I was born on October 6, 1952, and was raised in a Roman Catholic home. We attended church every Sunday while I was growing up. I received Jesus Christ by faith and was born again at the age of 18 just prior to my sophomore year in college at the University of Washington in August, 1971.
I soon became energetically involved in the small group Bible studies sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at the dormitories where I lived. Early in my Christian walk, I joined Bethany Presbyterian Church. Although very young in my faith, I was ‘on fire’ for the Lord and yearned to serve in a full time Christian ministry. I took a position as youth pastor in another Presbyterian Church on Bainbridge Island outside of Seattle. The day after graduation from college, I was married, and my wife and I left for seminary in August, 1974. I graduated from Dubuque Theological Seminary in 1977 and, after a brief ministry as the chaplain to a construction crew in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, I was called to serve as the senior pastor of the Black Diamond United Presbyterian Church, south of Seattle. The church had about a hundred members and grew to three hundred active members during my seven year ministry there. Also during this time, my wife and I started our family and were blessed with three beautiful children, Christina, Emily, and Eric.
Somewhere around 1985, I left the United Presbyterian Church primarily due to theological differences. I considered the denomination to be far too liberal in its profession and practice of faith. I started an independent community church in a nearby town that soon flourished to about a hundred and fifty active attendees. Within a couple of years, however, the new church was riddled with division and disappointment. I discovered that the structure and polity of the denomination I rejected was, in fact, an important factor in bringing and keeping people in the church. My independent church dwindled to a faithful twenty loving souls. During this time, my wife and I were experiencing serious marital conflicts and so we made the hard decision to shut down the church, move far away, and receive nurture and healing in a larger church. We settled at Bible Temple, in Portland, Oregon, where pastor Dick Iverson loved and mentored me during this difficult time. Dick remains a close friend of mine to this day. I worked as a route salesman for a national parts company. We were blessed financially, and purchased a wonderful, large old Portland home which we remodeled to suit the needs of our growing family.
Our intention was to get the marriage healed and head back into the pastoral ministry within a year or two. Instead, we had two more children and increasing marital conflicts, all related to disagreements over issues of minor consequence. There was never any marital infidelity or serious problems other than the verbal emotional abuse we regularly dished out to each other. There were no real grounds for the divorce. We were simply in a long-term and continuous state of marital disharmony. We were both immature and we argued hotly almost daily, as I recall. My wife informed me in a marriage therapy group we were attending that she had joined the military. Soon thereafter, I received a surprise letter from her attorney serving me notice of a “legal separation.” Although I did not want a divorce, I was unwilling to cooperate with a legal separation. My wife became the petitioner and I was the respondent in painful clash of wills and year-long divorce proceeding complete with a messy custody battle and enormous attorney fees. After seventeen years of marital conflict, hundreds of hours of counseling, and unbelievable emotional woundedness, we divorced in April, 1991.
This whole painful ordeal cost me my marriage, my home, my ministry, most of the people I thought were friends, my A+ credit, my reputation, and, of course, the custody of my children. All that remained for me were the bills… and there were plenty of them. Besides colossal consumer debt acquired over the past decade and a half of marriage, I was required to pay $1,978 per month in child and spousal support. My income was adequate and, because of my love and devotion to the children, it pleased me to pay what I owed for their benefit. I rented an apartment and saw the kids often during those times.
Also, during those years, I suffered from serious stress and anxiety. I was grief-stricken over the loss of my dream of an effective ministry and a happy family. I actively and willingly medicated the pain of my losses with addictive behavior and a promiscuous lifestyle. I spent this period of my life in the pursuit of mostly hedonistic pleasure. I began attending a non-Christian Sunday morning ‘church-substitute’ gathering of people who were seeking various paths to God. There I found acceptance from others but no real or lasting spiritual answers for my dilemma. In those years you could easily have found me on any given night drinking, dancing, chasing women, or playing blues guitar in a bar somewhere. I did not crack my Bible for about ten years and cried from despair often for several years following the divorce.
I thought I had ‘hit the bottom’ but I was wrong. Things got worse. Serious trouble appeared on the financial horizon. My sales territory and income were cut in half and I could no longer pay my taxes, child support, or even the rent on my single bedroom apartment. I was literally reduced to homelessness, sleeping in my car for a short period of time. My paycheck was garnisheed of the maximum amount, which was less than ½ of my monthly child support obligation. I stopped paying taxes and was left with only several hundred dollars a month to live on. Within a few months, I was more than $40,000 in debt to the IRS and unpaid child support, a condition that could have landed me in prison. I was also faced with huge and mounting consumer and credit card debts I could not pay. I was a first-class failure. Dark and ugly thoughts of suicide floated through my mind. More seriously, I considered running away and disappearing forever from the pathetic path I was on. I was at the end of a terrible path and, like the prodigal son, I found myself in a real “pigpen” of my own making. I wanted to die right then and there but five little reasons that kept me from making a stupid and irreversible decision… Christina, Emily, Eric, Julia, and Stanford.
I well remember my lowest point. My mind was occupied with persistent and nagging thoughts of hatred, bitterness, and self-destruction. I was on emotional autopilot, intent only on surviving one miserable day at a time. Life, it appeared, had played a cruel joke on me. I could not even imagine myself as a pastor of a church, a husband, or a real dad. That life was gone forever. My calling to the ministry, my dream of a happy home, my desire to father my children was nothing more than a quickly fading memory and replaced with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair. My aging, retired parents took pity on me and paid off my car loan from their hard earned savings. I left my apartment, threw everything I owned in a storage unit, except my clothes, shaving kit, and sleeping bag which I kept in the trunk of my Honda Civic. I maintained a membership in a cheap health club and showered at the gym each day. I organized company paid luncheons with clients so I could eat at least one decent meal daily. I made routine visits to my storage locker to grab an armload of treasured seminary books to sell at Powell’s Book Store so I could buy a tank of gas and make sales calls for a few more days. On one such visit I found my storage unit padlocked because I had not paid my bill. All that remained of my self-respect vanished in that moment. I pleaded with the storage manager to let me in. I was homeless now and nothing more than a beggar on the street sleeping in my car.
On a cold January night, I parked my car outside my children’s home under a streetlight. I watched the house and wished I was inside with my kids. I longed for the impossible… a happy, normal family life. I was wrapped in a sleeping bag reclining in the driver’s seat and turned on the car every few hours for heat. I was cold and suffered from a bad cough or virus. I was spiritually, mentally, and physically sick. I looked at myself in the rear view mirror and was further sickened by the ugly, wretched excuse for a human staring back at me. In that moment, a scripture verse came to me, one that I had preached on many times:
I laughed and scorned the verse. Yet I recognized the still small voice of Jesus from somewhere in my past. I truly had ‘hit the bottom’ and it was now time to choose life or death. I found out I really wanted to live and I needed Christ to do it. He was summoning me to rely on Him. Jesus Christ would never forsake me. I became aware of my need for a Savior more than ever before. I humbly asked Jesus to give me a second chance. I decided to live.
The next day I asked my friend, John, if he would let me sleep on his couch for free. I would pay him someday if I could. He agreed. I called all my creditors and plainly informed them that I would not make a single payment for the foreseeable future but would pay them someday if I could. I refused to negotiate beyond that. With God’s help, I somehow managed the initiative to attend and complete schooling for a new career in real estate attending evening classes while making sales calls during the day. I eventually left my route sales job and did well in my new choice of a career. Slowly, very slowly, I embarked on the long trek toward emotional, financial, and spiritual health. Over the course of the next few years, I paid back every penny of outstanding debt… IRS, child support, and all credit cards. The fact that I never claimed bankruptcy is nothing short of a modern day miracle. My financial journey was undeniable and unmistakable evidence of God’s undeserved mercy and love for me.
During my lowest point, I met my beautiful second wife, Adonica. You might say we were “equally yoked” having both been Christians who were not actively serving Christ. I truly do not know how I would have made it without her. Adonica was a gift of mercy and compassion from God, an angel sent from heaven. I owe her my life. My children began moving in with us and we were soon married. God continued to bless us financially and in April of 1997, we built a new, six bedroom home to accommodate all the kids. The following year, in December, God blessed us with our son, Robert, Adonica’s first child. He was joyously welcomed into our new home, along with five older step-brothers and sisters. Even my former wife, the mother of my first five children, recognized the blessing of God in my life. She showed huge courage and overcame a history of mutual hostility by requesting me to assist her in locating and purchasing a house near our home in Beaverton. Her desire was to be close to the kids who had chosen to live with Adonica and me. She purchased a home one block from us and the children were able to go back and forth easily and often. It was a great ending to an incredibly painful story. I am Ebenezer Scrooge. I woke up from a very bad dream and was given a second chance at life!
Adonica quietly yet insistently encouraged me to take the family to church. With the gift of baby Robert, a wonderful wife, my children back, a new home, a good job, new friends, self-respect, and even good credit, how could I possibly resist the gracious invitation of the Lord? I decided to return home spiritually and joined Sunset Presbyterian Church early in 1999. Somehow, I found my way back to the Lord. I attended the Men’s Retreat that same year led by John Eldredge and made a complete and renewed commitment to Jesus Christ.
Our family moved to a new church, Westside – A Jesus Church (formerly called Solid Rock) in Tigard, Oregon, somewhere around 2008. There I helped to start a ministry called 423 Men designed to assist men in their recovery from sexually addictive behavior patterns. By God’s grace, I am clean and sober and free from the bondage of promiscuity and sexual addiction. I will never forget how low I sank in the mud of my ‘prodigal son pigpen.’ I don’t want to forget. The memory of my misery coupled with the renewed call of God has birthed in me compassion for other lost souls. I am surprised and overjoyed that God has not forgotten me. He summoned me once again to the ministry. I am not worthy of the call of God, and yet “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable,” (Romans 11.29, NAS). The yearning for ministry I felt when the Lord first pressed me into service many years ago returned with full vigor. I thank God for the opportunity to serve at my church which, like the Lord Himself, has welcomed me, undeserving though I be, with open arms.
On August 30th, 2015, I lost the love of my life. Adonica died at the young age of 50 after a ten month battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. She was the beloved step-mother to my first 5 kids and left me with two beautiful children to finish raising, Robert (now 19) and Rachel (now 15). I deeply grieve her loss and will always cherish this woman and the love she so freely gave our family.
My story is a story of redemption. No one has ever needed the Lord any more than me. Without Jesus Christ I was nothing and close to spending eternity in hell. He redeemed me for a purpose. I am not yet the man I ought to be or want to be. But thankfully, I am not the man I used to be and, by His grace, I am not the man I’m going to be!