What do the following things have in common: stuttering, poetry, Scripture-reading, and a Hollywood game show? Answer: they were each instrumental in shaping John Maxwell’s life trajectory.
Poetry has been an important part of John’s life since childhood. While in 3rd grade, John used poetry to express himself, since he was a shy boy who struggled with stuttering. Poetry became an emotional and expressive outlet. John’s interest in poetry temporarily lessened, but something even more meaningful was soon to have an impact. The principal of his Christian school asked John to read a Scripture passage one day in class. The verses held no special meaning for John at that time but planted a seed that would bear fruit years later.
After high school, John joined the Marine Corps. While at Camp Pendleton, he “stole” a Bible from the hospital chapel and began reading it. (John later found out that it was a Gideon Bible and that it was meant to be taken.) Later, while serving on guard duty in Vietnam, he was away from ranks during roll call one day. A fellow Marine standing in John’s intended spot was shot and killed by a third Marine, high on drugs. Realizing that he could have been the one who died, John reached out to God and prayed to receive Christ. There were no atheists in John’s “foxhole” that day—amen!
Upon returning home after his military service, John married, graduated from Cal State San Bernardino with a degree in Criminal Justice, and was blessed with two daughters. His professional life and personal life were at odds. Professionally, he worked as a counselor at Juvenile Hall and then 20+ years as a Deputy Marshal, serving arrest warrants for Municipal Court. Personally, John’s life was in turmoil. He was chosen to be a contestant on the Hollywood Squares game show. His smile was instrumental in getting him on the show, but his days of reading almanacs gave him the trivia knowledge to become the second highest monetary and prize winner in the show’s history to-date. But, all was not well with John.
Greed, mixed with pride, engulfed him as he went through his winnings. He was spending, but he had stopped enjoying. He was left with an unsatisfied and empty heart. Having “stuff” and traveling to exotic places could not fill the void. Attending church became routine. He had to reconcile his desire to deepen his faith with the emptiness left by pride. God helped him re-direct his attention away from himself and toward praying for and caring about others.
That painful, rock-bottom experience turned John’s life around and re-ignited his desire to share his faith, through his poetry and through evangelical tools. One of John’s favorite tools is a coin that has Scripture on it. One woman saw his coin and screamed in delight at seeing a tool she thought would be effective for her. She ordered thousands of the coins to use in her Haitian ministry. Other people have ordered coins for other countries such as Albania and Mexico (each in the particular country’s language). The coins have also been part of “care packages” sent to American soldiers deployed overseas.
John’s poetry has pointed people to Jesus and has deepened believers’ walks with the Lord. A co-worker saw his poem about abortion and asked to give a copy to her pregnant daughter. As a result of reading the poem, the daughter decided against the abortion she had planned. Praise God!
Who could have foreseen that stuttering would lead to writing poetry, Scripture-reading would lead to his having a yearning to seek Christ, or that a game show would lead him back to a closer relationship with God, along with a renewed zeal for sharing his faith?
John 4:35 says to “open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” Just as John’s grade school principal planted a seed in John years ago, John continues sowing seeds today, trusting God for the harvest. “Be seeding, not sitting,” is his philosophy.
By Donna Walker