He who calls you is faithful; he will do it.
I have been a Christian my whole life. I can not remember ever not believing.
These are some of my reminiscences.
I learned the faith as a child and cultivated an intimate relationship with God.
I had a prodigal period, in my teens and early twenties. I rejected making Jesus my Lord, which took me down the wrong path. Years later, I came back to that wrong turn, and surrendered my whole life.
My first job, outside our home, was taking care of horse stables.
In high school, I was very involved in theater and singing. For the stage, I was a technical worker and learned lighting design. I was also a war gamer.
When he proposed marriage, my mom gave my dad one condition. It was that they would take their children to church, so that we could learn the good news.
I was the firstborn of two boys. My brother, Scott, was born when I was two.
We started out at the Presbyterian Church in Redondo Beach. I remember being thrilled to hear all the congregation singing The Lord’s Prayer, in the high ceiling acoustic, with the pipe organ accompaniment.
My brother and I were baptized together one sunday, by Reverend Paul Cox.
After a handful of years, my mom searched for a church that put a very high priority on Christian Education.
My mom was a school teacher. She only taught for a year or two before she met my dad. They were introduced my my grandma, dad’s mom, who was a life-long school teacher.
My dad proposed on their second date, and their wedding was on the Friday night, after the last day of school.
My dad had a car accident, where he rolled his car, and had his life flash before his eyes; and decided he wanted to settle down and get married. He also told me the story of when another boy hit him in the head with a pickaxe one time, and that he could have died, if it had penetrated further.
My dad was a good daddy, when we were little. I have a lot of good memories of my dad, from my childhood. Things began to change when I got into puberty. I eventually hated my parents.
In my 26th year, my life changed. It started when I was 25 and accelerated when I was 27. I loved my parents again and my brother was my best friend.
When my dad died, that week, God cleansed me of all the hurts from my dad. I can tell you about the hurts now, but I have no bitterness and complete forgiveness. I totally see my dad through Jesus and love him and know how much he loves me and wants me to be free.
The darkest years of my life were my college years, when I was in school for my bachelor’s degree.
I always worked part-time while I went to school.
Mid-way through, I flunked out, I got a few B’s and mostly C’s, D’s, and F’s. To get back in, I was allowed to take classes on probation and bring my grade average up. When I was under that pressure, I made A’s and a few B’s, and got back in good standing.
Later, I went on to earn two Master’s degrees, in counseling and theology.
My dad told me that the day I was born was the best day of his life. My dad probably struggled to know God’s love. At his funeral, a lady that had been interceding for him, told us that God said, “he’s my boy.”
My grandpa, dad’s dad, struggled with depression, for what seemed like the second half of his life. He was either the youngest or one of the last of many, around ten siblings, from the 1890’s to the 1900’s. Since a number of his siblings had died in infancy, grandpa’s parents were not as loving as they should have been to him. They did not want to get attached to another baby that was probably going to die. Their grief was aggravated and grandpa got a cold shoulder when he most needed love.
When my dad was born, in the early 1930’s, grandpa was off in a work camp, building “New Deal” roads, and my grandma suffered a strong case of postpartum depression. I don’t know all the details, but dad’s memory was that grandpa showed up when he was 2 or 3 years old, with a red tricycle; and my dad thought, “who are you?”
I was very interested in end times, as a kid in the 1970’s. I told my non-believer best friend that I did not want him to miss the rapture. I remember loving him so much that I prayed for God to take my life so that my buddy would be saved.
I was always involved with a number of activities at church. But most of my friends were from my neighborhood or school.
We went to church, but had a whole different set of people who came into our home. My parents had parties all the time. My mom’s best friend was Catholic and I remember mom telling me about sharing Christ with her and making sure she knew the gospel, and she did.
When I graduated high school, I told people that my dream was to go to work for MTV, making music videos. I remember many opportunities that were presented to me, while I was in my dark years.
I turned down becoming a sound recordist (the guy with the big fuzzy mic on a boom and the small reel-to-reel, called a Nagra). I turned down working in the television studio where Johnny Carson did his show and local news was produced. And I turned down working at the film studio that was MGM and would later become Sony.
Even after a few years at my job, my dad’s best friend, Gus, came and took me out for a meal, and had great interest in helping me in any career path. He was an electrical engineer, like my dad and brother, but also a musician, composer, and inventor. I know that he loved my dad, so he wanted to help me. Gus never had a family and loved people. He was Jewish and always had a beard. I first met him at, “bring your family to work day”.
I got a revelation once, that God is always looking for friends for people.
I was only beginning to discover how much God cared about me. Not generally, like how he cares about saving humanity, but me personally.
I made a short film in high school film class, based on a song by Toto. Later in college, I made a film based on a Tears For Fears song, along with a satirical film about nuclear annihilation.
The day that I refused Jesus invitation to make him Lord, was my fateful day. I was 13. That was when there was a fork in the road and I chose the wrong way. I was standing in our front yard, under the pepper tree.
Out of the blue, I heard God’s voice say to me, that I needed to make him Lord. And I saw a picture of a steering wheel, the wheel of my life, that he wanted. And I said, “no”. It wasn’t an angry no, but an “I can’t do that”, no.
I became my own master that day. I actually sensed God’s hurt. It was a disappointment.
The saddest day of my life was probably the day my dad died. But this was the most profoundly sad day for me, because I sensed God’s sadness towards me. Not because he was mad at me, but because he loved me and knew how much unnecessary pain I would put myself through, by my poor choice.
I had no idea and would only later get a revelation about the prodigal son story and that Father loves me, just like the boy in the story.
I remember visiting my great aunt, and we took a side-trip, and did not invite her or plan on her joining us, and I saw her disappointment. That excursion was a waste of time, while being with her more days or even hours was priceless and I had no idea at the time.
The first times I began going to my Cal State campus were bad days. I had never felt such loneliness. I had no friends there. But I made friends at work.
After about a year, I had a Christian friend, from work, who was older than me.
This friend shepherded me, during this dark time, and introduced me to My Utmost, by Oswald Chambers, which became precious to me, even though I did not understand it at first, Oswald’s words were encouraging me back to that fateful decision to make Jesus my Lord and not just my savior.
In my arrogance, foolishness, and deceived state, during my post high school years, I would think to myself and say out loud, that I just wanted my “ticket to heaven”, but I was not interested in being a part of the church; and I had no transformation.
I visited church maybe once or twice with this friend and I accidently made friends with other Christians and began going to church on Sunday mornings, before I surrendered or fully gave back my life to the Lord
I made the wrong turn at age 13 and it got worse at age 18.
I was actually on-fire for the Lord, when I started Junior High, before I turned 13. My mess up at my age 13 transition was like getting offered a promotion, but not taking it gave me a demotion.
I was involved in church all through my high school years, but I was haunted by the wrong decision I had made, back at 13. It would take until I was 24, for me to be able to say yes to surrender.
And when I said yes, it was only after trying to bargain with God and him saying, “no deal”. I was in the most humiliating circumstance of my life and I prayed, “If you will get me out of this, I will then give you my whole life”. And I heard back, while I was pinned between a figurative rock and a hard place, “I will not get you out of this and you will give me your whole life”.
And that’s what happened. I wrestled with God and got a permanent limp that night. I can only imagine what my pride problem would be, if I had not been so humiliated.
Another thing that happened, is that in that year before I hit bottom, my dear brother, who said yes to the Lord, probably without being asked; was being my intercessor, probably keeping me alive. He would pray for me and the Spirit of God would just have him cry. I realized later, that was the Lord’s heart towards me.
But, I also got to live out the happy ending of the prodigal son story. With my return to the Father, I had what I can only describe as a second honeymoon with the Lord, when I was 25. I almost never stopped smiling.
After a year or two of this, I knew that I wanted to serve the Lord full time, going into some sort of ministry. I pondered about this business of having a call from God or what the calling was to enter the ministry. I prayed about it and talked about it. I had no pastor friends or any full timer that I could ask about their story.
Turns out that in a seminary class, we talked about this very thing and everyone there had pain and confusion around this issue. I felt sad for us all, and had no real answer to this mystery.
I decided, at first, to become a counselor; an MFCC. I went to graduate school. I ended up at a non-denominational Christian school, where about half the students were Catholic. I was one of the youngest in my class. I thought it was funny to be training to be a marriage, family, and child counselor; when I did not even have a steady girlfriend during most of that time in school.
But I felt the love and encouragement of God and my friends cheered me on. When I got to my internship, I ended up counseling men who were coming out of addiction. I worked at The Salvation Army. And my mentor was a divorced psychologist who had been a researcher for focus on the family, before they moved to Colorado, and he was an encouragement.
After I finished that internship and was in a pause before continuing to the next, more advanced level; on my birthday, for the only time in my life, that I remember, and my birthday was on a Sunday that year; I had an experience of receiving a call to be or become, and I was told, ‘you are a pastor’.
I know now that counselors as well as sunday school and even monday thru friday school teachers are pastors. But, what I had in mind and ran with was the idea of pastor in the church (building).
My brother started going to seminary a couple years before I did. I would visit with him and I had a secret dream from childhood of attending that seminary (Fuller), that I never told anyone. One day, I received that same kind of call, out of the blue, that I had before, on my birthday; encouraging me to pursue the dream of attending seminary.
I was already interning at my church, as an extension of my mfcc work, and in response to that calling I received on my birthday. The way my timeline worked was that I started interning (pastor-intern) before I started seminary and then stopped the interning at the 3 year mark, and then went on to one or two more years, to finish seminary.
Then I had to figure out the calling to a church or in some traditions they say churches call you. No one was calling and I did not sense a call to anywhere. In this confusion and pain, God was calling me deeper into Christ.
What was also intuitively obvious to me was that I was still not married. And even though I was in my 30’s and more mature than I was in my 20’s, I still felt like I lacked life experience, and the qualifiers to be a husband and father; to be an elder in the church. I was ‘an elder’ or recognized as such by elders; which was very kind, but still, I felt like I would only be comfortably (more comfortably) qualified after I was married, with my own home and family. Life experience was what I thought I needed. Not that there is anything wrong with a single pastor, and it’s Biblical to stay single, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians.
Through the 1990’s, I had prayed for a wife. And God spoke to me and gave me several promises. And I waited and prayed and waited some more and dated people. Very frustrating when it seemed like everyone else was finding a spouse. People rightfully told me that maybe I was too picky or something.
But, then she appeared, in 2002, in the next season after my dad died. And believe it or not, we had our first date of our very happy courtship, on my dad’s birthday. We got married a year later and my son was born two years after that.
The story continues.
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