It’s interesting how God has brought my life around to where I am now. I was never looking for Him, but I guess He was looking for me.
I wasn’t raised in the church. When I was little, my mom taught me to pray before I went to bed, so I guess I knew there was a God, but we didn’t go to church. I asked God for His help on exams when I hadn’t studied, and you can guess that my grades showed the influence of my own disregard for school, not God’s input. I suppose that left me disappointed, and I definitely didn’t know anything about Him.
As an Air Force brat, I got to move with the family when Dad got transferred every three years. We lived in Hawaii, Germany then Rantoul, Illinois, Laredo, Texas, and finally, as soon as I graduated from high school, the family moved to Austin, Texas, and I immediately joined the Navy.
All that time, I was a loner. It was hard to start with new friends, so I just had a very few, and I usually opted to hang out by myself. When I got out of the Navy, I returned to Austin, and met and married my wife Carol, I found that I love hanging out with her, but that was about it. She’s pretty much a loner, too. She was a Christian, but neither of us went to church.
So, until I was 29, I wasn’t a Christian and didn’t like mingling with people, especially those I hadn’t met. Not too long after we married, we moved to Denver, Colorado, and spent most of our Sunday’s skiing. Not that we were any good at it, and our feet froze. But we got to enjoy the mountains in the winter.
Meanwhile, God was arranging some details.
Carol’s best friend growing up, Stephanie, graduated from college and married a man named, Bob; then they became missionaries to Kenya. Carol hadn’t seen her friend in many years, so when Stephanie and Bob came to Colorado from Africa for a Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) conference, they invited us over for dinner.
I didn’t care about meeting Bob and Stephanie. You’re right, I didn’t want to go to supper at all. Especially with missionaries. After much discussion, Carol convinced me to go, insisting that all she wanted to do was visit her forever friend, and that Stephanie and Bob should meet me, too.
Steering the car northbound on I-25 from Denver to Bob and Stephanie’s room in Fort Collins, I kept repeating (loudly), “Don’t you dare bring up anything about God!”
Carol promised she wouldn’t.
So, Carol didn’t bring up the subject of God. However, swallowing the first bite of Stephanie’s apple cobbler, she nearly fell over. I must have asked Bob what missionaries do. He told me. And suddenly I was asking him dozens of questions about God!
The amazing thing is that, of all the people I could have met, Bob knew the Bible’s answers and was patiently explaining about God’s creation, His love, His plan, how Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. That evening I tearfully accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior!
Because most of what Bob had said made me think that God loves me, would forgive me if I prayed a prayer, and has a great plan for my life, it didn’t occur to me that God also wanted to change me.
So, we still didn’t go to church, except to watch a few televangelist from time to time. And they didn’t really teach me anything useful. Then, a few years later, Bob and Stephanie reentered the picture. They were home from the mission field, and they asked us over for supper again. This time I did want to talk about God, and Bob answered more of my hard questions for hours. When we were leaving, almost as an afterthought, they gave us Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life.”
Carol and I sat on the couch, and I read the whole book aloud, discounting any chapters that mentioned stuff I didn’t really want to do. Like going to church.
But God was still working on me. For one thing, Carol occasionally mentioned going to church. I declined. One day I parked the car outside the bookstore at the local mall. While I was inside, someone put a flier on my windshield. It said, “LIFE Fellowship: The Church for People Who Hate Church.” And the location was at the movie theater just across the parking lot. While the theater wasn’t in use on Sunday mornings, LIFE Fellowship set up everything and held worship meetings.
I can’t explain it, because it was God’s idea, but I told Carol we were going to church on Sunday. She nearly fell over.
That’s how we became regulars at LIFE Fellowship, and we got excellent, Bible-based teaching from pastors and Sunday school teachers. We both grew a lot. By this time, I was in my mid-30s. When we would go to a dinner of some kind, the host, not realizing that I knew nothing about praying, would ask me to pray for the meal. But God dredged a nice prayer out of me anyway. We also got involved with the youth group and even went on a mission trip and spent time doing gospel outreach at that mall. Who would have thought!
One Sunday, only God knows why, I signed up for a men’s retreat in the mountains. A few weekends later, I went to the weekend event. I’m sure there was good teaching, but all I remember is my impression that the men already knew each other and seemed to gather in their own circles to fish, play games, eat meals, etc. I seemed to end up outside the circles.
However, when I got home, I couldn’t stop crying. I can cry. But not like that. And it had nothing to do with being left out. At the end of about two weeks, I asked Carol to find somewhere where I could visit men in jail!
She nearly fell over. But she did it. The chaplain at a nearby jail needed a volunteer assistant who would deliver Bibles to inmates who asked for them. Because of God, I had discovered my kind of work. As long as an officer could see me, I could go right in the cells with the inmates. We laughed, cried, and hugged, and I exhorted them and introduced them to Jesus, too. I did that for several years.
Then Carol and I moved back and forth from Colorado to California, following my dreams of being an artist. Maybe 25 years later, when we eventually ended up back in Austin to be near our families, we hadn’t found a church, and we were stagnating. However, while Carol went out to the trail to train for a half marathon, I started watching TV broadcasts from Great Hills Baptist Church. Hearing Preacher O’Chester “shoot from the belt,” telling the Bible like it is, I realized that I had found our church.
However, the first time we visited the church, “Preacher” retired and turned the church over to Michael Lewis. Thank God, this young man also turned out to be a dynamo of a Bible-preaching pastor. His first step was to get almost 700 people involved in door-to-door gospel outreach visits. And, believe it or not, Carol and I joined the groups of three for several years, driving out to housing areas, praying with people on porches and in living rooms, and telling them about Jesus. Carol and I, the loners, loved doing that!
Another thing happened not long after we joined the church. We met Don and Sue. They were dressed in leather vests covered with pins. When we asked them, “Why the leathers, and what are those pins,” they “We ride to church on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.” The pins came from motorcycle rallies (the wild ones) where they minister to the riders. Not for me. However, when they told us they also ride the motorcycle right into prisons and jails where a dozen inmates might gather around as they share the gospel, I immediately asked, “Where do we sign up for that?”
They explained that it’s through the Bill Glass Behind the Walls Prison Ministry. So, long story short, in the last 15 years, Carol and I have traveled to more than 60 prison events, from Florida to California, and from Texas to Kentucky. And we joined an affiliated ministry, Ring of Champions, that involves spending an hour a week mentoring kids, ages 10-17, who are in a juvenile detention unit south of Austin. At least we were getting to go to jail, until Covid19 came along. We pray that we’ll get to go back someday soon.
You might wonder what this has to do with cowboys and rodeos. Well, as an artist, I paint my childhood TV and movie cowboy heroes, mingled with other icons I grew up with. I take pictures of cowboys waiting around at rodeos, relaxing on fences and ready to ride. That’s the way I paint them. After all, cowboys may spend a lot of time riding bucking horses and bulls and taking down steers, and maybe out in on the range chasing cows, but they also spend a lot of time kicking back, hanging out. So, I paint them that way, kicking back, hanging out, usually including my own favorite things and images in compositions that might not happen in real life – but they could. And to all of that, I add splatters and spots, drips, and drops. As the finishing touches, I paint images of the brushes and other art tools that usually roll around on my paintings while I’m working.
I had a nice message from one of those excited fans the other day, and here’s how I replied:
“What I want viewers to get is something like the energy we get when we listen to a favorite oldie rock and roll song…you just gotta sing along, tap your foot, and get up and dance. I’m trying to create visually what music does audibly – energize people and get them visually stimulated and have a conniption fit!!!! Kinda like what those cowboys in the TV and movie Westerns did for me when I was a kid and what Beatlemania did for me back in those days!”
I give God all the glory for what’s happened in my life and for selling a lot of my paintings since I became a full-time gallery artist in 1992. And I’ve pledged most of the proceeds from my sales to His Kingdom work. That’s where Preacher Scott comes in.
(Here is a link to see his artwork www.chuckmiddlekauff.com)