“WHETHER I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously.”
That’s the way Dickens begins his book, “David Copperfield” or so Bartleby.com tells us, and I believe it because that’s the way I remember it. Well, I wasn’t there, but I read the original and that’s the way it was written when I do remember it.
I, too, was born. I remember that, too, and, like Dickens, I remember it because someone told me. Not, however, in quite so much detail. And, this treatise will not be a book because I have learned to compress my stories. So, let’s begin!
This, I shall tell you in the beginning: God, not I, turns out to be the hero of my life, such as that life is.
For the first 16 years of my life I was on a farm in Western New York. Due to a major tiff with my father in 1956 I bolted and left the protections of home. It was difficult making a living on my own but I had the benefit of being a student in a Christian Boarding School graduating, barely, in 1958. I say barely not because I was somehow impaired, not scholastically or mentally, but because I was a rebel and had my mind on other things. College was not a high priority but I did enter a Christian College in New England. I successfully remained there for one semester until the school authorities discovered that I was wasting their time and my money.
I worked the remainder of that winter, spring and summer and, since I was still wasting my time and spending all that I earned working, I supposed that it would be a good thing to volunteer for the Military Draft.
Two years and three months later I discovered, for the first time, that God was leading in my affairs for, when I was finished fulfilling my military obligation, the “scuffle” known as “Vietnam” was just beginning. Had my life been normal until that time, I would have been right in the thick of it. More than 58,000 lives were lost on our side alone and mine could well have been one of them.
During this era, I had bailed out on the church of my youth and lived a somewhat profligate life. Fortunately I married a sweet wife who was willing to tolerate my foolishness, for the most part, and we had a Son. That little guy was the joy of my life and looking at him I realized that I had nothing to offer him. I began taking him to church. He began learning in the Children’s division and after two weeks, I began teaching in the adult division, still living with some of my old developed habits. They soon dropped off and I ceased my support of Anheuser -Busch.
I wanted Lance, as we had named my son, to attend my High School Alma Mater and enrolled him in his 9th year. This was 1980 and my income, as usual was minimal. I was earning about 11,000 dollars per year. His tuition, room and board was $8,300. You may do the math if you wish. I did and quickly learned that I was under water.
I stopped at my friend Randy’s house one day during my travels for work as an insurance Investigator/adjuster and laid my soul bare with him. Randy immediately said, “We need to pray!” We did.
It was two weeks later that God intervened.
I had been asked, after our prayer, by two different organizations whether I would be interested in managing an adjusting office if they were to buy Chautauqua Claim Service, Inc. I had assured them that I would indeed be interested. However, when one thing led to another, neither offer came to fruition and I was left , once again, foundering. Until, the thought came to me, most assuredly from the Comforting entity called the Holy Spirit, to go directly to the man who was trying to sell his rather successful business.
I had heard, by way of the grapevine, that Dick O’Connor was intending to simply close down the company, leave and relocate to Florida for his retirement. His partner had left the business and there was no one else in the wings to take over the operation. In our initial conversation, I suggested that he slot me to manage the business allowing him to leave for Florida and still receive the profits from the business! I thought that was a win/win! He didn’t!
His retort to my suggestion was, “Why don’t you buy it?”
I laughed! O’Connor obviously knew nothing of my meager finances, so, being honest and forthright, I told him, “I have no money!” “Well, he said, “Pay me $100 a week from the proceeds for five years and it will be yours.”
I suggested that I would discuss it with my wife. He said, “Look, you want to do it, I want to do it, let’s do it!” We shook hands and I left his office the owner of the business and with a salary increase of 300 per cent. You do know who arranged all that, don’t you? I thought you did! It was, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the God of the universe who sees us and knows us and is always fully apprised of our needs.
Inasmuch as this is longer that I had first intended, I will compress even further.
Laura, my daughter was born a little later later and if Lance was the Joy of my life, she was the light of my life! Kathy and I simply doted on these two children – we still do. Both of them finished school and College and both became Registered Respiratory Therapists. It was then that I said to the Lord. If you want to have this business that you gave me, it’s OK. That week three guys came in and offered to buy it for four times what I had paid for it thirteen years before.
Now, being free from the day-to-day responsibilities I connected with a CAT (Catastrophe) Adjuster in Florida and was immediately called into service working during hurricane “Charlie.” Immediately following , “Francis,” “Ivan” and “Jeannie’ invaded the state. Kathy and I worked together as a well oiled machine and went home after two months with $53,000. On the way home, I looked at her and said, “This, is our retirement!! We can work two or three months out of the year and do the things we want to the remainder of the year!”
That was rather selfish, wasn’t it?
In the meantime, I had been asked by the Conference President to read a Scripture passage at a special meeting in New York. The morning of the meeting I arose from bed and realized something was wrong. I looked in the mirror and my right eye was closed. I put my finger on the lid and pushed it open. – I let go – it dropped back down. “Hmm,” I thought, “what’s going on?”
I drove the 45 miles to the meeting with the eye still drooping and with my finger stuck on the lid to hold it up. And, wouldn’t you know it, they changed the text that I had practiced so diligently!! The service was lightened up substantially when I playfully chastised the President for changing the text on me that last minute and causing me to read a brand new text while drastically impaired with only one eye!
I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis.
With appropriate medication I was able to cope but worked with limitations. Stress exacerbated the condition.
I was called to work “Katrina” that year and we spent a month in Louisiana among the snakes, mosquitoes and Love Bugs. It was not a good experience! But, when we were nearly finished with our assignments, we were called to Fort Lauderdale to work “Wilma!”
Stress? Did I say stress? Fort Lauderdale was a dark experience. The people there
generally were different from the other areas we had worked and we found them to be very demanding and difficult to satisfy. My eyes were deteriorating and Kathy had to do all the driving.
Now, Kathy hates driving in heavy traffic. She, self-admittedly, is directionally challenged. All the street signs were down and we had no such thing as a GPS at that time. We could not tell the difference from Maple Blvd, Maple Ave, Maple Street, Maple drive or Maple court to say nothing of all the other Maples we had to contend with.
Half way through the assignment, my double vision, another symptom of Myasthenia Gravis, became worse. I tried so hard to tough it out, but it simply became unbearable.
One night after a particularly trying day, while bending over my computer, back and neck hurting, trying to differentiate between the two images I was seeing, I leaned back , closed my lap-top and said, “I’m all done!”
At that point, I had given up! I had realized that my “Retirement” that we had looked forward to was not what God had in mind. He was saying to me, “You want retirement? I’ll give you retirement! From now on, I want you to depend on me !”
So, now I find myself nearly totally dependent on others for everything. The lesson has finally been learned. After a lifetime of being arrogant, self-sufficient and independent, I have become dependent for almost everything. But, I have learned to trust God for whatever I need.
So, like Charles Dickens, the question of whom shall be the hero of my life has been answered. His position is the hero, I cannot recall how it worked out but, it is not myself. I know that the hero of my life is not “I but but Christ” the Creator God who made the promises and who has come through in just about every instance.
There is a song that my mother used to sing at the old piano on the farm. Jennifer LaMountain recorded it a few years ago and now, whenever she knows I am in the audience, she dedicates it to me. It’s called, God Leads Us Along: (here)
He truly does lead us along, and, I am truly thankful.