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There are certain things that you should know about me, Randy Zabel.  First of all, I’m a dad and a husband.  I have a beautiful, wonderful wife.  Somehow I was able to hide my real personality from her long enough to get her to marry me.  I have three sons.  I know you might think I am just being a typical dad, but I am not exaggerating a bit when I say that my boys are the smartest, most handsome, and most athletic boys to ever live.  Its true.  If you don’t believe me ask their grandparents.  Something else you learn about me if you are around me very long is that I’m a jock.  I love sports, especially football.  I played football and am more than willing to relive the glory days with anyone who can’t run away fast enough.  I love college football; I watch any game that is on TV.  It could be UTEP versus Alabama-Birmingham, and I am there.  I am also a computer geek.  I spend way too much time in front of a computer to be considered normal.  The scary thing is that computers and the internet simply feed my sports addiction.  I can check the latest stats on my fantasy football teams and read the sports sections of 100 different newspapers without leaving the computer chair.  I love it.  The last BIG thing to know about Randy Zabel is Russia.  I have visited and traveled across Russia.  I love the Russian people.  I have studied Russia for almost twenty years.  I love to tell stories about the time I’ve spent in Russia. In addition to these BIG things to know about Randy Zabel, it is also important to know that I write music and sing, and that I am a relatively decent amateur photographer.  So that is who I am.  Oh, by the way, did I happen to mention that I am a Christian?

Growing up in the church, I knew about God and Christ and believed.  I went to church camp, vacation  bible school, revivals you name it.  As grew older, events began to chip away at my faith.  Both my mother and father suffered significant accidents and we had to move away from the hillside paradise of North West Arkansas to the Oklahoma panhandle.  Trust me, I have never quiet gotten over that trauma.  The reality of that transition was more than trading creeks and trees for dust and tumble-weeds.  We lived on my grandparents’ farm for a while and the tension was beyond description.  Continuing health problems meant that we struggled for money for the next three years.

Having gone back to college, my mother finished a teaching degree and was able to get a job and my father found work driving trucks in the Western Oklahoma oilfields.  Though not middle class, the constant struggle for everyday living was over, at least for a while.  Unfortunately, my dad suffered another major accident.  The hot oil unit he worked with used large butane burners to heat oil for drilling.  One afternoon, my mom got a call.  The butane burner had exploded in my father’s face.   The injuries were almost fatal, but he pulled through.  He, however, was not able to return to work for several months.  Once again, we were struggling.

Hope came when my father was offered a chance to teach his specialty, diesel mechanics, at the technical college South of Tulsa.  My mother was able to get a job at a school nearby, so we bought a house and moved once again.  Things seemed to be looking up, we made some good friends and, although the technical college job feel through, my dad found work driving trucks once again.  Our house was nice, we were able to buy a new car.  We had a real taste of the middle class American Dream.  Ok, so I am sure you can guess what I am about to say.  Once again, an accident shook the foundations of our family.  My father was hauling water to an oilfield location and suffered a heat stroke. The affects left him disabled for an extended time and financially we were left in a huge bind.  In the end, we lost our house and some personal issues resulted in yet one more move.

My mother had gotten a job at a Christian school, but that job wouldn’t start until the Fall. With no money and my parents only able to find low income jobs, by brother, sister, and I pitched in the best we could but we ended up living in cars, a travel trailer, and even rooms in a church. That Summer was by far the most difficult time of my life.

I suppose you think that is the end of the trials, well I guess we are just getting to know each other so such a mistake is understandable.   My mother ended up leaving that job and the next teaching position lasted only a year.  I ended up In Pawhuska, Oklahoma toward the end of my Junior year where we struggled through the last months of high school living in a run down trailer house.  Food-stamps and meager pay-checks kept food on the table, but just barely.

All of the struggles took their toll.  The economic ups and downs combined with sporadic abuse from a father with a volatile temper. I also saw too much hypocrisy in people who called themselves Christian. I found myself doubting the beliefs more and more.  I entertained thoughts of how can this thing we call church be more than a fraud?  I remember sitting at the table in church during a banquet for graduating seniors.  The pastor began to pray and I looked out over the congregation and thought, “Who are they trying to fool, they are just doing this to make themselves feel better.”  I was having a difficult time  reconciling the negative experiences I had endured with the culture of Christian life that was being preached from the pulpit.  The temptation was to just give up on church altogether.

Instead of simply walking away from my faith, I decided to try to find answers to my doubts.  A few friends started a bible study the Fall that I started college and I became involved in the student center for the Nazarene Church.  I also did some independent research and over the next several years I took several courses on the Bible.  Over and over again I found evidence that God was real, that Jesus was indeed Christ.  From that point on I was dedicated to my faith.  I have been far from perfect in my struggle to work out my salvation since, but I keep coming back to the reality of my faith in a real God and a real Jesus.

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