This will be one of the most difficult tributes I will ever have to write.
How can I put into words the impact that the Colonel has had upon my life through just those: words?
When I was only 3 years old, I could sense the approach of God to me, and, for some reason, responded "Yes, and resoundingly yes!" How that kind of experience and feeling could come at such an age, I still don’t comprehend.
When I was five, I knew I'd already believed in Christ, but "went forward" in my Sunday School class anyway. I wanted others to know.
Another phenomenon I find difficult to understand is that I loved the Bible before I could read. I remember how my soul swelled up on Sunday mornings when Dad would lift me in his arms, and Mom would hand me my sweet-smelling, pocket New Testament. I remember thinking, "God is in that book!"
As soon as I did learn to read, I grabbed my Mom’s Schofield Bible and devoured its pages. She became concerned that the print was too small for my young eyes, and purchased for me a large print Bible. I still have that volume to this day.
As I went to Sunday School and Junior Church, I learned as much as I could as fast as I could. I remember that, at my final year of attending Junior Church, I asked the two leaders, my Mom, and "Aunt Betty," if I could graduate to adult church early?
They agreed, and I was so happy. I learned much upstairs with the adults, but soon hungered for something further.
When I went to Bible College, I thought, "Wow! I’ll learn more about the life of Christ now!" Unfortunately, for me, my training had been so thorough, there wasn’t much new about His life to reveal.
Then, as I neared graduation, I studied the language of Greek. We started translating the book of I John. As soon as I reached verse 9 of chapter 1, I had what’s called an "epiphany" by some.
I learned that the word "confess" was written in such a way as to mean "do so frequently, throughout the day, as needed." All my young life I had thought I could wait until I went to bed at night, and confess my sins one time for that entire day. Aggregate confession, if you will. Now I knew that confession needed to be a repeated process, and instantaneous upon the sin’s performance.
Well, I had to ask myself, "if I missed the boat on just this verse, and discovered it so soon into our class, how much more have I missed by not knowing the languages in which the Bible was originally written?"
I then realized that I needed a pastor who could translate from those languages. I hope I never forget the way I fell into a church that did so.
Pastor Crosbie needed a Christian Education Director at the time, and such was, partially, my field of study. I became a bit pushy during the interview, and queried, "do you translate from the Greek?!" He nodded, and told me that he also taught about such things as...," and began naming concepts that scared me a little. I’d never heard of them.
At the end, he became the only interviewer who stated, "why don’t you stop by on Sunday, see if you like the service, and, if so, let me know?" He left it up to me! That’s the part I hope I never forget.
I did as he suggested, on both counts, and discovered, in time, that the funny sounding concepts were really categorical studies with names. We’d been taught how to discover such "doctrines" from Scripture in school, and thus I felt right at home. However, these concepts showed such insight, with such depth of research and understanding, I couldn’t help but be awed.
The February of my first year at Pastor Crosbie’s church, he went to Houston to attend a "Pastor’s Conference," whatever that was. He came back with a glow of enthusiasm, and mentioned, of course, that Colonel Thieme was the pastor at a church called "Berachah." It was he who taught during this conference at his church.
"Do you want to hear ‘im?" The question startled me out of my polite nodding. Pastor Crosbie had a tiny reel-to-reel tape recorder in his hand, lifted to shoulder height. I said, "sure."
A button clicked, and within seconds I knew.
They say that, sometimes, Right Man and Right Woman learn of their "rightness" together through "voice recognition." As soon as I heard the Colonel’s authoritative sound, I prayed that I would some day sit at his feet.
I found what I’d been searching for so many years: a means of understanding the deeper things of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit through historical research, and thorough study of Scripture.
I had no idea of the cost my yearning would bring. But cost never stopped me ... not then … not now … and, I trust ... not ever.
To be continued….