A Words of Faith story by Terry Dodd
For the forty years following high school I lived without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I don’t mean I lived a life of crime or addiction, or even of randomness. No. It was worse than that. I was at the top of my profession. I had a wonderful marriage, my three grown children were all happily married, and my golf game was better than at any time since my early thirties.
What was the problem? All I knew was that I had an overwhelming feeling of something important missing in my life. In retrospect, I think of the Israelites who wandered in the desert for forty years. Moses did his best for them, but he may as well have been herding cats. In my case, other than for a rare wedding or funeral, I had not darkened a church door in forty years. One routine I rarely missed, however, was a Saturday golf game.
Although I did not know a lack of Christian faith was my problem, I was anxious to scratch the unrelenting itch in my life. One day, I received a flyer from a church I had driven past innumerable times over the previous sixteen years. It read: “Instead of watching Elvis re-runs this Saturday night, come as you are directly from the golf course at 6:30 to a new Saturday Sabbath service and hear about the true King.” From the golf course! I found that curious, but dismissed the idea. The following week a second flyer arrived. It, too, said to come from directly from the golf course. I thought, "Why not? I can then check that item off the list."
My first thought coming out the door of the church afterward was curiosity about having remembered the words to the hymns of my youth. I was certain the experience was nothing more than a fluke. I said as much to my wife of thirty-seven years, who I did not know had been praying for me since our first date in high school. I told her I would repeat the experience the following Saturday, but I doubted Jesus was my problem.
The second time I came out of the church my thought was slightly different: Have I come home? My wife and I began attending church on a regular basis. Sadly, however, I also had an ulterior motive. I had just shelved the first draft of a manuscript for a novel I had been writing during the previous year. It was built around conversational conflict through a casual golf match involving an atheist, an agnostic, a skeptic, and a Christian. The story didn’t work because I hadn’t a clue as to creating a fictitious resume for the believer. My veiled thinking was that perhaps if I better understood the “born again” concept, I might be able to salvage my manuscript.
Therefore, merely for the purpose of research (or so I thought) I would begin reading through the Bible. I was energized by the stories in Genesis, Exodus and the first ten chapters of Leviticus. But as the action slowed, I decided to jump ahead to the gospel. Things started out well in the book of Matthew. I only got as far as Matthew10:32-33, however, before I hit a stumbling block. Verse 32 was fine in that Jesus was saying, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.”
Verse 33 was the problem: “But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” Disown? That person would be personally disowned by God? Guilt crushed me. That had come on the heels of absorbing the idea of man’s sin being so great that the sinless Jesus came down from paradise to be born of woman, to live among man, to give up His life for us, and be raised from the dead. All for me! The thought of being disowned by God was emotionally and spiritually overcoming. It was at that moment He revealed Himself to me. I realized I had to respond. What else could I do but go to my knees in surrender.
I shared the experience with my wife and then with a pastor at the church. A few weeks later, we joined the church. Two months after that, on Christmas Day of 1996, at my daughter and son-in-law’s home in Jacksonville, Florida with my wife, mother, and granddaughter present, at age fifty-eight I prayed aloud in publicly confessing that I was a sinner in need of forgiveness. I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior and asked Him to come into my heart.
Not only had my itch cleared, but much more importantly I had become a new creation. Not only that, but through God’s having freed me from my captive state I was also enabled to rewrite my manuscript and independently publish it. Ten years later The Foursome would win for me the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Award in the Legacy Fiction Category.
God tells us in His Word that He created us to worship Him. If we do not understand and accept that Jesus came down to Earth as man to save us from ourselves, then we are missing the single most important thing in life.
Bullet Biography – Terry Dodd
· Survived life-threatening burns to ten per cent of his body at age seven
· BA degree in Geology from Florida State University
· Forty-year career as an advertising executive and entrepreneur
· Fifteenth year editing a bi-monthly Christian newsletter
· Author of a dozen Christian novels and inspirational narratives
· 2012 Eric Hoffer Legacy Fiction Award Winner for The Foursome, a golf novel of one man’s faith matched against doubt, ignorance and pride
· Lifetime member of Northside Hospital-Forsyth Auxiliary and former auxiliary board member and V.P. of Orientation & Placement
· Current active volunteer with There’s Hope for the Hungry, a 501(c)(3) food-and-faith outreach to the needy of north Georgia
· Juggling hobby led to a two-year Christian ministry to north Atlanta metro area assisted living facilities, which formed the basis for his book, Journey with Outstretched Hands
· Served as president of Georgia Association of Promotional Products Practitioners
· Married, with blended family of four adult children and seven grandchildren
· Active member of First Redeemer Church in Cumming, GA
· Leader/facilitator of a small men’s Bible study group
· Member of Atlanta Writers Club and American Christian Fiction Writers
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