Chapter 1 – Seeds of Rejection?
August 26, 2001, 7 a.m. I thought to be the darkest day of my life. It was at that time that the Stephens County Sheriff’s Department, along with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies knocked down the door to my shop, covered their faces with cloths to protect them from the toxic fumes and chemicals; dragged me outside, cuffed and arrested me.
After the fire department and hazardous waste clean-up crews arrived, I was taken to the Stephens County Jail and charged with manufacturing and trafficking illegal drugs. They had good reason to throw the book at me. From 1998 up until this time, I had been in and out of jail dozens of times for countless criminal activities. I was on probation and out on bond at the time of this arrest. My charges were later given to me and I was facing two life sentences and $75,000 in fines.
I grew up in a wonderful little town of about 25,000 people. We lived on the outskirts of town, in a semi-country setting. I attended a small country school and was all boy. When I wasn’t playing basketball or baseball, I was scouring the countryside and creek banks for rabbits, squirrels, quail or anything a young hunter could set his sites on.
Sports, hunting, fishing and a mother who served as both mom and dad, was my life. My young life was so full of adventure and exploration. I had many friends and cousins to share my expeditions with so the rejection of my father stayed covered and hidden in my heart for many years.
I had uncles and other father-figures who loved and encouraged me, along with a mother who tried to fill the void of a father in my life. You see, my father never wanted children and he let that fact be known, not only by having little to do with my brother and me, but also by telling me pointblank for most of my life. It wasn’t until many years later that I begin to understand the damage that this rejection had to my integrity and character.
I began in my teen years to exaggerate and stretch the truth. I did this in an attempt to impress people, especially older men who I looked up to. These were the early seeds Satan planted in the garden of my soul, which eventually sprouted into lies – the fruits of being rejected by a father who I desperately needed.
I always excelled in sports and craved the attention and praise my friends got from their fathers. Even though my friends’ fathers and my mother tried to supplement this loss, it was still hurtful and damaging – something I buried deep inside me that didn’t surface for years to come.
At the age of 13, my mother divorced my father and married a man who owned and operated night clubs for most of his life. My brother went with Mother and her new husband, Raymond, and I went to live with my beloved aunt and uncle.
My aunt and uncle had three sons – two of which were my age. I had spent most of my summers with them so it was not unfamiliar or uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, my cousins and I loved each other enormously and my aunt and uncle always treated me like their own child.
They lived in a small mountain town called Medicine Park, Okla. It was a child’s paradise, especially being as adventurous as we three boys were. We went to a small-town country school at Elgin, Okla. and life for an outdoors boy couldn’t have been better.
My uncle loved his boys and I and whatever activities we were in, he was in on it with us. We had all kinds of guns and hunted all over the mountains, fished every pond and lake, treasure hunted with metal detectors, deep sea fished in the ocean and finally got into riding and racing motorcycles. My aunt, however, did not know about the racing park!
My life had become so busy and full that I had very little time to think of how much I missed my mother, or about all the friends that I had left behind – but that was about to change.
After I graduated from the ninth grade and summer vacation rolled around, I planned on spending part of the summer with my mother and new step-father. I had never met him that I can remember, so this visit was a little intimidating.
They owned a motel with a night club attached to it at the south end of Duncan, Okla. They lived in the office, which had two bedrooms. They shared one bedroom and my brother had the other. Separating the two bedrooms was a huge kitchen/living room. I stayed in my kid brother’s room, and saw little of my step dad. He and Mother didn’t usually get out of the club until 3 a.m. and would sleep until around 10 a.m. Raymond would then open the club again at 11 a.m. and Mother would go to work at around 6 or 7 p.m.
The club was open six days a week, so I saw very little of either of them. However, at the age of 15, and with all kinds of friends who had gotten cars while I had been gone, this was all right with me. I began going places with my friends, running up and down the highways, seeing old friends, meeting new girls and I began to drink. I was running around with boys 2-3 years older than I and thought I was somebody. I loved the freedom and attention, or lack there of. It didn’t matter when I came home, because no once knew or seemed to notice! Mother worked all night and my brother didn’t care.
Needless to say, when it came time for me to go back to live with my aunt and uncle, (which is exactly where I needed to be), I broke their hearts and chose to stay with Mom. Mother had given me my own motel room, which was kind of like my own apartment at the age of 15. One of my friends who drove had a father who owned a liquor store. He had all kinds of liquor at his house that we helped ourselves to, so I was steadily becoming a full-fledged alcoholic. I loved the excitement of this new lifestyle and I started to receive a lot of attention from many men who were regulars at the club.
This choice to stay with my mother proved later to be one of the worst choices that I ever made. I had such persuasive and manipulating skills by this time that even when my mother knew what was best, I would play on her guilt and emotions to get my way.
I had come from a perfectly loving family – an ideal environment to raise children in, to the absolute worst environment to raise children in, especially teenage children.
All of my heroes became the mean, outlaw-type men who came to the club. Incidentally, my step-father was known to be connected to the “Dixieland Mafia.” This sweet, innocent country kid was slowly and steadily becoming the thief and con-artist I later became. I was making a reputation for myself at the age of 16 as being mean and tough – a con-man and outlaw. And I was doing everything necessary to live up to it!
At this time, I was becoming increasingly closer to Raymond. He had bought me a car and at age 16, he was allowing me to come into the club in the early afternoon.
I thought Raymond was the greatest guy alive. He was a professional gambler and carried huge sums of cash. This was is the ‘70s and it was not uncommon for Raymond to carry around $15,000 to $20,000. For nearly two years, I would sneak into Mom and Raymond’s bedroom before going to school, lift Raymond’s pants while he slept and help myself to one or two $100 bills. I did this about twice a week. He had so many that he never missed them, or so I thought.
I had a car and pockets full of money, making me popular among my peers. I was accepted, which is the opposite of rejected. Remember where rejection began? Explain this statement if you want it to stay in – clarify what you are trying to say!
Around the same time, in order to gain more of Raymond’s acceptance, I would take him a $20 bill each Saturday to pay toward the car he had gotten me. I don’t think he ever expected me to pay him pack, so I was really impressing him. I lied and told him that I had been working, building fences or hauling hay on the weekends. He would brag to everyone about what a good-looking, hard-working and responsible boy I was. Man, that would make me feel 10-feet-tall!
I was so hungry for the kind of love and praise Raymond was giving me that his acceptance overpowered any convictions I might have had for stealing. Looking back, I was so self-centered and under the influence of this new life I had found that I don’t believe I had any conscience. I justified myself by blaming the divorce of my parents for destroying my young life. I was listening to the voices of demons throughout this time, although I knew nothing of this at the time. The devil did come to steal, kill and destroy life!
I am not, by any means, trying to shift the responsibilities of my bad choices. I had invited the devil to control my life when I chose to do the evil things I did.
Eventually, my days of glory and high-rolling came to an end. One morning, my mother caught me stealing from Raymond. She awoke to find me sneaking from their bedroom. She didn’t do anything at the time and let me go onto school as usual. At around 10 a.m., I got a call to report to the principal’s office. I had no ideal what for and still had a couple of $100 bills in my shirt pocket. When I got to the office, and saw Mother, it still didn’t even dawn on me that I had been caught. I had gotten away with this for so long that it had become a natural part of my life. How pitiful I had become! How hard and cruel!
This continued to happen throughout my life. I would compromise a little value here, break a little rule there, overlook a law here and there and break bigger and bigger laws. I never considered that I had slowly become numb in my conscience, finally reaching the point that I had no regard or respect for the law, whatsoever.
This is exactly what Satan has done to the world spiritually. We have no regard for God or His laws – no place for holiness or morality. Satan has been strategically numbing our consciouses for decades until what is accepted as normal now was considered an abomination only 50 years ago. From Elvis shaking his hips to outright pornography and using the Lord’s name in vain in the very presence of our children through television and computers. Our nation’s heart is so insensitive to the Holy Spirit that we can’t even hear the heartbreaking cries of our heavenly Father trying to save His lost children. How terribly frightening this is! This is the one unpardonable sin – blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. This is the point where God will turn His back on man. There cannot be a greater evidence of God’s hatred and wrath that His refusing to correct man for this sinful course of vanities.
When God refuses to any longer correct, there God resolves to destroy! There is no man so near God’s axe, so near the flames, so near hell, as he whom God will no longer spend His rod upon! “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Revelations 3:19) KJV.
“God is most angry when He shows no anger.” (you had this in quotations. If it is scripture, we need a scripture reference)
Back to my story – as you might well assume, my life and relationship with Raymond was destroyed. He wasn’t a man who knew anything of forgiving and forgetting, but only in getting even. From that time on, he very seldom acknowledged me and didn’t speak to me until years later. (Explain here or somewhere later when he did speak to you again) He had completely cut me off in his spirit, which is called indifference. Jesus calls it “murder.” (Reference this in scripture) He only tolerated me because of Mother and after this, most of the regulars at the club that I had became so attached to knew the whole story. This proved to be some of the worst rejection I encountered and at the age of 17, I had dug myself into a huge pit of despair. My mother didn’t know what to do with or for me.
This is the bitterest of all – to know that suffering need not have been; that it has resulted from indiscretion; that it is the harvest of one’s own sowing and that the vulture which feeds on the vitals is a nesting of one’s own rearing. Ah me. This is pain!
It wasn’t long after this that I quit school and went to work for a man who had come to Duncan after a tornado had devastated the town. He was a roofer staying in one of the motel rooms at my stepfathers club. I worked so hard for him that when the work ended in Duncan months later, he asked me to go to Kansas and live with his family and become part of his business.
This, like everything else in my young life, lasted for awhile, until I was tired of it. During my stay in Kansas, my appendix burst and I had to have emergency surgery, which brought me back to Duncan and eventually to my grandmother, who was the Godliest person I have ever known and the greatest influence in my life. She still speaks volumes to me today even though she’s been with the Lord for 25 plus years. Being with her would’ve changed anyone’s life – but not me!
As I reflect on this chapter, the thing which stabs my heart is the devastation that rejection can cause on a young child’s life. The bible says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21 KJV) It also says that fathers can bless or curse their children. My father was cursing my life and never showed any acknowledgement of doing so. He was an extremely negative and pessimistic person. His negative side always seen in the bad in life. The glass was always half empty to him. He always saw the thorns among the roses instead of being grateful for the roses among the thorns. This coupled with the fact that his indifference toward me let me know that he never wanted me planted deep emotional seeds which eventually produced a huge garden of wild weeds.
Many parents today are unintentionally cursing their children’s lives by speaking negative to them or even by comparing them to other children or themselves. Satan has young girls cursing themselves by comparing themselves with superstars and models, of which they are killing themselves trying to live up to an image.
I do not want to close this chapter on a negative word, which produces death. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” This pen is my tongue today, and I believe life will be spoken to the readers, that they may eat of some good fruit.
The world is full of fault-finders and critics who spit poison more deadly than a rattlesnake out of every word, whose only goal is to selfishly put someone else down so that they may look better to themselves. “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health.” (Proverbs 12:18) NKJV
The Proverbs are full of examples of the tongue being an instrument to speak death or LIFE! “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:1-4) NKJV
Jesus speaks about our words in Matthew 12:34-35, which says, “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth evil things.” Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he!”
Listen very long to people talk and you’ll know what’s in their hearts, which is exactly who they are. A word from your mouth speaks volumes about your heart. Let us be life-givers and speak healing and encouraging words into the lives of others. The boneless tongue, so small and weak, can crush and kill, declare the Greek. The Persian proverb wisely says, “A lengthy tongue, an early death.” Sometimes it takes this form instead! Don’t let your tongue cut off your head. He who keeps his tongue keeps his soul.
God takes what is spoken to His people, whether good or evil, as being spoken to Him.
Mark Twain once said, “I could live a whole month on one compliment.” Kind words are always the right kind of words. Your life will either shed light or cast a shadow. A little encouragement can speak a great accomplishment.
Look for children, or people who need a little encouraging shove in the right direction. Speak blessing into people and you will reap a bountiful harvest in return. Speak life, for whatsoever a man sow, that will he also reap. Give and it will be given, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. (Scripture reference)
Negative people are very ungrateful people and live miserable lives. I know. I was one! It has been said, sow a word or thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap character. Sow character, reap a destiny. What better destiny than to speak life everywhere you go – laying up treasure in heaven?
I feel lead to close this chapter with a short, but powerful prayer from Psalms 140 NIV.
Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men; protect me from men of violence, who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day. They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips. Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; protect me from men of violence who plan to trip my feet. Proud men have hidden a snare for me; they have spread out the cords of their net and have set traps for me along my path. O Lord, I say to you, ‘You are my God.’ Hear, O Lord, my cry for mercy. O Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, who shields my head in the day of battle – do not grant the wicked their desires, O Lord; do not let their plans succeed, or they will become proud. Let the heads of those who surround me be covered with the trouble their lips have caused. Let burning coals fall upon them; may they be thrown into the fire, into the miry pits, never to rise. Let slanderers not be established in the land; may disaster hunt down men of violence. I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. Surely the righteous will praise your name and the upright will live before you.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Chapter 2 – Early Seeds
It was dawn early Saturday morning and the sun was just beginning to peak. There was heavy dew and a slight fog created a hazy dawning.
Upon leaving the bars just past midnight from a long night of partying and driving for more than five hours from Amarillo, Texas, I had finally made it back safely to Grandma’s house in Duncan. As I quietly unlocked the front door and began to move carefully through the living room, trying not to wake Grandma as I made my way to the back of the house to my old room, I glanced to my left and saw that Grandma’s bedroom door was open. She was kneeling beside her bed praying and her dark room was illuminated by God’s glory.
I had seen this once before when I walked in and found Grandma praying. It was as though a small lamp was shining just above her head. Now, you can try to reason this away, but I saw this happen twice throughout her life with my very own eyes. Grandma was an exceptionally “holy” lady.
When she heard me, she jumped to her feet (she was in her mid-70s at the time) and came running over to me, hugging and kissing me. She had little stubbly whiskers I will never forget, and she said to me, “Oh child, the Lord has delivered you home safely. Praise God! Praise God! He has delivered you from the devil and the pits of hell.”
Then, she began to share with me that approximately two hours earlier, the Lord had awakened her and told her to begin praying because Satan was trying to kill me and take me to hell. She had been on her knees ever since, crying out to the Lord on my behalf.
What she didn’t know was that two hours earlier, I was about 10 miles west of Indiahoma, Okla., running a little over 90 mph asleep, or passed out at the wheel. I was suddenly awakened when the front passenger tire of my 1969 Chevy Impala blew out. I could see the long, well-lit speedometer when I awoke and could see that I was traveling more than 90 mph, heading straight toward the huge side-beams of a mile-long bridge. The old steel bridge had enormous, arched support beams and I had crossed the center line and was heading straight toward death until the tire blew out. When the tire blew, I was only 20-30 feet from crashing. The sudden blowout jerked my vehicle clear to the other side and it was a though an angel of the Lord took hold of the steering wheel and drove me safely past the end of the bridge, steering me clear of the huge boulders lining the ravines on each side of the highway that used to prevent washout. My vehicle drove down the shoulder, parallel with the ravine until there was an entrance into a pasture. Somehow, the car miraculously found the only dirt road entrance into the huge pasture beside the river, taking down the barbwire gate and about ¼ mile of fence line, and came to a stop. As I looked around, I was in the middle of this pasture in the only clearing where Johnson grass wasn’t six feet tall, and on the only solid ground that could support a tire jack. Everything around was wet and muddy from the spring rains.
When I finally came to my senses, I sobered up in a hurry. I sat in awe, thinking of how I had woke up just minutes before, glanced at the speedometer and all I could see was those huge steel beams and my life flashing before my eyes. Needless to say, I knew in my heart that my life had just been spared and that an angel of God had driven my car from the instant my tire blew to precisely this particular spot.
After some time, I gathered my senses and got out of the car. I changed the tire, pulled fence and weeds from the bumper and front-end of the car, backed out soberly drove to Duncan, safely into Grandma’s driveway.
I never told Grandma was had happened that night, but she was so close to God that He filled her in, I am sure. As miraculous and supernatural as this night was, it unfortunately did not make a changing impression on my life until many years later. As I recount this story, I can see it as clearly as though it happened just yesterday. I am so thankful that the Lord has allowed this memory to stay so fresh in my mind.
You can probably imagine from the last chapter and how I had destroyed my relationship with my stepfather, the reason I was now living with my grandmother. Sometime after coming home from Kansas and getting healed from the surgery on my appendix, I had moved in with the woman who I now know made the single greatest impact on my entire life, although the fruits of her seeds would not come forth for many, many years to come.
Had I all the tongues of the renowned men on earth, and all the excellences of the angels in heaven, I still would not be able to express what a saint my grandmother was, nor the character that she instilled in me. Unknown to me for the few years that I was so close to Grandma, living and working from her house, she was planting some powerful seeds in my heart. These seeds began to produce a beautiful garden many years later. I am sure she is smiling to see the fruits of her labor finally at work in my life.
Grandma’s been with the Lord for more than 20 years now, but she speaks even louder to me now than ever before. I read one time that Christians not only know how to live better, but they know how to die better, as well. I was so fortunate to be by my grandmother’s bedside for the short time before she went to be with Jesus. The Lord let her lie there with absolutely no pain and allowed all of the family to spend quality moments with her. She had a huge family with many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. It took a week for everyone to say their good-byes and as she departed this world and headed home to be with Jesus, she was smiling all the way.
From the day my grandmother was old enough to talk until she went home to be with the Lord, her life was about serving Jesus. My grandmother went beyond living for Jesus – He lived through her, as well, for every awakened hour that I knew her.
My grandmother was a sacramental personality – wherever she went, Jesus helped Himself to her life. Many of us are after our own desires and Jesus Christ cannot help Himself to our lives. If we abandon ourselves to Jesus, we have no desires of our own left to serve. Grandmother knew how to be a “doormat” without resenting it, because the mainspring of her life was her devotion to Jesus.
The real test of the saint it not preaching the gospel, but in washing the feet of its disciples. That is, doing the things that do not count in the actual estimate of God. This illustration described my grandmother to a tee. Although two and a half decades have now passed, people around Duncan still talk about this amazing prayer warrior and intercessor named Sister Foster – the same woman I had the privilege to call Grandma.
She knew what it meant to separate herself from the world. She never did allow a television set in her home. She never drove or had a driver’s license. She spent her life in church, reading the Word, praying, praying, praying and raising up a godly generation – many of which did not ripen until her time had passed, but the seeds she planted all came to a crop. I only wish mine had not been so hard or taken so long.
My grandmother knew the Proverb 22:6 which states, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
I lived with my grandmother off and on for several years and never did she lose the character of Jesus’ love with me – even when I stole her social security money and lied to her. She knew deep inside her heart I had taken it and that I was lying, but she just said, “It’s all right honey, the Lord will provide.”
I have cried many tears while writing this chapter and reliving my memories of Grandma, many of which I have not even mentioned. (Should maybe give a couple more examples of the seeds she planted in your life). I just touched on some of the high points so that you might see the importance of planting godly seeds into the lives of those entrusted to you. Her life’s example should also encourage intercessory prayers. Never give up on your loved ones because I am a living miracle and a product of my grandmother’s prayers. My mother and I, both are.
Chapter 3 – The Real Estate Days
After my days of living with grandmother I had several good jobs but I never lasted long at any of them. It seems I had an emptiness that I could never seem to satisfy for more adventure, see life to me was all about having fun. I was a hard worker and all my employers really loved me and tried to make me more responsible but I”d always move on lasting a few months. Finally when I was 18
years old two buddies of mine and myself went to work for their uncle and our lives were changed for ever. Their uncle was a professional dance instructor and had owned major dance studios in the northeast part of the country. He also was one of the best con-artist I had ever met and when he came back to Oklahoma he had con a wealthy lady from Maryland out of thousands of dollars. He also came with a business ideal to open up a rental referral company which locates people rental properties to live in. They pay a small fee and give specific information as to exactly what the need and we are to locate it for them in the price range they can afford. Of course there is no refund on the fee and they may never find the property they desire. This business was set up as a con on a major scale and was raking in the money. We three went to work for him and helped him start this business in a major city in Oklahoma of over a million population. The first month we made the most money I had ever seen, of course it was at the expense of hundreds of unhappy customers which the uncle laughed all the way to the bank. He always sent these people to me, and my people skills which I developed through my years manipulating my mother and other men who came into my life,made me a natural. I was learning much from the uncle, and the oldest of the brothers,(David),was quite the people person himself. He could charm his way into anything and he loved money more than life itself.
After a few months the brothers and I decided we would go to Lawton Oklahoma, Their home town, and start our own company only we would work hard and make it legitimate. So we took off to Lawton,talked with their dad,he co-signed a note for each of us to borrow $800.00 each. Within a few days we had a building leased and were open for business,In a few months we had closer to $12,000. in the bank and I had that itch to move. So I made myself mad at David and used that as an excuses to sell my part. The boys begged me not to and their dad spent a lot of time trying to convince me otherwise .These guys were like my brothers and we fought like brothers as well. This wasn’t anything they had done, it was just that wild man in me that had to move on,(adventure). I moved to Colorado with my real dad waiting for my settlement. They made me wait a month before paying me my part just in case I”d come to my senses. But I didn’t and I flew back home, my step-mother worked for United Airlines so I could fly free or at huge discounts, and picked up my part of the settlement and said my goodbyes.
I spent about a year in Colorado, fell in love with a girl and moved her and myself back to Oklahoma. This turned into catastrophe because of my abusive drunkenness and unstable work history. She eventually got pregnant and painfully she had the baby aborted and went back home to Colorado. In a desperate attempt to win her back I drove through a snow storm to Colorado with only a few dollars to my name and tried repeatedly to convince her I would change. I harassed her and her family to the point that they had me arrested and the judge offered me the Navy or jail. This begin my Brief Navy career. I signed a $2500. signing bonus to do five years. After completion of boot camp I was sent to Orlando Fl. for my special training school. As usual I excelled in boot camp and at my special training and was meritoriously advanced to the rank of 3rd class pettie officer which is equal to E-4 pay grade. Upon graduation of my a-school I got to choose my next duty station because I had finished top in my class. The senior chief who was my instructor told me to take the beach master unit in San Diego Ca. It was one of the best duty stations in the Navy and suited my party lifestyle to a tee. I was there about a year and a half and was in trouble for drinking and dope, lost my rank, so I took leave and come back home to Oklahoma. While I was home on leave I got back together with David and Mike and decided I would just go back to work for them, besides I had had enough of the Navy. I was in trouble anyway so I just went awol once again the wild nature in me need to move no matter the risk, and this time they were huge!
For five years I lived a very toned down life style because I didn’t have the slightest ideal of what would happen to me once the Navy caught me. Having this hanging over my head was probably the best thing that ever happen to me. I sure didn’t want to get caught although I would certainly have to face this someday but for right now I was flying as right as I knew how. In the mean time the business was growing in leaps and bounds. The ideal to legitimize this business hit gold and the brothers had done well while I was off on all the adventures I’d been on. We were getting so popular in the rental real estate market that many of the larger real estate firms in town begin to complain to the Oklahoma real estate commission that we weren’t licensed. Actually we weren’t doing anything which required us to be licensed, but the big money firms pressured the commission to do something to put us out of business. So the commission added another provision to the real estate statutes called an advance fee law requiring you to have a license if you charge a fee to locate someone a rental property. Because of us there are now eight previsions requiring you to be licensed where as before there were only seven. Little did they know this turned out to be the greatest thing that ever happened to us.
Our lawyer got the commission to allow us time to attended real estate school at night and we all got licensed and we hired a retired broker to hang his license in our office till a year passed and David could take his broker test and be licensed. So we all became licensed real estate agents and the business begin to grow beyond our wildest dreams. It made since that renters were potential buyers and we begin to capitalize on this. Also the rental service was free to landlords, they could list their rental proprieties free with us and we would send them screened and qualified tenants. So over the years we got well acquainted with all the owners of multi-family proprieties, apartment complexes, and rent houses. Lawton being the home of Fort Sill, Oklahoma the largest field artillery base in the world had a lot of rental property so again it seemed God had been watching over three rebellious rebels, and that is what we where I being the worst. The five years I was AWOL from the Navy I feel in love with a lady named Barbara who
managed an apartment complex and I was well on my way to real estate success. David married a lady named Judy, who to this day, I consider to be the sister I never had. She brought professionalism to our company. We bought a location on the busiest road in Lawton and we couldn’t have been any busier. The four of us were well on our way to prosperity and success. Mike was the younger between David and he and he had been a local football star. Both boys had reputations for being mean and tough and they would fight at the drop of a hat. Although we were making a name for ourselves in the business world we still went to night clubs and dancing every weekend and I run the clubs most every night. Judy had a lot of class as did Barbara and Judy was finally breaking the wild spirit in David and he was slowly becoming a responsible husband, family man, business man. But I was still searching for that adventure. I was becoming very popular in Lawton and begin to know a lot of influential people so the fear of getting caught begin to wear off and I did a lot of partying now that I had a pocket full of money.
Mike begin to build houses, Judy managed the rental dept. along with a couple girls she hired to help, David sold real estate and managed the business, he is one of the best I’d ever known at saving and investing money. He and Mike are great business men to this day and the evidence of that speaks loudly. We all started with $800. each, and in about 7 years these boys owned property all over town. Had enough money in the banks that the bankers were catering after there business, they had huge homes in the wealthier additions of town “paid for”, and were beginning to invest in commercial property and had went in partners in a motel.
In the mean time I was breaking my on ground selling large properties such as 80 unit apartment complexes, commercial properties, mobile home parks ect. We seemed to have ever angle covered, I had been elected the president of the Lawton apartment ass., we were members of the Lawton board of realtors, Lawton home builders ass., Lawton Chamber of Commerce, David was rubbing elbows at the local country club ect.
Life couldn’t have been going any better as far as the world standards go. We were handsome young business men with beautiful wives and girl friends, drove Cadillac, lived in the wealthier additions, and were making excellent money. I was setting records every year selling large properties and making big commissions. Unlike David and Mike I was blowing every dime I was making living way beyond my means. I had never had this kind of popularity or success and it was slowly ruining me. I was sleeping with different woman all the time while Barbara was trying to give me a good life. I had a wildness in me that just could not settle down. I believe this came from being exposed to the club life at a early age. It all seems so exciting and it is for awhile, plus the drinking and partying was all I lived for. I loved all the attention I was getting from the success and money. Money can bring a lot of attention and popularity but it cannot bring lasting peace or joy, I found out much later in life, through much sorrow and suffering, that only a relationship with Jesus Christ brings anything lasting and fulfilling.
Well just about the time we thought life couldn’t get any better the inevitable happen and one night while the Lawton apartment ass. was having it’s monthly meeting at one of the local hotel’s that had conference rooms for such meetings as these, we tried to give a little business to all of the major hotels. By this time we had grown to about 100 members so we would bring a large crowd and we always catered a buffet and some vendor would sponsor a bar. The meeting went well and afterwards many of the mangers took the party into the hotels night club which a local hot spot for businessmen. After an hour or so I noticed Mike getting into a heated conversation with one of the maintenance guys from one of the apartment complexes. We all had been drinking very heavily and before I knew it Mike had punched the guy and was giving him a sever whipping. Well the management and bouncers came to pull Mike off. The guy was hurt bad enough to call the ambulance and police. Well the manager saw me trying to pull Mike off and he thought I was the one doing the fighting. Needless to say they arrested Mike and Me. After they booked us our lawyer came up at midnight, money will do that, and got Mike out. He said Dennis they have a hold from the Navy on you. Talk about knocking you down a notch or two. Here I was just chairing a group of apartment owners and managers, high rolling at the club buying rounds, had just done some huge real estate deals with this lawyers firm, and now I was heading back to California to stand court marshal for desertion.
Before I take you to California let me first share with you some ways God was teaching me humility, although at the time I had know Ideal God was around, nor that although I wasn’t acknowledging Him, He was still at work teaching valuable lessons for much later in my life.
First this happen on a Thursday so I was stuck in a jail over the weekend with a police dept who had seen me advertised all over Lawton as a big shot real estate man. Then David had to bring my brief case to the jail and the jailers would let me out so I could give instructions to David about certain contracts. I had dozens of real estate transaction pending and he was gonna have to close them for me. I had huge payments on cars and all kinds of things and I had no ideal what was going to happen . It didn’t matter much who I knew in Lawton or how popular I was. You have all kinds of friends when your on top of the world but they seem to drift to the way side when word gets out that you are a fugitive from the law, not that I blame them I would do the same.During this five years Judy gave birth to a daughter named Alisha who was not only the pride and joy of David and Judy, but also she was Barbara’s and mine as well. Judy gave David a daughter and me my precious niece. While Judy was pregnant with her David settled down enormously and had replaced night clubs with fishing so naturally we became fishermen and the girls always went with us. I remember Barbara carrying sheets with us everywhere we went just in case Judy would go into Labor while we were out on one of those country lakes miles away from anything. This was the days before cell phones or car phones. I raised a many barb wired fences to get Judy through. She is a small lady and at 8 months pregnant she looked enormous so getting her through those fences was a chore.
Anyway as I lay waiting for the Navy to come get me and fly me back to California I thought what I was losing. I figured my business career was over, I wouldn’t see my family for a long time, the business I had worked so hard to build, David, Mike, who at this time I could have killed, he also had a daughter named Amy who was very precious to me, Barbara, and of course Alisha. I knew the Navy had classified me as a deserter so I figures I was gone for a long time and this had been a fun ride while it lasted. When I went AWOL I never even thought about the consequences, of course that had been my life story up to this point. I had lived life dangerously reckless since I was a young child. Seems I knew I had a guardian angle and was trying to push him to his limits. I had lived life 100 MPH since I could remember and as I grew older the greater the risk or danger the more motivation to do it.
Laying there in that jail cell I thought this would be the end of my doing crazy things and if God would get me out of this without losing my career, family, and respect I thought I had, then I’d change my life. Well Monday finally rolled around and the MP’s from Fort Sill came and took me to the United States Army Stock aids on base to hold me till the Navy got there. Talking about another humiliating lesson the very first officer who puts me into my cell was a lady I had sold a house to a few years earlier when I sold houses. The as I set there in this cold dark cell, isolated way away from anything or anyone, I here a voice I recognized as a staff Sargent named Kenneth Alley. I had sold Kenny a house several years earlier and his family and myself had become good friends. He came back to give me some much needed encouragement and was trying o reassure me not to lose what little dignity I had left. Looking back I’m sure glad that I took care of both of those folks while representing them on their real estate deals. I wounder if it was chance, or the divinity of God, but with both of those transaction the sellers were really trying to get over and I could have let things slide without exposing them in order to have a smooth closing, make some quick profits, and they would not have known any difference till much later. But I choose to represent them with integrity and love and when the chips were down in my life, although it was very humiliating they were there for me in my darkest hour. They were the only ones who could get close to me. Somewhere there is a very valuable lesson in all this.
Of course my brother David had been with me every step of the way in his heart and on the phone. He was the one who had sent Kenneth out there and he had already set it up so he could be there the next morning before they took me back to California. I had forgotten all about Kenny be a military police and he got David in to visit me and also to send me away with a check in my pocket in case I would be able to use it. I could have cared less about money at the time, but the check represented love and I knew someone was in my corner. I had made this bed and was only getting what I deserved but for the first time in my life I had done something good with my life and found a career I not only was good at, but I loved it. I was seeing all this disappear and had there was nothing I could do. David came out the next morning to reassure me he had everything under control and he had talked with our lawyer, whose dad and granddad, by the way, happen to be Oklahoma Supreme Court Judge’s. He had given David some advice I later found out. Anyway this gave me some hope for the first time in a while. Next day two Navy police came to pick me up and Kenneth Alley gave me a good farewell and told those guys that I was a good man and would they take care of me. That didn’t seem to mean much to them because they didn’t seem to care if I was dead or alive. We had to go to Oklahoma City to pick up another man who had gone AWOL. We got there late so they checked me into the Oklahoma County jail in Oklahoma City, while they reminded me they were going to get them a room at Holiday Inn. That jail was the nastiest place I had ever been in and the worst place I ever spent the night. The next morning I was never happier to see those two Navy men. They loaded me and we were on our way to Dallas to a Air Force holding facility . I had to stay there over night and the next morning we would catch a plane to California. After settling in there, by the way this place was like paradise compared to OKC, had excellent food and I was starved because I hadn’t eat at that jail, so I was hungry. I remember they served huge chicken dinner with all the fixings and about 25 men were there waiting to be transferred back from where the had gone AWOL. Most these guys had only gone AWOL for various reasons and had only been gone a short time unlike me. Remember when I left I had been under investigation by the NIS Naval Investigative Service for drugs. This had been so long ago that I was hoping there wasn’t going to be any repercussions from that. Anyway after after I ate the officer came and said Hall you have a call from an Oklahoma Senator. I went up front and couldn’t imagine who in the world it was. Hello, “I said,” Dennis just wanted you to know I’m on top of everything and know exactly where your at every step of the way. I’ve already been on the phone with your chief when you get to California and he know’s you turned yourself in and trying to get your life straight. He’s going to help you so take it easy and look at this as a vacation, was the response from the other party—the Senator, which turned out to be, you guessed it , David.
When I got back the guys could hear everything said so now they thought I was some kind of celebrity which gained me a tremendous amount of respect and attention. Only a few minutes had gone by when there came another officer saying Hall your lawyer is on the phone. You guessed it David again. This time he was giving me my departure and arrival times and reassured me the chief was going to take care of me. By this time even the officers were beginning to treat me a little different. When I got back to the holding tank my celebrity status had grown even greater. The barber there wanted to cut my hair and I was going to have to get it done before they transported me so he gave me my new official Navy hair cut.
Next morning we left Dallas airport just the time David had said, one of the most humiliating things that ever happen to me is when they hand cuffed me through the airport and set on both sides of me keeping me cuffed on the plane. People were staring and looking at me like I was Charles Manson. When we got off the plane they escorted me through the airport cuffed while hundreds of people were moving out of our way. This is humiliation at its finest. When they finally got me to my old duty station sure enough the chief come running out there ordering them to un-cuff me and he’d take charge of me from this point on. He said “Dennis I’ve been on the phone with David your partner and boss and he told me what a success you have become and he’s sending me all your awards and the honors you’ve won, all the association you are a member of, and the ones you are president over. He has told me all about you so I’m gonna help you. You are not going to be restricted to base while you a waiting court marshal, I’m gonna help this speed along if I can, here’s a $100.00 and I’ll get that check cashed for you and you can pay me back. I’m going to give you some work to do around here while waiting and at 4:00 PM your off like everyone else. David had made this chief think I had turned myself in and that I was the greatest guy in the world. To this day I don’t know what David did or said but this man was the greatest asset to me that possibly could had been. He had been 35 years in the Navy and he went to my court martial and said in those 35 years he had never spoken in behalf of any deserter, but I was different and he had never seen a man work any harder while waiting this court marshal, had more love and support from friends and loved one, and I had turned my life into something successful and I had a bright and brilliant future.
It took 30 days for my court marshal and while waiting I did what David suggested and took a vacation. Barbara flew out, I was stationed at the Naval Amphibious Base in Del Coronado, California. What a spot to do my time. Its a famous tourist attraction near San Diego. We had a 3 day time on the Ocean and she fly back home.
At court Marshal I had a pretrial agreement of 30 days in the stock aid, a Bad conduct discharge, and I was on my way back. I did the 30 days and David and Family had me a ticket waiting at the airport. Mother and Barbara picked me up at the airport in my new 5th avenue. I had been gone 2 months and David had taken care of all my closings, paid my bills, and keep my name alive.
People in the business knew something because of the hair cut, but most thought national guards. God had done what I asked Him to do. He saved my career, my relationships, and got a big monkey off my back. I spent the next 10 years in Lawton and reached the peak of my career about 5 years after this incident.
Chapter 4 – A Ticking Time Bomb
After destroying what reputation I had left in Lawton and losing the real estate company I had started with borrowed funds from mother, I was ready for a new adventure. My real estate company, Commercial Industrial Realtors, had started out like all the other adventures in my life – with explosive promise. All of my adventures in life had started out like I was going to set the world on fire, but in time each fire would burn out. I was one of only a hand full of real estate companies which specialized in commercial real estate, and since this is all I had been involved with for the past several years I was pretty much on top of things. Like I mentioned before, I was a fantastic salesman, but I lacked the management skills needed to operate a business. I had no discipline to successfully keep a business afloat. I have always been a motivator and people person so getting business and making deals came natural to me, but I had no temperance or self-control whatsoever. The more I made, the more I spent and I’d never invest a nickel unlike David and Mike, who were much disciplined. David probably still has the first penny he made. Even before we went into business, when David would make a deposit at the bank into his personal account he would have me look in the floor boards and seats to see if there was any lose change – pennies included. He would deposit every penny of his money and when we went out he always left his check book at home. Guess who always paid our partying bill? Mike was not much different although he always carried money, he just didn’t spend it. These early disciplines have truly paid off for them and the seeds of these early practices have blossomed into a lot of green fruit!
Needless to say, when I started Commercial Industrial Realtors the same old hurt feelings and anger surfaced again with the boys as they did when I went to work for the competition. So we had another round of brotherly war and didn’t speak for a while. Eventually, we did speak again and much later, after several more business failures, I ended up working for them as a maintenance man, which we will get to shortly.
Before my final fall into the gutter, I persuaded Sarah to finance yet another business that would lead me back into the old life God had rescued me from. There was a club I had found in a small country town southwest of Lawton located a few miles from one of the newer lakes that had been completed about 10 years earlier. This place had really been abused and was run down so Sarah, still believing in me, spent thousands of dollars for me to remodel it. It took about three months to get it ready, and just as long to obtain a liquor license. I had destroyed my name so bad with the IRS and creditors that I had to put the license in my brother’s name.
Like everything else I had ever set out to do it took off like wild fire. Business was great and as always, I had no problem attracting the people, but I had absolutely no discipline with myself or money. I partied constantly and spent more money than I made. It doesn’t matter how much money a man makes if he spends more than he brings in.
I began the same old pattern of taking off like a horse out of the starting gates and as each time before I spent and partied beyond my means, only this time I was introduced to crank. I had briefly been around it before while I was so-called high rolling in the real estate days, but mostly I was an alcoholic who occasioned cocaine. I had messed with crank a few months before the fall of my real estate business and it was very addicting for me. It was much cheaper than cocaine and the high lasted much, much longer. It also tricked me into thinking I was in total control of everything. As I pen these words and relive those painful days, I have to stop for a moment and kneel before my Lord and thank Him for bringing my soul through that nightmare as He did – not allowing the devil to steal me to hell! I have been clean from drugs and alcohol for more than seven years now and I thank God every day that I no longer believe the lie of the devil that I have to have some kind of intoxicating substance to enjoy life. One of the things I most enjoy in life now that I’m free from both prisons; the one I spent seven and a half years in, and the one in my mind that I spent 25 years in addicted to every kind of intoxicant I was preferring at the time, is to walk in the park and look at Gods glory in nature. These are the things I took for granted most of my life while I was high.
I love God and thank Him so much for this newfound freedom that allows me to get the most out of this precious life that He has to offer. God says in His word that the Bible has the truths, and the truth will set you free, (John 8:32). Jesus says He is the way, the truth, and the life and that He will give you life more abundantly, (John 14:6, John 10:10). I have been experiencing this freedom for many years now and I would not trade the peace I have from God for anything this world has to offer. This is what Jesus meant when He said that those who want to find their lives (in other words do their own thing their way) would lose it. But whoever would lose there life for MY sake, (deny themselves of the very things destroying them and follow the life Jesus has mapped out in the Bible) would find true life, (Matthew 16:25-26). I have tried about every kind of lifestyle the devil and the world has to offer and there’s not even the slightest comparison between it and this new life I now have in Jesus. It would be a slap in the face to God to even begin to attempt to compare the two.
Well I drifted away from the story, which happens when I begin thinking on Jesus and all he has brought me through. Now, back to the darker side of things and the painful memories of the days the devil has so many of us fooled into thinking are the best days of our lives. That is what’s so crazy about all of this at the time – I thought I was doing so well and was on top of the world. I was as close to the bottom as I could get and was so blind I could not see it.
One of the girls that worked for me had many drug connections and at first, having a handy source so near by seemed to be a good thing. I was able to keep the long hours a club requires, do a hundred things at once, keep the party going, and keep the people entertained all at the same time. I maintained a packed house every weekend with a local country band, and I seemed to have fallen right into something else I was a natural at – entertaining people. Then, the drug, like all drugs, began to control me. It was no longer a source of energy and a boost for my personality, but it was a necessity – like medicine – and if I didn’t get it I was good for nothing.
That’s just like the devil. He lies to you and makes you feel on top of the world with some enticing tool of his, and then when he’s got you hooked, he controls your life with it. At first it seems as though you have more control over your affairs, that’s what makes this drug so dangerous. Then, when it’s almost too late, you realize that it has absolute control over you.
At this point in my life I had never considered putting a needle into my arm and I really didn’t have much respect for those who did, although a lot of the women around me at that time did. During this time, I kept Sarah at arm’s length 20 miles to the north, and would keep her there while I lived like an animal at this club she had financed.
I would either be at the lake when I was closed or at my mother’s club, 15 miles in the opposite direction of Lawton. My point is, Sarah didn’t know anything about what I was doing and thought I was just busy trying to get the business off the ground. She was going about her career waiting on me. Sarah was a well-educated girl, brought up by a mother who had been 40 years in the school system. She had graduated from the University of Oklahoma and worked for a defense contractor, with a top secret security clearance writing programs for the multiple launch rocket systems they were using in the Persian Gulf War.
I say all this to let you see how very persuasive and charming I could be to keep all this going on. I was a selfish, egotistical, irresponsible monster who had such a hard heart to the cares of anyone outside of myself. I hate the person I was and it pains me to this day to know the way I treated people.
This went on for a good long time and then my mother’s club became available – the same club I had spent so much time around in my youth. The small town I was in had just lost their major employer, the local Hager plant which employed around 300 women from surrounding towns. This was a huge part of my business so it gave me the excuse I needed to pack everything and move south of Duncan to familiar territory.
As each time before, I started out like I was going to conquer the world. It wasn’t long until I had re-decorated and began to entertain a full house. I have always had the ability to draw people and things could not have begun any better. Mother leased me the club at a very reasonable price, and this time I kept all the money from the machines, such as the pool tables, juke box, dart machines, and especially the poker machine. I should have been able to live very well. Not to mention, there was a two-bedroom house connected to the club, which my mother had remodeled when she and Raymond lived there. This was a perfect set up to make a living if this was the life someone chose to pursue. I had made a full circle and came right back to the place I had been rescued from those many years earlier.
Proverb 26:11-12 says, “As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
These verses of scripture described me to a tee!
As the crowds began to increase, so did the drugs, women, gambling, and every other illegal thing that goes along with that, such as prostitution. I had turned the house into a small casino and allowed some women to do the above-mentioned occupation as well. It wasn’t long till I was hooked up with one of the heads of the so-called Dixieland Mafia. I knew him from when I was a kid, and was close to some of the men associated with him as a teenager.
Before long, I was slinging his dope from this place and running wide open. At 2 a.m., the club was supposed to be closed, but because this one was outside of town and had a house with several acres around it, I would have everyone move their cars in front of the house and in the pasture so that it appeared the club was closed. This allowed me to stay open all night most of the time. Running this way wide open for so long finally got the attention of the Oklahoma Special Bureau of Investigations (OSBI), along with other county and state agencies. The authorities began to do surveillance on me and I knew it.
I was so far gone on meth by then that I thought I was untouchable. I was selling a lot of cocaine and meth and doing large amounts, as well. When I was in Temple, the small town I had just left, I was hooked up with some pretty big time cooks and I was doing large amounts of un-cut and continued this cycle at mother’s club.
Before I left Temple, the OSBI, along with other law enforcement agencies had made a huge drug bust in that area. The night the bust went down I saw over 50 different vehicles representing a number of law enforcement agencies hidden in a deserted part of town. I was coming back from picking up supplies just about dark. It wasn’t 30 minutes before this that plain clothes detectives came into my place and stayed a while. The phone began to ring for one of my waitresses and word was out that they had made a major bust on many people she bought drugs from, including our main supplier – the cook. I later found out they had search warrants on my club, as well, but never did do anything. They also busted a local sheriff and some of his deputies. I had escaped all of this by the hair of my chin because at the time they were in my club I had large amounts of drugs on hand. It wasn’t long after this that I headed to Duncan and I brought one of my waitresses with me. She and I had been in this drug thing together. Sarah was still in Lawton thinking I was just getting things straightened out. I had always told her when the money begin to roll in I would pay her back. Money was rolling in, but I was spending it as fast as I could make it.
When I came to Duncan, I realized I had just escaped a real ordeal in Temple. Even though I hadn’t sold any drugs in Temple, I had been a major buyer. Once again, I thought God had given me another chance. Looking back, I now realize God had nothing to do with that evil, but it was in fact the devil taking me deeper into that dark world. You would have thought that I would have counted my lucky stars and turned over a new leaf. Not me! In fact, I was braver than ever. I began slinging dope for “the company” they called it. I was on top of things. Even though I was selling huge amounts of dope, I was doing so much, and entertaining so many women with free drugs that I was just barely keeping my head above water.
My mother, who had been in the club business for over 20 years, could not understand how I could have such huge crowds and run so much money and barely be making it. I was also very irresponsible with that club and the employees and crowds were stealing me blind. People were camped out all the time and there was no way I could keep up with them. Every now and then when I’d be coming down from a month of non-stop, 24-hour-a-day going fast, I would go crazy and run everyone off. I can tell you that you can’t offend a junky. I’d call them everything in the book and get real mean and nasty with them, to the point of busting off caps at them, and they’d leave until I was back at it. Then they’d come back like nothing happen.
This went on for over a year until word got to my mother that the OSBI and other agencies were about to do a major drug bust on me and they were going to take the club, house and land. My mother had been in business for many years and was a lady of integrity, with many friends at the courthouse. Unlike me, my mother had always been honest and hard working. Even though the club business is the business of the devil, my mother was a respected lady and ran a very clean business. When you are in that kind of business and law enforcement respects you, that’s the evidence that you have done things right as far as that kind of lifestyle goes.
Before I go back to my story, I’d like to pause and bow my knee to the floor and thank God that He brought me through all of that wickedness. As I relive the hellish nightmare of my past, it makes me all the more thankful to the Lord, who saved me from this evil, which is the purpose of this book. You’ll learn as you continue to read the pages ahead of the incredible story of a loving Father, and a rebellious prodigal, and how through some amazing circumstances the God of the entire universe, our heavenly Father, saved me from spending an eternity in the flames of hell.
After mother got word of what was about to happen, I locked the door, packed my van and headed back to Lawton to Sarah – the one I could always count on to take be back and believe everything I told her. I had been running hard on drugs for a long time and I was now at a safe place to lie down and recover, which my body desperately needed. Sarah had stayed so anonymous that few people knew about her. She also had a top secret security clearance because of her job so she never came around the clubs nor was she ever associated with any of that crowd. They never knew anything about her.
At any rate I spent the first several weeks sleeping and trying to come down from this high I had been on for so many years. The only thing I could do around Sarah was drink, which I did abusively. Every now and then when I got a hold of some extra money I would take as quick trip to Duncan and find some crank, but for the most part the next several years would be drug free.
After recovering from the years of drug abuse, my body began to heal. At this point I had not used a needle, but had smoked and snorted a lot of both coke and crank. Sarah had inherited a 6000 square foot house when her mother passed away about a year early. She and her mother were very close and this was really tough on her so I being around was an added security to her, which I took full advantage of. I began to remodel the old Victorian-style house that was located in one of the older, more prestigious parts of Lawton. Once again, I had barely escaped trouble with the law and landed on my feet surrounded by good fortune. As I begin to remodel her house, I accumulated quite a shop; of course Sarah bought anything I needed. It wasn’t long until I was back in touch with the boys, only this time I was doing repair and maintenance work on their rentals, plus doing personal work at their houses. I was no more the big shot salesman, but instead, the drunken handyman.
This was a perfect safe haven for me to become a drunk. Sarah had a perfect home in an upscale neighborhood. I had a job to make enough money to look like I was on my way back to some kind of life, but I was drinking a fifth of whiskey a day and after a few years of this, I ended up the same old Dennis – running the clubs in Lawton, being the life of the party, and running around on Sarah. This went on until I reached the point that I wasn’t showing up for David. I had a little trailer at a small trailer park that I had sold to my mother and Raymond several years before. David had become partners in it with the agreement that he would take care of it and keep it rented. I was staying out all night and to avoid arguing with Sarah I would just go over there. A guy named Brent worked for me and I had him a place in a small trailer that was really run down. He and I were drinking buddies and I just begin to stay with him. This was probably a blessing to Sarah because she finally seen that she didn’t need me. I would go home to Sarah a couple times a week and then be gone awhile. This went on until Brent and I stayed drunk more than we were sober.
Eventually Brent moved on and I no longer made it to any jobs. I left David right in the middle of building a barn at his house and eventually he had about had it with me. By then, I had once again established some credit with lumber yards and supply houses and had a bunch of outstanding bills. The bill collectors found me at that trailer park. I don’t know how they located me there, but my mother bailed me out of a few of the debts I just up and left the rest. I put everything in my pickup because Sarah, like I said in the previous chapter, was finally done. David was through as well, so I made my way back to good ol’ mom and once again, to Duncan.
I had been gone about four years and by the time I returned, Mom had sold the club. I know when I left you in the previous chapter that I had said we were now going into the darkest days of my life. The truth is, some of those years at the club were really dark, but I saved a lot of the gory details and left out many, many evils that would have made you understand why I didn’t want to relive them.
The one lesson which I think is important to take from this chapter is the pattern of an addict and how persuasive and manipulating they are. They can charm their way in and out of things better than most people alive. I’m of course, talking about a functioning addict, one who seems to be able to run just under the radar. Outside, everything seems to be just fine and they can appear as though nothing is wrong. I could have been on my second fifth of whiskey and most people would have never known. I was clever for years as a functioning addict and most never knew it.
But, as you will see in this next chapter, there is a volcano just waiting to erupt in every addict. We replace one thing with something else and everything for a while seems to be fine, but it’s not. It’s just building more pressure and eventually it does erupt. The next chapter is truly the darkest days of my life. I just had to lead into it. There is a volcano and it’s about to explode. I had escaped several close calls in my life, been blessed in a few more, and people, especially my mother, had bailed me out of trouble on more than one occasion. But God had one coming that no one could bail me out of. All these escapes had only played into my pride and made me feel indestructible.
This was Gods way of master minding His plan for my life. I know that many reading this book may disagree with that statement, but I will later show you evidence of this statement. Is not God sovereign, and if so, nothing happens to us that God did not either allow or cause. Does not a father chastise his children? Either God is God or He’s not. I happen to know He is! You will come to see what I’m talking about in the next couple of chapters.
The Bible says, “Honor thy father and mother that thy days may be long upon the land that the Lord thy God is giving you.” – Ex 20:12. Listen friend, if you have a mother which has stuck by you like mine has, somehow let her know how much she means to you. The Bible has made it very clear that God despises a child that dishonors his mother. I’m going to close this chapter with some proverbs to think about for a while, all of which I have done:
Whoever curses his father or mother, his lamp will be put out into deep darkness. (Pr. 20:20)
Do not despise your mother when she is old (Pr. 23 22).
Let your father and your mother be glad, let her who bore you rejoice. (Pr. 23:25)
Whoever robs his father or his mother, and says, “It is no transgression,” The same is a companion to a destroyer (Pr. 28:24)
And lastly, but frightening is Proverbs 29:15 which says, “The eye that mocks his father, and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.”
I close with these chilling warnings because I had so many times let my mother down and now, with no place in the world to go, she took me back in … How great are our mothers! They are the true heroes of this battle because we addicts put them through a living hell on earth. It is a real war we put them through! To every mother that has had to go through these wars, this chapter is dedicated to you and I want to say a very special thanks to my mother for never giving up on me and fighting for my life when I was so close so many times to giving it away for nothing. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul, or what will a man give for his soul? (Matthew 16:25-26). I almost gave my soul to the devil for a needle and some white powder! The next chapter is the introduction to the needle, the whale, and the light which came as a dove!
Chapter 5 – The Needle and the Light
When I left you in the last chapter I mentioned moving back in with poor ole mom. In my late 30s, I should have had my life well in order, but I had once again hit the bottom and came crawling back to the only place that I had left on earth. Sarah had bought me a pick-up a few years earlier, and it was a really nice truck – before I wrecked it several times. By the time I got to moms the thing looked like it was about to die. I had to stop every so many miles and put water in it because the water pump was out. The starter was out also, so I had to pop the hood and start it with a screwdriver touching the solenoid. The driver’s side front fender was missing and it was beat up all over. It looked like I had driven it straight out of a salvage yard. I had it loaded down with everything I owned so when I pulled into Mom’s driveway it looked like a junk dealer who had wired a pick-up together. To top it off, I had painted houses for a while so it had different color paint splattered all over it. I share all this with you so you can get some kind of picture of how my mother must have felt when she saw me pull up. I hadn’t seen her since the last time she came to Lawton to pay some of my outstanding debts to various venders I owed from my latest venture. Needless to say, Mother took me in and provided me a place to stay. At that time I wasn’t using drugs but I was drinking over a fifth of whiskey a day and I had no kind of income. Mother’s house was on a real busy street so I had the ideal of having a garage sale to support my habit. I had some pretty good collectables from the club days that mother had saved for me in her garage, storage building, and cellar, plus I brought with me some sellable items. Across the street was an old nursing home that had been turned into a VA shelter for homeless vets. Kind of ironic isn’t it?
I became friends with the man who ran the shelter and he let the cars from the garage sale park in his lot. Like all the other things I ever began to do, this took off like crazy. I had a way of attracting people and in a few short weeks, what started off being a garage sale, ended up being a full time business. People were bringing me things to sell on assignment. Other garage sales would give me all they didn’t sell just to haul it off for them so I not only had Mother’s garage and carport full, but her backyard as well. I had acquired so many clothes that I once called a used clothing store in Lawton and the lady came with a van and paid a price for the whole lot. She only wanted a few items but I sold her the whole mess of them. I had the clothes packed into her van like sardines and she was left with barely enough room to drive.
This certainly supported my drinking habit and allowed me to run the clubs at night. It wasn’t long though until I was back to my old tricks – selling other people’s things and pocketing the money because my habits were costing more and more.
Before I had begun making money again I had hit the bottom of the pit by sniffing paint, which I could buy at the dollar store for a buck. When I ran out of money in Lawton and Sarah would not give me any, I would sniff paint by spraying it into a bag and inhaling it. This was the bottom of the barrel to me and my mother caught me doing it at her house. She was so at the end of her ropes as to what to do for me that she even called the sheriff’s department a few times. This was the beginning of my relationship with law enforcement in Duncan, but I will get into that more a little later. I wanted to mention the paint incident because it demonstrates the desperation of a junkie to be intoxicated. I absolutely could not stand to live with myself and I had to be high on something.
When I relive these days in my mind, it scares me to death to think that I believed this was really living. What a lie the devil has deceived us in that we believe this is really living, when actually it’s slowly dying. The devil really did come to kill, steal, and destroy. He came to kill our bodies, steal our time and minds, and to destroy our relationships and personalities. To destroy that part of the image of God in us, and the family God designed us to be.
Anyway, the garage sale got to be so busy that the parked cars were creating a danger for traffic and the police were called several times. Eventually a city councilman came out with documentation that we were in violation of several ordinances. They probably would have never said anything, but I was running full blast for several months and causing major traffic jams for a small town and I’m sure some of the neighbors were annoyed, as well. However, during this process I met a lot of antique dealers and this began yet another career of mine – this time in the antique business. I could no longer sell from the carport, but I became friends with some women who owned antique stores so I began to find things for them. I knew people all over Oklahoma, so I quickly learned a lot about antiques. What I didn’t know, I could fake my way through, and if you weren’t a pro I could fool you. Thus began a career that led me into the lives of many people in Duncan, some of which were really wonderful people who truly loved me and wanted so badly for me to change my life. They were godly people who God had placed into my path. In looking back, they left indelible impressions on me to this day. I just recently ran into a couple of them and will soon be speaking at their church. They had the largest antique store in Duncan, which leased spaces out to individuals, many of which I helped build. However, the whole time I was working around all the valuable antiques during that stage of my life, I was drinking heavily. Sometimes I would be building fake store fronts and carrying ladders and such tools all around expensive antiques. This godly couple never showed me anything but much love and patience. I’m sure God used me to keep them on their knees praying for angels to keep me from falling or dropping one of these walls and wiping out all kinds of costly antiques.
I became very close to one of the ladies I went around buying antiques with. We knew each other from high school, and she and her husband had rental properties. When my mother couldn’t take me any longer and ordered me out of her house, this friend and her husband let me live in one of their apartments.
At that time, all I cared about was having cigarettes and alcohol. I needed very little food, so they gave me the place to stay and would give me enough money for those items, and in return I would help them on the antiques and any work at their house or rent property. Once again, I had found a place to hide and stay messed up. I was still a functioning addict and this went well for close to a year. Once in a while I became a little too much for my friend to handle, but for the most part I was staying high and content with this arrangement. We went all over the country buying antiques and then we would spend weeks arranging her space. I helped them move from their home into another one to lower their cost of living, but the home they moved to was almost as large, and was on the country club golf course. Of course, the new home needed some improvements made to it and I had talent and experience in remodeling so we began to remodel nearly every room. One morning I got extremely drunk in the process of the remodeling work and I fell out of a tree and injured my leg so badly that I would have lost the leg had it not been for my friend and my mother. The doctor agreed to try and save the leg after my mother persisted. The first surgery was well over ten hours and my leg was saved. I had multiple compound fractures between my knee and ankle. The doctor performed a pioneer surgery and bolted it back together. After I healed a little from the first surgery, I had a knee replacement – which was another long surgery, then many skin grafts. My leg now looks like it has been chewed on by a shark. I was nearly two years on crutches learning to walk again, some of which was due to my lack of discipline and ignoring my therapy sessions. This lady we will name Mary, would try her best to get me to therapy, but for the most part I missed as much as I went. For the first few months I was in a wheelchair and could not do anything, but eventually I began to get around on crutches and got so mobile on them that I once again began to work on her house. It is amazing what we can adapt to when we put our heart into it. My leg was laid wide open and I could not put any covering over it that couldn’t breathe. So for the most part it was exposed because it had to heal from the inside out and if I covered it infection would set in and then gangrene. This was not a pretty sight. You could see the bones in my leg and it took a lot of special cleansing each day which was very painful. My mother and this lady sacrificed so much of their life for me during these years and I don’t think I ever thanked them. All I could think about was making sure I had alcohol and cigarettes. It was during these years that I eventually ran this lady and her family out of my life by some harmful actions that began to tear her family apart and my new addiction to prescription pain pills.
During this time in my life, my mother saw what she thought was a little old man, walking down the street all bent over in the dead of winter, motioning for her to pull over into the store parking lot, which by the way was a liquor store. She thought he was going to bum money, which he was, and it was her son. She didn’t even recognize her very own son – this is how bad I had gotten.
A few months prior to my ruining my friendship with the lady and her husband, I had fallen asleep, passed out on sleeping pills. It was freezing outside and I was wrapped in a thick blanket laying in front of an open flame old-time heater, the kind that has the grates with a copper gas line coming into the back. I guess I rolled over into it and knocked it over, breaking the gas line feeding it. It turned into a small flame torch and had set the blanket I was wrapped in on fire. My dog Crystal, which I’ll write more about later, began to go crazy and the neighbors heard her and came knocking the door down. They drug me out and called the fire department. The neighbor tried unsuccessfully to put the fire out with buckets of water. It had, by that time, engulfed the whole wall. They had to peal the blanket off of me. I looked like a hot dog with my head and feet sticking out of that crispy burned blanket. To this day one of the firemen said he knows that an angel of the Lord saved me, because I didn’t have a single red mark on me. I should have been burned alive. This is one of many miracles I’ll share. See God never wanted me dead – the devil did. God only wanted me to give Him control of my life and He has had an angel looking over me all the time until He finally brought me to the end of myself, which is what He does for all of us. But as you’ll learn in the chapters to come my angel has a lot more work to do, and God has a lot more storms to bring until I finally begin to get it.
I eventually had to have another knee replacement because I had neglected this one so bad and when I got strung out on the pain pills I really abused my leg. I couldn’t feel the pain I was causing because I was eating 20-40 ten milligrams of Loricetts a day, plus drinking a fifth of whiskey.
I eventually had to move back in with my mother and became a huge burden on her once again. The pain pills, mixed with that much whiskey, really began to control my life and I began to do really stupid illegal things for money and got into more trouble with the law. I was in and out of jail a half dozen times over various crimes. I had two doctors giving me all sorts of pain pills and still, I was buying them off the street. One of the times while I was in jail, my leg was in such bad shape that I was taken to the doctor and told I would have to have surgery again, but it could not be done while I was in jail. So once again my mother bailed me out, hired another lawyer, and I got two 5-year sentences to do on probation along with several thousand dollars’ worth of fines with the stipulation that after I had surgery and had time to heal that I would go to a drug rehab for no less than 6 months. The crimes stemmed from me writing bogus checks from checkbooks I found in the trash. I would go to antique stores and buy expensive items with the checks and sell them to other antique dealers in the same area. Those pills made me stupid and I had become a first-rate dumpster diver. I learned the routes of the trash trucks and would get up early on trash day and go to the more expensive neighborhoods and pilfer through the trash they had set out. By then my disability SSI had come in and Mother bought me a little house with a shop in the back. My payments were very reasonable and I should have been able to make it there just fine.
I had refinished a lot of furniture for people in the antique business and had a lot of folks who wanted me to do work for them, and now, I had a new location where I could have a garage sale. It wasn’t the prime location as Mother’s house was since I was located off the beaten path, but it would due. Plus, there was an empty lot between my house and the neighbor’s with a huge parking lot so all the things I would find in the trash, I would bring back and sell at this new location and the city never said anything. I also had the shop in the back to refinish furniture.
At any rate, while all this was going on, I was introduced once again to crank – only this time it wasn’t long before I had a needle in my arm. One of my mother’s friends, whom she considered a daughter, had worked for my mother in the club days for years and was one of the major dealers in the area. She introduced me to the needle and my life was never the same. This new addiction was costly and the needle was a whole new high that I had never experienced before. I would be going for days and weeks at a time and thought this was the greatest thing ever. Little did I know it was slowly killing me – body, soul and spirit. This, mixed with the pills I was taking, led me deeper into darkness and into more trouble with the law. My mother knew I was in real trouble so she bought a place out of town on a major highway that had a brand new shop and office. It had been a used car lot, and behind it was a nice 2-bed, 2-bath trailer on 7 acres. This was ideal for me to have an antique store of my own and to work on furniture. My brother took the house I’d been living in and mother and I moved to the new location. During this time I had the second knee surgery, and this time I went to the leg rehab like I was supposed to – for the most part. The judge and district attorney’s office was showing a lot of patience with me and allowing me some additional time to heal before going to the drug rehab. This was only because of my mother’s favor with the court house. This time the leg began to heal well as a result of the rehab and a costly leg brace my mother and biological father bought for me.
I was still consuming countless pain pills and also discovered a new connection for crank that lived only a few miles from me. As matter of fact, I located several connections since my new residence was close to where a lot of the meth cooks were – a few miles out of town, but in the deep country woods. Once again I had escaped a major bust in town and was safely tucked away with what appeared to be a very legitimate antique and junk store on a well-traveled 4-lane highway between Lawton and Duncan, which represented two different worlds for me.
Mother did find an excellent rehab in Oklahoma City at the Salvation Army, called the “Adult Rehabilitation Center.” When it came time for me to go, I had become friends with a man who lived a few miles away from the shop. His place was out in the middle of no man’s land and he was cooking a lot of dope. I learned from this man how to make crank and he and I made a lot. While I was recovering from the knee replacement I was hobbling around in the middle of the woods on two crutches cooking this stuff. One time when the laws came in on us he said, “Run for it!”
It was as pitch black as you could get and I was running as fast as I could on two crutches and fell – I don’t know how far into an empty creek bed. I was hurting so bad and know I had hurt my leg since I still had the staples in it. All I could do was crawl on the sandy bottom for what seemed like several hours. I had crawled on my belly for a least a mile until I came to a clearing, and could see that the laws had left. I came out and found my friend later. We had escaped and they never found the cook. I shared this to give an illustration of how crazy I was. This had been going on between him and me for several months so by the time it came for me to go to rehab; I fought it tooth and nail. I knew if I didn’t go, I would serve 10 years in prison, doing at least 31/2 years of the time. I had stayed up for three or four days before this and shot the last of the dope I had as mom and my aunt Jimmie were beating on the doors of the shop trying to get me to go. We only had a few hours left to get me to Oklahoma City and checked in. They finally did get me out of there and I know I looked like death run over.
At first it didn’t look like the rehab was going to take me because of the condition of my leg, I don’t think they wanted the responsibility in case something happened to it. I finally signed a wavier and they accepted me. I’ll never forget my first night there. I had shot so much junk in my veins that they began to internally bleed. I had left so many holes in them from the bad needles that if I did anything stressful causing blood to pump through my veins, they would make small marble size lumps and it really scared me. I walked around with marble size bumps all over my arms. It was then I begin for the first time in a long time to take a long look at myself.
Do you remember the very first words God spoke to Adam after he had eaten of the forbidden fruit thus beginning the rebellion of mankind against God our Creator? In Genesis 3:8-9 it says, “And they, (Adam and Eve), heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” These were the first words God spoke to them after they had committed spiritual murder of their souls. This was the day their spirit died thus beginning the slow process of their souls’ death. Do you think God did not know where they were? He knew exactly where they were, but he wanted them to know where they were. Only moments earlier they had a oneness of spirit with God Almighty. They knew nothing but the glory of God and now they had fallen from this glorious platform of only living to be in the presence of God. Before they did not know evil existed, nor rebellion. They only saw life through the eyes God gave them because until then, they had walked in perfect obedience. For the first time they knew what it meant to be alone and scared. They were experiencing guilt and shame – feelings they never knew existed before the fall. God knew exactly where they were but He wanted them to know how far they had fallen. This is the same thing God was asking me, “Dennis where are you?”
It was at this rehab, after I got through the first three months, that I ask Jesus into my heart. I almost got myself kicked out of there doing what I always did. I was breaking the rules by drinking and doing things I shouldn’t be doing. I came back from a weekend pass and didn’t pass a urinalysis. They were going to put me out, but Major Larry D’ Berry, who ran that place, had really taken a liking to me and he gave me another chance. So the next three months, I was really under a microscope and that’s exactly what I needed to push me into the hands of Jesus.
As I began to answer that question of “Dennis where are you?” and ponder the love Major D’Berry showed me in giving me a second chance, I took a long look at my life. I was 40 years old, lost everything I had, burned every bridge in my life, made and lost small fortunes, and had no relationship with any women. I was crippled, and didn’t have a penny to my name, let alone for the future. It was at that time I realized I was lost, not only in this world, but in the one to come. I was headed to the bottom of the pit in life here, and HELL in the next one. It was there in the eight-man room that I knelt by my bed one night and told Jesus that I knew I was rotten to the core that I was sorry and I needed His forgiveness. I accepted what He did on the cross as payment for my miserable life. I’ll never forget that night as I went to sleep. At around midnight, the Lord woke me up and talked to me. It was like a dream but it was not a dream. I was wide awake and remember it perfectly well, but it still was like I was dreaming. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it was God, and He told me everything was going to be alright. I’ll never forget how wonderful I felt after that. The rest of my three months in rehab were like being in heaven. Major Larry begged me to stay, along with a lot of the other staff. They offered me a good job there. Major Larry and his wife told me it was too soon for me to go back into the same environment I had left.
They had a big graduation party for me and we said our goodbyes after 6 months of being a family. To this day, I still have a deep longing to see them again. I loved them and they loved me. We truly were a family and looking back, I should have stayed, but God had a plan as you’ll soon see. God tried to make it easy for me but I wouldn’t let Him. Before I left, my spiritual brothers and I went into the chapel and they all laid hands on me and prayed for me in the same manner the Ephesians did for Paul when they knew they’d probably never see him again in this world. They spoke blessings that the Lord would put my business together again and bless me with a special anointing to do mighty things for His kingdom. They spoke a lot of blessing that He would keep His hand all over me and never let me go. I don’t remember all of it, but it was something along this line, and today, although I have taken a lot of wrong paths, He has never taken His hand off of me as you’ll learn. We were in the chapel for several hours that night and when we came out we were all soaking wet from sweating. The Holy Spirit moved in that chapel like I had never experienced before. It wasn’t hot. The sweat was from the anointing the Holy Spirit rained down on us. As we came out, the guys in the center didn’t know what to think.
Anyway, they sent me off with a blessing from our Lord and a special anointing from God. Now my exciting trip back to the antique/junk store took on a whole new purpose and outlook on life. I was truly being blessed of the Lord, but had very little spiritual disciplines in my life, such as prayer and Bible reading, or memorizing any scripture, but I was having a lot of emotional experiences with Him.
As you will see shortly, as good as the emotions are, they will only take you so far. What you have to have to walk a victorious life are the truths of God’s word. Some call them the principles that God has given us to stay on His path – the road to heaven. The Bible calls them commandments, statutes, ordinances, precepts, testimonies or laws; but it is all the word of God – the BIBLE. Jesus called it the way and the truth, and if you know these truths said Jesus, you shall be free – free indeed!
This is exactly why Major D’Berry wanted me to stay there longer. We had a wonderful little church there and he was a great preacher/teacher of God’s word. I was also surrounded by all kinds of Christian fellowship and some sort of Bible studies every night. This was a completely Christian-based rehab and they didn’t make any excuses about it. As a matter of fact, it was very difficult to get into this place. It was mandatory if you stayed there to go to church on Sundays and you had to get at least two Bible classes during the week. The first two months there you had to be in something every night – no exceptions.
Well as we know, I didn’t stay. I told the major that I was fine and I had the business to get back to. I really did believe with all my heart that I could never go back to that old life, but in reality I had only truly been clean for four months, but that was longer than I had been sober since I was 17.
Before I had gotten so far gone on meth, I had built a good business up. Lots of people came from all around, traveling that highway and junk stores were a big thing in that part of the country. However, when I got so far gone and stayed strung out for weeks at a time, I let the place run down until there wasn’t anything there but acres of trash. I had been so far gone that I was bringing in anything I found in any bar ditch that I thought looked like junk. The place was a real eye sore and my mother was really ashamed of how run down I had let it become.
When she bought the property, the building wasn’t very old. It was an American steel building with 14 foot side walls and two overhead doors. It had about 1200 square-foot and two nice offices in which I turned one into living quarters with a day bed and that’s where I lived for the most part. I would go to the house and shower, but I lived up at the shop. In the days of being strung out, I would be up for weeks at a time hauling all kinds of junk up there from only God knows where.
A few days after getting home from the rehab I begin to clean the store up. I cleaned up the office and turned it into a kind of prayer closet. I didn’t know a lot about praying but what I did know I was doing with all my heart in that prayer closet. I tell you, there was an anointing in that room like I have only experienced a few times since. I could just walk into that room and feel the Holy Spirit all over me. I would kneel and goose bumps would come up all over me. Some people may try to explain this away, but I sometimes felt as though I was floating in that room. People were coming in off the highway asking me what I would take for junk that I would have given them to just haul off. God was sending people to buy all that junk, and at the same time, cleaning up the place by getting rid of it. The inside was getting cleaned out also and I was accumulating a little money and restocking the place with some better items. I was certainly walking in the presence of the Lord.
So when I came back I had been clean from drugs for over six months and from alcohol for close to four months. I had a new purpose. My body was healed and rested. I looked good once again. Jesus had cleaned me up and I was a new man. I truly did have a relationship with the Lord and had the best intentions in the world.
I got involved with a little church out by the lake – the one I had visited several times with my mother and aunt over the years prior to this. Brother John Dyer was the pastor, and when I was getting into all the trouble in town, before I moved out on the highway, he’d come by and share the Lord’s story with me. He was a great guy and had a true love for the lost, and spent many hours at different times befriending me. So I naturally wanted him to be the one to baptize me. The name of the church was “New Hope Church.” It was a tiny farm community church and its congregation was mostly older folks. Brother Dyer had, on more than one occasion, tried to get me interested in a larger church in town with youth and young adults – a church that had a lot of activities for single young adults. He knew what I needed and in subtle ways he tried to steer me in that direction. I didn’t understand any of that at the time. Those folks accepted and loved me tremendously, and although it was kind of a sleeping church out in the boon docks, it was the first church I had ever been a member of other than the Salvation Army church. I became as involved in it as I could and for the first several months I was there every time the doors were open. I did get baptized there and joined as a member.
Brother John was coming by often before the baptism. He said he just loved coming by because there was such a presence of God all over me. He later told me I was experiencing my first love experience with Jesus. This might have been, but as you will shortly see, there was something much more than a first love experience going on. A few times, people sped into the gravel parking lot, hopped out of their car, and said God had sent them there to be prayed for. I could not even imagine what this was all about and I hardly knew how to pray for myself, let alone anyone else. A couple ladies and I became spiritually bonded through this time of prayer and I did pray for them after finding out their troubles.
Long after I had been taken away, one of these ladies would stop by from time to time and check with mother about my statues. She and several others did this quite often until Mother sold the place. Mother was always worried some of the old crowd would come around and I’d fall back into the pit God had begun to bring me out of. The one spiritual discipline I did well for a baby Christian was pray and speak with God aloud all day long while I was around the shop. The other discipline of reading and studying the Bible wasn’t a priority to me. I thought if I read ten minutes a day, I had accomplished great things. I hated reading – something I never did, but as you will learn, this was the one thing I needed to do as much as praying.
Jesus told this story in Luke 11: 24-26, “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more than himself, and they enter there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
You’ll soon learn that this happened to me, but before I get to that, I have to share this awesome story with you. As I said earlier, Mother was worried about the old crowd coming around so one night I went into my prayer closet and begin to cry out to God about Mom. I don’t remember everything I prayed, but it went something like this, “O Lord you know the concerns of Mother and how worried she is. Would you please touch her and let her know that things are going to be alright? Would you please bless this property and visit Mother as you did me and let her know things are in Your Hands?”
I’m sure I prayed much more and these are not the exact words, but you get them main points. The next morning around 10 a.m., Mother came up to the shop with tears running down her face. I didn’t know what was wrong, but before I could say anything she just started telling me that Jesus had woke her up at around midnight and spoke to her just as plain as she and I were talking. She said it was like a dream, but wasn’t a dream – exactly how He had visited me the night I asked Jesus into my heart.
I knew the Lord had indeed visited her because she was beaming and the tears were tears of joy. She told me that the Lord told her everything was going to be all right with my brother and me. He had given her great confidence and peace of mind just as I had asked Him. She stayed for a little while and we shared a God moment together, then she went on about her business.
I was working on refinishing an antique dresser and was setting at the back of the shop with the overhead door open. I believe it was in the middle, or later part of May, and the wind was blowing about 30 mph. The shop set north and south – the back being in the south, and was upon a high hill. It had two overhead doors one on each side at the back of the building – one facing west and the other facing east. I sat with the one facing east open because the sun had already begun to lean toward the west and the east side had a nice shade. With the building situated as it was, the wind blowing as hard as it did on that hill never bothered me as long as it was out of the south as it was that day. There wasn’t much grass around the shop, mostly red dirt, so when the wind blew as hard as it did that day, the sky was a reddish color.
I’m guessing it was about 2 p.m. by now, and I was working away on the dresser enjoying the memories of my mother’s testimony just a few hours earlier when I glanced toward the east and saw two of the most unusual looking birds I had ever seen. It was really red-looking in the sky because of the dust and wind and they were really far away, but they looked like some kind of robotic cranes. They were so far away that it was difficult to say what they were, but all I know is I hadn’t ever seen any like them before. They were flying south and I watched them for a few minutes and as I followed them in their path of flight, my eyes were led to the telephone pole that the electric for the building was attached to. As a matter of fact, the meter was on the same pole down toward the bottom. This pole was about 30-40 feet away from the building in a south east direction and around 25 feet tall. The electric cables that gave electricity to the building ran from the top on the pole to the corner of the building and were about 15 feet off the ground.
I’m sharing all of this so you can get a picture in your mind of the setting I’m about to describe. As I followed those unusual birds, the Lord was leading me to this beautiful solid white dove setting perched upon those wires coming into the shop. He was about half way between the shop and pole, setting perched like and eagle with his wings at attention. The best I know to describe it is that He was at attention, wings straight up and down, boldly at His shoulders. There wasn’t another bird in the sky other than those I just described. The wind was gusting so strong that day that it was really impossible for any birds to hang on to power lines, and as I watched this solid white dove it blew my mind.
The power lines where whipping back and forth ferociously and this dove was setting tall, braving all of this. I remember wondering what in the world this dove was doing and where it came from. It was absolutely beautiful – solid white, and it sat parched like some kind of king on his throne even with the whipping of the cables. I watched Him for a long time and finally, as puzzled as I was, I went back to sanding the dresser.
My dog Crystal was laying there with me, and like I always did, I was talking to her. She was about 12 years old at the time. Anyway, about 20 or 30 minutes went by and I glanced back out at the electric line and sure enough, the dove was still there – sitting on His throne as before. This time I noticed He was looking at me and I could not figure out what was going on or how this bird could hang on to that cable so long with it whipping about like it was. I watched for what seemed like 20 minutes and decided I would take it some bread and water. Setting a few feet away from the pole was a stack of cinder blocks protecting a water fountain, so I set the bread and water there, out of the wind and upon a block. I stayed there looking up at the dove for a long time, just admiring its beauty and the authority with which He sat there. Me being right under Him and so close did not bother Him at all and He began to look intently on me. I stood there for a while until I realized how stupid I must’ve looked standing there talking to a dove to the cars going down the highway.
I was asking Him if He had come on some mission with a message for me. I thought maybe it was someone’s messenger dove and was tired from a long journey. All kinds of thoughts were going through my mind by this time. The thing had been there braving this whipping motion of the wind and cable for well over an hour by now so I didn’t know what to think. I was talking to it, but I don’t recall a lot of what I said to it at this time.
The highway was about 200 feet to the north and I was on this high hill for everyone to see – talking to a dove. So I went back to the shop with Crystal and began to sand on the dresser again. I don’t remember how much time went by but it must have been at least 30 minutes because I had finished the top and sides of the dresser and I looked again to see if the dove was still there. Something told me it would be, so by now I began to realize this was something phenomenal from God. I went back out and to my surprise, the bread was gone. Now Crystal had never left my side and the wind could not have touched it, so go figure!
By this time, I didn’t care what the people in the cars thought because I knew this was from God and the days events came back to mind – the prayer I had prayed for Mother, the experience her and I had just hours earlier, and somehow I knew this had to be connected with that. I looked up once again to the dove and told Him I knew the Lord had sent Him and asked Him what He had to share with me. I don’t recall everything I asked Him, but I stood talking for what seemed like 10 minutes. Then, something phenomenal and out of this world happened.
Suddenly, the dove became larger than life as though it was transformed right before my eyes. Its colors were brilliant, sort of neon or florescent. I can’t think of words to describe it – very panoramic and brilliant. The pictures you receive on these new digital TV’s would be close but 100 times more brilliant. It’s as though I was on the Mount of Transfiguration – the dove being enhanced into its glory.
I don’t know if anything was happening to my external body, but internally I was feeling sensations that I had never in my life felt before. I had done ever drug known to man and never felt like this. I don’t know that He ever said anything to me, nor do I know for sure how long I was there – probably a half hour or more, but I knew I had to go get Mother and bring her to this dove.
So I took off down the hill toward the house. It was a good 100 yards toward the south, and it sat much lower than the hill the shop was on. As I got a little ways toward the house down the hill, the shop and electrical lines were out of site. When I got to the house I saw that Mother’s car was gone from the carport and I remember being terribly disappointed, but I needed to tell someone so I called Brother John Dyer.
As of yet, I hadn’t been baptized. That was still a couple weeks away. They wanted to do a real celebration at the church that day so he was getting it all ready. When he answered the phone, I guess I must have sounded like a lunatic because he said, “Settle down, Dennis, settle down!” So I began telling him that God was at the shop and had come and paid me a special visit. I must have been ecstatic because he kept telling me to slow down and tell him what in the world was going on.
I don’t remember our whole conversation, but I do remember telling him over and over that Jesus Himself had come in the form of a dove to visit me.
Of course he wasn’t there and didn’t experience what I had, so to him, this again was part of my first love experience. And it might well have been, but I haven’t ran across a lot of people with this testimony. Still today, many years later, and having walked with the Lord some 10 years, I’m still puzzled as to exactly what this was all about.
I know what some of it represents and some of what was done to me, but I’m still puzzled over much of it. All I know is I long for another visit like that one again. I have had some powerful experiences where God’s presence was overwhelming, but nothing like what I’m about to describe. After we visited awhile, he reassured me this was my first love experience and that I needed to enjoy every moment of it. Looking back I wish I had realized how rare these visits were. I might have done something to have recorded every single thing that happened.
As I went out the back door going back up to the shop, I saw Mother pulling into the driveway so I ran over to her and began to tell her everything as I took her to show her the dove. A half an hour had passed as we reached the top of the hill and I noticed the dove was gone. I remember being so disappointed and telling Mother that I knew by now it would be gone. As I was throwing my little fit of disappointment, Mother said “Dennis, it heard your voice because here it comes.”
I don’t know why she was looking up, but coming straight from heaven as we were standing in the middle of the field, the dove came right in front of us, turning on its side as it flew right by us and went straight back up into the heavens. Then it came back down and this time, passed right in front of us within a foot of us, turned on its other side – only this time, instead of flying back into heaven, it flew right to the entrance of the property. We had a white fence made of two inch pipe that went around the whole 7 acres, and it hovered about 2 feet above the fence and circled the fence twice.
It looked like an F-16 fighter jet flying around that property. After it circled twice, it came right back to where we were and flew right in front of us again and headed straight back up into heaven and we watched until it flew out of site, never to see it again.
Mother and I stood there in the middle of the field trying to make sense of all this. Mother said to me that the dove must have followed me down to the house and waited for me. It began to dawn on me that one of the things I prayed for was for the Lord to bless the property and I believe by circling it twice, He gave it a double blessing, or was making sure we understood it was being blessed. Whatever it all meant we were both astonished and Mother went back toward the house while I walked back up to the shop. As I reached the top of the hill and got closer to the spot where the dove was on the electric cable, I begin to float. That’s the only way I know how to explain it. My legs were moving along with my body. I was going through the motions, but I was sort of out of my body – floating. I know of no other way to describe it.
Don Piper wrote a book called 90 Minutes in Heaven in which he describes how he had clinically died in an awful accident and described his entrance to the gates of heaven. One day I heard him on TV telling of his experience and he began to share of how he was walking in heaven and although his body was moving, it was like he was so light that he was floating. That’s the only person I’ve ever heard to describe what was going on with me. I was floating!
I know many reading this book may not believe that, but I believe the world and modern religion have tried to put God in a box. Too many of the formal churches don’t have the spirit of God because they have closed their hearts to believing that God exist outside of the Bible. There’s not a person alive that loves and believes Gods word any more than I. I strive to live by the principles of God’s word and teach those principles in the jails, recovery groups, and churches that God leads me to. However, we have to live in this dark world that Jesus walked in and He wants to demonstrate Himself as being as much alive now as then. I love seeing the power of God alive in people’s lives and one way that happens is through experiences such as this one.
Legalists want to take the emotions out of our relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He created us with emotions and I, for one, love the emotional side of my relationship with God, but it’s just as important to understand emotions will not sustain us from the attacks of the world, the devil, or ourselves.
We have to have the truths of God’s word to live a victorious life here in this world of darkness and wickedness. We have to know God’s promises and have them engrafted into our souls in order to keep the joy and peace of God alive in our hearts. We have to know and understand what God’s word says on everything, and it does have something to say on absolutely everything. And then, we have to DO WHAT IT SAYS. This is the only way to live the abundant life that Jesus promises. It is the truths of God’s word that do set you free from the tyrannies of Satan’s attacks to kill, steal, and destroy all forms of human and spiritual life.
I floated around on that hilltop for a whole week and everything I looked at was beautiful. I must have been looking through the eyes of the Lord because the ugliest things looked beautiful to me. I can’t remember having a bad thought about anyone or anything. I recall setting in front of the building shortly afterwards and watching the cars go down the highway. I’ll never forget thinking, “WOW! I’ve never felt like this before in my entire life no matter what I drug I was on!”
The cars were floating or hovering down the highway. Everything seemed to be in slow motion and the peace of God hovered over that whole property. In looking back I now know that the glory of God had come down on that property and it was indescribable what I was experiencing. Even when I was using the riding mower to cut the grass, it was the same. The mower was cutting, but I still felt I was floating. It was during this time that people came in off the highway to be prayed for and many other phenomenal events were taking place.
Brother John was coming by to take me around because I was glowing and he wanted to show me off. It might have been like when Moses was on the Mount with God. I’m certainly not comparing myself to Moses, but I was glowing.
You might think a man who had an experience like this could never fall from grace. How could someone have a mountain top experience like this and ever tumble down so low, as you’ll discover in the next chapter. As I began this chapter I mentioned the needle, the dove and the whale, but as I continued with this wild ride of my life, I decided to save the whale for the next chapter. Remember the story Jesus told of the man whom He had cast a demon out of? The demon went to a dry place, returned and found the house clean, but empty. He went and found seven more demons worse than himself and they came back and took up residence there and the latter end of that man was worse than the beginning. Well I wasn’t filling my house with God’s word. I was enjoying the experiences and emotional side of the relationship, but I wasn’t practicing the disciplines of spending time with the Lord in His word and learning who He was by spending time with Him. In any relationship, we get to truly know people by spending time with them. It’s the same with our Lord, and we spend time with Him by letting Him speak to us and show us His heart and character. He gives us His Fatherly advice and instruction through the Word, which is Jesus Christ Himself!
John 1:1-5, 14 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 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. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
I had beheld the glory of God for an entire week but would not get into the word as I knew I should have. But like Jonah, the Lord had a whale awaiting me. He tried to do this the easy way, but like every other lesson in life, I had to learn this one the hard way as well. But thank God He never does leave or forsake us and that as many as He loves, He does rebuke and chasten, that they may be zealous and repent – Revelation 3:19.
Chapter Six – The Storm and the Whale
Well after hearing of all the wonderful testimonies in the last chapter you might ask how in the world anyone could fall from that kind glory. Well before you get to critical let’s think about King David, the man after Gods on heart. God had paid him very special visits and been so close to him that you would think it impossible for this man to ever fall from grace. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam the son of Ahithophel. I mentioned her father and grandfather because Eliam was one of Davids original men who was with him from the beginning while he ran from Saul, and was one of the thirty men of David’s roll of honor. Ahithophel was also the commander and chief of David’s army. So this wasn’t some ordinary woman that David had an affair with. And after the affair and her pregnancy he had her husband Uriah the Hittite killed in battle to cover up this awful tragedy. Uriah was also one of David’s 30 mighty men mentioned in the honor roll of David’s mighty men in 2 Samuel 23:8. I could go on and talk about King Solomon, David’s son. After he had dedicated the Lords house, God came down in a cloud of His glory and personally spoke one of the greatest blessings on him mentioned in the Bible. Both of these men had incredible visitations and experiences with God, only to yield to the temptations of the flesh, and afterwards fall a long way from the glory of God. I say all this because in looking back on my awful fall from Gods incredible grace, these stories, along with a few others, were the testimonies that brought life back into my soul. The word of God truly is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path, these were the words penned by David, after many times taking the wrong paths. The writer of the book of Hebrews said, “the word is alive and powerful, shaper that any two edged sword, able to divide between soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The apostles knew this by experience because they had to depend on it for their lives on more than one occasion. As I look back on these times of my life, it was in these dark days, that I truly understood what David meant when he said, “O, taste and see that the Lord, (the word), is good, sweet to the taste, and life to the soul! Many of God’s heroes of faith mentioned in the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, had some very special visits from the Lord only to later do some very foolish and incredibly stupid things, which seems to contradict what the Lord says about them in this book, but faith is not perfection as you will soon discover. As I study the lives of the patriarchs mentioned in Hebrews, I get much encouragement from their lives because they too are humans, and full of plenty of bad choices in their lives. The one thing they all have in common is that their sins and shortcomings never pushed them away from God, but closer to Him. They never let their failures defeat them but allowed the Lord to teach them from their wrong choices, grow in faith and trust, and improve their lives. Abraham was counted righteous before God, not because of his perfection, but because he believed God…and that was accounted to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). That is faith, to believe God, faith isn’t the ability to change things the way we would like, but to except Gods ways for our lives, trust Him at His word, that it will always be better than our ways.
After the experience with the dove I was baptized a couple weeks later and for a couple months things continued on with me flying high on the Lord. I was doing a lot of witnessing and visiting with different people. I was very active in the little country church, if you recall in the last chapter I mentioned brother John was trying to gently persuade me to look into getting involved with a younger church in town. This was a very small country church with a lot of older folks and there was not much other than coming and going to church for activity. Brother John knew I needed to be involved with some good fellowship, and be actively involved, allowing my gifts, from the holy Spirit, to be utilized in Gods kingdom. I needed a place to be more than just a fixture. You can see by my past I was very restless and needed to be involved, to be a working part. I was needing to be exactly what Paul described all through his Epistles, a working part of the body doing my share in this body of Christ. Of course I didn’t know any of this at the time because I had never spent enough time in the Bible to know or understand this. But God was about to change all this, He was about to change my life for.
As I mentioned at the close of the last chapter, Jesus mentioned a man who had been freed from the slavery of a demonic spirit, only to have it come back in him with seven worse than itself, and the later end of the man was worse than the beginning. This happen because this man’s house, like mine, had been cleansed, but left empty. This describes me perfectly, see the Lord had paid me very special visits, after I had poured out my heart and confessed all my evil and wickedness, confessed my desperate need of the blood of Jesus to cleanse me, excepted Him as my savior, the Holy Spirit came upon me in that little chapel of the Salvation Army rehab center. Before I came home I described to you in the previous chapter how the brothers prayed me out of there, and our experience with the Holy Spirit that night. So when I got home, back to the antique store, the dove was just a continuation of part of that prayer and anointing. The Lord, through the Holy Spirit, was pouring out His incredible love on me. The Bible says in Romans 5:5, “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” I believe with all my heart the dove was the Holy Spirit, and He not only blessed our property, but was pouring the love of God out in my heart. This was the cleansing power of Almighty God at work in a most phenomenal way, I believe one of the evidences of this cleansing, like I mentioned in the previous chapter, was the fact that I couldn’t think badly of anyone, and everything looked so incredibly beautiful to me. I believe there were a few short days that God the Holy Spirit, had so cleansed my heart and soul, that I was seeing as the Lord sees life. Looking through the eyes of the Lord. How I long for another visit such as this one!
But here comes the tragedy, after these incredible experiences my life was well for a while, I was involved in church, witnessing to some folks, running my business and making some money, the Lord was blessing, but I was not doing any of the spiritual disciplines of the Bible. I begin to get busy with life and my prayer life involved only a couple minutes each morning, I never read the word, I did less and less witnessing for the Lord, and soon I was hardly going to church, when at first I was there every time the doors where open. And even though I read little in the Bible, I was attending Bible studies at church…I was getting some spiritual food. Jesus said the word of God was the true Manna from heaven, the bread of life. Just as we need food to physically live, so we need spiritual food as well, or we will die spiritually! That’s exactly what happen to me, the Lord had cleansed my house and I was not feeding it anything, it was empty…I was spiritually starved to death and absolutely had no strength to resist the eight demons who came and took over. Satan knows the weakest spot to attack a baby Christian, or at least he knew mine. As I begin to break what fellowship I had with other Christians at church, I begin to get lonely for companionship so I went to the only place I knew to meet women, the clubs. Of course I came in the name of the Lord, telling everyone about my incredible experiences. I soon learned this was getting me a lot of attention with the ladies. I was justifying my drinking because I was telling people about Jesus, and besides, I could find a couple places in the Bible that seemed to justify drinking. I NOW KNOW THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE LIE OF THE DEVIL, and I now understand scripture does not contradict itself, and drinking is not encouraged in the Bible. I will not spend time on this issue, I have heard all the arguments trying to justify it, but for a person who has been a drunk and drug addict most of his life there is no justifying it. But you know something incredible, at first when I begin to go back into the bars, I still had a powerful anointing on me. I was talking about Jesus, and God was still using me to encourage several people to begin a relationship with Him. I know this steps all over some theology, but I don’t care about theology, I’m like the blind man in the story of John chapter 9, Jesus does an amazing miracle, and gives sight to a man who has been blind all his life, and religious theology tries to destroy it. Finally after the religious leaders ridiculed this man and his family, he said, “All I know, is that I was blind, but now for the first time in my life, I can see”…Praise God!! I remember one night an old outlaw friend of mine, I won’t mention his name, was in the bar. This guy has been in some deep dark places, and he has absolutely no use for the Lord, or so he thinks. Anyway I was sharing with him about what all the Lord had been doing in my life, and he became very angry with me and begin to cuss at me, telling me not to ever mention God to him as long as we lived. What triggered this was at one point I laid my hand on his shoulder, just patting him as friends do, and I promise a spark of fire came out of the end of my finger, kind of like static electricity, but it wasn’t static electricity, it was more of the power of God. This man jumped back knowing full well it was Gods and that’s when he begin to cuss at me. I believe God was showing Himself alive to this man, and wanted him to know He was right in the middle of us, and knew absolutely everything being spoken. Today this man is still around, and it is possible that the Lord will use me these many years later, to bring him to the Jesus. I know he hasn’t forgotten that night, although it’s been over 10 years. He recently sent word for me to come see him so maybe this will be the opportunity.
As you my guess these visits to the clubs only became more and more frequent, until I was going nearly every night. Eventually I quit going to church altogether, it had only been about six months since my phenomenal experience with the dove and my life was deteriorating rapidly. I begin to run around with a lot of different women again, some of which were into the drugs. It wasn’t long till an old friend of mine came to my shop one day and my life went downhill quickly. This guy’s dad owed a lot of land and businesses in Duncan, including a bank and oil fields all over. My friend, who I’ll call Lee, had an oil field himself and he lived life in the fast lane. You can probably see where I’m heading with this, because I’m right back to the old life I loved so much. Money, partying, and women were once again all I lived for. Lee had a place that the local police would not dare bother because of his dad, and eventually over a period of months I no longer even opened my store. God had really blessed my store and even when I wasn’t living for him any longer I was still reaping the harvest of God’s blessing. But now my life was really spiraling out of control quickly. I begin to more or less live at Lee’s place. He had a huge house and lots of shops with living quarters in them. He loved to smoke meth, and it wasn’t long before I was right back on the needle. I first begin just smoking it with him, but once a junkie has ever had a taste again, the pipe just doesn’t do the trick. So a couple months after Lee showed up at my place I was back on the needle. I felt really safe at his place because I knew the law would not mess with us up there. This was a drug addicts paradise, and the beginning of me falling all the way to the very bottom of life…I eventually was tip-e-towing on the edges of hell, and every one of those eight spirits begin to have total control over my life. Once in a while we would have trouble getting any good dope, so again I begin to cook it. We had so much traffic at his place that I would go to my place since it hadn’t been opened it in a few months, and at night I thought it was a pretty good place to cook dope. He also had a 2000 acre oil lease and when the paranoia would set in I would go out there. It was just so much easier to do it at my place because I had everything right there and I didn’t have to haul anything out to his lease. It’s risky in the drug business to be on the road hauling all the ingredients to cook meth, so I usually did it at my place and would always try and be finished before the sun come up. This went on for over a year and I got so strung out and brave, that I was cooking the stuff in broad day light at my shop which is only 50 foot off a major 4-lane highway. By this time the law was watching me like a hawk and I was so demon possessed that I could have cared less. All I cared about was making this poison and running as hard as I could. I was staying up for weeks at a time, sometimes months at a time. I would cook a big batch and head to Lee’s and we would party till it was gone. I sold plenty which would always buy the ingredients for the next batch. By this time Lee had let his oil field run down so bad that the electric company cut off all the power and the pumps were no longer pumping. At one point, when he first came back into my life, his field pumping only 40% of its capability, was producing enough to clear him $40,000.00 a month. By now we were so strung out, that he had let it go till he couldn’t get electric service without going to the cooperation commission, and clearing up some sort of grievances filed against him, which was going to cost a lot of money. He was really ashamed to tell his dad that he had let this oil field run down so badly, and not only had he lost his income, but every month he was getting money from his brother to keep the electric on at his house. Sometimes he would pay the bill as they were there to cut off the electric, the sad thing about that is, we seemed to always have plenty of dope, and dozens of people there partying day and night. The law would not bother this place so people came and stayed there for weeks sometimes. However the law was hot on my tail and one day while I was at Lee’s they got a search warrant for my place. I had all kinds of junk laying around the place and some of it was stolen property. They weren’t after stolen property, but that’s what the warrant was for. I had just finished cooking some dope there a couple days before and I was going back to get some things…there wasn’t any dope there other than a little residue. As we were approaching my shop from the highway, myself and another friend of mine, we saw over twenty law enforcement vehicles of every different department all over my property. The county sheriff department, Oklahoma Highway patrol, and the OSBI were all out there. Needless to say we speed on down the highway and got back to Lee’s house. A couple days went by and one night I sneaked back out there to see what all happen. When I went into the shop there was a search warrant laying on the bed in the office, the place had been torn up pretty bad, a lot of things were gone, and there was a warrant out for my arrest for stolen property.
Earlier that year there was a sheriff’s deputy from the county just north of me tried to arrest me over some stolen property, I’ll call him Roberts. Mother had some canceled checks where I had bought some junk off a man similar to the items that were stolen. I just said it was part of the junk I bought from this man I’ll call Brown. He was in prison so there was no way to confirm that I wasn’t telling the truth, of course the items were stolen and the owner came and picked them up. The local sheriff’s department came out and was satisfied that I had ignorantly bought this stuff from Brown and he was the one who had stolen it. This deputy Roberts, who was out of his jurisdiction got really angry, but the local sheriff deputy told him to leave, it was Stephen County’s jurisdiction. Now this same deputy had it in for me, if you recall in the previous chapter, I mentioned about having a friend I met when I first moved out to my place, a man who taught me how to cook dope. I also mentioned about the time the law came in on us and I crawled down a creek bank with staples still in my leg from a recent surgery. His place was north of me about 10 miles, in the county just north of me…get the picture. This man is Brown, and one of the deputies who came in on us was Roberts. About six months prior to this incident, Brown and I had just finished cooking some dope, it was about 1:00am, and we were out of cigarettes, so still smelling like we had just walked out of a dope cook, we started off for the nearest town with a store open. Brown had an eight ball in his pocket that I didn’t know anything about. As we approached this small town, police lights came upon us from everywhere, they were upon us so quickly that we didn’t have time to react. Before I knew it they had me sticking my hands outside the passenger window, had a dog running around the truck, and had Brown on the way to the front of the vehicle, the dog in hot pursuit. They found the eight ball and arrest him. They pulled me out of the truck and found nothing on me. There was plenty of drug paraphernalia in the truck, but nothing on me, and the truck wasn’t mine. They hauled both of us to this small town jail and arrested him on drug charges, but after 2 or 3 hours they had to let me go. The deputy who was responsible for all of this had been watching Browns house, probably trying to find where we were cooking the dope. Brown lived in the middle of no-mans-land, surrounded by thousands of acres of land, guess who this deputy was…you guessed it, Roberts…Now get the picture. Anyway after this Brown bonded out and while he was waiting to go to trail Roberts caught him cooking dope one night and that put the nail in his coffin. Roberts was the one responsible for putting him away, so can you see the irony when I use Brown as a scape-goat to get out of the stolen property charge!
Now as I go back to the story of the day I drove by my place, and twenty law enforcement vehicles swarmed the property, guess who was leading the charge, you guessed it; Roberts, he had went to work for our county recently and I believe I was his first priority. At any rate I hid out at Lee’s for several weeks until someone rated me out and they came and arrested me. At the time I was on probation for knowingly and concealing stolen property, and uttering a forged instrument. I spent a little time in jail and mother bonded me out. I was right back at Lee’s and this time braver that ever. I begin to cook with a guy I’ll call Bo, and he and I went crazy with the stuff. The law was watching us like a hawk, we thought we were invincible, but we weren’t fooling anyone. As time went on one of my court dates was fast approaching, I had two court dates and I can’t even remember what the other one was for, I just remember I was out on two bonds. Anyway I got the dates mixed up and the day I was supposed to be in court, Beau and I were out at Lee’s oil field cooking dope. As we pulled back into my place my mother come up to the shop telling me I better get out of there because the sheriff department had just left with a warrant for my arrest. I had missed my court date. We had Beau’s pick up loaded down with all kinds of dope and everything to cook with. We headed out quickly and went to Lee’s place. I called my attorney from there and told him the deal. He assured me to meet him at the court house the next morning and he would explain to the judge the mix up and there shouldn’t be anything come of it. I gave all my dope to Beau. We had several ounces and the ingredients to make much more. We had invested a couple thousand dollars and was planning on having all the dope we wanted and sell several thousand dollars’ worth. We had bought enough ingredients to cook the largest batch we had ever cooked. The day we were at the lease we were cooking a test run. We had all the ingredients broken down, we had spent all the night before preparing. So I was planning on going to the court house, explaining to the judge what happen, and getting a new court date. This is what my attorney told me anyway. Boy was I in for a surprise, I was so confident in what the lawyer had said that I had even taken my mother’s car to the court house. When we walked in it wasn’t anything like the way the lawyer had said… This lawyer was also supposed to be my friend…which you’ll see later he was not, even though my mother and I had known him over 20 years. At any rate they revoked my bond and threw me back in jail. I set there for a few weeks and the DA’s office contacted me wanting to make a deal with me, they would reinstate my bond, take care of me on the charges I was on, if I would help them with a guy they had wanted for a long time. This kid was like my nephew, his dad was a real close friend of mine who I had grown up with. The nephew was out at my place one Sunday morning, and we had some women and were doing some dope. One of these women had a warrant out for them which I did not know anything about. Somehow the law, you guessed it, Roberts, knew she was there. We were inside the shop with the doors down when I saw out of a window Roberts and some others crossing over my gate. I went out to meet them and head them off while my nephew hid the dope. Anyway they had a warrant for this lady and wanted to come in and look for her. I had no choice but to let them. She had hide under some things in the shop and they found her. But Roberts had it out for this kid even more than me, he knew he had dope and that he was on probation so they wanted me to testify to that so they could revoke him and send him to prison. This was the offer they made to me that I’d stand in court and tell what all was going on out there that Sunday. Seems like such a little deal but they had been trying to get this kid for years, either his dad would get him high priced lawyers, or he would out smart them. His dad owned a local business, had some money and connections, and the kid was kind of cleaver. I told them anything they wanted to hear to get me out of there. I never intended on testifying against him and told his dad that very thing. The nephew was really worried about this…I repeatedly assured him and the dad that this wasn’t going to happen. Strange things begin to happen after that between him and me. His new pick-up blew up one night out in the middle of no-mans-land, there was something real funny about that…lots of other real crazy things happen around that time. I loved this kid and his dad with all my heart…so I believe they knew what I was up to. Anyway a few weeks after all this the kid was on a back road going really fast and had a tire blow out on a brand new Cadillac, he was going well over a hundred according to the police report, flipped the thing, I don’t know how many times, and it exploded into a huge bomb. He was killed instantly, to this day there is something very mysterious about the whole deal. For the longest time his dad had an investigation going on but I don’t believe anything ever come of it. I really loved this boy and I know his dad’s life revolved around him. As of today I haven’t seen the dad, but I know he has grieved many long years over this tragedy. This kid was as bright a kid as they come, everywhere he went him lite up the room, and he was a real light to the world. That’s what’s so terribly sad about getting caught up in the drug world, the devastating and terrible pains that come with this life style. As I come to the end of this tragic story of the young man I have called kid, I’m reminded of a poem that tells the story better than I ever could. It’s titled, “Sins Wages”, and goes like this: Sin does not serve well as gardener of the soul. It landscapes the contour of the soul until all that is beautiful has been made ugly; until all that is high is made low; until all that is promising is wasted. Then life is like a desert…parched and barren. It is drained of purpose. It is bleached of happiness. Sin, then, is not wise, but wasteful. It is not a gate, but only a grave! It is then that we are able to see every ounce of payment that sin demands.
This tragedy took more of a toll on me than I wanted to admit, and I believe I became even more destructive than ever. I truly believed the laws had something to do with this, so now I was really anti-law and didn’t care what happened. When a person is under the control of eight demons, and they are putting all kinds of thoughts into your mind, along with no sleep for weeks at a time, and intoxicated with some of the strongest dope known to man, then you need only to allow your imagination to put the pieces of the rest of the story together. After the accident I went as hard as I could for a couple months, I didn’t fear anything, or at least I didn’t think I did. I was totally oblivious to what was going on around me. I didn’t care about anything or anyone, including myself. I believe at that time in my life I didn’t have any feelings, and I certainly didn’t have a heart left. As I look back on that period of my life it scares me to death because I believe I was as close to being the child of the devil as anyone can come. I had indeed moved as close to hell as one can get, or closer than I had ever been in my entire life. I believe the Lord allowed me to get this close so that I’d never forget this lesson, and that this nightmare would never leave my memory, I was so paranoid that I often seen hundreds of police coming in on me. I would walk around at night carrying a gun and a powerful spot light, fighting people in the trees and bar ditches who weren’t even there. I still remember believing with all my heart that these law men were out there. Satan, and his army of minions are real, and they do know how to manipulate our minds if we allow them access to it. Of course the devil cannot do anything to us unless the Lord allows it. And when we choose to make the devil our lord, then God allows us to reap the fruit of that relationship, Proverbs says the way of the wicked is hard, and sin is its own punishment! The devil truly does come to kill, steal, and destroy…I’m living proof of that!
Thank God that He is the restore of our souls, Psalms 23 says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
The title to this chapter is “The Whale” for good reason. If you’ll recall from your early childhood Bible stories, the story of Jonah and the whale, has to be as memorable as Moses and the parting of the Red Sea. If you’ve never picked up a Bible you have heard of these two stories. Jonah was a prophet whom God had paid a very special visit, and He had a special mission for him. Jonah didn’t want to listen to God, he didn’t like what God had called him to do, so he thought he could run and hide from Him. Well as we all know from the story, while Jonah was trying to run from God by hopping a ship to Spain, God created a huge storm, and the ship was being tossed about furiously, to the point that the men on board, scared for their lives, sought to find out why. They found out it was because Jonah had made God angry, so at Jonah’s request they tossed him over board. As soon as they did the storm ceased, they were safe, but Jonah was drowning quickly. We know the rest of the story, God sent a whale after the storm, saved Jonah’s life, and Jonah finally carried out Gods mission after spending three day’s and night’s in the whale’s belly.
As you recall the opening chapter of this book talked about the darkest day of my life, on August 26, 2001, the Stephens County Sheriff’s department, along with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, kicked down my door, hauled me off to jail, and I was charged with manufacturing and aggravated trafficking in illegal drugs (CDS). The courts were so sick of seeing me, I had been before these judges dozens of times over the past 4 years on various crimes, was on probation at the time, and out on two different bonds. So naturally they threw the book at me. I was facing two life sentences and $75,000.00 in fines. The Lord had tried to do this the easy way. After rehab God was overwhelming me with His awesome love in so many incredible ways, that today I get Holy Ghost goose bumps, just talking about the times when God was paying me these priceless visits. But I was like Jonah, I was going to have it my way, or so I thought. But like in Jonah’s case, God had a storm and whale for me. The storm begin August 26, 2001, after I had walked away from God. It consisted of $75,000.00, and me facing the possibility of life in prison, charged with two life sentences, and after 4 months, it ended with me receiving $79,500.00 in fines and court cost, and 65 years in prison. At the age of 42 this is quite a storm, so as I did as Jonah, and had myself tossed overboard, God had a whale for me as well. It was a place called Cimarron Correctional Facility, a high medium security prison, in upstate Oklahoma, hours from home. It was in the belly of this whale that I begin to understand and fell the words of Psalm 23. You see when David penned these heart touching words, he too was in a wilderness, a whale’s belly. Like Jonah and David, God had to bring me to the end of myself, and to the beginning of a relationship with Him. When I came out of rehab God was overwhelming me with His love, but I wasn’t interested in spending the time with Him to love Him back. He was paying me priceless visits, filling me with joyous sensations that can only be described as spiritual ecstasies. I have often wondered if this is the way the three apostles felt on the mount of transfiguration, because I have never again had any kind of experience close to this one, although I have had some very special visits when Gods glory was so thick you could cut it with a knife, never anything close to the time the dove came.
But as I said before, I wasn’t willing to take the time, or make the necessary sacrifices needed, to spend quality quite time alone with our Lord in the Bible, earnestly and fervently seeking Him out in heart searching prayer. We cannot survive spiritually without spending daily time alone with the Lord in His word, the Bible. Jesus called it the bread of life, our spiritual food, the water that washes us clean, and Paul called it the mirror we looked into to see our condition spiritually. It is also the very heart of who God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are. It is God Himself, and it is the way He has chosen to spend time with us in this dispensation period, and if we chose not to do this, then I believe it is impossible to truly know who God is. I know there are some exceptions to the death and blind, to the illiterate and uneducated, but technology is rapidly solving all of these problems. In 2 Cor. 3:18, Paul says, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the same Spirit of the Lord.” As we spend time with our Lord in His word, we will become more like Him, we will begin to develop some of His nature and characteristics, because we do become what we behold. As one man put it, Jesus saved me, but it was His word that changed me into the new man that I am today, a man that I even like now.
See, the Lord is our shepherd, and in my case, He had to make me lie down in the green pastures of His word, He did use prison, the belly of the whale, to set me down by the still waters of the Holy Spirit, so He could restore my soul through His word. And when He was through restoring my broken soul, (mind, will, and emotions), He is now, to this day, continuing to lead me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake.
You see, the lord had to get me to a place just like He did with the Israelite’s, His very own chosen people, when He brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. I too was in the land of Egypt, the house of bondage. This world is Egypt, and I was doing more for the devil than building pyramids, I was bringing spiritual death everywhere I went. When God did hear their cries He brought them right into a desert, to a place where they had no choice but to depend totally upon Him for every single thing they had to have to survive. After a few days in the desert, Him feeding them and supplying their water by awesome miracles, He next took them to Mount Sinai where He appeared to them and for the first time He spoke to them and gave them His law. This is exactly what God had done to me, prison was the desert, the whales belly and the cave I lived in is where God, through Hid Bible appeared to me and spoke to me. That cell was my Mount Sinai.
So what appeared to be the darkest day of my life, when I thought God was as far from me as He could possibly be, when officer Roberts, yes it was once again officer Roberts, had cuffed me to a chair in the day room of the jail, left me there all day for all to see his prize catch, I had acid all over me because I had been gassing dope all night, I had been up for weeks, was hurting from the acid, was still buzzing from the dope, and felt like I had no one in the world who cared or loved me. I knew this was the result of my own doings, but when the inevitable finally happens the pain was more than I ever realized. I once read a statement written by F.B. Myers concerning a foolish and wicked lost soul who choose to live without God, “This is the bitterest of all…To know that suffering need not have been; that it has resulted from indiscretion; that it is the harvest of one’s own sowing; that the vulture which feeds on the vitals is a nestling of one’s own rearing…Ah me! This is pain!” At that time God seemed to be unreal to me, and I thought God was as far from me as He possibly could be. Little did I know He had never been closer? You see like the story of Jonah, God had brought this storm, and whale into my life. God had costume designed both the storm and the whale just for me, He knew what it would take to get my attention, He knew exactly how much pressure to apply, when to apply it, and for how long. It was during this period of my life, when God was all I had, that I realized He was all I ever really needed. When they finally did put me in a cell, gave me my charges, I read where it said that I was facing two life sentences, I believe this was when the whale first swallowed me. Like I mentioned earlier I had been up for several weeks, now with my heart sunk to my feet I begin to come down from the dope. They said I slept for the first three weeks only getting up to shower and use the rest room. I had been running hard for well over a year eating 40 to 50 Loricets a day, or doing an eight ball of crank a day, so when I did finally crash and burn I guess I had come to the end. Sleeping these three weeks as I did is probably the reason I had so little withdraws. Stopping cold turkey as I did would normally have wiped me out but I don’t recall ever going through much withdraw, it has to be because I was so dead tired, and I believe I slept through the whole withdraw period.
I’ll close this chapter with some encouraging words to mothers, fathers, grandmothers and fathers, never give up on God, keep praying for your loved ones who have drifted in to the darkness that I had. Keep praying for God to move on their behalf, but when He does, do not bail them out of the storms God brings into their lives. Mother had been praying many years for me and every time God would bring a storm into my life, she would bail me out of it. Between 1997 and 2000 God was answering her prayers by bringing me down, but she would do as most loving parents, she’d come bail me out over and over. The Proverbs are full of the folly of fools, some say they hate instruction, others say they are wiser in their own eyes that seven men who speak sensibly, but Pr. 19: 19 describes my situation to a tee, “A foolish man of great wrath will suffer punishment; for if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.” I’ll close with these powerful words from a writer I have much admiration for, Charles Spurgeons, “The darkness of sorrow has often been shown to be but the shadow of God’s wing as He drew near to bless. We cannot have the fertilizing showers on the earth without a clouded heaven above. It is thus with our trials. “You see what I thought to be the darkest day of my life turned out to be the greatest day in my life, the darkness of that storm on August 26, 2001, was God moving closer than He had ever been. As many as I love, says the Lord, I rebuke and chasten, therefore be zealous and repent (Rev. 3:19). In the next chapter I’ll take you inside the belly of this whale and share with you what the Almighty God of heaven and earth taught me inside this whale’s belly.
Chapter 7 – A New Name
After two years in prison, I became involved with a faith-based program called Basic Life Principles, which was designed by Bill Gothard. I was moved to the prison’s faith pod and began a relationship with an awesome man of God, Chaplain Scott Haynes. I would go on to work five years for him, assisting in the operations of his most anointed teaching of God’s powerful truths and principles.
After two years of thirsting and hungering for more understanding of the life-giving truths of God’s word by attending countless church services each night, participating in numerous mail Bible studies and spending much time privately in God’s word and in prayer, God honored my hunger and thirst by literally forcing me to enroll in the Basic Life Principles program. How Satan tried to still this is yet another story in itself.
Basic Life Principles and Adult/Youth Conflicts is an in-depth study into God’s word, which brings to light the truths and principles of God’s word. Those truths and principles allow us to possess His grace and His power to live holy, sanctified lives – Lives where sin does not have dominion or reign in our lives, but instead, righteousness (right standing with God) rule and reign and have dominion over our lives according to Romans 6-8.
The program is designed and based on the commands of Christ in Matthew, which Jesus gave to us in order to live peaceful, joyful and loving lives. All of these teachings of Jesus are about changing our inward character and giving us His power and grace to live spiritually successful lives in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation.
The program is currently a year-long journey and through these teachings of Jesus, I have been made a completely new creature, first inside and then flowing over to the outside. Each morning, we spent the first hour reading and discussing Proverbs and Psalms, which is called the “Wisdom search.” We used a system which allowed us to read and discuss both books entirely each month.
There are 31 chapters in Proverbs and 150 Psalms. By using the day of the month and adding 30 to each Psalm, you read all 150 monthly. For example, if the day is the ninth, you read Proverbs 9 and Psalms 9, 39, 69, 99 and 129. This system allows you to read both books monthly and while Proverbs is the book of wisdom, it is our compass to point us in the right direction on the decisions of life. Psalms teaches us how to pray and be men and women after God’s own heart. Psalms is, after all, the very heart of God.
It was during these morning devotionals that I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to begin writing letters – letters that would change my life forever. I never dreamt the impact that these letters would have on myself and others, and still have after many years.
It has only been recently that I discovered I was being blessed according to Matthew 5:4, which says, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” (NKJV) I indeed received much comfort while writing the letters and even today; these letters provide me great comfort.
You see, I had planted so many bad seeds throughout my life, many of which, I am still reaping the harvest, but these letters were the beginning of the good seeds of which I am reaping a much more bountiful harvest now.
One morning, Bill Gothard began talking about the day his life drastically changed when he got a hold of what Psalms 1:1-2 was saying. It says, “Blessed (joyful, happy, to be envied, spiritually prosperous with live-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) is the man that walketh 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 (the Bible), and His law (the Bible), does he meditate day and night. He shall be like the tree planted by rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper.”
As Bill began to ponder these verses, the word ‘prosper’ rang a bell in his young ear. More than anything, he wanted spiritual prosperity, and Psalms 1:1-3 was describing a man full of life, always fresh and flourishing, and whatever he did prospered.
As Bill began studying this Psalm, he was satisfied that he lived according to verse one, but after a closer look at verse two, although his delight had always been in God’s word, he wasn’t so sure that he meditated day and night in it, nor was he sure what this meant.
After intensely dissecting this verse, he came to the conclusion that meditating day and night meant memorizing and engrafting God’s word into the heart.
Meditation is to a Christian what rumination is to a sheep. Before a sheep lies down to ruminate, or chew its cud, it must eat a sufficient quantity of food. That is what we do when we memorize scripture and rumination is pondering, and thinking deeply, carefully and quietly – digesting the Word of God.
Immediately, this became a spiritual discipline in Bill’s life and it was the beginning of a very spiritually prosperous life indeed. This was exactly what I, too, was starving for – spiritual prosperity. Sometime soon after hearing this during one of the morning devotionals, Proverbs 28:13, which says, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy,” spoke to my heart as if God Himself verbally spoke these words to me in an incredibly authoritative voice.
Most of my life I had been a liar, con-artist and deceiver. I had covered up my sins all of my life and had never admitted the truth. After all, that is the con-man’s code – never admit the truth, even if it is staring you in the face. I wanted, more than anything, to begin to have a spiritually prosperous life, but I had wronged so many people and did not know where to begin.
God spoke to my heart and said, “Dennis, you have many years before I am bringing you home, so begin to write everyone I bring to your mind and pour out your heart to them. Spend time with each letter and carefully choose the words that will best express your true feelings so that they will feel the truth and sincerity from your pen.” God showed me that even though I could not be present and speak verbally to them, I could use the precious words from the Bible and from Webster’s dictionary to convey my feelings. In addition to writing the letters, I would pray over each letter, reminding God that He held each person’s heart in His hands and He could touch them and make my words come alive within their hearts.
It is truly amazing the hundreds of people God brought to my mind over the next five years. I had actually begun to write letters three years prior with a broken and convicted heart; I just didn’t realize I was doing anything according to God’s will.
Sometimes, after God would bring a person to mind, I would tell God, “I don’t even know where to begin to find this person’s address,” however God always managed to get me the address. God seems to know where everyone lives and has their addresses handy. That excuse never worked with Him.
God knew all the soul-searching, heavy grieving and overwhelming conviction (the heavy guilt) I would feel every time He revealed to me another person I had wronged, or another terrible thing I had done. The memories were breaking my heart, and although it was very painful and necessary for the healing and restoring of my soul, I also needed comforting as He promised in Matthew 5:4 in order to carry on.
The Lord then began taking me in another direction with the letters. He began to bring to mind many people who had a positive impact on my life – people who were great influences in my life. I used the same word-searching formula to begin writing and thanking them and to encourage them for all of the wonderful and caring things they had done for me. The Lord would bring to mind specific things they had done and I would praise and shower them with much-deserved gratitude for their acts of kindness to show them they had not been forgotten, and that I had put a lot of thought and effort into writing them. From inside the prison walls, this was the only way I could express my love and gratitude – by giving them my time through the letters.
I once heard it said that time is something we cannot make, or buy anymore of, so when we give our time, we are giving something we cannot get back. In essence, we are giving a part of ourselves and this is genuine love.
I find it amazing how our Lord always knows exactly what we need and if we are obedient, He gives us tremendous joy. There is no doubt that there were many times I did not want to write the letters. As a matter of fact, I hate writing and am absolutely terrible at it, so if any good comes from these words; it is all God’s doing.
In the first letters I penned, God was teaching me proper mourning. In 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, Paul writes, “I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made to sorrow in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance, leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”
In the last letters, He was teaching me the principle of sowing and reaping. I was sowing gratitude and encouragement and reaping joy and comfort. The Lord said, “Give and it shall be given, good measure, pressed down and running over,” and man, is it still running over these many years later. Four days after walking out of the medium-security prison I spent seven and a half years in; I walked back into the county jail and ministered to inmates. This is just one of the many rewards I have reaped from the letters I wrote while imprisoned.
Sheriff Jimmie Bruner was the sheriff who arrested me and one of the first people I wrote to. I wrote to confess to her and her deputies, including the arresting deputy Robert Jolly. This act was also fulfilling a command of Jesus in honoring our authorities, according to Romans 13:1-7, which was fulfilling a principle I will discuss in a later chapter. This act brought God’s blessings and favor into my life and I was not even aware of it at the time I was doing it.
Sheriff Bruner was so moved by my first letter that she responded by sending me a moving letter in return, as well as an autographed copy of the book entitled Meth =Sorcery, Know the Truth by Steve Box. She also wrote another moving letter on my behalf to the parole board, in which Susan Loving, the director of the parole board, made reference to and I believe, was one of the deciding factors in my parole.
Four days after stepping out of prison on Dec. 22, 2008, Sheriff Bruner invited me to go back into the jails and share what Jesus had done for me through this journey of my life. Amazingly, after six months in the same jail in 2001, I pulled chain to go to prison on Dec. 21, 2001 – exactly seven years earlier. Seven is the number of completion in the bible. Only God can do the impossible and this was just one example of the many rewards I would reap from these letters I wrote while in prison.
This brings me to the ‘good name’ proverb. The Lord was convicting me through Proverbs 28:12 and the Word of God began truly speaking to me. As I was pouring my heart out in these letters and grieving the anguish I had caused so many, but also praising with tremendous gratitude the many people who had encouraged, cared for, loved and influenced me in life, God began to answer yet another of my many cries to Him.
During devotions one morning, Proverbs 22:1 overwhelmed me with grief and sorrow. It says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than gold and silver.” All of my life prior to coming to know the Lord, I had cared nothing about a good name. As a matter of fact, the very opposite was true with me. Jesus once made mention of the wicked and their shame being their glory. Well, this was true for me. Proverbs 10:22 says, “To do evil is sport to a fool.” I was such a fool, yet I thought to be so wise.
This is perhaps the worst condition Satan can place on humankind – to have them think they are so shrewd and clever, so full of themselves, so arrogantly prideful and so proud of themselves that they cannot even see the shame and the pitifully sick conditions they are in. Satan had me so blind that I wouldn’t listen to anyone, nor could I see the fool I had become. Proverbs 10: 1-2 says, “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire: he rages against all wise judgment; he has no delight in understanding, but only in expressing his own heart. This was me and sadly, I was a joke.
In my twenties and early-thirties, great riches, along with silver and gold were all I cared about – regardless of the damage to my name or reputation. I never even considered what the word integrity meant – to be bone-deep honest, or what you do when no one is watching. Again, the opposite was true for me. I thought that making money, no matter the cost, was all that mattered. After alcohol and drugs began to control my life, what little self-respect I ever had (al-be-it so very little), vanished. For nearly 20 years of my life before prison, and before Jesus came into my heart, my name had become rotten as Proverbs 10:7b says, “The name of the wicked will rot.”
Once again, God’s word proved itself true in my life. It was at this point that I began to cry out to the Lord to clean my name, but Oh, how could He ever clean up this horrible name I had made for myself?
Our God is an incredibly amazing Father who loves His children enormously, and when He has chastened them and allowed them to see the ugly fruits of their own making because they chose to follow the devil and his lies and their own selfish desires; when the shell of their hearts have been broken and they begin to see their desperate need of Him – then does He draw O’ so near.
The Psalms are full of verses that say God is near to the broken-hearted and saves such as have a contrite heart. (Psalms 34:18, 51:17). James 4:8-10 speaks volumes. It says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts you double-minded. Lament, mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
Unaware to me, through my obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to begin writing these letters, I was fulfilling James 4 and many of the Psalms, which spoke of a broken heart and contrite spirit. I was, indeed, drawing near to God’s heart and humbling myself before the Lord and O did he ever begin to draw near to me, and even now, these many years later He is still lifting me up.
God is so amazingly awesome that through my obedience He began using these letters to give me a new name. In Revelations 2:17, Jesus promises to give His children a new name. God worked through Sheriff Brewner to begin at the courthouse – a place where my name had been drug through the mud. From 1988-2001, I had been in and out of that courthouse dozens of times on all kinds of various criminal activities. Over several years, this began to slowly change.
One lady I knew from my old days, a lady every bit as bad as I had been, had given her life to the Lord shortly after I went to prison. This lady’s name is Billie Price and God did some phenomenal things in her life. In a few short years, she went from a bar owner and outlaw of sorts to opening and operating the Duncan chapter of Rick Warrens’ Celebrate Recovery Group at Bethesda Church of God. This program has been recognized and adopted by the Stephens County drug court program for several years now.
She and her staff (of which I am now a part of) work closely with the courts and pardon and parole board in Stephens County.
It was being revealed to me in prayer that Billie needed encouragement through my letters. Her huge responsibility and sudden growth placed together with being a baby Christian was sometimes overwhelming for her.
Billie and I went back a long way and her conversion coupled with the miracles Jesus did in her life to save her life and her eyesight was huge encouragement for me as I was allowing the Lord to transform my life. She was an incredible inspiration to me and through sharing her incredible testimony; many men in prison were inspired and encouraged.
The Lord prompted me to begin writing and encouraging her, always pointing to her story as the inspiration for my life. The Lord was giving me many powerfully anointed messages of encouragement of which I later found had given her the strength to continue on many occasions.
Billie began to visit me and God used her to testify, all over Duncan, my home town, about the incredible changes Jesus did in my life ; especially in the county jail, courthouse, parole offices and churches all throughout the community.
Billie had carried my letters into the women’s jail and all the recovery meetings and church services while I was in prison. All kinds of people began to hear about me. On Christmas and my birthdays, I would sometimes receive 30-40 cards because of her. You can only imagine how this makes you feel behind bars – pretty special!
The letters to Billie began approximately three and a half years before my release from prison. By the time I was released after seven and a half years, the Lord had used these letters, and many others I will discuss later, to give me a new name. As I pen these words, I have been home two months and it is beyond words how respected and honored I have been treated at the court house, county jail, parole offices and most churches throughout the community. As February, 2009 comes to an end; I have preached or testified 11 times at nine different churches. I go into the county jail every Tuesday and Friday from 1 to 4 p.m. and the new sheriff has personally come and thanked me for coming in – which has only been made possible because of God. Remember, at this time, I am only eight weeks fresh out of prison and I was one of the most despised and applauded criminals in the court system and sheriff’s department to have ever been put away.
One particular deputy named F.L. Estes, who has been with law enforcement for more than 30 years, now supervises the county jail. He had arrested me one time in 1998 and I was sentenced to parole. He did not like me as a criminal, but after my second visit to the jails, he and I had an awesome visit. So moving was our visit that he began to bring other deputies into the pods to see the incredible change the Lord had made in me. He even led me to the sheriff and told of all the Lord had been doing in the jail cells, which provided me with the blessings of the new sheriff.
In the book of Peter and James, the Lord speaks about humbling yourself under His mighty arm and He will exalt you. Again, I was unaware that I had been humbling myself under the arm of the Lord. The letters were the evidence: an outward expression of an inward change of heart. This was humility in action, especially the first letters of mourning and confession.
Again, God has proven His promise true in my life because He hasn’t stopped exalting me. I did many things spiritually in secret and He is rewarding me in open daily.
As I bring this chapter to a close I think it only fitting and profitable to leave you with this one nugget of advice – When God’s Holy Spirit (the Holy Ghost) prompts you to do something you do not like or do not feel like doing, DO IT! There is a tremendous reward awaiting – a well of blessings that will never run dry.