Experiencing the Miraculous - Dave Rankin's Story

Experiencing the Miraculous - Dave Rankin's Story
Side B Stories
Experiencing the Miraculous - Dave Rankin's Story

May 10 2024 | 01:03:23

Episode 93 May 10, 2024 01:03:23

Hosted By

Jana Harmon

Show Notes

Former atheist Dave Rankin's difficult life experiences proved to him that God could not exist.  Through his years of atheism, other surprising experiences awakened him to the possibility of something more than his atheism could explain. 

Episode Notes:

Book(2012): 39 Years in the Wilderness, an Atheist Walk With God (available on Amazon Kindle)

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:02] Speaker A: If you really want to know, go to the gospel of John and pray. Even if you don't believe, pray to God. Reveal yourself to me. And I did. And man, I'll tell you what, you pray a prayer like that and God will be faithful to that. And God started immediately being prayerful or faithful to that, so much to the point that several days later I flew home. The first words I said to my wife when I got in the car at the airport was, I don't know what happened in the last eleven days, but I know God exists. [00:00:39] Speaker B: Hello and thanks for joining in. I'm Jana Harmon and you're listening to side b stories where we see how skeptics flip the record of their lives. Each podcast we listen to someone who has once been an atheist or skeptic who became a christian against all odds. You can hear more of our stories at our Cybe stories [email protected], or on our YouTube channel. We welcome your comments on our stories on our Facebook page and YouTube videos. You can also email [email protected] we always love hearing from you there's often an expectation, especially among skeptics, that knowledge of or belief in something comes exclusively through rational means. There's an assumption that since rejecting God is the most reasonable thing to do, that coming to believe in God, should that happen, should be a rational process as well. But if God exists and can reveal himself through his presence through a spiritual experience, someone may become convinced that God is real through non rational means. Not irrational, but rather non rational ways. That way of knowing something to be true is not necessarily inferior to rational means. In fact, it may be more compelling. It's just different when it comes to religious conversion. There are no two journeys towards God that are the same. Some are driven towards belief in God because they have been convinced by facts and arguments and evidence. Others come to believe in God because they have experienced something that seems to exist beyond our physical bodies, beyond the physical realm that seems unexplainable. Or they may experience seeming miraculous events, or the intangible, overwhelming love of God that convinces them of God's reality. They may not be able to explain why know that God is real, they just know that he is. That's not to say that someone cannot then go on to ground their experience in more rational, evidential means. Oftentimes they do. After all, if God is real and Christianity is true, both experience and reason should fit together in a comprehensive way that makes sense of their experience, of their thoughts. All reality in our story today Dave came to believe in God after decades of being convinced that he did not or could not exist. But he was led to believe over a series of compelling experiences. I hope you'll come along and listen closely to understand his journey. [00:03:29] Speaker C: Welcome to the side me Stories podcast. Dave, it's great to have you with me today. [00:03:34] Speaker A: Thank you so much. I've been looking so forward to this. [00:03:36] Speaker C: Oh, I have two. [00:03:38] Speaker B: I know a little bit about your. [00:03:39] Speaker C: Story, and I'm just very anxious to get into that. But before we do, I'd love for the listeners to know a bit about you now. So why don't you introduce yourself to us? [00:03:49] Speaker A: Sounds good. Hi, my name is Dave Rankin. I'm 57 years old. Me and my wife Theresa have been married 30 years, and we've stayed married through three separations, the most recent of which was from 2013 to 2016 after my conversion to faith in Christ. But we've been back together for seven years now. We have three adult children and three grandchildren, the most recent of which, Rhea Starr, was born three weeks ago tomorrow. [00:04:18] Speaker C: Congratulations. [00:04:20] Speaker A: Well, thank you. Just a little background on myself. I've been in customer service in one form or another since I was 16 years old. Went to school and we'll get into that, but I went to school and got a degree in evolutionary biology, which I never used. I found that I actually really enjoy. [00:04:38] Speaker C: Working with people I'm very, really looking forward to. You're telling your story today. Why don't we start there in the beginning in your childhood, and start us there? Talk with us about your family of origin, where you lived, what your family life was like. And did you go to church or was God hidden or absent there? [00:05:02] Speaker A: Yeah, that's a great question. I had really very limited experience with God when I was a child growing up, I'm going to assume, and I never knew the answer to this question. My dad, I'm assuming, was an atheist, maybe an agnostic. I honestly never got to ask him that question. He's deceased now, and we'll get to that part of the story because it's a huge part of my conversion. But my mom, her brother, sister, and parents, my grandparents, who were amazing people, all lived very close to us. So I grew up first seven years of my life in West Haven, Connecticut. But the only people that went to church that I knew of was my aunt Judy and her husband Paul, who is my mom's brother. And we would go periodically. My mom, my sister and I would go Christmas and Easter. Would I call us religious? Absolutely not. In fact, I didn't even know my mom had been raised in the Methodist church until after I came to my conversion. And we would discuss Jesus and discuss God. And that's when she told me, oh yeah, we used to go as a family to the Methodist church right up the street. So that was really interesting to find out because my mom and dad never conveyed what I would call any form of faith necessarily. My aunt, though, on the other hand, and uncle were very prominent in the church. They were, I believe, a deacon and a deaconess in a congregational church, a beautiful old white historic church that has been on the green in West Haven since the revolutionary war. So we would go there and it was very, I don't know, boring to me. I didn't find anything. And, you know, I'm a five, six, seven year old kid. Church is boring, hard pews, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. All I hear is the teacher from Charlie Brown talking when I'm going, you know, I don't mean that in disrespect, it just was what it is. And the one thing. So a couple things stand out about that timeframe in that part of this picture. One, I distinctly remember the few times we went hearing this, our father who are in heaven, and, and of course, the Lord's prayer. I couldn't have spoken it back then, I wouldn't remember it. But now on this side of my, my story, I remember that distinctly. And just thinking, what are these, what are these people doing? What, you know, I don't see any lived out whatever this is. I don't see anybody living out Christianity. I didn't know to call it that. But I saw them go through this rote prayer that they just repeated every time we went to church. And I thought, well, that's kind of interesting. And I even think we may have said it too, even though I didn't know what it was or to believe it. So that was really interesting. And then the other thing that really stood out, I really believed the first time, I know, that God was really seeking after my heart. And of course, I didn't know this then. I'm going to say about seven years old, Easter weekend, my uncle played Jesus in the church play and barebacked nothing but a loincloth on, walking down the center aisle of the church, toting across, being beaten, quote unquote beaten, by these two roman guards. And I wept, wept and wept, and I didn't identify at that point what that was, why I was weeping. But man, that was super powerful. It was so powerful that I never forgot that even in my atheism. I never forgot the power of watching this man who was at that point, not my uncle, he's just this man getting beaten. And then they hung him on the cross, you know, with ropes and just the power of that. I really think that was God just kind of showing me what Christ did at seven years old, looking, you know, testing my heart and going, what do you think about this? What do you feel about this? And so that was really powerful. So church wise, that was about the extent of it. And then we moved from Westhaven to New Haven, and my father bought a house. Without telling my mother, he bought a house in New Haven, Connecticut, about 3 miles from Yale University. That was a pretty mixed bag of lower middle class families, and it was awesome. I mean, it was so cool to grow up in an area where there were so many diverse ethnic groups. My best friend who happened to live next door, he was a 7th day Adventist. This whole family was. And so what I knew, the only thing I knew about him was that at sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, Terry was a no go. He couldn't come out. He couldn't play, he couldn't watch wrestling with me. He couldn't do anything. And so I saw foolishness in that. As an eight, nine year old kid, I was like, well, you dress up in a suit, you go someplace for six, 7 hours on a Saturday, you come home, and I don't see. You know, I didn't see any difference. And. And so a lot of my faith story and a lot of my atheism, you know, which I wouldn't have called myself an atheist then, but my God isn't anything type mentality was. I didn't see anybody other than my aunt Judy, who was at the congregational Church. I didn't really see anybody live any differently, you know, so I just. It became kind of a non issue. So not really a lot going on in that seven, eight year old timeframe. My dad loved watching the news. It was one thing. We could sit down, turn on the news, eat dinner on tv trays, and watch the news. The absolute horror of Vietnam war every single night. The 1972 Munich Olympics, terrorist attacks. I watched those live. The combat between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. Watched that every time they showed it on tv, I was watching people attack each other. And that, I think, started to set in my mind this feeling of, there can't be a good guy. I mean, again, I didn't look at it in these terms, but people are bad. Even local news, when you live in the inner city, as you probably. You don't get much good news, you know, every night, car crashes, murders, robberies. So I saw a lot of bad stuff and we are living a relatively happy life. My dad was a workaholic, so I didn't see him a lot. My mom had to work because my dad couldn't support the family. So from the time I was five years old, at least my sister and I were home by ourselves a lot, you know, and so we were Latchkey kids and then. But we seemed pretty happy as a family. I thought my dad was very type a. I didn't realize, you know, he didn't get diagnosed bipolar until he was fifties, but I'm sure he was bipolar at that point too, but he was very not comfortable in social environments, so he was a pretty hard person. But things were going along. And one thing I noticed as I got into 910 years old is that dad was working more and more and at some point he. So we would take family trips and all. But one thing we never did, we never went camping. Probably around nine and a half, ten years old, my dad all of a sudden became very interested in camping. He bought tons of camping equipment and things like that, would even take us as a family to go buy a camp equipment with him. And he was going camping with his buddy from work. He would go out, you know, several weekends of summer. This is probably when I was ten, I think, and he would go camping and he would come back and tell us these amazing stories about fishing on the lake in Vermont and camping with his buddy and his buddy's dogs and how awesome it was. And in my heart, as a 910 year old child, what I heard was, I'm having a lot of fun. We're doing guy things and you're not invited. And it really hurt to think, wow, why am I not being able to be part of this? So I just kind of like, sat on that and just figured, I'm not lovable. The only conclusion I could have was I wasn't. I wasn't lovable at least enough to be invited to go camping. And that may sound silly, but that's just the way it was. That's how my heart was, you know, and I found out the truth. So I think when I was eleven, I'm going to say when my dad asked my mom for a separation and while they were separated, so they're living separate and, and kind of were going through the process of heading towards a divorce and all of a sudden my dad comes to me one day and says, I want you to go camping with me. And I was like wow, thats awesome. I dont know what changed but, and the but was the big part. But you have to keep a secret. Okay. Im eleven. Im like my dad loves me. Finally hes going to invite me camping. Im down with anything. We're going camping with my girlfriend. That wasn't the secret I was expecting. You know, looking back it all kind of makes sense. And it even made sense to my eleven year old mind. I'm a pretty smart kid and I'm thinking, okay, he's been camping with a woman for a year and a half. Oh, I see why. Maybe I wasn't invited before, right? So he told me you can go camping if you don't tell your mom that I'm having an affair basically. And I agreed. And that set a root of bitterness in my heart that I couldn't have identified as that at eleven but I certainly identified later, which we'll talk about here shortly. But it certainly set a hatred and a bitterness towards my dad and towards myself because I was now a liar. [00:16:20] Speaker C: Right? You were participating in it? [00:16:22] Speaker A: Yeah. Yeah. And so I don't know if that instigated the next parts of my journey, but I started shoplifting a lot. I got into pornography. I was addicted to pornography by the time I was twelve years old. Shoplifting to the point where I finally, I'm glad I got caught and thrown in the back of a police car. And that straightened that attitude out real quick. I never did that again. But I was very destructive, vandalizing a lot, you know, just, just acting a fool and I can't make excuses for it, you know. But honestly I didn't feel like anybody else cared so I just acted out. [00:17:11] Speaker B: I'd like to pause for a moment and tell you about a new opportunity. The CES Lewis Institute is now accepting applications for the Fellows program. This program is a twelve month discipleship course that focuses on monthly themes related to theology, spiritual formation and apologetics. Through the structure of a strong curriculum, like minded community and one on one mentorship, our fellows encounter a life changing experience where they grow deeper in their faith as disciples of Christ. Offered in 16 cities, the fellows program is for christians who are seeking to broaden their christian education and deepen their personal faith. To learn more and to find out if you live in an area where the fellows program is offered, please visit our [email protected] cs lewisinstitute.org dot now back to our story. [00:18:05] Speaker C: So it sounds like an interesting home life, really. Growing up elements very profound moments, I suppose, like of seeing Christ in the cross. And that was profoundly moving. But apart from that, it seemed that Christianity didn't take hold, really, and make a difference in people's lives around you. And then you, you have this. You're in the midst of this family that you, it's breaking apart and it's, it's deception and it's lying and you're in the middle of it, and that must be very difficult. But you said there was a bitterness that took root there. So that kind of set you on a journey then, for, I guess, what was to come. So, so walk us on. As you're getting into your teenage years and you're studying and you're learning a little bit more, you said you have a degree in evolutionary biology. I'm just curious what that direction took, where that direction took you. [00:19:01] Speaker A: Yeah. So as I went through that whole process, school, honestly, I was really good at subjects I liked, loved history, loved science, specifically biology. And so I thrived in high school at the areas that I was good at. I got a high enough grade on my sat to get into University of Connecticut. And by then I had already kind of set in. Not only was I disgruntled and really against my dad and his wife and things like that, relationally, my mom, when he left, she and my sister became best friends. I spent more nights than I can really remember at home by myself during high school because the two of them would go out drinking. My sister looked significantly older than 16 or 17 years old, so she and my mom would go out and they would drink and carouse and things like that. I blamed them then because I wasn't mature enough to understand that my mom was processing the grief of losing the relationship with my dad and my sister was processing a whole different way. But again, looking at my younger self, I was angry, sad. I was depressed. I probably needed counseling, you know, but I didn't get any of those because I didn't know to look for those, you know, so. So I got accepted to University of Connecticut. I was 16 years old when I graduated high school only because I was an early starter in elementary school because of my birthday. But my freshman year in high school or in college started before my 17th birthday. The classes that were easy in high school, I didn't have to study, really. The classes that were hard, I had honestly cheated my way through. And now I'm in college where I've got 16 credit hours and classes that need me to actually be participating and studying. And I quickly, within the first few days, found out that I was way over my head. Honestly. Probably should have stopped the process and just gone. I'm not going to continue with college. I'm 16 years old. I need to go home. But I was so dead set to never live at home again that I just was like, I'm going to bear into this and figure it out. And although I hadn't drank a lot before I got there, I was so bound and determined to make a presence and be accepted in college that I think the first time I was drunk was my third day on campus and pretty much started drinking four or five days a week after that, which is really common. And unfortunately, from what I've heard, is really common. But I ended up drinking so much that I was probably drunk more than I was not drunk at one point, and it was all to just one gain approval from my people in my dorm and things like that. But it was also just hiding the brokenness, you know? And so that kind of took a really bad turn. Probably about seven weeks into my freshman year, we had a Thursday night party, and Thursday night was our party night. That was the big night when everybody was going to drink. And I actually drank so much that I went into a 52 hours coma. Wow, that was pretty life changing. [00:22:34] Speaker C: Yeah. Probably a wake up call there. [00:22:37] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:22:38] Speaker C: Yeah. [00:22:39] Speaker A: I actually went completely sober for two and a half years after that. [00:22:43] Speaker C: Yeah. So during this time, okay, we're going high school into college, and you're making, it sounds like some bad choices, some better choices. Were you identifying as an atheist at this time? Would you have considered yourself or proclaimed yourself to be an atheist? [00:23:00] Speaker A: Yeah. At this point, I understood what atheism was, and I was definitely firmly rooted in what I would consider to be atheism. I had no desire, but I saw nobody living out any form of faith. Every dorm mate or girlfriend or anything that I was involved with who claimed faith. I didn't see any difference between them and me. So they were drinking, they were carousing, they were sleeping with people, you know, and so I didn't see there was no God again. I mean, I didn't see any. Any resemblance of people with faith. And the ones that did claim faith were hypocrites to me. And. And so I didn't really have any context. And I also, because I was in biology, everything was provable. My. My two favorite classes, history and biology. Biology or sciences. You're proving something that can be proven through the scientific method and history, you're seeing the proof of what existed, you know, so. So I loved both of those classes because those just helped me root my atheism in. This is obvious, and this is obvious. And so the supernatural stuff, none of that. There's not a place for it. There's no need for it. And I honestly thought anybody. My exact words, I think, were people of faith were idiots. You know, I mean, they were just fools chasing after. Chasing after a ghost. I mean, didn't have. It just seems silly to me. And, I mean, I had brilliant friends, engineers, and all different fields, and. And I was like, well, how can you. How can you have any belief in this God, supposedly, and. And science at the same time? You know, that's. That seemed like they were not able to sit on the same plate to me, you know? So. So, yeah, I just thought. I thought the whole God concept, it was all just hogwash, you know, so simple minded people believing simple minded things, obviously. [00:25:26] Speaker C: I mean, it seemed like everywhere you looked, whether it was science or history, whether it was your own family, whether it was your friends who called themselves christians, yet there was no evidence of that. Nobody took it seriously. And there were just no good reason, compelling reason, personally or educationally or scientifically, historically, whatever. There was no good reason anywhere for you to find that God exists. I can totally understand how you got to the place where you declared yourself an atheist and that there was no other option, but what made the turn? What allowed you to become open to the possibility of God? [00:26:07] Speaker A: Yeah. Yeah. After college, just so we get caught up in the story, I didn't want to move home ever again, so I spent a summer working at Epcot center in Florida. Then I moved out to Colorado, and I worked at Breckenridge ski area for three years. Got to ski for free a lot. Amazing. Yeah. And the summers in Colorado mountains are even more beautiful than the winters in the Colorado mountains. So, fell in love with Colorado, and then fell in love with a gal that I worked with at Walmart, who ended up becoming my wife, Theresa. But I had no need for God. Even during those travels, we had ups and downs. One of the biggest stories that I think is worth mentioning. My wife and I were already married. And my stepmother, who I had hated really bitterly because I thought she stole my dad, she ended up contracting or being diagnosed with. With stage four cancer. At one point, I hadn't cared for Bernice much, to say the least, but we had become friends and mutually respectful of each other. The night that I received the call from my dad saying, bernice is in hospice, in home hospice, and she's going to die in the next 24 hours. I flew to Connecticut just to be with my dad. Even though I still had a lot of hard feelings, I wanted to be there. And again, that's part of my empath kind of bent. I also knew that my dad was in the house with his dying wife, with her two sons, who hated him bitterly. I went to be a peacekeeper, and to bring some level headedness, I thought, to the situation. I honestly thought she was going to be deceased before I got there. But when I got to Connecticut, my dad actually met me at the airport and said, she's going to wait for you. We drove all the way to his house, two hour drive. And sure enough, Bernice was still alive. And she lived another 24 hours. And God actually blessed me with something in that moment. The next day, the tension in the house was tremendous. Bernice is failing fast, and the brothers and my dad are at odds. And I just finally just said, why don't all of you just go, leave, do something independently of each other, and I'll just stay here, and I'll just watch over her, and I'll call you if something happens. And they left, and I just sat next to Bernice and started talking to her. I couldn't tell if she could hear me or not. And once they were gone, I just kind of quietly said, they're gone. You can go whenever you'd like. And it was less than two minutes before she took her last breath. And I didn't believe in spirits. I didn't believe in any of that at that point. But watching her take her last breath was the most profound thing I'd ever seen in my life. I actually believe I saw her spirit leave her body, not. Not saw her spirit, but God allowed me to identify. There is something on the bed that is Bernice, and there's something that's not here that is also Bernice. And they ain't together anymore. And so God in his grace, and this is way before I knew God, allowed me to see this transformation and go, that wasn't. That wasn't by mistake. Two different things are here. I got to witness the profoundness of the spirit and the body as two different entities. It didn't make me believe in God, but I was certainly like, that was strange. [00:30:06] Speaker C: Maybe there's something more than just a physical reality, right? [00:30:09] Speaker A: Right. Yeah. It was something I couldn't put words to for sure, and I couldn't proved by science. So that happened. Years go by. No real change. I'm not believing in God. I'm not seeking God, nothing like that. 2005. My wife, who was raised Catholic and didn't want anything to do with organized religion, starts attending a little church right in the town we lived in, Carson City, Nevada, called the Church of Religious Science. Unitarian, you know, kind of that universalism, basically, there's a little bit of Jesus and a whole bunch of gods everywhere. So she started going with the kids. At that point, we had three children already, and she started attending this church. And because I wanted to show her more support, I decided, okay, if I can, I'll go to this church. And even though I had no desire to believe in God, I just wanted to support my wife and my kids. So I started attending this church where these beautiful people attended. They were awesome people. They talked a little bit of this God stuff. God was in everything. That's the whole premise, is God's in everything, and you're God, and I'm God, everybody's God, etcetera. They'd sing songs, we'd eat free food. It was okay. Two months into attending that little church, a friend of mine, one of my coworkers, actually received a call that his 20 year old daughter was killed in a head on collision. And again, my empathic nature came out. Man, how do I love on my friend? He just went through the most horrible tragedy that I've ever heard. And so I loved on him as best I could, you know, and just tried to show him compassion. The interesting thing that happened from a God perspective is that weekend I went to church, and they had a little candle area where you could light a candle and you could pray. I didn't believe any of it. And I just remember going up, lighting a candle and having a prayer. Something to the effect of, I don't even believe in you. I don't know if God really exists, but it can't hurt. So I'm just going to pray. Just give my friend peace, help him be okay, and just help him to get through this. And that was the extent of it. I didn't think anything of it until a month later. My family and I had gone on vacation to California. We got home, and as we were unpacking the car, my phone rings and it's my mom, and she's screaming into the phone, Linda's dead. Linda's dead. Linda's dead. Linda was my sister, and I had to, like, kind of calm her down and go, what are you talking about? Linda, her husband Mario, my eight year old nephew, Jacob, and Joshua, his ten year old brother, were in a car headed on a surprise trip up the west coast, and they were going to come visit us in Colorado or in Nevada as a surprise. And they got to Gallup, New Mexico, right outside Gallup, New Mexico, and were hit head on by a lady. And so it was an elderly lady, her daughter, who was in her thirties or forties, and 214 year old twins. She crossed the median and actually hit my sister's car head on. The two twins and my nephew Joshua lived through the accident, but my sister, her husband, and all the other people were killed on impact. So here I am, literally six weeks or less post this prayer, and I'm getting this phone call that basically the same things happened in my life. [00:34:05] Speaker C: I'm so sorry. [00:34:06] Speaker A: Oh, well, I appreciate that. And I love the fact that people have the empathy to feel that emotion. What's interesting is because it's part of God's story, it actually was something that God used in this picture to draw me to him. With that phone call, I immediately flew to South Texas, where my mom lived with my sister and her husband down in very south part of Texas. And upon arriving there, this is the first time I would say I ever met christians. I mean, and that sounds horrible, but I saw and participated and was involved in being loved on like I've never seen before. What I saw in five or six days in, in Texas was miraculous. It wasn't just the people loving on me. It was stories like going to my sister's place of work and having my sister's coworkers say, your sister came in for two weeks before her trip and cried every single day in the break room and said she's not supposed to go on her trip. Or going to my sister's insurance agent and having him say, your sister was so convinced something was going to happen on this trip that she increased her insurance. Or having my mom say, on the morning I kissed them all goodbye, I told Linda to put my phone number on a piece of paper and put it in her purse, even though she had a cell phone, so somebody could get ahold of me in case they couldn't access her cell phone. And. And. And a dozen or more indescribable circumstances that had no sense to them. They weren't logical. My brain works very logically. They weren't logical. And so I was convinced at that point that this event was meant to happen, not convinced of God, but certainly convinced that there was no way my sister was anyplace else at that moment in time. So I came away from that event having literally witnessed miracles. Too many to discuss here in the time we have. But knowing there's something greater than me involved in this, in this whole life thing, I would definitely say I came back to. I flew back home an agnostic for sure. So I'm now settled in my agnosticism, and I'm convinced that it's bigger than me, you know, but not willing to go the God route yet. [00:37:04] Speaker B: I'd like to pause for a moment and tell you about a new CSO is small group resource, which takes a closer look at one of CS Lewis's shortest but most important books, the abolition of man. Weve all felt the effects of the loss of truth and the rise of cancel culture against traditional moral values in our world today, where can we turn to find a way to deal with these cultural challenges? The abolition of man study course may be a terrific resource for you. It will help you understand and engage others regarding issues of truth, morality, and conscience. Through a five part video video series, Doctor Brian Holland takes us through each chapter of the abolition of man and helps us understand CS Lewis's perspectives while also providing key insights from the Bible. This study course can be easily facilitated and led. The entire workbook can be found online free of charge. If you're interested in this small group study, you can find out more information on the CSOs Institute [email protected] dot. Look for study courses and there you'll find the abolition of man study, along with many other excellent small group study resources. I hope you'll take a look. Now back to our story. [00:38:29] Speaker C: Well, that's a pretty big paradigm shift, though, to move from atheism, there is no God, to okay, there's something more. Based upon all these experiences that are so unexplainable. So you move to a place where you're willing to say, I'm not sure. I don't know. So then what happened? That became convincing for you? [00:38:51] Speaker A: Yeah. So miracles continued to happen. I was given a transfer opportunity to come to Colorado. My wife was born and raised here, and after my sister's accident, I lost my only sibling, and I was bound and determined. We need to get our family to Colorado, where my wife's family mostly was still centralized. I was given a full paid trip, all expenses, moving truck, everything within eight weeks of that accident to come to Colorado. Three or four years go by, and this is where the big hit happened. 2008. My dad is actually teaching in China. While he is in China, he actually called me and he said, there's something wrong. I've got something growing in my intestines, and they don't know what it is. He ended up having one of the rarest form of lymphatic cancer known to man. I think they told me 75,000 total people on the planet are diagnosed with this particular type of lymphoma. I was very mixed emotionally on what to think about that, because here's this man that I love, that I hate. [00:40:03] Speaker C: Yes. [00:40:06] Speaker A: Yeah. So he ended up coming back, moving to Florida. I received a call from his best friend, and I knew that he was going through a really hardcore chemotherapy, really heavy. And his friend called me and said, I'm at the hospital. You need to get here as soon as you can, because he's not going to make it. I flew the next day, and that started a chain of events that changed my life forever. I got to Florida. I knew that my uncle Larry, my dad's youngest brother, and probably my aunt Maxine would be there because they were the closest to my dad as far as relationally. But I was really convinced that for some reason, I wished that my uncle Larry's two daughters were at the hospital. I hadn't seen these girls since they were probably twelve and nine years old. And here I am at 40 something, you know, and I don't even know, you know, I had no idea why I thought that, but I was like, man, it would be just amazing if they were here. So didn't think anything of it. Start the process of talking to the doctors every day and the nurses and just going in and trying to be with my dad and hopefully find a different heart for him as he lay dying. Where I saw God's hand really come in is the second or third day I was there. My uncle told me, hey, Krista, my oldest daughter is on her way. She's flying down to Florida. That story, when she got there, within two or three days of her just bathing me in prayer and love. And to give you an idea, she had been a Christian since she was six years old. She was born again at six years old. She told me that week. She had been praying for me by name since she was nine years old. So, well, over 30 years, right around 30 years, I think. And she came and started just showing me Jesus is the best way I could describe. She loved on me in the most profound, humble, honest way I've ever had anybody love on me. And so she was just this example of Christ. And I couldn't tell you that at the time. I just knew that something different was about her. She knew as soon as she saw me that the one very specific reason she was told to Florida. Florida was to. To witness to me and not witness, hey, Jesus is the way, blah, blah, blah. But to literally show me the way through, through love. And. And that was a profound story, because, again, that doesn't make sense. There's no logic. People don't have a spirit or something that talks to them, you know, maybe a conscience. But it was the first time I ever heard the word like Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit told me that I had to come here. And as soon as I met you, Dave, I knew I was here. The day after my dad died, her sister Allison showed up and had the same, almost remarkably similar story. The Holy Spirit told me I had to come to Florida. So the two of them, in their wisdom and knowledge and discernment of the. Of the spirit of God, both followed his leading and came to show me truth and love. It was amazing that whole week, from the doctors, who many of them were christians, to the nurse, who was definitely a Christian. And so there's all these unfathomable, remarkable, non logical things that are happening during this process. People hearing God. I've never heard of that before. Where it comes into real context for me is I still hate my dad. [00:44:21] Speaker C: Yes. [00:44:22] Speaker A: And so the doctors come in on Wednesday. We're about five days in, and they come in and they go, okay, in the state of Florida, the wife or the spouse has to sign the papers to take someone off life support. Well, his wife is a filipino citizen who's been married to my dad for six weeks, who is now grieving the fact that she's going to watch her husband die. She had flown back in from China. The doctors are telling me, we would like you to talk to her and help her to see that he needs to be let go. And then I convinced his wife to sign the paperwork, and we started the process. And one of the things that was profound is, as he was dying, my dad was a very type a personality, and his wife is laying next to him saying, crying, don't go, don't die, etc. Etcetera. And it was so disturbing to me to watch because he was in deep anguish. And finally, after three or four minutes, I stepped around to the other side of his bed. And one part I don't think I told about my sister's story is she was born again at 16 years old. And even though she didn't live like she was a Christian, necessarily, in all ways, I truly believe she had committed her life to Christ. At 16 years old, he was anguished, like, horribly. And I stepped over and I just said to him, it's okay, go and be with Linda. And the immediate change from anguish to. I wouldn't say peace immediately, but anguish to calm to peace. 30 seconds, maybe, I don't know. But when. When I said that, I believe I released him to die in peace. The change was profound and immediate. And he took his last breath in peace. And again, just like Bernice, his wife, I actually got to see the shell and the nut shell, you know, he was gone that night. I started asking my cousin, and then when her sister showed up, I started asking him the questions about scripture. Tell me about this, tell me about that. Tell me about this. I couldn't even tell you why I was doing that. I was just like out of control. And they said some of the wisest things that I've ever had a Christian say to me, probably the wisest thing. After a certain amount of questions, they said, we're not going to tell you. [00:47:19] Speaker C: Go find out for yourself. [00:47:21] Speaker A: Go find out yourself. Go find out for yourself. If you really want to know, you got to read the word. My cousin Krista brought me to Walmart, of all places, the next day and bought me my first Bible, a new living translation. And I just started devouring scripture. I'm still in Florida, still don't believe in God, still just, wow. A lot of crazy stuff has happened with my sister's death and my dad's death. And I think there might be a God. I really think this might be the deal. And I started devouring scripture and I was like, wow. Tell me if you really want to know, go to the gospel of John and pray. Even if you don't believe, pray to God. Reveal yourself to me. And I did. And man, I'll tell you what, you pray a prayer like that and God will be faithful to that. And God started immediately being prayerful or faithful to that, so much to the point that several days later I flew home. The first words I said to my wife when I got in the car at the airport was, I don't know what happened in the last eleven days, but I know God exists. I mean, that was the first thing I said to her, which I thought she'd do, you know, get out of the car and do a backflip or something. She was just stoic as could be. Didn't, didn't phase her, didn't excite her, didn't nothing. And that really struck me because I was like, here's the woman that I really thought wanted me to be a spiritual leader in her home. And she doesn't even care that I finally believe in God. She knew I was an atheist, and so I was ready to go back to work. But my wife, very wise, she called my boss the day before I got back, and she said, I think Dave needs one more day just to decompress. And that's the day that actually my life really changed. And what happened was we wake up on Monday morning, the 4 May 2009. We're drinking coffee on the couch, and I'm finally able to start to emote what happened. And what struck me is I'm a horrible, murderous, evil person. I mean, I actually said, I murdered my father. To my wife, I am sitting on my couch bawling. I murdered my father. I hated him. I couldn't wait for him to die. All very real, very true. It's the way it was. That was the true emotion that I felt. And as I'm emoting this out, literally, uncontrollable bawling, just emoting all this out, I felt, and this is going to be kind of the real, like, wow, could that really be true? I felt a punch in my sternum, as if a big person hit me as hard as I could right in the middle of my chest. So hard that I actually. I was kind of slumped over, bawling. And it hit so hard that I went. And immediately when that happened, the tears stopped. And it was, to use the words of the apostle Paul or the story about the apostle Paul, it was like the scales fell off my eyes, and immediately clarity just went. And no tears, calm as could be. I turned to my wife. She was sitting on my right, and I just go, I got it. She goes, you got what? My sister and my dad died so I could come to know God. And in that moment, the only way to describe it is I felt forgiveness and peace flow over my head, all the way across my body, down through my feet and out. And it washed me. It cleansed me to the point where my. My dad. I literally, in that breath, forgave my dad for everything he had ever done and forgave myself for having him taken off life support and feeling like I murdered him. I believe that on May 4, 2009, the Holy Spirit entered me on my couch in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I truly, I will die believing that. And nobody can convince me otherwise because I don't think there's any other explanation than that. Physical interaction was literally the holy spirit of God giving me the ability to say, I believe. I believe that God exists. Wow. [00:52:31] Speaker C: What a phenomenal story, Dave. I mean, truly amazing. I think there's just so much there. I love that in a sense that you are logical, but you're an empath. You feel things deeply and you sense things well from others. But not only that, not only are you emotionally connected, you were, you're very in tune, obviously, with the spiritual aspect. That's a big thread through your story, is becoming aware that spiritual, there's something beyond the physical exists. And then finally, you know, for a series of events, you were able to give that a name and that was God, and that you too are a spiritual being and that he has come to himself. What a beautiful, beautiful story. And as we're wrapping up, I would love to know, because your story is so full in your experience as well. You mentioned reading the Bible and calling, calling out to God if he's real. I wondered if you were sitting across from a skeptic. You may have, you know, it's like, I don't know about, you know, you've mentioned the word miraculous a lot. You've used the word holy spirit a lot. There's a lot there that I don't really understand. But what would you say to someone who would say, well, you obviously have been changed. There's something about you, and I would like to know whether or not God exists, because it looks like that transformation is possible. What would you say to that person? [00:54:11] Speaker A: Boy, the first thing I'd say is, I understand. I've been there. I was dead set that God didn't exist. And the one thing I wasn't willing to do was to give God space. I had so much emotional baggage. And I'm going to guess that there's at least a decent percentage of skeptics and atheists who will, if they're honest, see the pain. I think a lot of it is love related. We, we are human beings. And when we're children, especially if one aspect of our need for love is missing, it can set us on a path towards a hard heart, you know? So I would ask the skeptic. I would ask the atheist one, I'm going to be really bold and challenge you, so be open and be honest. You know, as a skeptic, look at why you're an atheist. Why are you a skeptic? Because it's easy to say I'm a skeptic. It's kind of lazy, you know, I mean, and I don't mean that disrespectfully. I was lazy as an atheist. I didn't go searching for more information about atheism or God. I just was like, I hate my dad. And there's a lot of people that are hypocrites, and so hence, there's not a God. That's a pretty, that's a pretty not justifiable position. So I know it takes a long way to get from atheism or skepticism to faith, but atheism is a faith. You know, there's more faith in atheism than anybody ever wants to talk about. So acknowledge the fact that even as an atheist, you have faith. You may not want to use that word because it's got religious connotations, but venture outside that faith, get uncomfortable. And I didn't come to Christ through logic. There ain't no logic in it. And my story is maybe a little bit different than a lot of stories, but plain and simple, when it comes right down to it, God is pursuing each and every one of us. And so be open and be honest and give space to the other sides of the story. Doing right now, we're talking about side b. Flip that record over and go, have I really looked at the reasons for God, why people believe? Some people are logical, some people read books, and that's how they believe or heard testimonies, and that's how they believe. Every story is different, but it takes being willing to be open, and I was never open. God had to literally pry the door open through the death of my sister, my dad. You don't have to go through that, atheist. You don't have to go through that. As a skeptic, that's a horrible, that's a painful way to get to God. It's what my path was, and I don't regret it. 1oz so, yeah, I love that. [00:57:20] Speaker C: It's very honest and raw and it. But it's also kind of perfectly challenging as well, in all the right ways. And for us as christians, you know, you mentioned that, of course, that the pain that was the bitterness that took root with your father and the estrangement that you felt there, the lack of love, you know, the even being kind of isolated, even from your mom and sister is just kind of being outsider in your own family, feeling alone and the hurt that comes from that. And then you look at christians and, you know, they're not loving, they're not living the part. But yet you've, you encountered Kristen and her sister, your cousins, that showed you something different. I mean, poured out some kind of supernatural love that you had encountered, but they had answers, too. How would you encourage us to show and tell in a meaningful way, the love and reality? [00:58:37] Speaker A: Yeah. That's a great question. And I think about this a lot. And statistics say 70% of people in this country identify as Christians. I think I never had a person share Christ with me or God, not in college, not in my work, you know, and I doubt, I don't doubt one little bit that those people loved me and I loved them, you know, but part of Christ's message is love, love people. One of the things that turned me off to christians was christians who came about their direction from an all truth standpoint. God hates this. God hates this group of people or that type of person or a sinful choice that somebody's made. That's not the God that I read about in the Bible. Yes, I don't condone sinful choices, including my own, but Christians, you gotta kind of get the truth and love balance a little bit better. I think there's, in our culture right now, there is love christians and truth christians, but it's very few that are truth and love christians. And I don't know if I'm being harsh or not, but I believe that we're trying to convince people of the reality of God and of Jesus with a hammer. Sometimes that isn't successful. If, when I was an atheist, if somebody came at me with the hardcore gospel message or the you're going to hell message or whatever, you probably would have gotten a knuckle sandwich. I mean, honestly, that, that's not going to go over well with most people. And how do we play into that picture and go, how do I love these people and show them Jesus in a way that honors God and attracts them to want to repent? Because that's what it's about. It's about them repenting. I can't force somebody to repent and to change their mind. God couldn't have somebody have done it with me. I can't deal with anybody else. So I challenge christians to really look at your motives, look at the way we approach evangelism, you know, and try to love people like Jesus loved people. And I think if we took that approach, I'm sorry, I could get on a pedestal about that because I'm very passionate about it. [01:01:19] Speaker C: Obviously, your passion shows and it's infectious and it's. And it's also challenging. And again, all the best ways, I think you're right. We need to, you know, God's kindness leads us to repentance. And sometimes I think we forget that. I appreciate your, your wanting us to be balanced with both truth and love. Love really is the, what softens a lot of barriers and allows the truth to shine through. So thank you so much. Dave. Your story has been, again, very full, very rich and compelling, and also challenging. And I appreciate your coming on today. [01:02:04] Speaker A: I thank you so much. I really I'm so honored to be here. [01:02:09] Speaker C: We've loved having you. [01:02:13] Speaker B: Thanks for tuning into side b stories. To hear Dave Rankin's story, you can find out more about his book entitled 39 Years in the wilderness, an atheist walk with God in the episode. Notes for questions and feedback about this episode, you can contact me through our [email protected] also, if you're a skeptic or atheist who would like to connect with a former atheist or skeptic with questions, please contact us through our email and we'll get you connected. This podcast is produced through the CS Lewis Institute with the help of our wonderful producer, producer Ashley Decker, audio engineer Mark Rosara, and podcast assistant Lori Burleson. You can also see these podcasts in video form on our YouTube channel through the excellent work of our video editor, Kyle Polk. If you enjoyed it, I hope you'll follow rate, review and share this podcast with your friends and social network. In the meantime, I'll be looking forward to seeing you next time, where we'll see how another skeptic flips the record of their life. Leaf.

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