Every time I sit down and think about my life, I get excited about the great things that have happened. There have been many struggles, but overall I have had a wonderful life so far. I have grown more and more to trust that Jesus Christ is my savior and that he is a loving and just God who cares about everything I do. As a result of that, I believe that the Bible is my instruction book for how I should live. I did not come to this conclusion because the Bible told me so. Nor did I come to it because of any one thing that happened to me. It happened with time and experience. And it happened very slowly. My faith has increased because of what I have perceived as God working in my life. No one can ever prove or disprove God. Therefore strong faith can only truly come from conditioning of experiences. I choose not to ignore them as currently all my life points toward a loving, just, and relational God. This testimony shows how logical it is for me to believe in a unseen God….
My father was in the Air Force, so we traveled a lot. He was brought up listening and hearing the word of God. Though he is not particularly religious, he was always sure to make sure that I went to Sunday school so that I would be exposed to Christianity. When he retired in Augusta Georgia, I was 16 years old. Being new to the area, I did not have many friends. So when I was asked by a total stranger to go to a "Prayer Breakfast" I accepted. I felt that this would be an opportunity to meet some new people. The people I met were very strong Christians. They also happened to be loving, kind, and considerate. I continued "hanging out" with this crowd throughout High School. Their friendship led to other influential Christian activities such as Young Life (a ministry for kids), Church, and Bible Study. It was easy for me to be attracted to the teachings of Christ, because Jesus is a perfect model for that which is loving and just. I realized at this point that I had no reason to refuse the invitation to experiment with the idea of having faith. I began by praying often that He would prove Himself to me. I continued participating in activities that would lead me closer to Him. I feel that God responded to my initial efforts by developing talents in me that would have a resounding impact on my life. When we are young we are probably the most naïve and impressionable. In need and want of friends the "Christian Crowd" and their beliefs influenced me. I did not question it very much at the time and therefore became well versed in "The Word." Later I would become the skeptic but for that time I just enjoyed what the friendships had to offer.
God Gave Me Something Cool - A disco fan for as long as I could remember, it is no wonder that after seeing an awesome display of Break-Dancing at a Christian outing ('83), that I would retreat to my room and privately begin mimicking every "pop", "wave", and "moonwalk" I could capture on video. I had my idea all planned out. Since my high school principal had banned break-dancing at the weekly pep rallies, I thought I would stop by his office and run my idea by him. I remember him looking up from his paperwork through those thick-rimmed reading glasses. He was a very large and intimidating man. Nevertheless, I asked him if it would be okay if I gave a little display of my "breakin" abilities. To my surprise he said yes. But then, after all, the only reason he had banned break dancing is because it was causing too much racial tension among students. The so-called "pot head" section of the crowd was somewhat unappreciative. I think my principal wanted to see how the crowd would react to a "white boy" trying to dance. Later that morning during the "pep rally", the band began playing. The students were eagerly waiting to see some one "bust a move". Of course no one dared since it was not allowed. Finally with adrenaline pumping, I stood up. My friend next to me said, "What are you doing?" Too late to stop me, I was already gliding across the floor. With the first few steps of a well mastered "moon walk" the crowd went wild. Every Kid in the gymnasium was on their feet chanting, clapping and, of course: throwing loose change. All of the other kids that could break dance instantly came down and proceeded to "battle me". I saved my best move for last, one that required extreme flexibility. Obviously the crowd approved, for as the song ended the students carried me out on their shoulders. That was my first big experience with what the art of movement could do. I believe God was already orchestrating a life long plan. He began by getting my attention first through Christian friends and then through the special talent of "Break dancing"
About this page: This was my first major experience in practicing faith and seeing God bless my life. Though it was hard to give up my profitable break-dancing and go serve God for a month, I managed to do it. I had wanted to find Him. Upon my return he blessed me many times over by connecting me with J.T. and Ale. We made over $6,000.00 in just three months, which is pretty good for being only 16 years old. Putting Faith Before Talent Since I was the lead vocal in the stage band at my school, I was able to incorporate "breakin" into our performances. After performing for the mayor, the local paper did a story on our band. That was how the area YMCA found out about me. They asked me to come and teach classes in their program. It did not take long to enroll over 70 students. That summer I was challenged by the "Young Life" area director to set aside my dancing for a month and choose to serve God by washing dishes at a place called "Frontier Ranch". The ranch was a mountainous resort outside of Denver Colorado. It was designed for the purpose of taking high school kids on a weeklong trip to have the time of their life while at the same time hearing the word of God. For me, the trip would consist of a month of washing dishes for ten hours a day. This would be a volunteer project. It was hard to make the decision. I would have to leave my "breakin" career at home. Nevertheless, I decided to do it. I was willing to go because I had been inspired to search for God. The trip was very difficult. Every Thursday night, the campers would have a dance. My work crew leader told me that it was not my place to "show off" while I was on this trip. He taught me to humble myself and to refrain. On the fourth and final week, he finally allowed me to dance. It was a good lesson in self-denial. Though the experience of serving God without material rewards helped me to better understand what servitude meant, I was not very excited about continuing the search for a relationship with God. I returned home to find that the guys that I had left in charge of my classes had quit. An oriental guy by the name of J.T. had stepped in and kept the classes together. I was very appreciative. J.T. and I went on to form a group we named "The Outrageous Duo" As a performing and teaching duo, we were able to do much more than I was doing before alone. When I started back for my junior year of High School, I met Alejandro Smith. Ale had just moved to Augusta. He had lived in California and in Brooklyn. He had belonged to a very successful break-dancing group, which had been hired to perform in the movie: Beat Street. A local agent developed our talent to form a singing and dance group called the "Outrageous Trio". She had managed Tom Sellick and the Osmond Brothers. It was easy for her to get us work in Augusta, Columbia, and Myrtle Beach. McDonald's hired us to perform for their large promotional events. We also placed 1st in the Star Search semi-finals. The Augusta Civic City Ballet gave me a full scholarship in dance. I studied Classical Ballet and Modern Dance for about a year and a half.
About this page: Once again as with the "Frontier Ranch" experience, I felt God show his appreciation for the decision. For very soon after taking the minimum wage position, the YMCA gave me a position with competitive pay as the boy's gymnastics coach. It made a perfect part time job as I worked my way through college. These two experiences reinforced my belief that God wanted a personal relationship with me. One that was full of blessings for choosing to imitate the life of Christ. Another Crossroad, Another Life Changing Decision While performing with the group, I felt it really necessary to learn to tumble ('87ish). The YMCA where I had been teaching dance lessons also had a gymnastics program. That is when I first began to take private gymnastics lessons to enhance my dancing. Eventually, the break-dancing craze began to phase out and there were less people interested in taking lessons. It was a very natural thing to transition into teaching Gymnastics. Little did I know that gymnastics would lead to a very rewarding career. Before the transition from dance to gymnastics, however, I was first faced with a moral decision. During this period of time as "Breakin" began to phase out, I had also been working at a country club. I had started as a valet parking attendant. I was very impressed with the work as I made a lot of money parking fancy cars. In addition the group was often asked to perform for the various country club functions. It was an education working for the wealthy country club members. After valet parking for a while I worked my way into waiting on tables in the fine dining rooms. My job simply put was to quench the lavish appetites of the wealthy through expensive food and drink. I still remember the many half eaten entrees Prime Rib and Kentucky Derby pie. There was one experience that summed up the worst part of the job. My boss, eager to please two rival rich men as they entertained their table of friends at New Year's, ask me to assist him in a dishonest task. Counting down the New Year, both men ordered the most expensive champagne in the house. The problem was that there was only one bottle left. My boss served the one bottle and then he went into the back kitchen where he dug out of the trash an empty bottle. He filled it with cheap champagne, replaced the cork, covered the open wrapping and served it to the other table. He told me that the men had too much to drink to ever know the difference. He was right. It was almost amusing in one light to see them as they toasted in the New Year. Something did not sit well with me as we accepted the generous tips at the end of the evening. The moral decision I spoke of was to continue to work at the country club making impressive money, or to accept a job at the "Y". Since I was not ready to teach gymnastics, I would have to settle for folding towels and handling light receptionists duties for minimum wage. It was a hard decision. I had been spoiled early with high pay for simply performing or teaching dance. I would like to have kept up the country club pay, but I did not feel right doing so and finally made the decision to work only at the "Y".
Education - With a good job and support from my parents I was able to get my Bachelor's in Psychology and an associates degree in Business Administration. I knew that I wanted to do something that God would be proud of but I did not know what. Today I can look back and see what I perceive as God preparing my future career during college. I started out thinking that I would become a businessman. The business courses however became more and more difficult. I was a "B" student. No matter how hard I worked it seemed I was destined to have a B average. My Jr. Year I switched my major to Psychology thinking that it would be a little easier. And from a Christian perspective I felt that a degree in Psychology would surely be a good thing. I was surprised; however, when the education I received seriously challenged my Christian beliefs. Most professors taught with the idea that it is absurd it to believe in anything that you cannot prove using the scientific method. This was very hard for me to deal with at the time; however, now I am thankful for this training as I realize how important it is not to just believe in something only because it looks or sounds good. God says that we should put him to the test. I had only put Him to the test once (break dancing story) in my young 21 years of life. Today years later I still take a scientific approach to my faith. My hope is that it will continue to balance out as it has over and over again in favor of a just and loving God. Much of Psychology and Business proved later to be a great combination for me. One course in particular that would mean a lot to my future was "Small Business Management". The major project for the course was to prepare a small business plan for the purpose of getting a bank loan. The class members were assigned to small groups. I was hoping that my group would vote on my idea for a project: a gymnastics school. Unfortunately one of the group members convinced the group on another idea and mine was voted out. Three weeks into the course however, that member dropped out of the class and in a panic, the group was only eager to switch to my plan. The plan was a great success and I would go on to use it three times in the years to come for the purpose of furthering my gymnastics career. Before graduating, I took a course designed to help one begin defining what could be a future thesis for graduate studies. My paper was titled: Behavior Modification - Applications as applied to the sport of gymnastics. In this paper I gathered what I had learned in my Psychology background to help enhance the teaching of gymnastics. Today Columbia Gymnastics Academy is the home of the A.S.A.P. Gymnastics Belt Achievement Program, which is currently being used in many centers nationwide. This program is a continuation of that thesis I wrote in college over 13 years ago. In summary it seems obvious that God planned out my education to match my future dreams and plans, as though He was shaping my future.
Marriage & Divorce - When I was 19, I began dating a girl from the gym that I was working at. Though she was not particularly concerned with Christian ideas when we met, she was very attracted to my beliefs. We dated for two years and got married. She professed in many ways to be a Christian and was very active in our church as well as other Christian ministries. For a long time she was very consistent in having personal devotions with God. About 8 months after we got married, her family managed to get her job with a very large company. She got the job primarily because her mother worked in the personnel department. She started as a “temp” making about seven dollars an hour. It was not long however that she made a permanent position, which paid $60,000 a year. At 21 years of age, she was making close to $80,000 per year. She was working 12-hour shifts as well as overtime. She was one of two women working with 15 men. Her ideas about life and marriage changed rapidly. She still liked me as a person but was not interested in being married. There were many other things that she wanted to do outside of marriage and needless to say she asked for a divorced. This was perhaps the most painful and difficult time of my life. Though I prayed to God earnestly, I did not feel as though God cared what was happening to me. - It was a very depressing time and I had to struggle through many faith issues. I learned that no matter how much I prayed, God would not control other people's decisions even when they affected me. What he did do is make for many great things that would help me through these hard times. My career helped me to move on and think about other things. Though God did not intervene in my first wife's decision to separate, He did take care of me. Not long after our separation I was offered a job in Macon Ga. as partner in the business. The excitement of the job helped distract me from the pain of divorce. I know that even though we must go through much pain, God does not let us go through it without help. He made it possible for me to make it through that tough time. I did not date for two years. Actually for the next 8 years I would only seriously date one girl and that was only for about six months. I knew that the relationship was probably not a good idea. She lived 8 hours away, she was much younger than me, and we did not have much in common. After a few fun but misleading months I called off the relationship. Though I had been honest about my commitment level, it still ended up being a messy break up. I was very remorseful about ever having even started a relationship that I was never truly serious about. I decided to not allow this to happen again. Four more years went by. I never felt serious about any of the relationships that came along or either they were not serious about me. I struggled with whether or not I was being too picky. The number one thing that I wanted was a relationship with someone whom I knew would take as deep a spiritual journey as I could ever want. I did not want to build a marriage on unstable ground. I had learned this lesson already. I was very persistent for many years. But being single wore me down over the years and eventually and reluctantly I gave up. I wanted to believe but my loneliness and solitude got the best of me. I figured if God really cared he would have to save me. I was ready to take measures into my own hands and hope for the best. By this I mean I was going to change my standards and not worry about spirituality. At 30 I met a new friend. He helped me "get my groove back". He taught me how to dress again and pumped me up with confidence. I have much to thank him for. He indeed was the spark that led to my relationship with my future wife. At this point I had already opened Columbia Gymnastics Academy and my friend was leasing some space from me to begin his own business. Since I had somewhat given up on meeting the perfect Christian girl, I opened myself up to the idea of dating girls without knowledge of their spiritual background. One of the girls that my friend was training caught my eye. It was my friend’s nature to instigate the relationship. When he let her know of my interest her first response about the man she would eventually marry was: "Well I don't know, he's kind of old". I was 8 years older to be exact. We look back now after years of marriage and laugh about that all the time. In summary, it turned out that the first girl that I dated with the mindset of giving up on God ended up being the perfect woman I had been waiting on for all those years. I would never recommend this approach to dating and do not feel it to be wise to romantically date someone before knowing if they are spiritually compatible. But I have to praise God in this situation. My feeling as I look back is that God had been hearing my prayers. He had mercy on me in my distress. Even though I had given up on him, he had not given up on me. I know that he knew that I had been pleading for years for Him to answer this prayer and send me a Christian woman. After only a couple of careless dates I realized that I had stumbled upon God's blessing in disguise. Our first “date” was actually at a bar over drinks. It was not ideal for where you might think Christians should meet together for a social time. I was definitely under some non-Christian influences at the time. At the end of the night we allowed ourselves some “quiet time” to explore which way the relationship would go. Consider that I was 30 years old and had not had a romantic relationship with a girl for at least six years. Any man would be at His wits end. As we proceeded Melody asked me one question that brought everything quickly into perspective: "Why Me"? She wanted to know why this highly recommended stand up Christian guy was interested in her (and behaving rather “un-Christian). This was a very humble while at the same time a very witty question. One that would help assure that my intention was pure. I proceeded to try to answer that question as we discussed everything about ourselves over the next eight hours. It was at that time that I knew God had just performed a modern day miracle. He had created a great life for me through my career while at the same time expecting me to endure much pain in single life. In the end of that chapter however, he took it all off my shoulders with the blessing of Melody. It is through trials such as these that we grow to have faith. For those who trust and endure and then receive blessing discovers the true treasure in life: a loving omnipotent God who does care about our every being. Faith comes through monitored pain relieved by God. Not only relief, but a showering of blessing that would have me willing to go back through all of the pain again to finally get where God wanted me to be. Melody and I had everything in common. On the surface consider the following similarities: we are both Christian and desire an intimate relationship with God, we are both Psychology majors and have a big interest in behavior modification, we both have a competitive gymnastics background and love the business, we both are left-handed, and have very flat feet. She and I are two peas in a pod. And this sole blessing of my wife makes me one of the richest men alive. Fortunately for all mankind God has enough to make us all rich. Eight years had passed since my divorce. Though being single until I was 30 years old was no picnic, I can honestly say today that I would not hesitate to go through the pain again if that is what it would take to find Melody. While I was single there was no way to know that I would indeed find my soul mate. The uncertainty was torturing and required consistent faith over a long period of time. Though I was ready to give up on God in this area of my life, God must have had mercy on me and decided to bless me anyway. I have to interpret this as testimony that God is loving, understanding, and cared was what happening to me.
This part of my testimony contains a vast amount of experiences which have shaped my belief system. They are so much that I am dedicating a whole separate map in order to help myself remember them.