I was raised in a Catholic family with my sister and two brothers. We went to a Catholic grade school and frequently attended church. Church was a solemn experience, with formal dress, hymns, liturgy, and rituals. My sister loves the Catholic Church, but I felt I needed something different. Even so, I stayed in the church through my time in college. While in college, I had a significant and very positive spiritual experience, which made me feel physically and spiritually very clean and uplifted.
Yet as the years passed, my memories of that episode slipped into the back of my mind. By my late twenties, all but my sister had left the Catholic Church for various reasons. Friends of mine were exploring eastern faiths, particularly Buddhism, so I started gravitating towards such faiths. I read books by James Redfield, Deepak Chopra, and the Dalai Lama and found their ideas to be fascinating. I wondered whether we were souls within a great soul, which whistled into the cosmos. What I learned at that point was that the faith I was exploring considered God to be a passive part of nature.
More years passed and I waffled about wandering into churches every so often, yet finding none that suited my particular needs. I got married and had two kids, completed a terminal degree, and moved to a different city with my family. As my kids grew, they noticed that the neighbors were attending church on Sunday, so my sons asked me why we weren’t attending church, which made me feel very guilty.
One night in the month of March of 2012, I had a very dark spiritual experience, which shook me to the core and changed my opinion about God. My desperate prayers to Him worked! He became a priority at that point as I realized that He is not a passive part of nature, but an active, personal, and loving God. The only God with such characteristics is the triune Lord.
My family decided to check out a quaint Baptist church, which was popular with my neighbors. When I walked through its doors, something moved me emotionally and ignited a passion within. We spent the first half hour of the service singing praise through upbeat, contemporary Christian music. I recall Matt Redman’s “Bless the Lord, O my soul” and Chris Tomlin’s “How Great is Our God” and felt tears as they streamed down my cheeks. The pastor spent the next forty minutes explaining certain verses in the Bible in such a way that my interest in learning more was greatly stimulated. My family decided to join the church and we began regularly attending services. I was baptized for a second time a few months later by full immersion in a tank of water.
I was on a path, yet I still had some unresolved questions. One big question related to the way many interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:12 led people to believe that God ordained men to lead the churches. I’m an advocate for female empowerment and leadership, so the second-class treatment of women bothered me. A second question related to the way billions on the planet don’t worship Jesus. What sort of fate do they face? Will they be denied entrance into heaven?
The answer to my first question came at church when the pastor shared that Mary Magdalene and other women were the first to discover the empty tomb. Jesus gave the privilege of discovering the empty tomb, which is arguably the most important discovery in the Bible, to women, who were treated like dogs in those days! Jesus loves women. By reading the Bible, I discovered many other examples of strong women. Three standouts are Ruth, who exemplified tremendous loyalty, Esther who demonstrated courage, and Mother Mary, who showed great faith. Furthermore, Paul (who wrote 1 Timothy 2:12) offered examples of great women leaders in Christian ministry throughout his many books of the New Testament, such as Priscilla and Junia. The Greek word referring to “authority” in 1 Timothy 2:12 appears only once in the entire Bible. Some have interpreted it not as saying that women cannot have authority, but saying that women (as men) should not misuse authority. So no matter people’s interpretations, I believe God calls on all to be leaders. I attend a church in which the pastors are all male. That’s okay. It’s in alignment with their interpretations.
The answer to my second question on the fate of people of other faiths came in an unexpected way. I was standing in an airport when I noticed a tall, slender man standing in the queue next to an attractive woman. Something about the man caught my eye as he seemed to be radiating light. When I took my assigned seat, I was delighted when the man sat down next to me and his wife next to him. He struck up a conversation and I soon discovered he was a pastor in a church about an hour from my house. I told him that I wanted to write a children’s book similar to the books by C.S. Lewis. He instructed me to read C.S. Lewis’ adult books, like Mere Christianity and the Great Divorce. He also called my attention to Isaiah 53, which is a passage from the Old Testament that foretold Jesus’ crucifixion around 700 B.C. Anyone aware of Jesus can recognize the passage on the Suffering Servant is about Him. And yes, after I exited the plane, I checked whether the passage is a part of the Jewish scriptures. It is. Isaiah 53 has led MANY to Jesus and is a core passage for the “Jews for Jesus” group.
The pastor also asked me a question I had never been asked. He asked me if I truly believed in Jesus. It rattled me because I realized I had doubts even then. I needed to know more about Him.
The books by C.S. Lewis screamed the truth to me through a trumpet. I suddenly wanted to learn more and to become an apologist. They taught me that no matter the religion into which we’re born or the vehicle we choose to enhance our knowledge of the world around us and God, all paths eventually lead to Jesus.
When we honestly seek Him, He makes Himself quite obvious. I have had several more spiritual experiences, which I offer here to validate that point. The first experience came in the form of a vision. One morning I was lying in bed, thinking about the day ahead and the coffee in my immediate future. As I looked at the ceiling above me, I noticed it appeared as the sky. I could see a window in the sky which was open and figures of light inside of the window. It seemed they were smiling and waving at me and I felt warmth and a sort of deep inner love fill my body.
The second experience came in the form of a dream. I was at a party in a home with which I am familiar with friends from my twenties. Everyone was drinking beer and having a good time. Suddenly, I noticed a man standing at the center of the party wearing a white robe. He appeared regal, gentle, loving, and humble all at once. As people began to notice Him, they became quiet. He was no ordinary man. We were witnesses to Jesus. He stood silently and watched us before issuing a challenge. He asked us to limit our partying. He wanted us to instead become more serious about our spiritual calling and to take up our crosses and spread His message. People began to leave the party and I watched them exit through the front door of the home. An old friend came up to me and said, “I just can’t do it. I can’t stop.” He turned and headed for the front door. I stood silently in the room, well aware of the way I needed to refocus my life. I needed to focus less on me and my social life and more on others and Jesus. Then I woke up.
Another experience was my most unexpected, yet most welcome. I was at a conference in San Antonio, Texas, in a hotel room pondering my life one night in September of 2016. I was thinking of making a change. Suddenly, I heard a gentle, male voice – a voice of reason. He sort of scolded me for thinking of making the change and He gave me a good reason why the change would be foolish. He reminded me of happy times – and pictures of those times flashed before my eyes. I determined to be obedient to God. Thank God. The change would have been quite foolish.
I have had other visions and dreams. One of my most interesting visions was that of a white, chunky, well-defined cross-shaped cloud in the sky. I saw it while driving to my place of employment one morning. I tried to grab my cell phone to snap a picture, but the cloud dissipated too quickly.
Another of my more interesting dreams is as follows. I found myself running next to a very old, very petite Jewish woman. She was the grandmother of one of my son’s friends and she was frail and walked with a walker. Yet in my dream, she seemed strong and able. She darted ahead of me and I could not keep up with her. Then she grabbed my hand and we began to fly. We went into the sky, higher and higher until we found ourselves in a library, which was well-stocked with books. To me, such a place is heaven.
After a short while, I found myself alone running on a dark road. Demons were chasing me and throwing spear-like dark metal objects at me. I kept hearing the word “anvil” over and over. I escaped them and ran up to a hearth, which was at the center of a brick patio. A blonde curly-haired stocky, yet muscular man stood in front of me on the patio and signaled me to stop. I then saw my brother. The man put his arm around my brother and led him away from me as he told me that my brother had chosen to go with “them.” He said something like, “He’s with us now” as he ushered him through a door. Then I woke up, more determined than ever to fulfill my calling.
I thought about the word “anvil” and recalled the large box-like anvils on the Bugs Bunny show, which cartoon characters always dropped from buildings. I saw nothing like those in my dream, so I did an internet search. I came upon photos of ancient metal tools, which appeared as pointy spears. The photos matched the tools I saw in my dream.
Such visions, dreams, and experiences have fueled my passion for Christ, my drive to make a difference in the world for Him, and my empathy for those who have not yet found Him.
I love writing, so a few years ago, I started writing Christian fiction books (one I dropped), which I give away for free on Smashwords. While I enjoyed writing the books, I realized that fiction is not my forte. My training in a Ph.D. program shaped a certain academic form with factual, rather than fictional content. I don’t have the right style to write children’s books like C.S. Lewis. I do have the right style to write blogs and books more similar to his adult books.
Due to a multitude of encounters with atheists on Twitter who tell me that my personal testimony is unconvincing, I did a full dive into apologetics and started writing blogs on my findings. Some of the books I recommend are by authors such as C.S. Lewis, Frank Turek, Sean and Joshua MacDowell, Lee Strobel, Alvin Platinga, Hugh Ross, A.W. Tozer, Rick Warren, Lydia McGrew, Nancy Pearcey, William Lane Craig, J. Warner Wallace, Alvin Schmidt, Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, Ken Samples, and Peter Hitchens. I have had the pleasure of interviewing several of them on my YouTube channel.
Apologetic books have taught me how best to defend Christianity, which is something all Christians should do. Atheism is rising in the United States and other developed secular societies and the so-called “new atheists” can be convincing. As Christians, we need to be more convincing.
I am currently writing a book that consolidates dozens of my blogs, which I hope you will consider reading once it’s ready.
Thank you for your time.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” – CS Lewis in Mere Christianity