We all have a story
- Mine began in Cradle Roll. My earliest recollections are of watching felt board stories, hearing cradle roll songs, and dropping my offering in the bucket that came around while everyone sang, "Hear the pennies dropping, Listen while they fall..." Maybe your formative church-going experiences were similar. But I didn't stay in Cradle Roll. Next came Kindergarten, then Primary, Junior, Earliteen, Young Adult, and now I'm studying The Senior Sabbath School Lesson...Again. For a while I didn't. Why? Because it was using language I questioned; it started using words and terms I didn't find in the Bible. Let me tell you how it happened. Father of Love In grade school I was troubled by depictions of a God who seemed distant and uncertain as to whether I would make it to heaven because Jesus had to plead His blood in order for the Father to forgive me. I recall one particular nightmare in the 4th grade from which I awoke in a sweat, heart pounding. Everyone was lifting up off the earth into the sky, but my feet stayed glued to the ground. I was in a panic! When my church pastor later lasked who wanted to be baptized, I was first in line! What a relief to learn 11 years later in college that "the Father Himself loves you!" John 16:27. My new foundation in the Character of God was being laid. Heavenly Trio After completing medical school and beginning practice in the mission field of East Tennessee, I found myself waging battle with a Jehovah Witness janitor at the hospital where I worked as ER doc. He told me we should not worship his anti-trinitarian-created-angel-Michael (a.k.a. Jesus). My only defence was to try and prove the Trinity. But, as our own Adventist theologians admit, this dogma cannot be proven, for it is only "alluded to", "suggested," "implied," by various "hints", since it is "a mystery." It would take another 30 years before I found the key to solving this mystery which was not the nature of the trinity, but the identify. Proclaiming the Sabbath And proclaiming it more fully. That occurred in 2002 in Atlanta when I attended a Sabbath-Sunday debate between a Church of Christ pastor and a Seventh-day Adventist pastor. I expected our Adventist contender to triumph with an overwhelming flood of Scriptural support. But I was surprised by the challenge that was made: "If you really believe in keeping 'all the commandments', then why don't you keep the annual sabbaths, too?" I was expecting our champion to prove that the ceremonial law is different from the moral law, and that it was the ceremonial law that was nailed to the cross. But his opponent had a long list of examples proving that "the Law of Moses" is treated the same as "the law of God." That experience sent me on a research quest for two years resulting in my book, Sabbath Diagnosis. And in that quest, I gained a new respect for, and realized the value of, studying and monitoring the appointed times. Over the years it was these three areas--the character of God, the personality of God, the creative and redemptive acts of God--that continually fascinated me. I was amazed as truth for me continued its onward progression over time. Unquestionably, truth is progressive. It shines brighter and brighter as the day dawns. But somewhere along the way, while the light ever increased, the color somehow changed. It's like the slow and truly imperceptible alteration in our eyes as we age. Oh, white still "looks" white to us as we progress into our 5th and 6th decades. But get a lens transplant, remove that early cataract, and WOW! You suddenly realize how much white you've been missing all this time. Yet, throughout all my Adventist education, baptized in 1957, my dedication to serving the church as an elder ordained at the Winter Park SDA church in 1974, Sabbath School teacher for nearly 40 years, missionary physician to Africa, traveling the world for 25 years as a health evangelist supporting overseas efforts in India, Philippines, Cuba, Russia, Estonia, Germany, South Africa, Ghana, I was ever proud of how supportive and organized our General Conference was in taking care of its workers. That all changed when I was surprised to discover how volatile the issues I had grown to admire and cherish could become and even jeapordize membership in my own church. I was surprised, disappointed, and shocked to discover that "people of the Book" would place greater authority in the words of men than in the Word of God. When my local church decided they did not want me as a member because of my belief in the divine (not human) Son of God, I found fellowship with others who had experienced a similar unwanted fate. At first I imagined that this was the beginning of a ground-swell that would ignite the world in a blaze of glory that would enlighten the whole earth (Rev 18:1). Small groups grew into large regional camp meetings. We had nearly 200 gathering at Talking Rock, then as more and more groups formed, the numbers declined and in 2013 when a Unity Conference was convened, it was clear that sharp polarized lines had formed among various groups breaking us up into "independent atoms." While each could rally around their dominant speaker and take comfort in the conviction that they had "the truth", I noticed that the theme of everyone's rhetoric was a critical attack on what was wrong with some other group's position.
- Those promoting a God of love who would not use force, were attacked by those in favor of arming themselves in the time of trouble;
- Those insisting that there are only two persons in the Godhead, were challenged by those who championed Elllen White and her Heavenly Trio;
- The feasters pushed for universal observance of the mo'edim, and everyone else squelched the Feast Keepers. Where was the Spirit of Jesus in all this? In 2020 after the death of my best friend for 54 years, dear wife of 49 years and mother of my two children, I met my soul-mate in Alexandra, an amazing complement to my soft, accomodating, foolishly prodigal nature. She was firm, resourceful, challenging, and sensitive. What a combination! Just what I needed to refine and strengthen my character and resolve. We married after five months and, accepting the wise suggestion to leave Talking Rock--the site of both joy, frustration, and sadness--we moved to Calhoun to be more centrally located between Talking Rock, my siblings in Calhoun, and now our four children in Chattanooga. For three months we enjoyed attending the GCA (Georgia Cumberland Academy) church where my brother taught Sabbath School. And then COVID struck. Church suddenly changed into a stifling distanced, masked, isolated experience. When the churches shut down, we found ourselves Zooming at home. But after a couple months of that, we then heard about the Adairsville Church. We gladly switched to driving 20 minutes down the road. What a breath of fresh air! We enthusiastically joined in Sabbath School discussions, offered to lead song service, played the piano, shared special music, eventually being asked to sing a Scripture Song each week, which has now become a tradition. I was asked to be one of leaders in the weekly Wednesday night Zoom "prayer meeting" and discussion group. I offered to help prepare the church bulletin, tell children stories, and to operate the cameras for livestreaming. For the past two Christmas seasons we have volunteered to help with the "Walk Through Bethlehem" weekend pagent. We have enjoyed having numerous church members to our home for food and fellowship, getting to know many of them even better. Through all of this, we have realized that our treatment of others, our encouraging joy and smiles, helping serve in various functions is a wonderful opportunity to minister to others and is much more important than being preocupied with emphasizing and promoting a particular theological position. This is not to say that our convictions are not important, but they have become the underlying basis for how we operate and behave rather than the constant topic of discussion. If anyone should ask, and many have, we are "ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you" Peter 3:15. Some have expressed concern that we have forsaken the position for which we were voted out of the local church. This is not so, but what we have forsaken is the stance of remaining bitter or hurt and denying ourselves the priveledge of love, joy, and peace. We have had three oportunities to share what we have learned in reading and studying the Bible with two pastors, two conference leaders, two sets of elders from two different Adventist Churches and have been pleased with how well we can find agreement when our language is carefully chosen and kept to simple words of Scripture. It is our desire to see others who have resigned themselves to think they must separate from the Adventist Church, consider following our example and also experience the joy of a larger and more fulfilling fellowship. It takes time. We spent nearly two years getting to know the members, becoming friends, eating together, sharing our stories and backgrounds. If your experience was painful, as was mine, go slowly, be patient, enjoy the new journey, and wait until you are asked. For a more indepth review of the entire journey you can delve into each of the following segments. Forty Years: A Brief History A New Day Dawning - 1980 to 1984 Dallas General Conference and Mountain City Mission Field African Adventism - 1984 to 1990 The Missionary Years Computing Career - 1990 to 2007 Atlanta and Y2K Operation Global Rain - 2007 Meeting the Spirit of Truth Digging into the Word - 2007-2010 Finding the Son of God The Literal Word of God - 2010 Atlanta General Conference and Silver Spring Amicolola - April 2011 The First Camp Meeting Business Meeting Vote - August 2011 Lost by One Vote Andrews - August 2011 The Letter delivered Talking Rock 2012-2014 Formative Years Talking Rock Commune 2015-2019 Growth and Expansion Retirement & Management 2020-2022 COVID Aftermath