He Saves Me From ME
Michael Edward Moore
michaelsav2004 at yahoo dot com
And this is a picture of baptism, which now saves you by the power of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection.
1 Peter 3:21a (NLT)
I think Jeremy Camp says it best when he sings how God blessed the broken road that led him to Jesus! When I hear those lyrics I cannot hold back the tears. I am so amazed that after everything this world has tossed at me thus far, I can abide in his love and experience a peace that truly is beyond understanding. I consider this text to be a prime example of just how much God loves us. All of us!
As I ponder the direction the Holy Spirit may take me during the course of this writing, I must tell you that there are many dark seasons of my former life. I asked God in prayer that he bring to my remembrance anything he deems worthy of documenting. It’s a good thing he didn’t give us a spirit of fear because I would be white-knuckled on this keyboard right now afraid of finding something out about myself I really didn’t want to know. But that’s just how God works. He searches our hearts!
I am one of those people that just can never seem to find their place in this world. As I glance back over my life I cannot recall a time when I truly felt comfortable. It was like comfort was right there within my grasp every step of the way. But this comfort must have been greased down royally, because every time I stretched far enough to wrap my fingers around it, it slipped quickly out of my dirty palms. I would forget about it for a short while, then start romanticizing the thought of comfort once again. Then as usual, those thoughts turned into action and I was chasing comfort a little more aggressively than before. This pattern repeated itself for all of the 43 years of my earthly life that I am able to recall. Insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting the different results. I could probably jump right from here straight to the point where I finally became willing to lose my life for Jesus and tell you how everything else truly is rubbish compared to knowing him. But I feel driven to lay my life down on paper for the Glory of God. Once I complete the final chapter of this book I plan on leaving my past behind me for good and focusing on the wonderful life that lies ahead.
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)
This book is dedicated to my loving mother, Bonnie L. Moore, without her prayers, I would not be alive today to relay the love of Jesus Christ.
And to my devoted dad, Russell E. Moore, who, because of her prayers, gave his life to the Lord just days before passing on their 49th. Wedding Anniversary!
Praise be to GOD!See ya soon mom & dad!
East Concord Vermont. My childhood stomping grounds. I was four years old when mom and dad bought the house there. I don’t remember anything prior to living there. It was a very small town in the northern part of the state. Very secluded. Very cold. But I was a kid. The cold didn’t bother me. Snow, and lots of snow, is packed full of fun when you are a kid. But then again, when you live on a 93 acre chunk of wilderness in the middle of nowhere, from October to June about all you see is snow. Our house was an old two-story clapboard box with a basement. It overlooked a scenic valley and had lots of rocks in the yard. Big rocks! Rocks that had to be mowed around and over during the 2 months or so yearly when you could see the grass. Neighbors were few and very far between. I have no idea what the population of East Concord was at that time. Somewhere around 250 I would imagine. Looking at modern day aerial photographs I doubt very seriously if that area has grown at all. I think I may see a new mobile home or two on the aerial maps. School was about a mile away in the center of town if you could call it that. It was a four room wooden building that contained grades K-6. If I recall correctly, there were 14 other kids in sixth grade along with me. My sister Sharon is 7 years older than me. She attended a high school in Concord Vermont, one of the neighboring towns. My sister Regina is seven years younger than me. I don’t recall her going to school while we lived there. My mom stayed at home and hand laced shoes. That was a tough job. I can remember her hands being blistered, Callas ed, and bleeding from pulling those laces for so many years. She worked so hard. Once the shoes were laced, they would be placed in these plastic bins and taken to the shoe factory and exchanged for another batch. Dad was also a hard worker and I recall him having a couple of different jobs at that time including working at a paper mill and driving a dump truck. I have no brothers. I wish I had grown up with a brother. As I watched my boys grow up I often wondered what it would have been like.
My best friend during that time was a girl my age named Mary Jo. Mary Jo and her parents, John & Frances, lived the closest to us. It was about a quarter of a mile away. Mary Jo was the only child living at home and her and I soon were hanging out all the time. Her mom and dad really liked me and I felt like I was part of their family. They would take me along on camping trips, snowmobile outings and just about anything else that Mary Jo wanted to do. I have a lot of fond memories about Mary Jo. I also remember her dad catching us in the woods together with our pants pulled down rubbing butt cheeks. I guess that was what we thought sex was at age nine. I cannot remember what either of our punishments were but I do remember never trying that again. There were a few other kids that I would ride bikes with, go skating, fishing or sledding with but it was Mary Jo and I that hit it off the best. Her mom was the school cook. She would always be cooking something at home too, or canning vegetables, or making preserves. Her dad was a mill worker. He was always busy doing something around the house, chopping wood, gathering sap from the maple trees, tilling the garden or just piddling. It was a comfortable environment.
My home was comfortable too, most of the time. My mom was a very good mother. She always made certain that we were warm, well fed and she always showed her love towards everyone. She attended the local church every Sunday. At first I went with her. I even sang in the choir. But that didn’t last long. I decided that if my dad didn’t go to church then I didn’t have to. Dad on the other hand seemed to always be angry. He worked hard and drank a lot. Beyond that I don’t have many memories of sharing time with my dad. He was raised to believe that his only role was to take care of the outside of the house and to bring in a paycheck. We all went out of our way not to make him mad. Things were kept secret from him. Mom would do anything to avoid him getting angry. I don’t blame dad for this. His behavior was just the by product of his own childhood. I guess that’s why the thought of growing up with a brother seems so appealing to me. I never could relate with my dad. I could never go to him with questions or get advice. I grew up without a male role model and in hindsight that became a major hindrance in the years that followed.
Mom and dad would often have friends over on the weekends to play cards. I remember seeing them all, with the exception of mom, drinking and laughing and it became apparent to me that this was the way to find comfort. I used to sneak sips of dad’s beer when he wasn’t looking and occasionally he’d share one with me. It would soon become the only thing we had in common. It was about this time, when I was in the 6th grade that I became aware of marijuana. I found a couple of joint roaches in one of my oldest sisters friends car and took them to school. I smoked them with one of my buddies during recess and viola a new romance begins.
The summer following sixth grade mom and dad decided to sell the house and move. We moved to Littleton, New Hampshire. Not a big city by any means but compared to East Concord it seemed like L.A. Little did I know at the time but that was my first experience with separation from people I had built a relationship with. But I made friends quickly in Littleton and soon became popular. We lived in a part of town called Apthorpe. Many of my buddies lived in that area and we made quite a crew. We were the Apthorpians! We were the baseball team, the basketball team, the football team, and the troublemakers. I fit right into that crowd because most of them lived in similar family situations. That part of the world is tough country. Jobs are few. The weather is brutal and typically the men drink like crazy when they are not working. We Apthorpians discovered real quickly how much booze we could gather if we all just pinched out of our dad’s liquor bottle every now and then. We would camp out and get trashed then usually raid some cop cars with snowballs or something crazy. I had several girlfriends as we were the bad guys and even back then that seemed to attract the girls. It was fun. By then smoking pot was the thing to do and I even recall taking speed a few times. Worst of all, a friend of mine and me discovered what kind of rush we could get from huffing gasoline. That had to cause some serious brain damage. We did it so much I am surprised we didn’t overdose. I was staying buzzed most of the time when I wasn’t in school or playing sports. I was pretty good at football and baseball. We had a good team. We were loyal. I wish my dad had come to see just one game.
There was one game dad got involved in. It was homecoming day. We were playing one of our biggest rivals. Plymouth. It was a varsity game but a few of us J.V.’s were asked to dress out just so it appeared like we had a larger squad. I remember leaving home that morning with my parents convinced that’s where I would be. On the way I ran into one of the other J.V.’s who not surprisingly had some good weed. We figured it would be a lot more fun to get stoned and flirt with the girls that were attending from out of town. I have to admit, it was more fun. Right up to the point where we discovered a car window down and a purse lying on the seat. Temptation. Take the purse. Get some money. Buy some girl an ice cream. Yeah, what a great idea! Not. We got somewhere around $40 from that purse and we were downtown on Main Street living it up within minutes. Within minutes after that we were in jail. The coach of all people had seen us do it. No charges were filed. They just called our parents to come pick us up and of course we had to work to pay back the money.
I would have rather spent a few nights in jail than face what was about to happen when we got home. My dad was so angry. He kept screaming at me. Telling me what a worthless piece of crap I was. That I was a thief and a liar. He knocked me around a few times until I hit the floor. I remember he kept kicking me in the head and telling me that I would never amount to anything. That didn’t stop that night either. He woke me up at 5 am for a week and had me doing everything from shoveling snow, cleaning the basement or chopping wood. That incident may have blocked any future chance of dad and I ever bonding. It was quite some time before I ever even thought of stealing anything again.
Life was pretty good though. Lots of friends. Lots of parties. Lots of things to do outside. Camping, water skiing, hiking. New Hampshire is beautiful country. I was very close to being comfortable. But as you know, comfort and me can’t seem to dwell in the same place, so low and behold, now we are moving to Savannah. Bye bye school. Bye bye friends. Bye bye mountains and camping and hiking. Bye bye everything in my world at the time.
Next. Culture shock. From an all white small town to Savannah, Georgia. Plunged instantly into an atmosphere completely unlike anything I had ever experienced. I started school right away even before making a friend. School was hot. No air conditioning. It was so crowded and I talked funny. Not to mention that the black to white ratio was about 70-30. I had hardly ever even seen a black person and now I was smack dab in the middle of what seemed to be an urban jungle. I hated it. I showed up for football tryouts on the third day. Me, another white kid and what seemed like 200 black kids. I couldn’t even understand what the coaches were saying. Football wasn’t going to work. Nor was any other sport. So being a jock was out of the question. That left the motor heads, the geeks, and the potheads. Nice guess. Pot heads. We smoked before, during, and after school. Everyday. Mom would give me $1 for lunch each morning and that would buy a joint in front of the school. Four or five of us would circle up and we have that many joints going at once. It was the life. School sucked. I was such an outcast. I couldn’t even speak the white kids lingo. Walking around stoned out of my mind seemed like the only way to come close to comfort.
My after school life soon turned into nothing but partying, and working to support that hobby. It was so easy to drink and get dope. But I didn’t just get a little buzzed. I was getting blackout drunk almost every night. I remember feeling so guilty when I would come home at night. Mom would be waiting up on the couch for me just to see what kind of shape I was in and to make sure I got in OK. She would just shake her head and go off to bed. I made a few party buddies but never really bonded with anyone. I had little self-esteem. I got that from dad I know. I have never met anyone as depressed and down on himself as dad was at this point. I couldn’t please anyone. Mom was disappointed in me, dad was pretty much just waiting for me to move out and all I wanted to do was get high.
The summer of my junior year I was asked to come work on a survey crew. This was kind of fun for me. Most of the time we were in the woods and I think that helped remind me of home a little. I was drawing a fairly good wage for my age and that assured money to party with. And party I did. I managed to save enough money to buy a motorcycle though. I had to be cool. I was trying to fit in. Going into my senior year I was fed up with school. They were so far behind the schools in New Hampshire. They were trying to teach me things in 11th grade that I had already learned in the 8th. I managed to maintain about a C average even though I was skipping most of my classes. This lasted right up until Christmas break. The surveyor asked me to come work during my off time and I jumped on it. In fact, I was so glad to be working that I asked him for full-time employment and never returned to school. It was time to be a man.
Finally, 18 at last. It’s time to move out. One of my party buddies and I got a two-bedroom apartment on the opposite side of town from mom and dad. It was a blast. We partied so much. We both had girls in and out of the apartment and stayed messed up. Buy this time I had a car, a sport bike and a dirt bike. I was making money, partying hard and having sex with whatever girl could put up with my drunkenness. From an external viewpoint I appeared to really be on the ball. The truth is I was miserable. Uncomfortable.
I was still unable to make any real connections with anyone. Maybe I was afraid of being kicked in the head? My roommate was kind of a spoiled kid. He was driving a Gold T-Top Trans Am. His parents had money and we often would take his dad’s yacht out on party cruises. One night we were out cruising River Street, drinking and snorting cocaine and got chased by the cops. We were the Dukes of Hazard. Although I don’t ever recall the Dukes of Hazard crashing into a power pole. We did. Hard. My face smashed through the windshield. Neither of us had any major injuries although I did have to go to the hospital and allow then to remove all the fragments and slivers of glass from my face. I have those ugly scars to this very day. But they didn’t find the coke. I convinced the cop to allow me to urinate behind a building while we waited on the ambulance. I buried the bag of powder in the alley only to return for it after being discharged from the emergency room. Once again, reaching for that comfort.
My desire to stay intoxicated was getting out of control. I began to rack up DUI’s and other serious violations. I would outrun the cops on my Ninja frequently and drove like a maniac. I wrecked that bike after drinking all day at Tybee then attempting to drag a knee on the big curve leaving the island. More scars. I suffered through several car and bike accidents. I would sometimes get into fights and often would pass out in bars or fall down stairs. I was falling apart and couldn’t even see it. Nor did I have any close enough friends to alert me of where I was headed. I was not thinking clearly at all. I was headed nowhere fast. Then something would happen that would have great impact on my life. Her name is Edwina.
She hopped on the back of the Ninja one hot summer day at the beach. She was wild. I liked it. She was far from the type of woman I had imagined myself to be with but I liked her promiscuity. We ended up moving in together and it wasn’t long after that, she was pregnant. I wasn’t ready for this. I was scared. I wanted to walk away. I fought the decision to marry her for a long time and my parents convinced me that it was my moral obligation. I needed to take responsibility for my actions. Edwina was 7 months pregnant when she walked down the isle.
I could change her. I knew I could. I could mold her into exactly the woman of my dreams, so I thought. When Joshua was born things changed. He was so cute. I now had a brand new life to look out for. This helped me to take my focus from myself. I began taking my career more serious and almost felt comfortable. Edwina stayed home with the baby and I worked. We still partied all the time. I was growing to love Edwina so I thought. The only thing that aggravated me was that she was no housekeeper. She didn’t like to clean, decorate nor make the house feel warm and cozy. I didn’t understand at the time that this was not her sole responsibility.
We moved around a couple of times and it was beginning to look like comfort may one day be achievable. I was in pursuit of my Professional Surveying License and it seemed as though I would be making really good money in the near future. Soon Edwina was pregnant again and we were on our way to having two boys two years apart. We moved into a rental house on Wilmington Island. It was comfortable, almost. Money was tight and I was working very hard. After all, that’s what I was taught to do. Another two years pass and we are pregnant once more. My daughter Paige was born to us and that seemed to be the blessing we needed to hold things together. Financially it was tough but they were all such good kids it made home life again, almost comfortable.
In the fall of 1992 I was accepted to take my Professional Surveyor’s Exam. I passed the test with flying colors and it looked as though I was about to get a substantial raise and that would relieve some of the pressure. I did in fact get a raise. Fifty cents an hour. Now there’s a breakthrough. I went to my supervisor with a sincere complaint and his response was, if you don’t like it quit. I went home furious, sat down, considered his advice, and typed up my resignation letter. With $300 in my checking account I walked out determined to start my own business. Surely comfort resides there.
Dad volunteered to be my helper and generously loaned his pickup truck as our first survey vehicle. Moore Land Surveying was up an running. Work started slow but steady. About seventy percent of the work we did the first couple of years was construction layout. Building roads and parking lots. It was very hard, hot work. I felt sorry for dad but I also realized he was doing everything he could to help me succeed. There was one particular contractor that liked my work and I admired his honesty. It was a win-win situation.Things progressed along well and I had managed to build a solid reputation in the industry.
The kids were growing so fast. They were so much fun. Life was good. I have to admit, it was comfortable. The small house we were renting was getting crowded. We began looking for a home that we could afford and more importantly, get financing for. Then one day along came yet another blessing. Edwina found a house in Wilmington Park. A big house. Wilmington Park was a pretty prestigious place to live, especially at our age. Owner financing. You gotta love it!
Home sweet home. It was really nice. The picture perfect home. Self-employed, home office, big house, community pool, good schools. The American Dream. I was at the top of my game, or so I thought. The business was bringing in money but it also brought with it unforeseen troubles. The drinking and pot smoking were still a big part of my life. I was smoking pot during the day while surveying, then I would come home, smoke some more, and drink a dozen beers or so while sitting at the computer. So many times I remember pausing long enough to go tuck the kids in only to find out they have been in bed for hours. Work was consuming me and when it wasn’t, I was consuming beer. The working man’s ‘southern’ comfort!
It was my world. I created it. Surely the rest of the world spun around me. It had to. I tried to stay as active as possible in the children’s activities and encourage them. We laughed a lot. But what I did not see happening was Edwina growing unhappy. I was under that impression that my duties entailed bringing in the money and taking care of the outside of the house. I did those things. Quite well if I may say so. But a home is much more than outward appearance. A home is that warm fuzzy feeling you have the moment you walk through the front door. Home is the pictures of your children as they grow up, proudly displayed on the walls. Home is chasing the kids through the sprinklers while the burgers are burning. Home is being around the ones you love and that love you back. Home is belonging. Home is comfortable.
I should have found a healthy outlet. Along with the business came the stress and worry. Why didn’t I play golf? Fishing? Hunting? Biking? Anything? Because I didn’t fit in. Growing up in south Georgia and not being a sportsman is not conducive of building meaningful relationships. The only people I spent time with were the drinkers and smokers. More trouble. One of the things about my life that I now realize; is that when I do something wrong, or out of line, I always get caught. No matter what. I continued racking up traffic violations. My drinking was out of control. One of the worst side effects of my drunkenness was the beast within me would rare his ugly head. Where was all this anger coming from? I had it all. But I would get drunk and say mean and hateful things to Edwina. Often I wouldn’t even remember what had been said the next morning. Even worse yet, there were times when my children witnessed this behavior. As much as they looked up to me when I was sober, now they had to see that wicked side of me that only had courage enough to lash out in drunken foolishness. Alcohol was destroying my life one drop at a time. I still couldn’t see it. Both friends and family began to notice. Some of them even tried to talk to me about it. But I always could find justification for my actions. Still, somehow I managed to keep the outside of my life looking desirable.
Nineteen ninety seven. Edwina and I had grown apart. That was evidenced by the constant arguing, separation and lack of intimacy. I remember thinking that we needed to take a break for a short while but I never expected what was about to happen. We decided that I should go stay at my sisters for a few days. So I packed some clothes, grabbed a few files, and a pillow. Next day, divorce papers. Next day, move as much of my office as could possibly fit into a small, spare bedroom in my sister’s apartment. Next day, nothing. Stunned, frozen, drunk.
Loosing traction. Momentum gaining. When did brick walls become invisible? Self employed, pocket full of money, wrong god. I wanted another chance. Too late. He had been a friend of mine, sort of. Joshua’s best friends dad. I Should have seen it coming. But if you can’t see a brick wall how could you possible see that? I missed home. I was very uncomfortable. Functioning enough to keep the company afloat and spending time every other weekend with kids, I managed to keep my head out of the mire. I was completely miserable. Dangerously drunk when ever possible. Things only got worse from there.
After much negotiation during the divorce process, I was awarded to keep the house. It was a nice arrangement because the kids could walk from their mom’s house to mine. They still had their own rooms. It worked. But twenty eight hundred square feet is much too much space when they were gone. I didn’t want to stay home anyway. It was too empty. Other terms of the divorce settlement, my lifestyle, the house payment, workload, they were all taking their share of the toll. A few meaningless relationships, bad decisions, and unforgiveness left me alone. Very alone. Seeds sown in the wrong soil. Huge harvest.
One evening, sitting at my desk, staring, as usual, out the window. Something began churning in my stomach. Moments later, I am in tears. Bawling. What had happened to me? What had happened to my life? Mom called. She knew I was crying. I’ll be right there she said. Covered plate in hand and fresh sweet tea, mom was there in a flash. What an encourager she was. Always building me up. Always forgiving. Always giving everything she had to everyone she met. The right words at the right time. The right words for me, for that time, as she so eloquently spoke them, want to go to church? It starts in forty five minutes. What timing. Caught in a vulnerable moment. How could I say no? I didn’t.
Back row, of course. Wondering how could they possibly sing that many songs? Hands in the air, banners waiving. Strange noises coming from what seemed to be hidden parts of the room. Talk about fear and trembling! Somehow there seemed to be a rhythm about the place though. There was a guest speaker that night. I can’t recall his name. That was the only time I have ever seen him. He was a big guy with a very deep voice. About five words into his message, more bawling. Every word that man spoke was a picture of my life. It was amazing. That was the very first time I could actually feel God calling me. There was no holding back when the alter call came. In tears I repeated the sinners prayer and received prayer. The whole church was celebrating. That was mom’s church. I had been on that prayer chain for a very long time. I felt different indeed. Like a weight had truly been lifted. I was told to read my bible and we’ll see you next Sunday. Sounded good to me.
I searched for every verse in the Bible I could find that talked about alcohol. The wine stuff, you know. I had to find justification. I found a few and even tried to use them on occasion. But the truth of the matter is that I didn’t really feel any different. Same life pattern. Same downward spiral. What was this force that seemed to be causing me to swim upstream? Why were my meek little prayers not being answered? Wasn’t I saved? Why didn’t I know about Satan? I thought Jesus took care of him.
My curiosity about the bible lingered in the background but soon I was uncomfortable with church. But then again, I was uncomfortable with everything. Nightlife and child support proved to be very hungry and I found myself struggling to function work wise, enough to sustain. The house payment was twelve hundred dollars monthly. I had some serious debt issues, solution; sell the house. Bad mistake. More separation. From that point on I have not lived in any location for an entire year. On the move. Seeking comfort. Avoiding debts. Falling without vision. Alone. I wish I had known about Ecclesiastes 4:12 back then. The Message Version says this: “By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” Fellowship is so important. But alone I was. Satan had me so blinded I could not see a way out. Opening the bible only on rare occasions, I was still wondering, where was God?
I was stumbling around in downtown Savannah one night and happened to see a small corner office with an apartment also for rent. So I made the not-so-brilliant decision to move to party central. Downtown. Wright Square. By this time I had abandoned just about everyone in my life. Cocaine was my best friend now. Running my business in the ground during the day and staying up all night spending the revenue. I was so far in debt. Suicide was not too far out of the question. I even concocted a plan to try and flee the country. However I was incompetent to achieve much more that dream unachievable dreams. Darkness and doom were upon me. It was what I somehow felt I deserved. Held within the prison I had created. Me.
My appetite for cocaine eventually introduced me to crack cocaine. The devil’s candy. The slippery slopes I had been sliding down for the last 8 years instantly became an avalanche. It was the only thing I desired. And apparently I was willing to sacrifice almost anything necessary to acquire it. Crack starting taking my keys. The first keys it took were the keys to my office. That didn’t really surprise me. I had let my business go along with all my clients. They depended on me. I could not focus on much of anything anyway, especially work. I leased a storage unit and packed as many things from the office as I could. Computers, furniture, files. Irreplaceable data and maps. I sold or pawned a few things. Had to sow more seeds. I kept my little red Dakota though. I loved that truck. I would drive that little truck aimlessly anywhere. It was the one thing I owned in full. Just made the last payment.
When I say aimlessly I mean literally. I would be so paranoid while high that I would try my best to get away from everything. It was like I was being lead somewhere. I would be way out in the country somewhere. Lost. No street signs. Dirt roads. I would drive for miles only to find a dead end. A lot of dead end roads. But I felt less fear. Fear of being found out. Fear of being arrested. Fear of getting shot in a bad deal. Fear of running out. Drive back. Repeat.
Too much driving. Not enough water. In the truck that is. Cracked block. The repair fee was more than I could afford. But I got some cash on the trade-in. Satan got the keys. Dad loaned me his little pickup until I could find a good used one. That’s what the trade-in money was for, right? Why could I never listen to advice? Who needed a vehicle anyway? I could walk anywhere I needed to be. It was soon after this that it became very clear that I was under a very strong spiritual attack.
Here’s how I know:
Almost every time I purchased drugs it was from the same guy. I’d be out in the truck driving around, call him and surprisingly he was always just right around the corner no matter which side of town I was on. A few lights back. Just pull over, he’d say. I’ll be right there. Unreal. Then later, when I had moved downtown, and lost the truck keys, I called him while on foot, for the first time. Shockingly he said, I am on foot tonight, where are you? I said Broughton and Bull. He said, me too. when I looked up, there he was! That really got me thinking hard. But just thinking, that’s it. No prayer. No Word. No help. It just made loosing the whole truck thing seem meaningless now. Everything I needed was right around me. Wow. What an absolute lie that was.
Be Careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)
I could not keep a job. I would clean up, work until I got a big paycheck, then disappear for five or six days. Dad soon came and got his truck back. Rent was still due at my apartment. A few months worth of rent as a matter of fact. Landlords usually don’t approve of a tenant falling that far behind. Mine didn’t either. Bye-bye apartment keys. I re-shuffled the storage unit a little and managed to get some more of my belongings in there with everything else. Now just about all that I owned was in that unit.
I guess you already know what keys he was about to get next. Dad called me one afternoon to inform me that my unit was included in tomorrow’s auction. Oh yeah. I was supposed to be paying that. I managed to show up with one hundred and eighty seven dollars in my wallet. Hoping not to be recognized, my plan was to buy some of my own most cherished possessions back. I had never been to an auction of this type. They would open each unit and spread things out on tables. Everyone would bid on individual items or boxes of items. I just knew that with my cash on hand I could get some of my stuff back when it came to my unit. What a very hot, long day. Wouldn’t you know it, my unit happened to next to last on the list. I wish it had been last.
Before they got to the next to the last unit, the auctioneer made this announcement: Folks, it’s late, and it’s hot. In the interest of time the remaining units shall be offered as a lump sum to the highest bidder. Great. When the door rolled up you could almost hear an “aaahh” from the spectators. My unit was quite colorful. Outdoor gear, office machinery, clothes, beds, survey equipment. Pictures of kids and family. Heir looms. Every document I owned. All my files. All my business records. Everything I owned.
The bid started at one hundred and fifty dollars. My arm was the first up. That was my only bid. Unbelievable. I was devastated. I thought surely after the crowd cleared I could make a deal with the proud new owner of my life’s accomplishments. Can you believe that he wouldn’t even consider. He was way too curious what those boxes really contained. I guess the tears rolling down my face didn’t bear much of an effect. After all, he had to make certain he could make a gain on his two hundred and seventy five dollar investment. I watched him load his pickup, including trailer, with my belongings. For lack of room he left one box behind. That one box contained some very sentimental photographs, some miscellaneous odds and ends, and my Message Bible. Looks like I’ll be traveling light for a while.
The brick walls were easy to knock down by now. Maybe I wasn’t knocking them down? Maybe that’s what kept leading me so far away from everyone? Maybe I was really trying to just get around those walls? But the reality is that it still didn’t matter. I wanted to smoke crack. I didn’t want to smoke crack. I wanted God to know me. I wasn’t seeking for him. Satan had me. My life was in the same pattern of working long enough to get paychecks. I began living in a pay-by-the week motel and riding the buses. It was so embarrassing to be seen at the bus stop by some of my former clients, friends, and family. Every one of my thoughts, therefore, every action was relative to smoking crack. A one track mind. It was only a matter of time before even keeping my room paid up was an impossibility.
I had one dollar in my pocket when I walked out of that room. Dragging what clothes I had with me. I jumped a bus to The Department of Labor office in Savannah. I wanted to use the Internet. I had to find shelter. My search turned up a place called The Old Savannah City Mission. Hot meal. A shower. A place to rest and think. Formulate a plan. It was a long walk with all that luggage. Not to mention that I honestly could not recall the last time I had been asleep or eaten. I was so very beat down. Going to a homeless shelter? Me? This cannot be happening to me. Look at everything I used to be.
The rules of the shelter were you had to be in by six o’clock and get ready for Chapel. Chapel was always entertaining. But one thing is for sure. They do believe in the Word. I read a little but could not seem to ever get focused.. After service was chow time. It was a great meal. Next you had to shower then you had a few minutes in your bunk before lights out. Wake up was at six AM sharp. Breakfast was served then out the door you go until the next night. Some went to work. Some wandered the streets. And some went to the library. I chose the library. I posted an online resume and waited. Outside the library was a shady little park with benches. Several of us homeless guys would sit around, roll up cigarettes in Bugler papers and find out who was serving free lunch that day. For some it was a lifestyle. They were comfortable. I even got used to it myself. The food was good. The library was close, and I was hearing the Word.
Savannah people were praying for me. They were praying with me. I was going to church. I was beginning to cry out. Satan’s Kingdom was being threatened. Let’s move him further away. Away from the familiar things was his ploy.
Lo and behold I received a job offer in Wilson, North Carolina. They knew my situation, knew I was in the shelter, and were still willing to make an offer. What a gift from God. He had answered my prayer. They wired bus fare to me and had a hotel waiting. It was a nice little suite and they agreed to pay the weekly fee until my first check. Not only that but they also took me to the grocery store and paid for a few starter groceries. Wow. What a break. The first few weeks went smooth. I was even given a company truck to drive. Keys back!
Sitting in a hotel room at night, by myself was very difficult for me while the world spins outside. It started with just going out for dinner. Then dinner and drinks. Then drinks. Then. Drinks and crack. Then crack. On the road again. Driving that little truck all over the place. Too much driving. Not enough water. In the truck that is. It overheated in the middle of nowhere while I was desperately trying to get to work. I had been out driving around all night. I was quite late and very much fired. Those keys didn’t last long. Wow. Now I am homeless in Somewhere, North Carolina. I found a shelter until I could somehow convince mom to send me money for a bus ticket, again.
I repeated this process a couple more times. Almost the same scenarios. One move to Macon lasted exactly one paycheck and two days. The first Atlanta trip was a bit worse. I had been paid a relocation fee by my soon to be employer. I arrived from Savannah a few days early. I was eager to find a weekly rental and learn the bus routes. I never showed up for work. Seven days later I received notice. They had withdrawn their offer and wanted their money back. It was gone all of it. The hotel informed me they wanted me out. I had to go. Unbelievable. Well. Not really, after all, it was me. Homeless in Atlanta. Nice. Not so nice when you are high beyond measure and carrying luggage.
In desperation I called one of the other potential employers who had shown interest in my resume. He said he would pick me up and buy me some lunch. Food? What a concept. Disguising my condition during lunch was impossible. This man said he was not a believer but he believed in helping people get a second chance. He also said his brother was a pastor. He called his brother and handed me the phone. He said a very powerful prayer over me and encouraged me to know Jesus. I felt that prayer. With my bus fair paid in full, back to Savannah I went.
When I arrived in Savannah it was beyond curfew for entry into the mission. I tried another shelter across the street from the bus station and they too were closed. Great. What now? Find a bridge? I could not call mom. She and the rest of the family had entered tough love. They wanted no contact from me until after I had been in recovery. George Wilds. I needed to call George. George is one of the pastors at The Mustard Seed Faith Church in Savannah. George also heads up their G.L.A.D. program(God’s Liberation from Alcohol and Drugs). George is a mighty man of God. George responded to my call and picked me up at the bus station then put me up in a room for the night. He is such a good friend. The next day, only a few days before Christmas 2004, I was back at the shelter.
Beat down, broke, busted, disgusted, helpless, homeless, and hopeless. Stripped of everything. Literally. My net worth now consisted of a black back pack, a few clothes and a little pocket version of The New Living Translation. Little did I know at that point, that right then, I had all I needed. In the days following I found myself back into the library-park routine during the day. I would lay on one of the benches outside the library and read that New Testament and pray. Then when evening fell I would be back at the shelter to try to hear from God, get a hot shower and a warm meal, climb in my bunk and fight off the nighttime attacks in my dreams.
It was December 23rd, 2004. The next day would be Christmas Eve. Here I was in Savannah, with my children and family not far from me, spending the holidays alone, again. This time was different though. They didn’t want me around. I was not to be trusted. Real tough love. I spoke to my mom that evening on the mission phone. I was so weighted down with guilt and shame. It was difficult to even talk to her. I thought of the kids and how I could not even afford to buy them a card. She told me that my brother-in-law could let me earn some money the next day by helping him clean up a construction site. That was a true blessing. He picked me up, bought me breakfast and we had a long talk. At the end of the day he offered to buy my children gift certificates in lo of payment. I was so glad that my children would at least know I was thinking of them. On the way home we were talking about Christmas and how everyone was going to be at my moms that evening, Christmas Eve. He called my mom and was asking her if she would at least let me come see all the children for a little while. Wasn’t happening. With tears in both of our eyes, he dropped me off in front of the mission, wished me well, and drove off. That may have been the very lowest point of my life. It was beyond lonely. Completed rejected by normal society. Satan had me so bound. I wasn’t even good at being homeless.
I knew at this point that I could no longer attempt to do this on my own. I needed help. I recalled George mentioning a different mission called The Savannah Mission Bible Training Center. Bible Training Center? Sounded like boot camp. I was nervous about dialing that number. I was told that I needed to come in and speak to them directly and complete an application. So with backpack in hand I headed off with great anticipation. The center was housed in a huge Victorian mansion located on, get this, Victory Drive. I walked through the front door into the huge foyer area. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas with a huge Christmas tree. I could see some sort of a class taking place to my right, A huge dining room table with a picture of The Last Supper adorning the wall behind it, and in front me, a bearded man with a clipboard sitting behind a desk. He took my name and had me sit in the waiting area while he informed the office I was there. It was a little intimidating but at the same time had a very “family” feeling about it. The big table was what really caught my eye. It had been a while since I had a sit down dinner.
I was led into the office and asked a few questions about why I wanted to be in their program. I gave them a quick, stripped down version of what I have just told you. My story wasn’t anything new to them however. I was hoping with everything I had that they would accept me right then. I really did not want to be in the shelter on Christmas Eve and this place looked more like a home than a shelter. Michael, they said, we believe you are sincere about changing your life, you are accepted, it’s just that we don’t have any beds available. Check back with us in a few days. Wow. Rejected once again. Shot down. Oh well, I sill have time to catch the shelter if I hustle.
That night the shelter was over packed but they turned away no one. I found a spot on the floor after dinner and began crying that invisible cry that most men have. I had my face peering at that little New Testament, but wasn’t reading anything. I was so completely empty. There was no more. The Michael Plan had finally failed. My life had failed. I was a failure.
Then when I opened my eyes, something happened that would change my life forever. It was those words. Those words on the pages in front of me. They were piercing my soul. They literally stood out among the other words. It was “my” message and this is what it said:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will direct your paths.
Proverbs 3: 5 & 6 (NLT)
I read that verse over, and over, and over. Trust in the Lord? I had trusted in just about everything else. The not depending on my own understanding at that point was pretty easy. I was so lost and confused I did not understand much of anything anyway. Seek his will? Why couldn’t he just tell me, I thought. But it said if I do this, he will direct my paths. How I desperately needed that. Someone else to direct my paths. I had a proven track record of dead end roads, remember. I went to sleep that night with a sense of peace and that somehow there may still be hope.
I am not sure that there are many things more humbling than waking up Christmas morning in a homeless shelter. But awaking that morning the shelter had a different feel. We were all provided a good breakfast and told that we could stay in and watch movies because it was Christmas. I was back in my bible. I wanted another message. But I got the same one. Trust me. He was speaking to me. Trust me. Suddenly I got a feeling inside, actually it was more of a prompting to call the Bible Center back. When I made it through to the office I was shocked to hear them say this: We prayed about you last night and the Lord told us to make room for you. We are going to pull a spare bed down out of the attic and make you the ninth man in the eight man room. Be here tomorrow morning at 10:00. You see my friends, Jesus can make a way when there is no way. Praise God!
The next morning I could not wait to take that walk down Victory Drive! Ten o’clock could not come fast enough. It felt right. It was encouraging. I was trusting God, I certainly did not understand what I was getting myself into, and as I walked it became quite apparent to me; HE was directing my path! Just like he said he would. My faith instantly grew.
Check-in was a little intimidating. They explained to me about the program rules and the schedule. They also explained that it was an eight month program. Wow. Eight months? Surely I could find work before then. But once I got settled into my room, had a hot meal and attended the evening devotions, I was reminded once again to trust him.
It took me a few days to get used to living in such close quarters with others after keeping myself so completely isolated for so long. To top it off, I was living in a house filled with recovering addicts. Moods were all over the place. But I felt at home. It was comforting to be around others who had been led down similar paths. But it was more comforting to see the work God had been doing in the ones who had been there a while. More hope!
Mission life was very structured. Not rigorous by any means. Just structured. A typical days schedule at the mission was as follows:
7:00 Wake Up
8:30 Daily Chores
1:30 Roll Call/Work Projects
4:00 Free Time/Showers
6:30 Daily Chores
10:00 In Your Own Rooms
10:30 Lights Out
OK, I thought, this is what I do for the next eight months. Eight months seemed like an eternity away. But as you can see, we ate four times a day and the chores were light. The devotions and classes were what really intrigued me however. The praise and worship was all A cappella. We sang some classic old hymns and some that I call campfire worships songs. Those lyrics would remain on my mind all the time. It was hard not to walk around singing and humming those songs. But we sang from our hearts. You could hear the desperation in our singing. We were all hungry for something we had never tasted before. We wanted to know God. We wanted to know how to get to know him. Little did we know at the time but singing those songs is what was opening up the door.
We were subjected to a wide variety of teachers and teaching styles. I enjoyed this. It really got me interested in the word. There were a lot of different viewpoints. It forced me to go searching for the truth. Because along with all those teachers and styles came a couple of false teachers, just as the bible speaks of. Take this as a warning. Not everyone who claims to be preaching God’s word speaks the truth. It’s all just another way that the Devil tries to deceive us. But after all, it was Bible training, right?
One subject that particularly became of interest to me was the devil. Not to glorify him in anyway, but to begin to understand how he operates. I could see the results of his handy work as I glanced back over my life. I began to recall those times that I was lied to and tricked into to doing something that would bring me harm. I began learning how to put on the full armor of God, and what that meant. I began to realize that I could use the authority of Jesus’ name to defeat him. I began to know that more I submitted to God, the easier it became to resist him. The bible says that if we do these two things, he must flee from us.
When you have come from a life of addictions, smothered with guilt and shame, Satan’s attacks come often. I mean like once every couple of minutes. During the day fighting the attacks was not near as difficult as fighting the nighttime ones. At night the nightmares were almost unbearable. I would wake up in cold sweats. He was tormenting me in my sleep. Reruns of some of my darkest days kept rolling through my head at high speed. Others told me I would often be speaking in tongues very loud without ever waking up. I was fighting. I wasn’t the only one getting that type of punishment. Most of the guys talked in their sleep, others would wake up crying or screaming. And then there those sounds that were not human. Bone chilling moans and deep, deep cries that sounded more like roaring, could often be heard. There is no way that these were human cries. They were definitely demons.
I remember mentioning this to my mom and she gave me this advice. She said you have to let Jesus be the Lord of every area of you, including your sub conscience. Let him have the reign over your nighttime seasons. I began praying that before bed every night. Then after one final dream, they were over. This was the dream:
If you recall I told you I am a surveyor by profession. Surveyors often are in the wilderness and we carry machetes to clear brush for line of sight, etc. I was walking through a field with very tall grass and came upon the edge of a wetland area. I had walked a few feet into the water and suddenly was confronted by a very large, very angry snake. He was the serpent. It was a mighty battle. I fought that snake for what seemed like an hour. He would wrap me in his clutches and tried with all his might to sink his fangs into my neck. But I refused defeat. I wrestled him off me time and time again until at last I was able to get in a swing of that machete. It was a great swing too. Off his head went in a bloody bath. I recall blood, more blood than a snake that size could contain, being splashed all over me. He was dead! I had slayed the serpent. I waded even further into the water, dipped under, and came up clean. I woke up at that point. I was sweating and in shock. But I knew it was over. I had won the battle. You see, the bible tells us this:
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies,but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)
Now that that battle had ended, it was time to focus on the part of “my” message that I had yet to address, seeking God’s will. I learned so much over the next several months. I learned about love. I began to even feel loved. I began to love others. I began to understand part of God’s marvelous plan. God is so real. I saw him working in the lives of my brothers and sisters I now lived with. I mean radical changes. I saw demons cast out, I saw healing, I saw complete turn around in peoples appearances and attitudes. I saw people that could once not even speak the name of Jesus praising his Holy name with all of their hearts. I saw dreams come alive and families restored. I began to see people like God sees them. I began to see myself like that also. It was a transformation. Truly born again. New creations. Set free!
I realized that all people have an even more beautiful person living within them. Some of the people that were in that mission with me were brilliant. They were creative. They were intelligent. They were all talented in their own individual ways. I learned about people. I learned that outward appearance has absolutely nothing to do with who a person truly is.
God became so very real to me. I mean literally. It happened one night during praise and worship. With my hands in the air, I was singing the song, “Jesus, you are the lover of my soul” I could feel the words coming from deep within me. All of a sudden I felt this warm aura surrounding me. It captured me, I was transported out of that room for a short while. I could still sense that I was present. I could hear the others. But I was not there. I truly believe that I was in the very presence of God. I knew it. It was supernatural. I was dancing in his fields of grace. It was another life-changing experience. That one incident removed any and all doubt about whether God is real. I had been with him. It’s a feeling I will never forget.
After my fourth month I had the privilege of receiving family visits for an hour and a half on the weekends. No one other than my mom understood that I was under Jesus’ care now. They still didn’t believe. But mom knew that God was going to fulfill her lifetime prayer. She would faithfully come every weekend, bring me personal items, and take me to lunch. Those times I had with mom were some of the greatest memories I have. We had such open and honest conversations. I got to tell her all the things I had been holding inside for all those years. Likewise, mom shared some things with me that I would have never known about her.
About a month before I was scheduled to graduate, I got the heartbreaking news that mom had been diagnosed with lung cancer. I knew she had not been feeling well but I never expected this. I thought no God! Please. Not now. I wanted so bad to leave the mission right then and go to be with her. To help her. To encourage her. To pray for her. But God had a different plan. He wanted me to honor my commitment. There was no quitting.
I graduated that mission on September 28th of 2005. Leaving was difficult. I wanted to stay but I knew that it was time to go face up to the responsibilities I had been running from all these years. Mom needed me. I moved into mom and dads house and soon found work. It was different being in the world. It was difficult. People were different. I could see the darkness that I had been blinded to before. And mom’s health was failing fast. We prayed so hard. We fasted. We confessed God’s word. I knew that he was going to do a mighty work.
After being home only a few weeks I noticed that dad wasn’t looking to good either. He was coughing very bad and we convinced him to see a doctor. But he didn’t need an appointment to know what the diagnosis was. He already knew. He too had lung cancer. He had kept it revealed from the family as he did not want to draw any attention away from mom. That’s just how much he loved her.
Mom’s condition had developed so fast. She was in chemotherapy. She was taking every medication they could find. Her church and half of Wilmington Island were praying for her. But God obviously felt like mom had already accomplished everything he had for her to do. Mom went home to be with the Lord two weeks before Thanksgiving 2005. As we sat at her bedside, her pastor arrived and was speaking to dad. I heard dad say something that I, nor mom, ever thought we would hear him say. He looked at the pastor and said, “I want to go to heaven to be with her”. Dad gave his life to Jesus only moments after she passed. It took her death for the fruition of another one of her lifetime prayers to be answered. But get answered it did. Praise God.
I am so thankful that I had written God’s word in my heart the previous months. There is absolutely no way I could have handled her passing without God. Many thought this would be enough to drive me back into my addictions. But God gives us peace. Real peace. Peace that is way beyond what we can comprehend. Of course I grieved for a period. But then suddenly it became quite clear to me that I should be rejoicing for her. She was with the Lord. The one she loved. My grieving beyond the norm was actually selfishness. I had to release her unto God.
I began to imagine her with Jesus. In fact, I can recall mom telling me years ago about the dream where she met Jesus. You see, mom operated a beauty shop in her home for more than 20 years. It was her ministry. She charged very little for her services and everybody loved her. She had built so many solid friendships through that shop. She always had an encouraging word. But in this dream she had the awesome pleasure of cutting Jesus’ hair. It was “her” story and I bet that Jesus is primping around with an awesome haircut right now!
Thanksgiving was hard to deal with that year. The family leader was no longer with us. and dad’s condition was failing. He missed mom so bad. In his mind, his life was over. She is all he lived for. He even told us that he did not want to be here any longer without her. He refused treatment of any kind. All he wanted was pain medicine. He just wanted to not suffer any longer. I think he suffered more from being without her than he did the cancer. Then two weeks after Thanksgiving, 2005, dad also passed. He went to be with his bride. Not surprisingly, that was the day of their 49th wedding anniversary. Glory be to God!
It has been almost two years since then. I cannot tell you that everything has just been peaches and cream since. I have stumbled a time or two. I still take a wrong turn now and then. But the difference is that now I instantly recognize that I am going the wrong way. I do not have to follow that path all the way to the dead end. I know what the right direction is and all I have to do is admit I was wrong, quickly turn around and get right back on the road to Jesus. I have seen God doing so many things in my life. He has restored my relationship with my children. He placed me in a respectable job in my licensed profession. He has blessed me with a very comfortable place to live. I have a brand new perspective on life. I can hold my head up high. He has given me hope. He is my hope. I want to serve him. In fact I am serving him. I have been placed in an awesome Acts 2 church. The name of the church I am now a member of is get this, Victory World Church. Victory! Victory is mine!
For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith.
1 John 5:4 (NLT)
My friends, let me close this letter by sharing a few things I can now see about the journey God is leading me down. Granted it has been a very rocky road, but it has strengthened me. You see, God has a mighty work for me to do. That’s why Satan has been attacking me all these years. He knows that I am a threat to his kingdom. God has a mighty work for you to do also. Do not ever let anyone convince you otherwise. God’s desire is for you to be whole. Nothing missing. Nothing broken.
I now know, that there is not anything in this world that compares to knowing Jesus on a personal basis. It’s not just a part of life. It is life. Jesus is the way. He is the answer. He is our friend. Our teacher. He is the lover of your soul. He will send you the comforter. I encourage you to get in his word. Read it. Study it. Speak it. It will change your life. God has the power to recreate you. He can transform you. He is a God of restoration. He chooses the foolish things of this world to confuse the wise. Come to God my friends. He stands at the door and knocks. Notice he doesn’t bang or kick on the door. He is a gentleman. He knocks softly. Answer the door. It is the narrow door. Few ever find it. If you open it, he will come in and share a meal with you. You do not have to live a defeated life. No matter what you have been through, or are currently going through there is nothing greater than God. There is no name above the name of Jesus. Learn what the word says about you. Learn the authority that has been granted to you in Christ Jesus. Learn to take back what was meant to be yours. It’s never too late.
As for me I have chosen to become a warrior for God. You see, I still get the attacks. But I am learning to recognize them now. I am learning how to be Victorious in every battle. Satan is always trying to find new ways to entice me. He comes against my finances, he comes against my relationships, and he comes against my emotions. But he cannot win because the one who dwells within me, The Holy Spirit, is far greater than he, the Devil, which is in the world! I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good and my one desire is to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I have set my hands to the plow and I will not look back.
I would like to take the time to thank you for reading my testimony. I also want to encourage those of you who do not know Jesus to seek him with everything you have. My hope is that this message can touch just one life. If that one person is you, be of good cheer. God does not have more respect for any one person than he does another. If he can take a life like my former life and turn it around, he will indeed do the same for you. You can be free from all of the things that bind you. He’s waiting with an outstretched hand. All you have to do is admit that you have made mistakes and ask him to come into your life. At the moment you do this with all sincerity, you’re spirit is renewed. You become a new creature. The bible says it like this:
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)
Things that are old in your life will begin to drop off. Old habits. Old feelings. Old problems. And new things will be made available to you. New hope. A new sense of purpose. New friends. A brand new life. Take hold of this new life. You do not have to suffer. You do not have to buy into what the world says will bring you happiness. Happiness is a choice and if you really want to find true happiness, choose Jesus!
This is a true saying:
If we die with him,
we will also live with him.
If we endure hardship,
we will reign with him.
If we deny him,
he will deny us,
if we are unfaithful,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny himself.
2 Timothy 2:11-13 (NLT)