A Chance Meeting and Prayer

By January 19, 2018 Spirituality

I stared at a man in the booth across Arby’s, he was dressed in a leather coat with fringe, his sleeve had a stylized cross and he wore pointy toed cowboy boots. I wondered if he was from somewhere west, more radically cowboy than Illinois. I looked for manure on his boots to see if he worked cattle or horses. Every so often I heard the word God come up in his comments. I glanced at him until I caught his eye. As he got up to leave, I asked about his coat, thinking about my rancher Facebook friends. I’m a sucker for cowboys and farmers.

He said he had several other coats like that because he liked to help them remember who he was, a man preaching the good news of Jesus Christ. (I grew up hearing the gospel paired with the hellfire and damnation preaching, so I have wondered just what is this good news? The irony is that the earliest preachers, the ones in Acts, never mentioned hellfire. They emphasized Jesus being raised from the dead. We are guilty of his death. His forgiveness and presence and Spirit are offered to all. But we need to repent, which means turn toward God, not pull ourselves up and try to change ourselves, something that is nearly impossible. The apostle Paul wrote about how he couldn’t do the positive things he wanted to do but he seemed to do the opposite, the not good stuff.)

We just finished watching AD: Kingdom and Empire on Netflix, a series about what happened after Christ rose from the dead. The series imagines how Pilot and Herod responded to the empty tomb. It also imagines how afraid the disciples were in the beginning. I wonder sometimes why we Christians don’t lay hands on people, healing them, even raising them from the dead. There are rumors of this happening in third world countries where Christians’ faith is tested. There are rumors of Charismatics laying on hands and people being raised from the dead. But there are fakes who are all about deception but there are also the real deals—people whose hands itch with healing. Richard Rossi, a chaplain to Hollywood, is producing a movie about this question called Canaan Land.

Several times a pastor or lay person laid hands on me during a healing service, and I was healed. I asked for prayer for my novel and out of the blue a New York publisher asked me for a blurb on a book I’d taught. I submitted my novel to her, with it being thoughtfully considered, twice. Bruce’s and my relationship with his mother was so broken we stopped speaking. I asked for prayers for us. That relationship was healed, in a miracle as deep as the resurrection. So I have seen these quiet miracles born of quiet prayers.

  But I was uneasy with this preacher started talking about how he healed and delivered people. He healed an athlete’s arm right then and there. He cast out so many demons that they had to take breaks so the person could breathe as he vomited them. I plastered a smile on my face and wondered if people like me would have considered Jesus’ healings with the same fearful smile plastered on their face. I breathed and asked Jesus to come between us like the air we were breathing.

He said he had to stand in the gap and pray for his property, repenting for the sins of the warriors of both sides of the massacre, where a whole tribe—men, women and children—were slaughtered. This was on his land. He put Bible verses on stakes at the four corners. He was knocked on his face in repentance for these people because without repentance there is no remission of sins. He cleansed the land. His neighbors later reported his property had a lightness to it. I’ve heard of this before, people praying to cleanse their land of dark spirits that have stick to the grass blades and ground.

I asked how do you cleanse the land? Sing hymns? A friend walks her land and sings hymns. Ugly things have happened on her ground too. I asked because our farm has felt stiff like it wanted to buck us off. It has a spirit of overwhelm. Both Bruce and I forget things and I wonder if the house is toxic, if it has mold or radon or entities that suck our energy.

We’ve been reading Morning Prayer together and our home’s stiffness has eased. Even my office feels like a good place to be in though cluttered. (Not too long ago I didn’t want to be there.) The only room that feels creepy is the basement. Bad thoughts fill my head when I carry buckets upstairs. I think about the stairs collapsing or my falling over backward. The early church fathers would say these are the bad thoughts to battle. Bruce hauls the buckets for me when it is too bitter to draw water from the side of the house.

The man with the fringed coat said you have to repent for the sins that happened there, and by the blood of Jesus cast out anything unclean, open the door and ask God to put a hedge. He said we need to dedicate the farm to God, give it to him for however he wants to use it.

            “Should I do this?” I asked.

            “Your husband needs to do it because he’s the head over you like Christ is the head over the church.”

            I asked Bruce if he were taking notes.

            “Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit?”

            “Not in the way you think.” But I remembered how some charismatic friends in college thought I was just as charismatic as they were because of how I knew the Bible and could share stuff from it. But no neither Bruce nor I have spoken in tongues. But we both walk with God as best we can.

            “You’ll have so much more power,” he said. I know a guy who could throw the power of the Holy Spirit at people and they’d be knocked down on their faces.”

            I didn’t say it but I thought it’s not about power, it’s about love, it’s about how I wish I could lay my hands on my suffering friends and heal them like Jesus did.

            The man with the leather fringed jacket prayed for Bruce and I, holding our hands in a circle. He prayed that God would heal our bodies and bless us above and beyond all that we could ask or think. He prayed that the angel Michael would come and fight for us and there would be a hedge around us. That God would use us.

            “There is a great harvest coming and He needs people out there to minister.”

            “New Age writers have also talked about a change coming. I believe it.”

            He gave us his card in case we ever wanted him to come pray with us. He said that he is open to ministering to where the Lord leads.

            Later I asked Bruce what he thought. “I don’t know if he was crazy or truly filled with the Spirit,” he said.

           “I hear you.” People during Jesus day thought Jesus was mad.

            I am afraid of people like him because they might look into my soul and think they see something and then there’s a rat hole to run down to see if what they say is true. I have had this happen before where one woman said she saw me as a rainbow with chains wrapped around it, and another one saw a big black figure like a towering bear behind me. One asked out of the blue if I was afraid of people and another said her intuition said, well, I won’t go into that one, but she was accurate and loving, though Facebook Messenger wasn’t the place for that conversation.

            These prophets can lie, can cause problems for God’s people. There is an odd story in 1 Kings where a prophet was told not to eat or drink on his way to and from delivering the king a message. He was so powerful he made the king’s hand wither and then healed it. But his friend persuaded him to come in for dinner. He said that God said it would be okay to stop. But when the prophet left he was attacked by a lion and killed. The lion and the donkey stood by his body until his friend gathered him up and buried him. (I Kings 13.)

            But the man with the fringed coat said nothing of the kind. He simply offered to pray with us and gave us his card if we wanted him to come to the house. Do you know what a gift that is, to pray with us about our home and our mission in the world?

If you like, tell me your stories about chance meetings that taught you something and/or where prayer made a difference.


  • Mark says:

    WOW, Katie! WOW!

    Eighteen years ago, Karen and I took our then-teenaged children, John and Julia, to a New Year’s Revival Service being conducted on a Sunday evening at a little Pentecostal church that was attended by a woman who was my secretary at the time.

    Our family loved the up-tempo Gospel music, and the visiting minister gave the best sermon I’d ever heard on the power of Christian unity for both miracles and evangelism in his exposition of the story about the Apostles Peter and John and the paralytic man they healed in Jesus’ Name that’s found in the Book of Acts. At the conclusion of his message, while the band played a rousing invitational, my family was clapping and singing and watching a person or two, then more, usually women, walk down the aisle to the evangelist, bow their heads in prayer and receive the minister’s touch on their foreheads. As soon as he touched a man or woman, the person would collapse to the floor in some kind of spiritual ecstasy where they lay as the service continued. Deacons would gently spread a blanket across the lower torso of any woman who had been wearing a dress for the sake of modesty. This was the first, and so far only, time any of our family had been to a church service like this. I’ve since learned that what we were observing was something called “being slain in the Spirit!”

    What was even more interesting to me was that as the invitational continued, I felt God’s Holy Spirit softly nudging me to go forward. My initial thought toward God was something like, “You gotta be kiddin’ me!” The Holy Spirit, however, didn’t argue with me, but He did persist in calling me to the altar. After a few minutes of me both singing to and debating with God, I caught the eye of the preacher who was looking right at me. He made a slight gesture with his hand beckoning for me to come forward. In response, I turned around to see if there was someone behind me that the minister might have been motioning for besides me. There was no one there. When I looked back, the evangelist locked eyes with me again and this time he had a slight knowing smile on his face, and again he gestured me to come to him. I thought something like, “OK, God, I hope You know what You are doing!” As I started to move out of our pew and toward the aisle, our then-fourteen-year-old daughter desperately reached to restrain me with a panicked look on her face, but she missed laying hold of my arm, and I was already in the aisle before I noticed her fright. I said a little prayer for Julia’s peace of mind as I approached the preacher, and I also told God that I really wasn’t interested in experiencing what we’d been observing, but if that’s what He wanted to happen to me, then I was obviously unable to resist His Will. Hardly, “Not my will, but Thine be done,” but close enough.

    When I got to the minister who had a kind but very authoritative countenance, I simply bowed my head in prayer while he and some deacons laid their hands on my shoulders and head. Then the evangelist prophesied something like the following:

    “I perceive that you are a man of letters. You make your profession through writing and speaking. I see a computer coming into your life. I see a ministry that God is giving you to work with young people and children. You will speak and write for God.”

    The preacher said and prayed some more stuff, but this was the gist of what I remembered. When he was finished, I think that I said a prayer aloud thanking God and saying “Amen” to what had been prayed over me. Then, I returned to my seat, much to our daughter’s relief.

    At the time, our family didn’t yet own a computer, and we were only just starting to get them at work. Within a year, however, we purchased our family’s first home computer. Karen and I did work with a Bible club for grade school children at church, but that was about all the ministry I was involved with that served youth. I was in my tenth year as a prosecuting attorney, the first four handling drug cases and the last six with major felony crimes. I asked my secretary when I next saw her at work if she had talked about me with the evangelist before the church service, and she assured me that she had not. Shortly thereafter, while I was in the middle of a three week, six defendant gang-related drive-by-shooting trial, I just happened to argue with my supervisor over some minor, now-forgotten issue in the case I was prosecuting, and he threatened me in his characteristic bluster, “There’s an opening in Juvenile Court. I might put your name in for it!” I called his bluff by telling him, “I might just beat you to it!” The very next day, the elected official for whom we both worked came down to my office and said, “I hear you might be interested in transferring to Juvenile Court.” I think I cussed under my breath but told our boss “That’s right” even while I vowed in my heart to get back at my supervisor who had obviously set me up. In fact, I did “get even” with my former supervisor, because for the next thirteen years I loved working in the Juvenile Court where I later became the supervisor there. It was a great place to pray for and work toward the rehabilitation of the vast majority of young people who get in trouble with the law and just need some guidance in their lives. The very serious crimes, I’d send to the adult court for others to prosecute.

    About that same time, Karen and I began teaching the teenagers’ Sunday School class that our own kids were in mainly because no one else wanted the job. Although it was a little awkward for our son and daughter, they lived through the experience, and some of our best family memories came from that class we taught for the next five years, as well as some of the outside service and evangelistic activities we led with the teens at our church. Karen and I also became involved in a ministry called Young Life, an outreach to teenagers who have no church experience in their lives. During those years, we worked very closely with the Young Life staff and served on the local support committee for it. Some years later, one of the two pastors co-officiating at our daughter’s wedding was the Young Life director with whom we had once worked and prayed and shared our lives. When our own kids were grown and moved out of our house, Karen and I took a brief hiatus from youth ministry, but we apparently weren’t finished yet.

    I “retired” from the prosecutor’s office in 2013 and worked for two years promoting a curriculum of “crime prevention education” for teens and young adults, which, sadly, never got successfully launched, even though everyone loved it and said how needed it was, but everyone also wanted it provided for free, which was impossible to do. I then worked for a about a year in adult indigent defense until I was offered the chance to resign by a new boss who wasn’t as interested in trying to “teach an old dog new tricks” as was the boss who had hired me. But that late-in-life painful indignity led me to my current employment where I represent our state’s agency that protects children in dependency actions that are filed in the juvenile court.

    So here we go again, back where that Pentecostal preacher’s prayers prophetically pointed me almost two decades ago.

    WOW . . . just “WOW!”

    • katiewilda says:

      Wow is right. What an amazing story. Wow. I am humbled you shared. And it’s wonderful that you weren’t slain in the spirit but were accurately and kindly prophesied to. It’s wonderful you’ve had this ministry to children. I still wonder about your getting funding for your “crime prevention education” program through Lily Endowment. Also wonder if the Gates Foundation would fund this. What about the legal professions? Do they have money for this sort of thing? Or a Go Fund Me campaign? Can you find someone to write your grants? This seems to be the kind of thing they fund. And I think it’s so very important. It would save states and counties money by keeping kids from doing stupid things as well as saving the kids. I would imagine our Chance program at NIU or even the First Year Program at NIU and other universities would jump on this for their orientation sessions. A person would have to find lawyers who know the laws in that state or study up on them…

      At any rate this is an amazing story of how God called you to your important work. I have come across scriptures that talk about building the temple, and how the prophets tell the people to stop worrying about their own houses, but to work on the temple. Right now my building the temple is my writing. I have had four pastors offer very encouraging words about this. Slowly I am getting a grip on my schedule and all this free time. (Will probably write about it.)

      Also I listened to On Being with Krista Tippett while decorating the Christmas tree and heard Father Gregory Boyle speak about his work with gang kids. I bought his book Barking to the Choir for more info. You might want to check those out as well…

      Well, thank you as always for being my friend and for stopping by. God is very good.