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—Jack Brice Medlin II
Jack Brice’s story
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Caught in the Middle: Trying To Be a Sane Christian in an Extreme World is a book about how politics has influenced what you believe about the Bible. Just as the world is trying to rewrite the Constitution so is what is written in the Bible under assault.
Jack Brice’s story
The life he was in for himself left him in a real mess. One day he fell to his knees and surrendered. He shares his raw story of triumph over tragedy, and how politics influences your religion. Jack Brice finishes with Grace and Psalms.
He carries the message of HOPE to those that have believed certain beliefs about salvation and trusted others to guide our way.
Jack Brice and distant family mostly reside in Tennessee. He can be found in his home or on a local trail. Jack Brice has worked in various fields for over 30 years but has found his calling in the Bible. Jack Brice shares his raw story of life from good times, tragedy and triumph, along with the real story of the Bible. See how politics influences your salvation.
Sample of Book
chapter 1: My story
chapter 2: The Pendulum
chapter 3: The Defense
chapter 4: Is There A Hell
chapter 5: The Sex Stuff
chapter 6: Down To The River
chapter 7: The Subjects Not Discussed
chapter 8: The Political Chapter
chapter 9: The Sum Of All Things
chapter 10: my Psalms
“Why don’t you write a book?” they said. Something I never thought I would do. In fact, English has always been my weak subject. My father has written books, but I never thought it would be me. There are many roles that we do not mean to or think we will do, but God calls us to serve in them. It was not my intention to be president of the HOA where I live, but I saw what was happening to the property. So, on the board I went and now have been elected president. It is the same reason that I have decided to write this book. This book is not something that I dreamed of or thought would come to fruition, but here it is. I have lived enough days and experienced enough life to see things that are troubling. Some of the beliefs are not new. They are problems that were addressed in the various letters written to the early church. Yet there is a resurgence of some of these beliefs. Other beliefs are new because of the society in which the church is involved today. People who follow Christ are to be “set apart” from the world. Instead we are letting the world define who God is or who the world thinks he should be. We are also letting the world define what is moral (if any) and immoral. For instance, you have a bill in the state of California that states you cannot preach that alternative lifestyles are a sin. There are also demonstrations at a churches in cities because they preach against alternative lifestyles. This is just a sample of what is happening and it is just the beginning. The LOVE that God has shown us is beyond anything we deserve. He has done immeasurable things for us, which this book will hopefully convey. It kills me to see humans redefine his love to fit their personal feelings or fit the philosophies of the day or a political agenda. It all started one day when I was asked “why do you believe there is a Hell.” The question took me by surprise. Are you serious? At first I was going to call this book “A Two-way Street.” Not much later I was in a discussion with another person who believed salvation was earned based upon how many people you have dunked (baptized). It was crazy and wanted to make me pull my hair out. No wonder people are leaving Christianity in droves. Of course, there are several reasons for the decline. I have no doubt that this is one reason that people are leaving and outside people are looking inward and thinking that they do not want any part of this thing called Christianity. Hence the change in title names to what it is now.
This book is not meant to be political. Although the prevailing philosophies of the day have a big influence on how we interpret scripture. In fact, it is impossible to not let our politics of the day effect the way we worship God. Liberalism and Conservatism have turned the Bible and Jesus’ message into a circus. This book is being written because of the extreme views not only in politics, but also to show how these views develop and determine our beliefs of scripture. As we are fed propaganda every single day in the news, tv, or movies we watch, so, too, we are fed propaganda by various groups that call themselves “christian.” At the time of the writing of this book, a high level person in the FBI has been fired. How many of you that watch the news believe that he is losing his pension? The truth is, this person is NOT losing the pension, only some benefits. By the way, did you know this person has a net worth of $11 million dollars? And their salary is only $200,000. I wonder how he or she accomplished that feat? However, you are being led by the media in a flat out lie. The same is true with your local news. Here, in Nashville, TN, we recently voted down a transit system with a $9 billion price tag. When the story first came out, the price tag was only $5 billion. (everyone knew it would cost more) The news quickly changed the price tag to $9 billion. As soon as the vote was over, the news lowered the price tag back to the $5 billion. Why? Now the local train system that we have, The Music City Star, just announced a reduction in services because of a safety system that is not on the trains. To fix it would cost $20 million. The news is quick to point out that the money to make the repairs was included in the bill that was voted down. As if it is the fault of the citizens of Nashville, TN that the Music City Star is having to downgrade its services. (the system is losing money anyway) Why is this cost not built into the operation of the train? There are numerous examples that could be used to show you the propaganda that you are fed EVERY day. The same is done with scripture. You can see how various verses are taken out of context and applied to whatever the subject matter is at hand. It cracks me up to see it be done by people that have left groups for doing the very same thing. Logic is such a rare thing these days. However, if it is a matter of the heart, rules and laws be damned. (That is a term that has no bearing on those that do not believe there is a Hell) It is a practice that has been going on though out history and it still goes on today. We have become such an extreme society that if you strive to be person in the middle, the left considers you cold and heartless and the right considers you a loose cannon. In fact, most people that read this are in denial and consider themselves to be in the middle. I guess this practice will go on until the end of time as long as humans are involved, but right now in my life, it seems intense. Most of the chapters in this book will only deal with subjects as they pertain to biblical matters.
This book is not meant to be a scholarly tool. This is not going to be a boring topical discussion looking for the proper exegesis of each word. In fact, as I pen this book, I can see the reactions on both extremes. Both sides will condemn the things written within these pages. Rejection is what happens when you question the system. Only people who are searching for the mind of Christ will be open to possibilities. Many years ago, I worked in marketing and studied the KISS principle. The KISS principle is this, “Keep It Simple Stupid”. Basically it means that the simpler the ad is, the easier it is for people to follow or remember. A good example of this is an ad I did for a photography studio. It was Easter time and the owner was taking pictures with bunnies. The ad I did was a simple bunny rabbit with his business name and phone number. I called a few days later to see how it was going and his appointment book was almost full. I believe that God believes in this KISS principle. In fact, have you ever noticed that scholars love to write books? Yet they write books and teach in schools, but they usually do not know how the real world works. Hence the books are written about what they don't teach people while they are in school. For instance, take prayer. How many lectures and books are there on “how to pray” yet it is so simple. Jesus gave us an example and what we do not know how to say the Spirit speaks for us. (Romans 8:26) God just wants us to talk to him. SO JUST PRAY! He will respond in one shape or form. Ever notice how our prayers are for a positive outcome. All we have to do is look or listen for the response. Despite what certain segments of population say. Hopefully you will look at this book as a “real world” book. Throughout the Old and New Testaments there are two commands: Love God and Love Others. I do not believe that God would make salvation something hard to understand that only the “learn-ed” people can truly disseminate. It is my hope that this book leads to more discussions of the subjects at hand. Also my prayers are for others to read this and be led to search for Christ. Please read with an open heart.
Let’s get started.....
In December 1968 I opened my eyes for the first time. A little town in east Tennessee by the name of Greeneville, TN was my birthplace. You might be wondering why I am spending time telling my story. It is important that I present to you my background. You need to know where I came from so you see why I think the way I think. We think what we think because of several influences. Our childhood influences affect the way we think as adults. Parents, for those of us that have them, have a huge influence on our thinking. There is more on this later, but for now I want to share my story. It will include my younger years, my fall, and the recovery.
First is the early years. My father worked for the federal government in the early years. While I was born in Greeneville, TN, I only lived there for a year before my Dad was transferred to Atlanta, Georgia. This is where I grew up and spent most of my developing years. I had great friendships when I was a kid. One of my childhood friends still is a close friend and we now live within a couple of miles of each other. School wise I went to Fulton County public schools for most of my elementary years. My late elementary years, junior high, and high school years were at private schools.
I have fond memories of my years in Atlanta. There was one couple that were good friends with my parents. They were like adopted grandparents to me and my sister. He was a captain in the Atlanta Police department. That friendship allowed us to experience things that would have been difficult otherwise. Like going to the top of the Peachtree Towers to enjoy fireworks on the roof. Other events include going to the pre-opening celebration of the Hartsfield International Airport, riding in the squad car, and learning to stay out of the g&g (grass and gravel) when learning how to drive.
My father at some point ended up owning his own business. It was a chain of rehabilitation clinics. It was quite successful and gave us the opportunity to travel a lot when I was a kid. He was involved with the politics as well. I can remember doing my homework sometimes at the kitchen table of a very popular candidate that later became speaker of the house. This led me to become involved with the high school debate team and speech club. I was also involved with the choral group and even played the part of Scrooge in a high school play.
I was fortunate as a kid. My mom was a teacher out of college. Later she worked in the private sector. While my younger sister and I were growing up, she was a stay-at-home mom. She only worked once we were both in school and even then it was hours that allowed her to be home when we kids got home from school. My mom has passed on now due to Leukemia. My parents only lacked a week being married 49 years. Also on my mother's side of the family, my grandparents had a long lasting relationship. On my father's side, I just knew my grandmother. His father died of a massive heart attack when my dad was away in college. To the day that she died, my grandmother never got remarried. Most people these days do not know what it is like to have marital relationships last so long or where they have a Dad and Mom that stay together.
Later in life my father started preaching as a labor of love. I say that because he did not do it for money. He loves people and more than that, he loves souls. Usually he preached for churches that were building up and really did not have the funds for a salary. That came later in life. Dad loved to carry his labor of love home with him. He would have sermons about this and that. Finally the family numbered his sermons at home. If a certain circumstance arose that required a sermon, he could just say “number 1” or whatever number was assigned to the sermon that corresponded with the event. It was a win-win situation. That way he did not have to use so much oxygen and my sister and I did not have to hear the full sermon that we already knew by heart.
December of 1985 was a huge time of change. During Christmas break of my junior year of high school, we moved from the big city of Atlanta, GA to the small town of Lebanon, TN. My Dad wanted to move his business at the time closer to family. The traffic was so bad in Atlanta that the change in the daily drive was going to be a delight. We lived in College Park and the school was in Norcross. For those of you readers that know the area, that is a long way. I made that commute during the construction of the “spaghetti” junctions. If you think the traffic is bad now in Atlanta, then you should have seen it when the connectors were cloverleafs. You would wait thirty minutes plus to go 2 miles. Needless to say, the move was a scary but welcome change.
I can remember the first day of school in Lebanon, TN. My fear was the attire that everybody would be wearing. The school was in the country and my biggest fear was everyone would be in coveralls. Fortunately my fears were put to rest and people were in regular clothes. The same is true for all of us. We have a preconceived idea how people are or their intellect based on their location, the clothes they wear, the car they drive, etc. The school was so much smaller than what I was used to. The teacher was writing my name on the chalkboard. He was spelling my name out B-R-I-C and before he could finish somebody hollered out “Brick?”. There was laughter and the new name stuck.
It was not long before I had developed new friendships. There was no debate team or speech club. Instead I was encouraged to join the football team. The work outs really were good for my physical body. I did not see any playtime. That year was the final year that a local military academy would be open. Most of the seniors came to my high school. It greatly expanded the football team. Here I was with no experience, so I became a manager instead. Between living in a smaller town and so many friends that lived on farms, it was not long before I realized that there was “redneck” in my blood. It was a lot of fun living in a smaller town. There is a reason they call smaller towns the “heartbeat of America”. So much can be missed when you live in a big city and so far away from your school. In Lebanon, I had a good time and formed some strong friendships that are still around today.
I graduated from high school in 1987. The eighties were a great time to grow up. America was in a positive point in the world. A lot of it had to do with Reagan being President and the end of what was known then as the global threat of nuclear war. The wall that separated East Berlin from West Berlin came down. Also Russia ended Communism and started a transfer to a Democratic society. Life was grand. I had friends, good family, perceived peace in the world, and a happy church life. What more could you ask for.
Off to college for the next phase in life. I followed in my parent's footsteps and attended Freed-Hardeman University. It is a Christian college located in Henderson, Tennessee. My concentration of study was a business major. Without exception, you take a Bible class every semester. Attendance at a daily chapel service was also mandatory. Yearly, they have a Bible lectureship that brings people from different corners of the globe to study different Bible topics. Needless to say, you get you fair share of Bible studies. Do not misunderstand me, I have nothing but good things to say about the University. Many friendships were developed and fun was had. Just as there are those in society that we label as “elitists” so, too, are there some people in every walk of life that become experts in their fields and lose common sense. I became familiar with those that are “Bible elitists”. On some days there was a late night game of cards in the dorm lobby where we would debate “scriptural authority”.
One of the things that I participated in while at college was the University Chorus. I enjoy singing. We traveled extensively. These travels were primarily for admissions and fundraising for the university. Another reason though was to hopefully influence people to want to follow Christ. Pretty much every break from school was spent on a bus, as well as some nights and weekends. We spent the night in the homes of people that volunteered to keep us. On one trip I stayed in a home in Pensacola, Florida. I remember the home to this day. The couple had a son that was away in college. I met him some years later when I was on a trip and in a town above the Arctic Circle in Russia. This guy was on a team of people that were to follow a team with which I was traveling. He showed up ahead of the rest of his group because of his work schedule. One night we were up talking when he told me of his home in Pensacola, Florida. Come to find out, it was his house that I had stayed in and his parents that I had met. Talk about a small world.
After 2 years in college, I was bored with being a business major. I really liked science so that became my new major. Switching majors so late in my college career delayed my graduation by one semester. My graduation day came in December of 1991. Following graduation, I did what every kid does and moved back in with my parents. At that time in life, Dad was preaching full-time in Greeneville, TN. It was here that I studied for the MCAT and got a job at one of the local hospitals. My general practice doctor was the same doctor that helped me arrive in this world. It was fun seeing the notes that he had written back in 1968.
Several things happened in my years after college that bear mentioning. I will not draw these out and make this a long and boring chapter, but these are significant events that had a major impact on my life and led me to where I am today. Needless to say, I took the MCAT, but did not become a doctor. Instead, I got into marketing, although they call it “community relations” when you work in the medical field. Other things that happened was my trip to Vorkuta, Russia, a discovery class that I began teaching at church, and eventually matrimony.
In 1993, I had the opportunity to go to Russia. This was set-up as a medical/Bible teaching trip. It was just after the fall of Communism and we were all “friends.” Vorkuta is a city located above the Arctic Circle. I was there during the summer months when it never got dark. You just went by your watch when it was time to eat and sleep. There are many things that are stories on that trip, but there were awakening moments while I was there. How many of you remember the “food lines” to get food at the grocery stores that we were told in the media? There were “food lines” alright, but not for the lack of food. Those were the days that fresh cheese or other products arrived at the stores and they did not have as good of refrigeration that we do in this country. People were in line to get the produce while it was fresh. The smaller towns in Russia were several years behind America in those days. Later I was in a discussion with one of the locals, we were talking about the things we are taught in schools and on media about the other country. It was surprising to learn that they were not taught that the USA was their enemy. In fact, English was a second language that most of them spoke fluently. They were shocked to hear that we were taught they were our enemy and a danger to the free world. My eyes were opened on this trip that even in America are we fed an agenda by what we watch and read. It may or may not be true. That was my last trip across the pond.
Next came matrimony. I met this girl at work. We dated for a while and my Dad performed the ceremony. She was dunked and all was good. We lived in a small apartment that was formerly a barn. Once she finished school, we moved across town to a fancy neighborhood. Are we still married? No, but more on this later.
One other thing I did was teach an adult Bible school class at “church.” It was a discovery class that looked at the various practices of the church. Basically a “why do we believe the things we believe” class. When you challenge your way of thinking, there are many things you can learn. It drives you to study things you have just accepted. The class went on for a while and some of the topics will be mentioned in this book. It was the most attended class at “church.” I look back now and realize that some of the people were there to keep me in check and to make sure that I taught the things that were believed already. In fact, I can remember someone speaking up one day and saying “are you willing to risk your soul teaching this stuff.” The answer came back “are you willing to risk your soul teaching stuff contrary to what you believe”. It is very difficult to challenge what you think. Needless to say, the class ended when my disgrace came.
My life seems textbook up to this point. What is it they say, “wife, kids, and a white picket fence”. I did not have any kids or the picket fence, but I thought I had a good life. Then it started hitting. First came my health. It was during this time that I had a long bout with stomach sickness. Hardly anything stayed down. Test after test was performed. There were scopes, x-rays, and blood tests and everything came back negative or borderline. This went on for months until I finally had an appointment with the chief surgeon and medical director of the hospital where I worked in psychiatry. He agreed to take out my gall bladder, but he was not sure that would be the answer. It was one of those things where the medical doctor says it is in your head and the head doctor says it is a medical condition. Well the gall bladder came out. The surgeon swears that he found a stone in the gall bladder, yet the path report came back negative. Who knows, maybe he was using Affirmation Therapy on me. Counseling followed and the pain was still there. Eventually it worked itself out and the pain has disappeared.
Then came my wife's health. She, too, started to have similar symptoms. Once again, nothing could be found. The doctors did what they call an ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography). That led to the rare condition of pancreatitis. This landed my wife in the hospital for a month. I learned one thing through this: always if at all possible, live on one income. That way there is the ability to handle all the bills if something happens to the other spouse. Living in that neighborhood was looking more and more like a bad thing. One of the doctors at the hospital felt sorry for us and donated a sizable amount of money. I felt really bad accepting the gift. We really needed the money, but never before had I ever accepted this form of generosity.
This led next to financial stress. Did you know that financial stress is among the top stresses in relationships? It is a goal now to live off one income if I ever marry again. It is amazing how many people live paycheck to paycheck. Then you add in trying to keep up with the Jones'. It was not long before everything started to add up and the stress played into the marriage. Both parties start not talking to one another. Down deep you probably blame the other spouse for the stress that you are going through. Then you start to wonder if the other spouse has feelings for you that they once had. A lot of relationships end up in affairs with other people at this point. For those that care, couples therapy is the course of action. Even then, it can wind up in divorce. Mine did. Even after months of couple’s therapy, I came home one day to find it had been mostly emptied. I fell on the floor and remained there for a couple of days. A buddy of mine from my past work came by to check on me. He picked me up off the floor and took me to the bank. It was too late. The account was mostly drained.
No way was I able to afford the house. The mortgage was held by individuals. While it did not go on my credit, it was close friends and it was like we had been paying rent for the time we actually lived in the house. The house was just turned back over to the lien holders. As much as I hated it, the friendship was no longer an option. So where to live? At that time I did not have many options and I was not about to move back home. There was too much shame involved. It just so happened that the assistant medical director in the unit where I worked was moving. He did not want to leave his house empty and offered me to let me live in the basement of the house in exchange for keeping up the place until it sold. I was honored and gladly accepted. His basement alone was almost a castle. This was great living until his house sold. Then I was forced to rent a room in a house that belonged to a college student in town that I knew from the restaurant where we waited tables.
Next to fall was my business. It was in sales and marketing. The technology behind the product was sound. However, my dad, had been named the CEO of the main company behind the technology. Not long after, I remember getting the call. The company was involved in stock fraud. I had made the classic blunder and put all of my eggs into one basket. Never do that and if you have, diversify now. Literally I was flat broke and owed people money. There was nothing I could do, but cry. To get by, I started waiting tables at a fancy Italian place in town. I ended up being the interpreter that read all the immigration documents for those applying to live in the U.S. The family was all from New Jersey and New York. Mama loved me and she could barely speak any English. One time I was asked to navigate to a casino in the neighboring state. Mama showed me how to play slots. They even gave me a Sicilian name. I learned a lot working for them. When I left, I was told to call anytime I needed help. As they put it, “I was part of the family.” Later I learned that being told that meant something more than just being a member of the family.
Just when you think it cannot get much worse, it does. The car that I drove was a fancy leased car. One day I rounded a curve to find someone in my lane. Without hesitation, I cut the person off next to me and did everything that I could to miss the other vehicle, but it was unavoidable. While it was not a head on collision, the other car went down my side. The other driver was driving on a suspended license and the car was not even his. Off to jail he went and the cops gave me a ride home, since they knew me from the restaurant. The kicker was when I made the call to the insurance. They had canceled the wrong policy when I lost the house. Instead of canceling the home owner's insurance, they had canceled the auto policy. Here I was in a wreck and unbeknownst to me, I had no coverage. I was paying a lease on a car that was unable to be driven and was going to cost a lot of money to fix. Fortunately dad had an older car that was not being driven back home. It needed new tires and an oil change, but other than that was good to go.
I was miserable and ashamed. It was like the whole world had come crashing down around me and there was nothing I could do. It was the worst thing I had happen to me. There was anger everywhere. I was mad at the world. More than that there was anger at God for letting all this happen. Because of the way I was brought up, I figured there was no hope for me and my soul. I cut off almost all of my relationships. There had to be a better way so that this scenario did not happen again.
They say “that time heals all wounds”. I disagree with that statement. A wound may cover itself, but it never really “heals”. Scar tissue forms over the wound and every now and then you feel the pain or discomfort that was associated with the wound. My healing took several years and really is still happening. There is no set length of time to get over something. Most textbooks say at least a year, but each person is different. Mine has taken several years, and I am still working on recovery. The three major areas that I have worked on for recovering are relationally, financially, and spiritually.
One night during that time, my best friend suggested that I move to Nashville, TN. My best friend and I are life-long friends. We have known each other since the age of two years old. Our parents were friends in Atlanta, GA and my friend and I were the same age. Since then, we have lived miles apart, but we have always remained in contact. Even now we live about a mile apart and have lived as close as a few doors down from each other. Those type of friendships are few and far between. It took some time, but I made the move.
I came to Nashville, TN in May of 2001. I did not come alone. At the time I was dating someone that also wanted a change. We also lived together which is shock and unbelievable to people that I grew up around. Yes, we know the statistics for people that live together, but we also know the stats for current marriages that succeed or don't succeed. This lasted for a few years. It all changed when her Dad died and her brother later committed suicide. Her mother had been dead several years. I found out later that she had been funneling money into a separate account to go out on her own. She left at this point and to this day, I have not had any contact with her. There was one contact when I bought a condo. She had boxes in our storage that belonged to her father. I still had an email for her and she showed up to get those boxes. There was another guy in the car and a kid. I can only imagine what happened when we separated. It only adds to the wall around my heart.
I had another vice that I took up during this time. It started out as one beer a night because it would put me to sleep. That developed into full-fledged drinking. I was never an alcoholic per se, but I drank a lot. I do not know if it was a phase that everyone goes through or if it was my crutch for what all I was going through. I became an expert drink maker as well. I can make some killer martinis and margaritas. It all ended when I won 2nd place for desserts in the Music City BBQ Fest. I got smashed that night. It took 3 days to get over that hangover. The room just kept spinning. My cousin brought over some Diet Coke and salty potato chips so I could eat. I do not recommend these items for hangovers, but for this time, it worked and allowed me to eat. During this time I asked God to get me through this and it would never happen again. My co-workers laughed and said “till the next time”. It stuck with me and a promise is a promise. I have never lost control since and now I hardly touch the stuff. Not because I think it is wrong, but because it has gotten to where my body doesn’t react well to alcohol as I age. It doesn’t work for everybody. Some need AA, but for me, it was a decision to stop getting drunk on alcoholic drinks and a pact that was made with God. So, for me, it was a matter of mind over matter and I just stopped.
My biggest piece of advice is too not feel pressured by friends and family. Many people will offer advice and they all have something to say. Even now, I am pressured to get married. They even tell me what type of person I need to marry. Unfortunately, the right person has not come along and it will take a lot for me to let the wall down. I still have not remarried. The pain is so much and I keep comparing current relationships to my failed one, that I have built a wall around my heart which makes it hard to have any meaningful relations. Looking back, I have lost relationships because of it. You want things just to be normal and just be friends, but the other party wants more. One day you look back and have lost touch with that person because they have moved on. All because you didn't make a move.
One side effect through all of this is a lack of trust in all humans. It started in 2001, when I moved to Nashville, TN. I was living in an apartment then. It was a haven of stray cats mainly because people had put them out when they found out that they were going to have them added to the rent in pet deposits and monthly fees. My neighbors noticed that I was able to win the hearts of even the most skittish cat. I was told that an animal knows a person’s heart. Later I started putting out food and found that cats talk when there is free food.
It was a brutally cold winter, so I borrowed a large cage from a local cat rescue lady. I would bring the cats in at night and then put them out the next morning when I left for work. One night a Siamese cat just came on in and got comfortable. Later I found out she was an “apple head” Siamese and rare. She hated going out in mornings and would hide. My heart went out to her and that led me to adoption.
Before I adopted them and took two in, they got pregnant. At one time I had 12 cats and knew that I needed help. That led me to the Nashville Cat Rescue and started my side career. Some kittens were adopted and some stayed with me after failed adoptions. I worked with the Nashville Cat Rescue for several years. As a volunteer, I cleaned cages at the adoption center and used my marketing skills to get them setup at Oktoberfest in town to raise money and get furrever homes for kittens and cats. One role that I had with the cat rescue is as Santa Paws. I have become known around town as “Santa Paws” and take pictures with animals to raise money.
A funny story that happened to me when I first got into animal rescue. I mentioned that they were pregnant. The one cat was obviously pregnant. The Siamese cat got bigger, but was not so obvious. One night, the Siamese was having convulsions. Of course, it was a weekend night when nothing is open except the emergency pet clinic. I loaded her in a carrier and off we went. That night was quiet in the clinic, so the problem with the cat was quickly identified. The carrier was on top of the counter while I filled out the paperwork. Then there was a “meow”. Now the cat was new to me, but I knew her “meow” and it didn’t sound like her’s. The clerk looked in the carrier, then at me and said “she’s having kittens”. Like I didn’t know. I felt dumb. They took her to the back and assisted her deliver the kittens. It was nice that they did the service and did not charge me. Normally these emergency clinics charge you money for walking through the door. Anyway, the cat(s) and I made it home.
All people suffer financially from divorce, but it was mentioned earlier that I had a business crash as well. Between paying for the divorce, the loss of the house, the loss of the car, and the business failure, I was beyond broke. Lawsuits followed. I owed lots of money and now had to pay an attorney to represent me. Most of my debt was written off as bad debt. Sometimes the attorney would be busy and send me to court to talk with the opposing attorney. I learned a lot about the legal system. It takes a long time to settle some cases. I got frustrated one time and called my attorney to express my dissatisfaction. He told me that the longer it took, the better it was for me. He said it was not like wine and did not get better with age. It took some time, but everything was settled and I was blessed to have the cash to pay for the settlements. There had to be a better way.
Once again my best friend came through. At his invitation, I joined a financial class. The director that developed this process, did so from going through his own financial hard times. I saw him at a book signing one time. I told him that I credited Jesus with saving my soul and him with saving my life. His process and rules changed every fabric of my being. It is not easy changing at first, but two years into the new way of living, I realized that credit was a thing of the past. Once you get used to budgeting and used to living on the cash you have on hand, your life will be different. For some reason, people fear the “B” word. So many people associate a budget with having no money to play with on the weekends or to travel. There will be some lifestyle changes, but your life will be less stressful. I even bought a house with no credit score. It is possible. Besides learning how not to live paycheck to paycheck, I have also learned to live within my means and have an emergency fund.
The class teaches one the laws for collections as well. Did you know that there are certain things that these companies can and can’t say and there is a statute of limitations on debt collecting? There have been times that this part of the class has been very handy. The lawsuits eventually stopped and things settled down, but every now and then a collection letter comes in the mail for an old debt that was sold off by the original lender. The things I learned in this class got me through these times. If you have not taken this class, I recommend you do. It can change your life. The director takes something that seems complex and shows how simple it really is. If you are like me, there will be an anger phase you go through to your parents, schools, etc. for not teaching you this stuff at an earlier age.
The spiritual recovery is the hardest. There is a desert that most people go through. Some people make it and some don’t. For Jesus it lasted 40 days, but mine lasted longer. Sometimes we make our desert wanderings longer than they need to be. When I relocated to Nashville, I started working at a local moving company. I would literally show up and sit on a bench and wait to see if I was chosen to work that day. One thing led to another and I eventually became a qualified driver for the company. This allowed me a lot of time to think while I was on the road. Before I became self-employed I was a manager in the company and was there for eighteen and 1/2 years before I left. There are three main things that happened that have helped me in my quest. Those things are sayings by a preacher, the answer to my question of “why”, and a man named Terry Smith and his company called Coaching: Life Matters.
Every now and then a preacher can say something that sticks with you. While I do not remember the exact day or time, I do remember the saying. “God has thick shins and expects a reaction.” Wow!! It hit me like a boulder. I had not realized it until that day, but I was angry at God. They say you are not supposed to get angry at him, but I was very angry for all that I was going through. It is alright to be angry at God because he has the power to make all of the suffering in this world just go away with a word. Right? They say “admittance is the first step”. I had been denying it, but I was angry at God and that was my admittance.
Once I admitted being angry with God, it led to the next step. I had to answer the question of “why”. Why had God allowed all of this stuff to happen? There are books written about this subject. There is no easy answer and most of us are faced with having to answer that question. Like I said earlier, I had a lot of time on the road by myself to think. Eventually I answered the question for me. The answer is different for everybody and takes different amounts of time to answer the question. The answer for me was that this started with the fall. It is an imperfect world and the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. (Matt. 5:45) It really is not God’s fault. He created the world perfect and mankind messed it up. Yes, he could step in and stop it, but that would take away our freedom of choice. Freedom of choice is a very important phrase that will show up again later in this book.
Have you ever had your story done? I first met Terry Smith in a class called “Discovering Yourself” in 2001. It was a class that utilized the genogram to tell you why you do the things that you do. I learned a lot from the class, but not immediately. It took several years, but it finally took. In January of 2012, Terry asked me to come by his office. Something kept nagging at me and I eventually agreed. We did my story and this time the purpose was to show where God had been active in my life. He is part of a group called “seekers” and he invited me to be a part of the group. For many years I met with this group. Terry has some mottos I picked up. Most notably are, “children are the best recorders and worst interpreters”, “we best understand God when we feel it in our head, heart, and gut”, and “there is nothing more important than a human being.” It is a wonderful thing when you see how God has been active in your life. That is what Coaching: Life Matters does and you can have your story told as well. I credit Terry with bringing me back to reality. Most importantly, he has a way of showing you grace and what it can do for you no matter what your past or current situation.
I cannot say enough for what Terry Smith means to me. It is he who brought me back from the brink. He and his wife are the kindest people you have ever met. Terry likes to write haiku poetry. It is his influence that taught me to start writing mine. Several are in the back of this book for your enjoyment. I may not be at 100%, but God's grace puts me over that percentage. He can for you as well.
Whether your story is better, same, or worse. It does not matter. Grace is a wonderful gift. It has the power to cover a multitude of flaws. I did not know what God's love was, but it was shown to me. Hopefully this book will do the same for you. Now you know my story and how it has influenced me. Now you know why I think the way I think.
Sample Interview Questions:
What is Caught in the Middle about?
Why did you write this book?
What can the readers take away from this book?
What is the cost for people who don’t read this book?
Why do we follow what we are told instead of checking things out for ourselves?