Matthew 7:13-14

Enter in through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it. Because narrow is the gate and straight is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. ~ Matthew 7:13-14

Friday, July 06, 2012

Journey Through The Narrow Gate - A Fish Story

Last Saturday I drove to LA. I visited 2 churches on Sunday and drove home on Monday. After being home and looking back I see 2 or 3 different stories..maybe more.

First the drive out to LA. Hot! Praise God I actually started at 6am or 5 am time for LA where I was going. I drove for 4 or 5 hours without using my air conditioner; so proud of myself for leaving early. On the other hand when I came to the last "stop" in Arizona upon getting out of the car I was hit with a wave of vertigo......nauseating, dizzying vertigo.  It was just before the CA "check to see if you have any fruit stop" that I noticed the wire to the cell phone charger was wearing thin...very thin. I wondered if the heat through the window had melted the connection. My cell was on 15% remaining power. On my droid that does not last very long. From here you are looking at close to 200 miles before Barstow. I mention Barstow because that’s the beginning of the metropolis that brings you to LA. I so wanted to hear the Yankees on my MLB.TV! No way without the cell. One of the things one needs to fight off on these trips boredom. It’s a 13 hour trip to LA.

I thought that Needles, only 20/more miles, away would have a Verizon store. I remembered Needles had 3 exits off I 40. Just like to say a few things about Needles. I am sure it used to be a beautiful desert city. You can tell by the buildings. Also I observed, after being positive there was no Verizon store here, that the people I asked directions from to Family Dollar, which I was told had chargers, really loved living in Needles. The directions I heard 3 or 4 times was go under the bridge and come to the road for "a while " and you will see Family Dollar. My problem was there were 3 or 4 bridges and I am sure the 3 or 4 people all knew the right bridge. Finally I stopped about an hour later at a fine Peanut store. (Big cities may not have such a delicacy) The white haired gentleman sold me pistachios. Oh how I love protein. He gave me the final mile or so directions and after leaving the key to the men’s room at Family Dollar in the men’s room I was ready to leave Needles. They were nice about the bathroom blunder and encouraged me that they keep a spare key because these things happen, especially in my case.

Traveling is an end in and of itself. Getting there and ministering is important too. I am only half kidding here. Traveling is hardly ever comfortable. One is forced to play well on the road. For me it causes a passion and a conviction to what is true, good, and of God. While I was driving through Needles I asked myself a philosophical question. "How many times in your life Denny have you gotten entangled with a cause for a day, month, year, years, that it would have been wiser to just say "quitting time?” Good question. These trips can quickly switch from boredom to just plain self-confrontational.
Almost to make the point....thinking the Yankees were playing at night and starting at 4pm Pacific time I was ready to listen to the game all the way into the LA area. One problem. The game started at 11 am Pacific. My purpose for Needles was a waste and I wasted time and energy and.... for what I asked myself.

Not sure if it was the pistachios but I stopped the "theatre tragedy". Something in me changed the channel I was on. I felt I had time so I called Keith my pastor friend who I would be staying with and told him not to make dinner for me as I would be coming later. I knew those pistachios would cover my dinner. I made a good decision. I was glad to stop rushing for a made up deadline. Glad I had stopped in Needles and seen the town. Hey! I was even glad the Yankees won without my even cheering for them. I was glad I was planning a major exercise walk at Azusa Pacific University - where Wendy and I went to seminary in CA 1987 and 88 and where Stephie our daughter was born. I decided this was a good trip ......for a very good purpose.

Jumping forward a day - On Sunday night after doing Jonah for the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Barstow CA I did a Q & A with the audience as Jonah. Someone asked me what it was like to be inside a big fish for 3 days and 3 nights. My reply reminded me of what I felt like having driven through the desert heat of NM ,AZ, an Ca. First. I asked the audience if they had every flown first class in an airplane....the answer mostly no ....  How about coach? More responded yes. Well, I said to this " 2012 audience ",  being in the big fish was like being in the airplane bathroom  - without lights! ...And being sick from motion sickness as the plane rocks and rolls. Then the final insult and injury -  being "vomited" from the mouth of the big fish.." on to dry land". (well, the dry land is not so bad, but how about being vomited out in the fish vomit plus your own vomit, ewwww!)  I think they got it as they laughed a lot as they related this to their own experiences

In answering questions as Jonah, I encouraged people to “come off the fence" and decide. That I, Jonah, was living proof that many others are affected by the decisions we make. That not making a decision was a decision too and ultimately - the wrong decision. That people in your time, 2012, do what I did in my B.C. time, and self justify those decisions and call it theology. That our little vine is our comfortable area of control.  Its all indecision with the appearance of activity and decisivness. When God took this from me (Jonah) my anger, and depression rose in me...but then He saved me from me. I no longer had to play God.....He could now play me.  Real ministry is not for God it is from God.....and that our the decision that truly decides. He supplies the Truth. Jonah wanted the comfortable....He offered the Comforter – the Holy Spirit.

Jumping back to my Saturday driving trip - 15 hours after leaving Albuquerque, as I was driving through the Hollywood 101, I came to my one and only traffic jam. This was beautiful too. I promise you. I opened the windows smog..the sun had heat. First a breeze then..... Suddenly a wave of love overcame me. Faces, names, people I knew from this very place of Hollywood came to my mind. Not just a dry remembrance mind you, but a wave of love ,affection and hope. The names Ira, Randy, Bill, Rich, Dave, John. It felt like a parade and I was in a car waving. I was arriving.....a Holy-Wood guy...a minister... a ministry. I was so glad to be here. It was now this moment I was getting my True perk. I love this.  I love what I do, what I have and who I am. I would not want to be anyone else.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.  May the Lord bless and keep you on your journeys with Him by your side - even in the belly of a big fish.
Dennis Cole

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