“If you just touch my hand with one finger,
they will get scared and leave!”
or “If you know where the snake lives, go to his hole and kill him.”
or “Jesus is powerful and so are you.”
or “Get radical. Transform your city with Love.”
(30 days of Library Park)
I have been on a thirty day adventure of loving people with Jesus in Redding.
Welcome to Library Park.
We all want advocacy. We’re all books in God’s library. And we are all meant to be “checked out.” Our stories should be known and celebrated. Haha.
At the beginning of September I began to have sudden flash visions of myself preaching on a stage in a park in Redding. It seemed to be unfounded. I don’t recall having the idea prior and really, the very word “preaching” has made my skin recoil for most of my life – I think because I unfairly associated the word with pushy men who didn’t relate to their audience, but through guilt and emotionalism persuaded desperate people to choose to “follow” God – some making sincere decisions to follow, others more moved by the pleas and pressure. Even in seminary, where there were many truly gifted preachers, the word “preaching” made me feel ill at ease.
And yet, there I was, chasing myself with these pictures. Or, at least, the Holy Spirit chasing me with myself. Ha. The picture would appear in worship, in class, and while driving around Redding.
One day I was in class and as the speaker asked a question like, “What is something new this year will be about for you?” I instantly heard, “preaching” – from somewhere outside myself, like one of those jester puppets who jumps into a dramatic moment in a puppet show with an outlandish comment and a far too ecstatic and red smile on his face.
I was coming to terms with it. And I realized where the park I kept seeing in this picture was: it was Library Park downtown – a small grassy area with a stage and a sidewalk around the perimeter. It’s a place that hosts many outdoor events in the summer: outdoor markets, art fairs, and a weekly farmer’s market. It’s across from the central bus station and thus, it has many passerbys – often homeless folks, drunk folks, and wanderers. It’s a perfect place to linger with the lingerers. So, I needed to prepare myself for the idea of preaching in Library Park. The idea of publicly preaching overseas didn’t surprise me at all, but preaching in the states? Wow, Holy Spirit, this is a side of myself I have to meet.
Then on Thursday, September 16, the second week of school, I had a meeting with a team I was going to minister with in Vallejo that weekend. The trip leader, who also happens to be my revival group pastor and the Prophetic Arts Pastor at Bethel, said she had a prophetic act for me. She placed a music stand in front of me and said, “Dawn, this is your year to preach.” I laughed. Wow, God was calling me out in public. How very, um, public.
So, that day as I drove home from school at 5:30pm I strongly felt, “I have to go there right now.” And I did. I took my Bible and I got on the stage. I read Isaiah 60 and 61 at full volume as if there was a crowd of hundreds. I proclaimed it over my city, REDDING – a city that belongs to my King.
As I read it I was overwhelmed with images of people coming to Jesus there at the park – like Jesus himself was reading the famous passage. I began to cry. I saw Him healing people, casting out demons, looking deep into the eyes of the homeless, the hopeless, and the abandoned. He was calling people into His heart with His eyes. He was telling them He was their advocate and He would stand by them. He would restore them. He was showing me the way. And I was falling in love with Him all over again. I saw why He drew crowds. I saw the uniqueness of His advocacy. I saw the fearlessness of His Presence.
And I told him I would come. I would come to Library Park and love people. I would see people saved, healed, and delivered. I would step out in boldness. I committed myself to come for an hour from 6:30-7:30pm a couple times a week on my own until my birthday: October 16. I wouldn’t tell anyone I was going. It would be my secret hangout time with Jesus and His loved ones. After that month passed I would tell others, and a few would be ignited with vision to join in. In time it would grow, by word of mouth, people would bring friends to the park to be made whole and to have the lights in the houses of their dreams turned on.
That day I felt like the Lord told me to wait until 6:33pm before leaving.
Fittingly, He has been showering me with 6:33 lately – I catch the clock unintentionally at 6:33, phone numbers, receipts, license plates, street numbers with 633 often suddenly catch my attention. It’s a constant reminder of Matthew 6:33 “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” The Holy Spirit is training me to really make the most important thing, the most important thing.
So, that day, I waited.
At 6:33 on the dot a man with a cane walked into the park. I hopped off the stage and zipped over, asking if he wanted prayer for healing. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I think he opted not to have prayer, but he was touched I asked. And hey, the blessing of someone caring enough to offer to pray for you is often a very loud blessing. And it’s an act of love you walk away thinking about – maybe even for days, or weeks.
That was that. It had begun – the adventure of Library Park. An adventure with all the books, the stories, the histories, the futures that would come down from the shelf and be read, and be cherished, and be celebrated. Who would be there? What outrageous beauty would rain from heaven?
I’m excited about this new frontier. And very happy to see Redding fall in love with my beautiful bridegroom Jesus.
Here are some stories. Snippets from lives worth being restored. Scenes from lives BEING restored.
Friday September 17
Percy: 76, walked with a walker because of equilibrium problems. Equilibrium HEALED. He said he didn’t think he needed the walker anymore, but maybe he would keep it around because it also served as portable chair. (Does that change it from a walker to a sitter?)
Steve: in his 40’s, 42 days from the end of almost ten years of parole
Steve had an elbow brace on. He had elbow replacement some time ago. He had a lot of pain. I prayed and the pain left. Then he explained he got Valley Fever in 1995 and he has had pain in all his joints since then. I prayed. All the pain left all his joints. He said it was the first time since 1995 he was pain free. We talked about his dreams and his new start. We talked about ways he might find work, his desire to visit Louisiana and see some of his people there. He wants to work in an autobody shop. He also wants to go overseas, but he is concerned that his felony will limit his ability to travel.
After a while he mentioned how the park is dodgy at night. He told me to be careful and he began talking about meth. He said it’s worse than anything else and there is so much of it in Redding. People get away from their brains and they don’t even know the things they do. He has to stay away from all the drug stuff so he doesn’t slide back into it. He said there should be more people like me. He felt really encouraged that there was still hope, that God really does love him, and that he can still have a wonderful life. He left around 7:30 to find somewhere to sleep for the night.
Guy on a smoke break from a bar nearby: so happy to have back pain diminish he gave me $4. Initially, I resisted taking it, but then I remembered I had mentioned to God earlier that day that a few extra dollars for gas for the ministry trip the next day would be helpful. I certainly didn’t think it would come from someone in the park!
Tuesday, September 21
Lester: Native American, drunk, in his 50’s. I felt like God wanted me to ask him about his uncle so I did. He said he had five, but they were all hit by cars. His father was also killed by a car. He began to cry. He said, “I have so much hatred in my heart. I have so much hatred in my heart. I have so much hatred in my heart.” I asked if he wanted to be free. He said, “no.” Then I commanded the other voices to be silent and only Lester to speak. Lester wept. He was up and down emotionally. I commanded things to leave him. He seemed to feel better and even began to laugh.
I felt God prompt me to ask him what happened to him when he was three. He immediately said that his auntie started molesting him then. He cried and shook. Soon afterward he said, “I hate myself. I hate myself.” I told him God wants to set him free and those things should not have happened to him, but God is the only one who can heal his broken heart. I asked if he wanted God to set him free. He consented and prayed, “God I want you to come in and fix my heart. Jesus, I want you to come live in my heart.” He got peaceful. Eventually, he got riled up again. When we parted, there was a clear shift in his confidence. I look forward to seeing him again, clarity in his eyes and hope in his heart.
Wednesday, September 22
He is in Redding for cancer treatment, originally from Montana. His mom died when he was nine, his dad left, his grandma couldn’t look after him and his siblings (3 sisters, I think) so, he was on his own from 9 years old! He was a POW in Vietnam for twelve years! His wife, two kids, and three hired workers died in a car crash in 1969. He gave his land and money to the families of the hired workers and left Montana for the southwest. He has been in Redding one year. He said he wants to do what God has for him. I commanded the cancer to leave his body. He felt warm like when he was 11 and after a police officer beat him, He felt God’s arms come around him and hug the pain away.
She was walking with a crutch due to chronic arthritis in her right knee. I prayed and the pain lessened and she felt like it was “better.” They wanted to go on their way to the post office. Her boyfriend had a titanium knee so I commanded a new one to come forth. He was encouraged and I think he would have been happy to receive more prayer, but Kimberly was on her way.
76 year old Percy again. He remembered me. He said, “I know you aren’t hustlin’ you are the real deal. A real believer.” I laughed. He said, “Really, lots of people down here are hustlin’ everybody…” He told me more of his story: grew up in Visalia working cotton fields, got his first cocaine at 16 from Fresno (ironically, my hometown). It was downhill from there: married at 21, addicted to cocaine, couldn’t support his habit, ended up in the pen for 5 years. His wife and son left him. From then he was in and out of prison every few years. He eventually avoided cocaine, but now seems addicted to alcohol. I asked him, “How long after your son left today was it before you were drunk?” He admitted that as soon as his son left his house that afternoon he got drunk. He said “Two shots is what I need, and the good Lord knows it, to be more me.” I told the spirit of alcoholism to go and not speak, for only Percy to speak. He was silent for the first time in our conversation. He became very still. Then he said, “Thank you” as he lifted his head. I asked him if he wanted to be free. He didn’t answer. I told him only God can really set him free. God wants to set him free, to give him a new start. I laughed and thanked Jesus for freedom. “Percy, do you feel that? The peace that came?” He unsteadily said, “No.” I think he was sensing something new, but he didn’t know what it was. Hello, HOLY SPIRIT!
My thoughts: I’d like to see people made instantly sober in my presence. I’d like to see the glory set people free without words. I’d like to see them see Jesus as I stand there. I’d like them to see love.
I feel like I don’t even know how to love. As I linger with these people, listen to their stories, speak truth, and heal them, I want so much more love and compassion.
As I speak prophetically into lives I defeat the darkness in Redding and I claim this city for the KING. I won’t be silenced. I will shout it from the rooftops!
Father, I trust you. I will see more of you. I will be pulled up into your life-giving Presence. I will never be the same. I will see things unspeakable and breathe things made of substance. I will breathe faith like oxygen and it will train me for earth. I will go to heaven and get the blueprints. I will laugh forever. I will never stop going higher. I love you, God. I open my spirit to be more aware of the power, authority, and fullness within me.
I love you. I want to know you fully. This is worth more than anything.
The week of September 25-29
Little Bear and White Owl, something like that. I should have written it down that day. They were together, a man about 40 and a woman probably in her mid-fifties. They were extremely drunk.
They collapsed on the grass so I plopped myself down next to them and began to chat.
Pretty soon I asked Little Bear if he wanted to be free, truly free. He looked at me and said, with sudden clarity, “There are lots of demons in me that torment me every day…” “Yes, I know,” I responded, having seen the demons from the moment I sat in the grass. “Do you want to be free?” “Yes, PLEASE!” he exclaimed desperately, now giving me his full attention. I commanded the demons to go. “There, some are going,” he said, “but there are still more!” he pleaded. He reached his hand out to touch mine. “I don’t want you to touch me right now,” I said. He became more desperate, “If you just touch my hand with one finger, they will get scared and leave,” he was on the brink of tears. I touched his hand and commanded them to go. More went. His body relaxed. “There, they are going!” he was getting happy.
White Owl got defensive. She was losing control. I sensed it. Her eyes already told me about her own covenant with demons. She began to stir through her semi-slumber, nudging Little Bear that they should leave. “No! She is setting me free! She’s REALLY getting demons out of me!” he insisted. She looked at me, lethargically telling me to stop. “He’s getting set free,” I said, matter-of-fact. She grumbled, “Let’s go!” He moved, “No, I want these demons out of me!” he whimpered. “Jesus wants you 100% free, you know that, right?” I asked. “Yes, yeah,” Little Bear admitted. “You know you can give him your life and He’ll bring total freedom?” “Yeah,” he said, getting hungry for freedom. White Owl was growing angry. She scooted away and began kissing Little Bear to distract him. He momentarily resisted, whining like a little boy; then he collapsed into the stupor and let her drag him across the grass. I sat there, knowing my presence was still His Presence and I wasn’t going to give in to awkwardness, but rather, remain and worship.
Man on my right (I forgot his name.)
Besides, there was another man who sat down to my right. We talked. He wondered how I could “command” things out of people. “Who are you to command anything?” he said, demanding. I laughed merrily. “I’m God’s daughter. Jesus is in me. My authority comes from Him.” He was mad and accusatory for a few minutes, demanding that I leave. It’s amusing to have a man in his fifties sitting within a couple feet of you, drunk, start to yell and tell you what to do. As he moved toward me I said confidently, “I don’t want you to touch me.” He looked at me, and stopped inching. Haha. It’s especially funny when you have heaven’s perspective – you know intimidation has no hold on you. That patch of grass is my Dad’s. Besides, I love this irritated, drunk guy. He wants an advocate just as much as the sweet five year old girl who lives next door to me.
In the spirit, I’ve got just as much Jesus-security as a 7’ bodybuilder guy who follows Jesus. I’m not going to be intimidated – not by things seen or unseen.
So, I stayed. And the man backed down, soon admitting that I was kind for wanting to be with people and that, “well, maybe, you’re alright.”
I’ll take “all right.”
We talk about how Jesus’ love is radical. I ask the man how long he has been addicted to alcohol. His story comes out. I tell Him he can be set free instantly. He’s interested, but not so much today. In time, he truly thanks me for talking and “being who you are” and goes on his way.
Man on planter:
I’m so drunk on Jesus, and Little Bear and White Owl are still making out. It seems like a perfect time to walk the perimeter of the park and sing worship songs loudly. I make a few loops, singing at the top of my lungs – to the fascination of a few people who pass through the park and the elderly man on the planter at the edge of the park. I wave at him each time I pass. Then we start talking. I pray for his heart condition. We talk about his hopes for his future, the bridges he’s burned, the ones he wants to create. He seems pretty committed to apathy, and my passion for life bothers him. That is so often the case when someone has walked a series of rough circumstances. That is why it is even more important not to back down, but to be an advocate for the hopeless. People need their dreams nudged and tugged to their feet.
Everyone wants an advocate. It’s time for the church to stop giving trite answers to people. It’s time for them to really be with people and encourage them into the greatness God has for them. It’s time to change the world – one person or one billion people at a time. Haha.
The man goes inside because it’s time to take his medication. Aw, the rule of “this and that” in our lives. We let the enemy boss us around and then we wonder why we feel powerless. We “have” to take this or that medication, or not eat this or that food due to allergies etc, or even we “have” to watch this tv show, or we “have” to have a daily cup of coffee to function. Haha. Really? It sounds like a lot of dependency on things that aren’t God to me. Maybe some of those things are okay, but when they “have” to be part of one’s routine, particularly more than God’s Presence, something is off-kilter.
All to say, I keep circling the park and singing my own made-up worship songs. “Redding belongs to Jesus” “Drunk people fall in love with Jesus in my presence” “Little Bear is free” “Everyone in Redding is alive to Christ and dead to sin” (that’s one of those “proclaim the future” lines) “Library Park will soon be filled with saved, healed, delivered people!” “lalalalalala… I’m so happy and Jesus loves me and I can do anything, my whole house is great!” The more I sing absurdly realistic things, the more lovestruck I get.
Eventually, Little Bear and White Owl leave.
And in walks a drunk Argentinean with an Italian accent. He wants some of my water (woman at the well reminder, anyone?) I point to the water fountain and I say something similar to what Jesus said about living water, so he’ll never thirst again – and living wine, to replace whatever he’s usually drunk with. He thinks this is interesting. And when I ask if he has pain in his body, he immediately laughs and says, “My shoulder is always in pain!” He starts to tell me the history- I interrupt him with, “Well, let’s just fix that right now.” And after about 15 minutes of gradual improvement: less pain and more mobility, there is NO PAIN and full mobility! YES! In fact, now he is moving his arm in a wildly circular motion and yelling, “This is amazing! I couldn’t do this before! No! Really!” And he laughs and laughs. It was like a puppy discovering the possibilities in a cardboard box. He was fascinated by his own arm. The things it could do!!!!!!
A man on a bike stopped on the other side of the park and stared at us. “This man’s shoulder just got healed!” I said, “Do you have anything that needs to be healed?” He stared back- angry, a strange territorial anger. I walked over to him and stuck my hand out. “Hi, I’m Dawn. What’s your name?” I asked. He reluctantly shook my hand. His name was something like “Bobby” – unfortunately, I’ve forgotten since then. He looked at me charged with hostility and looking ready to pounce, with icy eyes and icy thoughts behind his eyes. “In whose name are you doing all this?” I began to laugh. “Oh, here we go,” I thought, “I know what’s coming next…” “Jesus’ name,” I smiled. “Oh yeah?” he said, leaning toward me expecting me to back up. “Yes.” I said, not moving. “I think it’s demons,” he said. I began to laugh harder. Something tickles me so deeply when demonic influence accuses itself. I’ve seen it so many times – the split second “personality” shift. Demons seem to get competitive and chaos-craving. And it’s obvious when someone’s face changes from a normal human expression to a twisted expression there is more than meets the eye. It would be so silly for me to be disturbed by such silliness. And there is a HUGE difference between speaking with authority like that noted of Jesus in Matthew 7:29 “he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” and being controlling in the sense of witchcraft. I am very unimpressed with the latter. It’s all smoke and mirrors compared to the Lamb on the Throne who alone is worthy to open the scroll.
Anyhow, “Bobby” tried to stare me down. And I laughed and started to dance and worship God, saying, “God’s so great! He just healed that man’s shoulder!” I find few things more irresistible than giving God credit when someone tries to diminish it or pollute His beautiful character. It’s like when I would hear Muslims say “If God wills it” with regard to something like having a safe trip home. Instantly, my heart felt God’s love and security which made the idea of not having a safe trip home seem utterly ridiculous. Haha. I could feel the Father’s love for “Bobby” coming to cleanse him. Bobby was confused by my joy and turned to leave. “I’m here a few times a week from 6:30-7:30 so, I’ll probably see you again. You’re awesome, Bobby!” I said loudly as he rolled away. He was disarmed by my love and my raised arms cheering him on. And that, my friends, was priceless. Love is powerful. It will disarm the biggest dissenters and calm the most threatening enemies.
That is one thing I learned doing ministry in the mental hospital (which I renamed “The Freedom Castle”) in Bethlehem – when darkness tries to stare you down, get childlike and ridiculously joyful. Think of how excited Heaven is for that person to begin to feel real Love!!!! Dance! Sing songs to God! He’s the ultimate audience for our lives! He loves it when we simply turn our attentions toward Him as cranky darkness strives to get attention and bring people into gloom and doom.
Laugh off the mean faces, and SHINE on.
Friday, October 15
Really, I felt pretty lousy that day. I didn’t want to go anywhere. In response to this, I went into my backyard and cranked up some worship music and danced, inviting my housemate in on the action. Haha. We worshipped together for about 45 minutes. When you don’t know what else to do, WORSHIP.
Then I went to the park. I felt like I heard the name “Bernie” in the car on the way.
It turned out it was “Henry” – close. Ha. If you want to learn to hear from God more and more clearly you have to be willing to be wrong or not quite right sometimes. Haha.
Henry has three kids. He loves being a dad. Why? “It’s great to be loved – unconditionally,” he said. It’s interesting how we see things – receiving love, giving love. The value we place, either cognitively or subconsciously on relationships. Henry didn’t have any pain in his body so we talked about his family – how he’d recently broken up with his girlfriend and the mom of his two younger kids after ten years. We talked about how God values relationships and family; and we talked about what he did when he first won that woman’s heart and how he might be able to win it again if he really went after it. Henry said, “Are you a counselor?” I laughed, “Well, I did study counseling, but really I just love seeing people know who they are and be all they are designed to be. It’s really fun.” He liked that and we talked on and off for an hour.
In the midst of that was Tom, who was sitting on a bench next to a table. He gave me gummy worms and talked about the interesting items he sees at his job at The Salvation Army. Tom also didn’t have any pain in his body, but he does have a dream to work on a cruise ship. He agreed he would go look into finding a job on a cruise ship in the next week. Haha. He was getting really elated about the possibility of his dreams coming true! HOORAY!
They asked when I come to the park and I said, “A couple times a week between 6:30 and 7:30.” They thought that was pretty amazing and they were intrigued that people are getting healed and also stepping into their dreams. YES! God is powerful. And He’s alive!
The next day was my birthday.
And thus concluded month one in Library Park.
Somewhere in the midst of all of this, the second year students at Bethel had our first outreach/activation training. Chris Overstreet, the outreach pastor at Bethel, spoke. At one point he said, “There is a new openness for street preaching in Redding now.” I yelled and laughed. Yes, there is. And I am moving toward that. Then he said he was calling out the forerunners, I found myself on my knees yelling for Redding, and yelling: “I want to do more than I am comfortable with, more than I’ve ever imagined, more than I can think. I WILL BE FEARLESS AND I WILL DO THE IMPOSSIBLE. I will lead Redding to Jesus!” I could feel the desperation of people in the city to truly KNOW the Living God. And I was overrun with LOVE and passion for that to happen.
A way is being made in Library Park. And Jesus and I are going to have a blast as we continue to go every week: healing, casting out demons, awakening dreams and getting them on their feet, counseling people into jobs and purpose, laughing much more than reasonable, and generally being an advocate to those who are longing, deeply deeply longing that someone ANYONE would stop what she is doing and listen, and care.
There are people that are broken and still breaking, in your city right now. They don’t think they deserve eye contact. They don’t think they deserve a good future. They don’t think they will ever get out of the rut they are in, often the rut they feel they were born in. They mainly want something to numb the pain, the self-hatred, the loneliness, the despair, and the confusion. They are scared that they will never “amount to anything.” They are afraid they will never be able to be free. They wish someone would do something – they long for someone who will care enough to CARE.
They aren’t just homeless people. The man next to you at work. The cashier who looks like she has the worst job in the world and she wants you to know how she feels about that. The lawyer you stand next to in the elevator. The grandma who is indecisive about which lettuce to buy in the grocery store. YOUR NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR.
And then there is a man named JESUS. He changed everything.
For HIS Name’s sake… will you?
p.s. I’m going to let you in on a secret that the enemy doesn’t want you to know: The more you step out and love those around you, the more you give, especially when you don’t “feel” like it, the less self-focused you will become and YOUR whole life will become easier and more joy-filled. You will see strength and breakthrough come into your life beyond your imaginings. The enemy doesn’t want you to know that because he wants to keep you anxious and fearful in part by over-analyzing your own life. If he can get you to fixate on your car problems, your relational struggles, or your financial issues, you will become paralyzed by lies and robbed of joy, too “tired” to stick up for the truth in your own life, much less anyone else’s. Don’t let that happen. LAUGH in the enemy’s face (literally: think about something that looks like a wall in your life RIGHT now and laugh at it, you can force the laughter initially, but soon real laughter will take over. There you go, now you are getting in sync with heaven’s perspective!) It’s your responsibility to believe that everything Jesus said is true, for example: John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Commit yourself to only believe TRUE things. Guard your heart. And live in ABSURD abundance. An abundant life is MUCH MORE FUN than a boring life. And it’s what Jesus paid for. hahahahahahahahahahaha!
I am smiling hugely RIGHT now because I believe in WHO you are and I want you to live abundantly. : D