Who am I to say…
And why am I doing this?

16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this
purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which
you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you,
17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles-to whom I am
sending you
18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and
from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins
and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ – Acts

Everything we do, we do for a reason. Something drives us to every single
thing from our first breath to our dying day. Because of physical need we
eat, drink and breathe. Parents make us eat properly, bathe regularly, go
to school. Society compels us to dress or act a certain way, whether to try
to fit in or to stand out. And, once we figure out what we like or want,
we pursue and engage it. If we’re lucky we find something that makes us
happy, which is the overall goal for each of us. Happy. A simple word
which encompasses the entirety of our lifelong ambitions. We reach out
for whatever we think will make us happy, or at least less unhappy.

I have been remarkably successful at making myself happy even though I
have not always had the best of things happen to me or made the best
decisions. I don’t take that for granted, because I’ve been in utter misery
and it is all its cracked up to be. I have done this mostly by living in the
moment. I try not to hold on to the past and I’m an optimist. My list of
long term ambitions and pursuits is fairly short, but with the exception of
two failed marriages my record was pretty good. Then it all changed.
My story is not special, and not worthy of particular interest to anyone as
an example of extreme success or failure. I only share it here to present
the why’s and how’s that brought me to take on a commitment to
encourage people to explore their faith and develop their relationship
with God.

There have been several key points in my journey, some the influence of
other people, some internal reflection, and some the direct work of Jesus
Christ and the Holy Spirit, all brought together for my betterment,
despite my best efforts.

My spiritual biography starts with some of my earliest memories. My
parents were not church goers but occasionally in my first five years I
would go to church with my grandmother. I saw it as a chance to be with
my grandma and cousins, usually after a group sleep-over, and the
religious and spiritual implications meant little to me. I knew the name
Jesus and I knew he was someone my grandma deeply cared for. I knew
he was dead, but not dead. I never questioned the thought of an
“afterlife” at that point. It was in my mind a fact, dying was a thing and
took us out of this world and on to a blissful heaven or torturous hell.
While I can’t recall all the specifics that brought me to this
understanding, it was something I thought about and dreamed about,
even as a very small child.

The first big impact on my spiritual perspective came at the New
Testament Baptist Church during an alter call. I was only 4 years old, but I
remember it like it was yesterday. I didn’t particularly enjoy Sunday
school. My grandma was a Sunday school teacher but I wasn’t in her class,
so the part I liked was during the sermon when I got to sit by her. The
preacher, Pastor Holmes, was asking for anyone who had not taken Jesus
as their savior, to come to the front to be prayed with and to ask Jesus
into our hearts. My grandma asked me if I believed in Jesus and I said yes,
she said, then you need to go to the front to be saved. I was terrified. I
didn’t want to go, but she uncharacteristically and quite literally dragged
me to the front. She knelt down with me in front of the front pew and
helped me through the act of asking Jesus to come in to my heart. It was
not a mindless mimicking of what she said, it was not something I fully
wanted to do, I was very afraid and it was very real. A picture in my mind
appeared in an instant of Christ knocking at my heart as though it had a
door, it opening, and him coming through. I was no longer afraid. Jesus
was still quite mysterious but I was confident that he was with me.

Throughout the next ten years I went to any church I was invited to. If a
friend or schoolmate would mention their church I was always interested
and would go by myself and try to meet up with them there. It brought a
myriad of experiences as church regulars tried to figure out who the little
kid was and how he got there. Usually by the second or third visit the
prying questions stopped me from returning. My parents were late
sleepers, so often they were unaware that I had gone. When they did
know my dad was quick to point out the things he saw wrong with the
church, but they never tried to influence my beliefs one way or another.
Throughout this time I had a white pocket size King James Bible which I
would attempt to read from occasionally. I certainly got no great depth
from what I was reading, but the act of engaging with it helped me to
feel closer to God.

In my early teens I received my first invitation to church from a girl. Her
family would pick me up and I went with them two, sometimes three
times a week to the Church of the Nazarene. I was interested in the
church, but more interested in the girl. After a couple months the
relationship with the girl fizzled along with my church attendance and
with the continued influence of my own family, combined with a heavy
dose of teenage rebellion, my skepticism grew to the point that I really
started being critical of the church myself. I hadn’t really questioned my
belief in Christ at this point but the church was seriously suspect in my
mind. I saw judgement, hypocrisy, and ridiculous rules laid out and
propagated by those the world were supposed to look to for an example
of God’s goodness and love.

During my later teens the relationship with the girl who I had gone to
church with rekindled for a while, and though I seldom went to church
with them, the relationship was more serious and I spent a lot of time in
long discussions about God and faith with her mother. A family move took
me out of my small town Iowa roots and planted me in the Detroit area in
Michigan. Before long the distance put an end to the relationship and I
went pretty well full rebellion. I dropped out of high school and started
working full time. Though it demonstrated my willingness to work and
ambition, what it allowed for was an even greater sense that I could do
what I want, how I want, when I want. I was lost spiritually and spent all
my off hours partying, doing drugs and drinking. I would often
contemplate spirituality, but my thoughts were more an abstract
questioning of the legitimacy of God.

Just before I turned 20, the same girl I had gone to church with at 13 and
dated at 16 called me out of the blue. She claimed she was in an abusive
marriage, estranged from her family and didn’t know what to do. Within
a week she was on a bus to come stay with me at my parent’s home. We
moved in together and after about a year passed, we were married.
Having been raised in the church she knew the Bible very well, and she
was angry at the church. I learned a great deal about the Bible from her,
but nearly always with the slant of how awful the church was. We were
married eight years and had two beautiful children, but it was quite
dysfunctional. It ended poorly.

The strain of the divorce and custody battle that followed brought me to
prayer. I was lost without my children and my God. I began to pray
regularly, not to get my way in the divorce or custody, but for God to
allow me to be in my children’s lives and that I would be a good father,
beyond that, to be at peace with whatever was His will. After a year and
a half, I ended up with full custody of my children, followed three months
later by my ex giving up her visitation and all parental rights.

For the next seven years I stayed a single dad. My exploration expanded
greatly as I spent more time investigating religion on a layman’s level. I
read the Bible, the Urantia Papers, pieces of the Karan, the Dead Sea
Scrolls, and about many other religions. Spiritually I was still wandering, I
believed in God, but I was only pretty sure I believed in Jesus Christ. I
had much doubt. For the material world I was doing well. A 30 year old
high school dropout managing a multi-million dollar auto repair shop,
owning my own home while playing in a locally popular band, owning
multiple vehicles and motorcycles with no debt besides a mortgage. I
thought I was in charge of my life and doing a pretty good job of it. I
decided I should get remarried, so I did.

She was a Chinese Buddhist raised in private Christian schools, as that
was the alternative to Muslim schools for those wealthy enough for
private education in Indonesia where she was from. We dated for about a
year and were married. I bought a beautiful place in the country with my
own lake and opened my own shop. Things were really going just like I
planned. About a year into the marriage I found out her parents did not
know we were married. She told me the reason her parents weren’t able
to come to the wedding was because her mother wasn’t able to get her
visa approved in time. I demanded that she tell them and was given
regular indications that they were made aware. She hadn’t, and after 3
years of leading a double life, the strain it put on her, and on our
relationship was too much and we were divorced.

About 6 months before the relationship ended, I was dreaming, it was a
progressing, reoccurring dream, the only one I’d had before or since
other then a couple reoccurring nightmares as a child. It was of a
magnificent old mansion of a house. It looked abandoned and neglected,
but even though I wasn’t in the market for a house and even in it’s
condition it was way out of my league, I had to check it out.

Over the course of a few months, I found my dreams of this house stuck
with me, though I otherwise seldom remember dreams and then usually
only for a few minutes. Each one was like a next step in investigating this
house that seemed to get bigger and bigger with more rooms and deep
mysteries. It was full, like a rich hoarder had built and lived in it for a
hundred years. Amazing variety with each room more eclectic and
cluttered than the last. It also had junk. Trash that had been brought in
by squatters and cheap trappings that simply looked out of place.

Eventually this house, this mansion was somehow mine but not mine
alone. I belonged there but still hadn’t even explored it all, every
discovery led to another. I never encountered anyone else but knew they
were there. Suddenly it was overshadowed. This dream I had been
immersed in was suddenly a running background behind a face, the face
of Christ. Nothing was said, simply this face who I knew in my own heart
and mind to be the face of Christ. I woke with a start and immediately
found a pencil and sketch pad and drew the face. It looked as if a
practiced artist had done it, but I can scarcely draw a stick figure.
Though I was in a bit of shock, I could no longer question the truth that
Jesus was real, and until then I believed in God but thought he didn’t get
directly involved anymore, then I knew he does.

Only two months after the end of my second failed marriage I was the
best man at my lifelong friend’s destination wedding in Panama. It was a
week of sightseeing and partying culminating in a grand formal wedding. I
was still reeling internally and swearing off relationships. During the
wedding, a long formal Catholic ceremony, I was in deep internal prayer,
not something I did often and then only when I was alone, asking God to
guide me, to take the reigns in my life. I had a moving experience like I
had experienced only three times before, when I asked Christ into my
heart, when I prayed for peace and guidance with my children and when
he appeared in my dream.

There was a variety of people there from both sides, and from all over
Central and North America. One of the other attendees, the cousin of my
friend had been there with her 4 kids throughout the week but we had
somewhat limited interaction because I was hanging with the party crowd
while she was usually not. She was beautiful and enchanting, but I was
not interested in any kind of relationship and she didn’t strike me as the
vacation fling sort. We flirted a bit here and there during day trips, and
spent some time at the formal reception together. By the time the
reception was over and moved to an after party, the copious amount of
rum I was drinking put me in life of the party mode while she settled in to
getting her kids to bed. We all flew home our different directions, no one
particularly expecting to see anyone else from this new large group of
friends who had spent the week together, so we all linked up on Facebook
as a way to keep in touch.

Spiritually I was growing intensely. I had gone from years of exploring to
truly engaging. However, I found I could not get my friends cousin out of
my mind despite the ridiculousness of any chance of seeing her again.
Before I knew it we were chatting in messages and then on the phone. We
started building a relationship, visiting each other after a few months of
electronic communication. Eventually we were getting serious enough to
consider the limitations of a long distance relationship, we were
entertaining the possibility of her moving near me as it made the most
sense, considering I had a running business and her family lived in the
area. Just as this was sounding like a serious plan I was visiting her when I
got a phone call from my son, telling me my business was on fire. It was
totaled. What fire and heat didn’t get, the water did. This and other
factors resulted in me and my kids moving away from a home we loved
and lifetime of friends and family we love spending time with, to start a
new chapter in South Carolina.

Sorting my direction through my first year in South Carolina had me
checking into the possibilities of opening a new shop or going to work for
someone as it was the practical thing to do. As an ASE master technician
with over 20 years of management experience in the automotive field it
is something I’m qualified for. It wasn’t ever a passion of mine but rather
a sufficient way to pay the bills and feed my kids. Again I was praying for
guidance. For the first time in my life, after sampling many churches over
the years, I found one that appealed to me. A Bible preaching, layman
teaching church with regular theology classes available to anyone who
cared to join. It was the church my wife belonged to and worked for as
the head of children’s ministry. As I enrolled in classes and began
attending church more and more regularly I continued to struggle with my
vocation. With expectations of the right doors to open and the wrong
ones to close, somehow every avenue I explored seemed to be a closed

Then it came, the moment that changed everything. I was awakened very
early by an overwhelming, even terrifying feeling. Then a peace washed
over me, I heard a voice clearly say “sing my song”. Though no longer
afraid I was still completely overwhelmed. My mind was racing, was I
losing my mind? “No.” Was the answer. What about all the things I’ve been
researching and studying about faith and religion? “Knowledge has been
shared many times.” I manage to lift my head and turned to look at my
sleeping wife next to me, a very down to earth practical woman, thinking
what will she think of this? I heard “She is afraid.” Then I questioned, do I
tell people about this? “Of course.” Then the overwhelming power that
held me face down lifted and I was able to get up.

The only part I heard that left me wondering was the part about my wife
being afraid. In retrospect, I believe it was for the financial hardship that
my pursuit of singing His song introduced. I didn’t know where to start or
what to do. I had been given a charge for which I was completely
unqualified. For the most part I have always figured I could do anything I
set my mind to do, but this was different. It was too much and I knew too
little. I started writing to try to put my beliefs and doubts into
perspective. But God wasn’t counting on me, and he wasn’t asking, he
was going to provide the ways and the means. I had been working full
time since I was 17, but couldn’t find the will to do what I knew would
pay the bills. So I prayed and I studied and half heartedly worked a
couple different jobs. As my understanding of the Bible grew, so did my
desire to “sing his song”.

Then, two years ago the church reached out to me to fill the position of
facilities manager, I accepted and volunteered for a prison outreach
ministry. When the course was over I felt compelled to continue and
started a weekly Bible study with the inmates. Things really seemed to be
coming into focus. I didn’t know where it was leading but at least felt I
was on the path.

Then the rug came out from under me. Cancer, stage 4. I was really sort
of indifferent as to my success in fighting it. I was going to fight with all I
had but my faith is in Christ, so while death saddened me for the loss of
seeing my kids have kids and the sort of worldly things we’d all miss, I
was just as excited for the possibility to be with God. It was the hardest
physical thing I could imagine. My mom told me later, the doctors told her
I would have died if I hadn’t been in such good shape going into it. That’s
not true. I would have been dead were it not for God. I went 20 days
without keeping any food or water down for more than a few minutes and
lost 26 pounds. (real pounds that never increased when I rehydrated but
continued another 10 before it was over). I only got 2 units of IV fluids
once about 6-10 days into it. I wouldn’t let them give me any more
because it made me feel even worse than I already did. Then it eased and
I was able to use my feeding tube and drink a little water in time to
receive my second dose of chemo though they had to postpone it. From
my initial surgery to final radiation treatment it lasted 4 months, with
another 3 months to ween myself from the feeding tube and recover from
the intense radiation and chemo.

The mental, emotional, and spiritual journey was the most revealing
thing. My faith in God never wavered, though I certainly questioned his
motives. I felt tested, I got no reassurance. I knew God could speak to me
and he didn’t. I felt his presence in my deepest suffering, but continued
to suffer. I prayed. I praised him, I thanked him for a world full of love
and glory and questioned him for all the pain and suffering. I never
doubted him.

That’s it. I’m still alive and I have not been relieved from my charge.
Since my dedication to Christ began I’ve had my entire life changed. I
continue to study and pray. I still don’t know what I’m doing but I must sing his song.