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Recently we published the book shown below in the form of an e–book. We invite you to read, copy, or down-load it free at this web-site:
A Spiritual Autobiography
How God fulfilled the faith-based hopes
of an ordinary guy from Jersey City
Life is Like a Jig-saw Puzzle
In my home I have a number of items that remind me of my childhood years. For example, there is wooden bookcase that I built in my shop class in P.S.24 in Jersey City. Whenever I look at that bookcase I am reminded of my shop teacher, Mr.Buchanan. I don’t remember what he taught us about using tools. I do remember that each student was assigned a work bench which contained a drawer which held a basic set of carpentry tools. Mr. Buchanan taught us that each student’s tools had to be organized in the drawer in such a way that each one was placed in a precise spot in the drawer.
Before we left for our next class each drawer was inspected by Mr.Buchanan. If anything was out of place he reminded us of the importance of being organized. The message seemed to be that if you hoped to accomplish something with your tools in the time available (like building a bookcase),then you couldn’t waste time searching through an unorganized drawer for a particular tool. You had to be able to put your hands on that tool without searching for it.
A few years later, when I joined the Navy, one of the first rules we had to follow in boot camp was to organize our clothing and the few personal belongings we were allowed to have, in a very precise manner in our lockers, or there would be some sort of punishment dealt out. Every locker was inspected by the Company Commander every day. I remember being caught a few times with one or two pieces of clothing not properly stowed. That didn’t go well at all. The message was the same, if you hope to achieve your goal in the Navy, which for me was to get done with boot camp and get on with serving as a Navy musician, then you had better learn to be well organized.
I’m sure that hearing this message, intentionally or by implication, about fulfillment of hopes through organization, made an impression on me. I say that because in my adult years I became a highly organized person. Sometimes people would joke about my extreme organization efforts. A friend of mine used to refer to me as the most organized person on the East Coast. My daughter used to say that I organized things so well that they got lost in the complexity of my organizational system. And my wife once observed that if someone disorganized my desk (like borrowing my stapler and not putting it back in the exact same spot, I tended to be less than pastoral. On the other hand, during my service as a pastor, I did receive a few serious compliments for being so organized.
I am thankful that God inspired me in various ways to be a highly organized person. I believe God knew that as the years went by, I would need to be highly organized in order to see my hopes fulfilled in terms of my formal education in college and seminary, as well engaging in volunteer service in and through the church, family responsibilities, and employment in the export shipping business, non-profit public relations, running my own business, and serving as a pastor. There was also that year of unemployment, which required some organization in order to find a job. As I was writing my spiritual autobiography HOPES FULFILLED (mentioned above) I realized that my life was like a jig-saw puzzle which I believe was constantly being organized by God.
Then in 2010 I became fully retired, with the understanding that I was not simply retiring from employment, but retiring to something new. One of the first things I did was to develop a list of things to do in retirement. That was easy. But then I had to organize all those things to do. This meant putting together a new jig-saw puzzle. The problem was that the pieces of this new puzzle just were not fitting together. Some would not fit into the puzzle at all. I asked God for some guidance, and gradually, I began to sense God’s message for me in my new situation.
One of the ways God’s spoke to me was through the writing of my book. As I reviewed my life I realized that being highly organized had served me well during most of my adult life. But, as the title of an old song goes – Things Ain’t What They Used To Be. To put it another way – things change as times change. In various ways God was helping me see that being too organized might not be such a good thing in my new and changed situation. Being organized often meant being rigid – doing the same thing in the same way. Sometimes that was necessary. But being too organized meant I was less likely to listen for and hear the voice and direction of the Holy Spirit. Organizational systems and structures can become a substitute for the Holy Spirit. Just follow the long established system or procedure and everything will be just fine. It used to work that way for me. But it wasn’t working that way anymore.
My new situation was and still is that, for the first time in my life, no one was telling me what to do, and when, where, or how to do it. That meant that my highly organized system for getting things done had to change. It meant allowing more time to listen to the Holy Spirit. It meant asking more often “What would Jesus do?” It meant depending on God, rather than my organizational systems, structures, and schedules, to do the work that God has given me to do in my retirement years. It means that every day I have to seek God’s direction, listen for his response, say yes to him, and use the grace he gives me to do whatever he tells me to do. As long as I do that and my hopes are in accordance with God’s will for me, then God will see to it that my hopes are fulfilled, in God’s time and God’s way.
For more on this subject, please read my free e-book, as described at the top of this post.
Grace and peace, Ray