is a typical story
of a lost human being
who has been found,
saved and now wishes
only to be an instrument of
the Lord Jesus Christ's
love in this world.
This is how I got here.
was raised in the Methodist Church and developed a strong believe in
God through the efforts of my parents, my church leaders and most of
all the influence of my two grandmothers. They were polar
opposites as far as personality but God shone brightly in each of their
lives in their own unique ways.
Four other people in particular planted the Gospel seed within
me that eventually took root.
JIM" a.k.a. DICK MOORE was the host
of an afternoon children’s TV show out of Quincy, IL, when I was a
kid. He was great! He taught me to drink Prairie
(the sponsor, of course) and to "kink my pinky" when I drank it.
To this day, whenever I hold a glass of any kind, my pinky
outward at a 45-degree angle in his honor. One amazing Sunday
morning “Cactus Jim” came to my church and shared his
I have never in my life been so riveted during a sermon!
What a joy that I located him and had the opportunity to know
45 years later. He was the first major non-relative who sowed
Christ into my life.
LITTLE was the man of the house next door, a
Bible-thumping Southern Baptist
who was extraordinarily zealous in his attempts to evangelize to me.
His method was to dangle me over Hell like a weinie (burn,
burn!) in the hope I would accept Jesus in order to save
from an eternal, fiery death. Unfortunately, he came on so
aggressively to this young, shy kid that instead of scaring me out of
Hell he mostly just scared the Hell out of me! But his words
planted and would blossom later.
HOLT was my best friend between the time I met him and the
day he moved away
a year later. He was a grade younger than I but there was
something about him that I loved. He wore his faith on his
every day and refused to be corrupted by my foul mouth or crude ways.
I admired his goodness of character and serenity and wished I
could be like him. Now, nearly 40 years later, I recognize I
seeing Jesus through Brian. His influence on my life was of
of the First Baptist Church in Champaign, Illinois, touched my life in
so many ways over the years. He was my Grandmother Deem's
and every time I visited her I went to her church and crossed paths
with Ralph. I have never known a more Christ-like man and his
kindnesses to me over the years were of such great import.
was his words from the pulpit that busted the dam of my
to Christ (more on that later).
Due to a less-than-ideal home
life, I grew up a troubled fellow. The situation took a
turn for the worse as my parents divorced when I was 16 years old.
My life began an accelerating spiral into despair,
an arrest for stealing and even jail time on weekends and nights for
three months. I was a classic picture of a young man who was
building an outhouse on a concrete slab.
My life miraculously
detoured one afternoon in December of 1977 when my dad asked me to join
him to see a new Disney movie called Pete's Dragon.
I had watched television ads for that film and its
live action and animation was intriguing so I agreed to go.
went, we watched, I was bored. After it ended, I got up to go
Dad said he wanted to stay and watch it again. This was in
days when one could do that sort of thing. I grumbled but
he had the car keys I had little choice and sat back down again.
during that second showing, the innate goodness of the people in the
movie and the love the characters felt for each other touched something
in my soul that had been dormant for years. I found myself
WANTING that kind of love in my life again. When I left the
theater I was a changed man although it would be eight years before I
learned the reason why. Back to this a bit later.
started turning around. I gradually gave up the late nights,
hours playing pinball at a local eatery and the middle of the night
eight-hour round trips to Metropolis, Illinois, for absolutely no
reason at all. I returned to the Boy Scout program as a
and started giving back some of what the program had given me as a boy.
But I remained unchurched through this time.
In 1985 my
world changed once again. Grandmother Deem had become ill and
was determined that someone from the family would have to go live with
her. As the lone single member of the family in over a
miles, I was elected. I must admit that it scared me to
death--leaving home, starting over, having to take care of an elderly
woman dying with cancer. But there are occasions when one has
play the hand one is dealt and I knew this was one of those times.
I immediately joined her church and reconnected
with Ralph Nast. Before becoming a Baptist I first had to
before the elders and share my Christian story. That would
been far easier if I only had one! The lady who joined at the
same time told a glowing tale about being baptized in the River Jordan.
I was left to mumble a little dogma I learned from the Footprints in the Sand
poem. They let me in anyway! I think they knew
something I didn't!
challenges of this new life were even more distressing than I had
expected and I was becoming more and more terrified every day.
Then one Sunday that October, I was sitting in our usual pew
to my grandmother when Pastor Ralph started looking right at me as he
said, "You need to understand this: Jesus Christ died on the
cross for you. Just for you!"
His words pierced my heart.
I had encountered this kind of thing my whole life but today
truly heard them! I finally wrapped my head around the truth
that statement. And I knew what I had to do.
atypically quiet during Sunday dinner and left the house right
afterward to seek a rendezvous with the living Christ. I
driving and passed by a small wooded area sandwiched between two
highways. I thought about going there but a sign at the
said this was private property and that trespassers would be prosecuted.
started to drive away and I have to say the resulting conviction on my
soul was so deep I felt like I had King Kong sitting on my chest.
I completely understood that I was supposed to go back.
trip to Christ was looking like it might lead me directly to
without passing "Go" or collecting $200.00.
There was a pond at
the center of the woods and I walked almost all the way around it,
searching for whatever it is I was looking for. Finally I
upon a fallen tree trunk large enough to sit on and I did so.
read my Bible for a little while then began a chat with the Master of
I had always known I needed to accept Jesus as my
personal Saviour and I believed I was ready to do that. I
acknowledged to God that I was not able to bear up to the
responsibilities I had taken on and that I was prepared to place my
life in His hands.
I have heard many
tales of the explosive, powerful Christian conversions that happen when
this process takes place. I felt nothing...as in NOTHING!
As I sat there, I began entertaining thoughts I had never
experienced. Was this all just some kind of cruel hoax?
I and all the wonderful people before me been the victims of a
celestial sucker punch?
As I sat on that log, growing more
dismal and morose with each passing moment, one sentence spoken to me
by Norm Little so many years before popped back out at me.
have to be prepared to surrender your entire life to Christ--every
single aspect of it."
So I started examining every facet of my
life. I thoroughly examined every activity, bad habit after
habit, and agreed to surrender each to the will of Christ. I
to the end of my list and I found myself becoming a bit irritated.
"What's going on," I asked out loud. "I AM ready!"
was as if a joy bomb had just exploded in my chest. A
atomic burst of pure love, a very real physical experience and one that
was completely and totally unexplainable with human vocabulary.
This was proof--all the evidence I would ever need that Jesus
Christ is real and that everything I had been told was true.
started laughing and fell off the log into a patch of briar and did not
mind in the least!
And God was not through with me this day. There was one more very
personal revelation on the horizon.
very first home video units were becoming popular and I had purchased
one just before I moved. I also bought my very first
and had paid $85.00 for it - Pete's
(of course!) But up until this point I had never watched it.
I had decided to save it for a special occasion.
never had a more special day than this one, it was a perfect time to
fire up the VHS player and enjoy that impactful movie again.
in the middle of the film I found myself leaping out of my chair and
staring at the screen in excitement. It's star, Helen Reddy,
crooning the movie's signature tune Candle on the Water:
be your candle on the water,
love for you will always burn.
know you're lost and drifting,
the clouds are lifting.
give up, you have somewhere to turn.
I'll be your candle on the water,
Till every wave is warm and bright.
My soul is there beside you,
Let this candle guide you.
Soon you'll see a glowing stream of light.
A cold and friendless tide has found you.
Don't let the stormy darkness pull you down.
I'll paint a ray of hope around you.
Circling in the air, lighted by a prayer.
be your candle on the water,
flame inside of me will grow.
holding on, you'll make it.
my hand so take it.
for me, reaching out to show,
sure as rivers flow:
never let you go!
The song had been written as a plea from a lonely lighthouse keeper to
her sailor man lost at sea.
for the first time, I finally understood why that movie had so touched
my soul. This was not the words from some lonely woman calling to
her man--this was the voice of the Holy Father speaking directly to me!
never grasped their meaning before but the truth within had resonated
in my spirit. In my deep despair, the Lord lowered a lifeline to me to
pull me out of the darkness. Before I ever went looking for
Jesus, He was there reaching out to me!
be sure there were others who invested in me along the way to my
salvation. Those I can remember as this is written would
Rev. Ron & Carolyn Colton, Rev. Wayne Armbrust and his daughter Nancy, Rev.
Motta, Charlie Runkel, Joan & Bob Leach, Jim Stefl, David Cox, Bob Keeshan (the immortal Captain Kangaroo!),
Willard Cody, David Tiffany, Deane
Harmon (my aunt), my grandmothers Sylvia Deem and Gail Gilbert, Gary
Kinnett (my brother) My mother Betty Sullivan and my father, Bill Deem.
The road from that day to this one has certainly had its share of
bumps, potholes and craters but the joy of that hour has accompanied me
along the way. Even these current days are filled with
challenges, pain and a sense of loss. I know that even now in
2015 I am being pruned for God's great work that still lies before me.
It's sometimes hard to say I'm having fun. I often have
difficulty counting it all as joy. But my hope is in Christ and
my future bright!
Many are still lost and drifting and it is my
hope that Jesus will use me as His lifeline to any of those desperate
souls I may encounter.