Nothingness. This was my first recollection in life of wondering about spiritual life. I was not in school yet and I remember lying in bed trying to think of what it would be like to die and then just not have any consciousness at all. I felt like I was being robbed a life when I had not even lived one yet. I thought that maybe if I never grow up then I will never have to think about nothingness.
As I got older still a preschooler, I remember going to church 3 blocks from our house. I learned about heaven and hell in church. I now had a new and greater fear, this was the fear of living forever and ever in hell. What was to happen to me if forever and ever without end I would be burning and burning in agony moment by moment forever and ever? I remember thinking of the question would the pain be any less after one million years of burning. I wondered if the pain would be so great that I could not use my mind to think of anything but the burning pain. Then I thought of what would hell be like as far as the interactions with other people. Would I be isolated from other people? Would I only have me for eternity? Would I be all alone in great pain hating myself. The thought brought me to a cold sweat. Back then, I had a hard time falling asleep. Back then, in order to sleep, I had to stop my active thought life from going through these patterns and thoughts. I had to void my mind from thinking of anything. This was hard to do at times but when it worked I would find myself waking up the next morning.
Things were a little unstable for me as I was growing up. My mother was married three times. We moved around a lot. After my mother divorced my father at the age of 12, I began seeing my father only during visitation rights and summer vacations. It was not that bad because I got to spend a lot of time with my father during those times. I loved my father. After my mother started living with her boyfriend we moved around a lot. It was hard for me to establish relationships with other people. My father did not live a long time. He died shortly after I had finished high school. It was hard for me to adjust to his death. His death did create a lot of changes in my life. I moved from the Twin Cities to Duluth to live with my brother John. I also attended vocational school to become an Electronic Technician.
Earlier in my life when my mother owned a bar on the Indian reservation I found out that life was easy. It was not hard to please my mother when there was very few rules that I had to follow. There was very little I could do wrong in the eyes of my mother. Our mother would ask us to steal corn from one of the area farmers so that we had something to eat. She also asked us to steal cigarettes from a vending machine for her boyfriend who smoked. When looking back on my life back then, I can see how much better we had it than many other people in life today. I am so thankful that I did not grow up in an abusive home. My mother did love me when I was growing up. I was always fed and I always had fun things to do. We did not live in the bar more than one year and we moved around again. I went to a different school every year from the 6th through 12th grade. It was hard for me to make long or short term relationships when we were moving around so much.
My twin brother John was my closest friend while I was growing up. John had an outgoing personality and could talk to strangers as if he had known them for many years. John always had ideas of new things to do. One of the things John and I did was to fly a kite from a rowboat on a calm day. I would be rowing the boat as fast as I could as my brother would be yelling at me, faster Jay, faster as he was letting out more and more string until the kite got high enough into the air where it would finally reach a breeze. Yes, I miss those carefree days of old.
As far as my spiritual food goes, my siblings and I would go to church off and on in different places. In church I would repent of my sins. I would do this because I still had sins in my life. I did not have assurance of salvation in my life. When I was living on the Indian reservation, it was hard to feel like I was a Christian when I was going through periods of my life when I did not go to church. Was I a Christian? For me at this time of my life, I was the target for receiving evangelism. The funny thing is, I do not remember people giving me a gospel track or inviting me to their church at this time of my life.
Later we moved to the Twin Cities when I was in junior high school, I do remember a pastor coming over to my sister, my brother and me and asking us to come to his church. We went to church there. I do remember making a few altar calls in that church as well. But we stopped going to that church for some reason that I cannot remember. We started going to a small church closer to our home. We would put on our best clothes and go to church there. One day the pastor’s son stopped John and I outside the church and asked if he could talk to us on the church lawn. He told us that we should wear clothing that was more respectful of the Lord’s house. We explained to him that we were wearing the best clothing we had. He told us that he would be glad to find us clothing to wear to his church. I think that this was the last day that we went to a worship service in that church. It was a good thing that I knew more about the character of God at that point of my life because I really felt hurt by what this young man told us that day.
Then one day in 1973, a preacher by the name of Billy Graham came into town and he preached his heart out. One of the things he talked about was to make a public profession of faith in God. So at the end of the service I went forward to publicly repent of my sins. I turned away from my sins and asked Jesus into my life. I asked Him inside of my heart. I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior that day. After this day, I had a greater desire to follow Christ, to pray and read my bible. I preached to my father to accept Jesus as his personal Savior as well. At looking back on my life, I realize that God had been watching over me for my whole life. God kept my life protected from many kinds of sins and addictions that I could have gotten myself involved in when living in many of the communities that I had lived in while I was growing up. I thank God that He protected me before I even became a Christian in my life. What a wonderful God I serve.
Well it’s time for me to get on with my testimony. As an early Christian, my life was very rocky at first because I did not have a strong reference point as to what it meant to be a Christian. My brother John was a stronger Christian than I was. I had years of bad habits that needed to be changed. These changes did not happen overnight. In 1975 I was living with my mother and working for an insurance company in St. Paul. My brother John was living with my Dad in Duluth. I got that terrible phone call that my father had passed away. This was very hard on me at the time because I was not sure of my father’s true spiritual condition. My dad did not go to church but He had a bible that had several passages underlined in it. I have to leave it in the Lord’s hands. Still today I ask myself if only I could have shared with my father more about God than what I did.
Well death and me must have a theme going on because I got married to the perfect woman for me and I am sure she was loved by God. As I was attending a church in Duluth I fell in love with Julie. I have never met a woman that I thought was as faithful to God as she was. It was Julie who held everything together in our family. She came from a strong Christian family who I still love very dearly today. Julie was born with a severe birth defect. She was not even expected to live through one of her major surgeries at an early age of 5 months old. After she survived that surgery, she was not expected to reach adulthood. But she did. When I started dating Julie, she told me that she would not live a long life, but I had fallen in love with her and wanted to share the years that she did have with her. We had two loving children Jana and Jeremy who are strong Christians today. I love both of them so much. After being married 33 years, God took Julie home to be with him. The few hours after her death I wrote the following eulogy for Julie that I want to share with you now.
My relationship with Julie started out in a small church in Duluth. I was asked to go on a camping trip with the young adults group. The first evening at the campfire, I looked through my sunglasses and saw Julie on the other side of the fire. I wondered how I could ever get to know her since I was very shy back then. The next day at the swimming beach, I was given a bottle of sunscreen and was told to have someone apply it to my snowy white back. I wanted to meet Julie, but was so shy that I didn’t say anything to her. I just handed her the bottle and laid down on my beach towel beside her and she put the suntan lotion on my back. I wanted to date Julie but she would only date men that filtered through her screening process. Attending church was not enough. I had to pass her special screening test that I will describe with the following story.
There was a group of people sitting on large logs around a campfire. It was dark with countless stars in the sky. All the people sitting around the fire were staring at its splendor. There was a small boy standing around the fire who could not open his eyes from birth. There was a young girl with a broken arm sitting on one of the logs with an open seat next to her. The boy asked if he could sit down next to her. She replied, you must describe the sky to me before you can sit down next to me. The boy walked over to the first man who was sitting around the fire and he had a broken leg. The boy asked him what the sky looked like but the boy paid too much attention to the cast on the man’s leg. The boy did not report the proper answer to the young girl. He went around to each of the people around the fire asking the same question. Each person had some kind of injury that distracted him from reporting back the correct information to her. The boy was so distraught at coming back with the wrong answer that he turned to run away. As he turned to run, he tripped on a stone and fell flat on his back so hard that his eye’s popped open. As he lay there in pain he saw the splendor of the sky for the first time in his life. He got up from the ground but now had to wear a neck brace. He went over to the young girl and reported what he now saw. She then let him sit down on the log next to him. They were now staring at the heavenly expanse together. The young girl put her arm around the boy’s waist and the boy put his arm around the young girl’s shoulder.
The story describes what I had to do to pass Julie’s screening test. As I was growing up and I looked around for answers, I could only see faults with the churches and people who claimed to be Christians. It wasn’t until I stared at the Scriptures that I realized that Christianity isn’t about people; but about Christ. In passing the screening test, Julie said yes to start dating me.
Julie had to do a lot of work to bring me out of my shell. Julie loves to sing and I think she has the most beautiful voice I have ever heard. As we were dating, Julie warned me that she was born with birth defects and that she was not sure that she would be able to have children. She also told me that she would, at most, live to be 55 years old. This didn’t matter to me. Julie and I were in love. We were engaged to be married four weeks after first meeting. 10 months later we got married. Although Julie had many medical difficulties, she was able to deliver two of the greatest children I know. Each of them have grown to love the Lord as she did. As the children were growing up, Julie was involved with making sure the children knew the Scriptures. Julie taught our children in the AWANA program and then coached them in the Bible quizzing program. Julie would work several hours each week in teaching them the Scriptures. I think Julie was a little on the competitive side trying to get her children to do well at the quiz meets.
Julie would always say that the man is supposed to be the spiritual leader of the family, But we all know that Julie would often have to remind me to say the prayer before the meals. We would also read Scripture out loud to each other most nights before we would fall asleep. Julie had an active prayer life, I never heard her ask for healing in her own body. Julie never doubted God’s presence in her life.
Julie was big into gardening. Julie also loved going places on vacation. We have visited about 32 states over the years. Julie’s favorite things to do where to go camping and hiking. Julie enjoyed the things God has made rather than the things man has made in this world. At the end of a day we would often sit around a campfire. On a clear dark night that sky would light up with untold splendor. We often wondered how much more was up there than what we could see with our physical eyes.
Over the years at the camp fire of life, I would fall off the log and put another cast on a part of my body. I have become ugly to look at from all my falls. Julie sits there with only the broken arm she had when I first met her. 18 months ago Julie experienced a second terminal illness. She stood up on the log with her arms reaching toward the heavens. I grabbed her around the legs and told her she needed to sit down. She listened to me for a while.
For months now Julie has been asking me for permission to go home to be with Jesus. I have been telling her no. Before Julie’s last two trips to the hospital, she told us what special music she wanted sung at her funeral service. She also made a list of items she owned and who she wanted to get some of them. Finally when Julie was at the Fairview ridges hospital and asked me again to go home, I told her yes. She looked at me and said this is the first time you said I could go. She took my permission and ran with it. She was soon transferred to the University of Minnesota hospital.
Like the campfire smoke that rises into the sky, Julie’s spirit rose up into the heavens of God’s glory. Julie got her wish and is going to enjoy the things God has made in heaven now.
I was holding on so tightly to Julie that for a moment I felt all alone. But then I looked around me and I could see many other people sitting on the campfire logs, some of them looking as crippled as I am were staring up at God’s splendor. I realized that I am not alone. I again looked around the campfire and saw many empty logs for people to sit down on. As I have told you already, Julie was a woman of prayer. The number one thing Julie prayed for was that our family and friends would sit around the campfire of life with us.
Julie, I love you so much. Thank you for the 34 years I’ve known you. There is no one else I would rather have spent my life with than you. The thing I want most now, is to be with you, but I know that my time has not yet come. I am more determined now to sit on this log without falling off, than ever before. I have many friends at the campfire to keep me strong until we see each other again in paradise. You will be greatly missed.
From your loving husband Jay
As I have already told you, Julie was sick from birth and was not even expected to live to adulthood. I knew from the day I married Julie that my days with her were numbered, but I loved her and if we could only share a few years together, that would have been fine. But as it was, God blessed both Julie and I by giving us many years of marriage together. Not only that but our wonderful Savior gave us two wonderful God loving Children. How great our God is. Julie said to me that if one person would come to Christ as a result of her death, that it was worth it. Up until the time the nurse said that Julie had passed away, I sincerely thought that God was going to miraculously turn Julie’s health direction around and heal her. I really did feel the presence of God with me even though my prayers for Julie to be healed were never answered, or at least not in the way I had expected them to be answered. You see, to give Julie permission to die is one thing, but then to have God miraculously heal Julie would be another. I was thinking, God what a testimony to your healing powers this would be. But this did not happen. I know that Julie is in much better hands being with Jesus Christ than what she would have been living with me. And for a person who has eternal life, death can and was healing for Julie because she is in the presence of the Lord, free from pain.
This may seem odd, but with other people around me I could not shed any tears for Julie. Of course I shed plenty of them when I was alone by myself. As for me, I have felt the presence of God so strongly that I believe that I have an even better relationship with God through this whole experience. I have come to realize that I could never love Julie as much as God does. I also realize that Julie could never be in better hands than out of my hands and into the hands of Christ Jesus. When Julie did pass away I felt a horrible empty feeling inside of me even though God was close to me. It was as if I was only half a man. It was not long after Julie passed away that I said to myself that I cannot blame God for this because he works all things together for good for those who love him. I thought to myself, I do not like living alone and Julie has told me that she does not want me to be along. I want someone to sit next to when I go to church. Julie and I shared in most of the church functions together that we were involved in. I wanted someone to share my worship of God with. I needed to love another person the way I loved Julie in my life.
I did not see God bringing a woman knocking on my door to be my next wife so I decided that I was going to be active and do something about it. I went online to a Christian dating service and aggressively searched for a Godly woman I could spend the rest of my days serving God with, dating a few other women.
I started dating Paula. Now Paula was very smart and told me after the second date, that if I was going to date her that I had to stop seeing and communicating with all other women. She told me that she would know if I was the one for her after two months. I agreed to Paula’s terms. It was easy to agree to Paula’s terms. Well to make a long story short, Paula was a fine Christian woman. One of the things that impressed me about Paula was her love for God through her church and small group. On one of our dates we went out with one of the small church groups for street evangelism. How many of you have done that on one of your first dates. WOW, to me, this was the type of woman that I needed and what I was looking for in my life.
One of the things about dating people my age is the fact that they have families. So you are not only marrying the person, but the whole family as well. Paula’s family has treated me very well. I fell in love with not only Paula, but with her family as well. I am glad that God has brought Paula and me together. We both love the Lord and have a burden for the lost souls in the world who need to hear about the gospel of Christ.
After being a widower for one year, Paula and I were married. When I lost my former wife Julie to illness, I did not know Paula. I am glad that I never knew Paula while Julie was alive because I would feel guilty for getting married so soon to her after Julie’s death. I had such a wonderful marriage with a Godly woman like Julie, that I wanted to have that same wonderful relationship with another woman. Paula so far has been just what the doctor ordered. I wanted a Godly woman and I got a Godly woman. It is hard to explain to people why I moved so fast in getting married again. But I see God loving Julie, me and Paula through the whole process. Paula and I have been married for a few years now and it is because of the experiences we have had in our life and the desire we have to see other people saved that I wanted to write this book to you.
Paula and I have a strong desire to see as many people as we can come to love Christ the way we love him. Paula has really challenged me in sharing my belief in God with other people. My hope is that by sharing what I know about God with other people would challenge them to have a bigger hunger to know Him better for themselves. I want to thank you for taking time in reading this book. I hope that it will give you a better understanding of who God is and how much he loves you.