The days following PK Israel, I recorded several journal entries. One reflects upon being led by the Holy Spirit. Another contemplates the possibilities of evil spirits. I recorded several entries regarding the Law of Moses and believers, see Installment 20 Appendix: Theology for that information.
I also wrote entries reflecting on preaching and brainstorming ideas about ministry. Interestingly, I think I purchased in November 2011 the URL faithandconviction.org. Then I took the remainder of 2011 to have several things from raymondharris.com moved to the new website, to get it up and running.
Thanksgiving 2011 arrived. I spent time with my parents and some of my extended family. It was the first Thanksgiving I spent with them in several years. Then Thanksgiving was in the past, history, yet again.
On November 30, I wrote the following into my journal:
I awoke sometime during the night with the phrase “learn the lesson of the fig tree”.
I went back to sleep and forgot the statement until I talked with Mary. Recalled it in my brain never mentioning [it] to her during our conversation, but I do recall saying [the phrase] to her during the night, yet I forgot [about] it until I read Matthew 24.
The Fig Tree – Matthew 24 is different because the branches spring forth leaves which means summer is nearing and so are the events in that section of Matthew 24. But the other lesson is Jesus cursing the fig tree and it withered and died. If memory serves, he said have faith.
So which lesson applies, the one, or the other, or both?
On December 5, I wrote the following:
Interesting that I was just thumbing through these pages to find something, and I saw my entry on November 30 about the Fig Tree. And I think it occurred to me the lesson. I myself am the fig tree, I was blooming leaves, but not blooming fruit, so was I going to be fruitful or be cursed? Thankfully and joyfully, without [full] awareness of that I was living “learn the lesson of the fig tree”. I chose to serve God and the weekend events seem to reveal that God is allowing me to be fruitful.
I just exhaled deeply. I feel that was a lesson that I almost didn’t learn. It seems I learned it ‘unknowingly’ rather than ‘knowingly’. I am pleased that God blessed me.
From my journal, it seems that which I was to learn was learned. Yet, it seems there is another lesson from the Fig Tree which feels more elusive.
But before I had that lesson, I had a dream. Interestingly, I said it “got my attention” as you’ll see why it got my attention. In part, I wrote in my journal on December 1, 2011:
…Both Mary and I awoke before the alarm. She went to writing down her dream, and I reflected on a dream that I awoke to. I shared [the dream] with Mary but only because she explained her dream to me and I felt compelled to tell her.
I awoke to the dream of courting [a certain mid-to-late 20-something unmarried Christian woman]. Telling her that I would wait for her, but the oddest part of the dream was that I was holding her to me, with purity, no sensual thoughts, not even a kiss, just assuring her that I would wait. Which struck me as odd because… I already have a wife. So informing my wife about this dream was not exactly high on my priority list.
For all the married gents out there, you know it is difficult to speak with your wife regarding certain things. Can you imagine telling your wife you had a dream about holding another woman and that you’d wait to marry her? Yeah, me neither. Get you a mild rebuke, perhaps a slap on the face.
But, thankfully, it was a dream. Mary had done “dream” research. Every resource seemed to say that dreams are symbolic. So she (and I, as a wiped my forehead) interpreted the dream symbolically. For us, there was no way the dream could possibly mean anything about the potentiality of a physical marriage. Instead, the dream contained symbology meaning symbolic things, just as I wrote in my journal.
…I feel and believe it is important to mention that both Mary and I believe that [the Christian woman] does not represent [the particular woman], but… because she is a non-relative, and because she is still a maiden, represents purity and the possibility that [she] represents a church that I will lead. Interesting.
For me, at the time, the dream was completely symbolic. At the time, according to my belief structure, God permitted only monogamy. At the time of the dream, I was already monogamous, which automatically made a second wife not even in the realm of possibility, which means that there was no way either Mary or I interpreted the dream to be about a woman.
Furthermore, since we were under the impression that dreams were symbolic, dreams therefore could only communicate symbolism. That is why in the journal entry that immediately following that dream I pondered ministry and how the dream was symbolically speaking of my future ministry. For me, in brain, in thinking, in my theology, there simply was no way that the dream indicated anything about another wife. At that time, the dream could only have spoken about ministry.
I wrote the following in my journal on December 09:
As I was going back through my writings, December 01, 2011 really stood out to me in several ways. The “I will wait” moment was it about me waiting for my [website faithandconviction.org] and my passport. Perhaps. But on the sixth page of that entry I wrote about what Mary thought her dream meant. I find it interesting on two levels. One, the cleansing from sin. … Second, about ministry in some capacity. …
To be quite candid, until I was going back through this material, I had forgotten about that dream. For all those who know me, who are personally aware of where my life seems to be heading, this dream has to be odd.
Well, let me assure you now, that when that dream occurred, none of what I have come to experience in the realm of a second wife ever took place. Linear events matter. That particular dream took place December 1, 2011. It was not until later in 2012 when things took the turn.
So back in December 2011, Mary and I were truly grasping, pondering what that dream meant and thought it insinuated ministry concepts. For us, the dream symbolized things to come involving the church.
For us, the dream did not inform us of things that were going to happen. In fact, when things began to unfold, we sure didn’t go back through this part of my journal and go “Oh, well looky there, God was telling us the whole time.” No. We struggled to understand. We prayed. We cried. It was the most emotionally tumultuous time.
As I was looking back at my journal, one of the things that I found interesting was something that happened during a Havdalah worship service. I mentioned it in my journal on December 5, 2011:
Later in [the] Havdalah [worship service, a man] was asked to lead the prayer for the contribution. He felt led by the Spirit to change things. And he had everyone come down to the prayer altars, and explained why everyone should put their wallets or purses on the altar, I had [some money] that I was going to give, but I put my wallet up there anyway. [He] said [in effect] if you don’t have any money, give yourself. I knew I had nothing more financially to give, so I gave myself, my being, my family, my kids, they are yours [God’s] to use – a big step for me, I don’t think I have ever done such things. Come to find out, when talking with Mary, she did the same thing, even the kids where there, and they gave themselves in some degree.
I’m not sure what moved me to do such things, but I can assure my reader of the following. Since mid-to-late 2009, I had been experiencing spiritual pressures unlike I had ever experienced, which were compounded from our move back to Texas. Our income level dropped, so the finances were pressuring me, the type of occupation was bothering me, to which I was rebuilding my family from all the travels and moves.
Upon our return to Texas (December 2010), I kept praying, and praying and praying, and meditating, and meditating and meditating. All I can say is that December 2011, one year after our arrival back in Texas, it felt proper to lay down those things at God’s proverbial feet, in effect saying “here I am, take it, use it”. I felt like I had nothing left to give, but perhaps that’s were God wanted me all along.
My journal entries for the remainder of 2011 are varied. I continued praying for people, including their requests in my prayers. I recorded various scribbles and thoughts about life, the Bible, ministry considerations, website ideas, and the additional warranty repair work on the VW Passat.
On December 13, 2011 my journal has an interesting entry. The entry discusses a conversation that I had with someone about dreams. They said “Just keep in mind that we should not use dreams and visions as a basis for where we go and what choices we make in our lives. It’s important to look at what is specifically being shown. I will pray that the Holy Spirit shows you what you need to pay attention to. Ultimately, these things in our dreams and visions need to fit within the word of God.”
Their statement contains truth, but is also difficult. We use the word of God to verify our dreams, but Abraham had no written words (i.e. Bible) from God by which Abraham could verify anything. Abraham had to simply trust or not trust God Almighty. My journal records that I had a discussion with Mary about that. Here is how my entry closes:
Reflection: interesting that as I mentioned this conversation to Mary, I mention that if “we should not use dreams and visions as a basis for where we go and what choices we make in our lives” then how do we explain Abraham? Then Mary immediately added, “How about Joseph, Mary’s husband, who was told to go to Egypt?” I am forced to disagree with the “should not” [of the above person’s statement], however whatever dream or vision one receives, it must comport with the written word, because the written word serves as a mechanism for believers to verify the information received. So I disagree with [the above person’s] first statement because of how it is phrased, maybe it would be better stated “we should not use dreams and visions as [the only] basis” then it would completely comport with the remainder of [the above person’s] statement.
So as you can see, I was struggling, and to a degree still struggle, to understand dreams. Long before there was ever a “Bible,” men and women had dreams. Long after there was a “Bible,” men and women still had, and still have, dreams. But we live in an age where dreams are doubted and thus go untrusted, and dreams are labeled outdated, outmoded, and thus irrelevant.
All I can tell you is that Mary had, and has, dreams, some of those things have come to pass. What am I to do with that reality? Furthermore, I began having dreams, specific dreams, like a wedding dress, waiting for a woman, amongst all the other dreams that I have mentioned. What do these things mean? Those who are critics will undermine the ponderings of the significance and importance of dreams, but I am here to say that my experience tells me otherwise.
To go back to the above person’s thought. I believe their prayer was answered, the Holy Spirit did help show me things I needed to pay attention to, and ultimately things do fit into God’s word. But before this matter was settled in my personal spirit and Mary’s, this entire event was emotionally, spiritually, and biblically unsettingly for me, her, family, friends, and parts of the church.
I wrote a lengthy journal entry on December 17, 2011 mentioning how I felt low and was not sure what to do. But that is not what captures my interest. In the entry, I refer to someone who had been assisting me during my bus routes and the dialogue that person and I had regarding ministry. They asked about why I stepped away from ministry, and listened to what I had to say. In my journal, I wrote:
…We talked about a lot of stuff, but one thing really stood out to me. [That person] told me very candidly that I should wrestle with [ministry and what happened], but that I should get back into ministry and not steal from others the knowledge that I have.
Interestingly, [that person] basically closed out [their] thoughts by saying that nothing starts out large, it starts small, and so does ministry. …
At the time of that discussion, I toiled heavily about what I was to do regarding my religious heritage and whether or not it had a place for me, but I felt mostly discouraged. I stepped down from the pulpit in 2010, but since then I wrestled with the concepts of ministry: What is ministry? What does ministry look like? Who is a minister? So on and so forth it goes.
From my entry, I interpreted that discussion as part of God’s leading. It should not have surprised me, but the journal entry seems to indicate that it did. Going back to the words that were given me before I left Indiana, there is something for me to do in the church, a particular ministry work, but as the years have unfolded, it seems to be coming true that which I understood as ministry is being swapped out for a better understanding of ministry and helping those who are God’s.
2011 ended on a very difficult note. This event happened on Friday evening, two days before Christmas, on our way to the Messianic Synagogue, just feet from turning into their parking lot.
It was late December, the sun sets early. The street is three-lane, each direction, with a middle left-hand turn lane. The street has lamps, but was also over grown with trees, casting heavy shadows down onto the lanes.
I was in the left-hand turn lane, had slowed down to less than the speed limit, because I was taking my time looking for the entrance. I was preparing to make my turn, looking for the entrance and watching the road and traffic, and there stood a pedestrian, looking the other direction.
I remained at the scene. I was not cited in any way. But that night was horrible, in so many ways. My heart sank. My fears escalated. My tears ran.
Considering the severity of the moment that left the pedestrian hospitalized, the family of that gentleman treated me very well. In the months that followed that lawyer involved process, I lost contact with that family. But it is my prayer that God has comforted them.
Dreams. Prayers. Life moments, with its gut-wrenching events. All of these things can push us away from God or they can draw us near to God.
As I look back on all this, I can’t help but see how God was working with me, even when I did not see it or understand it. While that comforts me now, I had no comfort then. Trial after trial seemed to be stacking upon me.
The year ended on a serious somber note, and my personal experiences with God would only become more difficult to grasp and understand. 2012 would prove to be a whirlwind and the beginning of a tremendous shift in the manner in which Mary and I viewed our marriage.
Blessings and Shalom