Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Avoid the Iceberg

In the days of the Titanic, everyone had a false sense of security.  We all know what happened when the ship hit an iceberg.  Not much has changed since that tragic day.  Reports are coming in that we just had the biggest Black Friday in recent times and Cyber Monday broke records.  People feel safe, just like they did on the Titanic.  I'm looking through my binoculars and recommend a course change.  It's easier to change course now while there's still time than to hit the iceberg and risk sinking your ship.

The ship I'm referencing is that part of your life you are not paying attention to.  It may be your spouse, your children, your finances, your physical fitness program, or maybe even your leisure time.  It may be your relationships with others.  Take out some binoculars and see what's ahead.  That iceberg in the distance can be avoided if you become more vigilant.

I urge you to look past the Black Friday and Cyber Monday reports.  See through the materialism that has changed the meaning of the Holiday season.  Point your ship to the baby Jesus.  If He's on board, you have nothing to fear, even if you should hit an iceberg.  Let Him help you with the navigation.  He knows where all the icebergs are and He will lead you to calm waters.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Moment of Truth

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. ~ Romans 8:28

Today's message is a follow up to an earlier post about finding your strengths.  If you haven't ordered the book yet, click hereStrengthsfinder 2.0 will help you understand yourself.  It will help you identify your five top strengths.  You will learn how these strengths can be used to help you reach your potential.

Today is your moment of truth.  Your gifts are waiting for you to unwrap them.  How long are you going to wait until you discover why you are here?

I experienced my own personal moment of truth the day I asked the Holy Spirit to show me who I am in God's eyes.  The book added an exclamation point to the message.  All five of my strengths - Maximizer, Empathy, Strategic, Arranger, and Developer, have been given to me to help you discover your gifts and to inspire you to put them into action.

There is no reason for you to remain trapped in the maize.  There is a way out.  I'm not suggesting that you follow me.  Remember, my alter ego is that crazy caveman who was once possessed by demons.  I'm like you, searching for all the answers to the meaning of life.  If you want to get unstuck, follow God.  If you aren't sure how to do that, order Strengthsfinder 2.0 and get your own personal road map.  Make sure you order a new copy of this book.  The code for the test will only work one time and if you buy a used book you will miss out on the most important part.

If you are visiting this blog from another country, it's important to know the test that is part of the book is accurate for all people and all cultures.  You can take this test in your native language.  If you decide to order this book, do me a favor and email me.  I would like to know there are others out there in cyberspace who want to discover their God-given talents.  This is your moment of truth.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Turn On Your Magnet

Is your magnet on?  I'm talking about that invisible force that draws others into your life.  If the right people are avoiding you, it's time for you to flip the switch.  Smile.  Lift up those drooping shoulders.  Scrap those scruffy clothes and dress for success.  Get involved in your community.  Send thank you notes.  Compliment the people who brighten your life.

This message was inspired by the sweet lady who served my breakfast while I was competing at the national tennis tournament in Indian Wells.  My wife pointed out I was the only one in our group to get a hug from her when we said good-bye on our last day at the resort.  Yes, my magnet was on.  It's easy to have the switch in the on position when you're on vacation.  If you're having a bad day, pretend you're in a happy place in your mind.  Your magnet will attract fun people who can cheer you up.  Practice this daily and you will develop a "magnetic" personality.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Memento Connection

The light bulb went off again last night.  My daughter suggested we watch Memento,  a movie written and directed by Christopher Nolan about a man suffering from short-term memory loss.  Nolan got the story idea from his brother, Jonathon.  This film propelled him to the top and he went on to write the original screenplay for Inception.

As I watched the movie, I found a connection to my own writing journey.  Memento garnered many awards for it's unique approach in story telling.  The viewer sees the final scene first, then a series of episodes in reverse chronological order, told from the perspective of the main character who can't remember what happened before he fell asleep.  The connection I found has to do with writing a book without knowledge of how the chapters fit together and sharing that book with you on this blog as it's being written in real time.   Since I've only been writing for a short while, I don't really know what all the rules are and I'm fairly certain I baffle my more experienced critique buddies; I'm some sort of an enigma, putting this book together the same way I build puzzles.

I feel a little bit like Leonard Shelby, the main character with anterograde amnesia.  He is trying to solve his wife's murder but doesn't have the sound mind to put the puzzle pieces together.  I'm seeking the connections we have to our Creator and I'm limited to a human brain.  There is an invisible force guiding me.  The trail we are on together is not linear, nor is it chronological.  I'm following bread crumbs and some days I have to wait for them to fall out of the sky in order to find the next chapter.  If you feel a little bit confused, welcome to my world, a world as far-fetched as the movie, Memento.  No wonder it's one of my daughter's favorites, she inherited her brain from the naked caveman.

Thanks for following me.  I do promise you that The Caveman in the Mirror will make sense once I find all the missing bread crumbs and put this puzzle together.  Meanwhile, why don't you rent Memento and enjoy a thriller?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ancient Connections

The search for missing puzzle pieces continues.  I must uncover ancient connections in order to understand how my next book is to be pieced together.  It involves research spanning 2,000 years.  It's like walking through a labyrinth.  The deeper I go, the more I understand how I am to write this book.  The first half of the maize was filled with all kinds of clues and reference points.  Nearing the midpoint, the writing on the wall is becoming more difficult to decipher.  Time has faded the puzzle pieces and they are more scarce.

The naked caveman stands at the center of this mysterious conundrum.  I studied his face while peering into the mirror.  I know the caves where he once resided.  I know his thoughts.  Once I find him, the research will be complete and I will retrace my steps back to the present.  Then I will write about my findings and The Caveman in the Mirror will be published for you, the last piece of the puzzle...the most important connection to God's masterpiece.  The countdown clock on the right shows when these ancient connections will be revealed.  Stay tuned.  The clock is ticking.

Friday, November 25, 2011

God Shakes Things Up

The last thing my buddy, Leland, expected was to be in the epicenter of a 6.3 magnitude earthquake when he visited New Zealand with his family earlier this year.  His wife told me she felt like God was trying to get her attention.  The family was there to support Leland while he represented the United States in an international tennis tournament.  The earthquake destroyed the tennis courts Leland was scheduled to play on that same day.  Here are a couple of photos Leland snapped as he evacuated the town.


I believe God is always trying to get your attention.  Sometimes it's through Mother Nature.  Other times it's through people he places around you.  If He's not currently shaking things up in your life, you're probably in the eye of the storm.  Brace yourself for what's ahead.

Leland's family made it home safely.  I'm thankful the family shared their experiences with me.  How about you?  Would you like to share what happened to you when God shook things up in your life?  Email me and let's post your story on my blog.  Check out Free Lemonade Stories for messages submitted by others.  Each day, more and more readers are finding this blog from other countries.  Let's add your story today.  I look forward to hearing from you...

socalmulligan808@gmail.com







Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Hidden Meaning of Thanksgiving

It doesn't matter where you live.  Thanksgiving is for every member of the human race.  Sure, the first pilgrims started the tradition of Thanksgiving when they arrived in the New World centuries ago.  They wanted the freedom to worship God without persecution.  They wanted equality for all, including non-believers.

Politicians may attempt to cover up the real meaning of Thanksgiving.  Authorities seek political correctness, changing history books to accommodate those who lack faith.  The government is not allowed to take away the freedom to give thanks to God.  Your life and everything you possess is a gift from God.  When you thank God for all the blessings in your life, you've uncovered the hidden meaning of Thanksgiving.

For me, the biggest blessings in my life are my wife and children.  I thank God for every day I get go be with them.  On this Thanksgiving day, my family will be together.  We will take turns sharing what we are thankful for.  When it's my turn, I will say, "Thank you, Lord, for giving me the opportunity to be a husband and father.  Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to help me get better at these roles with each passing day.  And thank you for teaching me the real meaning of Thanksgiving."

I thank God for giving me the opportunity to share this Thanksgiving message with readers all over the world.  And for those willing to die so that others may gain the freedom we sometimes take for granted in the United States.  May God bless you and your family.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Man in the Mirror

Michael Jackson's hit song, "The Man in the Mirror" is a call to action...for each of us to look in the mirror and become a better reflection of himself.  The lyrics are powerful.  May this song inspire you to make a difference...


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tap Your Strengths

Have you ever wondered if you are using your strengths to the best of your ability?  I remember sharing my "rubber band theory" with my buddy, Steve, in college.  I told him, "all of us are born with different rubber band sizes.  The size of our rubber band is not what's important; what matters is how far we stretch it."

Other people focus on our weaknesses.  We can spend a life-time trying to improve these areas of our lives.  Doing this leads to lackluster performances and misery.

I understand the joy my daughter's guidance counselors expressed when she told them her major is undeclared.  All incoming freshman at her school take a Clifford Strengthsfinder test to uncover their five top strengths.  Once these gifts are identified, each college student can discover a field of study that matches their talents.

I took this same test recently.  It helped me understand what my gifts are and how to tap into them in all areas of my life.  Some people close to me have been attempting to mold me according to their specific strength, focus.  At heart, I'm a born juggler.  If you ask me to juggle just one ball, I become bored.  Juggling is my strength.  The caveat is to avoid juggling too many balls at the same time.

Think of yourself as a member of a baseball team.  Each "player" is gifted to play in a certain position.  Asking the pitcher to be the designated hitter and confining him to extra batting practice to improve on his weakness leads to trouble.  Let the power hitters hit and the pitchers pitch.  Let the coaches manage the players.  If each player is placed in the position that matches his strengths and they are properly developed, that team will be a contender every season.

If you want to discover your top five strengths, click on the link and get started with the Clifford Strengthsfinder.  Make sure to order a new copy of the book as the code associated with the book can only be used once and you will miss out on the test if you pick up a used copy.

 Click here to order your copy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

His Eye is on the Sparrow...and You

Today's message was emailed by a friend.  Enjoy. And remember, His eyes are on you...always.  The YouTube video at the end of the story popped into my head as I looked at these stunning photographs. 

Birds are so fragile and vulnerable.  These amazing photos captured a drama with two of these little creatures that is every bit as poignant and heart-wrenching as any human story.  Kudos to the photographer.  The newspapers that carried these photos sold out in every country.


HIS EYE IS ON THE SPARROW 


A female bluebird was hit by a car as she swooped low across the road, and the condition was soon fatal. 
 
Her male mate brought her food and attended her with love and compassion.  


He brought her food again, but was shocked to find her dead.  



He tried to move her - a rarely seen effort. 
 
 
Aware his mate was dead and would never come back to himAgain, he cried out with adoring love…And stood beside her with sadness and sorrow. 

Millions of people were touched after seeing these photos in America, Europe, Australia, and even India.  The photographer sold these pictures for a nominal fee to the most famous newspaper in France.  All copies of that edition sold out on the day these pictures were published.  

You have just witnessed love and sorrow felt by God's creatures. 

The Bible says that God knows when a sparrow falls. 

Imagine how much He cares for us! 

Live simply, love generously, care deeply, give fully.

 


Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Open Book

The day I decided to become a blogger, my life became an open book.  That was just over 800 days ago.  I went through stages.  The first had to do with my own feelings of incompetence when it comes to writing.  Even as I penned my first story, I remember hoping it wouldn't get noticed for fear of rejection.  Joining a writers critique group helped me to overcome my insecurity about writing.

There is something special about discovering your purpose in life.  It's like climbing a mountain on a misty day.  When you reach the peak and the fog melts away, a stunning view of the world around you unveils itself, stretching all the way to the ocean glistening in the distance.

Other readers, inspired by my stories, are putting on hiking boots for the first time.  Some will become writers, others will unleash latent talents stuffed away in forgotten places where childhood dreams once danced in their minds.  They long to see the scenery from a new vantage point, to unlock their passions and feel their lungs drawing in fresh air as they make their ascents to their own mountaintops.

Thank you for your willingness to read these pages and for joining me on life's trail.  My sights are now set on my own personal Mt. Everest and it will take nearly five hundred days of steady writing, re-writing, and editing to reach the summit.  There is no longer a fear of heights, only a longing to encourage others to climb all the way to the pinnacle.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Captain James Starkey

Captain James Starkey
Captain James Starkey is one of my grandfathers with a bunch of "greats" in front of his name.  I found him last night while searching for my ancestors.  All those history lessons are suddenly coming to life.

James Starkey was a captain in the army during the civil war era.  Unfortunately, his military career ended when he was found guilty of recruiting soldiers under false names.  He is not the first ancestor to be exposed.  Another one of my ancestors was an Irish king who had an illegitimate son.  This son became the first of the Kavanagh clan, a family that ruled part of Ireland for generations until they were scattered when England invaded. The conflict with England led to two hundred years of trouble for my Irish ancestors.  From 1600 to 1699, far more Irish were sold as slaves than Africans.

They say two wrongs don't make a right, however, they played a role in the birth of this blog writer, a Mulligan.  When James Starkey left the army, he raised a family.  His son, Edward, my great-great grandfather, married Mary B. Kavanagh, a descendant of Irish royalty.  Mary's family left Ireland and settled in Canada.  I'm here today because my ancestors found a way to thrive, even in tough circumstances, like famine.  And two hundred years of slavery due to political and religious beliefs.

King Diarmait MacMurrough, Irish king from 900 years ago.  His illegitimate son became the first Kavanagh in Ireland.
There are some gaps in my family line, however, I've been able to confirm family members from six generations ago and make inferences about the links to Irish kings all the way back to the year 1100.  The inspiration for all this started with a love letter from my great-great grandmother, Mary Kavanagh.  Her initials MBK on the poem I released in an earlier message confirm an error made by other family members who mistakenly spelled her last name as Cavanagh.  Looks like a mulligan is needed to correct fix this oversight.

Here is a link to my great-great-great grandfather, Captain James Starkey, a contributing author in Glimpses of the Nation's Struggle. I'm in awe at how many writers there are in my family line.

I'm hoping this post will help me find more relatives.  All of us are connected.  It's fun to discover how we are linked.  For those friends and family members interested in my research about our family line, I will be adding some pictures in a future story.  Stay tuned.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bruce Marchiano Plays Biggest Role of His Life

"It is the single most desperate passionate act of love in human history." ~ Bruce Marchiano commenting on the life of Jesus.

Bruce Marchiano recounted how his vision for his latest project, Jesus...No Greater Love, was born while eating a ham sandwich in Johannesburg, South Africa.  It was 1996 and he was on as speaking tour following the release of The Gospel of Matthew, where he played Jesus.  Over 150,000 South Africans heard Bruce speak while he toured the country and they were moved to ask Jesus into their hearts.

My youngest son, Shane, suggested the family watch the 2010 movie, The Encounter, while scrolling through Netflix.  After watching the movie, I was so touched by Bruce's portrayal of Jesus I decided to look him up and send him a thank you note.  I asked him if he would be willing to share some thoughts about his life as an actor.  Here is Bruce's welcome video message followed by the phone interview Bruce granted for my blog readers...



"Good morning, Bruce.  Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions today about your life as an actor.  My son, Shane, picked out The Encounter for our family to watch together and you did a great job in the movie.  Thanks for agreeing to an interview today."

"How old is your son?" Bruce questioned.

"Sixteen." I replied.

"My fifteen-year-old is also named Shane," he said. (Cue the Twilight Zone music).

Bruce apologized for the dog barking on the other end of the line.

"What kind of dog do you have?" I asked.

"My wife found Paco, a stray, and brought him home.  As you can hear, he's part chihuahua."

My hair began to stand up as I told him our youngest dog is also a chihuahua, a stray we adopted from a shelter.  That eerie feeling continued throughout the interview, as if I were having a regular conversation with Jesus.  Come down to earth, I thought as I asked my first question...

Bruce,  can you please share with my readers how it feels to play the role of Jesus as an actor?

Playing Jesus is humbling.  There is also this sense of excitement.  It's so beyond exciting for many reasons.  He is the most pivotal figure in the history of the universe.  Knowing the Lord, understanding what playing Him counts for...and at the same time, it's heavy with responsibility.   It's the pinnacle of fear and trembling mixed with excitement.

Was there an "aha" moment in your life when the light bulb went off and Jesus became real for you?

There were three moments...the time I gave my life to Jesus, the time period shortly thereafter and the surrounding circumstances; and also during the making of the film.  I grew up going to church so I knew all the stories.  As a young actor in 1989 I had experienced success...but I fast discovered that success can disintegrate, and it was dangerous to build life on things that could fall apart.

There was this confrontation with truth as stark as boiling water.  I knew it was Him.  I was on a hill overlooking Universal Studios.  Everything below me represented everything in life I wanted, and it was like I had to make a choice what was going to rule my life.  I got down on my knees and cried, "Jesus you've got to save me."  There was no emotional response, however, there was this weight off my shoulders...no more burdens.  I stood up and had a whole new life.

Please share your thoughts on your latest project,  Jesus...No Greater Love.  How did you get the vision for this project and what is your role?

Currently I have three roles...writer, producer and actor.  The writing portion is already done.  Because it's such a huge film, I will pass off the producer role to someone more experienced, and I may also pass off the acting role - I'm open to that.  At the same time, the vision rests with me, and that is a key spiritual role.

In the Gospel of Matthew, the power of the Gospel on film got results.  People were changing en masse.   The production quality was low due to insufficient funds.  The business interests controlled.  I believe the Gospel has to be free to reach as many people as possible.  Jesus says you can't serve God and money.  The first movie served investors and sales.  In the middle of my speaking tours, I thought if I could do this again, another Jesus movie but on a full budget, one that stood up with main stream films, free of conflict of interests, I would do it using the Gospel of John.

The opening scenes of the script came to me while eating my ham sandwich in Johannesburg, South Africa.  I scribbled them on a napkin...in the beginning was the word and word was God.

Matthew was a huge film in South Africa.  People didn't know He loved them that way...impassioned, the sun rises and sets in you.  The revelation of His heart became the cornerstone.  People were saying "I didn't know Jesus loved me like this."

As an actor, I study choices that the character makes.  A man's heart is revealed by his actions.  You can tell who a man is by his choices.  He gave up everything to the point of His blood dripping in the sand.  Why?  Why? Why?  What's the end game?

What Jesus did was obvious.  He gave His life for YOU.

What motivates you to get up in the morning?

People need the Lord.  I thank God every day I don't have an occupation to just earn money.  And personally, my kids need their dad.

The non-believers who worked alongside you when you played Jesus were affected by how you portrayed Jesus.  Can you share how their lives changed?

Even the believers were blown away.  It was the depth of love, both in Matthew and the Encounter.  There was a moment in the Encounter where one of the characters rejects Jesus.  In character, I began profusely weeping as the character walks out the door.  You could hear a pin drop when the camera cut...the guys were blown away.  That's how Jesus feels.  Imagine how your heart breaks when your kids make bad choices.  Multiply that times a ka-billion, and there you have the heart of Jesus.

The mother of the young girl in the movie told me later that her daughter asked her, "is that really how Jesus feels?"

This scene did not make the final cut. It did show Jesus weeping because of the pain He felt.

We filmed Matthew in the villages of Morocco.  The workers were all Muslims.  Many people who were there came to the Lord.  I remember them all saying, "I had no idea who Jesus was until today."

Why is it important to you to share Jesus with the world in places far off like Africa?

People need the Lord.  At the end of the day, everything withers...the BMW, the checkbook.  All that's left standing is you and Him.

You have witnessed healing in audiences when you are speaking about Jesus.  Can you describe the feedback you've received about what happened to these people?

It blows my mind.  There's no explanation, not en masse.   Wow!  That's great, the real thing.

Years ago I was in a village in Africa and this man comes running up.  He attended the service the evening before.  Years before, his leg was badly damaged in an accident and he could no longer work.  But there he was running around.  He said, "ask the people in the village, they know me, that I couldn't us this leg.  Now I'm healed!"

This past September, the same man approached me.  He asked, "remember me?"  He rolled up his pants to show me the scars.  But his leg works 100%.  God is alive.

What is your fondest memory?

My finest moment was standing with my wife and getting married.  This is your portion in life.  My family is God's hand of goodness.  I'm thankful for my wife and kids.

In my acting career, the experience of making Matthew... it was an adventure.  There was this fresh revelation of Jesus, and it was like living life as large as life could be lived.

What is your hope for people reading this interview?

That they come to know His heart for them.

How can my blog readers help you with your future vision?

My vision for Jesus... No Greater Love is donation based.  If people could log on and give $10 that would be great.  An Armenian guy here in L.A. raised $700 from approaching his friends saying, "give me ten dollars for a good cause."  So there are many ways to help, and I'm very thankful, because it will take all of us coming together.

At the end of the interview, I asked Bruce if he had any idea when his next Jesus movie will be released and he told me he had thrown his hands up in the air saying, "the sooner the better," but only God knows.

I thought to myself, the last time I remember Moses throwing his hands up in the air, the Red Sea parted and God's people were free.  Please click on Bruce's message below and support his vision to share Jesus with the world.  Don't forget to tell your friends.

http://www.brucemarchiano.com/







Thursday, November 17, 2011

Get Unmired

Here I go again, mangling the English language to express thoughts which have no words.  The definition of mired is to be stuck in the mud.  This site is an encouraging hangout in the blog world and I'm here to help you get "unmired."  Take my cyber-hand and get out of the quicksand you slipped into.

Sometimes, when we fall, we need others to get back on our feet.  Don't be afraid to ask for help and please, don't be "a stick in the mud," someone who allows things of seeming enjoyment to pass them by.  Life is too short.  Get back on your feet.  Get unmired.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Love Letter from my Great-Great Grandmother

The treasure hunt for past memories continues.  My cousin, Mary, is uncovering hidden gems from our family history.  She told me this love letter was sent to my Great-Great Grandfather, Edward C. Starkey, from his wife, Mary B. Kavanagh.  There are several other love letters and poems in the collection and a few photographs.  My cousin sent this to me because she is aware I write daily love letters to my wife, something that is like a morning ritual continuing for seven years straight.  I had no idea the "writing gene" goes back at least four generations.

We don't know if Great-Great Grandma Mary used her own words in this poem or if it came from another source, however, it's beautifully written and worth sharing from the family archives, hidden away for about 140 years.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Changing Teams

My youngest son, Shane, loves football.  It doesn't matter who's playing or what level; if it's football, he's engaged.  He studies the coaches and the players and can tell me something about every team in the league.  Today's blog message is written primarily for my son and for those who like football.  I wanted to teach Shane about some people in the Bible who decided to play for God's team.  The best way to get his attention is to talk about how God put together a Super Bowl team...

The Romans were a team nobody could beat.  They didn't just beat their opponents, they murdered them.  It was like what happens when the Raiders come to town to take on the San Diego Chargers.  Crime goes up.  Families are afraid to go to the stadium.  And players are carted off the field.  Penalty flags litter the field.

The Raiders have a player on their defense who takes the game very seriously.  His name is Saul.  Saul's mission is to win the Super Bowl every year.  Anyone who gets in his way becomes a target.  He blitzes his way to the quarterback and is the all-time sack leader.

One day, Saul is out walking around during the off-season and a bolt of lightning strikes him.  He hears a voice asking, "Saul, why do you persecute me?"

Saul becomes blind and wonders if he will ever be able to play football again.  He relies on strangers to get help.  God tells Saul He wants him on God's football team...the San Diego Chargers, a team Saul hates more than anybody else.  When the Raiders find out Saul is blind they put him on waivers.

The Chargers find out Saul is available but they don't trust him.  At first, they are afraid Saul is sent to spy on them and destroy the team from within.  Saul asks for a new number and a new position.  He is so committed to his new team that he wants to completely forget his past, even his old name.  His new name is Paul.  The Chargers put him on offense.

Every time Paul scores, he points to the sky and gives all the glory to God.  No team can stop him, not even the Raiders.  The Chargers go all the way to Super Bowl and Paul becomes the team captain.  People from all over the world watch Paul and his team on Super Bowl Sunday and they are in awe of his talents.  He had those same gifts when he played for the Raiders, but now, instead of killing his opponents, he uses football to talk about how God asked him to play on His team.  He talks about what those lightning bolts mean to him. Because of Paul, people from all over the world start liking football.   Two thousand years from now, people will still be reading about Paul, the man who changed teams and became a legend in America's finest city.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Why Am I Here?

On the surface, it seems like a fairly easy question...why am I here?  The more you analyze the question, the more complex it becomes.  I asked this question over the weekend at our men's retreat.  Due to confidentiality that was promised, I'm not allowed to reveal any of their answers.  One of the men wanted clarification.  "Do you mean why am I here this weekend or why am I on the planet?" he asked.

"The question is open-ended and it's up to the individual to answer it according to what's in his own heart," I replied.

When I was asked to help plan the retreat weekend, I thought of the first retreat I attended with my wife, my sister and my brother-in-law.  There was a series of announcements at the end of each church service leading up to the retreat and I resisted saying yes.  Thoughts of playing tennis on the weekend and watching football on TV prompted me to reject the invitations.  Then it happened.  The weekend before the retreat, Tony and his wife Lisa, stood up to give the last commercial.  Their children flanked them on each side as Tony spoke about how he became a better husband and father because of attending the three-day weekend.  I was hooked.  "What are you doing?" my wife asked while standing next to me at the sign-up table after church.

"I'm going to the retreat," I replied.  She was shocked and had already decided she was attending even it meant going alone.

Standing behind me was my sister and brother-in-law.  Each of us decided we wanted to become better parents and better spouses.  That first weekend was life-changing for all of us.  I became engaged in my church and learned to be a better man.  Now I was given an opportunity to create something from scratch that could provide tools for the men of my church to reach new heights.

Our deacon wanted to include a viewing of "Courageous" at the camp-out, however, the movie was still playing at the theaters and a license to show it during our retreat was out of our budget.  Then the rain forecast changed our plans and we decided to spend our first evening at the movies.  It set the tone for our three days together.  Our three talks...Faith, Calling and Family seemed to compliment the movie.  The question and answer period after each talk allowed the men to share their ideas.

On the last day of our weekend, we sat together in church accompanied by our families.  Our deacon asked us to stand up before the congregation and acknowledge our renewed commitment to be better dads and better husbands.  In his own way, each man found answers to the question..."why am I here?"  Invite your spouse on a date and watch "Courageous."  It will help you find your own answers to the same question.  And your children will thank you.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

One in a Hundred

Our men's retreat will be wrapped up this morning.  Yesterday, I got the opportunity to speak to this special group and I shared my testimony of meeting Jesus.  Bits and pieces of my life's story are woven in the stories you find here on my blog and also in my memoirs.  It's such a joy to discover who you are in God's eyes, and then act on it. 

My favorite Bible quote refers to Jesus leaving the other ninety-nine in search of the one who is lost.  In a population of 7 billion, that breaks down to 70 million who are searching for something missing in their lives.  Those in the "one-in-a-hundred" category are the ones I'm called to publish for.  Most don't realize there is something missing until about the age of fifty.  They question their non-belief in God and begin to wonder if maybe there is a Divine Creator.

Jesus found a way to take a time-out from His ministry 2,000 years ago, get on a boat with His followers, and go to a far-off land to heal a naked caveman possessed by evil spirits.  Besides that first naked caveman, He also heard my distant cries reaching Him from 2,000 years into the future.  Time doesn't matter to Jesus.  He hears the lost calling out to Him in all time zones and in all lands.  He is the Living Word.  You can find Him any time you open that pristine Bible sitting on your bookshelf or in the bookstore waiting for you to acquire it.  Go ahead.  Open it.  Read it until the pages are worn.  He will find you if you call out to Him.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Be All You Can Be

Today is an important day for me, my family and a group of men from my church.  There are some "God-incidences" in these last twenty-four hours unfolding right in front of me that are so extraordinary, they can only be explained in the spiritual realm.

Several months ago my pastor asked me to speak at a men's retreat.  I was originally scheduled to speak to a more general audience, however, the main leader got called away on another assignment and the event was postponed.  Before I could blink, an alternate plan for the weekend was in place and I was called to pitch in.  During the planning meeting, a thought for my talk flashed before me and I offered it to the group.  My talk is entitled, "Calling."  The preparation was going really smooth until a jolt of electricity shook my body.  It happened while reading a book my pastor gave me this last Tuesday evening.  Throughout the book there were all sorts of references to "calling."

The last chapter left me speechless.  It was titled...Calling.  It was as if the Holy Spirit jumped into the middle of my plans and said, "Michael, your talk for this weekend is a B+.  Let me help you be all you can be so that the people of God can be all they can be.  I want these men to return to their wives and children after they experience the same thing Moses felt when He met the Father on the mountaintop. These men are being called and lives are about to change.  Let me be in charge and trust me."

The icing on the cake was our first retreat night together last night.  Our men's group started our weekend with a visit to the movie theater to see "Courageous."  The movie perfectly set the stage for today's session.  In less than one hour, we will meet for a life-changing day God has already planned for our group.  The rains are here and the winds of the Holy Spirit are blowing.  He gets all the credit for what will unfold today, all according to His will.  I'm eagerly awaiting the rainbow at the end of this special weekend.

My prayer for you today is that you will be inspired to seek the Holy Spirit and ask Him to help you be all you can be.  For those of you who look for patterns, today's post happens to be number 808 in-a-row.  That's 808 messages floating around in cyberspace, all inspired by the One I serve.  May they help you find your way to Him.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Frolicking in the Storm

The winds are gusting again.  It's that time of year.  Most people would stay off the tennis courts in this kind of weather.  My teammates are not most people.  They're the type to go frolicking in the storm, adjusting for the elements and having fun no matter how crazy the weather.

A few thunderstorms in your life may disturb your best plans.  You can sit at home sulking or put on a raincoat and go splash in the puddles.  That's what the men of my church will be doing this weekend.  We planned to go camping, however, Mother Nature intervened.  Instead of giving up, we decided to go to the movies tonight and then return to our church tomorrow for a day of fellowship...right smack in the middle of a heavy storm.  I'm planning on sharing some experiences dealing with stormy weather in my life.  Funny thing about storms... they allow opportunities for the rainbows to come out.  Knowing there are rainbows to look forward to can make it easier to frolic in the storm and my prayer for the retreat is that others will learn to splash in the puddles instead of avoiding them, especially if God is calling them to play in the rain.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Frog in the Well

All the frogs around you are croaking.  Their sounds are more like moans.  Every day is the same old slime.  It's dark and overcrowded in the bottom of the well and you long to find a way out.  You tell the other frogs of your plans to climb out and they laugh at you, pointing out how high the walls around you are.  You don't listen to them and start climbing.  After about one foot, you fall backwards and the other frogs gather around you to taunt you for your foolishness.

Each morning, you look at the light from above and are drawn to it.  You begin climbing again.  Each time, you fall, however, you reach new heights with every attempt and you tell the other frogs there is a way out if you are willing to climb.  Your frog legs become muscular and your conditioning improves.

The higher you climb, the brighter the light is at the top of the well.  The croaking sounds from below fade.  At last, you reach the top of the well.  The view is heavenly.  You look down at the well and shout to the other frogs hoping they will follow you.  The other frogs can't hear you above all their moaning and groaning; they don't even notice you are gone.  The sunlight feels so good as you bask in your new surroundings.  No longer are you a frog who lives in a well.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Fight of My Life

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. ~ 2 Timothy 4:7

I chatted with one of my blog followers the other day and asked her why she liked reading my stories.  "You're a regular guy," she said, "and the problems you share are the same problems everyone else has.  People can relate to your messages and they find hope."

There is a balance between sharing and maintaining privacy of loved ones.  They are relieved to know my second book is about my own personal journey and the only thing I will share about them is a dedication at the front of the book thanking them for the sacrifices they make so I can publish.

The path I'm on now is overgrown with weeds and few before me have ventured this way.  I began this journey with a full load of supplies and the attitude of a warrior who is unstoppable.  The fight of my life is for those souls who drifted off the main highway and got stuck in the wilderness.  The Enemy is tracking my win-loss record and does not like my presence in His territory.  He thinks it's His arena but He's wrong.  I've heard His press conferences and I know His taunts.  The only voice I care about is from Jesus and He promises me the opponent will be forced into retirement... forever.

My face and body resembles a UFC fighter in the cage, the one who is losing.  It would be so easy to "tap out."  When I'm weak and weary, I reflect on the encouragement my friend gave me during an elevator talk.  I think of all the people in the world who are struggling to win their own fight.  If I were to throw in the towel and give up, what would the world do?  The price of defeat in this spiritual war is too high.  I must sacrifice everything and be willing to win this fight.  As long as I stay connected to the One I serve and don't turn my back on Him, I will win this fight.  Then I will hold the belt high for the world to see... all for the glory of the One who sent me into the ring.

Will you support me in this fight?  Become a follower of this blog.  Look for the follower button on the right and join His team.  The One who trains me is undefeated...even in death.  He is my hero.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

God-incidence

How does one define a word that does not exist in our vocabulary?  More importantly, how does one describe something when current words are too limited?  This phenomenon happens to people who are multi-lingual when they are conversing with someone who only speaks one language.  It's like a box of Crayola crayons.  The person with the 64 crayon set struggles when he attempts to translate using only the basic 8 pack.  There's no word in the 8 pack to describe Mango Tango.

In the spiritual realm, God has an unlimited set of crayons.  Can you color a sunrise or a sunset using only the basic set of crayons?  So it is with describing coincidences that appear to be more than random events.  It's time for a new Crayola color to be introduced...God-incidence.  This color can be used anytime you experience a random event that occurs at the perfect time in your life.

Apply this new color to your life.  Do you believe your presence in the world is just a coincidence?  What if you are a God-incidence?  God set you apart from all the other crayons.  There is no other crayon in the world that can contribute to God's masterpiece like you can.  There is a special place in God's painting reserved for you and only you. 

Here's a final thought for you to consider about coincidence vs. God-incidence.  How did you find this story?  If you do a Google search for God-incidence, you get 4,400,000 results.  Maybe there is some kind of Divine influence pushing this story to the top of the first page...just for you.  The truth about God-incidences is they are all around you.  You are a God-incidence.  It's time for you to go color.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Back Home From Nationals

We dreamed big.  We trained hard.  And this weekend we returned to the Palm Springs area to play on the same tennis courts where eight months earlier we cheered for Nadal, Federer and other top pros competing in the annual BNP Paribus Open.

We met seasoned tennis players from all over the country.  Day one was a triumph; we defeated a solid New York team.  That evening, we attended the players party where we hoped to meet Billie Jean King, the co-founder of World Team Tennis.  Unfortunately, she was ill and the airlines would not allow her to fly.

Day two was more challenging.  In the second round, we battled a savvy team from the Midwest but came up short.  Our only hope of advancing to the semifinals was to beat a young team from South Carolina.  We faced adversity many times on our road to nationals; to keep our national championship dream alive, we needed another come-from-behind performance from our top aces.  With the match even and the final pivotal game tied at 3-3, this time our opponent's shot stayed in.  That meant the best we could do was 5th place in the Sunday morning consolation match.  Our Jersey opponents brought their youthful players for the final match of our fun-filled weekend.  Once again, it all came down to one last sudden death game.  This team from a small town in Southern California eked out a 5th place win by just one team point in the final match of a story book season.  This writer is thankful for all the memories created along the way.  What a remarkable journey this has been.

The beautiful thing about tennis is the longevity of the sport.  While competing at Indian Wells, I noticed other senior teams - players fifty and older, and "super" senior teams - competitors at least sixty, competing for national titles in their age groups.  As much fun as I have competing with opponents thirty years younger than me, at fifty-one, it may be time to find my place in the senior tennis crowd.  I just hope my honorary captain, Elliott, can get out of the hospital soon and return to offer some coaching advice.  At 85 years old, he is considered one of the most clever and cunning players to grace the courts.

It's in my blood.  I love to compete.  Now it's time to start thinking about next year. I wish to give special thanks to my Smashin' with Passion teammates from Ramona for sharing the dream with me.  This was the kind of weekend they write about in fairy tales.  An amazing chapter ended yesterday.  It's time to begin the next chapter of my life today.  Whatever the future holds, I'm ready.

Here's a WTT link with the results from the weekend...

http://www.wtt.com/page.aspx?article_id=2928

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Deep Sea Fishing

Photo by Mike Mulligan
That's me out there on the horizon, drifting in my dinghy with nothing but a pole, some bait, and a line that extends to the darkest crevices of the ocean floor.  Others before me have been fishers of men in these waters.  Pleased with their catch, they moved on.  The biggest fish remain and they ignore my bait.  I chum the waters with the blood of the Lamb and the fish draw closer, however, they refuse to bite and scoff at me by repeatedly bumping my small boat from below.

An offshore wind signals it's time to move on and my heart saddens for the fish I must leave behind.  I must fish in deeper waters before the big storm hits and all the boats are ordered to be dry-docked.  The winds point me to uncharted waters where the fish do not know me and I rejoice as they take the bait.  Once the boat is overloaded with a record catch, I head back to my home port.  The shadows lurking below me are a reminder of the big fish that got away.  They have chosen to stay in the dark and I must leave them behind as I navigate back to the lighthouse.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Cornerstone

Faith is odorless, tasteless and invisible.  You can't touch it.  Faith needs a cornerstone that won't budge when the earth moves or rough waters pelt your dwelling place.  If your foundation is not rock-solid, you risk losing your faith.

An outsider may look at my life and judge what he sees by the destruction from past storms.  As long as Jesus is my cornerstone, my own faith will serve as my foundation and I can rebuild, even if everything else is wiped out.

Before the next storm strikes, examine your cornerstone.  It's better to relocate your family to a home with the right cornerstone in place than to continue living with a weak foundation.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Representing My Hometown

My tennis team from Ramona is one of eight finalists vying for a World Team Tennis national championship this weekend.  Our first match is at 12:00 noon today at Indian Wells, a short drive due north of our home in the back country.

Our road to the championships is similar to the 2011 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.  Near the end of their season, they appeared hopeless.  We were the same way, down seven points in the first round of a qualifier tournament.  Thanks to Mike (Mo) and Shelley, we ended up winning in a super tiebreaker and eventually won the tournament to get a shot at a national qualifier in Vegas.

If you watched game six of the World Series, once again you saw a Cinderella team on the edge of a knockout.  They were within one strike of the end.  That was just like our team in Vegas.  We made it all the way to the finals and faced a formidable opponent in the championship round.  It all came down to one sudden death point and our win was determined by a ball missing the line by no more than one inch.

St. Louis celebrated in front of it's hometown fans after winning game seven in a season that will be talked about for decades to come.  When we play this weekend, there will be one person in the crowd who is considered one of the most influential Americans of the last century.  In 1973, Billie Jean King, the co-founder of World Team Tennis, defeated Bobby Riggs, once a homeowner in my hometown of Ramona.  She became a hero for the underdogs, a symbol for those seeking equality, and a legend for tennis players young and old.  This weekend, Billie Jean King will be cheering for tennis players from all over the United States who are here because she dreamed big and founded a league for tennis players to share their passion for tennis.

I hope my team will get to experience the exuberance felt by those baseball players from the Midwest who beat the odds and took home the trophy.  No matter the outcome this weekend, just being here is a dream come true.  I promise to represent my hometown and will do my best to help bring home a national championship.  Thank you, Billie Jean, for making this weekend possible. And to those who can't be with us, you will be in our hearts.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Snail's Pace

 "It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages, while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress. But it will pay in the long run and the true Christian is not much interested in anything short of that." ~ A.W. Tozer

It's easy to look in the rear view mirror and see the mistakes you made along the way in your life.  You dreamed big and plunged into new ventures expecting big-time results.  How many times did your plans fizzle?  Learn from your past mistakes and adjust as you move forward, inch by inch.

Life is a marathon.  If you set your pace too fast, you will overlook the scenery all around you or hit the wall and exit too soon.  Those aid stations along the way are there for you to replenish so you can go the distance.  My writing pace is like a snail.  Writing one hour a day is less than 5% of my available time, not much compared to my colleagues who write for hours each day.  For me, that one hour at sunrise to hone my writing skills and cast one message into cyberspace is just a fragment of my own personal marathon.  800 blog messages are floating around the world and people from far off are reading these stories in their native language, thanks to all the free bloggage accessories supplied by the Google team.

I use my rear view mirror to observe past errors.  If my eyes remain fixed on the rear view mirror of life, I may be tempted to give up.  A simple glance into my past is all I need to adapt to what's ahead.  If I'm moving slowly enough, I can take time to observe the beauty all around me and visit with others who are on the course.  It's the snails who are most likely to log the most miles on the marathon of life, to reach milestones like the 25,000 pageviews I'm celebrating today.  I thank God for inspiring me to inch forward no matter what obstacles there are in front of me.  Find your pace and stick to it.  Speed up or slow down if necessary.  When I cross my finish line, my hope is that the messages I leave will help others to keep moving forward, even if it's at a snail's pace.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

1 in 7 Billion

The U.N. forecast our world population would hit 7 billion by October 31, 2011.  I'm a numbers guy and I wondered who in the world would be that 7 billionth baby.  A little surprise showed up on my Facebook message box from my mother's sister, Marcie.  She was announcing the birth of her first grandchild, Judah...born at 1am on 11-1-11.  What are the odds of that?  Welcome to the planet, little buddy.  Your arrival on All Souls Day is a special tribute to your cousin who got called up to Heaven while still inside the womb.  May you be blessed with more siblings and cousins in the future as I have been in my life.  And may your family remember the tribute you paid your older cousin by arriving at such a special time on a day when we remember the souls who have departed.

To my Aunt Marcie and Uncle Mike, I just wanted to say congratulations on your upgraded status as grandparents.  This fresh arrival is a new chapter to add to the four seasons of your lives together.  It is such a blessing to be connected to your family and I look forward to the joys all your grandchildren will bring you, in Heaven and on earth.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Arm Wrestling With God

You feel His presence in your life.  He's holding your hand and leading you in a direction you don't want to go.  Instead of allowing Him to lead you, you choose to arm wrestle with Him.  Odds are you are a fighter because you have trust issues.  If you truly believed the place where God is leading you is good for you, you wouldn't be fighting Him.

Have you been involved in relationships that turned sour because someone did something to hurt you?  If you were hurt by someone, like your parents, who caused you pain, this may make it difficult for you to trust God.  You have a false image of what a loving God is and you are arm wrestling Him to avoid getting hurt.

You can't win a wrestling match with your past.  It's over.  Let go.  Recognize that the Hand holding on to you now belongs to a God who loves you perfectly.  He's not here to fight with you.  He wants to lead you to a place where you can have peace.  God is not your adversary, He's your Salvation.