November 2016 it will be 40 years.
Since I decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back.
I was christened in the Lutheran Church. And I must have attended Sunday School at some point, because when the Tigers won the pennant in 1968 I waved the only pennant I owned which said, “Stand up for Jesus.”
I remember reading Story Bibles, big blue ones with illustrations whenever we went to the doctor or dentist. I liked the stories, about things like oil that didn’t run out.
When I was in middle school our next door neighbor and regular babysitter, Sally, told me to look up Young Life when I got to high school.
Cool back story about Young Life in my hometown of Bay Village, Ohio, a very small western suburb of Cleveland: in the 70s the churches of Bay Village all contributed to pay the salary of a Young Life staffer to help reach the young people with the good news of Jesus. Is that a body of Christ moment or what?
So 40 years ago I went to high school and heard a morning announcement about Young Life meeting on a Wednesday evening at someone’s home. And I went.
The living room had all the furniture removed, and it was crowded with kids. Crazy crowded. And then song books started whizzing through the air, and Tom started playing the guitar and we sang.
And then he told a story. A story about a guy named Peter, who fished for a living, and how Jesus told him to drop his net and when he did the net was filled to the breaking point with fish and when they hauled it into the boat Peter fell to his knees, and Tom made a point of the fact that when Peter fell to his knees it was amongst all these hauled in fish that were flopping around.
And I could see it. It was real.
In November Young Life held a retreat. And I went. And I didn’t know anyone. Not one soul. A new volunteer named Linda went also and took me under her wing. And that weekend I heard the good news, the best news: I was loved by God and because of Jesus I was forgiven.
Forty years ago, I decided to follow Jesus.
Tom gave me a Good News Bible, red letter. I read the book of John, cuz it had the most red.
It’s been 40 years. No turning back.
I want to say thank you to Sally for planting the seed. Thank you to Tom for telling God’s story. Thank you to Linda for coming alongside me. Thank you to all the churches of Bay Village for bringing in a Young Life staffer to share the good news. Thank you to my parents who let me attend the retreat.
Thank you Jesus for dreaming me up, for loving me, for reconciling me to God.