The Early Years
The first time I "accepted Christ" was in connection with volunteering at a day care center at the church my mom and I were attending at the time. I wanted the job badly, because of the children. The call had gone out for workers, male influences for the children - some of whom came from single-parent families. This made an impact on me, partly because my parents divorced when I was 13, plus - and more importantly - I needed someone who needed me. Love exchanged for love.
Four years later, however, after witnessing some of the hypocrisies and double-mindedness that went on in this "house of God," I left it, and God.
Away from Home
I was 25 before I moved out of my mom's house and got my own apartment. I wanted some distance to be free to make my own mistakes, be responsible for my own messes.
I ended up in a subdivided house in one of the not-too-crime-free residential areas of Portland, Oregon. During that time God was still keeping an eye out for me. Neither my house or car was ever ripped off, broken into, or vandalized, even though there were robberies, shootings, and the like happening all the time within a 20-block radius. Even the house across the street was the target of an arsonist. As I sat and watched it burn, it never occurred to me that, if it hadn't been by the Grace of God, it could've just as well have been my home.
I just continued along in my own merry way.
Looking back, the only thing that got me through the events in my life is God's love for me, and His hand in my life, covering my tail - even when I didn't truly know about Him, or wanted Him to help me.
My First Marriage
In October of 1980 I became re-acquainted with old girlfriend of mine, Lynne. By May of the following year, we were married.
Lynne and I had known each other in high school. She was my first real love. I had been to her a friend, a crying towel, a sounding board. I was there when she needed me to be there. I was there after she got pregnant by another boyfriend, and I was there after she was pressured into getting an abortion. I was dependable and loyal - the quintessential Boy Scout.
In the years following High School, she had gotten married, had a son, and experienced a ton of torment. As a result, she was insecure, and not entirely stable.
When we got back together in 1980, I did not see her as the person she was, but as the girl that I once knew and loved. I did not see the differences. I saw someone who needed me, in the form of her and her three-year-old son. She had also put up a wall, trying to turn off anyone from becoming interested in her ever again. I saw past it. And we became a family.
We were married for almost five years. And there were a lot of problems. I claim most of it, because I was not a strong husband, and I let Lynne become the dominant personality. We had a lot of fights, and - because my security was in her and her son, and not Christ - I was afraid of losing her.
But there were good times. We attended a local Church of Christ. And I accepted Christ - for the right reasons - nine months after we were married. And there were changes in my life. However, my security in Christ was still less than in my wife and son.
We attended that church for a few years, and I was comfortable. Lynne, however, was not. She felt she was being snubbed by the other women in the congregation. She stopped coming to church regularly, turning to a bizarre television preacher. I didn't like him, but she was mesmerized and obsessed. I continued going to the church alone for awhile, because I found fellowship and security there, but eventually left. I was afraid - of Lynne, of her anger, of her head trips and mental abuse, of her threats of leaving me. I couldn't stand that. So my attitude became one of "peace at all costs." I was a coward.
Gospel Outreach Mission
One day in November of 1986, while out of the house with Lynne's son and a friend of his, I met my current pastor.
Lynne preferred solitude while cleaning the house, so we went out, ending up at Marine Park, by the Columbia River. We were down on the boat docks, the boys helping with an incoming boat's mooring lines, and I was looking around at the scenery. Behind me, in a little niche at the water's edge, three people stood waist-deep in the water, surrounded by a few onlookers on shore.
It was a baptism! I watched with interest, remembering what Lynne had told me of witnessing baptisms, and the feelings, re-sharing the exhilaration of her own baptism. I felt this now, and it brought a tear to my eye. I looked back at the boys, who were doing fine, and told them that I that I was going to go over there and put in my hugs to a new brother or sister, and that I'd be right back.
Now, there had been one man there who stood out from the crowd. He had seen me and grinned and waved when he saw my interest in the baptism. He was a giant of a man, and stood a full head taller than my 6'2" height. He had a contagious grin, and a sparkle in his eye that mirrored the Holy Spirit within him. I hugged him - like hugging a grizzly bear - and the person who had been baptized, welcoming her "into the family" of God.
Now, I had been wanting to go to church again, but I wasn't making any efforts into looking for one. Now it came to me.
They had a small home church. And their Sunday services were in the afternoon, not the morning; this interested me, since I was working swing shift, and getting up early wasn't easy (even for church).
I had originally intended to attend this church alone, since Lynne was still interested in this other tv guy. But, much to my surprise, she also expressed some interest in this church. I went alone the first week, to check it out on my own. I was impressed, and we all started going to this little hole-in-the-wall non-denominational church. It impressed me that there wasn't an emphasis on how you dressed - as long as it wasn't immodest, anything was acceptable. I paid a lot of attention to what everybody was doing and how they acted. It was fine, even when I talked to the pastor afterwards and admitted my suspicion. He understood, and was very friendly. Not phony-friendly, but genuine. This was good.
Things started improving. A couple of weeks later, we came with another couple, and the Holy Spirit did a demolition job on pent-up bad feelings Lynne and the other woman had had over the years. It wasn't two songs into the service before the tears started to flow, and the repenting blasted out like a flood gate.
There were many changes in our household, and I was beginning to take the headship of my family. But it was not to last.
The Beginning of the End
On a Sunday in March of 1987, Lynne and I had been fighting again. The bickering continued through church. We returned home, still quarreling, but I soon got fed up with it and went outside to be by myself and pray. I sat on the ground at the outskirts of the parking lot, and talked to God. Lynne's son, at eight years old, joined me, and we talked - it was the last real talk we ever had (which I believe was set up by God). He went back in, and I followed a few minutes later. Looking back, I should've stayed there until I was right with God. But I didn't.
In all irony, we fought over a Bible study. There was taunting, and blows were dealt from both of us. I finally caught her arm a glancing blow from an empty coffee cup, and she called the police to have me arrested. I put up no resistance - my anger was spent, and I knew what I had done was wrong.
I spent the next 12 hours in jail. As I was escorted to my cell, I caught the attention of some other inmates, and felt like fresh meat. I was glad the door was locked, because they would not be able to get in. I was afraid. I was angry. Alone in the cell, I didn't get much sleep. My mind was filled with hatred, bitterness, and thoughts of revenge. For hours, I came up with all kinds of things that I would do against Lynne. I prayed to God to take the anger away from me, but it didn't seem to work.
But God intervened. There was a man in the next cell (whom I discovered later was a mental case who had been put in the cell until he could be moved to a proper facility). Late in the night, he cried out for help. His mournful cry was accompanied by the sound of repeatedly hitting the wall - or the floor (I couldn't tell the difference) - and talking to himself. This went on for quite a while. It finally broke me. My prayer direction changed to intercession, asking God to take the pain away from this man. I asked over and over again, my heart going out to that suffering stranger. I wasn't thinking about my own problems anymore. And God took care of my needs, allowing me a few hours of sleep before wake-up.
The next morning, I was released on my own recognizance, having no prior criminal record.
But there were important decisions I had to make. I didn't want to go back to Lynne. I wasn't right with God, and I knew that if I did go back I'd either kill her or she would kill me. I knew something tragic would happen. So I did the only other thing I knew: I called my pastor and asked him to come and get me. Then I called my employer and told him I wouldn't be in to work.
The pastor's wife came with another brother, and I went back to their house. I told them both the details of what happened, and we prayed together. Then, fatigue catching up with me, they told me to go rest. I wasn't sure I could, but I went into the other room, knelt by the bed, prayed again, and then slept like a baby for several hours.
After The Fall
Lynne went ballistic when she found out I had chosen to get help rather than return to under her thumb. She responded by getting a restraining order against me, kicking me out of my own home, and filing divorce papers against me - all within those first three days!
A few weeks later, I moved into another apartment, alone, and continued pressing into God.
Personal fires abounded, but God took care of them. Because of the Simple Assault (Domestic Violence) charge, I faced the possibility of fines, jail time, and an expensive Anger Treatment program. However, God knocked things down to a small fine, no jail time, and some Anger Control testing which showed that I didn't need the Treatment program. When I faced the possibility of Anger Control counseling - needless, since God was showing me how to handle my anger - a followup order was suddenly "missing" from the County's files. Praise God!! Lynne even tried personal attacks, accusing me of molesting a friend's daughter, and launching fiery darts against the church body, all without a shred of evidence. Our divorce was messy, but things ended with a clean cut. Since I had never adopted Lynne's son, I was not held to child support.
During the fires I was growing in Christ, and it was evidant. My mother and I had been divided in my need to keep peace with Lynne, but now we were getting closer. This closeness continued to the day she died.
I was working with the church, as well as I could while working swing shift. I rode the buses, planting tracts and witnessing to people. I had friends - true friends, in Christ - at the church. I had material blessings, and spiritual blessings too numerous to list.
I'm not what I should be
Postscript, September 2007
Since writing the above in 1996, a lot has happened -
In the latter part of 1999, the very-charismatic Steve Doster persuaded almost all of the congregation that destruction was coming to the world in 2000 with the Millenium, and that their only hope of survival was to flee to a piece of land the church owned in Eastern Oregon. Karen and I didn't fall for the fear-tactics, and – after much prayer – declared that we were staying. We have been living in Portland, Oregon since then, and the destruction they foresaw never occurred – proving, sadly, that they were not listening to the voice of God, but of Satan. In the months and years following their separation, we – and others who heeded the truth above the darkness – were shunned by those in Eastern Oregon. We used to be friends. Now we're enemies to them.
Karen and I are still happily married, and God has worked in us mightily, in ministries like Gospel Messengers and through our popular Christian Fan Fiction "Bronze Saga" novels (which can be found, like this document, on www.memoware.com). We've been members of the Metro Church of Christ in Portland, Oregon since 2004.
The following Bible verse never fails to move me to tears, and remind me of what God has done, and continues to do.
Any comments? Feel free to email me.