I went to church a good portion of my early life. Selmont Baptist in Selma, Alabama was one of them. Various unnamed, non-denominational military churches in Lubbock and San Antonio, Texas make up the rest.
In Lubbock, I attended a midnight-mass Catholic service with a friend, Steve Carrico. I didn’t make it to midnight after becoming ill from the incense.
Early in my church attendance I learned Bible stories like David and Goliath. Jonah being swallowed by a whale greatly held my attention. I often wondered what Jonah found floating around in a whale’s stomach? To me the thought was mind provoking.
As the years moved forward I became lost while sitting on hard church pews listening to adult sermons. Much of that preaching was way over my head. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was lost from the beginning.
My years as a young person were generally spent trying to entertain myself. Fishing became a favorite pastime during junior high. I learned to tie flies and used them to fish for salmon at Russian River and Bird Creek in Alaska.
I put to work the infamous Lujon lure, snagging fish when it was legal to do so. That’s a story in itself. One thing I’m thankful of is that alcohol or drugs were never part of my entertainment.
Once I entered high school, cars, motorcycles, and snow machines became a passion. The trio took up a good portion of what free time I had. Working for dad after school kept me busy.
I met a fellow in 11th grade named Jeff Thimsen. Jeff’s dad, Dean, was a missionary preacher and bush pilot. Pastor Thimsen moved to Alaska in the early 1950’s with his wife, Virginia, and infant daughter, Jean.
My new friend told me tales about his family living in rural native villages. I couldn’t imagine residing in a home with no bathtub or shower; even worse, having to use an outhouse in winter.
During our senior year Jeff asked me to attend a movie called, “The Cross and the Switchblade”. He had free tickets which was righteous as I liked to say. My pal mentioned that only young people would be in attendance and there’d be plenty of girls. It sounded like a good flick to me as I’d always wanted one of those cool switchblade knifes.
One of the kids I grew up with had a switchblade. It was a cheap piece of junk his dad brought back from Japan. One day he was showing some younger fellows how it worked. He flipped the switch and the blade swung out before dropping to the floor. I can still hear those boys laughing.
At the conclusion I thought the film was okay, but it needed more action. Telling us to please remain seated, some guy came on a microphone asking for those feeling led by the Lord to come forward. Many did just that.
Jeff asked if I wanted to walk up there saying he’d go with me. I told him not really, but maybe if we hurried there might be some popcorn left. It too was free that night.
A year after graduating (1972), Jeff and I were out cruising. We’d driven in circles all evening long checking out cars and girls. That evening Jeff drove for whatever reason to the baseball fields at Pine Street and DeBarr Road. We never went that direction for anything. He pulled into the parking lot to turn around when I sprung this question,
“Is this what life’s all about? We drive in circles until we run out of gas?”
Jeff realized I was being serious for a change. We sat there and talked for several minutes. He told me that God had bigger plans for my life than cars and cruising Northern Lights Boulevard. That’s when he asked me something,
“If you died right now do you know for sure that you’d go to Heaven?”
I told him that I hadn’t given it much thought.
“Would you like to know for sure?”, he replied.
“Sure!”, I shot back.
Jeff informed me that if I was sincere in what I’d just said, I needed to repeat a simple sinner’s prayer asking Jesus Christ to come into my heart and change me.
That night in Jeff’s 1965 Chevrolet I did just that. After doing so, it felt like a million pounds was lifted from my shoulders. I wasn’t a huggy guy back then, but I did shake his hand.
I’m eternally grateful for Jeff showing me how easy it was (through Jesus Christ), to know that I wouldn’t be going in circles for the rest of my life. I finally had direction after 19 years of being lost.
On that September evening in 1973 I came to the cross and I’ve never looked back!