Why did I virtually disappear from the public for 10 years? And why have I been doing so much lately? That is a good question that I am going to try to answer as briefly as possible.
My father died in 2013 at the age of 66. While this was hard on the entire family, it is not the reason for my absence. I was hooked on hydrocodone for six years, but that is also not the reason for my reclusiveness. I thought it was, but after I stopped in 2017, my thoughts that I could change the world were still gone. I am way ahead of myself and out of context. Let me give you the back story (a mini-biography of my life). Hang with me, please.
Throwing Things at the Wall and Seeing What Sticks
Let’s go back in time a bit. When I was in my teens, I started a lot of businesses and ministries. The first was “Blade Runners,” a lawn mowing business. I think we got one lawn contract after making hundreds of flyers and putting them on cars in the mall parking lot. We got in trouble for that. I moved on to something else.
Then there was an attempt to start a service much like Door Dash. I basically wanted to have a delivery service that brought anything to your front door that you needed. That didn’t get far beyond the plans in my brain.
Then I started “Adopt-a-Prisoner.” This was a service that would assign people in the church as a pen-pal to various prisoners. It didn’t get too far either. The pastor thought it was dangerous.
While I was a fitness trainer for six years, I started my own fitness certification called The All-American Fitness Certification Program. It came complete with training and an extensive quiz I made on WordPerfect (remember that program?). It didn’t get too far either. I think I certified about four people before total. I still have the quiz.
At this time, I started a fitness company named Shape fitness. I designed an amazing logo and started working through its distinctive mission. I wanted it to be a place where we only focus on helping people lose weight (ironic, as you will see). I was the lone employee of Shape and managed to convince one lady to hire me as her personal trainer. I trained her five times at $20 an hour. No one else bit. I took my $100 and moved on to the next great idea.
When I was 22, I wrote a book called Christian Apologetics to a Postmodern World in three months. It was around 150 pages and almost got published! But it was ultimately rejected. Looking back, I’m quite glad it wasn’t published! I was just so excited as I had just discovered apologetics and had learned that what I had believed all my life was true…really true! My theology just needed a little time to percolate
Not much was sticking on the wall, but I was still throwing! Things were about to get better.
I went to Dallas Seminary in 1998. While there I started the “DTS E-Team” (Evangelism Team) where I and a group of people would go to downtown Dallas every Friday and share the Gospel. For that, I won the W. E. Hawkins Jr. Award for Christian Service. I am proud of that one.
I also started an in-depth teaching program that was an extension of Dallas Seminary’s Center for Biblical Studies (CBS). It was essentially a program to help young seminary students get their feet wet teaching. I taught Romans and wrote a small commentary on the book for students (and I am so glad I did). For this, I won the Anna L Ayre Award for teaching at Dallas Seminary, of which, I am also proud.
From here, many of you know a lot of the story. I wrote and taught The Theology Program while I was a Pastor at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. It is an extensive six-course program of systematic theology for lay people. Lynn Wilson, my beloved former secretary, came up with the name. We have had hundreds of thousands of people go through The Theology Program and start it in their church. At this time I also began the Theology Unplugged podcast (TUP). By 2013, TUP had over 2 million downloads a year. I began The Parchment and Pen blog as well. This is the blog you are reading now. By 2013, it had over 3 million visitors a year.
I left Stonebriar in 2006 due to the suicide of my sister, the aneurysm of my mother, and the downfall of my father. I felt I needed to move home to Oklahoma City to take care of them. It was at this point I started Reclaiming the Mind Ministries. This is a ministry of theological development for lay people. I simply was so excited about what I learned at seminary. My purpose was to bring theology to everyone
Once I got home to Oklahoma, I needed a place from which to teach. I didn’t want to teach out of a church as I wanted a neutral place to serve all churches, teaching in a balanced, irenic, gracious way. So I started the Credo House Coffee Shop. I thought, “Everyone loves gourmet coffee these days, so let’s make an inviting environment and let the very atmosphere be a subtle teaching tool.” Credo House Coffee exploded in popularity. We were having people from all over the world come and check it out, wanting to follow our model. We became so known by the Coffee Shop that I renamed our entire ministry Credo House (credo meaning “I believe”). Here are some pictures of the inside:
in 2012, Christianity Today called and said they wanted to come interview me in Oklahoma at the Credo House. I was chosen to be their “Who’s Next” in Evangelicalism person that month. As someone who grew up with Christianity Today being the premier Evangelical information hub, I was proud of that interview. I thought I was the Evangelic scat (if you catch my meaning). I didn’t know what was looming.
It was while at the Credo House Coffee Shop that I started Credo Courses. While I love to teach theology and am decent at it, I wanted to expose people to the greatest scholars teaching the greatest subjects on earth; particular subjects that they could teach better than me. So I brought in Dan Wallace to teach an entire course in three days on Textual Criticism. When we were finished, we had 36 lessons, a student workbook, and a PowerPoint to make available to the public. This was received very well. So we kept scheduling them. I scheduled Gary Habermas to teach on the Historicity of the Resurrection, Darrel Bock for the historical Jesus, Mark Hitchcock for the book of Revelation, and many more. It was so much fun.
I also wrote two more books, Increase my Faith (a book to help doubters) and Now that I’m a Christian (a basic introduction to the Christian faith). I did Boot Camps, wrote curriculum, and created a 10-part new believers course called The Discipleship Program. I was living the dream.
Up to this point, most of the things I started (maybe 90%) failed, but, as you can see, some did not. I learned from a professor at seminary in a pastoral studies class that people like me will start a thousand things and only a few will make it. But, he taught me to keep at it. That really did help me a lot.
The point of everything so far is that I was the type of person who thought he could change the world, didn’t let the past get me down, and wasn’t scared to take chances.
The Loss of My Mother and Father
Let me slow down a bit here.
From 2010 to 2013 I was helping my father take care of my mother. She could not talk, walk, or, really, think. She had much of her frontal lobe removed after her aneurysm. It left her disabled and with the mentality of a child in so many ways. She was/is a different mom. None of us wanted to put her in a nursing home, so we all tried our best to take care of her at home, hoping—praying—she would recover. I and my family ended up moving in with my father in 2011. I was basically a full-time caregiver as I was the only one strong enough to pick her up, move her, and change her. My father spent more and more time at the bar, drinking away the thoughts of the death of his daughter and the essential loss of his wife. I figured God had me there to save him by showing him the love of Christ in my service to them, but I didn’t do much good. My father died in 2013 from pneumonia. He refused to go to the hospital. By the time we made him, it was too late. In truth, he wanted to die, he just did not want to commit suicide the traditional way. He basically drank himself to death.
When My Life Fell Apart
After this, I and my family took over my mother’s house and cared for her. I should never have done that. My back was already bad. Dead-lifting my mom, who had become over 200 pounds, ten times a day made me reliant on pain pills. Soon I was completely consumed by them. But that is another story.
It was at this time that I began to lose all drive and initiative. I was not starting new projects and I was neglecting old ones. It was so uncharacteristic of me. I thought that this was what the Lord wanted.
I slept on the couch next to my mother in her room so I could come to her aid whenever she needed it. It was getting hard to sleep in my room with Kristie, my wife, anyway. My snoring was getting very loud. I did not think much of the snoring. Remember that.
This is when I started sleepwalking. It became a very significant and dangerous issue. I would sleepwalk just about every night. One time I woke up on the couch with a vague memory of getting my mom up, putting her in the wheelchair, and taking her to the car. When I came to, I looked and my mom was not in her hospital bed beside me. I ran out to the car, and there she was, alone in the passenger seat. It was 14 degrees outside. Thankfully, it had only been about 20 minutes. But the horror of what happened was confusing. Why was I sleepwalking so much?
Soon after, we put my mom in a nursing home and moved to our own place. The sleepwalking did not stop. I would wake up very often as I was falling down. I, along with my wife and sisters, was so scared I was going to injure myself.
There wasn’t much I wasn’t neglecting at this time. The Credo House Coffee Shop had declined so much at this point. It was beyond rescue. Of course, its “fall” was complicated, but my absence in mind and body didn’t do it any favors. I closed it down but kept all the ministries. Credo Courses was still very active around the whole world. But when the Credo House closed, we had no place to film new Credo Courses. My blog, which I wrote every other day, slowly became deserted—by me and all my readers. The same thing happened with Theology Unplugged Podcast. I just did not have any drive, initiative, or hope, much less, ideas about things to write.
Thankfully, there was enough merchandise from my years of activity that all my ministries kept going, but they were in 1st gear. They were sustaining me and my family. I have also had a very faithful group of people who kept donating to me. They still believed/believe in me.
The drugs took their toll. I could write about 10 chapters of horrific drug-induced damage, but I won’t. Just know that they are a significant part of the story at this point.
My weight had become a problem. I gained a significant amount of weight in a very short time. It was very unlike me. Why was I gaining so much weight? I thought people on drugs lost weight. I didn’t see any change in my eating pattern. Maybe it was depression, I thought. The weight gain did not help my back and the addiction to pills. The decline in my looks from who I was to who I had become was a picture-perfect illustration of what had happened over the last six years. I began to stay away from just about all public places in fear of people looking at me and saying “What happened to him?” in their minds. The only places I would go are where there were people who didn’t know me before my fall.
The Calm Before the Storm
In 2017 I was able to stop the pain pills. Immediately, the sleepwalking stopped. I got a short boost of confidence and things were looking up. I lost weight and started thinking about trying to get the Credo House Coffee Shop back. But the worst was still in front of me.
After the shot of nitrous oxide I got from stopping the pain pills, I began to head back down. I didn’t know why. My initiative was still timid. I was scared to do anything. This was reasonable considering how I felt about myself. I could not believe someone like me could have been so addicted to something so destructive. My sister, Kristie, would try to encourage me to begin to be who I was, swinging at all balls, even if I missed. My daughter Katelynn, who remembered me from the old days, pushed and pushed me. Lindsey, my other sister, never quit believing in me and wondered why I had the brakes on. Kristie, my wife, who never even thought of leaving me, even during the drug-induced coma I was in, wondered what the problem was now. I did too. Why couldn’t I get it together? Why was I so scared? Had I lost my calling from the Lord? I seriously wondered about this and had begun to concede. I was content with it as I thought I deserved it.
But that was not the only problem. The sleepwalking came back! Not only did it come back, but it was worse than ever. I was so confused. It had been four years since I stopped the drugs. Why was I sleepwalking? No sleep medication worked. In fact, it just made it worst. My family, naturally, thought I was hiding a secret stash of pain pills somewhere. I tried to assure them I wasn’t, but I understood why they thought so.
You have to understand the significance of this. Here are some of the highlights of what I did while sleepwalking.
- Once I woke up at the neighbor’s house a 3 A.M. struggling to get in their locked door thinking it was my house. I’m lucky I didn’t get shot.
- Another time I woke up driving completely on the other side of the road on a busy street. I barely recovered.
- Another time I woke up falling forward into a hard surface and busted my head open (I woke up falling down no less than 100 times).
- Then again I woke up falling backward into a very sharp corner of the wall. Again, my head was busted.
- Then (and you’re not going to believe this), I was suddenly revived by the terrible taste of something I was drinking. I had gotten out ammonia from under the sink, poured it into a 16 oz cup, mixed chocolate milk powder into it, and begun to drink it. For some reason, I didn’t die.
- Another time I woke up with my foot broken in four places and my ligaments torn. I still don’t know how this happened.
- Finally (although there are more), I woke up in the kitchen. I had gotten the toaster out of the cabinet, plugged it in, and I had a knife stuck in it. My son yelled, “What are you doing?” I quickly revived and remembered believing I was cleaning it out.
In all of these, it seemed like I had a secret death wish or was demon possessed
Now, you can understand the feeling that I had at this point. Even if I had any drive to “be myself” and shake up the world, I was too scared to make any commitments. I would fall asleep writing, standing up teaching, and recording Theology Unplugged with Sam, Clint, Tim, and Carrie while they were looking on wondering how to help me. I had no drive, no answers, and no hope for the future. I gained the weight back as quickly as I lost it. I was still trusting in God, and he was being unusually faithful to me, but I was a mess and was angry at him for my situation. Christianity Today’s “Who’s Next” interview became and ironic tale of who’s next fall apart and make a fool of the faith. As I looked at the framed picture of me in the magazine I laughed and thought that they should fire the person who choose me. All this to say that things were bad.
In the summer of 2022, when all the sleepwalking was at its zenith, my wife was trying to get anyone and everyone to help figure out what to do with me. Interventions with my friend and family had no effect, as I didn’t know what to do. They just looked at me and said “Michael, look what you have become. Look at yourself in the mirror.” I agreed, but I did not know how to stop it. They still thought I might be on drugs. One time when my sister and family were around for another intervention that no one knew exactly what they were intervening, and I lost it. I told them to get the f@#k away from me. I screamed it for all the family to hear. They got scared and started to cry. I was scared too. I didn’t know what they were asking me to do. Didn’t they know I wanted it all to stop just as badly as them? I hated myself. I didn’t know how to concede to any intervention as I didn’t know what was causing my problems.
Now, I skipped the parts about me going to the hospital 17 times, all the bouts of rhabdomyolysis, and being forced to go to the “nut house” twice for the sake of brevity. But once again, in June of 2022, I found myself in a familiar place with three paramedics above me as I woke up. Although I wouldn’t concede to going to the hospital (I couldn’t pay), I could not get the question right when they asked me “Who is the president?” My family tells me I said “Obiden.” I thought it was pretty close. I guess it wasn’t close enough. I woke us two days later as they were taking out the breathing tube. They said I had encephalitis. My brain was dangerously swollen. I almost died. A very kind doctor (I believe he was a pulmonary physician) told me with great confidence that all my problems, all the sleepwalking, weight gain, and everything that accompanied it were caused by my severe case of sleep apnea (remember the snoring?). He said that if I started using a CPAP machine, it would all stop. I didn’t believe him. You must understand, I had been to the hospital so many times with all the doctors saying different things and they were all wrong. Nothing had worked. But here he was giving the simplest of all solutions.
I could not get a CPAP right away as I didn’t have insurance to cover it. As things were, we were living hand-to-mouth for so long and those machines are expensive. However, a few months later a wonderful person who followed our ministry said he had one I could have. Months after I got home from the hospital I finally (and reluctantly) put it together, read the instructions, and put the mask on one night. I had slept walked the night before and I expected the same when I used this machine. And that was the night everything began to change.
I didn’t sleepwalk that night. In fact, here I am six months later and have slept like a baby every night, only getting up to go to the restroom (but being fully aware of it!). Not only that but there has been a definite change in my brain. The oxygen deprivation that it had suffered was reversed and the cobwebs of hopelessness and fear began to subside. My confidence came back and I began to think I could change the world once again. I had literally slept walked through life for the last ten years.
Now, I gave it a few months before I allowed my newfound confidence to actually give me confidence. I was kinda expecting the problems to come back within a few days, maybe a few weeks. But it did not. I have since picked up so many of the balls I had dropped.
And six months later I sit here writing this blog and thinking about the other things that I can do to show the world how exciting and true the Christian faith is. I have been doing YouTube videos, writing blogs here, starting back at Theology Unplugged and even TikToks (I call these “Theology Toks”). I even built a Patreon page, where you can follow everything I am doing.
This is the basic, not-so-short, biographical rundown of where I have been for the last ten years and why I am back to such a degree. So, those of yo who are wondering what happened to the Credo House Coffee Shop, you now have some of the story. I do really want to bring it back as it provided such a needed ministry, not only in Oklahoma, but for the world. Right now my plans are to build my personal infrastructure of support, then begin to map our exactly what to do. I learned a lot, am a lot more mature, and hope to use this and, once again, start brewing Luther Lattes!
I thank God that that part of my life is over and I wait for what he has next. I do trust that he is good and, in a very real sense, I would not trade all I have been through. I get awfully angry with God a lot, but I really do believe he knows what he is doing. His providential care has been the key to my hope. Even in our pain, even in our mindlessness, even when we are drinking ammonia, he is King of our trials and will prevail.
Now, just pray for me as I make a commitment to lose this weight. I want to look like I feel.