This is my Testimony...

I.   Who I was before I met Christ.

My earliest memories of childhood are that of living in New Port Richey, Florida, I was only a toddler at the time.  Born in Clearwater, Florida,  my Mom and Dad had moved from Milwaukee, Wisconsin – along with my only older brother Mark to live in Florida.  My Dad worked for a company called VariType and my mom was a school teacher.   When I arrived, I was a surprise, but God knew all along that I was not an accident.  My brother Mark, who is 11 years older – climbed up a tree to see his new baby brother outside the hospital, because they would not let kids in to see new babies at that time.  I was originally scheduled for birth in August of 1959 but arrived early in June.  Thus the concern, but God's timing in perfect, even when we don't think it is.    

After 3 years in New Port Richey, my Dad was transferred to Jacksonville, Florida.  He started a new job as Manager for Red Wing Trucking.  Dad's job was to oversee the truck drivers and manage the plant in Jacksonville, to make sure that everything and everyone was on schedule.   I remember being around 6 years old when I was with him, which he was on the road a lot, and I hardly ever saw him at home.  On this one occasion, he had gotten word on his car radio/cb that he had to go to the shop and straighten some men out.  So I was with him in the company car, and he took me with him.  We drove across town, he told me to stay put inside the car.  He went inside the trucker's barricks and must have been in there for 30-40 minutes or longer.  Came out, and you could tell that my Dad had won the fight, the argument and straightened out the situation.  My Dad was Irish and Norwegian.  He was a tough man – I would describe him as a “Jackie Gleason-Archie Bunker” type who knew Jesus.   He had a temper.   I grew up always thinking he was yelling at me.   It was just his “big” voice that was normal.  You did not want to hear his “bigger” voice.   His temper definitely transferred and rubbed off on me at a very early age.   

I yelled at my friends, I yelled at my parents... I was an angry little boy.  But all that was about to change....  God knows what we need, and He knows what needs to be changed in our life...

Rick Drummond invited my brother Mark to the Alliance Church where his Dad, Leon Drummond, B.D. (Brother Drummond) was the Pastor.  What was amazing is that my brother went and kept going.  He accepted Christ!   My parents did not attend church at the time, although they knew the Lord or about the Lord.   My mother grew up in a adopted family.  Her biological Dad was killed by a motor car, Her mom had died earlier – so when she was a young girl, she found herself in the care of the Shellhammer family.   As a young woman in high school, she would teach Bible lessons to the neighborhood kids and formed a club called “G-men.” (God's men).   This made the Catholic priest angry at first, but then he asked her to head up their children's program.  My Dad was Lutheran, but really just went along with it to please his mother.   They were highschool sweethearts.    My Dad served in WWII, he didn't talk much about it... until years later, mostly to Jason, my oldest.  So as we began living in Jacksonville, my family did not go to church – until Rick Drummond got my brother to attend.  Then Mark took me to Sunday School and Church on the back of his motorscooter -that was a sight.   The Pastor would visit my family and began coming over after church on Sunday nights just to hang out – he would watch “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” or “Seahunt” with my family.  This opened up my parents to start attending the Alliance Church.  They became involved and made a recommitment to the Lord.  

A few pastors later, Rev. Levoy Taylor came to the Church as pastor.  I was around 8 and his son Eric and I became good friends.   One Sunday morning Pastor Taylor preached a sermon about not going to “HELL” for eternity.  He gave the altar call.   I did not go forward.   I wanted to go to heaven.  I wanted to have eternal life, but I was scared too.   As my family left church that morning, as we drove home, I was under conviction, still wanting to have gone forward to receive Christ, I asked my Mom and Dad how I could know Jesus and go to heaven?  They prayed with me as I was in the back seat of the Ford mercury station wagon that day.   

II.   How I met Jesus Christ.

I had met Jesus Christ!.   John's gospel states, “ But as many as received Him, he gave them the right to be called the children of God (John 1:14).   I was now, God's child... because I received Jesus.  This was only the beginning!   

God began to start working in me!  He gave me a love for music and for the guitar.  I would carry around a plastic guitar and strum on it, so when I was 8, my parents bought me my first real guitar.  It was a “Western Auto” special acoustic guitar.   Soon afterwards I started guitar lessons.

God gave me His Son, God gave a song... and still continued to work in my life.    I was still loud, still angry.... my conduct was not much different – It was so bad that my neighbor said that I could no longer “play” or be friends with their sons, because of my anger and the way I spoke to my parents.  Anger unchecked can produce all the wrong things in one's life, like disrepect, hatred, malace, slander, profanity, pride, etc.    What was I to do?     

I took it to the Lord in prayer.   This neighbor's son, Leslie Wilson was my best friend... we did everything together – we played G.I. Joe, football, baseball... rode bikes... tag... if I couldn't have him as my friend – my world  as I knew it would just crash!     Sometimes God allows events in our life to cause our world to come crashing down... so we can have Him rearrange our world to be in alignment with the Creator.  God used this neighbor to pinpoint in my life a real problem of anger... and she did not know Jesus either!.    So... I asked God to take away my anger.  And  He did...

At times, I have displayed anger in ways that were not flattering to me or to Christ.   I have had to ask the Lord for his forgiveness and cleansing.  Jesus always forgives those who seek Him and confess their sins.   I John 1:9 states, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”. . God knows our sins, he is patient and waits on us to come to him to confess,  ask him to forgive and ask for his strength and control to overcome.

Well, Jesus helped me to control my temper.  He gave me a gentle spirit.  This was evident when my neighbor noticed and allowed me to play and become friends again with her sons.  This time it was different!  I found Jesus Christ as my best friend.   As I grew older, I began spending time with Christ.

My mother was a great example of following Jesus, as well as my brother Mark.   My mom taught me the importance of prayer and reading the word.    I wasn't good at this Bible reading stuff... but she was gracious teaching a bunch of 6th grade boys the importance of the Word.   

In Junior High (middle school it's now called...) and in high school. I professed  to know Jesus, but following Him daily was hard and became a routine just on Sunday's.   I would live for me during the week and then try to put on my best garments to pretend on Sunday.    God knew all this, you see as I Samuel states, 1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

God knew my heart was becoming calloused and hard, yet outwardly I was playing a game of make believe.  I would go to the Lord often for forgiveness, to say I was sorry, to make me feel better, but not really turning away from sin.... true repentance is turning away from sin.... letting it get nailed to the cross.  

God had to break the prideful spirit in me and crush my ego in order for me to really turn away from sin and follow Him.    This happened one summer when I attended the Alliance Youth camp at Lake Swan Camp.    In an arena of 400 teens, God humbled me.   Every teen was put on a Team to compete in activities and talent and special music throughout the week.  Teams would get points, the team with the most points would win the ice cream social at the end of the week.  

At the time, I was playing guitar – singing, writing some songs, even played in church.  But now I was asked to play for the Team talent special music part of the service.    My friend who was with me volunteered me to play.... I said yes... because I thought to myself... when all the girls see and hear me play they will really like me!   Well... I became sooo.... nervous, I had picked out the song - “Fill My cup Lord”... I had played it a week before at church, so I thought I had it made... boy was I wrong.  I had played it in the key of A, 3#'s... but the music I had was in Bb, two flats.   You can't sing in A and play Bb, you can't play in Bb and sing in A.... you know what happens when you do?  You crash.... I crashed, and crashed and crashed again.   All 400 teens were laughing a me.... not with me.... at me... I froze.... I fumbled the words....I started over....I admitted that I was nervous.... I I I..... I was crushed.  How could I go on?  This was Monday of camp... I had to make it through the rest of the week.  Instead of being the hero, I was now the laughing stock of the camp... no girl would want to be near me... no one would even want to talk to me....   fortunately my friend did not totally abandon me... nor did one of the counselors who saw my ridicule.  They spoke words of grace and affirmation... and God spoke to me words of truth.... my guitar playing and singing and musical gifts were from Him to glorify Him and be used by Him to help others see Jesus...  I gave Jesus my pride and ego that week.  And forty years later I try to consciously and intentionally pray to the Lord – to be glorified and honored in the music and ministry that He allows me to serve Him.   

Colossians 3:23

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

23 Whatever you do, do your work [a]heartily, as for the Lord [b]rather than for men,

One of my life verses is Psalm 33:1-3  Psalm 33:1-3

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Praise to the Creator and Preserver.

"33 Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones;
Praise is becoming to the upright.
2 Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings.
3 Sing to Him a new song;
Play skillfully with a shout of joy."

After God crushed my pride and ego, he gave me the desire to play “skillfully” for Him.   

I have had the privilege to serve the Lord as a minister of the Gospel and using the musical gifts and abilities to honor Him.   I was in a band that opened up for Randy Stonehill, played and toured for Nyack college.  Sang and spoke at churches throughout the Northeast.   Studied guitar with some of the world's greatest guitarists and on occasion shared the gospel with them.   I studied classical guitar with Stanely Solow of Haulfstraw University, Stephen Robinson of Stetson University.  I sat and played Masterclasses with professors such as Roland Dyens, (Paris Conservitory), Rapheall Smits, Stephan Aaron, Benjamin Verdery of Yale, Antigoni Goni, Adam Holzman and many others....   I was able to teach private music lessons to Jimmy Buffet's children for two years.   Played concerts in South Florida.,  I was used by the Lord to allow His Spirit to move musicians to come to know Christ, through  prayer.... like Christopher Parkening...   attend and rub shoulders with some of the new Christian artists in the music industry today, like Jason Ingram.

God has now given me the privilege to lead others in worship of Him here in this church, (Zephyrhills Alliance Church) our church... how amazing is this? Truly amazing....   But to all this …. wonderful events as though they may be.... I really count them all as loss compared to the greatness of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord.

Philippians 3:8

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

Knowing Jesus Christ is the greatest event, the greatest relationship, the greatest reason for living.

III.   Who I am after I met Jesus Christ

It is because of God's grace and His leading in my life that I was able to meet Susan Hatch, my beloved, beautiful wife – now of almost 37 years!.    We met at Nyack College... One day I was playing piano and the door blew open and there was Sue.... She thought I was someone else and we met... she did take my breath away... but I was determined to be just a friend... because I was not going down the relationship road again.   God knows what we need even before we know what we need or think we don't need anything....

Sue knew from the Lord, that I was the one for her on that first or second meeting.  I was grateful for the friendship – but she was hanging on – because she knew.  I am glad she did.   We married on May 20, 1983 in Sanford Maine and began our ministry together in Longwood, Florida at the Alliance Church.

From there we served in Deland, Brandon, Orlando, Melrose, Fl at Lake Swan Camp, in Boynton Beach and here in Zephyrhills.  God has always provided and proved himself true and trustworthy.  We have three wonderful adult children and one awesome grand-daughter.   Jason, Julianne, Jeremiah and Jemma.

Proverbs 3:5-6    New American Standard Bible (NASB)

"5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight."

Proverbs 3:5-6 has been one passage that I have been “chewing on” the past year.  God is still leading me to trust Him with my all.   Not relying on myself and acknowledging Him in all my ways... all of them and knowing He will make my path straight.  

If He can do this for me... HE can and will for you.   Men – do you trust Him?  Do you trust Him more today than yesterday?  Do you know Him?  Do you know Him better today than yesterday?  

Jesus is with you.  He will guide you.  He will lead you.    Our response is that we need to let Him do so.

Exciting Challenges 

In September of 2016, I experienced a physical challenge of having severe pain in my stomach area, which turned out to be my gall bladder.  As I comically sing “ I left a part of me in Dade city….” I was in the hospital for five days and had two procedures, first to remove a gallstone that was blocking my bile duct and then the removal of my gallbladder.  God was faithful to me during those days, and much prayer was given and I felt very little pain.  God touched me then, and I praise Him for his healing, but not realizing that more was in store.

In January 2018, I went for my normal checkup and my PSA count was high, at that time around a 6 or so… so my doctor recommended me to see a Urologist, which I did and through God’s providential guidance, I had a Ultrasound/MRI biopsy done.  The test came back positive and I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in July 2018.  Through prayer, and research, the Lord lead us to one of the top Prostate doctors in Celebration, Florida.  I underwent surgery on January 15, 2019 and had a laparoscopic radical prostatectomy performed.  The surgery was a success, and I was able to come home the next day to start the recovery process.   After 4 weeks, I was back to almost 100% health!  The Lord truly honored me by touching and healing my body.  His promises are true.  Psalm 30:2 was one the promises that I claimed, “I cried out to the Lord and he healed me!”   My heart’s desire through all this that Jesus Christ would would receive all the praise, glory and honor.  That he would use me to be a comfort and testimony to others, regardless of the outcome.   I believe the Lord has done this - in which I am forever grateful.   As I have continued in follow up visits with my doctors, I am cancer free- my PSA readings have been under 0.01 which is tremendous.  To God be the Glory great things He has done.

2 Peter 3:9 states, “ The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  God is faithful to his children.  He knows the future and He knows what is best for each of us.  Sometimes the Lord heals, sometimes the Lord works through our sufferings and sicknesses.  The important thing for all of us is to remember that we need to trust Him in all areas of our life.   We need to let Him work His way, in His timing, for His Glory.   I am amazed at the apostle Paul’s attitude when he can say, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:27).   

I praise the Lord for His working in my life and for His continued guidance as I seek and serve Him.

I want to finish well, to hear my Savior say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”  I praise the Lord for His grace and His love and His redemptive power.

Trusting that the Best is yet to come...