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This blog site will feature essays, columns and musings that deal with the intersection of Christianity and journalism and the American Songbook.

Easter Testimony: Faith Presbyterian Church (Tacoma)

April 8, 2007

(Note: Every Easter the elders at Faith Presbyterian Church select a member to give his/her testimony in the morning services. The Easter morning services are evangelistic so it is an honor to be selected and daunting for the testifiers. Kathy and I had returned to the congregation less than six months before so we were rather unknown to many in the church. This is my testimony.)

I was born in Washington, DC during World War 2 while my father was a navy officer connected to the lend-lease program with England. Shortly after the war we moved back to Ellensburg in central Washington where I was raised. During my school boy years, my mother took me to church while my father stayed home. We went to church because that is what good people did in the 1950s, but there was no genuine spiritual life in our family. Still, being in church showed me something was missing in my life. So I developed a spiritual yearning.

As a consequence of that yearning, in junior high school I admired the singer, Pat Boone, for the wholesomeness of his life. So I started a Pat Boone fan club. I was the only member of the club, but I was the president.

During high school, I ran with the popular crowd: the best athletes, the smartest students and government leaders. And yet I always felt inferior by comparison. I compensated by claiming to be things I wasn’t, by taking credit for things I didn’t do and by seizing things that weren’t mine – all so that I could look cool to those around me.

When I went off to college in l961, I continued my deceitful ways. For instance, there was a particularly fine fraternity at the University of Washington which included all-American athletes and student leaders and I wanted to be a part of that fraternity. So I lied on my application, saying I did things I didn’t do to make me more impressive. I got in, but my day of reckoning was coming. During my initiation into the fraternity it was disclosed that I lied on my application and so there was a public discussion as to whether I should be kicked out. My friends prevailed and I was not sent packing. But I learned a lesson in transparency which would be helpful in future dealings with God.

At the U of W I filled my life with politics because it gave me a sense of importance and significance. If it was political in the early 1960s I was involved. Politics – not parties, not sports, not girls, and surely not grades – but politics gave my life meaning and purpose: I was president of the young Republicans, I was on Barry Goldwater’s national convention campaign staff, and I tried to run for the state house of representatives in l964. However, all of this activity led to disillusionment.

As winter quarter, l965 began, I was still without direction so I did the only thing smart people do – I quit college. Of course, my quitting didn’t solve anything, except making me realize I was a quitter. Consequently, I returned to the U of W spring quarter l965 more confused than ever.

It was during spring quarter that my fraternity roommate suggested I accompany him to a meeting of a bunch of Christians on the campus. So I went, and I saw 100 university students, many of them well-known, talking about Jesus as if they knew Him personally. They claimed they even had conversations with Him. I had never seen cool people, in fact, I’d never seen anybody do this before. I asked the leader of the group, Robert Andrews, if he would meet with me and tell me about how I could know Jesus like these other students. I wanted to hear these simple four spiritual laws that seemed to be such a topic of great interest. The next day, April 13, 1965, after Andrews explained those simple laws in the student union building, I couldn’t get back to my fraternity fast enough. I wanted to embrace the message that God had created me to be a friend of His but that my rejection of Him got in the way. So He had to send a special envoy, Jesus, to repair the breach I had caused. I wanted this Jesus to end the turmoil in my life, so I prayed to ask Him to be my Savior and Lord.

My immediate personal transformation was so overwhelming that in a moment, my life had dramatically changed direction and characteristics.

My fraternity brothers would tease me as a young Christian by saying that Christianity is a crutch for the weak and a woman’s religion. That argument never had an impact on me because I knew I needed a crutch. I didn’t come kicking and screaming into Christianity with intellectual problems. I ran as fast as I could (when I knew where to run) to get peace of mind and help in orchestrating my life.

After graduating from the university, I put my Christianity to good use: I worked for Campus Crusade for Christ, studied with Francis Schaeffer at his home in Switzerland, graduated from Covenant Seminary, was ordained as a Presbyterian minister, and was working on my doctorate at Fuller Seminary. During all this Christian activity I forgot one minor personal responsibility as a Christian husband: To cherish my wife. Because I didn’t know how to love her, for 15 years I refused to tell her “I love you.” While I was in class at Fuller there was a thunderbolt of recognition from God that as a husband I needed to verbally express my love for my wife. So after returning home from class, I apologize to Kathy and I told her “I love you.” And I committed to her to tell her “I love you” everyday for the rest of our life together. That was 25 years ago. And the most amazing thing has happened: our love has grown with every passing year. I should add, I apologized to our daughters for the way I treated their mother.

Through various twists and turns in my life, I ended up volunteering to run a boot camp on the East Coast for aspiring Christian journalists. That effort was successful, so in the summer of 2000 Kathy and I moved from Ellensburg to Asheville, NC to operate the World Journalism Institute.

In June 2001, I was told I had prostate cancer. So I had my prostate removed and had radiation treatments. It was during this period in my life, when Kathy was asleep, that I was alone with my thoughts of death and dying. But I had an unexplainable peace that came from knowing that a sovereign, kind and beckoning God held the gift of life and health in His hands.

Last Thanksgiving we returned to Washington and located in Federal Way to be closer to our daughters, my parents and this congregation.

As I reflect back on my life of failures and successes, I have concluded that the place I need to go for repair and strengthening is a church with insightful preaching and teaching. I need to be continually reminded to anchor my life in that Life which alone gives meaning and satisfaction.

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