Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Adventism's Package

"He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts” (1 Corinthians 4:5 ).

It was on April 11, 1996 in Riverside, California that I received this revelation that is the main focus of the book, "Say to this Mountain, Move!" that I am soon to publish. God spoke to me through this dream that occurred while I was asleep, and it was immediately followed by a vision, a series of vivid images appearing while I was awake and very aware. The setting of this dream is a Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church I attended in Redlands, California for many years.

Bottleneck and Packages

I dreamed that I looked up from where I was sitting on the front row, and discovered that I was alone. A fleeting sense of embarrassment washed over me as I turned around in my seat and saw a large group of people standing at the back of the church. From my position it appeared that most of the congregation had already left their seats and were forming a bottleneck at the entrance to the church sanctuary as they all tried to leave at the same time. However, a dozen or so people were still making their way up the aisles from the front section to join the people in the back.

The distance between the people congregated in the back and myself made me feel awkward. Since I didn't like the feeling of being isolated from the others, I quickly got up to join them. As I slowly walked up the aisle I wondered what could have happened to cause such a large bottleneck of people to form at the main entrance to the sanctuary.

Another thing I observed that seemed strange about the people around me slowly making their way to the back was that I recognized none of them. I also noticed that the remaining people moving up the aisles appeared to be carrying packages under their arms or in their hands.

At first I wondered if they were carrying reading materials related to Prayer Ministry. Since I was a leader in one of the Prayer Ministry teams of our church at the time, I considered the possibility that I had forgotten to pick up copies of printed materials for the rest of my team. Then I thought these packages might be gifts or rewards that people had earned for faithful service. Perhaps certain people were being recognized for their sacrifice of time in the work of the church.

But as I neared the back of the church I saw that the last half a dozen rows on either side of me were jammed full of people, trying to make their way out into the main aisles towards the back. These people were carrying similar packages under their arms or clutching them in their hands as I had seen the others do. In fact all the packages appeared to be the same size, and wrapped similarly.

As I stood waiting for the rows of people to move into the aisle, I noticed that no one appeared to be interested in anything going on around them, but seemed to be self-contained and very much "wrapped up" in themselves. With their eyes fixed in a cold blank stare each person looked straight ahead as they moved forward along the rows towards the aisles.

They appeared to be trapped in a code of silence and isolation. No one was talking to a neighbor or sharing with a friend. In fact, the lack of interaction in this body of people spoke with an eloquence that words could not match. In the warm and friendly church that I was use to this silence and guarded behavior was most unusual.

Although these people appeared to be in close proximity to one another, I sensed they were far away by the look of cool indifference in the robotic stares of those closest to me. I tried to speak to a couple of people nearby about the packages they were clinging to, but they just ignored my overtures as if there was a wall between us that prevented them from hearing or answering my question. Instinctively I thought that perhaps I had offended them by asking about the packages that I saw them carrying. I didn’t understand why everyone appeared to be so guarded and afraid.

This was not the church that I belonged to. The inside looked the same, but where had all the friendly, loving and familiar faces gone? Who were these people that I didn't recognize or know? I felt as if I had just been dropped into a cold and unfriendly congregation where the climate of love that I had previously known had suddenly grown cold. It seemed that I was the misfit who had failed to learn how to play by these new rules. Everyone else seemed to know them except me.

As I continued to observe the people crowded together around me, they reminded me of a flock of sheep. Although there appeared to be no “shepherd” giving them directions, they all continued to press in tightly, pushing and shouldering their way towards the main doors of the church sanctuary. They looked as if they were following some hidden internal command. It was as if invisible sheepdogs were biting at their heels, herding them together, and trying to get them to conform and line up.

Handed a Package

As I waited wondering how long it would take for this bottleneck of people to move so I could leave the sanctuary, I suddenly saw a familiar face to my right. Archie, who I had gotten to know several years earlier in an incest survivors group, was headed in my direction. Like a salmon struggling to swim upstream, he maneuvered his way through the sluggish stream of human traffic, seemingly oblivious to the cold wall of human indifference that stood between us.

"Thank you!" I said curiously as I took hold of the flexible package. I was taken by surprise. Was this what I had seen others carrying just moments earlier? It seemed that the other packages were more colorful than this one, but I couldn't remember exactly how. Perhaps Archie had run out of colorful wrapping paper. Anyway, the outside wrapping wasn't what was important. The contents of the package and the thoughtfulness of the giver were what counted.

Then the idea crossed my mind that perhaps Archie had collected some magazines for the children in my special education classroom. However, as soon as I made a move to start to open the package, Archie laid his hand on the package and cautioned, "Not now! Don't open it here! Later!"

"Oh, Okay!" I responded gently. I sensed the tension and embarrassment, even shame in his voice, and the awkwardness of the moment for him. How could I assure him that I wasn’t offended by the plain outer covering of his “gift?” It didn't detract from its contents. I knew his sincerity. I wanted to assure him that I appreciated his thoughtfulness, but he quickly turned to leave by the same way he had come, disappearing into the nameless sea of faces before I could say anything.

Where to go with it?

Momentarily I felt comforted by the fact that I had been thought of by a friend. There was at least one person in this unfriendly church who was willing to acknowledge my presence. But I wished he hadn’t left so quickly. I had questions that needed answers. Perhaps he could help me. I saw how he had struggled to push his way through this multitude of indifferent and joyless faces in order to give me this “gift.” That made it all the more valuable as far as I was concerned.

I stood there for a moment, holding the lightweight package in my hands as I looked again at the bottleneck of people in front of me, hoping to see a quicker way around them. Suddenly I realized that the door to the church sanctuary was closed. We were all standing in front of a shut door!

As I turned and looked to the left, I noticed an empty row of seats leading towards the outside aisle. Perhaps I would be able to find another way around the bottleneck of people I mused as I walked to the end of the row and turned right. I noticed up ahead of me a smaller set of doors that led into the multi-purpose room. If I could leave through them I could make my way into the church lobby, and perhaps bypass this entire herd of people.

However, I was suddenly stopped from pursuing my goal when I turned around to take one last look at the empty rows of chairs. Instantly I was thrown forward and immediately found myself sprawled across the top of an empty desk that was now standing in the aisle. Momentarily stunned by this sudden turn of events, I lay there on my stomach, stretched across the top of the empty desk, both of my hands stretched out in front of me, desperately clutching the now torn package, trying to keep the exposed contents from falling to the floor.

Contents Exposed

Since the “gift” had ripped open “accidentally,” I decided to take a quick peek and view the contents. As my fingers quickly flipped through the stack of twenty or so magazines, I noticed there were no pictures inside, but what appeared to be tedious columns of undecipherable print. But what really caught my attention was the same cartoon-like illustration that appeared on the outside front cover of each magazine. It was more like a video than a still picture and it caused me to be filled with great joy and laughter.

However, the only thing I could remember about this cartoon-like illustration when I woke up from the dream was that I had seen a tall mountain of “something” that had to do with being “freed from debt.” It would be sixteen months later before I would be shown the details of this “mountain” again in an open vision, and another year before God would show me the “mountain” a third time in order to remove the remaining “veil” that covered my own mind.

This cartoon-like video pictured hundreds of terrified children, shabbily dressed in tattered and torn clothing, clinging frantically to a tall, steep, pyramid-shaped “mountain.” This “mountain” was like an island, completely surrounded by the surging blue waters of the ocean. The caption written in large, bold letters across the base of it said, “SAY TO THIS MOUNTAIN, MOVE!” Suddenly a violent earthquake hit this “mountain” of children! As the mountain began to shake and quake it leaned towards the right.

Initially I was horrified to see the multiple layers of children’s dead bodies that formed this human “mountain.” The children who were alive were not only seen clinging frantically to one another, but also to the partially exposed remains of children who had died trying to climb this "mountain.” They were all shaking and crying out in terror as they tried to prevent themselves from slipping down the sides of this “mountain” into the surging blue waters of the ocean below.

Judging by the frantic expressions on their faces, and the strange contortions that they were putting their bodies through in order to avoid falling into the sea, it was obvious that none of them had any intention of loosening their grip on this “mountain.” Some of the children tumbling down the sides of the mountain were seen grasping at others as they tried to break their rapid descent towards the sea below. In the process of doing this they caused others to lose their footing and begin to slip also.

At the Foot of the Mountain

My attention was drawn to the growing number of frightened children in the sea at the foot of the “mountain.” Suddenly I noticed that not only was the “mountain" shaking, but also it was slowly sinking, causing the frightened children to further lose their footing. I noticed that the children who were clinging to the base of the mountain and had their “feet in the water,” appeared to be less frightened than those above them who were feverishly climbing over the dead remains of others in their attempt to avoid falling into the sea. However, those who had only their “feet in the water” still clung tenaciously to the partially exposed bodies of children who had died trying to climb this “mountain.”

The second group of children who were knee-deep in the water appeared to be less scared than those who had only their “feet in the water.” But they were not free of the “mountain” either. They were holding on to the children, who had only their “feet in the water,” who in turn were clinging to the partially exposed body parts of slave children who had died trying to climb this “mountain.”

The third group of children who were waist-deep in water appeared to be less afraid than the other two groups, but somewhat apprehensive. If they ventured out further from the “mountain” they would be in “over their heads” and unable to maintain further contact with the other children or return to the familiar security of the “mountain.”

Although the fourth group of children who were immersed in the water over their heads seemed to be the least afraid of all, they still clung anxiously to other children around them as they began to tread water and thrash around in order to stay afloat. As soon as these children recognized that they could no longer feel the sides of the “mountain” under their feet and had to swim in order to stay afloat, they began to swim back towards the mountain in order to grab a hold of other children who were still standing in the water up to their knees or waists.

In spite of the fact that all of the children floundering around in the ocean at the foot of the “mountain” had been immersed in the “sea” to some level, they were still afraid to totally let go of the “mountain” or one another. By holding on to one another they formed human chains through the water that helped them maintain contact with the partially exposed remains of the children who had died trying to climb this “mountain of death.”

Children at the Top

After watching the behavior of the children at the foot of the mountain, my eyes were drawn to the terrified children who continued to scramble up the sides of the “mountain,” because they realized that the “mountain” was slowly sinking into the sea. I noticed that the children nearest the top seemed the most ill prepared of all to survive the shaking of this massive earthquake. Because the “mountain” was shaped like a tall pyramid, the top was very narrow. So when the top of the “mountain” began to sway dangerously back and forth and reel from side to side “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” the children at the top hung on for dear life to the partially exposed remains of those beneath them.

As I was wondering how long these children at the top would survive this roller coaster ride before being thrown into the blue “sea,” two of them lost their grip, and were thrown clear of the mountain. They were seen somersaulting through the air, headed straight for the open blue sea. The incredulous look of joy on their faces was in stark contrast to the looks of fear that held the others captive. Their mouths were held wide open as if they were shouting and laughing, and their wide-eyed expressions of surprise made me laugh, too.

Exposed, but No Shame!

As I glanced out across the church, I was surprised to see Archie seated at a desk next to the center pillar of the church, with his head buried in his arms. Archie's pose was unlike the way he normally behaved. It reminded me of the way my special education students often behaved when they felt inadequate, frustrated or hopeless about the task that lay in front of them. Feeling overwhelmed with shame or guilt, I had often seen them bury their heads in their arms, afraid to face the negative remarks and cutting comments that too often would come out of the mouths of their insensitive peers.

Hearing my laughter caused Archie to cautiously lift his head just above his arms, and look towards me with an "is-it-safe-for-me-to-expose-my-real-self" grin on his face. I smiled back, knowing that he had seen me peek at his “package” of magazines." He appeared to be both relieved and surprised by my sudden outburst of laughter. Then quite unexpectedly, both of us were overcome with laughter at the same time.

Struggle to Hold on

Just moments before the back half of the church had been jammed full of hundreds of people. Now everyone had disappeared. What's more, the door of the church sanctuary that had been “shut” was now open and two people appeared to be coming through the now “open door.”

But what amazed me even more than the deserted church was the fact that the many rows of seats had been instantly replaced by neatly arranged rows of desks, like the one Archie was seated at, and I was draped over.

Realizing suddenly how strange and unladylike I must look, I began struggling to regain my composure and stand up without dropping Archie's "gift" on the floor. But the package that had been light in my hands suddenly became heavier with every move that I made. As I tried to get a firmer grip on it, the brown paper began to rip again, exposing the entire contents, and making it even more difficult to hold. With increasing difficulty, I finally made it to my feet.

When I thought I had the magazines under control, I took a step forward to my right, erroneously believing that I could manage their growing weight. Not only had the outer wrapping fallen off by now, but also the magazines continued to increase in weight, slipping and sliding around in my arms like a writhing snake! I tried to take another step forward, still endeavoring to maintain my balance, and prevent the slippery "gift" from getting away.

Letting go

Suddenly, the magazines became like lead in my arms, forcing me to bend over double. I felt as if a millstone was hanging around my neck, dragging me down to the ground. As the weight of the package became impossible to hold on to any longer, I was “forced” to let it go. Instantly the magazines flew forward with lightning speed, coming to rest beneath the foot of the cross that hung on the north wall in front of me. Although I was bent forwards, that same unseen hand that had thrown me forwards on to the desk, now threw me backwards on to the floor.

Just as soon as I hit the floor I was filled with indescribable joy and laughter. Now that the weight was gone I felt light and free. As I lay there on my back, glued to the carpet with my arms outstretched, waves of laughter continued to roll over me. I became aware that I was resting in the awesome presence of God. I could have stayed there forever. I knew a few of my friends had experienced this “laughter in the Spirit” a number of times, but this was still a relatively new experience for me.

As I lay there resting in this new freedom and joy, I soon became aware I was not the only one laughing. Someone else was being filled with the joy of the Lord in the direction of the center pillar! Then a few moments later a couple of voices broke out in laughter a short distance behind me in the direction of the now "open door."
(This is a chapter from my new book that will soon be published).

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