Singing a New Song
Music—I enjoyed anything related to it. At school, I was in choirs and bands, and during my high school years, I started a rock and roll band. Since it was just for fun at first, it seemed harmless. But it was not a good choice, and that decision was followed by more bad choices.
My grandma was small in stature but a mighty prayer warrior.
My upbringing had encouraged good choices; I had a rich spiritual heritage. Shortly after World War II, a Navy veteran began holding services in a tent in Roseburg, Oregon. My grandmother and her children were the first family in the Sunday school. Grandma was small in stature but a mighty prayer warrior. She prayed for years for her husband’s salvation, and he was saved just before he died. It was marvelous to see. She prayed for her children and grandchildren as well, and I am sure that her prayers are one of the reasons I am saved today.
When my three older brothers were young, my mother began serving God. I grew up being taken to church and Sunday school, learning the songs and Bible stories. Mom gave us every opportunity to succeed in the Gospel. Although my dad was not a Christian, he supported my mom regarding church attendance. We did not make excuses to stay home because he always encouraged us to go.
One night when I was six years old, I became afraid that the Rapture had taken place, and I knew that I was not ready. I went into my parents’ bedroom and woke my mother. We went downstairs and knelt by a chair to pray. The memory is so clear that in my mind I can still see the upholstery on that chair. As I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my heart, He saved me and took the fear away. It was wonderful! Consequently, I had a great childhood. As I learned music, I was able to play in the church youth orchestra. Later, it was my privilege to be in the adult orchestra and choir.
Starting on a downward course
One day I made a definite choice not to follow God anymore and to just do my own thing. I felt severed—it was a physical feeling of being separated from the Lord.
When I made the decision to start a rock and roll band, my mother warned me not to go down that path. I thought she was overly concerned, so I spoke with our pastor. Although he assured me that my mother’s advice was the best, I was not convinced and kept going forward with my plans. Before long, I began doing things I knew I should not do. One day I made a definite choice not to follow God anymore and to just do my own thing. I felt severed—it was a physical feeling of being separated from the Lord. It almost took my breath away.
From that point, my life began going downhill. Our band started playing in bars, and I began doing things I had said I would never do: drinking alcohol, taking drugs, smoking cigarettes, and chewing tobacco. In the late 1980s I joined a band that was traveling around the country. We went from New Mexico to Wisconsin and many places in between, playing in country bars, state fairs, and other venues. We also traveled in Canada, performing clear up near Alaska.
In February of 1989, we were in Whitehorse, Yukon, for about a month. Just before we left, I met a girl named Tina. We were attracted to each other and stayed in touch through long telephone calls. Sometimes when I checked out of a hotel and paid my telephone bill, it took almost all of my check for the week. Also Tina came to visit me a few times as we were traveling around the United States.
In the fall of that year, our band fell apart, and I went back to Oregon and began working there. In December, I went to Ontario where Tina was working at a ski resort her brother and sister-in-law managed, and I asked her to marry me. Our wedding was in August, 1990. My life was definitely better after that, but it was still full of sin. Drinking was a problem, and it became worse.
Eventually drinking beer and smoking marijuana ran my life. At night, my last thoughts before sleeping would be, Do I have the resources to get some pot tomorrow? Those cravings caused me to be a liar, a thief, and a conniver. God spared me many times when I was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. No doubt it was His answer to the prayers of my mother and grandmother, because I certainly did not deserve His mercy.
In January, 1992, our daughter Ariel was born. As she grew to a toddler, my mother would come and take her to Sunday school. That was something I knew I should be doing but was not.
My wife found the Lord
In October of 1995, I was going deer hunting for the weekend. As I left, Tina told me, “I think I’m going to special meetings tonight.” She had been invited by some of my family members. The whole weekend I was gone, I had a feeling that she was going to get saved. When I came home on Sunday afternoon, she met me in the driveway and said, “I got saved Friday night.” Inside I was happy for her, but a dagger of conviction went through my heart. I knew this meant our life and our marriage was going to change.
God's Spirit would deal with my heart. I would try to make deals with God, but then I would not follow through with my promises.
Tina asked if I would go with her to church and I said yes, but I did not intend on going right away. At some point I expected to go, but each time she asked I made excuse after excuse not to—Sunday after Sunday, month after month. Meanwhile, my life became more and more miserable. Walking our dog at night, God’s Spirit would deal with my heart. I would try to make deals with God, but then I would not follow through with my promises. One night while walking down a main street in Roseburg, a car drove by and someone threw out a thirty-two-ounce container of water. It hit me square in the stomach, and I dropped to my knees, not knowing what had happened. God’s Spirit spoke to me, saying, “That could have been it.”
A few weeks after that, our second daughter, Amber, was born. Tina would take the two girls to Sunday school and church. While they were gone, I would get out my guitar and play and sing church songs—“He Touched Me,” “Fill My Cup, Lord,” and other songs I knew from my childhood. Tears would fall because I knew serving God was what I wanted, but I could not give up the sins that had hold of my life.
A message in a simple song
In 1997, special services were scheduled again at the church in Roseburg. Some ladies in the congregation told Tina and my mother that they were going to pray especially for me. On Saturday night, April 26, there was a music program, and I went. It seemed that the whole evening was pointed directly at me. A young man told about his former drug addiction and how the Lord had delivered him, and the songs spoke of deliverance.
When I stepped toward the Lord, He stepped into my heart and everything changed.
To close the evening, the evangelist talked about the writing of the song “Jesus Loves Me.” It is a simple song that told everything I needed to know—that Jesus loved me. It kind of broke my heart. As I stood there after the service, God’s Spirit gently reasoned with me and asked, “Are you going to walk out again?” At one point I put my hand in my pocket and felt some change. The devil said, “If you get out of here, you can go get a drink.” Yet somehow I knew I had to surrender. I told God, “I don’t know how this is going to work, but I need Your help.” While I was standing there, God came down and saved my soul. The church people sang song after song, and I just wept. The Lord washed over me again and again and made me feel so at home and so at peace. He lifted the burden, and the things that had bound me were instantly taken away. When I stepped toward the Lord, He stepped into my heart and everything changed.
The next day, for the first time, I got up with my family and went to Sunday school and church. While praying after the evening service, I was concerned about going back to my job and facing my coworkers. My prayer was, “Lord, I need all that I can get. I don’t know how I’m going to stand.” God came down and sanctified me. There is a song that says, “I remember how the fire fell when the Lord sanctified me,” and that is exactly what happened. It felt as if God came and burned away the nature of sin. Tina was praying beside me, and she said she could feel the heat! God put a pure love for Him in my heart.
A transformed life
Our household was transformed after that weekend. There was happiness and joy. Of course, the problems of life still came along like they do to everyone, but Tina and I had Jesus to lean on together from that time on, and it made all the difference.
I had many difficult restitutions to make, but God helped me, and my life was so different. When I went to bed at night, instead of thinking about satisfying the addictions that had bound me, the song would come to my heart, “Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul. Thank You, Lord, for making me whole.” That’s what He did.
I just cried out to the Lord, “We need Your help!” He dropped the confidence in my heart that she was healed, and it was done. Her fever and the sickness were gone.
People were seeking God in our church, and the spirit of revival put a love in my heart for God’s house and taught me the necessity of prayer. Also the Lord showed me in many ways that He cares about the details of my life. One time Amber was very sick, and during the night she asked me, “Daddy, why do I have to be sick?” I just cried out to the Lord, “We need Your help!” He dropped the confidence in my heart that she was healed, and it was done. Her fever and the sickness were gone, and she slept the rest of the night. That was a faith-building event in our lives.
God healed me as well. One time a nerve was severed in my shoulder, and the doctor said such injuries just don’t heal; that I would be without that muscle for the rest of my life. We prayed, and the Lord put it back together. It works fine. Another time, I had a condition where the cold would cause my hands and feet to swell until I could not bend my fingers or my toes, and the bottoms of my feet and the palms of my hands itched terribly. One Sunday night during a prayer service, God’s Spirit spoke to my heart, “If you would be prayed for like the Bible says, I will heal you of that.” At my request, the ministers anointed me with oil and prayed for me, and the condition was instantly gone. I’ve never had a problem with that since.
Not long after I was saved, a friend was diagnosed with cancer and had taken a turn for the worse. We had gone around together for years, and I knew he was not ready for Heaven. My heart was heavy as I planned to go visit him. Then we learned that he had been moved to a hospital in Portland. We asked that our ministers there visit him, and we heard back that as they went down the hall, they heard laughter. When they entered the room, they were told that my friend had made things right with the Lord. Just before he passed, I told him, “I’ll see you on the other side” and he smiled at me. God had confirmed His love and mercy yet again.
Filled with the Spirit
On July 10, 1998, about midnight after camp meeting service, God filled me with His Holy Spirit. Again, it made a tremendous change in my life. Right away, I felt God calling me to preach the Gospel. That call was very real, but I just kept it to myself. However, in a few months, our pastor came and asked me to begin preaching. God has helped in every situation, and I felt His help in a brand new way at that point.
As a general contractor with my own business, God took care of me when times were hard. One time I fell about ten feet from a ladder that was on a scaffolding, landing flat on my back. I thought my pelvis and back were broken, but God spared me any broken bones. Although I was very sore for several weeks, I was able to continue working. The Lord had helped me land in one small spot between concrete and a stack of lumber; it was the safest place possible.
Over the years God has been with us and blessed in many ways. He has been close and so real. We have seen Him support people facing hard challenges, and I have felt that myself at times when I did not see how we would make it through a difficult situation. As our children are getting older and are leaving home, there is some renewing of consecrations and putting them back into His hands, and we are experiencing a new trust in God that they will always be in His care.
It is exciting to serve God. I have never wished that I had chosen differently on that day in 1997. I only wish I had chosen to give my life to the Lord sooner. My whole desire is to do what God wants me to. He has given me life abundant here, and a lively hope of life everlasting.