Category Archives: Thankfulness

I Escaped…and So Did He

Mike's accident-9 yr old

35 years ago, I was hit by a car.  I was in route on foot to the neighborhood gas station to buy 2 Cokes from the machine outside the station.  My brother and I were watching soccer-great Pele’ play on TV, and during a commercial break, he gave me two quarters and two dimes, and I took off running.

The car was going at least 35 miles an hour when it hit me as I crossed the road.  He was supposed to yield, but he didn’t.  Witnesses tell me that I tried to jump on top of the hood of the car, but I didn’t make it.  The impact of the car hitting my lower back launched me in the air about 10 feet high.  When I hit the ground, I rolled some 50 feet and came to rest in the entrance of the gas station.

I remember seeing the silver stripe on top of the blue car’s hood right before it hit me, and then I remember rolling.  I was nine years old, and I remember wondering as I rolled if I was going to die or not.  I felt no pain.

The next thing I remember is trying to get up and realizing that I had lost both my shoes and my socks.  The shoes I understand, but the socks?! I have no idea how they came off.

People gathered around me and told me to lie down.  My brother heard the screeching of the tires and came running.  I remember his face as he knelt over me.  It’s a look I’ve never forgotten.

My dad ‘s restaurant was about 3 blocks away from our home, and within minutes, he was there kneeling over me.  I found out later that he didn’t have the car that day (my mom was using it to grocery shop), so he ran from the restaurant to the accident scene.  He weighed over 300 pounds at the time.

Mike's accident -9 yr old #2

I was fortunate that day.  My reflex to try to jump on top of the car probably saved me from being run over.  No bones were broken, but – as you can see from the picture – along with my shoes and socks, I did lose a lot of skin.  By the way, I DIDN’T lose the money.  I held onto the change throughout the entire ordeal!

It was only years later when I was in high school that it was revealed that my back had been damaged by the impact, and I struggle with back pain to this day…but I’m thankful nothing worse happened that day.

The following news story made me think of my accident.  The man involved in this accident escaped serious injury like I did, and he says that he remembers rolling down the street – like I do.  Our bodies are incredibly fragile at times and amazingly durable at other times.

I escaped serious injury when I shouldn’t have…and so did he.

Life and Death – All in the Same Day


I am a proud grandfather once again as Melody Rose was born on Tuesday to my daughter Alexis.  What an incredible blessing she is to our family.

But Tuesday was a weird day.

The day started off early as I accompanied a family to Santa Fe to bury their mother at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.  I performed a short committal service, said good-bye to the family, and hopped in the hearse for the one-hour ride back to Albuquerque.


While in the hearse – a vehicle that one can not think about death when riding in – I received a phone call that Alexis was in labor and being admitted to the hospital. The hearse dropped me off at my car, and I quickly made my way to the hospital – wearing the clothes I had just buried someone in.

Within 2 hours of my arrival, Melody Rose was born.  I mentioned the extremes of my day to someone at the hospital, and he said, “Wow. Kind of a sobering day for you, huh?” It was.

All I could think about that day were the words from the Old Testament book of Job: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

One family was mourning that day, and my family was rejoicing.  The Lord took one away from one family, and the Lord gave one to my family. I’ve experienced both death and new life in my family over the past year, and I can say that I agree with Job. Regardless of whether the Lord gives or takes away, I will still say, “Blessed be His name.”

A Sobering Week

It’s been a sobering week for me.  On Tuesday, I was working out at the gym when suddenly a man on a treadmill in front of me fell off his machine and landed wedged between his machine and the one next to him.  Immediately, I – along with a few others who saw him fall – raced to his side.  He was unconscious, and after observing him closer, we discovered that not only was he not breathing, but we could not find a pulse.

We pulled the man out from between the machines into the isle, and while one man began compressions on the man’s chest, I raced to the other side of the gym and found the AED (automated external defibrillator) and oxygen.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my glasses on, so it was hard for me to read the instructions, but the makers of this life-saving machine have made it pretty simple to operate.  With the help of another bystander, we were able to get the electrode pads placed correctly on the man’s chest.  Immediately, the machine gave the instruction for us to stand back as it assessed the man’s condition.  As we waited, I could see that the man’s heart had begun beating again.  The compressions had worked.  The voice in the machine said that no shock was necessary.

Our focus then turned to his breathing.  He still was not breathing, so we fumbled with the oxygen tank until we could feel that oxygen was coming out.  We turned it all the way up and placed the mask over the man’s mouth and nose.  We tried to stir him by shaking him and speaking loudly to him.  No one knew his name, so we all just yelled things like, “C’mon sir!  Wake up, sir!  Stay with us, sir!”  After about half a minute, the man’s eyes opened wide and he took a deep and long breath.  The breath he took nearly sat him straight up.  We grabbed him, laid him back down, and encouraged him to keep taking breaths.  He did.

After a few minutes of deep, labored breaths, the man spoke.  He said he was okay, but we quickly informed him what had happened.  All he could say in response was, “Oh boy!  Oh boy!”  He was able to tell us that he suffers from pulmonary hypertension and that he had passed out once before.  However, he informed us that he did not stop breathing nor did his heart stop beating that time.  We eventually sat him up against a wall so that he could breathe easier, and he was pretty stable by the time the paramedics arrived.  That’s when I walked away, shaken but thankful.

I’m thankful that so many people – strangers – were willing to do whatever it took to save this man’s life.  I’m thankful that the gym had an AED and oxygen tank readily available. (By the way, I immediately called my office administrator and had her price an AED for our church building).  I’m thankful that the man is alive, but I hope to never see him in the gym again as those with pulmonary hypertension are instructed to avoid strenuous physical activity.  And I’m thankful for my health.  I have wrestled with hypertension for much of my adult life, but thanks be to God, with a healthier diet and consistent exercise, it seems to be under control right now.

Ever since Tuesday, I have thought about what happened many times.  It was traumatic.  It was scary.  It was sobering to see a man dying right before my eyes.  Praise God he didn’t.  As the man left the gym that day, my prayers left with him.

39 Years Ago…

1970Richard Nixon was the president of the US. One of the best movies I’ve seen this past year was about him…Frost/Nixon.

18 year-olds were given the right to vote in federal elections. How many 18 year-olds really evaluate the issues and candidates before voting?  I have two 18 year-olds in my home, and I’m pretty sure they’re not studying the issues!

A tidal wave driven by a cyclone from the Bay of Bengal hit East Pakistan, killing hundreds of thousands of people. Today, thousands of Pakistani people are coming to Christ, and I’m blessed to be a part of a church that has been on the front lines of this movement for the past 20 years.

The Baltimore Orioles won the World Series and the Kansas City Chiefs won the Superbowl. My beloved Reds (who aren’t so good anymore) have won 3 World Series since then and my beloved Steelers (who still are very good) have won 6 Super Bowls since then!

A house cost $26,600. That same house now costs 10 times that amount…at least in Albuquerque.

The average income per year was $9,400. That’s not too far off from what I made my first year out of college in 1992 with my $60,000 diploma in hand!

The average monthly rent was $140. Ha!  I’m paying more than 10 times this amount to rent my home now, but I’m not making 10 times the amount of income that people did in 1970.

jack-bauerAn anti-war rally was held at Valley Forge and was attended by John Kerry, Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. I’m not overly concerned about Kerry and Fonda attending, but the father of Jack Bauer?  Now THAT’S a problem!

The cost of a gallon of gas was 36 cents. Funny.  I just paid $2.42 per gallon to fill up my car yesterday…and I thought that was a good price!

Sports Illustrated cost 15 cents per issue. Of course back then, dog racing and fishing stories made the front cover.  Today, the stories and photos are better, and with my subscription, I pay only 74 cents per issue.  This may be one of the best bargains around! (And by the way, when the swimsuit edition comes, I have Michelle grab it out of the mailbox and dispose of it properly.  Wouldn’t want to leave you with that question unanswered!)

A United States postage stamp was 6 cents. The price for postage goes up so often that I truly don’t know what a first class stamp costs right now.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou is published. When she read her I Am A Tree poem at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, I was really turned off.  I never was a big Maya Angelou fan until I saw her speak at a girl’s school that my mom used to work at in Ohio.  Michelle and I took Emily to see her, and we found her to be witty, engaging, charming, compassionate, and brilliant.  I’ve been a fan ever since.

The Long and Winding Road becomes the Beatles’ last Number 1 song. Good thing.  They were truly weird by the time they ended their unprecedented run atop the charts.  However, the Beatles of the early 60’s were incredible, revolutionary, and phenomenal musically.

02Queen Latifah, Mariah Carey, Andre Agassi, Uma Thurman, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Damon, and Mike Potter were born. All of them may be more famous and much wealthier than me, but as I observe (celebrate would be too strong of a word!) my 39th birthday today, I recognize that I am incredibly blessed.  I have the perfect wife for me in Michelle and I have four healthy and wonderful children.  The Lord has been so good to me.  I know that He loves me and is patiently growing me in spite of myself.  I pray for at least another 39 years of life so that I can continue to serve Him.

16 Years Ago Today


16 years ago today, I married the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.  We met five years earlier at Taylor University.  It was the second day of school, and I was sitting in a classroom when she walked in.  From the moment I saw her, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her.  We were each other’s first dates in college, and we ran in the same friend-circle for four years.

On June 26, 1993, Michelle Matheny became Michelle Potter…and Emily Matheny became Emily Potter: two for the price of one!  I am a blessed man, and I thank God for my beautiful bride of 16 years.

Vows_2Us_1Wedding Party_3

Memorial Day Tension

pledge-allegianceIt’s Memorial Day weekend.  A time when people zonk out, camp out, cook out, and remember.  It’s a weekend when we remember those who have sacrificed so much for our country.  As an American, I am truly thankful for the sacrifice of the men and women who have made it possible for me to live the life I live.

As part of my sermon this weekend, I’ll talk about some of the people in other countries who are being oppressed and persecuted for being Christians.  I’m mindful that it’s because of the sacrifice of men and women before me who have secured for me a country where we I’m allowed to freely practice my faith.  For that, I am truly thankful to them.

However, as much as I love my country and as much as I’m thankful for the freedom that others have secured for me, as a Christian, I feel torn this weekend.  As a matter of fact, I feel torn most of the time.  The Scriptures say that this world (including my country) is not my home.  My citizenship, the Scriptures say, is in another Kingdom.  Not in the kingdom of the United States, but in the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, I’m torn.

My allegiance, the Scriptures say, is to be pledged to God, not to the American flag.  My ruler is ultimately to be the King of Kings, not the kings of America.  My money is to be used to further God’s Kingdom; my time is to be spent building God’s Kingdom; and my mind is to be utilized for strategic Kingdom of God thinking.

Unfortunately, I’m living in a time when the Kingdom of God is often equated to the kingdom of America.  Pledging allegiance to the flag and pledging allegiance to God have been reduced to the same thing.  Patriotism to America is seen by many in the church today as a Christian requirement.  It’s as if the church has bought into the idea that loving God and loving America are one in the same.  And this is where the tension lies.

I’m glad to be an American, and I truly enjoy the benefits that come with my citizenship here.  My name has been registered for the military draft now for 21 years, and I faithfully pay my taxes!  But, I can not allow myself to be sucked into the prominent thinking in the church today that patriotism to America is a requirement of being a Christian.  The Scriptures make it clear that my allegiance can only be to one thing, and as a Christian, it must be to God.

10 Things I’m Thankful For (That I Can’t Admit at Church)

I’m a pastor, and therefore, I must make sure that I look good at all times. Last week was Thanksgiving, and on that day, everyone at the dinner table told of the three things they’re most thankful for. I cleared my throat and said that I am most thankful for my wonderful wife, my four children, and my great job. Don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful for these things, but if I’m being truly honest, there are other – less dignified – things that I’m thankful for. These are things that I can’t mention at church at the risk of looking shallow or possibly even unspiritual – something a pastor must never give hint of. But I think you’ll agree that these are things worthy of my thankfulness.

Seriously…how did I live without this before? With a DVR, I can digitally record all the TV shows I want to watch, and then I can watch them on my own time without ever having to watch a commercial. Now, watching live TV is like crank-starting a car. Archaic, old school, and completely laborious.

And speaking of archaic…how did I ever watch any TV before the introduction of high definition television (HDTV) into my home? HD is unbelievable, and it makes watching regular TV look like the digital clock in the middle of the night without my glasses: fuzzy, blurred, and headache-causing. If it’s not in HD, I probably won’t watch it, even if it’s something I want to see.

I love Costco. Walking through the front doors is like walking into a party. HDTV’s, iPods, computers, DVDs, and books greet you at the entrance, and friendly faces offering you samples of delicious foods await you at the end of every isle. You go in hungry and sensory deprived, and you walk out with a full belly and your senses satisfied!

My iPod
Speaking of iPods…as a vinyl record collecting teenager, I never – in a million years – dreamt of such an apparatus. I thought heaven had arrived on earth when technology allowed me to burn 20 songs of my choice onto a CD. Never in my wild dreams did I ever think that I could carry my entire library of 4000+ songs (plus 5000+ pictures and 300+ contacts) in my pocket.

My Swamp Cooler
I love living in the Southwest. Lots of sun and little humidity. Because of the lack of humidity, there is little need for air conditioning. Most homes here have swamp coolers that force cool air throughout the house. The reason why I’m thankful for my swamp cooler is because it is the one “machine” in my home that I actually know how to service and repair. It makes sense to me, and because few machines do, my swamp cooler makes me feel like a man. Arggg!

My Hot Air Popcorn Popper
I told you this list would make me look shallow and perhaps unspiritual, but I gotta tell you that I really love my hot air popcorn popper. Not only does it make perfect popcorn, but any time I turn it on, my kids (and my dogs) come running. It’s something that unifies us and often ushers in laughter, joking, and happiness in our home.

Where we I be without Tylenol? Where would any of us be? As I get older, more things hurt, and that’s why I keep my trusty Tylenol nearby. From my head to my back to my feet…there’s nothing that Tylenol can not beat! I think I missed my calling. I should’ve gone into marketing!

My Heating Blanket
During the cold desert nights, is there anything better than a heating blanket? It keeps me and Michelle nice and toasty, and it quickly removes the threat of her warming her ice cold feet on me.

The Age of My Kids
I remember celebrating the day that all three of our kids were out of diapers. Then came the day when all three could brush their own teeth, bathe themselves, and put on their own clothes. The older they get, the better it gets! Now, it’s legal to leave them home alone, and leaving them home alone is what Michelle and I like do! We love the freedom to date-at-will…popping a frozen pizza in the oven for them and heading out to our favorite restaurant.

The View from My Office
Take a look for yourself! It’s a miracle that I get any work done at all. I love the fact that God created the mountains, and I love the fact that my office wall that faces them is one huge window. Whenever I need inspiration; whenever I need a break; whenever I need to be reminded of God’s majesty and beauty, all I have to do is look out my window. I am truly blessed!