TCOR: The Movie

Here’s a glimpse behind the scenes of the Hallmark Movie Channel production, The Color of Rain, premiering on Saturday, May 31.

For those who want to get a jump on things, there is a benefit premiere being held on Thursday, May 15 at 6PM at the E-Magine Theater in Royal Oak, MI. There will be a red carpet arrival, cocktails and hearty h’or derives, the screening of the movie and then a panel Q & A session with cast members, the producers and more!

This exciting night will benefit The New Day Foundation for Families, a 501(c)(3) non-profit helping families who have been impacted by cancer.

Seats are very limited so order yours today online.

Order Tickets Online

Team New Day

Team New Day

Team New Day is a partnership between New Day Foundation for Families and Starting Line Health and Fitness for the purpose of having fun and staying fit, all while giving back to the community.

The Roller Coaster

Empty nest

For nearly the past week our children have been up north visiting grandparents and aunts and uncles. Gina and I have stayed home to tend to work, take care of chores around the house, etc. (It’s the “etc.” that was the good part!)

With five kids Gina and I have our hands (and minds) full most of the time. We do have a pretty busy household. It can get messy around here too. Having five kids (three of them teenagers) will tend to raise the level of clutter and noise to a house. It’s not for everyone that’s for sure. I’ve seen the faces of friends or relatives when they come to visit. That “there but for the grace of God go I” look. Most days I just close the French doors of my home office as tightly as I can and keep my head down.

It often seems as though we really can’t see much past the next hour or two. Friends and family call us to ask if we want to go to a movie three days from now and we are left with a confused look on our face. “Three days from now…? That’s not even on our radar yet!”

Michael Spehn will be addressing the pastors of the greater Kalamazoo, MI area at a prayer breakfast. Invitation only.

Date: May 1, 2014
Time: 07:30 - 09:00 am
Event: Kalamazoo Breakfast Speaking Event
Sponsor: Kalamazoo Funeral Homes
555-555-1234
Public: Private

The Color of Rain (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011)

Matt Kell is a young husband and father in the late stages of terminal cancer. His former classmate Cathy Spehn has recently moved to his hometown with her husband and three children. Four weeks after Matt dies on Christmas Day, Cathy develops a bad headache. She dies seventeen days later of inoperable brain cancer. On her last day of life, she tells her husband, Michael: ‘Call Gina Kell.’ The Color of Rain illuminates the stepping-stones of healing that led to a new life for Michael, Gina, and their five children.

Order The Color of Rain

TCORThis remarkable real-life Brady Bunch story explores the differences between despair and grief, denial and joy, bitterness and redemption. Told from alternating points of view, Michael and Gina’s gripping journey of ‘growing new hearts’ inspires readers to not just survive loss but to receive the courage, faith, and identity that God gives in the midst of tragedy—and be transformed forever.

Michael and Gina personify the beauty that God can bring out of the ashes of sorrow.Kathy Lee Gifford
Host, NBC's The Today Show Fourth Hour
The Color of Rain is not only an instant best-seller, but also an instant classic. It is simply a profoundly moving guidebook to the Valley of the Shadow.Hugh Hewitt
Nationally Syndicated Radio Host

 

The Blessed Partnership: Moms

My mother, Dolores Spehn, was a great mom. She took care of our every need growing up, attended every game and concert. She encouraged me to tryout for teams, run for student council, and ask out the cutest girl(s). She did so while raising three other children and running our household while our dad worked.

As we got older, busy with our lives and distractions, Mom used to chide us for not calling often enough. “I have four other children,” she’d say tongue (half) in cheek. “But you only have one mom.”

Her point of course was to emphasize to us that we’d better treasure her while she was still here because she was the “only mother we’re gonna get.”

She was right about appreciating her while she was here. She left this world in 2004 and with every passing year I seem to appreciate her more and more. What I wouldn’t give to be able to call her today.

But Mom was wrong about one thing: You don’t “only get one mom”. Yes, there is only one person who gives birth to you, but being a mom is so much more and so much different than giving birth. When we were kids, my mom’s best on our block was Mary Walsh. Though she had ten (yes, ten!) kids of her own, Mrs. Walsh helped raise us as well. She was our “second mom”.

Later, in my high school days, my best friend was Dan Pelekoudas. Because my parents had split up by then and because Mrs. Pelekoudas was greek and could cook like nobody’s business, I spent a lot of time at their house. Mrs. Pelekoudas became my second mom during those days.

Today my five kids all have second moms. Mrs. Lynch, Mrs. Dean, Aunt Colleen… These are the second moms to our kids. And we all are blessed because of it.

Perhaps the greatest example of the “second mom” plays out every day in our home where our kids are blessed with true second moms, Gina and Cathy. They co-parent, one in heaven, one in the kitchen, in a a blessed partnership, in service to their children, and to their God.

One brought these kids into this world, the other brings them up in it. And it’s my privilege to watch. Somedays I want to cry. On others, I simply marvel at His plan and give thanks that it works in our lives.

To all the moms… and second moms, in this world, thank you. Not just for the infinite things you do for us every day. But also for the blessed partnerships you form with really great women, who become our second moms, and help shape our futures.

Coolidge Avenue

Gina (far right) and “Santa’s Helpers” at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI

Coolidge Avenue runs North and South through suburban Detroit and is a mostly-straight, unremarkable stretch of road that could exist in just about any town.

Almost seven years ago, on a clear and cold morning, I drove a little too fast along Coolidge Avenue trying to get to Beaumont Hospital where my beloved Cathy battled against brain cancer. Within hours of my arriving, she would lose her battle.

This morning I found myself once again driving a little too fast down Coolidge Avenue heading for Beaumont. This time however, my mission was different. The social workers there organize an annual “Adopt a family” program for Christmas. Each department in the hospital “adopts” a family who, on top of going through the horrors of cancer, also are facing severe financial distress. While this is always a difficult situation, it becomes especially sad at Christmas time. So the good folks at Beaumont adopt a family in need and shop for them, and give them a Christmas to remember. When we at the New Day Foundation for Families heard about this program we wanted in. Then, when we mentioned this in casual conversation to our friends at LJPR, Inc. in Troy, they said they wanted to be a part of this as well and they adopted a family too!

There are thousands of little “programs” like this all around this country. In churches and hospitals and corporations and schools. Wherever two or more are gathered… The spirit of giving is alive and well and I just wanted to point that out.

Today I drove a van full of toys and gifts and clothes and diapers… and even wrapping paper and tape so that the parents could share in the joy of wrapping Christmas gifts before giving them out to their kids. I had nearly nothing to do with this. I didn’t pay for the gifts – the generous donors to the New day Foundation did that. Gina shopped for most everything. As the delivery man I simply got to reap the infinite blessings of the smiles and the hugs. That makes for a pretty good day.

I thought of Cathy and Matt. I thought of the literally thousands of people who have given from their hearts to our foundation. I thought of the families I’ll never meet who will, for one day anyway – Christmas Day – have something to smile about.

And I thought… Redemption is real.

So for one day anyway, driving a little too fast down Coolidge Avenue, on a clear and cold morning, was worth it.

Merry Christmas.

Coloring in Pontiac Michigan

I met a new friend today. Her name is Nadia. (Not really. You will discover in a moment that I’ve had to change the names in this article.)

Nadia is four and a half years old. Her mother, Talia, was born in Russia. The father is… well, nowhere to be found. He abused Talia to the point where she was hospitalized, ran away with Nadial to a women’s shelter. Ultimately they found their way to a place called Lighthouse in Pontiac, MI.

Although her mother is Russian, Nadia was born here and is an American citizen. After her mother fled her abusive relationship, she could not find work because she was not an American citizen. Soon Talia and Nadia had nowhere else to turn but Lighthouse. They arrived almost a year ago with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. They were given an “apartment” that is approximately 300 square feet. It has a kitchenette with 40 year old appliances and no table to eat at. There is a tiny bathroom and an 8′ x 9′ bedroom they share. Talia has decorated it all in pink for her little girl. The main room, where I met my new friends, is small, dark and has a few pieces of donated furniture. Nadia spends part of her day in the Montessori school on the lower level of the building. When she is done for the day she does her favorite thing in the world: coloring with crayons. She draws pictures of princesses, horses, green fields and smiling people. Dreams of a life she’s never known. Her mom tapes every one on the inside of the door. (The 40 year old refrigerator is too small.)

The staff at lighthouse helped Talia get her green card so she could work legally. One of their great strengths is removing barriers to people working. Talia has found a job and now saved enough to get a used car. She and Nadia intend to be at Lighthouse another year. In that time she will take classes to learn about budgeting and parenting. She will role play with staff members to help her interview to get an even better job. By the time she and her daughter leave Lighthouse they will be self-sufficient and on the path to a safe and productive life.

For those who are interested in the math on all of this…

The average cost for families like Talia’s to stay at Lighthouse is $13,000. This includes everything. Once they are out and on their own, a study done at the University of Michigan found that that $13,000 was “paid back” to the community on average within 18 months of families leaving Lighthouse. This is actual productivity and taxes paid and does not even include the dollars saved by taking the family off public assistance and welfare. Further, Lighthouse boasts a 91% success rate for families in their Lighthouse PATH program. This works.

On Wednesday night President Obama and Governor Romney are going to debate the important issues facing our country. And in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a conservative Christian who typically (but not always) votes Republican. When the conversation tomorrow night drifts to sound bites about “the 47%” and the “entitlement class”, etc., I hope that, no matter what your political leaning, you will not consider the conversation to be abstract or hypothetical. Because it isn’t. It isn’t about economic theories or political platforms. It isn’t about winning the news cycle or “appealing to the base.”

It’s about real people in real places.

It’s about a little girl coloring with crayons in a tiny apartment in Pontiac, Michigan and a mom who needed a little help to get her and her daughter on the right PATH. In a country of 308 million people there are many many, more like them. I pray there are Lighthouse-like programs in their area. And I pray we never turn our backs on these people and those in service to them.

James 1:26-27 sums it up well.

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

 

More about Lighthouse

The good folks at Lighthouse have extraordinary programs that are aggressively (and impressively) addressing poverty in America. Lighthouse Emergency Services offer emergency food, utility assistance, medical assistance and other crisis support. Lighthouse PATH provides women (typically single mothers who have been abused or have had other crisis) up to two full years of transitional housing in a safe and structured environment and an opportunity to rebuild their lives. Family counseling, daycare, child educational services, and other services are offered. Lighthouse Community Development literally is rebuilding impoverished areas with affordable housing units that clients can take ownership of and pride in. The Center for Working Families provides financial counseling, employment assistance, classes in how to get a job and coaching on how to use a family budget and live within means. They specifically treat root causes for poverty, removing barriers to people connecting with jobs, self-sufficiency and a hopeful life.

Making the turn…

I turn 50 today.

As a golfer I look upon this milestone with the same bittersweet feelings one gets making the turn between the ninth and tenth holes and a really great course. I’m exhilarated to have played some great holes (and some not so great) and I am still in the midst of the game, yet the round is at least half over now. I’m faced with the “homeward holes”. The back nine of life. The part of the course that will take me back to the clubhouse. Mmm.

I really don’t “fear” the clubhouse. It actually was one of my favorite parts of the day back when I was learning the game. My dad taught me to play. He and I played countless rounds together and, almost without fail, when we were through, we’d go into the clubhouse for a root beer and some pretzels at the bar. Dad would put his arm around me and say, “Let’s get a little ‘RB’.” I can still see the foam rising in the glass today.

I feel as though my life so far has mimicked the experience of playing Pebble Beach. It’s a course I played several times and know it well. It is as special as you’ve heard. The front nine however has some forgettable holes. Number one is only remarkable because it is the first hole at Pebble Beach. Number two is a very reachable par five. Three is an iron off the tee and a long iron into the green. Four gives you your first glimpse of ocean on the right while playing a very short par four (the only test here is a well-trapped green).

Then you come to hole five. Redesigned in 1998, this is a beautiful par three. After the first four holes of adolescence, number five offers you the same special feeling you get as you enter adulthood for the first time. You sense that you’ve entered some special station in life, yet you don’t feel the full weight of grown up pressures just yet.

The par five sixth hole begins to reveal something more is expected of you now. This isn’t your muni course back home. This is real. This is like when you got married and bought that first house. Get the ball up the hill on your second shot. No “or else”. Just get it done.

Number seven is the first time you have kids. One of the most photographed holes in all the world, it’s nothing more than 106 yards downhill to a fairly good sized green. No problem, you say? Okay. Let me introduce you to the wind off the Pacific that will gust to 50 mph unexpectedly, leaving you scratching your head wondering whether to hit a half a wedge or a driver.

Welcome to “the cliffs of doom”. Number eight is simply breathtaking and frightening all at once. This is time to take chances. Make the kind of shot that changes your life, er… round. If it works, you’ll ask someone to take a photo of the moment. If it doesn’t, you’ll slink into your cart and cry for mommy.

Number nine is long and difficult. It is a 481 yard par four usually into the wind, with the fairway and green both sloping severely toward the ocean on the right.

So here I am. I’ve worked hard. Carded some bogeys, at least one triple bogey, but also got me a couple of birdies – and not lucky ones chipping in from 100 yards out, I’m talking tap-ins! When I look at my scorecard for the front nine I guess I’m at about even par. And although I’m a little intimidated at the thought of finishing the round someday, I do look forward to the back nine ahead. I’m a little better player now then I was on the front side. I’m more patient and seem to think through the shots more carefully now. Plus, the 18th at Pebble Beach awaits me.

My faith tells me that, when I putt out on that 18th green, my eternal life in God’s clubhouse will begin.

When I arrive, I do hope He’ll have an RB and some pretzels on the bar.