The four of us live in south central Pennsylvania.
We enjoy being a family together and really appreciate our friendships with each other.
There are many additional details that we could share about ourselves, but to truly understand us, the following story that explains my (Scott's) journey, gives a really good place to start in understanding our friendship based family.
So if you are curious, feel free to read the following chapter that I (Scott) wrote for a book that did not yet get published, but the publisher has allowed us to use it here in its entirety.
EXTREME MAKEOVERS, HEART EDITION
Chapter by Scott Brooks
We often don't realize the value of the things we have until we are without them or hear stories from others who have lived without those things. For example, if we always lived with indoor plumbing, electricity, screens in the windows, and refrigerators, and then we moved to a setting where we didn't have those things for a year, most likely our appreciation of those things would greatly increase!
From early on, I was taught that God did not exist, and therefore lived the first nineteen years of my life from this atheistic perspective. But then I was very fortunate to come to know for certain that God truly does exist! I have been amazed and so very thankful for this realization ever since! Here's my story...
Since I was taught from early on that God did not exist, I began at a very young age to wonder about my own existence and why it would need to end some day. People tend to more easily remember traumatic events, so I must have been really struggling with questions of my existence to the point where the conversation I had at age three with my Mom was burned in my memory. I can still clearly remember asking my Mom if it bothered her that she would die someday. My Mom answered by saying that she was okay with it, just as long as people remembered her when she was gone.
When I was six, I was watching a war movie and saw a plane being shot with bullets. The pilot and copilot were not hit, but when they opened the cockpit door to the back part of the plane, the gunner was slumped over dead, riddled with bullets. And it struck me that not only would my existence end, but everybody else's existence would end as well. And at the point in time when everyone ceased to exist, it would be as if life on earth had never happened in the first place - because there would be no conscious memory of it. So, I then asked my Mom if it bothered her that everybody else would die too. All she could say was that we were all in the same boat together. As I reflected upon her answer, I realized it was a sinking boat with no solution!
Being an atheist had other effects as well. A number of kids in our neighborhood ridiculed me for not believing in God. I would ask them why they thought God existed, and usually the best answer they could come up with was that they just knew so, or that one can just tell by looking at nature. Yet, no matter what arguments they gave, I still did not think God existed since none of my senses told me that God was there. I couldn't see, touch, feel, or taste God.
I had two dreams around the age of ten that further confirmed my atheistic viewpoint. In the first dream I was playing outside and a woman in a red car drove by, pulled out a gun, and shot me. Everything went black, and then I awoke from the dream. In the second dream, I was in a senior citizens nursing home, and I was about five minutes away from dying. There was nothing I could do to prevent my death. In just the clicking by of a few minutes I would cease to exist. Both of these dreams, further saddened me about the reality of my eventual death.
My schooling further confirmed my perspective. In science class I learned that life evolved and then some day the sun would blowup, in turn ending the existence of all life on earth.
I remember sitting in my high school English class watching the other students, and thinking that all of them were acting as if they were going to live forever. Yet it all seemed meaningless to me since by the time everyone was dead, it would be as if all of this had never happened in the first place. I could try to find happiness in life, and yet I knew dying was right around the corner with just the passing of time.
In my freshman year of college, I started dating a girl who believed that God existed, and she had a number of friends who believed the same thing. According to her friends, if I died and did not believe in God, then I was in trouble since I would be sent to Hell. I didn't think this was possible, but if I argued with them it was a no-win situation for me, since from their perspective they would not struggle with dying, but I would struggle with it as long as I lived. Not only this, but if I was right they would never know it, since they would have no consciousness once they ceased to exist. So, I was left with this annoying catch-22 that I couldn't solve. But then a thought crossed my mind that could possibly allow me to put this catch-22 to rest. I decided to make a scientific test that would verify that God did not exist. I proceeded to say out loud that if God existed (which I didn't think was the case), He would show me three shooting stars, one right after the other.
In the next two weeks, I saw my first three shooting stars at different places. I concluded it was odd that I had never seen a shooting star when I was younger, but I had now seen three shooting stars in a two-week period. But, since the three shooting stars were not one after the other, I didn't have conclusive results to my scientific test.
This led me to another test. I was walking across campus one evening, it was dark out, and I was contemplating how these people who believed in God bothered me - especially since the topic of death was a no win situation for me. So, I just wanted to solve the whole issue. And I said something like, "Okay, if there is really a God, I just want to see one shooting star right now." I looked up and saw a shooting star streak across the sky. I was stunned!
But, the idea of seeing a shooting star provided by God was so foreign to my atheist mindset that even though I knew I had seen it, I began to rationalize it away as possibly a light from a passing car, or a dying neuron in my mind, or even just a big coincidence. In turn, I put the whole event behind me - writing it off as just an interesting experience.
But in the fall of my sophomore year, I had an experience that I couldn't rationalize or write off as coincidence, since through it I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that God truly does exist!
What happened was that two fellow college students died in a car crash. This in turn brought the whole issue of death back strongly to the forefront of my mind. And I started to think different kinds of thoughts, such as it seeming strange to me that there was so much here for it all to be a big mistake. For starters, why did I like music so much? How did music evolve just for the preservation of the fittest species? Or how about the feelings of love I experienced with my girlfriend - were those feelings a big mistake that evolved from single cell organisms? It all started to seem quite odd to me, and I remember saying something like, "If there is something more, I'm willing to hear it."
That same night I wound up talking with my girlfriend, and as we talked the room appeared brighter and was eventually filled with a very warm and loving presence that I could not identify. And then it was as if someone took cellophane off my eyes, and all of a sudden I could see what I couldn't see before, and deep down I knew for the first time in my life that God actually existed, as I realized it was His presence that was filling my dorm room! I was stunned! I was amazed! I began thinking thoughts like, "Where have I been for nineteen years, that I didn't realize this before?" On top of this, I somehow knew a number of other things, such as the realization that God is the creator of our existence and of life on earth. I also knew it would be good for me to start reading the Bible that my girlfriend had given me the prior year, but that I had never read before. So, I started to read one chapter a night through the New Testament and wrote down in a notebook those things that stood out to me.
Further into my sophomore year, other people must have learned that I was going through changes, for somehow my girlfriend and I were invited to a Bible study that two students were having. We started attending each Thursday night, and I thought it was an interesting "coincidence" that for four weeks straight I struggled during the week with a certain topic that was then covered at the Bible study - and I hadn't talked with or seen the guy who was leading the Bible study all week long!
Through the Bible study, I learned about the Gospel, including Jesus' payment for our sins on the cross, His death, and His resurrection. A lot of it made sense, but I really struggled with the concept of someone rising from the dead, since it was so foreign to my atheistic background. Eventually, after a few months of pondering, the light bulb finally went on in my mind. It was as if I had been trying to understand a complex math problem that I finally understood the answer to. I was amazed that anyone could rise from the dead!
A year after the shooting stars, the Gospel finally made sense to me and I understood that God was inviting me into a friendship with Himself. I realized that in all my years growing up, my desires tended to conflict with each other, so I decided to let God have a chance to see what He could do with my life and possibly get my desires to work together in a common direction. So, I committed my life to God. I then asked Him to forgive me according to His payment for me on the cross, and to come and live inside of me by His Holy Spirit. There weren't any shooting stars or bright rooms at that point, but now looking back at that moment in time, I know it was the point in my life where Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)"
Even after taking this step, my prior atheist mindset was still a strong influence at times, and I would begin to wonder if God was truly there. It was as if my mind would fog up and then God would clear the fog by touching my mind and heart, helping me to realize the reality of His existence. And I remember that summer driving across my hometown, and it once again hit me deep in my heart the reality of what I now knew was true about God being there, and I was once again amazed that I now knew the existence of God!
The change in my life was so dramatic that during the same summer my parents took my sister and me to a restaurant, and my Dad reached across the table and shook my hand. He did so because he was amazed at the change in my life, including that I was so much easier to get along with. I thought this was especially nice since although he did not share the same mindset about God that I now had, he was still glad for me in that I now had such good changes in my life.
Over the years, God has continued to grow me in understanding the reality of His presence, plus much more. I've become so thankful to know that God exists and chose to take the time to create me in the first place. I'm still amazed that this God - who is complete in Himself and has no need for humans, the earth, plants, water, air, or anything else - has in His creativity and love, decided to create the earth and all of us as well! He could have decided to create trillions of other things and yet no humans! And if He didn't create us, I would not exist and be able to share my story with you at this time. I now see that it is only out of His love and kindness that He actually gave me my existence in the first place! And not only do I have an existence now, but He is choosing to preserve my existence forever as some day I'll get to enjoy Him forever in heaven where there will be no more death or dying! And I'll also get to forever enjoy wonderful friendships with those in heaven who have also committed their lives to God and received His love and payment for them on the cross. That any of us exist for our time on earth is a miracle in itself, let alone to be given an eternal existence in heaven! What an incredible privilege that He has done such a gracious thing! It is an absolute miracle that I can't even begin to fathom!