I had a really strict upbringing in Glasgow, where my father served as a policeman. My parents were not Christians however we attended Govanhill Free Church regularly every Sunday. I hated going to church for two main reasons. The first was most of my pals were Roman Catholics. They attended early morning Mass for half an hour every Sunday and then they could do anything that they wanted for the rest of the day.
The other thing that I hated about going to church was the fact that I had to wear a kilt! The minister of the congregation was the late Rev. Kenneth Mackay. I do not remember any of his sermons however I do remember a very robust and loud student called Calum Matheson!
Twenty years later he would officiate at my brotherís wedding!
I found it difficult to make friends as my father was a policeman. None of the boys would trust me in case I told my father what we were getting up to. I had a great respect for my father and I loved him very much. The older I got the closer we became. Many a day however I wished that he had had any other job on the planet other than being a policeman. I imagine sons of the Manse suffer much of the same.
My father took early retirement from the police force having served Glasgow then Strathclyde Police Force for over 27 years and we all moved to the Isle of Lewis. It was always my fatherís dream to retire to the place of his birth. I also loved the place.
Church going all but stopped for us once we arrived on Lewis. The language barrier (at that time 7 out of the 8 services preached each month was in Gaelic) was a great excuse for us not to go. The truth was, I just had no desire nor did I see any reason for going to church. It was all right for weddings and funerals but nothing else.
In 1981 I spent a year working on the Island of Barra as District Linesman for the local electricity company. For the first time in my life I felt that there were no restrictions on me. I let my hair down big time!. Every dance, every concert and nearly every party I was there! Days were spent drinking as well as nights. I ate little and I drank a lot! By the time I left Barra to come home to Lewis I was in a mess.
My father was dying of cancer, however, even this did not make me stop drinking. One day the police found me fast asleep in the works van in the middle of a village road. I do not know how I to ended up there, but it was just the thing to bring me to my senses. I was suspended from work for one week which did not bother me half as much as the thought of going home to my father to explain the mess I was in. He didnít open his mouth but it broke my heart when a tear trickled down his face as he looked at me with so much disappointment in his eyes.
My father was converted while he was in hospital.
Although he had been a big powerful man, it was difficult to see him lying there helpless. He had a real joy in his heart and he suffered in silent acceptance. One night we went up to the hospital as usual, but his bed had been screened off. The nurse told us that he had taken a turn for the worse and that he was very ill.
The last words that my father spoke to me were, "do not worry, Iíll be all right in the morning." I thought that he meant that he would be all right physically in the morning, but my father knew where he was going. He died at twenty-five minutes past midnight!
I had never loved anyone as much as I had my father, now I never missed anyone as much. Thankfully I had stopped drinking three months before he died, but now my life was empty. I still had my mother and brother but they could never replace Ďmy best friend.í
I started wondering where my father had gone. What was after death? What did he mean when he mentioned the blood of Jesus? Where was I to find the answers? Life was meaningless and empty.
One day a friend asked me if I wanted to go to an Evangelistic meeting in the church in Garrabost. It was a minister from the Mainland that was preaching and he had a good reputation. I agreed and we both went to the service. The late Rev Professor J. Douglas Macmillan preached on the text Ė"It is Finished." I remember him roaring these words from the pulpit but it made no impression on me. In fact I do not remember anything of significance about the sermon at all.
At the end he read out the words of our final Psalm. It was Godís voice I heard as verse 10 of Psalm 51 was roared from the pulpit! I left church that night knowing that something really strange had happened to me but I did not know what. I went home and tried to explain to my mother what had happened to me. I remember saying, "I donít know what it is, I only know that I want a clean heart and a right spirit within me!"
I did not know where to find the answers to my questions, so I started reading the Bible. The words of this Book were alive to my soul. It was just as if John or Peter or Paul was sitting on my bed reading the chapters to me. I slowly began to realize that I was a sinner and that I needed God to forgive me my sin before I died otherwise I was going to Hell and God would be Just in putting me there.
I was so scared of dying in this state!
All this reading and still I did not know how to get right with God!
Christian friends would say things like stop sitting on the fence and come out on the side of the Lord. I was clueless as to what they meant. I didnít want to go to a Prayer Meeting I wanted to be saved!
I remember hearing a sermon on the text, "Look unto me all ye ends of the earth and be ye saved.." and another on "Come now and let us reason together saith the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow, though the be red like crimson they shall be as wool." In my ignorance I remember going on my knees in the bathroom praying to God to make me whiter than the snow. Nothing wrong with that prayer I hear you say except that I was expecting my Ďskiní to change colour!!
I read and read my Bible and I devoured good books, of which I heartily recommend the best paperback ever written, - ĎRedemption, Accomplished and Appliedí by Prof. John Murray.
I still could not figure out where Jesus fitted into the equation.
Everyone told me to believe in Jesus, but I was dealing with God!
Slowly but surely my understanding opened and I came to realize the significance of the Cross in the experience of our Lord. I still had months of difficulty trying to believe that He died for me! I remember saying to people at the time, "that I couldnít believe that I believed!" I was in Ďno manís landí and really scared.
I knew what I had to do now but I found it impossible to do!
I remember heading down to Glasgow by train. I was in a carriage on my own as the train pulled into Kingussie station. The door of my carriage blocked out the last three letters of the station signpost leaving ĎKINGUSí. The ĎKINGí part of the sign was clean but the ĎUSí part had been splattered with mud and was dirty. It was then that the penny dropped. That which I had believed in my head, I now believed in my heart.
I was on the Kingís side!
I believed there and then that Jesus Christ had died on the cross at Calvary for ME! My life changed that instant as I surrendered my life to Him. The relief of knowing that all of my sins had been forgiven was beyond words. I was filled with joy unspeakable and I couldnít but speak of the things that I had seen and heard to all who crossed my path.
Later that same year I started suffering severe back pain. It was later diagnosed as being Oesteochondritus. It was a condition for which there was no remedy, a slow but painful deterioration of my lower spine. I would have to live with this weakness and suffer back pain for the rest of my days.
Today after over 20 years of suffering I get a measure of relief through wearing morphine patches. The side effects are horrendous but it does give me some liberty and some pain relief.
I have grown to accept this problem and have thanked God for it on many an occasion. Other times I have hated Him for it! Pain is not pleasant for anyone, however Godís ways are best and it had works together for my good. It has not stopped me from getting involved in as many things as I can, although these things now are very limited. I have enjoyed making 10 Aid trips to Romania where I have met many wonderful Christians.
To add to my problems I suffered a heart attack on 11/11/2000 at the ripe old age of 43!
It came totally out of the blue with absolutely no warning! I was driving when the pains started and I knew what was happening to me as I had never experienced a pain like this before. It was as if Godís hand was crushing my chest. I did not know whether I was going to reach home or whether I would be meeting my Maker face to face. I had no fear. I was content whatever way it went. I was in total surrender to Godís will.
It was not my time and since that experience I have lost my confidence in many areas. I no longer think of summer holidays or trips to Romania or anything really that is in the future. I lay my head on my pillow at night, thank God for today and wonder if I will see the morning!
Through all my experiences I can truly say that I love my God with all my heart, and I love Him more today that I did yesterday. I hope that it will be my portion to be around for a good while yet and hopefully Iíll be able to add to this at a later stage. Until then, I ask you with all the love in my heart and with great urgency to, prepare to meet your God.