Tag Archives: West Point

The Testimony: One of the Best Ways to Fish for Men

When I worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Chicagoland and the Washington D.C. area during the late 80’s and early 90’s, occasionally I would find myself one on one with a co-worker for a longer period of time. Maybe it was just a lunch hour and two of us made plans to grab a Chicago style hot dog at Luke’s (try it when you’re near the Windy City). Maybe the Vienna, VA office was running out of cars and we needed to get to Gaithersburg to pick one up. Whatever the case, I remember asking a question on a long ride that yielded fruitful conversation on at least more than one occasion.

“John, what’s the story of your life?” I would ask.

“Well, I graduated from Purdue…”

“No, no…” I might counter. “…the story of your life. Go back further…like where were you born? Your family. Give me details.”

And so it would begin. I would ask questions along the way, really trying to draw them out. I’ve found that most people like to tell about themselves, and as long as the questions are not too prying, it can be a great way to get things going.  And for my part, I find people interesting…a great way to pass the time.

Invariably, after chatting through the notorious D.C. traffic and maybe on the beltway for a while, they would turn to me: “OK, now your turn. Tell me the story of your life.”

And I would…Born in Jackson, Mississippi, an only child, moved to Antioch, Illinois when I was 7, became an atheist in middle school/high school. Got an appointment to West Point…

“And you know, when I got to West Point, it was interesting – they suggested we go to church.”


“Yeah, I think they felt it was good for your reputation as an officer….”

And so it went. I would tell about how at the protestant church service, the Chaplain talked about Jesus in a way I had never heard…etc…all the way to when that cadet Bob Maruna dropped by my tent and showed me the Bridge diagram and that verse:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

For those who are uninitiated, what I was doing here is called sharing your testimony, and I have found the testimony to be a really great way of explaining the faith. It’s a method of fishing for men which has a long and honored tradition, starting with a man named Paul in the 1st Century A.D.

…when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women…” Acts 22:2-4 (ESV)

And so, before a hostile crowd of his fellow Jews, the testimony of the Apostle Paul begins from the steps of Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem. It would not be the only time Paul would tell his story in this manner in the book of Acts – a wonderful opportunity would afford itself before King Agrippa, recounted in Acts 26.

I have personally found that sharing my testimony is a very effective way of telling someone about Jesus.  Who can argue with it? It’s your story. And the format is pretty simple.  Tell about your life before you met Christ. Tell how you met Christ, and try to include a verse at this point, especially one that meant something to you at the time and helps to explain the gospel (like mine: Ephesians 2:8, 9). Then finally, tell about what has happened in your life since you met Christ.

I hope you’ll give it a try sometime. If it was good enough for Paul, why not you and me?


For tomorrow, Thursday, March 12: Acts 23

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 11, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Promise

Statue to MacArthur on the grounds of West Point, NY

Statue to MacArthur on the grounds of West Point, NY

They warned me about Reorganization (Reorgy) week at West Point, but there was no way to have a real sense for what was coming.

The week before Reorgy was the last week of basic training or “Beast Barracks” at the Academy, and believe it or not, it was as close to any vacation as I had known thus far. It was hardly basic training, taking place about 10 miles from the West Point grounds at a camp on Lake Frederick. There were leadership exercises during the day, a little boating if I remember correctly, and evening rallies and movies and lots of time to write letters – overall, a general relaxed feeling. It was during this week that West Point Firstie Bob Maruna dropped by my tent and changed my forever.

But we were told what was coming – Reorgy – the week when ALL the sophomores (Yearlings), juniors (Cows), and seniors (Firsties) descended on the West Point campus  from their various summer assignments and made life for us Plebes a living hell. Previously, during the summer there were a few upperclassmen around who would haze us, mostly Firsties. The ratio was maybe 10 plebes to every 1 upperclassman. But now everything was about to change. The Yearlings, Cows and Firsties all had the right to haze Plebes, and most didn’t seem to hold back. That reversed the ratio: 1 Plebe to every 3 upperclassmen. Life was about to get tough.

We still had no idea.

I met my two new Plebe roommates at the start of the week: first, there was hapless Jamie, who had trouble labeling and putting his dirty clothes in the bag for the laundry service to clean (actually going to the cadet store to buy new underwear). The dear chap would flunk out at the end of first semester. But the other guy in our three bed room was at the opposite end of the spectrum – Rocky – who would go on to complete West Point and become an Army neurosurgeon. Thinking about it years later makes me laugh – the phrase oil and water comes to mind.

The three of us returned from our 10 mile forced march with dirty everything from bivouacking and set about to organize our room for the start of the academic year.

Before too long, our new assistant squad leader dropped by to introduce himself. He was a Yearling, a friendly sort, and I got the impression he was on our team. Before he left, he said nonchalantly, “You guys smell. You’d better keep the door open and air things out.”

And soon we had another visitor: A particularly nasty Cow, a member of our new company (and apparently our new neighbor down the hall), he had walked by our room with its open door and didn’t like the odor. “Hey, you plebes, you smell! Keep your door closed!”

Yes sir. We closed the door. (Maybe we weren’t too bright, but I can only say that speaking up to this guy didn’t seem to be the thing to do.)

And then there we two strong knocks at the door. “Enter sir!” one of us bellowed. It was Friendly Yearling, frustrated. “Hey you guys, I thought I made it clear that I wanted you to air things out. Keep this door open.”

Do you know where this is going?

The Nasty Cow came back, loudly and very unpleasantly from the hallway: “One of you Plebes, post out here pronto!” Of the three of us, I volunteered (never do that in the Army) and thus began a couple of weeks of required visits to the sadist’s room for an extra helping of hazing. It remains one of my worst memories of the Academy.

I share all this to give you a glimpse of a particularly terrible week in my life. And yet, God was at work in my life, moving and drawing me. I had just heard the gospel the week before, and had been invited to a retreat at the end of Reorgy for Cadet Chapel Sunday School teachers. And yet, as the end of Hell week approached, my attendance at said retreat was in serious question, at least according to another young man who was my new squad leader, again an unforgettable and seemingly unkind Firstie Cadet named Zunde.

To this day, I remember the three of us, Jamie, Rocky and me, standing at attention in Zunde’s room, waiting his word on the fate of our upcoming weekend. I so wanted to go on that retreat, but would Zunde give his okay?

And as we stood stiff in his room, waiting for his judgment, fearful of his final word, in one glorious moment, I sensed something wonderful. There were not just four of us in that room, the hazer and his three hazees. No…there was another.

Jesus was there. Really. He was. I could tell. I was not alone.

I was going on that retreat.

I’ve never had the same sense like I did that week some 32 years ago, but it doesn’t matter.  He has been with me ever since, just like He promised to be with all those who follow Him:

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20  (ESV)

Inspired Readers: Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 10  – we begin the book of Acts, chapter 1.


Posted by on February 9, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Memories of My First Prayer Meeting

Cadet Chapel, West Point

The year was 1982, sometime in the second half of August, and it was Reorganization (reorgy) week at West Point.  Reorgy was supposed to be one of the hardest weeks at the Academy, and at least in my book, it lived up to its reputation.   I did something wrong – doing things wrong was the plight of Plebes – and some upperclassman threatened that I might not be able to go on the retreat I was so looking forward to.

The retreat was a Sunday school teacher’s getaway, organized by the Protestant Chapel, and the Chaplain had invited me – not for my winsome ways with the kids – but I assume because he pegged me as fresh meat for evangelism if he could get me away for the weekend.   He offered me the post of teaching three and four year olds in the Sunday school chapel, assuming, I suppose, that I couldn’t do much harm at that level.  So I accepted the challenge, and in God’s providence, the threat to my weekend didn’t materialize.  Off I went.

This was the weekend that I called on the name of the Lord for salvation.  The Chaplain gave a group of us that opportunity, and I took him and the Lord up on the free offer of salvation.  Glorious.  Don’t remember much about that, truth be told, but I do remember my first prayer meeting.

Towards the end of the weekend, sometime after that gospel presentation, a group of cadet old-timers and some of us newbies gathered around a table and held hands.  Someone explained the plan: we would pray around the table, and when the person next to you was finished saying his piece to the King of kings, he or she was supposed to squeeze your hand.

I was scared.  What was I supposed to say? More than that, what if I said the wrong thing?  But for all my discomfort, it might have been most unpleasant for the persons on either side of me; I don’t remember for sure, but I’ll bet they could have nicknamed me old “sweaty-palms”.

It came my turn.  I said my piece.  Lightning didn’t strike.  And I’m here to tell you about it today, thirty years and a whole lot of prayer meetings later…but now thankfully, with dryer palms.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Uncategorized


Tags: ,

%d bloggers like this: