In the last segment of this testimony, posted almost two years ago, I was writing about my high school and college years. This was the critical period in my walk with the Lord because over those few thoughtful years I came to know both my sin and my Savior. Through a progression of observations I had come to realize, contrary to my early presumption, that my neighborhood was not perfect, that my classmates were not perfect, that my parents were not perfect, that my big brothers were not perfect, and even that priests and the church itself were not perfect. Ultimately, and you may find this hard to accept, but I finally came to admit that even I...was not perfect!
I came to discover later that the Bible would codify and clarify what I had observed for myself. In Romans 3:23 Paul speaks of what God had long known about people: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." This understanding is only the first step in the walk of faith I had begun to take.
As the following years came and went, my sinfulness--my natural bent--was continually apparent. But God's grace to cover my guilt under the sacrifice made for me by Jesus Christ, and his forgiveness and redemptive power could handle it.
Over 35 years have passed since I stood up at a convention in Chicago, in response to a challenge given by Bill Bright, the founder and head of Campus Crusade, and gave my life to God. I accepted the free gift of salvation offered by God, which I could never have earned for myself, but which Jesus did for me.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." This is not referring to some effort to EARN salvation; that is already accomplished. But how do we APPLY this great gift to our lives? That is what we must be "working out" over time, and through the many challenges life brings.
Since my conversion that New Year's Eve in Chicago, so many and varied things have happened.
With my first girlfriend I sang at the Catholic "guitar mass" every week, but eventually broke up with her and the Catholic church. My beloved Mom died about the same time, after just a few months struggle with cancer. I met my wife, Kiki, at Mom's funeral.
I was flown to a couple of job interviews after graduating with a degree in Geology, but ended up working in a factory for a year. I then moved to Alaska and worked for a summer as a geologist in a mining exploration camp where I got to fly off to "work" every morning by helicopter, before joining the staff at a Christian school in Ketchikan. Kiki and I were married there, that fall. Victoria was born to us the following year, and one of the long term missions of our lives (parenting) had begun.
Through our nine years in Ketchikan we were members of a great church and found wonderful teaching, fellowship and ministry opportunities there.
I drove tour bus for two summers and was at the wheel when my bus load of 54 passengers rolled into a ditch. Several years of legal issues began (I was sued for ruining the sex life of one of the older couples!). I began to work as a carpenter that year (1984).
We suffered a miscarriage in 1985, but Noah was born in '86 and gave us great joy! We soon bought our dream home out in the country and near the ocean, and Josh came in 1990 to make our family complete.
A year later we decided to move back to Wisconsin, selling all and virtually starting over. Dad died the next year ('92), as I was struggling to find the best work opportunity. We found another good church and rented several homes, including an old farm house we enjoyed for one year, and then moved again to a new town and a new church.
Raising kids and battling bills, and fending off medical mayhem filled quite a few years. The kids are all adults now so only two of the three issues pervade our lives today.
Through it all I have found that being a disciple of Christ and having a connected relationship with God is so very critical. Temptations and threats and disappointments and failures and achievements and joys and drudgeries and pains and triumphs and peace. These things all take their turn in relation to our bodies or our souls (mind, emotion and will), but when my spirit is in touch with God's spirit, walking with him in obedience instead of independently, the circumstances of life have little impact on the real me.
I have come to a few basic prayers that rather sum up my Christian walk:
"Lord, don't listen to me."
I pray along these lines to God when I recognize that what I might otherwise be asking him for is purely selfish and does not take into account what HE might see as the most important thing. It is my way of confessing that my flesh is still sinful and greedy, and of saying, "your will be done, not mine."
"It's you and me Lord."
SO very often in this life we face frustration and disappointment because other people just don't get us. (Or is it just me?) Whether it's in the family or outside, there are always so many built in impediments to true understanding and deep friendship; basic linguistic blockages or hidden neurosis can interfere and leave a person feeling distant and lonely. In a crowded room or on one distant edge of a shared bed, a person may feel horribly isolated, but our creator God would not leave us there. GOD is never out of reach, or out of touch. Through the giving of his Son, Jesus Christ, and by way of our mere acceptance of this gift, God has opened a way for us to enjoy the very best of fellowship with himself!
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