- Rusty’s Pizza Dream
Jason was sitting behind a desk chatting with a coworker on the other side of it. As they talked, the wall opposite exploded in shrapnel and a car burst through smearing the coworker and smashing through the desk leaving Jason crying in pain and bleeding out on the floor.
It took a couple of breaths to register it had only been a dream … and then a couple more to feel like I wasn’t sure about the “only” part after all. It didn’t feel like a regular nightmare … it might have been but it didn’t feel like it. It felt like “more”. I felt a strong urge to pray.
I rolled out of bed and began urgently pleading for protection of Jason and his co-worker. Begging God to have his angels around him and groaning out for His will to be done in Jason’s life not the scheme’s of any enemy.
Eventually the burden passed and I felt a little confused. It was my first time experiencing something like this … was it possible that it had been a message of some sort from God? I crawled back into bed and went back to sleep.
The few days later I was talking to someone in Jason’s town.
“Hey, … did anything weird happen to Jason in the past few days?”
“No … not that I know of. Why?”
Sheepishly I told about my dream, ending with , “It must have been a pizza dream or something … sorry to bother you with it.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it, maybe He needed some extra protection. No harm done.”
I thought about it a little and then shrugged and decided they were likely right. The only reason not to pray in the situation really would have been pride of being duped by a dream. The Bible certainly spoke of God warning people in dreams sometimes … treating it that way “just in case” wasn’t really that big of a deal.
About a month later I was visiting the town and had a newspaper tossed at me by the friend I had phoned.
“Check out the front page.”
“Just do it.”
I looked it over and My jaw dropped when I saw it. The photo on the front page showed a car half in and half out of the office building where Jason worked. I gave Jason a call and told him about my dream the month previous. He chuckled and filled in some details.
“The car stopped inches from my desk and the corridor in front of it almost always has at least somebody in it that time of day. Miraculously it was empty and I didn’t get hurt. Thanks for praying and keep it up in the future if you don’t mind.”
- Rusty’s Pizza Dream #2
I was bouncing along a dirt road in Thailand in the back of a pickup truck with a half dozen other young adults. We were traveling between a couple of schools in which we were performing some dramas explaining what Jesus meant to us and then breaking up into small groups to play games and teach English.
We had been doing the same thing for days and the pace was exhausting. One of the things that kept us going strong was Nathan’s infectious joy. He was at it again, laughing and telling a story with all of our eyes on him as he sat on the tailgate. He let go of the side panel to illustrate a point in his story and we hit a pothole … a common enough occurrence on this trip. With a big difference this time.
This time Nathan fell backwards off of the bed of the truck and his head split open like a watermelon. I woke up from the nightmare with the sound of wailing and the screams of my teammates in my ears.
The thing was … I wasn’t in Thailand and had no plan to be there and I had never met any of the faces I had seen in my dream before. Remembering what had happened with Jason, and with a similar burden, I rolled out of bed and started to pray, assuming I was praying for a team somewhere half a world away. After fifteen minutes or so I felt better and went back to sleep. I wrote to my penpal about it the next day and then promptly forgot about it.
A number of years later I was in Thailand with a bunch of new friends in the back of a pickup truck on our way to a school to share about Jesus. The joker in the group was sitting on the tailgate telling a story … but I couldn’t enter into it. I was too distracted by a memory just outside my grasp. I closed my eyes and concentrated. I remembered it just as we hit a huge pothole opening my eyes and shouting out a warning. Nathan grinned a quizzical look back at me holding onto the sideboard with one hand and steadying himself.
“Get off the tailgate.”
I said it with a little more authority to my voice then I would usually use.
Nathan grimaced at my tone, but since the last bump had been a little more dangerous than any he’d experienced yet he complied.
As I apologized for my tone and explained what I had just remembered his grimace turned into a look of surprise as looked at the stony ground behind us.
Have you ever had a dream that felt like more than a dream?
What’s a time when God did something out of the ordinary to get your attention?
Thanks for reading!
- Alexis’s first pizza dream part 1
(This post is slightly adapted from a letter I wrote to some friends and family in September of 2005 – while we were still living in India and I was still pretty new to world travel and significantly more naive. I’m still encouraged by the overall event, though my perspective at the time does make me cringe in spots. That’s just proof that I’ve actually matured over the past decade though … right? Right? – Rusty)
I was supposed to be in Leh only one week but my health coupled with travel options and the decision that I was not leaving without flying out based on what the road conditions were like … well it turned into 2 weeks.
The story of my life eh? My struggle with asthma putting me where I’m supposed to be, when I’m supposed to be there for purposes I never would have guessed. I can’t remember exactly the last time that I felt as weak as I felt for much of these 2 weeks. My lungs would have been able to deal with altitude within 2 or 3 days … they’ve done it before … they would have been able to deal with the pollution within 1 or 2 days … they’ve done it before … it was just when it was combined together … plus I had eaten ‘Palak Paneer’ … palak paneer that I expect had been prepared in local water before I had had a chance to adapt. Thus it was that my body decided it was more important to send extra strength and resources ti deal with that aftermath rather than keep my lungs prepared for a fight :p
So we decided that I was going to fly out so I could avoid the pollution on the 2 day road trip that was the alternative. seems like a simple solution right? Well it was … except for a few problems 1) flights only went from there to Srinagar (where our apartment was) once a week 2) those flights were booked solid for almost a month in advance, and 3) Alexis had had a vivid dream about the flight from Leh to Srinagar crashing in a blazing inferno when it tried to land on Sept 7.
Solutions presented themselves in the following ways 1) I stayed in Leh longer then I had planned 2) I had a doctors note and should be able to get on a waiting list for the next flight and 3) we prayed until we had peace … I felt very strongly that we were not just to pray for guidance on to get on the plane or not, but that we were to pray until any assignments against that plane were thwarted.
Early in the morning Alexis and the others left by road to get back to Srinagar. I was alone but not worried … the airline manager had told me that when the list was made out today at 3 that it would be made by need not first come first serve. So I went to the office at 2:45 got confirmation from the manager that I was just to wait in the lobby until he called me and then waited. Once, when I heard a bunch of people talking in Urdu I could make out just enough to guess that they were talking about being put on the list so I asked the manager again and he again told me to just wait for him in the lobby. Then after everyone else had left and I was the last person in the lobby he turned to me and said “O.k. so buy a ticket and I’ll put you on the list you will be refunded if you don’t get on … about a 50/50 chance.” So I bought a ticket, came to him and he did put me on the list … number 12 … dead last.
He had lied to me – was all that was going through me mind. He hadn’t wanted to deal with me so he lied to me. And now I was alone with very few alternatives. I could wait a week and try my luck again now that I ‘knew how it worked’ (had I really seen that one guy bribe the manager or had it just been my imagination?). I could wait half a week and try the same thing to Jammu (and get a ticket from there to Srinagar). Or I could shell out maybe 6 times as much and buy a ticket to Delhi (the only other destination from Leh) and then from there to Srinagar.
So … I went home and packed … you never know maybe 12 (out of the sixty some passengers that I heard that those planes were legally able to hold at that altitude) wouldn’t show up. … that’s possible … right?
Have you ever been in an unknown environment and assumed the worst about someone (like I did about the airline manager)? It’s easy to do when you feel out of your depth and out of control. I’d love to hear in the comments about an area that feel you have matured in over the past decade and how that encourages you. Thanks for reading! Rusty.
- Alexis’s first pizza dream part 2
(Reminder that this is adapted from a letter I wrote home over a decade ago. Still worth reading I think 🙂 )
I get up at 4, share a Taxi to the airport with a german I just met from my hotel, am one of the first people in line and then am ushered to the side to wait for hours while they wait to see if there will be enough extra seats (along with many others … many with wait list tickets hadn’t bothered to get there names on ‘the list’ at all … hmm with all the army officials etc getting on in front of me maybe the manager hadn’t lied to me after all .. maybe there were 11 who had to take precedence) I hear a rumour that the increased security at the airport today is because the Dali Lama will be flying out of Leh later in the afternoon. I wonder if God is going to let the plane crash after all and is deliberately keeping me off it. I wonder if I’m supposed to tell someone about that dream. I decide to pray instead.
It feels like hundreds of people have gone by in front of me … dozens of wait listed passengers. I have once again already asked the man currently in authority twice if I am supposed to do anything other then sit and wait to be beckoned. He tells me “no” both times. A man with more authority comes out and uses his influence to get 3 or 4 of his friends through who were not able to get through before. He says something to the other man that I take to mean that one more passenger can be accommodated. I am resigned by now that I am not going and am making new plans in my head when the man looks at his list, looks up, and points to me.
They take my ticket, I get rushed through checking my bag, security frisks, etc. and end up in the room where all of the passengers are waiting to be allowed to board the plane. I’m taken outside where I identify my baggage to be put on board the plane, it is loaded and I rejoin the other passengers.
And we wait.
Finally an official comes into the room that we are waiting in and says.
“It is doubtful that we will be able to fly … the engineer just noticed that the wing flaps are broken and he is trying to fix them. If we do fly it will be at least another 15 mins.”
God answers prayer.
They serve us Chi and little plastic wrapped fruit cakes.
I go to the rest room.
As I come out I see that the passengers are finally being allowed to board ‘flight 448 to Srinagar and Delhi’. I look at my ticket to confirm again that I am on flight 448 .. yup .. I get in line and board the plane.
The flight is rather uneventful although I find myself thinking about crashing more often then usual on a flight :p strangely though the thoughts are not accompanied by any fear. I overhear a bit of the conversation of the passenger in front of me discussing his travel plans with the stewardess regarding visiting both Delhi and Srinagar. Finally we begin our descent.
I look out the window.
That is NOT Srinagar.
Have you ever had a prayer answered in a way you didn’t expect? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Thanks for reading! Rusty
- Alexis’s first pizza dream part 3
(Still that letter from 2005 🙂 Half way through.)
I look out the window.
That is NOT Srinagar.
Nope definitely NOT Srinagar.
In fact it looks strangely like Delhi.
I tap the man on the shoulder in front of me.
“Excuse me … did I overhear you say that you were going to Srinagar?”
He smiles “Yes.”
I look out the window “This is not Srinagar.”
He laughs “No we will still have to get directions from the Indian Air desk once we arrive … I don’t know what will happen though since we already had to pay so much more just to get here when those others stayed in Leh.”
I must have looked shocked.
“You did pay more to get here didn’t you?”
“I have no Idea what is going on …”
Once we disembark I lose sight of him as I try to find the desk. When I do find it i arrive just after they have sent 3 of my fellow passengers away.
“Are you like them? From Leh trying to get to Srinagar?”
I nod and hold out my boarding pass and ticket receipt. They wave it away.
“Just go get your luggage first then we will take you over to the flight to Srinagar.”
So I go, stand by the luggage carousel and wait …
and wait …
and wait …
I start singing quietly to myself the snails “have patience” song from the ‘music machine’ album I had as a kid.
I lose track of how many times I have sung it.
An Indian Airlines man comes up and asks me if I am going to Srinagar. I nod and show him my ticket receipt, boarding pass, and luggage stub.
One other passenger is waiting with us.
The carousel is empty.
“Did you recheck your luggage when they loaded us onto the new plane?” This from the other passenger.
“I saw them load my bag onto the plane … ” I start
“… Your luggage must be in Leh. They took it all out and rechecked it so that those who decided to stay in Leh could have their luggage.”
“It must have been when I was in the rest room …”
“Well if we don’t leave right now we are going to miss the connection to Srinagar.”
So we left.
Any memories come to mind of times you had to race to catch a flight? I’d love to hear them in the comments.
- Alexis’s first pizza dream part 4
(The final section of a letter I wrote in September of 2005. Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me – Rusty)
It took forever but we eventually made it to the other terminal, I eventually got through the right security checkpoints and security processes in the right order (eventually) and eventually I was standing in front of a new Indian Airlines attendant behind a new Indian Airlines desk.
I handed her my ticket receipt and old boarding pass I think.
She looked down at it and looked at me. “I can only send you on the one that stops at Jammu.”
“That will be just fine.”
The plane was about to take off.
She made a decision.
She ripped the receipt part off of my ticket from Leh to Srinagar, fed it into her machine and manually printed off a boarding pass from Delhi to Srinagar. She handed me the pass.
I thanked her, thanked my guide and raced through the final legs of security in time to get on the plane.
Then the plane was grounded for another half hour …
but we did take off eventually, land in Jammu (after a conversation with a handful of ‘Times of India’ journalists that I think that I handled quite wisely), take off eventually and then land in Srinagar (after a conversation with a Pharma-marketer that was quite informative and fun).
I think that maybe the reason I wasn’t getting a specific answer about which city I was to try to fly through to get back to Srinagar earlier is because if He had answered ‘All of them’ I would have gotten too confused :p
By the time I arrived in Srinagar I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never see my bag or it’s contents again. It didn’t actually feel that bad … maybe God was taking me through a season of showing me how little ‘stuff’ actually matters in the long run compared to relationship etc.
However, I felt that it was only responsible to at least make what looked like an attempt to get it back. The thing with the Srinagar airport though is that it has no ‘Indian Airlines’ offices, it has no visible offices period. It has a runway, security checkpoints, a ton of heavily armed army personnel, road blocks, barbed wire, high walls, camouflage and almost as many taxi wallas as army personnel. But it doesn’t have anything that looks like an airlines office. The closest thing it has is a desk where foreigners are supposed to register. So I asked the lady behind the desk if she had any Idea who I should talk to. She looked up and seeming a little surprised said “Actually that is the Indian Airlines manager right over there.”
So I walked over to him and briefly explained that I thought that perhaps my baggage had been left in Leh. He took a description of the bag and the number on my tag. Then he pulled a cell phone out of his pocket, had a conversation in Urdu (I assume with someone in Leh) of which I understood only the word ‘foreigner’ (I also assume that the word stupid was used right before it). When he hung up he turned to me and said. “It will be in the Indian Airlines office at Dal Gate waiting for you Tomorrow at 4.
In case I didn’t make it explicit yet I firmly believe that God revealed to Alexis about the need to pray for the plane and then answered our prayers that I wouldn’t go down in the fiery explosion of an airplane by making that engineer ‘happen’ to see that the wing flaps were broken. The free airline flights to get me home and retrieval of the lost baggage was just the “over and above” part of the answered prayer.
What are some “over and above” prayer answers that you have received?
When I was growing up, my church had a section where people could come to pray alone with God or have others pray with them. It was available after pretty much every gathering and it was called the “altar”.
For the first number of years as a Jesus follower my understanding of grace was skewed. I had a real desire to be able to live a “holy” life and to please God, but my understanding of how to do that had less to do with building relationship with him and more to do with using my strength to complete all the “thou shall”s and avoid all the “thou shall not”s.
I don’t believe that this was because of the example of the Jesus followers around me so much as a stage I was walking through when I was reading through the old testament but not through the lens of Christ. At any rate, one of the ways that this journey played out was that most Sundays, between ages seven and twelve, I was at the “altar” for at least fifteen minutes after service. I would weep, confess my failings and beg God to make me more like him. It was cathartic, and I did see growth in areas – his grace was being made more and more manifest in my life.
Well, I still wasn’t getting that His love was so much more central to our relationship than my behaviours were. Then one Sunday, as a twelve year old, he gave me a glimpse of his love that still blows me away when I think of it. I’m not saying that I instantly lost all legalism and prioritized loving God and others over following rules (those who grew up with me would be able to attest that I didn’t), but it was a real turning point in my life that changed the way I saw the world. Here is what happened.
It started kind of like normal. After the sermon, I knelt down by the stairs at the side of the altar that led to the piano on the stage. It was a good height for me as a child to support my elbows while kneeling and was kind of “my spot”. One of the pastors laid his hand on my shoulder and prayed that God would “honour my tender heart and bless me with a deeper understanding of Him and His love”. Then he moved on to pray with the others that were waiting. I wept for a while and laid my desire to serve him more successfully at his feet again. Then this time I felt something different, I felt a very clear command that I was to “wait”.
So I waited expectantly wondering what would happen. I glanced at the front pew where my parents and sister had moved to wait for me and then closed my eyes again. After a while I saw an image.
In the image I see myself crawling up an altar of rough hewn stones. When I get to the top of the altar I find a knife and I know exactly what I’m supposed to do with it. I take the knife and slice across my gut, holding out the filthy, rotting entrails that are exposed as an offering … only they weren’t accepted as an acceptable offering. What was I supposed to do?
The picture ended and I felt to “wait” again. I knew that Dad was excited to get home to see a big race on television, but he is giving no indication, just patiently giving me as much time as I need at the altar. Everyone other than our family has gone and almost all the lights are out, Mom must have agreed to lock up so that the pastors could leave.
I decide to wait again. After a while I see another picture.
It starts exactly the same way. Once again I crawl up this altar, and take the knife – this time I’m sure that the offering will be accepted. This time I obeyed correctly and waited the correct amount. Certainly that earned the ability to be an acceptable sacrifice … didn’t it? With a bit of trepidation I move to cut myself again. Just as I’m about to pierce flesh my hand is held in place by an invisible force and while I’m straining against it I hear.
“Stop! Don’t do that!”
I stop trying to complete the stroke.
“Don’t cut that. Don’t cut him. He’s my son. I love him. Don’t cut him. Love him.”
The knife drops from my hands and the voice continues.
“You’re my son. I love you.”
The image faded but the words continued while I burst into a new round of weeping. Only this time they weren’t tears of grief and frustration, they were tears of relief. A small boy overwhelmed by the acceptance and love of his God.
Like I said above, this was only one step in my journey of overcoming self condemnation. However, it underlined how embracing my inability to do what Jesus did for me didn’t have to be frustrating but could be freeing, and it did it in a way a sermon never could have. I would love to have you comment below about a memory you have of how God helped you to be able to better understand the depths of His love and grace.
- The Mango Tree that could.
One of the longest times Alexis and I were separated from each other after we were married was when I went down to Haiti for five weeks to help with sanitation and community development initiatives in some disaster relief tent cities. There is lots I could say about that experience but what I want to focus on is a way that we discovered how connected Father God was keeping us, even when we were so far apart.
One of the first things they had me do in Haiti was help load a cargo truck with non-perishable food items that had been donated. The plan was to pack the truck up and then while the distribution team was at work, I’d wander the tent cities with a translator and see what I could learn about the current sanitation and water situation and what we might be able to do to bring it up a notch.
The truck was similar to a really large U-Haul and was packed pretty much floor to ceiling with boxes of food, much of it in cans. There was no strapping or webbing to hold the boxes in place but we tried our best to create the stacks so that they leaned against the walls and cab of the truck and, at least on stable ground, it was fairly secure. When I found out that the cab only held three, there were nearly a dozen of us going, and the rest of us would be in the back with the food – well I was nervous to say the least.
Driving from the airport to the central compound I would be working out of was unlike any previous driving experience. The best way I could describe it at the time was using like they were using traffic “rules” and techniques from India in small streets sized for old European cities and using huge North American sized vehicles. I think it was on this same trip that the truck we were driving in had it’s driver side mirror clipped off and everyone just kept on driving like that was just a normal part of business. My driver was unhappy but explained it was the third mirror he had lost in the past couple months.
At any rate I wasn’t excited about getting into the back of that food delivery truck in these conditions. However, I was told that there was no other option and that they had been operating this way for months with no problems. So, I said a prayer asking for grace and protection before positioned myself furthest in so that the young volunteers that I had just met would be closest to the exit.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ontario, Alexis woke up a little earlier than usual and had this unease. She felt like something was off and when she asked God what was up she felt strongly that she was to pray against the Spirit of Death. So she started praying and didn’t stop until she felt peace again, firing off an email to me afterwards to ask if anything was up.
Back in Haiti, the truck we were in started up and began moving out of the compound and up a small mountain. I was keeping an eye on the stacks of food and they seemed to be staying stable. Suddenly a rear tire started spinning and the whole vehicle veered, tilted and slipped in that direction. I hopped up and braced myself against the tower of canned food, spreading my arms and back against it. I was pushing with all I had to keep it in place in the midst of the moving and swaying and was yelling at the kids to get to the back of the truck away from the food.
They obeyed and suddenly the truck lurched to a stop and the pressure against my back lessened. The back gate rolled upwards and two of the people from the cab quickly helped the others out of the truck. As soon as they were out I took a deep breath and made a dash for it, sure that the cans would come crashing down behind me. They didn’t, in fact the only injury I ended up with was a bruise and small gash from smashing my calf against the tailgate on my way out.
Once outside I dropped my jaw in amazement. A small mud slide had caused the rear tire to slip off the road as it was going around a curve on a narrow road. There was a shear drop down and nothing to keep the truck from tumbling and rolling, nothing except for one tiny mango tree that didn’t even reach the top of the truck it was so small. However, somehow, the truck had anchored itself against that tree and it was the only thing keeping it from tumbling down the hill.
Shortly after a gator and back hoe from the compound arrived and moved dirt around to create a support ramp and the director jury rigged stabilizers and such to hold it in place while an assembly line formed to transfer the food from the disabled vehicle to a new one. Before long we were on our way again leaving behind the heavy equipment to pull the, now empty, truck back onto the road. Granted this time the passengers were in a hired taxi rather than the back of the delivery truck :p
This is the last time I can remember allowing myself to be pressured into a work or volunteer environment that I was sure in my spirit was unsafe. I’m incredibly grateful for God’s grace covering what could have been an absolute disaster, and for my wife’s faithful prayers.