article. part 2

 

Yesterday I posted an article I received last May from one of my dad’s friends, Bob. Providentially, mine and Bob’s lives intersected after the tornadoes in Alabama last year.

I’ve debated back and forth whether to post the article. I actually debated even last night whether to take it down or not, after I posted it. The description of my dad is so raw. So real. So honest…

Which takes me back to the afternoon that I read the article for the first time.

I was sitting in my office at the station late this afternoon. As I read Bob’s words, my mind could see vividly the images he was describing. I’d seen the same scenes many times myself. And I had received the same phone calls, driven the same routes. It was all too familiar. As I looked over the pages, there it all was … in black and white … all of my dad’s sin. All of the filth. All of the darkness … printed there in black and white. Documented.

Still crying, I gathered my things – including the article – got in my car, to drive the hour commute home. I replayed many tapes that afternoon. One of my dad almost literally running us off the road when he got kicked out of one rehab center and I was driving him to another. He wanted to stop for beer, and I wouldn’t exit off the highway. When we passed the next exit, he literally grabbed the wheel and forced me to take the exit. Spinning at the base of the ramp, I gave in and drove him to the convenience store. At 16 years old, I didn’t know what else to do. And wrecking didn’t feel like it was worth withholding a 6 pack from him.

The next minute I started laughing hysterically remembering the story of the false teeth and my dad calling K.L. to see if he “had an extra pair laying around.” Sad. But funny!! Perhaps I get my resourcefulness from him?

My PaPa Brown had a huge barn. He tore it down, and built a newer barn on another section of his property. My dad had an RV trailer they moved onto the old slab of the torn down barn. To this day, I still remember walking up to the RV and hearing my dad sing “My home’s on Perry’s slab” to the tune of the group Alabama’s “my home’s in Alabama….” He was drunk.

I don’t have a ton of memories. And most of the ones I do have are not good ones. But one of the last ones I have is when we lived in Mobile. My dad had moved down to Mobile because he wanted to be closer to me and Haley (his first and only grandchild). I didn’t know of his plans to move south until the phone rang one afternoon, and it was my dad on the other line. “I’m here. I decided to move today. I’m at the K.” I laughed at first because the name of the convenience store was “Circle K.” He asked where my townhouse was and if he could stop by. I told him he wasn’t welcome if he’d been drinking; that he wasn’t allowed to be around my daughter in that condition. So a few minutes later, he was at my front door, everything that he owned loaded in his car.

I invited him in. It was the first time he’d seen Haley. He cried.

He found an apartment and stayed in Mobile for a while. He quickly learned our routine and knew we got home around 1:30. I was enrolled at the University of South Alabama. Haley went to Mom’s Morning Out at our church while I was in class. We like to come home and take naps. I tried my best to get him to come around 4 p.m., but he’d usually give us til about 2:30 or 3. For several months, he would come over in the afternoon, warm up my morning’s cold leftover coffee, and play with Haley in the floor. The days he didn’t show up, I knew he was drinking. I can honestly say he never once showed up drunk; he honored my wishes to not be around Haley having been drinking.

One afternoon, Haley was sick. Her prescription was ready, but she was sound asleep in her crib. My dad knocked on the door to visit. I was conflicted. I really needed to get Haley’s prescription, and she was sleeping so peacefully, but could I really trust him to stay with her?  He was sober, and I knew I could ask him to sit with her for 15 minutes while I ran to the pharmacy. I gave him 20 minutes worth of instructions, and 30 minutes worth of warnings. I literally could’ve been there and back twice by the time I was done telling him everything I needed to say. Against my better judgement, I left to get Haley’s medicine. I literally was hyperventilating with fear that I’d just made the worst decision of my life. I raced back home, imagination going crazy. I ran in the house, in full panic, expecting something horrible. And there my dad sat, at the kitchen table drinking the nasty warmed up old coffee. Haley was still sound asleep in her bed. The expression on my face said it all. “You didn’t trust me, did you?” he asked. “no, I didn’t.” I said. I don’t remember exactly what was said after that but it was a cross between, “I’ve given you every right not to trust me. But I’m grateful you did.”

Eventually my dad moved back to NE Alabama. We were in Mobile a little while longer, and then we moved to Tampa in June of 1994. It was in November that I got the phone call that he had passed away in jail. As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t remember much about his funeral. It’s crazy, really, because I have a great memory. An excellent memory! But I don’t really remember that day. I just remember feeling the finality of everything, and that it would never be the way it was supposed to be.

Reading Bob’s article brought all of this back to the surface for me. Time has a way of dulling things. Seeing Bob’s words and description of my dad in black and white made it all real again. Through tears, and with these tapes playing in my head, I told God how much it hurt.

And that’s when I heard God speak these words to my heart:

“You know, Carmen, you have an article too.”

For a few moments on I-75, God gave me a birds eye view, and I could see a glimpse of my dad’s life from His perspective. A glimpse of my life.

Looking down, I could see my dad’s article. I could see my article. All there, printed out for God to see. Nothing hidden. All out in the open.

And then I felt God say, “but because of the cross, laid over your articles, I don’t see them.” I truly had this vision in my head of the cross literally laid over our documented, filthy and guilty articles. But because of Jesus, God looks down and our articles are covered.

It was a moment. A healing moment. And for the first time in 40 years, I saw my dad as clean. I saw him whole. Healthy. Sober.

So on this Father’s Day, I can say with the sincerest of hearts, that I do look forward to seeing my dad in Heaven one day. Clear-eyes, and made new. I look forward to hugging him. And letting him know I forgive him.

 

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. -Psalm 51:7

 

article. part 1

 

Tomorrow is Father’s Day.

The last few days I’ve thought a lot about an article I received last May after our Giftcards for Alabama outreach that helped a tornado-torn community near my hometown of Jacksonville. I’ve actually debated for a month or so on whether or not to share this article on my blog. The last thing I would ever want to do is hurt my family. But God has redeemed and healed a deep wound in my heart, that I really can’t not share. This is only part 1, though.

There are a thousand “only God” details I could share with you that happened this time last year, but just know for sure that through a series of well-orchestrated, providential events, Bob found me online as he was searching to hear the interview we’d done with his pastor. Bob had no idea the morning show page he was searching for would lead to me, Carmen, daughter of Ken. Bob reached out to me, and we exchanged several emails. I cried as I read each one. (for whatever reason, I don’t remember much of my dad’s funeral services; I’m blank on that day except for riding in the car with my aunt. I also remember not feeling anything.)  Eventually Bob sent me this article (I’m sharing a portion of it) he had written about my dad. I was sitting at my desk late one day, when I opened Bob’s email and read the following. Years worth of hurt, regret, pain, dysfunction, and anguish made it’s way to the surface that afternoon. Alone, I bawled my eyes out, grieving what I never had, grieving what would never be, grieving what I didn’t in November 1994.

Bob nailed my father. He captured him perfectly in this article.

Tomorrow, I will share part 2. And the “moment” God healed this broken daughter’s heart.

Meet my dad….

Ken

The Jacksonville High School Golden Eagles 1964 football season didn’t make the record books. Ken, a loud mouth freshman, was a running back. He’d run back and forth, on and off the field with an ice water bucket, ammonia capsules, and off-­the-­cuff, off color jokes.

Ken truly brought an extra flare of entertainment to the game. Ken was Dennis the Men­ace, Don Rickles and Rich Little all in one.

His impersonation of one of our beloved coaches nick-named “Rat” left us in the locker room hyperventilating from laughter before the game while our dwindling number of fans wondered how we could lose so many games with so much talent!

Hate Ken or love him, there was no way to get rid of him! I was one of the ones who loved him.

Graduating or simply turning sixteen and dropping out of school changes everything. Life gets much more complicated. The foot loose, fancy free days of runnin’ with like-minded high school buddies, locker room jokes, and competing for the girls’ attention is gone forever.

When I heard Ken enlisted and headed for Vietnam, I knew the troops over there were in for some entertainment. And they didn’t even have to wait for Bob Hope or Red Foxx! Unlike some of our buddies, Ken made it back, but like so many, not without deep personal, emotional damage and baggage. He married and became the dad of two children. He even became a preacher, a real zealot for God. The Baptist Church definitely had a spark plug!

That was until….

Ken was so outgoing that he could sell anything: Rocket Burgers, Jesus Christ, or furniture. The furniture store was his headquarters during the week. After hours, doors closed and locked, out would come the bottle, in would come the drink and out would come the demons.

Alcohol put Ken’s conscience to sleep. The Baptist Church lost him. The devil got him. He lost his family, his dignity, his self respect. Years later, a meager, monthly US Government disability check would become his enabler.

It was 30 years after our care free high school days I found Ken held up in an old dilapidated, wrecked, mobile home, electricity disconnected for non-­payment; a God awful stench from a toilet seldom flushed. A fat, fluffy smelly puppy he named, Bear, after his hero Bear Bryant, the legen­dary football coach.

Bear, the dog never went outside. Ken’s trailer was like stepping into one of hell’s garbage dumpsters: dog poop and urine, old molded cottage cheese cartons, empty beer cans strewn all over the floor; ashes and cigarette butts accumulated everywhere, and there sitting in the middle of it all, layin’ back in an old worn out, caved in, faded, unraveled, fabric arm chair, propped up against a rotten, roach infested wall under a rusty, crooked, Alabama Crimson Tide plaque, unkempt, drunk out of his mind, still crackin’ jokes was our old high school buddy, Ken.

His face was wrinkled way beyond his years. His skin was like weathered, sun baked pork rind; nicotine stained hands trembling, one holding a cigarette butt he’d gotten off the floor and relit. His hair was gray, thin and receding. The noticeable scar on his forehead was the reminder of one of the nights he took a beating. His drunken, smart mouth called for blows and another drunk beat him in the head with a pool cue and left him in an alley for dead.

I walked on in. My heart broke. I told Ken that I loved him and offered to help him clean up his place. He mumbled some smart remark about Bear Bryant and fell asleep. I put out his relit cigarette butt, took Bear outside and began some straightening and cleaning, a task impossible to finish in one day or month for that matter. I made a dent in it, however, let Bear back in, went home, threw my smelly clothes into the washer, took a shower and returned the next day to check on Ken.

I took him to meet his appointment with the doctor, health department, probation officer and anywhere else he felt he needed to go. Any where other than the beer store, that is. One day with Ken became two, then another and another. Two weeks later, Ken’s sister called, amazed Ken had been sober for so long. I was so idealistic to believe after all these years the nightmare could miraculously end and Ken could be a sober new man overnight.

One day I missed seeing him. A week went by. I stopped by his trailer to check on him and there he was the same as before. His check had come in and when you’re an addict, and you’ve got money, you have no trouble getting a ride. Some of Ken’s friends would come by to check on him only at the beginning of the month. Sounds like love with a hook, doesn’t it?

Ken was like an owl, a nocturnal creature of the night. He loved to find and stay in touch with old friends and make new enemies! Each night, drunk, he’d get a bad case of what we call “black cord fever,” getting on the phone sharing jokes and keeping the social network going. He gave no consideration to who might be sleeping.

My wife, Patti and I were awakened from a deep sleep one night, the phone blaring like a fire alarm! “uhhhh…..hello?”

“Hey Bob…” his tongue thick, Ken remarked, “me and Coach Bryant are over here talking about “the great Bob, Golden Eagle linebacker turned songwriter and just wanted to call and say I love ya!”

“Bullxxxx! NO! You don’t, Ken! You love that bottle!” Don’t you ever call here again!”

I slammed the phone down, and stayed wide awake, spending the rest of the night cussin’ Ken!

I thought to myself, “The nerve! Why did I ever give that hopeless, inconsiderate jerk my phone number? He’s nothing but a nuisance. Patti, I’m sorry.”

The next day was Wednesday, the day my friend Mac and I would work out. Mac was an old college football teammate who had become a college professor at Jacksonville State University. We’d warm up for our workout by jogging around the track above the gymnasium in the Pete Matthews Coliseum.

It was summer camp time and junior high kids from all over the county were waiting for their counselors to arrive at 9 AM to get things started. Most of the kids were crowded near the front door, excited and energetic.

However, there was a loner … a precious, little girl, no taller than 4’5″ at the end of the gym trying her best to throw the large basketball through the hoop. Never mind if anyone was watching. She’d hold the ball in both hands, stoop as low and she could and with all the energy she could muster, push upward, the ball falling way short of the 10′ hoop. With amazing tenacity and determination she’d run for the ball, move back in front of the hoop and try again and again. As Mac and I would jog by, we’d cheer her on. “Hey, try it again! You can do it!” we’d shout as we’d run by.

She began looking over her shoulder for us to come by again. As soon as she’d see us again each time getting closer and closer.

“You can do it! Try it one more time!” Mac and I would shout.

Then, to our amazement the ball swooshed through the net! We began to clap, dance and cheer!

“We knew you’d make it! Way to go! You’re awesome!”

About half a lap later, I felt a deep conviction within my heart. God spoke: “Bob, you gave up on Ken. I didn’t. Go tell him he can make it. Try one more time!”

“Mac,” I said, “see ya next Wednesday, I’ve got somewhere I’ve got to go.”

Ken lived in the subculture of alcoholics. I found him in a run-­down apartment of one of the likely crowd.

“Ken, I gave up on you. God didn’t! Let’s try it one more time!”

He smiled, totally un­offended, but drunk as usual.

A few years later, Ken was serving weekends in the Oxford City Jail for a DUI conviction. The jail was really his home base. He was a stray during the week, sleeping in corners, under trees, back seat of old clunkers, an occasional night on the ragged sofas of friends from the subculture who were way beyond being embarrassed by him.

At the jail, he could shower, wash his clothes and eat regularly so when the judge ordered him to do weekends in jail, it realy was throwing brer rabbitt into the briar patch!

After Ken had suffered a stroke, his speech was impossible to understand, especially when he was drinking. One Saturday afternoon he called me from the jail. I could understand him so I knew he was sober.

All he said was, “Bob, I love Jesus and I love you!

“I love you too, Ken.” was my predictable response.

“Listen to me! he said, “I love Jesus and I love you!”

And then, without further conversation, he hung up the phone. An hour later, while washing his clothes, Ken had a massive heart attack and died.

His sister called and asked if I would share at Ken’s funeral.

“Of course,” I replied, trying to hide my immediate since of dread.

How do you eulogize someone whose life appears to have been so tragic? What comfort can there possibly be for the grown children who had been so embarrassed and hurt, the ex-­wives who may dare to show up?
What about the subculture of addicts who were sure to come? Do you tell them it’s ok to continue to live a drunken, destructive, wasted life and continue to hurt the people who love them? And if you read from the Good Book, in good conscience, can you ignore passages like Galatians 5:19 where we’re told drunks will not inherit the Kingdom of God?

Saturday afternoon, 2:30 PM, K.L. Brown’s Funeral Home Chapel was an overflow crowd, standing room only. In the parking lot were new slick, polished Cadillacs next to rusted out, barely runnin’ clunkers with worn out, jumper cables layin’ in the floor where the back seat use to be!

From dignitaries to derelicts, Ken’s life deeply touched this community. Everyone loved him, even those who had hated him! And I had the honor of sharing publicly my own love for this colorful character and in particular, his last phone call from the jail! Somehow I suspect he knew, with that call, he was giving me “fodder” for his own funeral!

The night before, while praying, contemplating, and preparing, I felt God remind me that He didn’t check in with me when He created the Universe, and He doesn’t check in with me as to who is in Heaven or not. I’m not here to judge another’s soul. I’m here simply to be available to God’s Spirit that He might bring comfort and hope to those who remain. Only His Spirit can do that! I am nothing. He is everything!

There’s so much bad in the best of us. And so much good in the worst of us! It behooves all of us not to judge.

God put His love in my heart for ragamuffins and outcasts. One of them was named Ken, and I was honored to hare a part of life’s journey with him.

As the funeral service got under way, I shared with the congregation that I knew Ken loved
me!

“He told me enough times over the phone in the middle of the night!” I said jokingly.

Many in the audience laughed and I realized during Ken’s “black cord fever” spells, he’d been calling them too!

After the chapel service, I rode with K.L. in his hearse carrying Ken’s remains to the cemetery to continue the service at the graveside.

K.L began to laugh and told me of one eventful late night Ken had called him.

“K.L., you got any false teeth at the funeral home?” he blurted out.

K.L., half asleep, replied, “WHAT?!?!”

“Yea, I got drunk and lost my teeth. You don’t bury them perfectly good teeth do ya? Do you have some extras?”

“Yes, Ken, I do bury them. And no, I don’t have any extras.”

“Shame on you, K.L. but thanks anyway! And Roll Tide.”

I was alone driving home following Ken’s funeral service, reflecting on his life, the trail of broken relationships, the heartbreak. And the loved ones who, admit it or not, are probably relieved he’s gone.

I was grieving, realizing there’s so many more like him around us and the nightmare is escalating. Who among us, young and old alike, has not been outrageously violated by this demon called “addiction”?

life.

 

It’s my last morning on the beach. Everybody has gone home. My girlfriends back to Nashville. My family back to basketball practice and jobs.

I went for a run yesterday afternoon on the beach. As I was jogging (running would be an exaggeration!) along the shoreline, I glanced out at the ocean as far as my eye could see….and then I’d glance back down as a few waves here and there would run up over my feet. Half laughing/half shaking my head, I said, “God, you really did tell the ocean to stop right here.”

Think about that for a minute. The God of the universe not only told the water where to stop, but He’s also the author of every single heavenly light in the sky, too. The sun. The sunset. The stars.

And yet He knows every single thing about us.

Reflecting over the many conversations I’d had with my girlfriends the last few days….all being at different stages and places in life…one common theme prevailed: He truly does work it all for our good. He can be trusted. He is merciful. He gives good and perfect gifts.  And He knows exactly how it’s all gonna work out.

I am grateful my friends have chosen wiser and have done/and are doing things the right way. I am grateful for the influence they are over my daughters!  I will confess at times, I have regret. I wish there was a do-over button I could push. I wish I had known better. I wish, I wish, I wish….

BUT….on the beach yesterday, I was reminded that every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord. I think sometimes we get the good part. But we don’t necessarily get the perfect part. Beth Moore says it this way: “His perfect gifts are perfecting us.” I needed (and still need) a lot of perfecting!! With age comes wisdom, and I can look back over my life and see how even in the middle of the hardest and darkest times – some of my own doing. some not – He was still there. Beth Moore says this about her own life. I can identify.

I can look at my life in retrospect and see how several of those things morphed into gifts. I am convinced that desperation became a gift to me because if saved me from a life of medicroity. Gray wasn’t an option for someone as self-destructive as I was. Looming disappointment from some key people in my life also turned into a gift. I couldn’t get anybody to mend or tend to my tattered soul the way I craved. A lifetime of snuggling up to folks with scissor-hands scars you, but those scars become a road map that leads straight to Jesus. There He becomes the uncontested love of your life and the unexpected fountainhead of cleaner affection for others. Every gap in your life makes room for the Lover of your soul. God uses time to unwrap presents that appear as curses. 

Gratefully, God has been merciful on my memory. He truly has turned ashes to beauty. He sees me very differently than how the enemy of my soul wants me to see myself. God did not come to condemn us. He came to give us life. And that we live it fully.

One of the good and perfect gifts God has given me is to allow me to do life with you. Tears fill my eyes each time I think about what an absolute privilege it is I get to do this journey with so many of you.  I almost can’t stand it! I love our community so much. I love the honesty and realness we share. I love that our eye is on the prize …. Heaven awaits! We may crossover bruised, battered, blistered, and broken. BUT…we will cross the finish line!

I have to pack up now, but I want to leave you with this….no matter what you’ve done, or where you are in life, or how you view yourself, you are NOT too far gone from God’s saving power. He loves you, He wants you, and you – yes, YOU! – are His most prized possession. Listen to Him. Choose to believe Him. Accept Him. Let His love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness wash over you. Accept His good and perfect gift….Jesus.

flush it!

 

20 lbs down. 15 to go!

I’m happy to report that I’ve officially lost 20 lbs! Right around Christmas, I got on the scales and realized I weighed the most I’ve ever weighed WITHOUT being pregnant. Ewwwww!  The sad part is I put this 20 lbs on in the last 2 years while training for half marathons. How crazy is that?  I basically gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted because “I was training for a half marathon.”  Wow. I wish I had a nickel every time I said that before stuffing my face with another slice of pizza or red velvet cupcake.

I’m now back at the size I was when I wanted to lose only 15 lbs.  I’m so grateful I’m back at the starting line, but  really ready to go the extra distance to be where I want to be…once and for all. And get this stupid monkey off my back! I always said after I had Haley … “if I could just get back into my bathing suit.” After Abbey … “if I could just get back in my jeans.” If I’d had a third, it would’ve been … “if i could just get back in my moo-moo.”  True.

This is how motivated I am right now: The other night I was in a hotel. They had left a cookies & cream candy bar on my pillow. First of all, I hate white chocolate. It’s way too waxy & sugary for me. BUT…having had no sugar in a long long time, I was seriously considering it.  I opened the wrapper and even stared at it, contemplating whether to break off a corner and reward my 20 lbs with a small bite. As I broke off the corner – and arguing with myself in my head the whole time – I found myself continuing to break the candy bar into a million little pieces. I then glanced around the room and thought, “what can I do with this candy bar to ensure that I don’t eat it?” There was no battery acid anywhere, so I walked into the bathroom and flushed it down the toilet. I flushed in 3 segments, fearing I might back up the toilet. Can you see me now calling maintenance for a clogged commode? Maintenance guy: “tummy upset?” me: “nope. just flushing candy bars.”

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done with food to ensure you wouldn’t eat it? I will share your answers on the show next week!

sometimes mommas need to apologize too.

 

I wasn’t an easy person to live with this past weekend. For various reasons – unmet expectations, miscommunication, fatigue, selfishness, and simply just being in a funk – I was a pretty big snot to my family. While I may’ve been “justified” in some of my feelings, my terrible emotional response was the furthest thing from Christ-like and certainly not something I am proud of.

Gonna be pretty honest here….I am grateful we’ve built a community where we can be. My motivation is always to share and show that I am a work in progress.

On Sunday, after my first tantrum, I went for a walk, pouring my heart out to the Lord. I was crying one minute and yelling the next. And I definitely did some yelling. After I got home from my walk, round 2 began and it ended with slammed doors and slammed hearts. The scripture about not letting the sun set on your anger – I didn’t obey it.

When the sun rose yesterday morning, the hurt, anger and pride were all still there. I didn’t pray on my way in, and I didn’t listen to scripture via YouVersion as I usually do. But – as typical – I confessed my sin to Dave and Bill as soon as I walked in the studio. I’m pretty good at spilling with them. They’re a captive audience. Because they have to be. Poor guys…

We do a planning meeting on Mondays at lunchtime, choosing a random local restaurant as our “off campus” office. Yesterday, the restaurant we chose had changed their hours, so we headed down the road to a place we’d never been before. We were finishing up our meeting, when Krispy and I had resorted to singing and “dancing” in the booth to the 70’s & 80’s music that was playing overhead.

That’s when I noticed Alan. (I didn’t know that was his name at the time.) At first glance, I could see Alan had a disability. It was clear his body moved involuntarily, but he grabbed my attention because he really seemed to be singing & dancing along with us, across the restaurant. I thought it was precious. We were the only ones still there, so I spoke over the dining room, telling him I saw him gettin’ down with us! I assumed (wrongly) the woman he was with was his caregiver, and after a few minutes, felt like she may’ve perceived I was making fun of Alan. I was mortified at even the thought, so I asked Krispy to let me out so I could walk over and make additional congenial conversation, in hopes of clearing any misconceptions.

And that’s when the Lord used Alan to give me the attitude adjustment I so desperately needed.

As I was walking over to the table, the beautiful – AND BUFF! – blonde woman Alan was with, was on the phone. Alan was so excited seeing me walk towards him. And in the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you I assumed (wrongly!) that Alan was mentally challenged and probably had the capacity of a child.

I couldn’t have been MORE wrong. Seriously wrong.

When I reached the table, Alan, unable to speak, grabbed his iPhone and typed out “your Carmen from the Joy FM.”

tears.

He knew who I was.

My pathetic, selfish self.

I nodded and said, “yes, yes I am.”

He typed: “I recognized your laugh.”

I continued to nod and hold back the tears.

He went on: “y’all called my business’s name last year at share-a-thon.”

I grabbed his phone and typed: “what is your name?”

He typed back: “I can hear.”

I typed: “ok”

He typed again, “I can hear.”

I grabbed his phone again. And that’s when it sunk in! He can hear! I don’t have to type! We laughed.

He type-told me he listened to the station all the time, that he was a photographer, and that’d he’d love to come out and take pictures anytime for us.

I was stunned. I had so many emotions wash over me, especially shock that he wasn’t intellectually challenged at all! Mentally, he was just fine! I was also ashamed. Ashamed that he thought I was somebody I wasn’t. Somebody that I’m not. If he’d been privy to the last 48 hours, he would’ve seen a very different Carmen. Alan told me I had no idea how excited he was to meet me. Truth was, he had NO idea how happy I was to be meeting him! In those very moments, God was breaking my heart and bringing me back to center. There was such a purity in Alan, an innocence. He was so genuine with absolutely no pretense. It’s so humbling to meet folks who are clearly living to please the Lord, and not this world. And unlike me – so many days – living to please ourselves. God was gently lifting my eyes back up to what was most important in life, and that it was certainly NOT what I was so bent out of shape about over the weekend.

When Stephanie hung up the phone, I introduced myself. I asked, “…and you are?….”

Stephanie: “his wife.”

Stunned. Again! And more emotions mixed in…admiration. questions. humbled. But mainly just so deeply touched God would allow our paths to cross with these new friends. We spent the next 45 minutes visiting and getting to know one another. Stephanie had her laptop there and showed us Alan’s photography and video work. It was so great!! And then they told us about a ministry they’re involved in, Care 2 Tri, that helps disabled individuals do things they wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to do. Mainly, triathalons. (think Team Hoyt.) BTW, did I mention Stephanie was BUFF? Goodness gracious! She’s beautiful! It became obvious that she was equally beautiful on the inside. She and Alan have been married 17 years. Because of his genetic illness, Wilson’s Disease, Alan slurs his words making it nearly impossible to understand him. But Stephanie doesn’t miss a beat! She understands his language and speaks it fluently. She’s been a volunteer with Care 2 Tri for a while and is also on the Board of Directors. She’s currently training for her first event on May 26 (my anniversary, oh btw) in which she’ll pull a carriage so someone handicapped can participate in a 5K. They volunteer together, and Alan most recently took pictures at the St. Anthony’s event in St. Pete. What a team they are! And what sweet spirits they both have.

I got in my car and burst into tears. I was so grateful that this time God chose to “discipline” me with new friends who left me speechless. I repented for my selfishness and pride, praying sincerely, “Lord, help me decrease! And give me more of you, Jesus. Oh how I need You. Every hour I need You. And thank You that You are so merciful with me.”

As often is the case – or maybe it’s just because I’m in the music biz – I heard with new ears, a song I’ve been listening to for months. It’s Christy Nockels‘ “For your Splendor” on her new cd Into The Glorious.

here’s the line:

“Sometimes it’s hard to grow when everybody’s watching. To have your heart pruned by the one who knows best…
with my roots deep in You. I’ll grow the branch that bears the fruit….”

My heart needed some pruning. I am grateful our Father loves us enough to do it.

I walked in the back door. I saw Abbey first. Still crying, I told my youngest, “sometimes mommas need to apologize too.”

new friends, alan & stephanie

 

prayer journal.

You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence. -Acts 2:28

for the last few weeks, i’ve been looking specifically for a prayer journal. who knew they’d be SO hard to find?!  seriously, try finding them! now admittedly, i wanted a spiral bound (easier to write in) and there were certain categories or tabs i wanted included. but last night i accepted the fact that what i was looking for does not exist. so…i got over myself and bought a regular lined journal. sometimes, i can get so caught up in the packaging & presentation that i forget the point.

and the point is i want to be more disciplined in prayer. i also want to pray consistently for those that i say i’m praying for. i’m sometimes good at praying the 1st prayer, but rarely is there a 2nd or 3rd. just being honest. but, i wanna be better. i want to commit to pray for my family, my friends, and our community on a regular basis!  AND, i want to spend more time WITH Jesus.

do you have a journal? prayer journal? any tips or advice on what’s been helpful for you?  help me do it the “write” way! haha. kidding! i know there is no right way. but i’d love to hear from some of you seasoned journalers.

created.

 

hey guys,

this saturday, several of us from team freedom are getting together at the underground in ybor city to learn more about how we can get involved with created. i originally only sent this to our team freedom members, but the more i thought about it, the more i felt there may be more of our listeners in the tampa bay area that might like to get involved with this ministry even though you weren’t involved with our run earlier this year.

so…. i know it’s last minute, but if there are any of you that are interested in coming, please put your email in the comments section of this post, and i will send you an evite for saturday. we’re getting together from 1-3.

this is not an “official” JOY FM event, but more something i am doing personally. however – of course – things that i am personally involved in always spill over to the show. that’s why we call it “doing life together!” this organization is very near to my heart, and i’ve gotten to know many of the women of created. and i love their hearts and their ministry. you may’ve heard devony & april’s stories when we had them on air a few months ago, as well as joann & keisha’s,…the ones who make it all happen.

here’s a partial screen shot of the evite:

if you'd like to come, send me your email addy in the comments section of this post, and i'll send you evite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

an important note to those coming:

please read carefully

With.

 

This is the one of the best talks I’ve heard in a while. The speaker’s name is Skye Jethani. The talk is about 25 mins long (don’t let the timer in the bottom right hand corner throw you), but it’ll be some of the best 25 mins you spend! Our staff watched this during our spiritual enrichment this week.  And even though the talk was about young people, and why the church is losing them, it was extremely relevant to adults too.

There are several things that have stayed with me this week…..

1) The “postures” we assume. (my personal tendency: under)

2) Do we have a relationship with God or do we have a relationship with the Bible? (of course, we’re suppose to be in God’s Word. But I confess to you, I often pick up my bible and read it, long before I will get down on my knees and pray.)

3) The Gospel is not how people get to Heaven. The Gospel is how people get to God.

4) Would you be happy being in Heaven even if Jesus weren’t there?

I really encourage you to find a quiet corner, and WATCH.  Totally worth your time. Since watching, I’ve said to myself a thousand times: “with God. with God. with God…”

I think you will too.

http://www.experiencelumen.com/?page_id=473

 

Denver’s Obituary.

 

Ron just forwarded me Denver’s obituary. Because so many of you feel like you know him too, I wanted to share with you. Thank you for caring so much! I love that you love him!! And I can’t wait for you to know him in Heaven one day!

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this picture is from our last visit. and i love love LOVE this picture of him. he looked so cute in his overalls!

The gates of heaven swung open on Saturday, March 31, 2012, and Denver Moore went walkin’ in! He had sung those words of his favorite old spiritual countless times, receiving standing ovations all across America. He dreamed of heaven and was ready to march in with the saints and be reunited with Miss Debbie, the woman who believed he would make a difference. He was 75 years old.

Though his lips were always flappin’ like Bible pages, he would say, he never claimed to be a preacher, just a sinner saved by grace with a message of hope for those that didn’t have any.

His story, well known by millions, is told in SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME, a word-of-mouth best-selling book that spent 3 1/2 years as a New York Times best-seller. His follow up book WHAT DIFFERENCE DO IT MAKE, tells the rest of his story.

Denver, formerly homeless, spent much of his life on the streets of Fort Worth, Texas, until Deborah Hall (Miss Debbie to him) dreamt of this poor man with wisdom that would change the city. And did he ever! A few years after her dream, Denver was honored as the Philanthropist of the Year for his ministry and fund-raising for the homeless in Fort Worth. Upon accepting that honor, he shared the story of his transformation that he first told on the Tavis Smiley Show on PBS. “God is in the recycling business,” he said “What most folks in Fort Worth thought was trash on the streets, God turned into a treasure! “ Amen to that.

In 2007, Barbara Bush selected SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME to be featured at her Celebration of Reading fund-raisers in Dallas and Washington DC. Denver was honored to meet the President and attend a private luncheon in the White House with Bush family members and four other best-selling authors. As he pulled away from the White House in a long blue limousine, he told his co-author, Ron Hall, “I done gone from livin’ in the bushes to eatin’ with the Bushes. God bless America,” he exclaimed, “This is a great country!”

Since 2005, Denver spoke at more than 400 fund-raising events, and countless radio and TV shows. He attained rock star status with his fans but the only introduction he ever wanted was, “Tell ‘em I’m a NOBODY that is tryin’ to tell EVERYBODY about SOMEBODY that can save ANYBODY.” And he did. That “Somebody” was Jesus, and Denver woke up in His arms on Saturday. His famous quote and the final words in his book are “We are all homeless workin’ our way home”. Welcome home friend; you were a good and faithful servant.

He is survived by two daughters, Tracy and Marva, and two sons, Thomas and Curtis. He leaves behind millions of folks forever changed by his testimony.

A celebration of his life and passing will be held on April 12, at 2 pm in Fort Worth, Texas, at McKinney Memorial Bible Church, 4805 Arborlawn Drive, Fort Worth, Texas 76109. It is open to all who loved him and want to honor him.

Donations made to the Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County, 1331 East Lancaster Avenue, Fort Worth, Texas 76102 will keep hope alive for the hopeless.

Denver.

 

My heart is super heavy today. I received a call from my friend Ron this morning telling me Denver passed away in his sleep last night. I am grateful he went so peacefully. And I am rejoicing that his faith is now his sight….that his faith is now perfected!  He is home indeed! But gosh, we are going to miss him here. There was nobody quite like Denver! And I soaked up every minute I got to spend with him. He turned 75 this past January. Denver’s health had been failing the last couple of years. I was planning a trip to go and see them this summer (as I have many summers since I met them years ago). So, I’m sad I won’t get to see him again this side of heaven. And while I type this through tears, I am so incredibly grateful God gifted me with his friendship the years that He did.

me & denver

I’m re-posting a blog I wrote a year and a half ago when Denver was reunited with his daughter, Tracy. After spending the last hour looking through all of the pictures from this phenomenal evening, I am pretty certain the only other reunion that will rival this one, is the one that is yet to come….

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August 2010

Let me just say up front that I absolutely, positively do NOT believe in coincidences.

Never have.

Never will.

And after this week, I’m as resolute as I’ve ever been in this belief.

For  years, I’ve been fanatical about the book, Same Kind of Different As Me. If you’ve never listened to our show, the quick synopsis is this: The book was written by Ron Hall, an international art dealer, & Denver Moore, a homeless man for more than 30 years, who grew up a prisoner… first to virtual slavery as a sharecropper and later as an inmate at Angola Prison. The story is theirs. It’s a divine story of how Providence caused their paths to cross in a way that only could’ve been penned by God. Again, no coincidences….

In 2006, through tears, I read their story for the first time. Immediately, I knew that I wanted them to be on our show, and I made a phone call to their publicist. To my surprise, Ron returned my call himself and said he and Denver would be delighted to come to Florida. I was over the moon. As luck would have it (yeah right!) Ron & Denver were speaking in Ft. Myers a few weeks later, and I drove down to meet them. It sounds so cheesy to say, but there was an immediate connection. We became instant friends. This pic is from that night in Ft. Myers: (I had cried all my make up off!)

me, denver, ron, mary

A few months after us meeting for the first time, I picked Ron & Denver up at Tampa International Airport and drove them over the Skyway to our studios in Sarasota. And that was all she wrote…..

Relationship happened.

And what a ride it has been.

Book signings.
Desserts. Lots of ‘em.
Visits to Dallas.
Trips to Rocky Top.
Lots of conversation.
Paintings by Denver. Hung proudly in my office!
High tea on Madison Avenue in NY. (Much to the chagrin of the well-bred women in high falootin’ hats.)
YoungLife speaking engagements.
Bike Ride for the Homeless in honor of Denver.
Flights to Nashville (at which Bill & I lost Denver in the airport!)
Movie deals.
Lunches.
More conversation.
Another Bike Ride for the Homeless.
Videos filmed.
Second book.
Chapter affectionately titled (I’m choosing to believe) “Bossy White Lady”
More sharing.
More trips to Texas.
And. And. And….

dave, ron, me, denver, bill

All that to say …. Ron Hall & Denver Moore have become family to us. We love them with our whole hearts and have counted it a complete privilege we get to call them friends. We’ve talked about this book for  YEARS! And as Bill humorously puts it … “If Carmen finds out you haven’t read SKDAM, expect a copy and deadline.” It’s true.

Additionally, every person on our staff has read it. It’s pretty much become a requirement for employment! It’s also become a requirement for friendship! Kidding. Sort of.

I think I’m so taken with their story because it’s the story of how God can bring beauty from ashes. Visible ashes. And not so visible ones.  It’s a story of rescue, redemption, and restoration.And this past Monday night was yet another piece in the redemption and restoration. It was a beautiful night. So beautiful that I’ll never be able to properly articulate how beautiful it was.

Denver has several children. He reunited with his daughter Tracy a few years ago. He’s visited her a couple of times in California when his speaking engagements & travels have taken him there. However, Tracy had never visited her father in Dallas. Nor had Ron ever met Tracy or her family.

But let me back up for just a moment.

Earlier this year, Denver had been in and out of the hospital due to complications with diabetes. It had been a year since I’d seen Denver, so I was missing him and itching to get to Texas. Additionally Ron has an uh-MAZING ranch an hour-and-a-half west of Dallas/Ft. Worth. It overlooks the Brazos River, in the middle of nowhere, no internet, etc…. a great place to unplug. He’s always been incredibly gracious to let me stay there. I was craving that too.

I invited a few friends and booked a flight. In perfect Ron Hall style, he rolled out the red carpet only asking what time we landed so he could “organize the parade”. Direct quote. Yep, his hospitality is as big as the state in which he lives. After catching up at Ron’s Dallas home for a bit, I asked Denver if he wanted to come to the ranch with us. (Years ago Ron made him a fantastic guest suite above the barn. This thing is PLUSH!).Denver told me he couldn’t come because he didn’t want to get too far from the hospital, and that his daughter was coming in the next day.

SAY WHAT?!

“You’re daughter is coming here? To Dallas?”

“Yes, Miss Common. She’s comin here tomorrow eve’nin.”

I went on to gush over how wonderful that was. We visited for a while longer and then my friends and I headed to Ft. Worth to see the mission and on to the ranch.

Fast-forward a few days.

Denver decided he wanted to have a dinner party. (Now I must note here it’s easier to nail Jell-O to a wall than to nail Denver down!) So the fact that he was pulling everyone together was simply incredible and too cute for words! After living on the streets all those years, Denver still sometimes feels confined indoors. And to have a set time or appointment with him? Ha! At best, it’s a wing and a prayer. Ask Ron.

But according to Denver, he wanted Tracy to meet the “people that had changed his life”. To be sure, it certainly was NOT/is NOT me who changed Denver’s life. That credit goes entirely to Miss Debbie, Sister Bettie, Ron, Carson, and Reagan. And of course, ultimately God. But that goes without saying. I only share Denver’s statement to tell you what a complete honor it was to be invited to this dinner. And the timing? Are you kidding me? Really? Tracy here while I’m here too?! No way!! Only God….

We drove in from the ranch to Denver’s favorite restaurant in Dallas. It’s a little Italian place just north of the city. We all pulled up at the same time and to any on-looker it was a family reunion for the ages. We were all “brothers from a different mother” so to speak. I was certainly the cream filling in the middle of the Oreo. :) Sidenote: Denver & I are so color-blind about color that we can actually joke about it. It’s very freeing….

Once inside, we hugged, took pictures, shared stories, hugged some more, and took more pictures. Carson recounted for Tracy the night after his mom died how they’d decided it was time for Denver to come and live with them. He talked about going down to the streets to get Denver. “I didn’t want to go with you, but I knows if I didn’t, you’s gone git yourself killed.” Denver quickly interjected. To which Denver followed up that story by telling Tracy that I almost got him killed too. “She put me in that convertible of hers and then took the top down. I just knew I’s either gone git shot or have a wreck. One a the two.”

if you've read the book, you know why denver was scared to death to ride with a white woman.

Dinner arrived and Ron stood up to say the blessing. No sooner had Ron sat down, Tracy said to the dozen of us there: “I have a few things that I’d like to say.”

The floor was absolutely hers.

Full of grace, THE most beautiful, well-spoken, delightful, “I’ve got the joy of the Lord” woman stood up and addressed the table. For the next several minutes she talked about what it meant to have her father back. She acknowledged all the folks that had played a part in his life. She spoke of the utter joy that she felt; that each day was a gift and a blessing. She shared that she and Denver spoke everyday about everything and that he was her best friend.

Tracy radiated Jesus. With her father sitting next to her, a perfect picture of reconciliation was evident. Total forgiveness. Complete restoration. Redemption.

denver with his daughter & family

Tracy then locked eyes with Ron. “Ron, thank you, for seeing in my dad what so many others couldn’t see. I will always be grateful to you and Miss Debbie for loving him. Thank you, Ron, for seeing that he was the same kind of different as you.”

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If you’ve gotten down this far on the blog, then you have a glimpse of just how incredibly special Denver was. And if you’ve not read Same Kind of Different As Me, you should!

I’d love your prayers for Denver’s family, for Ron, and for all the ones who loved him so. Denver’s legacy outlives his physical body. And I guess that’s everyone’s prayer, huh?

I love you, Denver.
and I miss you already.
and if there really are neighborhoods in Heaven, I hope my house is right next to yours.
And I promise, I won’t be as bossy up there.

having tea in NYC on Madison Avenue. Goodness, did we get some stares. ha!

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