Monday, October 21, 2013

The Haggard Curse

Many in the family have heard about it. We toss it around in our conversations, and try to make jokes about it. I usually say it's good luck to break a mirror, while walking under a ladder, with a black cat weaving back and forth in front of you.

But it's no joke. The "Haggard curse" is very real.

The first instance of it that I remember came when I just a kid. It came not long after Dad made the decision to go into the ministry. While driving, he passed a slower car on the highway. When he pulled back into the right lane, he was just a bit slow in getting back over. His left front tire crossed the first foot of the next no-passing zone line. A police officer was right there. He pulled Dad over, gave him a ticket and a lecture, and actually forced Dad to go directly to the court to pay his fine.

Yeah, I know. A general traffic trap. But even for one of those, just a bit too coincidental in its timing.

I've seen such strange occurrences to many in the family. And there is one very particular coincidence to them. They happen to Haggard family members and relatives ONLY when they are involved in acts of faith that can bring about great, positive changes. And the greater the possible changes, the more vicious is the "curse."

Dad's last one, the most powerful against him, brought his heart to a stop. But for a reason even Dad didn't completely understand, he was moved to walk to the hospital Emergency entrance, just before it hit him. It's pretty clear now how he was moved to walk across the lot to the doctors.

The Bible is pretty clear about the attacks that we may face. The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians, called them "the schemes of the devil."--
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6.10-12)

I've had several, too. They started right after Cheryl and I decided I would go into the ministry. After paying our rent, I stopped my '74 Chevy Laguna at a stop sign. I looked right, and three blocks away I saw a Fiat coming. I looked left, and it was clear, so I started to cross the intersection. The Fiat was 1500 pounds lighter than the Laguna, but it hit the Laguna so hard that it knocked the big car sideways into a power pole. With so much force that it knocked the rear axle completely out of the car.

From then on, when we lived and worked where we could do great ministry, we were cursed. Unexplainable accidents. False accusations. Personal complaints. When we lived out in sparse places, like the far west edges of Nebraska and Kansas, we had great peace. The last and worst curse instance was when I was accused of having a sexual affair with a woman in the church, and attacked by the elders. Turned out it was one of those elders who was having the affair. But our hearts were so broken, we left ministry. I got a job with Microsoft.

I've been making a good living ever since. I haven't been much satisfied, though. It took two major crashes to get me off the motorcycle and stop ministering to outlaw bikers. And those were also timed just before we were set to travel to care for widows.

Now finally, as my heart was being pulled back to ministry, a fast-growing tumor appeared in my head, of a type that isn't ever discovered until it's too late.

In every instance, Cheryl and I have survived, and come out well. How well should one be after hitting a deer while riding a motorcycle? On I-70? At 75 mph? Pulling a trailer?
A tumor too small to cause symptoms did just that. So small that a surgeon of God's assured it's gone, without a trace. And to top it off, feeling great at the time when follow-up treatment is supposed to be at its worst.

Our main problem was that we didn't really see what was going on. God allowed Job to be attacked by Satan. It ultimately raised Job higher than ever, and glorified God and His kingdom. God has allowed me (us) to be attacked, knowing that, sooner or later, we would finally learn to stay by His side, and depend always on Him, and follow his lead, and love Him more than anything else. Even more than each other.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6.13-18)

All those things we're supposed to put on? From God Himself. And stand where? By His side. And whose power and authority? His alone.

The Haggard curse is over, at least in this branch.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Who's the Trainer?

Many years ago, there was a poem-like story written called "Footprints in the Sand." It's a heart-warming story that makes you feel warm. Trouble is, it's not really Biblical. There are a few references that look like the Lord carrying a person (like Deuteronomy 33.27, or Isaiah 46.4), but it doesn't take much study to realize that those are all referring to carrying Israel, not individual people.

Every morning I take Boomer and Roxy for a walk. We walk down the driveway to the road, and in that section I vary the point where I apply their leashes. Boomer is now very good at healing, and most mornings I walk him without a lead on. Over a walk longer than a mile, he now stays by my side with minimal correction. I originally tried to train Roxy for Search & Rescue, but it turned out that she didn't have the right drives for that. She has become our home protection, but I realized with Boomer's training that she needs to learn the same obedience.

Anyway, about half-way through the walk, we come to our neighbor's machine shop and grain bins. In that open area, I release them from their leads, and give them my "Ça va!" command. (It's the French phrase for "OK," pronounced "sah-vah." I use several French words as commands to prevent confusion.) With that command, they know they can take off and run and play in that area.

Almost all of the time, that is no problem.

A couple weeks ago, as I walked around the end of the machine shop, I saw a cat run across the surrounding driveway. Boomer saw it, too, and ran after it. The cat ran across the road, and despite all correction I had taught Boomer not to go to the road, he went after it. I called after him, and amazingly, he stopped the chase and started to come back to me. Just as a car approached down the road!

Well, Boomer got back to me without the car getting close to him. But my heart was pounding. I brought him and Roxy back under control. They stayed by me through the walk back to home. And during that last part of the walk, it hit me.

I had said for years that in "Footprints in the Sand," the Lord told the person that the single sets of footprints in places were because the person had gone off on his own, leaving the Lord to run off after his own desires. But I suddenly saw, by Boomer's run after a cat and a car coming, that I had done this myself, many many times in my life.

Who really got trained that morning? Not hard to guess.

It's nearly impossible to find verses that talk about God carrying a person through life. I'm not saying there's nothing there about it, but I haven't found anything solid. But on the other hand, the idea of a person needing to have a loving relationship with God, and choosing to stay beside Him because of that love-- Well, that's all through the Bible. In fact, one of the top 100 most read verses in the Bible is very clear about it.

It's Micah 6:6-8 --
"With what shall I come before the Lord
    and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God."

See it? It's not about offerings or fruits, which we often put out front. It's about acting justly (forgiving those who offend you, "70 times 7 times"), loving mercy ("love your neighbor as you love yourself), and choosing to walk always beside God (because you love Him).

Thanks, Boomer, for all the messages you give me-- Oncoming headache, dizzy spell, or fatigue. And oh! Yeah! That I need to stay by the Lord's side, just as you must stay by mine.