My Painting Business: Places I’ve Lived, Writing, Dating

During the first few years of my painting business, from 1981 to 1985, I lived in two different places. The first was in an apartment in south Minneapolis. The thing I remember about that place was that I got some of the cost of my rent taken off for doing some badly needed painting in a few apartments. I remember that I never felt pressured to finish a job—since I had an understanding with the landlord that I could only work a couple hours a week, because I was already working my painting business. I don’t know why I got such a kick out of it and felt so empowered to just walk away from a job half-way finished and to tell the people, “I’ll be back next Wednesday to finish up.” I would never do that today. But, part of me wishes that I could be more carefree as I was then, and not worry about finishing a job when the client wants it to be done. At the time of this writing I am semi-retired and I’m trying to be more like that—more carefree. I do try not to work such long hours and maybe take a few days off.

After a couple years I moved to a different apartment in northeast Minneapolis, What I remember most  about that place is that it was located right across from Zurbey’s bar, and quite often they would play loud polka music all night long; and they would always leave the front door wide open so the whole neighborhood could hear it. It was obnoxious, and it would keep me up when I was trying to sleep.

Another thing I remember about living there is that it was when I decided that I would get serious about writing. So, I began setting aside at least an hour a day just to write—a book. Yes, I had a topic and a book title—but I can’t remember what it was. Sadly, after a few years I got frustrated with it and tore the whole thing up. Looking back on it now, I know I did the right thing. If you are gong to write a book it really should be inspired by God, not just something you think could sell or make you some money—which was the case for that attempt.  In a few years down the road, in 1993, I was inspired to write a book, and I never was frustrated with it. I’ll write more about that in a future blog.

From 1981 to 1985 was also the period when I was dating. Most people, I suppose, start dating quite early, from age 16 and continue until they are married. Not me. In high school there was a couple girls I liked, but I didn’t date them. Then after high school I went right into the Marines—no dating there. Then I was in the Navigators from 1971 to 1975, and they are notorious for not dating. In fact, they would keep the men’s ministry entirely separate from the women’s ministry. I hardly ever saw a girl. Then I went to Northwestern college and Western Seminary, and I was so dedicated to my studies that I hardly ever looked up from my books. So, after Western Seminary, in 1981, is the first real chance I had to start dating. I mean, I had nothing else to think about except my work—painting, and I didn’t really have to think about that too much.

I guess you could say, I was getting a late start at dating. I was already 30 years old. Good grief! Oh well. Better late than never. I really didn’t date a lot. There were actually only three girls that I can think of that I dated off and on. Elise was the main one. I was really crazy about her. Well, actually, she drove me crazy—because she couldn’t commit to me. Finally, I decided to break it off with her. I couldn’t handle it any more. Then in 1985 I met the girl I ended up marrying. I’ll talk more about that later.

Northwestern: Churches, Internship, Dating

This is the inside of Grace Eden Prairie, what Edina Baptist eventually evolved into.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Northwestern, and I was fully engaged in my classes. However, on Sundays I always went to church and was involved as much as possible. For about the first couple of years in college, I attended a small community church in Golden Valley, Minnesota, about ten miles from college. I was going there before I started college, so there was no reason to make a change. The pastor wasn’t that good at preaching, but he was quite friendly and I liked him. The thing I liked most about him was his commitment to prayer. I remember going to the men’s prayer meeting, which was attended mostly by the church elders and deacons—and me. As you can imagine, going to that group made me feel important, and they really made me feel welcome.

The pastor, Pastor McDonald, was eager to help me fulfill my internship requirements for college. When I told him that I was interested in evangelism, he set me loose canvasing the neighborhood. That was kind of fun, and I think I remember getting into some spiritual conversations, as well as distributing material for the church. Also, as part of my internship, I preached two or three sermons. I was excited about it; but truthfully, I’m not sure I was that true to the Scriptures. I would get better. And I did. Each time was a little better than the last.

Also, totally separate from Golden Valley Community church, Northwestern gave me the chance to preach at a few very small churches. It was kind of scary, but also invigorating and a faith building experience. Most of those churches were way out in the sticks and it took me a couple hours to get there. None of them had more than 30 people in attendance, and they were always very welcoming and glad to see a real preacher come—me! To tell you the truth, they were so eager to get a preacher, I could have said almost anything, true or not, and they would have accepted it.

During my last year or so of college I started going to another church. I can’t remember why I changed, but anyway, it was a lot different. Oh, one reason I decided to go there was because I didn’t have to drive. There was a church bus that brought a group of us there and back. The church, then Edina Baptist, was huge. It had a very good pastor and his preaching was excellent. I immediately got involved in the singles group, and I also joined the choir—great fun! Those were the days. God was giving me some great spiritual teaching. What I wasn’t getting at Northwestern College, I was getting at that church. My feet were being firmly planted, and I was also enjoying it.

One thing that was lacking in my life at that time was establishing any close relationships. I don’t know why, but that was something that I just didn’t catch on to, or that I wasn’t taught. I seemed to be so involved with my studies that relationships with people was sort of forgotten. Sadly, that is still true of me today. I have always been a loner. I can be friendly with people, but establishing close connections is something else.

Because I was around the opposite sex so much at Northwestern, I became more and more interested in, or thinking about marriage. So, I awkwardly attempted to make some female connections. I had a few dates with Sally that went nowhere. I mean, she was a real hottie (as they say); but I could tell, she wasn’t that interested in me. Linda, on the other hand was quite interested in me, but I didn’t find her attractive.

Then there was Elise. I was on and off dating her for a long time. I really liked her, and I felt a real love for her. In fact, we were even engaged for a time, but I felt I had to break it off, because I just knew she wasn’t fully committed to me, she wasn’t being honest with me all the time. In a way it was a strange and stressful relationship. So that’s my sad story.

That’s all I will write about during my time at Northwestern. In my next blog I will write a little about my time at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary.

My High School Years: Facing Temptation

My School, West High School

One thing that was sadly lacking in my life was someone to come along side me and counsel me in the area of sexual temptation and dating and marriage. I think young people really need that guidance, especially in those high school years, when their bodies and thoughts are swiftly moving in that area.  All through high school I wasn’t at all seriously thinking of marriage or even dating. In fact, I purposely set my mind toward God and bringing people to Christ any way possible, especially through Hi-C club, the Christian group I was involved in.

Then again, when my guard was down, which was too often, I couldn’t keep my eyes and my mind off of girls. And I didn’t exactly know how to handle it. I didn’t feel ready or bold enough to ask girls on dates, but still I had eyes and an imagination. Sometimes, at a weak moment, I longed to see as much as I could. I remember going to the beach just to see as much skin as I could. And I was a Christian! What was I doing? Well, in those days, much of the time I was just very rebellious.

And then along came Joy.  A girl named Joy. The first time I remember seeing her was while I was in band practice playing my trombone. She would be looking at me through the glass classroom door and smiling and waving at me. And it was a little embarrassing, because I really didn’t know her, and some of the kids noticed that she was trying to get my attention.

I really wasn’t attracted to her and she wasn’t that attractive. But she seemed to really like me. So, I invited her to our Hi-C group. I figured that as long as I had her attention, maybe I could get her saved. She started to come to our group, but I kind of knew that she was just interested in me.

One evening after group I walked her home; and when we got to her house, she really laid one on me—she kissed me. My first reaction was repulsion; her breath stunk of stale tobacco. But then, without warning, the feeling hit me. I felt something deep down in my soul. Instantly, I was in seventh heaven, and I wanted more. We kissed again, and I felt even better. But when I went in for a third time, she said she had to go. That was okay; I knew I would be back and I was still flying high. I ran all the way home. I was in love. For the first time in my life I was really in love. 

I can’t remember exactly what I did next. All I remember is that I wanted more kisses from her.  So, I tried to see her more. Even though I was always busy after school with sports and Hi-C clubs, I always had her in the back of my mind—especially her kisses. I longed for her, but it seemed that things were reversed. I was wanting her more than she was wanting me. I was going full steam ahead and she was putting on the breaks. I remember sitting in her house one time. Her mom was home, busy with house work, and me and Joy were sitting—in separate places. I was sitting on her couch watching TV—I think. And she was sitting in another chair reading a book. She was like my sister, always reading. I would be just sitting and she would be sitting and reading. All I could think of was when I was going to get another kiss. I have no idea what she was thinking. It was a strange relationship.

One day she opened up to me about her life. It wasn’t good. She had been—and maybe still was—on drugs; and she also had sexual relationships. I started to think that maybe pursuing her wasn’t the best idea. Yet I wasn’t ready to give up on her. I felt that I really loved her, and so, I doubled down on praying for her. Sometimes I prayed for a long time with tears, begging God to save her. I remember those prayer times. In fact, even now, fifty years later, every time I think of her, I pray for her salvation. Yet I have no idea where she is or if she is even alive.

Toward the end of my senior year, I got the itch to work. It didn’t take me long to find my first job at Minneapolis Floral, just a couple blocks from the school. It was a fairly easy job. I mainly just swept the floors, especially around the people who were trimming and arranging flowers to be sent out to weddings and funeral and such. I think I had that job for only a couple of months.

The next job I had was in a foundry, which was located in the warehouse district of Minneapolis. It was a lot harder, but it paid more. I think I made $2.50 an hour. I stood all day long in front of a grinding wheel, grinding and smoothing off little medal parts. What those parts were used for I had no idea and I didn’t care. Oh, my back and shoulders would just ache after a few hours of work. But it was work. Soon I got use to it. I think I only had the job for about a month. They were sorry to see me go, but I had to leave to serve my country.

A few months before I went to work, it must have been just at the end of my senior year, I remember walking down the sidewalk with a friend of mine, a wrestling buddy, on my way home from school one day. We were talking about what we were going to do next. He suggested going into the service, maybe the Marines. That was the first time I had thought about the service, but that thought kind of intrigued me. I wasn’t thinking at all about war; I was thinking more about really getting into shape and “becoming all I could be.” Something like that. Well it didn’t take me long to decides on the Marines.

Looking back on it, I think it was how God provided a way for me to escape from the temptations I had for Joy, and what would have been a very wrong path.

My Singleness: A Gift from God

After my devastating divorce, I soon began to consider dating. I’m not sure what I was thinking. Maybe just filling a lonely gap, or maybe I was seeking the thrill of meeting someone, or being with a woman in a romantic way. It’s been thirty years, but I sort of remember going on line. Yes, it was a Christian dating site, and they had you answer all kinds of questions to match you up with someone. I remember getting 3 or 4 dates out of it. But I didn’t date anyone more than a couple times. Truthfully, I wasn’t interested in getting married; I just wanted a fun date—or whatever. I always tried to be honest with my date, and when I would tell them that I had no interest in marriage, that seemed to turn them off. And I can understand why. They were seeking a mate, and I wasn’t. Part of me thought that maybe if I found the right one, I would change my mind about marriage. But there was a stronger pull that was telling me NO.  I gradually came to the conclusion that God was telling me to remain single. But I think He was letting me date for a while to show me, in the way He was speaking to me, that I shouldn’t pursue marriage, that it would not be His will.

Settling into Singleness

So God won, and I decided to settle into singleness. I think the dating phase lasted only about 3 years. And since then, for about 26 years now, I have been resolved to singleness and being date free. And you know, God has been good. He has blessed me. He has cared for me and has shown me that I can be content living by myself. For a few years I had a male roommate. That had its good points and bad points. But I actually think it’s better for me to live alone. Overall, life has been good. God is good.

God Approves of Singleness

Though in Genesis 2:18 God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone, God also has gifted many of us to be single—to remain unmarried and chaste. 1 Corinthians 7 lays it out for us. Paul was unmarried and he wrote, “I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God” (v. 7). God gives some the gift of marriage with a mate, and others the gift of singleness. Paul wrote, “I say to the unmarried and to the widows: “It is good for them if they remain even as I am” (v. 8). Later in the chapter he wrote, “Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife” (v. 27). Again, he wrote, “I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife” (vv. 32-33).

I don’t want to be harsh toward married people, but what Paul says here is true. Since I am no longer married, I have found it much easier to serve the Lord. But at the same time, I know that that doesn’t mean I am free of responsibilities. I still have household duties and bills to pay, etc.

Singleness Can Be More Challenging

In some ways being single is harder to live a holy life, especially if you are not a responsible person, if you are lazy, and if you are not self-controlled. Such a person must pray more, be in the word more, and take hold of himself—or the devil and the flesh will take advantage of him. That person must always on his guard.