Deb and I are painting our house. A one hundred and twenty five year old home has it’s challenges but we are enjoying putting our personal impression on the walls and a million feet of trim. Deb takes care of the trim and often has to paint parts again after I get wall paint on doorway frames and window sidings. She is far more patient than me. Good thing!
I wanted to do something a little bold so I painted the inside front door with a deep dark RED Merlot. Great! Looked so good so with paint brush in hand I looked to see what’s next. Part of the crown moulding around the ceiling by the front door has a half inch flat spot, so I went for it. It was a total pain and I have to touch it up, but we liked it. How about the rings around the light fixture? Yes, now deep red. I guess you could say I was on a red hot roll. "Deb, what about that thing in the kitchen?”, I asked. "Go for it" was her reply without a hint of apprehension. Told you, quite a woman! That thing in the kitchen was the boxed-in beam that ran for fifteen feet between the kitchen and dining room. I’m in it big time now.
I was speaking at a wonderful church in the heart of winter in one of Ontario Canada’s frozen northern cities. After the meeting, two lovely young ladies approached me. Now you have to realize I am a bit of a sucker for anyone who likes me. I don’t care about your background, what you do for a living or the colour of your skin. If you like me then I would like to be your friend. They told me how much they enjoyed what I had to say. I knew they were comfortable with me but I was hardly ready for what was to come. “I’m a lesbian," said one and the other was not quite sure what she was. This was simple enough, no problem. God loves all of us the way we are but does not leave us there. I had seen many gay people be won by the love of God. Perhaps He was going to do it again. One of the young ladies asked, “Would you come to a gay dance with us tonight?” The invitation caused the blood to drain from my face. I began to have a silent heart dialogue with the Almighty. Before He could impress upon me His desire I told Him 'no way.’ Not in an audible voice but in the sensitivities of the heart I could feel the Father pressing in on me. My response was, "come on God you got to be kidding.” I looked into the anxious eyes of the sweet pair before me. How could I say no when they came out to see me and showed me such kindness? Any collateral I had built in their hearts could be lost. If I followed the traditions found in my training, this crossroad for the girls to know the love of God could be gone. Soon my heart began to melt. I knew God was asking me to do this and yet He left the door open for me to say 'no'. God had been far too good to me not to grant Him his heart's desire. Still I was afraid. To attend a gay dance was not an everyday activity that goes on in a Bible College or a church. My mind was saying 'no' but when I opened my mouth it said 'yes'.
My heart was pounding in my ears. The frigid night was not an issue, I was preoccupied with the words in my head in a constant loop saying, "I can’t believe I am doing this!”
The rented hall was at the top of a staircase. Each step I took I fought my apprehension. We reached the outside platform. Someone opened the door. A blast of warm air brushed across my tight face. Then my foot crossed the threshold of the door entering the forbidden zone. At this very moment a woman on the stage slammed her hand violently across her guitar strings. She then thundered these words; words I will never forget, "The church calls us an abomination unto the Lord!” Rage and rejection. Defiance and yet an inner yearning to be accepted emanated from this woman in the Larry King suspenders and a brush cut. I knew I was in for quite a night. It helped my heightened insecurity to know that only God could set the timing so exact. It would be an experience of hearing God speak to me in a place where few Christians have tread. I was also grateful that the wife of the pastor at the church came with me. A wonderful friend and counselor. I was not alone in the unknown territory of the gay world. We were not long sitting at our table when the girls grabbed my hand and pulled me up to dance. As I stumbled in a type of irregular two step, everyone glided around me with a grace that made my erratic foot work rather embarrassing. In a sweet way, I felt honoured and accepted. My heart was being touched in a strange yet marvelous way.
During my staggered attempt at dancing, I observed my surroundings. The young people did not seem like their hearts were totally taken in and completely established in the same sex culture as I would have expected. On my way back to my seat a “flamer” flashed by attempting to fill the room like a peacock in strut. This was his night to cut loose. As far as the young people, they just seemed lost and had found acceptance with this enclave of people hidden in society's darker corners.
I could talk for hours about the night. More important is what God, in the secret language of the heart, was saying. In the midst of confused souls lost in identity and mixed up affections, I sensed Him saying, “Do you feel My Love here for these people?” My heart melted once more because contrary to years of being under a theology that said it was wrong for me to even be here, I was experiencing a tender love for these people. He continued and there was a sadness in His tone. "I want to bring My people to places like this but I can’t. They would not see the delicate work I am doing. They would bring their church culture of preconceived perceptions administered by programs and traditions. These will not reach them. It will take flexible, spontaneous, fearless unconditional love to reach them. We must become their friends".
To say the least, I was saddened and ashamed that we as God’s people could be so far from His heart and not know it. Then the girls brought a tall man in a blue dress over to my table and quizzically introduced him to me. They were watching for the slightest judgmental reaction. Again, one wrong response could show my nakedness and hypocrisy. Before me was a man with red lipstick and false breasts. Perhaps at another time I may not have responded very well but not this frosty night. The Father had removed much of the coldness that once reigned hidden deep inside my heart. Before me was not an abomination. It was a man deeply loved by God. I rose to meet him. I did not see the caricature of humanity as many religious folk would. The words, “It is a pleasure to meet you,” rolled past my lips with a dignity that would be given only to a king or president. I shook his hand.
My life was forever changed after the night in the frozen north at this gay dance. After many times of rehearsing the evening in my heart, a serious question came to mind so I inquired of God, 'If the church is not your culture then what is?” His answer left me speechless. “I’m not a culture. I AM."
I have purposed in this blog to cause us to turn our eyes to the future. I have to remind myself that the Sun is rising, not setting. For 43 years, He has saved me from making deathly judgements based on the dark side of myself and the church. He has never failed me. Often the process of transformation into someone more honourable and transparent at the time made little sense. Now decades later, life changing truth has taken hold of my mind and heart based on many of these past experiences.
My first vision was before I was saved. I have mentioned this in a previous section of this web so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice to say, I was shown that God’s heart was to make Himself a family where He would enjoy the relationship with mankind as their Poppa. Fantastic! To never feel unloved, fooled or deceived. My encounter with Him was on the streets not in a church building. As a so called hippy in my time, the vision of the flower child filled love had ended up as a pipe dream. The selfish cruelty of human nature was more powerful than efforts to create the utopia of the yearning heart. Drugs and crime, heartache and loneliness taunted the inescapable need for secure sustaining love.
We ended up in the denominations. I went through the Bible College systems. I guess you could say I jumped through all the hoops. It was much better than my life before meeting Him, yet it was far from the family of God I had seen in the beginning. The old nagging sinking reality had gripped my heart. This was not it. The form of God was there but from my perspective, it seemed like there was not a whole lot of Him. After an incredible break in loyalty that left me devastated, I continued my search. Where does God live? Where is His family?
I was in Scandinavia on a pass that would enabled me by train to travel all over Europe, Scandinavia, and before the wall came down, communist Germany. I searched many weeks on the continent for evidence of the Living God. My search was for the most part in vain and the grief in my heart was exasperated by the fatigue that comes from sleeping on trains. My pass allowed me to go on a cruise in the Norwegian fjords. I boarded the ship docked at the harbour in Stefan-gar. Tired, down and empty, I thought this excursion into nature would lift my spirits. It was chilly and damp. The miserable feeling seemed to go to the marrow of my bone. Soon, we hit a massive fog bank. I was freezing, exhausted and broken in mind and spirit. It was just about when I was at my very end something began to change. The fog began to dissipate. I looked up and saw the wisps of clouds give way to glorious warm sun. Massive cliffs towered up majestically on both sides of the ship. I heard people shout,"see the Orca" [killer whales]. The water was absolutely beautiful. The turquoise coloured water was as bright as the blue sky that seemed to sit upon cliffs as high as mountains. We slowed down to a section of the fjord where a colony of goats frolicked on the stony ledges. It all took my mind to a better place. I could feel some life come back to me.
God began to impress the reality He wanted me to learn. My condition, the cold, the fog and the depressed state I was in would pass if I did not give up! A wonderland is only a few more miles and the fog is a necessary test. Well, much more than a test. I learned it is necessary, at times, to be brought to our own end of reasoning and comfort. Only then can the Kingdom come. The Kingdom will not share ground with the old unchanged nature. One kingdom must die and His doesn’t.
Hang in there my friend. He will come though. It will be on His terms, terms that are Life. There is a Utopia and He is it. A Father unlike any. A Father to heal your heart. A heart made sick from one disappointment after another is not a chore for Him to heal, but an expression of incredible identifiable Love. My vision of God’s loving family is closer than I have ever experienced. He has given me trustworthy friends, friends I can trust my life and my wife to. Contact me and I will pray for you. We will make it together.
Dan Chappell was fathered in the prophetic by Robert Ewing of Grace Churches of Texas in the early 80’s and mentored in “The Heart of the Father" by Jack Winters.
He is recognized trans locally for his sensitive and encouraging prophetic and strategic insight. His gifting is not just for the local church, but impacts churches across the continent. Debbie, his wife, stands with him in this demanding role.