It was a bitter cold day in Houston, Christmas week of 1987. One of the slowest weeks of the year for my business. My three employees and myself  were getting high and listening to loud rock music. Mitch played along with his saxophone.  As I sat on the floor next to the couch, I felt that I had nothing to live for.

My wife and I did not get along because of my marijuana habit.   She was visiting her parents in New Jersey at the time.   The carpet cleaning business that I had started 3 years prior was struggling. My friends were not much help since most of them were potheads as well.  I started smoking pot when I was 15 years old. Until that point, I swore I would never touch it. But after trying it the first time, it was easier. Soon it became a daily habit and I did try other drugs along the way. None of the other drugs gripped me like marijuana. In 12 years it had become a love-hate relationship.  A typical day for me would start with the thought of when I would be able to get high. I would get my work out of the way early in the day so that I could smoke without the bother of clients. Once I got high, I hated myself because I was unproductive and unmotivated.

The strangest thing happened in 1987.   I began to get a feeling that my life was falling apart.   I knew I had to quit smoking dope, but I couldn't.   I also knew (or thought I knew) that life in general didn't excite me.  Still I had this urge -  almost like a warning - that I had to change.   As this feeling got stronger and stronger, I began to verbalize the fact that I needed to change.   This unusual sense of urgency would not leave.

At the time, 3 of my friends worked for me at Clean As A Whistle. As we would get high together we all began to have the same feeling of a needed change.   The odd thing is that in the midst of getting high we shared with each other what we knew (or what we thought we knew) about God.

Before these conversations began, I knew deep down that the only answer to my problems lie somehow with God.   When I was a boy, I attended an active Baptist Church where I heard the Word often.   I believed in my head and was even moved to be baptized at about age 9.   However, God was not in my heart.   By the time I was in my early teens I began to skip church until eventually I didn't go anymore.  So deep down in my heart I knew that I had to give my life to Jesus.   Michael and I talked about it the most.   He shared how he had walked with Christ for a year or so in Dallas and had then slipped back into his old ways.  After a few weeks, the three of us had somehow entered into the conversations about God and Jesus.

This went on for a few weeks.   We even got the bible out on a couple of occasions.   I can still remember one of them quoting a verse out of James.   We all agreed that this was the way to go but no one made a move.   The uncomfortable feeling that I had still did not pass.

On that bitter cold day in December of 1987,  sitting on the floor, I remember thinking "there has got to be more to life than this."    I rose up and announced to the guys that I had decided to follow Jesus for real and to stop just talking about it. As I was about to leave I said “I have decided to give my heart to Jesus. I am not going to smoke pot anymore.” I remember comments like "ha, ha, we'll see in a few days when you start craving for it."   But at the instant that I made the decision and the confession, I felt like a changed man and to this day I haven’t had even a inkling of a desire for marijuana again.   After the first few days, I had an incredible feeling of a heavy burden being lifted from my shoulders.  I could almost feel the absence of weight physically.

I remember the greatest thing was having my mind back.   I know it may seem like a small thing for some people, but after 12 long years of  living in an altered state of mind, not being able to think clearly or rationally, now I could!   I began to study the bible furiously and began to shape my new found faith.   After about 2 weeks, two of my three employees came to know the Lord. They are both fine Christian men today.

Many miracles have happened since then, most of which I will not mention, but a few I will.   The first miracle was that my wife who was New Jersey at the time of my decision had decided that she would not return if I had not changed.   She had absolutely no indication that I would.   The timing of God was incredible!

The second miracle that I will mention (there have been thousands) happened when I was in College Station, Texas.   It was about 1989 and I was attending a gathering of 3 sister churches there.   During a time of silent praying for our own personal needs, each congregant was kneeling over their chair.   I was praying about a particular matter into which I will not mention at present, but as I was praying,  I felt a tremendous overwhelming sense that I was hearing in my soul, the very words of God although I didn't hear them audibly.   I had never felt God's spirit so strong.   Then I heard someone whisper my name (audibly) 3 times in a row, "Howard, Howard, Howard".   I thought it was one of the ushers that needed my assistance.   I looked up, but recognized that no one was near me.   I heard it again.   Again I looked around. Still no one that I knew. Then I heard it a third time.   It was then that I  realized that this was the voice of God.   I asked God if it was Him and I heard in my spirit, not audibly, "These things I want to confirm to you will come to pass."     I could hardly sleep that night.  It was one of the most moving things that ever happened to me. Seven years later, those the issues that I was praying about came to pass.

The last miracle I would like to share concerns my father.   My father and mother split up when I was about 1 year old.   After two more daddies at the age of almost 18, I had a fight with my step-dad over my marijuana habit. We got into a little scuffle and the next day I was on a bus to Houston (from Mobile, Alabama where I had grown up). My real father whom I had only met twice in my life lived in Houston, and I felt that he “owed” me since he had never done anything for me (according to my mother). My sister who I am very close to was in Houston living at my father’s house.

Over the years, my dad and I became very close although each of us had large egos and many walls that kept us from sharing deep things. He was a difficult person to know intimately. However, he was very generous and helped me tremendously (I only had a quarter in my pocket upon my arrival in Houston). He bought me everything that I needed even though I wasted so much. When I came to know Jesus, I longed to share the deep things of God with him. However, Earl Partridge was his own man. His personality coupled with my inner feelings of wanting him to be proud of me, I struggled not to look foolish. His acceptance was very important to me.

My dad developed lung cancer. After fighting it for 6 years he finally came to the obvious end. At this point I was not convinced that  he knew God,  even though he said that he did. I struggled with how to share with him, and how to pray. My stepmother’s sister, a fine Christian woman,  told me that before her mother died, she prayed to God  specifically, and He answered her prayers specifically.

That made good sense to me. I began to pray earnestly about 4 specific things:  1) That my dad would be saved.  2) That God would confirm it to me when he was saved.  3) That he would be healed.  4) That whenever he died whether it be 10 weeks or 10 years from then, that God would allow me to be at his side.

As his health continued to deteriorate, a day came when the end was imminent. For weeks, I had visited my dad daily. One Thursday I decided not to go because he had so many visitors in and out of the house lately. That  Thursday night I got a call from my stepmother indicating I should come right away. I pleaded with the Lord to keep him alive until I got there. Upon arrival, he was still sitting up in his chair. We talked and cried together. However, I had an unusual peace that he would not die that night, and that my prayers would still be answered.

The next day I came to his house about 10:30 in the morning and he was unconscious, but alive. His wife Marie and other son (my step brother Lee) had not been able to raise him. He was kind of propped up in a chair.   I began asking God " what about my prayers, how will you possibly answer them now?"   I began to speak the name of Jesus into his ear. I told Him that Jesus loves Him very much and was preparing a special place for him.   As I was speaking, he suddenly rolled his eyes up at me and in a rough, straining voice, spoke!  “I didn’t know you were here” he said. He asked for a pad of paper and some ice.   We fed him crushed ice for his dry mouth as he began to scribble, "I didn't know I was going to die until now.   I have no more pain".   He would collapse between words as he didn't even have the strength to finish a sentence.   " I am ready to go and be with the Lord  he wrote, He often referred to God as 'the Lord'  but rarely used the name Jesus. It was as though he was afraid of the name. Maybe that’s why God told me to speak the name of Jesus in his ear.

After writing the Lord, he collapsed again. At that very moment, I felt a strong, vibrating voice go through my body that said “He just gave his heart to me, he will write the name Jesus”. And sure enough, he raised himself up and finished the sentence with Jesus! “I am ready to go and be with the Lord, Jesus”. He could have just wrote the Lord and everyone would have understood. But because God is rich in grace and mercy, and cares about our every need, he saw fit to do that miracle for me.

He died later that night and I was at his bedside. I have never shed more tears than I did as he breathed his last breath. I had never seen anyone breath their last. Most of the tears were of sorrow that my dad was dead, but some were because of the awesome feeling that God had answered by prayers and that I would be spending eternity with my dad. God had  answered miraculously all 4 of those requests. My stepbrother Lee was there, but not quite realizing all that was taking place. A few years later my stepbrother Lee gave his heart to the Lord, and I shared the experience with him.

If you don't know God, you are missing out on a life of love, peace, and miracles and you are also missing eternal life with God.   It is not enough to believe in God or to know about Him.   You must "know Him" intimately.   The only way that can happen is for you to place your trust in Him so that He will reveal himself to you.

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