I grew up in a fundamentalist legalistic Christian home.   From my earliest memories Christianity was about fear of hell and a system of rules to keep you out of it.  I can remember times when as a child I was acting up and my mother would bring me into the back room and try and cast daemons out of me.  She would be all serious and look and me and ask me if I heard voices in my head telling me to make a mess, or to fight with my sister, and here I was 5 years old thinking to myself   “do I hear any voices…oh no!!! I think I just heard a voice”  Talk about fear of the Lord.  There was almost a rite of passage in my Church community.  There was no church service for children so everyone was in the big church and I would sit next to my father as the pastor would drone on and on doing a sermon he had probably done a hundred times and I would watch my father taking notes and see his pen start to drift across the paper as he fell asleep while writing.  The pastor would finally wrap up and the truly uncomfortable time started.  The dreaded alter call.  The whole congregation would squirm until someone felt guilty enough to overcome the embarrassment of walking down the aisle and talk to the pastor in front of the whole church.  At a certain age it kind of became like an unspoken dare among us kids to go down to the front during the alter call and pretend to kneel down and pray in front of the whole church.  You would kind of peek under your arms to see how many of your friends were watching you.  The time at which my need for a savior really hit home was when I was about 11 or 12 and the revivals started.  We would go see these speakers and I would get so scared that I wasn’t a Christian that I must have prayed the “sinners prayer” at least a dozen times.  You see because Christianity was a system of rules to me,  rules that I could never consistently follow no matter how hard I tried,  I would have  persistent doubts that I didn’t really commit my life to Christ and I would then do it again to make sure.  That kind of religion is very effective while you are immersed in that culture with only those types of people around you.  When I got to be a teenager I became more and more aware of the difficulty of maintaining the rule following for everyone not just myself.  I started to see the cracks in people around me.  The compartmentalizing of their lives and I started to get disillusioned.  The hypocrisy that is so rampant in Christianity began to wear away at the fear of hell that I had from my childhood.  By the time I got to college I decided to take a left turn and chuck church.  I didn’t go so far as to reject God (that was way too ingrained in me) I just let that be a corner of my heart that I didn’t visit very often.  College was a interesting and detrimental time of self discovery.  I desperately wanted a new identity from what was pushed on me growing up.  I looked into art, drugs, sexuality, and philosophy, in an attempt to discover what I believed and not what my parents and every Christian authority figure told me I believed.  Satan used that time to sew the seeds of doubt about the Bible.  I developed a skepticism and disdain for organized religion and I lumped Christianity right in there with everything else.  I got a new set of friends and my life proceded.  I met my wife Betzie in college, and we moved in together after 6 months of dating.  Marriage and kids were not in our plans.    After three years things changed for the both of us and being married did not seem so bad.  It kind of seem like the next logical step. But we were NOT going to have kids!!!… Well  after four years of marriage Betzie decided that maybe she did want to have a child.  I figured that I would go ahead and put up with the inconvenience of a baby because I didn’t want to say no and have Betzie build up resentment towards me later.    That moment when she told me she was pregnant was like a light turning on.  I could not wait to meet that child.    I think that it was having children that brought me back to God.  I wanted to instill strong moral values in my children but I could not find a basis for right and wrong outside of Christ.  Even with all the messed up ways my parents taught me about Christianity the Lord still used them to instill  a strong moral compass in me.  Through all the time that I spent away from the Lord I still recognized that there were moral absolutes and that truth was truth even if I didn’t want to live in it.  As  my kids got older Betzie and I decided that we wanted to raise them in a  Church.  We had two criteria,  it would not be in the denomination that she was raised in and it would not be in the denomination that I was raised in.  Well that did not narrow things down much, and it made it easier to procrastinate finding a Church to try.  God really started to work in my life then.  When I started my business  I met some strong Christians and these guys were different from any Christians that I had ever known.  They were accepting of me and where I was in terms of my doubts.  One of them encouraged me to start to explore my questions and to find real answers to them instead of using the questions themselves as an excuse to keep me from coming back to the Lord.  He turned me on to apologetics and a man named Ravi Zacharias.  I began to take an honest look at my belief system and to evaluate it based on reality and not on what I wanted it to be .    At this point God brought the Rainoseks into our lives.  Betzie met them when we had decided to home school our kids.  Their son Dane was the same age as our oldest Ian and those two boys hit it off like two peas in a pod.  As we got to know them better Danna and Russ asked us weather we were Christians.  We told them about our backgrounds and that we were interested in finding a Church but only for our kids.  I still had a lot of skepticism for Churches at that point.  They kind of put us on the spot and invited us to come visit their church saying that it is always easier to visit somewhere where you know someone.   So we decided to give it a try.  After giving that Church a couple of tries we decided that was not the Church for us.  We were pretty discouraged.   A few weeks later we got a call from the Rainoseks again.  They had tried  another church that was a little closer to their home that some of their friends said was great.  They told Betzie that we HAD to come and visit this  new church.  Well Betzie decided that she was going to do a little research first before we had another bad experience.  She looked up the church online and saw that they were doing a series called the Retro Parent.  That peaked her interest enough  and we decided to  give it a try.  When we drove into the parking lot of this HUGE church I was a little nervous.  I  had no experience with large churches growing up.  But the guys in the parking lot were very friendly.   The early childhood pastor Anne Beecroft made us feel very welcome with the care they showed for our children.    When we walked into the lobby of the big church what should greet our ears but Hootie and the Blowfish live on stage!!! or so it sounded.  I was blown away by the quality of the music and the fact that it was ROCKIN!  What was going through my mind at this point was “this is NOT church”  When Patrick got up and started to speak God reached in and opened my heart.  All 1500 people in the auditorium faded away and it was like he was talking to me alone.   Betzie reached over and showed me the bulletin that said that here they did not claim to have it all figured out and that this was a place to explore your doubts.  I could not stop the tears from coming and at that point I knew that God had brought me home.  The teaching at Riverpointe about relationship with the Father has turned Jesus into a real person for me and has taken the fear away from Christianity.  I have come to find the relevance that God has in my life and has always had in my life.  I can look back now and see how He has used all the trials I have had and the paths that I have taken to bring me here.  I am so aware of his love for me that I feel changed from the inside.  My walk with the Father is no longer about following rules to keep a jealous God from squashing me like a bug.  It is a desire to seek his path because I trust that His plan is better than my own.  I thank God every day for bringing me to a  Church that not only encourages my Faith but challenges me to seek out the Truth of the Bible.

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