Sunday, December 14, 2014

Book Review: Unchristian by David Kinnaman

Merriam-Webster define Unchristian as:
 \-ˈkris-chən, -ˈkrish-\
:not of the Christian faith
a :contrary to the Christian spirit or character
b :uncivilizedbarbarous

In Unchristian, Kinnaman investigates the 16-29 year Olds perception of Christians. First he analyzes Barna research and statistics, and then he discusses why it matters. The responses are not flattering. Words like anti-homosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, and too political are among the recurring themes from those interviewed. 

"What are Christians known for? Outsiders think our moralizing, our condemnations, and our attempts to draw boundaries around everything. Even if these standards are accurate and biblical, they seem to be all we have to offer. And our lives are a poor advertisement for the standards. We have set the gameboard to register lifestyle points; then we are surprised to be trapped by our mistakes. The truth is we have invited the hypocrite image." - David Kinnaman.

Unchristian challenges us to live lives that reflect Christ, to humble ourselves, and consider how we live our lives can be a road block to others developing a relationship with the a loving God.

"When outsiders claim that we are unchristian, it is a reflection of this jumbled (and predominately negative) set of perceptions. When they see Christians not acting like Jesus, they quickly conclude that the group deserves an unchristian label. Like a corrupted computer file or a bad photocopy, Christianity, they say, is no longer in pure form, and so they reject it. One quarter of outsiders say therefore most perception of Christianity is that the faith has changed for the worse. It has gotten off-track and is not what Christ intended. Modern-day Christianity no longer seems Christian." - David Kinnaman

UnChristian challenges each of and the church to carefully examine how we are representing Christ in our everyday lives. It is disturbing, challenging, and thought provoking. I highly recommend it for both individual reading as well as group study.


Monday, December 01, 2014

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Congratulations, Debra Southern, you have won the Shaken Awake book Giveaway! Send me your contact information so I can get your prize in the mail ☺

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Santa: For the People

image source:

While out and about this weekend, we walked out of a restaurant in St. Pete and a billboard caught my eye. It read "Santa Claus: For the People".   I found this an odd message to spend a couple thousand dollars to communicate to the masses. I started asking questions. Did I miss Santa getting a bad rap? Are there individuals in our society who have begun questioning Santa's motives? Does Santa have his boot on the throat of the elves forcing them to endure the hardships of suppression, repression, and depressions? Who felt it so important to improve the fat man's reputation they were willing to part with thousands of dollars?

So I did what any red blooded first world citizen would do, I googled it. The super array of knowledgebases spun to life and quickly imparted wisdom into my quandary. The slogan "For the People" is the tagline for Morgan and Morgan, a law firm with offices in the Tampa/St. Pete area and Atlanta. Apparently, the bearded "Santa" on the billboard is John Morgan who thought it a great ad campaign for Christmas. Suffice it to say, I just think it odd.

But the odd billboard got me thinking. With all of the condescending attitudes and judgemental responses displayed by many calling themselves Christians, perhaps we should concern ourselves with the damage we have done to God's reputation. Why do the forgiven seem to think we are better than those who have yet to accept the gift of forgiveness? We are quick to judge and condemn. While we may not stand on the corner screaming, "You are going to hell!", we are quick to withhold grace, love, and forgiveness to those we deem unworthy. And by doing so while calling ourselves Christians, we have done a disservice to God himself. Maybe it is time for the church to begin embracing the lost, the outcast, the ones Jesus himself sought out - tax collectors, prostitutes, blind, lame, the least of these. Maybe we need to start paying for billboards that say "God: For the People"

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Everyone Loves to Hear a Good Story

Since the release of Shaken Awake, I have come across several writer friends that have encountered some block to writing. In the old days I remember hearing people say they had "hit the wall" or had "writer's block". As I listen to them, I hear them talking about trying to decide what their voice is and trying to decide if their writing is any good or not. The answer to both of these issues is simple - WRITE. You develop a writing voice by writing regularly and often. Your writing becomes better by writing - regularly and often. Everyone loves to hear a good story, and we all have hundreds trapped in our skulls.

I am over at discussing this and more. Drop by and check it out. Read More Here!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Shaken Awake Book Giveaway

To celebrate my birthday, I am going to giveaway a free paperback copy of my new book Shaken Awake. What do you have to do to enter the giveaway? Simple! In the comment section below, tell me you would like to win a copy and that you would be willing to post an honest review on How easy is that? I will select a winner on November 30th. Ready? Set? GO!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Veteran Arrested For Feeding Homeless

Maybe I am biased, but I am appalled at this story. Any government that thinks for a second that this is justice or that this is the best way to resolve homelessness is seriously misguided.

  90 year old Arnold Abbott has been serving hundreds of free meals to the homeless every week in Fort Lauderdale,  Florida for the past 24 years. He was arrested for it Tuesday. “I love the city. I live here, it’s a beautiful place and I’d like to keep it beautiful, but you cannot sweep the homeless under a rug… There is no rug large enough for that.” - via

To contact Mayor Seiler, please call (954) 828-5003 or send an e-mail to

Friday, November 07, 2014

Six Questions

Had a few questions about Shaken Awake and sat down to answer them at

Q: What inspired you to write Shaken Awake?
A: I wrote “Shaken Awake” to shine a light on homelessness and hunger in the United States and as a challenge to individuals and churches to become aware of the magnitude of these issues and their impact on families. I firmly believe that these are the people that Jesus talked about... Read the rest at

Saturday, November 01, 2014

The Story Behind The Story

I have had several people ask what led me to write Shaken Awake, and I admit I have wanted to ask several authors that question about many books I have enjoyed over the year. I think the story behind the story a lot of times is almost as good as the main story line, and I would be remiss if I left it untold.

For 14 years, I lived in the Metro Atlanta area and for five of those years, I worked in midtown allowing me to see the homeless situation first hand. For the last three years, I have worked with community activist working to relieve hunger in our communities. Initially, I was shocked to discover the level of hunger in our community....Read the rest in my guest post at

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Shaken Awake!

available now at 

Community Advocate Allen Madding 
Releases Thought Provoking Novella, Shaken Awake

When a homeless man freezes to death on the steps of an Atlanta church, the church is forced to re-examine its mission

Community Advocate, Author, and blogger Allen Madding releases his debut novella “Shaken Awake!” the story of a church in downtown Atlanta, Georgia faced with a dwindling and aging congregation that has been forced to shut down the majority of their building and dismissed much of its staff. With limited funds, they shutter all of their ministries and programs leaving only a couple adult Sunday School classes and a Sunday morning worship service. When a homeless man freezes to death on the steps of their sanctuary, the church begins to re-examine their mission and priorities.

"This is the perfect story to get people motivated to make a difference in the live of others. Easy, quick book with a solid purpose." Jeannette Ringeisen, Director Feed St. Pete
"I am not ashamed to admit some wet eyelids as I read the story. But wet eyelids ain’t worth squat if they don’t lead to action. I plan to investigate what is and can be done here. And you?"
Bill Grandi,

"A thought provoking book written by a man with a passion for others." - Dawn Lott

"Reading Allen’s book made me ask myself 'is that enough, what else can we do – what else can I do?' I encourage you to get a copy and answer questions for yourself." 
- Steven Vore,

"This is just the kind of wake up call that the modern church needs." - Rick Waters

"I enjoyed this book; it really makes you think about how we walk around blindly in our daily lives."
-Ann Rice

Monday, October 06, 2014


I need your help. If you know me, you know that was difficult to type. But I admit it. I really do. We are approaching the release of my first book, Shaken Awake. For those of you who regularly visit my blog and enjoy my writing, I greatly appreciate your support over the years. Now,  I need your help in getting the word out about this book.

So what is the book about? Funny you should ask! A church in downtown Atlanta, Georgia faced with a dwindling and aging congregation has been forced to shutdown the majority of their building and dismissed much of its staff. Their budget barely pays the pastor's salary and the utilities. With limited funds, they shutter all of their ministries and programs leaving only a couple adult Sunday School classes and a Sunday morning worship service. When a homeless man freezes to death on the steps of their sanctuary, the church begins to re-examine their mission and priorities.

As a launch team member, you will received a free electronic copy of the book before it is released to the public. In return, as the launch date approaches, I will ask your help by sharing about the book on Facebook and Twitter, as well as posting a review on your blog, Amazon, Barnes and NobleGoodReads, and any other site you might like. But do not worry, we will provide you with helpful information and ideas on ways to help.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Standard Procedure

The other day as a couple co-workers and I were heading for coffee, we met our boss as he was walking into the data center where we have been working for the last few weeks. One of my co-workers mentioned he had requested a trash can for our area in the data center. Suddenly the conversation spirals into how the trash will get emptied since the cleaning crew does not have access to the data center, transporting the whole trash can verses just the bagged trash to prevent leaks, etc. We stood in amazement waiting for the detailed discussion for handling trash to wind down so we could get coffee.

Once we got our hands on our caffeine replenishment, we returned to work. I quickly set to work crafting a defined procedure for handling trash so that we might merit a trash can. I shared my well crafted document with several colleagues. One suggested submitting it to ANSI  for adoption as a national standard, while others suggested sharing it via social media and of course my blog. So, with our further ado, here is my submission...

Waste Receptacle Processing Procedure

1.       Background/Purpose

The purpose of this document is to define the procedural steps followed by the Taking Care of Business (TCB) team for proper disposal and removal of waste from the data center in order to ensure consistency, quality, and pride.

2.    General

It is imperative that any waste generated by the consumption of liquids and solids by carbon based individuals should be properly disposed in a safe and efficient manner and such waste must be removed from waste collection units on a daily basis in order to ensure consistency, quality, and pride.

3.   Procedure

a)      Imaging Lead will wear gloves when handling waste receptacles and will properly wash his or her hands after handling waste receptacles utilizing hot water and soap to prevent any possible contamination from handling waste.
b)      Imaging Lead will retrieve a waste receptacle at the beginning of the day and transport it to the data center via a cart or hand truck. Imaging Lead should exercise due regard in transporting the waste receptacle to ensure proper lifting techniques are utilized to prevent any possible physical injuries. At no time should a waste receptacle be carried by hand whether empty or full. All waste receptacles should be transported via a cart or hand truck.
c)       Imaging Lead will ensure that the waste receptacle has a proper waste receptacle liner installed to prevent any possible leaks of waste liquids and/or solids.
d)      All carbon based individuals will utilize the waste receptacle to dispose of any waste generated by consuming liquids and/or solids during the course of the business day. No waste items should be left on the data center floor or on table surfaces.
e)      At the end of the day, the Imaging Lead will transport the waste receptacle out of the data center utilizing gloves and a cart or hand truck. Imaging Lead should exercise due regard in transporting the waste receptacle to ensure proper lifting techniques are utilized to prevent any possible physical injuries. At no time should a waste receptacle be carried by hand whether empty or full. All waste receptacles should be transported via a cart or hand truck. Additionally, the Imaging Lead will exercise due regard to prevent any possible leaks of waste liquids and/or solids.
f)       Imaging Lead will employ additional carbon based individuals to escort the transportation of the waste receptacle to ensure that no other carbon based individual comes in contact with the waste receptacle that is not wearing proper gloves. Additional carbon based individuals will hold doors open to allow the efficient transportation of the waste receptacle from the data center, through the loading/receiving room, and onto the rear loading dock.
g)      Once the Imaging Lead has safely transported the waste receptacle to the loading dock, the Imaging Lead should exercise due regard to ensure that all carbon based individuals utilize proper lifting techniques to prevent any possible physical injuries.  Additionally the Imaging Lead will exercise due regard to ensure there are no leaks of liquid or solid waste during the transportation of the waste receptacle to the loading dock.
h)      Imaging Lead will provide instruction in properly sealing the waste receptacle liner by utilizing the four corners of the liner and tying it in a double square knot. Other knots may be approved after proper testing and inspection processes have been secured.
i)        Once the waste receptacle liner has been properly sealed, the Imaging Lead will instruct the additional carbon based individuals in lifting the waste receptacle liner into the compactor. The Imaging Lead will instruct the carbon based individuals to lift on a count of three. Three shall be the count and the counting shall be three. The counting will not continue to four nor shall the counting stop at two unless immediately proceeding to three. Three shall be the count and the counting shall be three.
j)        Once the waste receptacle liner has been placed inside the compactor, all carbon based individuals will in unison proclaim a shout of acclimation, “YAY!”
k)      The Imaging Lead will then lead all carbon based individuals in proper disposal of gloves and hand washing techniques.
l)        The Imaging Lead will store the waste receptacle outside the data center doors with a fresh waste receptacle liner before removing his or her gloves and engaging in proper hand washing techniques.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Guest Post: Thunder Dog by Kramer James Madding

The Author - Kramer James Madding (photo credit: Allen, you know the guy that lives here)
Allen has been really busy lately with a new job, working with an editor to get his first book ready for publishing, and his infernal need to leave me and Sadie to fend for ourselves while he and mama go traipsing off to the beach. So I got my paws on his login and managed to reach the laptop and figured this was as good a chance as any to try my paws at a little writing. I have laid in that pillowy thing next to his chair and watched him do it for long enough. I figure how hard can it be. I lie around here on the back of the love seat all day looking out the window at the squirrels eating seed out of the bird feeder thinking about all the great stories I have to tell, so why not?

The author and Sadie (photo credit: Allen)

I thought I would write about my biggest fear. Nope, its not the possum that was in the backyard Friday night when I went out to relieve myself before crawling up the big ramp to the big bed and snuggling down between the pillows. Nope. I was not scared of that thing a bit. It looked like a hairless cat to me, and I have plenty of experience scaring cats. A couple of times now I have walked out the back door to see some cat interloping on our deck or in our yard, and I know just what to do. I run toward them, let out a loud and deep WOOF, and then roll on the ground laughing at how fast that run and leap over the fence. So, no. My biggest fear was not that possum. He did not bother me. I did not bother him. Besides, it was late. I was tired and ready to crawl into the big bed. I peed a small pound next to Allen's grill and quietly told the possum to be gone by morning. Silly hairless cat looking thing.

And no, it is not the mailman or the trash truck that comes down our street two days a week. I lay a few bow wows on them from my perch on the back of the love seat, and they quickly move on down the street. You see, they fear me. They recognize the true terror I represent and wisely do not stick around to see me unleash my inner rottweiler.

So  what could strike fear in the heart of a 13 lb long-haired dachshund, you ask? Thunder. Yep. There it is. I admit it. Thunder drives me out of my ever loving mind. Originally as a small pup, I thought it was just me. But after joining TSMA (Thunder Scares Me Anonymous), I have met a few other guys that cannot deal with thunder as well. I cannot reveal names, but one big Marmaduke looking guy in the group says that everytime it thunders, he wets the floor. I am glad I do not have it that bad, but I can sympathize.

When I first moved in with Allen and mama after my first human mom passed away, I was afraid they might send me back to the halfway house when the first big storm came. Fortunately, they did not. I barked and growled and ran out in the rain and barked some more. When I came back in, I was soaked and felt a bit silly. They dried me off with a towel and blocked my flappy door where I could not run back out in the rain.

I kept going to TSMA meetings, but it did not seem to help much. The meetings just seemed to turn into a bunch of butt smelling and everyone wetting on things. But then one day mama showed me this package that the brown truck guy delivered. Yeah, I laid a few bow wows on him for ringing the doorbell while I was trying to sleep. What the hell dude? When she showed me the box, I got all excited. I was hoping it was some more of those pieces of cows I like to chew on, but it was not. It was some piece of cloth. I sniffed it over and said, "I can't eat that" and blew my nose in disgust.

Mama called me back over and put it on me. It was a cape with my name on it. She told me that all heroes wear capes. You know like Underdog! Here I come to save the day! I had my reservations about this whole thing, because I could not draw a real deep breath to lay a good bow wow, and I could not shake real well wearing it. So, I blew my nose in disgust. Mama said when I have it on I am Thunder Dog. I elected to contemplate on that idea a bit after a nice nap. A couple big thunderstorms moved through Atlanta after acquiring this garment of super powers and honestly there may be something to it. As Thunder Dog, I am brave and relaxed during the storms.

For some reason that I have not quite figured out, Allen and mama packed up everything and loaded me and Sadie up and moved us to Florida. It has been interesting. I kind of like it because there are all these neat lizards running around and I can scare the daylights out of them without evening laying down a single bow wow. Those silly things scatter at my mere presence. But Florida weather is a little different than Atlanta. In Atlanta a big storm came in and lasted a day or so. Here, they blow in, the thunder crashes, the lightning flashes, the rain falls and 30 minutes later the sun is shining. So mama has pulled out the cape several times since we moved, and I have gotten to prove my metal as Thunder Dog.

I am beginning to believe this writing stuff is a little harder than I thought. My paws are getting tired, and I am getting sleepy. I think I am gonna sniff Sadie over and make sure she is sleeping OK on the couch and take a nap before Allen and mama get home. If you have something you are afraid of - something that makes you scream and run around like you have lost your mind, I empathize and suggest you ask your mama to buy you a cape. Y'all take it easy.

The Author napping after writing this post (photo credit :Allen)

Thunder Dog
aka Kramer James

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Review: Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World? – Eugene Cho

"We do what we do because we love God and we love the people whom God loves. We love the things that God loves and what reflects the character of God. We do justice not because it is sexy, glamorous, or trendy, but because God loves justice. Justice isn’t a clothing accessory we wear when it becomes fashionable, but rather it is something we live into because it reflects the character of God."
- Eugene Cho

Eugene Cho challenges us to truly pursue justice, and to be willing to make the personal sacrifices that the pursuit will ultimately force us to make. In an age of short-term mission trips and numerous opportunities to change the world, many people love the idea of justice and doing good until it begins to require some sacrifice, and it always will. Pursuing justice will come with a cost, and it will change us. Change is painful, but if we stick with it, the changes are good. Instead of pursuing justice because the world is broken, we need to recognize we are also broken. By serving others, we begin to get a better glimpse of God’s heart and His character, and we begin to change.

Over and over again, we read in the Bible that God loves justice. It goes on to command us to pursue justice and to live justly. Instead of watching the evening news and recognizing the injustice in the world and in our communities, we are called to pursue justice. Why? Because ultimately justice reflects the character of God. If we are truly a follower of Jesus, then we are called to love the people He loves and our hearts should break for the things that break His heart.

Finally, Cho challenges us to take time to “go deep” in our convictions. Study, research, and become an expert in the area of our passion. Instead of simply blindly launching out on a mission to do good, to consider the impact of what we are considering and ensuring that it does in fact have a positive long-term result.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who truly wants to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review: How Sweet the Sound: A Novel by Amy K. Sorrells

In her debut novel, Amy Sorrells has established herself as a story teller and poet. How Sweet the Sound is a story of an Alabama family, the Harlans, and their generational struggle to bury the ugly pain that haunts them. All of their lives come crashing in around them when two brothers kill each other. The tension between the two had been brewing for years from dark family secrets of rape and abuse. Anniston, who lost her father in the double murder, struggles with all of the upheaval in her young life and her cold and hard-hearted grandmother.

I highly encourage you to read this well written book in a place where you feel safe to weep and have an ample supply of Kleenex at hand. It is a story of redemption and hope for those dealing with the brokenness in their lives - a stirring story of amazing grace and encouragement.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: Identity Crisis - 21 Days of Discovering Who God Says You Are by Michael D. Perkins

Identity Crisis by Michael D. Perkins
For years many of us have struggled with trying to measure up to others standards for us and for our own. We walk around calling ourselves failures. We tell ourselves we are not smart enough, good enough, nice enough, and on and on. After spending years telling himself similar things, Michael Perkins discovered that none of those things were what God had to say about him. In his book, Identity Crisis, he provides 21 short devotionals that each highlight something God has said about who we are. At the end of each of the 21 devotionals, he provides a suggested prayer emphasis for asking God to affirm His words about us in our hearts and he provides a challenge to share what God is doing in our lives.

Identity Crisis is an excellent tool to assist us in moving away from the lies we have been listening to for years and towards the truth that God is speaking about us. This is an awesome piece of encouragement in a world where we are bombarded with criticism. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review: Building a Life Out of Words by Shawn Smucker

Building a Life Out of Words

Often times when life throws us a curve ball, out natural tendency is to find some corner somewhere, cry in cup of coffee, and sing our favorite verse of poor, poor me. But what if we drew a deep breath, stepped back, and considered for a minute how we could use this opportunity to make a positive change of direction in our lives?

Shawn Smucker was faced with such a situation. After returning from four years of managing a large business in England, he felt lost working 10 hour days painting houses and living in his parent’s basement with his wife and two children. When his aunt called out of the blue and asked him to write her life story, he had no idea how his life would be impacted. He approached the project tentatively lacking the confidence of a career writer. But when a publisher reviewed the initial two chapters that he had written, the publisher contacted him wanting him to write the book. Had he pursued other unrelated temporary opportunities, his writing career would have never launched. That first published book led to a second and eventually to a successful career in writing.

Building a Life Out of Words is a transparent look at the struggles of a 29 year old husband and father attempting to establish himself as a professional writer and the self doubts and second guesses that come along the way. It is a very encouraging story to those of us writing and wondering where the path will lead us.

His final line in the book is the most encouraging of all, “I hope that you will be known as a person who lives. Really lives. Someone who makes decisions, not based on what’s expected, but on what’s possible. Someone who does things, not because everyone else is doing them, but because it’s what you want to do more than anything else in the world. Now that would be a life worth living.”

For all of my friends that blog, write, or even think about writing, let me recommend that you read this book and consider the encouragement to move forward with your pursuit of writing. And if you have ever considered having your writing published, let me throw in another recommendation. You should have a conversation with my friends at FistBumpMedia. I can say nothing but good things about their  service, support, and affordability.

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Beach

(photo credit: the author)

One of my earliest childhood memories is a Christmas in the early 1960s. My family made a road trip to visit my grandparents who were spending the winter in Ft. Myers, Florida. When we arrived, their Airstream trailer was parked on the beach with colorful patio lights draped through the neighboring palm tree. Believe it or not, the Red Coconut RV Resort actually still has RV spots on the beach beneath the palm trees all these years later as it has since 1920. I have pressed my memory as hard as possible several time trying to remember more details, but that is as much as comes back into focus.

Red Coconut RV Park - Photo Credit:

Growing up, we made several more trips down to visit them when they made the traditional migration of the blue hair. Eventually, they began settling on a spot across the road inside the Red Coconut RV Resort's main campground. I can still remember being in complete awe watching the manager, moving patron's travel trailers with his antique tractor to their spot within the RV park. My granddad and my dad would often get up early and walk the beach and come back displaying gorgeous conch shells. Granddad had taken up the traditional sport of the migratory blue hair, shuffleboard, and he was always eager to take us along to teach us this sport. Other shuffleboard players would grumble about the small kids being on the court, and he would tell them they could "pound sand." One related memory, Granddad took his shuffleboard stick and harvested a coconut out of the palm tree next to his Airstream, which I thought was an amazing feat. But then he took an electric drill, bored a hole in the coconut, and gave us both a drink of coconut milk - crazy!

Granddad had a boat stored nearby, and on one trip he took me with them on a fishing trip. As a small kid, I thought it was amazing to see a huge forklift go into this huge warehouse and come out carrying a boat and then put it in the water for us. The most vivid memory of the fishing trip was that under the covered bow was a stack of orange square life jackets like the one tied around me. The stack of life jackets made a great place to crawl into, curl up, and take a nap out of the sun.

So maybe we can blame  it on my granddad for planting this fascination with the beach and the ocean in my soul. But it seems so deeply anchored I have to believe it goes much deeper. I can feel all the restlessness in my being settle when I am walking the beach or wading in the surf. The cares of the day, the worries of life, they all seem to melt away and a feeling of peace floods over me. Every time I experience this feeling of peace, I imagine this must be a small glimpse of what heaven will be like.

Apparently, my fascination with the beach did not skip a generation. After our family settled in South Georgia, I fondly remember several trips with my family in a Midas mini motorhome to Panacea, FL and Alligator Point. On our first trip, we arrived to find a KOA under construction at Alligator Point. The main office building was only partially completed, but the owner allowed us a spot bordering Alligator DR facing the Gulf of Mexico. While it was not on the beach, we could sit in the cab or in the booth dining table of my dad's RV and look out across the two lane road onto the Gulf. In the 1970's, you could cross the road, climb down the huge rocks that protect the roadway from high tides and walk on the beach.

On one of these trips, my dad was fishing from the beach and caught a saltwater catfish. He advised us that it was not good eating as the freshwater catfish that we were familiar. He tossed it up on the huge rocks and told us to leave it alone. But as a 10 year old boy, I was soon stomping the catfish with by dingo cowboy boots. At some point the fish rolled onto its side and one of its barbs went through the side of my foot. I screamed bloody murder. My dad ended up carrying me back to our RV, and our trip was promptly cancelled. I remember him telling me if I was not hurting so badly he would beat me with a belt. A barrage of painful shots in my foot followed at our local medical clinic. Lesson learned.

One of the more pleasant lasting memories of our trips to Panacea and Alligator Point was the Oaks restaurant. Every meal, they brought out a little boat filled with crackers and garlic butter which I thought was the best appetizer in the world.
The Oaks Restaurant, Motel, and Shopping Center
Photo credit:

I still remember the first year,I was allowed to go to the beach on my own. It was my junior year in high school. Two friends and I loaded up early one morning in my 1974 Chevrolet El Camino and headed to Panama City Beach, FL. It was one a perfect trip. None of us had the money for a hotel room, so we got up before the crack of dawn and drove down for the day. I can remember tons of details from the trip. At one point we were approaching a U-haul pulling a large boat. The trailer ball broke on the truck and the tongue of the boat trailer hit the road producing a shower of sparks. The trailer violently darted left and right suspended only by the safety chains as the driver slowed and pulled off the roadway. We stopped in a rest stop and a couple was fast asleep in a Corvette. It did not look like the most comfortable way to sleep. But finally, we reached Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach, and we were cruising the beach. We had overlooked the fact that this portion of Florida was an hour behind us in the Central Time Zone, so we were cruising along Thomas Drive by ourselves. By the time the Sun set that day, I did not want to leave. Since then, I have experienced that same sad sickening feeling every time I have left the beach to return home.

Many years later, my family made the journey to visit my granddad in Melbourne, Florida one Easter weekend. He was in the closing stages of a long hard fight with prostrate cancer. But he had insisted that he be allowed to make his traditional migration to Florida for the winter.  Hospice was gracious and coordinated between their organization in Indiana where he lived and their sister organization in Melbourne. My dad had driven him and his trailer to Melbourne, then flown home and drove his own trailer down. My daughter was still in diapers but walking, and I knew this would probably be his last chance for him to see his great-granddaughter. During the trip, my dad took us out to the beach. It was chilly so we were all wearing jackets, but the thrill of introducing my daughter to the beach was a memorable one.

One of my fondest memories is the first time I took my daughter for a weekend at the beach. With the sands of Alligator Beach all but completely washed away from being battered by several hurricanes, we had begun visiting Mexico Beach, Florida - a gorgeous and quiet little fishing town situated between Panama City and Port St. Joe. Her fascination with the sand, the sound of the surf, and picking up seashells told me that she too felt the peace, joy, and tranquility that the beach and the ocean brought to my soul.

The Gulf of Mexico - Mexico Beach, FL (photo credit: the author)

Every time I stand at the surf's edge and look out at the massive Gulf of Mexico, the white sandy beaches, the seagulls, cranes, and pelicans, I marvel at the beauty and the hands that created it all. I can hear a couple of scriptures:

How precious to me are your thoughts, God!

How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand
when I awake, I am still with you.
- Psalms 139:17-18

(photo credit: the author)

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? - Matthew 6:25-27

Sunset - Mexico Beach, FL (photo credit: the author)

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Finding My Place

One of the most painful processes associated with a new move is finding a the place where you "fit" in the new community. And in our case, after volunteering with Habitat for Humanity for many years and spending the last three years serving with Feed Forsyth, we knew a big struggle would be finding a nonprofit to serve. I mean you cannot just work furiously for three years addressing struggling families and then go to nothing, right? So once I could access my own deodorant and there was a clear path through the living room to the front door, we began the search for a new church home and a nonprofit that aligned with my passion.

The second church we visited was Pinellas Community Church. We parked in the parking spots labelled "First Time Guests" and started walking down the sidewalk following the signs to the auditorium when I was stopped dead in my tracks. I casually glanced to my right and was speechless. There was a building with a huge sign on the front of it, "Feed St. Pete". I could not speak for a minute. To suddenly see a food pantry named so closely to the nonprofit we had founded was overwhelming. I could feel tears rolling down my cheeks. Wow. I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture and posted it to Facebook. Within minutes, friends in Atlanta saw it and started posting comments like "they are going to be so glad you are there".

Feed St. Pete - the image that stopped me in my tracks (credit: The Author)
Once seated in the service, I quickly found how to contact their staff for volunteering and sent an email saying I was interested in serving with the food pantry. On Tuesday morning, I received an email saying to arrive at the pantry ready to work at 4 PM that afternoon.

When I arrived at 4 PM that afternoon, I saw a sign that said they distribute food at 5 PM, and there was about 20 or 30 people sitting under the shade of the trees waiting for the food distribution. I knocked on the door of the pantry, and when the door opened, I told them I was there to volunteer.

The person I met said, "OK, come back at 5."

So, I said, "cool", and headed back to sit in my vehicle and surf the internet on my phone in some air conditioning.

When I got to my vehicle I looked up and saw three men talking and walking down the sidewalk from the church office towards me. I recognized the pastor from Sunday. He looked up at me and introduced himself and shook my hand. He asked what I was up to, and I told him I had come to volunteer with the pantry and had been told to come back at 5pm. We started up a conversation, and he invited me into the office. We chatted for 30 or 45 minutes, and he seemed to be stunned when he learned I had been managing a food rescue organization. We walked back over to the pantry, and he introduced me to a couple of the volunteers and mentioned my work at Feed Forsyth. To say that I was warmly welcomed would be a huge understatement. 

By 7 PM, we had given out food to over 120 families. I was impressed with how many families they had served, how they were managing the food distribution, and how friendly everyone was to me and how welcomed they made me feel. In the midst of things, I was introduced to the pantry manager and had a brief conversation on how they wanted to expand what they are doing and how I might help. To date, I have been volunteering with them for seven weeks. Together we are working on plans to increase the amount of food they have available to provide the families, how many families they serve, but also providing services from business professionals like resume writing assistance, job search/placement, counseling, etc. The vision they have is exciting, and I am glad to be a small part of how they are serving the community around them.

While a lot of other things have not been completely settled in this transition. Finding my place with a local nonprofit that shares my passion for struggling families has made this feel like home really fast, and for that I am very grateful.


Monday, August 25, 2014

The Least of These

Homeless on the streets of Atlanta (credit:
You have seen them when you walk the streets of the larger cities: Washington, DC, Atlanta, GA, Austin, TX, St. Petersburg, Fl, the list goes on and on. You see their stack of overstuffed bags, or an old worn suitcase, or a tattered backpack. You notice their tattered and stained clothing. You decide to avoid eye contact. Just stare at the ground to you get by and they will not bother you. One may call to you, "Can you help me with money for lunch?" You ignore them and walk on, quickening your pace. You catch a whiff that tells you they have not had a shower in a few weeks. They make you uncomfortable, and you wish they would just go away. How do you know if you gave them money that they would not buy liquor or crack with it? It is a growing problem, and several cities have decided to solve it. Their solution: make the homeless go away. Make it illegal to put up a tent under a bridge or in a public park.

Homeless Encampment - Atlanta, 2014 (credit: Weslee Knapp)
A few years ago, the city of St. Petersburg, FL took an active stance to solve the problem in their city. Watch for yourself.

January 19, 2007

Georgia DOT sent bulldozers in to clear out the tents of 40 homeless camping under I-75/I-85 and I-20 on January 14, 2014. GDOT Sends Bulldozers for 40 Homeless Camping Under I-75/85 and I-20 The bulldozers and GDOT employees hauled off tents, blankets, jackets, and what little possessions these people owned. Two weeks later, Atlanta was hit with a winter storm that closed the city. FOX NEWS WEATHER CENTER Rare winter storm leaves students, drivers stranded in Deep South

Well, those people would be better off in a shelter, you think. Maybe so, if there was enough shelter space in Atlanta to house all of the homeless individuals in the city. But there is not. 

"According to homeless census data estimates, more than 10,000 people in metro Atlanta experience homelessness on any given night, with more than 40 percent being women and children. A comprehensive, three-county survey of Atlanta's homeless shelters found a shortage of 1,700 beds for all single homeless people, including children and youth."

A shortage of 1,700 beds means 1,700 people in Atlanta had to face the elements during the Winter storm that stranded drivers and clogged interstates. And at least 40 were without blankets or temporary shelter thanks to the government's attempt to solve homelessness.

We must put down all of our preconceived ideas why people are  homeless, and recognize that every homeless person is in fact a person. They have a story. They have a story worth telling. They have value. Not everyone that is homeless is a crack addict, or too lazy to work. In fact, in today's society there are people who are working at minimum wage jobs and cannot afford housing. In fact, to afford a two bedroom apartment in Atlanta, a person would have to work 85 hours a week for 52 weeks a year. So where do the minimum wage laborers live?

This year, an experiment was conducted in Austin, TX. They took a homeless man and bought him a suit and then filmed people's reactions to him when he asked for spare change. They then had him do the same thing in the same area of town in his regular clothing. The results speak for themselves.

The Real Homeless Man Experiment - July 2014

Solving our nation's homeless crisis will not be accomplished by criminalizing homelessness. It will be done by providing them assistance. Helping them with food, shelter, clothing, resume preparation, and job skills training. That will not happen until we begin to look at them as human beings - people - not bums. We will have to bring ourselves to say, "there but by the grace of God go I." Many of us are just a few weeks away from being in their shoes. For the last 5 years, millions of homes have been foreclosed and families have been sent scrambling. Some of slept in cars (illegal in many cities). Some have slept in the floor of a generous individuals apartment. Our local, state, and federal governments will not solve hunger or homelessness in this country. It will only be solved by the compassion of you and I.

I greatly admire those who are pursuing opportunities to actually help solve the homeless problem instead of trying to run people out of their towns. One such group is Mobile Loaves and Fishes and what they are doing with the Community First! project. They have obtained 27 acres outside of Austin, TX and are placing tiny homes, refurbished RVs, along with a central shower and laundry facility. Additionally, they are arranging for dentist, doctors, and therapists to come to the property to provide free services to the residents. 

Community First! Village

Other organizations in other cities are attempting similar solutions. This past week, USA Today ran this article: 

These are the type of solutions that will help turn the tide of homelessness, because they value the individuals and work to restore their dignity and self-esteem.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Stepping Into The Vapor: The Move (Part II)

We woke Sunday eager to see the rental house we had rented via pictures and phone calls, to unpack the truck, to find my suitcase, and begin to settle in to our new home. Kramer and Sadie were ready to quit being in pet crates and to have a backyard. At the same time, I was anxious about what we would find when we returned to the office parking lot where our rental truck was parked. Against their will, Kramer and Sadie were tucked into their pet crates and secured in the back seat of the car, and we drove across town to the office parking lot. I held my breath as we turned the corner into the parking lot. There set the rental truck and my SUV on the trailer behind it totally pristine and unmolested. I felt silly for being concerned. Where was my faith? Perhaps it was all the tension from the moving and upended-ness, but I felt ashamed of myself for allowing worry to overcome me.We said several "Thank You Jesus" prayers, and Kramer and I assumed our positions in the rental truck that we had assumed over the last couple of days and began the short drive to the house following Allison's lead through town.

I hardly had dropped the trailer and backed the truck up the driveway than the guys from the moving company that were unloading us arrived. And right behind them came the realtor with keys. Moving from 1,700 Sq Ft to 1,100 Sq Ft does not sound like a big deal, but we quickly realized a bit more pairing down would be required. The house originally had a one car garage that had been converted into a master bedroom, so my garage contents were going to need a new home. Much to my surprise there was a storage barn in the backyard that was not in the pictures we had seen or the rental listing. That was a huge blessing as I had been expecting to have to purchase and assemble one on top of all the other moving chores. When the truck was almost completely emptied, we found my long lost suitcase that had been packed for the trip!

After 900 miles and two days without clean clothes and my own deodorant - my suitcase! (credit: The Author)

The moving guys were amazing and had the truck completely unpacked in a little over three hours. God Bless those hard working and good natured guys! We filled the rental truck with diesel for the last time, and navigated our way to the closest Penske Rental Center. Fortunately for us, it was within 10 miles of the house. We had barely gotten home when our friends, the Bartons arrived and all six of them dove in helping arrange and unbox. They were amazing! It was like having a small army. Kramer convinced their kids to play ball with him, and he was quickly a happy dog.
Kramer James (credit: The Author)

As is always the case with something during a move, the screws that attach the mirror to the dresser turned up MIA. So, Bill and I found an Ace Hardware and headed over to pickup replacements. As we were just days away from the Fourth of July and our son-in-law is active duty in the U.S. Army, I picked up an American flag for the front of the house. The Bartons surprised us with a house warming gift - a pair of plastic pink flamingos for the front yard. We loved it! Allison and I had committed to embracing all that is Florida - pink flamingos and Hawaiian shirts!
Lil Pink Flamingos For You And Me #EmbraceThePinkFlamingos (credit: The Author)
During the unboxing process, I was summonsed to the guest room, and much to my surprise I discovered to former residents had apparently had a fondness for pink flamingos as well. They had adorned the guest room with a pink flamingo light switch wall plate.

#EmbraceThePinkFlamingos (credit: The Author)

Before the Bartons left, we celebrated the reunion with their family and our move with dinner at the Cracker Barrel just blocks from the house. And you cannot go wrong with a Cracker Barrel that has palm trees out front right? I can almost hear a heavenly chorus sing just looking at it!

Cracker Barrel and Palm Trees (credit: The Author)

We slept soundly the first night in our new home and Sadie and Kramer slept peacefully for the first time since leaving Atlanta.