My Testimony of Jesus Christ
Prior to 1989, I was a child. Literally and spiritually. I grew up in a really nice area of Oregon called Durham. I went to church as a kid semi-regularly.
When money was tight, my mother would have us attend church more regularly and I later discovered how much the church was doing to support us. We had boxes of food show up at the house periodically and that was a result of the church.
"Love does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered," 1 Corinthians 13:5
We would often show up to the Sunday BBQ event after church and bring nothing with us to contribute. I thought that was cool but didn't think too hard about it.
"But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:37-39
In 1989, I went on a road trip with my mom and my Grandma Stowe. We drove out to a little town in Idaho called Lapwai. On the drive out, I listened to NWA on my tape player the entire way. I had headphones in so my mother and grandmother had no idea what I was listening to.
While visiting my great grandmother (grandma Stowe's mother), I was blessed by God. The way it went down was like this. The hospice lady asked me if I wanted to pray with her. She asked me to gather all the people in the house who wanted to pray. It was me, my mom (reluctantly), grandma Stowe (reluctantly), and my great-grandma who was nearly at the end of her life.
During that prayer, the Holy Spirit made it clear to me that God is real. I literally let go of my thoughts and feelings. I recall saying to myself something like, “What have I got to lose. I might as well just go for it and let God have me”.
For several hours after the prayer, I felt unusually light and strong. The entire world changed for me that day. For a long time, I thought everyone who accepted God had a similar experience immediately following the moment of submission and acceptance.
"For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7
I remember jumping higher (literally), lifting bails of hay that were my weight and not feeling tired, wandering around the farm and taking it in for what felt like the first time. Colors seemed more vivid, textures felt more real, etc. It wasn't until later that I discovered this is not how God shows up for everyone. This was how God showed up for me.
Since that day in Lapwai, I have grown and grown and grown. My life has been far from perfect but gradually has become fully God's life to do as he wills.
As a teenager, I was living on my own at 16, but God had me. I joined the Marine Corps at 17 and departed for bootcamp before I was 18. God protected me while I served my country.
Though I was in during a time of conflict, I was never called to the front lines. I went on to be given the greatest gift I could have ever dreamed of. A family that loves one another.
Growing up, I didn't have the love I felt I needed but God had me the whole time and I didn't know it until I accepted him. I've had challenges and successes over the years but I have come to understand that it's all for Him. The hard times are for Him. The easy times are for Him. The blessings I feel are for Him.
The blessings I create for others are for Him. My time, money and resources aren't mine at all. They work to serve God and his dream for the world. I'd like to share some of those challenges and then some of the blessings.
The Challenges I've Overcome Through Christ
As I've grown up, I've discovered the blessing of facing challenges. As a poor kid growing up in an affluent area, I found myself straddling different worlds. I hung out with kids who most of the world would see as rich kids. They had nice houses in suburban towns. Their parents were pharmacists, CEO's, former professional athletes, business owners, accountants, etc. Needless to say, they made a good wage.
My mother raised two boys. She was a server at a mid-range breakfast restaurant. In a good year, we were hungry and cold. On a bad year, we were hungry and cold.
I know the world a bit better today than I used to and realize we still had it better than many kids in the world. The interesting part to me is the lessons God inserted into my life.
I grew up getting boxes of food from the church. I didn't realize for the longest time why boxes of food would show up on the porch of our rinky-dink tiny house. They just did. We would go through the box when it would show up and decide what we'd eat right away. It was like Christmas for our bellies.
I worked since I was 11. I viewed work as a source of freedom so work ethic began to come easily to me. The good Lord saw it wise to teach me "work ethic" from a place of joy and freedom and for that I'm grateful.
Looking back, it's easy to see how much of my childhood was shaped by growing up really fast. Though I wouldn't change it for anything today, I have moments where I wish I could have been a kid more but I was able to hold on to child-like qualities so it's clear God knew what he was doing when he shaped me.
I fell in love for the first time when I was 14. It never became much in the way our culture would define relationships but I learned I was also loveable. Again, God got it right. He knows my inclination to be physical. Should we have done any more than we did, I would probably have questioned my lovability for many more years.
At the age of 17, I saw my parents on the same couch for the first time in my life. They were signing papers for me to be legally emancipated so I could sign myself into the Marine Corps. I left shortly after to be a 2531 Field Radio Operator. I learned a lot from my time in the Corps. I learned leadership, global awareness, sacrifice, and many other lessons along the way.
While I was in the Marine Corps I succumbed to many cultural pressures. I was immature in my relationship with God still and did not understand the importance of critical thinking skills.
I was ripe to fall for the influences around me. Many of those influences took me some time to realign and thanks to the support of my wife, the battles have been made easier. She has been my accountability partner since we met.
Blessings to Others Through Me
Since finding God in 1989, God has used me to change lives in big ways. I've worked in residential treatment facilities, I've shaped the world my family knows as family, I've worked with gang members and I've done numerous other things to get to where I am.
This is one of the most challenging areas for me to address because I don't often see the fruit of my work. I'm occasionally reminded that it's impacting lives.
Blessings to Me from God
God has blessed me with the one desire I had as a child. A family. He gave me the blessing of a wife that is committed to making family near the top of all priorities.
God has given me two girls to love and teach. They usually do the teaching. God has blessed me with a life in North Idaho with more things than I ever thought I could have grown up. God has grown me in every aspect of my life and for that, each day is a blessing of new sorts.
Truths God has Shown Me
I need God, I'm supposed to love above all else, God is with me when I know it or when I don't, God is doing things for my good, God is good, God is love,
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
At the end of the day and the end of my life, I have come to learn that only a few things truly matter.
First, God knows I love Him and put Him before anything else. Second, God's life shows up when others look at my life. Third, that other are inspired to join God because I existed.
If all of these things happen, my name will show up in God's book when I enter the pearly gates of heaven. Selfishly, that's what I'm working toward. The irony is that it takes complete selflessness to achieve this end.
I have humbly given my life to God. I accept that He may choose for me what I would rather not do at times but he will also give me the way through it. This is my story and my only hope is that one person is saved because of it. God bless you and be with you always.
Miracles I Witnessed
Holy Spirit (above)
Grandpa passed shortly after my arrival
Countless kids changing course and many finding God on the way
Gangs changing patterns
Friends and family coming to God's side
Pretty much everything in my life