My name is Tony Cleaver and I’m a refugee from the city of Flint, Michigan. When I was growing up, my hometown was the bastion of blue collar opulence. Jobs were plentiful, they paid well, and they pretty much always had.
Then in the late 1970’s, things took a turn for the worst. The automobile industry went belly-up. Workers with families were laid off by the tens of thousands, and after decades of decline, Flint is no longer a laborer’s paradise. Instead, it has become a capitol for crime, and poverty, and for urban decay.
Back in the day- young people who wanted any kind of a life for themselves, were forced to leave . . . so I wandered.
Sometimes, an underachiever (but always a full believer).
By the late 1980’s, I was most likely the ‘highest grossing bartender’ in 3 states – a dubious honor, at best, but one that made my employers very happy. And that’s probably the reason that they tolerated my propensity for sometimes witnessing to customers and co-workers about Jesus.
But the scene was not always as noble as it may sound – places that serve alcohol can be very dark places indeed. I can think of at least one occasion where the fellow who I was talking to was a professed Satan Worshiper (with the consecration scars carved on his chest to prove it).
But I would tell these people whom I encountered, from across the bar (because they weren’t likely to be anywhere else- certainly not inside a church), about how, “Jesus could change their lives” . . . and some of them listened.
But for this, I was denied membership at the small country church that was near my little two and half acres outside of Arcadia, Oklahoma . . . And I really wanted to be at that church, too – wanted to learn and grow there. The pastor at the time was very supportive of my mission; he and I become good friends. But the call wasn’t his to make- so I pressed on.
You may have to ‘lose’ your life, in order to ‘gain’ your life.
By the mid 1990’s, after having led me to my wife (a much better woman than I deserved, by the way); God blessed us with two dear little children. But we had our challenges.
In seeking and listening to God, I abruptly quit my job (which paid me pretty well and also allowed me to take vacations for 3 or 4 months out of the year). As a result of that, we then proceeded to rack-up some pretty hefty credit card debt (school loans, too) while moving about from place to place.
A landlord, can serve ‘the’ Lord.
So a reckoning was in order. We were living in Albuquerque then, where the cost of living was high and wages low. So we prayed about our predicament and God led us to Indianapolis. Now mind you, we had no family there. No jobs lined up. No house to live in. We were about $40,000.00 in debt and we had two small kids in tow.
‘No Problem!’ Right? But here’s the cool part: within only a few years, God provided my wife with a job that paid pretty well and me . . . well- I sort of went entrepreneurial.
In those few years, God not only allowed us to get completely out of debt and buy a house of our own, but I bought several – some for rental properties, and some to fix-up and resell. But contrary to popular belief, real estate investing is far from glamorous. I had my share of bad apples– that is, tenants whom I had to evict – but there were some genuine opportunities for showing compassion, as well.
Some of my tenants were legitimately in need of a helping hand, and I was in a position to give them that hand, sometimes in the form of work, or even with free rent, if that was closer to what was needed. And there were times when we prayed together too . . . sometimes right out on the front lawn.
The reverse ‘Jed Clampett’ syndrome.
In the early 2000’s, God moved us to move again, so we did a ‘reverse Jed Clampett kind of thing.’ We left the big city of Indianapolis for the relatively rural Ozark hill country of NW Arkansas, where we still live today. My Wife, Karen, retains the job that she had in Indy (working remotely from home now) but her heart is in teaching so she is looking to put her newly acquired Bachelor’s degree in elementary education to good use.
Our kids are grown now. One is a scholar, soon to leave home; the other is a prodigal- who left home too soon. We still pray for both of them every day.
In these past ten years, after selling my properties in Indianapolis, I have done many other things. I was a bit of an eBay tycoon for several years, I also worked as an independent Field Inspector, and I am not ashamed to say that I have also had my share of failures. But perhaps those are topics for a later date, maybe in a blog post.
So what now?
I have written a book, a work of fiction that I call, ‘A Chain of Flames.’ It’s a story about how different types of people – some of them on the front of society and some on the fringe – are able to find their way to God . . . or how He leads them into finding Him, despite their disasters, their difficulties or their levels of malcontent. Many of the characters and situations in my novel may be loosely based on people-types and situations that I have encountered in my own life. For instance,
I once broke traditional ‘fry-bread’ with a very old couple in their modest puebloan home. It was on a reservation in New Mexico. We talked about ‘hospitality,’ and about the thousand year old clay pots that stood on their mantle.
That experience helped me to develop some of the characters introduced in early chapters, and other experiences have led to more interesting characters, as well, with separate agendas and colliding personalities; but yet, all still relatively connected- until their lives, their spirits, seem somehow to be entwined – in a sort of chain . . . like a chain of flames.
I know that you’ll enjoy reading it.
So Thanks for stopping by. You can reach me on Facebook, on Twitter, or by the form below. I hope to connect with you again real soon!