Installment 11

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Even though I was driving a school bus, as far as I knew, I was not prohibited from applying to non-ministerial work, even when that work associates with the Kingdom. Around May of 2011, I learned of possible non-ministerial work. It was work within my religious heritage. I really did have a desire for that work.

I applied for that work. Interviewed for that work. Discussed that work with my wife and children. Prayed intensely about that work.

They were diligent in their seeking the proper person. I was determined to know if that work was actually proper for me. They gave appropriate time and energies to filling that position.

May became June. June became July. On July 5, regarding this work within my religious heritage, I wrote in my journal:

I have determined to make [this work] the litmus test for remaining in the cofc.

If this work does not come through for me, I will take it to mean that the cofc doors are closed. I do this because of many discussions with cofc people, both laymen and clergy types.

Mary had a dream of me parked inside a tree, she believes the tree to be the cofc. I am wondering if this is the case. I have been quite reluctant and reticent to leave. But after dialogue with my [family], seeing the behavior of my brethren for debating then disfellowshipping those who disagree, receiving disfellowshipment from [certain people], not having success in either [ministry location], I wonder why I even bother. It seems ingrained for the people to reject whatever is not their formatted expectation.

My argument to Mary is that all, and I mean all, institutional churches behave the same way – being resistant and rebellious of the actual truth.

So my thought has been, if I can’t successfully work in the cofc, in any capacity… then why find another institutional church just to have the same problems?

Yet, no less, [this work] is going to be my litmus test.

I will return to a discussion about this work later. For now recall that the elders met with me notifying me about things in March 2010. Recall I began a sabbatical year from Bible studies around August 1, 2010. Recall that August 11 of that same year the elders met with me about stepping down.

What I find intriguing is that my decision to take an intellectual fast occurred prior to the August 11 meeting. That, to me, is significant. Considering all the events and challenges within those months, I was pleased that I chose to refrain from in-depth Bible studies for a year.

As I expressed in previous installments, things were challenging, and finances posed their own difficulties. Interestingly, on July 3 a friend of mine contacted me regarding my sabbatical. You might recall that I also referred to it as an intellectual fast.

Fasting is somewhat different than a sabbatical. A sabbatical is a rest. A fast is about drawing near to God. Fasting is a different matter, at the time I should have seen the difference, but I didn’t.

In my journal, I recorded the following:

[My friend] learned, and he did not specify how, that I could have had financial help during my last few weeks of my fast. But circumstances would not permit financial benefits to come to me.

[He] said this to encourage me to remain in the fire of refinement and not to be discouraged but that God was working in the fast, preventing me from having it easier. But not to give up.

It seemed that [he] was implying/concluding that God was actively preventing me from receiving a shortened fast. Then we talked about Acts 16.6-7 and how that if I am committed to a year-long fast, then the Spirit will keep it a year-long fast, preventing any shortening thereof.

Considering those things, it’s no real wonder that I was being pushed, pulled, and tested on so many fronts. It was a fast worth doing, but it was no easy task. And, at times, I think I was not completely coherent of the realities of a year-long fasting.

July 2011 was the final month of my fast, and I spent pages discussing that fast in my Journal. I have already discussed so much since August of last year. But some of what I wrote in my journal intrigues me, because the aspect and tone is somewhat different than my reflections provide at this point in time. Some of those differences seem relevant and I will share them.

…I am now within my last month of this fast, which will end officially July 31, 2011.

The last year has been extraordinarily difficult. My family has picked up slack where I do not see the ability for me to do so.

…I feel that either I did not realize what type of year-long fast I was doing, or I permitted, or God to grant a greater fast than I expected. Either way, the last year has been filled with trials and temptation.

The fasting was, in my mind, simply supposed to be a rest from intellectual [Bible] research, but this year seems to have proven to me that I was to rest in more ways than one. Let me correct that, the year taught me one thing, looking back at the events through a prophetic lens, tells me God through his Spirit has intentionally kept me from participating (as in being hired) into certain ministry positions and/or secular work.

I have tried to affirm Mary that this is the right thing to do, but asking her to believe me is one thing, to convince [others] has been another. …

[Many discussions and observations] give me indications that I am unwelcome in the cofc.

I am becoming convinced that YHWH used his Spirit to guide my year. I think I have ‘kicked against the pricks’ some not realizing that God was controlling the situation. I am beginning to interpret the history of the year as his Spirit moving me into territory I would not otherwise go.

I mentioned these things to Mary… and she responded basically, “how do you know?” And I said because that is how I am choosing to interpret the information [and events].

One can interpret anything any way they want. I choose to interpret the things as God operating Spiritually in and within my life.

The last year was (is) a tremendous challenge. Never have I been so low, so desirous of divorce and death. Truly feeling helpless and hopeless. …

I would love to carry on about my emotional state, but doing so seems counterproductive. I really am not interested in bringing back to my mind or bringing up the things which seem to be flowing away from me.

What does the coming year hold? Where will I be? What will I do? Where will I go? …

I continue to wait on [my potential work], [it] will be, [it is] my litmus test. … I will interpret [that response] as license to do something else in Christendom.

I want, and I am trying to believe, that what I was told through the prophecy will come true – that there will be a church ready for me. There is a part of me that still wants to preach, so I wonder in what capacity I will serve in the church. …

The prophecy said I will begin to see God work in larger ways affecting people, but what am I learning? Am I learning? What am I to see?

But as I look back at the last year and my ‘intellectual fast,’ I now wonder if that moment came about because God did not want me to preach during my fast. I am not completely certain, but I am fairly confident that this is the case.

…I did not plan this [break from ministry] nor want [to take a break from ministry], but becoming a bus driver certainly fits [the minister’s] recommendation. Absolutely amazing. But I do want my fast to be the mark of the end of rest and the start of something more. I can do more – but I don’t want to do more to the sacrifice of my family. And I don’t really want to do more in secular work because I feel it vain and empty. I do want to do more within the church (which does not have to be the cofc) and within Christendom. But at this point, I don’t know what that role will be. …

…it is amazing to me how many times I have re-read [the information given me]. I did not realize how much those messages would come to comfort me and give me hope. As I think about this, I wonder if the worst moments during the last year were when I moved away from keeping hope in the messages, but you see that means I esteemed the messages in the first place – but truth be told – I did not. Only through the journey over the last year have I come to trust those messages.

It has been very difficult to learn how to trust in things other than the Bible. … [My religious training] made it extremely difficult for me to even ‘hear’ those [people]. I doubted them, questioned them, would have rejected them if it had not been for Mary.

Once Mary overcame the reality of the cofc inconsistencies and incoherent theologies, she embraced prophetic utterances much more readily than I did/have – if I have. I can intellectually accept that all things, even God speaking through people today, are possible. But experiencing that as reality is a different matter all together.

Intellectual faith and experiential faith are not necessarily the same, nor necessarily mutually exclusive. It seems intellectually honest to say that intellectual faith without experiential faith is incomplete.

As I go back and read my thoughts, it seems that I [have] tentative belief in their message – perhaps having hope, but as I see the journey over the last year, I do feel/believe that I am seeing items within their messages coming true, as in me coming to understand a little better what they meant.

I guess the point is I am learning how to use these greater things, to trust them, but to verify like the Bereans, and to test the spirits as the Scriptures say to do, but learn to trust that God does work and still moves in mysterious ways – still confounding the minds of humans.

… El Shaddai give me strength.

As you can see, there are things that confirm what I have been saying. Yet, there are things that seem to indicate that I was in a somewhat different position than I recall. To me, that is to be expected. Growth requires contemplation, experience, movement. Faith does not always have a nice linear progression.

On July 5, 2011 I recorded in my journal that I posted the following to Facebook:
      If 1 + 1 = 1
      Then 1 + 1 + 1 = 1
      Therefore 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 1
      Consequently 1 + ∞ (infinity) = 1

Only after reflection, can I see the importance of that contemplation, and the role it has to where I am going. But, back in July 2011, I had absolutely no clue. Back then I simply thought it was an amazing concept based upon Jesus and his relationship with God, and the prayer (John 17.21.-23) that Jesus had.

Blessings and Shalom