PART FOUR – Bernalillo to Moon River
The Third Dimension (cont’d)
(More of) The Feast of PENTECOST
At the end of Part Three of wHaT tHe LoRd HaS dOnE wItH mE, the Lord gave us many prophecies relating to this Great and Terrible Day – great for the righteous and terrible for the wicked.
On April 16, 1984, we left the Bernalillo KOA and arrived at the KOA in Lethbridge in three days, traveling about a thousand miles. We were excited about what the Lord had promised to do, wondering how it would happen.
Why had we been told to flee to the U.S.? From what did we flee? We both knew. We had been getting comfortable with the things of this world – the income, social connections, and the apparent security this world offered. We had never had it so good. If we had remained there, our spiritual lives in Christ would have been choked out, even as described in the parable of the sower:
“The seeds that fell among thorn bushes stand for those who hear; but the worries and riches and pleasures of this life crowd in and choke them, and their fruit never ripens” (Luke 8:14 GNB).
At the time I weighed 155 pounds, thankful to have control of my weight, despite my sin before God. He is stern and firm, but just, forgiving, and merciful.
We met Al and Irene Johnston while trailering. I believe they were originally from Winnipeg, but they had a son who had been in the Lethbridge police service. As their son and another officer were escorting a prisoner in Lethbridge, the prisoner grabbed one of the officers’ revolvers and shot Constable Johnston. From that time on, he was a paraplegic.
I have wondered why such a peculiar circumstance should come our way. We tried to share spiritual matters with Al and Irene as best we knew how, but they seemed quite removed from any ability to hear spiritually and to be comforted in a meaningful way. Perhaps things we said to them helped somehow, however.
Brian Bickerton was hoping to get me back into the business of servicing homes. Though I did the odd job for some customers who were earnestly looking for me, I knew I couldn’t go back, even as I couldn’t go back to anything else from which the Lord had removed me at other times in the past. After ceramics in Dauphin, I tried to do it in Israel; it wasn’t to be. After trucking in Winnipeg, I tried to do it in Lethbridge; it wasn’t to be. After leaving the motel business in Westlock, it wasn’t for us to return to it. After the handyman business, I dabbled with it when we returned, but I couldn’t go back.
It seemed that just when we were getting established in anything, ready to start prospering, having paid the price of ground-breaking and learning, it was over and on to something new. I likened it to spending the enormous amount of fuel to get a rocket into the sky out of earth’s atmosphere, but never getting to launch the satellite for the reward of that expenditure.
We recognized, however, that we weren’t here to cruise, to be at ease, or to prosper in this world, but to be tried, to learn, and to prepare for His appointed work for us.
But again the question that faced us so many times when money was running out: What do we do? Already, in Bernalillo, I was beginning to contemplate starting a consulting service, but what kind? I thought of counseling on life matters of any and all kinds, although not in information or skills, so much as in truths, principles, and laws. But I had three serious questions confronting me.
Whom do I counsel? Do I charge? How do I charge, and how much?
To me, these were crucial questions. If I was to be a minister of God, I knew I should look in Scripture and find easy answers to these questions. I would counsel only those to whom God would send me or to whom He would bring me, and I wouldn’t charge; case closed.
But was I now a minister of God? Not that I was aware. Did I have needs? Yes. Did I feel that I had to pay my way? Yes, I did, though the Lord had promised He would take care of my concerns while I took care of His. Did I not believe Him? Likely not, and yet I believed somewhat that He was leading, teaching, and speaking to me about many things. I conclude that it was His wisdom to let me find my way to His will, even while, all the time, I was in it.
I had studied Business Administration, worked at the Bay retail as a department manager, with Homes Canada as a sales manager, in Arc Industries, developing a ceramics business and working with mentally and physically handicapped people. We ran a trucking business, a motel business (in limited measure), and a handyman business, all supposedly successfully, so I decided to emphasize business consulting (though I would do whatever counseling came along). I felt I needed to be specific enough to win trust and credibility.
MH Consulting was born. MH stood for “Most High.” My previous business was Able Handyman Services, called so because He was the Able One, not I. With MH Consulting, I knew that unless God gave me true answers, my consulting was worthless. I wasn’t the least interested in giving my opinions or dealing with matters that other consultants could handle without the Lord’s counsel. I wasn’t interested in handing out band-aids, but advising real solutions, nothing less. However, I would discover, with great chagrin, just how pitifully few were interested in true solutions.
Unless God does a work of grace in man’s heart, he’s not the least interested in a true solution to his problems.
I rented an office at Penny Properties from Wally Samek for $150 per month, obtained a business license, and set out to offer and promote my services.
I found that there were various reactions to consultants. Some were cynical. There’s a saying that there are those who become consultants because they were failures in the real world themselves; easier to tell others how to do it than to do it. All of which is true.
There were those who would dig for free information and advice, finding artful ways to frame questions and gain what they desire. It was humorous at times.
But then there are the many people who think they don’t need consultation. I was amazed at the fact that those who needed counsel most recognized their need the least. I saw that people were in trouble because they were heedless, ignorant, stubborn, foolish, and cheap. And they were proud; they invariably knew better.
I have appreciated those who were open to counsel. They had a heart for it. Those who seemed to need it least made the most of what was available. That’s why they appeared to need it least. I marveled at this. I was learning so much. I had a new understanding of Jesus’ words:
“So pay attention to how you listen! Those who understand these mysteries will be given more knowledge. However, some people don’t understand these mysteries. Even what they think they understand will be taken away from them” (Luke 8:18 GW).
I received a call in response to flyers I handed out. It was Frank Tinordi, who owned Paper Chase, a printing shop. He was having business and personal problems he wished to keep confidential. I don’t know if it matters anymore, but I won’t get into it for that reason. He wanted an answer, I took it to the Lord in prayer, received an answer, and told him I had one for him.
Then came the Catch 22. Unless a client has confidence in his consultant, he’s reluctant to pay anything unless he can be guaranteed results. However, I learned that, invariably, those who came to me with a problem were the problem or at least the cause of it, and they were rarely prepared to accept that fact and take the necessary, often painful measures to address the real problem.
We discussed my “philosophical stance” for a while. Discovering that I was coming from a spiritual perspective, Frank had another proposition. “Give and it shall be given to you. Give me your answer freely,” he said.
“Give to him who asks of you,” Jesus said (Matthew 5:42). I was also haunted by, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). My conflict was that while my clients stood to gain financially, and I needed income, there was no point in prospering them financially for nothing. They needed to pay their way. I understood that the Lord was speaking not of free financial, but spiritual, counseling.
But the next problem was: Where does one draw the line? Where does the physical end and the spiritual begin? For example, when the Lord told the rich young ruler to give away all his possessions to the poor, was that physical or spiritual? When He told the fishermen to cast the net on the other side of the boat to receive their catch, was that physical or spiritual?
What if I advised someone to love his wife, and if he listened, and his wife responded by cooperating with him, helping him pull his business out of a mess, thus prospering financially, would I have given physical or spiritual advice? I needed answers to the three basic questions I mentioned.
I gave Frank the answer without charge, and he scornfully rejected it. Who knows what might have happened if he and his wife received it? I know – things would have been much better for them in every way.
I’ve wondered since then if I should have charged him for it.
I wanted business cards for MH Consulting, so I ordered them from Bob Gregson at Paramount Printers. Bob and his brother, Ron, were working for their father. As we talked, Bob wanted to know if I had advice for him on how to obtain the business from his father. For whatever reason, however, he wasn’t prepared to pay for my service.
I could understand and accept that he would naturally be skeptical of my charging. After all, who was I, but a newcomer to Lethbridge? And what guarantee did I have that I could help him? On the other hand, I was persuaded that even if he knew I could help, he didn’t wish to part with his money even if awash in it.
Bob’s facial features reminded me of Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. Unlike Mick, however, Bob was meticulous in grooming himself. Every last hair and fold of clothing had to be in perfect place. He seemed to think and speak as if living in a straitjacket, always studying his words and often speaking slowly, with hesitation, like a deer entering open spaces in hunting season.
While I respect and appreciate a person who speaks carefully, Bob seemed to be painful about it, as though it was caution born of trauma. He was always calculating and measuring his words for maximum tact and diplomacy to gain whatever he was after, appearing to be avoiding conflict, yet much in disagreement at the same time. He was often very cynical of others and of social and political developments, not that I often disagreed with his viewpoints in terms of subject matter.
His father called him “his nibs.” I wasn’t familiar with the phrase but would come to recognize it well enough. Bob was always right, doggedly so. Once his mind was made up about something, right or wrong, there was no telling him otherwise. “His nibs” was a perfectly suitable term for him, indeed; he was right – reason, truth, and fact be damned. Capitulation, apology, admission of wrong, allowance, and mercy were as foreign to him, at least in my experience, as palm trees are to the Arctic.
Bob was very frustrated and bitter for various reasons. He and Ron wanted to take over the business from their aging father, but their father wasn’t cooperating. They were in continuous bitter conflict with him. The harder Bob argued, the more reluctant the father; the more reluctant the father, the more cynical and bitter Bob became. Two supremely stubborn men were at each others’ throats. It was an impossible situation.
I told Bob that I would have an answer and that my answers came from God.
I was in a dilemma, for two reasons. First, was this “secular” or “spiritual” counsel? It concerned a financial business matter, but I was receiving counsel from God. The one I counseled stood to prosper financially, but should I be charging? The other dilemma was that I could give the goods to Bob, but would he pay for them? Should I charge before “releasing the goods” to ensure payment, as is the case in most business transactions? And could I even deliver the goods, especially if I candidly claimed to get them from God?
My intent and desire in his case was to lead him, if possible, to the Lord. The question was, “Would he have faith?” I saw the fixation he had on acquiring the business. I knew it wasn’t good. I knew that even if he succeeded in obtaining it, he couldn’t be nearly as happy and fulfilled as he would be if he were to let it go.
God gave me an answer and I delivered it: “Let it all go. Give it up. If you give it up for the right reasons, you’ll receive it back manifold.”
While it was evident he wasn’t prepared to receive the true solution, he made a feeble show of being so. When it became fully obvious he wasn’t prepared to pay the price, that is, forsake the business, I asked the Lord, “What now?” I received an answer.
Bob was to make an honest effort to honor his father, treating him with genuine respect. I told Bob that in spite of what he thought of his father, his duty under God was to love and obey him. I believed that if Bob stopped opposing his father, he would effectively untie his father’s hands, permitting him to hand over the business. I believed that his father wanted to do it all along, but was prevented by Bob’s acrid contempt of him.
It worked. Bob and Ron soon had the business. Bob then asked me how much time I had spent on his case and how much an hour I would charge him. He decided to pay me – $300. Therein was the classical example of total contradiction. He gets a multi-million-dollar business from my consultation, and I walk away with $300 after many hours of labor, which was nothing in comparison to the inestimable value of the effective counsel. I hadn’t asked a specific amount, partially because I wasn’t sure I could charge for answers from the Lord. As well, I knew what I was facing, and there was no room for negotiation with him.
Was it right to give this kind of benefit (answers from the Lord) to those who didn’t believe? It was most certainly frustrating. Was I taking the children’s bread and casting it to the dogs, as Jesus said to the Gentile woman (Matthew 15:26)? Yet the woman had faith and received, while Bob had none, though he made a pretense of it. Perhaps he knew my answer might work for him, or he simply knew it was the right thing to do, anyway. In any case, he did it. Truly, what did he have to lose by doing what he knew was morally right?
While the business was slowly but surely transitioning over to Bob and Ron, it didn’t always appear so. Bob would call every day, and we spent dozens and dozens of hours talking about spiritual matters and principles and laws of the Kingdom. All the time he was weaving business into our conversations, complaining about the situation with his father. It seemed to me he was digging for free consultation. While he was prepared to take all he could, he was prepared to give very little. I warned him that what he had grabbed and held tightly in his fist would one day turn to dust; that in keeping his life, he would lose it (Matthew 10:39).
Perhaps it was all about money to me, a concern that I should be treated fairly – likely a selfish attitude. However, I believe God was giving me answers to the questions troubling me. Finally, in resignation and resentment, I withdrew. One might say I began to sulk. When he called, I became quiet, and soon, he was no longer calling.
It was my fault. I was hoping I could do my job, have Bob trust me to charge a fair price (whatever that was, I had no idea!), and be able to trust him to be willing to pay a fair price when the job was done. But things just didn’t work that way. I left it wide open, and as is usually the case, human nature wants the maximum value for the minimum cost. The result was a wide open field for misunderstanding, mistrust, and conflict – all this from a consultant, who should know better.
I would have been much better off willingly giving the advice as a friend to Bob for free. When he offered the $300, I believe I decided to let it go. I didn’t want it and never did collect. I had something more specific in mind as to why I decided not to collect, but I don’t remember what it was, unless, perhaps, I felt insulted.
I had a vision while we were at the Lethbridge KOA. I saw people lined up to the door of our trailer with handfuls of money. They said to us, “Please take these gifts; we want to give them to you. The honor is all ours. We’re thankful for what you’ve done and are doing for us.”
It was strange to me that I saw a certain lady there, a good former handyman customer, an unbeliever, Val Hodge. I take it she simply represented people who had paid me for services rendered. However, I understood that those giving wouldn’t be doing so to pay for earthly work, but in gratitude for the benefits they received of the work God was doing by me. Or God was simply putting it in their hearts to give, for whatever reason He had.
This was a somewhat strange event. Two young boys were playing next to our trailer, tossing stones at each other. I think I warned them once, but soon after, a stone lightly hit our trailer. I stepped out and headed over to one boy’s parents. The boy quickly pleaded, “Please, sir, don’t tell my dad!” But I was too upset to pay attention to him or recognize his alarm. I complained about what happened to the young father.
Later the man told me that his son had gotten a hard spanking as a result of my complaint, but he also commented to me about how I was one to demand and exact judgment. I hadn’t suggested a spanking, and certainly not a severe one, and I felt very bad for the boy, wishing I had recognized his fear and shown him compassion and mercy when he asked for it. I only hope that he’ll have learned to pay more attention than I have to the implications of things happening around him.
I thought I’d try to meet some of the other business consultants in the city. I called Clint Dunford and met him at a restaurant. He encouraged me and, in a few days, sent me a customer who wanted a cash flow statement to apply for a loan to finance a Gold’s Gym franchise outlet in Lethbridge.
I wondered if Clint was sending him to test my integrity and capabilities. But perhaps he was simply helping someone new. He seemed to express interest in other directions. I appreciated his intelligence, awareness, openness, and objectivity. I also considered that while he was willing to pass up business in the hand for other interests, I was still trying to find my way and get any business into my hand, not sure how I would zero in on my particular interests.
In my work with the fellow Clint sent, and in discussing various business matters, I advised him against his plans. We were in a recession, and I was negative about future prospects, expecting hard economic times. Furthermore, he didn’t inspire confidence; I wasn’t sure he could make it even if times weren’t tough. I was trying to do him a favor and steer him away from financial failure and disappointment. He was firm in his resolve, however, so I gave him what he wanted, which was a cash flow proposal to submit to a lender for financing.
I think the negative outlook I had is a mentality that religious people often have. They know things can and should be better and that things can’t go on indefinitely as they are. That may be good or bad. If they have a genuine spiritual revelation that things will be economically rough, fine, it’s good to heed what they’re receiving, but if that dissatisfaction is an attitudinal one, it won’t pay.
If believers are going to do business in this world, they need to develop the wisdom and understanding to deal with their knowledge of the world to come. Is all going to fall apart soon, or will it continue, and if so, for how long? Can anyone know? Jesus said that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.
As things turned out, we were on the finishing edge of the recession, and we began to have a strong, growing economy, the bodybuilding business was growing, and therefore, all things considered, it was a good business decision on his part. I didn’t know that, and I’d been trying to steer him in “safer” directions.
Lesson: Unless you know something that would prove it unwise to take action, prepare, get good counsel, go for it, and do it with boldness, with all your might. Naysayers seldom win.
As a business consultant, I was out of my element. Should I therefore not have advised him? No. I was finding my way. I had questions to be answered, and they were being answered. We can count changes of direction, even losses and failures, as steps in the right direction. It’s all about outlook, attitude, and learning. Learning necessitates making mistakes. As one man said, “Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.”
As I took a walk one day at the KOA trailer campground, near the hill on the northwest side of it, words to this effect came to me:
“Inflation, interest, stock market prices, and mortgage rates are nothing at all, mere imposters set to intimidate and disturb. They are as insignificant as little ants in the great scheme of things. These things shall not trouble you, My son. They are nothing to be concerned about. I will supply you with everything you need and more besides. All things are yours. There is no need to fear and nothing to worry about.
My lungs are filled with air; I laugh at these things with loud, triumphant laughter, the sound resounding everywhere.”
Penny Properties owner Wally Samek plied me for my take on future economic prospects. Should one invest in real estate or not? My advice came from the same negative notion I had of the economy in general. I was wrong. Things generally went up from there with some minor bumps along the road.
Why wasn’t I asking the Lord for answers to these questions? If I asked, I got answers; if I failed to ask, I gave wrong answers.
God wasn’t blessing me as a prophet or counselor concerning financial and economic affairs, though He was giving me remarkable answers to specific and personal situations when I thought to ask Him for them. I needed to learn my place and calling.
This was another question, related to the other three. I wasn’t interested in the kind of work I had just done for the Gold’s Gym client. I knew that the technical, mechanical, and mundane wasn’t for me. So then, what was? Why was I doing “business” consulting? My flyer emphasized personal problems, which affected business, as they do, but where was I going with it all?
Was I to counsel? Was I to do it for my livelihood?
In my door-to-door solicitation, I met Wayne and Rita Anderson. They, particularly Rita, were hurting, having been just recently disfellowshipped from Watchtower, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Another member, Jim Penton, had been asking questions of the Watchtower Society, which were reasonable, and the officials didn’t like his questions, perceiving them as a threat to their authority. If I recall correctly, Wayne and Rita were supportive of Jim’s questions and of his right to ask them. The Society didn’t like their supporting him, and the Andersons were excommunicated, as the Catholic Church would term it.
Rita described the treatment to which they were suddenly subjected by those who had been their spiritual elders, friends, brothers, sisters, and companions in the “Kingdom of Jehovah” – indeed, their family. They were totally ostracized and shunned. For example, if the Andersons were walking down the street and the JWs who recognized them were coming towards them, the JWs would promptly cross the street to avoid them.
These were people who only days or hours before had presumably been their friends in the Kingdom. No small societal or psychological shift here. Phone calls ceased, and all fellowship, activities, and communications ceased. Their children were suddenly subjected to this scenario wherein their best friends were suddenly their worst enemies. How does one explain to them what has happened when things were so different until then, perhaps all their past lives? For what crime were they now so severely treated? Is asking honest questions so wrong?
Knowing that the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Society had nothing to do with Jehovah, I tried to encourage the Andersons, telling them their expulsion could well be the very best thing that happened to them. But they were still JWs at heart, both in doctrine and spirit. I wasn’t in a position to help them, try as I might. I ended up in conflict with Rita and had to walk away.