14. The road of the cross

 

How it came about is less an issue than the fact that it did. I mean ordinary names and the use of letters to turn them into messages. The world seemed to join me in this little game of ‘letterology’, for lack of a proper word.

 

On Saturday October 25th I attended a concert in a Baptist Church on the southern side of the city of Adelaide. As soon as I had read the advertisement in our church bulletin, I knew I would be attending. A middle aged, tall man, whose children attended the youth club I had been a leader of 20 years earlier, was a member of one of the choirs performing. By merely adding a T to his name I transformed his name into “How is the Lord?”

 

What puzzled me that evening, I believed this man was not singing that night, because I didn’t see him among the choir members on the stage. His height would make it hard for me to simply miss him. Yet, as soon as I entered the side hall for supper at the interval I spotted him. He had been there taking part all the time. (Not like me, the famous c-all).

 

The following Sunday Isobel and I had planned to leave home reasonably early to visit a Jazz Festival, an annual outdoor event in Adelaide’s fashionable beachside suburb of Glenelg. I had looked forward to joining a huge crowd in a tent to celebrate Christianity during an interdenominational church service. The advertised speaker was a young man, whose name fitted well into my little names game. He had had driving lessons with me many years ago.

 

Unfortunately, I had read the starting time incorrectly. Isobel and I arrived to only hear the last song and benediction. But I would not let this spoil any fun to be had. We met up with a few people we had not seen for some time as we listened to the various groups performing. One group from a Catholic School sang: “Operator, get me Jesus on the line.”

 

Listening to young people singing Christian songs gave me a deep sense of thankfulness and joy. I had to fight tears, having Isobel and others around me. To thank the young people and to update them with the latest in divine communication I sent an email to the school’s office the next day:

 

 

Hi all,

a big thank you to the young people who yesterday sang so beautifully on the Glenelg foreshore. It was a real blessing to sit and listen to their enthusiastic performance. Great choice of songs, how wonderful!

 

Please pass this on to all involved that made it happen. Congratulations!

 Dieter Rolf Fischer

PS   The latest news is that Jesus can now be contacted directly. He loves to be interrupted by people calling him anytime, anyday, anybody.

 

 

When I heard brass music from the distance we moved in the direction of the sound. It was the Band of the South Australian Police Force. A year earlier they played the hymn “When I survey the wondrous cross” at a ceremony for fallen officers ('More in number' Chapter 45). That morning at Glenelg we listened to them playing two titles amongst others: 1000 kisses and Cute. Did someone know I was still waiting for a special kiss from my darling wife? If Isobel could have read my thoughts that morning! I tried to snatch as kiss from her when they played 1000 kisses. She was irritated, probably wondering what on earth was stirring my hormones at that moment?

 

It is not often Isobel and I went out together during 2003. (When we do I really appreciate her company, she’s fabulous to be with). We decided to make the most of the day by visiting a nearby Christian School’s Spring Fair. Unfortunately, this time I had not gotten the time mixed up, but the day. The fair had taken place the day before. Luckily I had taken the newspaper’s “What’s on in Adelaide” page. I noticed that the annual fair of Mercedes College in Springfield, a posh Eastern suburb of Adelaide, was held that day.

 

I believe something very special was planned for us during that ordinary afternoon outing with my wife. By whom I don’t know, but it really was extra-ordinary. I only became aware of the full impact in a dream, or during my prayer session, the next day. Read on and see how you would regard such strange discoveries?

 

We headed east on the main road leading to Springfield. At an intersection I noticed a sign for a garage sale with an arrow to the left. (I was still visiting garage sales regularly, prompted by an inner impulse, triggered by a name or number). The name of the street and number clicked and I said to Isobel: “Let’s turn around and have a look.”

 

“No, don’t bother with other people’s junk; keep driving”, was Isobel’s predictable reply.

 

But something bugged me, it would not let go. It was like I was not in control (and I don’t mean that Isobel was, either). I changed lanes and did a U-turn; under protest from my passenger. A few hundred metres back at the traffic lights I noticed another sign. It advertised another garage sale, but in the other direction. Again the name and number (13) struck me and I turned left to visit this garage sale first. Poor Isobel had a lot to put up with.  

 

To appease my darling wife, who wouldn’t bother getting out of the car, I asked her what I could buy for her. I must have sounded like I had won the lottery and was on a spending spree on Singapore’s Orchard Road. I did buy Isobel a small tea pot and a large cook book. I was all over in less than 5 minutes.

 

I then drove back to the intersection and continued one street further to the other Garage Sale at No. 7…Street. It had advertised mainly clothes for sale. I remembered Isobel saying to me only the day before: “You really need a pair of jeans.” (Strange she said that, because I don’t wear jeans and had not done in years).  As soon as I saw the pair of Levi 501’s, 32 inch waste, I knew they were meant for me. (Again name and number). I tried them on in a small, dark room inside the house. They were a little tight, but I made this an excuse to get into exercising again. I paid ten dollars for them and we were gone within a few minutes.

 

Where lay the significance in any of that? I realized the next morning that the main road we had travelled to Springfield is called “Cross Road”. I visualized the U-turn we did. Together with the path to the two garage sales on either side of the intersection it shaped into a giant cross.

 

We had created a cross on Cross Road. The name of one of the roads leading onto Cross Road is Winston Ave. I wrote in my diary: “Could all this be part of my journey?”

 

It certainly had felt special. At the Spring Fair of the school with the famous car’s name, I overheard on the loudspeaker that someone had lost their Nokia. More than one person had lost a Nokia. A second and third announcement had found a Nokia. O, what fun I was having, just listening to lost and found Nokias!

 

I later realized the address of Mercedes College is Fullerton Road. Could this  mean – Re: Full on cross, which would link in perfectly with the route (and interlude on either side of the intersection) we had travelled to get there?

 

Many months prior I had seen the number five next to a four as a sign that someone was for five. The school’s address is 540 Fullerton Road. How weird and yet so amazing!  

 

One day I was so desperate to hear from God, if indeed I had a terrible mental illness. I said to Isobel: “I’m not eating today. I want to find out, if I really am crazy or what God is doing in my life.” This practice is called fasting, a physical act to show that you are serious in your prayer. It is quite biblical.

 

Jokingly Isobel suggested, not to bother with fasting. She could give me an answer to the question straight away. Oh, I’ll pay her back one day!!

 

It was not merely my worry that I had a mental illness, but the ever present, underlying fear that I could be a target for harm in retaliation for “whistle blowing”. Alarming headlines in advertisements, or even front page news stories, still jumped into my face. One of the most obvious was: Time to Dial together with a clock showing the figures 15 and 30. (It had to do with saving water via timing devices on the sprinkler). Or the words: metallic paint – I just can’t help reading “I see me all (on the) cross” in pain (on the) cross”.

 

Messages about - warning, fleeing, running away, skating etc. crossed my path constantly. I had to ignore them, because no human advice would make me leave my wife and family. Just because they thought differently to me, did not give me an excuse for leaving them.

 

At times I was confused about was the contradiction in the messages I perceived: On one hand I felt I was being warned (so I must have been taken seriously by someone); on the other hand, nobody ever tried to tell my wife that there may be some truth in what I was saying or doing. I’m sure she would have taken a clear statement by one of our pastors or Christian friends seriously enough to start thinking.

 

Isn’t it just like us believers? Those who confess to believe in Jesus may express zealously: “Lord I would die for you!” Easy to say in the free West; we don’t have to literally lay down our lives for Him. One of Jesus’ closest followers, Peter, announced just that: “I will die for you Lord”. Moments later he was too embarrassed to even say that he knew Jesus. How about a small sacrifice first - an hour a day on your knees in humble adoration and thanksgiving?

 

I am reminded of my Christian experience as a teenager. After listening to faith lifting sermons, I felt I could save the world from eternal hell. The next morning it was a different story. To mention God in a conversation or anything spiritual was taboo in our office. The subject of Jesus, Church or God was never spoken of. What happened to the zeal and passion from the night before? We had gone too far in the other direction – silence. Later I found out fellow staff members were also church goers. Were they as embarrassed as I was to talk openly about their faith? How silly was that!

 

I don’t know a Christian, who finds it easy to start preaching at people, while standing in a queue at the supermarket. But what if I don’t save those poor souls from eternal damnation, who will, correct? Don’t kid yourself and die of guilt feelings? God wants you to be a witness for HIM, but the whole suburb is not on your shoulder. Never be plagued by guilt only because you had no opportunity to fly the flag. I remember this depressing feeling, how silly, how disheartening. I believe it stemmed from unrealistic expectations, possible the result of fire and brimstone sermons.   

 

Where do you start when trying to be a witness? Don’t try – be! Passing on the Good News has been ineffective to a large extent, because we Christians didn’t know how to simply relax and let HIM shine through us. It is not about us. It’s all about HIM.

 

Books are written on this subject and do read a good one, to learn how to be a witness. But please, lay the foundation first. If your desire is genuine to be HIS servant, forget the technicalities and get on your knees and tell God your innermost desire. Trust HIM that HE will lead and guide you. Your fruit will come. Prayer is nothing but expressing your most secret inner wishes and desires.

 

Never feel guilty that you have not met a specific target as to how many people have heard your message. It’s not about you. It’s not about your achievement. It’s about HIS will in your life. HE does not want your labour, HE wants your affection.  

 

Many times after the phone had rung and Isobel spoke to one of our Christian friends I wondered, when will anyone ever ‘witness’ to her about me? Tell her that, perhaps, I am not all wrong, all confused in my writing? Change her from a total unbeliever into a doubter, a seeker? I had tried to open her mind by being more loving. Love will win in the end.  

 

The sign outside our church at Enfield says it all: The greatest force on earth – God’s love.

 

Something beautiful, something good,

all my confusion, he understood.

All I had to offer HIM was brokenness and strife,

but HE made something beautiful out of my life.

 

Chapter 15

 

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