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Image of Dr. Trace Pirtle sitting on a park bench that is identified as "Jesus."

Dr. Trace Pirtle

Hi! I'm Trace. I've been reluctant to write my testimony because I wanted this blog to be about the Off The Bench Ministry. However, my brothers and sisters in Christ clarified that my testimony is essential. That, including my background, may help answer the question, "Why are you doing this ministry, and who are you anyway!?" :-) 

So, here goes with the extended version... 

My Testimony

The Early Years

Many believers who started a Christian ministry grew up in the church. But, unfortunately, I'm NOT one of them. In fact, the only thing I remember about "church" was being sent home from a Sunday School class when I was about six years old. No doubt I did something wrong, but I can't remember what it was for the life of me. 

I was raised by two loving parents who instilled "old school" values, ethics, and, most importantly, the "Golden Rule." Although Jesus wasn't mentioned by name, it was clear that God was present in my home and my life. I was taught that patriotism was good and that education and hard work would pay off. My dad and uncles served in World War II and Korea. Serving our country was the right thing to do, so I followed in their footsteps. I ate apple pie, waved the American flag, and wore the uniform. 


The Cold War and the Nuclear Profession

After two years of enlisted service, I was given a partial scholarship to complete my bachelor's degree and earn my commission in the United States Air Force. In 1980, I completed initial combat crew training at Vandenberg AFB and, shortly after that, found myself 50 feet under the prairies of South Dakota. I was a Deputy Missile Combat Crew Commander with Minuteman II Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) in the 66 Strategic Missile Squadron, 44 Strategic Missile Wing, Ellsworth AFB. 

Like an on-fire evangelist, I was an all-in believer. I believed in our strategic deterrence mission. I believed in defending our homeland against--the "Evil Empire,"--the old Soviet Union (and others). I was good at my job and was promoted rapidly. Given proper execution launch orders, my crew partner and I would have unleashed up to 150 nuclear missiles and, within minutes, incinerated countless millions of people.   

How could I have done such a job? Revenge. Yes, I believed that if I ever "turned keys," it would be in response to a first strike attack against the United States. We were "The Peace Keepers," but if deterrence failed, I fully endorsed "Kill them all...let God sort them out." 

Conscience and God's New Plan

In 1983 I was selected for the Ground Launched Crusie Missile (GLCM) program. I quickly discovered that Tactical Nuclear Missile duty in the United Kingdom differed from ICBM duty in South Dakota. I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." 

Gone was the crazy comfort of our familiar doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). The "You nuke us, we nuke you--harder) was quickly replaced with Limited Nuclear Options (LNOs), in which we unleashed the whirlwind FIRST. FIRST STRIKE!? Wait a minute, I did NOT sign up for this!  


My belief in our country and our government was fading fast. Along with it was my conscience about my involvement with tactical nuclear weapons. So one morning, I asked my squadron commander the unthinkable, "Is what we are doing MORALLY right?" His response was as Pavlovian as every act I had been trained to perform; he said, "we pay you to think from the neck down, don't ever forget that!"  To say there was HELL TO PAY when one of their own says "no" to the mission is a gross understatement. 

It was as if, at that very moment, God Himself was telling me, "Son, your mission here is done. See ya when you get back to America." Good talk, God. Thanks a lot for the encouragement. I was pissed off at God, my country, and everyone. 

From the Hurting Profession to the Helping Profession

As I left the Air Force, I felt a deep sense of meaninglessness, shame, and guilt on many levels. God was awakening me to my sin, but I didn't know it then. All I knew was that I needed to leave behind the "hurting profession" and enter the "helping profession." Yes, I would train to become a counselor rather than seek help from the Veterans Administration (VA). A cheap form of personal therapy. 


From 1985 - 2019 I helped others in various counseling and psychology positions. From community mental health to school counseling, to school psychology, to private practice, to university teaching, I was atoning for my nuclear sins against humanity. 


As a university counselor education professor, I invite God into every class session. I would pray a simple prayer before I went into class..."God, help me share with my students some things that I know they need to know, but more importantly, help me communicate with them only things that only You know they need to know." 

Incredibly, I was sure to invite God, but it never occurred to me to include Jesus! I was unconscious and unaware of the One responsible for my salvation. But that was about to change...eventually. 


 Awakening to Jesus


Did I mention that as of 2006, I still wasn't attending church? Nope. If it hadn't been for my wife "strongly suggesting" that I attend with her, I would have never gone through the door. But I did, albeit kicking and grumbling like a fifth grader. I even completed the "Walk to Emmaus," which, I thought, sounded a lot like a cult! But to my surprise, I was introduced to the love of Jesus and other believers. So I was partially hooked, but the fishers of men still had work to do with me. 

I was baptized in an Assembly of God church. Still, I had one foot in my secular university and the other foot in Christianity. As hard as my brothers and sisters tried, I never received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit... As a result, I never spoke in tongues. I felt like a failure in church but success in the academy. I was now a university professor with tenure. What was the solution to my problem at church? Quit and find a new church! 

I began hopping from one church to the next like a frog, searching for the correct lily pad. I always found something that wasn't right and inconsistent with MY beliefs about the Almighty. The fact that I had yet to read the entire Bible was beside the point. 

You might think I am a S L O W learner in Christianity. You would be right. Fortunately, God is patient with those who seek Him earnestly. I was seeking God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Although I wasn't finding "THE TRIO" within the church building, I opened up to the Holy Spirit teaching me directly. 

But like my awakening in the military, I was awakening to my incompatibility with teaching in a secular university. God was becoming less and less welcome in my classroom. If God was no longer welcome, then neither was I. So I took my early retirement from the university to work directly for God.   


Money, Money, Money, Money...MONEY! 

At last, I was free of my professional responsibilities in the "helping profession." I could now work directly for God. As an entrepreneur, I could finally make that million dollars a year that I could only dream of before my "retirement." I can hear you now, "DON'T DO IT! YOU WILL MAKE MONEY, YOUR IDOL, AND YOU KNOW WHAT GOD SAYS ABOUT THAT!" 

Too late...I was already deceived by the enemy who cleverly said, "Did God really say you couldn't make a lot of money?" Slick. If only I had spent as much time reading the scriptures as I did textbooks and money-making books, I might not have fallen for that lie. But Fall, I did! 

The Great Fall


Meanwhile, back at the Hill Country ranch and the "good life,"...At 59 years of age, I decided to take up high-speed longboarding. If you aren't familiar with a longboard, it is a long skateboard that reaches the speed of light in about three seconds. Very fast. 


Anyway, in April 2016, I decided to take a quick ride on the longboard from hell. I imagine Jesus whispering to the Holy Spirit, "This is going to hurt a bit, but we won't kill him." I can chuckle about it with them now, but not then. 

At about 30 miles per hour, I fly off the board straight to the ground (not a safety pad on my body) and land on my left elbow. Somehow I was knocked unconscious, but when I woke up, it felt like my left arm was a box with countless puzzle pieces inside. Yep...I had disintegrated my left elbow. 


The pain of reconstructive surgery was about to begin. Physical therapy three days after having two plates and 14 screws installed was a real adventure. When God wants to teach a lesson in THE FALL, I can assure you He will do it just short of killing you. Fortunately, He has a plan that will change your life forever. 

Lifting Hands, Heavenly Rise, Seeing Jesus


I was developing a reputation with my orthopedic surgeon and physical therapists as someone who could "take the pain." I could take to pain. In fact, they asked me to do a presentation on the topic to a group of medical doctors. My presentation was titled, "It's Not Pain, It's Progress!"  

Outside my scheduled PT sessions, I was "training" at home for three to four hours daily. For example, one afternoon, I was doing something called "lifting hands, heavenly rise. " It's a movement from Tai Chi that helps increase the range of motion in my left arm. 


As I strained to lift my hands, there was nothing heavenly about the experience. The pain was nearly unbearable. My eyes were watering (from sunscreen, no doubt), and I thought I would pass out. I stood looking out my patio door, hands barely above stomach level, and an image began to form. I could clearly see a figure sitting under a tree. It was Jesus! He stood in front of me and raised His arms up and above His head. He just stood there waiting for me to do the same.

My arms felt lifted to the exact position above my head. There was no pain. Only a sense of love and peace. A genuine Heavenly Rise! I am unsure how long this lasted, but the vision of Jesus disappeared, and the excruciating pain immediately returned. 


My rational mind says this was simply a pain-induced hallucination; however, I know the difference between a hallucination and a vision gifted by God. For believers, you understand what I am saying. For the unbeliever, it will remain a natural sensation to an unnatural physical condition.  


The "Jolt" at The Cross, Kerrville, Texas


My physical rehabilitation was coming along well. I still had my left arm in a sling. The pain was still there, but hey, you get used to it. 


One afternoon I went up to The Cross to have a visit with Jesus. Jesus decided to show up in the form of two prayer chaplains. One of the prayer warriors noticed my obviously injured left arm. He asked if he could pray for my healing. Naturally, I welcomed any Divine Intervention I could get. The second man joined us when he finished praying and said, "The Lord told me to bring you into the Cross and that you would experience a jolt." He admitted that he didn't know what that meant and was simply sharing the message. 


The three of us went together to the base of the Empty Cross. The One who shared the message said, "you are to place both hands here on the Cross. The place he indicated was shoulder height. After that, the two prayer chaplains left me alone with God. 


As I raised my arms to place my hands on the Cross, the familiar excruciating pain awakened every sense in my body. I managed to put both hands on the Cross and waited...Nothing. I can deal with pain, but I am NOT a masochist. 


Just as I was about to take my hands off the Cross, the most beautiful sensation came over me. It was like standing under a waterfall shower...the water flowing gently...bubbly...from the top of my head and down my back. It was INCREDIBLE. I thought, "This doesn't feel like a jolt, but maybe that's what it is." 


The water flow was down to a trickle, and I felt ready to leave. However, when my hands lost contact with the Cross, I felt a powerful "punch" to the front of my body. It was like someone had struck me in the chest area as I stumbled back a few steps. WOW! My first thought was that the Cross had been struck by lightning! 


Looking up, I expected to see an ominous storm cloud responsible for a lightning bolt. But no...not a cloud in the sky. It was one of the most inexplicable experiences of my life. Trust me, if God says He will give you a "JOLT," you won't be left wondering if He has or not. God's Jolt is unmistakable.


Boomers Mulligans


Since the Fall, seeing Jesus and the Jolt at the Cross, I have been in the "Boomers Mulligans" phase of my walk with Jesus. I am of the Baby Boomer generation (a Boomer) and have been given a "Mulligan"...a "do-over" opportunity. Like a casual golfer who slices the ball off the tee, sending it far off course, he asks for a Mulligan a gets a new chance to hit the ball again. 


Thankfully, God Grants Mulligans! I have been taking my do-over opportunity and using it in the following ways:


1. Beginning January 16, 2022, I started reading the Bible from the first page of Genesis to the last page of Revelation. It took me over six months of daily reading, but the effort paid off. Distinguishing between light and dark, truth and error, is much easier. I'm now studying each Book in depth. 


2. I became more open to and aware of the Divine Appointments (DI) that God had arranged for me. Each new DI has added new insights and understanding to my Christian walk. 


3. I am writing for (and about) God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. This blog is an example. 


4. I am no longer a "lukewarm" Christian. I'm an all-in Believer, ready to pick up my Cross daily. 


5. Finally, Off The Bench Ministries is my beginning attempt to put faith into action. After all, "Faith without works is dead." James 2:14


6. The adventure continues...see what's happening with the Off The Bench Water Ministry.

The Early Years
The Cold War and the Nuclear Profession
Conscience and God's New Plan
From the Hurting Profession to the Helping Profession
Awakening to Jesus
Money, Money, Money
The Great Fall
Lifting Hands, Heavenly Rise, Seeing Jesus
The "Jolt" at The Cross Kerrville TX
Boomers Mulligans
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