The greatest turning point in my life began at the age of 16 years on a Christmas evening in 1970 when I had just completed my 11th year of High School. I had become a member of a dance band made up of some school friends, which helped me learn the guitar as their lead guitarist. We played at community dances, parties and school functions, such as a school fete below.
I was trying to find my direction in life. Though I had some Sunday School background was not a Christian in the true sense of the word, and noticed that there was no interest in God or Jesus shown or spoken of in my family, friends and even the church people my mother hung out with, so it seemed a lost cause at the time. Meanwhile, my band friends and I were considering music as a career. This alarmed my mum who had invested much in me as an A student, as we were a family of little means as my dad was not well and could not work. She particularly became distressed the day I burnt all my study notes from year 11 in the back yard, as a sign of leaving the ‘square’ life behind and with my long haired friends try to copy The Beatles who were our inspiration to build a music studio in the bush. Of course we were young guys thinking big but with little or no means.
School had gone on Summer vacation and on Christmas eve we were practicing songs, with our band set up in the back garden area of an old lady who supported our cause to provide healthy entertainment for a bored youth, to help keep them away from drugs and alcohol which was becoming a problem in our country town. We were about to practice a song but the two singers in the group started arguing over who was the best to sing it. The drummer and I stood for more than half an hour while they argued and no backing down by either was in sight. I had a sudden revelation, like someone had shaken me and brought me to my senses, that I was becoming a wasted life. None of these boys were A students and had little to loose, but I had invested my life in this band and already I could see the quality of relationships here were not going to last. I simply picked up my guitar and gear and walked down the driveway and kept walking home. I could just hear the boys stop arguing to ask “Where has Ash gone?” and the drummer reply ” I think he has had enough of your arguing.” and that was the last day with the band. I went home in deep depression and a sense of great loss and humiliation, and was in temporary recluse.
This is where my story really begins, for Christmas Day, normally a day when my brother and I stuffed ourselves with food, had become for this year a fasting day, when I did not eat anything, I was so low. My mother was concerned, as later was my grandmother, that evening when we ate at her place, in the next street. Everyone tried to get me to eat but I was so low. Interesting enough, what came into my mind at this point, and not from my own thinking, but I believe was a revelation was: that this was Jesus birthday party, and yet no one even mentioned or had any regard for Jesus at all. This was happening everywhere on this day, supposedly in honor of Jesus and what he had done, but no one even acknowledged him. This thought stayed with me, though my mum attended church occasionally and my dad hated God because of the war and what it did to him, I looked back in my early years and remembered a few very different people, who made an impression on me because they were so joyful and showed me genuine love and interest. I also remembered that each of these people were not afraid to share their love of Jesus, and spoke like Jesus was a real person who they had some sort of relationship with.
That Christmas night as our family walked home via the main street, I looked up to the stars and said “God, if you are truly there and care about me, please let me come to know you and your son Jesus, and help me understand what I am missing from my life. “ As I finished this quiet sincere and humble prayer immediately I had a revelation of a New Testament in Modern English (Good News for Modern Man) which a true Christian man had given me some years ago, but I had put it away somewhere without reading. One of the obstacles to young people reading the Bible was that up unto then only the King James version in old English was available, and this was a first attempt to make the Bible relevant to our age. Later the whole Bible became the Good News Translation. When I reached home I went looking and found the New Testament. I had already asked God on the way home: “If I read some of his book each day, will you please help me to see what I and those around me have missed seeing? So it started, each morning and evening, first and last ( I can not remember details here) I started reading a small portion at a time starting from the Gospels. At the same time I believe God gave me a promise that if I spent the rest of the school holidays rewriting my notes in preparation for my final year I would be rewarded, and possibly finish well.
Each day and late into the early morning I wrote out notes for all my 6 subjects eating Oddball peppermints to keep me awake. Little was I to know this was the best thing I could have done to get such good passes. After all, the Economics teacher had already told me at the beginning of the year I had little hope of passing because I had not done Commerce as a prior subject and tried to steer me away. To his own excitement he was surprised when I topped his class in the final year (because something had changed in my life), someone was making a difference. As I read each day, I started to see that this Jesus was the type of person I was not. He had the strong character I lacked and was able to live the perfect day without doing wrong, which I had tried but failed doing. I started praying each day, kneeling by my bed and crying out to God weeping over my failure as a person and seeking his forgiveness and grace. He was able to give answer to all life’s issues because of his connection to God the Father, whom I was starting to realize loved me very much, enough to send Jesus to die for my wrongs.
Mum was amazed at the changes that were coming over me, I actually enjoyed doing my chores, I had become a happy and thoughtful lad. She suggested that I go and check out the youth fellowship in her local church. So reluctantly I did, and discovered they were having election of offices for the new year. I was surprised that no one wanted to be the Study Leader, so me, with my new found faith being led only by the Holy Spirit and not churched as they were, led the studies for the year. As I led the studies the others saw I had something different to there formal dryness. Then one Sunday evening something happened in one of the studies which caused me to become very sorrowful (details not remembered) and during the church service which always followed our youth meeting I experienced a deep sense of guilt and sorrow for my sin and selfish behaviour. This revelation caused me to just see the cross of Jesus and what he had done for me. I was not even present in the service, my head was elsewhere experiencing God’s grace and forgiveness in the most liberating experience of my life. His love and forgiveness flowed into me from the Holy Spirit indwelling and as I left the church service an old man of faith came up to me, as if he understood what God had been doing, and smiled a loving smile and simply said something like: “God loves you and knows what you are suffering and has forgiven you.” With that an amazing exhilarating joy, I can not explain came over me, and instead of getting a lift home with a friend, I ran home singing and jumping and rejoicing, thanking God for his love for me, who had only known rejection from my dad and a sense of failure in my life. God became that day, a personal reality who has been with me ever since. A wonderful peace came over me which has been my strength and stability through many rough times, and enabled me to face my final exams with sense of peace and contentment.
Things really started happening now as I was led by the Holy Spirit, and gradually people in the youth group started discovering for themselves the joy of knowing Jesus. We put together our first Christian folk music group (Christian folk music was in then, there was no Hillsong for years) Christians were labelled plagiarists as they wrote song words but used secular music. This rekindled my creative flare (as I was previously known as The Poet at high school) and started a prolific next ten years of writing new songs with my own original tunes, mostly encouraging and challenging people to come to Jesus. Our group played at various churches and functions. The above photo appeared on the front page of the local newspaper for a concert. The man at the rear of the photo was an ex-prisoner who came to know Jesus when he became a friend of mine, because he wanted to learn to play the guitar. Hey, but that is another amazing story not for now. He has since gone to be with the Jesus. The minister of that church in his pride got wind that many of the youth were coming home and embarrassing their parents with their new found faith, so he made it very difficult for me so I had to leave that church, however the work God started in me continued in my absence and more got saved.