Living Life 180 – turning from the World and towards the Word. That’s been the focus of our ministry – telling our own 180 story and helping others learn how they can turn 180 – or stay there! Now it’s time to start telling other people’s 180 Stories.
The story below was sent to me from my parents – I knew I had to share it. And it inspired me to start a new section of this blog (stay tuned next week!)
On September 10, 1975 my Dad came to know Jesus as his savior. Today marks his 40 year “Birthday.” (And yes…the little baby mentioned in the story is me!) And because God called him and my mom in the mid-1970’s, I had the privilege of being raised in a Christian house. No matter what, the spiritual heritage that my parents have passed down to me, my siblings, and all of our kids is the greatest inheritance ever.
Read my dad’s dramatic entry into God’s Kingdom below – told in a humorous way that only he can do!
That September day of 1975, as I was being admitted to the hospital, I noticed that my wife, Vicky, had brought a Bible along. As I was getting settled in my room she asked where she should put it. Since I was facing major surgery, I didn’t want to take a chance on making God angry so rather than tell her to take it home, I told her to put it in the drawer of the little cabinet next to my bed, under my other books. I had no intention of reading it.
Since she had recently become a born-again Christian and had been reading the Bible every day, she had changed. I really liked the change in her but when she tried to tell me about God and Jesus, and how to be born-again, I became defensive. “That’s fine for you, but not for me. Bring me another beer.” And she would. I found out later that she would pray for God to deliver me from alcohol every time she handed me a beer.
Before she became a Christian, my alcoholism had been destroying our marriage. When I drank, I could see the hurt in her eyes but I couldn’t accept the fact that I was the cause of the pain. So I would have another drink.
The summer of 1974, Vicky was pregnant with our third child. I had high blood pressure and was put on Valium. I still drank. Then in one month I lost forty pounds and was admitted to the hospital. It was discovered that I had diabetes. The doctors felt it could be controlled without insulin so I was placed on a very strict diet. I still drank.
Sometimes I’d notice the look of fear on my wife’s face. “What was the matter with her? I’d wonder. “It’s my life—not hers.” She was afraid that if anything happened to me, she’d be left alone to raise our two children and the one on the way.
The more I drank, the more I resented her. Why does she have to depend so much on me? Why does she act like I’m the one causing all our troubles? No one could tell me what to do or not do. If I wanted to drink, I’d drink.
Our daughter was born in January. When she was just a couple months old I decided to go to California with some of my drinking buddies. We planned on going to a few hockey games and hitting the bars. I know that I had promised my wife that I would help her more with this baby than I had with the other two. But I needed a break and I expected her to understand.
While I was in San Diego, Vic hit bottom. It was at this time she found Jesus Christ real in her life. She was born-again. He lifted her up from the pit she was in and placed hope in her heart. When I came home I expected the usual hurt looks and tears. But instead she greeted me with a smile and love! What a difference in her!
My throat had been bothering me while in San Diego, so the day after coming home I went to the doctor. He hospitalized me immediately. My thyroid gland had gone hyperactive and was enlarging. I was put on medication to slow down the hormones and to get me ready for surgery. It would have to be removed. I still drank.
It was during this time that I really noticed the change in my wife. No matter how much I drank or how mean I got, she just loved me. Because I told her that I didn’t want to hear any more about God, she stopped telling me about Him.
I found out later that one day in prayer, she sensed the Lord directing her to “Stop telling Larry about Me, and tell Me about Larry. I listen better.” Though she stopped telling me about God, she had this look on her face, like she knew something that I didn’t know, and she seemed so sure that I was going to know it too.
I didn’t want to question her. I knew it had something to do with God and I didn’t want to hear it.
So there I was in the hospital being prepared to have my thyroid gland removed. That night as I lay on my hospital bed, my thoughts were running in every direction. When facing major surgery, I guess everyone thinks about God and eternity. I know I did. I found myself digging around in that drawer looking for the Bible. My wife seemed to be able to just open it and find answers. Maybe I could too.
I opened it and it said something about ‘not dying’. I called my wife and asked if she thought maybe God was telling me that I wasn’t going to die. She told me to ask God. She almost seemed happy about all of this. What was she expecting, some kind of miracle?
Surgery was successful although twice they almost lost me on the operating table. It turned out that the gland was still too active. The tests prior to surgery had not revealed this. When the thyroid glad was touched, it secreted enough hormones to put tremendous strain on the heart. They removed all but a small section the size of a thumb nail.
The doctor told my wife they removed the gland the size of two men’s fists. After surgery I was put in intensive care. All that day is a blur for me. Vic was allowed to stay in my room during that day.
That night as my wife drove home, she was about to pass a little church. She had heard that the people in that church were great believers in the power of prayer. So she stopped to see if there was anyone there who would pray with her. The youth pastor was the only one in the building at the time. It was a Wednesday night and he told her that soon the church would be full for the mid-week services. He said he would offer me up in prayer and claim my soul for Jesus. He prayed with my wife and she went home to the children and her mother who was taking care of the children for her.
In the early hours of the morning my neck started swelling shut. I was having a hard time breathing. I tried telling the nurses but they just told me to relax, that I was nervous and uptight. Finally I could no longer breathe. Air was going out but nothing was coming in. Death was all around me.
I just wanted to pray, and being Catholic I would usually start out by crossing myself. However, I was all wired and whenever I moved I would set off bells and buzzers. So I decided to skip that part and get right to the words.
Now, what was it my wife told me to say? I couldn’t remember. So I said, “Lord Jesus, help me, save me. You are my personal Savior. I love You. I know that I blew it as a husband and father, please give me another chance.” And there at the foot of my bed I saw Him. I couldn’t make out His face but by the outline, I knew it was Him. And I heard Him say, “Okay.”
A feeling of peace flooded over me. I was no longer afraid. It no longer mattered whether I lived or died. I had peace. And there was joy! I had the same feeling of excitement I had experienced as a four year old when I got an electric train for Christmas. I felt like Christmas had come.
I lost consciousness. When I came to, there was a tube in my throat. They had performed a tracheotomy. I was back in intensive care. The nurse had called Vic as soon as they took me to surgery. She came to the hospital as soon as she could. That day is lost to me.
The next day as I started to come out of it, Vic gave me a pad of paper and a pencil so I could tell her how I felt. With the hole in my throat, I couldn’t talk. I wrote, “I saw Him!” She asked, “Who?” I wrote, “Jesus!” At first she looked at me like I was crazy and then she broke out in a big smile and tears.
Over the next few weeks while I recovered from surgery, I started to read the Bible and listen to some Christian radio and television programs. God was blessing me and I was enjoying this new relationship with Him. My marriage was being restored. I was discovering an entire new life with my family.
But as I prepared to return to work, I decided that I didn’t want any of my co-workers or drinking buddies to know what had happened to me spiritually. They wouldn’t understand and might ridicule me. Don’t get me wrong, I was very grateful for what the Lord had done. I just wanted to be a “secret agent”. So I told Vic, “Let’s just keep this between us.” She got that same look on her face, like she knew something that I didn’t.
When I returned to work, I began to seek out Ric. He was a born-again Christian who had tried to tell me about the Lord. I had ridiculed him mercilessly. Now I wanted to let him know I was sorry. We started to play handball together once a week. It was a great time of fellowship. But I still didn’t want the other guys to know so I only saw Ric after hours.
One day after work, I stopped with a few of the guys at our usual “watering hole”. I was still drinking, but didn’t seem to be able to get drunk. God was so busy cleaning up other areas of my life that He had not confronted me with my drinking yet. Anyway, one of the guys started to tease me about playing handball with “the preacher”, their nickname for Ric. One of them said, “Did Ric save you?”
I said, “No. The Man Upstairs saved me.” There were sarcastic looks exchanged among the guys. One of them started to say something. I was concerned that he was going to make fun of God. So I warned him, “If you say one thing about the Man Upstairs, I’ll hit you upside your head with this beer bottle.”
It really felt good to witness for the Lord! It was my first time. I was so proud of myself. I could hardly wait to get home and tell Vic. Somehow it didn’t impress her like I thought it would.
Then one day at work a huge piece of machinery, weighing about 1000 pounds, was being lifted into place. I was on a stand with another guy. We were about ten feet off the ground. As the machinery went right over us, the cable on the hoist broke. The machinery twisted in the air and landed right between us. It truly was a miracle that it didn’t hit either one of us. The noise it made brought all the other co-workers running to see what had happened. When I came down off the stand and they were all asking questions, I said, “I have only one thing to say.” Lifting my hands to heaven, I said loudly, “Thank You, Jesus!!” I had just blown my cover. The secret was out. Now they all knew…and I didn’t care!
A few months later a very tense situation came up involving the little league baseball team I was coaching. I had to attend a meeting and face some irate parents. I really needed wisdom and had been praying for the Lord to help me. Before leaving for the meeting, I was reaching into the refrigerator for a beer when I mentioned to my wife how much I needed the Holy Spirit. My wife said, “Then why are you reaching for a phony spirit? The Holy Spirit is 100 proof —try leaning on Him and Him alone.”
I left the beer in the refrigerator. I really did want the Holy Spirit in control. The meeting went well. God had shown me that He was sufficient.
Then a short time later, I was driving home from work and wanted to stop, as usual. When I got close to the bar, I heard a voice in the back seat, just like someone was back there. It said, “Just try today.” I knew this was the Lord. So I said, “Okay, just for today.” Then went home.
The next day had been really rough and it was hot out. A cold beer was all I could think of as I left work. When I got to the same place in the road, I heard the Voice again, “Just try today.”
I said, “Okay, Lord, just for today. But I’m telling You right now, I like drinking and I have no intention of quitting forever.”
He said, “I’m not asking for forever, just today.” And that’s how it’s been ever since; one day at a time, with the Lord.
It’s been decades since that day. He even took away the desire to drink. He is so faithful! He has shown me that being “high” on Him is the only way to go!