My Testimony: Finding Jesus Christ in my Basement.
The Whole Story 10/27/13
click on the link below to watch a short video version of my testimony
Looking for respect from my Father.
My father was a German perfectionist who I looked up to growing up. He passed down to me the value of working with yours hands and the personal satisfaction that came with it. He would recite his philosophy for me. “If you can build it yourself why in the world would you buy it?” It would then open the door to retelling his story of building his own sports car while serving our country in the air force and how every part was painfully crafted by hand with little to no money to speak of while raising two kids. He was a hard example to following but I was determined I wasn't just going to live up to my father’s example, I was going to outdo him. Surely I would gain his respect as a man; a son he could be proud of.
Time spent in the basement.
The Lamborghini Countach was an iconic supercar every young boy wanted to own. I just screamed I have arrived. For most, reality was limited to day dreaming at the posters on his bedroom wall and was about as close as they would get to seeing one, let alone own one.
I wasn't going to be that dreamer and reality started in my basement on Sept. 1990. I had chosen my basement after seeing my Father struggle with his own projects in the cold Wisconsin winters and the expense of heating a garage and the family car sitting in the driveway. I didn't want that being an excuse as not to follow through with my dream. There was plenty of room and it was heated. How hard would it be to get it out? I would find out...
I had spent countless of hours teaching myself how to weld aluminum and rolling panels on my own hand built English wheel. Every part was meticulously planned out and fabricate either in my basement or at my place of employment. I would never take a job that I didn't have access to equipment that would further the cause. I don't know when it happened but somewhere the dream turned into an obsession. If I wasn't at work thinking about how to build my next part for the car, I was down in my basement making it happen.
My new wife Eileen didn't seem to mind at first; setting in a lazy boy reading her book but as time passed on she didn't find it all that interesting and would flash the basement lights when supper was ready. That was pretty much how I was spending my life. Our personal relationship started to suffer with the time I was putting into the car and our conversations were starting to be limited to defending my actions.
Anyone knows, you can’t build a Lamborghini without spending money. I don't care how resourceful you are, you are going to spend money. A lot of money. Money you don't have kind of money.
My wife and I had bought a lake home far under market value which opened new opportunities to financing if you are okay with putting your house up for ransom. And then there is 401K money, you know the money you put away for retirement. Why with just a small penalty you can have the finer things in life. You will convince yourself you need to own them because that is what successful people have. Right? Two new cars in the garage, a boat, 2 motorcycles, a Lamborghini in the basement and the list goes on.
I found comfort in spending countless dollars on parts for the Lamborghini project in place of actually working on it. Fear of not completing it? Of looking like a failure to friends and my Father? Or proving some of them right? Whatever the reason, I’m spending money we don’t have, overcompensating, looking for instant gratification. Eileen tries to provide support by paying the bills as best she can but is simply overwhelmed. To her there was no other option but to leave with our 3 year old daughter. I plunged into the darkest depression of my life.
The car now is a physical reminder of what I have done, and I can’t bare to lay eyes on it. Countless hours of lost sleep take their toll. Financial difficulties only deepen. My only escape lies in the distraction of work, alcohol and the company of a supportive female co-worker as I plan our divorce. It was the first time I prayed to GOD for anything. All I asked was could HE put things back the way they used to be.
HE answered that prayer by using a salesman I shared a ride with to a trade show in Chicago. He asked me how things were going. Out of spite, I blurted "My wife and I are getting a divorce"! expecting him to shut up. Instead he started painting a picture through a child's eye how a divorce hurts them the most and I feel sorry for the parents . Something happened. My eyes welled up and I had a total change of heart in an instant. My pride was gone....
Six months later we were a family again with another child on the way.
Some lessons Learned.
I did learn from that experience and paid more attention to being a responsible father and husband. I put our finances back in order and put the Lamborghini in its proper perspective. But I didn't realize what GOD had done for me that day and continued living life as if HE had no part in my change of heart.
The Lamborghini is finished, but there remains one task that likely no other car builder has ever faced: Freeing the car from its underground captivity cleverly disguised as a fully walled basement. The car is placed on a makeshift metal frame, like a trailer without wheels, and pointed toward the cinder-block wall that is going to be torn down the next day.
As dirt is being removed from the front of the house, curious neighbors gather around to watch. Eileen, like an expectant mother, fields questions about the car. “How long did it take to build?” “What engine is in it?” “Are you going to get to drive it?” By now, she knows the answers as well as I.
The basement wall is exposed and, much like the Berlin Wall, comes tumbling down after countless blows from a 20-lb. sledge hammer. Neighbors form a bucket brigade to pass along chunks of the wall. The makeshift frame works perfectly and the Lamborghini, safely swaddled in blankets, inches its way through the opening with every tug of the backhoe.
Unwrapped, the Lamborghini shines in the afternoon sun as everyone who has gathered got their first look at it. It is also my first view of the car from any distance away, and to my astonishment it looks better out in the real world than I ever could have imagined. It’s perfect! Life was perfect!
A year later, my oldest daughter Kennedy, is diagnosed with an auto-immune disease called Giuliani Barre. Although we didn't know at the time it was acting like MS; losing all of the feeling from the waist down. She was at Children’s Hospital undergoing every known medical test with no answers. A Google search brings up Giuliani Barre which is extremely rare. The head doctor had only seen one case in this lifetime. Thinking we were out of the woods with it not being MS the paralysis is spreading to her arms and the doctors are now concerned it might affect the major organs like her heart and lungs. Eileen and I are at a point of disbelief. Why us? What did we do to deserve this?
I noticed a small chapel at the entrance of the hospital. I am not right with GOD I know, but I am going to ask a second time if he could help me. It had a few pews and a book of prayers laid out on a small table. I decided to write in it. I wrote a small statement more fitting for a contract than a prayer. It went like this. Dear God, if you could find it in your well to have my daughter walk out of here, I will do anything you ask…..10 days later Kennedy with the aid of a walker did walk, under her own power, out of Children’s Hospital.
Kennedy made a complete recovery with little to any remembrance of those agonizing 10 days and the months of therapy to learn to walk again. I didn't forget my promise I made to GOD this time...
My walk with Christ.
I willingly gave my life to Jesus Christ in my heart that day. Something radical had happened to me. I had a burning desire to know more about HIM. I can't explain it; I just wanted to know the truth.
Although I was raised Lutheran by my parents I never felt compelled to read the bible or live my life according to HIS word. I knew right from wrong in a moral point of view but I was not living my life to serve HIM. I really didn't know what that meant.
I began with something simple. I started reading a children’s bible. I thought it would be fitting to understand the basics with my limited spirituality. I eventually bought a new bible NIV off E-bay and found it comforting to read before bed. Although the scripture was written long ago, I found the more I read it, it was as if it was written just for me today.
I was in church with my wife and children when I felt the desire to confess everything I had done wrong in my life and ask for his forgiveness. I was overcome with tears so much so my children asked their Mom “What is wrong with Daddy?” After the tears subsided and I could regain my composure, a calm came over me as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I then realized my sins were forgiven by the grace of GOD.
Just like Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3 “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." I had already being baptized in the Lutheran faith at birth but it kept tugging on my heart; I wanted to show GOD I was committed to living his word and I wanted to do something more meaningful to me. I found the answer just two verses later. Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." I was baptized just a few months later.
The scar I now wear is a constant reminder of who I once was. The car had no place in my life anymore and I decide to list it on E-bay to the highest bidder. It was a shock to my close friends and family. My thinking was that the money could somehow repay my family and I wouldn't have to see it in my garage hidden under its car cover any longer. I thought GOD would be best served showing HIM I could release myself of this worldly treasure I had once held so true to my heart.
The car draws a lot of attention on E-bay to the tune of 46,000 viewers to the auction and becomes the top story of 2013. It draws the attention of a local pastor I have never met. He asked if he could show it to his son before I sold it. I would have said no, as I do for most inquires, but I noticed he was a pastor by the watermark on his e-mail. I can't say no to a pastor I thought. I agreed.
We both witnessed to each other in my cold garage that winter night. He made a profound statement. “ I don't think it was GOD’s plan that you sell the car. I believe it was his plan along to use it for HIS glory." I couldn't understand how I had lived my life or building the car could be used for HIS glory. It didn't make any sense to me. People will get the wrong idea I thought. He then quoted the scripture Matthew 4:19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
“Just have faith….use the car as a hook and become a fisher of men." Then I said, “Will that work?" He replied “It brought me here tonight didn't it?"
I have spent most of my adult life looking for happiness in worldly things; to fill an emptiness I could not fill as hard as I tried. I found the answer in Jesus Christ; HIS love and forgiveness is what fills my heart. I have never been happier in my life as odd as that may sound. I now have a deep trust in the fact HE has a better plan for my life, whatever road HE may lead me down.
Jeremiah 17: 7-8
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
And whose hope is the LORD.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
I have since then taken my story on the road to whoever will listen. If the sharing of this unique ministry sparks an interest in you, your church, business or organization, please feel free to contact me. I will travel with the car to any place GOD calls me to go, sharing my story for HIS glory, to all who will hear. Amen
Personal Update: 12/7/14
As I read through my testimony above, I find it ironic actually. GOD does have plans with my life and has prepared me indeed for this journey.
I was diagnosed with stage 4 Prostate Cancer a little over a year ago. I went through the surgery and am now on hormone therapy which is no picnic by the way unless you like running around on empty all of the time. For an active guy like myself, it makes it even harder to deal with.
The next treatment will be seven weeks of radiation leaving chemo as a last resort. I only mention this not out of pity for myself but for a source of strength for others going through their own trials in life.
I wouldn't have been strong enough to handle this if it wasn't for my faith. I am not talking about faith in healing, although Christ can do that if HE chooses to, no I talking about the strength to accept it if HE doesn't. We all love GOD when he heals but please understand, He is more interested in my spiritual life than my temporary life here on earth.
Am I being punished for my wrong doing? NO! Christ has a plan for me and is working in me as I write this.... perhaps it's why you are reading this right now.
So do I worry I might die?
Mathew 6:27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Job 14:5 A person's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.
No, on the contrary, I find comfort in it. I have been given the gift of eternal life.
James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Why not accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior today and enjoy the peace and comfort he is offering to you in eternal life.
Personal Update: 3/5/15