On February 2, 1981, I saw the fulfillment of a dream and a prayer of many years. On that day I was sitting in the conference room of Nancy Barker, Chief of Volunteer Services for Mental Health and Mental Retardation for the state of Texas. Also in the room were her assistant and two chaplains. I had been invited to tell the story of Crafts for Christ in order for this group to determine if others might benefit from what I had learned. The feeling was like that of my first five-dollar sale. My audience was captivated as I shared the story and presented a hundred slides to make every aspect of my adventure come alive. After some brief consultation within the group, they decided that Crafts for Christ should have a place at the Volunteer Service Convention the following October. We were being given the opportunity to display, explain, and teach our craft in Arlington, Texas, in October, 1981. On February 2, 1970, I had been hospitalized at Edgemont Hospital. Since then my desire and commitment had been to return one day to the mental wards with understanding and compassion. Exactly eleven years later to the day, the gates swung open and my dream came true.
But it didn’t happen all at once. The way to Austin was a progression of many steps over many years. Crafts for Christ was not an instant success learned from a textbook. It came because of my burning desire to relieve the intense emotional pain of those who could not cope with the turmoil in and maybe around them.
My personal anguish at the age of twenty, as told in letters in Chapter 16, was probably the most compelling reason for the desire to be of service to others. The foundation for a life of helping was laid during my tour of duty in the armed services, where my sensitive, feeling nature came into contact and into conflict with the harsh reality of life. In order to survive, I chose a life of logic and pleasure and quite unconsciously suppressed the deep longings and urgings of my soul. But the deep-seated needs of my being were not to be denied forever. They emerged quite suddenly and unexpectedly as the wood blossom came into my life. Then, my feeling nature once more asserted itself until I finally realized that logic and feeling must each occupy their rightful place within me. My soul was beginning to find peace!
I had a great longing to share this peace with other troubled souls, but I quickly realized how difficult it is to come close to anyone in pain. Perhaps through the craft I enjoyed I might be able to build a bridge to other lives. I had the confidence that as I taught others how to use their hands, the doors to their hearts might open. And they have!
Every new sign I made was an occasion for celebration. My enthusiasm seemed to be contagious, and people started to come to our home in Escondido to watch and learn how to make sandblasted signs for themselves and as gifts for others. Some stayed for a few hours, some overnight, and some for a few weeks. We started to have a house full most of the time. People let their hair down in the relaxed setting in which we lived and worked. It was easier to talk across the kitchen table scattered with paintbrushes than in the church office.
One day a haunting melody caught my attention as it came over the radio. The next time it was played, I listened carefully to the words. It seemed that once again, God was using a song to speak to me.
THE HIDING PLACE
Lyrics by Jeffrey Leech
In a time of trouble, in a time forlorn,
There is a hiding place where hope is born.
In a time of danger, when our faith is proved.
There is a hiding place where we are loved.
There is a hiding place, a strong protective space
Where God provides the grace to persevere.
For nothing can remove us from the Father’s love.
Though all may change, yet nothing changes here.
There is a hiding place to give relief.
In a time of sorrow, in a time of grief.
In a time of weakness, in a time of fear,
There is a hiding place where God is near.
The song expressed a growing desire within me to provide a place of shelter and rest for those who were overwhelmed by the problems of life. But how does one translate such a desire, probably shared by many others, into action? How do you cradle a person without crippling him? How do you help a person in need without destroying his incentive to help himself? Does love always say “yes”? Or is “no” sometimes the right answer? Words by Abraham Lincoln helped guide me in making decisions and translated them into numerous sandblasted signs as pictured here.
additional frequency. We might call it HS, standing for Holy Spirit. Before I take you farther on the road to Austin, dear Phyllis, I want to explain to you how this frequency works in my life.
Before long, we had created an attractive sign on a piece of granite with the words THE HIDING PLACE. As part of the design, a cluster of violets adorned the sign. In my own mind they signified those tender souls that need a special protected place to heal and blossom. We placed the sign underneath a group of young birch trees that we had planted in our front yard. We were open for business, so to speak.
I would like to believe that my painful and confusing past was preliminary and necessary to mold a life that was sensitive to the needs of others. When I lived a life of logic only, what made sense and was legal could influence and direct my life. When my feeling nature was unlocked, it seemed that a new channel for communication became available. One might say that up to age twenty, I had my radio tuned to FM; from age twenty to thirty-seven, to AM: and now I can switch back and force to either frequency. As a Believer in and a follower of Jesus, I have an
It is with the leading of the Holy Spirit, in part, that I travel through life now. The direction that I perceive in my spirit, I do not follow without screening it through my logical mind. I have been misled before by what I thought was the sovereign voice of God. I am much more cautious now and test the spirit by the Word of God to make sure that I am not being deceived (I John 4:1-3). I have discovered that the devil is very willing and able to whisper Scripture verses into our ears, though he distorts them, takes them out of context, and causes us to misconstrue them.
There are numerous ways that the Holy Spirit has directed my life and has shown me things about myself that I needed to know. The Scriptures are probably the most frequent way God speaks to those who are eager to know and do the will of God. I remember how in 1972 two verses from the New Testament forcefully and repeatedly caught my attention. Many years later our friend Brian Burnett crafted a beautiful sandblasted sign using the below design for his pattern.
illuminate a verse for us. This way we avoid misunderstanding a single verse taken out of context. Error is easily introduced into our lives when a teacher emphasizes a particular truth over some other truth. We have to watch out for that! It happens quite often.
For at least a year I lived under the false notion that I was uniquely chosen to make these verses come alive to others. I was under the erroneous perception that no one else in the world was given these verses to be their “marching orders.” No doubt, the devil tried to use this form of deception to puff up my ego. After pondering the verses from the Book of Luke, chapter 4:18-19 for quite a while, I asked God to make their meaning clear to me. I believe that whenever a verse in the Bible rings true for us, the Holy Spirit desires to get our attention. The reason for this may not be immediately known or interpreted correctly. In my case, He was handing me my “reason for living.” In fact, I am writing this account for you to fulfill at least a part of my calling, to let everyone know that there is hope at the end of everyone’s dark tunnel. In other words, don’t quit, don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel! Try again!
God can speak to people through a method such as opening the Bible at random and letting their eyes fall upon a verse. This is sometimes referred to as the “dive bomber” approach. It is better, as we mature in the Lord, to read a portion of Scripture and let the Lord
I mentioned earlier that songs have had a profound effect upon me and have directed me to take certain courses of action. I remember how the song and melody “He Touched Me” captivated my soul. Shortly after Kathryn Kuhlman died, the words and melody were continuously on my mind. I tried my best to bring some variety to my humming and singing, but without success. I finally asked in my spirit, “Lord, what do you want to tell me?”
Suddenly I saw, in my mind’s eye, stationery with the words “He Touched Me.” I wondered if I was to create such stationery. After a while and somewhat reluctantly, I sketched the design. Only then did the persuasive melody leave me. Then I heard these words in my spirit: “The anointing which was on Kathryn Kuhlman will be spread upon many and including the stationery.” (Acts 19:11-12). Over the last five years, I have had thousands of sheets of stationery with the words ‘He Touched Me’ printed. I have enjoyed the stationery and so have many others. The majority of the things I see in my mind’s eye have been translated into tangible projects. Far too many ideas are still-born and never see the light of day. To live primarily in our thoughts and imagination is unhealthy and unproductive.
Paintings and pictures have also touched my spirit deeply. God can use and has used them to direct lives or to teach people some poignant truth about themselves. Pictures can be like dreams. They can touch us deeply. We may not always know why. I would like to share a happening that vividly demonstrates the importance that art can play in our lives. The incident occurred in 1972. I had been invited to an art exhibit in which a number of different artists were showing their work. I strolled rather quickly past the various pictures until a painting of a band of wild, unruly horses suddenly caught my attention. As I stood in front of the picture, I felt waves and waves of the Holy Spirit flowing through me. The feeling was very pleasant, but I had no idea how to interpret them it. I knew, however, that somehow the picture was special for me, and therefore, the scene was permanently engraved on my mind. About three years later, as I was washing dishes, the picture again flashed in my mind. With great clarity, accompanied by a sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit, these thoughts came into my mind, “The unbridled horses represent your unbridled emotions. As they are bridled, I can use you as a dependable vessel.” Over the years I have had a number of dreams of wild horses dashing down a hillside. Very slowly and reluctantly, these horses are submitting to wearing bridles.
I have learned to appreciate the importance of good, wholesome art in our lives and homes. Its significance was most forcefully taught to me by a story told by Larry Christenson in his book The Christian Family. In very condensed format, this is the story and finally, its effect on my life.
A widow had three sons. Each of her sons had chosen to become merchant seamen. With great sorrow in her heart did the widow see her youngest son leave the house to go to sea. Her secret desire had been for one of her sons to settle nearby to fill the void and loneliness of her declining years. One day she voiced the pain and sorrow in her heart to a friend.
“How is it that each of my sons has chosen the sea?” she asked. “No one in our family has ever chosen this profession before.”
The friend pondered the question as he looked about. His eyes came to rest on a masterful painting of a large sailing ship on the dining room wall. The captain stood at the prow scanning the horizon. Finally the friend spoke, “Your sons saw this sailing ship every day they lived in this house. The spirit of adventure and the desire for the sea was born into their hearts through this picture. Words were not necessary to mold their lives.”
I hid the story in my heart, marveling at the potential of the idea. Some time elapsed before Crafts for Christ was born. We acquired the knowledge and skill of a unique way of carving words and pictures into wood, glass, and polished stone. We experimented with different ideas. We shared our knowledge and skills with others and saw lives being changed and homes being renewed. We noticed old things, such as horoscopes, nudes, and nondescript paintings being removed from walls of homes, motel lobbies, and restaurants. The vision of claiming “Wall Space for Jesus” was born.
Business at “The Hiding Place” in Escondido was brisk. Our pay was the satisfaction that we had given a troubled soul a sanctuary and a place to be refueled. We did not have a need to hold on to people; we just wanted to equip them so that they were better prepared for life’s problems. The fact that I had learned to make sandblasted signs—and enjoyed making them—helped me to deal with stress, which I seemed invariably to pick up from others. Overall, things were going well. We had a comfortable home, low mortgage payments, and a growing number of fine friends. There was no need to make any drastic changes.
One morning as I was making the bed, a thought of unusual clarity and authority came to me: “Start looking for a larger place.” Shortly before during a prayer meeting at the home of Harold and Carmen Rowe, we had expressed our willingness to submit our lives to the Will of God and to make whatever move would be best for our children. However, when this very clear directive came to me, I was taken totally by surprise. And Rebekah was even more stunned because for the first time in her life she had the opportunity to build a comfortable nest for her family.
At this point our daughter, Heather, was finishing junior high school. She had received the name of the high school she would be entering and had approached us with apprehension. She told us that she was afraid to go to that school. This surprised us, for Heather is not usually one to be fearful. Rebekah and I contemplated this turn of events. We both made the decision, “Lord, we will be willing to go wherever you want us to go that the children can be in the right school and the right environment.” We both felt that this important decision pleased the Lord, Who was preparing us to be open for something new to happen.
We did not feel any sense of urgency to make a move. We pondered the directive to find a larger place, wondering if indeed it had come from God. We had no idea where we might even begin to look. There was only one idea that surfaced. Rebekah and I had always liked the mountains and hoped that we might be able to live there some day. “The Scripture does say that the Lord wants to give you the desire of your heart,” we said to each other. (Delight thyself also in the Lord and He shall give thee the desire of thine heart. Psalm 37:4)
We made several trips to Idyllwild, California, and looked at a few available homes, but did not feel that this was the right area. The first clue to a possible location came as a result of a telephone conversation with a real estate saleswoman. She asked me what kind of work I did. As best I could I told her about the sandblasted signs we made. She responded with the words, “You should live in an area visited by tourists.” Suddenly the word “tourists” became singled out from her conversation as very important. I had a lead! I must confess that this is very meager information to go on for a major move. Sometimes I wonder how much information Abraham had before he departed from his land. The Bible says:
Now the Lord had said unto Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land I will show thee.” Gen. 12:1
It seems appropriate for me to ask Rebekah to narrate the next part of our adventure. God used her in a unique way to bring us to Pagosa Springs, the halfway point on our way to Austin, Texas.