BY REV. GARY J. OLSON -FORMER PASTOR (RET.) GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH
The zip line ride appeals to me as a spiritual analogy. A zip line can carry a person over many obstacles. For the purpose of this writing I define a Zip line as from one high point to another — a kind of spiritual zip line.
At soon 85 years-of-age, I look back upon my life as living from one high spiritual moment to another – my spiritual zip line.
At about age 19, late one afternoon in my father's Wisconsin Cheese factory, I became greatly inspired to open a Bible. Almost immediately, I remembered that my mother kept her Sunday school materials in a basket under her bed. When I opened that Bible and read a few lines — where in the Bible I do not remember, but I do remember — I believe it was the Holy Spirit counseling me that before I make major decisions concerning my future that I must get better acquainted with this book.
Yes, I was baptized, and now the Holy Spirit, Hound of Heaven, was counseling priorities I had not planned for myself.
Upon entering the military (USMC), I resolved to use every spare moment to get better acquainted with the Bible. So I was fortunate to be invited into an administrative position aboard the USS Philippine Sea, an aircraft carrier which also allowed for a few dozen Marines – and in that office position had ample opportunity for quiet after hours study of the Bible.
One day after sea duty, I was walking a street in Oceanside, California, and noticed a Christian business men's hospitality center in the second story of one of those buildings. While sitting at their coffee bar I heard of a Bible study in an adjoining room. While I do not remember what the study was about, I left that building with the inspiration – another spiritual zip line moment – that I was anointed to be a teacher of the Bible.
Thinking that I was not worthy to be a pastor, I explored attending Bible College in Canada and perhaps getting assigned to a mission in which I could serve in another country, however Mother counseled me to attend the college our Pastor did in Decorah.
While working as a short order cook and dishwasher in a downtown restaurant in Decorah to keep earning money to pay expenses, I became acquainted with an immigrant from Poland via Germany. One day while eating noon lunch, she walked through the dining room and for a few moments I felt the Holy Spirit filling the room. It was another spiritual zip line moment. This summer we will celebrate our 57th year of marriage with now three children and six grandchildren.
After college and seminary I was assigned to a parish in north Minnesota. One day in the mail there was a $40 check from the local bartender. When I knocked on the trailer house door behind the bar to say thank you, she invited me in for coffee and called husband, an over the road trucker. During our conversation he said there was something familiar about my voice. About seven years ago he had given me a ride while I was hitchhiking in the evening to retrieve my stalled car near Chatfield, Minnesota. It was another spiritual zip line moment. Little did I know when in his truck I'd also meet him seven years later in the first congregation I would serve.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understating. In all your ways acknowledge the LORD and he will make your pathway straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6)