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....


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

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


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.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Unique Christmas Gift

Do you have someone on your Christmas list that has everything?  Why not give them something special?  Pre-order a collector's copy of "God's Black Sheep Squadron" for that person on your list that is so difficult to shop for.  Maybe this person is a loved one who has been a special angel in your life and you want to recognize them in a unique way.

There are only one hundred collector's copies available and they will be sold out before Christmas.  Although your loved one will not receive the autographed copy until March 17th, 2011, you can put a note in their stocking that you placed them in the "Angels in the Outfield."  Their name and favorite quote will appear on the last page of "God's Black Sheep Squadron."  Ask them for their favorite Bible quote or other inspirational quote and email it to me along with their special number request and their name.  I will also need a mailing address to send the autographed gift.  The donation request for this collector's copy is $25.  You can reserve your copy today by sending me an email at socalmulligan808@gmail.com.  Check the "Angels in the Outfield" link at the top to see if their favorite number is still available.  Your loved one will become part of the story and their name will be forever linked to this Memoir.  Thank you for considering this book as a gift, I hope that it is one that will make a difference in the lives of others.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dammed Up Memories

When I am having a difficult day, I like to go to a quiet place and close my eyes for a while.  There are so many happy memories from my childhood that I can visit.  It's like taking a break from reality for a few moments so that my mind can reset.  I think of camping trips with my family and my cousins or spending time with my neighborhood friends on Butler Drive building go-karts and forts.  There is one memory that I visit when I want to reach a level 10.  It's also a place I go to when I am facing a puzzle that seems impossible to solve.  It works like this...

Hoover Dam
I close my eyes and get in my best friend's boat.  Our location is several miles below Hoover Dam.  As Wayne and I travel upstream, the cool wind is blowing in my face.  I can feel the warm sunlight heating my body as my light jacket flaps in the wind.  There it is in front of me, this enormous dam holding back millions of gallons of water.

Wayne cuts the engine and we sit in silence, gazing  upward at this architectural wonder.  The dam is well guarded as it is considered a target by terrorists who would love to blow it up.  As I look up, I think about the water on the other side.  The water above the dam is like my past memories.  A man-made structure is preventing some of these memories from escaping.

How can I access these memories without feeling some sense of loss or hurt?  It's a conundrum.  What would happen if I blew up the dam within my brain so that all of my memories could gush out?  Would this be prudent?  The memories through the 8th grade were so joyous.  I dig deep within my mind while I visualize the dam.  I pray for the Holy Spirit to guide me.  There are lessons to be learned from everything that happened in my life, not just for me, but for you.

"It's time to do some exploring," Wayne says as he cranks the engine, interrupting my day dream within a dream.  We head downstream and explore caves along the way.  Each cave reminds me of the cave I have been living in all my life.

At last, we reach the hot springs.  As I dip my tired body into the steaming water, I feel refreshed and alive.  This is the place where I will allow my memories to come out.  After a particular memory is drawn out, I open my eyes and wake up.  Suddenly, I am back in my bedroom in Ramona.  The memory is ready to leave Hoover Dam and rest in the latest chapter of my Memoir.

This exercise, my friends, is repeated often.  This is how my brain works, how memories become a book.  I realize that I am not really the author.  That credit goes to the Holy Spirit.  This Memoir was written long before I was born.  Jesus knew that for my life to have meaning in this world, I would first need to live through certain events that were excruciating.  They were so painful that I dammed them up for years.  It is time for these memories to be shared along with the lessons I learned.  Stay tuned, they will be published on March 17th, 2011.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Rainy Day to Treasure

Martha Johnson, our Treasure Box team leader, with the cave man

Kristy Meyers, our San Diego coordinator, sent our team an email updating us about the Treasure Box deliveries that were being handled all over the county.

"Everywhere I go, it's the same," she noted.  "It's pouring down rain, however, the volunteers passing out the food boxes are all joyful."

Kristy notified us that many of our military families received food boxes, compliments of families who wanted to show their gratitude for all the sacrifices made for us.  It is sad to hear that last year fifty million Americans struggled to put food on the table, including seventeen million children.

Maybe that's the reason each of the volunteers who participated in Saturday's rainy day distribution had smiles on their faces.  They know in their hearts that they are making a difference, offering a hand up to families who need to stretch their food dollars.  It was extra special for me because we needed additional helpers to handle the increased workload and my wife and son volunteered to help out in the drenching rain.  They too had big smiles as they off-loaded two hundred boxes from the semi.

We were able to keep our customers dry by setting up a drive-through lane.  It was a pleasure to do something worthwhile for our community.  If you are looking for a way to make a difference during the Holidays, consider making a donation to the Treasure Box.  Volunteers are always welcome.  Consider ordering a Holiday Box to give to a needy family, complete with a Butterball Turkey and other delicious fixings.  May you be abundantly Blessed during this Holiday season and may those struggling to put food on their table know that there are people out there who genuinely care about them.  This is what makes our country so great, there is a willingness to reach out, even on a rainy day.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pandora's Box

Pandora's Box comes from Greek mythology.  In the story, Pandora is presented with a gift that is never to be opened.  It contains many evils that could destroy mankind.  When the box is eventually opened, everything escapes except for one thing, hope.

Although this story is a myth, there is something positive to be gleaned from it.  In life, we all have our own Pandora's box.  Maybe our box contains dreams.  When we get the courage to open the box, we discover all sorts of challenges and risks that were previously unknown to us.  These challenges cause us pain.  All of our lives we struggle to overcome the challenges that sprung out of the box we opened.  We expend a great deal of energy trying to forget what we opened.  Our nightmares of past memories haunt us as we try to sleep.  Sometimes, we regret that we took the risk to open the box.  Was the price we paid too high?

In Greek mythology, all the bad stuff got out once the box was opened.  Opening the box a second time would have allowed the one item we need in our lives to set us free.  That, my friends, is HOPE.  My point here is that we need to open that box we hid away in our closet and let hope come out.  This means facing the source of our past hurts and troubles.  Hope is waiting for us.  It is stronger than anything bad we let out of the box.  We must be willing to risk opening the box a second time.  Hope needs to come into our lives.  It is like a baseball player who is being asked to face his most challenging opponent, a foe that he has struck out against over and over his entire career.  In order to get that home run, he must be willing to try again.  He must open Pandora's box.  He will never get the big hit if he gives up.

The Greek gods are false, however, hope is real.  It is a gift from the Creator.  It is the one thing that encourages us to keep going, no matter how tough life is.  The greatest prize of all awaits us at the end of our lives.  There is nothing in this world that can defeat us if we keep hope with us.

At the beginning of this year, I opened my Pandora's box.  Hope was waiting for me.  I took it out of the box and made it my theme for this blog.  I am sharing it with you here every day and I promise to keep hope alive with each story I write.  Hope isn't meant to be locked up in a box, it's a gift for you, to serve as your companion as you move forward on your journey.  All you have to do is open the box.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Healing of Memories

We all have our reasons for wanting to lock up some of our past memories, never to visit them again as long as we live.  The problem with this is that they somehow have a way of haunting us no matter how hard we work to banish them from our lives.

What happens to us when we open up Pandora's box containing sad or tragic memories?  Do we become anxious or agitated?  Does it detract us from the happy lives we now have?  I think the answer depends on our state of mind as we visit these memories.

I first learned to address bad memories at a Church retreat.  The only reason I was there was because my friend Tony shared his experience attending the same retreat one year earlier.  "I am a better husband, a better father as a result of what I learned," he said.  His two minute commercial was persuasive.

On the final day of the three day retreat, we opened with a segment called "the Healing of Memories."  Tony's wife, Lisa, played some tranquil music as we closed our eyes to drift back in time.  We were asked to think of people close to us, to picture a time when we were hurt by them.  We were asked to have Jesus go back in time with us, to stand next to us as we relived the moment we were hurt.  Lisa asked us to let go of the hurt and ask Jesus for help in forgiving them.

Finally, I decided to open up Pandora's box and look at these suppressed memories as if I was living the experience for the first time.  It wasn't easy to let go of some of the grudges I had been holding onto.  It was like standing in front of a giant lake while clutching a pile of rocks that represented past hurts.  Gradually, I let each rock fall into the still water.  Each rock sent out ripples that traveled beyond my view.  The music that was playing in the background matched the rhythm of the ripples.  My body felt lighter than air.

I searched my heart for more of these buried memories so that I could drop them into the lake.  By the time the song ended, I was out of rocks.  I opened my eyes and the lights were turned back on.  People all around me were wiping tears from their eyes.  I felt so good inside that I wanted to go dancing.

Jesus can help you visit any bad memory no matter how sad or tragic.  Once you find a way to forgive the person that caused the hurt, you are set free.  Today, I am thankful that all my bad memories have been healed.  It makes it so much easier to write my memoir now that I am free from past wounds.

If you are ready to open up Pandora's box today, don't forget to take Jesus with you.  He was there the first time you went through the experience and He will go back in time with you as many times as it takes to help you recover from your experiences.  That is how much Jesus loves you.  He wants to set you free.  All you have to do is let go.  Go ahead, give it a try.  Jesus loves to time travel with you, all you have to do is ask.

Friday, November 19, 2010


(Pride)..."the love of one's own self excellence." ~ St. Augustine

I am the guy you don't want to be sitting next to when I am in the stands rooting for one of my children.  The exuberance overflows and I am one proud papa.  Pride has it's place.  We can be proud of our men and women who sacrifice their own lives so that we can enjoy our freedom.  It's when we get carried away with our own self that pride can get us into trouble.

Lucifer's fall comes from admiring His own light.  He falsely believed that He was responsible for being the brightest light in the Heavens.  When life is going well and I feel like I am on top of the world, it is easy to fall into the trap of loving my own self excellence.  The best way to avoid this is to give the credit to the Creator every time I receive a compliment that makes my head swell.

This morning, while listening to an interview George W. Bush gave on KLove radio regarding his new book, "A Charge Kept," he spoke of the influence Billy Graham had on his life. Power can lead to a false sense of pride in one's self image.  George W. Bush remained humble, always asking for prayers that he would make the right decisions for our country.  When he was asked which philosopher had the greatest influence on his life, he replied, "Christ, because He changed my heart."

Learn to develop a heart of humility rather than of pride.  Your light will shine for all of eternity as long as you remember it's source.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Public and Private Life

What do you think of this roller coaster ride we are on together?  If you are one of the readers who has commented on these daily writings, either publicly or in private, I thank you for coming out of your comfort zone to express your feelings.  Perhaps you volunteered to become an angel in the outfield.  If you decided to sign up, you have my heartfelt gratitude.  I understand that some of you wish to remain anonymous and I promise to honor your request.  Your daily prayers for protection are much appreciated in these final months of preparation.

There are parts of my life and my story that will remain private in order to allow close family members to have peace in their lives.  Anything that is personal in my book is shared first with others in the story to make sure I am not violating their right to privacy.  I do not publish a story involving others unless I first obtain permission.

There have been some heavy casualties in my life and in the lives of those close to me.  I attribute these losses to my willingness to represent God in this spiritual battle.  Sharing my life and my faith attracts some people while repulsing others.  As I learn more about the people before me who made the same choice to publicly follow Jesus or to write about Him, I see that I am in good company.

King David, the one who wrote the Psalms, lived a private life for many years before he picked up his sling and threw a rock at that big bully, Goliath.  We don't really know what he did before he entered the battlefield.  I have a feeling that God put him through a series of struggles in order for him to prepare for public life.  He may have faced some wild animals in preparation for his famous showdown.

The prophet Ezekiel was asked to humble himself in front of his people before he became a prophet.  As one who eats Ezekiel 4:9 bread regularly, I appreciate what he endured when God asked him to eat those same ingredients mixed with cow dung while in public.  I don't think it can get more embarrassing than that.  Poor Ezekiel had to eat this way in front of the people he would eventually lead.  God does not like leaders who lead from their high horses.  He wants people who know what it is like to live in the trenches.

Paul is another follower who suffered great embarrassment in his public life.  This guy was in prison more often any other disciple.  His best writing was done while he was incarcerated.  Once he was set free, he immediately went back to the people who were hungry to hear the Good News.  He was known to boast of his afflictions and spoke boldly.

You have a choice to follow Jesus.  You can do it publicly or privately.  Should you choose to follow Him publicly, be ready for the attacks that will come from the Evil One.  The greater your visibility, the greater the attacks.  If you find yourself getting discouraged, remember two things.  First, don't forget to turn around and look at the awesome God standing behind you.  He is with you in every struggle.  Second, open up your Bible and read encouraging words from people just like you and me who suffered greatly while sharing their lives and their stories.  They did it for you just as I write for your benefit.

The ninety nine quotes from my angels will be an inspiration to readers around the world.  I have been genuinely touched by the ones I have read so far and am especially happy to see verses from my favorite Bible writers, Paul, David and Ezekiel.  You won't want to miss these quotes that will be featured on the last page of "God's Black Sheep Squadron."

Lastly, I would like to thank those of you who responded to my request to become an angel in the outfield.  Please don't forget to email your favorite scripture verse or inspirational quote.  Let me know if you would like to be anonymous, use your initials or your name.  I need your daily prayers.  I also need ninety more angels to sign up.  Please become part of the story.  Whether you choose to help out publicly or in private, your presence will help me to cross the finish line.  Together, we will bring the lost back to Him.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The First Baby Steps of a Writer

For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light ~ Ephesians 5:8

Watching the YouTube video below reminded me of my first visit to the Ramona Christian Writers Critique Group.  I am like that young man who is singing about Jesus (especially when I remember singing the "banana" song in front of my tennis buddies).  At first, he is unsure of himself and his voice cracks.  Perhaps he is a little bit afraid.  Whoopi needs to coax both the lead singer and the choir to dig deep and tap into the hidden talent that she knows is there.

As the young man and his choir learn to come out of their comfort zones, beautiful music comes forth, designed to give glory and praise to God.  That's what it is like to become a writer.  First, I am surrounded by a "choir" of writers.  Pete, our leader, opens with a prayer and then we take a deep breath and relax.  We encourage one another to finely tune our writing skills.

The young man's confidence grows and he begins to mingle with the crowd.  The audience responds.  Near the end of the song, the young man believes in his message.  Even his choir director is stunned by his display of talent.  This little caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly right in front of the auditorium.  Jesus leads him by placing the right people around him, just as He has done in my life by connecting me to the Christian Writers Critique Group.

Picture yourself as you play the video below.  Do you believe in the lyrics?  Is Jesus really washing your sins away?  Is he teaching you how to live?  Are you ready to share that message with others using your talents and with your voice raised so that all of Heaven can hear you?  Do not be afraid.  The crowd will respond favorably to you if you share all the good He is doing for you.  Just do it, one baby step at a time, then walk.  Soon you will be singing and dancing while leading others to Jesus.  Don't hold back.  Let your passion flow.

Go ahead, take those first baby steps, just as the young singer did.  Keep working on your unique talents and display them for the crowds once you have developed them.  Any day that you can attract others to Jesus is a happy day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. ~ Mark 11:23

Jesus tells us that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains.  In my own life, I have witnessed this many times over.  It all starts with a connection to the Holy Spirit.  Without faith, miracles can't happen.

Manifesting is really nothing more than a very intense prayer request for something or someone to evince or materialize.  Try this prayer and witness just how powerful the Holy Spirit can be in your life, "Dear Lord, in order to do all that you request of me today, I will need your Divine help.  Please send me the right people to help me accomplish what you ask of me."

You are not done yet.  The next step is to EXPECT the right people to come into your life.  Beware.  Some of the wrong ones will appear too.  The Evil One is listening to your prayers and is sending decoys to discourage you.  Include in your prayers, the wisdom to recognize which people are Heaven-sent and which ones are the detractors.  Ask the Holy Spirit to protect you from the wrong people and deliver you from evil.

The best way to identify which people are Heaven-sent is to take a look at your heart.  Anyone who helps draw you closer to Jesus is the right one and anyone who pushes you away from your faith comes from "down under."  Your spirit will know when you have found the right people and your heart will begin to sing.  The feeling you will experience is similar to what it is like when you fall in love.  It is the strongest emotion known to man. 

Mountains are moving in my life, the way glaciers move through the sea.  I give all the credit and the glory to God.  I trust that He will continue to manifest all the people that I need to complete my mission on earth.  If you are one of those special people that came out of thin air to accompany me on this marvelous journey, thank you for hearing His voice and for magically appearing in my life.  I need each and every one of you.   The connection that each of us have is Divine and there will always be a special place in my heart for you.  There is no need to reveal any identities, you already know who you are and, yes, I love you, each and every one of you.  May God Bless you on your journey to Him and may He keep each of us connected to each other so that we can bring His light into the world.

My own prayer today is for ninety one more angels to be manifested in my life by Christmas Day.  Click on the "Become an Angel in the Outfield" link at the top of the page if you are interested in helping out.  Details of the book release party will also be out soon.  Be sure to mark your calendars for March 17th, 2011 to get your copy of "God's Black Sheep Squadron."

Are you ready to "manifest?"  I promise you, your life will never be the same.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.  ~ Proverbs 25:28

A new manager arrived to lead our sales team at Goliath.  She was young and a bit of a rebel.  Our team had been together many years and led the country in sales.  We felt invincible. Any time a competitor came into our market, we found a way to crush them.  It was a game for us.  Our opponents never had a chance.  It didn't matter how much money, experience or desire they had, the outcome was always the same, total annihilation.

Our new boss looked for creative ways to inspire us to even higher levels of performance.  She offered a trip to Vegas for reaching goals that we felt were too lofty.  We teamed up and found a way to win the prize.  Soon, we were off to Vegas to celebrate our victory.

Our new manager decided at the last minute to stay home.  Her bosses did not like the idea of a female manager in Vegas with a group of male subordinates traveling without spouses.  We visited a bar where one of my team-mates had a friend.  The group decided to play a little trick on me and got the friend involved.  She arranged to have some of the girls come over and take me out of my comfort zone while my team-mates observed.

"I have boundaries," I said to the young girls who were flirting with me.

This made them angry.  The game was backfiring.  One of the young ladies gave up and asked one of my buddies, "do you have boundaries?"  The game was over.

When we returned home, this new phrase about boundaries became a mantra.  A couple of team-mates apologized for making me so uncomfortable.  Boundaries are not something that I observe some of the time, they need to be in place all the time.  It all starts with controlling your thoughts.  This can be done with prayer. 

Some may argue that my life is boring because of the boundaries that I have placed on my life.  When I travel for business, I do not even turn on the TV in my hotel room.  Instead, I write love letters to my wife and read the Bible.  My wife has full access to my email and Facebook accounts should she ever wish to check up on me.  When something creeps into my life that doesn't belong, I bring it to her so she can help me deal with it. 

Boundaries are important, not only in marriage, but in every part of my life.  If you are seeking deeper relationships with your friends, work associates, or family members, show them what you are made of.  Learn to keep things confidential and avoid spreading rumors.  Solid boundaries lead to solid relationships.  In order to stay in the "circle of trust," learn to live within your boundaries, no matter how boring this may appear to the outside world.  You will be Blessed with friends that can trust you.  As Clarence (the angel in "It's a Wonderful Life") said, "no man is a failure who has friends."  Become the "go to" friend by living within your boundaries.

If you are looking for ways to improve your relationships with others, here is a link I found that may be helpful.  Check it out...


Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Aha Book Moment

Let your light shine. Shine within you so that it can shine on someone else. Let your light shine.
~ Oprah Winfrey

Yesterday it happened.  The light bulb went off.  It was the "aha" book moment I needed. The missing puzzle piece is uncovered.  If you have been reading any of these blog messages, I thank you for being with me on the journey and for bearing with me as I wander with my musings.

I wonder about you.  I certainly did not make it easy to find this blog, yet you found it out of over two hundred million blogs floating around in this vast internet universe.  I deliberately made the title obscure, hoping to hide it from criticism.  Yes, I promised God I would create a blog over one year ago when He nudged me to do it, however, I did not fully understand His plan for my life.  It's true, I have been praying for wisdom all my life, I am discovering it right in front of you as you read these snippets.

Today, I am celebrating the 4,000th visitor to this blog.  You are visiting from countries all over the world.  Within a couple of days, this blog will record it's 7,000th page view.  All of this is without a published book, a hard to find name, and a writer who is barely grasping what writing is all about.  I have been meandering all my life, sharing it with you as I attempt to discover why I am here.

My aha moment came after I had been writing for four hours yesterday.  My wife looked at me and said, "Honey, your book is a Memoir."

"What's a memoir?"  I asked with my stupid face.

"Look it up.  I'm not exactly sure of the definition but I have read some and your book is a memoir."

That is the beauty of this time period we are living in.  The internet gives one instant access to all knowledge.  My face lit up as I read through several blogs about memoirs.  A memoir is like an autobiography.  It focuses on a single event or lesson rather than a complete life story.  The author is also a character in the book.  Memoirs are created to teach the reader a lesson.

AHA!  My 5'3" little lady, the love of my life, has done it once again.  Yes, when I prayed for wisdom all those years ago, this is how God answered the prayer.  He sent her to me.  She is the wind beneath my wings, the one who tolerates me as I read chapter after chapter to her or blog post after blog post.

You can check in and check out any time you like.  My wife must endure this daily.  She has had to make many sacrifices to allow me the time I need to complete this book.  There will be a special place in Heaven for her.

Tomorrow will be a big day with my writers group.  I have a specific vision for the book now and a completed outline.  When the world reads "God's Black Sheep Squadron," I will be thanking a lot of people.  Pete, Byron, Barbara, Gail, Bob, my angels in the outfield (there is still room for ninety one more), my tennis buddies, my Zoom partners and employees, my volunteer group friends, my church buddies, my children, relatives, neighbors and customers.  The one on the top of the list is my precious wife.  Yes, she is WISDOM, something I prayed for all my life.  This whole time she has been right in front of me, disguised as an angel.  She is much more than that.  She is the answer to my daily prayers. Thank you, Helen Marie.  You are the real deal.  Thank you for coming into my life and for being the most important piece of God's puzzle.  I thank God for sending you.  I love you with all my heart...

“Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.” ~ Cicero

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Away from Home for the First Time

 My best work seems to come to me when I am under pressure.  As I look at the calendar, I see my deadline approaching to complete my manuscript and there is still much to be done.  The following chapter came to me in the middle of the night.  Like the recent posts before it, it is very raw.  Consider it more of an outline.  My job now is to connect the fragments and shape them into my life's story.

It is not easy to revisit memories buried deep inside my mind.  As they return to me in the middle of the night, I feel as though I am reliving them.  I must endure this.  The time living in darkness is important to the full story.  One cannot enjoy the roller coaster without the twists and turns or the steep descents.

Here is one more memory from my past, penned at 5:00 AM this morning.  It will be refined before it becomes part of "God's Black Sheep Squadron."  Ben Wise, may you rest in peace.  Thank you for the great memories.

Your reader comments are welcome any time.  You are the most important part of the story.  You will appear in the final chapter, the most important character in His book, you are the one He has been seeking your whole life. 

Oh Canada

I jumped for joy as I read the letter from Ben Wise (pictured above), the owner of the Manitou-wabing tennis camp in Canada.  He was offering me a job to teach tennis for the summer at the largest tennis camp in North America.  Mrs. Porter's recommendation letter helped get me the job.  I desperately needed some change in my life and this was the opportunity of a lifetime.

I could barely sleep as I dreamed about spending the summer so far away from home.  Until that summer, I had never been more than five hundred miles from home.  Everything was an adventure.  The plane ride, the bus trip, the people.  I arrived at the beginning of summer, already tanned from hours of playing tennis in the scorching hot Arizona sun that heated the tennis courts well above one hundred degrees.  I stood out in a crowd of Canadians that had not seen so much sun.

I quickly settled in to my cabin that would soon be filled with campers once my tennis training was complete.  We were introduced to our trainer, the number one tennis pro in Canada, Peter Burwash.  He started out as a professional hockey player and switched to tennis after a freak accident on the ice.  His ability to make teaching tennis simple transformed many of my misconceptions about the game.  He helped my turn my forehand into a weapon that still scares my opponents in the fifty something crowd I play with.

Photo by one of my cabin kids, a photography student, Ontario, Canada, 1982
I felt so alive at this place.  "You are tennis professionals," Peter proclaimed.  "And a tennis pro never has a bad day."  His life lessons still resonate with me today, thirty years later.  Once our three day training session was complete, it was time to meet the first set of campers.  I felt like some kind of dad when I met my kids.  Most of them came from wealthy families and were "sent" so the parents could get a break.  When the camp director saw how well I was able to bond with the kids, he decided to give me the ones that were the troublemakers.  Sometimes, I would get a new arrival in the middle of the night.  It was a challenge that I fully embraced.

A prize was offered to the cleanest cabin and the winners were treated to a movie in a nearby town.  It was the only way anyone was allowed to leave camp.  I prepared a game plan for winning this award.  It was simple, appoint a leader and a wake-up person.  The leader had full power to assign clean-up jobs and no one was allowed to go to breakfast, including me, until the leader gave the green light.  I was always the first person to arrive for breakfast.  The other counselors were busy screaming and yelling at their kids while I ate my breakfast in peace.

When points were tallied, we were the champions.  We went to town to see "Raiders of the Lost Ark."  At the end of the one week session, it was hard to say good-bye to my kids.  They had become like family.  The other counselors told me I was just lucky to get kids who liked to clean.  When the new set of campers arrived, I repeated the same game plan.  Soon, we were on our way to see "Raiders of the Lost Ark."  The other cabins got so sick of us that they started dumping garbage underneath our cabin just to make us lose.  It didn't matter.  Every week, I got new campers.  We were undefeated in cabin cleanup for the entire summer and every morning I was the first one to arrive at breakfast while the other counselors tried to figure out my secrets.  It was simple, show them a vision that they want to go for and then get out of the way and let them live the dream.

Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada
I got an opportunity to spend some time with the owner's daughter, Jordana, while taking a boat ride on the Georgian Bay.

"You Americans are so competitive," she said.  "You need to play games where everyone wins."

"Nonsense."  I said.  "Where is the fun in that?  In life, there are winners and losers."

Jordana didn't like me.  When it came time to choose leaders for the Zodiac games, she assigned me to lead the Aries group even though I was born on the 4th of July and should have been in charge of the Cancers.  The Aries team got so fired up that everyone in the camp wanted to be an Aries.  We had the best spirit songs and the best signs.  We completely dominated in every part of the competition.

Can-Am Games August, 1983
The camp director loved what he saw.  Experiences like these were good for repeat business.  The climax of the summer was a three day competition involving an array of activities including basketball, tennis, track, canoe racing, obstacle courses and water sports.  I was nominated to be the leader for the Americans in the Can-Am games.  Although we were outnumbered two to one, we made a grand entrance on horses that we borrowed.  We came in waving the American flag while dressed in red, white and blue.

By the third day, my voice was so hoarse that I could barely speak.  I organized captains for every event and we gave it all we had in every event.  On the final day, the entire camp gathered for the results.  We cheered as we saw the American flag appear from the roof top.  As quickly as it appeared, it disappeared.  Our hearts dropped as the Canadian flag was hoisted while the home crowd screamed uncontrollably.  Jordana posted the final tally for all to see.

The next morning, I returned to the scoreboard and recounted the scores for each race.  I couldn't believe it.  The Americans had won!  I ran all the way to Ben's office and explained what happened.

"Sorry Mike,"  Ben said.  "You can't tell anybody about this.  It would be bad publicity."

I left Ben's office with my head down.  The Canadian campers and counselors were still talking about their big win as they packed their bags.  I kept my mouth shut as I watched all the campers depart.  Later, Ben talked to me about the situation and consoled me.

He told me, "look Mike, in your heart, you know who won and that's all that matters.  I respect you for keeping your mouth shut.  I want you back next year. Okay?"

"Yes Ben, I will be back.  Next year I am going to lead the Americans to victory, you can count on that."

I spent three summers in a row at Ben's camp.  I made friends from all over the world.  Ben invited me to extend my contract and work at the Inn, a five store resort, during the fall.  We had a one week break and I seized the opportunity to get on a train all by myself and travel to Montreal and Quebec City.  I will never forget looking out the window of the train at sunrise and seeing so many vivid colors as the leaves were changing.

There was a special week when Ben closed the Inn to outside guests and invited his friends from the YPO, the young president's organization.  To be a part of this group, you had to be a CEO under age forty.  John and Sheri Eaton were part of this group.  They were the equivalent of the Sears family in Canada.  I talked with Sheri at the bar.

She asked, "where are you from, Mike?" 

"Arizona," I replied.

"I went to Scottsdale once and visited Capezios.  I liked it, so I bought it." she said.

"You bought what?" I asked.

"I bought the whole store," she said with a smile.

The other pros told me that the husband was out of control.  He refused to listen and distracted every lesson.  When John got to my court, I was conducting a backhand clinic.  I told John that if he could hit the target, I would buy him a drink later that evening.  John was so competitive that he begged me to show him what to do so he could win a drink.  It was one of the best lessons I have ever given.

Before it was time to return home, one of the guests took an interest in my personal life.

She asked, "do you have a girlfriend back home?"

'There is someone that I care about but she broke up with me the day before I left Phoenix.  She told me we both needed to be free to explore our options.'

"How do you feel about your options?" she asked.

"Confused.  I was supposed to go home at the end of summer camp but I wasn't ready.  I am supposed to graduate with an accounting degree.  I am good with numbers but I don't see myself sitting behind a desk.  I feel trapped."

"Want a ride home?" she asked.

"Sure."  I hopped in her pickup and we drove back to my cabin.  She asked if she could come in.  I was nervous especially because she was about fifteen years older than me and was married.  Her husband was too busy with his work to vacation and my friend was up for the week with her girlfriend.

She asked if she could spend the night with me.  There were two voices in my head speaking to me at the same time.  I compromised.

"You can stay if you want to, but you will need to sleep in another room."  She turned cold and walked out of the cabin.

The next morning, I spotted her truck outside my cabin.  I went outside to check on her and she was laying down in the front seat.  The doors were locked.  I knocked on the window.  She didn't move.  I started yelling at her.  Finally, she woke up and unlocked the door.  There was a note.  It was a suicide note.  She had swallowed a bunch of pills.  As I read the note, she fell back asleep.

I jumped in the truck and started up the engine.  The nearest hospital was twenty miles away.  I did my best to keep my friend awake.  My words were not pleasant.

"How can you do this? You have a family."

I dropped her off at the hospital and gave the keys to the nurse.  My head was spinning as I walked out of the hospital.  As I started running back towards camp, crazy thoughts entered my mind.  What kind of crazy mess did I get myself into?  I kept running for about five or six miles before getting fatigued.  I didn't even have any water.  The hills were rolling and full of green grass and tall trees.  During the twenty mile journey back to camp, I prayed.  It was dinner time by the time I got back to the Inn.  By now, the staff had been alerted.  I ate dinner alone and returned to my cabin.

As I was falling asleep, headlights beamed through my window.  My friend had returned with her husband to thank me for saving her life.  I stayed silent while they knocked at my front door and prayed they would go away.  My friend left that night with her husband.  She made a follow-up visit with her young son, however I refused to speak to her.  There were letters and even a cake.  The letters were thrown out and the cake never eaten.  It was time to go home.  Back to Arizona.  I had time to make my decision about my future.  Now it was time to live my dream.  I was ready to go home.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The First Year in the Cave

My deadline is fast approaching to complete my manuscript for "God's Black Sheep Squadron."  My time with the Ramona Christian Writers Critique Group has been like taking a crash course in creative writing.  At last, I see how the pieces of the puzzle are to fit together.  The story, including flashbacks, is now complete in my head.  Putting the vision into words is about a three hour a day process.  I feel new energy flowing through my body as I complete the chapters.  The final step will be to get my writing friends to edit the manuscript so that it can be ready for the world on March 17th, 2011.

God's timing is so perfect.  I was thinking about how to promote the new book and my wife brought me today's paper with a front page story about a local San Diego author.  This is only the third day we have received a paper since it was one of the budget cuts we made to survive in this challenging economy.  The folks at the Union-Tribune made Helen a trial deal she couldn't refuse.  Check this preview out.  It literally fell out of the sky and has planted the seed for me to promote my book...

Missing are ninety two angels.  The seven angels that have volunteered to pray daily and support my marketing and self-publishing efforts are working overtime.  If you are thinking about joining this group of people, send me an email (socalmulligan808@gmail.com).  Your favorite quote will become part of the book.

The following morsel takes place in the first year after my parents' divorce and bankruptcy.  It follows the previous posts from the last two days, "The Great Sadness" and "SOS."  Consider these chapters rough drafts and feel free to comment on this work in progress.  As a blog follower, you are watching this book come together, first as fragments, then some refinements, and finally, a completed book.  Thank you for visiting...

The First Year in the Cave

I entered junior college determined to make something out of my life.  My dad kept his promise to leave the family for good.  He was already making plans to remarry.  I decided to stay at home for the next four years and fund my own college education without student aid or loans.  I tried out for the tennis team during my first semester.  The team was solid, each member a number one singles player from his high school.  It took four hours of practice a day to win a spot.

The interim coach was also my cousin's private coach.  After talking with my aunt about my personal life, he asked me, "Mike, just how many jobs do you have?"  "Three," I answered.  Each day, after practice, I departed quickly to a different job.  My mother was concerned because I was carrying a full load of classes and often did not get to my homework until about 11:00 pm.  I followed a strict regimen, sleeping only fours hours a night.  I managed to get mostly A's in my classes despite the full load and the multiple jobs. The majority of my studies centered around my accounting class due to the instructor's incentive.  A perfect score on an exam earned a free pass to get  out of class.  For me, that meant one extra hour on the tennis courts.  I worked so hard mastering this course that I decided to change my major to accounting.

During this first year in the cave, I felt far away from God.  I promised my mother I would go to Church.  This was only to be an example for my siblings.  I sat in the mother's room located in the back of the church.  It was usually empty for the Saturday service except for "Anna Banana," a friend from high school that showed up once in a while to keep me company.  The best part was turning off the sound when no one else was in the room.  It gave me an hour to just forget about the struggles we were facing on the home front and Anna Banana was a friend that made the hour pass quickly.

I kept telling my mother that I didn't need to be in a church to connect with God.  Our pastor had an Irish accent so thick that I don't think I would have been able to understand him, even if I was giving him my full attention.  No.  It was better to just tune out the noise and be quiet for one hour.  When I prayed, it was always the same, 'Lord, please send me some wisdom.  I am doing my best to develop a plan for my life.  I feel very stupid and lost.  Just send me some wisdom.  I know you are busy, but I need enough wisdom to be able to survive this difficult world.  My siblings are lost and I need help with them.  Can you please give me just a little bit of your Wisdom?  My mother is really hurting.  Can you let her know that you hear her prayers?  She needs you God.  As for me, don't worry about me, I am going to be successful even if it kills me.  Just give me some wisdom.  Thanks.'

One of my jobs was helping out with the junior program at a local tennis club.  The head pro hired college tennis players to lead the practice sessions and it was my favorite job.  She encouraged me to become a certified teaching pro.  My mother was against this.  She kept telling me I needed to get a "real job."

The girls high school tennis coach wrote a letter of recommendation for me and helped get me a job teaching tennis in Canada.  I spent three summers and a fall season teaching tennis at a place one hundred and fifty miles north of Toronto.  The job was an escape, a chance to get away from all the problems in my family and experience freedom.  Each time I returned home, I suffered a mild depression.

It was decision time for me that last summer in Canada before my senior year at Arizona State University.  The owner of the camp offered me an extension to work at his five star resort.  It would mean delaying school for one semester.  I accepted.  During that time I met some of the most successful people in the country.  They inspired me to go for my dreams.  I would return home with a new game plan for my life.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Today's post is a continuation of "the Great Sadness" from yesterday.  The four hour tennis session last night gave me an opportunity to return to my happy place.  For the first time, the people in my life that matter to me are learning about my dark secrets.  It is easier to share my story with strangers.  I know in my heart that if I hold back from the people that are closest to me, the story will be incomplete.    I am trusting that the angels God put in my life will not abandon me at this critical time as I face my most difficult memories.  Here is one more snippet, raw and unedited.  Once the writers critique group gets a hold of it, it will become part of "God's Black Sheep Squadron." 


"Snora" Ehlers, my high school Spanish teacher asked me to stay for a few minutes after class.  "I am concerned about your brother," she said.  "His grades are slipping and he is in danger of failing.  There is a program called S.O.S., Save One Student.  I have decided to work with him."  Snora was a kind lady.  Her daughter was in my Spanish class all through high school and her class was my favorite.  I thanked her for wanting to help my brother.

Despite her efforts, she was not able to save my brother.  One day in his typing class, my brother became frustrated.  He picked up the typewriter and heaved it through the window.  It would not be the last window he broke, however, it would be the last time he would attend school.  My other brother also decided that high school wasn't for him and dropped out.

My mother looked to my dad for help with my brothers.  He continued to stay focused on Mulligan's and rarely interacted with us.  When he did, the smell of alcohol was always on his breath.  The police cars  made regular visits to our home to break up fights.  When my brothers started using guns, they traumatized our three younger sisters who often hid under their beds until the fighting ended.

I didn't like fighting with my brothers, however, one slap at a sister was all that was needed to draw me in and I was instantly fighting.  This worked every time.  Each brother was relentless and we often fought until someone got hurt.  We would go at each other with 2 by 4's and pieces of furniture.  During one episode, one brother ran into the storage room and locked the door, taunting the other through a small window in the door.  My other brother punched through the glass, nearly severing his thumb.

During another fight, I was in the back yard in hand-to-hand combat.  I picked my brother up and threw him into our swimming pool, yelling "cool off!"  I ran into the house and locked the door behind me.  He landed on the pool stairs and was injured.  Filled with rage, he pursued me.  Dad came home and intervened.  He prevented us from killing each other.

Each day was the same, put on a happy face for school and come home to more chaos.  For me, if I didn't have my tennis to look forward to each day, I don't know if I could have made it through high school.  I would hit the ball as hard as I could to get the anger out of my body.  I hated going home.

One night, my brother was in the middle of a big fight with his girlfriend.  I broke up the fight and offered to drive his girlfriend home.  My brother followed me out and went to the trunk of his car while I backed out.  His face was filled with rage as he pulled out a crow bar and ran at me, full speed.
I popped the clutch in my VW super beetle and sped off.  "Hurry, he's following us," his girlfriend yelled.  "He's getting closer."  He was closing fast.  I shut off my headlights.  He shut off his headlights.  He was right on top of me as I approached a stop sign at a busy street.  I ran the stop sign,  barely missing oncoming traffic.  The move gave me just enough time to reach the grocery store parking lot.  I let his girlfriend out of the car and told her to run for help.  When I returned home, I asked my sisters to hide under their beds until it was safe.  They spent a lot of time under their beds.

Before my dad moved out, there was one final confrontation.  My brother was one minute
past his curfew.  "What time is it?" my father asked.  As my brother looked down at his watch, the left hook came out of nowhere, knocking my brother to the ground.  At least one tooth popped out and blood was spilling everywhere.  My mother was looking for intervention.  She got more than she wanted.

My brother walked out the front door.  With the exception of a couple of weddings, it would be the last time he saw my dad, at least until my dad's final thirty five days on earth.  My younger brother also moved out and started his own construction company.  He changed his last name and moved on.  Meanwhile, I put on a happy face and pretended that my life was okay.  I fooled almost everybody.

Few knew of the chaos at my home.  The police made regular visits to our home to break up fights and my best friend, Wayne, one of the smartest students in my class, would stop by to get me out of the house.  One night, we climbed a mountain in the middle of the night with a bottle of booze.  We proceeded to make our plans for our future.  These plans did not include getting married or having children.  My own family was all the evidence he needed to persuade him.  Instead, he would get his chemical engineering degree and the two of us would make plans to become rich.  Wayne never married or had children.  My wife and I enjoy spending time with Wayne and his long-time girlfriend.  She is a powerful partner for him and they are a great couple.

I have shared my faith with Wayne, although my view of God was distorted in my early years.  He remains an agnostic.  Over the years, my goals have changed.  I no longer care about the size of my bank account.  What matters to me now is doing what God asks of me.  My purpose is to share all the good that Jesus has done and continues to do in my life.  The atheists that are on my tennis team and my best friend Wayne, the agnostic, are part of the puzzle that I am working on.  You are also part of the puzzle.  I will not rest until I have shared my conversion story.  There is much work to do.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share part of my story today.  I know how it ends.  Jesus returns.  My prayer is that my story will help those who are lost.  As my friend told me, "the two of us on your tennis team are the two biggest atheists in America and when we are done with you, you too will be an atheist."  If I were a non-believer, I would say, 'what a coincidence that such polar opposites are on the same tennis team.'  As a believer, I say 'what a God-incidence.'  Let's see which of us is able to persuade the other side.  It may look like it's two against one, however, I know better.

I find myself in the center of a large battlefield.  The stakes are high.  Surrender or retreat is not an option.  Heaven and earth are fighting against the forces of evil for your soul.  My time in the cave, just like David's time apart from his world was necessary for me to learn patience, wisdom, endurance, love, forgiveness and tolerance.  No longer do I live with fear.  I am ready for the war zone.  I am ready to fight for you.  No longer will I dwell in caves.

Thank you for joining me today and allowing me an opportunity to build another sand castle.  There is still much writing to do before my deadline.  Peace be with you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Great Sadness

13:1 How long, Yahweh?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
13:2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
having sorrow in my heart every day?
How long shall my enemy triumph over me?
13:3 Behold, and answer me, Yahweh, my God.
Give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
13:4 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed against him”;
Lest my adversaries rejoice when I fall.

13:5 But I trust in your loving kindness.
My heart rejoices in your salvation.
13:6 I will sing to Yahweh,
because he has been good to me ~ Psalm 13

 Hope is the second most powerful word in my vocabulary, next to love.  It is the very first word you see when you visit this little sandbox I have been playing in every day for over a year now.  It is also my wife's theme on her vision board, a collection of pictures that depict the type of life she dreams of living.

There was a time in my life when I did not know the meaning of these two words.  Very few in this world know just how far away from God I truly was.  I hid this from my classmates, my friends, even my own family.  Every day, I questioned my own existence.  Hope for me was some kind of fairy tale that belonged in other families, not ours, not the black sheep squadron.  The danger of living so deep in the valley of despair is that one can feel there is just no way to ever escape.

I would like to share my deepest, darkest secret with you today so that you can get a glimpse of just how special Jesus is, even if you may feel separated from Him right now.  It has taken four hundred and fifty days of blog writing, a few angels on earth and lots of prayer to get the courage to publish today's post.  I will share more with you when the book is released next March.  You see, my friends, hope is a powerful word.  It is connected to the One who became man, who sacrificed His own life, so that you can be forever free of the valley of death...

The Great Sadness

I sat with my dad for the last time at Mulligan's.  He announced to me, his first-born, that the doors would be shut for good.  He explained that efforts to sell the bar were fruitless.  Not only was he declaring bankruptcy, he was going to be leaving the family, forever.  "I gave it my best, son," he said.  "Everything I did was for my family.  I came to work at 6:00 am every day and stayed late to promote but it wasn't enough.  This place was a biker bar when I bought it and I am proud of the way I turned it around, however, it wasn't enough to take care of your mother and you six kids.  I owe some back taxes.  The new landlord tripled my rent in order to get me out so he can make more money turning this place into six apartments.  I fought him in court and lost.  There is no money and your mother and I don't love each other any more.  I know you are making plans to go to college and I believe you are cut out for it, however, you are going to have to figure out how to do it on your own.  I am not coming home."

As the great sadness entered the tavern, I looked around for the last time.  Bankruptcy did not matter to me.  We had spent most of our lives without money and I didn't care.  The divorce thing did matter.  I did not want my dad to leave the family.  We had been struggling for three years and my dad was so involved in the business that my parents grew apart from each other.  This mattered.  Perhaps dad could get a regular job and the family could be restored, I thought.

"Son, I want you to keep this Shillaleigh.  I want you to remember Mulligans."  As my dad took his prized possession down from the wall, he looked so defeated and lost.  'It's okay, dad, I love you.'   At that moment, the Great Wall of China suddenly formed around my father.  It was a wall that none of us children would be able to get through no matter what we did to try and reach his heart.  He refused to look me in the eye or speak.  The great sadness had enveloped both of us.  Silence.  Coldness. Emptiness. My own spirit was leaving my body as I watched my dad with his head down.  "Time for you to go, son."  There was no hug, no handshake, nothing.  Just six final words..."time for you to go, son."

Before I could open the door, the tears came.  I did not feel loved, only despair.  As I opened the door to my little yellow VW superbeetle, I thought, Why, God?  Why?  Have you not heard my daily cries to you, to save my mom and dad?  And my brothers and sisters...what about them?  Why have you turned your back on my family?  I can't handle this anymore.  There is no love in my family.  All of us are in Hell now.  All I get from you is silence.  My life stinks.  Just answer one prayer...take me, I beg you, take me out of this world right now.  Once again...silence.  Nothing.

I could barely see through my tears to find the ignition.  It was early morning.  As I pulled out of the parking lot for the last time, I asked God again, 'Please God, just answer one prayer.  Please, take me out of this Hell.  There can be no place worse than where I am now.'  As I drove on the curvy road, I prayed for one of the cars to cross over the line and take me.  No, that would not be good for the other driver.  Just me, God, don't hurt anyone else, I thought.  I was crying like a baby.

At that moment, the Evil One suggested an idea.  The telephone poll, go for the telephone pole.  I sped up.  Rage was overtaking me.  Then fear.  I looked hard at the telephone pole.  Then, another thought hit me.  What if I didn't die?  What if I was only injured?  What about Hell?  The Evil One was clever.  He told me that there could be no worse Hell than the one I was living in now.  I kept passing the telephone polls.  Unable to end my life, I thought, what a whimp.

As I parked the car and turned off the engine.  I prayed one last time.  Looks like you're not going to take me and I am too weak or scared to end my own life.  If I am going to stay in this crappy world, can you do just one thing for me?  Can you at least give me a tiny bit of wisdom so that I can survive on my own?  I am lost and I know you have a lot on your plate.  Just help me figure out a way to get out of this Hell I am trapped in.  I will survive on my own.  I will come up with my own plan.  Just give me enough wisdom to get out of this mess.

I got out of my VW and wiped away my tears.  It was time to put on my "happy face."  I was good at happy faces, even though demons had found a new home, deep inside my cold and lifeless heart.  On this day, I became a cave dweller.  I never stopped praying for wisdom.  It would be many, many years before I would learn the real meaning of a word absent from my teenage years.  That word my friends is HOPE.  I caught my first glimpse of this word when I met Helen Marie, my angel on earth, the one full of WISDOM, the one who would stand tall with me in her 5'3" petite body and stare down my demons with her icey-blue eyes while holding my hand on the battlefield.  The demons feared her because they knew she was Heaven-sent.  She would be the one who would never abandon me no matter how difficult the Evil One made our lives together.  She would be the one to help me restore my broken relationship with God.  Yes, my friends, HOPE is the second most powerful word in my vocabulary (there is nothing more powerful than LOVE and we will be talking about that in great detail in "God's Black Sheep Squadron"), it is rooted in Jesus Christ, the One who was in the VW with me the day I thought I was abandoned.  I was hurting too much to recognize Him in the seat next to me.  He was there on that difficult day and He has been with me every day since the day I was born.

The reason He refused to take me is because of YOU.  I am not allowed to leave this world until you come to know Him.  I will endure any pain or suffering that the Evil One may attack me with for YOU.  I am sharing this story for your benefit.  Do not let the Evil One trick you into thinking your life is meaningless or insignificant.  May you be filled with new HOPE and may you come to know God's LOVE for you.  Yes, you have been created in His image and He loves you.  GOD BLESS YOU!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dealing with Addiction

 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them ~ Genesis 1:27

Ever wonder why so many people are addicted to something unhealthy?  All of us have cravings inside of us.  It is part of our DNA.  We were created to search.  Every culture, primitive or advanced, seeks answers.

As children of God, we have a space within our souls that longs to be filled up.  That space is infinite, just like the Creator.  There is no amount of cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, sex, chocolates, shopping, gambling, work, or other addictive things that can fill up this space.  It is reserved for God.

The best way to cure an addiction is to first ask Jesus to come into your heart.  He will bring the Holy Spirit with Him.  Like a good car mechanic, He will diagnose your addictions.  Your detox will not be easy.  If you are willing to take a look in the mirror and admit that something is in your life that doesn't belong there, you have a great chance to break free.

There will be more about this in "God's Black Sheep Squadron."  Don't be afraid to get help.  The power to overcome an addiction is magnified when you are around others who want it out of their lives.  Today's prayer is for the addict who has no one to pray for him, that he or she reaches out for help.  With Jesus, any addiction can be overcome.  You deserve a life that is free from addiction.  Take the first step and recognize that there is a problem.  Jesus will be there to walk with you.

Monday, November 8, 2010

If Today Was Your Last Day

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father ~ Matthew 24:36

What would you do if an angel woke you up in the morning and told you today was going to be your last day on earth?  Would you change your routine?  What would be important to you?  Would you have any regrets when you meet you Maker?

Jesus tells us that only the Father knows when our time will come.  Many attempt to predict the end of the world.  There will most certainly be a dramatic battle in the end, however, the most important challenge we face is how we are going to spend each day we have been given.

Make sure your loved ones know what is in your heart.  Express your feelings.  Let go of the people that hurt you.  Forgive them.  Spread some joy and laughter.  The place where you are going next is special.  Make sure that your life, well lived to the very end, will help point the way for the people you leave behind.

Click here to see the YouTube video, "If Today Was Your Last Day", by Nickelback

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Overcoming My Greatest Fear

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

There has never been a time in my life where I find myself so far out of my comfort zone as today.  Living in the cave was easy.  All those years in hiding kept me from getting bruised.  It was safe.  God did not create us to be "safe."  He created us to seek Him, even if that means we must travel through the raging sea.  The dark spirits convinced me that my life was a mistake, that my story was not worth sharing.  Who would want to read about some crazy man that failed so many times?  I lived in guilt, separated from the world.  Fear builds its own walls and fences, adding some barbed wire on top, disconnecting us from the possibilities that exist for those brave enough to leave the cave or the island that traps them.

Last night I faced my deepest fear head on.  Public speaking comes naturally for me.  The larger the crowd, the more my adrenaline pumps.  It is similar to another Mike Mulligan from the book "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel."  Click on the video clip to see how Mike Mulligan gets inspired by the large crowds who come to witness his marvelous accomplishment.

Perhaps you feel butterflies inside your stomach when you think about public speaking.  Multiply that one hundred times and you will be able to relate to my fear of singing in public.  Last night I faced this fear head on.  It took place amongst my inner circle of friends from my tennis team.  I dedicated a song to my mixed doubles partner as part of our monthly P.O.E.T.S Society gatherings.  The song was meant to be sung off-key.  That didn't change my fear.  I asked her permission to share the song with the group and made one special plea, NO VIDEO CAMERAS.  "Deal," she said.  My heart raced as I looked out into the crowd to see her pull out a camcorder.  The butterflies in my stomach were fluttering big time.  I could feel each one.  The time had come to face my fear or crawl back into my cave.

I clung nervously to my tennis racquet which was to be my air guitar.  The first words to the song came out off-key.  My voice cracked as my tennis buddy closed in with her video camera.  My heart was pounding.  The crowd laughed at the crazy lyrics and I hammed it up more and more with each verse.  When the performance ended, I felt this sense of relief.  Finally, I had faced my biggest fear ever.

At last, I am ready for the next chapter in my life.  God has placed angels around me to face my fears and overcome all obstacles.  This is for you, my friend.  God is asking me to be His light.  He wants you to hear the Good News.  The dark spirits have lost their grip on me, forever.  No longer will I live in fear.

May you live your life free from fear.  May you hear his voice and follow Him.  A new life awaits you.  Peace be with you.

"Fear builds its own walls and fences, adding some barbed wire on top, disconnecting us from the possibilities that exist for those brave enough to leave the cave or the island that traps them." ~ Michael Mulligan

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Piano Man

As my brothers and I would sweep the floors and scrub toilets at Mulligan’s on the weekends, we would listen to Billy Joel’s song, “the Piano Man”, on our dad’s jukebox.  My mind instantly goes back to those youthful days any time it plays on the radio.

The piano man is the main character, the one all the patrons come to see.  He has a way of livening the place up.  Mulligan’s is gone now and so is my father, however, those memories are still there.  That old piano was a focal point.  I imagine all the people that stopped in for a visit, to forget about life for a while.

Who inspires you?  Is it the piano man?  Do you have a place where you can go to have some quiet time?  Mulligan’s may not be around any more, however, I have found a place where I can go to meditate and it even has a piano.  It's filled with people like me who are searching for their own piano man, someone who can light up the world.  It’s not that far from my home.  Yes, it is my house of worship.   The people there make me feel welcome.  Sometimes, when I am sitting there quietly, I hear the piano man.  Check it out for yourself.  You may end up hearing your own voices.  It is good for the body and soul, re-energizing…