I was born and raised in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in a loving, stable, typical 1950's family. We went to church, and as a child I attended Sunday School every Sunday. However, during my teen years I began to grow cool towards the church.
I was an avid reader and was interested in becoming a scientist some day. The impression I somehow received was that intellectuals tended to disbelieve in God, many being agnostics or atheists, or at least they did not take their religious preferences very seriously.
Looking back, I think that since I aspired to be a somewhat 'intellectual' person, I gradually came to feel that it would be best to abandon Christianity. By the time I enrolled in college, I considered myself an agnostic, that is, someone who doesn't claim to know whether or not God exists.
Agnosticism satisfied me perfectly well for a period of about 10 years. During this time I continued training to become a scientist in my chosen field of forestry and natural resources. This included graduate school and enrollment in a Ph.D. program at Purdue University. I became involved in a relationship that left me with depressed feelings when it ended. These feelings continued sporadically for more than a year.
One night I went alone to a movie, which I often did at that time. The movie was 'All That Jazz' by Bob Fosse. The 'hero' of the movie led a dark, debauched life and came to suffer symptoms of heart disease. The movie portrayed the 'hero' talking to the 'angel of death.' I left the movie even more depressed than usual.
When I returned to my apartment, I began to think about death. As an agnostic-near atheist, I realized that I should believe that I would cease to exist when I died. The possibility of such non-existence seemed impossible to imagine (I must exist to contemplate non-existence) and at the same time unutterably horrific.
For the first time in years I asked God (if he were to exist) for help. Nothing happened right away, but I developed an interest in spiritual things, and I began to search for God.
Like any good graduate student at Purdue, I began my search in the University Libraries. I found many books about God, some good, some not so good. While at home for a visit I picked up a book that my brother was reading ' "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis. I had never encountered a religious book like this before. I went to a local bookstore and bought a package of Mere Christianity together with five other books by Lewis.
Over a period of many months I read and pondered these books, along with the New Testament and other books I found in the library. I was also influenced by reading the novels of the Russian writers Fyodor Dostoevsky (The Idiot, Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov), Tolstoy and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (The Cancer Ward). Questions of doubt and belief are prominent in their works.
Perhaps my biggest question at the time concerned whether I could believe that Jesus is God. I came to believe that he is, yet he suffered and was crucified as a man for my sins, then rose miraculously from the dead to precede us in eternal life.
In time I finished my Ph.D. and joined the faculty at Oklahoma State University. There I began attending a local fellowship and through help and fellowship from other believers, my new faith in Jesus began to grow. Gradually my periods of depressed feelings eased.
My life as a follower of Jesus is not always easy but unlike my life as an agnostic, it is never boring. For no matter how deeply we come to know him we can never completely plumb the depths of his love.
Bluegrass mandolin, Kairos Prison Ministry, Running
Fantasy dinner guests
Fyodor Dostoesvsky, Gifford Pinchot, Bill Monroe
Best advice I ever received
Never under any circumstances give up
My worst subject in school
If I weren't a professor, I would
Steam locomotive engineer
The Idiot, Mere Christianity
My latest accomplishment
Tulsa World Route 66 Half-Marathon Finisher
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