Saturday, April 27, 2019

My Testimony

Well, to put it correctly…Jesus let me know He was looking for me in December 1974.  Which means I was about 7 years old.   Saved at a very young age!  But…I only wish I knew then what I know now.   I can remember being excited the day I was going forward in the church…could not wait for the sermon to end and the invitation to be given.  Can remember being in the Pastor’s office afterwards with some Elders, being given a little book that had much of the book of John in it.  Can remember praying with those men & affirming what Jesus had done in my life.  I was a ball of excitement…all ready to go to school the next day and tell the other kids about what had happened!  After all, I was excited maybe they would be excited for me too!  Uhmm…wronnnnnng.

To say the least it did not go very well at all, in fact it was a source of many to pick on me about for quite a while.  The shock of how that excitement turned to maybe wishing I’d kept my mouth shut was something I thought about for quite a while.  I wasn’t understanding why people were being that way!   Unfortunately, there wasn’t any follow up…so I really didn’t know if what I was feeling was normal or wrong.  I didn’t know who to ask…so I didn’t.  Looking back it felt like that went on for almost another 10 years.  Then I was more-so into the Youth Group.  Can remember an overnighter where there was a concert…Al Holley was the singer.  Can remember some part of that evening hit me hard…and found myself in a restroom crying out to God.  Not really knowing what I was asking other than I wanted something more.

In the mean time, life happened…got involved in things I wish I didn’t.  Spent two years at the Lorain County Joint Vocational Center, actually the last 2 years of high school were there for Industrial Electronics. Had lots of dreams that never happened.  Went back to school, for more electronics training.   Worked nights at a grocery store while going to school during the day to help pay for it.  That sort of panned out some…actually was getting jobs that had something to do with what I went to school for.  Worked at WOBL AM1320 radio for a short while.  Worked for a company that repaired computers, did installations etc.  That’s where I got my ‘official’ training with computer repairs.  The rest of what I know…I learned on my own.  Which takes us to another part of my life…my online life.

I had gotten my first ‘IBM PC’…rather a knock off that I’d bought from a relative.  Then I’d found…the internet.   Wow…a whole world that I could explore…and not have people using me as the source of their amusement!    I had that more than any one kid should have had while growing up.   Oh I had other reasons why I became a source of other people’s amusement…I was born partially blind in my left eye.  I can’t see straight ahead out that eye.  I can see anything else around..just not the center.  My right eye is ok.  But it always made for difficult times as a kid.  I couldn’t run well because of problems with it.  Also born flat-footed, so running was going to be difficult no matter what.  I do ok today because the shoes they make now make it possible.  Sooo sports was out of the question for me.  All this to show…that I did a lot on my own.  Had my own workbench in the basement of my parent’s home.  Experimented with electronics on my own a lot.  Practically paid for the Radio Shack store near where I grew up by all the stuff I got out of there.   And this takes us to what I was doing online.  First was the Web…then came Chat rooms.

Chat rooms were places I discovered that I could be me without being pre-judged by people based on what they saw.   Yeah after a time they could tell by how I talked of what I stood for and what I didn’t.   It also lead to at least 1 trip out of state for a vacation too.  Went to Indiana to spend a vacation with someone I’d met in one of those chat rooms.    Went well enough. Only was a few days and then I came home.  But I also got into some of the darker sides of the internet.  For a time, there was some experimentation into the pornography that was available.  Had myself convinced I’d be ok, that if I was going to witness to these people on there…that I had to understand the stuff they were messed up with.  Note to self: Don’t EVER try that again!

Months went into years with the internet stuff.  Mean time I was involved at the church I was saved in, that I grew up in.  Was the Audio-Visual Engineer, and for a time a Deacon in the church.  After the man I had learned from had retired from the AV, it was up to me to keep it all going.  Sometimes repairing/building sound systems to keep things going for services.  I liked what I was doing…really was cool to be serving God in that way.

Was back working grocery during this time as well.  Worked 3rd shift for 7 ½ years, then due to God working out a change of plans…ended up on 1st shift for the next 2 ½ years.
To say the least, 10 years of grocery work…was educational.  Not so much the labor part, but the learning about different kinds of people part.

At the 9 year mark…life for me was coming to a screeching halt.  I was about to hit a wall that I could not get around.   My ‘online’ world was crumbling all around me.  ‘Real World’ life was not much better.  Can remember hollering outside that spring of 1999 that I was not going to follow in the same footsteps as some of the others in my family.  That I was going to break the mould.   Then things REALLY were going down hill.
Work was harder than ever.  Online, all the people I’d thought were ‘friends’..weren’t.  Relationship wise, that was a disaster.   That story is for a different time. 

I’d come to the point of sitting on the floor in front of my couch in the home I was renting, with a gun in my lap.  I had checked to make sure it was loaded.  I knew how to use it…grew up with them.  I was hitting such a streak of despair of life that I didn’t want to go any farther in it.

Then, as it happens, God intervened in my life again.   The phone rang.  It was my Mom. Can’t remember what we talked about, but it sure ruined the mood to commit suicide.
After she had hung up I realized I had 3 ways this could go.  One was to indeed end it all.
The Second, was to keep on living in the misery that was now my life.  Or Three…finally and wholly tell God ‘ok, I’m done, do whatever you want with my life.  I’m done messing it up and never getting it right.’.   I chose Door #3.

Life began to change for me…some things just weren’t important anymore and others I could tell I was being convicted of that needed to change.

I had always had a deep interest in Star Trek.  Read close to a hundred books at some time or another.   Conviction set in…it dawned on me that I could just about quote you whole books…whole stories…but I had not read through the Bible even once.   I had books, and other Star Trek stuff.  God worked it out that someone I worked with was able to do us a favor, and I paid for it with my Star Trek stuff.  They could give it to their nephew for the next several years. 

All in all I think I read through the whole Bible 7 times.  Please don’t ask me to quote passages…to this day I still struggle a whole lot in recalling what I’d read.  Memorizing Scripture has always been extremely difficult for me.  

Other areas of my life began to change…all because I finally got it.  There’s no way to live the Christian life, if I’m setting the rules for it.  It will always be doomed to fail if I am the one telling God how it’s going to be.   When I chose Door #3…and finally unhandcuffed God…wow.

Work turned around very quickly.  Got promoted to Assistant Dairy Manager not long afterwards.   In August of 1999, August 17th to be exact.  I was back online again…but not the chat rooms.  Yahoo had a thing called Groups..and there was one…Adult Christian Singles Group.  I joined it.  Looked good.
Picked out 10 people of their members that were at least in OhioColumbus northward.
Only 1 person ever came on there that night.  My future Wife-to-Be.  Valerie.
We talked a lot online that night…in fact I still have the original message saved from that night on my portable hard drive.  Called her on the phone…shared web sites with her…mine for hers and hers for mine.  In a week I had talked her into letting me come down this way for dinner…that turned into me fixing dinner for her at her place.  Which was Spaghetti and Texas Toast lol.   When I first pulled into her driveway that night I KNOW I heard God speak to me.  He said “Ok, there she is, take care of her..and don’t mess it up!”  This was one of two times I know full well that God was talking to me.  We’ve now been married 11 years this coming November 1st.  The things God has done since that day!  I proposed to her ‘officially’ in the parking lot of an Applebees in ElyriaOhio.  That was 2 weeks after first meeting her.  Even at the age I was, I still wanted to meet her Dad & ask his permission.  Had the ‘Father-Son’ talk with my own Dad too.

The events that have happened in the last 11 years..go from the normal to the ‘God did that!’.    We’ve had our share of highs and lows..but I will say this…God has done far more in these years of my life…that I can see anyways…than at any other point in my life.   I love my Jesus. I love my God.  There was a time that for many many years, Satan had me convinced I wasn’t saved.  That God has left me.  That I was that despicable.
Had me convinced that I was such a low life sinner that there was no way that God would ever want me, would or could ever use me.  That I had no friends because I was so useless. 

But God has shown me, clearly, that I am in HIS hand and NOBODY is strong enough to take me from there.  It was NEVER me who found Jesus. It was JESUS who found me in 1974.  It was JESUS who started the relationship that we have.
Phillipians 1:6  For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Jesus began it, and as a song I heard in recent months put it…nothing ever touches me that God has not allowed to go through His hands to get to me.   We may be stretched, we may be strained, we may feel like we’re standing on the fires of Hell, but NOTHING will ever separate us from the love of God.  Hebrews  “FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES."   We may not like it, and it may seem to scare the whatevers out of us…but it’s for our own good.  Often times clay gets hot in the hands of the creator when it needs to be reworked into something new and better.  As we are in the hands of our God.

I could tell you stories of how God showed us how to know that coming to Columbus was where he wanted us…we prayed and a few days later the renter of Valerie’s home gave her notice..she was moving out!
Of while it was rented, a storm hit, the gutters were coming off…and how God put new one’s on it for us while we were still in Elyria trying to figure out what to do!
Of how God had moved us down here…and within 1 month to the day of getting the house and yard back in shape, I began working at what was called Sensotec, and is now called Honeywell-Columbus.  Doing electronic assembly work…that some of which is in Space…on Mars…the International Space Station…EVERYTHING I was dreaming being involved in as a kid when my dreams seemed a lifetime away.

Of how God had allowed my Wife to get breast cancer…the fact that I had to put my Wife completely in God’s hands to heal.  At first this tore me up inside.  In as much as that is something God’s given me an uncanny ability to do so, to fix things or figure out solutions to problems on the fly…I could not take this from her…I could not do anything to make it go away.  I admit that I cried.   For a brief moment I felt the typical hopelessness, but God had a plan.    How awesome is it when it’s cancer, but the cure for it had been found already…and it was of a type that a specific drug could take out.  What also came out of this was that God opened doors for Valerie to be able to witness to others because of this.  Both during the treatment and afterwards.

Of how God stopped an 18 wheeler from killing me in October of 2006.  I was going to work early, like I normally was…and I became the morning headline news.  A Swift 18 wheeler was running a red light at Georgesville-Philippi and I ran into him.  Many have said if I was 3 seconds faster or slower…either I would have been killed, or he would have killed the lady driving the mini-van who was next to me in the other lane.  This was the Second time I know God spoke to me…as He put His hand over my face to close my eyes and said to me “No, I don’t want you to see this.”   The next thing was two guys trying to get me out of my truck.  It was now 3 feet shorter on the front end.  All I had was a broken arm.  But God used that to make me rely on Him more.  It also showed me how short life can be when we take it for granted.  Up to this point, I was not one to get up on front of people.  I shunned it.  You might even say I ran from it. 

I ended up preaching my first sermon in July of the next year.  My now former pastor had to be at Conference and he needed someone to fill in.   I had figured Satan had tried to shut me up…so I had better speak up!
There are many other things I could share…but I was asked to try to keep this short.
I love my God, today more than yesterday.  He died on the cross, paid the price for my sins.  He arose 3 days later…death could not keep Him.   He lead captive a host of captives…of which one day soon I will be one of those He’s coming back for.   He died for me…He sought me, He bought me, with His redeeming blood.  I am safe in His arms. Safe in His hands, now and forever.   Charley Pride had a song out “He Took My Place”, many many years ago.  I grew up listening to that album.  That song was and always will be my favorite.  

The things God has done and continues to do in our lives is always incredible.  Valerie and I have only spent 2 or 3 times apart in these 11 years.  Neither of us sleeps well when we’re not in the same place.  We try to always pray every morning before I leave for work.  I always tell her that I love her.  God has blessed our marriage in ways that I could never count.

In my personal life…I find myself agreeing with Paul in his letter to the Philippians.
Php 1:23  “But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.”

I have heard the phrase “That’s a God thing!” Well yes, that sums up my life.  What He’s done, what He continues to do…yup, that’s a God thing!  I have plenty of reasons to look back and see what Satan wants me to see to sum up my life saying I’ve failed at being a Christian, that I will be left behind when the Rapture happens.  But I KNOW what Jesus has told me, of who I am in Him.  I am a Child of the Most High.  I love my God, I long to be in Heaven with Him.   Satan speaks lies.  Jesus tells the truth.  There are days I wonder how I will make it the next hour, let alone the rest of the day.  I do find myself praying far more often than I used to.  Often times while I work.  At just about any place that I am at, I can pray.  I can’t imagine a life without Jesus in it.  I think now of “When God Ran” by Philips Craig & Dean.  “He ran to me, He took me in His arms, held my head to His chest and said  “My Son’s come home again!”

That one phrase always give me chills.  Reminds me of “He sought me and bought me, with His redeeming blood…”  I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that whatever it holds, I’ll always face it with Jesus.   

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