by Howard and Jeanne Tomlinson



Life-Changing Decisions

“For man is born for trouble as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7)

We all wish for lives free of pain and suffering, but hard times do come upon each one of us, often without warning.  What can we do to prepare so we won't be knocked down?  This is our story of how certain decisions we made gave my husband Howard and me the strength and courage to face incredible trials ahead.

The familiar sounds of “Just As I Am” filled the Garden City Cathedral where 14-year-old Howie attended a Long Island Youth for Christ rally.  He was a lonely teenager, often questioning the meaning of life and asking himself “Why am I here?”  As he listened to the speaker, Howie felt a need for God to fill the empty void in his heart.  He recalled to mind the verse he had learned as a child: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  He understood that Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive his sins and give him the free gift of salvation.  While the pianist played the closing hymn, Howie quietly slipped out of his seat and walked forward to invite Jesus Christ to be his own personal Savior.  On that October night in 1965, he was born again to a new life.  God filled the empty void in Howard Tomlinson’s heart with Himself!
    Howie was excited about his decision, but no one encouraged him to grow close to the Lord.  By the time he finished high school, spiritual things started taking a back seat to other interests in his life, including trumpet.  But he never forgot that his mom prayed for him every day.  And it took several years before he realized that God had special plans for him.
    From the age of nine, playing trumpet was one of Howie’s greatest sources of joy.  Following graduation from high school, he worked for the Long Island Railroad and also played trumpet in a band that achieved high honors, including marching in the Rose Parade.  When he was 23, his friend Ken told him about the school he was attending – North Texas State University in Denton, which had a reputation for musical excellence.  Seeking to perfect his skills, Howie applied to North Texas in 1974 and was accepted as a music major.  Over the next few years, he kept very busy attending college, working two jobs, and practicing his horn.  He enjoyed his life in Texas, but by the time he reached his senior year, he often felt lonely again.  His family was 2,000 miles away, his best friends had graduated or transferred to other schools, and he didn’t belong to any church.
    In 1980, halfway through his senior year, Howie received an invitation from a fellow trumpet player.  They were both sitting in the practice building when Marcus blurted out, “Howie, I’m going to Denton Bible Church.  Have you heard of it?  A lot of music majors go there.  Would you like to come along sometime?”  Howie said, “Sure,” and visited church with him.  A few weeks later, Marcus invited him again.  When Howie walked into church the second time, one of the pastors said, “Hi!  I’m Mel,” and gave him a big hug.  Howie fell in love with Denton Bible Church and attended faithfully during the remainder of his time in Texas.  He no longer felt alone, for the church members reached out to him and became his dearest friends.
    Tom Nelson, senior pastor at Denton Bible, challenged him, “Howie, you need to get discipled!”  Tom and another friend Mike started spending time with Howie, teaching him the Word of God and how to apply it to his life.  For the first time since his conversion experience 15 years earlier, Howie took his faith seriously.  He no longer lost his temper, and prayer and Bible study became an integral part of his daily life.
    The three spiritual decisions Howie made between the years of 1965 and 1980 helped set the course of his life: He didn’t realize it at the time, but these decisions also prepared him both spiritually and emotionally for April, 1981, when he would face his toughest trial.

Someone wisely said, “Life is a series of either taken or missed opportunities.”  The choices we make will either have a positive or a negative impact on how we face life’s challenges.  God never intended for us to bear our burdens alone.  He made a way for us to have a personal relationship with Himself.  When we choose to place our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe indwells us and offers us His strength, wisdom, help, guidance, and comfort.  He promises to never leave us alone and gives us lasting hope.
    Relationships with others are important, also.  A local church that is committed to teaching and practicing the Word of God will help us grow as believers and provide the support system we need to face hardships.  “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25a).

For Those Who Hurt

Are you prepared to face life’s challenges?  You can be if you place your life in the hands of Jesus Christ who died and rose again to save you from sin, give you purpose and meaning, guide and help you each day, and bring you to your eternal home.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23); “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead; you shall be saved” (Romans 10:9).  And find a human support group, preferably a church where God’s Word is honored.
    When you’re walking with God and His people, you can be prepared to face whatever life throws at you with a smile!



To order this book, click here.

Introduction Table of Contents Chapter 2: An Abrupt Change of Plans