I wrote this blog one year ago today and rather than try to duplicate it, I will simply re-submit this rather long testimony to God's love, grace, power and providence. It has now been 40 years since this incredible experience, although in some ways it seems like last year. I am heading out today to spend some time with the God I love with all my heart in praise and thanksgiving for all He did for me way back in 1969 and all He continues to do for me even now in 2009. For anyone brave enough to wade through this lengthy blog, I pray God blesses you with a glimpse of just how Big and LOVING He really is. Thank you for allowing me to share this story with you one more time.
Thirty nine years ago, I was riding a train to Albuquerque, New Mexico on my way to a church work trip to repair a Presbyterian retreat center in the Sandia Mountains. Due to a mix up with seating, all thirteen of us on the trip had to ride in the baggage car of the train. I never said a word to anyone the whole trip for I detested the very idea of being on the trip. My parents had signed me up and forced me to go or they were going to send me to a Psychiatrist to resolve my extreme introversion.
At the time, I was sixteen years old. I had just gone on my first official "date" earlier in the month with the girl my cousin had hooked me up with earlier in the summer. Having never gone a date, I had no idea what to do, so I talked to the only friend in my life who was three years older than I. He gave me detailed instructions, and even wrote them on an index card, taking me step by step through the process of picking the girl up and taking her to the drive in movie and the steps involved to get intimate.
I got about to step two and got slapped so hard my face hurt for a week. I was told to immediately take her home and NEVER contact her again. This was not because of what I had done, but she had spotted the index card and could not believe where the evening was supposed to end up. I didn't even know where it was supposed to end up for I had never been there.
Totally humiliated and persuaded that never again in this life would I ever be alone with a girl, I spent the entire trip to New Mexico in my own little world within my dark mind. My parents had never said a word to me about the "birds and the bees" and back in those days, neither did the school or the church. Since I had no friends, I was clueless. I had no idea whatsoever what was supposed to happen between a boy and girl emotionally or any other way.
For one horrible week I endured watching the others have fun, spend time talking to each other and working. I kept to myself in my own strange world and perhaps said ten words a day to anyone. I always had an excuse to not participate in "fun" activities and would drift off into the woods or go sit on a cliff high up on a mountain. I had spent most of my life alone, and I assumed that was how I would spend the rest of my life.
Amazingly, no one in the group really tried to reach out to me. They all knew I didn't want to be there and left me alone. By the end of the week, everyone else had become very close and had bonded wonderfully. Somehow, they forgot to include me in their club. My feelings were hurt and deep inside I just wanted someone to, for the first time in my life, just hug me. I just wanted to be loved by someone.
The work was done and we all went down to Albuquerque the last Saturday night we were there. I was actually a little bit enthused about doing something different. We went to what was known as "Old Town" and there I bought an onyx chess set. For some reason I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I didn't know how to play chess, but the set was awesome.
The next morning was "church". We gathered in a building we seldom used during the week. Bob, the youth minister who had led us all week, conducted the service. At the end, he gave us all a candle and then he lit his and said a prayer of thanks and lit the person's next to him. He said a prayer and lit the next. So it went until it came to me. I was scared to death and was shaking so badly I could not get the candle lit. The girl next to me held my hand still long enough for my candle to light.
There was silence. I could not pray for I had never prayed before with people around. I felt an arm around me, and the person next to me extended the love in their heart to me. I finally blurted out "thank you for life" and somehow managed to light the candle of the guy to my right. Shortly thereafter the service ended and everyone immediately left to go "goof off". I never moved. I sat there holding my candle crying my eyes out.
Then I heard His voice, as clear as could be. "Get up and go to the creek". I immediately jumped up and grabbed a pack of matches and took my candle and left. I felt as if a huge hand was pushing me and another was pulling me to the place deep in the woods I used to go sit and listen to the water almost every day. Something was happening to me, but I didn't know what. Something huge was about to take place in my life but I had no idea what it was.
I got to the creek and was told to sit down. Whoever this was talking to me deeply moved me for I did exactly as I was told. Without any forethought, I immediately started crying as I confessed and repented of every sin I could possibly think of I had ever done in my short life. I was crying and talking at the same time to someone far bigger than I and someone who honestly cared about my life. This went on for at least an hour I would say.
I could not stop crying. Finally I was told to look up. Far above me was a squirrel running on the limbs of a tree high above my head. Suddenly I felt like I was that squirrel; alive and free and able to run and play and be happy. I felt as if a huge burden had been lifted off me. I felt like someone had reached down and lifted me a thousand feet in the air and then said "Fly".
Suddenly I was told to light my candle. I found a match and with shaking hands lit the candle. A force unlike any I had ever felt in my life came upon me. Someone was there with me, but I could not see him. Someone was so close it was as if they were transposed upon me. Then I heard the words that forever changed my life and defined who I am, what I do and why I do it. As crystal clear as if He were sitting next to me, God spoke to me.
He told me that as long as the light burns in the darkness, He would stand for me and by me and with me IF I would stand for Him and devote my life to Him. God told me He would never leave me nor forsake me and would always be there to carry and help me IF I would just stand for Him and give Him my life.
What took place next is still a blur to me, as it was then. From the depths of my heart I cried "YES" to my God. I cried so much I honestly didn't know there could be anymore tears, but there were. I cried and cried and kept telling my God, Yes. All I wanted was to please Him. All I wanted was to love Him and be loved by Him. I knew something profound had happened to me, but I didn't know what. I knew I was different, but I didn't know how. I knew I had changed, but I had no idea how much.
I was startled by human voices as the entire group called my name. They had been looking all over the mountain for me. It was now close to 7 pm and it was getting dark. I had been at that creek with my God for 8 hours. My tongue was still tied, but they knew something had happened to me. We went back to the lodge and I immediately grabbed my sleeping bag and went on the deck with a flashlight and a huge pad of paper and a pen. It started to rain.
It rained all night and I was up most of the night writing down everything I could think of to be thankful for. Whereas just a few hours earlier I could find nothing, now I was filling page after page with more and more things I was thankful for. I could not believe how blessed I really was. At some point I fell asleep and for the first time in my life I felt contented.
The next morning I awoke long before anyone else and took off on hike. It had rained all night and the rain glistened on the leaves and pedals of plants and flowers like diamonds. I was so happy and I had never felt this way before in my life. I headed to a meadow and when I got there, there were sunflowers as far as the eye could see. I was melted and turned into putty. God told me to go pick sunflowers for everyone in the group. I did as I was told.
I returned just as everyone was getting ready for breakfast. I was told later that when I walked up to the camp, I looked like Moses coming down with the Ten Commandments. I was told my face literally shone and that I was radiant. Everyone knew it was me, but it was not the me they had known one day earlier. What happened next forever changed me and many of the people who were there.
I walked up to each person, gave them a sunflower, hugged them and told them I loved them. Each and every person immediately started crying their eyes out. The last person was Bob the minister. He was already crying his eyes out before I got to him. He was a huge man, and he picked me up and gave me the first bear hug I ever had in my life. We all stood around hugging each other and crying. Everyone was so happy for they had witnessed a miracle. They had the privilege of seeing a young man's life totally transformed by the power of Almighty God.
After breakfast we broke camp and headed for the train station for the ride home. We had a whole car to ourselves. I talked, taught and read the Bible to the group the whole way home, complete with sunflowers behind both my ears. I kept reading to them 1 John about God is love. We were all so very happy and thankful beyond words.
Upon arriving home, everyone else got off the train first and hugged their parents. They then backed up and someone made a trumpet noise and I got off the train. The instant my parents saw me they broke down in tears of joy unspeakable. The introverted dark kid they had waved goodbye to ten days earlier was now a glowing and beaming young man with sunflowers everywhere and talking to everyone and hugging people etc.
My God is a God of mercy, love, grace and power. I am a living testimony to these qualities of my God. He totally changed me and made me a new person for He had a mission for me in this life. I cannot deny my God no matter how hard I have tried. Even in my darkest hours, I always knew my God was with me and He would stand with me as I stood for Him. All praise to God the Father who by His everlasting grace and mercy showered my life with His eternal love and gave me a life worth living.
I pray hearing my complete testimony helps you draw closer to our mighty God. If I were there with you, I would gladly give you one my sunflowers growing in my yard, hug you and tell you I love you. Some things never will change, and my life's mission is one of them. I pray I can stay faithful to my calling to be a reflection of the light of the love of our God.
Blessings 2 YOU