Free To Be

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43: 18-19

I want to share a story with you. It is a story from the Life and Leisure section of the Arizona Republic newspaper, February 26, 1992. It’s written by Alan Gathright. This is a story about a freedom rider. Here is what it says and I quote:

“For 74-year old Melvin Manger, freedom is worth any risk. Paralyzed from the neck down since birth, he has spent more than half of his life shut in at home. Fourteen years ago, he was liberated by a motorized wheelchair and reborn as Cactus Mel the legendary cactus peddler. A cross between the ancient mariner and the road warrior, Mel (as everyone calls him) is out rain or shine, seven days a week, guiding his wheelchair and the wagon he tows behind his wheelchair full of cactus for sale with a chin joystick.”

Let me explain what that [a chin joystick] is. The only place Mel can move is his head. His body is paralyzed from the neck down. So he has a joystick that is attached to his chin. A rod runs from his chin to the controls on the wheelchair.

“So far, Mel has survived four hit-and-run collisions. His body is banged and bruised, but Mel refuses to slow down. He embodies both human frailty and Herculean will. People tell of stopping to help Mel when his wheelchair breaks down, or someone can’t understand his slurred speech, only to have
him teach them a lesson about courage and independence.

“He was born with cerebral palsy in 1917. Mel has been at home most of his life. He was kept home by his parents to shield him from the taunts of the outside world. After they died, he was sent to a San Jose nursing home. There, two cousins and a friend (Marta Hessman), urged him to seize his dream of independence. But how do you become independent if you’re paralyzed from the neck down?

“A social worker had told Hessman that Manger was a deaf-mute. But when she listened, she heard a man pouring out the frustration of being trapped in a crippled body. ‘He’s telling me all these things and I’m going to help him. There’s somebody real important inside of there.'” When Hessman suggested an electric wheelchair, the tears just flowed down Mel’s cheeks.

“It was like rebirth. Suddenly, at age 60, the man who had never ventured very far out of his own room, who had never taken a step toward the open road, was going like crazy. Mel said, ‘My heart was in my mouth. I was afraid to get off the sidewalk. But in about two or three months I sneaked off and went to my first movie all alone. Boy, were they mad at the nursing home. I just told them that I didn’t need that place.’

“Since then, failing health has not kept him off the streets. Neither has traffic. Once police had to pull him off the on ramp to Interstate 280. Mel is an incurable flirt and he relishes his ‘Hell on Wheels’ reputation.”

Now, there is much we can learn from this true story, from people like Mel. We are all handicapped in some ways. There is a part of all of us that has stayed inside of a room, a personal prison, and has not ventured out for most of our lifetime. We do not so much need the vehicle of an electric wheelchair. We need the vehicle of faith in God.

We can do whatever we want, even if we’ve failed at it before .We have the power; we just need the belief, the faith, the trust. If we have an area that needs a little boost, we can get that boost with the help of God.

Mel did not let life limit him and we need not either.


There is nothing that you cannot overcome with the help from God. Every area of your life can be part of God- Greatness. You have the power, through God, to overcome once and for all that which has held you as a shut in all this time. You need never by a shut in or a prisoner within your own making. So, what is keeping you “in?”

Never accept that there is any lack, any handicap of any kind in your life. God’s all-knowing help is all you ever need to overcome any and everything. Each one of us is an avenue through which God works.

We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped.  Psalm 124:7

Inside of you is God. God is never separate from you. He is not far away; He is within and He knows what to do and how to do it.

If you are shut-in in some area of your life, if you feel handicapped in some area, God knows what to do. God knows what to do to bring you back into health or prosperity.

There is something inside of you, (a potential gold mine), to develop. Now, if we have a gold mine, we have to dig in the earth. Sometimes the digging is difficult and intense for sure (we all know that). But we have to keep digging and we’ll find that core vein of gold running through. Then, with God’s help we refine it until it is pure. You will find all you need for every day of your existence.

Can you just imagine the fear and anxiety and difficulty Mel experienced when he first left the security and safety of that room where he had been enclosed for most of his life. Can you imagine?

The hardest thing that you have to do will be to venture out in that area where you are unsure of yourself. But remember, God is with you. Pretty soon you will be going further and further. We have evolved past the point where we need to depend on luck or charms. God has all the power in our lives.

God’s help is instant and automatic, the moment you ask for it. It keeps coming and coming and coming. You don’t have to depend on it. It is automatic. You just know that it is there. And in your knowing, it continues to come through you. It is the knowing-with God that  “ I CAN; I know that God is with me now and I’m going to make it through.”

Nothing can stand in your way because you are a child of God. Claim that right now for yourself in faith.

We aren’t talking about running through life with the speed of an antelope. That is not our handicap. Gandhi once said, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”  We need to focus on the quiet and stillness within prayer; that is what frees us from our handicaps, from our prison. That is what creates our freedom. You’re consenting in that moment to God, and that becomes a powerful prayer.

Remember the Israelites and how they complained to Moses over and over. They were stuck in their “prison” and preferred to live in it than to venture out. To trust in the Lord. Moses said to the people,
Fear not. Stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord which will work for you today…
For the Egyptians who you see today, you will never see again…. The Lord will fight for you. You have only to believe to go forward. Exodus 14: 13 – 16.
Here’s Moses with the water in front of him, and yet he is being told to go forward. This is a lesson that has been told over and over again. When you can’t see, the reason you can’t see is because your prison thoughts have blinded you to the good. There is going to be a firm foundation underneath your feet with your walk.

Lift up your rod, stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it that the people may go on dry land through the seacont’d. Exodus 14 16.

You stretch out your hand and you say, “I believe in God.” You admit that you are frightened, but you know that God is going to provide a way for you. Then, whatever that sea of adversity is in your life is going to part in front of you and you are going to walk through safely and on dry land. There is no way that you’re not going to succeed, because God inside of you is not a God of failure.

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  2 Corinthians 3:17

Today, give yourself the gift of knowing that you are connected with God. Give yourself the gift to become a leader of your own thoughts that are of God. Give yourself the gift that you are going to rise above your handicaps. You are going to affirm in prayer what you want to happen in your life, even if outer appearances say the opposite. Then you are going to speak your affirmation and you are going to feel and believe it totally from the core of your being. You are going to expect your good to come through God. Then you are going to walk forward, giving thanks because you’re walking on dry land, on rock solid earth with new found freedom over personal bondage.

Free to be; free to live….thanks be to God.

God bless you!


One thought on “Free To Be

  1. For over 20 years I have wondered who this man was. My search brought me to this site.

    In July 1994 the San Jose Mercury News reported that a man known locally as “Cactus Mel” had been run over and killed while navigating his motorized wheelchair across (I think) Bascom Avenue.

    This gave me a start because only the week before I had been on Bascom and nearly ran over a man fitting the description given in the news article (motorized wheelchair towing a cart filled with potted cactuses). He did not give me a chance to stop or slow down; in a near instant he had gone from one side of the street to the other.

    For many days I could not sleep thinking that without the grace of God I could have killed a man. I also wondered how many other innocent drivers had near misses with Mel.

    I believe that, in the words of Donne, “every man’s death diminishes me”. But I remembered feeling more sorry for the girl who was driving the car that struck and killed him. Mel is dead now, his suffering over. The poor girl will never forget this as long as she lives.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s