Many saints through the years have recounted incredible accounts of the workings of God in their lives. Remarkable stories they have recounted, keeping little children and old men alike on their toes. My story is not like theirs. But the same God has guided us all.
My story begins in many ways with two special young people who found each other and then found the Lord Jesus. A Plymouth Brethren saint named Tom Olson held a week-long series of meetings in a small Presbyterian Church in a small town in Nebraska where he spoke on the person of Jesus Christ. I thank God for sending His faithful messenger to our small part of the world. His messages gripped the hearts of my parents and they committed themselves to following the Supreme God. Only a few years later, I was born.
From the earliest days, I was taught the holy Scriptures, being diligently taught about God and the supreme call to love and serve Him above all else. I saw my parents, though far from perfect, pursue after Christ. I saw them sacrifice not only for us children, but for others in our community and for those around the world. I saw them try to follow Christ’s leading. They are my heroes.
God early had His hand on my life. When I was six years old, I had a series of nightmares that tormented me. One night, when I crawled into bed, I was terrified to go to sleep. I pleaded with God to answer my pray and take the nightmares away from me. I remember distinctly that sense of waking up (I had fallen to sleep while crying to God). It was morning. I had slept the night without a single nightmare. I knew right then that God had listened the cry of a little child. The nightmares never returned during the nearly 50 years since. I have never forgotten God’s grace to me in that miracle. More than anything, it provided to me the first of many signs revealing the truth of God to me.
Early in my life, I memorized the verse in James 1:5 that if we lack wisdom, we can ask of God and He will give us wisdom. This became my life verse throughout my early years of life. God answered those simple prayers and provided me wisdom and understanding far beyond what I thought was possible.
I remember also when I was around 11 or 12 reading a book of historical fiction that had a profound effect on my life. One of the characters of the book was a slave who made it his goal to serve his master well. That picture of a slave provided for me a glimpse into what it meant to serve my parents, others, and my God. There was nobility in being the best servant one could be. That one truth shepherded me through my teenage years in a powerful way.
I grew up on a dry-land farm (no irrigation). We depended on rain for our crops. In my early teens we had a series of drought years. One year as the land grew more and more dry, I set my focus to call upon God for rain. I was convinced that God would send rain. After all, I was seeking God and did not have any known sin in my life. Yet, no rain fell. As the crops shriveled, my relationship with God suffered greatly. I told God that I did not believe in Him anymore (an illogical statement). I wanted nothing more to do with Him. What good was a God who would not send rain when it was needed? Two weeks after severing my relationship with God, I was too miserable to continue. I knew what was wrong. More than I had ever realized, my sense of well-being was because of God’s presence. Without Him, I was miserable. I needed a restored relationship with Him. I remember the sweet welcome home when I repented of my insolence (a tantrum really) and sought His forgiveness. I learned another lesson; my relationship with God involved two wills. Not always would God bend to my will. It was another lesson I have never forgotten. And despite the lost crops, we as a family continued to have food on the table, a warm house, and love. God met our needs and more. And what may seem counter intuitive, it taught me to have a richer prayer live with God. It is okay if He says “no” to my will. The blessing is the ability to talk to Him about everything and to ask.
I had the great privilege of attending a Christian boarding school during my high school years. In 1959, Some farmers and ranchers had started a high school in central Nebraska at an old Quaker College. My folks gave me the option of going to school at Nebraska Christian or going to the local public school. I chose Nebraska Christian and never regretted it for a moment. Everyone, from the superintendent to the teachers to the dorm parents all were dedicated followers of Christ. The Bible teaching there was superb. It was the best training I could have received.
One thought I wrestled with in high school was the realization that life ultimately was meaningful only if it was useful for the Kingdom. I remember crying to God not to let my life be a failure to Him. I told Him that I would rather die than live a life that was not used by Him, and I meant it. The verse about gaining the world but losing one’s soul seemed all too true. I did not want to live rich, famous, or any other way. I wanted to be useful for Christ. That became my one desire. I remember some of the struggles, in telling God what I wanted, and then in prayer wrestling through those desires to the point of surrender to His will. The point of surrender was gained, lost, regained, re-lost, and regained.
After high school, I went to a Bible Institute. While there, I worked all Saturday night at the local paper. One Sunday, around 5:30 am, I clocked out of work to return to the school where I was staying. As I left, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten to take my keys. The morning was cold and crisp. I knew the door would be locked, as it always was, and that no one would be up for a couple of hours. There was no place for me to go. I was not dressed to stay out in the cold. Yet as I walked towards the school, what can only be described as a supernatural peace came over me. It was almost as if a voice verbally spoke and said that everything was okay. I walked back to the school with this great sense of God’s presence, took hold of the front door, and it opened. It had been locked but the latch had not fully caught. It was for me another sign of God’s care.
After graduating from college, I farmed for about a year. One day I went back to school from which I had graduated. On leaving, I walked by the bulletin board and found a job announcement that drew my attention. It was a dream of a job. I looked closer and saw that the time for submitting a resume was long past. Then, I saw that it had been extended, but even the extended date was now past. Yet, God seemed to impress on my mind that if it had been extended once, maybe it was still open. I drove to the office and walked in, introducing myself to the secretary. I told her that I had seen the job announcement and wondered if the position had been filled. She said “no,” but that they planned to make a selection that week. I turned to go, but she asked me if I had a resume. She said that she would take it. Later, she told me that the moment I walked into the room she knew that I would be the one they would hire. A week later, I was offered the job of a lifetime. It was a lesson on the leading of God and being open to His guidance.
After that job, I thought I had another job lined up, when the firm merged with another and did not need anyone else. I sought a job close to home, but it too did not seem to be a good fit. I talked to my former boss and told him that I was willing to go anywhere for a job, except for two cities. I heard that one of my former professors was ill. I decided to go see him, but he was not in the day I stopped by the college. Another professor was in and I visited with him for awhile. He made the comment that a government agency was interviewing at the college the next week. I thanked him for the information but I was not interested in working for a government agency. As I left his office and began walking down the hall towards my car, God spoke to me and said: “Why do you think I brought you up here today?” I decided to go to the placement office. When I inquired about the interviews, she told me that all of the interview slots were taken. I thanked her and turned to go. But she asked me to tell her about myself. After I told her a little, she said that she would fit me in, but I needed to provide her a resume. I did not have a resume, so I thanked her and left. When I opened my car door, there was a resume on the front seat. I looked at it, looked up to heaven, and sheepishly returned to the placement counselor with the resume. My only thought was that God had placed that resume there. A few months later, I was in a new job in one of the two cities I had said two months earlier that I was not willing to work. It was a time of tremendous spiritual growth for me during the next three years, and some enduring relationships were formed. I learned to trust God’s leading even when it was not my will. I saw God work in ways that expanded my horizon and deepened my sense of collaboration with Him in His work on this earth. God taught me a great deal about grace, pleading for others, investing in others, and letting God do the work.
Since that time, God has enabled me to attend Seminary (the fulfillment of a long dream), pastor a little church for nine years, and learn so much more about Him. Many of the experiences of life have not been ones I would have chosen. And some deep desires I have had to lay aside. In each circumstance, there has been a lesson, a growth opportunity, a learning moment teaching me more of His character and what it means to follow Him. He has always been there, listening to my complaints, healing the hurt, and refocusing my vision on His vision for me. And when I look back, I can without reservation say that He has been so very good to me. I am reminded of Jacob’s words about the Angel who had shepherded him all his days. God’s hand has intersected my life so continually that my trust in Him seems most natural. I have learned that a walk with Him does not necessarily take us where we want to go, but the place we go is not near as important as the One with whom we go. And He has always been there, with hundreds of “God-signs” along the way.
One of the greatest blessings God has given me is a life rich in dear friends. They are true treasures. I thank God for them. They are my extended family and joy on this earth and in heaven above.
Eight years ago, the cause of some intense pain was found through surgery to be a rare form of intestinal cancer. For seven of the past eight years, my life has consisted of daily oral chemotherapy, associated discomfort and tiredness. Yet, He continues to be with me. I have found that Jesus can be safely trusted. I do not know what tomorrow brings, or how many tomorrows there may be, but I know Him. And my desire continues to be that I might serve Him. For the past few decades of my life, the verse that has most impacted me is 2 Corinthians 4:7. Jesus is the treasure, held in this pot of clay, so that the surpassing greatness of the power is from God and not from me. If people forget me but remember Jesus because of my life, then my life will not have been in vain.
I like to watch people, as I find them fascinating. But as fascinating as they are to watch, I am sure they will pale in comparison to watching Jesus in action. When Jesus invites me to come home with Him, it will be the biggest blessing of my life—to be able to see Him.