It was 1984, a year of great music and bad clothes! And I was sitting around a fire at the Cross Lane Christian School’s middle school retreat. I was a junior in high school, and had been asked to be a counselor, and to speak to the young men. I can still picture us sitting in a circle as the light from the fire lit up their faces, and surprisingly I was holding their attention. I remember feeling a deep love for those kids, and as if someone else was speaking through me. I am not one to use the phrase, “I felt the presence of God” lightly, but it was a powerful moment for me.
After the meeting we were walking back to the cabins through the dark, and my biology teacher Mr. Cumberlege walked along side me. He told me that I did a great job speaking to the kids and then asked, “Tony, are you sure God isn’t calling you to be a pastor?” I was surprised to hear that question, because he failed me on my science project, and secondly, it had never crossed my mind. At 17 years-old I had one goal for my life. A goal that would cause me a lot of problems for the next several years. Yes, I loved Jesus, but I wanted to be wealthy and/or famous. And with each day after graduating high school, I seemed to drift farther away from my faith, and toward a very self-centered life. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be wealthy or famous, but if left unchecked it can lead to a very unfulfilling life.
When Amy and I started dating in the late 1990s my life was all about me! I lived in MEville! Once she and I got to the place where we talked about marriage, I said to her, “I am going to do whatever it takes to make it to a major radio market…even if it means moving all over the country.” I made it clear that the most important thing in the world to me was radio. Why she married me is still a mystery, because what I was really saying to her was, “If you marry me then life will be about me, and we will go where I can feed my insatiable need for success and attention.” My heart aches as I can visualize that conversation, and just what a selfish young man I had become. However, Amy had gotten baptized, and had us going to church on a regular basis, and I was starting to slowly change. She was very supportive and by 2001 I got my big break. We moved to Miami, Florida where I worked for The Coast FM. It was a sweet gig! I worked 6 hours a day and was running on the beach by 2:30 each day. I was making the most money I had ever made in my life! And, I was miserable.
We had been attending church for awhile at this point, and it wouldn’t be long until heard that whisper again, “You should be a pastor.” Then within a couple of months it was a little louder, and then…I had just started my shift at the radio station on September 11, 2001. It was just like every other morning until the door to my studio flew open and my program director told me that an airplane had crashed into one of the twin towers. South Florida has more people from New York than it does from Florida! I told our audience and within minutes the door swung back open and with a pale face my boss said, “We are under attack” and we switched to a live feed of Fox News.
Across the country churches opened their doors that evening for prayer. We all knew that America would never be the same, and most of us believed that there would be more attacks to follow. As we sat in the service I thought, “What are the two things people are going to need?” My answer was good counseling and Jesus. So, with my counseling background and desire to be a pastor…I thought it was time to make the move. And by January of that year, I would be attending the most conservative seminary in the world in Fort Worth, Texas.
I believe it was 2002 when I started seminary, and as fate or Jesus would have it…Fitz got an offer to do a morning show in Dallas, which was only 30 minutes away. And he decided to make good on our agreement. If you recall from the last post, when we went our separate ways in 1999 we agreed that whoever made it to the big time first would help the other. There was nothing bigger to us than doing morning radio in market number 5! And Fitz became the youngest morning show host in the country to be in a major market. There was one problem. I was in a Southern Baptist Seminary and the show was going to be Fitz, Tony, and Big Gay Steven. I’ll tell you how that went in the next blog post.
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