I’m not much for dwelling on the past, so the concept of telling my life story seemed a little unappealing to me at first.
After all, I’m not sure I’ve lived a noteworthy enough life to assume my story is worth your precious time.
I am not a politician, nor an actor, nor a chef, nor a business guru.
I’ve never flown into space–although the wife of my collaborator on this project has done so...four different times. Now that’s a story I’d be interested in reading!
What I am is a Texas judge whose ancestors date back to the very beginning of our state’s history. Thus, my hometown and I share a surname, and my great-great-granduncle sort of started the whole Texas thing.
I’m also a son, a brother, a husband, a father, and a granddad.
I’m a staunch conservative–not unusual around these parts–but some of my views may surprise you.
But at the core of my existence, I’m a believer in God, a disciple of Christ, and a student of The Word.
So why does my story matter?
Well, like you and like everyone in this world, I’ve experienced my share of ups and downs. A lot of you may be plagued with occasional self-doubt, hopelessness, despair, or bouts of depression.
I know I am.
We’re all a little flawed, “only human,” as they say. I look back on my life and think, “I wish I would have done some things a little differently.” That notion used to consume me, but God finally convinced me that the past cannot be changed.
In the book of Isaiah 43:18, it says clearly, “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past.” (Note: for any of my readers unfamiliar with the Bible, the first number refers to the chapter of the book being referred to, while the second number is the verse.)
Of course, we can learn from what we’ve done in days gone by. On occasion it’s okay to look back on the past and ponder its meaning, especially when the intent is to find someone to write your story in a manner which might be of interest to some.
Especially when you want to share a thing or two that just might make a difference moving forward in someone else’s life.
With your permission–which I suppose is implied, given that you’ve either purchased this book or borrowed it from a friend–I wish to offer here one man’s perspective on Faith and Grace and God’s Love and Redemption, and do so in a way that doesn’t come across as “preachy.”
Because I am not a preacher.
As an aside, I do believe the Gifts we receive from our Heavenly Father–like Grace and Love and Forgiveness–are worthy of capitalization, as are His attributes and processes, as well as the fruit of the Spirit, and articles when they modify special nouns, so you’ll find that I apply that rule liberally throughout this book. I also capitalize the pronouns “referring to Deity,” as it says in some dictionaries. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that reflects respect, as well as clarifies any confusion that might occur when talking about God and His creatures. Or call it “artistic license,” if you will.
Even though I am a Believer and I am a Follower, I’ve sometimes questioned contemporary Christian doctrine. One of the things that keeps me from regularly attending church is my discord with what I often hear preached from pulpits today. Particularly troubling to me is what some call the “prosperity gospel,” which preaches material entitlement as a reward for believing in God. In the Bible, Paul promises the spiritual blessing of salvation, not the material blessing of wealth.
I believe that my own lengthy study of the Bible, coupled with a personal immersion in the views of Biblical scholars over the last couple hundred years, have given me a grasp of how God works in our lives. I describe that Divine interplay as “Embracing The Cross,” thus the title of this book.
Jesus, it turns out, wasn’t the only one to experience “death and resurrection.”
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,” says the Apostle Paul in the book of Galatians 2:20.
“Death”–in the guise of failure, hardship, sickness, and heartache–occurs regularly in all our lives. But, like our Savior, we too can experience a type of “resurrection,” a personal renewal which leads to forgiveness, healing, contentment, and joy.
In assembling this story, I’ve found numerous examples of this death-and-resurrection dynamic which has played out, not only in my own life, but also in the lives of others I have known, respected, and loved.
Let me give you one example:
Before becoming a judge, I spent some twenty-five years as a criminal defense lawyer. Before that, I served my fellow citizens as a district attorney. I’ve seen a lot when it comes to practicing the law, but as a Christian, one case stands out for me: that of a fifteen-year-old juvenile accused of murder.
When I first met him, this boy was sitting alone in the detention center of the courthouse trembling like a leaf. His fear emanated both from what he was charged with, as well as from the fate which potentially awaited him.
When I became his court-appointed attorney I told him not to worry because, “Worry is the devil’s tool.”
In fact, I may have quoted from the book of Matthew 6:34: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.”
The young man was eventually convicted of murder, but, given his age and the extenuating circumstances of his case which I presented during his trial, he was sent to a juvenile home for eighteen months.
There, for the first time in his life, he had time to reflect, and in those reflections I believe he opened his heart to God. Upon release, he returned home, we became friends, and he did his best to find a new way. I was proud of the great strides he took into manhood.
But I also saw that old demons continued to haunt him, and he was ultimately arrested again in his early twenties on charges of domestic violence.
For the second time in a court of law, I stood by this young man’s side.
And for a second time, he was found guilty of his crime.
Now, it might appear that I had failed my young friend, but as a defense attorney my job isn’t always to keep people out of jail. In his case, I believe I could have done so, but when the time came to argue what constituted a fair punishment for his crime, he did not choose the easy path.
He chose the way of God’s Truth.
At his sentencing, he admitted his wrongdoing and spoke of how God had assured him that in prison he would find his “resurrection.” In that moment, I knew the young man had taken to heart my encouragement that he Embrace The Cross.
That troubled young man is now nearly forty years old. He is as dear to me as one of my own children.
He will tell his own story later within the pages of this book.
Through my work in America’s criminal justice system, God has used me to touch the hearts of men and women headed toward or already mired in the ways of the devil. Not all have been able to soften their hearts in acceptance of the Love of Jesus Christ, but some have.
And, in those moments of Reformation, I have experienced my own Salvation.
After working many months on this book, I’ve come to realize that my story may not be half bad. Like every good story, it’s a tale of Redemption–mostly my own.
But my story also contains tidbits and tales different from others within the Christian genre. In these pages you’ll find reflections of football fortunes and golfing passions, both good and bad, as well as accounts of crime, punishment, and a wedding-day donnybrook involving yours truly.
As the subtitle of the book suggests, here you’ll find one sinner’s story about “Life, The Law, and Loving The Lord in The Lone Star State.”
Let’s get started.