31. Wagon R plus - minus R
In part one of my autobiography I expressed in amazing ways how numbers, names and letters suddenly leap into the story in unexpected twists. The latest I stumbled across involves my driving school vehicle, a Suzuki Wagon R Plus. This time it is not the registration number 228, but the Model. At the end of this chapter you will read how a name minus an ‘R’ produced a dose of pure magic.
But first let me draw attention again to God’s interest in football scores (the Australian variety) and my fascination for picking things off the footpath.
In chapter 23 I wrote that on 1/5/04 four games were played in the AFL (Australian Football League). Two games ended with a 1 point win and two with a 10 point win. One of the thriller-one-point wins, had been the yet unbeaten team, Melbourne Saint Kilda, beating the Brisbane Lions. Three weeks later on May 23rd, Saint Kilda won again with the large margin of 101 points. A reporter asked a member of St. Kilda, if they had any ambitions to try and play through the whole season unbeaten? Go Saints!
Usually, after I had uploaded new material on this, my autobiography you are reading, I sensed that people in my neighbourhood were trying to somehow connect and respond. Is this what happened the week after I reported picking up rubbish off the road? I had joked about my ‘collection with the long term view of a museum’. I seriously imagined people were planting items on purpose. (Some must have misunderstood the word ‘PLANT’ on my index-page). Were they waiting for me to pick it up during a walk with my dog? I had made up my mind to refrain from picking up litter any more, or at least not to that degree.
However, on one particular street corner, I saw an empty packet laying on the road. I had already walked by when I became curious. Was it the names of the streets – Pyers St. or Landy Av. – or the numbers on the letterboxes, what made me break my rule of not picking up things any? No harm in just having a look, I thought, as I turned to just read what was on the packet. Poor little Becky, our Fox-Terrier, let me know by the tug on the leash that she is confused about my actions.
I almost laughed out loud when I read “La Collezione Con Funghi” (Italian Tortelloni pasta with mushrooms). One does not need to know Italian to interpret collezione as ‘collection’. The word funghi (mushroom) starts with fun and ends with hi. I picked up the packet. It had to join my madness collection, where every piece has a story to tell.
Around the time of the fifth anniversary of what I called the launch of my mission, Anzac Day 1999, a series of incidents once again seem strangely and magically linked together, at least in my mind’s dramatic, letters-and-numbers-structure. It started again with a ‘walk’ that led me to conclude – I once again had come to the right place.
It was Friday April 23rd, the day when I paid a regular weekly call to an elderly German lady. She lived on her own and I had volunteered via a program at the German Club to visit her once a week for an hour or so. On that day she seemed to not want to talk much. Her sons had taken a day off work to paint the windows of her house. It was not a good day to sit and talk with her. After 20 minutes or so I arranged to see her a week later and said good-bye.
Since my next lesson was only in the next street, I had time to kill. Should I drive home six kilometers for a coffee or just go for a walk? After a brief, prayerful deliberation I decided to go for a walk in the district.
Looking back, I realized what was a seemingly insignificant half hour, turned out the catalyst for me rising to a higher level of awareness two days later. I walked along a cycle/walking track for about ½ kilometre and did a loop back through a residential area. At the end of Lambert Street – the name would later hit me with a shock - I noticed a parked vehicle, a Toyota Celica. I took no particular interest at first, when something urged me to leave a business card on the windscreen. I did not even have a special rego number.
Still my ‘spiritual antenna’ had been raised. A few steps further, through a wire fence in a factory yard, a black and white custom number plate looked at me: CJ ... The way it had been parked also made me pause and ponder. I stepped back a few paces saw another vehicle, green and yellow custom plate - Dave … The reader who is weary of my fascination with registration plates, please remember, it was not my idea to choose the letters and numbers of my vehicles, which originally drew my attention and created a significant message).
The name ‘Dave’ made sense, if these two vehicles had anything to do with me. I had called my story a ‘David against Goliath’ story. ‘CJ’ is another matter. In the US a Baptist Minister had told me that a particular church believed, Christ Jesus had returned to earth and believed it to have something to do with my story. (Chapter 67 More in number).
As I walked on, slightly bewildered and silently praying as always, I had the thought of checking out the front of the business premises. There may be a clue as to, why the unrest in my spirit at the time. So it was. If only one factory name had made sense, I would be mildly excited. But five business names, side by side virtually, all could be translated into a message using my simple de-coding method:
Re: Hi L and D
A man did
See tool craft
One of the businesses had a large sign on the side of their wall. It was in very bad condition, but I still could read their phone number. (How crazy is this – I linked the number to 963 and 828, as in Romans 8,28?). I phoned them on my mobile phone (as to validate my visit) and reminded them that the sign on the side of their building needed renewing; it’s bad for the image.
What was the message the business names suggest to my outside the square mind? A man burned? It’s about a P and an N? Hello L and D? Seeing is a craft and a tool? Am I really out of my mind?
The street name I walked along I made into ‘RE: I poor God’, using the German name for poor. (If you think this is all a bit much, be thankful, that I don’t know much French and Italian to expand possibilities even further). Where was it all leading to?
The following Sunday was Anzac Day, April 25th 04, the 5th anniversary of a fateful day, when everyone, including me, thought I was out of my mind (Chapter 9, More in number). I woke at 1.32 am to go to the toilet - another hint by the digital clock that something would be happening that day.
Early in the morning I drove into the city. I was late, but still watched most of the Anzac Day dawn service at the War Memorial. A Salvation Army band played sacred hymns, some prominent dignitaries spoke of heroism and sacrifice; many lay wreaths. Mingling in the dispersing crowd afterwards I spotted a few familiar faces. One of them, my psychiatrist, who had a few medals dangling from his chest, gave me a friendly look and nod with a smile. Nice to be recognized – what a shame it’s by the wrong people.
I would have preferred to say: “Hi Peter” and chat to the face I recognized as the presenter of an evening radio program. Only two weeks earlier I had sent him one of a set of my ‘prayer pillows’, crammed into a shoebox. It was one of those impulsive decisions, triggered by a song I’d heard the night before on his program: Send me the pillow you dream on. As a trade-off I included a letter, trying to gain support for my fight against corruption. Did he dismiss me as a lunatic dreamer or regard me as a prayer-warrior? I could have asked him this question that morning, but he was busy talking to a well-decorated genuine soldier.
A man was standing by himself. He looked a bit lost. Inside me something prompted me to just walk over and start talking. His surname was ‘Day’, a high school teacher. I had the feeling he knew about me and was expecting me to talk to him. I cannot explain why this is so. I just report the sensation I felt at the time and I acted on it.
I was unable to stay in the city for the War veteran’s march. For a few days leading up to this day I planned to be at the Church Service of Clovercrest Baptist Church. Clovercrest is no longer a recognized suburb. The church kept the name, however. That Sunday my mind opened, for the first time, to a fantastic diversion of the name, by dropping one letter.
But more remarkable is the timing of my discovery. That weekend I had been writing an inaugural newsletter, as member of the Missions Department of our local church. To gather up-to-date material I visited for the first time the Mission Department’s website and promptly discovered a spelling error. In an article titled ‘paying for services’ the writer drew attention to a problem our workers in foreign countries face - should they submit to the customs of the land, even if it means paying a bribe to get off a diving offence?
The ‘R’ obviously was missing in that article about paying a fine. As I saw the incredible connection to the main article I had already written for my newsletter, I could only marvel at God’s hand working amazingly behind the scenes. I even emailed the incidence to the Mission’s administration. Would they see God’s hand in it? The article I had written also had the subject of ‘paying’, but it held a little surprise - the letter ‘R’.
How do you pay?
What a question? Do you mean credit card, cheque or cash? Actually I was going to write - How do you pray, but how many of us would have skipped to the next article? Forgive me for hiding the “r”. Well, how do You pray? How do you pray for overseas missionaries?
I find it hard to pray for someone I don’t know or I know very little about. Praying with passion involves a certain amount of feeling with the person - their joys, their needs, their dreams.
The story is told of a sincere Christian who was fighting this battle. His prayer list got longer and longer: Family, Church programs, Church leadership, work, the boss, neighbours, the sick, home fellowship, etc. etc.
As his prayerlist grew, he found himself rushing through his daily prayertime, barely thinking about his needs or requests.
One Sunday his pastor preached a sermon. Our prayer warrior learned that “God knows all our needs, before we even pray”. From then on, he stuck his long prayer list on the bathroom mirror and prayed, while grooming for the day: “Lord here are my prayer requests, you know them all”.
This little story can’t be verified, but I have faced this dilemma myself - praying for everything and everyone in a shallow fashion, without much thought and focus.
Prayer does not consist of words only. Prayer is expressing one’s innermost wishes and desires. If your self-talk, your most intimate wishes, are not in tune with what you pray about, then you are merely fulfilling a duty.
The most beneficial aspect of prayer is the inward look, before saying anything to God. Another good way to approach God is to play dumb: “Lord, I really don’t know, how I should pray to you.”
Lastly, desire God’s will in your life through sincere, passionate prayer. Above any other prayer, pray that HIS will be done in your life.
(For various reasons this newsletter has not been launched at the time of writing).
Visiting the Clovercrest Church brought back mixed memories. I arrived almost on time, a few minutes into the singing. I could have sat on my own, but chose to just sit with someone, uninvited, without a motive. Many faces looked familiar. I spoke to no one. Not many of those would remember the events of exactly five years earlier. As I sat, listened and sang I was utterly at peace, thanking my Heavenly Father for HIS incredible guidance. At the time, five year earlier, I did not understand his ways. Looking back I could view it all from a different perspective, beyond the suffering and pain. God had carried me through. He did it HIS way.
The hymn that morning fitted John 3,16, the central theme of my story, so well: (The week following we sang the same hymn at our church at Enfield; one reason I feel so overwhelmed, just writing about it?)
“To God be the glory, great things he has done
so loved he the world that He gave us his son.,
who yielded His life, an atonement for sin
and opened the life gates that all may go in.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord - let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord - let the people rejoice!
Oh, come to the Father through Jesus His son,
And give Him the glory – great things He has done.
(Fanny J. Crosby)
How could I not make the connections? – God so loved the world, he gave his son who yielded, the gates to life are open for all to go in? Truly, HE had done great things.
Another song touched my heart profoundly:
There is none like you,
no one else can touch my heart like you do.
I could search for all eternity long
And find – there is none like you.
A grey-haired gentleman took the pulpit and told of an experience during the war. I can’t recall all details, but pondered his comrade's surname - Gowan.
I had for month, even years, imagined that certain stories or songs were chosen for my benefit. My mind had been in turmoil many times, battling the thought that it’s just my mental illness, it can’t be anything else. But when I started noticing physical evidence, the additional L or N in the spelling of words in the hymn projected onto the screen, plus many other clues by believers, I became more and more convinced that people agreed with me - God was with me all along.
One of the most beautiful ways a secret admirer showed me love was at a Garage Sale. I can’t recall where I had picked it up. Every Saturday I noticed garage sales some of which I stopped at and spend a few cents or a dollar.
At an address, I can't recall where, I picked up a ‘Nelson Reader’s Companion Bible’ for students, in perfect condition, even the jacket it came in still looked as new. Weeks later I needed to look up a scripture and had no other bible handy. I opened it and discovered a dark rose, pressed between the pages. It was placed right at the page of Psalm 22, the wonderful exposition of David, prophesying the coming of the Messiah. Verse 8 became a milestone in my story. The numbers matched the registration of my Suzuki.
A lovely song came to mind as I carefully closed the bible as not to lose this precious memento:
(Written by Paul Baloche and Lenny Le Blanc)
Above all powers, above all kings,
Above all nature and all created things,
Above all wisdom and all the ways of man,
You were there before the world began.
Crucified and laid behind a stone,
You lived to die, rejected and alone,
Like a rose, trampled on the ground,
You took the blows and thought of me
Listen to Michael W. Smith sing this beautiful song: Above all powers
A few minutes into the sermon at Clovercrest Church that morning I had to leave to pick up Isobel and attend our own church. On the short walk to my Mitsubishi, parked in the parking lot, I registered two things in my brain:
Firstly, in the car park I spotted the same car as I had seen behind the factory two days earlier – customized registration plate DAVE… . There was no question. It was the same vehicle, parked right by the entrance.
Secondly, as I unlocked my door to drive off, what co-incidence, a blue cap of a soft drink bottle lay on the ground. I picked it up. When I read “Sunkist’ I knew it was planted there. It would not only be going in the collection, but perhaps Isobel may see physical evidence and realize, what an incredible fluke it would be. It all makes sense to me to the same degree as Isobel takes it as confirmation that I am mistaken – co-incidences happen. She also believed that to be the case about the pressed rose in the Nelson Bible.
Writing a diary regularly helped me to digest what was taking place. I spent precious hours re-thinking connections, pondering probabilities and discovering God’s unmistakable hand of provision and guidance in it all. Writing my journal about the walk around the factory that Friday, I suddenly visualized the name Lambert. The ‘re’ points to what it is all about. All that is left over is Lamb & T, the lamb on the cross. Christians refer to Jesus as the ‘lamb, sacrificed on the cross’. This would link with the initials CJ, the vehicle I had noticed initially.
Who do people think I am? At present many churches in Australia are conducting a program called ‘40 Days of Purpose’, using the slogan – What on earth am I here for? 40 in Roman Numerals is XL. It is an excellent program, discovering in a small group real meaning and five purposes for our life. I am also participating in a small group in our suburb.
My visit to the Clovercrest church on Anzac Day 04, plus (or should I say minus) the ‘R’ article opened my eyes for the first time to see the name Clovercrest as a gospel message – C Love, C Rest.
Come unto me all ye, who are weary and heavy laden,
And I will give you rest.