THE MAKING OF A BOOK
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PART 17 MY PURPOSE
When I learned the pastor of the church where I had taught Sunday school resigned, I wanted to return thinking I could recapture the past under the leadership of the new pastor. Rod was not keen on the idea but consented.
The church had been stripped to its foundation. All but two of the deacons we knew had left. They had stopped Sunday School and children’s church. But the new pastor was supportive, and the deacons who knew us vouched for our character and abilities.
I talked to the pastor’s wife about starting a Women’s Ministry. She was not interested in starting one, so I asked the pastor if I could start one. The first meeting drew 90% of the women in the church and continued to do so for months. One day, the pastor informed me I was a leader in the Women’s Ministry but not the leader. He wanted his wife to be the leader. The fact that she did not want the job and made that clear to me before the ministry started did not matter.
Their quarrel foreshadowed a future disaster with me caught in the middle. I released the ministry to another to be “a leader but not the leader” and started a drama team. Then the church announced they were implementing Sunday school again. But I knew in my heart Rod and I did not belong in this church anymore, and God did not want me to teach here again. It was time to let go of the past.
Then my pastor read material I had written and offered to finance the production of a book. We met to discuss book publishing. I was prepared to give the church rights and the profits from the book, so they could recoup their investment. But I wanted my pastor to understand the perils of self-publishing before he presented it to the board. During our lengthy conversation, I accepted that my God given purpose is writing.
After the meeting, I called a friend and prayer partner. We prayed God would “shut the door” on this opportunity if it wasn’t from him. Several weeks later, my pastor called and said, “Teena, the door is shut.” He told me I could ask the congregation for an offering to finance my ministry of writing. But the board had already shut the door, and I did not think trying to circumvent their decision would be wise. I turned down the offer.
I knew it was time to leave the church when I wrote an essay opposing a rule the board wanted to add to the bylaws and read it at a business meeting. The list of requirements to become a member of the church had become a weed choking life from the garden. I compared the simplicity of faith that gives us access to the kingdom of God with the multitude of rules to become a member already in the bylaws. It was easier to get into the kingdom of heaven than become a member of the church. The congregation voted against adding another rule. The next board meeting started with an announcement. We were no longer allowed to read our position before voting. Another rule to stop me from swaying future votes.
After we left the church, I learned why God shut the door. The young pastor and his young ideas had created a rift between him and the board of older men who did not like change. The breaking point came when the pastor wanted to sell the church and move services to a strip mall. They tried to remove him from office and failed. If the church had financed the book, the project would have been abandoned in the battle that followed.
By this time, I had become ambivalent about organized religion. The sweetest time in my Christian walk had been the first six months before I walked into a church. If I had not had that time alone with God, the abusive treatment by church leaders would have destroyed my faith.
My personal study of the Bible kept my faith in God strong. The Old and New Testaments are filled with stories of people who wrap themselves in God to justify the evil they do. The Apostle Paul warned the Ephesian church, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30 NAS95). These wolves use human wisdom full of bitter jealousy and selfish ambition that wound many (James 3:14-16 NAS95). My experience with wolves strengthened me because it proved to me the accuracy of the Bible, and the veracity of God’s claim that there is one God, and no one like him.
When my mother’s second husband died, she returned to her house various family members had lived in. Our next church was a practical decision. We found one near her house, so we could visit on Sunday afternoons to help her with anything she needed.
No longer interested in doing anything in a church, I turned my attention to NOLA’s faith blog. My entries were diverse: a video, a devotion, a story of answered prayer, news about church events. To keep the blog fresh and interesting, I got permission from others to share their material. Posting articles months in advance of their release made the blog manageable as I looked for my niche in writing.
I found my stride the day a popular Bible teacher came to my attention. She became the subject of my first profile, Who is Anna Donahue? I outlined her journey from broadcasting news to broadcasting the love of God. An unshakable name occurred more than once. Pastor Anthony, who was running for the United States House of Representatives, came to my attention three times in one day. I already had a list of people waiting for me to write their story and opted not to contact him. Before the week ended, I met him at a minister’s fellowship and relented.
Friends were a rich resource of remarkable stories. A lively child in my husband’s children’s church grew up to become a missionary and fulfill a 100-year-old prophecy in a foreign nation. A friend and attorney’s struggle to find a faith compatible with reason proved the gospel stories could be accepted in a court of law as credible evidence. Mark stared out his office window in the World Financial Center at people falling to their deaths in the aftermath of the first plane’s collision with the Twin Towers. He looked up to see the second plane heading for his office.
A friend told me several times I should turn the stories into a book. I toyed with the idea on occasion, but was too busy writing stories to pursue the task. The task I refused to pursue, pursued me.
TO BE CONTINUED…