Jack Deere


   My name is Jack Deere, and I’d like to tell you my story. Our story is unbelievable when we think about God's mercy, and all that He's done for us and all that He's saved us from. It's absolutely incredible, and we're given our story to be able to touch other hearts with it. So normally, I would stand on a stage and open my Bible; and read a passage and try to explain how that passage relates to our lives.

  This is my first time here, and I'd like to tell you the story about a little boy. A little boy who should not be standing on this stage. His body should be in a grave and his soul should be in darkness, but God's mercy came down and interrupted the plan of the devil for that little boy. I was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and was in the vanguard of the Baby Boomers of 1948. I'm sixty seven years old, and on my way to sixty eight this fall. I was born in what was going to be paradise. I was born with what every boy should have, a father who was his hero.

   My dad was my hero. He knew the answer to every question I ever asked him. I knew that the moon was two hundred - forty thousand miles (approximately) away from the Earth. The sun was ninety-three million miles away from the Earth and water boiled at two-hundred twelve degrees before I was ever forced to sweat through a Texas September afternoon in a cramped desk; because I asked those questions to my dad.

   My dad was a hero in World War II. He was a chief petty officer in the Navy, and had this huge knot in the middle of his back of scar tissue from a bomb that blew up on the deck of his battleship and drove shrapnel into his back. He carried men into the sick bay for two days, before another sailor said, "Hey, chief petty officer, dear, your back is bleeding." Dad was going without sleep for two days, while carrying wounded men into sick bay. He taught hand-to-hand combat in the Navy and taught me how to block a punch, how to throw a punch and how to take somebody down. If you are a boy growing up in Texas in the 1950's, those were good skills to have. We fought for our entertainment in the place where I lived.

   My dad loved my mom. Every day he worked at General Motors, and every day I watched him leave for work. The last thing he did before he walked out of our door was to hold my mom and he kissed her. When he came home in the evening, he held my mom and he kissed her.

   So I grew up believing that a real man is brave, is strong, is smart and loves his woman. My mom dropped out of the eleventh grade at Hanley High School in Fort Worth, Texas, to marry my dad. So in the place of knowledge, what she gave me was tenderness. She called me honey as often as she called me Jackie, and she gave me back scratches that were the most wonderful feeling in the world. She had these long fingernails and she dragged them across my back. Her palm didn't touch the smooth thin skin on my back; just her nails and talked to me soothingly, while she scratched my back. I wanted those back scratches to last forever and sometimes they did until I fell asleep.

   My mom was beautiful, and I was proud of her for being beautiful. She was petite, standing five feet four inches. She had a small waist, but she was not skinny. One day, she came to pick to me up when I was in the fifth grade.

   My friends said, "Wow, your mom is a looker."

   That's the kind of home I grew up in for the first five or six years. When I was two years old, my older brother Gary joined the family. When I was four years old, my little brother Tommy joined the family. Three little boys growing up in paradise, until I was about six years old.

   My dad got promoted at General Motors to become the maintenance foreman. He worked in the most powerful Corporation in the world in the 1950's and now he was a foreman and moved into the managerial part of the company. The good news was, we had this increased prosperity and now we could afford our own home. we moved out of these tiny rent houses and we owned our little tiny house and even had a hole in it, but it was ours and one bathroom for six people.

   So with that increased prosperity though, the bad news was dad started vanishing from our lives because he worked the evening shift from three to eleven. So I never saw him kiss mom again. I wasn't there when he left for work, I was still at school. When he came home, we were already asleep. He vanished from our life and mom, all of a sudden, she exploded. Now, there must have been something going on before, but as kids, you don't notice those kind of subtleties.

   What you do notice are the explosions, and the first episode of her rage. I remember when I was six years old, she was ironing clothes and I had my brand new Buck Rogers four shot dart gun. I was shooting it at the TV and sticking those darts right in the center of it. I reloaded, fired three more shots and she screamed at me.

   She said, "Stop that. Do not do that again."

   I had one shot left in my dart gun and I just couldn't help it. I just squeezed off that last round and when I did, she started screaming and it was incoherent. She snatched that gun out of my hands, slammed it on the floor and then jumped up and down on it until it was just little pieces of plastic left. That was the overtures to the angry symphony against which all of our lives would play out. My dad's absence infuriated her and she took her wrath not out on her husband, who wasn't there. So she took her wrath out on us kids and since I was the oldest and I bore the brunt of her wrath. She called them spankings; but they weren't spankings. They were full on beatings that could be with any object in her hand. Never told us how many swats we were going to get. She just yelled and screamed until she exhausted her rage.

She took me to Spartans, our discount store to buy my baseball glove and my bat. She went to every single little league game and would stand on the sidelines.

   She would scream at that coach, "Let Jackie pitch, let Jackie pitch, he can throw the ball hard!”

   When the coach didn't pay attention, she walked up behind the dugout and said, "You need to let Jackie pitch."

   So the coach finally gave in to her and let me pitch. After I walked the first four batters, he just glared at my mom and my mom glared right back. Nobody intimidated her, and when we would go home and one of us would step on one of those landmines buried in the wilderness of our heart, she would explode and the beatings would start again. That went on from the time I was six throughout my childhood.

   When I was nine years old, my mom went into the hospital for a complete hysterectomy and the doctors opened her up and found a baby in her womb. The next day my dad brought me to the hospital. Now, my dad prayed with us. Mom never prayed with us, but my dad prayed before meals. He thanked God before meals and that at bedtime, our dad prayed with us. They were recited prayers, never spontaneous. Now, he lay me down to sleep. He taught us that one and he taught us the Lord's Prayer, Our Father in Heaven. So we knew those prayers and we prayed it at bedtime but when dad went to work and he was no longer there at bedtime, we stopped saying those recited prayers.


   So now I'm in the hospital with my dad and I see the nurse pull this bandage off my mom. I see this wound that I can't believe. It's like this huge zipper running the length of her abdomen and I think, how could anybody survive something like that. When the nurse changes the bandage, cleans it, and covers her back up and my dad grabs my mom's two hands and places them over her womb. He kneels down beside her bed and he takes my hand in his right hand and I kneel beside him on the floor.

   He says, "Please God. Please God, thank you for saving the life of my wife. Now, please save the life of my child."

   It was the first time I ever heard anybody talk to God. Everything I heard before were recited prayers, these words you threw at a faraway God. But when he actually talked to God, this immense presence came into the room, goosebumps ran down my neck, down my arms and I shivered. I knew that presence could dissolve me right there or dispatched me to the stars. I had no clue what it was, but I could feel it. When we got home, the residue of that presence was still on me.

   So I asked my father, "Dad, what do you have to do to get into Heaven?"

   It's probably the most important question in the world, isn't it? What do we have to do to get to Heaven? There are seven billion people on the Earth today and I'm sure at least six billion of them have the wrong answer to that. Maybe six and a half billion have the wrong answer to that.

   Here's what my dad told me when I was nine years old, "When you die, you go up to Heaven and you stand before the gates of Heaven. St. Peter comes out to meet you and he brings two books. One is a book of all your good deeds and the other is a book of all your bad deeds. Then, he sets scales on the table and he puts your good deeds on one side and he put your bad deeds on the other side. If the good deeds go down, you go up, but if the bad deeds go down, so do you forever and ever and you burn in hell."

   My heart sank when I heard that was how you get to Heaven. Mom had already beaten hell out of me by the time I was nine years old. There was nothing wrong with mom. Everything was wrong with me. She beat me because I was a bad kid, because I was evil. I knew my good deeds would never outweigh my bad deeds. The best thing you can do is just put God out of your mind and how many days you have on the Earth. Enjoy them, and for me that meant being bad. St. Peter scales, that's what the world thinks. That's how we think you get to Heaven.

   By the time I was about ten or eleven, my dad got promoted to the executive structure in General Motors. Now, he's wearing suits to work. My dad was so smart, and he didn't have a college education, but the company recognizes the potential in him. He's just thirty eight and now he's an executive in that company.

   My mom was bored with the life she had at home. He never took her out. She got a job selling burial insurance at a company which made my dad mad. We didn't need that money now that, he had an executive salary. We were on our way to becoming a rich family, that had carpet in our home and a big picture window with a lamp sitting on a table and air conditioning. She had this job and they came to our house some time. They talked filthy and told dirty jokes in front of us and he didn't like them, so their war just escalated. The bad news for us, now that they were both working; we ended up getting left at our grandparent’s home.

   My grandmother, I named her Nonnie, was the one place in my life where I felt unconditional love. My Nonnie loved me, and I was her favorite. She took me fishing in the summer all the time, made picnic lunches for us when mom and dad were working during the day. She taught me how to bait a hook with worms, and with minnows. First it was a cane pole, and then she taught me how to cast an open faced reel.

   She let me stay in her kitchen in the afternoons and taught me how to dice an onion, how to cut up a potato into French fries and fried in Crisco and garlic salt; how to make tuna fish and how to roll out pie crust. She taught me to love coffee and I would sit with her at her cocktail hour. At five o'clock and she drank coffee and made a cup for me, which was like an ounce of coffee, four ounces of milk and three tablespoons of sugar in it and I became a coffee lover early on.

   She praised me all the time and when I was twelve years old, just old enough to see over the steering wheel of her 1960 yellow Ford Fairlane, she taught me how to drive and she sat right beside me. I let out the clutch, whip lashed her neck, just barely missed a tree in the backyard driveway and she would pat me on the knee and tell me what a great driver I was.

   As my grandmother loved me, my grandfather whom we call Papa, hated me. He was the first person that I utterly despised and remember thinking he’s an evil person. He was profane and a drunkard. He was a womanizer and talked about his womanizing in front of my grandma. The only time I ever saw him smile was when he was drunk, and Nonnie's love for me infuriated him. He never passed up the chance to say something bad about me.

   The worst beating I ever got in my life was not from my mother, it was from him and it was brutal. The kind of beating you give a man, not a boy. We had to sit with him when my parents were at work and gone in the evenings. We had to sit with him in his bedroom and he controlled everything in that house, except Nonnie's love for me. We didn't get to watch what we wanted on the TV, and we couldn't say a word in that room. He sat in his boxer shorts and his underwear, overweight and smoking Riley’s, the early version of the Camels and I would excuse myself and go into the living room.

   I shivered in the winter, because he wouldn't heat the living room for one person. I sweat in the summer, because there was no air conditioning unit in there and I read. I read three or four hours every late afternoon and evening. I read stories about Indians and about buffalo hunters. I learned how to throw knives really well by reading books about the Old West. I read Jack London's ’Call of the Wild,’ and then by the fifth grade I was reading The Odyssey and The Iliad and Norse mythology and other books. I became a lifelong lover of books because of a vile, violent grandfather and it was important that I become a lifelong lover of books, because of the plan that God had for my life and that's what God does.

   He'll take the low point of our story and He'll use it to produce something great. So if any of us are at the low point of our story right now, just take heart because one day God's going to turn that low point into a turning point that's going to drive us deeper His eternal love. That's what He always does with the low points. So that was life and then it took my parents' war, a violent grandfather and then dad finally got back at my mom. He finally won his part of the war.

   On Saturday morning, January 21st, 1961, my dad woke up. Mom was at work for half -day. We were at our grandparent’s house and he put some whiskey in his coffee, swallowed some barbiturates and then wrote an angry note while sitting on the couch in our living room. It was the one nice piece of furniture we had, a red couch embroidered with gold thread and he put a record on the record player, Floyd Cramer's piano piece ’ Last Date; a really sad piece and Floyd Cramer was famous for being able to write music that made you feel low. He fixed the record player so that that song would repeat over and over and then he put a single twenty two shell into his childhood rifle. He pressed the muzzle between his eyes and he left a thirty four year old widow to take care of his four fatherless kids.

   My mom came home from work at noon and stood outside the door, when she heard Last Date blaring. She heard it start again and must have had an idea what was on the other side of that door, because she didn't go in. She went to a neighbor and called my grandfather. He came over and went in the house. He came out, he said, "Jean, don't go in there." My mom fainted on the sidewalk. The next morning, we woke up. The child growing in my mom's womb was our baby sister Debbie. God had spared her life. The four of us woke up at my grandmother's.

   My grandmother woke me up and said, "Jackie, your dad is dead."

   I asked, "How did he die, a car wreck?"

   She said, "No honey, he killed himself."

   I buried my face in the pillow and cried, and she patted me on the back and she said, "Honey, don't cry, don't cry."

   I stopped crying immediately. So here's the shameful secret of my youth that I never told anyone until this year. Those tears were fake tears. My dad left me a long time before he pulled that trigger, and when he left me, my heart closed. My heart just ran out of tears and it ran out of hope, and I lost the ability to cry. I was on my way to becoming a full blown sociopath.

   By the time I was twelve years old, I cared enough about what was right to fake the tears. What boy wouldn't cry, when he hears his dad killed himself? There's one good thing about the fake tears. I'd never seen a dead body until my mom took me in an hour before the funeral, we had dad's funeral in a funeral home.

   We had no church friends and never went to church. We had no Christian friends and I never saw them. After we moved to our new house, I never saw a friend in our home. My mom and dad didn't have any real friends and sick families don't have friends and children of sick families don't talk about what goes on inside their home.

   Few people gathered at the funeral home an hour before the funeral. My mom held my hand and we stood beside dad's coffin. I looked down at him, dressed in one of his navy blue suits, with a red tie, and he looked like he could wake up any minute. I looked at his forehead and between his eyes, the bridge of his nose, trying to see where that bullet went in. That little twenty-two shell, less than a tenth of an ounce and the little piece of lead changed everything. I wanted to see if it left its mark and the morticians had done their job. I couldn't see a mark.

   I don't remember what was said at the funeral, but I remember what happened at the graveside. It was my first time to go to a graveside. I'd seen cowboy movies and saw what people do with a bereaved widow. They throw a handful of dirt, the first one onto the coffin. My mom didn't do that. While the grave diggers were lowering the coffin into the grave, my mom threw herself onto the coffin. She wanted to be buried alive with my dad and Papa had to pull her of the coffin. She wailed incoherently and screamed, but couldn't understand anything she was saying.

   For months after the burial, she dragged us to my dad's grave. It was January and February, and we shivered in the cold. We stayed there until dark and said we were hungry.

   She said, "I don't want to leave. I want to be close to your father."

   That went on for months and after one of those pilgrimages we walked through the living room of our house, and into the kitchen.

   She just said, "I can't stand that room. It's so cold in there."

   I watched her shudder while we walked through the room. I went back into the living room and wanted to feel that cold to see what it was like, and couldn't feel anything. I walked over to the couch and looked for traces of dad's blood, and I couldn't see anything. I wondered how they manage to wipe all the traces of his last minute off that couch and get it so clean.

   I walked over to the record player and there was that seven inch piece of black vinyl; last date; still on the record player. There has been no music in our house for two months. I took that record off and walked into the kitchen, Mom was standing at the sink and turned around and looked at me. We didn't say a word and I took that record to the trash container and broke it into as many pieces as my little hands could break it and tossed it all into the trash. I looked up at mom and she looked down at me and smiled, tears ran down her cheek, but she didn't say a word.

   Breaking that record was my protest against dad and what he had done to mom, and what he had done to us. It was my way of saying, "Mom, I thought dad was strong, but you are the strong one and I'm with you, mom. I'm with you." I was only twelve years old; but I understood what my dad had done. He had taken that seven inch piece of vinyl and turned it into a weapon to maim my mom for life.

   For the rest of my life, I would ask questions. I would wonder, did he want to maim us too? Did he want to maim me too? Was he mad at me too? If I had been a better son, could I have kept him here? Was there something I could have done to save him? Those were questions I asked over and over, but they were questions without an answer and that silence cut like a knife. Even worse than the silence, was the thought of where my dad was. At twelve years old, I knew there was no forgiveness in St. Peter’s Scales. If you want to live by those scales you are going to live without mercy, without forgiveness, and it killed me to think that my hero was burning in some molten cavern of hell. So the best thing I could do was just put my dad out of my thoughts and put God out of my thoughts and go on with life.

   After a couple of months, mom stopped her pilgrimage to dad's grave and the parade of men started in our home. It's 1961, you’re thirty-four years old, and you’re a woman. You had a tenth grade education. How are you going to take care of your kids? Without a man, the answer is you're not going to take care of the kids. The insurance money ran out and the parade of men started to storm through our lives. Short men, tall men, smart men, and vulgar men. They all had one thing in common, they didn't stay very long. Mom turned to the bottle to try to drink her pain away. I watched mom's health flowed away on rivers of bourbon and beer.

   By the time I could drive, I was taking her to the hospital emergency room and the diagnosis varied from congenital heart failure, kidney problems, and panic attacks which weren't common back then. I watched her breathe into paper bags in those emergency rooms. Then the men stopped coming, and she met a gentle giant. An obese, ugly man she despised to take care of her and she despised herself for descending to such a sorry level of life. I watched her give up on life. When mom was going through her lost period, I did the same thing when I was fourteen years old.

   I was walking through Hamlin Park, next to my Hamlin Junior High School and saw one of my classmates on the baseball diamond. He was at home plate batting and his father, a big six foot guy, was standing on the pitcher’s mound throwing pitches to Tommy Harmin. His father had this huge satchel of baseballs at his feet. I thought how rich you must be, not to have one baseball; but have a whole satchel full of baseballs. I couldn't imagine what that life was like. The father was throwing pitches to Tommy, who was shorter than me, rotund, and didn't have my athletic ability; but he had a coach for a father. He had a great father and he was throwing, and teaching him how to hit curve balls, how to hit a slider, and how to bat from either side of the plate.

   Tommy went on to become the quarter back of the football team, all-star baseball player, and played at the University of Texas. Was one of the coaches at the University of Texas. I just walked away from the park that day and thought, "Man, how great would it be to have someone to teach you how to throw a baseball, or catch a football, or to run a route." I had this athletic ability and was really strong as a kid, but I had no one to train that athletic ability, so I was frustrated. The way it was in Texas in the 1960's; to distinguish yourself as a boy, was being good at sports and I couldn't do that. I had nothing to prove my worth and academically, I was a failure. I was a failure because my original plan was to grow up and become an executive at General Motors like dad, and to become really rich.

   When my dad killed himself, he killed my plan, because there would be no money for school. If there's no money for school, what’s the purpose of being there? I never had a teacher who could show me the utility of math, the purpose of history, or the beauty of Shakespeare, so I just barely passed in school. I flunked typing; I flunked geometry because it was at nine o'clock in the morning, too early for me to go to school. My report card was littered with D's, C's, F's, an occasional A here or there. Made 950 on my SAT test, because I didn't know they were important.

   I couldn't distinguish myself athletically or academically, so I decided to be the wildest and most reckless kid in school. I'm going to get my identity through thievery, drunkenness, sex and risking my life. I joined this inner ring of seven other guys who were all athletes. A couple of them were star athletes, and a couple of them were like the gods of the high school. That's where I found my identity.

   We all came from broken homes or breaking homes and had no adults over us. We did some really sick things, but I'm not going to mention the worst things we did. We were all drunk and stole all my clothes. I always had great super clothes, because I stole them. I also stole sports equipment. Everything I needed I stole. We were drunk all the time and stole liquor. I drove 120 miles per hour drunk, eluded cops on foot, and eluded them in car chases. Since I couldn't distinguish myself athletically; we made up other games. One of our sick games put the eight of us on a field and we had 12 gauge shotguns. We're about eighty yards apart, hid behind trees and one of us yelled ‘go’ and it was our version of last man standing. So we came up and aimed at each other with the shotguns; but not straight and level at each other. We put an arch in the shot and the goal was not to break somebody's skin. The goal was just sting somebody really hard. If you got stung, you had to put your gun down and you were out, and the last one standing wins.

   I was telling somebody the story the other day and he said, "Well, how do you know if you hit the guy?"


   Because when you hit the guy he went, "Ouch!" and usually dropped his gun on the spot. It hurts when you get stung by a 12 gauge shotgun pellet. One of those games ended with me and the starting half back named Les, 20 yards apart. My shotguns was pointed at his chest, and his pointed at my head, with safety's off, and fingers on the triggers, yelling at each other to back down; claiming that both of us had won. Just the twitch, a wasp sting, an ant bite, and one of us goes in to eternity and the other goes to jail. None of us considered those possibilities. We were ten feet tall and bullet proof. That's how I lived and found my identity.

   In that group, I had one smart friend and his name was Bruce. Bruce didn't fit in the group, because he wasn’t athletic. He shot his basketball jump shot from his chest, shoved it up his arm instead of putting it over his head and flipping it. He was like an old man, getting up in the morning and had to have a Dr. Pepper to get going, like our parents had to have their coffee. He had migraine headaches and was eccentric.

   When he was in the sixth grade, he was campaigning for Richard Nixon to beat JFK. He would come to class, wearing campaign buttons for Nixon. I went home and I asked my dad who was still alive then, if we were Republicans or Democrats. He was a member of the Steamfitters Union, so guess we were democrats. I went back and I told Bruce we're voting for JFK. We didn't vote, but I just said that.

   Bruce goes, "You idiot! He'll wreck the whole country!"

   He starts giving me a lecture on economics. But here's why Bruce got to stay in the group. He was the source of our sexual knowledge about girls. Bruce knew more about girl’s bodies, and more about sex than all of us put together. He had two older sisters who were stewardesses, and that was probably the source of a lot of his knowledge. He talked about sex with a creative vulgarity that none of us could compete with. I can still remember some of those vulgar metaphors that he used, 50 years later. That's what kept him in the group and he was friends with the beautiful girls in school. Maybe it was because he was so eccentric that he likes them. He would talk for hours on the phone with them and they would tell him their secrets. They would tell him about their parents' worst, about their secret crushes, about their changing bodies and Bruce would relay that information to me.

   Just before our sophomore year, Bruce chased a blond named Dixie to a church camp. Yeah, only in Texas a blond named Dixie, right? He chased her to church camp and he never caught her, but he caught religion. The absolute worst kind of religion, Southern Baptist hellfire and damnation religion. Bruce was obnoxious before he got religion, but after, he took his obnoxiousness to a whole new level. And he was exiled from our group, I mean permanently exiled. He would come to school with a King James New Testament Bible in his shirt pocket. How did we know? Because he let the little red ribbon hangs out so everyone could see how holy he was. At lunch time, when he opened his sack lunch alone; he would clasp his head with his forefinger and thumb, and bend over his lunch and return thanks, just made a show of praying. He was just utterly obnoxious and when we're still talking to him, he would say, "That fountain of sexual knowledge had dried up." He would tell us we're supposed to respect girls.

   "We go, “We see you, and we wouldn't want to be you."

   Bruce was off by himself now. What Bruce did that I didn't know was he prayed for me every single day. In his mind, I was still his best friend. I was still the guy he loved. He prayed for me every single day and he got the church kids to pray for me every single day.

   On Friday December 17th, he said, "Hey Jackie, if you'll spend the night with me. I'll take you in the morning to meet these two beautiful girls from Paschal high school."

   Paschal high school was our famous high school in Fort Worth on the west side. It was rich and the high school had famous graduates; such as, Ben Hogan, the great golfer, and Dan Jenkins, the great sports writer. We were on the east side in Eastern hills, an impoverished high school; and had nobody famous from our high school.

   I said, "Okay, I'll do it."

   So I spent the night with him. Two o'clock in the morning, I'm in a bed on one side of the room, and he's on the bed on the other side. Lights are out, and for the life of me I don't know why I asked him this question.

   I said, "Bruce, how do you think you get to heaven?” I expected to hear another version of St. Peters Scales.

   Bruce says, "Jesus Christ died on the cross for you."

   I was 17 years old and never heard that Jesus Christ died for me.

   I grew up in the Bible belt; but didn't have any Christian friends. I never went to church. My family didn't go to church, so how do you hear that Jesus died on the cross for you if a Christian doesn't tell you. Where do you get that information? I saw the Greatest Story Ever Told back in April 1965.

The movie critic said, "Oh, yeah. It was the greatest story ever told. It was the worst movie ever made."

   I saw Jesus die on the cross and my interpretation was dang, why did they have to go and do that? He was such a nice guy. I didn't get any of it, so this was the first time in my life that I heard Jesus Christ died on the cross for me.

   Bruce says, "If you will trust him to forgive you and give you new life. He will come into your heart and he will never leave again."

   I said, "Oh Bruce, what if I do something really bad again?"

   He started laughing, "Jackie, I can guarantee you that you're going to do bad things the rest of your life." But he doesn't come into your life because you do something good or bad. He comes into your life because you trust him to forgive you, and you trust Him for his version of life. You trust Him for a new life and He'll never leave."

   I said, "That can't be true. That just can't be true." So when you're seventeen years old and everybody you've ever loved has left you, and then hear somebody say, God will never leave you. That can't be true. I mean the Judge of the Universe; is not going to leave? Been raised from the dead and told you were a loser, told you were bad and now the best person in the world's never going to leave you.

   I said, "Bruce that can't be true."

   He said, "Jackie, it really is true." I asked, "How do you know?"

   He said, "Because that's what Jesus said." I heard my first verse of scripture, John 10:28. Bruce said, "It's what Jesus said, I give my sheep eternal life and they shall never perish. No one can snatch them out of my hand."

   I heard my first verse of Scripture and I was instantly born again. Bruce rolled over, and went to sleep. But my conversion, if I had one, was years away. I was born again. I could have not told you I was born again. Born again wasn't in my vocabulary. There was no Christian word, no biblical word. That wasn't in my vocabulary. All I knew, I'm coming to God's side now, that's all I knew. What I'd done is that I actually trusted a person to give me new life and forgive me.

   So here's the sequel to the story, and this is what I really came here to tell you. I woke up and I realized that I forgot to take a new shirt to meet these new girls. I ran back to my house and I'd stolen these five madras shirts from a department store the day before. They were all the rage and I asked our housekeeper Bobby to iron one of those shirts for me. I actually asked to iron all of them. They're still in cellophane wrappers on my bed. I grabbed one of those shirts and Bobby was standing at the ironing board and I said, "Bobby, I told you this blank shirt. Now, I don't have anything to wear."

   I threw the shirt down on the counter, turned my back on her; and walked back into my bedroom and slammed the door. I stopped for a second, looked up and said, "Excuse me Lord, I'm sorry."

   I walked back in and said, "Bobby, I'm sorry that I got angry at you and I'm sorry I used those words. I don't want to use those words anymore and forget those shirts, they’re not important. I'll pick out something else to wear."

   She just stood at the ironing board, speechless; it's like what happened to this kid? I walked back into my room. No one had taught me to pray. And I just said my first prayer that morning. No one had taught me to confess my sins. No one had taught me to repent, to make a wrong act right. But the God of the Universe had just come into my heart through the crack of an open wound the night before and he was making Himself at home there. I didn't know what it was, but I could feel Him and feel His love.

   I called Bruce a few days later and said, "Bruce, I'm coming over to your side."

   He says, "What?"

   I said, "You know church, the whole thing. I'm coming over to your side."

   I couldn't say that I wanted to become a Christian. I couldn't say I wanted to repent, and ask for salvation, that was not in my vocabulary.

   He says, "Don't go anywhere." He ran over to my house, put a King James Bible under my nose and I started reading and have never stopped. That was fifty years ago.

   I loved what I read and still a lifelong reader. That's another part of the story that God was preparing me for, and even though it was in English, I couldn’t understand everything; but enough that it made my heart pound. Now, I have to go through my exile. I know it’s coming and words are to be said. I have these seven friends, and I can bear losing five of those guys, but my two best friends from seventh grade, Philip and Teddy. If I lost those guys, it would just be I mean my life would turn gray.

   That was another thing God was doing. He didn't let me find love in my home. He let me find it in friendship, and I’ll always have best friends in my life. It's a chief source of joy in life. You have God, have best friends, and you have everything in life. I tell Philip, he's six feet four, blond, all-star tight end, all-star forward on the basketball team, and he'll go in to play football in college.

   He said, "Oh no! Oh no!"

   Look, a little religion is okay, but don't become a fanatic. Don't be like Bruce."

   I said, "Don't worry Philip; I'm not going to be a fanatic."

   He hugs me and we never said I love you to each other. Boys didn't say that to each other and so I knew we were still together as friends. I knew they're going to get drunk and do those things we used to do before.

   Teddy, and I were standing in the driveway at ten o'clock the next night and I said, "Teddy, I'm giving myself to God."

   He asks, "What does that mean, Jackie? What does that mean?"

   I said, "Well, it means no more swearing, no more getting drunk, no more stealing, and no more using girls for sex."

   Teddy said back to me, "That sounds good to me."

I was flabbergasted. I mean it didn't even sound good to me. I didn't know what to say. It was part of the deal I made with God, "Okay, You let me in Your Kingdom now. I'm going to behave." I had no clue what to say to Teddy. I said, "I can't tell you how to do this, but I'll take you to Bruce. He knows how to do it."

   The fountain of sexual knowledge had become the fountain of theological knowledge in our life. So a few days later, before December ran out, Teddy and I knelt on the floor of my bedroom, shoulder to shoulder, next to my bed; and Teddy traded his whole life for the promise of a new life. Both us fell into the abyss of eternal divine love and didn’t have a clue of the joy to come, or the pain to come, or how God was going to redeem all that pain. We were born again into a new and wonderful life. I told Teddy He will never leave you and turn it in to what you couldn't do.

   I was only ten days old in the Lord eyes, when I talked to Teddy and my experience of God was mainly what I could do, not what I couldn’t do. But I told it to a person I love and God used my distortion of the Gospel to bring new life into Teddy's heart. Our story is our experience with God, no matter how weak we might think it is. We tell it in love to a person we love, it’s the most powerful weapon we have. The most powerful thing about us is our experience with God, not some argument; but our experience of God told in love. So I came here today to encourage you to tell your story and then pray every day.

   I'm writing a book. It's a memoir. I'm actually trying to write my story and writing about mom and I thought I might be being a little too hard on my mom. So I called my younger brother Gary and I said, "Hey, do you remember mom beating us when we were little and he says, "Oh yeah, yeah." He said, "Remember that time that she pulled our pants down and she beat our butts bloody with the rosebush switches." I said, "No, I don't remember that one. It just got lost in the fog of all the other beatings." And then my brother laughed when he told me the story. That's what we men do when we've been raised in trauma. We heal ourselves by turning our beatings into acts of hilarity, only it doesn't really heal ourselves at all. You can't get healed by making fun of your torment. So that's a kind of home I grew up in and it was like a bipolar existence. My dad was phenomenal at fixing things. We never had a repairman come to our house. He could do plumbing, air conditioning, electrical work. He understood how every kind of motor worked. We never had anybody work on our car but dad’s skill at fixing things also worked against us because he took air conditioning and plumbing jobs on the weekend. So my parents were in that classic battle. Mom rages, so dad just absents himself for her rage. Dad kept all of his anger inside, but mom was schizophrenic. I mean, she was angry one minute and a loving wonderful mom the next minute.

John Deere Hearing His Voice

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Does the Bible talk about Miracles - Jack Deere