by Eric_n_Stacey_Gardner on April 16, 2012
Stacey and I have had to let things soak in a bit before writing. Or at least I certainly needed to. So here’s our story and tribute to Pastor Dave.
[Eric] I was that ostracized guy Pastor Dave talked about so many times. You know, the one riddled with self-inflicted gunshot holes to the soul? The one who didn’t know how to communicate. The one raised by awesome parents, in a Godly home and in traditional church both Baptist and then non-denominational charismatic. Ten years into my first marriage, all the bricks built in my theological wall were up, communication was minimal, repressed anger was seeping out and a powder keg was all but ready to light. I was hacked off at God and everybody. I started drinking and hanging out at the local bar to self-medicate the pain. It became daily pretty quick. A whirlwind of self-destruction, an “un-invitation” from my so-called pastor, discovering other pastors were told not to let me in their church, my whole network of church-centered friends followed the status quo and turned the other way after knowing me my whole life…..left me in a very, very dark place. A place of no excuses but alone nonetheless. Yeah, that’ll teach em huh? I had the support of my parents who loved me but were certainly disappointed. A fifteen year marriage destroyed and my children hurt in the process.
Then the first of a series of great events happened. I met Stacey. Just as Dave said of Paula, Stacey has saved me in every way a man can be saved besides his spirit through Jesus. She will force you to communicate if it takes a hammer to accomplish it. However, to discuss church at the time seven years ago would have ended up a fight parlance. The second event was taking my new step-daughter and her friend to BCC one Saturday night for service despite not having any inclination to step foot in a church. This was so I could continue to ignore the bold and loud call I have heard from God since I was a teen. As I sat in an auditorium with a thousand people, I felt as if Dave was talking directly to me and I was the only one in the room. BAAMM! This was it! This is the Gospel I had read for years but never seen followed. This guy looked like me, loved bikes like me, was raw like me, rough around the edges like me…..but also humble. In the months following, I would mention to Stacey things like going back to school for bible studies and seminary. That’s when the “look” would come my way. The look of fear that her husband was going to become some bible-thumping, street-corner screaming nut case. Then the third great event happened……Stacey’s turn. I’ll let her tell her side of the story in a few.
Although I have felt the call of God all my life, I have, in retrospect, ran as fast and far away from it as I could. How many of us know you can’t run from our Creator? I was a Jonah or a Moses at the burning bush. God, you must have the wrong guy. Please go find somebody else better qualified. Well, I have spent the past 5 years as an eager pupil under Dr. Foster. He met with me to give me wise counsel in many areas of questioning. He was never too busy for his Gathering family. Losing him has felt as if I lost a blood brother. Figuratively, we all did. I venture to guess Dave knew it but knew also that I would have to come into that all on my own. Your mission is a personal thing between you and God alone.
Last Sunday night, the 8th, my mission and the call I’ve felt all came together like a ton of bricks as I was driving back to Nashville on I-24. Without answering a call, we look toward our physical talents to put food on the table. In my case, I was tearing things apart and putting them back together just out of diapers. I am a mechanically-inclined Tazmanian devil. I suppose being a tool & die maker endeared me to Dave even more. However, this is not where my purpose and mission intersect. It may continue to put food on the table but my mission is clear. I am an ADD poster child. I can’t sit down to watch a movie. My attention span is sitcom sized. That’s it. BUT……when I write…..I lose hours of time in a zone I simply cannot describe. I’ve written political essays for local papers, blogged about a few things and always told that it was great work and creative. I didn’t put two and two together until last Sunday. I have no idea where this will take me. I do know that more training is necessary. I’ll be revamping my bike shop into a business plan of buying, restoring and selling vintage bikes rather than clientel work so my schedule can be more flexible for my theological studies, etc.
I am orthodox in my belief that my calling is from God and His call is intentional. Pastor Dave didn’t accomplish anything that God hadn’t already ordained to happen. Pastor Dave was God’s instrument to bring the Gospel to a man who was well-versed in the Bible, raised in the church, a son of a theological expert, grandson to a seminary professional and defiant of all of it while in a dark place. Dave walked the walk where many are just talking-heads. If it weren’t for Dave, I’d still be running. Because of Dave and Paula following their call, I have been stopped long enough to finally listen to mine. And thus, God’s provident plan moves on transforming people one to the other. I have been blessed with a family who knows I’m messy and a work in progress and you don’t care. They are there to not leave me alone to my own devices. I have brothers now who will call me out and punch me in the name of Jesus and love if I need it. They know I’m there in the same way. Iron sharpens iron.
In the months ahead, my agenda is to formally start an Iron Sharpens Iron group within The Gathering, to blog, to re-start my schooling and train to write or even speak whatever God has for me to say which honors God, speaks light into dark places, redeems and restores the broken, the beat-up, the betrayed, the bothered, the bored and the burnt among us. Inside Dave’s dash are two more people and their children affected by his and Paula’s example. That dash is made just a bit deeper and wider as a result of impacting our life. I see your picture on your tee-shirt of the Vista Cruiser Station Wagon and the words “Are we there yet?”. Yes brother you finally made it. Enjoy! Welcome thou faithful servant. Thank you Dave. I won’t say “goodbye”. I’ll say “See ya later!”. Oh by the way, if you catch this blog and Indian Larry is around, line me up an old flathead WL tricked out. No hurry. I’m sure it’ll wait fine until it’s time.
I was coerced and drug to BCC by my daughter and her best friend. They promised me that it was something different. I did not want to go. I was hacked off at God. I felt as if He had betrayed me, He left me and allowed horrible things to happen to me and my family. I had no acceptable answers. So I decided that I would go to keep everybody quiet and put up with one hours worth and get the “hell” out of there. That hour changed my life. I couldn’t figure out how Pastor Dave knew some of my secrets. It was as if he was speaking to just me. Finally, someone was talking about how to be a Christian without being perfect and constantly failing and explaining it in words and ideas that I could actually use in my everyday life. Since that time, Pastor Dave has taught me that it’s ok to trust people. It’s ok when they betray you and that you can heal from all of this and not let it destroy your life. He taught me that I can’t exist in this world alone. God knows I tried. I needed not only my family I was born into but I also needed my church family. Especially my sisters. Dave took me from being “Hacked” off at God and blaming Him for the bad things that had happened to being at peace with it. I understand that bad things happen to good people because people are free-will. Dave taught me to spread hope and to treat each and every person that they matter even if they weren’t treating me the same.
With exception to my personal family, I had intended to remain invisibile. I didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t want the disappointment or the committment. I liked being alone. But, it caused depression when I thought I wanted to be alone. Now, I know that it is great to not be invisible anymore. I’ve learned that within a church, there can be absolutely incredible women who can be relyed on and are there for you when needed. When I was sick in the hospital, Dave and Paula visited, a group of women from church banded together, cleaned our house and brought food to Eric and the kids. Some of these women I didn’t even really know at the time. I was so overwhelmed with the kindness extended, the hope, the help from these women. This was the church in action as Dave has taught us to do.
Seven years ago, had someone told me that I was going to be an active member of a church, tithe my hard-earned money to, in a bible-study group on Ester and wanting to go……I would have laughed hysterically and asked them what they were smoking because I’d like some too. Dave’s messages showed me a better life, gave me healing, gave me peace, laughter, direction, gave me hope and made me a better and worthy person having a true relationship with Jesus Christ.
Sometimes I didn’t like the message from Dave! The one that comes to mind is not having control, clarity and certainty. I am a control freak. However, after several discussions with others and hundreds inside my own mind, I realize Dave was right. As usual. Now I’m giving up the control. It feels good. I am always amazed at how Dave could speak directly to each of us and show us how to use it in our everyday life.
Dave did this for thousands of people. If I can just do the same for one person, I will feel as if I had accomplished pushing this movement further.
I am honored that I knew David Foster and was able to learn from him. I am deteremined to be a part of this movement called The Gathering.
[Eric and Stacey]
STILL IN ONE PEACE BABY!!!!