the fullness of the Spirit with them. When he would tell me about a dream he had in which he was sharing with this Baptist church in Neosho, MO, I would cringe inside, and think, "Oh surely not."
One Sunday during this same family vacation, I went to the Baptist church with Lenny. During the worship service, the music minister said, "While the music plays, if you want to come forward and fall on your face before the Lord, that would be wonderful." So we did. We went forward and kneeled down on the low bench provided, and the minute my knees hit the floor, I began to cry. It was so lovely, so sweet to feel the presence of the Lord like that. I looked down at the wood of the altar, and I saw trumpets, lots of trumpets, superimposed upon the wood. Was that a visual anomaly due to looking through tears? Or was God trying to tell me something? I was afraid to go back and look after the service was over, for fear it would still be there. I was still running away from the Baptist Church, you see.
Nevertheless, God has His hand on this church; specifically on the handful of older men in my cousin's Sunday School class. God has been sharing volumes of gospel to Lenny this week for them during his times of meditation. We don't know how it will be translated into reality for their lives. Mystic that he is, Lenny often can't put into words exactly what he received from the Lord, but he has shared with my Baptist cousins that these men are the foundation of the church, cemented to Christ, the head of the corner. God wants to enrich them with Himself and take them into a deeper walk with Him. What a thrilling thought.
Throughout the weeks following that Sunday, I have dialoged with the Lord everyday about this situation and what it means for our lives. Lenny has continued to get rich teaching on behalf of these men, and on behalf of us as well. This morning, he told me that God had shown him last night that all believers have a genuine desire to be full of God, so to the degree that the Spirit is lacking, we fill up the void with law. That really rang a bell with me. When I asked God why He sent Lenny to the Baptists instead of to the C of C, He replied, "They are not ready for where you are and what you have to give."
Thirty years ago, I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. After studying about Jesus for 25 years, I met Him! What a difference! What joy! What enthusiasm! And in my jubilance and eagerness to share, I came home to Neosho and called the preacher and the Elders together and said, "You know how you have taught us that the Holy Spirit went back to heaven when the last Apostle died? It's not true. The Holy Spirit is alive and well. He lives in our hearts and He's still as active today as He was on the day of Pentecost! He heals! He teaches! He still gives gifts to men!" One of them said sternly, "Jan you were our best Bible student. We didn't teach you this." Another one chided, "Now, Jan, you sound just like a holy roller." A third one admonished, "This is what comes from leaving the King James version and reading a modern translation!" I was crushed and very discouraged about it all. I thought they would jump for joy to know that this Jesus, whom they professed to follow to the letter, was alive and living in our hearts today with the same power available for us as He ever bestowed.
After that, the elders came out and told Mother that she could never teach this "stuff," this heretical doctrine that her daughter was now involved in, to her Sunday School class. Mother was so offended that she resigned on the spot. She had taught for decades. I felt terrible about bringing this shame and reproach upon her. I was irritated and angry at these ignorant people who wouldn't recognize the Word of God if HE fell on their heads and knocked them to the floor! It took me years to see that this scene was merely God applying a size 12 boot to my butt to kick me out of the C of C. It took all this time for me to understand why He had to do it, why He had to remove me from the hallowed halls of religious tradition and family convictions. At this point, after being here nearly a month, and interacting with these good Christians folk and family members almost daily, I am worn out from the tension.
The Lord said to me the other night, "Jan, have you forgiven me for asking you to attend the Baptist Church?"
"Well, I don't know that there's really anything to forgive, " I hedged.
"You seem cranky to me," He observed.
Yes indeed, leave it to the Spirit to put a mirror to your true feelings. I have been so cranky that I could bite a nail in two! Somewhere along here, I was reminded again of good old Jonah. Earlier this year, I read that little book about 3 times and could NOT figure it out. This time around, it came into focus for me and I saw that I've been a lot like Jonah. I did not want to go deliver the word of the Lord, but fearing that a big fish might swallow me, which would create quite a stir on the Interstate, I have continued to say, "Not my will, but thine be done." However, as God noticed, I certainly wasn't cheerful about it, not by a long shot.
Why did He send us to this Baptist church? Please understand that I'm happy that He is blessing them. Would that He should bless all these people who are starving to death for spiritual nourishment in the pews of churches all over this land, but why this one right in the face of my family? It occurred to me that perhaps He is trying to make them jealous. I've been trying to share the Lord with them for 30 years, and they have avoided me like the plague. My Baptist cousins, on the other hand, are hungry to hear what we have to say. So why aren't I happy? Why can't I rejoice? Probably for the same reason Jonah was madder than a wet hen when Ninevah repented. Think about this with me for a moment. What preacher isn't thrilled if one person comes forward during an invitation hymn? Jesus said that the angels in heaven rejoice if one lost sinner repents (Luke 15:10). The shepherd will leave the 99 and go out on the mountain dark to find the one who is lost (Luke 15:4). In the case of Ninevah, THEY ALL REPENTED! From the king to the lowest lackey, they fasted and they repented in sackcloth and ashes. They even put sackcloth on their beasts, herds, and flocks. Is that a picture of falling on your face before the Lord or what?
Was Jonah pleased? Did he rejoice at the power of God unto salvation? Did he put the thrilling result of this altar call on his resume? Did he ask for a salary increase from the elders? None of the above. He was madder than mad. As you probably remember, he whined to the Lord, "I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before thee unto Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. There now, O Lord, take I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live" (4:2-3).
I think Jonah was in a similar place to the one I've been in these past two weeks. He did not believe that God would destroy the city. What would lead him to that conclusion? Simple deduction. He had clearly experienced God's mercy and loving kindness. In his opinion, he didn't need to undertake the hazards and rigors of that long trip because God would spare them in the end anyway. I have felt the same thing about the Baptists. It isn't that I don't want them to have a fuller, deeper walk with God. I do care about that. "But Lord," I reasoned, "why don't You send somebody else already, or pour yourself out in their lives like you have in mine? I didn't get what I have from church. Why should I go and try to enrich these opinionated church folks who think they have all the answers? I'm not even a Baptist. They won't listen to me."
After Jonah's outburst, he went out on the East side of the city and sat down in the booth or a little 3 sided shed he had made, whereupon he began to fume and feel sorry for himself while he waited to see what would happen to the city (4:5). The Lord prepared a gourd or a large vine to grow up and over the top of the booth to bring him relief from the scorching heat. He briefly roused himself from his blue funk to be grateful for the gourd's shade. Relief was not to be his for long, however, for God then sent a worm to eat the gourd, which died. To add misery upon misery, and to be sure that Jonah got the message of who was in charge here, the Almighty sent a vehement east wind which beat upon Jonah until he fainted from the heat and wanted to die.
After getting his attention, God said, "Are you really angry now?" No kidding, angry doesn't tell the half of it. Jonah was furious! God said, "Well, you felt pity for the gourd, which you neither planted nor made to grow, so why are you surprised that I took pity on the great city of Ninevah, home of 120,000 persons, who cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4:9-11, Jan's paraphrase).
After I saw the similarity between my situation and Jonah's, I began to read the book over again. Whenever I would feel overwhelmed about this tug of war between what my family will think, and the need to obey God, I would say to Lenny, "I'm ready to book passage for Tarshish." He laughed because he knew what I meant. In fact, I thought that this journal would be entitled, "Passage to Tarshish."
Finally, last night, Lenny was released for us to go back to California. I knew we were not to stay here for very long, because two days before we left California, our Cadillac began to knock horribly as we drove up the Conejo Grade. So, we had to quickly rent a car to come to Missouri. Our month is up, and it is now costing us $25/Day to stay here. Had we driven our own car, we might have been tempted to think we were to stay here for a long time. As it is, whatever God is doing in the Baptist church, He has used Lenny to spark a hunger there, not to complete the work, or at least not at this time. He may send someone else along; or He may finish it himself by the power of the Spirit, or He may send us back there. We don't know, but I have to admit that I heaved a huge sigh of relief when Lenny told me he'd been released to go home. Last night, I said, "Lord, I don't want to let You or Lenny or the Baptist church down. I'm sorry for my ambivalent feelings and reluctance to get involved." He was very tender and sweet to me and said, "I didn't send you to the Baptist Church. I sent Lenny." I was really glad to hear that.
Nevertheless, it has been a tough time for me emotionally. I've had head aches (Daddy pains), and stomach aches (Mommy pains), a good bit of the time. Why? Because I've been on the ropes. I've spent my entire life caring what my family thinks of me, and here, I had to go to the Baptist Church right in front of their faces. They clearly don't approve of Lenny's going. We both can feel it when we're with them, but perhaps they can excuse him because he didn't grow up in "the true church." But me? There's no excuse. Try telling a typical C of C person that God sent you to the Baptist church. Say what? They know what the Bible says and that's the end of it. Thank the Lord, it's not my job to amend their theology either.
The bottom line here is that God is in the process of delivering me from my "people pleasing," tendencies and my caring what other people think. Hopefully, I'll live over this "divine surgery," and God will remove this extremely codependent symptom from my life. Hallelujah. Since we've been here, I have thought over and over of the situation when Jesus was teaching in a crowded room, and someone came to tell him that his mother and brothers were outside asking for him. He replied, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother'" (Matt. 12:46-50). I'm sure this is where God is taking me, but He is merciful and doesn't give me more than I can bear. For sure, while we have been in Neosho, I have tasted the truth of Jesus' statement, "A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house" (Mark 6:4).
As it is, I'll be getting out of town just in the nick of time tomorrow. Anymore time here and I would be sorely tempted to book passage for Tarshish. Isn't that on the coast of California?
EDITOR'S NOTE: This really is the last chapter of the book! And the trumpets I had seen when we visited the Baptist Church service are now the logo for The Glory Road ministry. I found a graphic that looked just like the trumpets I saw.
The song on the website is called "On Eagle's Wings," words and music by the Lord, played by Jani.
On Eagle's Wings
He gives power to the faint; to the weak, He lends His strength; and those too sad to sing, He carries high on eagle's wings.
Oh help us Lord, oh help us Lord to wait on Thee. Let us know that by your grace we all are free. You will never fail us when we trust in Thee, and we trust in Thee.
Oh let us rise above and soar on eagle's wings. Gift us now with all Your love and mercy brings. With our lips we praise Thee and our hearts will sing that we trust in Thee. Oh yes, we trust in Thee.
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Forward to Faxes From the Fiery Furnace
Faxes From The Fiery Furnace, Chapter One
Shame From Shiloh, Chapter Two
E-Mail from Armageddon, Chapter Three
Baggage From Babylon, Chapter Four
Just A Note From Job, Chapter Five
Joy From Jerusalem, Chapter Six
Memo From Moses, Chapter Seven
Dancing With the Devil, Chapter Eight
The Glory Road
We would enjoy hearing from you!
This writing was uploaded to the web 9/15/05,
by Jan Antonsson, webmeister,
and last updated 12/26/08.