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seven months

November 7, 2019 24 comments

Seven Months.  It’s hard for me to believe, but it’s been seven months since I’ve even considered posting a blog on this site. I’ve been distracted.

 

My life is somewhat different now. Patti and I live in Sundance, Wyoming. I now pastor two United Methodist Churches. One is in Sundance, and the other is in Upton.  Upton is about 30 miles from Sundance, and about seven hours north of Colorado Springs. I preach in both churches every Sunday, and that has a lot to do with my abandonment of this blog site. Honestly, I spend most of my words every week in serving the local church. I only have so many words, and I am trying to make them count here, where we have been planted.

It might be another seven months before I blog again.  Who knows?  But I feel compelled to make an offering to the social media gods (I still can’t make up my mind whether they’re friend or foe) based upon that thing that happens to me when I hear, read, or experience something that demands my conscience to “re-tell” it, or “put it out there,” only after I’ve taken time to process the encounter. I’ll tee this up quickly and then get to the point.

I’ve been preaching through material that I feel is imperative for a basic understanding of what it means to be an authentic follower of Jesus. Since serving in my new positions in Wyoming, I’ve preached 34 times.  But all of those messages have had something to do with ekklesia (church), or discipleship. Something that Jesus supposedly said about the latter is recorded in the gospels. I think it’s fairly profound:

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25 NASB)

I have no idea how this verse affects you, but for me, every alarm on the discipleship dashboard starts flashing its hot red glow every time I read this passage.  After Jesus’ generous invitation to become followers, we’re given three key components of what that “followship” entails: He (she / we / all of us!) must deny himself (ourselves). STOP RIGHT THERE!

Deny ourselves? Really? That is step one? I don’t know if you’ve looked around lately, but that isn’t how we do things here. Deny self? Yeah, we’re mostly hosed in this department.

One of the foundational truths of the discipleship framework is the simple challenge that we don’t make our lives all about “ME.” This is blasphemy in our culture. Absolute blasphemy. There are glimpses of hope at times!  Unfortunately, social media isn’t the best place to look for evidence of our inner health. Yeah, it’s just my opinion.  But I have eyes.

So, let me get to the motivation for all of these words. A few mornings back, I read something from Oswald Chambers that made me squirm in my seat. I love being challenged by Oswald, but the reading that day went for the juggler on this whole notion of our lives being about “US.” Here is the caption that hammered my heart:

If you are going to be used by God, God will take you through a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all, they are meant to make you useful in God’s hand, and to enable you to understand what transpires in other souls so that you will never be surprised at what you come across. -Oswald Chambers

That, right there, is another way of telling us that when we make our lives about ourselves, we are missing, altogether, our purpose in putting forth our real identity in Christ. It matters.  Chambers’ comment should ignite something deep inside of us that reminds us what it means to be an authentic follower of Jesus. Life doesn’t always cooperate with our own self-focus. The whole point of a costly redemption is to reverse the horrible into some kind of blessing, right? Loss happens to all of us. Death, despair, heartache, betrayal, and disappointment ­– they all resurface over and over and over again. Our pain and aches are real, and sometimes overwhelming, unbearable, and inner torture. But, losing the opportunity to be of use to someone else in need because our own torn soul demand that we focus all of our attention on ourselves, puts us at odds with the mechanics of “followship” with Jesus.

There are a lot of people in this world who have suffered unthinkable loss and grief. Those who have regained some semblance of real inner health are the ones who continue to walk through life without demanding that life (anyone or anything) owes them reparations. That which has been lost can never be replaced. But those wounds, and the healing that comes after we have grieved a loss, can be used to help heal others. The further we can move from a “ME” focus, the healthier we become. All of us. Every now and then, you meet someone who epitomizes what Chambers is laying down here. These are the giants among us. Rare air.

It’s not about me is only part of the discipleship infrastructure.  But it’s vitally important. Anyone not sucked into that vacuum is pretty easy to spot, but you might have to look for them in obscure places of great need.  Yeah, the places where Jesus would hang out.

Thanks for reading.

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

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Love you all,

Mike

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

church of uber – ADRIAN

May 10, 2019 14 comments

Saturday mornings are always interesting in Uber world. You really never know what you’re going to get at 4:00 a.m. Walks of shame are common, sleepy and/or drunk are equally normal, and hyper excited vacationers heading to Hawaii or the Caribbean are also a regular occurrence on Saturday mornings. For whatever reason, not many drive Uber early on the weekend, and I’m always slammed until it’s time to turn off the driver app. Last Saturday was no exception.

I was out the door about 3:55am. After a 10-minute trip to pick up my first ride, I stopped in front of an apartment complex that was poorly lighted. I couldn’t read the numbers on the side of the building, but my app told me that my rider (Adrian) had been notified that I had arrived. I was thinking about her name: Adrian. I’ve only known one Adrian, and she was married to Rocky. So, I was humming the Rocky theme song (getting up for the day), and sitting in the dark.

Suddenly, the back door opened and this blonde ball of fire got into the back seat. “Hi! I’m Adrian.” I turned quickly to take a look at the face with that voice. The southern drawl was unmistakably thick and twangy, with lots of sass. The kid was gorgeous. I later found out she had been out of high school about 2 years. Adrian had blue eyes and platinum blonde hair that was piled in huge mounds of curls and ringlets. Scary beautiful. The skull and crossbones tattoo on her neck was interesting, but I didn’t inquire.

I started right in: “Girl! Where are you from?” Scarlett O’Hara couldn’t have poured the molasses any thicker! “Well, I’ve been traveling some the past couple of years, but I’m from San Augustine, Texas. I still call that home.” I asked, “Did you say San Augustine?” “Yes sir! San Augustine, Texas.” I then asked her if she was a Curly Wolf (school mascot). She screamed in disbelief! “OH MY LORD! How did you know that?” I laughed and replied, “Adrian, it’s a very small world.”

Back when Patti and I could count our relocation moves on the fingers of one hand, I took a coaching/teaching job in San Augustine, Texas. I was chasing a dream to coach with my old head football coach. His hometown and alma mater was in San Augustine. He was back home to serve the place where he had graduated and played sports. Coach A had a son that graduated in my class. I had a lot of father figures in my life at the time, but Coach A was special to me. That year in San Augustine was the last of my teaching and coaching career.

The school song at San Augustine begins with the words, “Deep in the piney woods.” That is an understatement. Parts of East Texas are so thick with trees that you can only see the sun at noon. It was one of those places that could easily have been the inspiration for the movie Deliverance. I can hear the banjos playing even now. I’m sure many things have changed since 1982, but back then, it was a fairly backwards place.

To be honest, I was half listening to Adrian go on about her life in San Augustine, because my mind was sifting through old files and memories from that one year in the piney woods. At the time, I was 25 years old. For the most part, I was posing as a teacher and a coach who secretly hated being stuck in the classroom. My coaching knowledge and style for motivating young men to excel in athletic conquests was shallow and mostly ineffective. Kids usually love their coaches, unless their coaches have lost the vision for why they’re coaching. I did love some of those kids, but I was so young, I can only say that I didn’t have much of a clue about anything going on in my life at that time. Ask Patti and she’ll confirm that I had lost my mojo and excitement concerning teaching and coaching in the public school system.

My ride with Adrian was short and sweet, and I only held to bits and pieces of why she was in the Springs, but her sweet voice and East Texas speak threw me into a whirlwind of memories of that year in San Augustine. I wish I could tell you that in 1982, I was highly offended by the cultural racial norms of deep East Texas. I wasn’t. I was full of pride, certain of my brilliance, uncertain of my voice, and had never remotely considered that white privilege was a real “thing.” It is, and what I witnessed was fairly familiar to what I grew up with, and it never really dawned on me (even at age 25) what kind of hardship the kids on my basketball team suffered while trying to play the sport they loved. I never heard one complaint from any of the multifaceted injustices I witnessed, but the memories are still so alive.

I had only one white kid on my Varsity squad, and he was a move-in from DFW. He was a much better athlete than I had ever been, but I, too, was the only white kid on my high school basketball team at McGregor. My token white kid was a “gamer,” and had everyone’s respect on the team. He had also been the starting quarterback during football season. The boy was all business, yet all of my guys were easy to coach.

By the time basketball season rolled around, Nicole (my eldest daughter) was about a year old. Patti and Nicole would usually ride the team bus when we played out of town. From the time Nicole got on the bus, until we got off at our destination, she was usually hijacked by the players, and sat at the back of the bus with them. They would pass her around like a doll. I was always driving the bus, and I could see in the rearview mirror that whatever those guys were snacking on, she was getting her share of, too. The love in all of that was simply beautiful. When they’d hand her back to her mother, she was usually stuffed to the gills and covered with whatever she had been eating.

San Augustine had been one of the latter high schools in Texas to integrate (or at least that was what I was told when I started work there). Even in 1982, there was separate water fountains in the county courthouse located on the city square. I never entered the doctor’s office in San Augustine, but Patti said there were separate waiting rooms there also. I had grown up with the exact same thing in my hometown, and didn’t really ever question how things were in San Augustine.

There were small towns in Texas that had serious reputations, and very public advertising that discouraged any black or latino family from taking residence of any kind in those communities. Some of those “sundown communities” were within 50 miles of my hometown. Confederate flags flew just below the American flag. Some still fly even now. Where I grew up, it wasn’t that noticeable, but the railroad track that ran through the middle of town was a serious line of demarcation concerning which side of town people lived. As late as 1998, James Byrd, Jr. was brutally murdered by being dragged to death by three white supremacists in Jasper, Texas, which is only about 45 miles from San Augustine. Although it’s not always manifested before your eyes, you can smell and taste the ignorant hate in certain places in this world. Rohr teaches that “ignorant hate” is the real description of what it means to sin. Think about that long enough, and you’ll probably agree.

There were two chilling memories that my conversation with Adrian brought back to the surface. The first had to do with the amount of fear that black young men had concerning nighttime in that small town. After a basketball game, whether it was out of town or at home, my kids were afraid to walk home from the gym. After every game, I would put them on the bus and make sure each kid got home safely. They would not walk through the white neighborhoods in order to get home. I wished I could say that was disturbing to me at the time. It was not. I noticed it and reacted by trying to get them home safely, but I don’t remember calling out bullshit for having to take them home after dark. Those young men were afraid for good reasons. Absolute BULLSHIT!

I taught a couple of P.E. classes that year. In one of those classes was a young man who I shall call Lawrence. Lawrence was in his senior year but had spent all four years of high school in a resource program. I was told he had authority issues, was a discipline problem, and was barely able to read. Lawrence was a kid, but he was a full-grown man. On Friday’s, I allowed the P.E. class to do whatever they wanted during class. In that school, basketball and baseball was king… not football (strange, but true). All during football season, Lawrence would wear me out: “Can I try out for basketball?” Lawrence had never played organized sports, but he could definitely play the game of basketball. He had Barkley’s body, mouth, and ability to jump into the rafters, but my only concern was his temperament and willingness to operate in a coached system. About a week before tryouts, I caught Lawrence in the hall and told him I’d let him try out, but I wasn’t making any promises about him being on the team. A week later, it was very obvious that Lawrence had the skills to play with anyone, so I brought him into my office and asked him what kind of effort and attitude should I expect? He burst into tears. “No one has ever let me belong to anything.”

The backstory was bad. No dad, mom in jail, grandparents didn’t want him. Lawrence lived with a friend of an aunt, and rode a bike 6 miles to and from school every day. Lawrence hugged me after games, and sometimes in the halls around school. I paid him to mow and rake pine straw around my house. The boy had nothing.

COACH… CAN I GO WITH YOU?

As I mentioned earlier, I left San Augustine and coaching after one year. When the time came for us to move, I hired Lawrence to help me load the Uhaul. It was a Sunday morning, and he showed up pretty hung over. I could smell the cheap wine or whatever it was he’d filled himself with the night before. He was hurting, but he was a beast loading the truck. I gave him a few items out of my closet and some money. Then he grabbed me and said, “Coach, I got a question.” Okay, what is it? “Can I go with you? I won’t be any trouble, and I’ve got to get out of San Augustine.” I don’t remember exactly what I said, other than it was not possible, which sucked big time. I sucked.

That wasn’t the last time a kid asked to move somewhere with Patti and myself, but it might be one of the more painful memories of my early adulthood. Lawrence walked off my lawn crying his eyes out. I was so full of my dreams and aspirations that I couldn’t make space for anyone else’s needs. I know it is normal for a kid in his ‘20s to respond to most of life’s demands in that fashion, but it sits now like a sand-bur in my heart. Full-time ministry was still several years away for me, but obviously… I wasn’t ready. Not even close.

I’ve wondered more than once about Lawrence over the past 38 years. Is he still alive? Is he a good man and a productive citizen? Did he crawl out of his circumstance and rise above his family’s plight? Just like that ten minutes in the car with Adrian, or any ride in my Ubermobile, I had one shot with Lawrence, and then it was over. I’m reluctant to give myself a grade in that entire situation (though it feels like an D-), yet I really hope that what I did give him at the time (some love and respect) made some difference.

Overall, I’m thankful for my ten minutes with Adrian. But in a flash she was out of the car and gone. Maybe right now is more important than we can ever appreciate. Church of Uber has taught me that time and time again. It’s important y’all!

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

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

Speaking of relocation, Patti and I are moving in July to Sundance, WY.  I have been commissioned by the United Methodist Church to pastor two small churches in NE Wyoming. Thank you for your prayers… for us, our family here in Colorado Springs, our church here in Fountain (which we love), and the churches we will be serving in Wyoming!  Ain’t life a trip?!

Categories: Uncategorized

church of uber – MICHELLE

February 5, 2019 2 comments

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to report. Uber Church has been alive and well. It’s just been a crazy busy season. We all have to align our priorities, and blogging has definitely taken a backseat for a multitude of reasons. But, sometimes it is good to revisit the sweet spots in your life. There was a season when blogging was my only real outlet. We “preacher types” have to “download” every now and then or we get cranky. The audience in our heads is always thirsty for our exquisite monologues. I honestly know better, but hearing your “self” talk, think, create, or expound can be addicting. I work pretty damn hard to keep the cuckoo in its clock because it’s just downright ugly to be that unaware of our own self-infatuation.

I picked up a fairly major writer and speaker a couple of months ago. I was shocked when he flatly said, “I sold my soul to the devil.” He had my attention. “I wanted fame, I wanted to be known, and I thought that would fix me on the inside. I got my dream.” I couldn’t help myself, “How is that working out for you?” He barely whispered, “It hasn’t changed a damned thing.” I think I already knew what he was going to say.

Let me tell you about Michelle. I picked her up at 4:30am in front of a nicer hotel on the west side of Colorado Springs. She was sitting on a bench taking a last drag on her cigarette. She talked first, and asked me if I knew about the hidden gem that her hotel was. I liked her immediately. She was very short, spunky (especially for 4:30 in the morning), and cute, but she looked very tired. Within minutes, I had already heard a lot about her work. Michelle is a trainer for a giant software company, who travels a lot internationally. It was fun to talk with her about the places I had also visited. This was a woman who had a lot of energy, and was willing to spend that energy even at the wee hours of the morning.

When I inquired about where she was flying to that morning, the mood changed suddenly. “Home.” Her voice cracked as she said it. I looked in the rearview mirror and I could see her pulling out a Kleenex in the back seat. Normally, I would have remained quiet and wait to see what was coming next, but we’d already shared a bunch of words. So, I dug in. “What’s up Michelle?” I asked. It took a good 30 seconds for her to compose herself enough to talk. Finally, she said, “I’m supposed to be here all week, but my brother-in-law died yesterday.” More tears. More crying. I offered my condolences.

Michelle’s brother-in-law was 44 years old. He was a bigger man who hadn’t taken the best care of himself, leaving behind a wife, and three daughters—14, 12, and 8. I got the rundown on the situation, and it was tough. Michelle’s sister hadn’t ever really worked, and her husband didn’t really have anything put away. Since Michelle’s kids were already grown, she had invited her sister and her kids to move in with her.

As we neared the airport, Michelle said, “You want to know something about me?” I had a feeling this was going to be about self-abasement, and I was right. “Of course,” I said. “I’m a very shallow person,” she replied. “How so?” I asked.

She told me how she had had some water damage in the basement of her house. “I’ve been a real bitch to the insurance company and the contractors trying to fix the problem. I’ve been so upset over such a nothing thing compared to what my sister is now facing.” I waited for a good minute. She concluded with a question: “Preacher man, do you think God is trying to tell me something?” I said, “Michelle, life does bring a lot of irritations. Nothing is guaranteed… ever.” That got a big “Amen” from the backseat. “But you’ve already shown your heart towards your sister and your nieces. You’ve shown that you’re open to both inconvenience and mercy, even though everyone is hurting in your family. Try not to be too hard on yourself. They’re going to need a lot of love, and you’re the one they are going to look to for those things. If God is trying to tell you something, love is always involved. If you can’t sense love in what you’re hearing, it’s not from God.”

Once I got her bags out of the back of the car, I asked if I could hug her and pray for her. She said yes, then thanked me, and grabbed her luggage. As she started to walk away, she said, “It’s about priorities, isn’t it?” I grinned. “Yes, Michelle. It’s always about our priorities.” She thanked me again and walked off.

I would be a liar if I told you that Uber driving is financially rewarding. It’s not. Not even close. BUT the encounters—the people and what they’ve taught me—are absolutely priceless.

I suspect my Uber days are close to being over. I realize this expression is overused, BUT it’s definitely been a good ride.

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

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

xo

Categories: Uncategorized

November 27, 2018 1 comment

YES, WE’RE BACK IN PRINT!

 

 

This is the first of four volumes of Raw Talks With Wisdom. Volume One contains all the devos from January 1 through March 31.  In a few spots, I’ve added current commentary, but for the most part, it’s the same devotionals that were originally written and published in 2013.

These books are smaller, easier to slide into your briefcase, backpack, or bookshelf. It’s definitely a more user-friendly edition.

We’re ending the Raw Talks email campaign on December 31st. Volume Two will also be out before year’s end, and we’ll get Three and Four out early 2019

Printed and electronic copies are now available for purchase at:

 

Amazon

B&N

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

church of uber – TAKASHI

October 9, 2018 16 comments

I realize that most of the stories I tell you about my Uber rides have some sort of serious punch in them. I love the fact that I can give you details of some amazing encounters. This one, however, is not that. Or maybe it is…

So, it’s a normal pickup spot at one of the nicer hotels in downtown Colorado Springs. I like that spot, because there’s a Dutch Bros Coffee one block away. Many times, while I’m waiting in line (there’s always a line at Dutch Bros), I get pinged. So I’m happy when I roll to pick up the next ride. I got my Dutchies, and I’m ready to go.

It was still dark when I picked up Takashi and his co-worker. After securing their luggage, Takashi jumped into the passenger seat up front, and the other guy crawled into the back seat. Takashi spoke pretty good English, but it was very heavily accented. His salt-and-pepper hair, and thickly-groomed chin beard, were both meticulously placed. He was a handsome dude, but dressed for leisure and comfort as they were flying back home to Japan. Takashi looked like a serious-minded businessman, but I was soon to find out that he was ready to use his English.

After finding out about why they’d been in town, I asked Takashi, “Was it all work, or did you have any fun?” That was when it got crazy. Takashi turned around to his co-worker, spoke a few lines in his native tongue, and asked me, “Have you ever been to Maggie’s Farm?” Maggie’s Farm is one of many recreational pot dispensaries in Manatou Springs. I knew where the conversation was headed, but I was not prepared for what happened next. Takashi started telling me how he had bought some cannabis-laced chocolate candies. When he didn’t start feeling the effects of the candy immediately, he continued to eat more…and then even more. On a previous ride, an EMT driver told me that a common call for help happens when pot tourists over-eat their cannabis eatables because they don’t feel their high immediately. The emergency tech said, “A couple of hours later, and people start wigging out in paranoia.”

Both men started giggling, recalling the memory. “I assume that was a bad idea?” I asked, referring to his overindulgence. Evidently, the experience had been funny. Both men were now laughing uncontrollably. In fact, Takashi was beating the dashboard mercilessly (I was concerned about the air bags malfunctioning), while the guy in the back seat was screaming in laughter, pounding the back of my seat, and about to stomp a hole in the floor! I thought the boys were going to stroke out.

OUT-OF-CONTROL LAUGHTER!

It did not stop the entire ride. About the time one of them would get a grip, the other would say something, and it would start all over again. The waves of laughter got into me. Geez, I cough when I laugh too hard, and I had to pull over. They were slapping each other, all the while I am laughing at them losing their minds in hilarity. I finally pulled it together enough to get them to the airport. They were still in such throws of their memory, Takashi could no longer speak in English. When I asked him which airline he was flying out on, he could only point to the American desk as we pulled up beside it. Once I got them unloaded, Takashi almost broke my ribs with a hug. As I drove off, they were still standing by their luggage on the sidewalk, tossing each other’s hair. OMG! It was CRAZY!

I have no idea what actually happened that night, but those boys must have taken “The Rocky Mountain High” to a whole new level. I really don’t think the guys were still under the influence. I just think they were re-living a night that must have gotten pretty wild. Un-be-liev-able!

So here’s the deal: If you want to get upset with me for telling this story, then go right ahead. Feel free to lump these guys (and me, too) in with the “sinners” group which consists of all smokers, drinkers, liars, cheaters, divorcees, gays, gluttons, gossipers, adulterers, lawyers, used car dealers, and politicians. You know… the people who Jesus loves despite whichever group they belong to.

But, I can’t remember the last time I saw someone laugh like that… period. I’m not a spokesman or advocate for the pot industry, or the effects of cannabis. But people have become so serious, and way too burdened, to even crack a smile about much of anything going on in their lives. If I’m to be honest, it was kind of refreshing to see that much guffawing being shared between two friends. No, I don’t think we all need to be smoking reefer. But can we laugh a little? Can we not take ourselves so seriously? Do we, can we, embrace these moments and memories with our friends? We need to laugh more, dang it! What about you? When was the last time you were in the grips of uncontrollable hilarity?

On a side note, I recently gave a ride to the husband of a woman who started a grass-roots (no pun intended) movement for parents whose children suffer with seizures and all sorts of learning disabilities. He revealed that, seven years ago, his son was bed-ridden because of his afflictions. That family moved to Colorado Springs, and started giving the kid cannabis oils medicinally (no THC in the meds). The kid is now seizure free, making great grades, and engaged in a normal social life that all kids are supposed to have. The guy was in tears talking about his son.

Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

Weeping and mourning don’t usually negotiate for our participation. Those two things can hold us hostage without a conversation. I believe it is more than okay for us to allow ourselves the right to be joyous and “giggly” in our gratitude for the things that are good, even great, in our lives. Patti and I, and our family, have had a pretty stressful summer. As hard and taxing as it was, we now get to hold a baby in our arms who fills our hearts with miraculous hilarity. We’re tired, but we can’t keep the happy tears inside. It would be a “sin” to keep them all bottled up.

One thing is certain: the Church of Uber is never boring… EVER!

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

BE GOOD AT LIFE!

Mike

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

church of uber – MANDI

July 17, 2018 11 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