Read an Excerpt
GPS STEP 1
SPEAK WITH THE NAVIGATOR
Let us begin by understanding Divine Alignment.
The Hertz rent-a-car agent advised that any vehicle could be equipped with a GPS navigational device—called “Never Lost.”
I remember thinking: Wouldn’t it be great if we all had GPS; a Global Positioning System . . . making sure we are “never lost”?
That’s when the penny dropped.
EACH OF US IS BORN WITH A BUILT-IN GPS. GOD’S POSITIONING SYSTEM.
Right from birth, we come equipped with a highly sophisticated navigational package that—through an internal voice of intuition and godwinks—divinely aligns us with people, as well as events, who assist us in reaching our destiny and keep us from losing our way.
Let me expand on that.
When that telephone call that “just happened” to connect you with someone who “coincidentally” placed you on a whole new track, or you bumped into that person who, oh so serendipitously, led you to a life-changing experience—a new job, a relationship, or a geographical move—you were encountering Divine Alignment, guided by your personal GPS.
I suspect you never stopped to ask, “Why was that person at that precise place, at that exact time, in order for me to bump into them?” Or, “Why did that phone call occur at that auspicious moment?”
Does this describe you? Day in and day out you nonchalantly encounter one person after another as you bound from one event to the next, casually accepting life as a series of accidents. Only when you stop to open your mind to the immense possibilities of Divine Alignment do you begin to see the marvelous connections and invisible threads that connect you from one person to another. You begin to understand that your life is not an accident at all. You’re not like a twig randomly floating down a stream to destinations unknown.
You begin to see the marvelous connections and invisible threads that connect you from one person to another.
Yet, as you travel through life, your hands are on the steering wheel most of the way. And one of the gifts you are given, factory installed, is free will.
You’re free to go too fast or too slow. To be reckless or responsible. Or even free to drive off the highway altogether, if that’s what you choose.
You also have the free will to acknowledge . . . or to ignore . . . that you are not here by accident.
The truth is, you are part of an incredible plan that was programmed into your DNA long before you were born.
How do you access that plan?
Within your own personal GPS you have a Navigator. Someone much bigger than you—and all of us—guiding your life.
The question is, How do you tune in? How do you communicate with the Navigator? How do you determine what purpose He has planned uniquely and especially for you?
Very simply—you communicate with Him.
HOW DO YOU COMMUNICATE WITH THE NAVIGATOR?
The best way is simply by talking with Him. The same way you’d talk with your father or grandfather. We have a word for it:
DON’T LET THAT WORD STARTLE YOU
I’ve searched my mind for a euphemism—another word that isn’t so, shall we say, unnerving—conceding that we are living in a society that is hypersensitive to political correctness. These days we’ve become so gun-shy we bolt from anything that smacks of religion.
In fact, you could be asking, “Should I drop this book here and now? I don’t want to read a religious book!”
This one isn’t. It’s spiritual, hopefully inspiring, but not religious.
Remind yourself that this book is written neither by Einstein nor by Billy Graham. It’s written by me, one of the fathers of ABC’s Schoolhouse Rock! A guy who brought you TV cartoons on Saturday morning. So, how theologically heady can it be?
• • •
Okay, regarding that little word we’re discussing, to be completely honest, I can’t conjure up a different word from the English language—other than prayer—to express what I want to say.
Moreover, prayer is not just a word we use in English. It’s a concept integral to every faith and probably every language.
In the absence of a suitable substitute, the word prayer is a perfectly fine choice.
So, I hope you’re in accord; in the absence of a suitable substitute, the word prayer is a perfectly fine choice. Let us therefore boldly welcome it to our lips along with other expressions, like talk, speak, or chat.
Programming her personal GPS by chatting with the Navigator—through prayer—is exactly what Carla did. Let’s let her story exemplify the concept.
It seemed perfectly plausible when Carla’s friend called, looking for support.
“Alice was trying to have a baby and she wanted me to come to her apartment while she took the home pregnancy test,” she remembers.
But when she got to her friend’s place, Carla learned that Alice had purchased two pregnancy tests—one for herself and another as a control for Carla to administer.
“Sure, why not,” replied Carla, glad to help out.
One of the tests indicated a positive result. The other did not.
“But we were confused and surprised,” says Carla, “because the positive one was mine!”
The two women rushed back to the pharmacy, purchased two more tests, and repeated the procedure. The results were the same.
“I quickly called my ob-gyn,” explains Carla, “who took me in for examination that very afternoon. He did an ultrasound, and sure enough, there was the little tyke.”
Carla’s emotions took off like a roller coaster. The surprise of discovering her pregnancy, at a time when her life was already in turmoil, ushered in all kinds of uncertainties, contrasted with the unexpected joy that she was going to have a baby!
During the next few days she began to worry and doubt if she was worthy of being a mother; she started cramping and bleeding.
Worried, she rushed back to the doctor’s office.
The ultrasound was repeated. But, tragically, what was revealed on the screen was a shock; she had lost her baby.
“I was devastated,” whispers Carla.
The sadness was so overwhelming that she could hardly comprehend what the doctor was telling her to do—to come back in, in a couple of days, and have a D&C procedure to prevent infection.
Carla returned home. Her cloak of grief drew tight around her. She cried and cried. She remained in bed.
“I can’t describe the feeling, except to say that I felt like I was being pushed down . . . I felt heavy.”
She stayed home from work, skipped the D&C appointment, took no phone calls, and didn’t crawl from bed for a week.
“I was despondent . . . I continued to cry and cry. I thought I might be experiencing some normal depression following a miscarriage.”
She didn’t know what to do, or to whom she could turn. So . . . she called upon the Navigator.
“I was so completely distraught that I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. I begged God to please let it all be a mistake, that the doctors were wrong, promising to be the best mother in the world if I just had one more chance. I really believed I could get the baby back, somehow, if I prayed hard enough.”
When Carla finally pulled herself out of bed, she called the doctor and went to his office.
“He was a little mad at me for not showing up for my appointment,” she recalls.
Anticipating that he might scold her, she cautiously told him that she thought she might still be pregnant.
The doctor just looked at her sympathetically. He’d heard this before.
“You’re having a normal reaction to the trauma of losing a baby,” he said, choosing his words carefully. “Many women feel this way after a miscarriage. But . . .” he continued with firmness, “it’s very important now for you to have the D&C.”
Carla looked at him directly. She nodded slightly.
“I will. Provided you give me one more ultrasound.”
He stared at her a moment. Then, reluctantly, he agreed.
She quietly lay on the examining table as the doctor and nurses prepped for the ultrasound. They ran the instrument over her tummy while looking at the results on the screen.
And there, in black and white, was the very definite shape of a baby!
Carla could not believe her eyes, which were filling with tears of joy and relief as her lower lip began to quiver.
The doctor was speechless.
“I can’t explain it,” he said.
It remained unsaid, yet everyone in the room thought it: Thank God Carla was motivated to skip the D&C. For surely, had she not missed her appointment, there would have been no baby.
To this day Carla remains astonished with the series of events, and how her pleadings to the Navigator resulted in an outcome that no one could have predicted.
Her daughter is now sixteen years old and Carla has lived up to her promise to devote herself to raising her. She left her career behind to be a full-time mother and has no regrets. She thanks God every day for giving her the strength to believe in her own senses, overriding the doctors, when they were so certain that she was wrong and they were right.
Programming her personal GPS by talking with the Navigator . . . prayer . . . worked.
HOW DO YOU PRAY?
Very simply, prayer is communication with someone up there bigger than you. God.
Prayer doesn’t require pomp and circumstance.
It needn’t be executed on your knees.
You don’t have to say “thees” and “thous.”
You don’t even have to speak out loud. You can talk to God inside your head or write Him a letter.
Let me expand on that thought. I remember the time an elderly country gentleman named Ralph Lankler told me, with a twinkle in his eye, “I write a letter to God every morning.”
“What do you say?”
“Oh, I just tell Him whatever’s on my mind—thank Him for the gifts He’s sent since my last letter.”
“How do you sign it?”
Hmm. Nice idea, isn’t it?
My point is this: You just need to communicate with your Navigator—God—the way you would with your dad or a loved and respected grandparent. When you do, you’ll discover it’s your daily dialogue with Him that enables you to effectively program your GPS.
It is during these quiet times with your Maker that you are also giving Him an opportunity to speak to you, through the still small voice within. You may be surprised at the number of times, during prayer, that a perfect idea pops into your head. During these moments of complete attention, you are more apt to be actively listening for God’s guidance.
CAN I TALK TO THE NAVIGATOR ABOUT ANYTHING?
The Bible provides you with that permission.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
JOHN 15:7 (NIV)
WHAT ABOUT SOMETHING REALLY IMPOSSIBLE?
Let me introduce another story that will most likely cause you to say “that’s impossible,” notwithstanding the empirical evidence that I’m going to lay right in front of you.
TONI AND DAVID
Toni Espinoza, a forty-eight-year-old mother of two, looked into her friend’s doubtful eyes.
She had just quietly told him something she knew would be difficult for anyone to understand. But Crawford Higgins was a longtime family friend. Over the years Toni and her husband, David, had shared many family issues with Crawford and his wife. They’d grown up together. Their kids played together. They attended the same church. Toni and David valued Crawford’s opinion.
“Toni, are you crazy?” said Crawford bluntly.
They’d just been talking about the issue that had gripped their two families for several weeks, ever since David had been told by three different cardiologists that unless he had a heart transplant, he would die. Perhaps within months.
The two couples had shared information about every doctor’s visit. They pooled medical research each had done. They had prayed for David’s survival. But now Toni was sharing a secret with Crawford—that she had prayed for something else—confirmation that David would be well, by asking God to make it snow in their Mexican border community of McAllen, Texas. On Christmas Day!
“Toni, you’ve lived here all your life,” Crawford said, incredulously. “Have you ever even seen snow?”
She slowly shook her head and smiled.
Crawford stared back at her.
“Do you know the last time we got snowflakes in McAllen?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “A hundred and nine years ago.”
Toni smiled again. For inexplicable reasons, she had peace in her heart that surpassed all understanding.
But Crawford wasn’t finished.
“And . . . it has never snowed on Christmas Day.”
• • •
Toni and David Espinoza, both in their late forties, live in a modest home on a quiet street of McAllen, which sits on the southernmost border of the United States and Mexico, five and a half hours south of Houston. In the dead of winter “cold,” in McAllen it is seventy degrees.
Toni and David were grateful for lives abundant in joy and values. Their marriage was nearly thirty years strong, and Trisha and Lisa, their two daughters, were out of the nest and on their way.
Then the devastating news hit them like a ton of bricks.
It was midyear 2004 and David was advised that congestive heart failure had enlarged and damaged his heart to such an extent that it was working at only 10 percent capacity.
“We’re surprised he’s still walking,” said each doctor they saw, in so many words.
“A heart transplant is your only option,” they echoed. “Without it, you’ve only got months to live.”
Soon Toni and David were driving up to Houston for further evaluations at the famed DeBakey Heart Center at Baylor Hospital. There, it was confirmed that David’s ejection fraction, which should be in the normal range of 50 to 70 percent, was only 15 to 20 percent.
Ejection fraction (EF) is defined this way: “A test that determines how well your heart pumps with each beat.”
DeBakey doctors advised David that it was prudent to put him on the list for a heart donor, warning that it often takes nine months or more to find a perfect match. Even if one were found, the transplant would need to take place within about three hours. Given the distance between McAllen and Houston, that would be another serious issue.
Toni and David clung to each other.
The report of each doctor made them feel pummeled. Yet what could they do but grasp for strands of hope that they would be delivered a miracle and somehow pull through?
Arriving at the most critical crossroads of their lives—with life or death hanging in the balance and the couple consumed by uncertainty—they did what you might have done; they prayed. Without even realizing it, they were programming their personal GPS by speaking to the Navigator. God.
Praying several times a day, Toni cried out to God to save her husband. Yet even as she did this, she became more and more conflicted with the awareness that in order for David to live, someone else had to die.
“That doesn’t seem right,” she discerned.
So, instead of a transplant, she asked God for a miraculous healing.
• • •
By early December both Toni and David were feeling a tentative peace about the ordeal, somewhat like a cease-fire in battle.
“I felt we were in God’s hands,” said David.
“I believed that God had already begun working to heal my husband,” said Toni.
Yet she wanted something more, some kind of tangible assurance that God’s miracle was forthcoming.
She spoke with the Navigator about it, privately.
“Lord, I will know David is okay, if you make it snow on Christmas Day, here in McAllen, Texas,” she stated flatly.
She mentioned this to David. But when he didn’t respond—one of those times that husbands don’t really listen, David said later—she decided to drop the matter with him. Instead, she told three others about her pact with God: Crawford Higgins, their close family friend; her sister Sylvia; and her friend Marilyn.
“Snow in McAllen? That’s impossible,” said her sister.
Crawford was simply blunt. “Toni, if you’re expecting it to snow here, where we’ve lived all our lives, and never seen snow—let alone on Christmas Day—you might as well start planning the funeral.”
Christmas Eve arrived.
At eleven-thirty Toni looked through the sliding-glass doors into the backyard and blinked. Snow flurries were falling.
“Trisha!” she shouted to her daughter, home for the holidays from New York City. “That’s snow, isn’t it?” She wasn’t sure, having never seen snow.
“Your dad’s going to be okay,” whispered Toni, choking back tears. “Quick, go get Dad and Lisa.”
David, struggling with a cold and setting an early alarm for his Santa chores, had gone to bed early.
Toni slid open the door to the backyard and stepped onto the lawn, now speckled with snow.
Coatless, alone with God, she lifted her face to the heavens, and closed her eyes as white flecks of snow dotted her hair and stuck to her smiling face.
“Thank You, Lord. Thank You.”
• • •
The next morning, Christmas Day, bundled-up children of McAllen burst from their homes to manufacture first-time-ever snowmen and fanned angels on front lawns. And, for the first time in recorded history, McAllen, Texas, received a white Christmas. The city’s first measurable snow in 109 years. The newspaper heralded the rare event with a special section.
• • •
Four weeks later Toni and David drove back to Houston for three days of previously scheduled tests at the DeBakey Heart Center. On the third morning Dr. Guillermo Torre entered the small office holding David’s chart.
He studied it, checking and rechecking the name on top.
His eyes began to widen. His jaw dropped. He looked up at the two of them.
“I can’t explain this,” he said with surprise in his voice. “You’re not sick anymore!”
He again looked at the chart. Again looked up.
“David, you’re going to be around for a long time.”
• • •
For anyone who doubts that Toni’s prayers were answered with remarkable godwinks, following continued conversations with the Navigator, the medical records from the DeBakey Heart Center tell the story. On David’s initial visit, April 27, 2004, doctors wrote: “LV function is severely depressed with LVEF [Left Ventricle Ejection Fraction] 15 to 20 percent.” Normal, if you recall, is 50 to 70 percent. However, four weeks after the white Christmas miracle in McAllen, on January 24, 2005, the report states: “Lower limits normal LV function. Qualitative EF is 50 percent,” within the lower range of normal.
If you have faith as small as a mustard seed,
you can say to this mountain, “Move from
here to there,” and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you.
BUT WHAT IF MY REQUEST TO GOD IS REALLY REALLY IMPOSSIBLE?
Measure whatever problems you have, whatever issues you’re wrestling with, against this man’s. Don was happily driving home one day from a conference and suddenly he was looking at the front end of an eighteen-wheeler truck coming through his windshield. His car was crushed. He was dead in a matter of moments.
Could your problems be any worse than that?
How could Don . . . how could you . . . how could anyone get out of Don Piper’s predicament?
One word: prayer.
But you just said he was dead!!
Yes, he was in an impossible situation. He was dead. But, for the Navigator, nothing’s impossible.
You perhaps read Don Piper’s story; his book Ninety Minutes in Heaven has been a New York Times bestseller.
However, I’d like to share a different perspective on Don’s amazing story, from the point of view of the man and woman whom God divinely aligned to “just happen” to come along into Don’s life—or in this case—. . . Don’s death—at the most auspicious time.
ANITA, DICK, AND DON: MIRACLE ON THE BRIDGE
“I’ve got to have a cup of real coffee! My headache’s getting worse,” said Anita, her brows tightening, as she motioned to the upcoming Dairy Queen.
Who could have ever known that Anita’s urgent need for a cup of coffee was about to alter her life, forever intertwining it with the lives of others? Looking back, that cup of coffee would become a critical godwink, in her life, and in the lives of others.
Anita and her husband, Dick Onarecker, had spent that cold rainy January morning attending a conference in East Texas where decaf-only coffee was served. Anita had learned the hard way that without “real” coffee in her system, a throbbing headache was just around the corner.
Resuming the two-hour drive home, cradling the cup with both hands, Anita blinked and moved slightly forward as she looked through the windshield. A fog was still hovering over a bridge they were approaching, and something looked odd. It was an accident. There was a big truck, an eighteen-wheeler, stopped in the wrong lane! Two men stood outside the truck, looking around. One wore what looked like an officer’s uniform.
Dick slowed down and the tires made crunching sounds as he steered onto the bridge, around the debris littering the road.
They passed a damaged car resting just beyond the truck. In that car, a man, stunned, seemed to be staring blankly as he sat behind the wheel.
They passed an object Anita could barely make out—logic told her it was another car—but it was no longer shaped like a car. It was flattened, crushed, and still steaming. The big truck must have run right over it!
Dick swerved around the flattened vehicle, pulled ahead on the bridge, and stopped. They both jumped out and began walking back. Approaching the flattened car, Anita and Dick could see there was a bloodied body inside.
Acknowledging his wife’s sensitivity to blood and gore, Dick spoke quickly. “Why don’t you go on over to that other car,” he said seriously, nodding in the direction of the other vehicle. “Maybe you can help that person.”
She was relieved.
Soon Anita was leaning through a smashed-out window of the first car, speaking softly, calming an older man who was still stunned, seated behind the wheel. She handed him her still-warm cup of coffee.
• • •
Shocked by the carnage—a horrible accident that must have occurred only a couple of minutes before—Dick surveyed the flattened wreckage of what was once a Ford Escort. No one could survive this, he quickly assessed.
The uniformed man, a prison guard, approached and stood next to him. They nodded at each other. Glancing past him, Dick could see the name of a nearby state prison etched on the cab of the truck.
“Don’t bother with him. I already checked,” said the guard, motioning at the wreckage with his head. “He’s dead.”
Dick stepped past the man, past a piece of human bone in the road, and bent down to peer into the mangled pile of metal. There was the body of a man, twisted and lifeless. To satisfy himself, he reached in, felt for a pulse; there was none.
What should he do? What could he do?
Pray for the man, was a clear, decisive command from within his mind. An urgent, voiceless message to pray for a dead man, to pray that he would live, and that he would have no internal injuries.
That makes no sense! he silently argued. The man is dead. Why pray for a dead man?
Dick was a pastor. He’d learned obedience. He knew the principles of talking with the Navigator. And that “All things were possible.” Still, he hesitated to pray.
A police officer approached the wreckage; he too attempted to locate a pulse.
“We have one fatality here,” said the policeman into his two-way radio.
Dick again felt the compulsion to pray. Have I gone nuts? he thought, resisting the urge that wouldn’t leave his mind.
An emergency medical technician was the next official to verify that the man was dead.
Finally, surrendering to, and even oddly emboldened by, God’s insistent directive, Dick began to pray—out loud—loud enough for others to hear, as ridiculous as it seemed, for a period of time he could not determine. He kept his hand firmly on the dead man’s right shoulder, beseeching that he would come back to life, with no internal injuries.
• • •
The dead man was Don Piper.
Had he been able to speak at that moment, he would have said, “The last thing I remember was driving onto the bridge and suddenly everything became dark. Then I remember being at the gates of heaven, surrounded by people, and hearing music.”
Don Piper’s spirit had been transported to heaven while his body remained entrapped in the wreckage of an accordioned Ford Escort.
The tractor-trailer truck had crossed into his lane and rolled over his car, crushing every part of his body except his right arm. He had died instantly. And instantly he went to heaven—for the next hour and a half.
• • •
Anita watched as EMTs tended to the man she’d been watching over, then walked back to her own car to sit and wait for Dick. She observed the activity of emergency workers and vehicles. And waited. Again and again she looked at her watch. Dick was away a long time.
• • •
Respecting God’s command, in total defiance of human logic, Dick prayed boldly.
“I prayed aloud, nonstop,” said Dick.
Dick continued his prayer for the survival of a dead man. He prayed and prayed. And when he became exhausted verbally, he prayed musically; he sang a favorite old hymn.
“What a friend we have in Jesus . . .”
He heard something. A weak voice.
It was the dead man! He was singing along with him!
• • •
Dick spoke to him. The man spoke back. Dick then rushed to the ambulance driver.
“Come get this man. Take him to the hospital. He needs immediate care!”
“The driver looked at me as if I were out of my mind,” says Dick. “But I gave him no leeway.”
The disbelieving EMT walked to the wrecked car, moved close enough to hear the man’s subdued voice, then sprang into action.
• • •
Don Piper had been dead for an estimated ninety minutes. He went to heaven and came back to earth. Today he lives and believes he has a mission to tell about it, to describe scenes that no one could imagine.
“Everybody I saw there had hair,” says Don Piper, reassuring his attentive audiences. “In heaven you’ll be perfect in every way, just the way God made you before age and circumstances of life have stolen anything from you. You’ll be perfect.
“For example, my grandmother had false teeth,” he continues, “but when I saw her in heaven her teeth were real. Her body was perfect.”
“My grandfather . . . reached out to me with hands that were no longer missing fingers, as on earth . . . saying, ‘Welcome home, Donny.’ ”
It took Don Piper two years before he could tell anyone about his experiences in the realm known as heaven. Partly, he says, because he didn’t think earthly words could describe what he saw. But also because he didn’t think anyone would believe him.
Subsequently Don overcame each of these concerns with his national bestselling book Ninety Minutes in Heaven. His vivid promises of what we can expect have been a source of encouragement to many.
“The music was my most precious memory of heaven. I carry it with me to this day . . . the singing of thousands of songs at the same time. There was no chaos. I could distinguish each one of them with my heavenly ear.”
“Heaven is kind of a sensory explosion . . . sights, sounds, touch, aromas, everything was just magnificent.”
He describes it as a great reunion. “The people who greet you at the gates of heaven will be those who’ve gone before you . . . who helped you get there.” He cites Miss Norris, a lady who used to take him to church as a child and introduced him to Jesus. “She greeted me at the gate of heaven.”
Don describes the beauty: the gate has a pearliness, and leads to a street of gold. “The lights reflecting off the gate made it look like it’s pulsating with life. That’s because in heaven there is no artificial light—God illuminates with His glory.”
Everything he saw was magnificent. It gave him a wonderful feeling.
“It’s awesome. It’s incredible. I heard incredible sounds . . . the sound of angel’s wings hovering all about me—not all angels have wings, but many of them do—I felt wonderful, never happier in my life.”
As with others who have said they experienced heaven, Don did not wish to return to earth.
“I was focused on seeing the Lord. Then, suddenly, everything began to go dark again. The aroma began to fade. The sounds began to fade. I was about to ask, ‘What’s going on?’ but before I could say anything, everything went dark. Stopped. It was pitch dark. And I heard a voice . . . a voice I’d never heard before. It was singing, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus.’”
• • •
Dick Onarecker stood dumbfounded, watching the ambulance carrying Don pull away from the bridge as the second stanza of the old hymn resonated in his mind: “What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.” It seemed like such an understatement.
• • •
“Eventually Dick returned to our car, and sat next to me,” says Anita. But before he could relay, in detail, the incredible events that had happened, he needed to make an urgent phone call.
“At the top of the first hill was a small store with a pay phone. I waited again as he phoned the man’s church in Alvin.”
Returning to the car Dick told Anita what happened on the bridge—how at least four different persons, including himself, had declared the man dead.
“I tried to find the man’s pulse, but there wasn’t any.”
He told Anita how he he’d been compelled to pray for the dead man. That he prayed and prayed and sang a hymn . . . and how shocked he was when the man spoke and sang along with him.
“I asked him, ‘Friend, are you a Christian?’ He said yes, told me his name, about his church in Alvin, and his wife, Eva.”
• • •
Several days later Dick and Anita visited Don at a hospital in Houston.
“I enjoyed meeting Eva, Don’s lovely wife,” said Dick. “She described the many injuries to Don’s arms and legs, all over his body. Then she commented with a questioning tone, ‘Our doctors are baffled because, with all that happened to him, they can’t find any internal injuries.’”
There was a momentary pause. Dick looked at Anita, then turned and smiled at Eva.
“I have it on good authority,” said Dick. “Your husband will live!”
• • •
“I survived because of prayer,” says Don Piper. “One man, Dick Onarecker, felt God impress upon him to pray and he did. He prayed me back to this earth.”
• • •
Dick always wondered how many lives would have turned out differently if his dear wife, Anita, had not been profoundly affected by decaffeinated coffee, if she hadn’t had the headache, if, that morning, she hadn’t said, “Will you stop at that Dairy Queen so I can get a cup of coffee?”
Anita had another haunting thought. If we had not stopped to get my coffee, Richard and I would have been in the car that was run over.
She has written her and Dick’s compelling story in a book called Divine Appointment.
Later on in this book, we’ll revisit the Don Piper story, comparing the details of his experience with several others who say they physically left this earth and went to a place called heaven. The parallels in these stories are extraordinary.
But, the message of this chapter again, is this: regardless of how impossible your situation is—whether you’re facing a mountain of stress and worry so immense you’re having difficulty sleeping—or whether you’ve lost a job, not knowing where, or how, to start over, and insurmountable financial problems have pitted you against giant unfair institutions and the government—perhaps your problems still are not as bad as Don Piper’s. And maybe not as bad as David Espinoza’s death sentence. Yet, the way for you to scale that mountain, or pull yourself out of the hole you’re in, is to program your GPS the same way they did: Talk to the Navigator. And listen.
CAN MERE WORDS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Can mere words uttered to an unseen Navigator really make a difference?
Words you speak internally or externally to an unseen God will make an unbelievable difference in your life.
I know, it’s hard to get your mind around a concept like that if you’ve been convinced otherwise all your life.
But think about this: there are many things in your life that you accept based upon outcome, not because you know how it works. Imagine standing in your kitchen eighty-five years ago; someone tells you that a box would soon be available, into which you could place a cup of water, and by pressing a few buttons, invisible rays would make it hot in sixty seconds. How does a microwave work? Beats me, but it works. I trust it . . . based on outcome.
Another person, decades ago, says something even more farfetched. Soon there’d be a way that the image and voice of a person speaking in Hong Kong could travel invisibly through the air to be seen, at the flick of a switch, on a box in your living room.
Absurd? Invisible rays heating water? Someone transported invisibly through the air from around the world?
Truth is, most of us have no idea how microwaves or television sets work. We just know that when we follow certain steps, they produce an outcome that we accept.
That’s how prayer works in your life. Taking steps, talking with the Navigator, and focusing on outcome—not on how it works.
• • •
Let me share a story that brings this premise back to everyday life—a situation you can relate to; a regular gathering of teachers to discuss concerns about students, and to pray for them. Yes, despite all the misinterpretation about “separation of church and state” these days, it is perfectly legal for teachers to speak with the Navigator on behalf of their students.
AN ALLISON MOMENT
Randy Reed, teacher and coach, made it a point to carve out a little time with several of his fellow teachers, once a week, before the start of classes, to share mutual concerns.
“I started by telling them about a book I’d recently read, When God Winks, which talked about how so-called coincidences in our lives are more than random happenings,” recalls Randy. “After the book discussion, we began to offer prayer requests as we usually do.”
One of the teachers brought up a sweet girl named Allison, a former student who had moved to another school district.
“Our real concern was that the school Allison was now attending had a really rough reputation,” says Randy. “We wondered how she was coping, and began discussing how we could check on her.”
At that moment, over the intercom, came an announcement that there was a phone call for Randy.
“Thinking it was probably a parent letting me know their son would not be at practice that afternoon, or something to that effect, I told the other teachers that I’d ignore the announcement and return to it later,” says Randy.
They continued their discussion about Allison.
“I then had a strong feeling that I should answer the call,” says Randy, excusing himself from the meeting.
In the front office he picked up the phone.
“Coach Reed here.”
“Hi, Coach, it’s Allison.”
There was a moment of silence.
“Coach Reed, are you there?”
“Yes, Allison, I’m here. I just can’t believe it’s you . . . We were just talking about you. Are you okay?”
“I was getting ready for school,” she explained, “and had a feeling I should call you and let you know that I am doing fine. My new school is different, but I like it okay.”
They spoke for a few minutes, then Randy rejoined his meeting, reporting the extraordinary godwink to the others.
Today he recalls how stunned he was. “I’d never received a call at the school from a student. And, to get this call, at this time, was incredible. It was a beautiful example of God answering a prayer, and in this case, even before our prayers were completed.”
• • •
When you program your GPS regularly, through conversations with the Navigator, you too will experience answered prayers—or, another term for that: godwinks.
Let me share one more illustration to make the point of this chapter.
Nathan Christensen was a good kid. An athlete. Growing up in a small Wisconsin farm community. Not the type who would needlessly create worry for his parents, even when driving alone in his mother’s Chevy convertible six months after getting his sixteen-year-old driver’s license. Nor was he the type to drive without a seat belt.
County Highway X was a stretch of rarely traveled country road running alongside a wildlife preserve in western Wisconsin, a shortcut between Marshfield and Necedah. Not much on it. Almost no houses and lots of deer. That’s what it was known for and why so few people took it. The deer were a nuisance, coming off the preserve to lick road salt, jumping in front of cars unexpectedly.
It was a clear, cold night in April, past ten. There were no lights. No cars. No people. Just Nathan and the night.
What did it feel like to go the speed limit, fifty-five miles per hour? For a boy with exceptional prowess in tucking a football under an arm, harmlessly plowing past multiple opponents, it was a momentary boost of adrenaline. The car sped. A fleeting blur crossed the windshield. A screech of brakes. Then the night became soundless. The car became weightless. The road felt like it was no longer beneath him. It wasn’t. He was flying. Over a ditch, over a fence, rolling and crashing, upside down, in a cacophonous crushing of metal!
If he had a memory of it, Nathan might have reconstructed those moments. The deer. The brakes. A flash-thought like, Uh-oh, I’m in trouble. But he didn’t. His memory was gone.
• • •
Kevin Lindow was attending a monthly meeting in Madison. His mom went along with him to keep him company on the long, three-hour drive back to his sheep farm near Marshfield.
“How you gonna go?” asked Mrs. Lindow.
“I’ll take 39,” said Kevin, acknowledging that a main road, slightly out of the way, was the more prudent option at this time of night. It would be past midnight by the time they got home, and the most direct route, County Highway X, was out of the question. The deer.
Kevin surprised himself when he acted to the contrary. At the spot where the road to 39 intersected with County Highway X, he slowed and turned his pickup truck onto the desolate country road for the final forty-five-minute drive.
“Why are you going this way?” Mrs. Lindow asked.
“I don’t know. Something’s bothering me, I need to go this way,” said Kevin, puzzled with why he would challenge conventional wisdom.
Except for the reflection from snow patches picked up in his headlights, they traveled in pitch dark.
Then he saw something! He slowed to a stop.
“Mom. There was a car upside down!”
Kevin backed up, got out of his truck, and in the headlights saw a young man, shirtless and shoeless, sitting on top of a wrecked car.
His first-responder training at the Chili Volunteer Fire Department kicked in.
The boy was incoherent, like someone awakened from a deep sleep. He was cold to the touch, not shaking, which meant that he was suffering from hypothermia. To be expected, thought Kevin, considering the below-freezing temperature.
He reached into the wreckage to locate and touch the catalytic converter, which, he recalled from his training, is the last thing on a vehicle to cool off. It was cold. That meant that the boy could have been there for two hours or so. It was now 12:30 a.m.
“Mom, call 911,” shouted Kevin as he pulled two heavy blankets from the truck.
Carefully, he wrapped one blanket around Nathan’s neck like a horse collar to stabilize it. He then picked him up, carrying him to the side of the road. Training instructions replayed in his mind: Minimize movement. Don’t attempt to place the victim in another vehicle. Instead Kevin wrapped his arms around the young man and directed his mother to cover the two of them with the second blanket. She then placed her body against theirs, and the threesome waited. And waited.
It was the better part of an hour before the ambulance arrived, and nearly 2 a.m. when it departed. The boy was placed on a gurney, covered in blankets, attached to a ventilator to keep him breathing, and taken to Marshfield’s St. Joseph Hospital thirty to forty minutes away.
Before the ambulance doors closed, Kevin noticed the boy was starting to shiver; that was a good sign. It meant that the body heat generated by Kevin and his mother might have lifted the young man from hypothermia.
As they continued their own journey home, Kevin and his mom chatted, reconstructing their experience; wondering why, against human reasoning, they had taken that untraveled road.
From bits of words mumbled by the boy while wrapped in Kevin’s arms, Kevin knew that his name was Nathan Christensen, that he’d visited a girl in Marshfield, and that his car had hit a deer.
• • •
Nathan’s father, Jim, reached for the phone. It was his wife Carol’s voice, but it didn’t sound like her; she was hysterical. He couldn’t understand what she was saying. Her words were disrupted by wails of sobbing and fear. It was about Nathan. He was in a terrible accident.
Dashing for his car, Jim quickly calculated that he was an hour and a quarter away. He’d been staying with friends while working a construction project.
Equidistant from the hospital in Marshfield, Jim and Carol arrived within minutes of each other.
“Your son is in a coma. He has a one-in-one-hundred chance of surviving,” said the doctor solemnly.
One percent! repeated Jim in his mind.
“If he does survive, his injuries are likely to leave him paraplegic, perhaps quadriplegic,” the doctor continued.
The way Nathan’s injuries were described—a teardrop fracture to the C4 vertebra—meant that an errant piece of chipped bone was in danger of encountering his spinal cord, causing an injury similar to that suffered by actor Christopher Reeve.
As a part-time preacher—supplemented by construction work during the week—Jim knew the power of prayer. He’d studied about it for his degree. Over the years he’d gathered plenty of examples of how prayer has a very clear cause and effect. But now, looking down at his boy, braced, bloodied, and bandaged, lying in a coma with slim prospects for life—this was Jim’s new reality: the ultimate test for a pastor—to prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, that prayer works.
But . . . would it? Would his earnest pleadings to the Navigator be heard and honored, thereby rescuing his child from death? Doubting God for a single second was not an option. Jim needed to pray like he’d never prayed before.
Jim hovered at Nathan’s side, speaking both to God and to the boy in a soft voice, representing himself as well as Carol, for she was having such difficulty seeing her son in such a state.
For two and a half days Nathan lay in a coma. Jim’s mind went to the story of Christ encountering two women, Martha and Mary, who were crying. They said that their brother Lazarus had died.
Jim lifted his Bible and flipped the pages to the book of John. Out loud, over Nathan, he began to read.
“Told that his friend Lazarus had been dead for four days, buried in a cave . . . Jesus wept . . . he went there, looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, thank you for hearing me’ . . . then he shouted, ‘Lazarus come out!’ And the dead man came out . . . his face wrapped in a head cloth.”
Jim looked down at his son, his head wrapped in bandages. With firmness and urgency, he said, “Nathan, you need to be like Lazarus! To wake up. Tomorrow, you need to wake up, Nathan!”
Over and over Jim repeated his plea to the Navigator. He beseeched God not only to save his son, “But to heal him so there will be no evidence of injury.”
Twelve hours later, in his coma, Nathan experienced what he later called “a vision,” and with it came a feeling that swept over his body and stayed with him.
“It was overwhelming—there was an unusually bright light—and God leaned down to hug me and placed His head against my shoulder—I couldn’t see His face, but I knew it was God. It was the closest feeling to having a parent hug you; or when you’ve just had a load lifted from your shoulders. It was a warm feeling that lasted two days.”
Nathan’s eyes began to flutter open . . . he saw glimpses of people.
His lips moved, and he tried to speak.
His father was at his side.
“Who am I?” asked Jim.
“James R. Christensen.”
“What’s your mother’s name?”
“Carol L. Christensen.”
“Where are you?”
“In a hospital.”
A short while later Nathan said, “Dad. You read to me about Lazarus. You told me to wake up.”
Jim had heard about people who could hear words spoken while in a coma, but had never experienced it.
He began putting together the pieces of information.
Emergency workers had concluded that Nathan had been catapulted through the windshield of the car. That had saved his life, for otherwise he most certainly would have been crushed to death.
Yet, witnesses who examined the wreckage said Nathan was mysteriously thrown from the car even though his seat belt was still snapped closed. “How could he have been lifted up and out of his seat belt?” Jim asked one emergency worker after another. No one had an answer.
Moreover, what extraordinary forces had caused Kevin Lindow to change his mind and take the lonely, danger-filled route home that he and his mother had previously determined was not prudent to travel? Making it more remarkable, Kevin had told Jim that no other vehicle had come down that road in the hour and a half that he and his mother were waiting for the ambulance. What an astonishing gift of Divine Alignment, nudging Kevin to change his mind and take that desolate road.
Jim shook his head to dismiss the horrible thought: What if Kevin had not seen Nathan sitting on top of the wreckage? Or, what if it had been someone else—someone who didn’t have Kevin’s training to know exactly what to do in an emergency?
As the godwinks and evidence of Divine Alignment began to have greater clarity, Jim was shocked when, a day and a half after Nathan came out of the coma, doctors said that he could go home, wearing a collar brace and leg cast.
Yet, keeping Nathan and his parents focused on the seriousness of his injuries, Dr. Tom Faciszewski, a spinal-cord specialist, looked at Jim somberly and said, “Your son will never return to contact sports.” The doctor went on to outline the tasks ahead: Nathan would wear a neck brace for fourteen weeks, and would have to minimize his movements so as not to disturb the teardrop fracture. Subsequent to that, an operation would fuse the broken fragment back where it broke off. At the midpoint of his required time in a neck brace, seven weeks, Nathan would come in for a checkup.
• • •
Six weeks later Nathan, still tiring easily, went to bed early. Since leaving the hospital, he’d adapted to sleeping on his back, his only option with the neck brace.
Nathan said his prayers. “I always prayed for the Lord’s healing of myself mentally, physically, and spiritually. I definitely prayed for a miraculous healing,” says Nathan.
He closed his eyes, lay still, waiting for sleep to come over him.
His neck suddenly “popped.”
“It was three loud popping sounds . . . like hearing knuckles cracking,” he recalls. “I was frightened. I didn’t dare move. So instead of calling out to anyone, I just lay there until I fell asleep.”
A few days later Nathan appeared at Dr. Faciszewski’s office for his scheduled seven-week appointment. The doctor’s radiologist positioned Nathan in front of an X-ray screen.
After the first X-ray she said, “Where is your injury?”
“C4. On the left side.”
She motioned for him to reposition himself for a repeat of the X-ray.
“Where is it?” she reiterated with withering patience.
“C4. Left side.”
“How long ago?”
Looking confused, she again motioned him to the X-ray.
This time she thrust the X-ray at him, in a perturbed fashion, and snapped, “Take this to the doctor.” Nathan wondered what he’d done wrong.
Nathan and his mom watched Dr. Faciszewski place the X-ray onto the light box.
“Where do you have the injury?” he asked, almost gingerly.
Nathan was about to reply but noticed that this X-ray appeared to be different from an earlier one he’d seen.
“C4. Left side. Where’s my X-ray?” he asked.
“This is your X-ray,” said the doctor in measured tones, turning slowly to look directly at Nathan.
Puzzled himself, Nathan studied the doctor’s face.
“He looked like he’d seen a ghost,” said Nathan later.
“It must have been God,” Dr. Faciszewski quietly said.
The doctor stared at the X-ray a moment longer and added, “There is no evidence of injury.”
These were the same words used by Nathan’s father in his fervent prayer at the hospital: “God please save my son and heal him with no evidence of injury.”
“Can I take this off?” asked Nathan, touching the neck brace, almost child-like, knowing he’d worn it only half of the intended fourteen week period.
The doctor shrugged slightly, “Well . . . you have no evidence of injury.”
Starting to leave the office, Nathan turned; he thought he’d press his luck: “Any . . . restrictions . . . on playing sports?”
The doctor, still attempting to process what he’d witnessed, paused, slowly shook his head, and quietly repeated, “You have no evidence of injury.”
A few weeks later the fall semester at school resumed. However the principal and athletic director, still cautious, advised the football coach not to let Nathan play. Notwithstanding this, halfway through the season the coach allowed Nathan to start on the kickoff special team. The boy had two solo tackles in his first game.
Subsequently, the principal and coaches were astonished to witness Nathan’s prowess in junior-year wrestling—he led the team in wins and number of pins.
The following year it was determined that Nathan, now a senior, would be able to fully resume football. He played fullback.
Nathan’s record as a fullback was nothing short of astonishing:
• Most points scored for a season.
• Most yards gained in a game, 212.
• Most yards averaged per carry, 7.5.
• Most total yards gained for a season, 1150.
• Average touchdowns, 1.5 per game, a school record.
What were the outcomes of this remarkable story?
Nathan is studying to be a youth pastor.
Jim and Carol say that the terrible experience galvanized their marriage.
“Carol and I always got along well,” says Jim, reiterating that they were high school sweethearts. “But going through that tragedy brought us closer together and elevated our faith. We pray together more now.”
• • •
Kevin Lindow, the unexpected hero, says, “This experience strengthened my faith.”
He warmly remembers how Jim had greeted him when he’d stopped by the hospital to visit Nathan. “Without you, my son wouldn’t be here,” Jim said, with tears forming in his eyes.
Why does Kevin think he made the decision to take that road that night? “There is no doubt in my mind: God had a hand in it.” Then he adds thoughtfully, “I pray that if one of my children is ever in that situation, someone will stop and help them.”
• • •
There is a song that expresses Nathan’s feelings:
I feel so alive
For the very first time
I can’t deny you
I feel so alive
I feel so alive
For the very first time
And I think I can fly
THE COMMON DENOMINATOR
What factors are common to each of the foregoing stories?
• Someone was in, or thought to be in, desperate straits.
• Someone—a family member, teachers, or a complete stranger—cried out to the Navigator to intervene, in some cases, to replace death for life.
• Sometimes this person or persons requested that health be restored in a specific manner.
• And, with the exception of Nathan’s postcoma prayers, none of the persons communicating with the Navigator was the victim himself.
How could these things have happened? Might they have been just some bizarre series of accidental events? Can’t these same kinds of outcomes be realized in your own life . . . pulling you from a desperate situation or saving your own child or family member?
FIVE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The following five FAQs may address matters still rolling through your mind.
More to the point, what happens if you pray and you don’t get a miraculous outcome like Don Piper or Nathan Christensen?
When you pray, and think nothing is happening—or worse, that you are being ignored from above—God is still working on your behalf, in ways you cannot see. My wonderful wife, Louise, has compared this idea to a rosebush in winter.
Picture that. A rosebush in the winter looks dead. No signs of life. But beneath the surface of the earth, in the root system, God is causing life to carry on. You know that to be fact only because you’ve seen the evidence—every winter the rosebush looks dead. Every spring it comes “back to life.”
In your life it may appear on the surface that nothing is happening, but in fact, God is working behind the scenes, connecting invisible threads, getting people and events in place for godwinks and Divine Alignments to unfold so your prayers can be answered. Yes, it sometimes takes a long time. Longer than we want. But if you were to research the matter completely, you would find overwhelming evidence in both contemporary and ancient history, as recorded in the scriptures, that God does answer prayers, even if it takes years.
Sometimes your prayers are answered right away. So quickly it astonishes you.
I love the story I shared in one of my books about the widow who had nowhere to turn. She was at the end of her finances; there was no money to pay the mortgage or utility bills, and she had absolutely no idea where she could get it. With no other option, she took the Bible from the shelf, laid it on the floor, and stood on it. Literally.
“I’m standing on the Word, Father, asking for Your help, just like You asked,” she beseeched.
Then, going on her errands for the day, she was astounded when two checks with unexpected income turned up in her post office box. Stopping by the bank to deposit them, she discovered an accounting mistake. The result was exactly the amount she needed—and had prayed for—to cover the mortgage and utility bills.
The more you program your GPS, the better you get at it.
Do you recall when you initially used the GPS in your car? You weren’t that good at it. Or the first time you used a BlackBerry phone, or tried to set the time on your microwave? The more you input information, the more proficient you became.
Similarly, by communicating with God every day, even multiple times a day, you will soon find that your life is becoming more and more enriched.
And, when you get off track in life, tune in to God’s Positioning System. By listening and asking for the Navigator’s guidance, you’ll reestablish your direction. Similar to those times when you are driving your car down the highway and realize you are “off track,” your auto GPS will advise that it is “recalculating.” It may instruct you to turn around and go back a few exits.
Your answer from above may come in the form of a new thought that “pops” into your head. Or a divine suggestion from someone you’re with. Bottom line: the more you communicate with God, through prayer, the more you and He will be in harmony, which, in turn, allows Him to divinely design your pathways and keep you on track.
It is very rare that someone reports they have actually heard a human voice they believe to be God.
I, personally, have never heard God speak in an audible voice.
I have, however, communicated with two or three people who firmly believe they have.
Many people who use the phrase “I heard God’s voice” mean that they sensed a clear, authoritative voice spoken within them—powerful and different from anything they had ever heard before.
If you’re doubting that this could happen, think about the times you’ve heard a song in your head. It was pretty clear, wasn’t it? Right now, can’t you silently sing “Silent Night” in your head? Can’t you “hear” the song inside your mind?
The vast majority of communications that people say they’ve received from the Navigator are in the form of an inner, instinctive sense, as discussed in the next chapter, or through the little godwinks that pop up in our lives.
As my wife, Louise, and I travel the country, performing and speaking at various venues, including churches, on the extraordinary merits of couples praying together, we find the most frequently asked question is “How do you do it?”
Admittedly, at first, the question jarred us.
Then, as time wore on, we became more appreciative of the bewilderment people feel, particularly if they were never taught how to pray as adults. Or, in the context of this book, how to program their GPS.
Perhaps, like me, you were taught how to pray as a child only by learning the centuries-old ditty that begins, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” Of course the next line may have scared you silly and kept you awake all night. “If I should die before I wake”—what?—“I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Oh, no!
Seriously, though, other than when you were a child, did anyone ever teach you how to pray?
You may have been schooled to memorize the Lord’s Prayer, in which case you learned the way Jesus, in the Bible, counseled his disciples on how to pray. But memorizing words, even reciting them at church every Sunday morning, does not teach you how to communicate with God on a regular basis.
If you were to recite the same greeting to your mom on the phone, over and over, I doubt that she’d consider that appropriate communication. Conversely, warm, frequent chats with her, expressing gratitude for all she’s done, seeking her wise counsel on issues that are of concern to you, would most likely foster the most robust relationship.
Louise and I often answer the question “How do you pray?” by suggesting that it ought to be like sitting down for a cup of coffee and a bagel with your mom or dad. That easy.
A. PROVIDE FULL ATTENTION.
Giving someone your full attention is the first step to listening.
When you give a professor undivided attention, you’ll get more out of the course he’s teaching. When you look your boss in the eye and focus, you’ll understand what your boss wants from you. When you sit down with your spouse on a regular basis and talk through issues that face every marriage, genuinely attempting to understand what he or she is feeling, you are taking giant steps in creating a happy marriage.
If you genuinely wish to listen to the voice of the Almighty on your GPS, you need to start by giving Him your full attention.
B. ENGAGE GOD IN DAILY COMMUNICATION.
When you engage your GPS Navigator through prayer—out loud or inside your head—every single day, you place yourself in a position for God to speak to you through His unique ways. He sometimes acknowledges you by causing godwinks to happen—the seemingly coincidental experiences that are so astonishing they could only have come from Him.
When you write to God, in a letter or a journal, you increase the likelihood of hearing a directive or thought from God resonating within your mind while you are in the act of writing. Most likely you will encounter an inner sense, with such clarity, that you know it’s a communication directly from above.
C. READ THE INSTRUCTION MANUAL.
This is a document written by many different scribes in order to preserve God’s philosophy and wishes for mankind. And despite scores of centuries separating the writers, most of whom believed they were taking dictation from the Almighty, there is remarkable consistency and continuity in their communications to us.
It is a document that has been tested and challenged for more than three thousand years, yet it still stands as a brilliant instruction manual for you and me. Extraordinary wisdom is available to each of us by simply reading it.
Where can you find it? In the top drawer of almost every hotel room in America.
Most people who read the Bible on a regular basis soon find that “ideas” or “solutions” come into their minds while they are reading.
IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS: WHEN YOU ENGAGE THE NAVIGATOR . . . HE ENGAGES YOU.
This is a promise that each of us has been given, written in the ancient scriptures:
Believe you will receive
everything you ask for in prayer.
MATTHEW 21:22 (NIV)
GPS STEP 1
SPEAK WITH THE NAVIGATOR
Program your GPS. Engage in out-loud or silent communication multiple times a day.