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Carl's Testimony

Page history last edited by pinkhamc@... 1 year, 10 months ago

Testimony of Carlos Pinkham

 

I was born in Brattleboro, VT, in 1943. We lived in Newton, MA, at the time; my dad was harbormaster for Boston Harbor during WWII. My birth was in Brattleboro because I was delivered by a good friend of the family, Dr. Carlos Otis, after whom I am named. My folks had made the friendship when dad was principal of Leland and Gray Seminary in Townshend, VT, earlier in the century.

 

After WWII we moved to Melrose, MA, where my father managed the Curtis Marshmallow Factory next door to where we lived and where I have my first memories - memories of collecting butterflies, studying flowers, watching birds, listening to bullfrogs and having a deep sense that these wonders were created by Someone who must be wonderful. These feelings were so natural and innate that it took some time before I realized that what I felt toward God's creation was not something everyone experienced.

 

Our family was churched and we attended the Melrose Baptist Church where I remember 1) seeing my middle brother and sister being baptized (seeing them get all wet was quite impressive to a 5-year old sibling) and 2) wearing my first pair of pants with a fly and proudly pointing this out to my entire Sunday School class.

 

In 1951 we moved to Jericho, VT, where my father was principal of Jericho School system and mom was the Home Economics teacher in high school. There we attended the Congregational Church. My teaching continued, but my understanding essentially remained where it was in Massachusetts. I had little more than a crude grasp of what God was like. He was:

  • 1) bigger than me (He is bigger than the universe),
  • 2) older than me (He had to be older than the universe),
  • 3) much more powerful than me (He created the universe),
  • 4) much smarter than me (The universe He created works extraordinarily well),
  • and, 5) He could be prayed to (and I did a lot of praying), mostly for things I wanted, only a little to talk about things I was ashamed I did.

Somehow Jesus fit into this, but I hadn’t the vaguest notion how. He was just a role model.

 

During this time, three important, spiritual events occurred. First, I was baptized in the Congregational Church on May 29th, 1955, after going through a preparatory program that asked all the critical questions, which I answered confidently, without the least bit of comprehension. In retrospect, I wonder if this somehow conferred some degree of protection on me. Second, I was skating on a pond in New Hampshire, where I was visiting some friends. We had been skating all afternoon and I was pooped. I slipped on the ice and felt so comfortable lying there, that I decided to rest a while. Immediately a voice rang out in my head, "GET UP". It resounded with such authority, that I had to obey it. As I was getting to my feet, another person fell and the blade end of his ice hockey skate went whizzing at about 100 mph through the very spot where my head had just been.

 

The last incident is the most enigmatic of all. One summer morning, I had been trying to collect butterflies; something I had done hundreds of times. This day, however, I hadn't seen a single butterfly. I was in the center of a large field, which I had just scanned for 360º around me and nothing was in sight. I was so frantic, that I said, "I'd give my soul to the Devil if a butterfly would appear." Now you have to understand, I did not believe in the Devil at this point, it was just a phrase I had heard people use. Immediately a butterfly came flitting over my left shoulder. I'll return to this event later.

 

In 1956, my father took a teaching job at Norwich University. We moved to Northfield that summer and in my homeroom on the first day of school in the eighth grade, I spotted a cute blonde illuminated by soft light coming through a window in the back of the room. I was immediately smitten. After a rocky romance, which is another story for another time, that cute blonde, Chris Waite, became my wife in 1965, and has been my best friend and so much more, ever since.

 

During High School, I read a book by Julian Huxley, Man in the Modern World, in which he carefully showed that of all the groups of organisms that ever lived on Earth, only the hominids had the necessary preconditions to become intelligent. This started me on a life-long quest, to take his thoughts and apply them to the universe, thereby getting a deeper insight into the nature of this God I adored. Again, that quest is another topic, for another time.

 

I graduated from Northfield High School in '61 and went to college at Norwich University. This is a military school and it is exactly what I needed. I studied biology, the topic I loved, and excelled at it and everything else there. During my four years, I had one goal in sight: to attend grad school to get a Ph.D. in evolution. I wanted to understand how God's omniscience worked to bring about life. While at Norwich, I attended Church only on occasion. However, one incident certainly bears on my spiritual life. I was walking behind Hawkins Hall one sunny afternoon, thinking about God's creation, and what I was learning about it when I suddenly found myself being overwhelmed by a sense of elation which was intensifying with every passing second. I literally felt I was being lifted into the air. The emotion was so powerful, I intentionally willed it to stop, because I was afraid it was going to consume me. Many years later, I learned what I had experienced was the presence of the Holy Spirit. In 1965, I 1) was commissioned a 2LT in Armor, 2) was married to Chris and 3) graduated number two in my class with a BS in Biology, all on three consecutive days.

 

From September of 1965 to October of 1970, during the Vietnam era, I attended graduate school at the University of Illinois, Champaign, Urbana. In 1969, as I approached the end of my doctoral studies, I found out I could receive a branch transfer into the Medical Service Corps as long as I had my Doctorate. There was a catch, however, I'd have a 4-year, active-duty obligation instead of the 2-year obligation I would have if I stayed in Armor. Hmm, 2 years in Armor, one of which would be in Vietnam, or 4 years in MSC, all of which would be doing research stateside? Two-tenths of a second later, I had my decision. Little did I know at the time that this decision was going to have a profound, spiritual impact. In August of 1970, we had our first son, Kevin. In October I defended my Ph.D. thesis on Wednesday night and on Thursday morning boarded the plane for the MSC Officers' Basic Course in Fort Sam Houston, TX, where I reported in as a newly-promoted Captain.

 

After OBC, I was assigned to the Biomedical Research Laboratory at Edgewood Arsenal, MD. For the first 4 months, I did research on the mechanism of nerve agent poisoning, something I really didn't enjoy. So, when the First Lieutenant, Gareth Pearson, in the apartment across the hall from us was assigned to the newly-formed Ecology Branch, which was the first of its kind in the Army, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to speak with his boss, Scott Ward. I was offered a job on the spot. As we worked out what we actually would be doing, Gareth accepted the responsibility for aquatic research and I, for terrestrial research. The relationship formed with Gareth and Scott grew in solidarity over four years and they have remained dear friends ever since.

 

While at Edgewood Arsenal, our second son, Kreig, was born.

 

At the end of the four years, my commitment was up and I attempted to locate a teaching job at a university. I could find nothing. However, I was offered two jobs, one as a civilian at the Ecology Branch and the other at its sister organization in Utah. I loved my work, I loved the people I was working with, but both Chris and I did not like the Baltimore area. It was too hot and humid for our Vermont tastes. Thus one unbearably hot and humid day in July, Chris, our two boys and I boarded a plane in Baltimore for a trial visit to Utah. I had already been there on several occasions, so I was delighted at the prospect. Chris had never been there and was skeptical. About 30 minutes from Salt Lake City, the Captain came on and said the temperature at the airport was 104 degrees. Chris, thinking of the how awful 92 was in Baltimore when we left, said, "we're turning around as soon as we land." As soon as we landed, she stepped out of the plane, said, incredulously, "This is 104 degrees?" and instantly fell in love with Utah. Our decision was made. Two months later we were moving our family to Utah. I can remember driving across the country and listening to the unfolding saga of Nixon's resignation.

 

Almost immediately, two very important events occurred. First, you do not spend much time in Utah before the Mormons you work with try to proselytize you. This happened to Chris and me and shortly after our arrival, we found ourselves at a ward dinner. Mormons are wonderful people, they all greeted us and treated us to a delightful time. But on the way home afterward, we were both quiet with our thoughts. Then one of us (to this day, we can't recall who) asked the question, "What did you feel about that?" The other confirmed what the asker had been thinking, "My spirit was troubled." As I've said, Mormons are wonderful people, but their religion is tainted - how is also something for another time and place. Suffice it to say here that at the time, although we didn't know why, the training and protection of the Holy Spirit that we had received earlier in our lives, which appeared to have no influence when it was conferred, came through. We felt the pull to explore our roots, and Chris was the first to respond.

 

Shortly thereafter, a new Chaplain and his wife arrived at the Protestant Chapel at Dugway. Although we were civilians, Dugway was so remote, that many of the civilian employees lived at Dugway. We were among them, so Chris started going to Chapel. She came back from the first service bubbling with excitement. "You've got to come to listen to this new Chaplain. He and his wife are incredibly warm people, and what's more, he's giving sermons on the scientific evidence for God and the Bible." My reaction was a simple, "OK, I'll go, but I'll show you that he's a fake." In my ignorance, which I had because I never took enough time to consider how ignorant I was, I couldn't believe that anyone besides me could have any insights into the scientific arguments for God. Was I in for an eye-opener?!

 

Not only was Gale Wilson preaching on numerous aspects of the scientific evidence, many of which I had never considered, but he and Martha were just as Chris had described: two of the warmest, most loving people I'd ever met. This "chance" encounter started me down the final stretch of road to my great adventure. For the next year and a half, I listened to Gale's sermons, attended adult Sunday School, and read God's Word and works about God's Word. My constant prayer during this time was, "God, I've always thought you're real, but I'm beginning to think you're more real than I realized and you're really interested in a personal relationship with me, show me that you are." This has to be God's second favorite prayer, because every time I had a question, it was answered almost immediately. Sometimes it was answered in obvious ways, such as I'd ask Gale and he'd explain it to me. Other times it was not so obvious. For example, I'd have a question while reading the Bible and mysteriously its answer would come up at the next Sunday School.

 

Before long, I was more convinced than ever that God was really real and that He not only loved His Creation, He specifically loved me. Thus, I was willing to turn the future direction of my life over to Him. I figured, I was smart, but I couldn't see everything coming in the future, whereas the Lord God, Creator of the universe could, and who else better to be in charge of my life, than the One who wanted the best for me and knew what lay ahead? In essence, I made God Lord of my life first.

 

During this time, I was learning more and more about this mysterious person, Jesus, and more and more about myself. In particular, I was learning that Jesus was God's Holy Son and I was an unholy son. This last lesson was not easy for me to learn. All along I had figured I was a pretty good person. Compared to others I would place myself ahead of most in "goodness". I could easily see my good traits and I had become blind to my bad. The thought that I wasn't good enough for God, was totally foreign to me. After all, hadn't He shown His care for me several times when I was growing up?

 

However, slowly but surely, I began to see that the issue was not my goodness compared to others', but rather my unholiness compared to Jesus' Holiness. So, one October night in Salt Lake City in 1976, at a Continental Singers' Concert, I finally surrendered my pride completely to God. Unsure one instant that I was doing the right thing, absolutely certain the next, that I had. In that instant, I made Jesus my Lord AND my Savior and the Holy Spirit, the Destroyer of all doubt, entered in.

 

Outside, immediately afterward, I was surrounded and hugged by all the Protestant Women of the Dugway Chapel. Come to find out they had been praying for me for that entire year and a half since I first came to Chapel. I didn't have a chance!

 

Two years later we had our third son, Kristian, whose name reflected our commitment to maintaining the "K" sound for all first names in our family, but more importantly our commitment to our new, wonderful, way of life.

 

Now, about that mysterious event with the butterfly in the field when I was 11. I have thought and prayed about that long and hard since then. First, if it were Satan's doing (yes, Satan IS real), the gift of faith I received on that October evening in 1976 has rendered any agreement unwittingly made at that time completely null and void. Certainly, I have since renounced any hold that rash statement held on me, in Jesus' name, but fundamentally, I am convinced what God did for me that evening, NONE can negate.

 

But here's another spin on that moment: There were no butterflies in that field. I had pretty well determined that. So the possibility exists that the butterfly was created on the spot. Only God can do that. Could it be that He would do that to awaken in me an awareness that there really is an evil side to this universe - an awareness that would bring me into His family twenty-five years later?

 

So much has happened in the intervening years. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have become dearer and clearer to me with each passing adventure. I could go on for pages more with exciting stories of how Chris and I became filled with the Holy Spirit and how He has worked in our lives to give us more adventure than any two people deserve in a lifetime. But, alas, that, too, is for another time and place.

 

Just let me leave you with this thought. If you are wondering if God is real, pray this prayer to Him, "God, I think you may be real, show me that you are." And then, give Him a chance to do just that!

 

My Prayer Life

Each day in my quiet time, I pray these three prayers,

“Lord, today I give you and you alone permission to place thoughts in my head from the spiritual realm.” 

“Lord, today when I have thoughts that are dishonoring to you, as I surely will, let me know immediately so I can turn from them.”

And “Lord, when I encounter thoughts from others that dishonor you, let me know immediately where their thinking is faulty.”  I have found those three prayers to be a powerful weapon in my daily battle with self.

 

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