Thanks to my Mom, I grew up in a Christian home and we attended church regularly. But my Dad wasn’t around much due to his business demands. When he was around, I had a healthy fear of him. I can still see (and feel) his big hand popping my behind from time to time when I was small – for doing things he didn’t approve of. But he liked to play baseball, fish and play music and encouraged us to do the same, so I loved him. He also pushed us in school and suggested we become a lawyer or a doctor when we grew up, to make something of ourselves.
When I was 9 or10 years old, I was invited by some neighbors to try out for the largest men and boys choir in Western New York at St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Buffalo. I was happy to make it and became a Soprano overnight. I learned the meaning of discipline because a station wagon full of boys car-pooled ½ hour each way to choir practice and church 3 days a week come rain or shine, sleet or snow. But, each boy was paid about $8 a month to sing and we always were served chocolate milk on Tuesdays before practice. Singing the Halleluiah chorus from the Messiah along side a mammoth pipe organ every December for 3 years brought me closer to God, because that music could only be of a divine nature. We sang with Leonard Bernstein and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and even traveled to Washington to sing for President Johnson at the National Cathedral the summer before my 6th grade year. I didn’t realize what blessings God had given me until much later.
My parents separated when my mother, sister, brother and I all moved to Vermont, where my mom’s parents lived, the summer before I started 7th grade. My Dad stayed in Buffalo. As it turns out, my Dad had started another family. But I didn’t learn of this until I was a junior in high school. So sin was heavily invading my family. We kids had hoped and prayed that our Dad would reappear some day and our family would be whole again. But, as time moved on, that hope became a dim one. I was confirmed in our church in junior high and attended church camp one summer and became more and more curious about God. My parents officially divorced during my junior year of high school. That was the year I realized I wasn’t going to make it playing pro baseball but that I could run well like my brother. I dropped my musical interests (of playing percussion in the band and orchestra) and put most of my energies into running cross country and track and my girlfriend. My mom supported us and was always there.
During college, while struggling with running injuries that forced me to quit the track and cross country teams, I got serious about my studies and decided to attend graduate school. But first I had an opportunity to sell books door to door in the South. I excelled at book selling yet felt an emptiness being away from home and seeing one of my best friends quit the sales work and head home to Massachusetts. God helped me fill the void that summer. For it was then that I accepted Jesus into my heart during a Baptist Saturday night revival service in Pasadena, Texas. I remember feeling that it was an important decision as it says in John 3: 16: “ For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, for whoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life”. Starting Grad school, however, became a major time commitment. And having grown up in a performance based home, I continued to try to please my heavenly father just as I did my earthly father – by striving for top grades, at the expense of all else, including bible study and sleep. It has taken me years to realize as it says in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves; it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast”.
I know the Lord brought me my wife Dara as we met in church 14 years ago. We both attended that church in Charleston on just that one day on which we met. And he has given us a wonderful son who deserves and needs a strong Christian father and role model that I never had growing up. I want to know the Lord and walk daily with Jesus. I thank you all for sharing this journey with me.