Back in the “good old days,” when you drank a coke you took the bottle back to the store and they would give you two cents. That was called “redeeming the bottle.” You give them something used up and empty and they give you money. Sounds kind of like God: I was definitely empty when He redeemed me.  I want to tell you a great story, actually three stories, about prayer and redemption.

Blake will probably find waves in heaven

A very good friend of mine, Blake, was buried a couple of days ago because he died of cancer. Me and 100s of others prayed for a miracle but without a miracle happening. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life,” so says the Bible. Blake didn’t live and we will all die one day, but his life was remarkable and his journey continues in heaven. That sounds pretty good to me.

Blake and I came to Christ after being surf buddies in the “Jesus Movement” out in California and when we moved back to Florida we were on the streets telling people about what God had done for us and what He could do for them. That was way back in 1972. I don’t recall the exact timeline, but months after that, Blake’s girlfriend decided she was done with the relationship. Blake was hurt and turned back to the world of drugs we’d escaped from.

For the next 15 or so years, Blake was a mess and I never even saw him. After that 15 years passed, now into the 80s, I saw him one day at our old surfing hangout, Deerfield Pier in Florida, and I asked him if he had gotten things together with Christ again. He said he had and that was about all that was said. Jackie and I were living in Deerfield  and he was living in the Melbourne area so we didn’t really connect. About 6 years ago we caught up with each other and he told me his return to the Lord story and his involvement with his amazing Catholic church. My oh my. After attending his funeral, I now know what he meant by an “amazing” Catholic church. God gave him a lovely wife, Sharon, a church where they grew together and lives that made a difference in the world.  That is redemption.

I believe God hears our prayers and answers them, too. I started praying for Blake when he went his own way and continued praying the whole time he was missing in action. When I heard his story I was so blessed because I knew God’s love had recaptured Blake’s heart, and He did it because that’s what He does and because me and others prayed for him. Never give up on your friends or family regardless of how it may appear on the outside. Jesus came to “seek and save those who were lost” and He has never stopped doing that. We get to help by praying. Have you got time to help God out?

My friend Alan

At Blake’s funeral I ran into another old high school surf friend named Alan. We reconnected after at least 40 years had gone by at the Deerfield Pier reunion Blake put together in 2013. We talked and remembered some of the fun stuff and when the reunion packed up I headed home. A short time later I heard Alan had 3 months to live with stage 4 cancer. I couldn’t believe it but I started praying for him. I always have an ongoing prayer sheet on my computer and every morning I pray for everyone on it. I don’t spend hours doing it, but God hears my reminders. About 18 months went by and I hadn’t heard a thing and then out of the blue I heard Alan was still alive, so I kept on praying. At Blake’s funeral I saw Alan again and I asked him how he was doing. He said he was fine and then told me his story of redemption. He was supposed to be dead but chemo and a lot of prayers from all of us old surf pals pulled him through it. Do you have a friend in an impossible spot that needs your prayers? Just because the doctor says there is no hope it’s no reason to not pray. Yes, Blake died. Yes, Alan didn’t. We don’t choose who lives or dies–we pray for God’s will to be done and give thanks in every circumstance because God is a redeemer.

Rick and I were surfing together in Deerfield from around 1966

Rick on the right, Ed in the center.

until July of 2017 when we were out at a break called Beacons in Leucadia, CA. A lot of water flowed under the bridge between those two times out surfing, and Rick’s story is quite a miraculous story of redemption. In late 1971 or so, when I came to Christ, we were living in CA.  I came home from a prayer meeting at Ed’s house and told Rick and Bruce (another story) about my encounter with God. (A detour: Ed’s still in the house, 48+ years later, where I came to Christ and we are at his house in this photo after surfing together.) Bruce and Rick told me I was nuts and they went back to FL a bit later and I stayed in Encinitas and grew in my faith. Rick’s path took him through a hazardous amount of drugs. I prayed for Rick, a lot, a really lot. He was like a brother to me  and my heart hurt for him. I recall seeing him one time in FL while he was still strung out and thought, “He won’t live another 6 months if something doesn’t change.”

Rick’s book. Available on Amazon

Something did change. After about 20 years of praying I was out with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) on adventures and heard Rick had given his life to Christ on Easter day at Calvary Chapel. I was so thrilled. But it even got better. Rick got in touch with us and inquired about coming to join us in Richardson Springs, California, where Jackie and I were the Discipleship Training School leaders for YWAM. He raised the finances needed for the five-month school and came. Rick was, as they say, “A diamond in the rough,” but he endured in a setting that was alien to his life-style and way out of his comfort zone. He did the three-month classroom time and then we went on a two-month outreach where he succeeded, graduated and headed off on new adventures.

That was in 1992 and since then he’s had 5-6 heart attacks (who’s counting?) but just keeps on going. His inspiration is seeing people, any and all people, learn about God’s love for them and how they can share in His life now on earth and later in heaven. He’s still in CA, has written a children’s book (never been married or had a kid) and also turned it into a gospel tract. When he’s not in the hospital recovering from a heart attack, you will most often find him at a park or pier telling people how much God loves them. Actually, all the doctors and nurses have heard too.

God is the Master of redemption and the author of

redeemed lives. His story includes all of us if we are willing to let Him write it. God uses redemption to take something really bad and then turns it into a blessing. Blessings are not always that easy to recognize in the moment, but as time passes by clarity comes and we see His redemptive hand manipulating our circumstances to serve us rather than kill us.

If you are in a place where you would like to have a friend praying for you, let us know. Jackie and I love to pray and watch with our friends. You aren’t alone. Even if you are that guy stranded on a remote island, God is with you. There is no place where He isn’t. How do I know? Because I’ve been to a lot of places and God has always been there awaiting my arrival. I don’t know how He does it–I’m just glad He said, “I will never leave you.” Don’t leave Him.

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