15. The way I want to go.
Many times that day, on December 5, 04, a day of activity and adventure, I felt more than ever that it was all for real. If the following interpretations of ‘it’ don’t confirm my logic, then I must have an acutely sensitive mind. My brain must be twisted, obsessed with numbers, names and data, that it craves for input to satisfy an addiction.
If the fire for God burning inside was an addiction, I wished the whole world was hooked on it.
On this first Sunday in December 04 I visited a different church to our regular one. A friend had told me about their special monthly service, which had a country music flavour. The singing was just what I had expected, bright, but still included melody, harmony and rhythm. I wished I were part of the orchestra that morning, letting my hair down on the trumpet.
The words of the songs were displayed on a large screen at the front. How could I have missed an extra n amongst the lyrics of one song - Santan? The preacher welcomed everyone to the third Sunday of advent, when it was only the second. The guest singer, a deep, majestic baritone, had come with a lady. We chatted afterwards. Her name was Isobel.
In the church notices I read that all were invited to a BBQ at 35 (L’s on the cross), Street. The pastor’s name was Phil, which long ago I had made into Hi PL. I found so much data crossing my path most interesting. I had to be careful to not allow these thoughts to dominate my mind. It could easily start playing tricks. But I exercised control over my thinking. I was bound for success, knowing, however, that success may be just as difficulty to handle as failure.
It had already been a busy morning when I had to digest further data-input that afternoon. Around the central business district of Adelaide the City Council had erected flags announcing – You are here. My brain couldn’t figure out who - You are here – was, what he or she was doing or if and when he or she was leaving again.
The German men’s choir ALT (Adelaider Liedertafel) was giving their annual Christmas Concert that afternoon at the Pilgrim Church. Two songs are mentioned in my diary, which touched me deeply – ‘Alle Jahre wieder kommt das Christuskind … still und unerkannt.‘ (Every year the Christ-child comes … silently and unrecognized).
Another song stood out: “It had to be you”. A group of young people from a Private College sang it beautifully and up-tempo. I was asking myself again, who are they talking about? Perhaps the same person as the one advertised on the flagpoles?
Of course - You are here and It had to be you must be referring to the one who is the centre of Christmas, Christ. (For those who love co-incidences - the first five letters of Christmas spell – Christ).
The new ALT conductor’s name was ‘Day’. This name seems to accompany me on my journey – from California, where I stayed at the Day’s Inn, to Anzac Day 2004 in Adelaide, where I talked with a schoolteacher Mr. Day.
On Australia Day, the time of writing, a news item about a Mrs. Day was broadcast. This lady, so the tale went, celebrated her 90th birthday on Jan. 26th (Australia Day). For that reason her parents had given her the Christian name Australia. At marrying age she met a man, whose surname eventually became also hers – Day.
Why is it that the story of Mrs. Australia Day only came to light at her old age? She was also Australia Day on her 75th birthday, 15 years ago and every year before and since. (If there were any American female citizens, born on July 4th and christened Independence, I would check before going on any date with a male named Day).
I had to leave the ALT concert early and rush to the other end of Flinders Street to the German Club, about a kilometer away. I got there just in time to hear two Members of State Parliament give a speech as part of a function for Volunteer Day. (Anybody born Dec 5th christened Volunteer … forget it).
Two or three dozen men and woman, from various nationalities, were given recognition for the work they did as part of the Elderly Migrant’s Visitation Program. I too received a bottle of wine and a handshake from a politician as a thank you, even though I really hadn’t done a lot.
I never got around to opening the bottle. As Christmas approached, I had an idea. Why not give the bottle of wine to the postman? I left it by the letterbox. Sadly I missed him, when he picked it up. I would have given him the handshake that came with it.
The postman probably thought I went a little over the top when he saw his gift, the bottle with a beautiful ribbon and handwritten little card attached to the bottle. In beautiful calligraphy it read: “Thank you for all that you have done”.
Between the function for the volunteers and my next event, the 6 pm service at Paradise Community Church, I had an hour to spare. I decided to visit a couple of elderly men in the Eastern Suburbs. One I had known for 25 years, the father of a close friend. As usual the 95 year old was glad to have a visitor. That afternoon I noticed something unusual. The old man wore new pyjamas. Strange, I thought, five o’clock was a little early to be dressed for bed, even for old Mr. Sch.
But I figured out a reason. The pyjamas had a message printed down the side and easy to read: ‘I like blogging’ or ‘world’s greatest blogger’, my diary is unsure. This elderly man would not have had a faint idea, what a blogger is. Neither had I until a few months earlier. I had been blogging since Dec. 2002, not knowing there was a name for it. Without knowing it - I became one. (I wished I wouldn’t know what a millionaire is).
This certainly was a creative way of passing on a message of support. I had a clear idea, who was behind it. One day I may go through my blog and make a list of all the different ways I received messages. I could possibly write a book about it:
Car registration plates, in press reports, on the radio news, via the TV screen, at bus shelters, candy wrappers etc. An old man’s pyjamas were something new, unique, a rather cute way of communicating.
Just around the corner I visited another gentleman, a previous member of our house fellowship. He was dressed, no badges, logos or slogans. I took him for a brief walk in the sunshine.
Had I not visited these two gentlemen, I may have missed seeing the road sign advertising an outdoor Christmas Carol Service. Out of the corner of my eye I caught 7.30pm and Dec 5th as I passed Hazelwood Park. Maybe I will be there, came to me. I was on my way to Paradise Community Church.
One morning I had been contemplating visiting Paradise Community Church in the evening. Walking my dog in the afternoon I came across this matchbox. I couldn't help picking it up. I went to visit Paradise that night.
My reason for visiting Paradise (mention this name to any churchgoer in Adelaide and they immediately know, where you mean) was to hear renowned singer/worship leader Darlene Zschech of Hillsong, Sydney. This church was famous for their modern worship music and huge auditorium, which was opened by the Prime Minister, John Howard. My driving instructor instinct made me arrive almost on the dot at six pm at Paradise.
When 3000 enthusiastic (literally meaning – full of God) worshippers come together at the same time and place, making a joyful noise unto the Lord, it sounds awesome. Yet, I was reminded that evening that HE is not interested in the style of our worship, rather than in our innermost sincerity of heart. Having been part of this congregation, I knew that over-exuberance in worship could be a sign of an unfulfilled longing for God, a yearning for more.
I believe what many are searching for amongst a huge crowd of worshippers, is a deep personal contact with the God they come to be with. However, if this longing is so strong, yet it remains unfulfilled, perhaps the person has never stopped in silence and privacy to search for God personally, deeply?
I feel closest to God in the early hours of the morning in total silence. Tears shed during a touching song, while worshipping in church, are precious. Tears flowing down your face, as you feel God touching you on your knees in the privacy of your bedroom, are even more precious. On your own there is nobody to show off to. When it’s just you and God, there is nothing to hold you back either.
The service was still in full swing (good description for a worship session with Darlene) when I decided to leave for my last event that day. Before walking straight out the side door to the carpark, I felt to just move to the main entrance in the large foyer area and … what? I just stood for a moment, looking back into the auditorium, the enthusiastic crowd still singing Hillsong choruses.
A minute later a lady suddenly appeared, barefoot, and walking right toward me. She walked on by. As she did she placed her hand on my shoulder, obviously recognizing me from the years I had attended this congregation. I recognized her too, of course from before, but also had given one of her sons driving lessons 20 years earlier. I would have been glad to exchange a few words.
She was the wife of a well-known figure in Adelaide’s church circles. This wasn’t the reason for not talking, I’m sure. She was a lady making a beeline to the ladies. I wondered, what would her husband say if he knew, his wife was walking barefoot through the church foyer, at her age?
Ten seconds later from another direction came a plumpish woman. Again, we recognized each in an instant. As we exchanged a few words, her surname came to me and ‘rang a bell’. It sounds exactly like “ring her”. This is just what I did. I rang the lady, who had walked by, the following Tuesday.
There was no answer, so I left a message saying, who I was and who I wanted to speak to. I felt I had fulfilled my duty to “ring her”. In a way I was hoping a door would open, leading to a dialog with her husband, with whom I had contact over the years. I never received a return call, so I let matter rest.
Around this time (late 2004) I started to get the feeling that my future was not in Adelaide. Too many doors were shutting, when I longed for them to open. Had I become an embarrassment to the Christian community, regarded a liability, too troublesome to be associated with? Where then was my future, and how would God reveal it to me? What about my family and their future?
I didn’t wait for the familiar face to exit the ladies and went on my way to the annual Carols in the Park, arranged by the Burnside Community. A small red car with its rego plate …228 greeted me right on arrival. No fanfares, just a registration plate – somebody definitely had read my blog.
I phoned Isobel, not about 228 or any number, but telling her that I intended to stay out a little longer, wishing she was with me enjoying this still, warm summer’s evening. (Twelve hours later the thunderstorm struck).
A large crowd sat on picnic chairs or on rugs amongst huge gum trees. Toddlers, mums and dads, grandparents and even family pets made a colourful picture of humanity at its best. Were they all aware they had gathered to not only enjoy each other or the musical program, but to celebrate the birth of Christ, the Saviour of mankind?
Standing got tiring after a while, so I walked around, bought a coffee and spotted a vacant chair beside a mature looking gentleman. Dominic was an Italian migrant. I think he enjoyed talking to me as much as I did to him. We had a lot in common, e.g. wives who enjoyed peace and quiet at home, while their active husbands walked the streets.
A fire engine delivered Father Christmas, which had all the little children spellbound. After his brief appearance the MC hosting the evening asked two little girls to come on stage and sing a verse of a carol. I can’t recall the song they sang, but how old they were. They were nine and six years old. Why did I take notice of this trivia and make a point of it?
It was not as simple as 95 + 1 = 96. Number 96 did play a major role around Christmas. In many services, including that Sunday morning, I noticed the text from the bible was Isaiah 9 and Verse 6: “For unto us a child is born…”
The number 96 kept popping up everywhere. That night at Hazelwood Park I noticed it in the children’s ages. Around that time I became aware of our postcode – 5096. Our previous address, the only other address in South Australia, was in the suburb of Evandale, postcode 5069. The street name starts with ‘LL’ and ends with ‘er’. But let’s move on, before I remember our phone number at the time, it was ...
Thinking about number 96, while looking at the logo of Driving Plus, my eyes opened one day to the numbers 9 and 6 hidden in it. The two letters ‘J’, which were really a small d and p, cleverly woven together outlined a traffic roundabout. Con the artist, who designed it, had little idea that he unwittingly designed the logo so that the mirror image does not read pd but 96. How predictable is the unpredictable!
On April 25th 1999 my mission started with Psalm 94. The writer crying for justice – do something Lord, can’t you see the evil ones are prospering? Show yourself, who you really are! Show your power over those who do wrong and are proud of it! In verse 16 it reads: “Who is going to stand up and speak out against the evil doers?” Jesus did – the man the Apostle Paul asked in Acts 9, 5: “And who are you Lord?” Finishing part 2 of my biography I highlighted number 95 – now, December 5th 2004 started and finished with 96!
I had taking my marching orders from Psalm 94. My whistle blowing for the past six years, my rising up and speaking out to expose evil, was a result of taking verse 16 seriously. The next verse, the one that followed the call to action, affirmed that God was not going to send me on a mission and then lets me fight the battle on my own.
If God calls you to get moving, he will not stay behind. He will walk the path ahead of you, to prepare your way.
If you ignore HIM and not heed HIS call, your spirit will lay dormant despite your days being full of all kinds of religious activity. Without HIM your mouth may speak, but without HIS blessing they will never come back, having accomplished little. God is looking for labourers, obedience to HIS calling, dedicated to HIS work and filled with HIS spirit. Are you one of them?
Psalm 94 not only called me to do this HIS work, the words also gave me comfort in my darkest hours. I remember a man (his first name was Sam, his surname started with McAll – son of all?) wrote to me in the stressful days during my hospitalization. He finished his note with two verses from this Psalm:
You mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, your comforts delight my soul. (Psalm 94, Verses 18,19).
It was not long after I had taken over the platform of the church service in 1999. I had felt an oppressive anxiety, fearing for my very life, when I read the whole Psalm to the puzzled congregation. (Chapter 9, More in Number). At the time it would have been easy to lay down, blame God for being cruel to let this happen and become bitter.
But God is looking to work with winners, who take breakdowns as stepping stone to get better not stay bitter. Men and woman, who in their own quiet way want to serve HIM, please HIM and do HIS will. They stay winners, no matter what disaster comes their way.
Many writers of self-help books, without quoting the bible, will teach you – it’s not what happens to you, it is your attitude and reaction towards it. Losers go down the path of self-pity, blaming others, seeking revenge, looking for escapes in alcohol, drugs, immoral sex, overeating or running away. Losers live bitterly ever after.
God’s way is the path of forgiveness, being honest with your innermost self, taking responsibility (and not just tablets) for your actions. Drugs, drunkenness, hate and revenge have no place in a life, lived with God at the helm. A Christian is born to love others, not merely tolerating them. You are born to love – to love God and others; even to love your enemy.
It sounds crazy. But that’s the way I want to go.