How to Draw a Cartoon
Artist in Residence
About the Author
My Personal Testimony
As you will clearly see by my writing, I have no doubt about the existence, authority or compassion of God. He told us how He was going to save us from our sins a great many times over the hundreds and even thousands of years before He delivered on His promise. He has never wavered, nor has He ever needed a mulligan (redo) on His prophecies. He gave to us a gift without any merit on our part. It was the greatest gift that has ever been given. Would you have expected anything less from our magnificent Father?
He gave us salvation by grace through His Son, Jesus Christ. And because God the Son bore our sins on the cross, hundreds of millions of people all over the world are receiving salvation through faith. They are becoming believers of God and making Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior in their hearts. These are people like you and me. None of us have any chance for “earning” salvation on our own. Our salvation comes when we accept the “gift”. Jesus Christ is the “gift” and He has become the “Light of the World.” By using the Holy Spirit, every single day flocks of people are discovering this wonderful gift and accepting it into their hearts (See Romans 10:8-13). When Jesus comes a second time to judge the living and the dead, you can rest assured that you will be at His side for the rest of our eternal life. Thanks be to God!
Now for a little insight into my personal journey. I’m not going to give you the whole story because, that in itself is a whole messy book. However I am going to share with you a couple of very personal stories that literally changed my life. They were instrumental in providing me with a wake up call, and allowed me to change the focus of my life from being self-centered to one of searching for our Lord and Savior. I am not proud of my past, in fact I bow my head in shame as I recall the master that I was often serving with my actions. It has been a long and difficult journey. One that will not be completed until the day that I cash in my chips and follow the bright light. But one thing I can emphatically state, every day I grow closer to God through His Word and Spirit.
To begin this story, you really need to know how much of a mess I had become in my earlier life. Most people who knew me growing up would be shocked to hear this, because I probably looked like I had it all together. I was gifted in athletic ability, could get good grades without studying, always had a smile on my face and was a very hard worker. From all outward appearances, I looked like the all-American kid growing up in a very small town.
For much of my youth I probably fit that description, however it wasn’t enough to satisfy me. I needed a crutch and my good friend, alcohol, was the comfortable salvation that I reached for. I am revealing my story in deepest humility, because I hope it will give others a chance for eternal salvation. If the Holy Spirit can lead me out of the path of darkness and into the light of our Savior, Jesus Christ, then I know that anyone can come to know the same level of faith that rests in my heart. You will soon get a good reading on how much I have been moved by the Holy Spirit. Our Lord Jesus Christ wasn’t kidding when He said that faith can literally move mountains.
I remember at bedtime, as a small child of 10 or 11, how I would lay in the pitch-black basement of our house after the lights were turned out. I slept in the basement with my two brothers in one large room that had two beds. My older brother Randy had his own bed, and my younger brother Mark and I slept together. He was less then 11 months younger than I, so we were almost like twins.
In fact, there was only a five year time-span that separated all four of us kids. My sister, Debby, was the youngest and she was lucky enough to have her own bedroom and better yet, it was even above ground! She could actually see the sun and the moon. We didn’t see a thing in the cover of darkness that blanketed our room after the flick of the light switch. Our bedroom in the basement didn’t have a window. But it was the best that my parents could do. We had a small house, because that’s all we could afford. Even though it was only a $60 per month house payment, it was a stretch for my parents in those early years.
My mom and dad worked their hearts out at low paying jobs. Neither had a high school diploma. They both dropped out of school in the 8th grade. My father quit because he wanted to start earning some serious money and thought that school was a barrier to this goal. I remember so clearly the pain in his voice when he told me, in retrospect, how disappointed he was that Grandpa Oliver never forced him to go back to school. It was a mistake that he wouldn’t make with his children.
My mom dropped out because she met and fell in love with my dad. Shortly thereafter, he got her pregnant. That was the end of her schooling. He was 21 years old at the time and she was 15. Her parents were furious with her. I have so much love and respect for my mother, because she never considered abortion. I have respect for my dad, because he stepped up to the plate and took responsibility for his unborn child. He married my mom and they became one under God.
As a result, that unborn child became my older brother Randy, who is now a 54 year-old brother-in-Christ. In fact, Randy was extremely instrumental in guiding and encouraging me on my road to coming to know the power of Jesus Christ. The Lord continually amazes me on how He can take what some would perceive to be the worst of a situation and use it as a testament to His glory.
Neither my mother or father complained about the tough cards that their choices in life had dealt them. Their only wish was that their four rambunctious children would have it easier than they had. They simply wanted us to have a better life. I think that is indicative of that generation. I still remember my father telling me that school wasn’t optional. It was understood that I would get a high school degree, because a good education would open doors for me that were never open to him. I wasn’t even allowed to entertain the idea of dropping out. In fact, I think one of the happiest days of his life was the day I received my college diploma from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology for Electrical Engineering. I can honestly tell you that my Dad was my hero. He was humble enough to tell you where he had messed up in his life. Marrying mom wasn’t one of them. She was his pride and joy. She completed my father.
Anyway, back to bedtime. Because of the small house, there were only two bedrooms upstairs. My folks slept in the big one, which barely had enough room for a full size bed and a couple of dressers. My sister slept in the small one, in which you could squeeze a twin bed and a tall dresser. We three boys had to sleep downstairs. Now please keep in mind that this was before building codes. My parents had no choice but to put us in the basement. For many years we slept down there, even though there were no egress windows for escape in case of a fire. That’s just the way it was back in those days. At least we had a house of our own. We never had to deal with a fire in our house, but I remember something that was even more frightening to me than being trapped in a blaze.
I would lay awake in bed, deep in thought, after my brothers had finally fallen asleep. That’s when I would lay in solitude and the dark would begin to suffocate me in fear as I thought about life and death. I’m serious! I’m not making this up. My eyes were closed and I would think big thoughts. Tremendous thoughts, and it scared the dickens out of me. As I contemplate those memories, they are still as clear to me today as they were 40 years ago. The thought that froze me with panic was the picture of what happened to you the day after you die. Is that it? Do you vanish to dust and then that’s it for eternity? Poof! Never to live again. Your soul disappears into nothingness? Is that all there is? Believe it or not, that’s where my mind was in those early years.
Life is long in the eyes of a 10 year old, but eternity is forever and I knew how scary the thought of disappearing forever was to me. After all, time really begins the day after you die. You may be scratching your head at that one, but in relative terms, a truer statement was never uttered. Consider that perhaps you have enjoyed a long and happy life and was blessed to reach 100 years before you cashed out your ticket. That is a long time compared to a 10 year old’s life. However let’s go the other direction and compare it to 1,000 years. That is only 10% of 1,000 years. How about 10,000 years? That is only 1%. Consider a college basketball game which is 40 minutes in length. That seems like a long time with lots of opportunities to enjoy the performance of two competitors and plenty of time for each team to work their magic in trying to come up with a win. Now consider what our 100 years of life would be like compared to 10,000 years, which is a small slice of eternity. This would be like expecting to enjoy a whole NCAA finals basketball game that is 24 seconds in length. That is one single shot clock possession if you were in the pro’s. You better not get up and get a snack for the start of the game, because it’s over in a flash. If you blink, you miss it. That’s life!
Now let’s take the big step and consider what is 100 years compared to eternity? As my mind began to get around the idea of what the next day would be like, after my last day on earth, I began to get really nervous. I realized how insignificant my time truly was on earth. My stomach would get nauseated, just like when you go over a big bump in a very fast car. My heart would begin to race and the darkness in my mind would seem larger and larger until it was swallowing everything up. I would be shivering with fright as I forced open my eyes in the pitch dark room and tried to clear my mind. This happened on many nights during my childhood. The same paranoia and the same jolt to shake me out of the feeling of being just a tiny speck of life in the history of time.
I have since found a verse in the Bible that sums up my thoughts in a very concise manner:
Psalms 103:15-16 “As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind blows over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.”
This stated my thoughts, feelings and fears in the perfect context. We are like a flower of the field. We are beautiful, unique, colorful, alive and startling when we are in full bloom. We are a lovely part of the beautiful mosaic picture of life. But the problem is that it is simply a snapshot in time. We are still boxed in by the confinement of time. We can’t control it. It controls us. Time goes by and there will be a new picture. A new flower. Perhaps even a new background. If our heart is in the world, as much as we try to avoid the thoughts, we won’t be in the next picture.
The winds of life have blown over us and we rapidly disappear from view, both literally and figuratively. Within a generation or two our place remembers us no more. If you don’t believe me, then ask yourself this; How much do you truly remember about your Great Grandfather or your Great Grandmother? Probably not even their full names. Similar to the ashes of their bodies, they are a whisper of dust in the wind of our memories. That’s where we are heading if our goal is the glory of this world. This world does not have a long-term audience nor a long term memory. The people of the world are busy getting on with the destruction of their lives. That’s it! Those were my thoughts exactly. That is what kept me locked in petrified mortification for endless nights in the dark, cool, musty basement of my early youth. After life ends, then what?
So what role did religion play in my mental makeup as a youth? I was raised as a Methodist and was confirmed with six others when I was in 8th grade.
I went to church with my family in our small town of Lynd on a fairly regular basis. I believed in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but in all honesty, I placed myself above all else. I did not really know and trust in the Lord with all my heart. I thought Jesus was my Savior, but I did not make Him my Lord. Church was not something that I willingly spent a lot of time in, either physically or mentally. I honored myself and my abilities more then I trusted in the Lord. Within a few short years, my life was a miserable failure, even though to the outside world it appeared as if I was on top of the world.
I had the tremendous opportunity to grow up in a small town. People knew each other and your trust was earned. Even if you didn’t have much money, your word was worth a lot. You didn’t feel uncomfortable asking or giving help. It simply was what you would do. You worked hard for everything you had, but somehow there was comfort in knowing that you were responsible for your own outcome. I came from a small farming town of 200 people and my high school graduating class had a whopping total of 17 kids. I wouldn’t trade that childhood for any amount of riches.
From there I was able to build a phenomenal career by joining the Air Force. The military took a kid that had spent most of his high school life focusing on working and playing sports, and literally opened the door to a whole new world that I had never even contemplated. They taught me the power and wonder of the atom and it’s electrons, protons and neutrons. Over the course of 9 months, I learned all about electronics through their excellent schooling in Biloxi, Mississippi. Four years later when I had completed my Air Force tour, I rushed into marriage as well as college. I then received my 4 year Electrical Engineering degree by completing the 136 credit program in 3 ½ years. I graduated with high honors, a whole lot of pride, and a brand new baby daughter named Kari. My dad and mom were filled with pride and I was full of myself. I was blessed with an awesome job, a great family situation and the whole world was ahead of me.
But it wasn’t enough. I was being carved out on the inside by the devil. I gave him the knife and he gladly did the fileting. I was everything I wanted to be and I was at the top of my game, but it wasn’t enough. I filled the emptiness on the inside with alcohol and pride. The devil must have danced in delight as he watched me do his work. I controlled my destiny and eventually ended up being controlled by the very choices I was making. I was rapidly coming to a point in my life where I would have everything that I deserved. I was working 60-70 hours a week and was quickly moving up in a major corporation. With the crutch of alcohol and a generous portion of self-righteous pride, I cheated on my wife, first in thought, then in word and finally in deed.
I had two preschool children that thought the sun rose and set on me. The primary desire of my children was simply a bigger portion of the small slice of life that I had left over for them. Yet I can remember times when I spent many Sunday afternoons in a drunken stupor sleeping on the living room couch as they anxiously stood by a snoring Dad, waiting for their special time.
It was despicable in how I treated my wife, family and friends when I was in a drunken daze. I could be your best friend or your worst enemy; it simply depended on which way the switch was flipped for that particular drunken moment. I thought I was superman. I knew everything and I wasn’t afraid to tell you of your shortcomings. I wasn’t a daily drunk, but I was a weekly drunk. The ones closest to me had to deal with it. I was simply my worst nightmare and I didn’t even know it. I was too smart to know how dumb I really was.
I separated from my wife and my kids, and I felt like I had finally found the answer. It wasn’t long however, before I found I was still shackled to the same problem. As much as I tried to get away from it, I found that it was impossible to evade. In the end I discovered that you cannot hide from yourself. The chicken will eventually come home to roost and it was literally crowing up a storm in my backyard. I began to realize that my problems were bigger than me. Through my own control, I was tearing up many lives. Perhaps the problem was what was inside of me. Or perhaps what wasn’t inside of me. I was full of myself and the devil was perfect at playing his winning hand. I was not filled with the light that could have led me out of my darkness. I couldn’t flip that light switch on, and in fact, I had gotten to the point where I didn’t even know a switch was possible. I couldn’t take the pressure of failure anymore. I was too successful to be a failure. It was an embarrassment to my intellect, to my power, and most of all, to my pride.
However I still needed to be in control. So instead of turning to God and seeking his forgiveness, I took a 22 caliber pistol and set about solving the problem in my own way. In the dead of night I left my lonely apartment in Omaha, Nebraska where I was king of the world. I left my high paying job and all of my so-called friends and business acquaintances. I drove many miles north into Missouri Valley until I finally found a quiet farmer’s field in the middle of the night. It was cool and pitch dark, just like my memories of a childhood basement when nothing was moving except for the racing thoughts of a child’s anxious mind.
With steely determination I made the final decision to go forward with my plan. I turned off the dusty road and drove into the entrance of a large field. I made my way slowly along the left edge of the fence as it led me deep into the length of the rough grassy hill. I rolled to a halt as I came to a spot that was dark, hidden and isolated. It was truly the metaphor of my life. I clutched the cool pistol handle in my hand and walked the final 100 yards up a hill where I came to a hidden railroad track that was tucked behind a growth of bushes at the top of the hill. I sat down and began to think about the one-way trip I was making down the hidden tracks of my life. It wasn’t long before sorrow settled in and tears began to swell up in my eyes. As you probably know by now, I like to maintain strict control. But hard as I tried, I knew I was fighting a losing battle. I finally gave in and let my emotions take over my life. I began to sob and then let the tears flow in somber reflection. I was wallowing in self-pity and was trying to work up enough nerve to make everyone pay for laying all of this at my feet. My life was a mess and there was no way out. I couldn’t ask God for help. I was too strong. I wasn’t about to give up power, even though I was at the point where I was deceived by the devil to the brink of the ultimate greed. You see, I wanted to kill myself to make everyone feel sorry for me. In the end, it was still all about me. I was still on that train racing towards my final destination. Even though I was going to ride it over the cliff, at least I was at the wheel and in control. So even on this night I was going to direct the events. I would choose the time, the place and the manner in which I died. Isn’t that the ultimate challenge to the authority of God? The devil was proud. I was his man. We were in control. As another tear ran off my face, I decided it was time to bring this to a conclusion, so I pulled back the trigger of the pistol.
Fortunately for me, God wasn’t about to let me off that easily. He was still reaching out for me. He never gives up! Even though I had been sitting in the middle of nowhere for over an hour, something weird was about to happen.
I was in a spot where no one in the world could have found me. It was two in the morning and nothing was moving. It was pitch-black and the darkness had snuffed out the light. I cried out to God to help me and forgive me for the mess I had made in my life. I raised the barrel of the loaded pistol to my chest (not my head, because I couldn’t stand the thought of ruining my brain, even though it was obvious that there wasn’t much there). I began to slowly squeeze the trigger.
Then suddenly, in retrospect, I saw the hand of God on my life. Out of nowhere came headlights along the long gravel road. As I sat there in breathless anticipation, with my finger on the trigger, I waited for the car to pass on by. God had other plans! It was the first headlights that I had seen since I had been sitting there. As they approached my field, the headlights actually seemed to be slowing down. At this point I was beginning to get a little nervous. The timing was a little disconcerting to say the least. As you can imagine, I almost leapt out of my skin when the headlights came to a halt and turned right into the approach which led to the field that I happened to be sitting in. I watched in stunned silence as the car came into the field and rolled to a halt at the bottom of the hill that I happened to be sitting on. I remember as clearly as it was yesterday, and I thought to myself, “Wow, what are the chances of that?” It only took a couple of minutes for all of this to unfold, but it gave me a lifetime to reflect. I sat there in amazement and fear as I watched this car turn to the right and roll over a small hill and into a hidden gully about 50 yards before they would have found my car. I was totally stunned by the likelihood of this happening. I slowly slid my finger off the trigger and let the barrel fall helplessly away from my chest.
It was at that exact second that I had a revelation. I wasn’t going to take my life. Not that night, and not ever. I can’t tell you exactly what caused the 180 degree turn, except that it had to have been the Holy Spirit. I buried that deadly thought on that lonely, dark hill, and I walked quietly down to my car and drove out of the field. Even though I was looking intently for that other vehicle as I made my way out, I could not see it. It must have been tucked away in the valley. That night at just the right moment God had guided someone to that secluded field. To this day I don’t know who it was, but I do know why they were there. On the darkest night of my life, God saved me from an eternity of hell. To say the least, I was unnerved by the coincidence of this timing and I had a lot to think about as I drove onto the gravel road and headed back to my apartment.
God touched me that night. I had finally asked him to come into my life. If you ask with a sincere heart, He will come. Even though, over these last 23 years, my life would be a long, long, work in progress, I eventually resolved my inward focus problem and began to seek and walk towards the light of our Lord. It is a walk that started slowly and has only in the last few years ignited into a full-blown sprint. I now know why I am put on this earth, and it isn’t about me. I am on fire for the Lord. I thank God for allowing me to experience His Holy Spirit, and to see with open eyes what He did through His Son on my behalf. I no longer have those visions of death that are followed with the frightening thought of vast emptiness. I know where I am going. There is nothing empty about it. It is the opposite. I have been given a gift, just like you have.
Romans 5:8-11 "But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
God loves us so much that He gave us His one and only Son, while we were still enemies with Him. He didn't wait until we were perfect. He gave everyone on earth a Savior, but it is up to us to make Him our Lord. We need to make Him our Lord and Savior to have everlasting life. Which Lord are you serving today? The lord of this earth, or the Lord that died for you? You can't have two masters. I know, because I was there. I acknowledged my Savior on an occasional Sunday, but I eagerly raced into the arms of the lord of darkness the rest of the time. I was destined for hell.
What is so amazing is that God told us all about Christ in the Old Testament hundreds and even thousands of years before He brought Him to earth incarnate in man. He has been trying to tell and show us His love through His plan for our redemption, salvation and sanctification throughout the whole Bible. He has paid our fine and released us from captivity. We need only to open our eyes and look upward instead of inward. If it is possible for me, anyone can come to the Lord.
One final chapter still needs to be told. After my near suicide, I had gotten back together with my wife and attempted to make things work. In fact it even seemed like things were going to fall into place. My life was not perfect, but it was a little better balanced and I was focusing more on my family and a little less on alcohol and me. I still had a huge canyon to cross before I was truly at the point of putting the Lord at the center of my life, however things seemed to improve and time passed. Before I knew it, we were well into the next summer. Just as I was feeling like my life was on a solid foundation, the floor literally fell out from under my feet. I lost the anchor of my life in the flash of an eye on a hot summer afternoon.
That day was August 1st, 1986, and it will tear at my heart for the rest of my life. I was at work in Omaha, Nebraska at the corporate headquarters building of Northwestern Bell. I had just been promoted to a new job as a 2nd level manager and was still in the process of getting my feet wet. It was shortly after lunch and I received a call from my wife, who was a stay-at-home mom with our two little toddlers, Kari and Gary II. I knew immediately that something drastic had happened by the strain in her voice. My heart raced while I waited to discover just what it was. Within two sentences of the conversation, I was informed that my dad had been killed in a saw accident and I don’t remember hearing any thing else. My world came crashing down. He was my rock. I couldn’t breathe. I put the phone down in a trance, stood up without saying a word, and made a straight line for the inner steps of the building. The door to the steps were near the elevator and I was able to slip into the quiet, lonely inner stomach of the building and collapsed onto the top steps of the 5th floor. I jammed my head into my hands and madly fought a losing battle trying to hold back the tears. I didn’t know what to do. I had taken the bus to work. I didn’t even have a way to get home. I was alone. I had lost my best friend. I had lost my biggest inspiration in life. I had lost my hero. He was the center of my life. He was my rock. I was beyond devastated.
He was in the golden era of his life. He was only 52 years old and was strong as a horse. Unfortunately he came across a table saw that recognized neither heroes nor the strength of a horse. The saw was old, dirty and in fact had lost the use of its on/off switch. My dad, being a man of action, had bypassed the switch entirely by wiring it directly to the cord. That certainly solved the broken switch problem, however it opened a whole new can of worms.
My whole family and an untold number of friends life’s were put into a shock that was beyond comprehension because of something small, almost invisible to the human eye. Something that should have been caught, but like so many other things in life, simply got overlooked. Over the course of my Dad’s recent remodeling project on the house which I grew up in, he had been using this old beat-up table saw for all of his lumber cutting. My Dad didn't know it but a small allen screw on the shaft of the table saw had slowly worked itself loose. You wouldn’t think that this would have been such a big deal, however the location and purpose of this allen screw made this outcome catastrophic. You see, this allen screw was designed as a safety device to securely hold a nut in place on the shaft. The nut itself needed this backup because its function was so critical. It was all that remained between the high-powered blade staying on the shaft or drifting off the shaft and racing across the table in an angry high-pitched scream. Keep in mind that this blade turns at thousands of revolutions per minute.
Well on August 1st, 1996, in the garage of my boyhood house, my younger brother Mark and his 9 year-old son Travis, watched as the blade drifted around the shaft and slowly began to move across its length. With the allen screw being loose, the nut had gotten to a point where it was also loose and was no longer doing its job of holding the blade securely on the shaft. My dad caught my brother’s eye across the garage and, without saying a word, they both instantly knew the danger. My dad had no switch which could shut it off, so he was forced to make his way to the front of the table saw to unplug the extension cord before it was too late. As he walked to the front of the saw and was in the process of pulling the plug, the blade was done dancing on the shaft and was ready to leap into action on the table. And that is exactly what it did. According to my little brother, in the flash of an eye the blade slipped off the shaft, hit the table and screeched across the metal top launching itself toward my father’s body. My dad stood there in utter disbelief as the blade screamed across the table, raced through his stomach, up his chest, through his chest plate, ripped across his heart and flew up into the air and fell to a resting place on the garage floor. The screaming of the blade was over as quickly as it had raced into action. It’s work was now done. The sun was about to set on my dad’s wonderful life and darkness was about to engulf mine.
My dad stood there holding his stomach with both hands, as he told my brother Mark, “Call 911!" Mark raced into the house intent on following the most important order of his life, but the life of my dad was quickly slipping away as he crumpled to the garage floor. Before my brother could even finish the call, my dad was with our Lord. His blood was still pooling and searching out the weathered cracks of the old cement floor, when Mark raced out to convey that help was on the way. Unfortunately, the saw had severed the primary arteries going into my dad’s heart and the only saving that would be done on that day involved his soul and it was in the loving hands of our Lord.
At that point in time, my faith was still in its early stages of growth, and after my Dad’s death, my faith went on life support. I became angry with God, and I was damned if I was going to pray or go to church to look for help. The devil was back in the saddle and ready to cut me from the herd. When I lost my dad, I lost my anchor in life, as well as my best friend. I have never felt such agonizing pain. I was cut to my soul. My mortality was jammed right into my face. His death not only crushed me, but it dealt the final blow to my marriage. I decided that life was short and I had better live it for myself. I wrestled with many questions and thoughts, but thanks be to God, one thing I never again contemplated was suicide.
I moved to Arizona and messed my life up a little more here and there, but the Lord did not give up on me. I rushed into another marriage, which lasted less then a year, and then walked out dejectedly into my second divorce. I was now 33 years-old and I decided that there had to be more to life than a successful career. That was the only thing that I was outstanding at, so I threw my career away as well. I quit my high-paying job as a Marketing Manager and decided to start all over again as an author, illustrator and independent publisher of children’s books. Although it ranks up there as one of the craziest things I have ever done, considering I was actually trained to be an Electrical Engineer, it actually was the beginning of the path which would lead me into the arms of our Lord.
I must stop here and give thanks to the mother of my children. Her name is Kris and she was my first wife. She put up with a lot of terrible behavior when I let the alcohol consume me. Even through an unwanted divorce, she did not hold the children against me. She always allowed me to see our two children and never used them as a way of getting back at me. Because of her actions, I was able to stay connected to my children. I was the father in their life. She gave me the rope to hold onto so I could have a relationship with the two most important people that the Lord had put into my life. Kari and Gary II gave me great joy and tremendous thankfulness during those tough years. They still do. Once again, I must say with all of my heart, “Thank you so much, Kris.”
Through the years of this children’s book business, I have had a lot of time to think about life and our Lord, while driving nearly 50,000 miles every year. It was a very humbling experience. It gave me the opportunity to see just how insignificant we are in the vast scheme of things, especially if our goal is trying to impress the world for our own benefit. I would not trade a single moment of those early years, because that is how God opened my heart to the Holy Spirit, and through the word of God, build a relationship with Him through Christ. It is amazing how hard God worked to loose me from the things of this world. I remember in the early years, I was so broke that I was forced to sleep overnight in the back of my old beat-up 1983 Ford van in Valley City, North Dakota during the last grips of winter during the early frozen days of March. It was so cold that even though I was buried in a sleeping bag, I was worried that my teeth would chip from the constant chattering. All through the night I’d pull my head out from inside the sleeping bag and glance at my watch just begging for the time to go by quickly. I was waiting for the hour when the cafe would open so I could get a hot cup of coffee and begin to get the ice out of my veins.
It wasn’t a good life, but it made me realize how weak I was and how much I needed the Lord. I also had countless hours of travel and quiet time to read God's word. I could tell you dozens of stories of my misadventures, but I have already put you through enough. Suffice it to say that I had learned that I was nothing on my own, and I came to realize where I needed to focus my life. In the early years of my business, I was poor in terms of wealth, however for the first time in my life, I was beginning to become rich in faith. I was learning that money will come and go, but the Lord is always with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. All you have to do is turn to Him and invite Him into your life. It will never be the same. He will bless you in ways you could never imagine. I’m speaking from personal experience. My biggest blessing has been the peace that He has put in my heart, and the fire for His Word that He has lit inside me.
I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit allowed me to come across the most reassuring story I have ever been blessed to hear. Our Lord allowed my dad’s sister to share a story with me in the late 1990's that took hold of my heart and touched my very soul. My Aunt’s name was Maryann and she was the second oldest of my Grandparents nine children. She was the ultimate nurturing big sister, and my dad was her little Merlie.
I stopped in to see Maryann at a little town called Slayton, in southwestern Minnesota. Maryann had a multitude of health problems, not the least of which was a broken heart from when my dad had died. I knew that the end of her life was not in the distant future, but looming much closer in the shadows of today. For some reason I felt a calling to see her. I don’t know why, but I knew I had to. So after not having seen her for the many years since my dad’s death, I took the time and went out of my way to stop in and pay her a surprise visit. It was the one and only time that I would see her in the quiet comfort of her Slayton home. During the course of that visit, which I knew the Holy Spirit had made possible, Maryann shared her story with me. It involved her being on her deathbed in the previous year and how she had come face-to-face with Paradise. The details of her story, as best as I can recollect it, went as follows.
Maryann was home alone and had been very sick for a long time. She had kidney malfunctions and was even required to go on dialysis. She was very anemic and her quality of life was greatly diminished. On this particular day, she was home alone when she experienced some sort of a hemorrhage which caused her to pass out and fall to the floor. She was later discovered lying there and was literally on her deathbed.
It was in the next few minutes of her story when the fog of my life began to break. She gave me great comfort and was able to finally still my troubled heart. The hand of God blessed my soul and strengthened my faith through my frail, sickly, Aunt Maryann. I was stunned as she told me her testimony beaming in radiance.
She described to me how, in that moment on her deathbed, she had seen a bright white light and was drawn to it. Then she told me that she saw the most beautiful garden one could ever have imagined. She told me the following with as much certainty, clarity and power as anything I have ever heard in my life. Her eyes sparkled like diamonds as she told me, “In that garden was my Merlie, beckoning me with his hand to come and join him.” He was saying, “Come Maryann. It is so beautiful.” Chills ran down my spine as I listened to Maryann tell me how strongly compelled she was to go to him. She felt ecstatic and was so at peace with what was coming to unfold. But at that exact moment in her vision she was pulled back into consciousness. As she told me that story, I knew it had happened to her and I knew that she was not afraid of dying. I came to know the power of God through Maryann’s tremendous faith in the Lord. My dear aunt has since passed away and has joined her precious little brother in the company of our Lord. I eagerly look forward to the day, when I can be in the presence of our Lord. Then I can praise God with the help of my aunt and my dad. I know it will happen. It’s a calm comfort that the Lord has placed in my heart and soul.
Again, my full transformation did not happen overnight, but my path was settled and the Spirit had done its work in seeding my heart. I slowly but surely began to aggressively search out the truth. There is only one place to seek out the truth and that is the Bible. We must get deep into the word In fact, a couple years later, I came across the second most influential book of my life (the Bible is #1). The year was 2002 and it occurred during a casual shopping trip in Blue Springs, Missouri. I was trying to kill some time while waiting for my in-laws to finish their visit to a mall. At my wife’s request, we stopped into the Family Christian Book Store and I began to walk the aisles to see what struck my interest. There it was staring me right in the face. A thick book titled All the Messianic Prophecies of the Bible and was by Herbert Lockyer. I picked it up and for some strange reason, knew that I needed to purchase it. Since the day that I bought that book, I have consumed over 150 other books on the Word of God. With each book I dig in deeper and deeper into the Scripture of our Holy Bible. Each book has moved me closer and closer to my Lord and Savior through the Bible. But no book has had the impact quite like that first one. A lot of this book that you are reading was inspired by the Word of God as quoted in Mr. Lockyer’s book.
Since that day I have walked into many bookstores, but I have never again seen that particular book on a shelf. I have found lots and lots of great reads, but I have never again seen that particular book on a shelf. I’m not saying that it isn’t on the bookshelves, I’m just saying that I have never come across it. This is incredible, considering that it nearly leaped off the shelf into my hands on that awesome day down in Blue Springs. I really believe that I was assisted in my search by the greatest knowledge of power that ever there was; The Holy Spirit.
As you can obviously see, I am brimming with passion for the Lord, and want to help light His fire in the hearts of others. The Holy Spirit will work within you. All that is required is an open mind and a searching heart. In my case, both areas were weak but that still did not stop the Lord from seeking me out. I pray that you will consider what life has to offer you on your own, and hope you will come to the same conclusion that I was finally led to. I am my own worst enemy. I cannot control every aspect of my life. I am a born sinner. In fact everyone is born a sinner. It is in our blood. We are the children of Adam.
Romans 3:23 "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
I need help. It is impossible to be righteous on my own. I have therefore given myself and my life to the power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He has the power to make us righteous under God.
Romans 5:19 “...by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.”
I pray that I may adequately honor Him by spreading His word to as many hearts as I possibly can. I know that I am a humble tool for His work, and that every day I must struggle with my internal willpower to allow Him to do His will. I couldn't do it without the power of the Holy Spirit. He has made me secure in His Light, despite my inadequacies, and I thank God that I am provided with His Grace. I know I am saved, because I believe God.
Romans 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..."
Because of that Grace, I am on fire with the Holy Spirit, and my favorite pastime is now consuming the Word of God. It has changed my life. I am a new person. God promises to remake us when we submit to His authority.
2 Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."
I may occasionally fall into sin, however I am no longer waiting for the opportunity to leap into sin. The joy of sinning is gone. I know that any sin which I may decide to grovel in had to be paid for. It comes with a price. The price was paid through the incredible sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who shed His blood on the cross. If we weren't sinners, then His blood would not have been required.
Hebrews 9:22 "...without the shedding of blood there is no remission."
1 John 1:7 "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin."
When I find myself vulnerable to sin, I’m am pulled back into the Grace of God through the power of His Word. The Holy Spirit is working in me in ways that I never could have possibly imagined. It can work in you as well.
Ephesians 2:8,9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not by works, lest anyone should boast.”
It is a gift that I will never take lightly. I will fight for the rest of my life to honor and give thanks for this gift that is beyond comprehension. I wish you God’s peace in your journey on His path. I pray that you do not waste as much of your life as I did, before you come to use your many God-given talents and energy for the good of our Lord. May the Spirit of Jesus Christ enter your soul and rest on your heart. It makes all the difference in the world. It will benefit you for all time. Even the small slice of time that you will experience on this earth. For Jesus says it best:
Mark 8:36 "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”
As you read the rest of this book may the Holy Spirit fill your heart with the love of His word, and bring you to the knowledge of His one and only truth.