Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gary Sweeten - Happy 70th

My old friend Gary has hit a milestone. He is looking good, still married to his first wife, he has raised some wonderful kids and has an ample supply of grandchildren. Say what you will about Christianity, but Gary took the road less traveled and that has made the difference.

My first recollection of him was in 1970 at Cincinnati's Spiritual Revolution Day. This event took place at the "new" Fountain Square that was right across the street from the RKO Albee theater. Arthur Blessitt was giving an electrifying speech about accepting Jesus into your life. Yes, this was the days of the Jesus Movement.

After some initial words and music the entire group marched up Vine Street and took a left turn at 7th Street to Covenant First Presbyterian on Elm street. At the Church this tall, slender young fellow with a bushy Amish style beard spoke about his relationship with the Lord. It was Gary.

As the days passed by, I became a member of the group that sponsored the Spiritual Revolution Day. We held a weekly Bible study and Gary stopped by their house frequently to lead the discussion and join us in prayer.

Gary was a counselor at the University of Cincinnati. But he was also a key figure in the leadership of Cincinnati's Jesus Movement. As our group grew we became more committed to following the Bible. Our goal was to live our lives like the First Church, so we sought out Gary and several other men to be our "Elders". Our hope was their wisdom would be passed down and they also could help us with direction in our lives.

Through this relationship, I learned that Gary was married to a wonderful woman named Karen. They had two children. Julie was about three years old and Timmy was a toddler. Gary and Karen were gracious enough to open their home to us on ennumerable occasions. We became very good friends. In fact Gary helped to counsel Linny and me during our engagement to be married.

Around this time period Gary was working on his doctorate. His ties in the community and education lead to a relationship with College Hill Presbyterian Church. I do not know if Gary had considered the possibility of the ministry, but God had opened the door and Gary walked right in and set right down. Their gain was our loss. He left our group and we missed him, he made the right decision. In doing so he cleaned up his act. The beard was gone and the blue jean jacket was replaced with a suit and tie and even some spiffy ministerial robes.

Linny and I eventually left the Cincinnati area for about ten years. Upon our return we attended College Hill Presby and it was like going to a high school reunion. We met so many familiar faces that was had missed. And among those was Gary and Karen.

We stayed at College Hill until some big changes started to happen. Many of the ministers seem to make a simultaneous decision to leave. Gary had decided it was time to get back to what he enjoyed and that was counseling.

After that I did not have much contact with the Sweetens until the internet came along. I started looking up old friends and ran across Gary. We emailed back and forth. Eventually I came across Braveheart and the Seasoned Believers Blog. I read these on a weekly basis and from time to time respond to his posts.

Gary and family had a big time last night, surrounded by family and friends. God has blessed him and it is good.

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