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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Homeless Graduate: My Journey to Liberty University Class of 2012...12 days to go. Some thoughts about Online Education

Good Mornin'
I hate algebra. That said, I refuse to vanquish this hard-won ground to a wasteland of uselessness, so when this is all done and I finish this class and the one remaining algebra class I have to take this summer...I am going to volunteer to teach it in High School a couple days a week. Because I'll be DARNED if I'm going to be forced to learn all this stuff and then never use it again.
Now...a few thoughts about online education.
I was a resident student at Liberty for two years. I have finished my degree online, so I have seen both aspects of education. Here's my personal take...
First of all, I love Liberty U. My heart is there and getting my degree anywhere else would have been like a second marriage for me. "Sure I love her but she isn't the love of my life"  (of course I realize that I just created a HUGE problem for myself regarding any future bride...I hope she reads this in context).
It had to be L.U.  Liberty is where I began my college pursuits and where I played hockey for 2 years and where I made my best friends. I had to finish this thing there.
I've had people ask me about doing it online and what the differences are. I'll tell you what online IS by explaining what it is NOT.
Online education is NOT a correspondence course. You don't study a book and mail away your homework to someone you will never meet or interact with. It's not a locksmith course on a matchbook cover.  It's the same coursework they are taking on campus. You hear the lectures on mp3 or often by watching a video. I am hoping that one day live-feed real time lectures will be available. But you do hear the professors in the course. Not daily but you do hear lectures.
Online education is not isolating. On the contrary. Instead of having spirited classroom discussion, you have discussion boards online. Now at first glance this sounds rather pedestrian. Here's the caveat...every discussion board has a word count minimum...typically 250 words...and you have to cite references. Now...250 words is more than a full page typed and single spaced. Seldom in a live classroom debate do you have to offer that much to the discussion...and you don't have to cite references. DB's are not easy!
Online education is NOT a shortcut. I repeat...NOT a shortcut. You are covering in 8 weeks what resident students are covering in 17. So if you fall behind you are thoroughly and deeply pinched! I know...I was sick this semester with shingles and then with vertigo. I lost almost three weeks and I have been paying for it ever since with the backlog of algebra. Online requires more discipline that residency ever did for me. Coupled with job and family life it is VERY tough. But it builds character and time management skills better than residency did for me.
Online is not second rate. I have learned as much in these two years as I did as a resident student...actually more. I don't feel as if I missed anything from a quality standpoint.
Online is not a substitute for being on campus. There is a spirit at Liberty that every young man or woman should experience at least once in their lives. There is an interaction with great people...famous and anonymous...that changes you. I heard speakers that moved me as I expected them to because they were well known, and I heard speakers who moved be because they caught me totally by surprise and I became lifelong fans. There were great people in my dorms who went on to achieve amazing things and the world noticed...I was in Toby Mac's dorm freshman year, and Mike Tait became a good friend...and there were great people who went on to do great things that didn't get noticed on a grand scale. My two best friends were made at Liberty, Jim Freeman who went on to become a legendary Volleyball coach in North Carolina, and Greg St. Clair who got his MBA after leaving LU and is a successful executive in Phoenix. I made great friends on the hockey team and I had some of the best times of prayer and spiritual growth with guys like Craig Handwerker and Craig Jeffs, who I played with in  '94/95.
Online DOES allow you to accomplish what you dream of, in the setting you are able to accomplish it. It's an amazing method of bringing Liberty (or most any college these days) to those who long to go there but who simply can't.
It's no cakewalk but it's something I'd recommend without hesitation.
Dream your dreams...then find a way to get them.
My personal "saying" for three years now has been "Everything is possible, with High Hopes!"
...and it is

Until tomorrow


Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Homeless Graduate: My Journey to Liberty University Class of 2012...13 days

Education has always been something important to me. Not just formal education, but self-education. I love to read and I love learning anything new. It hardly matters what it is, I just like learning new things. This powerful yearning comes from both sides of my family. My father has a PhD in Education and was the first in his very large immigrant family to graduate from college.
But it's my grandmother who had the most heroic battle and burning desire to learn. My maternal Grandmother's name was Dorothea Wray Shanko. She was born in 1901. She is the only one of my four grandparents who was born in the U.S.
I'm not certain of the details but for whatever reason, she never went to school beyond the third grade. I was told it was because in those days a little girl was not valued beyond being a potential wife to someone one day and all little girls were good for was chores. So my grandmother was essentially illiterate for the first half of her life.
At some point in the fifties, she grew weary of the boredom and embarrassment that comes with a very limited vocabulary and she bought herself a Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. The book was hardcover, about 7" x 10" and about 3 inches thick. She proceeded to read every single page.  She improved her vocabulary remarkably and, I'm sure, her self esteem as well.
After the dictionary, she wasn't satisfied with just a great vocabulary so she bought herself the complete 1958 Funk and Wagnall's encyclopedia. This was during a time when salesmen went door to door selling these books. My grandmother bought them and by the time I came along in 1963 she'd read through the entire set...32 volumes...every single page.
She kept her skills sharpened by playing Scrabble for hours with anyone who would sit down with her for a game or two. When she didn't play scrabble she worked crossword puzzles relentlessly. I would guess that my grandmother with her 3rd grade education, probably had the vocabulary of at least a college Junior. She was sharp and smart and amazing for someone who had absolutely no formal training whatsoever.
I wish my grandmother could be with me when I graduate. I know she'd be proud...and beyond that I think she'd feel a sense of personal fulfillment that her grandson did what she always dreamed of doing...kept learning long after most people stop.

Until Tomorrow,


Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Homeless Graduate...My Journey to Liberty UNiversity Class of 2012: Two weeks from today!

Good morning gang.
Before I begin my three hours of algebra that precedes a full day of work and then an exciting Saturday night of...Algebra...I wanted to share something with you.
I've been writing for two weeks about the spiritual and emotional experiences I've had in my journey to graduation. But I wanted to share with you a few of the tangible, academic things I picked up in this wild ride. So here goes...
  • I learned that, according to most scholars at least, Paul didn't write Hebrews. It was Peter but he was basically writing his notes on Paul's teachings in the school in Jerusalem. The grammar gave him away.
  •  I learned that I am definitely a "Young Earth" adherent.
  • I learned that the very first time in Scripture that God reveals His plan to redeem us from the consequence of our bad choice, happened in Genesis 3:15. It's called the "Protevangelum" and it's the first indication of the advent of Jesus.
  • I learned that in six days of Creation, God spoke everything into existence. We all knew this, right? Well hang's what I REALLY learned. God spoke everything into existence. It's called "Fiat" and it means creation by command. He spoke the words and it just became so. It's also called "Ex Nihilo" which means "from nothing". "Nihilo" is from the same root as "annihilation" and both mean nothing exists whatsoever. So God Created everything we see here on earth..and earth herself from a literal vacuum. He did it all by speaking it and laid his hands to nothing, except...
  • When He created man...when He made Adam and everyone since...He touched them. He scooped together enough dirt to do the job, he molded a man...probably about 5' 10", he shaped him with His own hands until he was perfectly satisfied and then He bent over and breathed his own Spirit into the man's lungs. He probably did it with a kiss. And Adam came to life. And in Psalm 139 when it says "You are fearfully and wonderfully made" the word "made" is the same word as is used to describe God forming Adam.   That itself was worth the entire tuition I paid for two years.
  • In Inductive Bible Study class I learned how to really study and understand the Bible and dissect it. I also learned that, sadly, few Christians ever learn this process and most pastors would prefer they never did.
  • Church History was so fascinating to me and so emotionally impactful that it is the only class that wasn't part of my major that I chose to take more of. I was only required to take section one but I took section two because it was amazing and it tied me to the forefathers of my faith in ways I didn't know. I learned that the early church fathers would rip their clothes and put dirt on their heads and lament loudly if they somehow walked into the average modern day evangelical church. I also learned that The Catholic church is not the monster I was taught it was. She got way off track along her path but she was the keeper of the history of the faith for centuries.
  • In my class on Romans I learned that an awful lot of people have gotten it very wrong on the whole "Grafted in" thing and they elevate modern day Israel slightly higher than it should be.
  • In Intro to Church Ministries I learned that I am becoming a cranky old school guy who can't stand the whole "Emergent Church" thing. I also cemented my dislike for John MacArthur and learned about a thousand things that I detest about Mark Driscoll and his style of "ministry". I also learned that Dr. Ben Gutierrez at Liberty is a masterful Theologian and his little book on Phillipians Chapter 2 is wonderful. It's called "Living out the Mind of Christ" and you should read it.
  • In my class on the book of Acts I learned more than I could list in one blog. But the highlights are that the book is basically two segments. Early Church history in Jerusalem and early Church History as she began to think missionally. And I learned that the real pattern for church leadership requires OWNERSHIP amongst the members. The Moses Model is wrong. 
  • In "Fundamental Theological Issues" I learned that no matter what...evangelicals will never agree on what it means to be Spirit filled or what use the gift of tongues has. SIGH!
  • I learned in Philosophy and Contemporary Ideas that Christianity stands opposed to Philosophy only because  Philosophers willingly reject the existence of absolute truth. It makes them edgy and cool and intellectual. If they ever accepted the Bible as absolute Truth they'd have to change majors to Business and get a job.
  • Life Coaching has been a revelation. It's what I want to do for the rest of my days. Let me tell you the first thing I learned about Life Coaching. It's NOT counseling. We don't fix you if you're broken. It's not mentoring. A mentor is an expert in something that you want to become an expert in. It's more like a map-maker. It's someone who helps you find your goals and visions, draws those deep desires out of you and then helps you develop a plan to make them happen. Along the way he encourages, holds you accountable and looks ahead for possible pitfalls and obstacles. He is a coach.
  • In Daniel / Revelation I learned that the word used in Daniel 9 where the prophecy says that the Anointed One (The Messiah) Jesus, would come and then after 3 1/2 years He'd be "cut off" ...the word for "cut" is "karat". It is the same word used when Jews would cut a covenant between them. They would cut a sacrificial animal in half and then walk in between the pieces. The blood of the animal sealed the agreement. God did this with Abraham. The same figurative is used. Jesus was our sacrifice and He sealed the New Covenant with His own blood.
Well that's a quick summation. There's more but you probably don't care to know. Just wait until I start my Masters!

Until Tomorrow,


Friday, April 27, 2012

The Homeless Graduate: My Journey to Liberty University Class of 2012...15 days to go

Well...last night I was so exhausted...that I went to bed at 9:45. Gasp! What a slacker!
I know...that's so pedestrian for me considering my recent schedule. But sleeping while doing homework is guaranteeing a bad grade so better to go to bed and get a fresh start. So this morning--without provocation--I was up at 3:20. Ready to go!
Two weeks from today I will be waking up in Lynchburg with my daughter and going about the first "Official" day of Commencement activities. There is a reception at 2 for the online students who chose to come and walk, and there are some people I want to visit with privately. At 6PM we have Baccalaureate services. Baccalaureate is the word from which we get "Bachelor's Degree" The term can be used to describe the commencement of undergrads getting their Bachelor's and it distinguishes that commencement from Graduate degrees. But it also is used to describe a church service held to honor, and ask blessing over, the graduates-to-be. Every school used to do this...Liberty still does.
This year the speaker is Luis Palau. I am more excited about him speaking at Baccalaureate than about Mitt Romney speaking the next day. (By the way...I have NO problem with Mitt speaking on campus. He isn't speaking in chapel, he's speaking at Commencement. He's not there to share his faith, he's there to talk to the graduates as a potential world leader. I am THRILLED he will be there)
Luis Palau is a legend for God. Only Billy Graham has preached to more people than Palau. He is a wonderful man of God and sitting under his message will be something I will never forget and something that will have an eternal impact on my daughter as well.
That's what makes Liberty so special. God has room...and work there. God's moving is welcome and desired. It's why I am so happy my daughter wants to attend.
Two weeks from today I'll be back on the mountain for the most important and special visit in my life.
In the midst of the desolation of the past four years, this has been the stone upon which God began the rebuilding. I can't wait to see what's next!

Until Tomorrow,



Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Homeless Graduate: My Journey to Liberty University Class of 2012...16 days and counting

Hi everyone,
I've been thinking about Dr. Falwell the last few days. I think the one thing that will keep May 12 from being a perfect day will be not seeing Doc and not hearing him speak. I know he'll be there in spirit and amongst that "Great Cloud of Witnesses" cheering from Heaven, but I wish I could thank him personally.
Dr. Falwell shaped my life at an early age and he was the reason I chose Liberty. Like so many from my generation and those who attended there before me and up until he passed. Liberty has become a brand now and it's become bigger than Doc himself.  Now kids go to LU because it's a great school and a great place. They'll never know the joy of being stuffed into dorm rooms built for half the number of occupants as actually resided in them. They'll never know about dating restrictions or dress codes where jeans were verboten, or where we had a curfew at midnight. They missed the excitement of watching Dr. Falwell during a Presidential election cycle.
Back in the day, we were watching history being made and barely realized it. Doc was building something on the mountain that would become a true force. An institution to be reckoned with. A school that offered to evangelical kids what Notre Dame offered Catholics and what BYU offered Mormons.
Beyond the outer fluff, there was an unmistakable spirit at work on Liberty Mountain. Maybe it's because I was there during the years when LU was rising from a dirt pile on Candler's Mountain road. When there were four educational buildings and single story, Quonset huts for dorms and a muddy field where the DeMoss building now sits. For these and other reasons LU holds a special, sentimental spot that is inseparable from Dr. Falwell himself. He was that place and that place was him. We all knew the stories of how LU came to be. How hard he fought for that place. How large his faith was. We were little seeds of that faith, being challenged every day to do as Doc had done...grab ahold of God and let Him grab ahold of us. Dream something so big and foolish and daring that only God could make it happen...and then trust Him to do it.
We were in the presence of a giant and we were all better for it.
Everything Liberty is, has happened because one man heard distinctly from God, believed in the message God gave him, and trusted God to do the work, despite the doubts of all those around him.
A lesson God has forged in me while living in a car and trying just to be a dad.

See ya tomorrow,
Craig  2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Homeless Graduate: My Journey to Liberty UNiversity Class of 2012...17 days to go

Today is Wednesday. Two weeks from today my daughter and I leave for Lynchburg and graduation. It just dawned on me that one day we'll be making this trip again but she will be the graduate then. Morgan is coming to see her daddy graduate. More importantly she is going to see him receive his reward for enduring and not giving up. Morgan knows what I have gone through, and to her, I am heroic. She knows I could have left Nashville and sought work elsewhere but she knew I loved her so much that I wouldn't leave. She knew what my life was like as I slept in my car and lived life as a homeless man. I'm sure it was embarrassing to her but she never said that to me. This degree will be as much an accomplishment for her to treasure as for me. I want her to look at her dad and see an over-comer and a man who will not quit. Most of all I want her to know I love her so much that I will do the hard things in order to be able to do the good things.
I wish there was an award she could get along with me that day. I wish she could get some sort of recognition for being the light of my life and the motivating factor that kept me alive. Whenever I saw myself walking across that platform and getting my degree I saw her sweet face in the audience, smiling proudly at her daddy and thinking to herself how hard this was and how much I endured to get here and how much of a hero I am to her.
While I was homeless and broken and hopeless and so lonely and isolated I never thought about my "story". I didn't think how inspiring it might be to others or how encouraging it is or how much it might be used to help other people see the value of not giving up. But the day draws closer and as I am living in a house again and sleeping in a bed...I realize how inspiring my story really is. If I were reading this and it was someone else's story I would think..."Wow! that's remarkable. Good for you dude" I might also think "I really have no excuse...if he can do it so can I". That's what I hope happens anyway.
I would also think of the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness" and the scene where Chris Gardner (Will Smith) has to make up a game for his little boy so he doesn't know they'll be sleeping in the train station bathroom that night. He had to lie. I've had to "put spin" on my life sometimes to shield Morgan from what was going on.
May 12th that won't be necessary anymore. All the battles and hardships and desperate living will be done. Her dad will gain the thing he has worked for and dreamed of for such a long time.
I will be her hero...

Until Tomorrow,


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Homeless Graduate...My Journey to Liberty University Class of 2012...a little bit about regret

This morning I have been battling sadness and regret. I don't know what brought this on, but it is inexorably linked to my graduation at age 48. In 18 days I will get a degree that I wanted to get 28 years ago. A degree I should have gotten 28 years ago.
Things happen, life throws you curve balls when you are sitting on a fastball. Your dreams aren't always as important to others as they are to you. Time rushes on. As my friend Rick Elias penned; "In the blink of an eye it all changes"
For the past few days I have been lamenting...maybe grieving...the years that have gone by. Especially the last 3 1/2 when I was living in my car. I didn't have my usual alternating weekends with my daughter during that time. From age 10 until age 13 I couldn't spend overnights with her. Couldn't tuck her in at night. Couldn't make breakfast for her. No long talks after dinner, no watching our favorite TV shows or a funny movie. I lost a lot of time that I can't recover. ...and I regret it
I regret that this immeasurable feeling of success and confidence and achievement was so long delayed. I wonder what I might have become had I followed a traditional track and received my degree on time.
I wonder how my life might have been different if my father had a desire to be a part of it. Or what might have happened had I never moved to Nashville.
I can't get those years back. All I can do is take ahold of the reins and make sure the next 48 years are full and exciting and something I can be proud of. I can look at the time I have remaining with Morgan before she goes off to college as a chance. An unpainted canvas that God has spared from the moth and the pestilence. 4 years of her daddy being happy for the first time in his life. Happy, fulfilled, successful.
...but with a twinge of regret.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Homeless Graduate: My Journey to Liberty University Class of 2012...19 days to go

Brief this morning.
I'm beat. I'm exhausted and I just woke up. I am stressed already. I'm worried about Finishing this math class on time. I'm worried about even having enough money to get to Lynchburg for graduation. I've had three large jobs cancel out on me. It's left a huge vacuum in it's wake. I have two small jobs I am finishing this week. After that...nuttin'
Listen...typical college kid...If your parents are willing to help you go to college right after High School and you think you want to "roam the world" instead...forget it. Go to college. Roam later.
Okay I've vented. Back to work!
Until tomorrow


Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Homeless Graduate: My Journey to Liberty University Class of 2012...20 days to go

I am tired this morning and not feeling particularly profound. So I think this will be a brief post today.
I think I simply want to encourage readers. Chase your dreams.
I can't put into words all that my graduation means to me. I have tried on this blog and I will try as the final 3 weeks until graduation count down to zero. I've talked about the workload and the sleeplessness and the stress and the vertigo.
I've also told about the excitement when I ran my degree audit in August of last year and realized I was really, finally in my last year and would graduate this spring. Zig Ziglar says "If there is hope for tomorrow there is power for today". That is true on many fronts. As a believer, I have hope for a future in Heaven and eternity with Christ. That gives me power for each day when I realize that no defeat here is permanent. But on a more practical level...having hope for the future gives power for today is a relevant truth that I am understanding for the first time in my 48 years.
I was not raised in a home where hope was offered all that much.  A "This is the best you can hope for, consider yourself lucky" atmosphere permeated everything. Because there was never a hope for the future there was never a need for planning and setting goals in the present. Nobody ever sat me down and instilled a vision in my soul of what I could become. This isn't sour grapes, it's just a statement of fact. But it is a lesson I learned late in life and a lesson I will instill in my daughter right now!
It wasn't until last August when I saw my Degree Audit and counted the numbers and realized I had done it, that I began to have hope. In one moment I moved from a college student, struggling with homelessness and poverty and trying to be a dad when I was living in my car and missing my daughter and having no hope at all, to a graduate who finished something difficult in the teeth of calamity and hardship and who rose above every stinking nasty thing life threw at him and succeeded anyway. Even though at that time I had two more semesters to go and 10 months to do it, in my soul I was already there. That night I clearly saw myself walking across that platform and getting that degree and every single day since then I have revisited that vision. Ziglar says "We move toward our strongest impulses" and since that day my graduation has been my strongest impulse.
Beyond a college degree I learned the value of this hope. And having tasted it once, I can never again live without a cupful. I set goals in a different fashion now. I plan with the assumption that I WILL...not that I might or that I might not. I have a goal of becoming a motivational speaker and encouraging others to reach for the thing that leaves a hole in their hearts. The thing that makes them thirsty. The thing they know they will ache over if life passes them by and they don't achieve it.
I want to tell them my story and give them hope. Because with hope you can do almost anything.
My Faith has given me the strength to endure this hard road. Sometimes enduring it looked like me putting on a game face and smiling as the difficult days rolled on. Sometimes enduring looked like me screaming obscenities at God at 2AM when I was shivering in the cold and missing my daughter and one more day had come and gone without relief from the hopeless abyss of homelessness. Some days it was somewhere in between those two extremes. From August 17, 2011 when I did the Audit and had my "Epiphany of Hope" until January 3rd when I finally found a place to live, nothing much changed.  I was still living in that car. Still showering at the gym. Still without a stove or a refrigerator. Still unable to have time on weekends with my daughter where she could spend the night. But the hope I received in that moment made those final four months of homelessness seem far more tolerable. Under it all, I knew May 12th 2012 was coming. On that day, even if I was still homeless at the time, I would have a great achievement to hang my hat on. I would have something to look at with pride and a sense of accomplishment after 4 years of loss and failure. I would have hope.
If you have been following along and reading this journal of the final month of my undergrad career I pray you have drawn hope from it. I hope you have touched on something in your own heart that gives you hope. I hope you have unlocked some hidden box that held the dreams you long ago shut away and told yourself you would never achieve.
My favorite author is Brennan Manning. He speaks a great truth in his book, "The Ragamuffin Gospel" when he says "There are three ways to commit suicide: Kill yourself, let yourself die...or live without hope"
I know the bitterness of that last line. I was dying for years and never realized it. Sadly many of us are. If you have stumbled across my story and this sounds a bit familiar, I hope you'll read my words and find a spark. I hope something comes to life in you and a dream resuscitates and you find yourself in a classroom, or an art studio, or in a relationship, or running for office, or writing a book. Or whatever it is you stopped hoping for long ago.
Name your dream and go for it!

Until Tomorrow,


Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Homeless Graduate: My Journey to Liberty University Class of 2012...21 days to go

Good morning! Happy "Caturday" as Ruth Buzzi says. Yes...that Ruth Buzzi. Believe it or not I started following her on Twitter a few months ago. I was just a little boy when Laugh-in was on the air back in the late 60's and early 70's but I remember it well. My mother watched it every week without fail. So when Ruth Buzzi's name popped up on the right side of the Twitter feed that tells you "people you might follow" I naturally did. ...interesting tidbit with no attachment to this mornings thoughts about school.
So here I am...3 weeks from Graduation. It is Saturday and for the first time in months I am not working today. I am still dizzy and I am tired of being dizzy so I am going to take the day off. I will do school work until I go to bed tonight but I am going to be able to relax a bit and hopefully stop this stress and make my head stop spinning so much.
In three weeks my life transforms forever. In three weeks another chapter in my story moves from hope to reality and can never be erased. I will be a real live graduate of Liberty University. That will become part of my story like my DNA and nothing will ever make it not be true.
Three years ago I wrote a book entitled "Nowhere to Lay My Head". It was about the spiritual lessons I was learning as I endured my homelessness. (The beauty of self-publishing is that you don't have to invest a dime. The publisher works for free on the assumption that they will make money on sales of your my case they were wrong) In this book I wrote a chapter called "Wrestling". It was about how I wrestled with God over my situation time and again. How that wrestling match finally broke me. How that was like Jacob and his match with God himself an Peniel.  God came to Jacob as he ran from who he truly was. He was a scoundrel and a scamp. A thief and a liar. A conniver and a con man. His very name meant "Heel grabber" which was a Hebrew colloquialism for a con man. From birth he was destined to deceive. But God had other plans for Jacob. He wrestled with Jacob all night and when the dawn was breaking, God popped Jacobs hip out of joint and gained the upper hand. Jacob broke. He threw himself on God's mercy and grabbed ahold of God's legs like a desperate child begging on a street corner. He begged God to bless him. God responded by changing Jacobs name to Israel, to match the change in his heart. He blessed him with a confirmation of the blessing he had given his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham. He blessed him and promised him endless continued favor. My favorite part of the entire story is found in Genesis 32:31 where Jacob has finished his wrestling match, God has blessed him and then vanished from sight, and it says "As the sun rose over Peniel, Jacob walked on...limping on his hip".
That image always moves me. God popped that hip out of socket to take away Jacobs power base (If you've ever wrestled in high school you know your legs are your base) and to gain his attention. Jacob surrendered after that and that's when God changed him. God could have healed the hip before He left Jacob that morning but he left Jacob lame and limping for the rest of his days. I believe it served two purposes. One was to remind Jacob whenever he would foolishly become a little proud and needed a reminder of the brokenness he'd come to before God. The other reason, I believe, was as a witnessing opportunity. People knew Jacob. They knew him as a deceiver and a schemer. But God had changed his heart as he changed his name. God is never one to do big things in someones life and not use those big changes to help others. I think the limp remained so that people would naturally say..."Jacob...long time no see! How have you been? ...why are you limping. what happened?" To which Jacob would naturally reply, "I wrestled with God all night, a while back. God broke my will and popped my hip out of socket. He changed me in my soul. ...and by the way...I'm not Jacob anymore." Jacob was a new man with a new heart and a clear. concise plan for his life that God Himself had shown him. But he still had that limp. That victorious limp. The limp that showed he had wrestled and been touched by God. And that God had changed him. The limp would always be true of Jacob. There is no evidence that he ever got healed. But the story of the limp remained forever too.
The things that shape us and make us who we are are the "Victorious Limps" we all have. Our stories are littered with wrestling matches with God and things that we cannot undo or make "not true" about ourselves. History can't be altered. But if we have permitted it to reshape us and make us better...if our wrestling matches in life have made us stronger, more resilient, more tender, more compassionate, have revealed our character and strengthened our integrity, then that limp is the evidence of something very good indeed.
My limp is obvious and glaring. I was homeless for 3 1/2 years. I lived in my car. I was in a lot of inner pain and I was ashamed and embarrassed and humiliated. I had lost hope that things would ever get better. I worried sometimes that I would die this way. Living in a car, showering at the gym, looking for a way out, losing hope every day. Liberty University was my Peniel. It was where I wrestled with God and where He changed me. It was where I was able to shed the burden of shame and humiliation and slowly...with each semester...gain confidence and a little hope. Each class was a building block upon which my new life was being rebuilt. The degree I will receive in three weeks is the capstone.
I will never not be a formerly homeless man. I will always far as I know...the first homeless graduate of L.U. I will always be a divorcee even after I remarry. I will always be what the world considers "illegitimate" because I can't undo the decision my parents made not to marry. But those things shaped me. They made me who I am and who I will become. They could have ruined me...and for a while they did...but they made me better because I chose to let them make me better.
I spent ten years in the mortgage industry. I had never desired to be in that job. Never taken a single finance class. I worked hard and achieved great success. I was a national award winner. A producer. I was known in my industry as a guy who really knew his job and did it very well. I made very good money.
And every morning I'd wake up and hate what I was doing. I would pray to God that there was something more. I would picture myself doing mortgages for 25 more years and it would make me cringe. God permitted the events of recent years in order to change me and to take me to where I would be happy and fulfilled and my life would have meaning.
I endured 3 1/2 years of hell to accomplish what I had longed for all my life. And to prepare me for what I really want to do. My limp is visible and pronounced. But my story is huge and inspiring.
If you see me somewhere someday, or you read one of my books or hear me speak somewhere, remember the story behind my limp. And the changes God has made.
If you are wrestling right now...go for it!. Grip God tightly. Throw yourself on Him and tell Him you aren't letting go until He changes you and gives you a blessing.
And then let the whole world see your limp...

Until tomorrow...


Friday, April 20, 2012

The Homeless Journey to Liberty University Class of 2012...22 days to go

Good morning everyone...
It's Friday morning. In three weeks I will be in Lynchburg to participate in graduation. I try to spend a few minutes each morning thinking about that...dreaming of it...visualizing it. It keeps me going. I've written enough about the workload I'm bearing right now. You all know about how I was homeless, no need to revisit that.
This morning I wanted to especially tip my hat to the folks at my school, particularly the online department.
I'd be remiss if I didn't start off with some words about our Chancellor and Vice Chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr. and his brother Jonathan. Jerry is older than me by 2 years and I didn't know him when I was a resident student years ago. He had graduated the spring before my arrival and was in law school by then.  The only thing I knew about him then had to do with how a live, and slightly perturbed chicken mysteriously showed up in the cafeteria during the busiest time of one particular weekday. About 500 students bore witness. The Ninja-clad perpetrators were rumored to include our Chancellor.
The other thing I know about him is that I wouldn't do his job very well at all. Running the largest and most recognized evangelical college in the world is no mean feat. Everyone seems to know better how to run it than he does and nobody is happy with every decision...or even most decisions. Yesterday it was announced that Mitt Romney is giving the commencement speech this year. The world is abuzz! How can we have a Mormon speak at a Christian college?? To me it's simple...he's not preaching in convocation, he's speaking to the graduates. That is always reserved for statesmen, captains of industry, world leaders, Presidents or potential future presidents. It doesn't imply Liberty is embracing Mormon teachings. It means that the Republican candidate for president...the best chance we apparently have to unseat the current monster, thinks L.U. is important enough to accept the invitation and speak to us.
I choose to view it that way.
One other note...Jerry Jr. gets beaten up sometimes, as the head of the school often does. He has a lot on his plate and is busy with things that will effect generations of kids coming to this school. But he has always had time to answer an email if I asked him a question. And when he found out my situation, he became personally involved. He encouraged me, he stayed in touch, and he even went so far as to try finding me a place to live right before I found the place I am in now. I'll never forget that.
Jonathan Falwell is pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church. That in itself is daunting. There has only ever been one other pastor of that church and that was Jonathan's dad. Taking over a pastorate from a legendary and beloved man is hard for anyone. Believe me I know a few friends who were saddled with that. When the legend was your own father and he started the church from nothing...good luck to you and let me know how that works out for you.  Jonathan has done a masterful job. Masterful! I've visited TRBC twice in the years since Doc passed away. I watch online frequently. I think Jonathan has done something very special there. It is very hard to make your own way and carve your niche and leave your own God-given imprint on a place and still retain the things your dad...the original pastor you followed...stood for and believed and did. Jonathan has done so in a way that only someone who has heard God directing him can do.
Jonathan and I had a few classes together in 1984 / 85 when we were both freshmen. We became friendly. Not best-man-in-each-others-weddings-friendly, but we were friends and goofed off in a few boring freshman classes together. Jonathan also stepped in when I was out of money and not coming back for my second semester that year. I've recounted that story before on these pages and you can find it if you search. Basically he told his dad, and the next chapel (that's what we called it in 1984) service, Dr. Falwell preached an entire sermon about how "Nobody should ever leave Liberty because of money! If you have none, and the registrar tells you that you can't come see me!" Jonathan found me after that service and reiterated what his dad had said and then said "So I'll see you next semester, right?" How could I let the guy down?
Jonathan has another of his dad's traits...he loves everybody. Everybody! Zig Ziglar would say he is a "Good-finder" in that he sees something good in everyone. Jesus was like that I think. Otherwise He wouldn't have endured those twelve disciples...or me. Jonathan cares deeply about everyone God brings within his eyesight, and then some. I'm honored and blessed to consider him a friend and I look to his example as to how a ministry operates. I view my graduation next month as me finally making good on the effort he took to go talk to his dad about my plight 28 years ago. Jonathan...I hung in there and finished this thing. I have never forgotten that day, or what you and your dad did for me and others like me. Thanks again.
Now...there is another group of people at Liberty that need mention and recognition. The staff of LUOnline. It needs to be reiterated that I completed 5 of the 6 semesters it took to graduate, while living in my car. Typically...that doesn't leave you in a good mood most of the time. I have called that office and spoken with online advisers on the phone and been extremely grouchy sometimes. I knew why I was crabby but they did not. I didn't tell anyone at LU about my homelessness until this semester, when it was over. So they doubtless thought I was just a 48 year old jerk with a bad attitude sometimes. Not every time...not even most of the time. But once in a while the weight of the life I was leading was too large for me and whoever was nearby caught it. Sometimes it was the LUO adviser unfortunate enough to take my call. I never once...not one anything but a warm, caring response. I have received several phone calls just to check on me and see how things were going. Twice I have had advisers call me just to pray with me. They didn't know they were dealing with a homeless man when they talked to me. They didn't know that my classes were the only thing I had in my whole world that was going right at the time. They didn't know that I was studying in my car by flashlight. They just did their job and did it well. They never knew how much their job mattered. When I go to Lynchburg next month I'm stopping in to meet as many of them as I can. I feel like they walked this whole journey with me and I want to meet them and put a few names with faces. Mostly I want them to hear it from me directly, how what they do each day is far more important than they might ever realize.
It took a village to get me here...poised on the verge of completing a dream I have literally had since I was a high school junior. It took a family. I say that because the root word in "Alumni" means "foster son". That's perfect. Liberty feels like my home and the people feel like my family.
May 12 I'll feel like a real son...
Until tomorrow...


Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Homeless Graduate...My Journey to Liberty University Class of 2012: 23 days to go

Good morning gang. 23 days! Actually it's 20. Because three weeks from today I will leave for Lynchburg with my daughter. I want to get there a day ahead of time and check into the motel and relax a bit. Friday starts the festivities and I don't want to miss anything. I plan on stopping by the LUOnline offices and meeting some of the people who have been so helpful to me as I completed this degree. They are a great bunch and I am looking forward to putting some faces with names.
There is a reception for online students and some other cool stuff and then Baccalaureate is that evening.
So I really have three weeks to go. That makes me nervous of course because this math class is still kicking my butt. Three weeks of this insane pace is what scares me the most. If you've ever had vertigo for an extended period of time you understand my plight. If you've ever had motion sickness or "bed spins" imagine that unabated for weeks. That's pretty much my life right now.
So anyway...4:30 I was up and at 'em. You know the routine if you've been following along. Coffee, water, vitamins, Meclazine, schoolwork until I leave for my job.
That's my life and it's monotonous and sardonically boring. But I love learning. I can't wait to start my Masters this fall...or another bachelors. Or maybe both.
The sort of bittersweet thing is that any future degree won't be as special as this one...the first one. I know I fought for every square inch of this against great odds...but even if I had been handed the money on a silver platter and got the degree four years after graduating high school without the struggle I had to endure...this would be the most special. After this it will be more education but not something epic. There was a lot attached to this degree besides the education that came with it. Fulfillment of dreams. The understanding of the dire need we all have for hope and encouragement and what the lack of those two things can mean to us. The value of endurance and persistence and the value of having someone to share these dreams with.
Zig Ziglar says "If there is hope in the future there is power in today" and he is right. I never fully understood that until August 17th of last year when I did a Degree Completion Audit and realized I was less than 20 hours from graduation. That I would really make it this year. In that instant, in my heart I moved from a college student to a college graduate. Everything changed. The effort this took became somehow easier. The staying up late and the humbling circumstances I was living in then were far more tolerable. With hope I was stronger, more excited, more driven, more focused and more happy. Hope is everything. I gained a great deal of hope along the way. I want to give it back. I want people who read my story to look at my life and see how it has turned from bad to good. From good to great. Hopefully from great to beyond expectation. I want to inspire someone who has nothing or no one to inspire them. I want to dig some wells. My grandmother was a big fan of Gospel music. I, however, was not. But I remember one record she played from time to time by Henry and Hazel Slaughter. There was a song on it entitled "Leave a Well in the Valley". The chorus went:

"Leave a well in the valley / That dark and lonely valley / Others have to walk that valley too.
 What a blessing when they find / The well of joy you've left behind  /  Leave a well, in the valley you go through"

The thought is we travel through difficulties we may or may not find wells in the valley. Wells in the valley are those rest stations provided by those pilgrims who have gone before us on a similar path, found the strength and grace to endure and make it through, and dug a well for the next weary traveler. Maybe there was no well for them on their journey and they want to make sure nobody leaves this spot thirsty. Maybe they found a well but the number of travelers is growing and another one sure wouldn't hurt. For whatever reason, these enduring, persistent friends have decided to leave a blessing behind for the next guy. That blessing comes in the form of lessons learned while walking this dark path. Lessons of encouragement, cheer, hope, prayers offered with tears, tangible help when possible, a smile, an arm around a shoulder. That's my goal become a well-digger.
I cannot change my story. I was homeless. I spent three and a half years like that. I was lost and hopeless and broken and sad and afraid it would never change. And for most of the journey I was very alone. It seemed as if the people who really cared were far away and the ones close by had no time nor tolerance for my plight. I have forgiven those whom I felt abandoned me, because had I not been abandoned so, I would not have this marvelous story to tell. I would not appreciate and understand the value of hope, encouragement, and empathy.
Now I want to leave some wells. My degree is a Bachelor of Sciences in Religion, but I took an extensive amount of classes in Life Coaching. I want to help others find that one thing that will make them hungry to work hard, endure, withstand, and get excited about for the rest of their lives. I want to be a hope giver.
That's why I've been chronicling this crazy journey. Because somewhere in this world there is someone who has a dream. It's been eating at them for half their lifetime. Nobody around them believes in it or values it, and that's kept it buried. But they found this blog, they heard my story and somebody rolled away the stone. If that's you...GO FOR IT! Let me know. Email me and I'll be your cheerleader if you don't have one. If I can do this thing, you can do your thing.
Live your life with High Hopes!

Until Tomorrow

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Homeless Graduate...My Journey to Liberty U Class of 2012: 24 days to go

It's 5:15 AM. I have already been up for 45 minutes. I went to bed at 11:30PM. Five hours of sleep last night. That's actually a lot. Coffee made...vitamins taken...Meclazine (double dose). Glass of water. I'm not a breakfast eater so I don't do that. dear, sweet friend. Here's the secret to coffee as I make it. The greatest coffee on earth is Dunkin Donuts. You fru-fru Starbucks drinkers can keep it. America runs on Dunkin'...with a touch of Italy. Let me explain...
I have a Bunn coffee maker. Bunn is what restaurants use. I have the home model of course, but it works the same way. I buy Dunkin Donuts coffee at Sam's Club. $19.98 for a big 3 pound bag. Before this is over I may just tie it to my face like a feedbag and eat it to keep going.
Anyway...I drink two 16 oz cups in the morning. (Not a drop the rest of the day) so it converts to 6 cups on the line on the pot. Coffee makers still work from the assumption that people are drinking those little 6 oz china cups of coffee...who does that anymore? Anyway that takes 6 TBSP's of coffee to make my 2 cups. The secret is...I add one scoop of Medaglia D'Oro Espresso to the mix. Poppa John used to drink that stuff. Only he brewed it straight, like coffee. You could start a car with that. At a 3:1 ratio it's a nice subtle little kick to the medium strength of DD. To this I add about a TBSP of Vanilla Extract. Just enough to give it a hint of vanilla. If I didn't tell you it was there you'd never know. That's my trick. Oh...use filtered water.
So I'm up at 4:30 and making coffee and taking vitamins and Meclazine. Meclazine sounds so chemical! So clandestine. It sounds like a headline from a drug bust. "Man leaps from window after bad trip on Meclazine". Meclazine is prescription strength Dramamine. It just makes you drowsy. It will hit me in about two hours. On top of my crushing schedule, I do not need to be drowsy.
If there was ever a morning where I didn't want to go to work it was this one. If there ever was a time when I was tempted to drop a class or two and just put off graduation until May 2013 it would be today. I'm not tired...I'm weary. I'm worn out. In a lot of ways.
This is not where I start whining...okay? I'm excited every day I wake up. I'm happier than I've been in 14 years. For the first time in my life I have a future and I am happy with it...and I believe it's going to happen. But I am weary. And on top of that, for about a month now I have been battling some memories.
Let me explain...
I titled this blog series "The Homeless Graduate" and most everyone who reads me knows it's because I was homeless from May 2008 until January 1 of this year. In January of 2007 I lost my home when the mortgage industry I worked in began it's collapse. I know the papers say it was 2008, but the slide started in 2006. It took me along in 2007. I rented for a year but in May of 2008 I was out of work and couldn't renew my lease. By May of 2008 I was sleeping in my car. The first six months I hid it behind a church in Nashville. After a while a friend of mine with a large piece of land let me park there.
I guess I haven't been thinking too much about all I lost while I was still homeless. I hate to compare myself to a soldier, but I imagine it's like the men who are in a fierce firefight and the bullets are whizzing by, and the bombs are exploding and men are dying all around them. When they are fighting for their lives they aren't grieving the battle, or the loss of life. They don't think about what's happening when they are running on adrenaline. They don't stop in the middle of it and think how heroic they are and what an inspiring story they have to tell...John Kerry notwithstanding. But when it's over...and the guns fall silent and the smoke clears and the smell of death is lifting and the sun pokes through the clouds, and the adrenaline wears off...that's when they realize what they just endured and that's when they take time to count their losses. And that's when they have the breakdown.
I've been having my breakdowns lately. For three years I didn't let myself drive past the house I used to own. It hurt just seeing it. Even soon as I wrote that the tears began. I loved my house. It wasn't fancy. I paid $175,000 for it. But it was mine. I had 5 acres and a sweet little 750 square foot detached garage / workshop. My daughter had a pony named Willy and we had two Springer Spaniels we had raised from puppies and a cat named Giacomo. We would sit under the stars at night, my daughter and me, and we'd talk about stuff.
5 years have gone by. Willy couldn't follow us to the rental house so he was gone in 07. The other pets in 08. I miss them terribly. My daughter misses them and I feel like a horrible dad because of it.
The other thing I miss is the 3 1/2 years of weekends with her. We have gotten back on the schedule since January but it's not the same. She will be 14 next month and the wonder years are already gone. I am grieving that too.
I wouldn't reverse it if I could. At least I don't think so. Had I not lost everything and been homeless for so long I wouldn't have made the decision to finish my degree. I wouldn't have written any of my four books or probably not even these blogs.
Rich Mullins said it perfectly in his song "Calling out Your Name"...

                                                From the place where morning gathers
                                                You can look sometimes forever 'til you see
                                                What time may never know
                                                What time may never know
                                                How the Lord takes by its corners this old world
                                                And shakes us forward and shakes us free
                                                To run wild with the hope
                                                To run wild with the hope

                                                The hope that this thirst will not last long
                                                That it will soon drown in the song
                                                Not sung in vain
                                                And I feel thunder in the sky
                                                I see the sky about to rain
                                                And I hear the prairies calling out Your name.


The Lord takes by it's corners this old world and shakes us forward and shakes us free...
I suppose that's what God did by allowing the events of the last 5 years to unfold. My world has been shaken. I've lost so much. It's not the possessions I miss. I miss having a home. I miss the time spent in my garden with my daughter. I miss those pets. I miss walking in my woods at midnight in the middle of winter and seeing the Milky Way overhead. I don't miss the mortgage industry. I don't miss the endless feeling that there was something else out there I was supposed to be doing and that sure wasn't it.
I am only beginning to "Run wild with the hope" I do feel thunder in the sky and see a sky about to rain. I do see my future and it is finally bright and exciting. But the toll for this road was terribly high. I paid it as I went and while the losses mounted and the bullets cracked the air around me I never stopped to count the cost or grieve the loss. But with the finish line in sight, and with a bed to sleep in instead of a piece of foam in the back of a car, I have begun remembering. And I have grieved. I have wept loudly and bitterly over all that has come and gone. In the strangest places sometimes it will hit me. I fought valiantly to remain in my daughter's life and so I chose homelessness when leaving Nashville and finding work in another town would have solved that problem. Only now have I begun talking about it to classmates in school. I spent 6 semesters finishing this degree. 5 of them I was living in the car but I didn't tell anyone in my classes or my professors. I didn't want it to be an excuse. This semester I opened up about it because I wasn't homeless anymore and I wanted to encourage others not to quit. It's the first time I've seen this whole thing as an inspiration. It's the first time I've seen myself as being heroic. And coupled with the excitement of graduation and the realization that my story is, in fact, pretty darned remarkable, is the final release of all the bottled up hurt and grief and shame and embarrassment and loss. And along with the weight of this schedule I am keeping, and this exciting, almost Christmas-Eve feeling I have about graduating, I have five years of tears that have decided that this was a good time to make their escape.
This morning I sat here a long time before writing and I was thinking about this stuff. I am dizzy every day now from this vertigo. I am sleep deprived. I took a quiz in Math on Monday night and literally fell asleep between questions. It was almost comical. I want this to end. But I want it to be finished.  There is a difference.
Today would be a good day to drop something and delay graduation. I could convince myself to do it. Take extra classes next year and graduate with a double major...
But I will not. This is my year. I will see this through.
If you have happened upon this blog for the first time and maybe you are considering going back to school or trying your hand at something else that's daunting and a bit larger than you'd expected...I hope this doesn't frighten you off. I hope instead you look at my journey and say "If he can I can". That's really what I want to happen.
I feel like quitting today but I won't. If I don't you can't. Go for it. Live with High Hopes!
Run wild...

Until Tomorrow
LU 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Homeless Graduate...How I got to Liberty University's Class of 2012: 25 Days to go

This morning epitomizes why I think a college degree is so valuable, even if you never work in the field you studied. Let me explain why I hold this belief...
You go through a lot to get a degree. It's hard work. I know there are trust-fund babies and kids with rich parents who pay for everything and send their kids off to college with a credit card and a new car and who never do much more than party their way to a "B" and go work for Daddy in his law firm when they graduate. We've all seen "Animal House" and we think that's what college life is about. But it's not that way for most people.
Most college students...especially adults who return to school later, and who are leading a full time life while taking full time classes...are pushing the envelope. They work a 40+ hour week and they study an average of 2 hours per class per day and they have family opportunities (family is never an "obligation") and social responsibilities and church and home ownership...all the things we do every day that taxes our time, a college student who returns to complete or continue their education does them too. On top of the additional 4 hours or so per day of schoolwork. (if you're taking 2 classes per sub semester)
My time is so tight that I have to "schedule" going to the grocery store. And sleep is optional for me right now. That's not me being extreme, that's the truth. This last semester has been the most taxing of the 6 it has taken me to graduate. When I make it to the end and I graduate, I will look back on a 3 year journey of hardship, sacrifice, trial and testing that I have not endured in my life before. My divorce, 12 years ago was a soul-killing difficulty. But I had my job and I was successful at it and I owned a home and I had fewer worries about the day-to-day living issues that I have now. Learning the mortgage business 14 years ago was difficult and stressful but I had a good group of co-workers who rallied around each other and motivated each other.
This entire pursuit of my degree has been fought alone. I have some folks back home who care for me and love me, and ask about my schooling, but my immediate circle is empty. In TN I don't really know anyone well enough to be able to "vent" as I occasionally need to. I am seldom ever asked about my studies or how I am doing with my educational pursuits. I have learned the value of encouragement by feeling the vacuum of its absence.
If I were an employer, and an applicant came to my office for an interview and told me he just finished his degree later in life I would instantly know he has far more qualifications than just what the transcript tells me. I would know, from my own experience that a person who finishes college...
  • Knows how to budget his time because he has more demands than the average non-student. Especially if he returned to school and juggled family and job obligations along the way.
  • Knows how to adapt and be flexible. Because not much goes as planned in a college pursuit, particularly, again, where the student is older and has "real life" obligations.
  • Is fiercely determined. Because this is not easy, regardless of what you are studying, higher education is tough, you will be tested.
  • Manages his life. Because every second...I mean every second is precious in this life I lead. I could honestly tell an employer that I'd be amongst his most productive employees merely because I have developed the habit of making the most of every second I have, because I have to.
  • Is confident. If only because of the battles he's won and the ability he has to look backward with pride at what this degree cost him and what that cost gave him.
  • Is honest. Face it...if you are going to cheat your way through life you can find some mail-order school to grant you a degree without any study at all. If you go to the trouble of getting a degree you most likely did it with integrity. Case in point...the Algebra class I'm taking is killing me. It's what is keeping me up late into the night and again in the morning. It's why I am stressed and suffering from terrible vertigo. I could, as a friend suggested, probably find a High School student who could come to my house, sit at my computer and for $100 whip through this class for me and nobody would ever know.  I'd be lying if I told you I hadn't considered it. But that would render my degree useless as far as I am concerned. I would rather go sleepless and actually learn the algebra. I think 99% of the students who go back later in life feel the same way. I can tell you that my classmates feel that way...I can see it in their Discussion Boards and Blogs and class assignments. These are a passionate bunch who are all giving it their very best. A cheater would be easy to spot in a group like the people I go to class with at Liberty U online.
  • He is no quitter. Of all the lessons I learned I guess this is the one that has shaped me most. I didn't quit on my daughter when I lost my home as the mortgage industry collapsed and I was downsized right out of a career. I slept in my car instead of slinking away to some other city where there was work. I stayed and endured the humiliation and crushing weight of homelessness because I am a dad. I endured the workload and demands of finishing my degree because I wanted a better life for us both. I wanted something to be proud of again. I wanted to know what it felt like to have a college degree and be a real alumni. I wanted to have something to look at in a life marked with some very recent losses and say "Here's where I won. And if I could win this, I can win any battle I face, if only because I outlast it" 
So...there you have it. This is what a college education gives you that the degree and the transcript doesn't say. Tough times don't build character, tough times reveal it. A person learns a lot about the character they have when they pursue that degree. I know college isn't for everyone, but it's not just the classroom education that you're getting. You are learning about your major, but you are also learning about yourself. I know I've learned more than I thought I would about my major--Religion-- and my minor--Life coaching. I also learned more than I thought I would about  myself. I learned how fierce I can be when I want something this much. I learned how much I will endure to get someplace better. I learned how important hope is. I learned what encouragement is worth. Because I learned those lessons, in 25 days I will be...
Craig Daliessio
Liberty University
Class of 2012

Until tomorrow...

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Homeless Graduate...How I got to Liberty U Class of 2012: 26 days to go

'Mornin everybody...
I just got a lump in my throat and my eyes welled up as I wrote the title to this post. Every single time I mention the number of days until graduation, or speak of it with someone, or stop for 30 seconds and remind myself that I am graduating, I instantly see the picture in my mind of me in my cap and gown, (cap very likely not fitting) sitting amongst my classmates, getting my degree. The image is so strong in my mind now that I believe it completely. In my mind, it is already graduation day.  Zig Ziglar talks about this in his "How to Stay Motivated" series. Once you see an image in your mind of an accomplishment you are striving for, and once your mind begins to accept that's as good as done. We move towards our strongest impulses.
I am starting a new week and it feels like an extension of last week...and the week before. I worked until 7:30 last night. I hadn't planned on spending almost 9 hours on this job but there were some difficulties and it took a lot longer to finish than I expected. I worked 10 hours the day before on a different job. Today I am working until 5 or 6. I am busy right through the end of the week, but hopefully I'm taking the weekend off to spend with my daughter. The crush of finishing my degree is imposing itself on the time I spend with almost everyone, but I keep every other weekend free for Morgan. When I lost everything, so did she. We went three and a half year without being able to spend our weekends together like we'd always had until then. Now that I have a place to live again, I guard that privilege like gold.
I have two tests, a paper on Daniel 9:24-27, and some comments on classmates blogs for my Life Coaching class all due tonight. Child's play.
Honestly I am sad to see this ending. I love to learn. I love learning anything at all, but learning more about my faith has been amazing. The life Coaching minor is essential to the career plans I have so I enjoy those classes as well.
I plan on going straight into a Masters program this fall if I have time. My Christmas book is coming out in Sept. and I will be traveling a bit and doing some speaking for that. I am starting a new book this summer with my friend Tony Luke Jr. and I am starting a new job in May, once I graduate.
After the first of the year I have a new book of my own I want to get started on. It's a modern retelling of the story of the Prodigal Son.
Life is busy for me but I have always been one to bite off large chunks. I like new things and I thrive on challenges. So doing all these things at once is just the way I like it.
Well this entry is a bit tame, but I didn't promise every day would be scintillating. Tomorrow I plan on sharing my thoughts on why a college anything...matters so much. But for the moment I have algebra to do and then I have to go to work.
Until Tomorrow...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Homeless to Graduate My Journey to Liberty U Class of 2012 ...27 days to go

It's Sunday morning. My opportunity clock went off at 4:30 as usual and I actually allowed myself the luxury of hitting the snooze and sleeping until 6AM, at which point I woke up feeling guilty as if the day had already slipped by. I've always been a very early riser so it's not just because of my school work's just that I like being up before the rest of the world. I get more done in the early hours.
Today is another overload, as usual. I did math for an hour then worked up a quote for replacing a deck, now I have to go finish painting another deck and hopefully I'll be done my days chores by 1 or so and I can come home and study. I have a paper due for my Bible class, an exam for that class and an exam for my Life Coaching class.
I've had to give up a lot of things to get this degree finished. I suppose the bitter irony is that I am a Religion major and I haven't been to church in weeks. Sunday is the only day I can get a lot of school work finished uninterrupted and I need the entire day to do it. Today I am working as well, but that's only because the vertigo battle cost me a few days of production and I have to get caught up. I hate missing church but It's a necessary casualty for one more month. I don't even spend as much personal time in prayer as I used to. Not that I'm a mendicant  or anything, but I do try to pray daily for those I love and for direction in my life etc. That is suffering as well as this grind marches on. I feel like the guys on "Deadliest Catch" going weeks with about 3 hours sleep a night...except my life isn't in danger.
I've turned the corner on Algebra's not easy for me but it's no longer costing me hours on end looking at one problem just trying to figure out where to start. I can't relax on it, but the worry about graduation is subsiding. I'm going to make it on time and everything will be great.
I was thinking yesterday about the lessons you learn in college that have nothing to do with your major.
I've learned a lot. I learned the value of my dreams. And sadly...I've learned that your dreams will never matter to anyone else as much as they matter to you. The exception to that is when someone really loves you...I mean really loves you. If you really love someone you care about what they care about and you celebrate their victories as if they were your own. That's why my list of people at graduation is going to be pretty small. This is a victory I only want to share with the people who knew and understood how much it mattered to me. People who never let me quit or take the easy way out, like settling for an associates degree or resuming the pursuit "later" because they knew it would be hollow or "later" might never come. People who called to check on me and who asked me what grades I'd gotten when the semester was over. People who asked me what classes I was taking and what did I learn from them. Those people love me.
I learned the difference between loving what you do and doing what you have to do to survive. Sometimes you have to do both. But the truth is that as admirable as "being a survivor" is, it's nothing to pursue in the long run. A homeless man living in a box under a freeway overpass is a survivor too. A heroin addict breaking into someones house to steal a few items to score more dope is a survivor too. I have been surviving for a long time's time to thrive and flourish.
Even doing carpentry...that's merely survival for me. I have big dreams and plans and I long to get them going. Graduating from college was the cornerstone of those plans and dreams. This degree might be in Religion, but in reality it's a degree in overcoming. It's a Bachelors in confidence and perseverance. It's A Doctorate of Hope.
Today on my motivational speaking account on twitter (follow me @Little_Old_Ant) I wrote this: "You can look forward to a challenge and say "I CAN!" only when you can look back at your difficulties and say "I DID!" I love that. I lived it enough now to verify it's truthfulness. You can never look forward to a challenge with confidence if you have been a quitter or if you've settled for less. Pushing myself through this last 2 1/2 years as I completed my degree has shown me what I am capable of. It's shown me the value of finding your "one thing" and going after it with all your might. Even if you have to do it under the harshest of circumstances. It's not easy to study in a restaurant every day. Or FedEx, or sitting in a cold cramped Volvo 850 with a flashlight. But it's a lot easier than working a job you hate and spending every day until you die wishing you had graduated from college, or started that business, or married that girl, or lost that weight, or learned that language. Amongst the things I learned along the way to May 12, 2012, I learned how priceless it is to have goals and dreams and a vision. Proverbs tells us "Where there is no vision the people perish". People perish all the time because they live without a vision for their life. A vision of who they really are, what they are capable of under duress, how strong they can become when they have to become strong.
...and how much they'll endure because they love their child.
My daughter will be one of the few people with me at LU next month. Because this was for her. She saw her daddy build a life, then saw it all gone when his world exploded. She saw me drifting and lost as I tried to figure out what I would do next to get it back. She saw me choose homelessness, when leaving her here and going where there was work would have been easier. She saw me battle back slowly until I had a place for us to live again.
Next month she will see me graduate from college at 48. She thinks I'm a hero. She has absolutely no doubt I love her.
Someday when she is in college and she feels like quitting, I will give her the "Daddy Lecture" about not giving up and taking the easy way. And she will have to listen. She watched me live it out in front of her. That was the lesson she learned from my college experience.
College taught me a lot more than just what a Bachelors of Religion offered. Finishing this degree taught me who I am and what I'm made of. And it opened doors within my own soul that were welded shut. I am walking taller, more confident, and honestly...I know I can handle just about anything now. For me the hard way was the best way.
I hope there are a few of you out there who might stumble across this blog and decide maybe you'll try something you've only dreamed of until now. I can't tell you how hard it will be but I can tell you this. Endurance is sweeter than the bitterness of your biggest failure. Go for it! Live with High Hopes.
Until Tomorrow...
LU 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Homeless to Graduate...How I got to LU Class of 2012: 28 days...

Goood Morning campers! The ticket window is open! (My Philly friends will remember those words from "Bubba" John Stevens)
The opportunity clock went off at 4:30 this morning but I was already awake. Don't know what woke me up but there I lay...caught between sleep and awake, and the bell rang once again. This morning's schedule is...Math for 2 hours followed by work all day then come back and work on a paper for my class on the book of Daniel. I have to do a full exegesis on Daniel 9:27...the prophecy of the 70 weeks. It's my final bible class and the first one where I had to do an actual line by line exegesis of a passage. I'm looking forward to it. Sometime tonight I have to draw plans for a couple of decks and a carport.
I have no plans on going out tonight and now you all know why.
This has pretty much been my schedule since February first. After this weekend I'll be caught up enough in Math that I'll feel good about going back to the gym in the mornings. I'm looking forward to that.
No one has asked me yet, but I'm sure somebody may be wondering so I'll answer a question here..."Why are you writing this 30 day journal before graduation?"
Well the answer has a few facets. First of all I am pretty sure I will be the first homeless graduate of Liberty University. Technically I'm not homeless anymore but I was until January. That means that of the 6 semesters it took for me to finish my degree, I completed five of them while living in my car. When you are enduring something like that you don't see it as inspiring or character-revealing or whatever. It's just a humiliating grind that you wish wasn't true and you want to get away from as fast as possible. But once the finish line is in sight, and you have hung in there and made it begin to appreciate the path you just walked and you see how others can look at you and be inspired. So I'm telling my story because I sure as I'm sitting here...that there are people out there who had to bury some dreams at some point in their lives. Maybe it was finishing the degree...maybe it's starting it in the first place. Maybe it's starting a business or losing weight or taking the plunge and getting married. Whatever it is, I'm hoping more than a few of them find this blog and read about my own very difficult path and say "If he can do that...I can do my thing too". I hope so. I hope I get a few more emails and tweets from people (I've received a few already) who decided to enroll at LibertyUOnline (or another school) because they heard about me.
Let me interject a sidebar here...I was a resident student at Liberty University for two years so for me, the decision to finish there online was natural. But if you are considering a school...especially an online option...please consider my alma mater. This road I trod to get my degree was NOT easy and I was frequently of ill humor as I battled the joy-killing grind of homelessness. I never told anyone at LU about my homelessness until this last semester because I didn't want to use it as an excuse, so there were times I snapped at some poor adviser and they undoubtedly had no idea why I was so cranky. But without question...every single person I dealt with at LUOnline was as helpful and kind and truly concerned as they could possibly be. They really approach this from the perspective of having a burning desire to see you all the way through. They want you to graduate.
My other hope is that people will see my struggles and be encouraged to endure in the everyday grind. Some people have dreams that have nothing to do with returning to school or finishing an education. For some it might be a career change or a personal change or whatever. But I hope they'll see--underneath it all--that God enabled this journey. I could not have survived what I went through without the grace and strength that my faith provided. Paul says "His grace is sufficient for me..." Sometimes sufficiency means overflowing and sometimes it's just enough grace to hang on one more day and not give up and become tragic. For me, most days were the latter until this past year. Since August, when the goal moved into clear view and the finish line was plain and it was apparent that I was actually going to graduate, my hopes have been higher than any point since 2007 when I lost my home. Hope is everything! I want people to read this journal and take away some hope. Listen...I've taken courses in Bible, U.S. History, Creation Studies, Anatomy and Physiology, Algebra, and Life Coaching. As valuable as all those classes were to me, the lesson of hope was equally important. Maybe even more important. With the hope of graduation came hope for other successes as well. If I can do only one thing for the readers of this blog, I want it to be bestowing a little hope on them...on YOU. This has been the hardest of journeys but I would not have it any other way. Exactly 28 days from today...two hours from the time I write this...I will file into Williams Stadium to begin Commencement Exercises. Sometime around 1PM I will assemble with my classmates from the School of Religion and take the walk. The walk that concludes at Liberty Mountain...where it began, half a lifetime ago. I learned as many lessons along the way as I did in the classroom. But that is tomorrow's story. Factoring Trinomials beckons...
Until Tomorrow...
Class of 2012 (In case you forgot) :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Homelsss to Graduate...Friday night, 29 days to go

Well the doctor says it might be something that regulates blood pressure and heart rate. Some people have an electrical issue that slows your heart rate enough to make you dizzy...or even faint. He wants a test just to be sure but he feels like it's probably just stress and maybe a plugged inner ear. He did give me dear sweet help control the dizziness.
It's 9:20PM and I just got home an hour ago. I worked until 7:45PM I'll be doing Math homework for two hours and I'll be at it tomorrow at 4:30AM, then working all day, then homework. 28 days from tomorrow...exactly 4 weeks...
Until tomorrow,

Homeless to Graduate...My journey to Liberty University Class of 2012 Day 2...29 days to go

29 days...
This time next month I'll be in Lynchburg Va. for my graduation.  The long and winding road comes to a destination at last. I'm sure countless other journeys will spring from this one but this one has been such a big part of my life for so long now. In the 32 years since I graduated High School, I have worked at a plumbing supply, a chemical plant, a roofing and siding supply, an HVAC supply, and I was a carpenter for 14 years. I was a mortgage banker for 10 years and I was homeless and basically picked up odd jobs for the last four years. In all that time, and in all of those various incarnations...I longed to finish this degree. It was the one thread that wound through everything else I was doing.
I should have graduated in 1986 with the rest of my class who graduated High School in 1981.  But again...there wasn't a lot of premium on education in the house I grew up in and I was trying so hard just to be something, that I missed the chance. I grew up hearing the benefits of working in a factory somewhere. Or being a plumber or an air-conditioning technician. Not that those careers are bad, or even less. But they weren't the thing that burned in my heart. There were a few conversations like the one "Rudy" and his father had at the bus terminal. "You can work at the steel mill a crew one day. There's nothing wrong with that" Rudy's response..."It's not what I want..."
Conversations of any kind were pretty scant where I grew up. For a lot of reasons.
I had to take a crazy and winding course to get to where I am this morning...up at 4:30 making coffee and doing algebra.
I have a doctor appointment this afternoon to see if we can rein in this vertigo. I know it's stress related, because I went through this once before. Once I graduate and can focus on my new job and a few other things and don't have the crush of school going on, I'll relax a bit. But for now the schedule is grinding. I'll do math until about 7:30, then head for the job site (today I'm finishing up painting a deck ) then get back here around 6PM and do homework until I literally fall asleep.
Last night I was at it until 11PM. That's an early cutoff for me but I was literally falling asleep at the computer. My head snapped back a few times and I realized I'd been doing the same equation for 20 minutes. So I went to bed and I'm at it today.
It's a grind and the thought has crossed my mind a few times that I could just drop the Algebra, finish strong in the two other courses I have and take Algebra in the summer. That would work except I wouldn't be allowed to walk with my class and I'd have to wait until next May (2013).
I've seen myself walking across that stage too many times now to give up. I've heard Chancellor Falwell telling my story during Commencement and I've felt his handshake and Jonathan's and I have my degree.
As soon as I scrape together the $217 I am ordering my cap and gown and announcements. I already filled out the form online and they sent me a proof:
The Board of Trustees, Chancellor
Provost and Faculty of
Liberty University
announce that
Robert Craig Daliessio
received the degree of
Bachelor of Science in Religion
at the Commencement Exercise
Saturday morning
May twelfth, Two Thousand and Twelve
at ten o'clock
Williams Stadium
Liberty University
Lynchburg, Virginia

It's all I can do to maintain my composure as I read those words. It's why I am up at 4:30 and up still at midnight. It's what drives me to the finish line. This is what I was put here to do. And this hard way...that was part of God's plan apparently. Whether He designed it that way or not I know He'll use it. I have already received emails and "Tweets" from a few older people who heard of my story and decided to take the chance and enroll at LUOnline themselves and pursue  a dream burning within their chests. I didn't start out to inspire anyone else...I just needed one thing to go right in a world that had broken all around me and left me homeless and ragged and ready to quit. Along the way I became an inspiration.
I love the movie "Tombstone". Val Kilmer steals the show as Doc Holliday and there is a scene where right after a riverside gun battle that defies logic and reality, Wyatt Earp's men are reloading and getting ready to ride off and one of the men says,speaking of Earp  "If they were my brothers I'd want revenge too".   Holliday says "Oh make no mistake, it's not revenge he's's a reckoning"
Maybe that's what this degree means to me...a reckoning. After 28 years I still had what it took to finish this. After four years of homelessness I was able to find something I could do that would work. After losing my home, then my career, and all my dreams and hopes I had one thing left I could attempt that I could succeed at. If nothing else, this degree was well-timed.
That's what this means to me. For 3 and 1/2 years I endured the humiliating crush of homelessness while those around me ignored my presence in their midst. I caught, in the occasional storefront window, the reflection of a man who was running on fumes and stubbornness. I was singular in my determination not to leave my daughter no matter what. I grew up without my dad...I would not see her endure that. And so I stayed in that car, and showered in that rec center, and studied at Panera Bread Company, or the library, or FedEx Office, or in my car by flashlight, because that's all I had at my disposal. If this was the price I would have to pay for my degree I would pay it. If this is what inspiration looks be it. I'm an inspiration I guess.
So I have to endure four more weeks of insanity and stress and even vertigo but I will do it because I will be there May 12, and I will hear Chancellor Falwell tell my story and I will hear them call my name and I will walk across that stage and get my degree. 
And nothing...not another economic collapse or another career failure or a divorce or anything else, will ever take this from me. Last August was the last August that I will ever feel regret about seeing kids go off to college and me not going with them. By this fall, when college kids go back to campus and begin, or continue their education...I will have completed mine. 
...the formal part at least. One never really stops learning.
Algebra beckons. Until tomorrow...
Craig Daliessio
Liberty University

Thursday, April 12, 2012

From Homeless to Graduate...chronicling my last 30 days until Graduating from Liberty U!

Okay, as promised, here is the first installment of my final 30 days until I graduate.
It's 5:45. I've been up since 4:30AM. I have been getting up early all my life because I was always a paperboy, or I was going hunting or fishing. The truth is I really like being an early riser. Something about an early start that makes me feel like I'm getting more done. But 4:30 is really early...especially every single day without a break since February. But I have to do this. I have a mandatory Algebra class I am taking and it's very hard for me. I am learning it as I go and it takes me 3 times as long as any of my other classes. I spend an hour to an hour and a half per day on each of my other classes. Right now those classes are Bibl450 which is a class on Daniel and Revelation together, and Lifc301 which is a Health and Wellness class for my life coaching program. Earlier this semester I had Life Coaching 201 (a basic Life Coaching course) and Bibl364 (The Book of Acts). Online semesters at LU are 17 weeks long but they are divided into three sub semesters lasting eight weeks each. (One sub semester overlaps the first and the second, but few people take courses in those)  Plus there are some classes that run all 17 this algebra class. My other courses are eight week classes so I had the first two from Jan 17 until March 12 and this set runs from March 21 until May 11. It's a great system as long as you keep up. If you are a resident student the same material takes 17 weeks to cover, so online you are covering the material in huge chunks. If you fall behind even one week you really run the risk of failing. With the additional study time I've needed for math, this has been a hard semester. I've been sleep deprived and stressed to the point of my vertigo returning. I had shingles about two months ago. Both of these are stress related. I am so pressed for time that I stopped going to the gym, which makes me feel even worse. Starting tomorrow I am going back. I am close enough to being caught up in math now, that I can spare the 2 hours in the morning.
In all this, I am still happier than I have ever been. Getting this degree means the world to me. It's been the first good thing that happened to me in the five years since I lost my home to foreclosure and the 4 years since I first became homeless and was sleeping in my car and showering at the gym. It's been a hard road and my degree completion has been the only thing that I've tried that worked consistently throughout the last few years. Liberty University online probably saved my life in a lot of ways. At very least it saved my belief in myself and my tattered self esteem.
I started at Liberty in 1984. I had been out of High School for three years and each fall as my friends left for college I would be severely broken hearted. All I wanted was to go to school and become who and what I felt I was supposed to be. I could spend pages writing about why that didn't happen right away but suffice it to say that I didn't grow up in a home where education was valued or respected. I was told that a good factory job was what I should pursue and I should be thankful for whatever I got. That's partially true, but it's also mind-numbingly sad. I was a brilliant student in high school. I scored a 29 on the ACT. (The highest score possible is 32) My English aptitude was off the charts. My advisor at Liberty my freshman year said that with scores like mine I could have gotten scholarships galore had I applied right after high school and that I could CLEP up to a Junior level in English right away.
I got one year at LU in 84-85 and another in 94-95. Then I got married. Then a year and a half later I became a dad. Then I became a mortgage banker. Then a homeowner, then a divorcee. In 2007 I lost my home when the industry collapsed and in 2008 the career I had grown into and had tremendous success in was gone. I had been a national award winner. A Branch-of-the-Year nominee for the largest privately funded mortgage company in the world. I had earned six figures.
By May of 2008 I was living in my car.
August 9, 2009 I was sitting in that same car, in the parking lot of Panera Bread Company and I had just hung up with my advisor at LU online. I had an old envelope in my hands and I was reading the words scrawled on the back. "Bibl110, CRST290 History of Life, HIUS221, THEO202." This was my class schedule for Fall 2009. I was back in LU and once again pursuing my dream of graduating from there. In the midst of my homelessness and desperation I had something to look to and work towards. I cried in my car for about 15 minutes. I had forgotten how much this meant to me and how badly it hurt that I'd never completed this journey.
For the next three years...six semesters online, five of them completed while living in my car...I pursued this goal. It was the one thing that I could look at and say "At least this isn't failing. This is working out". I dropped a lot of classes and attempted them more than once. It's not that any of them were especially's just so hard to do your best when you are limited by where you are living and you can only study at a restaurant or the library or FedEx office...or by flashlight in the front seat of your car.
But I did it. 30 days from today I will wear that cap and gown and walk across the stage on Liberty Mountain and receive the degree I have chased for literally more than half my life.
But today I have to get back to studying and then go paint a deck, and draw some plans for another deck and pressure wash yet another before I return home this evening and study a whole lot more.
Typically I am up until midnight. 4 1/2 hours of sleep each night is not much...even for a guy like me who has been sleep-avoiding most of my life. But in 30 days I can relax a bit. So today I'll press on.
See you all tomorrow...

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Homestretch

Hey gang...
In 32 days I graduate from Liberty University. It's been a crazy final semester and I thought that I would chronicle my final month as an undergrad. Commencement is May 12, so starting this Thursday, 4/12, I will post something each day giving a little glimpse inside this final push toward my dream of graduation. I started August 17, 1984 as a freshman. In one month I graduate and the goal will be achieved. This has been the hardest semester so far and it's a bumpy ride but worth it when I get that diploma. I hope you enjoy this with me.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday / Black Friday

Today is "Good Friday". I don't know why this is called Good Friday and the day after Thanksgiving is "Black Friday".  In reality the two terms would do well to switch. It wasn't very good for Jesus Christ.
In the hours between his final meal and last instruction to his best friends, he was betrayed, captured and brought before a kangaroo court of Romans and Jews who each had their own reasons for wanting Him silenced, and who played each other for their own political ends. Jesus came into a world that had been enslaved by legalism and regulation to the point of frustration by the Pharisees and Sadducees, and perpetually occupied by one foreign force after another. From the Persians to the Greeks to the Romans, Christ had come for a people who had been so often overrun that they had to compromise their integrity for the little taste of freedom the Romans offered. (Roman policy was to allow most local customs to coincide with that of Rome so long as the Emperor didn't feel those customs betrayed his near deity or appeared disloyal) So the Jews motivation for betraying Jesus and demanding His crucifixion wasn't so much because He claimed to be God, (although this was the charge they leveled in order to get Pilate to pay attention) as it was fear that He would try to establish a kingdom, and bring the Roman grip tighter around their throats.
The Romans merely wanted peace. They wanted it their way of course and sedition couldn't be tolerated, so when the Jewish power players brought Jesus before them on charges of sedition and unrest the Roman governor had to listen. After "finding no fault in Him" Pilate would have let him go but the Jews would not abide this. They were wise men and they knew what to do and say when Pilate asked them about Christ's Kingship. "We have no King but Caesar!" was their reply. With that declaration, Jesus' fate was sealed. Pilate could not release a man his own people rejected. He would appear himself a traitor had he done so.
So Jesus was lead to a flogging station and his back was laid open like a side of beef. The cat-of-nine-tails is a vicious instrument and a good portion of those who face it never survived. The shards of glass and sharp stone and metal tore through his flesh until his ribs showed through from behind. The Roman soldiers carved him like a steak and spilled his blood with brutish severity.
In all this, Jesus Christ, son of God, never spoke a word. If he cried out as the lashes fell we have no record of it. If He had doubts about finishing the task at hand we can only tell by scripture that he dealt with them the night before in the Garden when he wanted out of this deal so badly that he wrestled with his own Father's answers three times when he asked that the cup pass from him. Three times he asked...three times he got no reply. He wrestled so hard trying to change the way of salvation that his capillaries burst under his skin and his sweat became infused with blood. But his obedience was perfect and he uttered the hardest words written in red in all of Scripture... "Nevertheless...don't do what I what you want"
Jesus was made to carry his own cross. The equivalent of a prisoner being forced to clean and load the rifles that will be used to execute him. This after a night of beatings and sleep deprivation and a flogging so severe that he was literally unrecognizable as a human being. The Romans were progressive when it came to politics amongst those they conquered, but they were savage and thorough when it came time to dispose of their enemies.
And dispose of Him they did.
Calvary is romanticized in Christian thought and literature but it's not a beautiful "Hill Far a
Away".  It was--in Jesus' day--a garbage dump. Literally. It was outside of town and the locals in Jerusalem took their carts of trash there. Even today it's a steep, barren cliff about 15 feet above the ground below. Today they park public transportation buses beneath the ledge where Christ was slaughtered.
It was the trash heap of it's day. That's fitting for a man who was raised in the "City of Trash"...Nazareth. Because Nazareth lies in the upper corner of Israel and three major crossroads all converged there, it was always the first town occupied by invaders. The people of Nazareth had grown weary of the continuous thumbprint of someone elses army and someone elses rule. Being occupied of course, they could own no weapons so their only means of protest was to dump their garbage out the window each day. The streets of Nazareth were lined with trash, waste, debris and unspeakable filth. The occupying soldiers...whomever they might be...had to walk through this mess each day. This was the only way the locals could make their defiance known. Thus the town became know as the "City of Trash".
Jesus was definitely from the other side of the tracks.
So here he is...born in a cave, raised in the City of Trash and killed on a trash heap. He was the Son of God with spit running down his face, suspended between two worlds on a brutal cross on the outskirts of town. He was whispered about and mocked and betrayed by those closest to Him.
And I have entrusted my soul to this man...
If you came to his birthplace looking for a King you'd have left disappointed. If you had been standing nearby watching His death you would have been broken hearted...and maybe even disgusted. The shear brutality would have unnerved you and His claims of being the only begotten Son of God would have likely seemed insane. Nobody of greatness dies this way. Nobody of royalty is brutalized in such a fashion. But he was.
The only way you can reconcile his claims with his fate that awful, terrible black Friday is to understand that he permitted it all. Either he was who he said he was or he was not. And if you believe he was who he claimed to be then the one and only conclusion you can arrive at is that he allowed this entire savage procedure to take place. He did it willingly. The question is "why?"
The answer is "you".
Jesus made the pronouncement, "I am the Way the Truth and the Life...NO ONE comes before God unless they come through me"
No one.
So in deference to Oprah, and Eckhart Tolle, and Ghandi, and Brigham Young, and Joseph Smith, and Buddha, and Mohammad, and Depak Chopra, and everyone else who ever tried to find another route. To all those who insisted on arriving West by sailing East and avoiding passage through Jesus Christ I say...look at this man.
Look at a man with the Creation of the Universe on his resume and wonder at how he permitted...he permitted those Roman butchers to strip him of his flesh and his dignity. Look at the King of Kings speaking only words of comfort, salvation, and need as he hanged suspended on the butchers block of crucifixion. Look at the darkened sky and quaking earth as his own Father rejects him for our sake. He did this willingly. He chose obedience to death so that death would obey Him and not be our conqueror. He did this out of love.
Look at this man and mouth the words of the Roman soldier..."Surely this man was the Son of God"