Monday, July 04, 2005

Faith Walk: Chapter 4

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 2)

As I wait to hear from Ingram and brace myself for another disappointment, I continue to wrestle with the issue of tithing. As I mentioned earlier, my wife and I had decided that tithing would be our financial priority regardless of what our new situation would be. However, during the seemingly interminable wait for Ingram’s decision, I found myself contemplating the tithing issue and the immediate blessing that occurred after our commitment. Something was pressuring me to start the commitment immediately rather than wait for resolution of our fate. This pressure was definitely not a Pavlovian response to action then reward. My faith does not hold to a health and wealth mentality. No, this was some external force not an internal force. It was a conviction.

Yet, with only a couple of guaranteed paychecks remaining and a likely period of unempl0yment afterward, we could use every penny. I was not sure tithing, which would about double our current contribution, was even feasible, well alone prudent. Conversely, if a cliff appears, if a leap of faith presents itself, shouldn’t we jump? The story of the widow’s mite could not help but come to mind.

He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” -- Luke 21:2-4 [1]

I leapt and wrote the check for our next contribution tithing on our monthly gross income. I thought I had discussed this with my wife and had gotten her agreement. Sadly, there was, borrowing from Cool Hand Luke, a failure to communicate. Anita was quite surprised and fearful, as was I, but she supported me in the bold (rash? faithful?) action.

Several powerful events occurred quickly after this. Within a day or two of contributing the tithe, I got a call from a Hendersonville company, EASI, about a Director of Engineering position. The phone interview went extremely well, and I was invited to a formal interview. The interviewer would call tomorrow to schedule. My time for testifying at the arbitration in Philadelphia was a day-to-day decision that kept dragging on. I informed the gentleman of my situation, and that I may have to travel to Philly at a moments notice. He understood. He had to wait until tomorrow to schedule because of a deposition in which he was involved.

This was Thursday, May 13, 2004. That same day, the president of CIC Global informed me that May 31st would be the end my tenure. No severance, but CIC would pay my insurance for June, and the ceiling on vacation pay would be waived, which was set at 192 hours. I had just over 200 hours of accrued vacation. In addition, I would receive full vesting in my 401(k) so that I would not lose any matching dollars. God provides.

Rachel, our part-time office manager, also gave me a book called Career Shock written by her late husband, James C. Cotham. He had been an executive with the Nashville Gas Company, South Central Bell, Nashville City Bank, and First National Bank in Clarksville. He also served as Commissioner of Economic and Community Development in the cabinet of Governor Lamar Alexander. He spent the last years of his life as a professor of management in the Jack Massey Graduate School of Business at Belmont University. The Massey School was where I had studied for my MBA. Dr. Cotham died from cancer during the semester I started the program. The book is excellent and helped in my thoughts about what was going on in my life, how to manage it, and how to make it a positive turning point in my life. Dr. Cotham expounded on what he had learned was important in making career decisions. I don't remember money being on his list. Quality of life, family, enthusiasm for the job, trust in management, and alignment of personal beliefs with management were the points he emphasized. Rachel is a spiritual woman and truly reflects Christ in her life. From what I understand, the same was true of her husband. His book was ministering to me. Another blessing from God.

A wealth of news, blessings, and a mixed bag of emotions are occurring in my life. The end is near, but a measure of hope is on the horizon.

I contact my friend Chuck at Ingram sure in my mind that I am not in the running. He informs me that round one is over and that round two is beginning. He tells me not to worry. I still have strong doubts, but I pray to God to intervene while deferring to His will. I want to work for Ingram. Besides Chuck, for whom I have deep respect, another friend and brother in Christ works for Ingram. Chad and his wife, prior to their marriage, were in the college life group my wife and I lead in our home. Chad and Laura are special people, and they have prayed diligently for me. Both Chuck and Chad speak highly of Ingram.

On Friday, May 14, 2004, I schedule an interview with EASI for Monday, May 17. I also find out that I will not have to fly to Philadelphia that week, but they do expect me to testify on Wednesday, May 26, and Friday, May 28. From the beginning of the case, I have told the attorneys that I am not available on those dates, and I remind them of this. I have a ticket to the Rush concert on the 26th, and this Gethsemani retreat begins on May 28. The Rush concert is opening night of the tour for their new album after a very long absence. This is Rush’s first tour since the drummer’s daughter was killed in a car accident and then losing his wife to cancer within a ten month period. This is an incredible story of healing which the drummer, Neil Peart, chronicled in his book, Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. Besides being one of the best drummers in the world, he is also an award-winning author (for this book).

On Sunday evening, May 16, at about 6:00 pm, we get a call from a church friend. Another family we are close to has had a terrible accident involving there 3-year-old son, Nathan, who is a playmate of our daughter Maria. Nathan had gotten behind the lawnmower and his dad could not see him. While backing up, he ran over Nathan’s leg. Nathan’s older sister witnessed the accident. The family is at Vanderbilt’s Children Hospital. The sister is staying at a neighbor's house. We rush to the hospital to help. Nathan’s father, Phil, is dear to me. He is one of the most devoted, loving fathers you could ever meet. Phil is devastated when we arrive. I know he is torturing himself mentally and emotionally. The staff is still doing emergency procedures on Nathan. He will survive but has severe damage to the right foot and leg. A friend Rob and one of our elders, Steve, are present and ministering to Phil. Shortly after we arrive, the nurse asks Phil to come back as they discuss options and treatment. The nurse asks if he wants someone with him. Phil asks Jeanine, Steve’s wife, to come back and be with his wife, Patti. I tell Phil any of us will go with him if he needs us.

During the time after Phil is called back, Rob, Steve, my wife Anita, and I pray for the family. Our daughter Maria is present as we pray for her friend Nathan. Sandra, a very close friend of Patti’s, arrives and joins us. During our chain prayer, the nurse returns and asks for me. Phil has requested my presence. I go back standing with Phil next to Nathan’s gurney as he waits for surgery. He is sedated and stable. I pray silently and hold Phil. My job situation no longer exists as a reality, as even an event in this universe. My heart pours out to God for this child and for Phil. My mind is totally void of any knowledge of how to deal with this situation and h0w to minister to Phil. I beg silently for God to act for me as I look down on Nathan and knead Phil’s shoulder.

[1] Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. The NIV and New International Version trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.


JMG said...

It's funny how our own problems become insignificant in the face of someone else's tragedy.

It's also funny how God makes us take our focus off of ourselves.

(Not funny in the "ha ha" sense.)

JMG said...

I also meant to say that you are driving me nuts leaving off the story at all the suspenseful parts!


CL said...

Thanks for sharing these Tony, I have enjoyed reading your accounts. God bless.

erinlo said...

I think you should just put it all in a book and then we wouldn't have to be kept hanging. I'll buy the first one.

Good stuff, Tony. Somehow this is something I need to hear right now.

Tony Arnold said...

JMG post #2: Isn't that what you teach your students though?

To everyone, thanks for your kind posts. I don't mean to leave you hanging. There are several reasons for the cliff hangers:

1. I don't want any one blog to be too long to read in one sitting.

2. It takes a long time to decipher my own handwriting in the journal, edit it into something coherent, and then proof it so that you can tell English is my native language.

3. I think slow. My typing speed is OK though.

4. If I have to break it up, might as well keep everyone wanting just a little bit more.


JMG said...

Yeah. You do have a good storytelling techinique.

jettybetty said...

I have times when I think something is big and pressing and then something else happens and it's like issue #1 goes away it's so insignificant.

I understand your need to put your story in different postings--but I need to know what happens to the little boy!


Amanda said...

I am also really enjoying your story, Tony, even if I do know the external results. This is sort of a look into your brain (a scary thing!), and I'm really enjoying it.

It's amazing how God can use our stories to really teach and bless others. Your story is doing just that for me.

Jana said...

Tony - I just now finished reading all your Faith Walk posts...I can't wait for more!!!

Malia said...

Okay, I've read over this post a couple of times and I don't want to seem flippant about the events that you are recounting, but I just have to say that if I didn't know like I do I probably wouldn't quite understand the significance of attending the Rush concert.

Rock on!

Tony Arnold said...

Absolutely no significane other than it was happening, I journaled it, I love their music, and it allowed me to mentioned Neil Peart's book which is an incredible story.

Bear with me, a new post is coming soon, I have just been swamped at work, church, and home.