7.13.2009

Firehousejames Bio



Ok, everything you never wanted to know about me. Basically, I am a youth minister and have been so for over 20 years now. I can honestly tell you that God put the purpose of doing this in my heart. Let me try to explain. I had always been raised in a Christian home. My dad was a truck driver, so he was in and out often. When he was home, he and my mother would make sure we were in church. I can even remember being a Royal Ambassador at one time. (You true Southern Baptist’s will know what that to which I am referring.) When I was in 7th grade my father transferred to Lyman, SC. We set our home up in Boiling Springs, SC (Spartanburg). I remember going into the Boiling Springs Junior High and wondering what in the world would happen next. Those few years were very confusing for me. I had played Trumpet for two years at Swift Creek Middle School in Chesterfield, VA and made it all the way to 2nd chair, (and no it wasn’t out of three people), it was like five, LOL! So, at Boiling Springs Junior High the band program was much more accelerated than where I had been previously. As an outsider I also felt the tension as some didn’t appreciate the “new kid”. I stuck with it, but was quickly losing my interest in the trumpet. I was on the verge of making a quantum leap . . .


My close friend Scott who had also moved from VA (Dad's worked for same company) talked me into playing 7th and 8th grade football. I put my trumpet into storage and began the transformation from Band Geek to Jock. I can remember starting my workouts in an old Maintenance shed our school called a weight room. I struggled to simply lift the bar without weights on it. I was so sore afterwards that I missed the next day of school while I took a bath in liquid "Heat". My set of friends and interests changed immensely. It seems I was much more eager to do whatever it took to have the "right" friends. I continued to play football through high school. I still am very proud to have been a Boiling Spring High Bulldog even though my career was not stellar. I also found a love for music. Scott loaned me an old guitar and gave me a few lessons. I was hooked. It was so cool to be able to listen to things on my "Tape Deck" at the time and play it back. My ultimate hope was to use athletics and football as a way to get the attention of the opposite sex. (UMM ...yeah). Anyway that didn't work very well because everything I had become was fake. I had lost a perspective on who I had become. During a painful experience in the 8th grade, that fakeness came to light. I was an empty shell inside. My meager Christian background at least prepared me to ask God, "If you are really there, help me".

Over the next year, God began to move in my life and position me with those who modeled a true Christian life. i will forever be in debt to the student ministry of First Baptist North Spartanburg. A simple invitation to a pizza trip after church directed my life in a whole new direction. I realized I could go out with friends, have fun and not feel guilty, abused or taken advantage of later. During a retreat to Hilton Head Island, I asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart, forgive me of my shortcomings and live in my life. After that experience things started to make sense. I can't explain it any other way, other than I had a power inside of me that was not there before. I later learned it was the Holy Spirit. God put some GREAT youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, and Godly youth ministers in my life. I began reading, growing, and serving in my youth group. I channeled my music towards leading in worship. My life finally had purpose. Everything was not and still is not all rainbows and skittles today. I have like everyone had to endure some major things, but I can tell you this. I would NEVER go back to living the way I did before becoming a Christian. If I were to die and find out that this whole Christianity thing was a joke or man made scheme, I would would still follow Christ because my life with Him has been so much better than without. I don't mean to be preachy, I am just grateful.


As a senior in high school, I felt God calling me to serve him in ministry using my love for music and students. Upon the urging of my Youth Pastor, I enrolled in Anderson College (University). I majored in music there for two years and met a great caliber of people. Ultimately I met Donna Simpson who went on to become my bride Donna Simpson Strickland. She faithfully worked for two more years as I continued my education at Charleston Southern University. I was so lucky to be able to play bass in a group from the college called "New Vision". I will always treasure those years and the relationships I formed with those in that group I treasure. A few have become closer than a brother to me.
Donna and I got married on November 21, 1992 (which is her birthday too, by the way). After a period of searching God led me to my home church of First Baptist North Spartanburg. I had the privilege of interning under the Youth Pastor. As an intern, I learned youth ministry from the ground up. I learned there was a lot more to it than my former Youth Ministers made it out to be. I am so grateful for have the privilege of serving on staff there for eight years. While there I served in various positions in the Student Ministry and Media Ministry. They also allowed be to take time to receive my Master of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


In 1998 my life took a drastic change. I started a chaplaincy with North Spartanburg Fire Department. After being there a short time I decided to get my official fire training and became a volunteer. I never thought I would have grown up to be a fireman. Through the years I have seen many similarities between the fire service and ministry (good and bad). Many of the men at North Spartanburg fire became my heroes. Ulitmately, it was this experience that showed me I needed to be working with people rather than machines (In the media dept). After talking with some Godly people, I realized that after three years of media ministry, God was calling me back into Student Ministry.


I became the Minister to Students at Pine Valley Baptist Church in 2001 where I have been serving ever since. I also am a lieutenant with Myrtle Grove Volunteer Fire Department. The lessons I have learned and the way I have seen God work could not be contained in this simple blog. I will just say God has blessed Donna and I beyond what we deserve to be able to serve in this church. Each day God gives us a fresh vision for the next step to take. That whole Proverbs 3:5-6 thing is true. He does direct our paths. If you have atually read this blog to this point please know that I am a flawed man that simply lives to love God, love my wife, and share His love with others. There is much more that I could or may even should have said but this is a "cliff note" version of how I became firehousejames.