France seemed like an aborted vision by now, even though the Lord spoke clearly to me during my son’s graduation from Logos. One evening while in Texas that May, we attended an event in the Civic Auditorium, a meeting given by a big-name evangelist. I don’t remember the plea he made, but my heart, wide open, responded to it by saying, “Lord, I’ll go. I’ll do whatever you want done. Send me.”
My eyes, wide open, looked at the podium and suddenly, before me, stood Jesus. His face practically touched mine, and He said emphatically, “Marty, I said France.”
Responding to His words, I hung my head in shame and said, “I am so unworthy.” Instantly, Satan stood before my still opened eyes.
I jerked my head up and saw Jesus once again. He repeated, “Marty, I said France.”
Again, I dropped my head to say, “I am so unworthy.” Again, I saw Satan.
Straightening instantly, the Lord appeared one more time and said, “Marty, I said France.”
This time I did not lower my head but instead I said, “Yes.” And Jesus disappeared.
Placing that experience on one side of a balance and putting my experiences in California and Florida on the other side, the natural seemed to outweigh the supernatural, and I felt like France had become a dream. But one day as I was laying on the couch in our Dundee apartment, admiring the lush greenery growing outside our window, praising God, singing to Him, loving on Him, Jesus walked through the wall by the window. He stood on the arm of the couch, practically touching my feet. I wondered why He hadn’t come through the opened window, but I guess He doesn’t have to think about things like that anymore. He was dressed in white with a white rope tied around his waist. His feet were bare, and tiny little multi-colored flowers stuck out between his toes.
My mind raced wildly; this was Royalty visiting me. I ought to get up and bow or something. But my body behaved like a wet noodle and wouldn’t budge. His Presence rendered my physical force to be useless. Suspended in motion, I absorbed everything about Him and everything He said. He talked to me at length about how He and I were going to dance our way around the world, taking the Gospel to the French and to other nations. Then He said, “I’m going to take John away.” And He disappeared.
Sensing my own strength again, feeling inadequate to the situation yet wanting to respond, and haunted by my unrighteous response in the Civic Center, I said, “Let it be done according to Your Word.” But frankly, I pondered His Words for some time and could not figure out what He meant. How would we dance around the world? I was too old and too ungainly to express myself in dance! How were we going to take the Gospel? How was He going to take John away? The flowers in His toes reminded me of the song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” which sang of death. Was John going to die?
I shamed myself by desiring that very thing. What a relief it would be if John simply went to heaven. I knew God warns people about upcoming death as He had warned me about Lou and Isabelle’s deaths. Was this a warning? And then again, was this desire a chicken’s way out, or was God giving me the desires of my heart? I was too embarrassed to discuss it with anybody.
The services I attended only added to my perplexity. An Evangelist from South Africa had begun holding meetings in Florida, and when he did, revival happened! At every opportunity I attended his meetings, even if it meant driving in the wee, small hours of the morning to get home. He held many meetings in an auditorium that seats 10,000 people. The place was usually packed.
One time we heard angels sing while we worshipped. Another time the fire department drove up with five big trucks because the neighbors reported flames shooting out of the roof. There was no fire, but the presence of the Holy Spirit of God visited the meeting and appeared as flames on the roof? The Evangelist prayed for everyone who attended his meetings, all 10,000, if that were how many who came. Almost everyone received something from the Lord.
Of course, I went for prayer when I attended one of the Evangelists meetings, and every time I experienced the Presence of the Lord through a message He communicated to me. Usually, however, the Holy Spirit pinned me to my chair, I could not move until I received His message. It was always the same. “I am going to take John away.” And I always cried.
One time, I answered an altar call for those in the ministry who felt like round pegs in square holes. That was me. The ministry in Dundee gave me great satisfaction. I had terrific people in the church. We had grown to the point of renting a sanctuary from another church, the pastors being dear friends of ours. I was accepted, included, respected; I felt at home, loved, and functioning in the community. But something wasn’t right.
Responding to the altar call reminded me of the night John told me his secret, and I wondered if this was also a divine moment for truth. I answered that call with a profound sense my life was about to change. Going forward with at least 200 other ministers, we wedged together in front of the stage, and the Evangelist prayed a general prayer over us, without laying hands on us individually. The Spirit of God fell on me, and I heard one word. “Write!” I staggered back to my seat, ashamed on one level, energized on another.
All my life I have kept a diary. At the age of twelve I wrote that I had sent manuscripts to Readers’ Digest and that I thought of myself as a writer. But when it came time to declare a major in the university I attended, my parents wanted me to take Home Economics. They sat me down, pulling up a chair for me in front of the couch where they were sitting. My father said, “Marty, you’ve been vacillating about declaring a major. I’ve wanted you to go into Home Economics like my aunt did. She’s been quite successful creating recipes for that flour company. You might do well, too, and the least a Home Economics major would do is to prepare you to be a good wife.
I thought my father sounded rather erudite, having put aside his normal slandering of my intellect, my lack of finesse, and my aimlessness. I concluded this to be a very serious discussion indeed. I found myself having a hard time breathing. Therefore, I turned up my nose and sat back in my chair. “I don’t want to major in Home Economics.”
My mother asked, “What do you want to major in?”
“I want to major in Journalism.” There! I’d said it!
“Journalism!?!” She responded in amazement. “You want to be a journalist?”
“Yes, that’s my dream.” My English teacher in high school told me I had great potential, but I never dared breathe that to my parents.
“But Marty,” she leaned forward solicitously, “you’re not intelligent enough to be a journalist.”
A long pause ensued as I ingested her verdict. I was Literary Editor of the yearbook, a member of the Honorary Poetry Society, in accelerated Creative Writing by the professor’s invitation, but something inside me shut down. I knew my writing days were over. Some people respond well to such a verdict. With heightened determination they shout, “Oh yeah! Well just watch me go.” But I did not respond that way. A death bell sounded in my soul.
With tears smarting my eyes I said, “Well. I am not going to be a Home Economist.”
“Than what else can you major in?” My father asked.
“What do you think I am smart enough to do?” I asked, contemptuously, but it went right over their heads.
My mother reflected. ‘Well, you swim well, and anyone who can swim across Lake Calhoun ought to be a Physical Education teacher. That’s something you can handle.”
So, I returned to school, declared my major to be Physical Education, and threw my writings away—until I was born again. Right after my new birth, in one of my Prayer Journal entries, I wrote that the Lord said, “I want you to write for Me.” Almost twenty years had passed since I considered myself to be a writer, so I went back to school to brush up on techniques, and there I encountered a born-again Creative Writing professor. My mother taught history in that university, and I had met the professor on social occasions.
She walked out of class with me one day and said, “Marty, I know your family, and you are twice as intelligent as they are. You were born to write.
I became so dizzy right there on the path I thought I would faint. How could she have known what my parents had said? She took my arm to steady me and she said, firmly, “You have much to say to the world. Now say it!”
She had too much strength of character for me to answer her. I simply asked myself what on earth I had to say.
The woman had been a nun. She fell in love with a monk; they eloped, obviously left the Catholic Church, and had a child, a brilliant boy they coached with love. What a pity her gifts were no longer accepted by the organized church. But we had church that day when she delivered God’s message to me. Walls and cubbyholes do not contain Him.
While living in France I wrote articles for a Christian magazine which were translated by the editor, were well received, and even though labor intensive for the staff, they always wanted more. I also wrote two teaching books. These were translated into French, and I self-published them. Both were sold out. Many people have told me what a blessing these books have been in their lives.
But since France, I had not done much, and therefore, was ashamed. As I returned to my seat after the Lord said, “Write,” an idea came to my mind. Why not make short stories out of Bible verses, or people’s testimonies, or write an “eyewitness” account of the Bible stories, record them, and put them on radio. I went home and immediately got to work.
A little station in neighboring Federal, Florida, accepted me right away. We wrote a contract with a clause that gave me the ability to give a two-week notice if I intended to quit. Although the price for airtime was not exorbitant, I determined to pay for the time out of my proceeds from ministry. I thought people in the listening audience would send sufficient money to broadcast. Naivete is a nut that needs cracking! I learned later it takes an average of 18 months before broadcasts pay for themselves.
So, when my little bank account ran dry, I called the station to give my two-week notice. They called back the next day, after having conferred with all the appropriate officials of the station, and told me I could put my programs on for free, indefinitely. They said the programs were reaching the unsaved, people who don’t yet know how to support the Gospel, and they wanted my stories to continue.
The Lord told me to take my stories to the churches as a ministry tool. He told me the names of three pastors to call and ask if I could come tell a story. I agonized over the order, thinking no one would want me, but in obedience I made the calls, feeling sure they would never allow me to do that. To my utter amazement, all three said yes. In each I gave a dramatic reading of one of my eyewitness accounts of a Biblical story about Jesus, and each time, tremendous anointing followed the telling of the story.
During the first of these readings, the Lord spoke to me right in the middle of it. That was my first time to see my spirit acting separately, though simultaneously, with my soul. I carried on a dialogue with the Lord! We chatted, so to speak, at the same time I dramatically presented my story! He said, among other things, “Get out of the Office of Pastor by the end of the year!” He said it emphatically, and I obeyed.
More opportunities came to minister in other churches, and I accepted an invitation to give a dramatic reading in Santa Barbara, California. My hostess did a local radio program once a week, and because her car was out of commission, she asked that I drive her to the station. I went in with her and the station manager to listen to their program. They had me sit in the recording studio with them, and I determined to be very quiet and observe how live radio worked.
Looking around at all the equipment, I reared back when they suspended an overhead microphone in my face. I asked, “What’s this for?”
Surprised, the station manager said, “You’re our featured guest this morning.”
My face must have registered the discomfort I felt inside, as she then asked, “Have you ever been on live radio?”
I said, “No!” Too shocked to protest.
She said, “You’ll love it! We’re on in 30 seconds.”
Panicked, I looked at my hostess. “What do I do?”
She whispered, “Tell your stories.”
Then we were on the air! They asked a few questions, and then they turned the program over to me! So, in that hour I told three of my stories, after each one I gave an altar call over the radio, and she was right. I loved it! When the show ended, the station manager said, “We loved those. May we air them every week?” Then she said the key words for me. “We’ll put them on for free.”
I was too flustered to say a word. She said, “You don’t know who we are, do you?”
I gathered my wits and said, “No. All I know is you have some very new and very expensive equipment, for a little, local station, that is.”
She smiled. “Our mother station is in Australia. We beam our shows down to them, and they beam the programs all over the Pacific Rim. In fact, our audience is two thirds of the world.”
I went back to Dundee, merged my little church with a sister church pastored by a fellow graduate of Logos as I could see by the doors He opened, that the Lord had my future in Christian media. Publishing and Radio for the moment. Who knew where beyond that? Only God knew. Unfortunately, Satan came in on the heels of God, slipping through the crack just before the door closed.