How To Conquer The Crazy War
Outside I was a beer-drinking Polish catholic from the west side of Grand Rapids, Michigan. I created an image as a ‘tough guy’, although inside I was altogether lost. We all find things to occupy our loneliness and boredom. Football was my obsession. At 20 years old, I had just made first string fullback at the university of Central Michigan University! After excruciating summer workouts my football dreams had finally been realized! It was all worth it…or not. In an instant I found myself standing outside the stadium on crutches at game time handing out programs. I was devastated.
If I could turn back the page of time and tell myself something at that moment, I would say something like,“Be patient young man, this ‘crazy war’ shall be won” and also, “Enjoy that nice long blond hair while you got it, cuz pretty soon you will look like hell being bald”.
As a kid I hated school, studying and basically anything that sniffed of conformity to a system. When I looked up at awesome cloud formations and inhaled fresh cut grass it told me there had to more to life than to spend my one short life on this planet to “GET A JOB! (Ps.19:1/ Rm.1:20)”. No way!
When I was fourteen I got shot in the eye with a BB gun on my way back from a Boy Scout meeting. This greatly influenced the direction of my life because I had to spend one entire month laying on my back, perfectly still, in a hospital or they said I could go blind. It also took away my one security of football for the next two years of my life. I went from being ‘cool’, to looking like a “squirrel” with big black glasses. Even my best friend’s mocked me. I had no idea that at this early age God was beginning to break my ego. By sophomore year, I had regained football and my cool image. I got arrested the night before High School graduation but the head cop had watched me play football on Friday nights so I got off. Hard winters and short summers made me want to get out of a town I considered quite hokey. Besides, I had to know what was “out there”.
I surely wasn’t “into God”, but I went to Mass, said the rosary and would kick anyone’s butt who came against my pope. Deep inside I did have a conscious fear of God. Even though I acted “bad” among peers, when I was alone I did some deep thinking about God. I wondered if God was real would He display such utterly profound beauty in the stars, oceans and forests but leave man’s purpose to find fulfillment in working eight to five? Did a Creator depend on universities and technology in order for you to find purpose?
My five older brothers, sister and Dad thought my mom was getting a little weird on us because, instead of talking about saints, confession, and sacraments, she began talking about the “living Jesus”! What in the world was this supposed to mean? I was afraid of growing distant from her so I decided to give her an ear, even though she didn’t know it.
My mom and I were very close. I never thought that her experience with God was for me. Then slowly I began to see an angle where I could profit from this God-thing. Why, of course, God could prove Himself to me by getting me a football scholarship to a university then I could escape Grand Rapids. Hah, this would work out great! What a brilliant … warped mind. But would He go along with this kind of crazy thinking guy?
So I went into this bargaining season with God; If He could get me to make All-City fullback, which would get me a scholarship to a university, then I would go to one of my mom’s prayer meetings at my West Catholic High School. If one of my buddies ever found out I went to a prayer meeting I’d be dead meat as far as my “macho” image. To make a long story short, God did His part. I made All-City, but I miserably failed at my end of the deal.
When I got to Central Michigan University I threw myself into lifting weights. I discovered “The Russian Method” of lifting (the only book I ever read). Soon I was bench pressing 425 lbs. and being asked by all the guys to show them how to lift. I was only a measly 187 lbs. I also ran a 4.4 forty yd. dash. I could honestly boast of being the fastest and strongest guy on the team. (And made sure everybody knew it.)
All of this image was really my desperate attempt to hide profound insecurity and fear of what I was going to do with my life and what others thought. The campus scene allowed me to finally become a “somebody”. People knew me. Coaches talked about me. I was on the top of my fantasy world. I got arrested with one of my coaches for fighting at a bar one summer. I did other crazy things. Soon the guys nicknamed me “the Crazy War” from my wild disposition and last name. Little did anyone know how well this expression so accurately described what was really going on deep inside. I was tormented by a deep conflict over meaning, pleasing others and a fear of my future, or lack of one. I hated being completely LOST yet having to act “cool and together”! I became a slave to the image I created. I had to be who they wanted me to be.
Then the unthinkable happened. I tore up my knee in a spring game. Like a popped balloon, my ego-trip imploded. I became subject to things out of my control. The team didn’t skip a beat. Another fullback instantly took my position and the game went on. I was left with crutches and a very uncertain future. It’s downright eerie how unforeseen factors can pull the rug out from under you. In one moment everything can seem so “great” then at a time unexpected, WHAM, you have no clue!
I remembered that “deal” with God that I failed to fulfill. Could I dare try it again? God is so wonderful! He doesn’t give you a second chance… He offers you 70×7 chances (Mt.18:21 )! If God would get me a full-ride scholarship, despite my injury, this time I would definitely “serve Him” (I had no idea what I was talking about.) I will never forget those words of my coach when I went in to see him “ No sweat, ‘War’. You proved to me you’re worth a scholarship.” Either I was extremely “lucky” or there just might be a God. God actually has an awesome sense of extremely personal humor!
You don’t know how impossible it was for me to get a full-ride but I do. God does the impossible! It all depends on your transparency! Some say you shouldn’t test God by asking for things. God says He wants you to ask Him to show you His power (Mt.7:7ff/Lk.11:9ff). God will use whatever He can so that you will uncover the profound mystery and salvation of the living Person Jesus! The mistake people make is to assume that when God answers your prayers, it means He approves of your life ‘blank check’. They then go off and do their own thing thinking that God is with them because of some previous blessing. Not so fast. God does something to get your attention so that you will then come to His Son and become a disciple of an obedient life (Acts3:19/2Pt.3:9)!
You and I have a HUGE CHOICE in life! Despite all the peer pressure we are NOT robots or animals! We have a FREE WILL. We are accountable to God for what we say and what we do. Not to choose is to choose….NOT to choose. Laziness is the absence of will. It’s like a sailboat without a rudder. The majority HARDEN their heart against God because life is tough. People blame God for things in their life yet claim to be independent of everyone including God. Men are quick to blame God but find a hundred reasons not to believe in Him.
Have you ever found yourself thinking “How could God let this happen to ME?”. Maybe it’s the sinful consequence of something you chose. Maybe it’s just a result of the human plight. In any case YOUR CHOICE to submit to God, or resist Him, will determine whether that thing, and all others, come under God’s powerful redemptive Hand. This is the way it was for my many, many injuries I incurred. Many guys have similar things happen to them but I made a choice to believe God. I CHOSE to interpret my sufferings as a divine test of my heart of hearts. I recognized my own wicked self-obsession, insecurity and lust. I had no qualms about being identified as a filthy sinner. What about you? How big is your ego? How great is your defiance to God’s clear-cut revelation (Rm.3:10)? To deny your sickness only prevents God’s wonderful remedy.
Hidden under my stereo was a small New Testament that my mom had sent me in a box full of chocolate chip cookies. With my leg in a cast, all alone, night after night I CHOSE to start reading the Gospel of John. While listening to Carlos Santana and Moody Blues, I began to “hear” another kind of song (Rev.15:3)! I began to “hear” about the Spirit. This life of Jesus was astounding! I deeply pondered the reactions and interchange with individuals. What was His ultimate goal? Where was He headed with everything? How could I ever fit into a plan of Someone Who lived two thousand years ago?
God wants to meet you right where you are at. He is not ‘freaked out’ by ANY of your sinful ways! It doesn’t matter what type of sin you may be involved in. God loves you. He wants you to know His forgiveness. He wants to give you His power to change. Sin is not a problem! It is why Jesus shed His blood on the cross! Don’t ever worry about what you must STOP doing. Focus rather on what you must START doing. Talking to Jesus! Believing He has a way that you don’t know right now. I was captivated by words that broke open my spirit to something I never even knew existed. Jesus did not speak of a system or building-attendance. He tells wicked sinners, like me, not to fear coming to Him (Lk.5:8). There actually IS something beyond the “me-life” that they say is what you are to live for. If you could hear God actually speak what do you think He’d say? Well, He has spoken. Jesus said; “If anyone is thirsty let him come to Me…out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water” (Jn.7:37ff,3:8).
Think of your “innermost being”! This is what God is concerned about. This is the place where you spend all your lonely hours. It is the place where you come up with an image out of insecurity. This is the “place” where Jesus PROMISES He will fill, not with doctrines or laws, but with “LIVING WATER”! I pondered night after night “What exactly is ‘living water’ ?” The summer of my sophomore year I attended a conference at the University of Notre Dame. By this time I had read the Koran, studied Siddhartha and tried to “transcend” bad things through a “mantra”. None of it rang true.
The Bible says Jesus bore SIN on the cross. His blood became an atonement and appeased God’s wrath for sin (Rm.3:25-26/1Pt.2:24). This WORK separates Jesus from all other “teachers”. I didn’t understand what all this terminology really meant. I did understand what it meant to rise from the dead. So what my question was, and what yours must become, “Are You really alive today JESUS?”. The worst thing you can start doing is looking to others instead of starting to simply talk to Jesus on your own. Ask Him specifically about things in your life. God is so personal and has such a cool sense of humor..
While sitting in the football stadium of Notre Dame, behind the Golden Dome, looking at Touch Down Jesus, God Almighty answered this bum. At that precise moment I was “born from above” (Jn.3:3,7).
I sat there in the eastern bleachers of the stadium all alone. I bowed my head and surrendered my life to Him. I told Jesus regardless of whether I had any kind of spiritual experience I was committing the rest of my life to follow and obey Him. In just that short moment of time I lifted my head and realized that the goal posts and the mural of “Touchdown Jesus” were the same on that beautiful June morning, but I had just been completely changed inside (2Cor.5:17)! I was a part of something way bigger then my university and college environment. I was being caught up into something from ancient times. My puny college world was nothing in light of this new revelation. I was being drawn into a world beyond worlds; into a dimension beyond time and space. The divine thunder of the resurrection shook my world.
I escaped the insanity of my inner “crazy war” into the reality of His victory.
A huge weight seemed lifted from my shoulders. I didn’t even realize how much the guilt of my sin bore on my life. I saw no angels. I shed no tears. I did not shake with emotional tremors. All I knew was I now sensed within the Presence of the living Jesus! There, at the home of the Fighting Irish, the “Crazy War” was won! Jesus released me from the fear of men. I would now fight for Him.
Things like insight, wisdom and knowledge of God’s mystery began to come into my life as I read His Word. No longer would I fill my mind with the empty pursuits and babble of this world. I would fight for human souls. I would be a witness to this Jesus Whom I now knew to be real. I would “work” for the food that does not perish (Jn.6:27,29)! I would fight to restore vision to the lost. I would fight for the One Who fought for me. What will you fight for?
My mom died of cancer shortly after I met Jesus. It broke my heart to see how frail she became in just one month. She would scream and cry of pain every night. It was like I lost the only one who cared about me in this world. I remember seeing them carry her out of our house in a black bag. I went in our basement and just wept for hours. I had them write on her grave stone the Scripture “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me” (Mk.8:34). God used her death to help bring about the death of my soul. My soul was like a “grain of wheat” that must die before it can live. I had to enter a “cocoon” in order to fly. It is written “He who loves his life shall lose it and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn.12:24-25).
My new “Coach” granted me a ‘scholarship’ to the “university of the Holy Spirit” (1 Jn.2:27/Mt.11:29). I wrote “Jesus” on the back of my helmet with medical tape and put a cross on my leg. It was just a little thing to me but it caused quite an uproar. My coach, Roy Kramer (who later became the head of the BCS), insisted that I take His Name off my helmet but I refused. From that time on he cut back my playing time. I was blown away by how the football team treated me. I had no idea I would be so severely rejected. All because of Jesus.
They had felt betrayed by “the crazy War” who had chosen another kingdom. As long as I was the leader of dark ways and dark times it was “rock n roll dude” but now as a leader in the light it was “Get out of here Jesus freak”. Not only did they not listen but they already claimed to be Christians and simply labeled me as “over the edge” and ”radical”. This was only the beginning of the cost I would soon learn. At first, when I had read David, Jeremiah and the prophets talk about suffering and the persecution of the wicked, I could not relate at all. I wondered how and why someone could be hated for talking about God. But now I had joined their side and began to understand the warnings of Jesus (Jn.15:18ff).
Further football injuries isolated me. They even started calling me Job from the Old Testament figure who suffered so greatly. However, instead of choosing self-pity, I chose to discover my identity as a son of the LIVING God! I now had a world that not only interested me but enthralled me. I seized upon the promise of Jesus Who said “Come to Me…and LEARN from Me”! This did not involve meeting the standards of men. This did not involve academics or boring traditions. This involved supernatural dynamics! How could I ever be worthy of such things?! I chose to rejoice in my new found eternal life. God Almighty had loved …a wretched sinner like me! Jesus promises “If any man comes to Me I will not cast him out…learn from ME (Jn. 6:37/ Mt.11:27).
Now my absolutely beautiful wife (we are writing our own epic of Beauty(her) and the Beast(me)) of thirty-one years was my cheerleader, on and off the field. She stood by me and was my only friend through all my suffering. Before I made the decision to get married I spent five years alone, studying the scriptures and seeking God’s will.
One day after I returned to Notre Dame for a catholic charismatic conference I once again received a divine gift when the Holy Spirit impressed upon my heart the profound “direction” in the verse.
“The wind blows where it wills you hear the sound of it but do not know where it is coming from or where it is going to. So is EVERYONE born of the Spirit” (Jn.3:8). This is the only definition Jeus gives of what it means to be born again!
Each one of my six children were born at home in a different state and each one is a beautiful story. Now, fifty states, forty something countries, four continents and countless phenomenal experiences later, my family and I testify to you that there is something…SOMEONE worth living and fighting for! Jesus of Nazareth is alive!. He loves you so much you cannot imagine. He wants to show you. He promises to provide for you. If He has done so with a family of eight can He not much more do so for you? First you must win your own “crazy war” within! Don’t just talk AT God. Talk TO Him. Be real. Be humble. Believe!
Surely I never imagined, way back in high school where I would be today. Not only what I have but what I am able to give while traveling across the world. We would love to help you in any way we can. Feel free to contact us. We really do care about YOU! My family and I will fight for the truth no matter the price. They persecuted Jesus and Paul. They said lies and bad things about them. They do so about us as well. Our response is love and forgiveness. We don’t fight for having a nice Christian image. Our concern is a lost world having to face the impending judgment of God. We will fight for the poor and humble in spirit. We will fight for you! And I ask you my friend, What will you give your one short life for? What will you fight for? Hear the call of the Ancient of days! See beyond this shallow world.
Go deeper, go higher!
Oh ya, and also…..Go Irish!