Saturday, June 25, 2005

Faith Walk: Chapter 3

This post is part of a series of journal transcriptions from my second retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY during May 28 to May 30, 2004.

Saturday May 29, 2004 11:10 AM EST (Part 1)

I resume my story from Chapter 1. I have just returned from a three hour hike through the woods and among the hills west of the Abbey. The Abbey of Gethsemani is the largest, and America's oldest, order of Cistercian Monks and was founded in 1848. It encompasses approximately 2000 acres (3.1 sq. mi.) of rolling hills, woodlands, lakes, and fields. It was a beautiful, sun swept morning when I walked into the midst of God’s world, emptied my heart, and asked Him to speak to me. Time lost its relevance freeing me to contemplate and listen concerning the decisions I am facing in the coming week. Back to that story and April 2004.

I am facing imminent unemployment and after six months of a vigorous job search, I have no prospects. It appears that May will be my last month of income. I begin contingency planning for joblessness; financial planning for living on unemployment, including liquidating my assets and 401k; how long can I keep my house; when to sell, etc.

Job leads pop up sporadically, but they all drop into the abyss of "we will keep your resume on file." Periods of doubt and depression ghost me, but I force myself to stay focused on moving forward and trusting God. I keep telling myself He will provide. In my heart and subconscious, I trust Him. So many prayers on my family’s behalf from so many people fortify me. My men's group provides strong support. Moving from late April into early May, I am really in a hole now. No job prospects. May termination becomes more likely everyday. Doug, a co-worker at CIC Global, my close friend and Christian confidant, has found a job and has left CIC. Being in the office is very difficult, especially with little to do. Everything is on hold as we wait for the sale of the company to close.

Through all this, I am traveling to Philadelphia periodically. I am helping to prepare for arbitration over a contract and Intellectual Property dispute involving CIC. I am a key person in defending CIC’s parent company, Exelon Energies in the case, yet they are about to dump me on the street. All inquiries about a severance for my service go unheeded. In addition, several disappointments occur in my spiritual life.

My men’s group has been praying hard for one of our members for a long time concerning a very bad situation involving his alcoholic daughter and her children. This situation has been a burden on the family for years and continues to worsen rapidly. It seems the harder we pray the worse things get.

Another family I have been praying for just received devastating news. Their daughter has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. I truly felt in my heart that the answer would be good news. Another negative answer to diligent prayer. These two families, my job—so many unanswered or negatively answered prayers it seems. Nevertheless, I stay faithful, desperately telling myself that God will provide. My mind does not want to hang onto this hope, this illogic in the face of surface evidence. It wants to give in to the despair that feels like an attack upon my soul. It probably is; from Satan.

So, I struggle uphill in my walk of faith. To that effort, I spend more time in contemplation, praying, and being with God now. I will not abandon God, even if I feel He may be abandoning me. My reasoning of faith says He is not, but so much of me wants to give up the fight of believing God is active rather than passive. I remind myself that God has provided for me over the last several months. I could easily be out of work, but the deal for CIC has dragged on keeping me employed.

During this period of April to May 2004, I had been meditating on another spiritual issue that has been on and off again since my first trip to Gethsemani. That is the issue of tithing. Anita and I wanted to tithe, but we did not feel like we could. Of course, I know this was just a rationalization and excuse. Had I ever seriously analyzed what it would take to do so? No. I had not crunched any numbers to see what adjustments to our lifestyle were needed in order to tithe. This proved that my heart was not really in the right place. I knew the time had come to change this. At the same time I was resurrecting this thought process, Tim Woodroof began a series of lessons on money, tithing, and debt as spiritual issues, not as financial issues. His lessons were powerful and carried the impact of the truth. His series solidified my thinking. Whatever happens to my family, job wise, tithing from our gross income is going to be the first budget item, regardless of the changes we need to make.

Within days after making this decision, a major blessing occurred. Through the Belmont University placement office, I received a job notice for Sr. Operations Analyst at Ingram Barge Company. A close friend of mine worked for Ingram Barge. We met in the Belmont MBA pr0gram and become close friends and professional colleagues. My friend had already given Ingram my resume for general purposes much earlier. I called him to ask for assistance on this opportunity. He says, “They should have already called you. I gave my boss your resume several days ago. It is my job that they are trying to fill; I got a promotion.”

What a door the Lord opened for me! A great company and a job that would transition me from engineering into operations and business. This was a career path I was seeking, and on that was almost a necessity in order to stay in Nashville. Engineering opportunities were few. Ingram called and we set up an interview. The interview went okay, but I did not feel the man to whom I would report cared for my personality. He said he was concerned that I talked about myself too much. Well, it was an interview. I am supposed to present myself, but maybe he was right. I put this down as something to consider going forward. He also noted that I could talk a lot easily. Truth hurts.

More than a week had gone by with no word from Ingram. I begin resigning myself to another disappoint.


Amanda said...

Reminds me of a chapter in The Screwtape Letters where Screwtape tells his nephew that the kind of obedience that God delights in the most is when His "patients" feel like God has abandoned them, but we stay faithful through those feelings of abandonment.

Tony Arnold said...

One of my favorite books.

JMG said...

I'm really enjoying your story--can't wait for the next chapter!

Tony Arnold said...

Hopefull I will get something written this week. Have been on the road all week for work and I don't have a laptop with this job.


Malia said...

I was just rereading this post and I couldn't believe that all of this happened just over a year ago. I remember talking to Anita about the trips to and maybe possible move to St. Louis, I remember the CF scare and WOW what a difference a year and the power of prayer can make. It's good from time to time to look back and see what God has done in our lives, especially when things are again looking grim and tough.

It was also just over a year ago, that Nathan had his accident. Just a couple of weeks ago I saw them at church, I think it was a Wed night dinner and Nathan had grown so much in the past year, so much taller and more "big boy" looking that "little boy" looking like he was last year. I couldn't believe, again, what a difference a year and millions of prayers had made. Well, actually I can believe it, we're witness to it. I'm just glad that I'm continually amazed by it.

Tony Arnold said...

There will much about Nathan in upcoming posts from my journal.

I have found that is only through reflection that I can truly see the love God sheds on us. Hard to see it sometimes in the near term. So many things in my life looked hard or negative at the moment, but as time unfolded, I realized it was the only way that God get me to the blessing.

Thanks for reading!


Stephen Meeks said...


Thanks for you feedback. You and I are both growing and enjoying ourselves as we watch God moving in ways we sort of doubted that He still did.


jettybetty said...

Hopefully, the next chapter is coming soon???