Sunday, August 7, 2011


Today I visited a new church. At one point during the sermon a woman fell asleep and began snoring. It wasn't delicate, feminine snoring. It was full force lumber yard snoring. As the snoring became obvious to others I could feel tension mounting from those sitting near the slumbering sweetie. Some shook their heads. I watched people fidget and shift in their seats. Some laughed and snickered. Some intentionally ignored the snoring. One man looked like he was considering tapping the snoring woman on the shoulder to wake her up. Many were disturbed by this woman snoring in church. Then she woke up and the snoring stopped. Amen. The sermon could continue without any distractions.

The snoring situation I experienced in church today got my brain burning. Why doesn't injustice, poverty, homelessness and hunger disturb the church as much as a snoring woman sitting in the pews? If injustice, hunger, homelessness and poverty sat in the pews and started snoring during church would it disturb us? Would we be so annoyed that we would try to stop it? Would we laugh it away or intentionally ignore it? Would we pray that it would stop so that we could listen to the sermon without being distracted?

I pray that you and I will always be disturbed by injustice, poverty, homelessness and hunger.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Washed Away

My son lives in state of Washington full time with his mom. I live in Daytona Beach, FL. I admit that I struggle with guilt about my marriage that resulted in divorce and how it has impacted my son. It's not easy being a father to a boy that lives 3,000 miles away. I know that he struggles with our relationship too.

Over the past couple of weeks, my son has been visiting me in Florida. Today I took him to Universal theme park in Orlando. It was an expensive trip. $20 for parking, $319 for admission and $55 for souvenirs. I have no idea how much I spent on food and drinks.

At the end of the day, we were walking out of the park. My son reached out for my hand, held it and said, "Thank you Dad. I had a great time with you today." At that moment the money spent, the distance between us and the guilt were washed away when my son held my hand.

Friday, July 8, 2011

What Norm Said

Norm usually does his laundry at my apartment once a week. Why? Because Norm lives in the woods.

Because my son Devon was in town, it wasn't going to work for Norm to do his laundry at my place. I called Norm and asked if we could meet at the laundromat instead. He said yes.

Norm was waiting for us when we pulled into the parking lot. We all walked in together. I gave Norm a couple of bucks to do his laundry, buy a cheeseburger and some smokes.

As we were getting ready to leave Norm said, "Hey Devon, I want to tell you something." Norm looked my son in the eyes and said, "Your Dad loves you. He is so proud of you. He cares about you. He really misses you. He really does. He tells me this all the time. Remember that, okay?"

I hope my son will always remember what Norm said.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Suddenly it was yesterday

We met each other at the airport. He ran into my arms. He nearly knocked me over. I lost him on the shuttle. He laughed when we found each other. We had a smoothie and coffee. We couldn't find my truck in the parking garage. He fell asleep on the way home. We went shopping together and I bought him whatever he wanted including Trix cereal. He rode on the front of the cart. He looked back at me when he was riding on the front of the cart. He remembered and so did I. It was one of those things we always did together. Grocery shopping. Suddenly it was like he never left. Suddenly it was yesterday.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Without Them on Father's Day

My father died when I was 19. My son moved to WA state last November. My daughter just moved to Mississippi. I will be spending Father's Day weekend without them.

I miss my Dad this weekend. For many years after his death I was angry with my Father. My anger has turned into love. Love for a man who did his best even though he was far from perfect.

I miss my daughter Kiersten this weekend. I'm so proud of the woman she has become. She is a beautiful woman and a fantastic mom. For too long, I disconnected myself from her life. I'm thankful for the second chance I have been given to have a relationship with her.

I miss my son Devon this weekend. I didn't want to get involved in Devon's life before we adopted him. I fought it like the plague. Today I realize that bringing Devon into my life, adopting him and being his father is something I will never regret.

It's Father's Day Weekend. Do you know someone who is separated from their father by miles, circumstances, tragedy, divorce or death? Do you know a father who will be spending this weekend without their children? Please reach out to them. Show them that you care. Let them know that they are loved. Spend time with them. Invite them to your Father's Day celebration. Please don't ignore them. They need you this weekend.

Dad will you be with your kids this weekend? Kids will you be with your dad? Treasure those moments. Those moments will become treasures forever stored away in your mind and your heart.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Halfway To A Hamburger

I went to Wendy's with the idea that I was going to fill my belly with food. I ordered at the drive through, picked up my food and pulled into a parking spot to eat my lunch. I hadn't taken my first bite when I saw a man with a sign that said "homeless" on it. He was standing in front of Wendy's hoping that someone would give him money. I sat and watched for about 20 minutes. About 3 cars stopped and gave him money. He folded up his sign, packed up his stuff and shoved the cash in his pocket. This is when I slipped into my judgement mode and began saying to myself, "He's going to take that cash given to him by these kind folks and buy beer at the liquor store across the parking lot." He didn't. He walked into Wendy's. I decided to follow him inside.

He walked in, stood in line and began counting the few dollars he had been given. He was going to buy himself something to eat. I stepped up to him and said, "Sir, I saw you outside. What is your name?" He told me his name was William. It didn't take me long to see that he was mentally challenged and extremely hungry. I told him that I would buy his lunch. He put the money back in his pocket. I bought William two cheeseburgers. He thanked me and quickly started eating his meal.

As I was leaving the parking lot I literally walked into another man who said, "I'm halfway to a hamburger. Can you help me?" I said, "Yes, walk with me and I'll buy you lunch." We walked inside, I bought him some food and put it down at the table. He was shaking as he looked at me and said with tears in his eyes,"Thank you. My name is Steve. I can't tell you how hungry I was. I saw you buying that other guy some food. That's why I asked if you could help me. I'm sure glad that I did. God bless you today. God bless you."

The two meals cost me less than five dollars. These two hungry, broken and homeless men gave me so much more.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Plan Wasn't His Plan

MY plan was to clean MY apartment, make some dinner, watch a movie and go to bed early. That was MY plan. God had something else in mind.

I knew MY plan wasn't playing out the way I planned when my homeless friend Norm rode up to my window on his bike. God's plan was about Norm and not about me focusing on MY plan.

Norm was hungry. I fed him pizza. Norm was sad and upset about the loss of a friend. I listened to him. Norm was excited about the playoff game. I let him watch TV.

During a break in the game, Norm told me about a conversation he had with his sister who lives in Delaware. She asked Norm to move to Delaware. Norm told me that he didn't want to go and then he said, "I like Florida plus I would miss you Mike. You're my friend." A few minutes later my homeless friend Norm fell asleep in the recliner.

When MY plan was changed by God's plan I grumbled and complained. But after a homeless man shared his heart, I realized that God's plan was the best plan.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -- Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Smiling Steve Got a Job

When I first began visiting Taco Bell for lunch I thought it was all about putting beefy five layer burritos in my belly. Quickly I found out it wasn't about me or my belly. It was all about the homeless men and women I would meet when I pulled into the parking lot. Call me crazy but it's hard for me to ignore a human who is having a hard time. I don't give them money but I'm always willing to ask if I can buy them a taco or two.

Today as I was pulling into the parking lot I saw Steve. I got out of my truck and asked him if he was hungry. Enthusiastically and with the biggest smile you could imagine he said, "Mike, I'm not hungry. I've got a job. I've been working for almost two weeks. I'm so excited." I was so excited for Steve that I'm pretty sure I nearly pulled his arm off while I was shaking his hand.

The smile fell off Steve's face when he looked me in the eye and said, "Mike, I'm covered. You don't need to buy me a taco today but you see my friend Scott under that tree taking a nap? He hasn't eaten since last night. Would you get him something to eat?"

Steve smiled and thanked me after I said, "yes". I walked into Taco Bell and bought his friend a taco or two.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Focus On Who You Are

Owly Images

I started a food fast on Monday. Liquids only. I finished my food fast at 530 tonight. I felt like I actually learned something of value. This morning I received the text below from a friend:

"Focus on who you are Mike, a child of God, a child of the Living God. No person, no woman, no man, has the power to heal you. Jesus loves you Mike. You must open yourself up to Him in a way you never have before. You must let go of false and empty promises and take hold of true Life."

For as long as I can remember, I've determined my value based solely on what my friends, enemies and family thought of me. If they loved me, liked me or were happy with me, my life was good. My life was crap if they didn't approve of me or what I was doing.

Here is what I learned during my fast. I'm not what people think of me. Everyday I need to hang my hat on the text message my friend sent to me:

"Focus on who you are Mike, a child of God, a child of the Living God."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tell Me When

I've written many times about my homeless friend Norm on this blog and through other forms of social media. Norm is more than just one homeless man who lives in the woods. To me he represents all of the poor, the lonely and those that we have kicked to the curb. The men and women that God has asked me not to forget. Do me a favor. Tell me when I forget about Norm. When will you know that I've forgotten about Norm?

When my heart stops breaking whenever I see a homeless person.

When I don't cry while I'm listening to a song about the hungry.

When I don't stop to see if a woman in a wheelchair needs a ride during a rain storm.

When I don't ask someone on a park bench if they need something to eat.

When I hold on tight to my stuff and forget that it's not mine anyway.

When I spend more time sharing pictures of my pool instead of standing up for the poor.

When I brag about my new SUV instead of hurting for those with HIV.

When I spend more time looking at photos of stars at Cannes instead feeding men who dig out of garbage cans.

When I've decided that there is something more acute than visiting with a prostitute.

When I ignore Norm while he is knocking on my door.

When what Jesus has asked me to do becomes hazy and I become lazy, do me a favor. Tell me when I forget about Norm.

"When a needy person stands at your door, God himself stands at his side." ~Hebrew Proverb

Thank you Ronne Rock. The proverb you tweeted above was part of the inspiration behind this blog post.

The photos in this blog post were introduced to me by one of my heroes, Trey Morgan. Trey, Byron Sommardahl, Marc Tindall and others love people who live at the dump.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Small Things

One small scarf, created by the hands of people with huge hearts, can make a difference.

"It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important." - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

To make a difference some of us believe that we must do bigger than life, extremely complicated, gigantic, Steven Spielberg like productions. Once upon a time, I believed that it was my job to help and fix everyone. It didn't work and it wasn't necessary to make a difference.

"We can not do great things. We can only do little things with great love." - Mother Teresa

Traveling to another country for a mission trip is not necessary to make a difference.

Feeding hundreds is not necessary to make a difference.

Putting on a major festival or event is not necessary to make a difference.

In my opinion, keeping our brains stuck on big things may keep us from doing anything at all.

"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble."
- Helen Keller

A simple, hand written note or card from a friend can move a mountain of discouragement. This hand written card from John Dobbs came at just the right time in my life.

My friend Jenn Cates takes the time to check in with me via email almost everyday. Simple, short and to the point but with each email she sends I realize I have a friend that cares about me.

Two cheeseburgers in a sack don't seem like much but they make a huge difference to hungry, homeless men battling another day of of living on the street.

My daughter just moved to another state. Kiersten does a great job of sending photos of my grandson Troy.

You may take a photo today and not understand that it will make a difference in the life of someone many months or years down the road. This photo was taken by my friend Sarah. It's a photo of my son Devon. I like to look at this photo when I miss my son. Each time I see this photo it reminds me of the beautiful heart my son has for serving the less fortunate.

Do you have two arms? Hug someone. The photo below is from one of the most popular posts on this blog.

Do you have a mouth? Encourage someone. Last night I whispered, "I love you and I believe in you" in the ear of two friends who are going through a rough time.

You don't need to "go fishing" to make a difference in the life of someone you care about. My girlfriend Kristina knows that I like Swedish fish. Yesterday she bought me a bag of my favorite candy.

At the top of this post you'll see a photo of a homeless man with a scarf. My friend Elaine and her husband Jim create these scarves by hand for homeless men and women.

"I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all." - Laura Ingalls Wilder

You don't need much to make a difference. In this age of fast and furious, it's still the simple, small things that mean so much.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Mother's Day That Doesn't Fit

I know several people that experience various emotions on Mother's Day. On Mother's Day and every day, they face challenges and emotions that don't fit into a neat, tidy Mother's Day box. Mother's Day greeting cards are full of smiles, warmth and love. You won't find Hallmark cards that showcase these "less than perfect" situations.

After leaving an abusive situation, young mothers and children that live on the street.

Today, children are mourning the death of their mother. A little girl who will go to bed crying, "Where is my mommy?"

Some men play the starring role of "single dad" and "single mom".

Mothers that struggle to feed their children.

Moms who mourn the choices they made days, months and years ago.

Her children have died. She lives today and everyday grieving their loss.

The mom who has made so many mistakes that her children have walked away from her destructive life.

Single moms that give everything they have for their children.

What did I miss? What doesn't fit into the neat, tidy Mother's Day box?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Always Something

I woke up today and had the ability to get out of bed, put on my shoes, shirt and shorts. I was able to walk 4 miles.

I spent several hours with my new friends Jim and Jeff. They shared their house, laughter, lunch and love with me.

I was given the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time to help a man with his computer.

My friends Lou and Jenn have stood by me through thick and thin. They invited me to their home tonight for dinner and a movie.

My daughter Kiersten and her family made it safe to their new home in Mississippi. She sent me photos of their new home.

I spent the entire day with my dear girlfriend Kristina. She made me laugh and encouraged me. She does that everyday.

I have an apartment to live in, a truck that gives me the ability to drive where I need to go and I have food in the kitchen.

I have friends and family that truly love me even though they know most of my faults. Heck, I even have friends and family that love me even though they know all of my faults.

It's so easy for me to complain, be negative and pessimistic. The negativity, complaints and pessimism melt away when I make a list of the things I should be thankful for.

There is always, always, always something to be thankful for. What is on your list?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grandpa Ray, Norm and Hugs

At the age of 19 my father died. After that I decided I was going to hug the men in my life. The first time I hugged my Grandpa Ray he didn't really know what to think. He felt a bit stiff. He kind of hugged me back. Several hugs down the road Grandpa eventually began truly hugging me back too. I remember hugging my grandfather for the last time while he was in his hospital bed. We hugged and we cried together. He died a day or so later.

Norm is my homeless friend. Once a week Norm comes to my apartment to do his laundry. I remember the first time I hugged Norm. It reminded of the first time I hugged my Grandpa Ray. Norm didn't know what to think of a very large man hugging the heck out of him. Each time Norm leaves my apartment I say, "Norm, give me a hug." He always hugs me back.

Tonight when Norm was ready to leave he stopped in the middle of the living room and said, "Mike, give me a hug." I hugged him back. I hugged him back real hard and said, "Norm, I love you and I'm glad you're my friend." We said goodbye, Norm said,"I love you too" and rode away on his bike.

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Grandson Only Wanted One

More, more, more
How do you like it, how do you like it
More, more, more
How do you like it, how do you like it
More, more, more
-- Andrea True Connection, 1976

In the midnight hour she cried- "more, more, more"
With a rebel yell she cried- "more, more, more"
In the midnight hour babe- "more, more, more"
With a rebel yell- "more, more, more"
More, more, more.
-- Billy Idol, 1983

Gimme more gimme more
Gimme more gimme more babe
I just want more
-- Britney Spears, 2007

On Saturday I took my grandson to the Easter Egg Hunt in Flagler Beach, FL. Children and their parents circled the grassy area waiting for the Easter Egg Hunt to begin. The signal was given and the rush was on to see who could get the most eggs. I could hear the children being egged on by their parents:

"Look, there's one!"
"There's another one!"
"Don't miss those!"
"Hurry, grab the eggs!"
-- Flagler Beach Easter Egg Hunt, 2011

It was great to see my grandson unfazed by the mob of hunters as he walked to the closest egg. He picked it up, put it in his basket and sat down in the moist grass. I got caught up in the mob madness by grabbing my grandson and dragging him towards the waiting eggs. "Hurry, get up. There are more eggs to grab," I said. Reluctantly, he got up and walked to the next egg. Once again he picked up the egg, put it in his basket and sat down. At that moment I realized that my grandson was teaching me a lesson. He only wanted one and really didn't need another. The lesson continued when my grandson gave one of his two eggs to another child.

After the hunt was over, my grandson and I were walking away when one of the organizers looked at his basket, saw the lonely egg and poured a few more in. My grandson looked confused. Before the extra eggs were dumped into his basket, he actually seemed to be happy with just one.

The hunt was over. The line to take pictures with the Easter Bunny was too long. It was time for us to go. On the way to the car I overheard a parent complaining that their children didn't get enough eggs.

We always want more don't we? One is never enough. My grandson reminded me of something very important. He showed me it's okay to have just one and if you have too much give it to someone else.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Church Is Open For The Poor 7 Days A Week

Many great things happened to me Easter weekend. An egg hunt and lunch with my grandson Troy in Flagler Beach, FL and a visit to First United Methodist Church in Bunnell, FL.

I was introduced to this church when they called to ask a few questions about the cold weather shelter at First United Methodist Church in Port Orange, FL. Opening your church to the homeless on cold weather nights is no easy task. The brave, courageous, compelled and led should only apply. A couple of years ago, First United Methodist Church in Bunnell, FL started with cold weather nights for the homeless but since then they have taken many courageous steps forward when it comes to serving the poor, hungry and less fortunate.

This church is literally open 7 days a week for those that need help. They keep their outside bathrooms open everyday. There is a garden area behind the church for those that need shade or a safe place to sit, think or pray. Towels and washcloths are easily accessible to anyone who needs them along with a place to leave dirty laundry. The dirty laundry is picked up, cleaned and then returned to the church by loving volunteers. Every Wednesday night the church serves dinner to anyone in the area who is hungry.

Before I left this church today I ran into three men who are homeless and call this church their home. Alcoholism, loss of work and destroyed relationships brought them to the world of homelessness. I asked them how they felt about this little church in Bunnell, Florida. One of them said without hesitation, "I love the pastor and this church because they stand up for us and protect us. They fight for us." The two other men instantly shook their heads in agreement. I also sensed that these homeless men would stand up and protect the church that loves them.

The fight can get extremely intense when you intentionally bring the messy and marginalized to your church. Be prepared for a fight if your mission is to help the poor from your community or across the street. Members of your church will disagree and complain about your mission. Some of those members will leave. Fortunately, many members will stay to join you in the fight and the mission. Your mission will become a magnet for others who don't belong to your church. People want to be a part of something especially when it involves doing the right thing for the less fortunate.

If you see a church, ministry, organization, group or individuals loving the poor, pick up the phone, write a letter, send an email or tell them personally, "Thank you for what you are doing." They need our encouragement and praise. I applaud brave churches like First United Methodist Church in Bunnell, FL for what they are doing.

(Update: Click this link to see how this church has been recognized for their efforts.)

Is your church open 7 days a week for the poor? Is your heart open 7 days a week for the poor?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Watching American Idol With Norm

Norm is homeless and he knows where I live. After work, he stopped by to do his laundry. While he was washing his clothes I went for a walk. When I came back from my jaunt down the road, Norm had made some dinner, did the dishes and fed the cat that lives outside my front door. When Norm comes over he likes to watch TV. Tonight I forced Norm to watch American Idol with me. I was surprised how much Norm knew about one of my guilty pleasures, American Idol.

"J-Lo must have a really great heart. Have you seen her husband? He's not very good looking. You know, maybe he has a great heart too. Maybe they both have great hearts. It's the only way they could be together. She's very good looking and he's not much of a looker."

"Mike, I'll be leaving after the show. I want to see who gets voted off."

During a commercial Norm said something totally unrelated to Idol.

"Mike, I was reading the National Enquirer the other day. Did you know that Mariah Carey's sister is a prostitute? If it's in the Enquirer it must be true." And then Norm looked at me and laughed.

When the show was over it was time for Norm to go. As he was walking to his bike he looked at me and said, "Mike, you know I really appreciate this bike that you gave me. I've had it for a long time. I can't believe it hasn't been stolen. People have offered me money for it. Some people have said that I should get some money for it at the pawn shop. I'll never let this bike go. You're my friend Mike. I'm not selling something you gave to me."

American Idol was over. Norm hugged me and said, "I love you Mike. Talk to you next week."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Friends No Matter What?

Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble. -- Proverbs 17:17 (The Message)

Today I saw this tweet below from Shawn Wallace (@shawnw)

"True friends really don't even have to like each other. But they do have to be there for each other. No. Matter. What."

Earlier this week I ran into a series of posts from Pastor Chris Elrod. Long story short, Chris courageously stood by his friend and fellow pastor Gary Lamb even though Lamb had an affair.

Over the years and within the past few months, I've been through some crap and have made major mistakes. I praise God for all of this because I've been able to see first-hand what happens to friendships.

Friends that you thought were friends aren't your friends anymore. Heck, they might even block or un-friend you on facebook.

Even though most people know about your crap and stupid mistakes, you make new friends anyway.

You find out who your friends really are. Even though they know about your
crap and stupid mistakes these wonderfully loyal, loving, grace-filled people still want to be your friend.

So let me re-post Shawn's tweet:

"True friends really don't even have to like each other. But they do have to be there for each other. No. Matter. What."

What do you think? Agree with Shawn? Think Chris Elrod should have kicked his cheating friend to the curb?

Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.
-- Proverbs 17:17 (The Message)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Putting Away The Pinata

From WikiPedia:

In the United States, the pinata is a popular game for birthday parties. A donkey shape is the most common, although various other pop culture based designs have become common. A common tradition is to spin the batter before he or she tries to hit the pinata, making the person dizzy. Pinatas are commonly full of candy and other treats.

The original pinata was shaped like a star with seven points. The points represented the seven deadly sins, and the bright colors of the pinata symbolized temptation. The blindfold represented faith and the stick represented virtue or the will to overcome sin. The candies and other goodies inside the pinata represented the riches of the kingdom of heaven, thus teaching that with faith and virtue one could overcome sin and receive all the rewards of heaven.

My pinatas:

The pinatas I've been beating on have taken on many shapes, colors and descriptions.

Because I've been hurt by the church, I've been beating up on my church pinata.

Because I've been hurt by my father, I've been beating up on my father pinata.

Because I've been hurt by relationships, marriages and divorce, I've been giving those pinatas a good beating too.

But the biggest pinata looks like me. I've been beating up on that pinata for years. Lately it's really been taking a beating.

I'm really good at pointing out how other people are beating up on their pinatas. It helps me to avoid that fact that I'm pinata punching too.

I'm going to work on putting away my pinatas. All of my sticks are broke, nearly all of the treats have fallen out and the pinatas seem to be in the need of repair.

What about you? Do you have a pinata? What does your pinata look like? Do you need to your put your pinata away?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What Norm Taught Me Today

When you become friends with a homeless man you'll never know what will happen next.

This morning I was ironing my shirt for work and heard, "Hey, Mike!" It was my homeless friend Norm looking into my living room window. Shocked and surprised I said, "Norm, I wasn't expecting you to come by to do laundry until 6 tonight." Norm looked at me and said, "I thought I'd drop my dirty clothes off early so I didn't need to pack them around today." I asked Norm to come in and have a cup of coffee. I didn't know that while I was ironing my shirt and watching the Today show, Norm would teach me some important lessons.

Standing Up For Your Friends

Norm reminded me about his friend who had said something negative about me and another pastor. Norm said, "Remember how angry I got when he said those things about you Mike? You're my friend! I told him how much you've done for me and other homeless people. I even reminded him about what you had done for him. Man, I got angry at him for saying those things about you and Pastor Larry!"

Deal With Things Instead of Stuffing It

"Mike, I got tired of being angry at him for saying those awful things about you and Pastor Larry", he said. "My dad always told me to deal with things instead of stuffing it. I found him and let him know how angry I was and that he should apologize to you and Pastor Larry," Norm said in a proud voice. "After I was done saying my piece, he actually apologized. He said he was mad at me and knew he could push my buttons by saying bad things about my friends," said Norm.


"Mike, you're going to be surprised about this. Even after he said all those bad things about you, I forgave him. I invited him to work with me at the thrift store last weekend and everything went okay," said Norm.

Gratitude and Honesty

I got home tonight after work and Norm was waiting for me. I let him in so that he could start his laundry. "Norm, I'm heading out for Bible study. I'll be back later on," I said. As I was leaving Norm said, "I'll take good care of things while you're gone."

When I got home Norm was done with his laundry but was sitting on the couch, laughing and enjoying a show on TV. I walked into the kitchen and found a note that he wrote to me on a paper towel. See photo of it below.

It said, "I ate one of your Lean Cuisine. Thank you for everything. I'll call you later. Your friend and brother, Norman"

"Norm, that sure was a nice note," I said. "I wanted you to know that I had some dinner while I was here. I'd still be thankful for everything even if there wasn't anything for dinner," said Norm.

I hugged Norm and he hugged me back. As he was walking out the door he said, "I'll call you later Mike."

When you become friends with a homeless man you might just get a lesson in friendship, conflict resolution, forgiveness, gratitude, honesty and a hug.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Rear View Mirror

As I wake up this morning and drink my coffee I say to myself, "It's raining cats and dogs. Jake and his girlfriend Linda must be wet. He showed me the hole in his tent on Sunday."

As I write this blog post I think of Norm. After the last big storm he called me to ask if he could use my washer and dryer because everything he owned was drenched.

As I think about what I'll eat for breakfast I remember seeing my homeless friend Oliver in the rear view mirror. As I was getting ready to eat my burrito, he was digging in a dumpster behind a restaurant. I said to myself, "Mike how can you eat this burrito when you see your friend digging out of a dumpster." I gave Oliver my burrito. He needed it more than me.

It gets complicated when God shows you the poor and the broken in your rear view mirror. You can't wake up, drink your coffee or eat your lunch without thinking of them or seeing them.

Thinking of the poor and the broken should only be the first step. It can be inconvenient when God compels you to turn your thoughts into action.

As the storm gets worse and I hear the rain come down in buckets, I know that I'll need to make sure that Jake, Norm and Oliver are okay.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


If the system works for you, it can be quite hard to understand the perspective of people who have the boot of the system on their neck.

If you have the power, it can be hard to understand the voice of those who have no power.

If you have choice, options, and luxuries, it can be hard to fathom the anger of those who don't.

If you have always had enough food, it can be hard to understand the shouts of those whose stomachs are grumbling from hunger.

From the book "Jesus Wants To Save Christians" by Rob Bell.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

What Do You Do?

What do you do when your friend Jake is homeless, needs a new pair of jeans, is cold and needs something to eat? You make sure that he gets a new pair of jeans, has a warm place to stay and a plate full of hot food.

What do you do when Jake has a 70th birthday? You take him out to lunch with your girlfriend Kristina and her family.

What do you do when Jake needs a new tube for his bike tire? You take him to K-Mart and buy him one. What do you do when Jake invites you to his camp? You follow him and visit his camp.

What do you do when you say goodbye to Jake when you know he is slowing dying from colon cancer? You hug him real hard, whisper in his ear "I love you" and pray that you'll get to see him again.

What do you do after you spend the afternoon with Jake? You realize how much you've been given and how much more you should give.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Do Norm and I Have In Common?

"Oh Crap, Norm Wants To Come Over."

That was my first thought when I was reminded that my homeless friend Norm was coming over to my apartment to do his laundry. I even whined about it on Twitter.

Norm and his backpack full of laundry were waiting for me when I got home. I opened the door and he walked in. What was the first thing that Norm said? "Mike, you've really got a great place. This is really nice!" I've lost track of how many times I've complained about my somewhat crappy apartment. Norm thought it was a palace.

As Norm walked to the laundry room I asked him if he needed something to eat. "Mike, I'm okay. I'm a survivor you know," he said. I convinced Norm the survivor to eat some frozen pasta I heated up in the microwave. When I handed it to Norm he looked at the pasta the same way you and I look at a plate of steak and lobster.

I left Norm, his laundry and bowl of pasta while I went to a nearby Bible study. As I was leaving Norm said, "Mike, don't worry. I'll take good care of the place while you're gone."

When I came home Norm was finishing up his laundry and packing it up in his backpack. I offered Norm a ride to his home in the woods. Norm said, "No. Mike, you've done enough." When I walked into the kitchen I realized that Norm had cleaned his dinner dishes.

As he was leaving Norm asked, "Hey Mike, isn't your son Devon coming to visit soon?" I told Norm that plans had changed and Devon wouldn't be coming to Florida until summer. Norm said, "I'm looking forward to seeing him. He's a good boy. I miss him."

A large man who lives in an apartment and a skinny, homeless man who lives in the woods had something in common. We both missed a boy named Devon.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Messy Spirituality

"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 she 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

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Best Thing That Happened To Me Today?

It wasn't a promotion or an award. It wasn't a raise or praise. It wasn't winning a race or climbing a mountain. It wasn't winning the lottery or losing weight. It wasn't finding my keys or my phone. It wasn't hearing applause or the cheer of the crowd.

The best thing that happened to me today?

My daughter Kiersten posted an extremely special note on my facebook wall:

The best thing that happened to me today?

My son drawing a picture and sending it to me in the mail.

Some would say, including myself, that I haven't been the world's greatest father to my son and daughter. But I believe in a God of second chances. I also believe that God speaks to me through events, situations and people. Today God spoke to me loud and clear through the actions of my daughter and son. He said:

"Mike, stop beating up on yourself. Your son and daughter love you. You've done many things right. Put the past in the past. I've already forgotten it. Why don't you?"

What was the best thing that happened to you today?