Changing your life with God – what does it take?

I was 5 years old, standing up in a pew at the First Church of the Nazarene in Princeton, Indiana. A quartet of singers mesmerized me.

You know the drill in the ‘60s. The quartet was decked out in white suits with ties and white shoes. Impressive.

They looked so perfect.

The clothes were not what impressed me most, and I know it’s easy to influence a toddler. But this was different.

It captured every part of my being. I still remember. My thoughts were clear and precise — I will do that one day.

I dreamed of singing high harmony and amazing everyone with my talent.

The impression was indelible, and I could not shake it. It was deeper than singing.

It was a premonition of my future.

Off to kindergarten

I carried this into kindergarten. In school, the kid’s nobody liked were my friends. I was like their pastor. You know, the ones with cooties (another throwback term). The worst-dressed kids were my best friends. I would bring them to my house and ask my mom to feed them.

My dad said, “Do not bring any more kids home for us to feed.”

I slowed down, but I never stopped. I still feed people.

My dad was not mean; we just did not have the money to feed everybody.

Singer in the making

Singing on a stage consumed my little mind, and I loved going to church to envision myself on stage and everyone watching me. It was narcissistic, but that was not my intention.

For years, this deep sense of longing to sing in church and to serve Jesus was predominant and consuming.

Every bad thing I did was on my conscience.

And then…

A teenage pregnancy. I was a father at 18, and the girl was 16. This was my first sexual encounter.

Fear, guilt, and loss of identity were my acquaintances.

I was a terrible husband. Not committed. Selfish. Unloving.

I abandoned my wife for days on end. I was a pitiful, broken, and soon-to-be-divorced young male.

My life was permanently damaged, and my Christianity forever tarnished.

What happened? Divorce and my introduction to methamphetamines.

How can a divorced, terrible, unloving young man sing for God? Not sure?

But he can.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26–31, NIV)

9 years later

After abandoning my family, my life grew worse and worse. I moved to Texas. Drugs were normal.

I hated me and did my best to die without killing myself. Cocaine and meth were my diet, and I had a beer with every meal.

I father several children by different women, and none of them wanted me for a dad. Rightfully so.

I never forgot being 5 years old. The dream of being a singer never went away. The trouble was I really couldn’t sing.

I sensed a call deep in my heart. I prayed often. I prayed in trouble and when I was not in trouble.

I sensed God drawing me to Him. No Christian friends and no family influenced me. Just an inner knowing.

I would hear a voice saying:

You don’t have to live this way.

Now I am sure this was God. Other times, I was unsure. It happened over and over.

I began having dreams of preaching to hundreds and thousands of people. While I was intoxicated I would tell my friends, and they would laugh and belittle me.

The dreams just would not go away.

A defining moment

One morning, after a 5-day cocaine spree, I called a preacher and asked him to meet me at a church.

My wife-to-be, Charlotte, went to the church with me. I went inside the church and prayed and prayed — and prayed some more. 4 hours of prayer, to be exact.

The preacher got bored. I cannot explain the change, but my life was never the same.

I became the preacher no one wanted. I was a former drug trafficker, addict, and nightclub manager with many illegitimate children.

Now what?

Bible college

I enrolled in Bible college and married my girlfriend, Charlotte Ingram. 35 years later, she is still my wife. She is an amazing woman.

We faced lawsuits over kids. We also lost $100,000 of illegal income. We lost a home, and I turned my Corvette in to the bank that financed it.

My new residence was an RV beside Charlotte’s house. I was ashamed, but it was a part of the overall plan.

We fought legal battles over kids. Charlotte and I faced our past head-on.

Few trusted our conversion to Christ

We were not trusted. Even by some churches. We admitted our failures, walked out our repentance. Honesty and transparency were our wardrobes.

We had 3 boys. I raised a family as I sold cars by day and went to school at night. I earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.

It all took 9 long years. I am now the pastor of a thriving church in East Texas — a church gathering over 600 people who worship together on Sunday.

Our church is in the same city where I trafficked drugs and managed nightclubs.

We stood our ground, and God helped us every step of the way

Called to ministry

Would you follow a man who once trafficked drugs into your city and sold drugs to kids?

Would you invite a man who had several illegitimate children to be your pastor?

Would you? Probably not.

But God would.

Why am I writing this?

To tell you that God can turn your life around. To let you know there is always hope.

I want you to know it was not easy. Your turn around will require perseverance and courage.

The greatest struggle will be brutal honesty and full disclosure

5-year-olds grow up

Lives don’t always turn out the way we dream, but I still remember standing up in a pew at 5 years old.

That moment influences my life today.

And I still can’t sing.

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