Friday, December 31, 2010

Going Deep

These past several weeks I have explored the deepest regions of my inner self in order to complete this amazing puzzle in time for releasing my first book in March.  When I first began praying for wisdom over thirty years ago, I thought the prayer was solely for my benefit.  My request was made in order to survive.  Gradually, the Holy Spirit has revealed God's plan for me.  This gift of wisdom that I have been slowly acquiring is a gift that is meant to be shared.

As this year comes to a close today, I find myself reflecting on past memories that were once bottled up and cast into the ocean.  The tides are coming in now and so are some of the memories that I tried to hide from.  I am sharing them with you today in my sandbox and it is appropriate that a major storm is pouring down a cold rain outside as I write this message, retrieved from the coldest places of my heart.

I remember one day sharing with a close family member that I wanted to be just like my dad.  He had so many admirable qualities, like the ability to make people feel good and laugh.  He knew how to light up a room.  His sense of humor sometimes got him in trouble and he would do anything to put a smile on a stranger's face.

'I want to grow up to be just like him,' I said proudly.

"No, you don't," replied my relative.  These words haunted me as I grew up.  They burned like walking barefoot on a hot sidewalk in the middle of summer.  Each time I felt the loneliness of his absence, these words returned to me.

These words have been a hindrance for me.  I chose to block my father out of my life and walk down a different path.  By avoiding all memories of him, I missed out on the good that was inside of him.  I didn't even realize I was doing this until I started my memoir.  The book wasn't going to be about him, but everything points back to him and he has become the key figure in the book.  In order to complete this book, I must face my past and come to terms with it.  Understanding my past is the key to understanding who my father was and who I am.

One of the reasons I never considered myself a writer is because my father was a writer and I was avoiding following in his footsteps.  Deep down, I tried to do the opposite of what he would do.  I don't think I ever shared this with my writer's group.  I laugh as I pen this because I remember how hard my dad fought to get his first book published.  The rejection letters flowed and he just kept fighting.  He was relentless.  Finally, one day he woke up and decided to self-publish.  It was almost unheard of in his day due to the high cost.  He did it anyway.  He even came up with creative ways to promote the book and gave tee-shirts to each of his grandchildren that were silk-screened with an image of the main character.

We cannot run from who we are.  We have been given unique gifts.  Failing to develop them hurts the world.  These gifts were designed to be used for the benefit of others.  Learn to trust the voice that is inside of you.  Don't be afraid to share your talent, even if you feel it is unworthy or it isn't as good the talent you see in others.  The world is waiting for you to unveil your masterpiece.  Go deep within yourself to find what it is that makes you unique, then bring it to your conscious brain and refine it.  When the time is right, let your gift be born and give it to the world.  This is the best way you can honor those who came before you, the ones who shared their lives so that our world could be better.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

500 Days of Blogging

If you had asked me five hundred days ago, "Mike, what will your blog be like in the future?" My answer would have been vague. I knew God was prompting me to write on that first Saturday with no work duty.  I proceeded to write, one day at a time, one message at a time.    Some messages came to me easily, like flashes of light.  Others were painful, they forced me to look at past memories that I attempted to bury most of my adult life.  Gradually, the process of writing has become more natural for me.

Five hundred days ago, I had no awareness about this Christian Writers Critique Group that has become my backbone, my writing family.  I did not know about Createspace, a company that is now part of Amazon.com.  I had no idea I would be reporting 9,000 page views or close to 5,000 visitors since this blog was first launched just sixteen months ago.  Publishers begin to notice writers when they have 10,000 visitors and this site is accelerating thanks to those who are sharing this blog with their friends.  This whole experience is like being in some sort of dream state.

There is only one thing that has always been very clear in my mind.  It's YOU!  Everything that I do is for you.  My job is to help you find your connection to HIM, your Creator.  You are so valuable to Him.  He wants you to be with Him for all eternity.  Your own free will is a gift from Him.  He is there every day.  He reaches out to you through nature and through others.  I often wonder why He picked me to do this particular job, mainly because there are so many others in this world that are actually qualified to do what I do every day.  Perhaps it is because I lack so many qualifications that He chose me.  You can see that I am pretty much transparent.  This makes it easier for His light to shine through me.  His thoughts become my thoughts, His visions become my vision, His love for you becomes my love for you.  His will becomes my will.  All that you see here on this blog and in my books come from Him.

As for the future, everything is in His hands.  He will keep using me every day to reach you and others like you that maybe feel separated from Him.  I will continue to write for you until He returns or until it is my time to go Him.  There is nothing in this world that is more important to Him than YOU.  He sent His only begotten Son to die for YOU.  Think about that the next time you are stuck in traffic or your day is less than perfect.

I thank God for YOU every day.  You are the reason for my existence.  It feels really good to have a purpose.  Without you to write for, this blog would be meaningless.  Thank you for stopping by and for sharing this blog with others.  I look forward to writing for you in the next five hundred days and to sharing my memoir with you in March.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Not Okay Corral

Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.~ Ecclesiastes 9:12

As I approached Wes's rain-drenched corral, I felt sad for him.  The week of rains made it impossible for my daughter to let her appaloosa out to run freely.  There he was, all cooped up with mud all around him.

How many of us are pent up in a corral? The mud we seem to be trapped in represents the challenges that we have difficulty dealing with.  Maybe life is not okay in our miniature cage?  As we stand there in the cold, we see a gate.  There are new opportunities on the other side of that doorway.  Fear creeps in and freezes us.  As we look to the horizon, we see the black clouds headed our way.  That means more mud.  It also means we won't get an opportunity to do what we were born to do...that is, run, jump, and explore.  We were born to be free.

It's not okay to remain trapped.  A new year is coming.  Maybe this is the year you will decide to free yourself from your prison cell.  For years, I hid myself in my own private cave, taunted by past mistakes and bad choices.  The Evil One convinced me that I was guilty and that I belonged in the cave, apart from community.

There is good news, my friend.  Jesus died for you so that you can be absolved of all sins.  It makes Him sad to see you stuck in the mud.  He unlocked the gate for you.  It is your choice to open it and venture out.  You have an inheritance.  Free yourself from your past mistakes and forgive yourself.  Forgive those who hurt you.  Open the gate and get out of the mud.  You have a destiny.  I will see you on the open range.  Giddy-up.  Let's start this new year on the outside of the corral.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Handling Rejection

The meaning of the terms "mulligan" and "rejection" sometimes goes hand-in-hand.  Like many of my ancestors before me, I can throw my clubs further than I can hit the ball.  The main reason for this is because I never really took the time to "learn" what this game is all about.  "Mulligan" in golf means "do over".  If you are getting lots of rejection in your life, make sure you take a mulligan every time.  Just keep doing it over and over until you get the acceptance you are looking for.

Dealing with my mortgage company is a great example of never giving up, no matter how challenging the odds.  For two years, I have been applying (and re-applying for a mortgage that fits today's challenging economy.  "Rejected" does not work for me.  "Let me know what you need to get this approved", I respond.  I will use every "mulligan" there is available and I will not stop until the cows come home.

Become relentless in overcoming rejection.  I have been told "no" so many times by prospects that the word has made me tone deaf.  I can no longer hear "no".  Instead, I hear, "not yet".  If you have the tenacity to endure every rejection that comes your way and keep getting back up with each blow you suffer, you will become unstoppable.  Go for it.  Use your mulligans, every one of them.  If you run out, find a way to get some more.  Rejection is only a hurdle and there is always a way over, under or through it.  Become a world champion hurdler.

The video below is dedicated to one of my relatives.  His name is Energizer and he can score goals against his daddy like no other.  He gets knocked down but he gets up again, without fail, a true Mulligan...

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Road Block at Devil's Punch Bowl in Ramona

My excitement faded to disappointment as I approached the trail to Devil's Punch Bowl the morning before Christmas.  A large sign blocked the entrance to the trail with the words, "Road Closed."  Several of the people ignored the sign.  They walked around it and jumped over a large gorge that cut the trail due to five days of torrential rainfall.

My friend Doug, the local tennis pro, and his wife, Kim, who was nursing a broken arm, chose a path nearby that eventually linked up with the others in our group.  As we made the one mile descent, I shared how this hike is similar to the journey my wife and I are undertaking.  'Many obstacles, but always a way to surpass them,' I told Doug and Kim while we made our descent.

After hiking for about an hour, we reached another obstacle, another one created by Mother Nature.  The creek had transformed into a small river and it was flowing rapidly.  Doug's brother, Greg, another tennis pro in our town, offered his rope when I volunteered to check out a possible crossing point for the group.

'No rope needed,' I said as I stood in the middle of the ice-cold creek.  'We can do this if we proceed with caution.'

Slowly, each member of the group waded through the rough water.  Greg carried the younger hikers to keep them dry.  We crossed the meandering creek two more times in order to reach our final destination.  As I approached the Devil's Punchbowl, I thought, most people would have given up when they saw the first road block.  I remembered saying to Greg's daughter before deciding to cross the creek, 'all things are possible.'  Jessica recognized the quote and finished it, ..."all things are possible...with God."  Suddenly, the raging waters appeared less daunting and we moved forward to our destination.

The obstacles we faced on that morning hike are similar to the ones we encounter in our lives.  Adversity is meant to be confronted.  No matter how big the barrier, remember this...with God, all things are possible.

Here is a video clip of Devil's Punchbowl, a 90 ft waterfall located in Ramona.  Five miles beyond this waterfall is a 300 ft waterfall I did not know existed until one of the hikers pointed it out.  When I complete this book I will take a full day off and enjoy this hidden wonder.  I never would have know about it if I had turned around at the first road block.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Late-Comer to the Party

 10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
11 “Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’
12 “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. ~ Matthew 25:10-13

Let's admit it, we hate those people who come late to the party.  We slave all day to prepare our homes for our guests.  There is always one person who shows up late, expecting to be waited on long after everything has been put away.

It is no different at the big party Jesus is preparing for us.  Inevitably, there will be one person who will crash the party at the last minute.  The rest of us shrug our shoulders.  We see all the attention that this person is getting.  The finest wine is pulled out from the secret wine cooler and this late guest gets all the attention.

What about the rest of us?  We always show up on time, follow the rules and never let down the host.  We have to give up our best seat at the table for this person?  What's up?

Jesus knows we have a seat at His table.  We are no less important to Him than the guest who finally decides to join the party.  He is only showing us how important all of us are to Him.  Maybe you are the lost sheep, the one who declined invitation after invitation to come to the party?  When you decide to join the party, all of Heaven rejoices.  You are that important.  The rest of us who have been on His team all our lives need to understand this.  Go ahead, let the party host revel in the moment.  The one who was lost is now found.  It is worth celebrating with the finest food and drink.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

May you and your family be filled with peace, joy & happiness. Our Savior has arrived. Rejoice! He comes to make all things new.


Friday, December 24, 2010

O Holy Night

On the eve of our Savior's birth, I wanted to offer two YouTube videos, the first from a seven-year-old that has the voice of an angel.  The second video is a unique version of "Silent Night" by Taylor Swift.  Enjoy....



Thursday, December 23, 2010

A High-tech Digital Nativity

Imagine Mary and Joseph preparing for the birth of their Son using modern-day social networking.  The following YouTube video was sent to me by an angel and I couldn't resist passing it on to you.

These tools may not have been around the first time Jesus came into the world, however, they will be used to spread the Good News of His return and the prophecy, "every knee shall bend," will come true.

Enjoy the video and share it with a friend.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Calling Out to an Archangel

Yesterday was an important day as far as putting pieces of this puzzle together. God's plan is unfolding in all areas of my life. My return visit to the Apple Store to purchase a battery (thanks for the donation, Michael), was amazing. Although I did not get that battery (my laptop is so old that they don't even carry the battery in stock), I got an opportunity to meet one of the lead trainers. He has helped other writers to publish and he showed me the latest that Apple has to offer.

I am reaching out to a special person today, someone who will take the lead role in supporting my efforts to connect others with Jesus. If you would like to help, you can join the "Angels in the Outfield." It's a great way to get involved and you will receive a collector's copy of the book, limited to ninety nine angels in the outfield.

If you would like to become the key sponsor, there is one spot available for you. As the archangel sponsor, your job will be to fund my computer needs. Click here to learn more about becoming my archangel sponsor.

Don't forget to check out my blog archive on the right margin. There are about five hundred messages. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for all your prayers and support.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Who Will Take a Stand?

David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. ~ 1 Samuel 17:45

When David first showed up to check on his older brothers, he was a mere teenager.  He looked out to the valley and observed the mighty Goliath who had been taunting David's people incessantly for forty days.  Even the great king, a fierce warrior, feared this seven foot tall behemoth.

David looked at the giant from God's vantage point.  He saw weaknesses that the others did not perceive.  He also saw strengths in the one he followed.  Every time David was asked to go rescue a lost sheep, he answered the call.  He defeated the lion and the bear with nothing to protect him but the power of God.

David rose in the ranks quickly.  He won every battle he was asked to lead.  God protected him.  This lowly teenager, the last born of Jesse, would become a part of the lineage that brought our Savior into the world.  As we prepare to celebrate the birthday of Jesus, let's remember the role models we are to follow, like David.

Pay attention to how David viewed his challenges.  They may have looked impossible through his own eyes.  By looking at obstacles from God's perspective, David gained confidence and strength.  Enter the battlefield of life in the name of the Lord Almighty.  Declare every victory in His name and for His glory.  No enemy, no matter how tall, will be able to defeat you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Shapes that Attract Us

Over the years, I have learned some interesting tidbits about designing ads that are eye-catching.  There are certain shapes and colors that get our attention.  The triangle and the oval are two shapes that seem to draw us in.  The car manufacturers around the world have long understood this.  Take a look at some car logos from China and see how they have used these shapes creatively to catch your eye.

The two top colors that we respond to are blue and red.  The next time you are making your own invitations, try using these shapes and colors in your design to get maximum impact.

I wonder if the triangle shape we are attracted to has anything to do with the Trinity?  Deep down, we are always searching.  Maybe the triangle is related to some kind of innate capacity we have that nudges us to seek the Creator?  We are also drawn to the number three.  Look around.  Everything seems to be packaged in three's.  We have the three blind mice, Goldilocks and the three bears, the three stooges and the three muskateers.  Maybe the number three is a subliminal part of our minds, planted there to help draw us closer to the Creator?  If you are seeking Him, you won't have to venture far.  He is all around you.  He is present in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Whooieeeeeee

Sometimes, I struggle to find words to describe the feelings I have inside my heart.  Today, I thought I would just make one up.  All these Christmas songs, wonderful decorations, and the Spirit of Christmas are making my endorphin levels go off the charts.

For many, this has been a challenging year.  I can relate.  It's so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of this busy season.   A tiny manger is displayed in my front yard.  A mother to be and her husband are standing in front of their manger, waiting for their Son to be born.  No electricity or running water.  Not even a cell phone to reach out to far away family members.  There they are, out in the cold... waiting.

It's a joyful expectation. They both know that their Son will make all things new. Their presence in my front yard reminds me of who I am waiting for. I spend each day writing about Him and all the good He is doing in my life. He appeared once 2,000 years ago to complete the first manger scene in Bethlehem. He promises to come back again. Every knee shall bend when He arrives. It's enough make one say, "Whooieeeeeee!"

This is a time of preparation for Him. Visit Him at His House. Get to know His voice. You will hear Him when He calls for you. He is coming...


Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Message About Autism

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. ~ Isaiah 55:8

Yesterday I got a phone call from a writer in my critique group.  She was reaching out for help so that she could connect with parents of autistic children.  At the time of the phone conversation, neither of us knew how God would intervene.  Since she is already a public figure, I am going to share her message.  Like the boomerang that this blog is, I trust that the right people will discover today's message and respond.

Adelaide began working with autistic children over twenty years ago.  When her second child was born twenty years after the first one, she noticed certain signs that revealed the gift God had given her.  Adelaide refused to allow the schools to put "labels" on her little angel and instead quit her job to be a full-time mommy.

When I first met Adelaide's daughter, I recognized her uniqueness.  She asked me to critique her first book, filled with detailed illustrations.  She stood in front of our group, sharing her story with no fear.  This little girl is perhaps one of the youngest bloggers in the country.  She is also starting her second business.  This is all before the first grade!

During our phone conversation, Adelaide shared what would have happened if her daughter had entered the traditional school system.  "Their solution is drugs", she explained.  These kids never get the opportunity to develop into the people God created them to be.  I have an important message to share with parents who feel lost raising autistic children.  Can you help?"

During the night, the answer came to me.  That's how God works.  He connects people and presents a problem that needs to be solved.  The answer cannot be found in isolation.  It takes a group of people to come together, combining their resources to discover solutions.

Take a look at the video below.  This shows us how special our brains are.  Don't let others limit you or your children, no matter how "different" the world thinks they are.  Celebrate uniqueness and discover your special place in God's puzzle. 



Click here to learn more about Adelaide and her mission to help educate others about autism. Thank you, Adelaide, for coming out of your comfort zone to share your message. I look forward to reading your daughter's books and invite her to be a guest speaker on my blog in the near future. She is following in mom's and dad's footsteps...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Living the Dream

Prior to leaving Goliath, my future Zoom partners and I hired an attorney to guide us in our preparation.  When you are preparing to compete with an employer, especially one who has billions of dollars in his back pocket, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.  We needed to make sure that our departure was clean and legal.  Any overlooked detail would surely lead us to an expensive legal battle.

Our attorney advised us to "live the dream."  He told us that is why America is the dream destination for people all over the world.  You can come here with nothing but a vision and it can come true if you work hard and never ever give up hope.

It's been almost six years since my partners and I left Goliath.  We have gone through many trials.  I recall some of my relatives telling me, "you will surely fail.  Are you crazy to compete with a giant so big?"

Nearly six years later, it's Goliath that has retreated from the print business while we expand into new ventures.  We never listened to the naysayers.  We were too busy growing our business and helping one another to dream big.

As my children prepare to live their lives as adults, I encourage them to dream big.  They are not allowed to stop when faced with an obstacle.  Instead, they must ponder a strategy to get around it, under it, over it, or through it.  The dreams are on the other side of the roadblock.  The dream killers live on this side of it while those living the dream have found a new neighborhood.  There is a new frontier on the other side of the hurdle.  Where will you live?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Riddle for You

 The first one to solve this riddle gets a prize.  email your answer and I will notify you if you are the winner.  The prize, like the riddle is a mystery. 

Beware, this riddle may keep you up late at night, unless you happen to be a Kindergartner (they solved it 88% of the time while Stanford graduates only achieved a 5% success rate...

Can you answer all seven of the following questions 
with the same word? 
1. The word has seven letters.... 
2. Preceded God... 
3. Greater than God... 
4. More Evil than the devil... 
5. All poor people have it... 
6. Wealthy people need it.... 
7. If you eat it, you will die. 
If you are stuck and don't have any Kindergarten kids 
around to help,  send me an email 
and I will give you the answer.
 
email address:  socalmulligan808@gmail.com 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

90 Days to an Opus

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away. ~ Hilary Cooper

The word "opus" came to me in the middle of the night.  I had only heard it used once in my life in the title of "Mr. Holland's Opus."  The word is profound, it means a work, a composition, an exertion.  In the movie, Richard Dreyfuss plays a high school music teacher who is forced to retire due to budget cuts.  He was always dreaming of getting rich and famous from a musical composition that never seemed to come to fruition.

I highly recommend the movie.  For those who don't mind seeing the end of the story first, check out the final ten minutes of the movie in the YouTube video below.

My own opus is now in it's final trimester.  The book is about to be born.  I chose St. Patrick's Day for several reasons.  Number one, to honor my father, Patrick Mulligan, a man who knew how to celebrate this day like no other.  Number two, to celebrate my daughter's 18th birthday.  And number three, to celebrate the 6th birthday for ZoomAutos.com.

My wife told her doctor that I was praying for our little girl to be born on St. Patrick's Day when she first found out she was pregnant.  When she went in for her check-up, he told her to plan on late March as "nothing was happening."

Our computer programmer fell behind as he was completing the software programming for our new business and told us it would be a miracle if we launched on St. Patrick's Day.

My fellow writers don't believe I will make my deadline for my book.  As with our daughter's miracle birth and Zoom's miracle birth on St. Patrick's Day, my reply is, 'let's see what kind of miracle God has planned.'  I pray that my opus brings honor and glory to God and a smile to my dad's face (that's really some kind of oxymoron...how can you NOT be smiling in Heaven?).  With the Holy Spirit guiding me, this memoir will arrive according to God's perfect time.  This is the equivalent of moving Mt. St. Helen's. The world will know that this writing came from God because only a Divine Being can accomplish what is to be born in the allotted time and it will be for His Glory.

Don't forget to "play the sunset" in your life as Mr. Holland teaches his clarinet student in the first video.  If you don't mind watching the ending of Mr. Holland's Opus before checking out the movie, check out the second clip at the bottom...



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Update on the Stewardship Meeting

"Don't do it," my wife urged.  "Your plate is too overloaded and you won't be able to do a good job by spreading yourself so thin."

'Honey, I agree with you about the full plate.  The letter asked for one meeting with the group and prayers.  That's what I am going to do.  I will listen to the group and go with what is in my heart.  We are where we are today because we have trusted God in all of our actions.'

I was silent for most of the meeting, just listening to the ideas from my pastor and the leaders.  Then it hit me.  They asked us to share our testimony.  I went first.  You can learn more by reading my earlier posts.

Eva volunteered next.  "It was the retreat," she said.  "They promised me I would receive a special gift at the end of the weekend.  But first, I needed to give something up.  I needed to forgive somebody.  I told the leaders that there was no one to forgive, I had a clean slate."

"You must pray and search for two people you need to forgive."

"How do you know this?"

"If you want the gift, you must do this."

Eva called her brother that night and her sister-in-law answered.

"It's Eva, and I need to ask your forgiveness."

At first, her motives were questioned.  The two forgave each other and the phone was turned over to her brother.  All was smoothed over and the past was buried.

Eva couldn't wait to receive her gift.  She expected it Sunday morning but was told the gifts wouldn't arrive until the end of the retreat.  At the service, Eva was told she would be receiving the Holy Spirit.  She talked about the euphoria she felt as she asked God, "Fill me up all the way, I desire you to be in my heart."

Eva's life was forever changed.  She added, "one day I heard God ask me to join the choir, and I can't sing.  Six years later, I'm still in the choir, singing...joyfully."

'That's all right,' I said.  'He asked me to write and I'm not a writer.  He is teaching me to write and sends me great writing mentors along the way.'

Other members shared their anecdotes.  Each had a different story of conversion.  Our pastor had chosen us to help light the fire in the other members of the congregation, especially the busy ones, the ones that only visit on Christmas and Easter.

As I woke up this morning, my wife asked, "how was the meeting last night?"

'God has a plan, honey.  I am going to follow the plan.  The members of this group are regular people just like you and me.  I said yes.  It's going to be difficult but I trust that God will lead us.  One more piece of His puzzle was revealed last night and I am ready to serve.'

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Miracle on the Courts

Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. ~ Isaiah 40:28-31

It was an action-packed day at Sycuan Tennis Club on Saturday.  Our captain, Stacey, had a game plan for the day and we arrived early in the morning to warm up for the team tournament.  A win in the first round would put us in a strong position to earn a berth in the regional tournament in Las Vegas.  Only one team in our division would qualify... the stakes were high.

"We are going to need to recover from a six point deficit when we put our mixed doubles teams on the court," our team captain said after we fell behind in the singles portion of the first match.  In order to win, we will need to get to a super tie breaker in mixed doubles."

Our opponents had played in numerous tournaments and they were on the verge of closing out a first round victory.  I looked at our two mixed doubles teams as they entered the courts.  They stood tall and full of confidence.  Larry and Ninon played hard and won, shrinking our opponents team lead to four points.  Our team-mates were only part way across the tight rope and the safety net below had been removed.  Mike and Shelley would need to be near perfect.  So far, they were.  Their match was a nail-biter.  When the set ended up tied, it was time for a tiebreaker, winner take all.  Mike and Shelley pushed so hard to win.  They won the tiebreaker, however, we were still three games short of a victory.


Left to right, team captain, Stacey, Mike, Corri, me, Ninon, and Shelley
(Larry is taking the pic... see him  in the photo below)
Larry is all smiles as his team-mates sing happy birthday
My mind flashed back to 1980 when I was rooting for the USA men's hockey team to beat the heavily favored Soviet Union.  I wondered if maybe the lead had become insurmountable.  I remembered how joyful the country was when our young amateurs defeated the powerhouse team from the Soviet Union.

Players from each team gathered along the sidelines to offer support.  There were cheers every time an amazing shot was hit and it came down to the wire.  I could barely watch as I witnessed my team-mates tie up the match.

It was now time for the "super tiebreaker."  The first team to win seven points could start dreaming about Vegas.  Mike and Shelley accomplished their mission and the team won round one 23- 22.

There were still two more team matches to be played before sunset.  We ended up losing the last match in another super tie breaker but the team spirit and the community spirit was at an all-time high and enough points were accumulated to give us first place in our division.  In my eyes, we pulled off a win because we practiced often and we believed we could do it.

As I think back to all that took place on that special day, I think about how calm my team-mates were.  Like the San Diego Chargers, they started off in a bit of trouble and ended up finishing strong when everything depended on it.

Over dinner at the resort, one of my team-mates asked me, "do you ever get tired?"

"Not when I'm on a tennis court", I answered.  The question reminded me of the Bible verse above.  If you are ever feeling "depleted,"  play this video listed below.  You will never feel the same way, ever.  Check out the video below to learn more about our everlasting God and to discover how trusting in the Lord will lead to new strength.  Let me know how this works out and thanks for visiting.

P.S.  I got inspired to email my team this morning about our experience on Saturday and about our tennis future.  Since the team gave me permission to "share" our tennis lives here on this blog, I am including the email to the team.  The note has applications beyond tennis.  As the different parts of my life come together, I am thankful that the people I am connected to are willing to share.  Check out the letter below...





Good morning team,

Stacey's coaching acumen and the team's willingness to spend countless hours
practicing are proving to be a winning combination. At the heart of each team
member is a burning desire to contribute and perform to the maximum of our
abilities. It is my honor and privilege to be a part of this group. I believe
that we are only beginning to discover the potential that is inside of each one
of us.

When Jimmy Connors was a young boy, he always left the courts kicking and
screaming, always wanting to stay longer. He never got enough and his passion
for tennis only grew stronger. I see a bit of Jimmy in each one of you, that
passion to keep learning more about the game and to keep improving each week.

The stars seem to be in alignment for us. Think about all the "coincidences"
that set up this big tournament win. First, Larry discovered the tournament and
encouraged us to go for it (it was the last time we would be allowed to play as
true 4.0 players). Then the new rankings came out. Like Stacey said, "there
was good and bad in it." We chose to see the good and adapt. We now have two
4.5 players on a 4.0 team. According to the rules, because we are playing in
this tournament under the 2010 rankings, we are still eligible to play in a
regional 4.0 tournament in Vegas in April. Should we capture another win in
Vegas, this team will continue to be eligible for entry into a national
tournament and we will be allowed to participate as 4.0 players.

A good friend of mine offered me some encouragement recently when I was having a
challenging day. The advice was to simply "BELIEVE." That is my random thought
for today. I do BELIEVE in each of you. Words cannot describe the feeling I
get inside when I am with all of you. My wife recognizes how special you are
and she can't wait to be a part of this in Vegas and beyond.

Thank you all, for giving me the kind of day that others dream about. Saturday
was a "10" from the beginning of the day when we rode together to the very end
when we celebrated Larry's birthday with new and old friends at Cheers.

I also wanted to thank you for giving me permission to share our awesome story
on my blog this morning @ 8:08am. Every member of this special team has a role.
We need to be ready when our fearless leader calls upon us. I do have a certain
kind of fear of this team inside of me. It's known as "reverential fear." It
means that I never want to look any of you in the eye and see sadness because I
let you down. I know there will be times when each of us get wins and losses
and that's normal. I'm not afraid to lose. I just want to make sure that I
always do everything in my power to be my absolute best. Every day, I promise
to make the right food choices, to exercise properly, to get adequate sleep and
to fill my mind with positive thoughts so that I will never have to look you in
the eye and see any of you disappointed because I did not push myself to be
my best for the good of this team. Our time of preparation is NOW and we have
much work to do for regionals.

We have a special purpose and the stars are in alignment. Please don't be
afraid to dream big dreams. This is our time and we are a "BLESSED" group. Do
you BELIEVE? See you on the courts...

Mike Mulligan

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Masters of Ceremonies

Some of you out there in the blog world may be wondering, "this naked cave man, we never read stories about his wife or children...does he really have a family?"

At the beginning of my blog writing career, I promised my family that they would enjoy anonymity, while I shared my deepest memories and experiences.  Any time a story involves a family member, I get permission before including them in the stories, unless, that family member is already in the public.

This morning, my daughter, Nicole, agreed to allow me to write about her.  Last night, for the first time ever, she spoke in front of a crowd.  She and her two buddies resembled characters right out of some Saturday Night Live skits.  They had the crowd in stitches.  Their role was to entertain the crowd while the dancers prepared for their next song.  Although Nicole had never held a microphone before or spoke in front of an audience, she handled her parts with grace and elegance.  I felt a sense of calmness inside of me as I watched her perform.  Her future is in God's hands and I am beginning to see her hidden talents.

Most people fear public speaking.  It can possibly be traced back to a bad experience in front of a crowd.  Those butterflies in one's stomach can cause anxiety and prevent us from ever facing this number one fear.  Last night, my daughter and her two friends went way beyond their comfort zones to bring laughter to the audience.  Look out Will Ferrell and Jim Carrey.  Nicole's two friends may one day force you into retirement.

I am thankful to my daughter for allowing me to write about her today.  She is developing her God-given talents and sharing them with others.  That is what Jesus asks of us...find out how we fit into the world and then put our gifts to work.  We are not all created to speak in front of crowds, let alone make them laugh, however, we do have a job to do.

Work on your gifts.  Develop them to the best of your ability and then share them.  Thank you, Nicole, for allowing me the opportunity to share how you and your friends are using your gifts to make the world better.  That is a parent's most important job, to help their children discover their talents, then support them and encourage them as they find their place in the world.  Your parents are proud of you.  Keep using your gifts to serve others.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Keep the Sails at Full Mast

The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. ~  Psalm 121:5-8

A wise man once told me that people can be divided into two categories, those who are in a storm and those who are about to enter a storm.  In my own life, I have experienced many weather hazards.  This time period before my first book is launched is more like the eye of a hurricane.  I see black clouds all around me while I enjoy a period of sunshine.  What lies ahead is inevitable.  My Skipper tells me not to be afraid.  He rests in the boat with me while I look at the horizon.

Most would be tempted to lower their sails during bad conditions.  Some even pull their boat out, knowing that staying in the water could lead to damage of epic proportions.  The hurricane is all around me now.  It doesn't matter which direction I am headed.   As long as my Captain is with me, I know I am safe.  The Winds of His Spirit will be blowing at stage 5 levels soon.

My Captain hears your voice.  He sees you floating in the high seas and He is coming.  These days, my boat may look more like a dinghy than a luxury liner.  Don't let it's looks deceive you.  I know where I am headed and there is room for you.  All that I ask of you is that when you become a passenger that you allow me to keep my sails up no matter how forceful the winds become.  There are many missing at sea and I can't rest until the Captain tells me all the lost are retrieved.  If your ship is taking on water or if it has capsized and you find yourself alone, do not fear, Jesus hears you.  He can walk on water if necessary, however, He won't let you drown.  Wherever you are, keep your sails up.  Calm waters are ahead.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Brotherly Love

I received a group email from a special aunt who wanted to share a poem written by her oldest brother.  If my father were still with us today, he would immediately give this prose top honors and initiate his brother into his "world famous" P.O.E.T.S society which met regularly on Fridays at Mulligans bar.  My dad's brother reached out to comfort a precious sister in her time of loss.  This year she became a widow for the second time in her life.  It's not easy for men to share their emotions.  I recall my own father apologizing to me for his abundant tears he shed as we reunited after years of separation.  This was the only time I ever saw my father cry.

Later that day he said, "Son, I'm really sorry I broke down in front of you.  I didn't mean to fall apart like that.  I was just so happy to see you and I couldn't control myself."

If Jesus, the Son of God can weep, I think it's okay for us men to let our emotions out once in a while.  It happened to me yesterday as I read my aunt's email sharing about the sadness she feels from her loss.  Bing Crosby was singing "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," reminding me of my father's voice and the last time I would ever hear it.  Tears spilled out as old memories returned and I was forced to pull over to clear my eyes.  It's not a sign of weakness to cry, it's a window opening up, revealing a tender heart.

In the last twenty four hours of my father's life, he stopped talking.  His body was shutting down.  His sister called to speak to him one last time and we told her he could no longer talk.

"Put the phone up to his ear and let me say a few words to him," my aunt said.

"Pat, this is your sister.  You have always been a loving brother to me and I just want you to know how much I love you."

My aunt continued speaking while my father remained still.  His eyes were closed and he appeared as if he were in a deep sleep.  His breathing was slow, almost non-existent.  Then he took in one deep breath and opened his mouth to speak.

"I love you, too, Peggy," my father said using his frail voice.

He never spoke again and passed away within twenty four hours of his last phone conversation.  His sister was comforted one last time by a brother who was headed to his final destination.  This was his final act, a gesture of love which he performed using his last ounce of energy.

Yesterday, my aunt received another gift, a poem written by a loving brother, the patriarch of this Mulligan clan.  Should I ever get permission from it's author, I will post this poem for all to see.  My dad's siblings, brothers and sisters alike, are all icons, role models for the generations that follow, a great multitude that will walk in their footsteps.  I have known them all my life and as I mature, I discover more and more about how special they are.  My prayer is that my memoir helps them to keep memories alive of their brother and that they discover just how fulfilling his life was in his final thirty five days.

As I contemplate the lives of my dad's siblings, I marvel at what they have done with their lives.  That same brother that composed the loving poem for his sister could be enjoying quiet retirement, however, he chooses to write books that educate the next generation of orthodontic professionals using his "common sense mechanics."  He is the oldest practicing orthodontist in the United States and he continues to travel worldwide to speak.  His books have been translated in many languages.  When I think of him, I focus on what he did for me and my family when we were growing up.  I think about how he overcame all the stereotypes about how real men are supposed to act.  He chose to take time out of his busy schedule to write something from his heart to his precious sister.

I once asked my uncle, 'how can I repay you for all that you have done for me, the free braces, the lessons about financial planning, the life lessons you taught me, and all the kind things you did for my family while we were growing up?'

"The best thing you can do is pass it on to others," he replied.

That is the kind of family I come from.  That is the reason my cousins are so special.  They know how to come together when another family member needs help,  

If you have a brother or sister that you haven't reached out to in a while, pick up the phone and give them a call.  If you want to be a true maverick, send them a poem.  You can change the world with your kindness and a great place to start is with a sibling.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

God's Dividends

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~ Matthew 6:19-21

Jesus rarely spoke about money.  In a way, it seemed to be an obstacle, something that got in the way of the work He was sent to do.  As for me, there have been times in my life when money has been scarce and other times when it has been abundant.  Like the ocean tides, my prayer life seemed to be high or low, depending on the size of my bank account.  I don't recommend this style of prayer life.  God appreciates consistency, in good times and in bad.  He pays high dividends to those who remain faithful, although His generosity goes beyond monetary rewards.

It is impossible for you to be more generous than the Creator.  Any time you give more of yourself to Him, He finds a way to Bless you more.  Give Him an hour of praise in your faith community and He will give you back bonus hours.  Make a donation to a worthy cause and discover resources falling out of the sky.  Share your talents with others and observe others appearing out of nowhere to share their talents with you to help you in times of need.  God's dividends have no boundaries.

As I get ready to publish my first book, I have been hesitant to take on any new projects, including the opportunities that have presented themselves to me in the last year.  I have already cut out most of the time wasters in my life in order to keep up with my most important priorities.  A few weeks ago, my pastor shook hands with me as I was leaving Church.

"Mike, the community is aware of your love for the church and I want you to join the parish stewardship council", my pastor said. 

Once again, I laughed.  I thought, had he not heard about my desire to keep extra work off my plate until I at least finish this book?  How am I going to make my deadline if all this stuff keeps getting dumped on my already full plate?

I answered, 'how can I say no to you, you represent God?'

Yesterday's letter made his request official.  "You are responding to the needs of the People of God...please pray over this request and consider it as an invitation of the Holy Spirit through our faith community."

I am saying yes to my pastor because I have faith that if I am truly doing all that God asks of me, then God will find a way to give me everything I need to serve Him properly.  He will Bless me with all I need to get this book published on time.  He will give me enough people to get His work done.  Together, our faith community will thrive, all for God's glory.  God has a reward for all who follow Him.  We may not see our dividends on earth, however, our work here will not go unnoticed in the afterlife.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

From the Front Lines

 Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job?  There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." ~ Job 1:8

In the Bible story about Job, one day the Evil One had a conversation with God.  The Evil One asked, "does Job fear God for nothing?  Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?"

The Lord said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger." 

You can read the rest of the story to follow the dialogue between Job and his friends after he loses everything and see how God reveals himself to Job.  Job's friends, like the ten angels that have been placed in my life, comfort the man in his trials.

Once the Evil One grew tired of attacking Job, He once again roamed the earth looking for others to torment.  For whatever reason, He focuses His time and energy on me, my family, and even my closest friends.  I weep as I read the story of Job because, like the naked cave man in Luke 8:26-40, I see myself in Job.  I see a man who was once richly blessed.  Like Job, I have received many reports of losses in recent days and more reports are on the way.  At times, I feel alone on the battlefield while the Evil One torments me.

My encouragement in reading Job is seeing how Job's friends, like my Angels in the outfield, come to his aid.  He is lost and cries out to God to please remove him from this world along with all memories of him.  The other night, even my closest mentors doubted the aggressive time line for my memoir.

"Some writers need five years to get their work fit for publication," one of the critique members said.  "You may be able to get your draft done by March, however, the editing process is time consuming and your deadline may be too bold," said another.  "Your work is good but it is missing so much."

While conversing with my critique group, I shared my recent challenges with my Apple G4 laptop...

'My laptop is the family favorite and my kids are always wanting to use it, interrupting me to work on school assignments.  That's why I write at 5:00 am, no fighting over the computer.  Recently, I dropped the laptop while tripping over the dog guard on the stairway.  I was able to restore the connection but the aftermarket power chord I purchased does not always work and the battery inside the laptop is completely dead.  I have lost much work due to power failures in the middle of the session.'

I added that my visit to the Apple computer store, while enlightening, was also disappointing because the employee told me my laptop was too old to handle some of the software I was interested in to aid me with my writing.

For me, the losses I am encountering aren't much different from the losses Job suffered.  The Evil One is aware of God's plans for me.  When He can't stop me, he goes after my assets and my loved ones.  My comfort is in the end of Job's story.  Job 42:12 tells us "God blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first."....and in verse 16, "And so he died, old and full of years."

As I begin this day, just one hundred days away from birthing my first book, I turn to God for assistance.  I praise Him for the ten angels in the outfield He sent me to be my special friends and helpers.  I ask Him for help moving mountains.  The task ahead is daunting but not impossible.  With God, ALL things are possible.  This morning I pray for rain, the kind of rain that will bring special rain drops containing ninety more angels to join me on the front lines along with the necessary supplies to reinforce my damaged assets.  I expect MIRACLES to take place, all for HIS Glory.  Job will be my example, just like the naked cave man in Luke.  Both found God in their trials.  I thank Him for revealing Himself to me in my darkest hour and for making sure that I am never alone.

Now, how about a little Faith during this Christmas season?...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Is There an Angel Out There?

When "God's Black Sheep Squadron" is released on March 17th, 2011, my most cherished page will be the last one.  It will contain the names of one hundred people who chose to pitch in and make this book happen.  You will read one hundred quotes from regular people who inspired me to persevere.  These angels include family members, relatives, childhood friends, business partners, tennis buddies, fellow writers and believers of all denominations.  Their generous donations of time, talents and treasure have made this dream a reality.

Maybe you are one of those special people in my life and you are contemplating joining "Angels in the Outfield"?  Perhaps there is someone close to you that has departed this world and you want to recognize them in a special way?  You can submit your loved ones name along with a quote that reminds you of the inspiration they were in your life.  That loved one's name will be listed on the last page and their memory will live on.  Maybe there is someone in your life that you wish to recognize in a special way.  Submit their name and honor them with a quote.

The suggested donation is $25 to reserve a place in the outfield.  If you are without a job or your budget does not allow you to sign up, please, sign up anyway.  I trust that God will give me the resources I need to launch this book and I will waive the donation request if that is stopping you from your participation.  What I need most is your promise to pray that God's will be done in this book and a powerful life verse from you that will inspire readers.

Please help me to fill up the "Angels in the Outfield" by Christmas.  Click on the link at the top of the page to see how you can get involved.  Thank you for your support.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fear of God

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge ~ Proverbs 1:7

One of the hottest topics in the Bible is fear.  Jesus tells us often not to be afraid.  So why do we see so many other Scripture references that tell us to fear God?  I found a pretty good answer to this at my church on Sunday when a visitor talked about the two kinds of fear.

I must admit that my mind started to drift when he spoke about the kind of fear some pets have when they see their masters rolling up newspapers to punish them.  I immediately started daydreaming about our first family pet, a sheltie named Lady, who came to us via a rescue center.  She had been abused and needed a new environment.  We never had to punish her.  All she needed was love.  She was so eager to please.  She had the kind of fear that our visitor was talking about, that is, you love someone so much that you never ever want to let them down.  This is called "reverential fear."  Can you imagine loving God so deeply that you want to avoid bad things so that you never have to see Him disappointed?

If you fear God because you are afraid of Hell, you are no different from a dog who fears the rolled up newspaper.  If you fear God because you love Him so much that you don't want to let Him down, you have reached the kind of relationship that God wants.  It is the same relationship my family had with Lady.  She would do anything to please our family including rolling over, jumping through hoops, kicking the soccer ball on command and even scoring goals.

Imagine if we could have reverential fear in all of our relationships.  Instead of fearing consequences from missed curfews, our children would say, "mom and dad, I love you so much that I refused that tempting offer my friend made me because I couldn't bear to hurt you or disappoint you."  We would say to our spouse, "honey, I didn't follow the crowd because I knew it would make you sad."  We would say to our friends, "I love you so much that I am going to take the time to share Jesus with you.  I simply refuse to live in tropical nirvana for all of eternity without having you to share it with me."  If your name happens to be Wayne, Chris, or Olivier, I am referring to you.  This blog is for you and all the others in this world who do not know that an all-powerful, all-loving God exists.  Perhaps it is my love for my Master, my reverential fear of Him that compels me to write daily so that I never have to look Him in the eye and see Him crying because you aren't there, because I failed to get the courage to share the Good News with you.  I know that He is using me to reach you and every day I will roll over, jump through hoops, and score goals if that is what it takes to call attention to the One I serve.  I see a vision in my head of Him smiling as He wraps His arms around you, His lost sheep.  That is my reason for my existence.  I am here for you.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

New Mind, New Body, New Attitude

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” ~ Revelation 21:5

St. Francis of Assisi said, "preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words."  Actions speak so much louder than words.  A life well lived can inspire others to new heights.  Jesus didn't use too many words to make everything new.  Instead, he focused on being a living example for all of us.  St. John tells us at the end of his Gospel in 21:25:

"Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."

What else did Jesus do during his three year ministry that didn't make it into the Bible?  If his actions were as vast as St. John describes, perhaps they were not limited to his time on earth with His first followers?  Since Jesus is the Living Word and He has no limits, I believe He continues to make all things new at this present moment.  The good that He does for each of us is so abundant that it cannot be contained in a single book.  His works have no boundaries.

Are you ready to receive a new mind, body and attitude from Him?  I will allow my own transformation in every area of my life to speak as a testimony to what Jesus can do if you believe in Him and ask Him to come into your heart.  Jesus is everything you need.  The good that He can do for you is so abundant that it would not fit into a book if one were to be published about your life.  Are you ready for a new mind, body and attitude?  Start with the Book of Genesis, chapter one, verse one, "In the beginning God created heaven and earth."  Keep reading.  The Old Testament is all about the promise of a Savior, God's own Son, sent for you, to be born human in a remote place to parents of low status.  Read the New Testament and discover why He was sent by His Father and why He gave up His own life.  It gives special meaning to Christmas.  He is your gift.  Are you ready to receive Him?  If you already have, are you sharing Him with others?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Big Game

"Dad, look what's on TV.  It's your team, Arizona State," my youngest son said as he was flipping channels.

"Son, its THEE game, the highlight of the year.  They're playing University of Arizona.  It's the most important game of the entire season."

Living in southern California, it's rare when they televise this game.  It was the third quarter and ASU was leading 6-0.  As I watched the second half with my son, I told him about the history of these two rivals.  It got personal for me when my best friend, Wayne, decided to major in chemical engineering in Tucson.  It would be two years before I would transfer to ASU from a community college and I couldn't wait to go to the big game our junior year.  The stadium was packed with red shirts everywhere and they muffled our cheers with their favorite,  "fake to the left, fake to the right, fake the transcripts."  Apparently, some of our players had some blemishes that came to light during football season and Wayne's fifty thousand buddies taunted our small group.  By half time, Wayne had seen enough ASU touchdowns to last him a lifetime and decided to go study, leaving us to revel in our glorious day.

When I asked Wayne to be my best man, we reserved a bunch of seats to fly to my wife's hometown in Iowa.  Wayne wore a tee shirt that read "my favorite team is UofA.  My second favorite team is anyone who is playing ASU."  Our football rivalry continued for years.  As I watched another nail biter last night with my son, I told him about the year Wayne and I wagered an all-expenses paid ski trip compliments of the loser.  That year, the lead changed over and over as the clock ticked down.  At one point, Wayne was on the floor, either crying or shouting for joy, depending on what was happening on the field.  I could feel my heart pounding.  It was the only year in the two schools' history that the game ended in a tie.  We were both relieved.

As my son and I watched the game, I said, "anything can happen.  Most of these games are decided in the final seconds."

Sure enough, with twenty eight seconds to go, UofA tied the game.  An extra point would give them another victory.

"Miss.  Miss.  Miss." I yelled.  Blocked!  It was time for overtime.  Each team scored. Then double-overtime.  ASU scored a touchdown.  UofA followed with another one, an extra point would bring on triple overtime.

"Miss.  Miss. Miss."  I yelled one more time.  Blocked!  Two times in a row!  The crowd was silenced except for one small section of Sundevils that ventured into enemy territory.  I paused the TV to get the picture you see below and sent it to my buddy, Wayne.  He followed up with a phone call and we reminisced.  We each had our own recollection of the game during our junior year.  Wayne said, "I don't remember ever losing to ASU the whole time we were in school.  A quick visit to the internet to look up football history and one more text helped him to recall those buried memories of  Sundevil wins in our junior and senior years.  That's what friends are for, to keep precious memories alive and create new ones.  Enjoy the photo below and keep in touch with your friends, even when they choose to go to a rival school.  It helps build character.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Blurred Vision

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

Foggy glasses.  Saltwater in the eyes.  The bright sun without sunglasses.  All of these things distort our view of the world.  In the spiritual realm, there are things that cause our eye sight to become blurred or hazy.  If we grow up in families where we experience sadness or pain, we may project our situation onto the world, falsely believing that this is as good as it gets.

I recall believing that God was too busy to care about my petty problems.  If our relationships are shattered, our view of God will most likely also be broken.  How can we understand God's love if we have never experienced it in our relationships with those closest to us?  It's a huge mistake to put God in a box, to limit Him.  For many years, I was guilty of this.  Over time, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, my vision has improved. 

Ponder this.  Before you were born, the Creator thought of you.  He smiled as He transformed His thoughts into a beautiful creation in your mother's womb.  He knows every single hair on your head.  He watches you in the middle of the night while you are sleeping.  He waits patiently for you to search for Him, to call out to Him when you are in need.  He loves you.  His vision is perfect.  He sees everything you do, including some things that are not good.  He still loves you, even when you don't love yourself.

If you are having trouble seeing Him, ask Him to repair the blurriness in your vision.  Ask Him to give you a clear picture of the road ahead that will lead you to Him.  When you reach that fork in the road and you can't see which way to go, ask Him to shine a bright light on the right path.  He wants to reveal Himself to you.  You can read all about Him in the Bible.  Gradually, you will begin to see Him.  You have the ability to obtain 20/20 spiritual vision.  It's a mystery how this works. Your spiritual vision is a gift.  All you have to do is ask for it and it will be given to you.  You will begin to see things that were once invisible.  You will never live in darkness again.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Importance of Today

Tomorrow is a series of today's.  If today is lived to the best of it's potential, tomorrow will be fine.  Yesterday is a memory now.  You can visit it anytime to review important lessons but it is impossible to live in your yesterday's.  Today is where the living is.  It's one thousand four hundred and forty minutes of the most important day of your life.

You have choices at every moment of today.  You may not be able to control your circumstances, however, you are the one to decide if you will face this day with a smile or a frown.  That choice will affect how the world interacts with you.  As I write this, I am thinking about a special relative living far away that I have not met face-to-face yet.  He has been through more trials than most senior citizens, however, I can feel his smile from many miles away.  I call this young man, Energizer.  Until this week, Energizer needed to wear a back brace twenty three hours a day to heal from an accident that sent his first mommy to Heaven and him and his brother to the hospital.

Energizer chose to spend his one hour of freedom from his back brace beating his daddy on the soccer field, even if he played the entire hour in pain.  The rest of the day he concentrated on art and other subjects, always dreaming of the day when the doctors would tell him he was healed.  I think of Energizer often.  He inspires me.  He has two mommies now, one watches over him from Heaven while his new mommy takes care of him, his younger brother and his baby brother that joined the family after his daddy got remarried to a special senorita.  Soon, the doctors will let Energizer wear regular shoes and he will be completely healed.  I am glad to have a relative like Energizer that can help me remember how important today is.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Your Backstage Pass

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me– put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. ~ Philippians 4:8,9

Baseball fans love Spring training.  It's an opportunity to get a preview of the season ahead, to meet the new players on the team and be with other fans who share a common interest.  For writers who blog, they give their readers a chance to go to Spring training, to get a glimpse of what writing is all about.  Consider these daily sessions your backstage pass.  It is my honor to share my life with you and I appreciate the interest you have taken in my stories.  In many ways, I feel like a first-time parent, that is, I am birthing my first book.  This part of the preparation period is similar to the end of the second trimester.  It is in the third trimester that parents-to-be get that "glow" as they anticipate what is ahead.

I am fortunate to have experienced writers around me to coach me.  Combined, these writers have birthed enough books to make up their own football team.  I am the rookie writer on the team, wandering around on the sidelines watching these pros work their magic, learning something new every day.  They have an ability to cut out what is unnecessary and critique material that needs to be rewritten.  I have already thrown out more than I am keeping and what remains still needs to be rewritten two or three more times. 

Your backstage pass allows you access to the delivery room.  I won't be having a son or a daughter, my "child" is a memoir, the first one to be born to the Christian Writer's Critique Group of Ramona.  It's siblings include science fiction novels, plays, books about self-publishing and a book of poems.  Several other writers are also pregnant at the same time.  It helps so much to be around people with similar interests.  I can't imagine going through this process alone.

Yesterday I blogged about Michelangelo and his gift, carving masterpieces out of slabs of rock.  It's a pleasure to have this time with you as I learn to chisel with my laptop.  When it's time for the new baby to be born, I hope you are backstage with me.  If I get the opportunity to come to your city on the book tour, consider yourself invited to come backstage to meet me.  After all, you are the most important character in the book and you will see this when you read the final chapter.  Thanks for visiting and come back soon.  Your backstage pass is good for life, use it anytime.  I look forward to meeting you.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Seeing Beyond the Stone

"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it." ~ Michelangelo


Michelangelo once said, "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."  We all have slabs of stone or marble in our lives.  On the outside, they don't appear to have much value.  Anyone who creates understands that the true value is what's beyond the stone.  It may take a lifetime of carving to uncover the masterpiece, whether that slab of rock is something we are looking at in the outside world or in the mirror.

You have been given a precious gift, to see something within yourself or in others that nobody else can see.  Your age doesn't matter.  Where you live is not important.  Maybe your whole life you have been trying to discover the meaning of your existence.  Perhaps you fooled yourself into thinking you found the solution in your job or in your role as a parent.  What happens when that layoff notice finds it's way to your mailbox or when the children grow up and move away?  Does your life suddenly lose it's meaning?

I challenge you to look deeper into the stone that's in front of you.  Look beyond the surface.  Take out the chisel and chip away.  Do you see an angel in the marble that wants to be set free?  Maybe this angel is a neighbor that needs a little extra encouragement or a lost friend that needs a companion in hard times?

Today is a good day to chisel.  The world is waiting to see what you create.  All you have to do is see beyond the stone.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Tough Act to Follow

Comedian, Steve Harvey, shares with his audience a powerful introduction to Jesus.  This may be part of his act, however, his words are moving.  Take a moment to watch the YouTube video below.  As we prepare to celebrate the birthday of our Savior, let's also prepare ourselves to meet Him one more time, in the second act.  It's a tough act to follow, something life-changing...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pursuing Passion

Passion for me is not a sometime thing, it's an all the time thing.  I have discovered the joy of my journey.  Along the way, I have met some incredible people.  At times, they have extended their hands to me to help me up after a fall.  Whether this has taken place on the tennis courts or in other areas of my life, it feels good to know there are so many people who care.

I  got to share one of my blog messages with my mother yesterday.  God Bless mothers, they know how to inspire their children.  Mom said, "Michael, I want you to send this article to some parenting magazines.  You need to get this published."

'I'm writing a book, mom.  It will be a part of the memoir, as long as I have your permission to share some of these precious memories.  There are valuable lessons to share with my readers.'

"Son, you have my permission.  Make sure I get to see the manuscript before you publish."

As I hung up the phone, I thought, at least mom doesn't have to type the manuscript like she did with my college papers, usually the night before a deadline.  Thank God I finally learned to type, with all my fingers!

Yes, writing has become my number two passion in my life.  It's a close second to playing tennis.  These two parts of my life are connected like Siamese twins.  They are inseparable.  Both have a way of drawing out the passion that's deep inside my heart.  I find myself immersed in both of these activities, often losing track of time.  Even after four hour stints, I still find myself wanting more.  The joy I get from these two pursuits spills over into all other areas of my life.

Maybe today, as you dwell on your life, you feel like the passion inside of you is a mere pilot light.  For some, that pilot light may be extinguished.  There is hope for you.  It's time to turn up the heat.  Yes, light the fire and let it burn.  Pursue passion.  Remember one thing... the journey, as difficult as it may be today, is the biggest part of the adventure.  Don't rush the roller coaster ride, savor it, one moment at a time.  Live your life to the fullest.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sharing is Caring

The following post is an unsolicited endorsement of a dream being lived by my cousin, Mark Mulligan.  Mark is one of the first cousins from my extended family of over fifty cousins who offered to become an angel in the outfield.  He has always been a hero in my life.  Please take a moment to read his story and click on the link at the end if you are moved to help Mark change the world.  You can tell him his cousin,  "the naked cave man," sent you....


 GIFTS THAT CHANGE LIVES

by Mark Mulligan

It’s 1994. A small group of young children approach my door in Guaymas, Sonora, filthy and hungry and asking for money. They’re elated to receive a few cans of tuna, which was all I had to offer them.

The next day I play catch with them outside their shack, made of tar paper and trash, where several families reside in abject poverty. I learn the oldest boy, age 8 or so, is hoping to go to school someday, but having to support his brothers and sisters on the tips he earns bagging groceries makes that a mere dream.

Months later, an Americano from the nearby tourist town of San Carlos puts 50 bucks in my hand, to give to “those kids” he had heard about. I invite him to come with me and give the money to them in person.

The moment he sees their shack and the dirty faces of the kids who live in it, he’s overcome with shock. Before we even get out of the car, he tells me “Make it a hundred bucks….and make it every month”. Little did he know the effect that that one gift would have.

A friend in San Carlos matches the offer. Suddenly we’ve got enough for the oldest boy, Juan, to quit his job completely and go to school.

I get lucky and score a job singing my songs in one of the local bars in San Carlos, where other Americans who come to my shows are asking me questions about how Juan is doing with school. Some of them want to help. Twenty bucks here, fifty bucks there. Some visit the barrios with me. Some bring clothes, others simply spend time with the kids.

Fifteen years later….Juan graduates from college, and is standing in front of a group of reporters at a news conference, promoting a group called “Castaway Kids”, thanking them for the gift of opportunity back when he was 8. He tells the reporters his life would have never been the same.

He tells of how he’s worked alongside these Castaway Kids volunteers, who are now a tax-deductible charitable group entirely
funded by private donations, in building homes for disaster victims… in building a public park near the shack where he grew up….in providing emergency aid for the poorest of the poor.

While Juan is speaking, 40 other kids who want to follow in his footsteps are enrolling in the Castaway Kids’ scholarship program, known as “Adelante Estudiante” All are from families that can’t afford further education, and all have shown tremendous desire and commitment to continue with schooling. Should they keep their commitment to school attendance and grades, their lives will never be the same.

Nor will the lives of the Castaway Kids volunteers and donors, who have received a gift just as great. The chance to do something fulfilling and meaningful at a stage in their lives when others would simply play golf. The chance to work alongside neighbors from Guaymas, and live experiences that have changed their lives for the better. The opportunity to meet folks who may not own many possessions, but have so much of what really matters. The chance to put things into perspective in our own lives.

The gift: A few cans of tuna, a friend saying “make it a hundred bucks”, another friend matching it….who would have known back then all that would come to be? And, as 40 more kids dream of the future and embark on school scholarships, we still don’t know the answer to that question!

Mark Mulligan
Past President & Founder, Castaway Kids Mexico A.C.

Castaway Kids Mexico A.C is funded entirely by private, tax-deductible donations to Castaway Kids Inc, an Arizona 501-C3
corporation.

Click below to find out how you can make a difference:


 http://castawaykidsmx.org/

Friday, November 26, 2010

Becoming Dependent

“Truly, I say to you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” ~ Matthew 18:3-4

When my first-born son was growing up, I put a great deal of emphasis on teaching him independence.  The analogy I used with him through the years was that of an airplane coming in for a landing.

'Think of the landing strip as your 18th birthday,' I told my preteen. 'My job as your father is to make sure you land on the runway as an independent adult, ready to go out into the world.'

Through the years, my son understood that he would receive more freedom to make his own choices as he made his descent.  At times, I wondered if I was worthy of parenthood.  Should my adult son ever wish to share about some of his experiences growing up, you will understand why I felt like a failure and why I feared that he may never make a successful final approach.

My motivation for teaching my children independence comes from one of my first visits with my own dad after my parents' divorce.  One of my sisters asked, "dad, how do you set goals?"

"I just wake up in the morning and see what happens," he answered.

After the divorce, my father moved often, always further and further away.  We were lucky if we got to see him at least once a year, never more than an hour per visit.   My father's statement did not match up with what I was learning in my self-help books.   

No wonder my dad is the black sheep of his family, I thought.

My sisters looked up to me.  I knew the pain they were feeling inside because they missed our dad so much.  I didn't know how to reconcile everything I was learning about goal setting with my father's ideas.  His comment haunted me all my life as I set hundreds of goals, always pushing myself to attain more and more.

It was not until my conversion experience, that I began to see wisdom in my father's words.  The Bible teaches us about becoming dependent on God for everything.  Slowly, I learned to let go of my independence so that I could let God be in charge.  The one thing I had trouble letting go of was the money.  It is similar to what many people experienced during the "Great Depression."  Once you start making money, you want to hoard it for fear that another depression may come along.  I became very good at hoarding money.

My son had a smile on his 18th birthday.  "Dad, the plane landed.  I'm 18 now.  I found the runway."

Someday, my children will read these blog messages.  As they pursue their independence, I pray they learn that the landing strip they seek may not be the one the Creator desires for them.  What happens when that airport becomes fogged in or when the plane has engine failure?

Each morning, I wake up not knowing what God has planned for me.  I ask Him for directions.  He gives me everything I need to get through the day.  I no longer fear when the Captain tells me we are changing course.  As my father once said, "I just wake up in the morning and see what happens."  With God as my pilot, I know that wherever the plane lands, I will be at the right airport and it won't matter if I arrive without any baggage.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Message

Show me your ways, O Lord,
     teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
     for you are God and my Savior,
     and my hope is in you all day long. ~ Psalms 25:4-6

I have spent the last year preparing my mind, body and spirit for what lies ahead in the coming months.  A gentle rain has been falling from the Heavens.  Each rain drop represents an important individual.  On this Thanksgiving day, I would like to extend my thanks to those precious people in my life who have played an important role in my journey.


My memoir, "God's Black Sheep Squadron," would not have been possible without the main character, my father.  The book is centered on his final thirty five days on earth.  My family would not have experienced this amazing reunion had my father remained in Mexico.  Perhaps it was something he read in the Bible his sister, Helen, gave him that inspired him to return?  Maybe the missionaries that were part of his life in a foreign country persuaded him to come home?  Could it have been his loving wife he affectionately nicknamed, Molly, who put a bug in his ear to pay us a final visit?  May her soul rest in peace.

I picture my dad reading his Bible while he was living apart from us in quiet retirement.  He was a deep thinker.  His connection to Jesus was established at the most critical time in his life.  I am thankful for the time he shared with us.  He was sharing his life lessons with us right up until his last day here.  For those people who played a role in getting him home, I am deeply thankful.

To my uncle Harry and aunt Helen, thank you for sending my dad a Bible.  He read it often.  I also thank you for the NIV Study Bible you sent me earlier this year.  It helps me understand how much God loves us.  Learning all the background information helps me understand the time periods the individuals lived in and what they were thinking.  It could take three lifetimes to scratch the surface and I will learn as much as I can by studying daily.  I also promise to share all I learn with others.  Many know about Him but few know Him.  I know Him and am inspired to learn more about Him in order to better share my faith with those seeking Him.

At the beginning of this year, I prayed that God would send me all the people necessary to publish a book.  For someone who's writing skills have been limited to penning love letters to my wife and who has no formal training in writing, I knew that writing a book for me was exactly like moving a mountain.  I do believe that, with faith, this is possible.  All the people that have "fallen out of the sky" this year are an answer to my prayer and that mountain is moving.

In the opening credits of my book, there will be an entire page dedicated to those I am thankful for.  If you are one of the rain drops that God sent to bring new life, I thank God for bringing us together.  I thank you for your willingness to accompany me and share your life with me.  Psalm 25, composed by king David is a plea for guidance.  You, my friend, are part of the answer to that prayer.  Thank you for helping me to find my way.  HAPPY THANKSGIVING.