Living on Borrowed Time
When I was born in 1918, I was not expected to live. My mother told me many times how I was just set aside on a table, because there was not enough time to save both of us. However, she had an aunt who was a nurse and happened to be there during the delivery. She took on the job of trying to save my life, and God saw to it that I was spared. On many occasions since then, I have been near death, and God has delivered me. Every day, I know that I am living on borrowed time, and that time belongs to God.
I grew up knowing that God hears and answers prayer. When I was about four years old, God did a mighty work in our home. My dad was a fireman on a railroad line that ran between Portland and Roseburg, Oregon. It was his job to shovel coal into the furnace of the train to keep the engine running. One day he passed out on the engine, and a few days later, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The doctor told him, “There is nothing I can do for you. Go home and pick out your funeral songs.” Dad came home from the doctor’s office that day and sat down among pillows in an old wicker rocking chair. He had been a big man, weighing 235 pounds, but in the preceding months he had lost about one hundred pounds, and there wasn’t much left of him. All of us, including four children, gathered around him crying.
In the midst of all that grief, there was a knock at the door. It was a man my parents had been acquainted with when they were newly married. He said the Lord had directed him to visit us, and he had brought a few people with him. They came in and told my dad that God loved him and wanted to save him. They said he could pray right there in his chair, but Dad said, “I’m going to get on my knees if I can.” He got down to pray, and after just a few minutes, he tapped the man on the shoulder and said, “Get up, Brother. Whatever it is, I’ve got it.” Then they read James 5 and prayed again, and God healed my dad. On many occasions after that, I heard him say that if those people had visited a week earlier, he would not have had time for them. Dad lived almost thirty years more, and spent those years serving the Lord.
They anointed the baby’s head with oil and prayed as Mother held him in her arms. The little fellow had not moved for two or three days, but as they finished praying, he smiled and raised his head. God had healed him on the spot!
After God saved my dad, we moved to a farm between Portland and Dallas, Oregon, and another child was born into our home. The baby was not well, and when he was about two or three months old, the doctors said he would not live. Dad had heard about the Apostolic Faith people in Dallas, and he got on the phone. He told the operator, “I don’t know the name or the number, but I want to contact those people who come out and pray for the sick. ”She said, “I know who you want,” and called Nels Swensen, the pastor in Dallas. He came out that evening with a few others, and they anointed the baby’s head with oil and prayed as Mother held him in her arms. The little fellow had not moved for two or three days, but as they finished praying, he smiled and raised his head. God had healed him on the spot! It wasn’t long before we moved to Dallas so we could attend the Apostolic Faith Church, and we began to hear the Gospel in its fullness.
While I was still young, we moved onto a five-hundred-acre timber ranch, and I began to pick up the bad language and habits of the ranch hands. I also developed a temper, and would fight anyone at the drop of a hat—sometimes I knocked the hat off a person to get a fight started! In that condition, I lost more friends than I made, and my life became miserable. There were times when I was so ashamed of my temper that I would go out into the woods alone and cry.
One day I was bringing the cows in, but they had other ideas. I was so mad that I started throwing anything that was loose, including tree limbs and rocks. I wore myself out swearing, and then turned around exhausted to sit down on a stump—and there stood my mother! I had never sworn in front of her, and I felt so ashamed that I could not look up. I slinked off and finished the rest of my chores. When it was time for dinner, I had no appetite and still could not face my mother, so I went and sat in the hay barn. That was a good start toward conviction, and I tried to pray in the barn, but I did not have the faith to believe God would save me.
In my teenage years, I worked on the ranch with the other hands, logging and cutting wood. For entertainment, we liked to sing cowboy songs while playing guitars and harmonicas. On Saturday nights, my older brother went to town with the other fellows to attend the dances and shows. Many times they asked me to go with them, but I was afraid that if I started down that path, I would never stop.
Then one night in 1936, I consented and went with them. One of the boys paid my way into a dance and they began introducing me to girls and encouraging me to take part. However, standing around that place, the conviction was so great I felt I would die. Eventually, I had to leave. On the way back to the car, I crossed a footbridge and looked down into the water. It was dark, which was exactly how I felt inside.
As I waited in the car for the others until almost midnight, I tried to pray, but I still lacked faith. On the way home, my brother asked me to start a song. Of all the cowboy songs I knew, I could not think of one line, so I sang “Tell Mother I’ll Be There.” It got real quiet in the car, and my brother was mad, but I started to feel good inside, so I kept singing. God was beginning to get through to my heart.
I went and knelt at the altar, and within a few minutes the terrible feeling of guilt that I had been carrying for so long was gone. The peace of God came into my heart, and oh it was good!
Not long after that, I woke up early on a Sunday morning and told my mom, “I am going to church.” She went with me, and on the way, we had a flat tire. The old devil said to me, “You are only halfway. You might as well go home.” I answered, “If I am already halfway, I might as well go on.” We got to the meeting, and I can’t recall any of the songs or testimonies, or who preached, but I know who got saved. At the close, no one had to come back and get me; I was ready. I went and knelt at the altar, and within a few minutes the terrible feeling of guilt that I had been carrying for so long was gone. The peace of God came into my heart, and oh it was good!
The next day at work, the usual things went wrong, but I had God in my heart, so the foul language and bad temper were gone. In the following weeks, the fellows came around a few times asking if I wanted to go with them on Saturday nights, but I told them I had better things to do. I began going to church, and soon God sanctified me. Then, during special meetings in Dallas, He baptized me with the Holy Spirit, and it was wonderful!
A short time later, I went to work in a logging camp. Right away, one of the young men told me, “This is no place for religion. You had better leave yours behind.” I did not heed his advice. God went with me, and He spared my life many times. On one occasion, I released a load of logs from my truck and immediately realized I was standing on the wrong side of the load. I was hemmed in with no place to run, except out in front of the logs. They were about to come tumbling off the truck onto a stretch of logs that would get them rolling downhill toward a pond. As they broke loose, I took off running down that log path and dove into the water. At the other side of the pond, the man who had told me to leave my religion behind gave me a hand up. As he did, he said, “You better stick with that religion. One of those logs flew right over your shoulder.”
It became clear that I was going to see the Lord. I had heard that a man’s sins will pass before his eyes at a time like that, but not one thing came up—I was ready!
Another incident took place when I was waiting for my truck to be loaded. Something went wrong with the rigging while a log was suspended thirty or forty feet in the air. The log began to slip and it hit a tree, making an awful clatter. The machine operator tried to regain control, but could not hold the log. It fell, landing on a stump, and then rolled right at me. When it was eight or ten feet away, it became clear that I was going to see the Lord. I had heard that a man’s sins will pass before his eyes at a time like that, but not one thing came up—I was ready! The log hit an iron loading bunk, which in turn knocked me in the chest. I shot like a bullet to about fifty feet away, and landed in a ditch. The log came down over top of me, just touching, but not pressing my body. I wiggled out from under it in time to hear the machine operator tell the foreman he had just killed a man. Then he pointed at me, and said, “That’s him!” My only injury was a broken rib. God had spared me again.
My life is in God’s hands, and when He says it is enough, it will be enough. Until then, I am ready to go wherever He calls me. I love the Gospel, and could go on and on telling of God’s goodness.