I was fortunate to be born to two wonderful, loving, Christian parents. I was baptized as a baby, and when I was old enough to start school, my parents scraped together enough money to send me to St. Paul’s Evangelical Luther Day School. I attended St. Paul’s from kindergarten to the eighth grade. St. Paul’s was a wonderful school, but very strict. Corporal punishment was allowed back then, and my father encouraged it when necessary. I remember having a ½ inch yard stick busted across my backside for acting up in class, which I did a lot.
I was confirmed towards the end of the 8th grade. My parents could not afford to send me to Martin Luther High School, so I went to public school for 9th through 12th grade. But I continued to worship at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, which was right across the street from the grade school. At the age of 18, I joined the Navy, and that’s when my twenty years of wandering began.
I have known people in my life who told me they didn’t need church to worship God, but to be frank, for me, that doesn’t cut it. I can understand meditation, and bible study, but without church you get no professional instruction or interpretation of what the bible is trying to teach us. I grant you there are those who are smart enough to grasp the complexities of the bible, but then you miss out on fellowship with others. I know these to be true, because for twenty years that was me. I really needed a church during my 20 years in the Navy. But I got lost in being 19 and away from home for the first time.
There was a lady named Carlotta Monti who was a companion to the actor W C Fields. In her autobiography “W C Fields and Me” she related a story about a time when Fields was in hospital. As she relates it, John Barrymore one of Fields best friends walked in and caught Fields reading the bible. Fields was supposed to be an atheist. When Barrymore asked him if he was getting religion, Fields replied “No, just looking for loopholes”.
Well, for those twenty years I was in the Navy, I was looking for “loopholes”. Loopholes, a life raft something, because I was just fooling myself; telling myself I was an OK Christian because even though I hadn’t been to church for a long time, even though I was sinning everyday; I always said my prayers at night, apologizing for my sins. Sin during the day; apologize at night, again and again. Much later I discovered my favorite bible passage, one that comforts me to this day; Mark 2:17 “When Jesus heard [it], he said unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
During those twenty years my biggest problem was I liked to drink alcohol; only problem was I didn’t know when to quit. Without going into the sordid details, let’s just say that you do a lot of really stupid things when you drink too much. I used to say the only difference between me and an alcoholic was that I didn’t go to any of those meetings. No, I wasn’t an alcoholic, I was a drunk. This time for comfort, I found 1 Timothy 1:15-16: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
That’s when something wonderful happened, I met an incredible woman named Betty Jane, better known to all of us as BJ, and she is the difference between me and jail or maybe even death. God sent her to me as one last effort to save me, and thank God it worked. I can’t even begin to tell you all that she means to me. She is my wife, companion and my best friend.
After twenty years of wandering, not recognizing God was still with me, BJ and I got stationed in Orlando, FL and God was about to put phase two into effect. Life was good, we had a nice house, good neighbors, we were both working, and yet something was missing. One day the Holy Spirit nudged me (with a sledgehammer just to be sure he had my attention); and out of the clear blue, I asked BJ what she thought about us going to church. She gladly agreed, and so we went looking for a church. The five of us have been together since. The five of us would be BJ, me and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
If we had hours together, I could go on and on, but I did want to talk about one other thing that’s affected our lives. In January 2008 I quit smoking after many years of trying, and that started a chain of events that changed our lives dramatically. On October 23, 2008 at 11:30 in the morning, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. BJ was devastated, and I was numb. But we thought “we can handle this”. Then, approximately January 2009, I was diagnosed with Emphysema. Now I was concerned. I call my condition PD&E. I wanted to start a fraternal group, but I didn’t know anyone else that had both. To top it off, I also was diagnosed with Insomnia and Sleep Apnea. Now it was getting comical. I started to understand the book of Job a little better. It was all funny enough that I started designing t-shirts for people with Parkinson’s that have a sense of humor.
With all the meds I’m taking, I gained approximately 60 pounds and I developed depression. I had no motivation no energy and things looked kind of dim. But God love us, and he gave me a way out. Since I was a kid, I always loved attention, I always wanted the limelight. After high school, I wanted to get into acting, but it didn’t work out. But now, with PD&E, I get all the attention I can handle, and I love all the hugs I get. So don’t feel sorry for me, just smile and give me a hug because I’m doing just fine.
In closing, I would like to quote my favorite ending to a sermon:
Philippians 4:7-8: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Anyone can change!