Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Just Four Words

My friend said these words to me in a Twitter direct message today. It was the end of the day. I was tired. Not feeling well. These words lightened my load. After I saw these word I felt different. I sat up straight in my chair. I smiled. I smiled big. My face hurt because I was smiling so much. I was still tired but I felt like I could take on entire army of naysayers. These four words gave me the strength to run up Hamburger Hill with a hollow log. These words filled me with confidence. I went from a 40 pound weakling to someone with the strength of ten men. I suddenly could defeat any foe. These four words changed my attitude. Someone believed in me. Someone cared for me. Someone knew I could do anything. My friend didn't spend money to give me these words. Don't get me wrong, these words were a gift. A beautiful gift. A gift that keeps giving. Some gifts break, fade and become out of date. These words are timeless, classic and are always the right size. These 4 words are so powerful that I felt compelled to share them with others. I drew them on a piece of paper and put it in front of my son while he was doing homework. He just walked in and said, "Dad, I'm almost done. Thanks for putting those words on paper. It meant a lot to me!"

Please give these four words to someone right now, today or tomorrow. Put them in an email. Make a call. Put them on a piece of paper. These four powerful words can change the course of a person's day, evening, week or lifetime.

"I'm Proud Of You!"

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Line Dancing With Lesbians

The world of Twitter and social media has brought so many things into my life including new friends. Today I asked my new friend from social media a question.

"What is the most adventurous, wild, risky thing you have done?", I said.

My friend said, "Friday night lesbians taught me how to line dance. We danced to the songs Highway to Hell, Ice Ice Baby, Love Shack and Mustang Sally."

"Have you line danced with lesbians before?", I asked.

She said, "First time line dancing. I've danced with lesbians before."

What is the most adventurous, wild, risky thing you have done?
For some of you line dancing with lesbians may not be on the top of your list. Let me give you some other suggestions. Helping or encouraging a complete stranger. Forgiving someone who hurt you. Calling someone you haven't heard from in ages. Asking someone to forgive you. Saying you're sorry. Hanging out with people that don't look like you, act like you or believe in the same things that you do. Doing something for someone and not expecting anything in return. Hugging a homeless person. Loving a prostitute. Helping a single mom who is at the end of her rope. Doing more than dreaming by finally putting a dream in motion.

At the end of our day my friend and I were walking towards the parking lot. A young girl about 12 or so asked us if we'd like a sample of popcorn. She told us that her mom and dad just started a popcorn store. "Would you like to come inside?", the little girl said. If that little girl was risky enough to ask, I was going to step inside. My friend and I walked in. We sampled some great tasting flavored popcorn, talked to the owners and bought a bag. As we walked away my friend said, "Isn't that cool that someone has a dream to start a popcorn store and then does it." Yes, mom and dad took a risk and made their dream come true. Think about this though. Our visit to the popcorn store started with a brave 12 year old girl taking a risk by inviting us inside.

What is the most adventurous, wild, risky thing you have done? What are you waiting for?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Message for Misfits and Screwups

"The mess of our lives and our crippledness is what most qualifies us to be chosen by Jesus." -- Mike Yaconelli

I have seen the hand of God through the acts of friends and family several times over the past few weeks. Michael Perkins is a great man I met through the world of Twitter. A few days ago Michael sent me a direct message. It said, "Mike, I'm sending you a book." The book arrived in the mail and the title got my attention immediately: "Messy Spirituality". It was written by Michael Yaconelli. After the book was originally published Yaconelli died in in a car accident. After his death the book was published as a paperback. His wife Karla wrote the forward.

At the end of the foreword Karla knocks it out of the park by setting the stage for the pages and chapters that follow:

"God actually had a fondness - a downright preference, if you will - for misfits and screwups.

I know if my beloved husband could say anything to those of you who are reading these words and who are about to embark on the adventure of reading this book, it would be this:

Take heart, my friends. You are in good company. You, with all of your faults and imperfections; you, with your defects and failures; you, with your hang-ups and emotional scars; you, with your weaknesses and your defeats; you, with all of your blunders, brokenness, and floundering: you are God's beloved, God's favored, the disciple whose name God calls, the one Jesus prefers to hang with, eat with, play with, talk with, cry with, and laugh with. You are the one whom the holy God of heaven and earth longs to spend time with. You are all of this and more. You always have been. Any you always will be.
-- Karla Yaconelli

The words in this book gave great comfort to me. No matter how much I've screwed up and made a mess of my life Jesus is attracted to me. Guess what? Jesus likes your mess too. As a matter of fact, He prefers you to be messy.

"According to the Bible, Jesus is attracted to the unattractive. He prefers the lost ones over the found ones, the losers over the winners, the broken instead of the whole, the messy instead of the unmessy, the crippled instead of the noncrippled."
-- Mike Yaconelli

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My visit with a prostitute

I met Jo Lynn through my friends Ray and Susan Kelley. Ray and Susan are the amazing Christ followers behind The Daytona Outreach Center and the Messy Church. The first time I met Jo Lynn was when she became a part of The Daytona Outreach Center. See the YouTube clip below. At about 3:20 you'll see Jo Lynn tell her story of addiction and prostitution. At about 4:47 you'll see my friend Ray Kelley baptizing Jo Lynn after she accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.

(I invite you to watch the entire clip. It's a great way to see what God is doing through Ray and Susan Kelley.)

Unfortunately Jo Lynn didn't stay with The Daytona Outreach Center. She went back to the streets and her former life of prostitution and addiction. Today I was driving home and I saw Jo Lynn. I drove past her and felt compelled to turn around and find her. I found her sitting on a street corner. The Jo Lynn you see in the video was not the Jo Lynn I saw today. Today she was extremely skinny, she was wearing a bikini, her hair was a mess and her eyes looked horrible. As I walked up to her she looked at me as if I was one of her "dates" and then she realized who I was. "Mike, I hope you're not here to preach to me," she said. I said, "Jo Lynn I'm here to tell you that you are loved and valued." I can't describe the look on her face at that very moment. Her eyes filled with tears and she said, "Mike, you don't want to get high with me and have sex? You don't want anything from me?" I said again, "Jo Lynn I am here today to tell you that you are loved and valued." She said, "Everybody wants something from me and as long as they have money I'll give it to them." Then Jo Lynn and I simply sat and talked. As I was getting ready to leave I asked her if she needed anything. "I could use a cup of ice", she said. I drove Jo Lynn to the nearby convenience store and got her a cup of ice. Before I got in my truck I told her again, "Jo Lynn you are loved and valued." She gave me the biggest hug. It was a hug that nearly split me in two and I thought she was never going to stop. I made a promise to Jo Lynn today. Every time I see her I am going to stop and tell her that she is loved and valued.

"Some, including myself, would call Jo Lynn a prostitute and an addict but I like calling her my friend."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Early Stages of Divorce

I've experienced a variety of things during the early stages of divorce. Here are a few of them:

It’s weird for other people too.
Yes, I am going through the process of divorce but so are others. My wife, son, daughter, our family and friends are dealing with our divorce. It’s interesting to see how family and friends are responding. Some have reached out to me via email. Others have picked up the phone. Some have remained silent. Family and friends subliminally pick sides. Friends that talked to me before aren't talking to me anymore. My wife’s family has not reached out to me since we made our divorce public. I'm not sure if and how my family has reached out to my wife so I can't speak to that. During the divorce process you learn who your real friends are.

(If you're a family member or friend who has not reached out and you are reading this, it's okay. I understand how weird this must be for you.)

Bad Brings Good
Prior to the divorce I had a pretty crappy, non-existent relationship with my daughter. When my daughter found out she called and comforted me. She invited me to my grandson's first birthday party. My daughter and I have been talking several times a week. I've never talked this much to my sister and brother. They've been checking in on me almost daily. My sister is flying me up to North Carolina at the end of October for a visit. I've renewed my friendship with Ray and Susan Kelley. I'm so thankful for that.

Church and Couples

So many people knew my wife and I as a couple. We don't get together with those people anymore. The weekly bible study. Going out to dinner. Being invited over to their homes. My friend Russell still invites me to the weekly bible study at his house. I'm not going. It's nothing personal. Hanging out with other married couples doesn't feel good right now.

So many people knew us as a couple at church too. I'm not going to church on Sunday. I've talked to my pastor about this. Church seems weird right now. When you're in the process of divorce where do you sit? 3 seats away from your wife? In the other section? I've been going to the Messy Church on Saturday nights and have really enjoyed it. My friends Ray and Susan Kelley are the pastors.

Act Like Nothing is Going On
This is the suggestion part of this post. When you know someone that is going through divorce, death or tragedy and you know about it, don't act like nothing is going on. Don't run into them and talk about the weather. Don't see them in church and walk past them. Don't ignore them. Don't be silent. Please reach out to them. Tell them you love them and that you are there for them. Your silence and distance hurts. Earlier this week a friend of mine found out about the divorce by reading this blog. She called me on the phone, said she was sorry and started to cry. I'll always remember that. I'm thankful for my friends Russell, Michael, Richard, Elaine, Jane, Dana, Christie, Christine and Jennifer. They tweet, chat, email or call me almost everyday to ask how I am doing. I've also been blow away by so many of my friends from Twitter. I've lost count of how many of them have reached out to me when I needed it the most. As I was going to bed the other night I checked the email on my phone and found a note from my cousin Tracy:

"Hi there, cousin! I just wanted to let you know tonight, that you've been on my heart the past couple of weeks, and I thought it was important that I share that with you. I don't know any details of your situation, but I somehow stumbled upon your blog and was brought to tears reading about some of your struggles. I know it sounds cliche and you are probably hearing the same thing from a hundred different people...but, for what it's worth, I am praying for you, Mike, and I love you dearly."

With God's help all of us we'll get through this messy thing called divorce.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

...We're still too full of ourselves

I have always admired my friend @KatDish. She like so many others have reached out to me in my darkest hours. She left the comment below in response to one of my recent blog posts.

My friend and pastor wrote a series of posts entitled "Full". In part one, he talked about the "God-shaped hole" concept we often use to describe our tendency to fill ourselves up with everything except for God. I found his research interesting:

"What is it then that this desire and this inability proclaim to us, but that there was once in man a true happiness of which there now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present? But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object,that is to say, only by God Himself."

-Blaise Pascal - The Pensées
#425, Section VII. From "Morality and Doctrine"

Unless I'm mistaken, this is the actual passage that has been reduced to "Everybody has a God-shaped hole in their life." Even if it's not, I'm glad I found it, because this statement more accurately describes the kind of longing that I have known. I know without a doubt that the absence of God in my life would not produce a "God-shaped hole." Instead, it would leave me with a massive, gaping wound from which the entirety of myself as I know it would be drained. Without God I would be empty.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." - John 10:10

So why is it then, that someone can be a Christ-follower and agree that they would be empty without God, but also have to admit that they don't exactly feel full with Him?

Maybe we don't feel "full" of God because we're still too full of ourselves.

You'll find more of the great KatDish at her blog.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Take A Load Off

This morning after coffee at Denny's, a man I respect walked out to the parking lot with me. His name is Richard.

Richard asked me a question. He said, "Mike, I know you are going through a bunch of stuff right now. Are you figuring anything out about yourself?"

I said, "Richard, I have horrible self esteem issues. I feel like I have a hole in the middle of me. For years I have been filling that hole with all of the wrong things. Food, alcohol, legal drugs, work, ministry, people's approval, just about anything I can cram into my hole. It might fill the hole for a moment, a day or a few months but the hole returns." I continued, "Yes, I know what those crazy Christ followers will say. Fill it with Jesus Mike. Fill it with Jesus. That sounds good but I'm not there yet. Richard, I want to sincerely learn that I can fill that hole in the middle of me with Jesus."

Richard looked at me with tears in his eyes. He said, "Mike, first of all you'll never believe how much you and I struggle with the same issues. But most of all I can't believe what you just said. I've known you for awhile and I'm concerned about you. I knew I had to share my heart with you. You said exactly the same stuff I was going to share with you. God had you open up and share it with me instead. I know it sounds weird but you just took a load off my shoulders. You did that by being honest and open with me."

Richard hugged me and wiped his eyes. We both got into our cars and drove away.

Honesty + Transparency = a load off of you and possibly someone else.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Did You Believe That I Loved You?

My friend @katdish sent me the following tweet and the video below:

"Good thing it's not about being good, it's about being loved in our brokenness."

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What if Kimberly came to your church?

I've been digging Netflix. Why? I love documentaries and Netflix is rocking a truckload of of them. Here is one I suggest you watch. It's called "Prodigal Sons". See the movie trailer below.

After the gender switch and several years away from her home town, the movie begins with Kimberly making a decision to go to her class reunion. Her former classmates accept Kimberly, her girlfriend and the decision she has made.

What if Kimberly came to your church? Would you accept, welcome and love her?

I remember a sad story told to me and others during a Christian retreat. A person changed their gender from a man to a woman. Several years after making the gender change this person became a Christian and was led to find a church community. Why was this a sad story? It was extremely difficult for this person to find a church that would accept someone who has changed their gender. The story ended the same way it started. A person without a church community.

What if Kimberly came to your church? Could she play in the worship band? Could she lead a Bible study? Would she come one Sunday and never come back again?

What if Kimberly came to your church?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Don't Hide Your Story

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” -- Nelson Mandela

I've done my share of moping and feeling sorry for myself the past several weeks. I'm pretty sure that I'm officially ready to move forward, dust myself off and stop doing stupid stuff. My friend Fatha Frank posted stories about men who lost everything and didn't give up. The post lead me to do some YouTube video research about the song "It Is Well With My Soul".

At the beginning of the video below you'll see a quote from Helen Keller:

"The world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming it."

Helen Keller was deaf and blind. She didn't give up. The man behind the song "It Is Well With My Soul" didn't give up after losing his fortune and his family. I am going through the process of divorce. It inspires me when I hear about others who have gone through hell and never gave up. One of my co-workers is going through marriage separation after he found out his wife was having an affair. I've been silent about my divorce at work. That changed yesterday when I took my suffering co-worker aside and told him about what I am going through. His mood lifted. His eyes brightened. His burden was lightened. He appreciated knowing that he wasn't the only one going through marriage struggles.

Don't hide your story. Your dirty, messy, ugly story will inspire others. It will also help others to feel like they aren't alone.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Tweets From Max

Max Lucado is on Twitter. These are a few of my favorite tweets from Max.

Since you are God's idea, you are a good idea.

God loves you simply because he has chosen to do so.

It's against God's nature to remember forgiven sins.

God makes healthy what is sick, right what is wrong, straight what is crooked.

Our God is no fair-weather Father. You can count on him to be in your corner no matter how you perform.

God's faithfulness has never depended on the faithfulness of his children. He is faithful even when we are not.

God believes in u enough 2 call u his ambassador, his follower, even his child. Why not take his cue & believe in yourself?

God's grace is older than your sin and greater than your sin.

He could have lived over us or away from us. But he didn't. He lived among us.

For all the things God does, there is one he refuses to do. He refuses to keep a list of my wrongs.

When all of earth turns against you, all of heaven turns toward you.

God takes you however he finds you. No need to clean up or climb up. Just look up.

God hasn't given up on you. He hasn't turned away. He believes in you.

You may go days without thinking of God, but there's never a moment when he's not thinking of you.

If you're looking for a place with no change, try a soda machine. With life comes change.

A little rain can straighten a flower stem. A little love can change a life.

Want to worry less? Then pray more. Rather than look forward in fear, look upward in faith.

God will not let you go. He has handcuffed himself to you in love. And he owns the only key.

I'm Thankful Today

Today I am thankful. I am thankful that Jenn and Lou invited me over to their home. I am thankful that Lou made me eggs and sausage for dinner. I am thankful that I didn't stop at a bar on the way home. I am thankful that my brother and my sister called me. I am thankful that I will be going to my grandson's first birthday party.

My brother said something to me in a text yesterday. He said,"Mike, remember what made each day good." Today I'm going to remember all of the things I am thankful for. There is another thing I am thankful for today. My son is coming home Sunday. I am thankful for this great picture of him.

What are you thankful for? What made yesterday good? What made today good?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless.

Society is afraid of alone.

Lonely is healing if you make it.

I've been feeling alone and lonely lately. It just got worse. I just found out where Becky and my son will be living after they leave Florida and move to Washington state in a few months. It hurts a little bit more when I found out that she'll be living with the couple that introduced us to each other almost 14 years ago. I'm going to need to get use to being alone. I know what you Christ followers are saying, "Mike, you're never alone. God is always with you!" I know. I know. But tonight I feel alone. This is one of those moments where I can easily do something stupid because it hurts too much to deal with reality. Please God help me deal with being alone and heal my heart. Don't worry. I won't do anything stupid tonight.

Funny how God works. Just moments ago he led me to a video at the Flower Dust blog. It's another way that God reaches out to me and tells me it's going to be okay. See the video below from a really cool chick named Jamie. The video below is about learning to be alone.

Alone is okay.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hopeless Causes

Look closely at the photo below. It's a photo of me and three of my friends. It's a picture of what some would say are "hopeless causes".

Let me introduce you to a whole row of "hopeless causes". On the left is Sasha. I don't know all of Sasha's story but I knew her when she lived on the streets. I remember seeing her struggle and fight to survive. I'm the other "hopeless cause" in black standing next to Sasha. More about me later. Standing next to me in the sunglasses is my friend Jewels. I met Jewels for the very first time at a cold weather shelter at my church. He was homeless, hungry and he looked pretty hopeless. Freddy is in the white t-shirt. I met Freddy on the same night and the same place I met Jewels. Both homeless, hungry and some would say "hopeless causes". I guess I'd better share something about the other "hopeless cause" in the photo. That's me. The tall dude in black. I just found out a couple of weeks ago that my wife wants a divorce. There have been many times over the past couple of weeks where I have felt like a "hopeless cause". But I've have had many people tell me that my situation is not hopeless. Two of the people that have loved and encouraged me are Ray and Susan Kelley. I am sure that more than once Ray and Susan we're called "hopeless causes". They were hard core addicts. But God didn't give up on them. God used others to reach out to Ray and Susan and gave them hope. Ray and Susan share that hope with others everyday at the Daytona Outreach Center in downtown Daytona Beach, Florida. The Kelley's shared that hope with Sasha, Jewels and Freddy. Ray and Susan welcomed my homeless friends to be a part of their ministry.

Tonight after work I drove down to the Daytona Outreach Center. I saw my friends Sasha, Freddy and Jewels. Sasha and Jewels were greeting homeless men and women and inviting them to sit down for dinner. Freddy was standing behind the table serving dinner. 3 former "hopeless causes" serving others hope. Then Sasha, Freddy and Jewels served me hope and it didn't come on a plate. It came as a smile, a huge hug and a kiss. Tonight God used Sasha, Jewels and Freddy to give me hope. Hope comes from the strangest situations and from the most unlikely people.

Thank you Ray, Susan, Sasha, Freddy and Jewels for reminding of the hope we all have in Jesus Christ. Thank you God for using your people to help me feel like I'm not a "hopeless cause" and that there truly is hope.

"God will not let you go. He has handcuffed himself to you in love. And he owns the only key." -Max Lucado (Thank you Sarah)

You can find out more about the Daytona Outreach Center and the Messy Church by clicking here. The YouTube clips below will tell you Ray and Susan's story along with the hope they are sharing with others through the Daytona Outreach Center.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Counting My Blessings

"Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble." -- Proverbs 17: 17

I just got back from my "talking doctor". Jessica is one of the great counselors at Port Orange Counseling Center. I spent most of the session crying my eyes out while discussing my depression, battles with food, alcohol and the end of my second marriage. At the end of the session Jessica said something brilliant. She said, "Mike, you tend to stay stuck in the negative. What if you spent some time tonight thinking about the blessings in your life?" Leave it to my "talking doctor" to put a positive spin on things. It wasn't a bad idea. I've spent nearly 3 weeks moping, pouting, eating and drinking myself into oblivion and it hasn't seemed to be work. As Monty Python said, "And now it's time for something completely different." I don't have to go far to find the blessings in my life. The blessings are my friends. I have lost count of how many times they have reached out to me during my darkest hours. I thank God for each one of them.

Thank you Ray, Susan, Peter, Russell, Richard, Lou, Jenn, Frank, Tom, Doug, Christine, Dana, Christie, Jane, Elaine, Michael, Sarah, Jonathan, Candy, Herb, Ky, Anne, Annie, Ginny, Dusty, Kevin, John, Ryan, Shawn, Learell, SisterSadist, GayGirls, Bitchmobile, JackalopeKid, KrissyKat510 and Lauren Mack. I apologize if I left you out of this list. Tonight as I go to sleep I'll count each of you as one of my many blessings. I told my "talking doctor" that you made me think of of the song below. Thank you for being my friend.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It Wasn't A Complete Surprise

My marriage has ended. A couple of weeks ago my wife said, "I'd like to move forward with divorce." It wasn't a complete surprise to me. We've been struggling for a long time. I understand that is was a challenge for her to be married to me. My wife would say that it wasn't just one thing that brought her to this decision. It was a myriad of issues over the course of our nearly 14 years together. Being married to a man who battles with depression, food and alcohol is not a walk in the park.

Since she delivered this news to me I've reverted back to my destructive habits. I've lost track of how many times I've blown my sobriety. I haven't been exercising and I'm eating everything and anything that's not nailed down. Today, after eating an entire Chinese buffet, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I will post thoughts on this blog at the end of each day. I know that God's strength is the only thing that will get me through the process of divorce.

"If your heart is broken, you'll find God right there; if you're kicked in the gut, he'll help you catch your breath."

-- Psalm 34:18 (The Message)