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.