Archive for April, 2007

My Brief Testimony

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

Our Associate Pastor challenged the session (board of elders) to condense our personal testimony into the five-minute format she used while she was with Campus Crusade for Christ. This is mine:

I was an indifferent high school student and flunked out of college three times. I went from there to being a hippie and borderline bum. But doors always seemed to open and I took the correct turn at nearly every fork in the road. I survived my wanderings at a time when friends were dying in Vietnam or jumping off buildings because drugs convinced them they could fly.

I found my way back home to Illinois mostly intact. In the space of a year, doors started to open. My temporary job as a State tax clerk put me in a position to learn computer programming. Suddenly I had a career. A new university in town reached out to non-traditional students for graduate school – and you couldn’t get much more non-traditional than me. Within a few years, I was an experienced software developer with a Master’s degree in political science. I had it made.

Even as I was flunking out of college, I envied my teachers. Despite my indifference, I still liked and respected most of them. I admired their commitment. Graduate school reinforced that attitude and caused me to think about going into teaching myself. I had practical experience in computer science and a degree that qualified me to teach in a community college. When the instructor of a programming class at the local college had to back out at the last minute, I got the job and was hooked. The next September I was in Missouri teaching full time. I really had it made.

My life was always characterized by intellectual curiosity and a hunger for truth. That hunger was somewhat satisfied by teaching and research in computer science, but I knew that in the grand scheme of things, my academic interests weren’t all that important.

I had looked for God – or something – since high school. I searched in philosophy, in Eastern religions, everywhere but in the church that I had rejected by the time I reached fourth grade. In hope – certainly not in faith – I started praying to a God who probably didn’t exist. After five years in Missouri, I took a job as a university professor and moved my family to Indiana. I really, really had it made.

Weeks after our arrival, a pushy neighbor had my older daughter in a church group before I could begin to object. That led to occasional attendance at church and exposure to preaching that actually made sense. One of those sermons introduced me to the book “Mere Christianity”. The author, C. S. Lewis, overcame all of my intellectual objections to the faith I had rejected 35 years earlier.

I finally asked that unknown and possibly absent God to tell me if all that I was learning about this man Jesus was true. He replied by opening the most important door, the door to faith in his Son Jesus, and I stepped through it on Christmas Eve, 1989.

So what’s different? I am still curious and still seeking truth. But now I know where to look. I know that God created the universe and everything in it, so He is the source and the standard for all truth. I know that I’m not the fine fellow I thought I was but I also know that my shortcomings – which are more grievous than I ever imagined – are both correctable and forgiven. I no longer teach computer science, but I do teach the Bible at every opportunity. I’ve found my shortcomings softening.

I worry less.

Most important, I’m not afraid of flying any more. Let me explain that. I never feared being dead because I was pretty sure being dead just meant you no longer existed. How could that be unpleasant? You wouldn’t be there to experience it. But I did fear flying because I feared the process of dying – I was afraid it would hurt. And it very well might when my time comes. But now I know dying is not just a dreadful way to end everything. No, it is another door with the best possible place – heaven – waiting on the other side.

I said earlier that doors always seemed to open and I always seemed to make the wise choice. Looking back I see that God was with me, using my dumb decisions to move me in the direction he intended. For that reason, my favorite verse is Romans 8:28 – We know that God works all things to the good of those who love him and are called according to his holy purpose. My life testifies to that.

That pushy neighbor? She’s become a beloved friend and something of a surrogate mother. And now I really, really, really have it made.

[Addendum: In August, God opened another door. I’m back to teaching computer information systems. No more getting up at 5:00 for my daily hour-and-a-half commute, no more getting home, eating dinner, and being too tired to do anything. I’m doing what I love three miles from my home. God gave me my life back.]

Posted in Christianity, Personal | 2 Comments »

Culture: Imus and Jackson

Friday, April 13th, 2007

Among Don Imus’ critics was a relatively subdued Jesse Jackson. I was surprised he had the nerve to speak up at all. In their feeding frenzy, the news outlets I’ve seen and heard have been strangely silent about Jackson’s anti-Semitic remarks in 1984.

I was taught that character is what you do when you think no one is looking. When Jackson referred to Jews as “Hymies” and New York as “Hymietown“, he was having what he apparently thought was a private conversation with a journalist. He thought no one was looking.

It can hardly be said that Imus thought he was speaking privately. Insulting people and being hip were part of his broadcast schtick. On the few occasions when I watched his show on MSNBC, I briefly wondered where the offensive humor ended and the man with a heart for kids* began. It seems unlikely that he actually bore the women – black or white – of Rutgers’ basketball team any ill will. I suppose he was just a foolish old white man trying tart up his trademark insults in gangsta chic.

But Jackson was in what he thought was a safe environment. He spoke freely, apparently never considering that his bigotry would be made public. According the Washington Post story cited above, Jackson first denied the remarks then tried to blame his victims. I don’t recall Imus blaming the basketball players for his remarks. So who’s the greater bigot?

Come to think of it, what about all the racial invective directed at three innocent Duke lacrosse players? Who’s going to get fired for that?

I don’t consider the end of Imus’ show much of a loss. Like Howard Stern and the gangsta rappers he seemed to want to emulate, Imus made a substantial contribution to the coarsening of American culture. It’s the shrill hypocrisy of those who brought him down that seems to be getting lost in the coverage.

* [The Imus ranch’s] sole purpose is to provide the experience of the great American cowboy to children suffering from cancer or serious blood disorders, and children who’ve lost brothers and sisters to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)…. All expenses are provided including airfare and transportation to and from the airport in New Mexico.

Posted in Culture | 2 Comments »