“In HIS Grip: Finally & Forever!”
Mountaineering is a rigorous endeavor that demands good physical conditioning, mental determination, technical preparedness and exposure to a variety of climates terrains, and situations that will be experienced while attempting to ascend a mountain peak. You learn to trust yourself, your team members, and the equipment you are using.; this trust is matured and sharpened through trial and error…in attempts that end in both success and failure. Over the years, I have experienced a saving grip on my rope, by a team member, preventing me from falling onto the rocks below. My relationship with that team member existed (though maybe untested) long before I found a need to trust his abilities; each time I was assisted by him, my confidence grew.
I was raised by a mother and father who gave their time and effort to nurture me and meet my needs. I participated in church functions and was basically a ‘model’ kid, at least, until I reached my late teens. In the late 60’s, I became involved in the use and sale of marijuana, cocaine, LSD, and amphetamines. The next 10+ years took me on a journey through drug & alcohol abuse, Eastern Mysticism, the Occult, Viet Nam, transient living…and an overall pattern of lying, cheating, stealing, and indulgence. I showed no concern for others, only the need to satisfy my own selfish lusts.
I joined the Navy in 1968, I served as a loadmaster on C-130 aircraft, flying in and out of Viet Nam. My life was a mixture of travel, alcohol, drugs, and sex. Discharged in 1972, I continued the life I had learned to enjoy, and for the next six years I lived in a transience maze of drugs, rock & roll, parties, and broken relationships. I blamed everyone, every place, everything, but never my own character failings and flaws.
On February 27, 1978, my father called me; he expressed his love for me, and told me again about “the love of Jesus Christ.” I was high on drugs, not that it would have mattered, but I was unresponsive to him; the next morning, my father committed suicide.
Several weeks after my father’s death and burial, I headed to northern California, along with some other ‘druggies’, to shack up in an old barn on 60 acres where we hoped to grow a profitable marijuana crop. In a few short weeks this all fell apart, my mental and emotional health deteriorated. I ended up in Hollywood living with a group of degenerate people, and through them I was introduced to some drug traffickers from New York. They had plans for a very large cocaine drop in a wooded area of the northeastern United States, and with my flightcrew and loadmaster experience on C-130’s, I was offered a very lucrative deal.
About this same time, I began making trips to the VA Hospital in Brentwood; I would hang around the Mental Health, Drug /Alcohol Treatment areas drinking coffee and talking with the patients. Well, on one of these visits, I had evidently taking too many drugs and I passed out; I woke up to find out that I had filled out an application to enter a 28-day detoxification program at the Hospital. I was later to find out that at this very time, my mother had been praying for God to either take my life or turn it around, as she couldn’t stand the pain anymore of watching me live the way I did. I am thankful for God’s mercy on me.
Upon entering the program, and extensive tests and evaluations, I was told by the Clinical Staff that it would take up to five years of drug and counseling therapy before I could function ‘normally’ again. I fluctuated from a state of mania to total depression: I had lost control of my anger, at times, and had come very close to killing someone; I had also consumed such quanity of drugs that I lost hours, days, even weeks of reality.
The doctors prescribed that I be put on Haldol and Lithium, so as not to be a threat to myself or anyone else. About this same time I heard about a Christian drug & alcohol program, in Los Angeles. I got information as to its location and permission from the Hospital to take part in it. Through bible study, prayer, and fellowship, I became aware of how out of control my life had become; when I returned to the VA Hospital each day, I found that I craved drugs & pornography, and I had a chip on my shoulder. This contrast seemed to broaden.
On August 1, 1978, my life was changed forever. I was awakened in the early morning hours, there was a battle going on, a battle for my very soul! I remember the fear that overwhelmed me. I remember a voice claiming, “You are mine, you are coming to hell with me.” The hair stood up on the back of my neck and my abdominal muscles began to spasm. I found myself rolled up on the floor… crying out for God’s mercy, I did not want to go to hell!
I got up, rushed out of the hospital to my car and began to drive through Los Angeles. I needed to talk with someone, to make sure I was not going to spend eternity in hell. As I drove, a voice said, “crash into that tree… power pole… building, drive off the road!” I then realized, Satan wanted me dead. He did not want me to become God’s child. The oppression I felt was unbearable!
Exhausted, I stopped the car, went into a church and talked with the pastor. This man invited me to ask Jesus Christ into my life. I felt as if a heavy weight had been suddenly lifted off my back, my sins had been forgiven. I felt as light as a feather and full of peace. I experienced the truth of 2Cor. 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
On my 29th birthday, August 24, 1978, just 3 weeks after my day of salvation, I again experienced something very strange and new to me. For the first time that I could ever remember, I experienced a sense of belonging like never before, to my mother, my sister, my brother-in-law. I had always run from commitment, but I was now willing to accept it and take responsibility for it.
As I began to grow in my relationship with the Lord, I found that I could best serve Him by serving those who belonged to Him. God became the authority and the provider in my life and He has led me into a variety of opportunities through which I might serve Him, His people, and the lost, these past 30 years: College Teacher, Mountaineering Instructor, Reserve Deputy, Rescue Mission Chaplain, Mental Health Counselor, Homeless Shelter Director, Correctional Officer, Pastor.
My greatest claim to fame is to be a a servant of God, a Christian, and the most important role I have is that of a husband and a father. Married now 30 years to my best friend (Nancy), we have four children: Hannah (31), Joshua (28), Benjamin (26), Ruth (19); and one grandchild, Cailan (9); and we have a great dog (Muppie) and a good cat (Gracie).
It is only because of Christ that I can face today and tomorrow with confidence; no fear of the present or the future; no guilt from the past, for I belong to Almighty God. I am His child, fully adopted, and I now serve Him by following and exemplifying His Son with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength — as He nurtures, equips, guides and enables me to do so.
What a privilege it is to offer directions to the lost, food to the hungry, clothing to the needy, comfort to those who mourn, love to the unloved. What a joy to introduce lonely and hurting people to the “father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,” One who, “sets the lonely in families” and “leads forth the prisoners with singing” (Psalm 68:5-6).
Many of the concepts and practices used in mountaineering (physical & mental conditioning and training), have been very useful in my Christian life. And as I struggle to ascend and descend the trials and tribulations, mountains and mudhills of this life, with all the hidden pitfalls, deceptions and traps, I am forever sustained by the mighty hand of God. He holds me in His Grip, by His Grace, for His own Glory, as I seek to please and serve Him, realizing that I am but a sinner saved by Grace (Eph. 2:8-10).