I was raised in church. Every Sunday, we went as a family to church. I went to Sunday School. I sang in the children's choir and later in the adult choir. I participated in the church youth group. I went to church camp. However, none of that had much of a positive impact on my life. It wasn't that I was a bad person. In fact, until I turned 17, I never really did much of anything that one would normally associate with a "sinful" lifestyle.
During the summer after my junior year of high school I was first introduced to marijuana. In fact, it was at church camp where this happened. Still, at this point it was nothing more than a one time experimentation. Near the end of my senior year, I started drinking occasionally. Yet, I didn't get highly involved in it. You see, I didn't want to hurt my parents. If they had known that I was drinking or doing drugs they would have been very hurt. They were important enough to me that I did not get more deeply involved in those things.
After I graduated from high school I went away to college in Texas. My parents were 1500 miles away. There was no way that they would know what I was doing unless I told them, so the fear of hurting them no longer was present to keep me from getting involved in drugs and alcohol. It didn't take long for me to get deeply involved in drugs and alcohol. If there was anyone going out to drink or get high, I would go with them. Not surprisingly, my school work suffered. I quit school and went back home. My parents didn't know what really went on. They just thought that I had lost interest in school.
I was back in my parents' home so again I began to behave. I occasionally went out drinking but I was always very careful to hide things from them. After a while, I moved back to Texas. I got a decent job but I also got more heavily involved in drugs and alcohol than I had ever been before. All of my money went towards getting high, so after a few months I was thrown out of my apartment. I ended up back home again. This time, I only stayed home for a little while. I joined the military. It looked like a reasonable way to make some money. I also liked that it would take away some of the disappointment that my parents were feeling over my failures at school and at my job in Texas. I don't know if they knew what had caused it all. If they did, they never said anything.
I was scheduled to report for basic training on December 27, 1978. I hadn't hardly been to church in over two years. For some reason, I decided to go to church with my parents on Christmas Eve, three days before I was to report. They were now attending a different church. The church I grew up in seemed to think that so long as a person showed up in church on most Sundays then everything was fine spiritually. This new church, however, was different. They talked about a Christianity that I had never experienced. I knew that they had something good because of the effect it had on other people I knew. To this point I had wanted nothing to do with it.
That night, the pastor did not deliver the typical Christmas Eve sermon. I'm sure he mentioned Christmas some, but the only thing I remember from that message was that he talked about hell. He didn't do it in the stereotypical "hellfire and brimstone" style. But he made it real to me. He made me realize that there really is a hell. He didn't just talk about hell, he scared it out of me. That night, I became a Christian.
The pastor gave an altar call that night. I didn't go down. I don't think my parents really saw any change in me. In fact, the only thing that surprised them was when I took a Bible with me when I left for basic training. After I got to basic, I read that Bible whenever I got a chance. I'd find a corner where I wouldn't be bothered and just start reading. My life was changing. It was slow, but there were changes. My attitudes and behavior were different. God was working in my heart in a way I had never experienced before.
I wish I could say that I never messed up after that. Unfortunately it's not true. There were times that the lure of the old lifestyle came back to tempt me and I didn't resist well. But God didn't give up on me. He took me from where I was and brought me out of all of that garbage. I now have a wonderful family. I have a job I enjoy. But most importantly, I have a wonderful relationship with the LORD. A personal relationship. A friendship. A relationship that impacts every area of my life.
The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried ' G. K. Chesterton
racquetball, preaching, baseball research
Fantasy dinner guests
Jesus, Blaise Pascal, Willie Mays
Best advice I ever received
Spend time with God EVERY morning.
My worst subject in school
none really, just didn't want to take anything other than mathematics classes
If I weren't a professor, I would
Bible; anything by CS Lewis; The Glory of their Times by Lawrence Ritter
Facing the Giants; Lord of the Rings movies
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