Everybody has a story! Everybody! Here's mine.
This is the story of how I grew up in a loving home... was taught to love Jesus... totally walked away from that into the rock-n-roll/party scene and almost died several times... by the pure grace of God had my life totally revolutionized by Jesus... was diagnosed with and underwent surgery for the removal of a huge benign brain tumor... permanently lost 75% of my vision in the surgery... was called by Jesus to preach the gospel... followed that call into ministry... and have now come to this place of using my gifts in music to encourage you and lift up praise to Jesus! That's the thumb-nail sketch... for the details read on!
"I grew up in a loving home & was taught to love Jesus..."
I really had a great childhood! We had an awesome neighborhood... tons of kids... a woods with a creek and river... plenty of quiet streets that we could ride our bikes on without worrying about traffic... it was great! My mom and dad were very loving. They took my brother, Brent and me to church regularly and we learned from a young age about Jesus and the gospel. I have loads of memories of VBS, Sunday School and going to worship services with my parents. I am--and forever will be--grateful for those memories... they planted seeds in me that eventually took root and allowed the Holy Spirit to save my soul! (More on that later).
I'll never forget the summer of 1976. I was in 4th grade... I think? Any way I attended "Jr. Church" in the basement of our church each week along with all of the other kids my age. That summer... it was wild. It was "the summer to get saved." It seemed like every week somebody went forward at the end of our Jr. Church service to receive Christ. And one week... I did too! I don't mean to belittle it... it really was a great thing! I remember I was baptized the very day! It was a pretty neat experience. Only thing about it was... I don't think I really understood the gravity of my decision. I've heard lots of stories of people who trusted Christ at a young age and never looked back... that just wasn't the way it worked for me. I was afraid of going to Hell... I knew I didn't want that... So I went forward... said the words about trusting and believing in Jesus that the Adult led me in and got dunked... But I didn't really make a commitment to live for Jesus...
I just didn't want to go to Hell...
"I totally walked away from that into the rock-n-roll/party scene and almost died several times..."
Like I said above, I'm really grateful for my upbringing in church... because it planted some great seeds in my heart that made a huge difference later in my life... but... My teen years were a totally different story. There's absolutely no way to tell you about all of the trash I put myself through... but I'll do my best to paint a picture.
Somewhere around 15 my interests changed. Up to that point I had been very into athletics... which helped to keep me away from the party scene. But at 15 I became very interested in music... specifically rock music. There was a little seed planted in my heart on Sept 24, 1980, @ Market Square Arena, in Indianapolis--My dad took a friend of mine, Jay Harvey and me to see ACDC on the back in black tour! Dude I was bit with the Angus Young bug BIG TIME... I was only like 13 at the time... but that show made a huge impression on me! That by itself wasn't a problem--the problem was the culture that went along with the music. I loved ACDC, KISS, IRON MAIDEN, OZZY OSBOURNE, JUDAS PRIEST, etc. I went to tons of concerts through out my teen years... I started going to all of the High School parties, smoking cigarettes, experimenting with marijuana, alcohol, ... and few other "mind and mood-altering" drugs, etc. Over the course of time the members of the above bands became my gods... I turned my bedroom into a rock-n-roll shrine. Every inch of my walls was covered with posters and pics from rock magazines. My record and concert ticket-stub collections become my most prized possessions. My every thought was consumed with becoming a "rock star"--thus every week was filled with hours of guitar practice, getting high, listening to music, parties, work (which I hated and only did so that I could have money to party, buy music equipment and records, go to concerts, etc.)... and daydreaming about how great life was going to be when I finally "made it" in the music business. I was so lost... and so naive!
Because of my really foolish/sinful lifestyle I put myself in some really stupid and dangerous situations. I drove drunk and high all the time... One time I drove home from a concert in Indianapolis after drinking a lot of Whiskey and taking 3 or 4 Quaaludes (the old lemon 714s)... I was trashed and had no business driving... I could barely walk! It was raining... and at one point I passed out behind the wheel--going about 65/70 mph down I-69... with my best friend Paul passed out beside me and my brother Brent asleep in the back seat! I woke up just in time to see our car about to smash into the car in front of us! I jerked the wheel and we proceeded to pass the car as we spun around in the passing lane! We wound up in the median... Man, so many times I've thought, "What if there'd been an over-pass there! Brent, Paul and I could easily be dead!" A number of my classmates died in alcohol/drug related car accidents... pure foolishness... but I was really caught up in it all. I honestly thought I was living my life the way I wanted to... having fun... being wild... on my way to the top of the rock-n-roll world! In reality however, I was just wasting precious years of my life, hurting my body, my mind and my spirit... putting myself and others in danger... and creating a lot of really bad memories that would haunt me for the rest of my life.
"...by the pure grace of God had my life totally revolutionized by Jesus..."
Shortly after I graduated from High School I started feeling really depressed... all the time... Life, frankly, sucked really badly... I was hurting... the "rock-star" thing, clearly was not happening... I know now that God simply had other plans... but at the time I just thought life was horrible. I really wanted my life to count for something... I wanted to be loved, to fit somewhere, to have peace in my heart... you know--the same stuff that most of us want... but it wasn't happening for me... the party scene had really grown boring and depressing... I mean I could go out and get blitzed... but even then, half the time I wound up sitting somewhere either sobbing about what a mess my life was... or getting into these really weird/deep conversations (with whoever I was partying with) about God. I finally hit rock bottom--I don't think I was suicidal, but I really didn't want to live either.
It was at that moment... at the very bottom of my barrel... that I decided to turn to the one person in whom I had seen and experienced all the things I so desperately wanted in my life (unconditional love, peace, joy, faith, meaning, purpose, etc)... I went to have a talk with my Grandma, Rachel Howard (That's what the lyrics to OUT OF THE HELLHOLE ...which will be released later this fall/winter... are all about!)
Grandma had loved Jesus and loved me (unconditionally) all of my life. I can't remember a time in my child hood that I didn't hear from Grandma at least once a week... and every time we talked she always managed to let me know that Jesus loved me and she did too.... She was awesome! I saw in her all of the joy, peace, meaning and purpose that I wanted in my life... so I went to her apartment and dumped my heart. I told her everything, i.e. all the trash I'd put myself through. The funny thing is--she already knew most of it. Grandmas are pretty smart. Of course I'm sure that the 4 ear rings in each ear, ripped up jeans, RUSH concert T-shirt and breath/clothes that reeked of cigarette smoke may have given her a little bit of hint. But she just listened to me and loved me through the whole thing! And when I was finished dumping... I'll never forget her response! She said, "Bradie boy, why don't you fly out to Wichita Kansas and spend some time with your Uncle Morrie and Aunt Doris?" I'm telling you--that suggestion changed my life!
I sure didn't have any pressing engagements holding me to Anderson Indiana! So, I packed a bag and my Fender Telecaster and got on the next plane for Kansas!
The moment I got off the plane in Wichita I knew that my life was going to be different. The moment I stepped off the plane... there were Uncle Morrie and Aunt Doris. They smiled, hugged me, and proceeded to love me... and they never stopped. I lived in their home for 8 months and it was wonderful! My Uncle Morrie was a Pastor and my Aunt Doris led the Church Youth group so Church was a huge part of my weekly schedule--and the really cool thing about it was I WAS READY TO CHANGE! God had given me enough rope to hang myself and I was tired of running away from him... now I was running straight toward him a fast as I could! I devoured everything they shared with me--Bible lessons, memory verses, Youth Retreats (I was 20, but I hung out with the Sr. High Youth Group)... it was great! I think one of the key reasons I was able to dive in and make all of these radical changes was because nobody knew who I was! In Wichita nobody knew my past or my hang-ups... I literally had a fresh second chance... and I was more than ready to seize the day! I was like an old dried up sponge that had just been plunged into a buckel of cool refreshing water...
I soaked everything up!
God was so wonderful to me! He surrounded me with great Christian friends like--Shannon McCready and David Hull. They taught me that you really could have a great time without being high or drunk--just hanging out and talking, or watching a movie together... wow... what a concept... that sounds so strange now... but at the time that was a radical discovery for me! I was growing like a weed spiritually. God filled my heart with joy, and with an insatiable hunger to know Him and His Word. And over the course of that summer, the Holy Spirit did an eternal work in my heart that completely revolutionized my life! I truly was born again!
At the end of the Summer of 1987 I concluded that I had to go back home to Anderson... so that I could share this awesome joy of the Lord with all of my lost friends! So, I went home. Of course, I was so radical about Jesus that instead of winning my friends to Christ I just freaked them out and caused them to distanced themselves from me. Looking back on it, I really was pretty "In your face/turn or burn confrontational." But I couldn't help it! Jesus was real! He had truly changed my life! I was fired up! And since I saw all of that so clearly I just didn't understand why everybody else wasn't ready to be just as fired up about God as I was... but they just weren't ready.
"I was diagnosed with and underwent surgery for the removal of a huge benign brain tumor & permanently lost 75% of my vision in the surgery..."
I arrived back home in Indiana in early Sept. of 1987. From Sept. 87 -- Feb. 88, I struggled... I was home now so the Christian support I had enjoyed in Wichita was gone... My friends all thought I was some kind of religious fanatic... I had no work... It got so bad that I actually went back and got a part-time job at Burger King (I'd worked there in High School). I stumbled and partied some... I was just floundering. And then I started getting these head-aches... horrible ones... every morning... along with spells of blurred vision. I thought I needed glasses so I went to an optician... who discovered something suspect and sent me to an ophthalmologist... who saw swelling in the optical nerves and sent me to a neurologist (Dr. Melin)... who saw swelling in my brain and sent me to get an MRI! That test revealed a large tumor growing in the menengies of my brain... It was called a "paplademia menengioma". You don't forget things like that!
Dr. Melin referred me to Dr. Hall at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis and two weeks later, on March 2 of 1988 I underwent brain surgery! It still kind of freaks me out to think about it! Anyway, let me see if I can condense this. Following the surgery I noticed that I couldn't see very well... I kind of assumed that blurriness just sort of went along with having your brain cut on... and Dr. Hall acted like it would clear up. But it never did... In later examinations I found out that my optical nerves had experienced a great deal of trauma--the tumor had grown--most likely over the course of many years--to such a large size that it had caused my brain to "twist" and had "stretched" my optical nerves... then when the operation was performed everything went back--literally in a matter of hours/minutes.... my optical nerves just couldn't handle it and were damaged/scarred... the end result was that I have permanent "blind spots" that cut out 75% of my vision... so legally... I'm blind. That kind of freaks me out to write... because I feel like I can see... I mean if you ever meet me, you'll never know I'm legally blind... unless you try to ride with me in a car or throw something to me to catch and see it bounce off of my face! I see to get around and read and preach, etc., just fine.
But let me tell you... it took some serious adjusting! I cried and was mad at God for a solid year... literally. I kept asking "Why God?" I mean I'd just recommitted my life to Christ... I was striving to live for him and bam--brain tumor... legal blindness... why? You know what? God never answered my why question... He just let me stew. He was shaping me... building character within me... stirring to life a new kind of "vision"... vision for life and ministry. Finally when the time was right--God spoke to my heart and said, "Brad... you're asking the wrong question... you're never going to know WHY this happened... even if God told you WHY this happened you wouldn't be satisfied.... you'd just want to question WHY that had to be the case. The WHY question is a really bad question... there's no hope or joy to be found in asking it..." God said, "You need to ask a new question. You need to ask WHAT? What can God do with me and my blindness? What's God's plan in all of this? After all... this didn't catch God off guard or surprise him. He knows all about it... He knows what I can see and can't see... and He's promised never to leave me or forsake me... He's promised never to place more temptation on me than I can bare... He's promised me that he knows the plans he has for me--plans to prosper me and not to harm me... plans to give me a hope and a future!"
So, I said, "Ok God... you win. I give up." I quit asking "why" and asked "WHAT do you want to do with my life?" That's the best prayer I ever prayed!
"I was called by Jesus to preach the gospel & followed that call into ministry..."
Once I let go of the "why" question and began seeking God's direction for WHAT He wanted to do with my life, it was amazing how quickly things changed for me! Joy returned to my heart! I was filled with an excitement for being with God's people... I began devouring the Word again... reading all the time. I read really slow because of my blind spots... but the more I read the better/faster I got! I was 21 years old when I underwent the surgery to remove the brain tumor (March 2, 1988). By September of 1989 I was enrolled in classes at Anderson University--a Christian Liberal Arts College in Anderson, IN. Wow! What a change--college was awesome for me... it forced me to read--a lot... which really helped me with my vision... my brain actually had to adjust to the way my eyes worked and reading sped up the process. My time in college was lllooonnnggg and wonderful... too long to describe fully here... let me just sum it up...
I made a ton of friends... grew intellectually, relationally and spiritually beyond anything I could have ever imagined! I attended 6 years full--time... 3 years at Anderson University, and 3 more at Johnson Bible College in Knoxville, TN (what a great place that is!). Jesus' call on my life to full-time pastoral ministry sort of "evolved." From the moment I quit asking "why" and started asking "what" I knew that whatever I did with my life it would involved serving God on a deeply committed level... but I was wide open as to just what all that would Intel. I went though a lot of phases. Of course I tested the waters of music ministry... put a couple of bands together and played Youth Rallies, etc. While that we fun... it became clear that this was not God's plan. I wrestled with selling everything I had and moving into a commune in Chicago, called "Jesus People USA." But this too fizzled out as God... little by little began to fill my heart with a desire to work within an established Church. And on Thanksgiving Sunday, 1990--I'll never forget it... I was reading my Bible during the service--Ephesians 1... and I came across the passage that speaks of God "lavishing His love upon us..." and God used that passage, in that moment to bring all of my wrestling to an end. It was a cool moment in time! The Holy Spirit, beyond any doubt confirmed in my heart that I was called to be a pastor. So, I went forward at the end of the worship service at my home church and publicly confirmed that Jesus had called me to be a pastor. Thus began my journey toward ordination...
My journey toward ordination was kind of long... difficult at times... and over-all, wonderful (for me). However, I suspect that the details would bore the tar out of you... so let me just say that I had to do the college thing... concentrating my studies on Bible and Ministry/Pastoral studies. I also sort of reported to/corresponded with the elders at my home church throughout the time I was in school. Whenever Kelly and I came home to Anderson on breaks (Kelly pretty much put me through 4 of my 6 years of college... wow... she's awesome)... anyway... when we came home, Guthrie Veech, our Pastor, always had opportunities for me to preach/teach... and we would talk with him and the elders. When I graduated we had this really nice ordination service at my home church... the elder's laid hands on me and prayed/set me apart (ordained) me into the pastoral ministry. From there we went to Altoona, PA where I served for three years (95-98) as Youth/Associate Pastor of the First Church of Christ... what a great place! Our first child, Kara was born while we were there (August 3, 97). We then moved to Raceland, KY, where I took my first Sr. Pastor/Preaching position at the Raceland Christian Church. We were only in Raceland for two years... there's actually quite a story there! If we ever get a chance to talk, ask me about it and I'll tell you. Joshua, our son, was born in Kentucky (May 20, 99). In August of 2000 we loaded up the U-Haul yet again and moved here to northern Indiana, to serve as Pastor of the Michiana Community Church of God. Nothing against the congregations we served before MCCOG... both of them in their own way were wonderful... great places... but MCCOG is such a "match" for us. We just fit here. God is moving and blessing... and we are thankful and overjoyed to be here!
"I have now come to this place of using my gifts in music to encourage you and lift up praise to Jesus!"
Wow... if you're actually still reading... I'm impressed!
I'm sure from much of my story above... it's pretty obvious that I have a serious love for rock-n-roll music/guitar. But God just knew that the way I was pursuing it when I was younger would have ruined my life... and brought zero praise to him... so thankfully He blocked every effort I made to go after the rock star thing in my teens!
However, in the early fall of 2002 I sort of got the itch to play my electric guitar again... you see for about a 5-6 years my Telecaster had sat, in pieces... literally... I had disassembled it planning on refinishing the body ..."someday"... and just never did. I had played my acoustic regularly--leading worship and noodling around at the house. But the electric thing had just sort of faded out of my life. But now, all of a sudden I get this itch... to refinish my Tele... So I did! And it turned out nice... then I had it rewired/set-up at a local music shop in South Bend... broke out the amp and started jamming... and it felt great! I had purchased the Cakewalk recording software for the church... the goal was to create accompany tracks for worship, (I'm sure that will materialize in God's time) but as I experimented with the software and learned how to record--God began to flood my heart and mind with songs and with a vision for this ministry.
AND THE REST, AS THEY SAY, IS HISTORY!
Guitarjams.net was born!
I'm so fired up about serving God with the Pastor Brad CDs and guitarjams.net! I really hope you're blessed by it, and that you'll pray for me! I want to write lots more songs to rock you up and bring praise Jesus!
Thanks for reading. If you ever have any questions about any of the things I shared, or if you'd just like to talk--you can call me at the church.
I'm generally available Tue-Thurs. 9-5. 574-679-9464. Give me a buzz or contact me at www.guitarjams.net
Page courtesy of Hamuniverse.com A Christian Ham Radio Web Site
|FOR STARTERS: I really am a Pastor!
I pastor the Michiana Community Church of God (michianaccog.com), in Granger Indiana. You can give me a ring there
(Tuesday--Thursday) @ 574-679-9464.
My greatest passion in life is to help people find the awesome, life changing peace, joy and life that Jesus offters to all of us!
Christian Rock is a tool to help me!
So if you ever have any questions about God, life, the Bible,
Christian Rock, etc ASK ME!
Pastor Bradley Howard Windlan
|The testimony of Pastor Brad!
Founder of Guitarjams.net