Dreaming, Planning, and Preparing in Life!

 

Yosemite falls

Dreaming, Planning, and Preparing in Life

Dreaming, Planning, and Preparing in Life

(A Revealing Look at My Life and Early “Dream” for the Future)

We believe that it is the part of godly wisdom for a young man to plan for his future and prepare for the days to come.  (This would be true of a young woman as well.) Although it is folly for a person to plan for the future without having God in mind (James 4:13-14), it is wise for one to say, “If he Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that” (v. 15). As I look back to my early years as a teenager and later, I can see that not all of my plans were wise, though they were lofty and God-centered. With the hope that my experience will aid our younger (and older) readers, let me share parts of my past.

Bible

Dreaming, Planning, and Preparing in Life

I apologize now for the fact that this writing is very personal and I often use the personal pronoun, “I.” I realize that this is not the best practice but I know of no other way to be personally involved in the article and share my own life with you. So please excuse me and just try to derive some benefit from what I write, as you “look over my shoulder” and enter my heart to see what I saw and feel what I felt as I lived my life! Further, we apologize to our many readers from overseas. We know that there are many non-Americans who visit our website, and probably many of the references that I make here will not have the impact that fellow-Americans will experience.

And now to my personal account. When I was 15 and 16, I began to question, then learn, the basics of my Lutheran theology. I came to see that God’s Word—the Bible—must be the very basis of our life, our beliefs, and our future. Month after month, I closeted myself in my bedroom, with an open Bible and literature, seeking to understand God’s truth and how it related to what I had always believed. In time, I renounced my Lutheran faith, in favor of what I thought was a more Biblical way. My life dramatically changed according to what I was learning. (See my article, Why I Left the Lutheran Church.)

 

Trinity Lutheran Church

Dreaming, Planning, and Preparing in Life

In the following years, as a teenager, I studied my Bible assiduously and memorized hundreds of Scripture verses, all the while somehow hoping that I would be able to serve the Lord in a significant way in life. I wasn’t sure what God had in mind for the coming years, but I wanted to be prepared. I recalled the words of Abraham Lincoln, “I will study and get ready and perhaps my chance will come.” I didn’t like the idea of “chance,” thus I printed Lincoln’s words on a card in this way: I will study and get ready and perhaps my opportunity will come. Although I didn’t know precisely what my life would be like in the future (James 4:14), still I knew that God would be at the very center of it.

A popular book, written in the last few years, says it well: “Don’t Waste Your Life!” As a young man, I didn’t want my life to be wasted. In the words of the little verse, “Only one life, it will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last!” I knew this to be true and wanted to so live my life that I wouldn’t be sorry for the way I used it. If I only had one lifetime and if eternity was endless, it meant that every single thing in life must be related to God and His will. It was clear as to what I should do with my life. If God means anything, He means everything!

I now see the value of having a godly and devout mentor, one who could lead me in the paths of God’s righteousness, but at that time I didn’t have such an older, wiser, more experienced, and God-fearing person in my life. Every young person needs this. Ideally, it would be a father. If there is no father like this, this older person could be an elder (overseer), a preacher, a teacher, or some other worthy adult who would be wise in the Scriptures and also wise in practical matters.

Graduation, Age 17

Dreaming, Planning, and Preparing in Life

As Paul wrote to his young helper, Timothy, “You followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings” (2 Timothy 3:10). Without such an older man in my life, I simply assumed that I would pursue my education, locate an interesting profession, marry a sweet and godly Christian young woman, and raise several children, all for the glory of God. I even entertained the thought that God would help me to do some preaching so that I could be used to influence others for the Lord.

I suppose that it was when I was 20 or more probably 21, that I concluded that my life definitely should be used in preaching and teaching. People at that time probably would have wondered about this since I was quite shy and had no experience with public speaking. I had avoided this in high school and even dropped a public speaking course in college since I simply couldn’t address people publicly. Yet I knew that with God’s help, He would help me to overcome this limiting deficiency.

I wanted to share the good news of Christ with people and then teach and train them in the ways of God, “teaching them to observe all that” Christ had commanded the apostles (Matthew 28:20). I thought that I would travel extensively, with my devoted wife (whom I didn’t even have at the time!), and I concluded that because of this, there would be little time for children. Further, I was becoming more and more concerned about the massive amount of negative influences in the public school system, and I surely didn’t want my children to be led down the path of worldliness, immorality, humanism, secularism and evil that so completely pervaded the state schools. Although I loved and appreciated children, I was willing to forego being a father for “the gospel’s sake.”

It may seem strange to the reader, but I thought that this preaching and teaching would enable me to devote all of my time to “the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58b) and through this means I would get my “living” from the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14). In other words, I wanted to be involved in what people sometimes call, “full time Christian work.” What seemed beyond me at the time was possible with God, for “all things are possible with God,” and “nothing will be impossible with God” (Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37).

During this time, at age 21, I began to put teachings of the Lord into print. I wrote and produced my first tract (The Abundant Life), but soon destroyed most of the 6,000 copy printing since I concluded that the message was not entirely accurate. It failed to emphasize the death and resurrection of Christ, something that I came to see as vital a year or two later. I had lost my job in a textile company because I couldn’t participate in a wrongful activity, thus I had some months to read the Bible every day, along with Halley’s Bible Handbook, a standard reference work. The second pamphlet written was entitled The Truth about Your Life, then two more followed, The True Joy of Living (with a printing of 146,000 copies), and The Marvel of the Ages (a tract about Christ Jesus). I came to have a definite fulfillment in writing—and this interest has continued to this day. I also produced a 100-page Bible study, entitled Know Your Bible, and I began a Bible Correspondence Course that I offered people through the local newspaper. While I had trouble speaking to groups of people, I found that I could write to communicate the truth.

At age 21-22, I moved away from home and began working in two hospitals at this time (in Eastern Pennsylvania and Ohio), in lieu of induction into the Armed Forces. My time in Ohio (about one year and four months) was utterly significant and I look back to this time as being formative for my coming years. I studied my Bible extensively, read other “Christian” type of books, memorized numerous Bible verses, and sought to use this time well. God began to show me truths that I had overlooked in the previous years. It was a most significant period of enlightenment! I had a purpose in life and wanted to embark on this as soon as possible. After this Ohio period, I went to work for a brother in a serum lab for a year back in Eastern Pennsylvania. I continued with my studies and preparation.

When I was 25 years of age, I embarked on an ambitious project that I had planned for about two to three years. I wanted to visit all fifty states (or at least the 48 contiguous states), gather information about them, visit important locations, and get a general lay of the land, so that I would be better able to determine where I should move to establish a home assembly for the Lord. I ordered and prepared many tracts and literature to be used on this extensive countrywide tour. I also planned to find a location and study carefully the subjects that had been piling up and concerned me. I had a passion for God’s will and I knew that most people just accept what they have been taught, without examining Scripture to determine what actually is God’s will (cf. Acts 17:11).

United states

Dreaming, Planning, and Preparing in Life

Finally, in September, I departed on my countrywide tour. Beginning in Virginia, I worked my way up the East coast to Canada, then across Canada and the northern states as far as Washington, then south, through Oregon and Idaho and Utah to California. After this, I traveled east, across the southern states. I must say that it was a memorable experience, one that was filled with meaning and an important purpose.

I visited more than half of the states over a several-month period, until a freak accident put an end to my travels. I could easily have been killed (a logging truck in Louisiana lost the top log and it rolled down on my car, just missing me as I drove by). God must have had a reason to allow me to live longer! Alas, I had not gained my goal and the accompanying purpose of studying a dozen “issues” out more carefully. I had grown to have a deep burden about these Biblical topics that I felt uneasy about and needed answers to them. But, as I said, the car wreck put an end to my plans of continuing my travels and finding a location to devote exclusive time and interest in researching these important issues.

United States

Dreaming, Planning, and Preparing in Life

I was coming to have a desire to go back to college and major in the Bible. As mentioned above, years earlier, I had gone to a local college near my childhood home for two years, where I majored in business but took many Bible courses. Now I wanted to return to school in Texas and Arkansas, and load up on Biblical and related courses. As it turned out, I did go back to school (three of them), and graduated after several years. Since I left the Lutheran Church at age 15-16 and especially since I was about 20, I had an earnest desire to search out the truth and follow where it would lead. This was a chief motivation for my educational pursuit. I also had the opportunity during this period of time to do some public teaching and I became more comfortable with interacting with people in public

After this experience, I sold Bibles and other books, door to door, in rural Alabama for several months. After the summer ended and my job came to an end, I was faced with the question: Where did God want me to go now? At age 28, I needed answers.

I had written again to all 48 states for literature and information, and this great amount of literature was supposed to help me determine where I should move to pursue my “dream” of serving the Lord through preaching and teaching. As I mentioned, I had done something similar before taking my nation-wide journey several years earlier. This was a “fact finding” project that could have yielded information necessary for my future work.

Whether it was a wise decision or not, I decided to return to Pennsylvania near to the area where I had lived before while working in the hospital. There I bought a used trailer where I moved all of my books and office furniture. It was wall-to-wall file cabinets, desks, and bookshelves! I began working in an office part time for a brother, but soon found myself working in a textile plant in the shipping department, packing underwear! This is not what I had envisioned as a 20 year old, but it was honest work and provided maintenance.  I also enrolled in another school where I continued my education in the Biblical field, part time, for about two and one-half years. Thus, I continued to study, research, and learn, but the long hours on the job were a negative. As expected, I worked long hours, from early morning until late at night, besides exercising to some extent.

During this time, I occasionally had the opportunity to teach a small home group on the Lord’s day, but I found that my original plans of spending my life in full-time teaching and preaching were being stymied. This was a difficult two to three years, but I continued on, keenly aware of the question: What did God have in mind for my life as I continued my secular employment. I regularly prayed for God’s guidance in the pursuit of my “dream.”

At age thirty, I went to an overnight camp ground in Virginia (to the south) and sought God’s help and blessing for the rest of my life. It was a time of prayer and seeking God’s will. The experience was somewhat difficult—for I had not found the wife of my dreams nor the means of income for which I had planned and studied. I was not involved in the “full time” work that I had planned. And the spiritual fellowship I had was not at all what I had sought. Yet God must have had a reason for this lack. I was aware that ten long years had passed since age 20 and my aspirations as a young man.

Body in barn....

Dreaming, Planning, and Preparing in Life

Later that year, at age 30, I met and began to have fellowship with a zealous group of young people and a missionary family who had returned to the States, plus families I had known in the preceding years. This was during the time of the “Jesus People,” and it was an interesting time to be alive! This involvement with young men and women in their teens and twenties occupied my thinking and time for the following three years, plus I had the opportunity to teach these dear brothers and sisters regularly. The fellowship was something I had craved—and I finally experienced it. I was able to receive some support which freed time for studies, meetings, and closer fellowship—and this also was a blessing. Soon, however, many of these people departed for other states and a departure from certain Biblical norms also occurred. I spent four or five months in rural Illinois then returned to Pennsylvania. What began as an encouraging experience eventually ended up very disappointing and grieving. What was I to do now?

I surveyed my options and none of them was ideal.  I chose to move half away across the country to Fort Worth, Texas, a city I had visited before but had never lived there. I knew no one in the area. However, I did resume my education for some three years. This was when I was 34 years of age. I came face to face with a reality that was to haunt me in the coming years. When I had originally gone to college at age 18 to 20, I majored in business administration, but since I had no interest in this field, I dropped out. I had taken a number of Biblical courses during those years and found such fulfillment in the experience that I wanted more of it. When I had returned to those schools from age 25 to 28, I majored in the Bible which, once again, I found to be so gratifying and fulfilling. This is the atmosphere I craved—and I wanted to be able to teach others what I had learned and what I discovered.  Thus, at age 34 to 38, I found myself continuing my Biblical education in Fort Worth, but had no regular profitable job. I did work part time and then longer hours (up to 72 or 73 hours a week!), but it was menial work that I took because I needed some income to maintain myself and my work for the Lord.

This became one of the trials that continued for years. I had not prepared myself for secular work, thus I really had no marketable skills more than a high school drop-out. At least it seemed to be this dire. In other words, I had no secular education, no experience, no knowledge, and not even an interest in many of the professions available. But I needed a job in order to pay for present maintenance and the Lord’s work.

I began work as a night watchman, in an empty building, but with many regular hours to pursue my personal Biblical studies. I then found other similar work for evening and night hours, and much of this time I was permitted lengthy study time. Each day I would pack dozens of books, journals, and articles into a box and cart them to the job. This continued until the company went out of business when I was about 37. For some six or seven months I was unemployed and my job situation became even more difficult.

Study,Office 1979 to 1980

Dreaming, Planning, and Preparing in Life

I then located other employment that enabled me to work about 48 hours a week, in a security type of job, but this was a no-skill type of work that enabled me to pay the bills, with nothing left over. I was able to devote about 25 to 30 hours each week to my studies, research, and writing, thus I continued at this location. Part of the time I was still in school (for about three to four years), plus I was running (jogging) about an hour a day. It was a busy time. But still I had no spiritual fellowship and no implementation of my earlier plans to preach and teach regularly, with the support and encouragement of close brothers and sisters.

It was becoming clearer what I didn’t want to face. At age 20 or 21, I had planned to spend my life teaching and encouraging fellowships of Christians, traveling from place to place for the gospel, but this plan had entirely failed thus far. Now, at age 37 or 38, much time had passed and my options were limited. I had no skills, knowledge, or experience to obtain and keep a secular job, thus I was confined to a very low-wage type of employment. Further, I could barely pay the bills and couldn’t depend on adequate housing. Three times in a row, the rent houses I was living in were sold, thus I had to regularly move. This might have been feasible for many, but by this time, I had a library of about 8,000 or more volumes, many bookcases, tables, cassette cases, more than 3,000 tapes, equipment, and much literature that I had produced.

About age 35 to 42, I was writing, producing, and sending a paper called “True Discipleship” to about 275 people locally and in other states. Plus I was researching and writing studies that I put into booklet form for distribution. I was very, very busy, with every available moment devoted to my job, to my Biblical studies, to my mimeographing, to my correspondence, as well as my continuing physical exercise. I continued to visit various churches and congregations, something that I had done for years now, but God had not led me to one of His choosing. It was a very limiting experience, with a all of this bringing an inner turmoil and great perplexity. Some people accused me of not seeking the Lord in faith, not knowing that this is exactly what I was doing to the best of my ability.

I had always been a sensitive student of the Bible and wanted to know God’s will, but this was another limiting factor in my lifestyle. Whereas many people seem to be content to be born into a certain denomination and continue there all of their life, I could not do this if I was to be true to God and His Word. Some find a church or group at a point in time and think that God has led them there, perhaps through an assumed (but false) “conversion” or “salvation experience.” Many seem to have little concern about researching God’s will in regard to their fellowship, and just focus on the sweet association involved, plus the sports and activities they find with a particular church. During these years, on a couple occasions, I had the opportunity to seek employment as a “preacher” or “pastor”  for churches, but it simply would not have worked nor would it have been honest or wise.

Again, I resisted the common approach to finding fellowship or work with a certain congregation that has captivated and led astray multiple millions of professing “Christians.” No, I wanted to examine several dozen different teachings, practices, and doctrines, and only then arrive at an informed and accurate knowledge of the truth of God—a truth that tragically had been lost over the years. I was aware that Jesus, in prayer to the Father, had said, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17), and this I believed from the depths of my heart. As honest-hearted people searched the Scriptures daily to determine God’s will (Acts 17:11), so I wanted to objectively seek God’s truth and follow it as God revealed it. I refused to take “the easy way out” and do what most others would do in finding an association with a certain church or congregation.

I also sought to examine various churches and denominations—first hand. I visited dozens and dozens of different congregations (most of which I already knew did not teach the truth on various matters), but I wanted to inspect personally where different churches stood on various doctrines and practices. It was a learning experience but it surely didn’t result in a close walk with any of these groups. In fact, it was somewhat depressing for it was a regular reminder of my lack of sweet fellowship.  Sometimes I would visit a church, then drive away with more depression in my heart than I had had when I arrived! This provides the background for much that occurred during these years of my life.

When I was 42 years of age, I faced a tragedy in life that had far-reaching effects for years to come. I had barely been able to find suitable housing because of my very low wages, but God had graciously provided for a number of years since moving to Fort Worth. Finally, the last landlady decided to sell her house (where I was living) and I was given two months to move. I immediately began to seek another rent house, knowing that I could afford only about $150 to $200 a month, whereas rent houses were going for about $600 (or even $800) a month. (I once consulted a realtor and explained my limitations. He simply said, “They don’t make houses that low!” That seemed to settle it!)

After I received the news of my forced move, I placed 103 different ads in five different local newspapers and shopping papers, but I could find nothing. The final day arrived and I had not been able to find a place to live. Yet I trusted that God would somehow provide at the last moment. Otherwise, it was all in His merciful hands.

Apparently God chose not to grant housing.  For His own purposes, I was left with the need to vacate the house but had no place to go. In light of my limitations, I rented a large truck and hired men to help me move to a storage place (I think there were two large storage units).  All of my books, literature, bookcases, tables, and equipment had to be deposited into the storage units then I was left without a place to live. At first I lived in my car for six weeks until it dropped to freezing (it was late November). Then, for the next 4 ½ years I stayed overnight at work. (I am thankful for this gracious and unique provision!)

During this time of deprivation, I had some of the richest and most rewarding study times in the library each day. I ran four to six miles in the early mornings, took a shower in a dormitory, ate a nutritious breakfast, and then spent hours studying in the morning at the library and writing in the afternoon until it was time to depart for work. By God’s grace, I was able to do a massive amount of study during that time and wrote many booklets for distribution. I had to discontinue my regular mailings of True Discipleship that I had mimeographed and sent for some years.

Study at Library, 1987

Dreaming, Planning, and Preparing in Life

Because of the experience of living like this, I was perplexed about scriptures that seemed to assure the believer of God’s help. I remembered that Scripture says, “The LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). Was it not a “good thing” that a follower of Christ have a place to live, have a dear wife, and be involved in sweet Christian fellowship? But then the next verse says, “O LORD of hosts, how blessed is the man who trust in You!” (v. 12). Even when life comes crumbling down and seems to make no sense, the believer must “trust” in God and not give up. God has a way for our good (Romans 8:28), and He knows what He is doing—even when we don’t.

This experience did several things for me. First, it showed me that God doesn’t always come to our rescue even when we pray repeatedly and fervently for His deliverance. Second, if we have enough self-discipline and don’t become discouraged, we can do a great amount of work for the Lord, even in unusual circumstances. Third, being without regular lucrative employment and income did have devastating effects. This is something that many people are not aware of for everything seems to go well with them. Fourth, much good came from the deprivations I experienced for it was a “test” of sorts to demonstrate that we need not fall or deny the Lord even when hardships come; instead, we can keep trusting and doing His will regardless of unwanted circumstances. Fifth, it is utterly important that we not compromise our convictions to escape a bad situation and seek deliverance. God does know what He is doing and that will is always good even when we can’t understand it.

This incident did show me that my “dream” of serving the Lord through preaching and teaching and establishing small pockets of believers scattered around this state and other states had collapsed, but God was still in control, and He would make something good from a very defective, unwanted, and perplexing situation.  I had reason to believe that many people I knew just couldn’t understand (and neither did I fully understand either) why I was in this situation and didn’t know how I could get out of it. One woman at work counseled, “Richard, just trust in God and He will give you a place!” Little did she know that I had done all I knew to do and still I remained in these limiting circumstances.

As this situation unfolded, I eventually did have the opportunity to do some teaching and sharing the truth with a few others. Also, after a while, when I was 46 years of age, God provided a small cottage behind the landlord’s house. It was a pleasant place to live, even though small, although almost all of my supplies and belongings had to remain in storage. During this time of perplexity, I increasingly wondered what God was doing in my life. I spent much time in prayer, seeking God’s will and wanting to understand what the Lord was doing.

Teaching Baby the Bible!

Dreaming, Planning, and Preparing in Life

It seemed that my life was turned upside down. I had thought that by age 24 or 26, I would be involved in a teaching and preaching work, traveling from city to town, encouraging God’s people to remain true and share the good news of a risen and living Savior. I thought that I would get my “living” from the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14); instead I felt “locked” into a minimum wage type of job with no future. I thought that I would have had many of the Biblical “issues” worked out through diligent study and research; instead, I continued to have the dilemma of unanswered questions and unclear understandings of various Scriptural teachings. I thought that God would have given a pleasant place to live, a place to offer hospitality to many people and a location where I could serve the Lord with teaching young people. Further, I thought that God would give a dear wife to love and to share my labors, as a “helper” suitable for me, but instead I remained single and no prospects of a life partner (cf. Genesis 2:18).

My perspective on a family had undergone a gradual but decisive change over the previous years. After my teen years, I thought that my wife and I would be diligently involved in teaching and preaching, traveling from place to place in sharing the gospel and building up the saved. Eventually, I thought that we would be sharing a house with dozens and dozens of people. I knew that we could not place our children in the public secular schools because of the humanism, evolutionism, worldliness, and a dozen other negative factors. And I knew that there were few if any “private” schools that could be used to teach our children. By about age 38 or 40, I came to understand that the only way possible was to actually begin a small conservative private school, and this would enable my family and others to have children and yet protect them from the devastation of the modern school system. I collected books and information on such a project and looked forward to actually setting up such a private Christian school, with the help of like-minded Christian families.

I also envisioned a large project about this time. Let me explain. Whereas it seems like we do need to have contact with larger populations  in urban areas (as the early Christians did, in places like Rome, Corinth, Antioch, and Ephesus), I could also see the benefits of rural living. With this in mind, I gave some thought to owning a house in the city that could be used as a base of operations for outreach into the lost population of the city, but actually living in the countryside some distance away. I began to plan for a plot of land away from the city (perhaps 10 to 60 miles), consisting of about 100 to 200 acres, and on this land (with woods, fields, stream) we would have living quarters of maybe ten or 12 rooms (which would accommodate hospitality needs).

There would be a large living area for teaching and worship. Plus there would be my large library room (by this time, perhaps 20,000 books), capable of sharing with others in their own study of Scripture. This “lending library” would bless all of the saints involved in the fellowship. It would be a resource for any who might want to research Biblical topics. Plus, I would have a rather large office for my own studies and outreach. Such a house would definitely be a place for meetings of the brothers and sisters as we planned future outings for the gospel. Obviously, we would have regular worship times, prayer times, and edification periods. Perhaps an additional building nearby would accommodate these larger gatherings of the saints.

This “retreat” away from the city would be able to offer hospitality to brothers and sisters who would want to “get away” for a time of spiritual refreshment as husband and wife. It would be a place where families could breathe fresh air and take in the blessings of natural scenes. There would be a building with a large room for instruction of those in their teens and twenties, along with maybe several classrooms. At this time, I still thought that a private school was the only way to educate children of the believers, so this would need to be worked out on this “retreat” property or maybe in the city (or both). I also wanted to provide good, wholesome, and nutritious food for the saints, thus one or more of the brothers would need to become very familiar with health information so that accurate instruction could be given to the brothers and sisters.

Horticulture would need to be pursued, especially to help those who are unfamiliar with farming methods and gardening. Even times of teaching nutritional content and healthful food preparation would need to be provided. I began to subscribe to and read such magazines as Mother Earth News (a liberal source, but also a helpful resource of ideas on how to live and thrive in the country). Thus, I thought that those who had skills in gardening and farming, would lead in planting, cultivating, and harvesting nutritious vegetables and fruit for the benefit of the saints.

I realized that this “dream” couldn’t be implemented without a great amount of time, effort, money, and wise cooperation, but I thought that this could be worked out through the efforts of like-minded and devoted believers who shared the vision that I’ve described above. Not many years after this, I did take a journey and visited several “communes” to see how they were able to live in rural areas, close to each other, sharing a common life, and with each contributing time, effort, and finances for the blessing and benefit of others. Although this would require very close fellowship and great devotion, I was convinced that this could work, with the help and power of God. As Paul had put it, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord . . . contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality” (Romans 12:10-11, 13).

I realized that each person would need to share his or her own knowledge, skills, and time to make this work. In other words, those with a background in gardening would work at gardening; those who knew carpentry would build structures and maintain them; those who knew food preparation would prepare and store, freeze or can ripe foods for the winter; whose who had skills in mechanics could repair and maintain the cars and trucks of the saints. Painters could volunteer their talents, plumbers and electricians could become involved in helping others, and accountants could devote their knowledge for the blessing of other believers. This would need to be worked on by the brothers whose hearts impelled them to love and bless others, while they themselves were also blessed.

I recalled how the early saints lived, as described in Luke’s book of the Acts:

They [the early saints] were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. . . . And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need (Acts 2:42, 44-45; see also 4:32-35).

Some may think that all of this idea of a spiritual “retreat” is beyond anything workable, but I was convinced that it could be done, with the Lord’s help. I might also add that a great amount of love, unselfishness, and devotion would need to be generated, through the Holy Spirit.

Interestingly, by the time I was about age 42 to 44, I became aware of a new movement in America that changed education greatly! For instance, Raymond Moore and his wife helped to initiate home schooling and thousands of children became involved in this “alternative” movement. By the latter 1980s, when I was about 47, I began attending the yearly Home School Convention locally, and have gone for at least 25 or 28 years since that time. About two or three million children in the United States (including a large number of Texan children) are now taught in their homes. Thus, many parents have found this to be a workable solution to the worldliness and humanism of the public school system.

Thus, during this decade, I came to see that there was a workable alternative to secular schooling—and this was something that I began to promote. This “home education” would also be an alternative to private Christian schooling. I was unsure of aspects of this since it would seem that many parents (and the mothers are generally involved for the most part) would have difficulty finding time to lead out in home schooling, especially if they have 6, 8, or 10 children, plus many parents feel unqualified to teach some subjects. Although a huge amount of work would be involved in this alternative, it seemed to be the only workable solution to the problem of educating children. (It must be admitted that private “Christian” schools can cost much, may require distance commutes, and there would be the serious problem of finding willing and qualified teachers.)

(I discovered that conservative Mennonite families either send their children to these private “Christian day schools” or home educate their children. They have a unique situation and have seemed to work out this problem of education better than many others. We can learn from them and adopt some of their techniques.)

Because of all of this, I could see the feasibility—even desirability, if God should choose—of  having larger families, and I looked forward toward having perhaps a dozen children—or as many as the Lord would choose to give us! Of course, even at this time, the Lord had not given me a wife, thus all of this was still in my mind and perhaps journal entries! Thus, whether the “retreat” idea mentioned earlier or the “home education” idea was more feasible—or both of them—I was entirely convinced that, with God’s help, this could be done. Brothers and sisters could have larger families, with the idea of a “full quiver” full of children (cf. Psalm 127:3-5). Somehow the saints could protect their children from the ravages of the world and false teachings and raise up godly children for the glory of God (cf. Malachi 2:15).

A major breakthrough occurred when I was about 47 years old. Several friends with whom I was in contact and who appreciated my work for the Lord, chipped in a bought me a computer and printer. This was a new experience for me for until then, I regularly used a typewriter and carried on my correspondence and my writing of booklets and studies with this now-antiquated means. The computer opened up a whole new way of communication. Immediately I began to produce my Christian booklets and tracts with this new means of outreach. I also began to use it for emailing.

By the time I was about 47 years of age, I made a valiant attempt to more actively share the truth with others, including home schoolers.  I did some teaching and for some months (at about age 53) and actively pursued meeting in a home with other like-minded men and women (at least I thought they were of a similar mindset). After a while, it became apparent that these conservative and devoted people were unwilling to cast off some of their subjective views and past experiences, including even their concept of salvation and conversion. In time, two of the leaders rejected me because of these factors, and I was made to feel unwelcome.  With the exception of several with whom I had some fellowship or contact, I was fairly alone after this time. It was a difficult experience for I could see that many are unwilling to “go all the way” in their commitment to the Lord and take Him seriously in carrying out the many teachings of Scripture. (Ironically, the “leader” of this home fellowship deserted his family and ran off with another woman!)

Thus, by the time I was 55 years of age, I was alone—totally alone. For a ten year period, I had tried to do street preaching and distribution of tens of thousands of tracts in public, but this was mainly a solitary enterprise. I knew that this kind of activity was ideally done with one, two, or even ten other brothers, but I didn’t have the benefit of this sort of arrangement. My outreach didn’t have the overwhelming positive result that I had envisioned, but it was an attempt to reach the masses of people with the truth of the Lord and Scripture. Even though the results were not what I would have hoped, I am confident that thousands of people were exposed to truth that they had not seen before.

One Way Preaching 96 at Texas Stadium in Irving

Dreaming, Planning, and Preparing in Life

I was struggling with keeping a positive and optimistic attitude through all of this. My “dream” that had come into focus at about age 21 or 22, had become a sad experience, for time was passing by and still I was not married, still I had no children, still I was not engaged in the work of the Lord to the extent that I was supported in the endeavor, and still I was not in a warm and loving fellowship of devoted brothers and sisters in God’s family. Each week I would drive to the Botanic Gardens where I would walk and walk (I called it my “prayer walk”), seeking God’s blessing and help, and expressing my disappointments in my lack of involvement and lack of visible results. In other words, some 33 years had gone by and it seemed that so much of my earlier beautiful and sincere “dream” had crashed or “flown away,” leaving me broken hearted and alone.

By about age 55 or 56, I still had a low-paying, dead-end type of job. I worked diligently, about 48 hours a week, six days in the week, and had only one week of vacation each year. Thankfully, some time on the job was really study and writing time. Away from the job, I worked earnestly to carry on my service for the Lord, always looking forward to the time when God would “open the door” to fulfill my “dream” to bring people to Him and form them into zealous little pockets of believers in Texas and elsewhere.

I subsisted on just enough wages to pay the bills but nothing more. My books, supplies (booklets, tracts), equipment, furniture, was mostly in a couple of large storage units. I still had not been given the “wife of my dreams.” I was without meaningful, intimate, loving, and devoted fellowship of dear brothers and sisters of “like precious faith.” On the surface, my “dream” and plan for a lifetime of service to the Lord was merely an unworkable and perplexing “dream” by this time. My plan of having the Christian retreat in the country still was not any closer to fulfillment, other than in my heart and dreams.

I continued to pray fervently and regularly for God to turn my life around. I did regularly go to meetings in a wide variety of churches as I purposed to learn as much as I could what people believed, how they lived, and what they religiously practiced. This did expand my understanding of dozens of different religious churches and organizations, but it didn’t lead to conversions to the Lord. I also knew that just as Paul (Saul) was able to meet in the Jewish synagogues and sometimes find honest-hearted people who were open to the gospel, perhaps God would use some of these churches and congregations as a means to reach sincere men and women who wanted a relationship with God, apart from denominational connections.

In the period of 2000 to 2012, a number of events and factors had a dramatic influence on my life! In 2001, I began to correspond with Monica who eventually became my wife! Indeed, this experience was very different from what I had been having for many years, and it brought both opportunities as well as responsibilities into my life. In the same year, a different employer took over (at the same facility) and this meant that I was greatly limited in what I was able to do on the job. In fact, the job became just another low-income job little different than any other one. I continued with low income and my books and supplies were largely confined to the storage units.  When I was about sixty, I lost my insurance at work and I also lost many of the hours I was working. I lost some of the income that I was used to receive. Sadly, once again I had to move when the owners of my rent house had plans to return to their home. Thus, once again I had to rent another storage facility and move nearly everything into it, with the help of some acquaintances. A friend allowed me to live temporarily in her empty house (while it was being sold), in the bedroom, then I had to move elsewhere—a small apartment close to work.

 

Bride and Groom

Dreaming, Planning, and Preparing in Life

When I was 64, I married Monica, and this greatly changed my lifestyle! I was no longer alone but was married to a dear woman of God, one to love and bless, one to care for and edify, one to share my life with.  When I was about 65, I lost my job (the one I had worked at for 28 years) because of Christian conscience matters, and could find no alternative work (since I lacked education, skills, or training on anything but the most menial of work). Probably my age also had something to do with this. About the same time, I began to have lower back problems and had to discontinue running (that I had done for about 30 years). I now walk for three miles each day of the week.

On July 8, 2006, Moni and I pledged our troth to each other, and in many ways, married life is much different from what I had experienced all of my former years. My time for study, research, writing, and working on the website has been greatly reduced. I can see the truth of Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 about securing undistracted devotion to the Lord, yet I am also aware of God’s general plan for marriage too (Genesis 2:18, 24). It is now somewhat easier to interact with women, since Moni is there to back me up.

Five years ago, something else quite amazing happened in my life (and the life of Moni, my wife), something unforeseen and quite remarkable. As I described earlier, I had wanted and planned for a retreat or teaching center some miles from the city, where I could offer brothers and sisters the opportunity to come for spiritual refreshment as well as Biblical teaching. Although focusing on young brothers and sisters, perhaps in their teens and twenties, it would be open to all age levels. The saints would share their skills for the benefit of their fellow-believers and, hopefully, grow in the knowledge of the Lord and His Word (cf. Matthew 28:20; 2 Peter 3:18).

Although this didn’t come about (and still remains to be realized), God did make it possible for us to begin to buy a “repossessed” house in the city. It is on a very tiny portion of land (about 1/6 to 1/8 acre of land), but the house was large enough to make available a place to live and work. For all of my life, I had rented smaller houses and the final place was actually a small apartment that was unbelievably crowded. (There was room for only one guest to be seated!) But, by God’s grace, this house was made available at half price and we have now lived here for four and a half years. Finally, after 27 long, long years, I was able to vacate the storage units and move all of my equipment, books, file cabinets, and literature to the newly-purchased house. It was like a “dream come true” to finally be able to have an office and have my supplies accessible for use by the Lord! There is also room for small Christian gathers of teaching and worship, when God does make this available.

2012--richard in office 5

This, of course, was not at all the same “dream” that I had envisioned before, that of having the retreat in the country, where believers could be edified and find sweet fellowship with each other, but it was a “first step” toward that ultimate goal—if, in fact, this was in keeping with God’s own plans (see James 4:14-15). I had also hoped that such a place could be used as a “resource center” for home schoolers within driving distance, for by this time, I had collected many books, videos, DVDs, etc., to be offered to visiting home educators. However, the place where we live is so crowded and the arrangement is so limiting, that this hope has not been realized, at least yet. (I did check with the city whether we would be permitted to erect a building in the back yard, but this is forbidden by city ordinance.)

A Brief Review

As a review of what I’ve been sharing on the previous pages, let me recap what I’ve said so far. About age 20 or 21, I devoted an entire year to the diligent study of the Scriptures (reading every page of the Bible). I wrote my first booklet (“Know Your Bible”) and my first tract (“The Abundant Life”). I eventually burned about 6,000 copies of the later when I came to see that the full gospel of Christ (of the death and resurrection of the Savior, a manifestation of God’s grace and love) was not fully explained adequately. I then moved away from my parents’ house and worked in a couple of hospitals, in Pennsylvania and Ohio, then a year in a lab in Eastern Pennsylvania. After this, I took a country-wide tour until a freak car wreck put an abrupt end to the travels. At least, I did get a first-hand look at the country and I had a better idea of the religious and moral atmosphere of America.

(This several month tour of the country—that I had planned to last one to two years—was an amazing time! My work in the hospitals in lieu of induction, and my work in the lab was now completed and somehow I hoped and even expected that God would “open the door” to blessing in my life. I thought that finally God would provide the “woman of my dreams” and together we would begin a life of devoted work for Him. Thus, although some years had gone by, still—at age 25—I was excited to envision all that God would do through this nationwide exploratory tour of the States.)

To return to my survey, after going back to several colleges (while studying the Biblical material and learning Greek), then graduating, then selling Bibles in Alabama, I moved back to Pennsylvania where I had some contact with a couple home groups, the latter of which met in a barn in the country. This experience encouraged me to seek the same sort of experience in the future, if it was the Lord’s will. I then moved to Texas where I continued my education for several more years. I also worked diligently, many hours a week (as many as 73 or 74 hours!), ran 4 to 6 miles a day, and wrote a regular paper I called “True Discipleship” that continued until I was 42 years of age. As you will recall, the next 4 ½ years were quite unusual and even tragic. I would sleep every night at work, then would rise by 5 AM, depart from the facility, run in the park, shower, then study Scripture and write Christian literature all day—then back to work again in the afternoon.

I did have the opportunity to teach and nurture a few people after some years, then reached out to two small groups of people, but these proved to be quite disappointing. My outreach by means of mass distribution also had little success, although the potential was there. Some have tried to encourage me by saying, “Richard you never know how many people have responded to the gospel through all of your literature outreach. The judgment will reveal how many there have been.” However, I am aware that if people did come to Christ through my efforts, surely they would contact me to tell me so. Isn’t that what you would do? It definitely is something I would do. Thus, I am made to wonder about the effectiveness of this attempt at outreach. Toward the end of this time period, I was quite alone and continued working menial employment to “pay the bills.”

Coming to the more recent past, this is when God brought a dear, utterly “unique” young woman into my life. Finally, I was able to give and receive love, something that had not been given in earlier years. Thus, during the past ten to fifteen years, I have sought to bless the life of my wife in every possible way I can think of.

If someone were to ask me about my dreams and plans at age 20 or 21, as compared to my present age of 73 (soon 74), I might express a deep gratitude to God for His marvelous grace and mercy, extended to me through Christ Jesus, over these 53 years. Although I didn’t describe it on the previous pages, God finally showed me that my earlier “conversion” was defective, even false, and I had not been genuinely saved at age 15 or 16. Much later, the Lord showed me the fullness of salvation through Christ Jesus and His saving death on the cross. Finally, through much reading and study, through the Spirit’s work of enlightenment, through using various preachers and writers, and through the active and redeeming love and grace of God, I came to Christ Jesus and His salvation!

At about age 20, I thought God would provide a wife within a few years, but I had to wait some 44 years for this to happen in a most astounding and providential way! At about age 20, I thought that I would be spending my life preaching and teaching and traveling to needy home groups of saints who needed edification and teaching, but this has hardly come about during these many long years. I also thought that God would take me to foreign countries to preach and teach, but this too never came about (other than a month-long period of teaching in Africa). At age 20, I didn’t think that children would be in my life because of the gospel and the wretched condition of the world, then the time came when I could see that perhaps God would provide a dozen sons and daughters who would be a testimony to His work. None of that has transpired and there is no indication that it will happen at this point.

Further, at age 20, I thought that I would be in very close and sweet fellowship with brothers and sisters, living in community, and encouraging each other to remain true to the Lord and separated from the world. This sweet fellowship centering on Christ Jesus has been elusive and, for some undisclosed reason in God’s mind, it simply hasn’t been given thus far. Sometime after age 20, I thought that God would provide a retreat where brothers and sisters (and interested outsiders) could gather, learn, and grow; this too hasn’t been provided, although I would love to see it be given even yet.

Earlier in my life, I had thought that the Lord would provide me with a “base of operations,” a location where I could seek truth, where I could share truth, and where I would be able to offer hospitality and a place of fellowship, teaching, and worship. Finally, the Lord did marvelously provide a larger “repossessed” house (that required some work to be done) to begin buying. Some five years ago God did provide this house and I was able to move many of my supplies into it. I look forward to the time when dear brothers and sisters will be able to come and find a Christian welcome, a place of peace and tranquility, a place of enlightenment and joy.

2012--Richard in office

Sometimes, my heart rises up with questionings and perplexity. I am led to remember the words of the poet, John Greenleaf Whittier: “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’” I do sometimes wonder what my life could have been if my beautiful “dream” could have been fulfilled. But this I will not know, unless one grand Day, God chooses to explain it all to me. I do know that the fulfillment of our sweetest desires do not always come about in this fallen and imperfect world. It is a comfort to me—and surely you will find it a comfort as well, if you are a true believer—to remember that God is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28), and all of these things will lead to our being conformed to the image and likeness of the Lord (vv. 29-30). He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11b), and we can trust in Him though this trust comes through tears and sorrows in life.

I struggle with my age, realizing that I am not the young, eager, dreamy, hopeful 20-year-old that I once was. But, God can do amazing things and even yet He may surprise me and others with a work of grace and power that will bring glory to Him! I want to live for the Lord Jesus now (Philippians 1:21), for He is my very life (Colossians 3:4).

Just after writing the previous words, I was leafing through a magazine that arrived in the mail today. I find here a quotation by Anthony Shelton (whom I can’t identify):

“It was an amazing testimony that in the midst of these trials that we were going through . . . the Lord was using that and reminding us ‘You were not called to a life of ease; you are called to be obedient.’”

Let me always keep this in mind. I haven’t been called to a life of ease (of whatever age I may have been), but I have been called to be obedient! This surely has included trials of many kinds and it will include other trials in the future. But let me remember the words of the Lord, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10b).

At the beginning, I mentioned that a popular recent book is entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Life!” I’ve tried to use my life is a way that was meaningful, profitable, and with a focus on eternity. I’ve earnestly tried to avoid “wasting” my life, but sometimes I wonder if I have.  I can see that I’ve failed in some respects, and for this I feel like “weeping and lamenting,” but I know that God can use our feeblest of efforts in a way that He receives the glory. I want this so much!

God has opened my eyes to many truths during the span of my life. I knew much at age 20 that I didn’t know at age 15. And I know much more at my present age of life that I didn’t know at age 20. I utterly yearn to learn more of God’s will and walk in it now and in the coming years, however long the Lord permits me to live. “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17). And, so I sing with the trustful words of the song-writer:

Teach me Thy Way, O Lord,

Teach me Thy Way!

Thy guiding grace afford—

Teach me Thy Way!

Help me to walk aright,

More by faith, less by sight,

Lead me with heavenly light—

Teach me Thy Way!

(Benjamin Mansell Ramsey)

May God help me and may He help you to know and walk in the way of the Lord until He takes us Home where all will be made plain!

–Richard Hollerman, 2016

You may also be interested in these articles:

The Present and the Future

My Earthly Journey: A Life of Moving

A Passion for Truth!

 

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