Fred's Journey | in his own words

Every life is a unique journey, and each of us travels through life accumulating experiences and memories that ultimately impact how we behave in every moment. Like you, how I will interact tomorrow with my spouse, children, siblings, coworkers, friends and even adversaries is impacted and altered by my unique accumulation of life experiences. It’s both an incredible gift and an enormous responsibility to realize that among my unique personal experiences, at least some contained revelations and messages from God.

I’ve shared my experiences and the experiences of others on this website to persuade you that God does, in fact, speak to us through our life experiences. As you read about my journey, I hope it will inspire you to be on the alert for future messages from God and to ponder your own past for messages you may have initially missed. And I hope that you will be inspired by the compelling stories of others who were in crisis and in desperate need of relief and found it in God’s loving grace. Their lives were dramatically transformed by the grace of God.

I came to know God through my own contemplations, self-study, prayer and revelation. That process has provided me with the foundation for a very strong faith and meaningful testimony. I recognize the value of early childhood training and education in a particular faith, with an emphasis on the Holy Bible. But that was not how I found God. Unlike many lifelong Christians, those of us who found our own way may have missed rich religious training in childhood. We tend to know what we believe and why we believe it, and we can often provide cogent and effective arguments for our theological positions. But we lack the foundation of years of biblical studies and a familiarity with God’s Word and all its beautiful and well-articulated values and lessons.

If you currently practice a particular faith and believe in God, then what I have written is likely to reassure you that God is living and working in your life and delivers timely and critically important messages to you through your own experiences. The stories in my book and on this website are decidedly Christian. However, whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish or of any other faith, you can and should be on the alert for such revelations. I hope my experiences will sensitize you to the need to remain vigilant and tuned in. However, even if you are an agnostic or an atheist, I have included for your consideration a number of experiences that initially established my faith and later fortified it.

Reading about my journey and the impact of God’s grace on the other contributors to this website, probably won’t alter what you now believe (or don’t believe). But I hope that reading about it, coupled with your reflection on your own life’s journey, will cause you to contemplate the possibility that God was reaching out to you and sending you messages along the way. Throughout my journey, I have very clearly seen God working in my life, delivering messages, fortifying my faith and improving my ability to impact other lives, which has been one of my longstanding passions.

My unique journey began like that of millions of other Americans, in an unremarkable and very typical lower-middle-class household. I was born to a working-class family of second- and third-generation European immigrants who worked hard to support and sustain a young family in a rebounding economy. My father worked long hours as an insurance inspector. He was simply a working-class guy collecting data for insurance companies at a relatively low level of income. But he worked hard and supplemented his income by following his real passion in life: playing the trumpet. It was his passion for his music — not his work in the insurance industry — that defined him and his life. His dedication to his passion affected my childhood and my adult life as I identified and pursued my own passions.

Dad had a strong faith in God but rarely expressed it and did not regularly take the family to church. It was difficult for him to express the things he felt strongly about, and he rarely revealed emotions to his family. But as I watched him handle life’s challenges, I came to understand the depth of his faith. Mom didn’t often express her own faith, either. But she was less guarded with her emotions and did find occasions to express faith in God and her reliance on His direction and guidance. She worked several low-level jobs during her life to help support our family, and she generally enjoyed being engaged in something productive. She was a lifetime learner and was eager to advance her knowledge, even as she became fragile and forgetful in her early eighties.

I think the lack of formal religious training had both a negative and a positive impact on the future development of my own faith. On the negative side, I did not affiliate at a young age with any particular body of believers. I did not learn Bible stories with their inherent wisdom and moralistic values. And I did not have the benefit of worshipping and interacting regularly with other believers. But there were positive aspects to this background. I was not dogmatically indoctrinated into a narrowly defined religious belief system. I was inspired to pursue my beliefs independently and with an open mind while I contemplated and considered many difficult theological questions and objectively considered alternative answers. And most importantly, God knew I needed divine revelation to fortify my faith. This then led me to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and daily reliance on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

As you’ll see, God was tangibly present in a number of my experiences throughout my life. In fact, that is the essence of my message. God revealed Himself and was there with a message when I needed it most, both to establish my faith and to strengthen it. And once my faith was firmly established, His messages guided the ways in which I would subsequently live my life and impact the lives of others.

It was through numerous kitchen-table chats with Mom (even as an adult) that I gained self-worth and self-confidence. Ironically, although faith in the Lord didn’t come up often in those discussions, a lot of moral principles did, and they became embedded in my psyche. Mom always encouraged me to work hard and to do so with integrity. She always emphasized doing what was right. Those chats may not have been formal Bible studies, but she often quoted the Ten Commandments and the “Golden Rule” as principles by which I should live my life. I believed her. I listened, and I absorbed. Those extremely simple instructions from my parents and their demonstration of how to live accordingly have stayed with me for a lifetime. I have been blessed because my childhood memories are very positive.

Those early childhood experiences with my parents piqued my curiosity about God and religion; they caused me throughout my childhood to follow up with Bible study and to question my friends and acquaintances who attended church more regularly than I did. But I always ended up with more questions than answers, and the multitude of faiths practiced in just my own small neighborhood often resulted in different answers from different sources. It was all very confusing and complicated to a young pre-adolescent.

I remember thinking that if I chose to study a single faith or denomination, I’d only get one perspective and miss all the others. How would I know which was right? On the other hand, if I pursued answers from every possible source, I would continue to be confused and would wonder if any of it made sense. I wasn’t trying to address deep theological questions. I was just a young kid who wanted to know if God was real, if God existed now or in the past and if God could hear and would answer my prayers. Did God know who I was? Was He watching over my every move and protecting me? Were there really angels?

I also wondered a lot about Christ  and what it meant to be the Son of God. How could God be both divine and human and in three forms? Who was this man Jesus, and could I develop a relationship with Him? When people said God spoke to them, were they lying or delusional? Did God really speak audibly? Why couldn’t I hear God? And why did so many bad things happen in the world — often to such good people? My list of questions seemed endless.

Simple questions like these eventually proved to be deeply theological after all. I didn’t have good answers then, and I don’t have particularly good answers to all of them now, even after four years of study in divinity school. But during my lifetime, as you’ll see in the stories on this website, God’s existence was revealed to me, and God did speak to me. Sometimes it was a seemingly coincidental event, but I knew it went far beyond coincidence and that God was simply saying, “I’m real, and I’m here for you.” In other cases, God was revealing to me my own inappropriate behaviors and was admonishing me to recognize my wrongdoing and to change.

God’s existence was revealed to me most dramatically through a mystical experience I had as a teenager while contemplating many of the tough questions I had pondered. That experience caused me to believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent divine power, and I have not stopped believing ever since. My faith has been strengthened not only through miraculous events and healings, but also through the undeniable messages God has delivered to me. And I have been deeply moved and inspired by the stories of others who experienced God’s grace.

My high school sweetheart and now wife, Sue Smolar, has remained my loving and faithful companion throughout this journey. We have shared the same questions and musings, and both of us thirst to understand the meaning of life and the role of God and religion in our everyday existence. Sue and I adopted three lovely daughters, Heidi, Dena, and Denise — two Korean orphans and one special-needs child — when they were infants. Later, Sue miraculously gave birth to two boys, Zac and Corey. I continue to write extensively about my five children and our lives together, particularly about experiences in which God, through the Holy Spirit, took an active role and delivered important messages, miracles and revelations.

In my early adult years, I pursued my career aggressively — first as a teacher, then as a young actuary working in the insurance industry and finally as the president of a Fortune 100 insurance company (The New York Life Insurance Company). I consistently followed my mother’s kitchen-table advice throughout my career and worked very hard, always striving to demonstrate integrity while being ever mindful of the “Golden Rule” and the Ten Commandments. My mother’s simple advice and encouragement have been with me always. We have attended churches of various denominations. I never felt it necessary to attempt to identify the perfect theological match for my own beliefs because I never felt that the nuances of differing denominations were really that important.

What seemed most important to me was my conviction that God truly exists as the creator of the universe and that Christ walked among us as God incarnate, was crucified in atonement for our sins and rose from the dead. He lives within believers in the form of the Holy Spirit and gives us daily guidance and direction. He is a living presence in the world today, just as He always has been and always will be.

The initial mystical experience I had as a teenager convinced me that God is real. That knowledge and faith have been reinforced many times in the ensuing years as the Holy Spirit has spoken to me and guided me. Not long after that initial experience, I also came to recognize and accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. My eagerness to speak to God, to pray for God’s guidance and to watch and listen for His response has grown throughout my lifetime. I have never heard God speak audibly, and I have never seen Him in a vision, but I know God has been (and is) there, and I know that many of my experiences were not mere coincidence. Through the Holy Spirit, God has indeed been speaking to me and revealing things I needed to know, to hear and often to act on. I know I have the free will to take my life in any direction I choose — good or bad — but I choose to follow God and His teachings as depicted in the Holy Bible.

My spiritual life has been a somewhat unique journey, but probably not unlike those of many who will visit this website. The way I have lived my life along the way has been far from perfect. I have faced and continue to face all the same influences and temptations that all humans face. None of us is free from sin, but all of us can rejoice in God’s grace and forgiveness.

Like so many of my business colleagues, I aggressively pursued a highly successful business career, often to the detriment of my family and the practicing of my faith. As a result I felt called to retire at age 59 from a career and position I loved so I could attend divinity school. In retirement (which is certainly a misnomer for me), I have better aligned my priorities and more directly pursued my passions. In addition to completing a master’s degree at Yale Divinity School, I have been writing, mentoring young executives, teaching and remaining involved on boards of trustees of several institutions for whose missions I am passionate.

I am convinced that throughout my life — throughout childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, and retirement — Jesus Christ, through His holy Spirit, has been there beside me, watching my successes and enduring my failures. He has just as certainly been involved where appropriate to strengthen my faith, to give guidance and direction, to answer prayers, to perform miracles and to positively impact my behaviors.

The stories posted on this website tell the story of my journey through life experiences that started when I was very young and will continue as long as I live. My earnest hope and prayer is that you’ll reflect thoughtfully and constructively on the experiences of your own life as you read about mine — and that you’ll consider the reality that God has been speaking to you in a way that is unique to your needs.

Every life, including yours, is a unique journey that is important to God and one in which He will provide guidance, blessings and unconditional love.