Webmaster / Technology Lead - James Bianco
People often make the argument that without proper life experience, we are incapable of appreciating the importance and depth of the choices we make and the wonders that surround us daily. A child can learn to play blues guitar with the technique of a master, and be simultaneously acclaimed for skill, yet dismissed because of the conception that a child cannot fully understand the emotions widely understood as prerequisites that one would need to master the blues. This is just a single example, but one that I very much apply to my walk with Yeshua.
I remember being very drawn to Biblical stories as a youth. I have very vivid memories of rummaging around a neighbor’s house one night at a party, and stumbling upon an extremely small copy of a pocket bible, being so amazed at its size, and opening it up and reading aloud for delighted party-goers. I recall that my favorite thing to read before I went to bed each night as a comic book-style picture Bible. And at the mischievous age of six, I remember being so taken by the apparent salvation of non-believers one night during a TBN broadcast of “Praise the Lord” that I decided I had to get saved, too. I phoned in and pledged by life to Jesus. You might imagine my mother’s shock while she worked but a couple short miles away at our family’s pizza restaurant, TBN broadcast blaring in the background, as one of the co-hosts of the program announced joyfully that “little GG from Villa Park, age six,” had just pledged his life to Jesus, “Praise the Lord!” – I’ll make no mention of the fact that GG wasn’t the name I had given, but rather my actual nickname of J.J. I know I can imagine her surprise, because my older sister was watching the broadcast in the same room I made the call from, and phone usage was forbidden for me at that age. Regardless, I suppose that would be when I accepted Yeshua as my Lord and Savior. In retrospect, I now look back on that boy much in the way critics would look out our hypothetical blues prodigy.
Not long before my now infamous (among my family members, at least) phone call, my father had been diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). As a child, the estimation of his life expectancy was withheld from me, but my father, a practicing physician who had been born again only a couple years before, would cling to his faith in the Lord with a simple statement that he would relay occasionally to my family, “kids, sometime soon, I might appear to be dead, and if that happens, I want you to know that it means I’m alive and happy with Jesus.” Through the years and comings and goings of periods of remission, I heard a variant of this speech more than a few times.
Sometimes, the constant threat of impending crisis dulls you to the reality of the axe that could fall upon you at any moment. I suppose we grow used to the illusion of security when life on the surface appears tranquil and prosperous. For much of my youth, there was no lack of food. We had nice clothes and a comfortable home to live in. Despite being sick, my father even appeared healthy most of the time. Perhaps it is this false sense of security that later, in my pre-teen and teenage years, allowed me the opportunity to reason that God did not need to be such a critical component of my life. I still accepted that He existed, but I lacked any interest in getting to know more about my Creator. I tired of my mother’s daily bible readings and would try to tune out the Word that was meant to be consumed with my mind as I packed my mouth with the breakfast God had granted my father the ability to provide. Rarely did it occur to me of my own volition how much I took God’s work in our lives for granted.
By the time I hit the age of twenty, my father had survived CML well beyond most clinical expectations. Shortly before a weekend party at a friend’s house, I heard that familiar old refrain from my father. He had recently come out of remission, and, it seemed, the interferon treatments that helped keep the leukemia in check in years past seemed to not be doing such a good job this time around. For the first time in my adult life, I came to doubt the lingering childhood fantasy that my father was an unstoppable superman. How many other kids could brag that their father kept beating back leukemia, right? Later that night at the party, I collapsed to the floor in a heap, sobbing and wailing at the realization that for fifteen years, my father could have been taken from me at any moment, and that the moment might be drawing closer than I was prepared to handle. After every other attendee had fled the scene, I was comforted that night by a dear childhood friend, whom I would describe on the best of days as an agnostic, but was probably closer to an atheist. He reminded me to be grateful for having my father around as long as I had and to keep my hope alive.
From that point on, and through a variety of other experiences, I started to form a greater appreciation for the life of my father and for the fact that I still had him around. As I progressed into my twenties it slowly became apparent to me just how much faith in God my father had, and how genuine his expressions of thanks to God were. Less prevalent was the phrase, “kids, if I start to look dead…” In its stead, my Dad would often crack a sly smile, and with a sideward glance and happily raised eyebrows sum it all up in a poorly imitated accent: “Jesus been very, very good to me.” By the time my parents had their 40th wedding anniversary, my father summed it up best to us at a celebration commemorating the occasion. Despite changing tides in the medical field that ultimately forced him to shutter his practice and closer to bankruptcy, my father looked over all his children and grandchildren, broke down in tears, and praised God, “for making him a very rich man.” One year and one month later, a little over two months after my 29th birthday, my father went to dwell with the Lord.
The night my father died, I prayed to God for, up until that point, one of the few times in my adult life. I thanked Him for my father, and I acknowledged God’s role in preserving my father’s life for so many years when He could have called him home when I was but a boy. Finally, I acknowledged what God had done for my father, and the changes I saw in his character throughout his life, and what had resulted from my Dad’s choice to follow Jesus, and that I wanted the same for myself.
I suppose this was the moment where (despite the obviously poor parallel), our blues guitar prodigy got that bit of life experience that allowed him to pour emotions he had never felt into his playing, and started to win over his critics. Nearly every day that has passed since then has been accompanied by a lesson or a reminder of a past lesson. I began attending Bible classes at HaDavar Ministries the following year, and have been gifted with a hunger for Biblical knowledge and truth that for years had not been present since the nights of my childhood, when I would read my Picture Bible with the aid of a flashlight.
James Bianco graduated the University of California, Irvine with a B.S. degree in Information and Computer Science in 1997. Over the past 14 years, he has worked professionally as a software engineer specializing in device driver design, pro-bono PHP developer and webmaster, content author, and as a professional Swing dance instructor and dance venue promoter.