In a Baptist church at age seven I “accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior”—an emotional and powerful experience that I have tried to respectfully write about in fiction. Sixty years later, I sometimes think about what drove me toward that decision. My mother influenced me, that’s for sure. So did the total experience of the church and its embrace of me.

Back then I believed that something substantial existed up beyond the blue sky—a place as solid and touchable as the nearest Dairy Queen. That was heaven, and I was headed there.

Heaven was no less certain than ice cream, but if I was bad I could never go there. This part got complicated: I would go there only if I were forgiven for my sins—which happened when Jesus died on the cross. In spite of that death on the cross, I had to confess my sins or I wouldn’t make it to heaven. Finally, with an acceptance of Jesus Christ as my personal savior the question was settled.