March 2012 opens up with one of the oddest dreams. I wrote:
While sleeping/relaxing this morning on the bus, while waiting for the students and after Mary and I had spoken, I had a quick dream with me rearranging two different styles of throw rugs in front of a hallway door. The rugs were too long to fit length ways in front of the door, because [the hallway was narrow and] they would hit the wall. So I rearranged them into an “L” [with the bottom of the “L” facing the door]. Then I rearranged them again running length ways horizontal on the floor in front of the door over lapping each other. Then it occurred to me that I was messing with rugs and I said, “What the heck am I doing messing with these rugs?” and left.
Like I have said before, dreams are strange. Some say dreams are symbolic. To me, this is just one of those things that makes little sense.
That very same day, I had someone call me because they felt moved to call me after listening to someone. I found it of interest that they called. They mentioned the reason for their inspiration to call me, so I looked up the meaning of the names of King David and the Prophet Jeremiah. The name David (H1732, BDB) means “beloved”. The name Jeremiah (H3414, BDB) means “whom Jehovah has appointed”.
Based on my journal entry, we spoke of several things, including the possibility that I might go back into ministry. The person who called simply told me that I should follow the Spirit’s leading. What I find interesting is that their response is not necessarily encouraging me to ministry. Instead their words could be taken as “follow what you’re told” meaning that the Spirit could lead in any particular direction, and I should pay attention irrespective if it was actually ministry.
However, the major note that I made was that I wondered what it signified, if anything, that “beloved” “whom Jehovah has appointed” inspired them to call me.
Recall that my last Installment ended with me beginning a fast. My entry from March 9 conveys that the fast lasted one week. During that fast, I started making notes as I was reading through the Book of Acts, which I continued after ending the fast. Also during the fast, I reflected on the implications, if any, of Psalm 91, and continued praying for others.
During our fast, in part, I recorded the following journal on March 4:
This morning as I was stirring awake, Mary said that I would hear from God around the time of the mikvahs. Interesting because I was praying at just about that moment asking for help and insightful information. So that was cool.
This entry seems odd, but looking back it is actually quite foretelling. My reader should recall that this entire journey, since I left the pulpit, has been a new understanding of experiencing God’s leading. I have had tremendous moments of doubt and distrust, and what was going to happen to me I would find all kinds of ways to discount.
For whatever reason, I did not record when the mikvahs took place. But as I was thinking about this particular moment, I think I recall when this might have occurred. Several of us gathered for mikvahs over at an apartment complex of a member of the congregation in order to conduct the immersions in the facility’s pool. Even though I don’t recall the specific calendar date, I remember the mikvahs.
The water was really chilly and everyone was taking care of their mikvah as quickly as possible. It came my turn. Instead of wading in, allowing my body to acclimate to the less than welcoming water temperature, I jumped in, choosing to be swallowed by the cold embrace of the beautifully cold clear pool water. Then I immersed.
I remember the mikvah being done. From memory and journal entries, I am simply surmising that the mikvahs occurred around the same time as Mary’s dream and this fast. While not absolutely clear, memory feels proper.
Now all of that is important and relevant because of what I experienced during the last few days of March and during the month of April. It was something that up to that point I had never before experienced, and haven’t since. That event not only startled me but also instilled in me the need for deep introspective private personal mediation to determine the course of action I was to take.
During the fast, I record the following prayer into my journal on March 5, 2012:
You are magnificent, and powerful, a provider and comforter, a help in times of need, you are resourceful and the sustainer.
How truly blessed I am to have Messiah, to enter into your holy of holies by faith in him, Yeshua of Nazareth, the righteous and holy one of Israel. Greater than all the prophets, greater than all the kings, the lamb without blemish, without spot, your offering, my holiness. In him I am made complete.
Father, I seek your face needing your answer to: Where I am to go? Am I to work in an established church? Or work to establish a church? Or take work elsewhere?
I feel unable to move forward. You say “trust” and I respond with “yes” but I hesitate not knowing. I feel that you at least gave Noah an idea of what he was to build, even gave him specifications to its size. I feel that you reassured Abraham with promises, even demonstrating your faithfulness by walking between the pieces. I feel that you confirmed things to Isaac and Jacob, even talked with Moses assuring him you would be with him. I feel that you told Joshua to take the lead, yet you gave him instructions for the first battle of Jericho. I feel you had led the judges, even led the prophets to miracles, wonders and signs, even provided for their needs. I feel that you confirmed and protected the Messiah, even provided information to him for him to say “as my father speaks” and “what I see the father do, I do.” I feel you provided the necessary confirmation to apostles like Thomas and Paul delivering them from their doubt.
I know you provided for those men, your servants, I know you will provide for me, but I ask you to reveal yourself to me, please. And please provide me with guidance, assurance of where to step, where to be. Since you informed Philip to join himself to the chariot, inform me where to go. Confirm your message to me, demonstrate your great faithfulness. Meager blessings are for peasants and servants, abundant overflowing gifts and blessings are reserved for the family. Im’ grafted in. I accept your people, even though they and I struggle to be one new man in Messiah. Your scriptures say my faith in Yeshua the Messiah makes me an heir, so I ask you to entreat me as a son, a son who wants to do his father’s will, to please him. Please be specific where am I to go? and what am I to do?
In this name of the appointed master Messiah Yeshua, the first born from the dead, ascended and setting at your right hand.
I pray routinely, but I don’t write many prayers. The above is probably just one of a handful that I have ever written down. It seems from Mary’s dream and the fast, I felt led to write down what I needed God to help me with.
As you can see, I asked God to basically intervene in my life. Why? I was unsure what to do, and unsure where to go. A Christian, but felt like a sailing ship on the sea without wind and without other means of motion.
I had been praying and praying, meditating and meditating. My journal has many entries following my fast and my prayer, from Bible study notes, prayers for others, prayers about ministry, among other miscellany. I even had a brother write me and encourage me saying:
“I know you are tired and I know you are feeling less than worthy. I know of nothing I can say to comfort you with that except to reassure you that it is in your imperfections that the glory of the LORD is made manifest.
“I pray you never find rest. I know that sounds cruel, but I felt compelled to pray it. You are not a man of rest, but a man of action. You still have work to do and I pray that the Angel of Death, when he finally finds you, will have to stop for a moment to catch his breath.
“May the wind be ever at your back my friend.”
He had some understanding of where I was, but not to what extent. The days since August 2010 had become long and dreary, even though they contained high points and blessings. During those days, even though drawing near to God, I was emotionally exhausted from not knowing what to do and where to go.
For me, I have never experienced anything more fatiguing that living day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, year-in-year-out not knowing what it was that I was to do. Prior to 2011, I had never been in that position. Importantly, I don’t feel in that position now. But that feeling has this amazing ability of simply shredding one’s sense of accomplishment and worth.
Back in March 2012, I used to be part of a Facebook group. Years ago, not sure when, I somehow lost contact with them, no biggie, I suppose. But I do find it interesting that I wrote into my journal a post I put in that group. That post captures my disposition regarding ministry and my serious need for direction.
From March 16, 2012 here is my complete unedited post, except for “[leaders]” and “[far too long]”:
I feel down and need some feedback.
I have been out of the pulpit since September 2010, out of the minister teaching role since December 2010, and I continually wrestle with whether or not I should return to preaching/ministry.
My background is hardnosed/hard*ss orthodoxy. I am not even close to that any more, but neither am I a grace-filled gushy-type. I’m freed from churchianity, but still seeking the first century spiritual truths. I am unorthodox, but love traditions that are appropriate. I’m crass, but also refined. I’m irritable, but also peaceful. I’m not in good moods most of the time but stable. In a word, I lack joy.
My heart is to teach in order to build faith, not just evangelize. Evangelism is important, but so is strengthening the converted, refining our understanding, stabilizing our faith, grow in love for God in heart, soul, mind, and strength, not just “come to Jesus”.
I no longer feel tied to my cofc heritage, but don’t find the churches that I have attended any more desirous of pursuit of truth than my heritage. They appear to be filled with breast-milk addicts and [leaders] that are all too happy to keep the children, children.
I am coming up to the final weeks of the school year, in need of full-time summer employment and feeling at my wits end. My heart is learning God’s word and sharing the faith, but I feel that I am simply spinning my wheels. Even feeling ready to quit “attending church” and become like other hermit-non-church-attending-but-spiritual-Christians that I talk to, too frequently. I have learned why people quit going to church, and why people dislike/hate Christians/Christianity.
I have been here in this spot [far too long]. Not knowing which fork to take. All the while it seems that humanity walks by me on the path, they choose, I haven’t. Restraint before choosing has its wisdom, but never choosing is failing to act. Frankly, I don’t feel like looking for work and don’t want to be “working” for a church that doesn’t care. I truly feel: What’s the point? Yet, I need work and need it fast. I know that I can do more than drive school busses, or other transportation vehicles. But full-time secular work is as hollow to me as working for a “dead” church. Again, what’s the point?
I have prayed. I have fasted. I have waited upon the Lord. I have talked with my wife, my kids, others. Some encourage me to preach, in fact, most encourage me to preach, from my extended family, and churchianity-types. I feel unappreciated for my heart’s direction to understand God’s truth, and I feel like I am p*ssing into the wind, and thus I feel unable to literally and metaphorically move into action.
Wrapping this up, I really am not asking for advice, or sympathy, or words of encouragement. I feel that I am literally looking for someone whom God has anointed to help me literally move into a different phase of life because I am simply incapable of doing so myself. I am tired of feeling demoralized and defeated, incapable of moving forward.
The impetus for that post was the timing of the school year. We were somewhere near Spring Break, which meant the final months of the school year were upon me. Recall that I had prayed that God would unsettle my spirit when it was time for him to move me. Well, it was not God who unsettled me.
I was unsettled from my own concern for finances, fearing that I would not have enough income to sustain us through the summer months before school resumed. For me, back then, the metaphoric fog was dense and I couldn’t see what was happening. But now, what a difference! It is amazing what I see.
Back then, I had prayed for God to lead me just as I had prayed for God to be the force literally moving me into my next phase of life. Even though it is not yet fully complete, as far as I can tell, God answered my prayers and petitions.
Unexpectedly, I was about to experience the most tumultuous years of my life. It seems that God kicked off that change by giving me a specific dream. Following that, I experienced some events that would forever alter my operational understanding of God.
Blessings and Shalom