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church of uber – MANDI

July 17, 2018 10 comments

Patti and I want to thank you again for all your prayers and concerns for William the Warrior!!!  He arrived on June 28th (8.5 lbs), and had his first of three open heart surgeries on July 2nd.  He’s still in the hospital, but making good progress daily.  You can follow the journey of William Michael Brewer on Instagram @williamthewarrior.  Thank YOU!!! -MDP-

It was bound to happen, right? With that much time in the car… among strangers? Eventually someone was going to figure out that I might be the right fit to do their wedding. Well, it happened, and it was an amazing experience to be a part of an awesome young couple’s special day.

In April of 2017, I picked up a family on an Uber run on the southwest side of Colorado Springs. They were headed to Monument, CO for a celebration involving friends. These people were headed to a party, so the mood was light and festive. It was about a 35-minute ride. It all started with the Dad (Gary) forgetting to grab a couple of bottles of wine for the party. So I whipped the Suburban around and returned to their house. While Gary was in the house, one of the kids began asking me about Uber driving. That’s a fairly common conversation when I’ve got people in the car, and it usually leads to questions like, “what else do you do besides Uber driving?”

As I mentioned, I liked these people and it felt right to disclose details about my ministry history. After a brief rundown, Gary popped off, “what do you charge to do marriage counseling?” The kids were laughing out loud, and I think I said something like, “do you need marriage counseling?” Becky (Gary’s wife) mumbled, “he might, but I think I’m good.” More laughter. I was really enjoying the ride with this family.

“What kind of books have you written?” I must have mentioned something earlier. So when I told them a little about Til Death Do Us Part, Gary suggested to his daughter (Mandi) that she probably ought to read the book. I inquired, “Are you married?” Mandi revealed she was engaged. I said, “If you’ll email me your mailing address, I’ll send you a signed copy.” I had heard enough from Mandi during our brief encounter to know that this young woman was strong, bright, and on-point with her life. I know a force when I’m around one. Mandi was a force. I spouted off my email address and she put it in her phone. I didn’t really expect to hear from her, but I was serious about sending the book if I got an email.

I dropped the family off at their location. We said our goodbyes, and I was tipped generously on my Uber app. It was one of those rides that would make any Uber driver’s day.

That ride was on a Saturday afternoon. The following Monday morning, I got an email from Mandi with her mailing address. Patti and I signed a book, and I put it in the mail to her. I absolutely love putting Til Death Do Us Part into the hands of engaged couples! I still believe the book is valuable to their preparation if they’ll actually read and absorb the power of the stories. As far as I knew, that would be the end of this story. It wasn’t.

Five months later, I got the following email from Mandi:

Mike, I hope this email finds you well. I’m writing to you because I met you in an Uber with my family awhile back, and you sent me a copy of you and your wife’s book because I was recently engaged. I reached out to my church in Denver because they usually do pre-marital counseling and we were thinking we would just have one of the ministers there be our officiant after we got through the pre-marital counseling. However, I guess no one signed up so they are canceling them for this fall. I know I could ask them anyways to be the officiant, but to be honest I had already thought of you prior to that plan and this just seemed to seal the deal that I had to at least ask you… I could not get that Uber ride out of my head and I think my fiancé would connect well with you as well.  That being said, would you be willing to get to know us a little better and be our officiant if all goes well? I don’t know what the fee is for this sort of thing, but I’d do whatever you consider fair.   Our wedding is July 7, 2018 in Littleton, CO. We would make it easy for you and come down to Colorado Springs, other than for the wedding of course 🙂

No pressure if you’re busy or not doing these sort of things any more, I completely understand either way – we will be fine and still have our church, but I had to ask. Thanks Mike! Mandi”

See? A force! I’ll shorten it from here. I met with Mandi and Everett (a slow talking Oklahoma man… that I mucho dig) several times for their premarital counseling late Spring of this year, and did their wedding last weekend! The venue was spectacular and the service went off without a hitch (not counting the driving windstorm, hail, and rain that began about three minutes before the service began). We waited for about 45 minutes, and then proceeded to do the deed.

In the few short hours I spent with Mandi and Everett, I was reminded one more time about how the grace of God makes these crazy connections possible through the most unusual means. I absolutely fell in love with these two kids. They are in love, and I felt so honored to be asked and included. What was more amazing to me is that they both strongly stated they wanted a spiritual event for the wedding. They totally trusted me, and asked me to do whatever I felt was right for their service. They didn’t really know me, nor had they ever been to a wedding which I conducted. I will say that took a lot of guts!

After all of the crazy stuff I’ve gone through with Uber (the 3:40am alarms, the gallons of coffee before the sun ever rises, and the tens-of-thousands of miles driving through Colorado Springs), my time with these two people has be such an amazing experience! Many congrats to the new Koelling family! Mandi, Everett, thank you for blessing me with such a sacred privilege! I know you two are going to rock life big-time together!

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

 

Categories: Uncategorized

william the warrior

June 21, 2018 25 comments

Many of you know. Some of you do not. So this is only a brief snapshot that will conclude with a request. It is a request that we’re all capable of fulfilling. Simply, I (we) request your prayers and faithful hope on behalf of William and our family.

Patti and I found out in February that our sixth grandchild, who is to be born sometime between today and Thursday (June 28th), is facing a few challenges as soon as he arrives from his mother’s womb. An ultrasound revealed that the left side of William’s heart is pretty much non-functional.  So, as soon as he is born, he will be facing an open-heart surgery to bypass the complications.  This will be the first of three heart surgery’s that William will have by the time he is 2-years old.  William also only has one kidney, but it is fully functional and adequately carrying the load.

Our family has grieved some only because no one wants their kid(s) to go through what William is facing. But, we are strengthened by several factors.  First, there may not be a better surgical team or hospital in the world that will be caring for our little guy.  Second, we have been speaking to and praying for William for the last five months. By now, he surely knows in the Spirit, that he is important to us, loved by us, and graced with purpose and the magnificent love of God. Third, we have already felt your prayers. So thank you.

There are many moving parts to this story. So, not to overwhelm anyone with details, just know that we welcome you to share with anyone you know for more prayer. In fact the more the merrier! The Lord Jesus promised his presence in times like this. In regards to this promise… we are most confident!

After the surgery, William Michael Brewer will spend extended time in the Cardiac NICU at Children’s Hospital in Denver.  William has a couple of older sisters who will spend a lot of time away from their parents over the next 5-6 weeks.  As I said, lots of moving parts, quite a few needs, with grace to cover it all.

So, I unashamedly ask and thank you in advance for your prayers and warm thoughts!  You are a great comfort to us all.

We are grateful for your amazing love!

Mike & Patti

Nicole plans to post regular updates to her Instagram account:  @williamthewarrior.  

Please feel free to follow along!

Latest Update:  See my Facebook page:  m.d.paschall

Update: 8/3/18 – William has gone home. Balloons, cupcakes, excited sisters, and cousins awaited his grand arrival to his new digs. Quite the day!!!

Update: 7/8/18 – William experienced a bit of tachycardia earlier today. He’s been given meds to control the rhythm.

Update: 7/7/18 – Nicole posted an extended number of events and prayer concerns from the day.  Check out @williamthewarrior on Instagram or my Facebook page.

Update: 7/5/18 – He’s off the vent, and getting reacquainted with his paci!

Update: 7/4/18 – William’s chest tubes and vent were removed today!  He’s off pain meds except Tylenol.  He is doing very well!

Update: 7/2/18 – William’s HLHS first surgery went as well as could be expected. He is in the CICU in Children’s Hospital in Aurora, CO.

Update: 6/28/18 – William is here!  Born @ 12:50pm – weighs 8.5 lbs – brown hair – beautiful!  Mom is tired but great!

Update: 6/23/18 – Surgery for William will be Monday, July 2nd.

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

church of uber – HAMMERED

April 13, 2018 10 comments

I’m back on the road a bit after a three-month intermission. I was quickly reminded that the amount of work required to stay up with a seminary-level course load is quite taxing. I spent so much time in my office studying, my wife frequently reminded me how boring I had become. True. Between the doctrinal study and the new assignment at the church where I’m serving, there wasn’t a lot of time for socialization. It was a gruesome time of just putting your head down and plowing through. Once the class was over, I started up the Church of Uber again.

First morning back… second rider… wowzer!

Colorado Springs is very quiet at 4:30 a.m. I glide into quiet neighborhoods, scatter the raccoons and deer that are prancing around, and pick up my passengers who are usually headed to the airport or work. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the Springs is never more beautiful than it is at the wee hours before daybreak. The inside of my car smells like French Roast and Caribbean Breeze air freshener. I love that smell. It reminds me that it’s a blessing to work, a joy to be alive, and opportunities await me to meet more awesome people.

The second ping of the morning called me to the Waffle House near Garden of the Gods. I do love me some Waffle House, and I wished I was going there for breakfast. Just the thought of pulling into the parking lot made my stomach ache for a pecan waffle.

I didn’t see my rider standing outside anywhere. Strange, but it happens. Then I noticed the Colorado Springs police car, and the officer waving me in that direction. I pulled up to him as he stuck his head out the window to greet me: “You willing to take a drunk kid home?” My first thought was, “Shit! There is going be vomit.” I know preachers aren’t supposed to think like that, but any prospects of vomit and I digress. I asked if he was sick. The officer said, “Not yet. He must have had a pretty wild night. He got here about an hour ago, but fell asleep on the counter. The staff called us to come get him.” Awesome. Just awesome.

So he opened the back door of the patrol car, and I saw the young guy was awake and talking to himself. The officer helped him out of the car and he slid into the back seat of my car. I had an address to deliver him to on my phone, but the officer was asking the kid to put away his driver’s license and military I.D. The boy was trying to put the I.D. and driver’s license into his phone, not his wallet. I know that’s not funny, but in that moment I cracked up laughing. I was thinking, “Jesus, this kid is totally HAMMERED!” The officer gave up on trying to get the kid’s stuff in his wallet, shut the back door, and then said to me, “I appreciate you taking him home, but I wouldn’t do your job for anything in the world.” I replied with a sincere, “Ditto, my friend.”

The kid passed out before we got out of the parking lot. I had the address though, and it was a 15-minute ride to the north side of town. So, I cranked up the George Jones song on Willie’s XM channel, and drove to the address provided on my Uber application. It was almost light outside when I pulled up to the house. As I stopped the car, the soldier in the back seat came to attention. With eyes still shut, he said, “Where are we?” I told him we had reached our destination. He said he couldn’t see anything. I said, “Son, you gotta open your eyes to see where we are.” I was chuckling as I watched his reaction in the rearview mirror. He eventually opened his eyes and said, “I think this is where my C.O. lives.” I inquired if he was living with his C.O. “No, I live on base.” OMG! I asked if he lived on Ft. Carson. He grunted, “Yes.” Good Lord! That was 22 miles south of where we were!

Next, I inquired if he knew the address. Nope. He knew it, but not while in that condition. I said, “Let me have your military I.D.” He started trying to open his phone again. Now I’m looking at the roof and mumbling incoherently. Crap! So I reached back to where he had fallen back asleep, and grabbed his phone and his wallet. I found his I.D. The kid was 19 years old. I started sorting through his credit cards, paper, phone numbers… anything to find an address. Nothing. Suddenly, Sleeping Beauty says, “My mom hates me. Why does my mom hate me?” Out like a light again.

Deep breath, Paschall. I have a name, but no address. All I know is that he lives on Ft. Carson somewhere. So, I figure maybe they can tell me at the gate where this kid lives on base. So I head that direction. The whole drive there, I continue to hear those slurred words, “My mom hates me. Why does my mom hate me?” There is a monster story behind those drunken words. I begin to think through the memories of everyone I’ve counseled who has ever uttered those words. The pain is immeasurable. The damage to a person’s self-esteem is devastating. Our society is fairly used to the idea that estranged fathers who have either rejected or abandoned their families isn’t an unusual occurrence. But mamas who reject or abandon… well, that’s news, and it’s pretty ugly news. Now I wonder how often this kind of thing (hammered—helplessly hammered) happens to this young G.I. I’m disturbed. I just want him home safe.

The M.P. at the gate took one look into my back seat and said, “I’ll be right back.” He walked over to a small building and three other M.P.s came out to do the same thing. They grabbed his I.D. and woke him up. “Soldier, where do you live?” Straight as an arrow, he shot out the barracks number. “What road?” one of them asked. He passed out again.

Ft Carson is a large place. You could spend the day trying to see it all. I’ve been out there 20-30 times, and I still don’t have a clue where I am when driving around. My rider opened his eyes again and called out the name of the road. Now I had the address. The M.P.s thanked me profusely for getting him home safely, and then they actually hugged the kid and thanked him for not trying to drive home. This dude wouldn’t have ever gotten home by himself. No way.

Fifteen minutes later, we were parked in front of his barracks. I got out of the car and helped him out of the back seat. I asked him if I could help get him to his room. He shoved me with enough passion to let me know he didn’t want help. So I got back in the car and waited until he got through the front door. He fell down twice trying to get to the door. Can you imagine his afternoon headache? Holy moly!

I picked up the next ride while on the base, but I couldn’t get this kid out of my spirit. It made me wonder, was he in the military because he needed family? Was he running away from something? Had he been pushed away because he had a problem he couldn’t control? Who knows? But, it feels like another reason for us to be kind and gracious with people who are dealing with deep emotional issues or domestic irregularities within what are supposed to be safe havens of love and acceptance.

I was kind and considerate on the outside, but honestly, I was “over” being that inconvenienced by this kid. And, I guess that’s the thing about “church,” Uber Church, Methodist Church, or whatever variety church is out there. Maybe church is really about working on me (the big preacher guy), and not the other way around. I’ve been doing church for so long, I don’t always realize that I’m the most needy and obvious target of another large dose of amazing grace.

So Lord, here I am. Thank you for your patience. I’m trying to catch on. I really am.

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized

church of uber – MARIAH

January 4, 2018 18 comments

I’ve wanted to tell you this story for a month now. My reservation to share has been prompted in part due to my concern that you (the reader) would think this encounter would somehow be self-aggrandizing on my part. I can say without a moment of hesitation that I was more honored to be involved than happy about my response. We nines on the Enneagram replay episodes in our lives over and over. We recreate and negotiate with our life scenes in an attempt to make some rational sense for why we did what we did, and to adjust the response for the next time that happens. Remaining in control of our emotional climate is always the goal. So, I have replayed the tapes in my mind to nauseating lengths. I genuinely hope that by telling the story, I can put this one to bed in my spirit. —MDP

Before I tell you about Mariah, I have a bit of advice for you people who either cook or wait tables at local restaurants. I understand that when you get picked up at work, you bring the smell of the back kitchen into the car with you. That can’t be helped and that’s perfectly understandable. But, when I pick you up at 5:30 a.m., because you’re responsible for the set up at Taco Bell, Hooters or Fargo’s Pizza House, it might be a really good idea to wash the clothes you wore yesterday, instead of just putting those same work clothes right back on for another go at it. Holy moly! It doesn’t matter which restaurant, which chain, which location… the day-old food smell on your work clothes all smells the same: like garbage that’s been sitting on the curb in the baking sun all day! Really gross. It’s just a little something to consider when you slide into the car with your Uber driver.

Now, back to Mariah.

I usually turn on my driver app by 4:00 a.m. Morning is definitely my favorite time of day regardless of what I’m doing. There is less competition, more silence, and I can usually get a day’s work in before most people have sipped on their first cup of coffee. Uber driving is no different. I love the morning.

On this particular Saturday, I was out the door at 3:55 a.m. The ride to pick up was 20 minutes to the southern part of Colorado Springs. The sky was clear, but the wind had shifted from the north overnight. Temps were hovering around freezing, and the wind was a steady 15-20 MPH. Regardless of the weather, I rarely get into the car with a coat or jacket… almost never in fact. If it’s really cold, I’ll wear a cap of some sort, but on this day I had on a long-sleeve shirt and no cap.

I was about two minutes away from picking up my first rider, when I could see a young woman standing in the middle of the road. She was waving me down. I stopped and rolled down the window. It was Mariah. Her eyes were wet, she look terrorized, and she was crying as she told me she had a flat tire, and she didn’t know how to change it. I was immediately irritated. I have no problem with helping a woman with a flat tire, but it was 4:20 a.m. and I had a client waiting for a ride. However, we were not in a great part of town, and I could see this chick needed help. So, I said, “Listen, I’ll change your tire, but I have to pick up my ride. I’m working here. Can you get back into your car, lock the doors, and wait until I get back?” She said, “You promise you’re coming back? I’m scared.” I promised her I’d return. As she walked back to her car, I noticed that she wore blue jeans, but she had on a military issue fleece. I just figured it was her boyfriend’s. (She also had on her Army boots, but I didn’t notice those until later.) After she got in her car and shut the door, Mariah put her head on the steering wheel. I could see she was sobbing. I won’t tell you what I said out loud in my car. I didn’t have time for all this right now. Geez.

So, I pulled over, got out of my car, walked over and tapped on the window. “Babe, what’s wrong? I said I’d come back.” She said, “I’m cold and I’m scared. I’m so sorry. I can’t stop crying.” So I said, “Listen, why don’t you just get into my car. It’s warm in there, and just ride with me as I deliver my client. You can just sit, and then we’ll come right back and I’ll change your tire.” Mariah agreed, so that is what she did. We locked her car, she got in the back seat, and then we headed over to pick up my ride.

So then I started my interview. I asked her what her name was, how old she was, where she was from, and if she was in the military. After a minute or two, I learned that Mariah grew up in South Dakota. She was just back from a 10-month deployment in Afghanistan. She was a 25-year-old RN. She had only been at Ft. Carson for 3 days. She didn’t know a soul off base. She had been out partying with some of her colleagues at a cowboy bar in downtown Colorado Springs. They closed the joint down. She had parked her car in a parking garage behind the bar. As she approached her car in the garage, a homeless guy started following her. (Crazy as it seems, especially in the winter, downtown Colorado Springs has a large population of homeless people year round.) She jumped in her car, locked her doors, and the guy started banging on her windows. In her haste to get away from the guy, she hit a curb and destroyed her tire. The girl drove her car about five miles with a flat tire. The best I could tell, she left the bar around 2:30 a.m., so she had been out on the road for almost two hours. I think I was the first car she tried to wave down. I think she was too scared to do anything other than sit in her locked car and cry.

To complicate issues, Mariah left her cell phone in the bar. It had her driver’s license, military ID, her pass to get on Ft. Carson, money, and credit cards. So she was stuck, lost, unable to call anyone, cold, and traumatized by one of Colorado Spring’s homeless. That’s when I got pulled into the story.

Have I ever mentioned to you that I don’t like cold weather?

She was crying and shaking as she was telling me all of this, and I could tell she was on the verge of losing it. As my client was walking up to the car, I said, “Mariah, I don’t want to freak out my rider. Can you get a grip until I drop her off?” (Yes I know… Mr. Sensitivity.) She whimpered, “I can.” And she did.

It was a 15-minute ride to drop off Nicolette. Nicolette was in her mid-forties. She’d been at a sleepover at her boyfriend’s apartment, but was curious about the extra passenger. So, Mariah told her the story. Nicolette hugged her before she got out of the car. I’m always blown away at how easy it is for some people to love on a total stranger with empathy and tangible care. Nicolette’s emotional concern for Mariah melted the angst I had over losing time with potential paying customers. Saturday mornings are always so busy and mostly profitable. So we drove back to Mariah’s car, and I braced myself for the next part. Have I ever mentioned to you that I don’t like cold weather?

I had a pair of work gloves. They saved my life. As the cold wind was whipping my shirt and skipping across my shiny bald head, I started digging through Mariah’s KIA like a wild man. It was dark, cold, and (of course) nothing in a KIA is ever where you’d expect it to be. So Mariah tried desperately to stay awake and read the fine print in her owner’s guide. Finally I said, “Why don’t you just crawl in my back seat and go to sleep. I’ll wake you up when I’m finished. She didn’t argue. She was out in 30 seconds.

I had all but one of the lug nuts off when I realized the last lug nut required a special tool. By now, the profanity had just gotten silly. I was asking questions and answering my own questions with unbelievably exquisite vernacular. Once it shifted from frustrating anger to comical hilarity, I was fine. After looking in the same spot for the twentieth time, I finally found the right tool to unfasten the last lug nut. Once the spare was on Mariah’s car, I went back to my car to wake up Mariah. I literally had to grab her arm and shake her pretty good. Later I found out that she had only slept about 10 hours since leaving her base in Afghanistan.

In a groggy haze, she crawled back into her car and we returned to the scene of the crime. It was now 6:15 a.m.

There was one primary objective: was there any way to recover her phone and personal belongings from the bar? I assumed someone would still be in the bar, even at that hour. It’s a huge bar so I figured a cleaning crew would still be there. Sure enough, the lights were on and we could see two women cleaning up. I knocked on the glass, and one of the ladies came to the door. They wouldn’t allow Mariah to look for her phone, but said they’d make a pass through. So we called the phone as they searched, but they found nothing. Maybe one of the bartenders had locked the phone in the safe, but they wouldn’t be open until later that afternoon.

Mariah decided she wanted to look in the parking garage in case she might have dropped her phone while in haste to get into her car. I was hoping that wasn’t the case. I seriously doubted she’d ever recover her phone if it was on the ground in that garage. I wouldn’t let her look alone, so I parked my car and walked with her into the garage. No phone.

I asked her to get back into my car (it was about 25 degrees outside by now) so we could talk. “Ok, what’s your plan?” She had no plan. I waited for her to respond. Finally she said, “I think I’ll just go to a Walmart parking lot and sleep in my car. Then I’ll just hang out until the bar opens at 6:00 p.m.”   This is the part of the story where I wish I had a mulligan. What I decided to do was a quick fix, but I wish I had thought through in more detail how to serve Mariah in this situation. Honestly, I just wanted to get back to work. I could have done this part better.

“Mariah, just get back in your car and follow me.” She didn’t ask a question. I drove about a mile to a Holiday Inn Express. I knew a room there would be comfortable, and she could eat breakfast at no additional cost. Mariah sat in her car as I walked in and made the reservation. The woman’s name behind the desk was Mary Ann, and she let me arrange a late check out, and gave me my priority club discounts along with an additional military discount. I spend more money a month on Starbucks than what that hotel room cost. Mary Ann promised she’d take care of her.

So I walked back out to let Mariah know she had a room. Her warm hug and lovely words blessed my heart. I thanked her for serving our country, and asked her to tell her Dad back in South Dakota that a guy in Colorado Springs took care of his little girl. And then I drove off.

All day I called Mariah’s phone in hopes that someone would answer. I wasn’t overly anxious about it, but I was concerned. I figured she could have driven to the base and talked to someone who could have helped her. About 6:15 p.m., I got a text from Mariah that she had her phone. I felt the tears moisten my eyes. I was happy, but more relieved than anything. I know that Mariah is a veteran of war, grown, and more than capable of taking care of herself, but I did feel that I might not have done my best to help her that frosty morning. Honestly, I could have brought her to our house, put her in an empty bed in our basement, and just taken care of her until she had her phone back. Patti wouldn’t have cared. In fact I think she’d have been all about it, but I didn’t do that. I don’t know why I didn’t do that, but I’ve been messed up about not going the extra distance to care for Mariah. I didn’t have any cash on me either, but I could have gone to the ATM and left her enough money to get through the day. I think I did good… but, now I think I could have done better.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the people that end up in my Ubermobile. Never have I encountered so many people with no other agenda than just to get from point A to point B. Yet, in that most mundane chore, they let me experience some of who and what they are. I have been so BLESSED to visit so many lovely people. I can’t help but be thankful for the experience. God’s people (don’t hear me say that with religious connotations) are the beautiful handiwork of divine love. I don’t know what compares to the richness of the human spirit! I want to be more in-tune… more aware… more appreciative… more “here” when people are near.

Mariah, I pray that the Lord will keep you safe in all of your endeavors. I hope that the next time you need someone like me, you’ll get his or her very best. Not just the good, but the very best. In Jesus’ Name. Me.

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

 

Categories: Uncategorized

church of uber – ELIZABETH

November 7, 2017 14 comments

The Uber Express is back up and rollin’. A two-month hiatus is over. Uber world was a bit freaky this past week. You’d be surprised at how many people need a ride at 3:30 a.m. on a Monday morning! Tuesday morning greeted traffic with a snarling ice storm. Olympian ice skater Michelle Kwan could have pretty much pirouetted her way across town on any given street. One of my normal 15-minute rides took 1.5 hours. Not a real problem unless you have three cups of coffee in your bladder! Perry (my rider) builds lattice electrical towers in Alaska, so he kept me pretty entertained for most of that ride with stories and video.

It’s weird being in the car hours before sunrise. Everything looks so different. Even though you realize what part of town you’re in, it all seems the same. Only the neon lights give hints of what’s really going on under the cover of such darkness. One of the older areas of Colorado Springs has a large number of rundown retro motels. It’s definitely charming if you’re into old school, but it’s really telling of who and what you’re likely to encounter in that neighborhood. There are lots and lots of weed shops in that area. You’ll also see constant foot traffic of the indigent and homeless. It’s kind of like eating at Waffle House (I LOVE ME SOME WAFFLE HOUSE!). It’s just a different kind of experience. You gotta get your mind right about what you might possibly encounter… no matter what time of day!

At one such motel, I picked up Elizabeth. She and her fiancé live in one of those tiny rooms. The sign in front of this place wasn’t touristy or even inviting. The flaking paint on the wobbly sign could only be seen because of a single light bulb swaying above the sign. There were about 15 rooms, but only three cars in the parking lot at 5:30 a.m. I suspect that most of the visitors to this motel are hourly customers. A wee bit earlier, and I figure things would have been much busier at that particular motel.

When I drove up in front of the room, a shirtless burly guy opened the door and gave me the “just a second” signal. Within a couple of minutes, Elizabeth was shuffling towards the car. Shuffling is the right word. I thought it could have possibly been muscular dystrophy or some kind of palsy. Her back was super straight and it wasn’t a normal walking gait. As Elizabeth opened the back door, she greeted me with a super friendly, “good morning” (not a typical greeting that time of day), and a beautiful smile. I liked her immediately.

My new ride is much smaller than the Suburban I’ve been using the past year. People sit much closer to me, so I smell my clients now. If you fried bacon for breakfast, I know it. If you smoked weed all night, I know it. If you drank bourbon during Happy Hour, I know it. If you love wearing Polo… God help me… I know it. By the fragrance that reached me when she got into the car, my guess is that Elizabeth and her fiancé have several pets sharing the room with them. It wasn’t overwhelming, but definitely noticeable. But within a few seconds, I couldn’t have cared less. This girl was so sweet! Unbelievably gentle, and Elizabeth dripped with caring love for the people she works with at the dry cleaners where she’s employed. She really had an infectious spirit. Such a lovely kid!

As we neared her drop off, I asked, “So Elizabeth, I noticed a little hitch in your gitty-up as you walked to the car earlier.” She said, “You saw that huh?” Over my shoulder I responded, “Yeah I did. What you got working there honey?” “Well,” she said, “I was hit by a car when I was sixteen. I was messed up pretty bad. I’ve had lots of surgeries and I’m a bit of a miracle.” The short of it is that she spent a couple of years recovering from all kinds of surgeries for the spinal cord injury she received. She wasn’t supposed to live, much less ever walk again. Of course, the driver didn’t have a legal drivers license or insurance, so there was no insurance money for her medical bills. So, dad and mom pretty much sold everything they had to get Elizabeth the help she needed.

The story was brutal, but cheer never left her voice. Finally I said, “Babe, listen, that’s a lot of pain and heartache you went through in that season, but I don’t detect any bitterness. None. How is that possible?” She put her hand on my shoulder and her eyes filled with tears. “Thank you so much for saying that,” she said. “I was bitter for too many years. I was mad at God, at that driver, at all of that pain and what it did to my parents. But I’ve worked hard to forgive and let all of that go. I’m alive, my parents have recovered, and I have a happy life. Bitterness was doing more harm to me than my injuries from the accident. ”

I didn’t wipe away my tears because I didn’t want her to know that I was crying. It was in that moment I realized how very privileged I was to share space with this beautiful miracle who had a tender heart for people and life.

Being around people who are truly grateful will move stuff inside you. Elizabeth filled the air with calming peace and hopeful grace. You just know not everything is easy for someone like her, but she lives way beyond her past and high above her situation today. I know it gets said a lot, but she made my day. Yup! Elizabeth made my entire day. In the truest sense of the word, she is an overcomer. There’s not too many of those shuffling around.

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized

stars

October 24, 2017 10 comments

I used to hunt all the time. I’ve never shot a four-footed critter, but mainly birds. Dove, pheasant, and ducks usually presented more than enough of a challenge to keep me interested. So when my buddy here in Colorado Springs invited me to go with him into the national forest for elk hunting, I thought it would be great to try something different for a change. I wasn’t disappointed.

To be clear, I wasn’t planning to hunt. The plan was to hang out in camp, read my books, enjoy the higher altitude and fresh mountain air, be in solitude, and experience some quiet. First of all, I did hang out in camp and enjoyed the air, but not by myself. There was no solitude or quiet (my guys constantly chattered like caffeine-induced chipmunks). I hiked 6 miles in a driving snowstorm the first day, and substantially more miles the next day. They carried guns; I did not. We saw elk but none they could shoot. My guys had bull-tags, and only cows graced us with their presence, so no meat.

Bears Ears Peaks

The scenery was breathtaking. The mountain we were on is called Bears Ears, named for its twin peaks that look like the top of a bear’s head, though you can only see that from a distance. Inside the forest, you primarily had two kinds of trees: pine and aspen. I know the forest was full of hunters, but I can’t imagine anyone left disappointed. The natural state of the forest is absolutely gorgeous. The aspen grove where we hunted still supported a few gold-colored leaves. From our vantage point, you could take in the massive aspen grove, the dark timber above the grove, and the distant snow-covered ranges that explode brightly under a darker blue canopy of mountain sky. It really was something to see. I loved it all!

Of all I just described, none of it touched the real show… the unexpected gift… the thing that actually brought me to tears. STARS! Oh my goodness! Each night that we camped, the sky was crystal clear (a freezing 15 degrees clear, but clear nonetheless). The closest town to where we were camping was 40 miles away on a dirt road, so there was no artificial light in the forest. Honestly, I couldn’t get over how dark it was.

They should have sent a poet. —Dr. Ellie Arroway

Living in Colorado Springs isn’t conducive to star gazing. There are almost a million people living here now, so we need blackout shades on our bedroom windows, even during the night. When I’m back home in Texas, I can be out in the country within minutes, but there’s usually a Gulf wind blowing a lot of hazy moisture in the atmosphere. It’s just different in the desert and Rocky Mountains.

After that first night, I couldn’t wait for the evening sky to reveal itself. It was that mesmerizing. So many stars! The thickness of stars is what was so unique. They’ve been there, but it’s like some one opened the screen door. The Milky Way looked like a long cloud of smoke across the sky. I’ve just never seen it like that. I genuinely teared up several times at the beauty of it. Jodi Foster’s character in Contact had it right: “They should have sent a poet.”

So, for four days I never took a book out of my backpack. I think having my head up, instead of down in a book, was the better outcome in this situation. Maybe engaging in all the chipmunk chatter was rightly warranted and proper human interaction. But listen, figure out how to go see stars again! It’s the ultimate painting of what’s bigger than us. They’re out there speaking to us about our paradigms and big opinions… reminding us that the universe doesn’t swirl around “me” and our little interests. I know there’s lots of talk these days about “grounding.” Go see some stars. You’ll get your grounding back on. I guarantee it.

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized

grounded beauty

October 3, 2017 6 comments

NOTE:  I wrote this blog Sunday morning, and Vegas happened later that same evening. I would never want to convey for a second that I am insensitive, unaware, oblivious, or numb to the obscene atrocities that happen in this country, or others.  Such a total disregard for human life is beyond reasonable logic or moral decency. I honestly believe that the following post is not a distraction to our travails, but rather a confirmation that we must continue to stand in love… even though hellish hate shows itself every day. This isn’t mere romantic idealism. Love is a spiritual force… the prime mover of God’s heart towards man. I’m convinced we just don’t know it or believe it as we should. Mercy Lord, mercy! —Mike

We who seek to grow spiritually are like children ushered off to school for their education and personal growth. God is the principal or headmaster, and the saints and mystics are the various teachers and coaches who will interact with us on a day-to-day basis. Our goal, therefore, is to learn: to learn the curriculum of a truly spiritual life . . . grounded in love, mercy, tenderness, compassion, forgiveness, hope, trust, simplicity, silence, peace, and joy. To embody union with God is to discover these beautiful characteristics emerging from within and slowly transfiguring us to remake us in the very image and likeness of God.”

—Carl McColman

Patti and I just returned from a ministry trip to North Carolina. I was invited to preach in a sweet church in Asheville, and spent the following four days teaching the foundations of the Enneagram to a small group of young adults who are living together in a communal discipleship program near Black Mountain. On top of that, we got to spend some quality time with long-time friends from Holland, reconnect with several young couples who are near and dear to our hearts, and meet several new friends. But mainly, we hung out in the gloriously messy swirl of a growing family of faith. It genuinely was a “lovely” time for us.

There is always plenty to self-critique after a trip like that. I used a month’s worth of words last week (lots and lots of words). Quite frankly, if they genuinely heard half of what I said, they’ll be processing for a while. It was a lot of data. So, I’m thinking back… processing… evaluating, but not about what was taught or preached about. That’s the stuff that is easy to adjust or correct. The most difficult thing to honestly critique would be…me.

If you agree to that premise, then feel free to make it…us.

The earlier highlighted quote by Carl McColman really rocked my devo time this morning. So much so, it stirred me from a three-month blogging sabbatical. The last sentence is what grabbed my attention:

To embody union with God is to discover these beautiful characteristics emerging from within and slowly transfiguring us to remake us in the very image and likeness of God.

 See, that statement right there is the heart’s desire, but it’s got to come from the real source that’s already deeply embedded inside a person. You can’t just download a beautiful emerging transfiguration for convenience. It can’t be patched in because you need to glow-in-the-dark for another gig. Real Spirit people know the difference. Any attempt at a shortcut sets off everyone’s bullshit alarm. Trust me on this.

I suspect that the information was good enough, and the “shtick” of delivery would be exhilarating for anyone who speaks in front of people, but what about the “Christ” effect inside the real curriculum of a truly spiritual life? To say it another way, beyond the data and transfer of information, did anyone remotely sense a voice or heart that was…

grounded?

Rooted, anchored, planted deeply in love, mercy, tenderness, compassion, forgiveness, hope, trust, simplicity, silence, peace, and joy?

I don’t assume a positive default answer here, not for me anyway, but I really love the question. It’s one of those questions that should be printed out and taped to the mirror where we prepare ourselves for the day and end our nights. It might be something that we need to entertain more, rather than ever so often.

Even with all of the social and political agitation in our country right now, is there a way for us to respond passionately, conscientiously, forcefully, yet respectfully, while remaining grounded in these beautiful characteristics that mark our deep commitment to the core values that we esteem in the life of Jesus? A genuine response that still holds humanity in some kind of loving regard?

The hate circling around Jesus didn’t seem to displace him from his mission or internal depth. His counter-energy flowed constantly against control, small-mindedness, and the established norms of cultural and religious orthopraxy. Yet, Jesus was never offended enough by the chaos to do anything other than offer those beautiful characteristics… a truth even magnified during his march towards death.

How in the world did He do that? If I’m not mistaken, He was both God and man!

I do realize that I’m still in theological infancy, but the only thing I can attribute to Jesus’ unflinching beautiful characteristics was the grounded awareness of who He really was, and His grounded commitment to live the honest reflection of his Father’s love for all of mankind. Beyond that, it must be… has to be THE mystery of the ages… or something like that.

You probably don’t need to be reminded, but “Christ” is in the word “Christian.” If we’re going to wear the brand, the product should be an accurate representation of the name we bear. We are the product. What we do, and the spirit behind what we do, does matter.

How consistently do those beautiful characteristics reveal themselves through us? I do believe that the ability to “reveal” resides in all of us. We are capable. We have His DNA (He knew us before we got here). We just need to decide and offer our lives from the heart. Living that honestly reflects our gratefulness for WHO we belong to.

Look around. Now would be a good time for us to show some of that grounded beauty.

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized