Long before I ever thought about living in large cities or being a pastor of churches or writing books, I fell in love with books of any kind. Church not so much. Books were my window to a world of mystery and adventure. I grew up in eastern Washington State in high desert farming and ranching country. Until I was five, we lived in the back of a country store at a crossroads known as Saint Andrews. My first eight grades were completed in the one-room country schoolhouse just up the hill from our home, the same one in which my father had learned to read and write when he was a boy. When I was five, we moved two miles east and a mile north to what became for us the family farm.
Radio introduced me to far away places I could only imagine, growing up in this hard but simple life. I saw my first television program at a cousin’s house during my sophomore year in high school. However, I had already discovered books were the real doorway to the extraordinary. F.W. Dixon’s Hardy Boys mysteries, Will James and Zane Grey’s novels of the untamed West, and many others were among the storytellers who lit up the imaginative edge to my otherwise young and uncomplicated life.
My first exposure to the Christian faith happened in that little schoolhouse where on Sundays a few farm and rancher families gathered to conduct Sunday school. One evening when I was nine or ten, while watching my mother get ready to go to church in a nearby town, I blurted out, “I am going to be a preacher someday.” (I don’t recall my mother saying anything, probably from shock and wondering later, where did that come from?)
For the next several years, I tried my best to erase that childish outburst from being even a remote possibility, while being an average student, lettering in three sports and acting in school plays. Then one day in my junior year in high school, with no one else around, I made a life-changing faith commitment to Jesus that set the stage for the rest of my life journey.
At seventeen, in answer to what I believed was “God’s call,” I left home for Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. While singing on weekends with a gospel quartet, I met the young woman who became the love of my life. I was smitten. Dixie, maybe not so much … but I kept coming back! She lived more than 200 miles from the college I was attending, so during our courtship we connected emotionally by writing over 500 letters. I like to think of this as the beginning of my writing ministry.
Dixie and I married in Tulsa, Oklahoma (her home town), lived briefly in Springfield, Missouri, then moved to Seattle where my newly wedded wife helped me finish my studies and earn a B.A. in Bible and Theology at Northwest College (now University). Graduate studies followed at Western Evangelical Seminary (now George Fox); Seattle Pacific University; and some years later earning a Ph.D in Theology at the California Graduate School of Theology.
After an initial season of evangelistic crusades, we accepted a pastorate in the small logging community of Forks, Washington (more recently of ‘Twilight’ books and vampire movies fame, to say nothing of the 140 inches average rainfall each year).
There followed additional years of youth and college ministry before taking our family to California, where for 23 years we served and grew up together at Dublin’s Valley Christian Center, a growing San Francisco/East Bay community. As the church grew, an outstanding Christian preschool through high school was established, a counseling center opened, a beautiful 49-acre campus was acquired and an excellent staff and facilities were developed to serve the various ministry activities. During this time my first novel, September Strike, was published.
After 23 years, it seemed the time had come for us to step away from this wonderful congregation and into a new season of our lives. Upon completing our emotional farewells, we moved to Palm Desert, California, engaged in a season of ‘senior pastor recovery,’ accepted a few speaking assignments and continued writing. October’s Child, Pursuit, and Seasons of the Spirit were written here.
In 1999, we returned to the Northwest at the invitation of Westminster Chapel of Bellevue. I served the congregation initially as care pastor and then executive pastor, with involvement as pastor to older adults, while Dixie assumed the role of minister to women. I resigned from the ministry staff after seven years and became cook and house husband for a year until Dixie stepped away from her Chapel responsibilities. From 2008-2014, I served as president/executive director of CASA 50+ Network.
I am honored by two congregations and CASA 50+ Network to be senior pastor emeritus, executive pastor emeritus, and executive director emeritus respectively. Westminster Chapel conferred the designation of pastor-at-large, in acknowledgment of ministry among men and women throughout the USA and other countries focused on what it means to live, learn and lead in life’s second half as followers of Jesus.
I have written several inspirational thriller novels, the most recent being the award-winning, Redeeming Grace. I once overheard Jerry Jenkins respond to the question, “Do you love to write?” by saying, “I love having written.” My sentiments exactly. Writing is hard work, but I love having written! It is a gift that has allowed me to share life and faith as a Christ follower while making new and lasting friends the world over.