Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How to park at Lakewood Church

It was nice to see a rather favorable review of a Lakewood Church service on a blog at Chron.com today.

As a negative, the parking was mentioned at least three times. Could I possibly give a tip to anyone planning to visit?

I found a place to park that literally I could be out of the parking garage and onto Buffalo Speedway within two minutes after a short walk.

Here's a secret: you will save yourself at least 15-20 minutes in the parking lot if you are willing to park near the garage exit and walk to the church.

It's covered, so even if it happens to be raining you're OK.

Pull into the parking entrance off Buffalo Speedway. There is usually a police officer directing you into the garage.

Right after you get into the parking garage, take a left as soon as you can, and loop around and park as close to the exit of the garage as you can. There are usually lots of empty spots right around that exit.

Walk to church. Walking is good for you, and it will only take about five minutes.

I understand some people can't walk for medical reasons, and there are places they can be dropped off at the door if needed.

After church, simply go back to your car and pull out of the garage onto Buffalo Speedway (usually within a couple minutes). While almost everyone else is waiting in the parking garage for 20 or 30 minutes, you'll be on 59 heading home.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

I don't have to take the bus

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17).

I have been given the title to an automobile. It's a used automobile, but it is in pretty good condition.

I'll be home as soon as I can get there.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I'm blessed and cannot be cursed

You know what the main problem is, Pastor Joel?

I've been spending so much time looking back at all the nausea in the past lately, that I've neglected to look at the excitement ahead.

Make sure you've seen today's devotional by Pastor Joel.

Now don't get me wrong, sometimes we have to address the past. I'm learning that. And I do need to finish what I've started.

Having said that, I think it's important to remember, as Pastor Joel points out, that God can make something even when it appears there's nothing left.

My future is not in this town. This is a city that will always be tied to my pre-Christ days. If I felt like people were as interested in the amazing way God has changed me, instead of focusing on the John that is long gone (and I mean long gone), maybe I'd consider hanging around.

Even Jesus had to leave his own hometown for anything amazing to happen.

Hey, God didn't lead me out into this desert to die or just sit around for the rest of my life. No way! He's given us the power to create wealth, friends. And it only costs about $100 to pick up a bus ticket, so I don't have to be very wealthy to pull that off, bless God.

"The earth was formless and void...and God said, Let there be light"(Genesis 1: 2-3).

Pastor Joel says God can speak light into my darkest hour, and thank goodness we're not in that hour. But I am in an hour where I'm looking for God to open a door for me. Let's look expectantly and see where the door is.

We're willing and obedient, so we're going to eat the good of the land. That's a given.

It doesn't matter if it hairlips the governor, as my mom used to say, we're going to walk victoriously out of this thing and right into our God-ordained destiny.

Is that what God says about my situation? Certainly. There's power in my words.

In due season, I'm going to reap a harvest, but for now, it is my destiny and God's plan for me to finish the project I've started. I like this short video. I think this video perfectly illustrates the intensity of the battle we're in. Here's the guy you want in the fox hole with you. A warrior.

Hey Pastor Joel...question for you. Is the Earth only 6,000 years old? Are dinosaur bones real or were they created by the devil to throw off the scientists? Did I come from monkeys?

I probably should honor my father and mother better than that, but what I mean is did we evolve from apes. Since we're talking about Genesis I thought I'd ask.

Anyway, I'm getting off topic. My dreams are not broken. My dreams are very alive. God simply closed the doors here so I can get to the place I can start my future.

I might need to break out The Bucket List again and see which ones I'm close to accomplishing. I've got to be pretty close to a breakthrough, now that I'm on YouTube.

Speaking of YouTube, who's watching the presidential election coverage? Have we decided who we are voting for yet? John McCain is quite a story. This is the guy that used to sit at the end of the platform during the debates and barely say anything, and now he's the lone Republican candidate.

And why do some people on the right dislike Hillary Clinton so much? I like her. I'm sorry if that gets me voted out of any club, but I'm just telling you what I feel. I think she's a good person, and I like to watch her speak.

And Obama. Hey brother, don't worry about Pastor Wright, when I get up to Chicago again, I've got to visit that church! That guy is something else. He can preach, but I bet you wish he'd vacation between now and November.

I like watching Wolf Blitzer on CNN. You ever watch this guy? It's a pretty good show, too. The best political team on television, and you know it is, because they said so. They call it the Situation Room. He always makes me feel like I'm part of the show. He'll say something like, "I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in the Situation Room."

I always feel like he's talking right to me. I know that's silly, but that's how I think sometimes.

It's sort of like Pastor Joel's devotionals. Some days it seems like they perfectly apply to exactly what I'm thinking or facing that day. It's weird. We Holy Ghost folks used to call it "reading my mail." You're pretty good like that.

Speaking of seeing someone on TV and thinking they are speaking directly to me, I was flipping channels the other day. I came across the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), and Matt Crouch was standing next to his wife and he was looking directly into the camera. He said this: "If God decides he needs your talents, it's going to happen."

He was talking directly to me. I feel it. Matt, the answer is yes, I would be more than happy to appear in one of your upcoming films. I'll blog daily on the set. It'll be fun. Let's make a movie.

Now, I tell you this hoping you can keep a secret, because Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman may have been expecting to be in my first film, but they'll just have to wait in line, right? We're going to doing something for the kingdom. If God decides he needs my talent, it's going to happen. Can I get a better amen?

I love it when people tell me something isn't going to happen, or they roll their eyes when I speak faith. I love it because in that moment God gives me permission to avoid that person. I'm kidding, I'm not anti-social, but I'm looking for dreamers to hook up with in my life right now. If you think big, and believe anything is possible with God, let's get together and do something.

So, today we're big-thinking people. Let's get in agreement with God today, agreed?

I'll be home as soon as I can get there.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!

I've asked this question here previously, but it was before I let you in on all this new information:

How many episodes of gunfire would it take, outside your home or apartment at night, for you to start to think someone was trying to send you or a neighbor a message?

What if you encountered the same thing at your next residence, and you didn't move any of your neighbors with you?

How much gunfire are we talking about? Roughly eight incidents over about three years. Could have been a little more, could have been a little less. We're not talking about shots off in the distance either.

One of the incidents was during the Christmas/New Year's holiday described in the last post. There was one incident in which I remember the date, because it coincidentally happened on my sister's birthday. The final one was the last night I spent in Galveston before I moved to my mom's place temporarily, waiting to move into my new apartment in Southwest Houston.

At that apartment, I can remember precisely where I was in the apartment and what I was doing on two of the occasions. Both were late a night, and the gunfire seemed to come from behind a fence that was near my bedroom window.

"BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!"

Not an inadvertent shot like someone firing their gun accidentally. Each incident (both in Houston and in Galveston) sounded similar. Multiple shots squeezed off relatively quickly with a handgun (although our Christmas/New Year's shot in Galveston sounded like a shotgun).

Could it have been firecrackers? Or a cap gun?

No. I have personally fired both rifles and 9mm handguns in the Marine Corps. I know a gun when I hear it.

Needless to say, this period in my life was a time I prayed often for God's hand of protection on myself and my family. Truly believing that the people threatening me had to go through my Heavenly Father to actually harm me was what I held on to, as well as that prophetic word on the beach I talked about earlier.

In my mind, I have two trains of thought during this period. First, who is doing this, and why? And secondly, how serious are they?

Obviously I don't care how serious they are anymore. It's all in God's hands now. The apostle Paul wrote that "to live is Christ and to die is gain," so what can man do to me? Absolutely nothing, frankly.

I wouldn't call my situation then living in fear necessarily, because of God's word and His promises over my life. But I always wondered how serious they were, and if they were serious, when my appointed time would come.

Then I checked the mail one day and discovered a small, blue postcard from a Galveston funeral home.

Let me explain why I found this strange (other than the fact that it accompanied everything else I've explained here).

My apartment in Houston, near Westheimer and Voss, was about 59 miles from the center of Galveston.

Galveston is a small island, more than an hour drive from my home. I have no family in Galveston. I've never had family in Galveston. I've never been to a funeral in Galveston. I've never even known anybody personally that died in Galveston. Galveston funeral homes are for people who live and die in Galveston. That's not me.

Why would I get a mailer from them? The place I got my oil changed in Galveston didn't have my new address and didn't send me notices in the mail. Or any other business I actually frequented while I lived there.

I dismissed it as a strange coincidence and went on with life.

Until the second mailer came from a different Galveston funeral home...

This time it weirded me out, because it not only was addressed to me, but inside had a note printed with words to the effect of: "Dear Mr. Tyler, We're so sorry to hear about the death of your family member..."

I nearly dismissed this one as well, but instead decided to take it to work and show it to a co-worker to see if this was as strange as it seemed to me.

Keep in mind, I didn't tell him about the gunfire I'd been encountering, but I did tell him this was the second similar notice I'd received from the island in recent memory.

My co-worker's advice: If he got a letter (or two) in the mail talking about the death of his family members that were all very much alive, he'd call and find out where these people are getting their information.

I did call, and the gentleman on the other end of the phone was very nice and apologized, but couldn't really tell me how my name would get on such a list.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence. Or is it?

If it is, Galveston funeral homes could be considered the worst marketers on planet Earth. Here's a tip: no one living at Westheimer and Voss is going to plan their funeral there, so save yourself the postage and printing costs.

In our next post, I finally go talk to someone about the things I'd been encountering.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Still Alive at Christmastime?

As you can probably imagine, the events I've detailed over the last two posts have made enjoying office life a tad bit more difficult, but I'm trudging forward.

Sometime after the move, I received the promotion to President's Writer. Despite everything I've described so far, I did feel like I was on a good path at the institution.

You might wonder, Why didn't you talk to anyone about this stuff? Well, I did finally at one point, and we'll get to that soon.

After all, it's Christmastime right now. Lights and presents and cookies and Jesus' birthday. A fantastic time to forget about death, hell, the grave and all the other garbage and focus on the good stuff.

Then, I ran into Susan Coulter in the hallway one day. Susan was the vice president for university advancement, which included both public affairs and development for UTMB.

Possibly Susan would have been someone good for me to talk to about my problems in the office? A vice president in one of the institutions of the UT system would surely be a great place to run for help in your time of need. They probably only hire and promote the very best to upper-management positions.

I was actually about to run into the restroom, when Susan came around the corner.

We greeted each other and briefly exchanged small talk about the holidays. I think she asked me what my plans for Christmas and New Year's were, that kind of thing.

Everything seemed pretty normal until the very end of the conversation.

"Hope you have a good holiday," she said, or words to that effect.

"You too," I responded, turning toward the restroom.

Then her tone changed. I wouldn't call it angry, but it was certainly more stern, as the final remark came out of her mouth:

"If we're all still alive then."

I think this was the moment I truly started wondering if my life hadn't become a bad episode of The Outer Limits.

I turned back toward her and looked her straight in face. She stared right back at me, expressionless.

After a moment, I turned and went in the bathroom to potty.

It turned out to be a quite stressful holiday season. Over that holiday time (sometime around Christmas and New Year's) was when I first encountered gunfire at night outside my condo. Multiple incidents of gunfire, late at night, marked the remainder of my time in Galveston -- including the very last night I stayed on the island.

These incidents of gunfire followed me to my next residence.

I will talk about all that in more detail in my next blog entry, entitled "BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!"

Saturday, April 12, 2008

No, Matt, I won't give your baby a bath

So, a few days later, I'm walking past Matt's desk, and he stops me.

"Hey, John," he said quietly. "How would you like to come over to my place this weekend and give my baby a bath?"

I couldn't believe what I had just heard.

"What?" I said.

"I bet you'd like that, wouldn't you?" he said, laughing like a demonic spirit as I walked off.

It's amazing, isn't it? Someone can say whatever they want about you...make something up if they want to out of thin air, and it can impact your life for years.

This was the environment I worked in.

I wish I could remember every comment I encountered (often I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be into little boys or little girls), but my absolute favorite was when Matt printed out a photo a what looked like a 3- or 4-year old boy and hung it on the outside wall of his cubicle.

It was a weird picture. It was an 8 1/2 X 11 piece of paper with a picture of a little kid nude from the waist up, arms behind his head in a pose that probably would have appeared sexual if it was an adult.

I've often wondered what a mother or father of a child who had been abducted or hurt by a sicko would think of Matt's sense of humor.

Think about it for a second. The thousands of kids around the world who have been hurt and permanently scarred by predators, while Matt Havard claims he has the goods on someone, and decides he'd rather use it to oppress them than call the police.

Give that guy a GEM card for sure.

I know, shake it off. Don't hold an offense. It's all about love.

Uh, I think I'll love Matt (and the rest of this bunch) a whole lot easier when the truth is out. I haven't heard many voices defending me in all this, so God has given me a voice.

I love you, Matt.

Now back to our story...

Oh, yes. And Mary.

Mary Havard, a fellow employee in the office, is Matt's wife.

Certainly, in those personal times at home, he's shared with her the horrible things he knows about me. Right?

Mary, who had a new baby at one point (for the record, I really didn't want to bathe that baby). She would certainly be sensitive to a disgusting child predator walking around in the office.

I worked with her quite often as a result of her role as associate publications director. Certainly it was a strain on our working relationship. Certainly she was disgusted with me.

Here's an example of how disgusted she was (read from the bottom of the email trail):

===============================================

-----Original Message-----
From: Havard, Mary G.
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2001 9:54 AM
To: Tyler, John C.
Cc: White, Doris H.
Subject: RE: URGENT: UT System Annual Report

You're wonderful! Thanks. mgh

P.S. What was the correction, by the way? I'd like to include it in my file, just in case we use the copy again.

-----Original Message-----
From: Tyler, John C.
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2001 9:48 AM
To: Havard, Mary G.
Subject: RE: URGENT: UT System Annual Report

I just emailed her with the correction. Thanks. JT

-----Original Message-----
From: Havard, Mary G.
Sent: Tuesday, May 22, 2001 9:37 AM
To: Tyler, John C.
Cc: White, Doris H.
Subject: URGENT: UT System Annual Report
Importance: High

Just got a call from Julie Kniseley at UT System. She must verify afigure in our feature for the UT System Annual Report. She's got the blueline proof and it has to go back to the printer today, so time is of the essence. Sorry for the short notice, but I just now got the call. It was something they didn't notice until this morning.

===============================================

This email pretty much typifies the working relationship I had with Matt's wife.

I think I've adequately addressed this silliness. He claimed that stuff was on that laptop to either protect himself from being held accountable for violating my privacy or simply to destroy my reputation.

At some point during my time at UTMB, public affairs moved from the Sealy and Smith Professional Building to the Administration Building.

Once we got everything moved over to the new office, I went back over to the old office space to check one last time for anything I might have left over there.

The room had been completely gutted, no longer were desks and chairs and partitions breaking up the large space. In the huge open area, I walked to the very back of the room where my desk once sat.

Here's the final touch on all my memories from that time in the Sealy and Smith Building:

Someone had taken insulated phone wire, or some type of wire that had been pulled up in the move and now was littering the room. Right where my desk had sat days before, someone had made a perfect circle with thick bunches of that wire on the floor.

In the middle of that circle they had set a box of rat poison.

------------------------------------------------------

I'm thinking I might share the rest of this story over the next couple weeks, scrape up the bus fare I need to get to my new city of residence, and get on down the road. Nothing against you, Houston, you know I love you, but it's obvious after all this time doors of opportunity are not opening for me here.

I'm going to make a fantastic construction worker! I'm going to try that out and see how I like it. I'll be the best, most dedicated construction guy you've ever known. Or maybe a barista. You know, one of those people serving coffee at a coffee shop? Those folks look like they have a pretty good life.

But I'm going to do it somewhere where I can start fresh and new. A change of scenery is what I need. Yeah, I've picked the place but I'm not going to tell you where I'm heading yet. Here's a hint: they have a professional baseball team there. I like pro baseball a lot and you have to be able to catch a ballgame occasionally.

Goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life. And they will follow me to my new home city. Never fear, I will continue blogging so you can keep up with me.

By the way, the new P.O.D. record dropped in the last week or so. It sounds awesome if you're looking for something to rock out to. I'm going to see how much I can pull together in quarters and dimes and possibly go pick it up. I know a lot of rockers read this blog so I just thought I'd mention it.

To P.O.D.: I'll catch you guys out on the road if there's enough money in the tip jar to pick up a ticket.

Readership is up here, I might mention. Thanks to all of you. I feel warm inside knowing I have something to say that might interest you.

We're going to skip one of the posts I had planned, simply because I truly suspect one of the people involved in this circus has (or had) a medical issue. I don't want to openly embarrass someone who I feel probably did what they did because they needed medical help. If they still want to talk crazy, however, I'll simply digitize the 20 or 30 minutes worth of answering machine messages they left on my phone at 2 a.m.

Those are so ridiculous that if I was to post them here, it would be more popular than that viral video being passed around a year or so ago online of that chubby kid dancing around with a light saber. We'll just leave it at that.

The next person you meet in our story may not need medical help, but they sure could use some leadership training in what not to say to someone in their department.

I like to call this next entry, "Still Alive at Christmastime?"

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Laptop lies and a strange drive (Barbie napkins later)

The year was probably 2000. I was excelling professionally and in a very good situation at work at UTMB (as my previous post detailed).

Enter Matt Havard. Matt's job had something to do with the Web site. That's the best I can tell you about his role in the institution.

One day someone in the office was talking about a job that the Port of Galveston had posted in its communications department. Some people in the office were talking about the position for one reason or another.

Later that afternoon, I was in the break room, probably getting a cup of that fantastic Good Morning America we'd cook up in there.

Matt enters the break room. I passed him on the way back to my desk.

"Hey, John," he said.

"Yes."

"You're going to take that job over at the port, aren't you?" he said, his tone suggesting that this was a statement of fact and not a question.

"No," I said. "I wouldn't leave UTMB. I love it here."

And I was doing extremely well there at the time. Matt knew it. Why would he even suggest that I consider leaving?

There was a pause. He took a deep breath, and exhaled loud and slow. "OK," he said, his tone again suggesting he didn't like my response. He walked off, back to his desk.

I only share that conversation because it perfectly illustrates how Matt generally acted toward me.

Some time later, it came as a surprise when I received an email from Matt out of the blue. The email explained that there was an extra laptop computer available in the office, and it wasn't being used. He said I should feel free to use it if I wanted.

The whole offer struck me as odd, actually, because if you had asked me to identify the person in that office least likely to offer me a perk or do something nice for me, this would have been the guy. I should point out that most of the people in that office were good people I enjoyed working with very much.

I took Matt up on his offer. I grabbed the laptop from his cubicle.

And I took the laptop home. It was very convenient having it, and I used it often to work on articles or other projects after work hours.

I also used it for the Internet. A few evenings, while online, I surfed off into some areas I shouldn't have while on the search engine Yahoo.

Yahoo has a section called "Groups". Folks interested in common hobbies or interests can congregate and post messages, links to Web sites, photos, etc.

The vast, vast majority of the areas are OK, but unfortunately I got off into some areas that would definitely be classified as adult material.

Hopefully Yahoo has cleaned these areas up, but back in those days there were people posting all sorts of stuff.

Now, let me put a pause on this blog post to say that it was wrong for me to do this. I wasn't serving God wholeheartedly at the time. It was sin. Not only was the stuff smut, but it was also the misuse of a university computer.

I have long since repented of all this stuff and got it out of my life. But I can't tell this story without letting you know about that.

Matt, however, suddenly seemed very interested in this computer that "wasn't being used." He would ask me for the computer for an evening, and then give it back to me the next morning.

I would use it for a night or two, and then he would ask me for it again for a night and bring it back to me in the morning (although he had his own laptop).

I never suspected he was doing something strange until one day he said to me, "Hey, John, I need to see that laptop...one last time."

The tone in his voice during "one last time" indicated to me that something was going on. This guy had apparently decided he was the UTMB computer police, and he was monitoring my computer use.

Since he was not in my chain of command, and what I did on that computer really fell squarely into the category of none of his business, I decided to talk it over with some folks with whom it was their business. My boss and his.

I visited Chris Comer's office (director of communications), and shared that I had been using the laptop and I wanted to let her know that I had visited some areas in Yahoo I shouldn't have. I also shared that I felt Matt had been monitoring my computer usage.

Chris called Pep Valdes, associate director of Internet communications and Matt's boss, into the office with us. After I went back over the story I just told you, the basic message I got was "thank you for your honesty, and please don't do it again."

The meeting turned light-hearted as Pep shared his thoughts on what would happen if every computer on campus was scanned for misuse.

I left the office feeling that my mistake was not only forgiven, it was probably not rare on campus.

I went back to my desk and got back to work. Everything returned to normal temporarily.

Within a couple days, this situation turned extremely bizarre.

Pep walked up behind me at my desk one afternoon. Matt was with him.

"John, can you come with us?" Pep asked.

I agreed and followed them to our meeting...out to the parking lot. And into Pep's car.

I don't remember Matt saying much of anything as we drove eastward on Seawall out toward East Beach.

Whatever Pep and Matt had to say to me, apparently couldn't have been said in the office. I don't remember much of the conversation, but I do remember that at some point during the drive, I realized this had something to do with the laptop computer.

We got out of the car, and Pep asked me a few general questions about the laptop. Though I can't remember many specific questions he asked me, I do remember Pep using the term "your crime" at least once.

The problem was, I had committed no crime. And I think they knew it.

Based on this conversation and comments I would encounter later, what someone apparently wanted to pin on me, was that there were children being exploited or abused or something like that on the laptop.

It's pure, unadulterated, horse manure.

Before we got back in the car to return to the office, Pep said, "John, this can be the beginning of the road for you, or this can be the end of the road for you."

Do you remember our reoccurring theme I wanted you to look out for? Please re-read my last post if you don't.

I've gone over that statement hundreds of times over the years in my mind, and I can't find any other explanation than it was a threat of some sort. If it wasn't, Pep, I'm sorry. But maybe you could explain it to me sometime.

By the way, in case you were wondering, this is the beginning of the road for me.

Here's the question that our responsible journalist friends should be asking at this point of our story:

If you truly suspected someone was doing something illegal on a state computer (or had evidence to confirm it), why didn't this meeting occur at the Galveston Police Department or the local office of the FBI, instead of East Beach?

Weird. And it gets more weird.

This series of incidents I just described set the tone for my office life the remainder of my time at UTMB. A bald-faced lie that was held over my head as fact (but never investigated by police for some reason).

In our next post, I'll discuss further strange statements and behavior, as well as share an email from Matt Havard's wife, another office employee, that didn't seem like she felt I was a disgusting child-molesting criminal. In fact, she described me as "wonderful."

Ask yourself this question: If you were violating someone's privacy at work by looking at their computer usage, and supposedly uncovered evidence they were doing something that disgusting and illegal, wouldn't you at least tell your wife, an associate director in the office?

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Before we get started...

Before I kick off our series next week, I think it's important to lay down some groundwork.

Some of what I will share with you, starting Monday, I haven't really discussed with anyone. Other things, I've only discussed with another person or two.

Why is that? Well, it could have been fear, frankly. Or, it could have been respect for the institution.

Maybe I was just walking in love.

It's vital before I start sharing the things that happened to me in Galveston (and after I left, unfortunately), that you know what type of employee I was while I was there.

A good one. I don't say that to pat myself on the back, but you do need to know a few things as a backdrop to what I experienced there. I'm not some goof-off disgruntled employee that hates Galveston and UTMB and left in a bad mood for no reason.

First, let's establish the time. I started at UTMB in December, 1999.

After only a short time at UTMB as a low-level media relations person, I was invited to a meeting with Dr. Kathy Shingleton, Human Resources VP, and Jennifer Raeke, the executive assistant to the president of the university.

The meeting was to inform me that my job performance and professionalism on campus had been noticed by the university president, Dr. John Stobo. As a result, he wanted me to not only join his Professionalism Board, but to also write his professionalism columns for distribution to the campus' students, faculty and staff.

A great honor to be sure. If my memory serves me correctly, I was one of the only members of that board initially without an M.D. or a doctorate. And I was certainly the only member in my age group or level of responsibility in the institution.

Secondly, I once received a 20 percent raise to my salary when I told them things were too tight financially, and I needed it to stay in that position. Try that at work tomorrow. Most employers, especially those with budgets as tight as UTMB, don't hand out a 20 percent raise on request unless they feel like they've got someone worth hanging on to.

Months after that raise, I was promoted to the title of President's Writer. Instead of just the writing and media relations duties I had been responsible for, I now was the president's "go-to guy" (Jennifer Raeke's words, not mine) for all his correspondence, talking points, columns, etc.

Oh, and it also came with another 10 percent raise or so.

Sounds like someone was doing some things right on campus, friends.

During the interview for that position, Chris Comer, who was then Communications Director, made this remark to me:

"John, you sure have had your fair share of problems with difficult employees."

Well, that was an understatement.

Incidentally, just for the record, I received a very good reference for my next job when I left the institution in 2002.

What is my point with this blog post? I just feel that it is important to put the things I will share, starting next week, into the proper perspective. Was I a perfect employee? Of course not, that person doesn't exist. I was not in the same place spiritually that I am today, either.

All of that aside, I obviously was a darn good one.

On one hand, you have what many would call a star employee. On the other hand, you've got some of the nuttiest and nastiest office politics I've ever heard of in my life. I think you'll agree pretty quickly into our series.

And let me point something else out. I LOVED GALVESTON AND UTMB!

I used to think my kids would graduate from Ball High School some day. I bought Glenn Campbell's Greatest Hits on CD and would play "Galveston" in the office -- someone put velcro on the back of the CD and hung it up above my desk.

I wore UTMB t-shirts all the time (someone once asked if I owned anything else) and even put a UTMB window sticker on my car. And I hate window and bumper stickers, they're tacky. I was a very proud UTMB employee, to say the least.

I submit to you, that the problems I had at UTMB were not a result of a lack of commitment or love for the institution or Galveston or my work, or anything else.

My problems came because of that love and passion.

Your enthusiasm, ambitions and upward mobility with often make some of those around you uncomfortable, my friends. And in the case of some of these folks we'll discuss, they'll do or say "whatever it takes" to slow you down (or stop you completely) if they have to. You're not going to believe some of it.

But I promise to tell the truth.

This is a story about the abuse of authority. This is a story about lies that, for whatever reason, continually go unchallenged. This is about the trashing of one good and honest man (though admittedly flawed liked everyone else) to protect the reputation of an institution and a group of others.

If you happen to be a journalist reading this post, I challenge you to do something very important. I promise it will make you a better reporter. Stop asking "What?" so much, and start asking "Why?"

By the way, despite my personal struggles years ago with the sin I will discuss here (which was completely unrelated to my job performance and falls squarely into the category of none of UTMB's business), I am the righteousness of God is Christ Jesus today. And I am free today.

I'm not talking about weeks or even months free...I'm talking about years free from that garbage. It's so far under the blood Jesus has even forgot about it.

However, to be truthful in the telling of this story, I will have to discuss my mistakes and my journey to becoming like more like Christ. I would be dishonest not to do that here. What I will not do, however, is admit to something I didn't do just because someone benefits from that horse manure still being passed around as truth.

So, dear reader, I want you to watch for the following theme that will reoccur in my story from time to time as I tell it here.

This message was stated to me several times, in different ways, both during my time in that office and after I left. I've decided to ignore the message, and discuss this openly here.

They want me to keep my mouth shut. And if I don't, there will be consequences.

It exists even to this day, doesn't it? If you share the truth, John, it'll cost you something. Maybe everything.

That's alright. At least I'll be remembered as a person of integrity. At least I can look myself in the mirror.

I'm looking forward to seeing if a fantastic institution that claims "integrity" as one of its core values will let integrity win out in this situation. Make no mistake, at its core UTMB is an excellent institution that I believe in firmly. However, the human element seems to have failed us here, temporarily.

Talking about integrity sounds great sitting around that big table on the 6th floor. In theory, integrity sounds fantastic in board rooms, in speeches, and even when politicians use the term from time to time.

Integrity becomes more difficult when we have to walk it out and reputations are at stake. Things can get a bit more challenging then, huh?

We get started Monday. I appreciate your readership.