by Ron Judson
I’ve been writing all my life
This patchwork quilt of Joys and Strife
Searching, born again, remembering,
Working out my salvation with fear and trembling.
Seeing these sheets now as a visitor,
To your heart I pray, that they would minister.
A few lines from the song, “Hold on”, by Twila Paris.
“Every little baby
Comes into the world
Reaching for an anchor
Fingers tightly curled
Grasping for a reason
Without knowing why
We will cling to anything
‘Til the day we die
We can hold on to sorrow
Hold on to the pain
We can hold on to anger
When there is nothing to be gained
We can hold to a thread
At the end of a rope
But if we hold on to Jesus
We are holding on to hope.”
On November 12, 1945 I was born an only child to parents that had been married for 17 years and had given up hope of ever having children. So I arrived cesarean birth, crying, fingers tightly curled, and grasping for something to hold on to.
In the book of John  Jesus declared (to Nicodemus) “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” “How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no on can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.”
Like all babies I was born in the flesh from my parents’ flesh, but like all babies who enter this world, I was dead in spirit because in Genesis chapter 2  ‘The Lord God commanded Adam, saying “from any tree of the garden you may eat freely;  but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” When your great great great many times great great great grandparents Adam and Eve ate from this tree they became dead to God in their spirit. So I was born dead in spirit with inherited sin before I ever added to it by sinning on my own. So like all babies with fingers tightly curled, and crying in essence, I want things my way, struggling for power and control, I started my life.
During the early years growing up I felt much love. I spent many Saturdays just me and my dad alone at my parent’s camp on Oneida Lake. During the school year at home in Syracuse we attended church and Sunday school. I changed schools at 7th grade. My elementary school had been very calm and peaceful, but in Jr. High I felt like I was in the twilight zone. I was barely 12, and half the class were 15 ½ year olds waiting to be 16 so they could drop out of school. My grades plummeted, and I hated the thought of having to go to school and fend off kids twice my size.
In High School I was in a Technical Electric program, pre-college, nine periods a day, most with the same guys. We were the nerds, slide rules hanging from our belts, and pocket savers with a half a dozen pens and pencils for drawing graphs for math and science. I had acne real bad, especially on my back and shoulders. If someone came along and slapped me on my back I would almost fall to my knees in pain. It was also the early sixties, the country was in pain. There were many folk music groups, Peter, Paul & Mary, The Kingston Trio, The New Christy Minstrels. Much despair, my despair was expressed this way during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when President Kennedy blockaded Cuba:
A Scarlet Day Followed By An Ashy Night
Today my town in peaceful, a gentle autumn breeze
That runs along the streets, swoops up many leaves.
The clouds are white and fluffy, floating across the sky
Today is very peaceful, but tomorrow we may die.
Today is filled with colors, of autumn, and of life.
The sky is blue, the grass is green, the trees are bright with life.
But the two main ways on earth, are playing with big lies
That change the color of my town to black with scarlet skies.
Wherever you looked there seemed to be much despair. Songs like “I am a Rock”, by Simon and Garfunkel were popular on the radio:
“I have no need of friendship,
Friendship causes pain.
Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
I am a rock
I am an island.”
Or the song “ The Sounds of Silence”, also by Simon and Garfunkel:
“Hello darkness my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again.”
In the book of John it is written about Jesus, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Born of the flesh but not yet of the Spirit I was struggling in darkness and could not comprehend the light
During this time in high school I didn’t attend my grandmother’s funeral, or even acknowledge the death of a dear lady who had been like a second mother to me. I realize now, the reason I couldn’t deal with their dying was because I couldn’t face the fact that one day I would die.
I loved the old pipe organ in the church I was growing up in. It had four giant clusters of pipes spaced throughout the sanctuary. I can remember thinking that organ was the voice of God. I don’t remember one sermon, but I remember hearing that organ play.
The Church Organ
A voice of joy, a voice that wins,
A voice that cries out in a din.
A voice that cries out of the sin,
Always coming from within.
A voice of souls that cry for life,
Beneath the useless body’s strife.
I began attending a Sunday evening youth group at church. Our leader Wally was genuine – and I believe the first to plant a seed of the hope of salvation by Jesus our Lord and Savior in me. In fact he managed the church summer camp and I worked for him the summer between High School and college. He was a former baseball player; and then a history teacher and a family man. As each camp came and went, one night of each camp all the kids would gather around the camp fire ready to hear a story of the glory of being a real baseball player. The kids chins would hit their knees as Wally would tell of the lonely life on the road and the sin of sleeping with different groupies, and the joy of finding his Savior and giving up baseball for marriage and family.
At the end of summer I moved back home and commuted up to Syracuse University. I hated moving back home. I dropped out of college. A popular saying in the 60’s was “I have to find myself”.
The Road Back To Self
It is not a question of who is the real me?
(A wise little wizard inside me.)
But rather, where is the person
A just born child.
From the moment I looked up to discover the world
I was told what to look for.
I reached out to touch a friend,
“Keep your hands to yourself.”
Sought to find my creator,
Taught to fear the devil.
Hungered for learning
Taught to fear making mistakes.
Searched for answers to questions,
Taught to guess the “right” answers.
So with my hands in my pockets
Not seeing what I was looking at
And with fear of doing evil or making mistakes
Or not knowing all the answers
I became an adult.
Of course I really didn’t need to find myself, what I needed was to find my Savior Jesus Christ. The book of proverbs says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Knowledge. But fools despise wisdom and instruction.” I had dropped out of college, and perceived this was considered a sin at church. I was looking at people, not at Jesus, so I said they are all hypocrites of which of course I was the biggest one. I dropped out of church and started my career in construction. I married young, and we had three children during a rocky marriage that ended in divorce. I was doing things my way, my power, my control without God. I was a single parent with divorce court, custody battles and support payments. As a single father I felt like an outlaw.
I stole an hour from the county, took a day from the state.
If my hands were gold plated a finger they’d take.
I have to walk the strait and narrow, can’t stumble or fall,
For if I’m ill or tired, I am an outlaw.
Two halves of a family that couldn’t make it together
Can’t make it apart, the ties can’t be severed.
For as long as either half has too little gold
I’m branded an outlaw by the state hard and cold.
The company, the county, the state, my ex-wife
Tear at my flesh taking parts of my life.
If I were chilled in the wind, or stopped to cry
The vultures below would see that I die.
When I think I am falling and hope is gone
I see you again and my heart is with song.
I’m working today in wind bitter and raw,
But tomorrow I’ll see you and they can call me outlaw.
It was a lonely time. I read a poem “Defeat” by Kahil Gibran. A few lines are:
“Defeat, my defeat, my solitude and my aloofness
You are dearer to me than a thousand triumphs
And sweeter to my heart than all world glory.”
Songs on the radio, “Mandy”, by Barry Manilow:
“I remember all my life
Raining down as cold ice
Shadows of a man
a face in the window
crying in the night.
night goes into morning
it’s just another day.”
Another song on the radio, “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” by Stephen Stills:
“It’s getting to the point
where I’m no fun anymore
I am sorry
Sometimes it hurts so badly
I must cry out loud
I am lonely.”
I didn’t yet know my Savior Jesus Christ or I may have been able to take comfort in Proverbs, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” I didn’t know Jesus, I was afraid of people.
Don’t Read My Heart
If you read my heart
The loneliest part
And see my secrets there
When you’ve read it all
and know how I fall
What if you don’t care –
I started attending a single parents club known as “One Parent Family Council”. I met other men and women struggling with the same issues.
Many of the faces there
Show the pain
The pain of a scared heart.
When they smile
The drastic change
It is so beautiful
It’s like they’ve opened
A window shade
And I am seeing in
To their beautiful souls.
I met my present wife, Wanda, at a One Parent Family Council meeting. We eventually married and formed our blended family. My three children and her one child, ex-spouses, the weekend shuffle, and all that goes with it.
At some point we started attending Unity. A church that is a cult, but we didn’t know it at the time. I took a Sunday school class using a book called “The Three Magic Words”. The last sentence in the book, very blasphemous, but I didn’t know it then was “I am god.” The three magic words.
Later we started attending a mainline church because one of our children, Ivan, wanted to go to Sunday school with his regular school friends. An evening speaker was invited and he spoke on the “Joy of being kicked upstairs.” He sounded crazy to me at the time, but he had planted another seed in my head. The pastor at that church spoke from the pulpit one Sunday, disagreeing with the youth leader taking the children to see the play, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, but he never expressed why. Wanda and I had volunteered ushering at that play for several years.
In 1984 we attended a church service in a hotel convention room as part of a weekend business convention for a marketing company we were involved with at the time. A quartet gave their testimony of Christ’s cleansing work in their hearts and I went forward to accept Christ as my personal Savior.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 14:16 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”
Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
2 Corinthians 6:2 “For He says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. I tell you now is the time of Gods favor, now is the day of salvation.”
Like Saul in Acts 9:18, “Scales fell off my eyes and I could see…” I left the darkness and entered the light. The Lord blessed me with the gift of spiritual discernment, a true gift after being so incredibly deceived. Next time we ushered for the play “Jesus Christ Superstar” as a Christian, no longer blind, I could see who the star of the play was. It wasn’t Jesus who was left hanging on the cross. It was Judas who after hanging himself came back to life in the final scene in beautiful white leather clothes singing and dancing with the other cast members. The following summer we were watching a live performance at the state fair and Don McLaine sang his song with a catchy little tune “Bye, Bye Miss American Pie, left my Chevy at the levy but the levy was dry” & so on. The tune bounces along, but I had been deaf and now I could hear. Jesus had unstopped my ears. The last lines of the song made the trinity of our precious Lord losers and not victorious –
“The three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.”
My God is not a loser, he is victorious.
Victory, Victory, my passion and fulfillment,
We have stood apart
Across the raging river, from each other
Like lovers longing to embrace.
Victory, Victory, my vision, my reward
We’ve walked out of the desert together
Into the meadows of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Where our vision is focused on our blessed hope.
Victory, Victory, my toil, my pursuit
We’ve been yoked together in our persistence
Praying for strength and guidance from the Holy Spirit.
Our victorious lamp of truth and wisdom.
Victory, Victory, my ultimate goal
We kneel on the mountaintops together
and view all we can accomplish between us
Giving praise to our Lord Jesus Christ
Our winner, our victorious Lord who loves us.
We found a church we attended for ten years which was holding up the bible as the truth, God’s Word.
In 1988, a book was circulating “88 reasons the Lord would return in 1988.” Even though that author was wrong, the Lord used it to convict me (what if He was returning next week) to go to someone I had wronged – ask for forgiveness and offered a plan of restitution. The person couldn’t believe I had been so honest with him. Maybe that was a way for the Lord to plant a seed so he will come to salvation one day.
Later I was in a men’s 3D class – diet, discipline and discipleship. I shared that my ex-wife was taking me into court for more child support. A brother asked me if I had praised the Lord for that situation. I said “no, it really hadn’t even crossed my mind.” Later, alone with God, I praised Him for that and it took the sting out of the situation.
Many years later I was being sued, along with the company I work for, for three and one half million dollars for a truck accident. I remembered that same principle and told the Lord I rather have him than my possessions. They settled out of court for 1% — which was fully insured.
Another time a builder told my boss he didn’t want me working on his jobs because I was a religious fanatic. This bothered me until the Lord showed me Ecclesiastics 7:11-12,
“Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you. For you know that in your own heart many times you, yourself have cursed others.”
One Christmas I was feeling lost in the commercialism of it all and wrote this:
Let’s Celebrate Christmas
Let’s celebrate Christmas and go to the mall.
I’ve been there before, and I was appalled.
Porcelain nativity’s, a thousand dollars and more;
Lighted Santas for every door.
At home I look at the adds and flyers,
Avoid the hub-bub and so many buyers.
Even Christian catalogs, so many arrive;
Shopping at home, I won’t have to drive.
One says, “Celebrate the gift, win the ultimate present,
Four days in Florida”, could be very pleasant.
I’ll buy a gift, no imitations,
From a catalog page, which brings the vacation?
The TV is off, but I’m too busy to pray;
No time for God’s word, new books every day!
Coming Earthquake, Storm Warning, The Body, and more,
World Order, The Sign, Your Finances, Prepare for War.
So easily swept up as of the world creatures;
I must focus on Christ, He is the feature.
Prayer is my strength, and His word my power,
Obeying and ministering until his returning hour.
An alien Sojourning in a foreign land.
With Jesus my Savior, I’ll take my stand.
Repent, change our minds, accept Jesus’ grace.
Accept Him as Lord, and He prepares us a place.
Oh Lord I would pray, keep my lamp filled with oil;
Let my life point towards you, wherever I toil.
Return, find me faithful, I pray Oh Lord;
Help me bring others with me. Let that be my reward.
A hard time came, for me, in the church I had worshipped in for ten years.
We Just Pal Around
The word was preached for many years,
Then came division, many tears.
Church board meetings, the bible first hour,
Changed to business success books, in our own power.
Focused on us, Ingrown we sat.
No missions, no outreach, happy and fat.
Funds for new classrooms, many gave.
Dreams voted away, the ground was paved.
Sunday school classes, study God’s word.
Turned to how do you feel, opinions, how absurd.
Many thousand dollars damage, our cross taken by lightening
When man’s philosophies and doctrines entered, how frightening.
No rock of offense, no solid ground,
Just Jesus our buddy, we pal around.
I thought – Where am I? Do I say hypocrites and leave church and God for another twenty years like when I was a teenager. Another divorce, from my church this time. Do I get visiting rights with my brothers and sisters? I had to focus on Jesus.
May My Allegiance Align With The Rock
I’m deep in a desert dry and barren,
Except for my love, The Rose Of Sharon.
People are here as numerous as sand.
Do they know my love, where do they stand?
Deep is my love for Christ my Lord,
But with whom can I speak in one accord.
Born again now, I’m of another place;
A stranger sojourning on this world’s face.
Now that I’m visiting and not staying here,
Remembering my love, this life’s not so dear.
Let this worlds desires be in the past tense,
Let my allegiance align with the Rock of Offense.
2 Timothy says “for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day. Hold fast in the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, kept by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.”
What else is there?
Psalm 1 tells of the two ways of life contrasted:
“Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners.
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
planted by the rivers of water,
that brings forth its fruit in its season
whose leaf also shall not wither
And what ever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgement,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous.
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
I desire to be a tree planted by the rivers of living water, and not chaff blown away by the wind. I still wrestle with being genuine. One time in a men’s Sunday school class we studied, “The face in the mirror” by Patrick Morley. It challenged us in one chapter to decide what percent we were genuine Christian and what percent cultural Christian. I was challenged and thought about how real am I.
What Percent of Me Am I
Mirror, mirror on the wall
Who’s the fairest of them all
60 – 40, 90 – 10,
50 – 50, where have I been?
100% would be my goal.
What part of me is the whole?
Am I a Christian at church, but who’s on the job?
A Christian mirror, or part of the mob?
The mall, at home, or outside walking,
Thinking, working, or when I am talking,
Who am I mirror, am I deceived?
If so dear Lord I pray retrieve –
Me from what is my self-deception,
Let your word be my only weapon.
Cleanse me from all self-deceit.
Prune me, mold me, make me complete.
100% Christian where ever I walk
In church or not, and when I talk.
Let that mirror be your Word, Lord,
Able to cut like a two edge sword.
Slicing down through bone and marrow,
Able to keep me on the road that is narrow.
In the late 90’s work dried up in New York State so I moved to Charlotte to help start up an electrical construction business. We attended several churches in Charlotte, the last two of which actually closed their doors before we found Elevation Church in the late summer of 2007. I had been struggling for discernment and to keep my eyes focused on Christ as we cycled through churches in Charlotte. It has been such a blessing to be part of a church where the Holy Spirit is continually moving. Here, at Elevation, it is obvious that Pastor Steven has a calling on his life and an anointing of God. We can all catch his vision and see people far from God be filled with life in Christ on a weekly basis.
I would like to close with a few lines of a song, “Band of Survivors” by Twila Paris. To me it is like a modern version of the song “Onward Christian Soldiers.”
“There is a war raging on
between the right and wrong
and we have encountered the darkness.
But as each night moves along
we face another dawn
to reach for the courage of Love.
As the faint hearted run for the shelter of home,
There’s a question that hangs in the air.
When the smoke clears away from the battlefield,
who will be there?”
“And so we honor the call.
Remain upon the wall
And trust in the name of our God.”
Philippians 2:12 John 3:3-7 John 1:4-5 Proverbs 1:17 Proverbs 3:5-7 John 1:5-9 Math. 25:3&4 Song of Songs 2:1 I Peter 2:7&8 2 Timothy 1:12b-14 John 15:1&2 Heb. 4:12&13.
Copyright © 2011 Ron Judson