My Story……………  by ric justiss

I grew up in a devout family.  I have a great family.  My parents
were  and are the real thing, gentle Christians who not only
"talked the talk,"  but "walked the walk."  The home I grew up
in was filled with love,  kindness, gentleness and nurturing.
My parents were happy and instilled  in us 3 children a
confident and happy disposition.  After 50 years, and  miles
and miles of travel, from church to church, and home to home,
I have not yet encountered a finer example of Christianity at its
best.   Most of you only know Christianity from bad examples, from preachers and
priests to those sharing the pew with you, who have not yet "got it," perhaps they are
on the right road, but have not yet reached that point where they understand that
"christ-like" living involves hundreds of choices everyday, from smiling and greeting
someone with a genuine interest in them, to sacrificing what might be the best thing for
you, to doing, at any given moment, what is best for them.

I was exposed early to the real thing.  Top Shelf Christianity, I heard a preacher call it.  
The kind that is practiced by people that know Jesus and love Jesus.  And these
people don't go around making sure everyone knows they are a Christian or how
much they love God. This Christianity is practiced by people in private.  They don't
advertise.  You will only find them if you are lucky.  This is the kind of Christianity that
fills its people with deep down joy.  These are the kind of people who try to overlook
others faults and try to see only the best in people. These are the people who pause,
and sometimes stop, when they see a rainbow, or beautiful sunrise, or a blossoming
flower, and bow down in true worship to the Creator of the world.  They understand
that before their God, their only place is prostrate before Him. They love Him and
therefore, loving others comes easy to them.  These are people who find the goodness
in the world. They find great pleasure in the simplest of things. They laugh.  They
sometimes cry. They work hard.  They sweat and struggle and give each day the best
they have to offer.  And at the end of day, they are content.  There is great depth to this
Christianity. It's not wearing a "I LOVE JESUS" T-shirt, or quoting scriptures to
sinners.  It is inward.  It is inside you.  Once you have it you will never lose it. You will
have tough days and hard times like anyone, but you will never be overwhelmed or
spiritually bankrupt.  I was raised in a home that knew, understood and practiced the
real thing.

I was also blessed by being exposed to a lot of good people in general. I was lucky to
have around me good people, men and women, that I could actually look up to with
admiration. Strong stable adult role models.   I grew up in a small East Texas
community, where whenever you went to town you knew everyone you ran into and
they knew you.  They knew your family.  It was a town where a person's name carried
weight.  And sometimes the name you wore could be a heavy burden.  You were
known throughout the community, and your actions, good or bad, reflected on your
family name. When we would leave the house mother would say "remember who you
are."   You could bring pride to your family name or you could shame your family
name.  One bad apple could easily tarnish the entire family name.  There were 5
churches in town.  Two Baptist, a Methodist, Assembly of God and a Church of Christ.  
One of the largest groups in town was the Church of Christ, and my dad was the
preacher. He had been a preacher all his life, beginning at the age of 18.  Now a
seasoned veteran, he occupied the pulpit every Sunday, counseled the families,
presided over the funerals and prayed at the Friday night football games.   A public
figure in town.  In a small country town, the local preacher is about as big as they get.  
And I was the preachers-kid.  None of us were problem kids, or kids that got in
trouble.    We were all the kind of kids that make parents proud to say "that's my kid."  
We stood tall, offered a firm hand shake, and stood by our word.  Friendly, outgoing,
self-confident and good students.  By the time we graduated high school, we had
grown and become well known and respected in our own right.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was raised to be a preacher. I knew the pros and
cons.  I knew the odd hours.  I knew the rewards and I knew the disappointments.  I
grew up in the fish bowl.

First there was college.  Working in college, I took a job at a local grocery store.  This
was my first real 8 hour a day job.  And here I met Bill Herring.  He was the store
manager and he took me under his wing and decided to make a manager out of me.  He
was a tall skinny lanky, 50 year old man from New York. After six months he asked me
to be his assistant store manager. Bill was well liked and a good manager.  He was
great with the customers. I learned from him the right way to treat customers.  And still
today, after all these years, nothing can get my blood boiling faster than lousy
customer service.  He taught me a lot.  From how to run a store and making it
profitable, to dealing with employees and getting the best out of your help.  I owe a lot
to him. He gave me confidence when he gave me the keys to his store and felt safe to
leave and go home, trusting that the store was in good hands.  I did my best to never
let him down or do anything to diminish that trust he put in me. And it was this time
with Bill, that really laid a foundation for developing the approach I would take to
working in the business world, and would stay with me the rest of my life. Work hard,
be reliable, be accountable and always be friendly.  Thanks to Bill, I have the
management skills to walk in and manage almost any sort of business.

After college, I finally decided what I would be when I grew up. Beginning work in the
ministry was no adjustment at all.  But again I was blessed.  Blessed by having the
Best teacher and mentor.
He was my dad, and he just happened to be a true bible
scholar.  He quoted scripture right and left.  He knew his Bible.  But more than that, he
was one who challenged everything.  And he taught me to study, to seek out answers
to questions, to not rely on traditions and interpretations passed down from those who
had come before us.  He taught me every trick in the book to be an effective public
speaker.  He loved teaching, and I loved learning.   I owe everything to him.

As I studied and trained, every Sunday I would travel to some new church to speak.  
These churches participated in the training of new preachers. Their regular pastor
might be out of town or unavailable, and I would show up, learning my craft as a public
speaker.  I would spend all week studying and researching some subject or bible topic
and then organize it into some sort of suitable presentation for Sunday.  I did this for 2
years.  Preaching, shaking hands, and mostly listening to the church goers, measuring
where they were in their spiritual growth as a Christian, determining what they needed
to learn, to grow and experience that top-shelf Christianity and trying then to make a
difference in their life.  Finally I was ready. Ready  to conquer the world as a full fledged
preacher.   

I had my own church.  A small
Church of Christ in Plano TX.  My small group of
Christians who looked to me for their teaching, their inspiration and their guidance.  I
was Blessed again. And I loved it.  This was where I belonged and had no doubt this
was God's purpose for me.  I am sure my goal was the same as all preachers
everywhere.  I could not have been unique in that all I really hoped to accomplish in
this calling as a preacher, was to bring people to see beyond the everyday, beyond the
here and now, and to think about eternity, to instill in each and everyone's heart an
understanding that there is a better way to live and to have a love for Jesus and God's
Word.

I tried my best to be the best example I could be personally.  I tried to give good
educational and inspirational sermons.  I tried to tell them,
"What is a man profited if he
should gain the whole world and lose his own soul."
 I would search the scriptures,
"warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we might present
every man perfect, in Christ Jesus."

But after years, day in and day out of this sort of thing, I had a problem.

I had become disconnected from the people.  I forgot what it is like to get up and go to
work everyday.  I forgot what it is like to have to deal with all the unpleasantries of life.  I
was spending all my time in the Bible, and not enough time with the people.  When you
spend that much time alone, studying, you are, as James said,
"like a man beholding
his normal face in a glass."
 How would you react if you spent all day, everyday,
looking at yourself in the mirror?  You would see all your faults, all the little pimples and
pockmarks and wrinkles.  And that is not pleasant. And you begin to try to be perfect.  
To live up to the Ideal, portrayed in the scriptures.  And the closer you get to that ideal,
the less you understand and accept or tolerate those who are not trying to do the same.
Today, now, I look back, and I am so sorry for what I did to my wife and those around
me.  Who wants to live with someone who thinks he is Jesus?   Not me!

I retired from preaching.  I went to the streets.  To get to know the people again.  I went
back to work in a grocery store where no one knew I was a preacher. No one guarding
their tongue around me, afraid to let loose a string of cuss words.  Or afraid to just be
themselves.  I could give advice to my co-worker.  I could give advice to a friend.  I
could just be a friend.  And it came out different than it would coming from a
preacher.     

The approach was different but the message was the same.  Top Shelf Christianity will
make you happier.  Maybe you will see something in me that will cause you to think, "I
want what he's having."  Maybe if you believe you have a friend in me, you also can
believe you have a friend in Jesus.

I spent several more years in management in the grocery business.  I changed at one
point and managed a group of weight loss clinics.  And then I got into the legal field
and found a place I enjoyed.  The court room and working as a
paralegal seemed to tap
into all my skills and I found a place where I felt like I was making a difference for good.
I now work during the week as a litigation paralegal and have done so for 2
5 years, just
going to work each day, walking the hallowed halls of the downtown law firms,
minding my own business,and trying to lend a little influence for good as I can and as
the opportunities present themselves.  

But, by popular demand, I am back, part time anyway, and in a limited capacity, to
assist with your wedding. In the words of Paul Newman's character Fast Eddie Felson,
"Hey, I'm Back!"  

This is not my full time job.  My availability is limited to evenings and weekends, but if I
can be of assistance give me a call.  You will find information on this website regarding
my Weddings
, Funerals and other services provided by this Ministry.

Please come back from time to time as I will be trying to find some time to get some
writing done. I hope you will find
my information/articles of some help to you in your
endeavor to grow and learn and practice that top shelf Christianity.  

If I can be of service to you, please get in touch.  I would be thrilled to get to meet you.
Ric Justiss
www.thepreacherman.com
thepreacherman.com
"Making the World More Beautiful, Two Special People at a Time."