Chapter 15 My Spiritual Journeys
My great privilege was to be born into a family whose members already knew God and were followers of Jesus Christ. That gave me a running start toward growing into what God wanted in my life.
With my father being a Presbyterian pastor for over 40 years, I never was left without knowledge of and hearing about Jesus Christ and the Providence that God had in our lives. My mother was a Godly woman who modeled the Proverbs 31 women to me in her daily living.
I cannot remember not knowing that we were supposed to believe that God created the universe, all things in and on the earth, and all human kind. We were given what was called free will, which I understood meant we could decide to obey principles of God or not. However, we would be blessed or penalized, depending on our choices. We were to believe that Jesus was a man born of woman, yet supernaturally from God, and that Jesus was God incarnate. Never did I doubt in my mind that eternal privilege (going to heaven) was based on whether I believed that Jesus was Deity.
Now, I am the first to confess that my natural sinful nature had its times at pulling me down, and there was my share of backsliding. My life did not honor God as consistently as my upbringing in a Godly family strove to produce. However, I do not recall that my lips ever let pass any words that questioned the existence of God, or that Jesus Christ was His Son, sent to save me, and all humankind who would receive Him. Even in my university days, when I was around the first strong currents of non-Christian influence, I never abandoned that belief. I just gave in to retreat and had little to do with those advocating non-belief, and I did not darken the doors of many churches in my five years at higher education.
I remember joining our church, Trinity Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas, by making a commitment to Jesus Christ at about 10:00 AM on Palm Sunday, March 18, 1951, at the age of 12. My father propounded the questions that required me to profess belief in the Lordship and Deity of Jesus Christ. It was real to me, to the extent that could understand at that tender age.
Though I did not understand enough about what I was doing when Suzanne and I were married, I now know that our paths crossing and uniting into marriage was foreordained, and is the best human thing that has happened to me. Her musical talents, her Christian commitment and participation in the Chancel Choir at Canal Street Presbyterian Church in New Orleans, Louisiana, the city in which we met, led us into active participation. Our marriage was in that church, conducted 105 days after our meeting, by my Presbyterian father, coming over from Texas, and the Pastor of CSPC, the Rev. Dr. Robert A. Pitman, a Godly minister whose friendship even today we cherish and continue, as he now is in his eighties, travels the world for Christian missions and resides in California.
We even recently (in 2017) had occasion for a reunion with Dr. Pitman, with his conducting a seminar, even at his current age of 88! What a joy to maintain Christian fellowship with a man over 54 plus years!
We lived in New Orleans 1962-1972, and all three of our Presbyterian children (Taylor, Tiffany & Todd) were born in a Jewish hospital (Touro Infirmary), delivered by our dear friend, Dr. Sustendahl, a Roman Catholic doctor. Two of those children married and had families. Tiffany married Steve Westmoreland, and they had five children: Katherine, Jack, twins Lily & Sarah, and Sam. Todd married Carrie Maxwell, and they had Luke and Brooke.
During a week of spiritual renewal at our church, a contingent of lay Christians came from across the South to share their testimonies. One couple was from Lubbock, Texas, Jack and Shelly Hall. a Methodist Church couple, who'd come to know my Presbyterian Pastor brother-in-law, the Rev. Dr. Andrew A. Jumper. It was in a meeting in our home after one of the services that we were with them and my brother-in-law, who was their friend, that they taught us more about the Holy Spirit, and they prayed for our filling, with speaking in tongues. That was in October 1965.
Much of our spiritual growth took place as Suzanne and I became the adult volunteer ministers for the churchÕs ministry to high school age students. Though we felt our recruitment was because someone thought we were spiritually wise, in retrospect, we have seen how we just were ripe for beginning to learn what marvelous things God had in our lives, as experienced through what we did and through the kids in the group.
We managed to keep up over the years with one of the high school young ladies, Mary Alice Arseneaux. We rediscovered her and became friends with her sometime around 2010 or after on Facebook. She, of course, was married, with children! Her Facebook address uses her nick name and her married surname: Pinky Idiaquez.
In March 2017, we were contacted by another of the young guys in that ministry, Mr. Douglas Boylan! He found my website on the Internet, and sent an e-mail. He had married his girl-friend in our youth group, Sandi Waddell in 1969. They now live in Birmingham, Alabama, theyÕd had five children and today, have 12 grandchildren! He said that she and he recently had recalled their good experiences when we all were together in New Orleans, and resolved to try to find us. What a blessing when we can see such spiritual friends come together like this!
My career employment had been in the computer industry following graduation from college in 1962, but in 1969, I chose to leave that labor. In 1970, my professional life in administration and non-profit organization began at Trinity Christian Community in New Orleans, a ministry originated out of Canal Street Presbyterian Church and through the vision of the Rev. Mr. William Brown. This beginning was in 1967. This was in an old part of New Orleans known as the Irish Channel.
As I write this testimony today in 2017, TCC is celebrating its 50th year in ministry! Bill has graduated to heaven, but his eldest son, Kevin Brown, is directing the ministry and is on the faculty of Louisiana State University Š New Orleans. Here is Kevin and some of the kids in the ministry circa 2016.
TCC was a ministry to the down-and-out on the streets of what was known as the Irish Channel. We bought a 101-year old home down there with another couple, Dr. & Mrs. Joseph (Charlotte) Snead, making it into a duplex in 1967. We knew them from church. Joe was a Resident at Charity Hospital at the time. The people with whom we worked were mostly African American teenagers & families, and Anglo adult people often associated with the ways of crime and interfaced regularly with the criminal justice system. There were five bars that never closed (24 hours/day) within a block of our house, and during the five years we resided there, we witnessed five instances of handgun fire. The spiritual growth of our family took off, as the challenges of a crime-torn inner city in New Orleans where we lived tested us in many ways.
We continued to learn more of what God had for us and continue even today learning about what He has for us. We have grown over the years, moving from New Orleans to Saint Louis 1972-82, being members of the Central Presbyterian Church there. My work was as Executive Director of the Covenant Fellowship of Presbyterians. Then, we were called to Dallas. These years were working administratively for Christian organizations, the last 22 years being a large church (about 6,500 members) in Dallas, Highland Park Presbyterian as Executive Administrator to the Senior Pastor. My recruitment and my immediate supervisor for 20 of those years was by Dr. B. Clayton Bell, a brother-in-law of evangelist Billy Graham, a circumstance that afforded many memorable occasions.
My retirement has been from employment, but not from work! It seems I work full time. We live in Aurora, Wise County, Texas and are members of Eagle Mountain International Church, where Love is King and we continue to grow spiritually. We talk of our church as the Revival Center of the World! Part of the sense of GodÕs calling in our lives have been the prompting to be active in the community life. Our senior pastors are George and Terri Pearsons, ably assisted by 12 other associate pastors. Our spiritual growth there has been sustained greatly since our first visit in 1998.
Suzanne has served in our home Wise County as President and other offices in the Wise Republican Women. I was elected in Party Primary Elections to serve as Chairman of the Wise County Republican Party in the years of 2000 through 2008. Both of us have been delegates to the Texas Republican State Convention in the even numbered years every time since 1988, except for the year on vacation in Europe and the time I was in surgery! Even I have serve as a delegate to the National Republican Convention in 2012. We believe that all this community work is what God has in His plan for us as His disciples. It spreads for me over into giving leadership and membership in several genealogical societies.
As a Christian man and woman, each of us has served in our civic structures. As mentioned, weÕve been frequently delegates from Wise County to the Texas Republican State Convention, and one to the National one for me. We also have served in County and Precinct Conventions as delegates and elected officers. Service on actual government entities have been my service as Chair of the City of Aurora (TX) Historical Preservation Commission; Chair of the Wise County Ballot Board (citizens who oversee the Wise County Elections OfficeÕs conduction of all public elections), IÕve served two three-year terms on a Texas State Professional Licensing Board, and currently am a member of the Selective Service System North Texas Draft Board.
Being Christians serving in political circles involves seven major areas that function in our nation. Having taken our daughter and a couple of her daughters to a local political event where they met many elected officials, the girlÕs inquiry later about who were all those officials and how did they relate to them resulted in a document I developed to use in teaching. Here is the document on government in the United States. This is what a Christian person needs to understand to serve faithfully and effectively in our civic lives.
Suzanne and I cherish our mornings together when we read and pray for direction in each day. In 1986, we began reading through the entire Bible every year, and continue to do so today. In 2017, we are on our 32nd time to read out loud to each other the entire Bible! We keep learning new things as God blesses us with renewed revelation. We encourage all Christians to be disciplined in regular, daily use of God's Word, the Bible.
GodÕs provision in our lives has been so abundant in blessing that it defies being able to express the true scope of these Divine experiences. Besides the many occasions of learning and spiritual growth, we are confident that our early commitment in our marriage was the practice of the Biblical standard of tithing. For all the years of our marriage, since 1962, our giving to the church where we worshipped and to over and above causes that motivated our hearts has exceeded the Bible standard of 10%. Going along with that commitment included seeking to be out of debt.
Bearing debts, primarily home mortgage and automobile payments, existed in our lives up through the 1990s. It is a privilege and blessing to say that we have been entirely out of debt all this current century! For our retirement home of 10 acres of country land, we paid cash at the end of 1999. Since then, weÕve had occasion to purchase four new cars, each for cash (owning two at a time). Our credit cards are automatically paid entirely each month. We have had no occasion to delay payment of any financial obligation. We attribute all that possibility to GodÕs grace in our lives and to our knowing the value of the Biblical principle of tithing. We have been out of debt all of this century!
These principles operate even when financial circumstances are not excessive. Part of our financial good results have had to do with appropriate savings accumulated over our working careers. Our ordinary income is centered on the Social Security pension, along with an approximate equal amount of pension from being employed on a church staff. Of course, occasional special blessings are received, but they are not an ordinary part of our living. However, to highlight how effective following GodÕs principles, we can see that the total giving made in 2016 was over 25% of our income! That is a blessing! And, no debts! Our giving all of our retirement years has hovered around 20%.
We have dedicated our three children and their loved ones to GodÕs
graces, and we are confident of His hand in each of their lives. We have lived what
we understood was GodÕs directions in our lives, and are blessed at receiving
His forgiveness for all shortcomings that have appeared in our lives. To God be