Jim Blythe

JimBlythe   I’m Jim Blythe. I grew up in Dallas. My dad was Navy - a radioman on board the Idaho that got the message about World War II beginning with the bombing of Pearl Harbor while it was still happening. My grandfather was career Navy. He started in 1920 stoking coal in the South China Sea. And he made it up to be a Lieutenant Commander in command of a ship, which was remarkable. He was very heavily involved in changing the Navy from steam to diesel.

   So, I grew up in the Navy. I grew up as an only child thinking that that's a bulkhead, and this is an overhead, that's a deck. That's how I grew up. My father and my grandfather taught me honor and taught me truthfulness. They were pretty tough on me. And being an only child, a lot of people said, "Well, you were spoiled." And I said, "No. I was standing tall and saluting when I was a little kid.” 

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   When I got to be about six years old, we joined a little Presbyterian church in East Dallas, West Shore Presbyterian. Small church. But it became, because I was an only child and my father was an only child, it became our extended family. And we loved it. And our preachers all came from Austin Theological Seminary up in Sherman. So, they were very heavily biblically educated. And that was my extended family. 

   The kids that I went to school with were the kids that I went to Sunday school with. And my mother taught Sunday school, and my father was a deacon, and my father also taught the Sunday school class, Presbyterian Sunday School class. So, the church was an integral part of our family, and I loved going to the Wednesday night potluck dinner and a speaker. And I'll never forget sitting there listening to this gray-haired, steel-gray eyes, small man, get up and talk about how he had gone with a minister to call on this young family - It was the first time that in 30 years that he walked up to a stranger's house without a loaded gun in his hand! I was like, "What?!?" That was Captain Lone Wolf Gonzalez. And if any of you know much about Texas history, he was probably one of the most famous of all the Texas Rangers. And this was my family. 

   So, I graduated from Bryan Adams. I was very active in theater. I loved the theater. I had some great teachers. I went to SMU and did not do well at SMU. I wanted to go into the Navy. My Dad and my grandfather had done everything they could to discourage me from going into the Navy, but I knew I wanted to go. It was the best experience of my life. Going into boot camp, and talk about young men lying about their age ... I had this boot camp drill instructor that was built like a fire hydrant, just about as tough as a fire hydrant, being solid steel. And he was just about the meanest guy, but he and I began to relate to each other. He drove us mercilessly.

   What I found out was, he had lied about his age. Was up a river in China when the war broke out, and he and three other men walked all the way to Vladivostok, 1,250 miles. That'd be like you and I walking from here to Chicago. But he took me under his wing. He was the company commander, and he taught me about absolute persistence. He kept saying, "Keep going."

   So, in my life, I kept going. When I got out of the Navy, I went down to the University of Texas, and came back to Dallas with a degree in Finance with a real estate broker’s license. One of the things that happened to me, having been in Vietnam, made three combat tours on carriers. And yes, it was tough when you had to go to battle conditions Zebra and run-through the knee knockers, and get the living daylights knocked out of yourself when you hit that thing once or twice because it's solid steel. And going up and down ladders - you learn real quickly. I wasn't a ranger and I wasn't a jumper, but by God I learned how to go down a ladder in a hurry. And I'm telling you that that was a very close experience. 

   I was friends with almost all of the chaplains on my ships, except the first one on the Oriskany. Because I was doing a radio show I bought all of the hip records from the facility there in Subic Bay. And I was playing rock and roll and the telephone goes off and I said, "Yes sir." He goes, "Son, this is Captain such and such, sailor. We love what you're playing.” Well, all of the stuff we had before was the Boston Pops and all these kinds of things. And I said, "Well, thank you very much." He said, "You keep it up. You sound just like stateside radio." About that time, the door blew open and the chaplain who was Catholic screamed at me, "Who said, you could play that devil music, son?" I said, "The captain, he's on the bridge, give him a call."

   But I learned a whole lot. And one of the things that I feel like in my life - God has spoken to me. Those ships, which were built to be in World War II, were not meant to handle what we were doing. They were not meant to handle jet aircraft. They were not meant to handle about 3,000 men. We had water hours almost 24 hours after coming out of the ports. It was a tough life.

   On the USS Hancock, my second tour, we went through a lot. I was with VA 163. That doesn't mean anything to you, but the name John McCain would because he was one of my pilots and I knew him. We had 12 killed in action, had three missing-in-actions and five POWs. And for Veterans Day this year, Dave Carey who was one of my pilots, who was a Hanoi POW, will be our speaker at Navy Week and he's a columnist.

   Well, we had like 45 days, 24 hours a day, flight ops, and we all got crazy. And at about 3:00 in the morning I went up on the flight deck. There was nobody there; everything had been pulled to the fan tail. And I was sitting there and I had not been to bed for three days, working to help keep the aircraft in the air and do what had to be done. And I broke down. I had a nervous breakdown. I'm sitting there on the flight deck forward, absolutely crying, and hysterical saying, "God, get me off of this ship!" And a voice said to me, just as I'm speaking to you, "You're going to be all right."

   "What?" I looked around. There was nobody within a hundred yards of me. The ship's about a thousand feet long, so I was on the bow ... nobody. And I heard it again. I began to feel kind of a cold shiver and I got my composure. I was like, "What was that?" Well, as I sat there and the sun began to come up, I was looking at the sun and all of a sudden, I realized it's on my left. We're facing south. I went down to the ready room and I plotted our constant location, longitude, and latitude. I plotted it. We were coming off the Gulf; we were coming off the line. At eight o'clock they announced that we were going to the coast of Japan.

   Fifteen years later I'm sitting in a little church in Lake Highlands on Memorial Day and they started playing the Navy Hymn. And I broke down because God got me off of that aircraft carrier and I was sitting there with my wife and two boys years later. God didn't take me off of that carrier right then, but I got there in God's time. I was on the Oriskany. I was on the "O” boat twice, which was built in 1946. And the Hancock was built I think in '45. Now we're back with a search and rescue unit. I also had a great experience to get to fly the TA-4 Skyhawk as flight crew, which was a jet fighter bomber. 

   I had some unbelievable experiences. I walked away from a major runaway crash, a number of other really bad incidences. And I have to tell you, God was looking after me. I mean, when you blow up in a jet tanker on a runaway and it catches on fire and you walk away from it ... let me tell you, there are no atheists in foxholes. There are no atheists as you're watching that plane go up in smoke. There are no atheists when you're 15 minutes later going down a runway in another one, and you'll meet up three birds in the air coming up from Fallon you've got to refuel. 

   When I got out, though, I got spit on, I got called baby-killer, I got called a whole bunch of things. I said, "That's it." I got out, went to college, took off the uniform, put it away. I've still got it, I can't fit in it, but I've still got it.

   Got my degree and went to work in real estate and loved helping people. I came back to Dallas, got involved in commercial real estate. I came up through the lines with Henry Miller Company. I ended up being the president's staffer that did all the technical work. I went on to be a real estate developer. At age 30, I was president of my first real estate corporation, which had over a hundred million dollars in assets. At age 30. 

   My chief, Gunners Mate Marvin back in boot camp kept saying, "Keep driving, keep driving, keep driving, and keep going." And I did. Then I started a Kiwanis Club and I got involved in a church in Dallas. Met a minister by the name of Tom Ship at Lovers Lane United Methodist and he put me on the board. I love to go to church. I had a great experience onboard the Hancock of getting to meet Bob Hope because he came aboard for Christmas and we had a fantastic Christmas service, and I got to meet the man.

   Loved going to church. That was an integral part of my life, my church family at Lover's Lane. Married a girl and I thought she loved church too, but no, she didn't. She wouldn't go to this church, wouldn't to go to that church. After 15 years of marriage, of which 10 years I got told once a week, "I want a divorce." I finally said, "Okay, you got it." Devastated my life. A friend of mine finally insisted that she come and see my apartment and she walked in and said, "You don't live in an apartment, you live in prison." But I kept going to church. I kept involved in church. That's what kept me going, and business-wise I came back, business-wise, I started doing it. I ended up running a company. We had both corners at 121, and the Dallas North Tollway. I amassed over a hundred million dollars in real estate in less than a year, but who's counting?

   I was driven, and I worked in church, and I helped a guy named Morris Sheets. How many of you may remember Morris Sheets, okay? I was part of his leadership team. If you went back to where Hillcrest Church got started, the land that started it came from a man named Jim Williams and me. I was president of the company and I had signed all the documents. And Morris Sheets and I became really good friends, and Morris says to my leadership group, "I want all of you guys to get baptized." So, we go to a Baptist church and Morris gets to me. He says, "Okay, Jimmy, hold your breath. This is going to take a while. I know you."

   So, I had a couple more marriages that didn't work out well at all. Someone could say, "Hey Jim, you had PTS from three combat tours of Vietnam and losing so many people." People could say this, and people could say that. I made some pretty bad choices. Although I did everything I could to not go through a divorce, I went through it. And I began to define myself as that. And I began to define myself in ways that was like, "What's wrong with you, Jim?" 

   Loved church, active member, Sunday school teacher. I was working for Travis as a volunteer, for actually Jan Tennyson through Travis doing Cottrell House and was asked to teach the same thing in church in Sunday school class that I would teach at Cottrell House, so I wrote a book called Planning To Change for young men, just like this, to teach them how to change their life.

    There were some stories that Travis and I could sit here and tell you about those young men, what I had heard. One lady came up to me who was blind and said, "My son was at Giddings and he wants to come to Cottrell House." I told Papa Lou, who worked for Travis, and the next day Papa Lou called me and said, "He's out of here." He was bringing knives in and he was hammered. 

   Through all of that experience, when you see this driven businessman, here is this man who is president of the company, here's this man who has been through all of these things, loves to go to church. But let me tell you something, I did not have a real relationship with the Lord. In 2010, I got pneumonia, and it was so bad I came about that close to ending up dead. I was told by a doctor, "If you would have stayed out another 24 hours, we'd have buried you," and I got to thinking about my life.

   Now, I was not a druggie. I was not an alcoholic. I had a good job; I had a home over on Renner Road. But I was desperate, desperate to figure out what was missing in my life. I had been through Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life. I had been through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace. I was a reverse mortgage specialist. I had actually become the Certified Senior Advisor. I taught people and loved it. I was lost, so I called a friend of mine who had a boat up in Lake Texoma and I said, "Chuck, can I borrow your boat this afternoon?" and he said, "Go right ahead."

   I took a Bible and I drove up to Grandpappy’s Marina on Lake Texoma. Have you been there? It's beautiful in this kind of weather. I sat down on this 39-foot Pearson boat and I started praying. I opened the Bible and it just almost fell open to 1 Corinthians Chapter 13. Then I started reading it, then I read it again, and I read it again, and I read it again, and I read it again. And I began to realize: God IS love! That's what Paul is saying. You have to have faith, and you have to have hope, but above all is what? LOVE. As I prayed, I started crying. I went back through my life, and the horrible mistakes that I had made, the divorces that I had, all of the things I had gone through. I've got to tell you - I came to my knees.

   Now, I'm also a licensed pilot, so I relate to that. I said, "Lord Jesus, take control. Get out of the backseat and You take control." If any of you know anything about flying, when you're working with an instructor or co-pilot you always say, "Your plane." I said, "Jesus, take control." I couldn't do it anymore. All of a sudden-- do you remember the cold wind from the Hancock? Man, it comes through that valley, and I could hear all those halyards ringing. I'm like, "Thank You, Jesus," and I felt the cold, I felt His Presence. I felt absolutely elated and I said, "Thank You."

   I got in the car and drove back to Dallas. When I got back Monday morning, I made a phone call to a place called Cottrell House. I said, "I want to speak to Papa Lou," because he was a counselor for Travis Wortham, and he was one of the men that I respected more than probably anybody that I can remember. The guy said, "Papa Lou is gone." I'm like, "Where did he go?" "He passed away, but Travis wants to talk to you." Travis gets on the phone and says, "Jimmy, my brother, where are you, and where have you been?" Well, one of the things that happened is both my father and my ex-wife had absolutely raised cane with me about going to Cottrell House because they said, "You are going to get hurt. Those boys are going to hurt you." No, those boys were some of the best things that ever happened in my life. 

   Then Travis says, "You've got to come back and start teaching." I did, didn't I? I regained a relationship with the man. When we say we're brothers from another mother, I'm telling you, this is my go-to. When I want to talk through some things, this is a man that I truly, truly respect, admire, and love like a brother. And I've got to tell you, with that the people that were in my life that were destructive, they started to get out of my life. They started going away. It was amazing. The things that I had been doing, I suddenly recognized, "Jim, you're doing the same thing again." Wow.

   My life completely changed. My closest friend that I grew up with and went to high school with said, "What happened to you? You're not the same." He said, "What did you do on my boat?" I said, "What? On the boat?" But while I was at church one Sunday in August, I was supposed to go to a luncheon for a lady that I knew who was a writer. As I'm leaving the church, my friend, Jerry Wisley says, "Hey, you're supposed to go to the luncheon with me," and I said, "I don't want to go." "No, come on, let's go." "All right." So we sit down at a table and this beautiful lady sits down next to Jerry. I mean to tell you, I couldn't hear what she was saying for Jerry and finally, I turned to Jerry and I said, "Shut up, Jerry. I want to meet her!" ... "I'd like you to meet my wife, Diane." 

   Now, with that, when I went to leave, I took her hand and say, "Very nice to have met you," and she will tell you to this day there was an electrical charge that went through us, and not static electricity. We both were like, what happened, and so I went back home and looked at her website. She's an artist. Wow, my mother was an artist, so we started talking about how I loved her art - Scripture in calligraphy.

   At that time, some of you may know Vincent Gaddis. I was helping Vincent Gaddis with his church and Vincent said, "Hey, Jimmy, you're reading the Scripture because you are The Voice," and I said, "Okay." I read the Scripture. I'd known her for two weeks. I sat down and this voice goes off in my head that says, "Ask her to go to Vincent's office after church and ask her to marry you." I'm like, "Are you kidding? Are you crazy? Who is talking to me? This makes no sense whatsoever. Are you nuts?" It happened again, it happened again, and I could hear this voice in my head. Finally, when the service was over, I did what?

   Diane: You invited me to Vincent's office.

   Jim: Yeah, we go into Vincent's office and I ask Vincent to go with us. Everybody thought we were going to have a little prayer meeting. I DID ask her to marry me! We've been married now for almost nine years. Now, let me go a step ... Yes, praise God because let me tell you, all my life I had looked for a partner. All my life I had looked for somebody who was a Proverbs 31 wife, okay? My wife is it. 

   I do a radio show now, for veterans. We're now carried around the United States on USA Radio Network. We are broadcast in Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia, Richmond, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida, and soon to be in 500 other stations. I've been doing it now for five years, love it. It's given me a chance to meet so many people. 

   This morning, I was in a meeting with Colin Allred, the new Congressman that was supposed to be there. He was running about 30 minutes late. I said, "I got to go because I'm going to speak this morning." Colin's like, "Yeah, great to see you, Jimmy." He has been on my program. Van Taylor has been on my program. Pete Sessions has been on my program. Eddie Bernice Johnson's been on my program. The chief of staff of the VA has been on my program.

   These people have been coming into my life because of God. Not because of me. I get phone calls and I'm just sitting there going, "Huh? Really?" I walk up to a guy, in a Starbucks, who's got on this beautiful African shirt and I say, "Wow. That's a beautiful African shirt." And he opens his mouth, and I go, "Where are you from?" He says, "Rwanda." Celestine Musukura, some of you may know him; he is the head of a large ministry. He was a student at DTS in 1994, when his family, all but his mother, was massacred in his home church in Rwanda. I walked up to another man in church and I said, "Man, that's a beautiful badge on your shirt, on your jacket. Who are you?" And he said, "I'm Bruce Carter." He has a foundation to bring people together, the police, communities, working with veterans. Guess who's his executive assistant? My wife. People have come into my life that are absolutely unbelievable.

   Now, just because you're a born-again Christian, does that mean life's simple? That everything is a box of chocolates? No. I've got news for you, there have been some really, really tough times in our life. But I will tell you that I can see the end of each situation. It's like I think Gunners Mate Marvin, they had a map and he knew where Vladivostok was, he could see Vladivostok. He knew where he was going and that's what he was teaching me. That's what my grandfather was teaching me, that's what Tom Ship was teaching me. That's what each of the ministers in my life was teaching me, where to go and how to get there. And how to build a relationship with Jesus Christ.

   Am I perfect? Heavens no. Let me tell you, but it has been an eye-opening experience and a wonderful life. Diane and I had an opportunity and went to Israel. You talk about an eye-opener? Wow. The relationships we built? Wow. The people we met? Wow. To me, many people are like I was. I call it the country club Christian. I call it a social Christian. I call it a knowledgeable, Bible-reading Christian, but you don't have a relationship with the Lord!

   And until I got on my knees, until I came to that point in my life, and I got to tell you, Thank You, God, for not beating me up because I've had friends who, thanks to drugs and alcohol and various things, the point in the loneliness of their life was horrifying. Mine wasn't, it was just an inner unease, an inner searching. And God showed up, and God changed my life, and God builds relationships with Travis, with you guys. When Jan called me, Jan Tennyson, and my wife and all the people we've met. And people are relationships, and that's what Jesus said, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

   I believe in that transitional, transactional thing that happens when people say, "I'm a born-again Christian. Hallelujah." Because it is a transformation, it is a change. It is an eye-opener. Does that mean that the storms are no longer there? No. But that's going to mean that you know where the rudder is. You know where to set the sails. You know how to get through it. And all of that is in the Bible. 

   Now, I make a lot of mistakes I'm not proud of. My wife will tell you. But I am so thankful that I went to the back of the boat. I am so thankful that I had those four hours up at Lake Texoma. But I am also thankful for those times on the Hancock, and those times in Vincent's church, when God spoke to me because now I know God really was speaking to me. God has had his hand on my shoulder since I was a small child through the people I met. 

   I got to tell you, the more we can talk about having a relationship with Jesus Christ, having a relationship with God, having the ability to say, "Jesus, Your plane. You're in control.” And for an A personality guy like me, who was trained in the military all his life, to give up control, is about the toughest thing you could ever imagine. But I am humbled. Every day I find a Scripture that says something to me. Every day I meet somebody new. Every day the things I get to do, they're unbelievable.

   I got to go to Dallas Theological Seminary for three semesters until I started broadcasting for Salem Broadcasting and there wasn't enough time in the day to work a full-time job and be a full-time broadcaster AND a DTS student. But we met some of the most incredible people. Bruce and Toni Hebel through Andrew: Forgiving Forward. People at DTS, Colin Allred, and how they touched my life.

   Speaker 2: Howard Hendricks.

   Jim: And his sons. Both of them. I got to tell you when you go through and you're talking to somebody about the gospel; when you're talking to somebody with that call, that altar-call that I call it, it's a transformational experience that will change your life forever. In the book of James, he said, "Faith without works is dead." But I'm telling you, that when you have faith; when you have that transformational experience, you can't do enough works. You can't do enough in building relationships. You can't do enough.

   Speaker 2: It just keeps coming.

   Jim: It just keeps coming. I foresee that Diane and I ... we've tried to launch a TV program. I think it's going to happen. Our radio program is going around the world now. We’ve had as many as 85,000 people on Facebook and all. We've got the opportunity to touch people's lives. I'm trying to make sure I'm out there, right? 

   Okay. Now, what is one of the biggest problems that I see in our nation today? We can talk about race. We can talk about the elderly. We can talk about crime. We can talk about the lesbian and gay community. We can talk about politics and what's going on in Washington. You know, what the biggest problem is in my opinion? We have lost the ability to have relationships. We have forgotten the most important thing that Jesus said, "Love one another."  When you talk about coming to the altar, go to the back of the boat. When you talk about a transformational experience, talk to somebody new because when they need the Lord and have that relationship, it's going to change their life. Thank you for inviting me. Thank you for letting me be a member. And thank you for all you guys do. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Hearing His Voice Testimony

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