Recruited for God’s Offensive Line
God has been faithful and longsuffering to me throughout every step of my life, and I am so thankful. He always knows just what is needed and is there to provide and help.
My mother had a hunger for the things of God. Although she had been raised to attend church, she observed that there was no difference between the people who attended and those who did not. The churchgoers smoked on the church steps before they went in, and their conversations were tainted. When they came out of the church, they went back to smoking and their tainted conversations. She decided that if God was real, the religious system she was seeing was definitely not working.
She took her Bible and began to search the Scriptures for the truth. After months of reading the Word of God, she came to the realization that she needed to ask Him to make a change in her life. At her bedside, she laid out her Bible and prayed, asking God to make her the new creature she had read about. Right there, God miraculously saved her. From that time on, she was a devout Christian and began to raise her five boys in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. She taught us every day about the goodness of God and that there was a Heaven to gain and a Hell to shun. She regularly gathered us in the living room and had us memorize Scripture and sing.
We lived in Roseburg, Oregon, and in 1964, we were invited to the Apostolic Faith Church. My mother went to a Sunday evening service, and she looked over the literature, reading the doctrines taught by the church. She realized that this was the church we needed to attend because it stood for exactly what she believed the Bible said.
As I was growing up, many of the people in the church were role models for me, including our pastors and ministers. When Sister Lois Allen was our pastor, she would meet us boys on the church steps and ask us when we were going to give our lives to the Lord. That put conviction on my heart, so I would try to avoid her.
One day she stopped me on the stairway that led into the sanctuary and said, “Lee, when are you going to give your life to the Lord?” As I hesitated, she said, “You may not care where your eternal home will be, but you need to understand that you’re going to be responsible for where these young people are going.” I turned and saw the younger boys who were following me up the stairs. I said to her, “How is it my responsibility?” Immediately she said, “If you watch these children, they act just like you, so your actions may lead them away from God. Do you want to be responsible for that?”
Her words drove a dagger into my heart. I realized that my choices were going to affect others, and that I needed to make a decision. I was not considered a bad young man—I never smoked, drank alcohol, or did drugs. Yet I knew in my heart and from the Word of God that I needed to have a change. I needed to ask God to come in and forgive me. There was no escaping that.
When I was sixteen years old, my mother brought us to camp meeting in Portland, Oregon, but by then I had become bitter and wanted nothing to do with the Gospel. Although she insisted that I attend for at least one week, my plan was to just sit through the services that week and then go home.
Thankfully, God had a different plan. After arriving at the campground resentful and upset, I was walking by the tabernacle when a young lady said hello to me. God can use simple things to get our attention, and when she began a pleasant conversation with me, it completely destroyed my defensive attitude. God knew what I needed.
Just as clearly as an audible conversation with someone across the altar bench would have been, the Lord’s words came to me: “Lee, would you be willing to give up football to have this peace?”
The next day was Sunday morning, July 4, 1971, and I don’t remember who preached or what the sermon was about. What I do remember is that during the whole service, I knew that I needed to get right with God. At the invitation to pray, I went forward and asked God to come in and give me the peace that others talked about. Just as clearly as an audible conversation with someone across the altar bench would have been, the Lord’s words came to me: “Lee, would you be willing to give up football to have this peace?”
Football was important to me. I loved it, and people said I was good at it. In my second year of high school, I was six feet two inches tall, weighed 235 pounds, and could run the forty-yard dash in nearly record time. And God wanted to know if I would give up football. I prayed, “Yes, Lord, I’ll give up football. I’ll give up everything to have this peace.” As soon as I made that consecration, such a joy and peace came into my heart. It was a peace that truly passed all understanding. I felt as if I was walking six feet off the ground!
A week later, I was still at the camp meeting and a gentleman at the altar asked me what I was praying for. My reply was that I needed to be sanctified. As he began to pray with me, more joy and peace came into my life than I had ever experienced before, and I knew that was my sanctification. I got up to go tell my friends about it, but the gentleman stopped me and said, “You could stay here and get your baptism too.” So I knelt back down and prayed again, just wanting to get closer to God. In a wonderful way, the Lord gave me the baptism of the Holy Ghost. That was a great camp meeting!
When we returned home, it was soon time for football daily doubles to begin. I had told God that I would give up football, and I knew that’s what I needed to do. The phone calls started coming to ask why I wasn’t at the two practices each day. When I told the coaches I’d given up football to serve the Lord, it became a very difficult time in our house.
My father was a moral man and taught us many good lessons in life, but he was not godly. One thing he enjoyed was seeing the names of his boys on the sports page telling how they had scored touchdowns or made a winning kick or goal. Dad was proud of his boys! When he found out that I was no longer going to play football, he disowned me. For the next two years, he hardly spoke to me. He did not want anything to do with me because of the shame that he said I brought upon him. His coworkers began to tease him about his son giving up football for religion. He could not deal with the heckling and his frustrations were taken out on me.
Meanwhile, it was necessary to respond to the coaches. The head football coach researched how many professional football players professed to be Christians and came up with a list of ninety-six. He asked, “If these people are Christians and they play football, why can’t you?” God gave me the wisdom to say, “It may be fine for them, but this is what God asked me to do!”
The athletic director could not comprehend that I was willing to give that up “to be religious.” I replied, “It’s not about being religious. It’s about having this peace in my heart that God gave.”
The school athletic director called for me to come to his office. He pulled out a file and showed me six letters of intent from major colleges for football scholarships, even though I was only in my second year of high school. They believed I was that good. The athletic director could not comprehend that I was willing to give that up “to be religious.” I replied, “It’s not about being religious. It’s about having this peace in my heart that God gave.” Additionally, I told him my dad had taught me to be a man of my word—if a promise was made it needed to be kept. God helped me to hold fast to the promise I’d made to Him.
God knew the future and was watching out for me. The young lady who had talked with me at camp meeting became my girlfriend and later my wife. Back then there were no cell phones and long distance calls were expensive, so we wrote letters, sometimes two or three per week. We saved them—Barbara has 214 of my letters and I have 211 of hers! She was an encouragement to me. My pastor also took me under his wing, allowing me to come to the church on Saturdays to help. He treated me like a father would his son and gave such encouragement to help me realize that God did care.
Barbara’s family lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, and they came to my high school graduation. My parents gave permission for me to go back with them and look there for work. I decided that if I didn’t get a job in two weeks, I would return to Roseburg.
My first day in the Bay Area, before I even had an opportunity to open a newspaper, I was offered a job. That morning, when Barbara’s dad arrived at work, he was asked if he knew anyone looking for a job. He suggested they call me, and then they asked to see me right away. Barbara’s dad introduced me to the general manager in the afternoon and I started work the next day. That began my career path for the next forty-six years in the rock-crushing equipment industry, with God helping to protect and advance my position many times over the years.
God restored me into favor with my dad and completely healed the breach that had come because I stopped playing sports. Once I had a full-time job, Dad saw me as being successful, and he came to the Bay Area when Barbara and I were married in 1974. Years passed, and then when he was eighty-two years old, he attended special meetings at the church in Roseburg. From the moment the first note of music was played, Dad wept throughout the service. As soon as an invitation to pray was given, he went forward, and God changed his heart.
Over the years, at times I wondered why God asked me to give up football. Nearly three decades after the fact, an old friend shared with me how much my decision to quit sports and serve the Lord had influenced him and some of our peers to be committed to God. That meant so much to me. While I never regretted the decision to obey God, it was so encouraging to know that it had a positive impact on others.
God has directed Barbara and me in every step of our lives, even in the difficult times. He gave us a son and a daughter, and now we have three grandchildren. We have had sickness, financial issues, and other events that come to many people. Yet God has always been there to take the heavy end of every load, and has guided in each decision that had to be made. God is good! I am so thankful for Him and what He’s done.