It is a total surprise, or better yet an act of God, when I think about how my life turned around and did a 180⁰. Never did I think, nor did I imagine ever being a minister whenever I finally grew-up. I loved sports. Football, basketball, baseball and definitely a little weekend whiffle ball. I didn’t like school, homework, and often was bored. I was able to get some decent grades to keep my average up and somehow did well enough in the SAT’s to think college.
So, my life began to change when I went from Chicago to Danville, Kentucky home of Centre College. The change began when I realized my professors were interesting and I found reading somewhat enjoyable and I learned to write—especially before the days of computers.
Trust me, this was not an overnight, dramatic change but it did develop an introverted, reflective side of my life. I wasn’t exactly serious but Vietnam caught my attention especially with the death of one of my fraternity brothers. As rush chairman, we rushed several African-American football players who were good guys and didn’t think anything of it. Then Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and the issue of race hit home. Also, back in Chicago. Mayor Daily and the Democratic Convention erupted with the National Guard showing-up.
Life was getting a little crazy. Then, as the song goes, “along comes Mary” and the transformation for me took off like a rocket. Mary was a sweet, southern girl from Knoxville, Tennessee and of course, I was a dreaded Yankee. Well, I learned from her how to communicate. I was able to express thoughts, ideas and feelings. What I realized was Mary was not only important to me but I was growing-up and love was real.
With love came a desire to serve in some kind of capacity. After graduation I went back to Chicago and worked at an Episcopal Boys Home for kids who were classified as emotionally disturbed. One look into their files much less being a cottage supervisor there was no question why these boys were troubled and, in many respects, anti-social. With this behavior came a fight every day. There was a chaplain who I would talk to when I was off duty and he was the one who said to me “you ask a lot of questions. Have you ever thought about seminary?”
Mary was in Frankfort, Kentucky teaching. We were engaged over Christmas and one night I called her, asking what she thought of our going to seminary. There was silence. And then she said, “I thought maybe we would one day go to church. I really hadn’t thought of seminary.”
What most people don’t know—and now you do—Mary is the religious one. She was a Presbyterian and has a long line of Presbyterian ministers in her background. She knew the Bible and how to pray. Remember I was an Episcopalian. She also was big into “Young Life” and as a result, had a spiritual dimension that was advanced. This brings me to July 15, 1972 when we married. I could write a cliché saying, “the rest is history” but what I have learned from her is faith in one another and obviously faith in God is the source of love. There have been some huge sorrows and unimaginable losses but through marriage we have been given the grace to carry the burdens by placing the Lord’s yoke on our shoulders. Here we find the strength in God’s love as we celebrate our anniversary again this July 15, with the love of my life for the past fifty-one years and a future in following Him.