The Truth... What is it?

My Christian Testimony

I offer this web site information as a Caucasian USA Southern male who was/is:

  •  born into a Christian family within a town of Judeo-Christian orientation (I did not know of any non-Christian or non-Jew) & churched from birth,
  • a prodigal son from the faith for a very important 25 years of my adult life,
  • a privately practicing physician (pathologist) with intense scientific perspective,
  • as one whose life fell apart in my mind in June 1987 (I was age 43),
  • as one who drug his heels in like a donkey, resisting coming back to the faith; and, then
  • as one who became subtly challenged (by the Holy Spirit?) to struggle out details of my personal beliefs as to The Way.
  • to cut to the chase without reading my story below, see THIS.

The information on this entire website has been drawn together from numerous sources & personal experience by me, a "born-again" Christian of "saving belief" in Jesus of Nazareth. I happen to be a Caucasian male & native of the South of the United States of America. I was born (1943) & raised in Sumter, S. C. An Eagle rank former boy scout, former college cadet "L" company commander at The Citadel (a military college in S. C., class of '66), and a practicing pathologist (MD physician) since 1975...raised as a Methodist, I spiritually "backslid"...damaging many in the process...from about 1962 to 1991, nearly 3 decades.

On moving from Charleston to Columbia to start my career, my then-young family joined Union United Methodist church in Irmo, S. C. about 1975 but attended only sporadically. About 10 years later (about 1985), we attended Cornerstone Presbyterian in Irmo; and 10 year old son, David, walked in fast and went down almost to the front row (I would have NEVER been a front-row sitter on my own). After moving 15 miles from Irmo to West Columbia in 1987, we visited in about 1989 (& I became a member of it in 1991 until August 2003) a Southern Baptist Church Northside Baptist Church (NBC). I underwent a marital divorce from Dixie in 1994 and married Betty in 1997. In May of 2003, Betty & I left NBC & then joined the very nearby church of Betty's childhood, Zion Lutheran Church (a congregation since 1749!) 21 December 2003.

I was born in Sumter, S.C.1943 in the midst of Would War II into a Christian family & infant-baptized on day 5 in the hospital before Daddy had to return to Montgomery (Maxwell Field military base), Alabama. As far as I have been able to tell (one hobby of mine since 1965 is genealogy), both my mother's and father's people were Christians for generations back...her side, Methodists and his roots, Presbyterian. I was raised and "confirmed" in the Methodist church (Trinity United Methodist Church, Sumter, SC). My earliest religious memory...I can see it in my mind's eye even of me watching my grandmother Brown's beloved black cook, Beulah "Bunkie" McCullom, reading the Bible under a lamp. Growing up in Sumter (a place with a rich blend of blacks & whites plus fair numbers of "Yankees" at nearby Shaw Air Force Base), I did not ever know a non-religious person (by the way, there were many Jews blended excellently amongst us Christians). I was blessed with two parents with completely different personalities but united on thrift (waste not, want not), realistic common sense & tough love, and a post-Great-Depression focus aiming for higher education for their two children.

We were raised to be good citizens, to eat what was put before us, to leave the campsite in at least as "good shape" as we found it, and that there was a right way and a wrong way to do things. But, there was always a way to improve on that right way. This came most clearly from my maternal grandfather's ("Poppoo") teacher-like influence (but was the same perfectionism seen in Grandaddy Shaw). Intelligence, tenaciousness, exactitude, and persistence came from both paternal & maternal sides plus Momma & Daddy. Nothing I would ever encounter in arenas of learning or teachers and mentors (coaches, shop teacher, teachers, scoutmaster) ever struck a chord that was counter to that "right way" & "wrong way" & "better way" & exactitude system of thinking. Everything I got involved in influenced toward perfectionism. Only (as will follow in this testimony) (1) the coming years in counseling and (2) the subsequent re-entry & immersion into the faith of my fathers would finally have me comfortable with the idea that there are many different, acceptable, even laudable, ways to do a thing or live a life!...that individuals are TRULY different and unique and can NOT be the same.

As a member of that church's Boy Scout Troop 336 under South Carolina's then dean of scoutmasters, Wilbert H. Bernshouse (1914-2007), I had an anchoring with the church in older childhood and early teen years. The road to being an Eagle Scout implanted/secured numerous Christian values. Mr. Henry Shelor provided a financial incentive to all new Sumter Eagle Scouts to experience Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico or the National Jamboree. That trip to Philmont in July 1958 (age 14)...which included at least 7 unsheltered days way high in the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) range of the Rockies...was a defining experience (I got VERY hungry and VERY cold) which made me realize how fortunate I was to be where I was in the family that I was in. That is, I experienced profound gratitude. I swore to myself that if I got home alive, I'd never ever complain again (and, to this day, I almost never have complained more than momentarily about much of anything).

And I had a pivotal & VERY strong spiritual encounter following watching an unsettling skit that included fellow teenager, B. G. "Ben" Fishburne, at about age 18 (about March 1962) while on an Episcopal youth religious retreat (their Parish Life Conference, lead by Holy Comforter's Rev. Seddon Lee) at a plantation in Georgetown County, S. C. with my girlfriend & now attorney, Anne H. Palmer (now of Atlanta) and one of my life-long best friends, Henry D. Harder (now of Palatka, Fla.). I strongly sensed the presence of something powerful (what I have ever after only been able to say was the Holy Spirit) during that skit I watched at that retreat. I briefly thought maybe God wanted me to be a preacher (and when I went for my pre-acceptance medical school interview, I told Dr. Elsie Taber that I hoped to be a family practitioner so that I could be involved in medical & spiritual aspects of the families I would be treating).

In August 1962, I reported to The Citadel for college. I was immediately consumed by a state of constant fear that lasted at least 3 months. I was shocked to get "sucked up" into the plebe system like dust into a vacuum cleaner. My father was a strong Clemson fan; and an older first cousin, R. T. "Bob" Brown, had me as a visitor to Clemson one weekend. When my best friend, Henry Harder, got a football scholarship to The Citadel, I told Daddy that I might not go to Clemson. "Son, Clemson doesn't have the military; and that will be good for you at The Citadel." Henry Harder & I and Billy & Randy Baldwin were about as close a foursome of boyhood buddies as you could get (but Billy went on to Clemson). At meals, a freshman Citadel cadet spent most of the meal serving every meal-related need of the 6 upper-classmen at the table, as well as continually answering trivia questions. There was often not enough time for oneself to actually eat one's fill. So, I experienced that Philmont-like hunger fairly frequently as I got very hungry at night. I soon learned to make a couple of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and tuck them in my socks before I left the mess-hall for the barracks after evening meal (and never got caught). To this day, I can't stand to see food wasted (I'm becoming like my grandfather Brown: a WWI veteran who surely went hungry in France = we kids would pass unfinished bits of breakfast down to him [and his own children, my aunts & uncles, would whisper that he was a 'septic tank']). I ran into Randy about 6 weeks after school started & got around to the issue of hunger. "Shaw, you need to get on an athletic team so that you eat at training mess...they pretty much leave you alone there." Being an untrained swimmer who had placed 3rd in the 50 meter freestyle in the S. C. municipal league state championship meet a year or three before, I went out for (and made) The Citadel's 1963 Southern Conference Championship swim team. The PHYSICALLY hungry times ended.

However, as a prodigal son from Jesus, my Christianity faded to "pilot light" from 1962-1991. But that Episcopal retreat experience kept me believing. And, just knowing that my Citadel faculty advisor, Col. I. S. H. "Ted" Metcalf, PhD. (professor of biology @ Citadel...then of Anatomy at M. U. S. C., the medical school I went to) was a Christian helped to keep me believing, in spite of the teachings of evolution and the things I saw (and misunderstood) in college embryology.

There were many chances for spiritual re-ignition. I admired Pastor James H. "Jim" Nates, jr., Union Methodist Church pastor (who I first heard in Charleston, S. C.) in Irmo. And a Citadel alumnus, Ed Taylor (football player 2 years senior to me),  invited me to join a Christian men's' group for weekly breakfast and fellowship in about 1978 (when I lived in Irmo, S. C.). I didn't fact (still to my current shame) I pretty much disdained the thought. Besides, the few times we did go to Union Church, I would let the slightest imperfect thing about the service or an usher's behavior irritate the daylights out of me (I practiced a fumbling & totally immature & uncommitted "messy spirituality").

Shortly after Dixie & I married in 1969, her mother underwent a huge surgery for recurrent cervical cancer at MUSC (in the hospital at least 2 months). We lived in a small second floor apartment at 6B Gadsden St., and Granny lived quite sickly for some 3-6 months on our couch, after being discharged from the hospital. Looking back on my life, I think that it turned out to be just too heavy of a life situation for a young couple to endure away from home & loved ones & spiritually disconnected. The marriage began to crumble. Amazingly, Granny lived a very difficult life and died 25 years later in 1995 of an entirely different malignancy (myeloma).

Though my professional life seemed to climb higher, I committed (directly or indirectly, in one way or another) infractions against all 10 of the Ten Commandments. The "bottom" seemed to have fallen out, and I came very near to the end of my earthly rope in the summer of 1987. All in the space of just a week: (1) one of my children ran into a huge problem, (2) my momma (a very independent, self-reliant, highly experienced nurse) called and said, "Ervin, there is something wrong with your daddy; and, if you don't do something soon, I'm afraid he's going to die!"; (4) my partner and I got the phone call from Mayo Clinic that our senior partner had awful pancreatic cancer; and, (5) I had my personal life all tied in knots in and around a failing marriage (my ex-wife & I had been years in ordinary "shrink" counseling with Citadel alumnus friend, Dr. Tom Messervy, one session during which I was absolutely stunned & disoriented to find out that I, incredibly, was a heavy percentage of the cause of our problems!!). The song, "Why Me Lord" says about where I was (except that I had no idea that I needed to break into the mindset of the song's refrain, "Lord help me, Jesus, I've wasted it so; help me Jesus...". Without a clue, I finally, reluctantly & dragging my spiritual feet shamefully (as if, in defeat, it might cost me all the "fun" in life), turned back toward church in about least as to infrequent, reluctant, unenthused church attendance. I even avoided being at home on Wednesday nights for a couple months because I heard that the Baptists would do visitation on Wednesday nights if you filled out a vistitor card (which I had done), HERE. Then, Mercy Walked In through Pastor Steve Cloud. As an aside, I began to encounter stories...and still doing so in 2015...of others having what seemed to me to be even harder clusters of upsetting things to face and deal with; examples HERE & HERE.

[Another aside: While daydreaming in the Richland County Public Library in about 1978, it came to me how wonderful it would be to be reading a book and be able to instantly have the definition of an unknown word "appear" if I wanted it to. Or, if the word was a color, one could instantly see the color (a "tow-headed" little boy) and read a description of it...and maybe even "will" that another description come forth at a more technical level. Or, if the word were a particular sound (the "forlorn" sound of the harbor buoy), then there would be a way to actually hear that sound.]

I don't think that my parents...who had raised me in the church in a greater family of enthusiastically churched folk...ever knew that I went off to college & did as the hymn, "I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry", says in the 4th sentence of its first stanza, "I was [my parents/family] there when you were but a child, with a faith to suit you well; in a blaze of light you wandered off to find where demons dwell." While considered successful by most, my experience navigating the seas of adulthood had been quite rocky...though not obviously so to most who knew me. But I didn't really "turn back on" spiritually until I met (and began to admire & hear..."had ears to hear") Pastor Steve M. Cloud at Northside Baptist Church in 1990. Steve was the lamp bearer God used to guide me into the safe harbor. To this day (2006), I can't read or sing the hymns "Amazing Grace" or "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning" without getting choked up at the grace of God and...and I think of Steve & his smiling but dogged "light house" beckoning of me back into the faith. [shameful delay in meeting]

I was re-baptized at Northside by immersion on mother's day of 1991 subsequent to a Jim Wilson revival (at the "alter call", Dixie's cancer-crippled mother grabbed up her crutches to come out of the pew, and several others of us "family" inadvertently spilled out with her to go "down front" to the alter call with her). Though now plugged into the Power Source, I would further unravel through a marital separation (1991) and marital divorce (in 1994...even though I had come to know what God's word was on divorce & His power to prevent it...the power of reconciliation and restoration...I was just "done" & not willing).

I was maritally separated & living 15 miles from town on a houseboat when Pastor Steve Cloud asked me to join a small group of 6 men to meet weekly at the church. I started to make excuses when Steve said something like, "Come on, Ervin, you don't have anything better to do at 6AM on a Monday!" I was "cornered"! After the first meeting, I sensed strongly that I should continue. Steve gave me keys to the church so that I could get there 10 minutes early and start the coffee pot (I thought, "Who would have ever guessed I'd have keys to a church!"). Through regular weekly meetings in that men's discipleship group with Pastor Cloud, I began to crave & yearn to "get a grip" on Christianity. [But I was afraid of the "dogma"/doctrinal strictness of a seminary. After all, how is it possible for the world to come up with so many ardently defended "versions" of a faith?] This caused me to take notes and collect information from many sources (and I didn't document the most all that I learned is not properly source-cited on this website [and I've continued not to do much source-citing]). These valuable meetings went on 6-7 years.

I more or less lived between 1-3 years on that 62 foot houseboat docked at Lake Murray Marina (outside of Columbia, S. C.) when I commenced membership in those men's group meetings. What I was seeking and learning began to come together in some writings. I wanted to "make sense" of religion and to have a source of modifiable review notes. I watched a Clebe McLary video testimony & had heard so much in this church about testimonies that I wanted to collect them. While a member of NBC, I heard how the invention of the printing press had made it possible for The Word of God (the Bible) to get into the hands of the common folk. I was startled to also hear that it was now the point in the history of the Christian Church for the congregation to pitch in and do the work of church ministry (I was told that "ministry" was to no longer just be the job just of the church pastor & staff). It was time for every member to be a minister. And then it occurred to me that I may one day be able to do a little ministry of discipling others from the notes & testimonies...the internet website. In August of 2009, I heard highly unconventional 4th-generation Christian missionary, Ed Kilbourne, describe "being a missionary where you are". So, I now fancy myself as sort of a "stealth" internet minister & missionary in the cause of Jesus my own way attempting to put up a source that a person might use to get to The Way of Jesus.

In 1996, my then 21-year-old son, David, introduced me to the internet...and hyperlinks...and web sites; & my thoughts returned to that library daydream (above) which I had in 1978. I find that it helps me to re-grip/refine my searching understanding of THE TRUTH if I recycle through this material periodically and review, reword, and add to, or modify the website as I, myself, grow. I'd learned so much while at NBC...especially about the standards of God & the scarey fate of nonbelievers.

In early 1997, after hearing a workshop on Smalley's personality types, I instantly realized that I could handle marriage again with Betty. I proposed to her on the alter at NBC a few weeks later, Easter Sunday 1997, after services. We were married by her Lutheran brother-in-law, Klaus Koch, in the old NBC in West Columbia on May 16th, 1997 (Steve understandably waived marrying us because of my deliberate refusal to wait for God to heal my first marriage; but Steve was part of the ceremony).  She & I were re-baptized in the Jordan River on 11 June 1999 (2 years before 9/11) during a trip-of-a-lifetime church-group religious pilgrimage to Israel.

When we considered joining Zion Lutheran Church (ZLC) in the summer of 2003, unbeknownst to me, my ears were ready to hear the ELCA Lutheran emphasis on the love & grace of God (as so well put forth by Pastor John Derrick & then with my eyes opened by Pastor Tim L. Bupp as to the power of the common mind to mis-focus & mis-understand God's Word via the ancient-treaty-lifestyle, HERE), which Jesus attempted to clarify yet is still misunderstood today.

I've always been distressed by what seems like "exclusiveness" in Christianity...only good & righteous people were in church. In Dec. 2004, an e-mail came to me from a complete stranger, Kurt Kolstad, declaring to me that there was no "bad news" in the "good news" (which I had proposed or declared on my web site). His e-mail brought me immediately to tears of relief/joy! Beginning with Kurt's information, my vision of the finished work of Jesus has changed significantly since then. On May 6,  2007, I heard an exciting sermon by my wife's best friend's (Patti Strickler, Sewickley, Pa.) pastor, Rev. Geoffrey Chapman, at the end of our annual trip to Pittsburgh (2009) in which he clarified Galatians 2:16...that it is the faithfulness of Jesus that justifies the believer. Beginning in 2009, our Pastor, Tim Bupp, has emphasized how focused Jesus' Gospel message was on the fundamental, foundational Gospel of "right relationships" among mankind, whether in relationship to the greatest or the least. In the summer of 2008, Betty suffered a stroke from which she recovered. Then in May 2009, Patti gave us a copy of Sarah Young's daily devotional book, Jesus Calling, which has profoundly amplified our relationship with Him. From about 2009-2013, Pastor Tim Bupp was pastor at ZLC, and my understanding of The Way underwent another revolution as Tim made it apparent that the core thrust of the earthly time of The Way has to do with righteousness ("right relationships"). Looking back, I identify with the great hymn, "The Anchor Holds." The "working out" of my salvation continues! One of my Sunday School teachers, Steve Shumpert, often used the writings of William Barclay (1907-1978) as commentary, and I have been impressed with Dr. Barclay. In early 2010, I stumbled onto a web note indicating that Barclay believed very similarly to Kurt, above. At a 5/15/2010 Gaithers concert, I heard unbelievably bass-voiced Gene McDonald sing a song that I'd never heard, "Thanks to Calvary", and I was overcome by emotion to realize that the song hit the nail on the head as to my "changed life" (listen to a Doug Oldham rendition which blends into another related song here).

I hope that the other topics on this web site will attract the attention of persons who then stumble onto THE TRUTH of Jesus Christ in this site. Then maybe they will become either seekers of THE TRUTH or become discipled and encouraged in THE TRUTH. I have links from the hospital web site, our pathology group's web site and a few other areas as link-bridges the Holy Spirit might use to have others "stumble" into this personal website if He so desires. By responding to strangers through internet e-mails and utilizing resources on the "web", one might even say that I have a little "ministry" or missionary vehicle, as previously noted.

 May God bless us all by keeping us focused on "the good news" that Christ died for all, THE TRUTH of the sacrificial & atoning death of Jesus, the promise-proving resurrection of Jesus, the faithfulness & love of Jesus the Christ (the Messiah), and the promise of the return of Jesus by helping us: (1) to come to belief in Jesus, (2) to live the Christian life, and (3) by preventing us from making an idol of pointed out by Rev. Chuck Swindoll who noted this quote: English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, "He who begins by loving Christianity better than truth, will proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all."

In 2015 approaching age 72, I'm now just past the height of my medical career in an excellent community hospital. Between us we have a blended family of 4 children, all of whom are (or have been) married (we have 10 grandchildren, 8 girls & 2 boys; and there are three great-grandchildren...2 boys and one girl). We have been through a number of traumas relating to "family" and, with the grace of God, seem to be adjusting. All but one (a granddaughter) live within 20 miles of us. Of our parents' generation, my mother was the last living, having died at the end of 2011 at age 93, 50 miles away. And we are blessed to have the greatest of all keeping watch over our lives...the Good Shepherd, The Lord Jesus Christ!

I have some people who I care for deeply who consider belief in Jesus and then make remarks such as, "I don't know, Ervin; more killing has been done over the centuries by Christians in the name of God than for any other reason..." [not true!!!]. Or they become turned off by internet sayings of certain Christians or actions of certain Christians they know (totally failing to remember that ALL Christians continue as still-sinning-sinners saved by the grace of God. As to personally testifying as to the truth of Jesus, my thought is sort of like the healed blind man in John 9:25, "One thing I do know. I was blind and now I see!" And when I hear or sing hymns, none seems more true to me than John Newton's [his brief story] great hymn, "Amazing Grace"..."to save a wretch like me!" Looking back on the 25 years out of the church, I can identify with the refrain, "Lord help me Jesus, I've wasted it so..." sung memorably by Kris Kristofferson in "Why Me Lord?"

To those who love and care about me: when my time on earth ends, don't mourn one second for me. I will have instantly come into the presence of Him who saved the world and who can change any life from one of anger, confusion, boredom, gloom, stress & anxiety, hopelessness, or disappointment  to one of peace and joy, hope & matter what the circumstances are! Gather with gladness for me...if you like...with little or no funeral discussion and just sing any one or all of: "The God on the Mountain is Still the God in the Valley", "There's Something About That Name" (sung at Daddy's funeral), "Jesus Loves Me", "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling", Just a Closer Walk With Thee", "There's Within My Heart a Melody", "Since Jesus Came Into My Heart", "When We All Get to Heaven", and end with "I'm So Glad Jesus Lifted Me". I'm excited at what He did for ALL humans! Think about the wonderful song, "How Can I Keep from Singing"!

I take credit only for the deficiencies in this website...I've made many changes as my particular, personal illumination has grown. In fact, I sort of like that much is explained without an attempt to define a narrow "this is the right set of beliefs". I'm very interested in any reader's constructive feedback. If anyone is uplifted or encouraged or gets anything positive out of this website, I truly hope that all credit & glory will be given by them to God through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (who may have simply used me as a vessel through which to pour out some of His TRUTH).

With my deepest admiration to all who toil locally & worldwide to pass on the Gospel of Jesus,
Ervin Bartow Shaw, Jr., M. D.


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(posted 2001; latest update 30 May 2017)