I was born November 27, 1972 in Houston Texas. I come from a big family with 3 brother's and 2 sisters. Growing up we did not go to church much at all. Mom and dad were awesome people and if you could get to Heaven by being good, they would be first in line! My goal in life was to be the next Nolan Ryan. I lived, ate, slept and breathed baseball. I loved baseball and as long as I can remember, I've been a Houston Astros fan. Nolan Ryan is and will always be the greatest pitcher to ever have played the game. So, I wanted to be him. But, little did I know God had bigger and better plans for me. "Better" plans you may be thinking, what could be better than playing professional baseball with your childhood team following your childhood dream? Read on and you will see.
At the age of 13, I was pitching in the last game of the season. The coach for the all-star team that was going to travel and play other all-star teams came to me between innings. As he was commenting on my game so far, he asked me if I wanted to play on the team. I, of course, accepted the offer. I went out the next inning and struck out the first batter. The next batter, Hyme, was a great friend of mine and one of the best hitters in the league. Hyme and I had played together a lot since he lived near my aunt. He had fouled off several pitches. You see, he knew my Dad sat in the stands and would give me the sign for what pitch to throw. Hyme, knowing this, would always look at my dad so he would know what pitch was coming. After fouling off about six pitches, my dad gave me the sign for a four seam fastball. I told myself I was going to strike him out or he was going to hit it out of the park. As I was in my follow through, I heard "dink", (the sound of the ball hitting the bat) When I looked up, the ball was in my face. Obviously shattering my nose into what felt like a million pieces. If you make a fist with your left hand and place it under your left eye and look down, that's how I saw my nose!! As Hyme, my coach, my dad and the opposing team coach rushed to the mound, I sat there with blood gushing out of my nose like water out of a fire hydrant on a hot summer day. They put me in my dad's car, his off-duty police car, and rushed me to the hospital.
Obviously I did not get back to the game that night. They did the CAT Scan and the eye bones were not broken but he did see three knot looking things in my neck. More test determined that those knots were tumors. The Doctor said we needed to remove them and biopsy to determine if they were cancer or not. So, I had surgery to fix my nose and have tumors removed. They were able to get two of them, but the third one was too far in behind my jawbone so they removed as much as they could and left part of it in my neck. The tumors removed were benign, which is not cancer which is a good thing. They did determine I have a disease called Neurofibromatosis, which means "tumors of the nerves". I was actually born with these tumors but never knew I had them. I basically have thousands of little tumors on my nerves all over my body. Little did I know, these little tumors were going to fuel big plans God has for me. Here is the rest of my story! At the age of 15 my Doctor ordered my yearly "routine" CAT Scan. The results this time were not quite as good as before. This scan showed the part of the tumor they originally left in had grown rather quickly and large. My Doctor, Dr.Lee, said the tumor needed to be removed immediately. He told me the tumor was in behind my jawbone and in order to get it out he would have to break my jaw. He explained to me the surgery by saying, "It's a simple surgery, we break your jaw, remove the tumor and your mouth will be wired shut for six weeks, no problem!" To which I responded,"Hold up doc, I seed ALL kinds of problems....my mouth wired shut...don't think so, I'm already so skinny I can hoola hoop with a cheerio!" He explained the necessity to remove it so I agreed. He asked if I had any questions, so I asked how he will break my jaw. Now, he had tried to convince me that Bruce Lee was his long lost brother so he said, "My nurse hold you, I kick you!" I gave the big thumbs down to that one.
Well the day for surgery arrived and I was a little....well a lot scared! As they took me to the back to change clothes out of my "Jams" shorts (I know that dates me and tells how old I am, remember jams the knee length shorts...I loved them) They gave me one of the stylish, big pimpin, hospital gowns that come equipped with air conditioning in the rear!
The nurse aide wheeled me back o the "Surgery waiting area". This was the place they took me and started my IV with just a Saline solution; NO drugs had been administered yet, it's important to mention that because of the next part of my story. I thought I had hit the jackpot because in walked a BEAUTIFUL nurse. She was about 5'6" blonde hair, blue eyes and was perfect. She was not wearing a name tag, stethoscope, no jewelry not even wearing any make up, yet she was still stunningly gorgeous. She asked what I was in for and I told her about breaking my nose and finding the tumors. She looked me in the eye and said, "God broke your nose!" So I looked her in the eye and said, "Hyme broke my nose but thanks for playing!" I knew very little about God at this point, but one thing I did know is that Hyme was NOT God! (No offense Hyme, you know I love ya!) She said to me, "You don't understand now, but God has a plan and a purpose for your life." Then she walked out of my room. My thought was maybe she had escaped from the mental ward or was on drugs! A few seconds later my nurse came in and put something in my IV and told me to countdown from 10 to 1, so as I was doing that, 10, 9 , 8, sev...I was out!
I ended up being in surgery for about 12 hours because the tumor was six and a half inches long and wrapped every nerve for the left side of my face. To this day I sweat on my left sideburn every time I eat! About four days after surgery my doctor came into my room holding m y chart and shaking his head. My heart sank to my feet. I had the sudden fear that he was going to tell me I had cancer and had six months to live. Luckily, that was not what he told me. He did, however, tell me that I was very lucky. As I touched my face, again so swollen it made Fat Albert look like Olive Oil, I said, "How am I lucky?" He explained to me that these tumors were so strategically located that had I not broken my nose I would have never known about the tumors until it was too late. He proceeded to tell me that I would have been dead by the time I turned 18 because this tumor was only 2 centimeters from the base of my brain. When he said that I could hear that ladies voice saying, "God has a plan for you!" My doctor explained that I had these tumors everywhere and would have to monitor my body for any unusual pains etc. When Dr. Lee left my room I told my parents about the lady telling me God broke my nose and God has a plan for me. My dad said, "She was probably a Jehovah Witness, don't worry about it" But that didn't settle it for me.
Several months later a friend of mine, Brett, invited me to a Youth event at his Church. Brett lived in my apartment complex and was about three years younger than me. It was April 12, 1988 and it just happened to be my dad's birthday. I told Brett I couldn't go because it was my dads birthday a and we had family coming over. Brett said two key phrases to me that could get almost any and every teenage guy to go to Church. He said there will be free pizza (not in a blender) AND girls! Bye dad, happy birthday, I'm going to church. Upon arrival at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Houston, I saw tons of teenagers. The time came when they started herding us into the sanctuary. When we got in there it was a huge building and was wall to wall teenagers. We sang some songs together and then they welcomed the speaker to the pulpit.
As the preacher began preaching, he talked about how God "loves us" and has a "plan and purpose" for us. At that point I was frozen like a deer in headlights. He grabbed my attention! I was now locked in on every word he spoke. He read James 1:2-4 "Consider it joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds for we know the testing of your faith develops perseverance and perseverance must complete its work so that you may be mature in Christ." He shared that sometimes God "allows" bad things to happen to us so that HE can show His love for us. He also said that God has a plan for our lives and IF we follow HIM(God) HE will get us through tough times. I wanted to tell everyone else they could leave because this man was here for me and he was talking right to me. He read Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future" At this point I thought maybe I was in an episode of the twilight zone and this man was the husband of the lady at the hospital and they were trying to lure me into something strange. I was intrigued by what he was saying.
As he continued talking, he shared the story of Jesus. How Jesus lived a sinless life, yet died a sinner's death for us. He told how God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to take on our sins. The preacher told us we are all sinners. Romans 3:23 and the wage for that sin is death Romans 6:23 And that even though we sinned against God, God still sent Jesus to die for us Romans 5:8 and we had to confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead and we would be saved Romans 10:9-10 Finally he said whoever did this would be saved Romans 10:13 I was now feeling a tug on my heart. Something inside was stirring and I didn't know what it was. The more this preacher talked, the more goose bumps I felt popping up all over me. I knew I was there for a reason and it was no accident that Brett invited me there that night. When the preacher asked us all to bow our heads and pray I knew something was different in me. He asked the question, "If you died tonight, do you know where you would go?" I didn't know the answer. I thought I was a good guy, I never got in trouble, I was nice to everyone, I didn't laugh at someone when I struck them out and I was just a "good kid". I learned that night that being good is NOT what gets you into Heaven. I realized that unless I invited Jesus into my life to be my Lord and Savior, I would not go to Heaven when I died. I heard the words of John 3:3 as he read them to us, "unless a man is born-again, he will not enter into the kingdom of Heaven"? I knew I wanted to go to Heaven so I wanted to be born again.
The time came when the band came back on stage and we were all asked to stand up. The preacher said that if you wanted to invite Christ into your life come down front and a counselor will talk to you. As everyone stood I stepped out from my spot, looked at Brett with a huge smile on my face and I began my last walk as an unsaved man.
As I walked down to the front, I was there with many other students who, like me, wanted something more in life. They led those of us who came down front to "make a decision" to a room in the back of the sanctuary. We were greeted with smiles and hugs from some adult workers and d some older high school students. I was met by a guy named Chris. Chris was a student at my high schools rival school, so we joked about that for a second then he looked at me and asked me why I came down front tonight. I told him I wanted to invite Jesus into my life because HE had a plan for me. Chris began to go over the plan of salvation and the verses from Romans that the preacher also read. He asked me if I wanted to pray to invite Christ into my life. I told him I did so he led me a prayer that went something like this:
"Dear Lord, I know I am a sinner. I know you died on the cross to pay for my sins. Thank you Lord for dying in my place so I could have eternal life with you. I ask you to come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. I confess You are Lord and I believe God raised you from the dead. Help me Lord to live everyday for you. Amen"
After I accepted Christ and was baptized, I began praying for my parents to accept Christ. My parents would come to Church with me occasionally but they would not fill out a visitor's card. Well, the summer of 1993, I was an intern for the youth group at The Met. August 1, 1993, I was sitting in church. My parents did not come this particular Sunday, but when they did the welcome and asked visitors to fill out the visitor card, I grabbed one and began to fill it out with my parent's info on it. One of the students sitting beside me said, "Hey your parents aren't here, are they?" To which I explained they were there in "spirit" but had come before and not filled out a visitor's card. I told him that the church really needed to keep track of visitors for the official record. Which is true! The man who went to Visit my parents, came up to me with a blank stare on his face. It was a look much like how I felt. One of disappointment and frustration. He told me he went to see my parents tonight, I was right, they were not expecting him. I thought, "great, now my parents are going to cuss me out when I get home"! The look on his face went from serious and disappointment to extreme joy instantly as he said, "Yeah, they both accepted Christ!!" As you can probably imagine, I was FILLED WITH JOY!! I was excited as an elephant in a peanut factory! I was so excited I could have slam dunked a 20 pound bowling bowl on a 20 foot goal!
My parents accepted Christ that Monday night. The next day, at the Church office, our Pastor, Dr. Curt Dodd walked up to me and said, "I heard your parents accepted Christ last night." To which I replied, "Yes they did, praise God for answered prayer" He agreed and then he said, "Do you want to baptize them Sunday?" I said, "Yeah they are getting baptized Sunday." He laughingly said, "No, DO YOU want to baptize them Sunday?" Surprisingly I looked at him and said, "Let me pray about it..YEAH!!!" The following Sunday, August 8,1993, I baptized my mom and my dad. They were the first people I ever baptized. It was an experience I will NEVER forget.
God has continued to pour out HIS blessings on me throughout my entire life. I have faced many hardships and with the help of My Heavenly Father, I have walked thro8ugh the storms with my head held high. One of those storms came in May 2004. I had seven more tumors removed from the top seven vertebrae in my neck. When I woke up from surgery, I could not use my arms or legs. My Doctor told me I would never walk again. God promised me I would be ok so I told my Doctor he could order the wheel-chair and other devices to assist me, but I told him I wouldn't need them, that I was going to walk out of that hospital. He said he appreciated my courage, but medically, he didn't think it was possible. After 2 hours of physical therapy and 2 hours of Occupational therapy 6 days a week, God followed through on His promise and 32 days later, ONLY BY THE GRACE OF GOD, I WALKED OUT OF M.D. ANDERSON HOSPITAL IN HOUSTON. God totally receives ALL the Glory for that!! Another storm brewed on October 9, 2005 when my father called me at home. It was a Sunday morning and I answered the phone and could tell something was wrong. I could tell he was crying and he muttered three words that crushed my heart more than anything ever before. He said, "Tiger, Sonny's dead" Sonny is my 31 year old brother who died in his sleep. He turned 31 on September 23, his son was born October 3, and he died October 9. An autopsy ruled out heart attack, stroke and aneurysm. We didn't know what happened we just know he died. I preached his funeral and 3 of our cousins prayed to accept Christ at the funeral. (We didn't know until nearly 2 and a half years later that it was an accidental overdose on his medicine.) About a month after he passed away, my wife told me she wanted a divorce. We had been married three years and it was not a pretty divorce, as if any are. I never believed and still do not believe in divorce, but I couldn't force her to stay married. She filed, she got a lawyer, all I got was my car, clothes and Dakota (my dog) I can't say anything bad about her, I pray for her almost daily. God through all of this has brought me closer to Him. My divorce was final in June of 2006. I must say here that I did NOT commit adultery or abuse my wife; she didn't want to be married to me anymore and had NO biblical grounds for it.
I am in a place now where my relationship with God is stronger, deeper and better than it has EVER been. God has blessed me beyond measure. My heart is completely restored after all of these storms. I know more will come and I know that HE will get me through them then. (on my blog I wrote about storms)
My hearts desire for full time student ministry is stronger than ever. I know God has great plans for me and as Psalm 37:4 reminds us that "if we delight ourselves in the Lord HE will give us the desires of our hearts" My delight is in HIM and my desire is opportunities to share of HIS greatness and to be a Godly husband and father when Gods timing is right. I know HE has a Godly woman to share in ministry with me and challenge me as my wife. So, until HE brings her into my life, it's me, God and my Dakota!! My prayer is that the things God has done in my life will challenge and encourage you in your relationship with HIM. HE is faithful and HIS love endures FOREVER!!