Our Story

  Michael Hogan - Estes Park, CO

  Michael Hogan - Estes Park, CO

 

the corporate ladder...

This quote from Howard Thurman really says it all for me. It truly is the way I plan to live the rest of my life. I actually heard it for the first time in October of 2009 at a Thursday night men’s meeting at my church. Yes, thats right, I said a “men’s meeting at my church”. Yuck! I had never been to a men’s meeting before so you might ask why I attended this one. I’ll admit that it must have been a divine appointment. Earlier that day, I spent 10 hours in a staff meeting at work. I was the Sales & Marketing Manager at a major company where I had worked for 12 years climbing my way up the proverbial corporate ladder. I was very successful at my job. I received an exceptional achievement award directly from the CEO for finishing #1 in the company (globally) in my field.  So on the surface, I had everything a man could want in life; a successful career, a wonderful family, a two story house, a cruiser (boat) on Lake Travis.... However, for some reason I was very unhappy, depressed and, frankly, bored to death! I tried everything I could to find out what was wrong with me. Finally, my doctor diagnosed me with depression/anxiety and put me on anti-depressants. This was actually a couple of years prior to that Thursday staff meeting. In the interim, I was trying very hard to perfect the art of faking my way through life and especially through my career. I had become the ultimate poser. Still, I was miserable and it was becoming unbearable. During a short break between our Thursday staff meeting, I received a voice mail from my sister, Karen, (out of the blue) that said that she had been praying for me and that God asked her to tell me that He wanted me to “intentionally spend time with Him”. So, I thought that was a little weird but I appreciated the fact that she was praying for me. She kept saying the word “intentionally” to get my attention I suppose. Earlier that day, a dear friend of mine, Michael Sexton, invited me to come to the Thursday night men’s meeting that I mentioned earlier (as he had done at least 100 times before). My sister’s voice mail convicted me to say yes this time and to go. I must have thought of 100 excuses not to follow through but I ended up going after all. By the way, I refer to Michael Sexton as a dear friend now but truthfully at that point in my life he was a person that I would have gone out of my way to avoid because I really didn’t want to have anything to do with meeting with a bunch of men and singing Kumbaya or whatever it was that Christian men did together.

 

living in quiet desperation...

It turns out that singing Kumbaya was not part of the agenda at that particular men’s meeting. Actually, they were in the latter part of an eight week video series called “Wild At Heart : A Band of Brothers” by John Eldridge. Kyle Barber was nice enough to sit down with me and get me up to speed on the prior sessions so I wouldn’t be completely lost as the video started.  Although I felt a little awkward, the things I was hearing from Kyle seemed to really speak to me and my circumstances. I quickly took out a business card from my wallet and started to take notes on the back. On a side note, I still have that card in my wallet to this day. The things I wrote down were “bored, depressed, what makes you come alive, build legacy, risk, adventure and intimacy with God. Actually the last thing I wrote down was “Intentionally spend time with God” as a reminder to what my sister had told me earlier in the day. So I was intrigued to see what the video was like. Well, if you have ever heard or read anything by John Eldridge, you know that he has a very special gift in the way that he relates to men. So the video session for that night was “The Adventure”. John describes how every man longs for adventure.  I heard Kyle say earlier that the vast majority of “men live their lives in quiet desperation” which is actually a quote from Henry David Thoreau. This is true. Most men are trapped. The closest thing to adventure they have in their lives is their favorite sports team. I think thats why when their team loses a big game, it feels like the end of the world, at least for a while.  I know when the Dallas Cowboys would lose a big game (which they have done many times) I would almost go into a depression. At least for a day or so. Even though the game had absolutely no significance in my own life, I felt like a loser. Don’t misunderstand me, I still love to watch football as much as the next guy. I am not condemning it in any way but rather speaking to a bigger issue regarding what was going on in my life and what goes on in the lives of many men today. 

 

BOOT CAMP...

So, If my story ended here, I would have gone home and purchased the book Wild At Heart by John Eldridge and would probably never be the same. But it didn’t end there. Remember the part about “intentionally spending time with God”. That’s the part that is most significant in my story. So I left the meeting and got into my car when one of the leaders from the men’s meeting, Nev Nicholson, knocked on my window and said “I know this is going to sound crazy, but how would you like to go with me and a few other men to Wild At Heart Boot Camp in Colorado with John Eldredge?” If anyone had asked me this question one hour before, I would have quickly come up with a million excuses as to why I could not go. I asked Nev, “When is it and when do I have to give you an answer?”. He said “The camp is next Thursday and I need you to give me an answer tonight”. Oh and by the way, it cost $400 plus your plane fare. What? Are you kidding me? That should have been an easy way out for me. But the words “intentionally spend time with God” kept me from saying no. So, I said YES, much to Nev’s surprise. Thankfully, my wonderful wife immediately supported my decision. She knew better than anyone that I was living my life in quiet desperation. I think she longed for me to come alive and to be the man that she fell in love with. The man full of life, full of dreams. Somewhere along the way I worked my way into a corner, trapped by my own success.  I guess my posing wasn’t fooling her at all. 

 

TIME ALONE WITH GOD...

So fast forward to a week later when I was boarding a plane to Colorado with seven other men. I wont go into detail of everything that happened that weekend because it would take too long but I strongly encourage every man to read the book Wild At Heart and to surround themselves with other men who have come alive. Men who are spiritual warriors who fight for their own hearts and for the hearts of other men. Whether we are aware of it or not, we live in a literal, spiritual battle and if we are not equipped to handle the attacks, we will get taken out. Believe me, I know. So for the first time in my life, I actually spent time alone with God completely broken and in full surrender and it literally changed my life. I need to emphasize the “completely broken” and “full surrender” part because I believe that is what made this encounter so incredibly powerful. I had spoken to God many times before but never under these circumstances, genuinely humbled before Him. So this is what God had been trying to tell me. He knew my situation and He just wanted me to give Him the opportunity to make a difference in my life. To give Him permission to bring these dry bones back to life just as He told Ezekiel that He was capable of doing (see Ezekiel 37:1-4). I told God that I was no longer in control of my life and that I was willing to give all control to Him. Including the very thing that I thought I could not live without, my career. I had put everything I had into my career for 12 years. I worked very hard to get to the level that I was at and had big plans to continue to move up.  But now, all of a sudden, I was ready to lay it on the alter. 

 

TOTAL SURRENDER...

So that’s exactly what I did. The day after I returned home, I sat down with my boss (the Vice President and General Manager) and resigned. My boss and coworkers were in shock. My wife was terrified but resolved to stand in faith behind my decision. It takes a strong woman of God to do that. I am very blessed. We had three very young children and a lot of responsibilities but she heard my story about my experience and about what I felt, in my heart, I needed to do. She believed in me and was willing to join me in putting all of our faith in God alone. Not “some” of our faith but “all” of it. I describe it as stepping out of the boat when the water is deep and rough. When you show God that you believe that He is true to His word and that He can and will supply your every need. When you show Him that kind of faith, powerful things can happen. You can walk on water! Well, I must say that my boss ,on the other hand, thought that I had gone off to the mountains and joined a cult. He was very upset. Nevertheless, God softened his heart and all of a sudden things got very interesting. My boss said to me “Mike, maybe you don’t have to just quit your job”. I said “what do you mean?”. He said, “what if you could follow your passion and still keep your job. I will work with you to allow you to do whatever you feel you need to do. If you need to work part time, fine. Just tell me what you want to do”. What? I could not believe my ears. I had to stop and ask God what is happening. Never before had this happened at this particular company. At this company, it is 110% or nothing. You work your 55-60 hours a week and produce results or you’re done. I thought to myself, so now what do I do. Long story short, I kept my job and was allowed to work 4 days a week, an unprecedented situation. I felt like Abraham who was ready to prove to God that He was willing to sacrifice His pride and joy, Isaac, when God intervened at the last second and gave Isaac back to Abraham and so much more. You can imagine the look on my wife’s face when I explained what had happened. It would be an understatement to say that she was relieved.

 

GETTING MY HEART BACK...

So for two more years, I was able to work 4 days a week and spend the other 3 days spending time with my family and pursuing whatever it was that made me come alive. Remember the Howard Thurman quote. Not long after I returned from boot camp, I found myself looking for property in the Driftwood, TX area. We had always wanted to live out of the city on a few acres and truthfully I was also hoping that I could buy something cheap to downsize from our big house and huge mortgage payments. I took a fairly substantial pay cut when I went to 4 days a week. But at least now I had a little extra time in my life and could actually do things like look for property. I found a place with a Remax Realty sign so I called the realtor and she said that the property was somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million. I quickly asked her if she had something in my tiny price range. After she laughed, she said that there was a piece of property that was @ 14 acres. She didn’t do a very good job of selling the property. She described it as a “mud hole” and said there was an old run down house on the property that is considered to be a “tear-down”. I said “what else do you have?”. She said “why don’t you come to Wimberley and I will show you around”. I had never been to Wimberley before but I had always heard it was a beautiful place. I met with her and she showed me several other properties that I immediately hated. I never do well with realtors because I usually know immediately if I don’t like something and I really hate wasting time.  So I said, “show me that mud hole that you told me about”. So she did. The very moment we drove on the property, I was absolutely captivated. Somehow, I knew that this was home. Never mind the “mud hole” comment, I had a peace about it that was beyond understanding. I pointed to the house and said to the realtor, “that’s the tear-down you were referring to?”. She said “yes, that’s it”. I said, “that’s not a tear-down”. She argued that it was. This went back and forth a couple more times when I said, “ok, if you say so”. 

As I mentioned before, in my heart, I knew this was our home. 

 

GOD COMES THROUGH...

Well, the next day I decided to bring my wife out to look at the house and the property. I was a little nervous about this because, to tell you the truth, the house really was in very bad shape. Holes in the ceiling, broken windows and doors, no water, the plumbing was out, etc, etc. And it was infested with red hornets. So, we drove out to Wimberley to see the property. Tawnya loved the property but that’s not what I was concerned about. I was concerned about what she was going to think when she saw that mess of a house. Keep in mind that she was used to our very large home in a nice (golf course) subdivision so this was a huge stretch to say the least. Well, when we entered the house, she immediately started to cry. I mean the tears were flowing like rain. So, I thought to myself, that’s it. I said “Alright, lets go”. She said, “No, don’t you remember the dream I told you about?”. She reminded me, “In my dream, you brought me to this very place. Look there's the blue kitchen, theres the hole in the ceiling, and the house is white, on several acres and is outside the city. This is where we belong!”. 

What? Are you kidding me? God had prepared her heart weeks before. This was all a part of His bigger plan for our lives. I have to go back to what I said before about faith. To quote myself, “When you show God that you believe that He is true to His word and that He can and will supply your every need. When you show Him that kind of faith, powerful things can happen”. This story should leave no doubt about that. At that very moment, everything changed for us. We now had a new passion and a purpose. All of the sudden, together we had something that made the entire family come alive. A new adventure to pursue together. Thank you God!

 

MOVING FORWARD...

So fast forward again to four months later when we actually signed the documents to purchase the property. We had absolutely no idea of how we were going to afford it. It was way more than what I was looking for. So now, not only did we have one mortgage but now we were pursuing another mortgage. With the mortgage crisis looming at full strength, buying the property seemed to be an impossible feat. But with God, all things are possible. We knew what we had to do and we simply would not allow anything to get in the way. Many doors were shut but we kept on pursuing our dream with a purpose. We put our house on the market knowing that we had already tried to sell it for 3 years with no luck. And, we had already gone through 3 real estate agents. None of this deterred us. When one door shut on us, another one opened. Five months later, God provided the perfect opportunity for us to sell our house in a very unconventional way, through a mortgage wrap, which is something that most real estate agents and mortgage companies hate. Nevertheless, we knew we had to think way outside the box if we were going to make this happen. And God opened one door after another. 

So, now we were basically homeless because we had to move out of our house and, as mentioned before, the house on the property was a mess. I’ll admit that it looked like a tear down. I suggested to my wife that we should consider moving into an RV on the property so we can oversee the reconstruction process of the house. She said, “I will never live in an RV”. Famous last words. The next part of the story is us moving into a 5th wheel that my sister and brother in-law, Jan and Chad, so graciously provided to us. So, once again, God provided for us. 

Our next hurdle was to get financing for the massive remodel that needed to take place on the house. Once again, some of the banks and mortgage companies totally rejected us, others just made it so incredibly difficult that we just walked away. That’s when God did it again. He provided a private investor who financed the entire project. I’m not making this up! This was such an incredible blessing mainly because it allowed us to avoid all of the red tape that the bank would have required including inspections, draws, etc. Keep in mind that virtually everyone but us thought the house should be torn down. But we knew that God wanted it to be rebuilt. And that's exactly what we did. The entire family pitched in and tore down walls, removed cabinets, sheetrock, glass, etc. 

 

THE PROVISION AND THE TRUE VISION...

So in less than two months, we moved into that old “tear-down”. Now completely restored and with purpose. It’s not only a beautiful home but it is literally the place that God provided for us. This reminds me of my own life, how God had to take my heart and completely restore it. What once was considered a tear down by many is now completely renewed and with purpose. That’s what God wanted all along for my life. He wanted to breathe life into me. But why? Is it because he wanted me to be happy and to have a nice place to live? Perhaps. But I know there is a bigger story. Anytime God is involved in something, you can be certain that there is a bigger story. After we moved into the house, we began to pray about the next step. That’s where Freedom14 Camp comes in. God revealed to Tawnya and I separately that He wanted us to turn the property into a place where other lives can be restored. A place where people can experience the freedom that I have experienced. A place where the spirit of the Lord can live and dwell.

Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom - II Corinthians 3:17. 

 

ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE...

On a final note, I should add that, after a lot of prayer and divine guidance, I did finally leave my career once and for all in August, 2011. So now I am able to pursue ministry full time, living completely on faith. There’s just something about putting yourself in a position where God has to come through or else you are hosed! I guess I now have a history of doing just that. Some people might consider that reckless and irresponsible. Close friends have told me “Mike, you have to be responsible and take care of your family”.  I don’t blame them for thinking that. I would have thought the same thing before October, 2009. That’s our American way of thinking and it is completely reasonable. It’s just not a biblical way of thinking. The bottom line is, we feel a very strong sense of urgency to commit our lives to preparing people for Christ’s return. We call it “eternal perspective”. And we believe His return is near. Each day that goes by brings new proof and new signs that the stage is set. Can you think of anything more worthwhile? It really is worth risking it all.  

 

So that’s my story, that’s our story. 

Michael Hogan