Life Compass
Keeping You Pointed in the Right Direction

An Old Gideon Bible

Most adults are not prepared for the event that will change their lives forever. Most children do not realize the importance of the adults in their lives until it’s too late. I did not know as a nine year old kid how God would use two special people to chart my journey in life.

As a young boy my mother had us in a mainline denominational church. Not much going on there. As a kid you tried to survive the sermon, so you could go to Sunday School and hear the latest dirty jokes from kids you only saw once a week because they went to one of the other elementary schools in town. The pastor’s son and I were Acolytes. That meant on communion Sunday we could ditch Sunday School to clean up the elements. Our church used real bread cut into cubes. Made a great snack to a ten year old along with plenty of juice to wash it down. Oh, and one Sunday a year we used real wine. That’s another story for another time.

I would sum up my religious experience as a kid as one of “had to” not wanted to. During the week we lived our lives like everyone else. Sunday we went to church because it was the “right thing“ to do. All that would change when I became a teenager.

 My grandmother and grandfather were the first real Christians I experienced. They lived different than everyone else I knew. They didn’t smoke, they didn’t drink, they didn’t swear, and they didn’t talk about other people. My grandfather, Ira, only went as far as the sixth grade in a one room school. He worked as a farmer, factory worker, and when I came into his life he was “retired” and working as a janitor at the YMCA. He would spend his afternoons in his garden which was about half of an acre. He loved to eat raw onions like an apple. A man of very few words. Looking back I wonder if that was because he was self conscious of his limited education like I was of my secret. But Ira Putman didn’t have to speak to teach me something.

 He was a Gideon. Occasionally I would go with him to a school or hotel to deliver Gideon Bibles and pocket New Testaments. It was at the Holiday Inn my life would change forever. We were going room to room replacing Bibles. I remember getting a little restless and bored. In one room he seemed, in my mind, to be taking way too long. Walking in I saw him looking down into a commode. Just staring. He was sobbing. Taking a towel off the rack he reached down into the commode and took out a Bible that had been thrown there. Carefully, tenderly he dabbed the Book with towel and wrapped it. We finished up and headed for home. Not word was said about that Bible in the toilet but there it lay on the back seat of his Chevy Impala. He pulled into his garage. Getting out he picked up that urine soaked Bible and headed upstairs over the garage. You see his garage fifty years earlier was a stable barn with hay loft overhead. It was filled with antiques and old treasures that today American Pickers would die to get their hands on. I followed him and watched as placed that Bible in a bookcase with dozens of other “beat up” Bibles. That day a quiet man taught me, not in word but in deed, that the Bible is a precious Book not like any other. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.

Soon after that experience I would trust Jesus Christ as my Savior on the front porch of their house on an August afternoon at the age of 9. My grandmother, Ruth, was one of the most godly people I have ever known. In fact, next to my wife Shari she is the second greatest Christian I have ever met.

My grandmother spent her days cleaning, doing ironing in the kitchen, preparing meals, and selling Avon.

Her nights were spent talking on the phone until the wee hours of the morning to her “old lady” friends. She ran what was called a tourist home back in the 70’s which has been upgraded today as a bed and breakfast. Students from the local community college lived there. There were always interesting people coming and going. Hippie college kids (yup they existed), a missionary on furlough, a businessman named Ed Pluis who called me Red Peas, or an evangelist like Joe Talley and his family parking their Airstream next to the house.

 She always had something for the kids to do. An art project or painting something or making some kind of decoration. I will never forget how she never got mad if you messed up or broke something. She would just smile and say that mistakes were ways we learned what not to do next time. Who was this saintly little woman?

Every afternoon all activity stopped. It didn’t matter if you were in the middle of something … it stopped for prayer and Bible reading. My friends would have reasons why they couldn’t stay but no excuse or escape for me. In the sitting parlor we’d go. My grandfather with his sixth grade education would read a passage and my grandmother would read aloud a devotional of some kind. Then she would read a missionary letter or an update from Jack Wyrtzen at Word of Life or a Jerry Falwell update. I just remembering thinking how no one else I knew did this. She listened to “religious” radio all day in the kitchen, watched the 700 Club, and she never missed a Billy Graham televised crusade. Sometimes we had to sing. We sang songs I never heard of like Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam or old favorites like Jesus Loves Me. The only time I ever saw her get mad was when Madelyn O’Hare, the infamous atheist, was mocking God on TV.

But oh could that little powerhouse of a woman pray. I didn’t understand much about God at that time. I had not taken any theology classes or been taught by doubters in the pulpit not to believe God for certain things anymore. I just knew there was a God, He loved me, and He answered my grandmother’s prayers. Everyone one of them! She could pray for anything and it would happen. One day after the millionth time of me being silent as she prayed I whispered to her, “Grammy, would you ask God to help me stop wetting the bed?” There was a long pause and then that little dynamo shook heaven and rumbled hell. I so wish I could remember the words she prayed. But looking back the words were not as important as the faith she had toward God and the example was she was being to me. She let God know a boy was watching and waiting and His answer would have an effect on that boy’s life.

It didn’t stop immediately. But each time she would ask me I would answer it was getting better. And it was. I could go two or three days dry. She would pray harder. Then came the day I realized it had been a month. Dry. I told her. She smiled that smile of confidence because she didn’t know about God like those guys on the radio she listened to. She knew God personally. They talked. Her prayer life was a two way conversation not a unidirectional platitude of Christian jargon meant to sound spiritual.

No matter what problems I shared with her until the end of her life she always pointed me in the same direction… go to God!

In the coming installments of Life Compass I will share many life lessons I learned from these two wonderful people. The journey of life can get confusing. God has given us a compass in His Word and through His Spirit to guide us. Sometimes we get detoured. Sometimes we have a collision. Sometimes we get lost. God is ready to point us in the direction we need to go when we are ready to follow…




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