A Personal Story of Grace and Faith
I was born in Hollywood, California, where early on I mixed with a memorable assortment of people from the film industry, although none ever offered me a script!
Before my teens, my parents relocated the family (including a sister Debbie) south to North San Diego County. There the allurements of the ocean were chiseled into my soul. I became a devotee of beach culture, mastering the waves and memorizing every lyric ever penned by Brian Wilson. Picking up the guitar, I wrote my own songs and performed at venues throughout So Cal.
But since the coastal scene was not always edifying, my parents arranged, in my adolescent years, to enroll me in a public school twenty-five miles inland, in a more conservative community. To a beach boy it was a crushing blow, although in time I would see it otherwise, when, after a few misadventures, the Lord Jesus Christ exacted a call on my life I couldn’t resist, drawing me firmly into his loving embrace and calling me to serve him with my whole life for the rest of my life.
Imagining my future vocation to be that of a Christian attorney, I committed myself to making grades worthy of admittance to good law schools, several of which my dad, by now my closest friend, and I visited in order to familiarize ourselves with the options. But the dream was not to materialize. In the most dramatic about-face of my young life, a sovereign God led me away from law and into a field I had resolved to avoid at all costs, full-time ministry as a pastor. Don’t pastors have to prepare at least two talks every week? What a frightening concept! But once again, it was a leading I couldn’t resist, and on the day I knocked on the door of my dad’s office to reveal the changes of my heart, imagining they’d evoke his disapproval, I instead faced a man who, with tears in his eyes, responded with a quiet affirmation: ‘I always knew it!’ By the time I matriculated at Dallas Seminary to train as a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I was probably the most enthusiastic entering student.
Quickly it became apparent that seminary would elicit more questions than answers – not because of deficiencies within the classroom but because of profundities in God’s word – and prompt a life-long quest to plumb the spiritual truths at the center of universe, and so I made plans to pursue doctoral research. When a place became available at Cambridge University in England, I couldn’t resist the call of the the Old World.
But there was a delay – an obstacle impeding my departure. Her name was Lesli, and she was beyond question the most beautiful specimen of humanity I’d ever encountered. Stunningly radiant inside and out, with a deep and infectious love for Jesus Christ, she was the partner with whom I wanted to traverse life’s peaks and valleys – and remarkably, she agreed, consenting to be my wife. Since Lesli was a year shy of a university degree in Nursing, I strapped on a lather’s belt and endeavored – not without a few calamities to my fingers – to work her through school.
The six years in Cambridge were magical – a time of exhilarating scholarship, new and close friendships, a Spirit-fired church, and a peerless library (Tyndale House). Lacking only good surf, I traded my board-wax for bouncing balls, playing back-up point guard for the university basketball team and cricket for my college, Corpus Christi.
After obtaining a Ph.D., I received the gracious invitation to serve as assistant pastor at Eden Chapel, our church in Cambridge, which made returning to America, two years later, a very heart-wrenching farewell.
With an English-born baby, Matthew, in tow, and another son, Jonathan, on the way, we landed in a states-side church environmentally as different from verdant England as this globe will allow. Paradise Valley (a suburb of Phoenix), Arizona, and Camelback Bible Church in particular became, in 1988, my post as senior pastor. By the goodness of God – for a full twenty-eight years – we linked hearts with a loving church family, watching brothers and sisters both transformed by Christ and venturing out for Christ to proclaim Christ in their respective worlds. How we cherished our time with the Christ-filled people of Camelback!
When informed by the middle-school that our elder son, Matt, an advanced student in math during his elementary education, would be unable to advance over the next two years because suitable classes in math were unavailable, we made the decision to bring both boys home for their education. The delight of this experience mushroomed into a journey which terminated ultimately when the boys graduated from high school, leaving us with fond memories of exposing two young intellects to the integrating principle of all academic endeavors, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Matt subsequently enrolled at Stanford University where he earned All-American honors both as a varsity golfer and as a scholar athlete, and helped his team to win the 2007 NCAA Division I National Championship, prompting an invitation to the entire team to visit President Bush in the White House. Since then, Matt has served as an intern in the youth ministry at church, and has led missions to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is now studying for an M.B.A. in the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.
Jonathan earned an honors degree in British Literature at Wake Forest University, while also pursuing a variety of extra-curricular interests such as playing bass guitar, engaging in numerous sports, and tutoring disadvantaged students in the public schools of North Carolina. He loves serving in the church, teaching children and youth about Christ. Jon is now studying for an M.A. in The Long Eighteenth-Century of British Literature, specializing in the literary work of Samuel Johnson, at Dartmouth College.
My great earthly joy is to remain in close proximity to the angel of my existence, the wife of my youth, Lesli, whose spiritual encouragement never ceases, who reminds me every day to drink in draughts of the love of Christ. In addition, I love studying and preaching God’s word. I can’t resist hikes in the backcountry of the Canadian Rockies, especially when an encounter with a grizzly bear is a possibility, a thrice-enjoyed thrill. Naturally, the surf still beckons. Golf occasionally. Writing most definitely. Ham never!