I was born in a sleepy little fishing village on the banks of the Seine river. They call it Paris, France. My mother was French and my father was an American G.I. during WW II. I was born just a few years after the war.
Paris has long been the culture capitol of the world. It is there that the West’s fashion is shaped by a disproportionately influential and small group of misfit homosexuals. Their influence on the world is a phenomenon I will never understand. It all has to do with people being successfully talked into throwing away perfectly good clothes long before they wear out. Their leverage over us is our insecurity over the acceptance granted to us by others and is always based on the most superficial of elements.
I learned French before English. I spoke both by age six. I spent my youth being educated in French and American public schools, the French schools being a good four to five years ahead of American schools, and that was in the fifties and sixties when our schools were pretty decent. Catching up with the French schools was an extraordinary challenge. After the first grading period I was 42nd in a class of 45, and I was working my hardest. My grandmother tutored me daily and by the end of the school year I was third in my class and won an academic award. Much of what I learned in the 4th grade there I didn’t get until high school in the U.S..
I always loved my years in the U.S. way more than the years spent in Europe, although I am grateful for both. My maternal grandparents were educators and intellectuals. I spent a lot of my days off from school with my grandmother in the museums and historical sites of Paris. She was a walking encyclopedia of European history and could wax eloquent on any person, period or place for twenty minutes at the drop of a hat. The lessons I learned from her have colored much of my life view, seeing events within a much broader context than I would have been able to otherwise. That is true to this day.
We spent one summer in France in a 400 year old farmhouse owned by one of my grandmother’s friends from teacher’s college in the 1920's. My grandmother was born in 1900. The farm had no modern implements. The hay was cut with long sickles and loaded onto ox-drawn carts. The farmhands made their rakes from wood. The closest village was about an hour’s walk. It was in the mountains and they stayed snowed in all winter. It was the kind of summer from which childhood dreams are woven. We spent another summer in an Atlantic resort on France’s West coast, providing even more material from which to weave those dreams.
My life in the U.S. was a typical small town boyhood dream. We lived on a lake and in close proximity to the mountains. The sport of Alpine skiing soon took center stage in my life. I was always blessed with athletic talent and did well in wrestling and track in high school, but skiing was undoubtedly my favorite, even though I won a state championship in track at age 16 and set an unofficial world record in another sport that same year. I skied almost every day, as a small place nearby was open nights. Saturdays and Sundays were big skiing days. I began competing in junior high school, traveling every weekend to race. A lot of my friends had big time skiing talent, though. One later won a world championship, so it was a real struggle to be competitive. Nevertheless, I worked my way up to a respectable international F.I.S. point level by the time I was in college. After fifteen years of amateur racing I began making a living as professional skier both in the United States and Europe. Skiing was now providing me with a wonderful and exciting life, from a worldly point of view. I raced all over Europe in the winter and spent my summers in places like the Carribean and the French Riviera.
My life had always been characterized by what other people would always construe as singular and exceptional privilege. I once lived on a Carribean island. Outside my bungalow was a million and half dollar sailboat – a 126 ft. four-masted racing schooner that had won transatlantic races. Next to it was a 56 ft. Chriscraft with a full complement of diving gear and a diving M.D.. Next to that were three fast skiboats. All around us were international jetsetters, professional athletes, European models and actresses from many countries. On my boss’s birthday we reserved an entire seafood restaurant on the water. The tab came to $30,000. We thought nothing of it. We had grossed six million dollars in five months for the company. Money had absolutely no meaning to me or my friends. People would look at us and ask us in sheer amazement how we ever managed to have the good fortune to live the lives we did. Deep down inside, however, I knew that it wasn’t at all what it looked like from the outside. I knew it couldn’t last forever, but I also knew that a part of me didn’t want it to.
SCUBA diving provided me with great adventures that Summer in the French West Indies. I was a certified Master Diver and took full advantage of the indescribable riches on the coral reefs that surrounded the island. I went diving almost ever day. One of my favorite things was to ask one of the resrt’s guests to look down at the water when we anchored over a dive site and to guess the depth. They would always say that it looked like about fifteen feet, but that they knew it must be deeper, so they would normally guess about 35 feet. The water was 143 feet deep. You could see the bottom like you were looking into a glass of clear water.
I had a good friend on the Island of Martinique named Arieh Lobel. Arieh was one of the toughest guys I had ever met. He was Israeli and had been a commando in the Israeli Army. He had a smile that never ceased, had a model’s looks and was tremendously popular with everyone, especially the ladies. He was a diving instructor whose deepest dive was over 300 feet. I wanted nothing more than to make one of those deep dives, so one day Arieh and I struck up a deal: I would teach him to barefoot waterski and he would take me on a 300 foot dive.
Arieh’s first barefoot experience did not go well. As he lay stretched out with his hands on the barefoot bar that stuck out the starboard side of the ski boat we were doing about 40 miles per hour. Next thing you know ... WHOOSH .... there went his shorts! He screamed and yelled, “What do I do?” I told him to hang on and bring his feet around and start barefooting! We were in a remote lagoon and there wasn’t a soul in sight. We were all laughing like crazy when he took my advice. He was “bare”-footing, quite literally! All of a sudden a tremendous spray with the power of a fire hose shot up from his feet and nailed him in the worst imaginable place. He sort of screamed and grunted at the same time as he let go of the bar and bounced along the water like a soccer ball. We turned the boat around and picked him up, still laughing so hard that hauling him back aboard at first seemed like it was going to be impossible. That was the end of Arieh’s barefooting days.
About a week later I was on the dive boat with Arieh. There were very few resort guests diving that day, so about three of the Divemasters decided to dive together off Diamond Rock on the Southeast Corner of Martinique. Arieh invited me to come. We all stepped off the side of the boat and the next thing I knew all of the Divemasters were gone! I saw some bubbles and looked down and there they were, plumetting for the bottom like rocks. I started swimming vertically straight down as fast as I could and I still wasn’t catching them. I was popping my ears about every two or three seconds and watching my depth gauge, which was in meters: 40 ... 45 ... 50 ...55 ... 60 ... 65. I had just hit about 200 feet and could now just barely see the divers below me. They were still perfectly vertical and swimming as fast as they could. Then it hit me: this was my deep dive!
We hit the bottom at 270 feet. The accepted limit for sport diving in the U.S. is 100 feet. My mask seemed like it had been pressed onto my face with a vice. I adjusted as best I could to the pressure of about 150 lbs. per square inch on my body. Then we all looked over to our left. Were it not for our regulator mouthpieces, we would have all been gasping in awe of the sight. There was a large fish trap on the bottom about fifteen feet in diameter whose mooring line to the surface had broken. Hoovering over it was the largest Ray I had ever seen. His wingspan had to be between sixteen and eighteen feet as his wings hung over both sides of the trap while he tried to get to the fish inside. Instinctively we swam over toward him. We got about halfway there and with one powerful swoop of his giant wings, he was gone. The only problem was that this foray had added a few very precious minutes to our bottom time. This was supposed to be a “bounce-dive,” as in the days before diving computers, bottom time was always calculated from the beginning of the descent. I had a single tank and everyone else was carrying doubles. I looked at the decompression chart around my neck as we began swimming along the bottom for the boat’s anchor to ascend up the anchor line. The trip back up called for a total of 45 minutes of decompression at various depths. I thought for sure I would suck my single tank dry and have to borrow some air before I saw the surface again. Perhaps having been in training for ten months a year, most of it at high altitude, helped. Somehow I made it all the way through the decompression on my own air. The experience had been the dive of my life.
One night we were on a night dive about ten miles offshore. I thought for some reason that the darkness of the ocean floor would provide a great opportunity to “conquer all fear.” We were in about 75 feet of water in a group of about six divers. I let the Divemaster go on ahead with the other divers. I turned my back on them and sat on the ocean floor in a place where I had often seen marine life bigger than I was. Then I turned out my life and gazed into the inky darkness. I was going to sit there until I could completely eliminate all traces of fear from my mind. The only problem was that my fear grew in intensity rather than diminished. Soon I began to imagine grotesque and monstrous faces approaching me with frightening expressions, long fans and huge eyes. My heart was beating like a drum! After a while i turned around and could barely discern the lights of the other divers. It is very hard to swim fast underwater, but I probably set a world record rejoining the others. The whole time I was absolutely sure that the grotesque monsters were hot on my tail; so much so in fact, that as soon as I got back in the dive boat I immediately pulled my fins off and looked at them, certain that I would see great bite marks from this scary encounter. Many years later, a Christian friend well versed in the methods and tactics of demons would tell me that there was little doubt that this was what these beings were. Satan is perhaps most threatened when anyone decides to squarely face their fears.
One day a friend of the family who was a successful attorney in N.Y. asked me when I was going to get serious about life. I asked him what for. He said so I could have a successful career and enjoy some stability. I asked him what the most enjoyable time was that he had had in the past year. He said it was a week’s vacation at a tropical resort. I answered him that this is where I lived for six months out of every year. Why would I want to trade that in to put a suit on every day and only get to be on an island for one week? He didn’t have an answer, although a part of me almost wished that he did. He looked at me and said, “You just need to grow some roots.” I still remember my answer: “I have some roots; I just haven’t found the right soil.”
One patch of soil that I had tried was as a result of having met a rather well known Harvard psychologist in the sixties. His name was Timothy Leary. I was attending a prestigious Eastern Ivy League University and had my encounter there with this high priest of LSD. I took his famous advice to heart: “Turn on, Tune in, Drop out.” Shortly thereafter I found myself at the corner of Haight & Ashbury in the middle of the 60's Hippie movement in San Francisco.
Seriously seeking for some meaning in life, I sought it in and amongst the rock music scene. I first questioned the status quo of the previous generation, then rejected it, then rebelled fully against it. I was arrested in various protests and heard the sobering clang of jail doors slamming behind me for the first time in my life. I thought I had finally found something to believe in. With each acid trip, with each high, I though that the reality I sought was growing closer. Before long, I saw that this too was an illusion. I had traded one set of false values for another.
Then a hippie friend of mine named Bill Suthard knocked on my door. He was all cleaned up, had short hair and was wearing normal clothes. Most noticeable of all was his big smile and the great energy that he seemed to be beaming out all over. He told me that he had joined a religious order and was studying Eastern religion and had found true peace and happiness there. I was taken by the change in him and started coming to some of their classes. Soon I r gave away all my worldly possessions and joined their group. I studied, read, meditated and worked in their city missions for three years. It was the first time I had ever heard the name of Jesus Christ, other than as a profane expression. He was “one of the great avatars,” they told me. I studied the Bahagavatgita, Rosicrucian works, Jewish mysticism, and even wrote my own paraphrased version of the New Testament to help me understand it. After three years, I could see that the answers I sought were not to be found with this group and despite a measure of gained enlightenment, I left.
I bought a truck and started traveling all over the country delivering camper trailers. I seemed no closer to the truth than ever before. I took some time off and went back to Europe. Our family had a lovely villa on the French Riviera, and I went there to gather my thoughts.
One day I got in the car and drove by myself to Nice. From Nice I started to drive up into the mountains. This region is called the “Alpes Maritime” because the mountains come right to the sea with no coastal plain. On the highest of the three roads above Nice called the Corniche, I parked the car and walked to the edge of the road. I was 4,500 ft. above the Mediterranean and could see over a hundred miles out to sea. It was sunset, and the spectacle was breathtaking. I have never seen as many vivid colors in any sunset as the sun slowly dipped from the western sky into the waiting, multicolored sea. I was awestruck by that brilliant spectacle. Inside me, however, was an empty and haunting feeling. I felt closer to God at that moment than I ever had before. I knew that only an all-powerful, magnificent and universal God could have created such a gorgeous world as I then gazed upon from that lofty cliff. I was deeply disturbed as well, however, for I knew that I did not know the God who had painted this wondrous tableau before my eyes. Not only did I not know Him, but I felt the presence of an impenetrable wall separating me from Him. I knew that as long as I lived on my side of that wall, my life would lack the meaning I sought to give it. I had no earthly idea how to get through that wall. I didn’t know one person to ask. I didn’t know one book to read. I didn’t know one place to go to find out. This was the most beautiful scene I had ever seen, yet I was deeply troubled by my thoughts. It was perhaps the saddest day of my life.
My life from then was no more spiritual than ever before. It was not as if I knew the path to knowing God or how to get closer to Him. I didn’t, and there grew in me a sense of increasing resignation. I knew that the next move had to be God’’s. I came to be fairly well adjusted to this concept, as I have never been much of a hand-wringer. I came back from a winter of skiing in Europe in the early eighties. I had just spent six months living out the greatest fantasy of my lifetime. The greatest of all my dreams growing up and skiing the Northeastern U.S. as a boy had been to ski the mountains of Switzerland. Places like Davos, Zermat and St.Moritz had been legendary to me. That winter I had lived in a luxury hotel actually located on the side of a Swiss mountain in Southeastern Switzerland. I had a season pass good at 27 ski areas including Davos and St. Moritz. I worked for the most prestigious ski school in the world, the E.S.F., or French Ski School. I was the only American in that region, and although I missed speaking English, for a dedicated, life-long skier this was nothing short of living in paradise. The tree line extended only to about 6,000 feet and the mountains were over 10,000 feet. That meant that powder skiing in "bottomless powder" was in daily abundance above the trees in unending Alpine meadows below the brilliant, blue Alpine skies. Those were superb experiences in which one comes as close to being free of the effects of gravity as seemed possible as we drifted down mountain after mountain, sometimes even taking a native guide to reach the more remote places of the Alpine back country. In one valley we came across the peak of a roof sticking out of the snow. The guide told us that it was the peak of a two story shepherd’’s summer house. The snow there was almost thirty feet deep! On top of all this I was able each week to test my racing skills against some world-class ski racers, a number of whom had some World Cup experience. After 25 years on skis, 15 of them in competition, I was challenged and tested as never before. I even spent a few weeks training with several World Cup teams on a downhill course on a French glacier that gave a new definition to what I had previously thought of as ““fast.”” The friction from the ice was actually melting grooves in the bottom of our skis as speeds in excess of eighty m.p.h. were a daily occurrence. I somehow knew my skiing career was winding down, but when I came back to the United States, I thought I would give it one more year. I had job offers at over thirty well known ski resorts. I settled on the Sierra Nevada range in Northern California. I enjoyed my winter there, especially the trips around to the northern side of Lake Tahoe to ski Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. This was as close as I had come in the U.S. to the delights of the French and Swiss Alps. There were some avalanche chutes there that were so steep that they couldn’’t even hold snow until the Spring. You could peer over the edge and look between your ski tips all the way to the bottom. I couldn’’t get enough of this kind of skiing. There was nothing I enjoyed more than being challenged, or skiing something that others said could not be skied. After that season in the Sierras I moved to Southern California. I had finally decided to give up skiing and ski racing. The sport had provided me with a lifestyle that most people have only imagined. In all of this, however, there was still a sense of emptiness that was now growing into frustration at having reached thirty years of age and still not having any real answers to the great questions of life: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? How do I get there? Not long before that I had spent a winter working as a professional ski patrolman and doing mountain rescue. I had become an E.M.T. to get this job and I loved it. I had also done some of this kind of work in Europe, which included avalanche control. We worked with plastic explosives to trigger avalanches. Often I would be in the local taverns until after 2:00 a.m. listening to ““oompah music”” and consuming native beverages, only to get a call and go from there right to the patrol shack to load up with 75 pounds of one kilogram bombs and head up a 10,000 ft. mountain in the dark in a snow cat to be able to start blasting at daybreak, sometimes after or even during a heavy blizzard. I couldn’’t imagine to save my life how anyone could ever put on a suit and tie and work behind a desk for forty hours each week. This was all behind me now as I settled in Southern California. After a not-so-successful business venture, I went to work in the sales force of an alternate energy company. I did very well and only worked about a dozen hours a week. I met a fellow there who was also very good at what he did. One month the two of us were responsible for 70% of the sales company wide. It didn’’t take us long to realize that we should start our own company. We did just that and became successful very quickly. Neither of us was very motivated to earn a lot of money. We enjoyed our work greatly. It actually became our principal form of entertainment as well as our livelihood. We both developed roughly the same ““business plan.”” We would work for a few weeks, maybe up to two or three months at the most. Stick a pile of money in the bank. Then take about six months off. I had a nice boat by then and would be on the water almost daily. I also had a nice garden in the back yard of my house on a Southern California hillside. I would go back to Europe for few weeks at a time to visit family and get my fill of my favorite foods and good wines. After a while I began to sit by the garden and to do more and more reading. For the first time, my reading began to include some theology. I was particularly taken by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’’s book, ““The Cost of Discipleship.”” I believed that any spiritual truth to be found would be found outside the mainstream of Christian orthodoxy, and the title of this book intrigued me. I put an ad in the paper around then to sell several pair of racing skis. A girl called me and asked me about them They were U.S. Team skis provided to me by K2, and not sold to the general public. She began to ask me questions, one thing leading to another, and soon I was telling her about my racing experience in Europe. She nearly gasped as she then excitedly began to tell me about a ski team that she was on that competed every week in the mountains of Southern California. She begged me to please come with them just once and race. I told her I wasn’t interested. Soon others from that group began to call me. I agreed to go, but just for “one race.” They gave me my bib on race day and soon I was at the top of a hill looking down at a dual slalom. Soon, my number was only a couple away and the adrenaline started pumping once again. I asked myself how I could really give this up. Then I was in the starting gate listening to the starter’’s cadence. ““Racer Ready! Ten seconds. Five, four, three two one ...!”” I then knew the answer: I couldn’t! I raced for two more years in California. My last race was momentous, but I’’ll share that a little later. It was Spring now in Southern California. My mind went back to another Spring not many years back. I had found myself then on top of a 12,000 foot mountain early one morning. On one side I could see all of the Grand Canyon and some of Nevada. On the other side I could see Utah and a corner of Colorado and New Mexico. Ahead of me lay a high desert for a couple of hundred miles. The mountains were covered with Spring snow, but the valleys below were a lush green. I was greatly moved by the magnificence of this spectacle. Then it happened once again: that same haunting thought returned that had gripped my mind and heart years ago while watching the sun set into the Mediterranean from the side of another mountain six thousand miles away. Once again I knew that I did not know the God who had painted this wondrous landscape before me that no one else at that moment was privileged to see. Who was He? What did He want to have to do with me? What did He want me to do with my life? I just didn’’t know. Worse, I had no discernable prospects for finding out. I took my skis off my shoulder and tossed them down on the brilliant white corn snow and snapped my feet into the bindings. I pointed them down one of my favorite avalanche chutes, but the joy and the exhilaration had given way to that old, haunting question: who is this God, and what does He want with me? Then I remembered something: this was Easter morning. It was as if God was almost rubbing it in: ““You don’’t know me, do you hot shot? Yes, you have the world by the tail. You have been everywhere; you have done it all. But what does it mean if you don’’t know Me?”” It meant nothing. My life had a gigantic void right in the middle, and it was in the shape of the God I did not know.
Another year passed, filled with the normal ups and downs of life, but generously salted with the excitement of living in Southern California with all of the toys that a young, single man cherishes. Among these was a very, very fast motorcycle capable of speeds over 150 m.p.h. and the ability to do zero to sixty in 2.8 seconds. The hills and coastline of Southern California provided some world-class experiences for me as I rode for hundreds of miles every week just seeing the sights and enjoying the sun and fresh air. Business was good, I had lots of friends, a fast boat, an open boat-tailed roadster with a big engine, and of course a pick-up truck. The boat was a 16 foot boat with a 455 hp. V8 engine. On top of all this, my yearly vacation days still outnumbered my actual work days by somewhere around five to one.
Then, as Spring came again and the winter rains gave way to weeks on end of cloudless skies and balmy breezes, I began to read even more. Theology was all that interested me now. I knew that somewhere in all those books lay the grains of truth with which I desperately wanted to structure into some satisfying insights to the old questions that always seemed to return to settle in mind and heart.
With Easter of 1983 approaching, I decided to make a pilgrimage of sorts back to San Francisco. This was the only place that I had ever encountered people whom I considered to be sincerely religious. On top of that, they were anything but orthodox in their views, which to me was good thing. I packed a dufflebag and climbed on my motorcycle and headed up the coast.
Easter services were what I would consider by my current standards to be very unusual. There was lots of meditating, lots of New Age jargon in the air, but the one at center stage seemed to be Jesus. The principal message was on the resurrection and its great significance. I remember sitting down with one of the leaders of this group who had known me a dozen or more years ago when I was a part of their group. I told him of my unsettled spiritual condition, and from this most unlikely of sources came the most important advice I had ever received in my life. He told me to go back home and to find a “good local church” and join up! I felt thoroughly let down. To me, the words “good” and “church” simply didn’t belong in the same sentence. I was raised in the Jewish faith. The only concept I had of church was of the catholic variety and I knew I didn’t want any part of that. I had been in many of the great cathedrals of Europe and could not envision being a part of any of that.
I thanked them all for their warmth, concern and hospitality and the day after Easter, I got back on my motorcycle and headed south down Highway 1. With the cliffs, giant surf and rocks of Big Sur as the background, I still had the echoes of Handel’s Messiah echoing in my mind and heart as I made the journey home.
I pulled into my driveway early that evening. Around ten o’clock, I decided to go to bed. Then I remembered the advice about finding a church. I reasoned that there were thousands of churches and that the percentage off good ones was undoubtedly minuscule. I was not going to go on some kind of long campaign of visiting a bunch of dried up, churches full of nothing but dogma, ritual or hype. Nevertheless, it seemed as if God had hit the ball into my court, albeit not in anything resembling a serious or challenging manner. By the side of my bed at about ten o’clock that night, I knelt down and I prayed this prayer: “Dear God, if there is a church out there that You want me to got to, let me know which one and I’ll go. Amen!” I climbed in bed without another thought on the subject.
I was in my early thirties then. I had lived anything but a sheltered life. I had been to the Middle east, all over Europe, the Carribean and North America. Not ONCE had anyone ever approached me to tell me anything concerning Jesus Christ or to inquire as to my spiritual condition. The odds of anyone doing that in answer to that evening’s prayer were in excess of 10,000 to one.
The following day was Tuesday. I got up early, made a cup of coffee and went out by the garden to read. I had come back in the house at ten o’clock, when I heard a knock at the door. It had been exactly twelve hours since I had prayed my prayer to God, thinking that I had hit the ball back into his court, and was now free to live as I always had.
I went to the door, and as I opened it, I saw two ladies standing there smiling at me. They were both nicely dressed, and each one carried a Bible. One was a little older than the other. She looked right at me, still smiling, and made the following short speech: “Hi. I’m Betty and this is Darlene. We are from a little Baptist church down the street and we came by to invite you to come and visit us this Sunday.”
I could not deny for one second that God had just miraculously answered my prayer. If he had appeared in a cloud or a whirlwind of fire, that experience could not have been more real to me. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that God had sent those two ladies in a way that was no different from the way he sends Angels to do his bidding on earth. I read volumes into their presence, their timing and their words. It was as if God had just opened a door that had been closed my entire life. Not knowing what else to say, I simply said, “I’ll be there.” They were so surprised they literally didn’t know what to say.
All during the week I called friends and told them they were coming to church with me on Sunday. I was not going to “check it out.” That little Baptist church had God’s seal of approval on it sight unseen as far as I was concerned. On Sunday, I walked in and sat down. I could to this day take you to the very seat. That day the pastor preached and in his message, validated everything I had expected to find in that little church. He was a man anointed of God, preaching God’s message in the power of God’s spirit. I knew the moment I heard him speak that whatever he had, I wanted it, and I would do whatever was necessary to get it.
Not long after that first Sunday, the pastor came to my house to pay me a visit. How he was able to wade through my convoluted theology to determine my spiritual condition was a minor miracle in and of itself. Somehow he did though, and explained to me how to be saved, which I gladly did with all of my mind, heart and soul. Soon after that I was baptized in a swimming pool in San Diego and made up my mind that my life now belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ to do with as he saw fit from that day forward.
One day the pastor asked me if I wanted to go “soul winning” with him. I said sure. I found out that this was something he did every week. He would drive to a middle class neighborhood, park his car and just start knocking on doors telling people about Christ. Soon I saw some of these folks come to church, just as I had. Soon I saw miracles occur in their lives and in their families. I had been in the Ivy league schools, I had studied all of the social sciences, and I knew that there was nothing in that world that could begin to compare with the healing grace and love of Jesus Christ through the influence of a good church. I decided that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
One day my phone rang. It was a friend telling me of a pro ski race in the mountains of Southern California. He reminded me that the prize money was pretty good and that there probably would not be anyone racing there that day whom I had not already beaten at least once. I decided to go. This would be my last race
We drove to the mountains on race day. I looked at the course and thought it was tailor made for me: very tight, steep and technical on top and wide open on the bottom. Any mistakes on the top part would be multiplied in speed lost on the bottom.
Before the race, as was always my ritual, skied off into the woods and reached into my parka for a little bottle of Yukon Jack. I always took one big swig just moments before racing to calm my nerves. This time I looked at the bottle, and a voice seemed to be saying, “You don’t need that now.” I threw the bottle down in the deep snow and skied over to the starting gate. I was in the red course. This was my second and last run. I was in second or third place in a field of over 100 racers. I looked to my right and saw the one racer I didn’t want to see. He was undefeated in the last three years and the only racer I had not beaten all year. I did what I had never done before in the starting gate of a ski race. I prayed: “Dear Lord, help me to ski my best.”
Every eye on the mountain was on the course. The starter announced our names and began his routine: “Racers ready! Ten seconds. Five, four, three two, one, GO!” I had the best start of my life and was barely ahead on the first gate. I risked it all on the top part and somehow got a rhythm that slung me through the steep, tight, icy gates without any mistakes. We hit the transition and I thought I was just ahead, but I was not going to risk it by looking. From then on it was just “stay low and stay over your skis” until the finish line. As I came to the finish line at a high rate of speed I leaned back and kicked up the tip of my right ski to break the beam of light. It took a giant turn and snow spewing everywhere for me to come to a stop. Before I was even stopped and before the times were announced my friends swarmed me amidst shouts and cheers. Then the announcer gave the times. I had won by three one-hundredths of a second! All I could think of was, “Jesus, you did this for me, didn’t You?”
That summer an evangelist came by our church. I came to him and asked him what I needed to do with my life to learn to serve God. He told me to go to Bible college. I sold all that I had, and what I didn’t sell I gave away. In the fall of 1983 I headed to Northwest Indiana to enroll in Bible College. I graduated in 1986 with a B.S. in Pastoral Theology. In 1988 I graduated from seminary with a Masters in the same field. In 1992 I earned a Ph.D. in philosophy in religion from another school. In 1986 I was awarded the Sword of the Lord Award for Evangelism, having taken my pastor’s advice and example to heart for the three years I was in school. In 1989 I wrote a book about my exploits and the end result of my life spent looking for life’s meaning. The book was called “World Class Truth – Bible principles in Sports and Adventure.”
It sold 5,000 copies and received much acclaim and the kinds of reviews for which authors always hope. The book will soon be republished in a second edition, along with a children’s book and a series on the biblical heroes of the Christian faith that I have written.
I married the only girl I ever dated in Bible college, a union exemplifying far more grace than justice for me. Her name is Gwen. We have been happily married for 16 years and have two lovely children. We live in a beautiful home on 13 acres of land with four ponds and rolling meadows. I own a chemical company that manufactures about two dozen industrial cleaning products of my own design, which we sell in about twenty or so states. We enjoy sailing on Lake Michigan aboard our second summer home, our boat, “Renaissance” (which means “rebirth” in French.) God has been exceedingly, miraculously and abundantly good to us.
Of all of the sentiments expressed in the New Testament, undoubtedly the one to which I am disposed to best relate is the expression of the Apostle Paul in Phillipians: “YEA DOUBTLESS, AND I COUNT ALL THINGS BUT LOSS FOR THE EXCELLENCY OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST JESUS MY LORD: FOR WHOM I HAVE SUFFERED [allowed] THE LOSS OF ALL THINGS, AND DO COUNT THEM BUT DUNG, THAT I MAY WIN CHRIST.”
That’s my testimony, and I’m stickin’ to it .....!
Thank you for allowing me the great privilege of sharing my testimony with you, and for taking the time to read it.
Jerry D. Kaifetz, Ph.D.