Who Am I?

Good morning. I thought I would write a little about me this fine day. I was born in a little town in Central Florida some 60 years ago. My dad was a barber and my mom owned a clothing store. I had two brothers and one sister. My dad and mom have been dead for as many years as some of you who might read this have been born. One of my brothers is also dead. I was the youngest child being born after my brothers and sisters were grown so I grew up with no siblings in the household. They tell me that when I was born (at home in those days) that my mom asked if I were a boy or a girl (she wanted a girl). So when the doctor told her I was a boy she responded, “Throw him out the window.” My brothers always teased me that the doctor followed mom’s orders and I landed on my head. My first haircut even though my dad was a barber did not occur until I was about four-years-old (remember my mom wanted a girl). I had long curly hair. When my dad turned on his clippers, it scared the crap out of me. He clamped down on my head so hard as I tried to get out of the barber chair that he dislocated my neck. We had to drive about twelve miles with my mom holding my head in place to a chiropractor to get my neck relocated. I now see that lots of stuff was happening around my head area. Even though my hair is thinned, I still don’t like to get hair cuts.

In my early days we (mom, dad and I) lived behind the clothing store that my mom owned, Dad’s barbershop was attached. My room was in the attic over the store. When I was around twelve we moved about four blocks away to a new house that mom and dad had built, which was made of cinder block. It still stands today. The original house/business was later demolished and a new building built on the spot that was also a business but is now a church building (well, maybe it is a business also).

My first job was in a Winn-Dixie wearing an elephant suit for a premium stamp company (those were stamps that you got when you bought groceries and when you filled up a book or so you could redeem them for gifts, it was the rage). My second job was working as a “grocery stocker.” I also bagged and carried the groceries to the customer’s car. My third job was what was fondly called a “soda jerk.” The “drug store” as it was called also had an eating area (think Happy Days and the Fonz). I worked there through high school.

My family attended a church (Church of God, Cleveland TN). I have been in the church since nine months before I was born. It was a small Pentecostal church with lots of revivals (those people got saved every few weeks). I made my decision to follow Jesus when I was eighteen-years-old (most likely the best decision, in a long line of decisions that I have made, that I have ever made). Some little prissy girl dared me to go to the altar. I got up from my seat, intended to go out of the church building, but some how got dyslexia and turned toward the front of the building instead of the rear. I don’t regret that lapse in direction.

After I graduated from high school, I tried to find a better job (of course I had a high school education) but because of the “draft” (of which I was classified 1-A, which meant that in case of war I was the first be drafted) I could not find suitable employment. When bosses found out in those days your draft status they were not willing to employ you for threat of losing their investment as the government snatched you away. So I decided to join the Air Force (another good decision). I did basic training in Texas, was stationed in Topeka, Kansas, Tokyo, Japan, and Honolulu, Hawaii. On the latter assignment I met my wife, Donna, of 36.5 years (she corrected me after my last post, and what a joy that was) that was the second most valuable decision that I have ever made. She fell in love with me the first time she saw me enter her dad’s church. Of course, she has her side of the story, but her remembrance is tinged by age.

During my stay in Hawaii, I went to night school (a Bible school attached to the church that Donna’s dad pastored). When I was discharged from the Air Force and landed back stateside I went to an Assemblies of God college in SoCal. Donna had moved to SoCal to teach after graduating from U of Hawaii with her Master’s Degree. She was such an influence on me to get educated. I was the first and only one in my family of five to have a college education. But that didn’t seem to cure my need for discovery. I went on to get a Master’s Degree and a Doctor of Ministry degree (both in Biblical Studies).

My friend and mentor (Dr. Russ Spittler: retired from Fuller Seminary) was helpful in making the decision for a doctorate other than a Ph. D. He helped guide me to stay in the local church and bring what I learned home to the folks in the pew. I have spent my life doing just that (with lots of interesting stories).

Donna and I traveled together for about eighteen months after I graduated from college as what was known as “evangelist” in Assemblies of God language moving from church to church for short ten-day stints. We sang together and even made a record (one of those bit old 78s, called a long play album, the kind Elvis made). My family actually wanted me to be a Southern Gospel singer (I wonder where that would have taken me). After the eighteen-month adventure, we settled in a “bedroom” area in SoCal (about 100,000 people) to pastor a 400-member church. That lasted for a short period before the power structure in the church got pissed off at me and told us to leave. Donna was pregnant with Jason who was born one week after we were exiled from the church. We have two wonderful kids, Jason now twenty-nine and Jeramie Joy, twenty-three. Jason loves computers and hasn’t found himself yet. Jeramie is a differently-abled child who just got her first job in a library. She loves it and she is a Laker’s fan, bar none.

This started a career of church rejections. Several years later Donna and I pastored another church, eleven months later, the denomination asked me to leave because I was not teaching doctrine to their satisfaction (I just couldn’t find scripture to support that you had to speak in tongues to be “Baptized in the Holy Spirit.” Just before I left that church I met John Wimber. I planted a small group in that town that later became a Vineyard (it is actually still around today). I worked for Wimber for several years at the beginning of the Vineyard movement as a researcher and writer of conference materials. I worked for Vineyard Ministries International (VMI). I moved from Anaheim to Denver to become a staff member at the Vineyard only to be released when the “prophets came to town.” I was actually released by the senior pastor because of a prophecy given to him (dumb, but true story). I was officially out of the Vineyard for seven years returning only a short time before Wimber passed on to the other side. Here in WA where I live I never found a fit in the Vineyard. I was told that I was an enigma. I would attend pasto’s stuff when it was around, but was finally told that I was not welcomed because I was not a senior pastor (possibly the most screwed up language that the Vineyard adapted from other church bodies). Shirt buttons popped for awhile if you were a senior pastor. I remember eating lunch with one of my friends who was leading a new Vineyard church plant (about thirteen people) and introduced himself as a senior pastor (I almost choked on my food).

I worked for Todd Hunter at Association of Vineyard Churches (AVC) during his last days as grand poo-pah (produced Vineyard’s first official web site). I have known him for years. It’s fun working with him. I admire a person who would give up what most clergy crave in order to follow what he believed God was leading him toward. Such is a wonderful model for all of our lives.

In 1999 I was teaching a workshop in a Vineyard Worship Conference in the WA area when I discovered that I had heart problems. I had open-heart surgery a few days later. On the health side I am also a Type 2 diabetic (inherited from my father I am told).

A few months after my surgery I met Mark Priddy in a little coffee shop and heard part of his story. He asked me to help him learn some theological stuff and I told him that I needed to date for a while before I made any decisions. Several months later I went to Boise and worked with Mark (and first met Eric Keck and what a treat that was) for sixteen hours over a two-day period. I returned for about ten or eleven months for two-day courses. By the way, the first question that Eric asked me while eating lunch the first time I met him was: if unbelievers are going to die and go to hell in the rapture, can we help God my shooting them (kidding or serious, you choose). I have found Mark to be an honest and loving person. True to his word. Humble about his worth and focused on being the kind of person that can easily carry the kingdom message to the world. Eric, one huge kid, is sensitive, kind, and loving. They are family, a new family and I am astonished that an old fart like me could hang out with such genuine people.

If you are still reading this, I am truly astonished. Just some random thoughts about me, a trip down memory lane. If I wrote this many words every day I could write a book in a short period of time. I’m not sure why that’s important to me but it is.

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