Saturday, December 31, 2011

Close-out Special

Today is the last day to savor a vintage year.  A new year is being bottled up right now and many folks will stay up late to drink from the new label.  This is your last chance to reflect on all you've done before the calendar flips.

I'm thankful for the lessons I learned this year.  The highlight has been getting back in touch with old friends and making new ones.  Some people tell me they can't wait to say good-bye to this year and start fresh tomorrow.  All of us want to go through life undefeated.  It doesn't work that way and this year has taught me valuable lessons about being knocked down.  The view is different when you find yourself on the ground looking up.  That referee is in your face counting to ten.  The Enemy is challenging you to get up so He can throw one more punch.

As I lay flat on my back at the end of this year, I hear voices from those who retired from the ring.  Every one of them is saying the same thing.  "Get back on your feet."

I turn to the crowd outside the ring and I see my supporters...teachers, mentors, spiritual leaders, friends, classmates, business partners, family members, team-mates, and members of my writers group.  They are all chanting..."Stand up!"

The enemy wants to claim victory for this year that is about to close out.  If I stay down, He will wear the championship belt.  He will use it every day in the New Year to remind me of His victory.  Like flashes of light, I see all the ups and downs of this past year.  I remember that no matter how tough some of these days were, maybe some of the most challenging of my entire life, there is one thing I did consistently...I got back on my feet after every knock-down.  With two seconds to go, I rise up from the floor.  My face is bloody as I stare down my opponent.  That's right.  By getting up from the ground, I get to wear the championship belt one more year.

How about you?  Are you going to apply the lessons you learned this year to live your life to it's fullest every day in the New Year.  Before this year is sold out, go out and get a close-out special.  This year's label is about to disappear.  The name on the label for 2011 is "happiness."  It's on sale right now.  Stock up on it.  This is how I choose to remember this year and how I will start the New Year tomorrow.  Don't forget to share your close-out special with a friend.  Anyone can drink it regardless of circumstances.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Greatest Gift

You have been my raincoat during the storm and my rainbow after it passed. ~ Michael Mulligan

The greatest gift you can give another person is love.  It's easy to love the people we care about.  Consider stretching yourself out of your comfort zone and give the gift of love to a stranger, or even an enemy.  Do it when nobody's looking.  Avoid putting conditions on the love you give.  Just give it away and don't expect anything in return.

If you are struggling in the love department, remember this - God loves you, completely, perfectly and without fail.  He loves you even when you don't love yourself.  Unwrap His gift to you.  Share it with others.

Before I sign off this morning, I wanted to give a shout out to all who showed me what real love is all about this past year.  If you supported me as an Angel in the Outfield, signed my guestbook, became a blog follower, purchased my book or sent me an encouraging email, I just want you to know how deeply thankful I am for you.  You have been my raincoat during the storm and my rainbow after it passed.  I felt your angel wings lifting me on days when I was too weary to get up on my own.

Tomorrow's message will be my final story of the year.  Each of these 365 posts was written just for you.  Next year's theme will be faith.  It's impossible to write about faith without talking about this year's  Love gives faith its wings.  It's your favorite frosting on top of your birthday cake.  It's the foundation I will build my life upon.  And I will always remember you, the one who labored with me as we poured the concrete together even when we had no idea what we were building.  If love is your foundation, you will survive even in the worst of storms.  Thanks for lending me a hand this year.  You will be in my heart every day.  I love you ♥ 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Focus on the Why

Is this the year you're finally going to cross those New Year resolutions off your list?  I read a report the other day that stated four out of five people who make resolutions will break them and one third won't even make it to the end of January.  If you are the one in five who will achieve your goals, congratulations.  And if you're in the majority who will end up on.

A good role model can help you make a template for your goals.  John Grisham writes five hundred words a day.  He is one of my wife's favorite writers.  When Grisham was a young boy, he dreamed of being a professional baseball player.  At some point, he realized he didn't have what it takes to make it in the big leagues, so he majored in accounting at Mississippi State University.  After graduating law school, he practiced law for nearly a decade, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation.  One day he got an inspiration for his first novel and woke up every day at 5:00 to write before heading off to work.  It took three years to complete A Time to Kill.  Like most aspiring writers, John had to deal with the rejection process before getting his first book deal for 5,000 copies.  The day after completing his first novel, Grisham went to work on his second book.  He sold the film rights to The Firm for $600,000 and the book was on the New York Times bestseller list for 47 weeks.

In order to understand someone like John Grisham, you need to read between the lines of his own life.  John believes in keeping promises.  Here's a writer who is at the top of his game, cranking out international best sellers the same way my grandmother served up her famous home-made tortillas, a little bit every day, year after year for all those hungry appetites.  Suddenly, one day he stops writing and returns to the courtroom for several months.  Why?  To keep a promise he made to a family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars.  Grisham won the case and earned the family a jury award of $683,500, the biggest verdict of his career. Then he returned to writing.  Besides his first two novels, A Time to Kill and The Firm, he wrote The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, The Appeal, and The Associate - every one of them international best sellers.

When Grisham isn't writing, he works on charitable causes, like the Rebuild the Coast fund, where he raised 8.8 million dollars for victims of Hurricane Katrina.  He also keeps up with his greatest passion, baseball,  serving as the local Little League commissioner.  Twenty three best sellers out of twenty three attempts.  That's an impressive batting average.

Think of your New Year's resolutions as promises.  Ask yourself why these promises are important.  You and I may not be John Grisham, however, we can pursue our passions the same way John does.  Whether it's writing five hundred words a day (BTW, today's post is 774 words...go ahead, call me an over-achiever) or pursuing something that can change the world around you, let's focus on the "why."  If you can learn to keep the promises you make to yourself and others, you will join the ranks of those one in five who actually avoid breaking their resolutions.  Don't forget to ask yourself why your goals are important to you and ask this question every morning when you first wake up.  The day you stop focusing on the "why" is the day you will let the obstacles get in your way.

Another one of my mentors, Tom Hopkins, once told me at a seminar, "success is the continuous journey towards the achievement of predetermined worthwhile goals."  So, if it's one book, one home-made tortilla, or even one small moment to tell someone, "I love you," remember to focus on why it's important and take action.  Make this New Year your break-out year.  You will not be judged by the number of times you strike out each day, only by your home runs.  And the number of home runs you hit this year is directly related to the number of times you strike out and keep swinging.  Just don't forget the reason why you step up to the plate and why you want to keep swinging after each strikeout.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Writing Pointers

 “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” ~ Ira Glass

My wife and I attended an open house party the other day and I got the opportunity to interact with a christian writer who is working on her first novel.  She received a half dozen awards for her work at a local newspaper and recently submitted her completed manuscript for editing.

"How do you do it?" I asked.

"It's not me," she answered.  "I just start typing and the words come to me."

Whatever your talent is, the key is to set aside time and put the effort in.  For my writing friend, the words flow for her because she spent her life developing her talent and she allowed herself to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

If you are seriously considering writing a book or learning a new skill, here are some pointers to help you get started...

1.  Ask yourself what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning.  What makes your heart skip a beat?

2.  Block out time on your planner dedicated to pursuing your passion.  For me, it's 5:00 AM every day.  The minimum time allotted is one hour.  You should set aside time based on when you are feeling at your peak.  Some people are at their best in the morning and others have more energy later in the day.  Take into account the amount of distractions you will face and set a time that minimizes disturbances.

3.  Let your loved ones know how important this time period is to you and ask them to respect your time the same way you set aside time for doctor visits or important meetings.

4.  Be bigger than the obstacles.  You must learn to conquer the objections.  If you lack money to develop your gifts, get resourceful.  If you're running out of time, cut out the time wasters and make the time.

5.  Don't listen to the negative people who don't want you to succeed.  Writers once depended on the approval of a publisher before their work found its way to the readers.  Self publishing options have changed everything.

6.  Join a support group or network that will keep you on track.

7.  When you fall down, get back up.

8.  Resolve to be a little bit better today at your craft than you were yesterday.

9.  Learn one new thing before you end the day and go to sleep.

10.  Just start typing and let the words, tomorrow, and every day.  Once you decide to take that first step, keep walking.  You're on your way.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

When White House spokesperson Jay Carney said "I believe the phrase from the Bible is, 'The Lord helps those who help themselves,'" he gaffed.  He was attempting to back up the president's suggestion that God wants policymakers to get busy and create more jobs.

The quote is attributed to Ben Franklin, however, it's roots go back to ancient Greece in Aesop's Fables.  Many falsely believe it can be found in the Bible just as they believe job creation is the job of government.  The truth is, God helps those who CANNOT help themselves.  We're not able to escape the penalties of sin on our own.  We need Jesus.  He came for the helpless.  The blind cannot help themselves.  The deaf cannot hear by wishful thinking.  Jesus has a heart for you, even as you feel despair creeping in all around you.

It's by God's Grace we find help.  It's possible that someday it may not be "politically correct" to read the Bible.  People may buy into the false assumption they must help themselves before God will lend a hand.  Go ahead... be a rebel.  Stand out in the crowd and turn to God for help.  He will help you, not because of your works but because of His love for you.  He will always help you even when you are too weak or powerless to help yourself.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Victory Message

 If Satan keeps reminding you of your past, remind him of his future ~ anonymous

A wise man once wrote an important message on the chalk board for all his students to read.  He was asked all sorts of deep philosophical questions about the meaning of life and what will happen in the future.  When the skies are dark and we are having trouble sorting it all out, take a look at what this professor wrote...

Jesus Wins!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas ~ 2011

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them...;'Don't be afraid!' he said. 'I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior - yes, the Messiah, the Lord - has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!' ~ Matthew 2:10-11

 Merry Christmas.  And Happy Birthday, Jesus.  May your day be filled with peace and happiness.  If you are one of those people shouting, "bah-humbug!"  this message is especially for you.  All of us at one time or another have experienced the feeling of being locked out.  Even Mary and Joseph felt this as they frantically searched for a place to stay.  They were locked out of a warm bed.  Our God humbled Himself and became man in a manger built for animals.  No heat, no doctors, not even other family members to offer comfort.  And He did this for one reason... because He loves you.  He unlocked the door to Heaven so you don't have to remain in the cold.

Jesus knows how to take the chill out of a cold heart.  He knows how to comfort us when we are feeling blue.  Today is His birthday.  It's the reason for the season.  He wants to share His birthday with you.  Let Him into your heart.  He will light a fire inside you that will never burn out.  

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

One day to go.  Christmas is almost here.  The greatest gift I can receive is time with my family.  The spirit of Christmas is in our home.  It's a time of great joy.  

Invite Jesus into your heart today.  He can take the chill out of the air.  He brings comfort to the downhearted.  He offers hope to the lost.  His birthday paved the way for eternal life.  Share Christmas with Jesus and it will be your best ever.

Friday, December 23, 2011

When Love Fails

Jesus summarized all of His Father's rules with two commands, love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as you love yourself.  The first murder could have been averted had Cain loved his brother.  Every war ever fought is the result of one side failing to love the other side.

I'm guilty of failing to love others.  I remember when hatred and prejudice festered inside me.  I needed to take a long shower and wash away all my anger.  The Holy Spirit provided the soap.  Jesus gave me new clothes.  My life is different today because love does not fail.

My dad always taught me life is a two-way street.  There is give and take in every situation.  Jesus offers a different point of view.  He tells us to love even when others don't love you back.  His ways are not natural for us.  As fallen creatures, we prefer to judge and to hold on to grudges.  It's natural to want to fight when backed into a corner.

When love fails, everything fails.  When we experience the love Jesus has for us and comprehend his deep desire to be in a relationship with us, we view the world differently, even our enemies.  In order to experience real love, you must let go of hatred.  It's not easy, especially if you've been hurt or felt unloved.  Do it anyway.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Treasure Hunt

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16

The treasure hunt for new chapters of my book is giving me chills.  I'm finding connections the same way a quarterback finds his receivers in the end zone.  It starts with daily practice.  Every morning I pen a love letter to my bride focusing on what I'm feeling in my heart.  The second part of the routine is to contribute something to this blog.  The practice time and the drills prepare me for the big game...the treasure hunt for unwritten pages of my next book.

The game clock is ticking.  At this moment, it's half time and you are invited into the locker room to get a behind the scenes look at my coach.  The Holy Spirit is drawing up some new plays to help me win the game before time expires.  The advance scouting report is used to keep the opponent from maintaining possession. 

After the half-time pep talk, I run out onto the field all charged up and spot a spectator standing behind the goal post.  He's holding up a giant banner that sums everything up... John 3:16.  Jesus is the missing link.  Without Him, there is no reason to publish a book.  By the time the game clock expires everyone will get the message.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Plot Thickens

The eternal invitation that Christ extends to us all is to live in a state beyond fear, frustration and shame; with our feet firmly on earth and our hearts at home in heaven. The Way through the world is more difficult to find than the way beyond it. ~ Wallace Stevens

A young man from South Korea who grew up as an orphan is my inspiration for today's blog.  At the age of three, Choi Sung-bong was placed in an orphanage.  Two years later, he ran away to escape the beatings.  He lived alone on the streets, selling gum and energy drinks during the day and sleeping in public restrooms and on stairways at night.  Choi educated himself and did not enter a formal school until high school.  He discovered a passion for singing and entered a talent competition.  Ten million viewers have seen him.  This homeless young man overcame many obstacles to share his talent with the world.

I understand what Choi is feeling in his heart.  I have the same passion for writing.  I dream of sharing my books with others and hope I can touch hearts the way this homeless singer did in the video below.

Key elements of the plot came to me as visions throughout the night.  When I shared the most recent revelations with my wife, she told me she sees this book as a movie.  My writing talent is raw and undeveloped.  I will need my team of experienced writers to help refine the plot and polish the story.  It's time to take the pictures I've seen in my head and put those pictures into words.

Here is a YouTube video of Choi sharing his passion with the world.  In 451 days, I will share mine.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Meet Bedrock

You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church. ~ Matthew 16:18

In earth science, the solid unweathered rock that lies below the surface is known as bedrock.  Jesus gave Simon a new name, Peter, which means rock; Peter became the rock Jesus used to build His church.  Another follower, Saul, was also given a new name upon his conversion.  Saul's name was changed after he met the resurrected Jesus.  Jesus spoke to him in a great light and persuaded Saul to become a follower.  We know him as Paul, the prolific writer of fourteen epistles in the New Testament.

Unfortunately, the naked caveman found in Luke's story has no name.  I needed to name him since he is the main character in The Caveman in the Mirror.  Allow me to introduce Bedrock.  Although Peter is the rock who remained with Jesus throughout His three year ministry, Bedrock was left behind.  Bedrock's job was to share Jesus with the non-Jewish population and prepare others to meet Him.  Except for Jesus' return visit to the caveman, his stories never made it to the Bible.  The caveman lived under the radar.  He was able to convert his village to Christianity and we know from the end of the Bible account in Luke he was successful in his "publishing" efforts; the whole town was waiting for Jesus when He returned.  Peter and Paul are the visible evangelists in the Bible.  Bedrock is the invisible one. 

The Caveman in the Mirror is about the search for Bedrock, buried just below the surface for 2,000 years.  There are twenty centuries of history and genealogical records to sort through in order to find the connection to him.  Bedrock has been invisible for a long time.  Soon, he will become visible.  His fledgling ministry will be unearthed. And his message about all the good Jesus is doing will be published by Bedrock's modern-day alter ego. You will meet the caveman in 452 days.  Just like Peter and Paul, Bedrock has a new name and a new life as a member of God's family.  Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Year in Review and a Preview into 2012

There's no doubt this has been an odd year.  Just like tennis, the 2011 blog year started with love, a theme resonating throughout these past twelve months.  Dr. Jeni Stepanek offered a mother's wisdom and shared her son's message of peace.  Bruce Marchiano outlined his vision for a new Jesus movie he is writing, producing and starring in as Jesus.  Just before fitness guru Jack Lalanne was called up to Heaven, he sent me an autographed picture and encouraged me to carry on. And I published my first book. Oh, what a year!

I wanted to give an honorable mention to my tennis teammates.  We fell short of our goal to bring home a national championship.  5th place in the country is not too shabby.  The road to the finals was incredible.  We were known as "Smashin' with Passion."  Along the way, we made lots of new friends.  I also re-connected with childhood buddies from my old neighborhood and found missing classmates on Facebook.  Sadly, one of my favorite friends from high school left this world after  a three year fight with brain cancer.  Ted Sandy, another former classmate I recently re-connected with is fighting cancer.  In the midst of his battle, Ted is writing a guest blog about his faith journey to be posted soon.  Ted is asking everyone he comes in contact with for prayers and will have surgery within the next 48 hours.

The highlight dearest to my heart from this past year has to do with a young man who told me he wasn't going to Heaven. The young man theorized his hatred disqualified his entry into Heaven.  "You could spend your entire life doing good deeds and you wouldn't have enough credit to get through the door," I replied.

"Then how can I get in?" he asked.

"Jesus is standing at the door to your heart.  He holds the key to Heaven.  Let Him inside and He will lead you through the door.  Not because of anything you have done, but because He died for your sins."

At the end of our conversation, the young man invited Jesus into His heart and asked Jesus to remain with Him forever.  I asked him, "where are you going when you die?"


The year officially winds down in less than two weeks.  2010 was about hope.  2011 featured blog stories about love.  And in 2012 the main theme will be faith.  Thanks for keeping in touch and reading these stories.  2012 may not be an odd year, however, it will offer us a new set of challenges and opportunities.  I look forward to discovering all God has planned for us as a new year unfolds.  If you have a faith story you would like to share, contact me and let's get it posted on a guest blog.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Preparing for a New Year

Most of the hikers in my neighborhood are gone now.  The popular trail to the Devil's Punchbowl remains closed.  The other day, one of my tennis buddies introduced me to a hidden trail we traversed with my daughter.  It was a four hour journey in a pristine area of the Cleveland National Forest.

I used the hiking time to clear my head and think of the possibilities ahead for 2012.  Then it hit me.  I realized most of the people in my neighborhood stopped hiking because the Forest Service closed the most popular trail in San Diego County.  They gave up.  They retreated to their homes and missed opportunities to find new trails and new adventures.  I don't need to "prepare" for a new year.  All I need to do is be in the moment.

When we reached the mountain peak, the four of us in our group took a lunch break.  The 360º view included the ocean to the west, snow-covered mountains to the east and a small cave to the north.  We decided to explore the cave on our descent.  I snapped pictures along the way.  We had to leave the path in order to reach the cave. When we approached it I recalled all the days in past years when I lived my life inside my own cave.

The other hikers checked out the inside of the cave while I savored the view on the outside.  Then I made a decision about the new year.  I promised myself I will seek out new trails and new adventures.  I will live each day as if it's my last.  I will spend time with nature and appreciate every moment I have with my family and friends.  And I will help others to discover how wonderful life can be when you choose to leave the cave and go out into the world.  I will fill my life's photo album with pictures like the one I captured below on a special day with my daughter and good friends...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Play a New Song

Is your own mind trapping you?  Take a look at the music you listen to every day.  If all you hear is a broken record filled with the blues, maybe it's time to change your tune.  Play a new song.  Let your brain hear some words filled with hope and encouragement.

You may not be able to change the circumstances you are in due to outside influences, however, you always have an opportunity to play a new song with a happy melody.  If you feel like your positive attitude has been incarcerated, please consider today's message your "get out of jail free card."  Tell your brain you aren't going to put up with it's negativity any longer and make today your breakout day.

The video below is done by Steven Sharp Nelson, aka the Piano Guy.  He spices up a piece inspired by Beethoven, entitled Moonlight.  Although my high school piano lessons often crowded out my tennis court time, my piano highlight was learning to play Moonlight Sonata.  Nelson plays this classic in a new way.  May you find your own new songs that inspire you create your own music.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Spirit of Christmas

Many store managers train their employees to say Happy Holidays even when the customers first wish them a Merry Christmas.  There is an effort to eradicate the original meaning of Christmas.  Some may think it's a waste of time to dedicate an entire season to a birthday that happened over 2,000 years ago.

Yes, Christmas started with a birthday.  That was the beginning of something really special for the whole world.  When we prepare for this birthday, we are reminded Christ is coming back.  Removing His name from Christmas or training people to abolish His name when extending a Christmas greeting doesn't change what's ahead.

Are we going to ask the Jews to stop remembering Passover because it may offend people of other faiths or non-faiths?  Are we going to force Muslims to share meals with us at school during their special times of fasting so other kids aren't offended? 

The Spirit of Christmas is meant to be about joyful expectation.  No other individual has conquered death.  Only one God became man.  Choirs of Angels sang on that day.  People of low status gathered around to see this extraordinary event.  When Jesus returns, EVERY knee shall bow.  It all started with a birthday...and it ends with a return visit.  Every man, woman and child will say, "Merry Christmas."  May the spirit of Christmas be with you during this special season and may it remain with you year round.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holy Family Outtakes

Every wonder what is was like for Mary and Joseph to raise Jesus, the Son of the Most High God?  We're all familiar with His birthday in the manger and His three year ministry.  What about those teenage years?  The only thing we know about the Holy Family during this time period is that they relocated to Egypt to escape harm.

Here's some Holy Family outtakes I came up with as we get ready to celebrate the most important birthday of the year...

1.   Joseph and Jesus are doing some carpentry work together and Joseph asks Jesus, "Maybe we should get your followers together when you are older and build one of those pyramids to bury you after your death?"

Jesus replies, "Thanks dad, however, it seems like a big waste of resources when I'm only going to stay there for three days."

2.  Mary asks Jesus, "would you like me to sign you up for some swim lessons?"

"No thanks, Mother, I already know how to walk on water."

3.  Mary at the dinner table..."Eat your fish and bread, Jesus, there's starving people back home."

"No problem, Mother, I'll feed them...all of them."

4.  Mary to Jesus after one of His wise cracks..."you think you know everything, don't you?"

Jesus replies, "yes."

5.  Joseph to Jesus..."Choose your friends carefully.  People will judge you by the type of people you hang around.  The wrong people can get you in a lot of trouble.  If you're not cautious, others will crucify you.  And even if they do, don't ever forget to forgive them...most of them have no idea what they're doing."

6.  Joseph gives Jesus career planning advice..."Son, I know you want to follow in my footsteps with this carpentry stuff, however, you may want to consider's a solid career path because everybody needs to eat.  If the economy takes a downturn, people will put off buying furniture but they have to eat.  I think you could do very well as a fisherman."

7.  Jesus asks His father..."Should I open a savings account for my allowance?"

"That's pointless Son.  The politicians believe all your money belongs to them.  Back home, Ceasar has his face plastered on all the money.  He'd find a way to tax your own dung if He could get away with it.  It's not worth it to hold onto money.  Better to give it away and it will ease your tax burden."

8.  Mary to Jesus..."Son, you're birthday is coming up, what would you like?"

Jesus..."Peace on earth."

9.  Joseph instructs Jesus on the cleansing diet..."Son, when life gets stressful, it's always good to go out into the desert and to a little detoxing.  Avoid eating while you are alone praying.  Your demons will try to get the best of you when you are fasting.  Just remember where you came from.  Start small... like one day without eating and see how long you can go in the desert."

10.  Jesus asks Mary to tell Him about His first birthday...."Oh Jesus, your birthday was the beginning of a new life for me and Joseph.  Your dad is such a dreamer.  Even your name came to him in one of his visions.  There we were... in a manger.  It was so cold and everything was all booked up for the census.  Your dad found us this little stable filled with cute little animals.

The moment you were born, Angels recited, 'Glory to God in the Highest and peace to His people on earth.'  It gave me chills to hear the Heavens proclaiming your name.  On that day, I renewed my promise to your Heavenly Father to dedicate my life to raising you in a good home and to help you find your destiny.  Happy birthday, Jesus.  You make us proud to be your parents.  Now, blow out your candles and wish for something big...really big.  Make your Father proud."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Other Side of the Fence

China has the Great Wall.  Germany once had it's wall.  And my elementary school had a fence.  Whether these barriers are designed to keep people out or in, they separate people. China and Germany had guns to guard the walls.  At our elementary school, we had grapefruit on our side of the fence and several of my classmates hurled these yellow bombs at anyone who caused a stir on the other side.

Jesus doesn't like fences.  It doesn't matter if it's as small as throwing grapefruit or as big as thermo-nuclear  war, there is a simple reason why people build walls.  In my life, I built a wall around myself and my family to protect them from a world filled with hatred, prejudice and jealousy.  Isolation is another form of fence building.  The problem with isolation is that it prevents people from coming together to build bridges.

I'm free now.  I'm on the other side of the fence.  This freedom gives me the opportunity to see the world from a new vantage point.  I understand how powerful love is, especially when we choose to love our enemies on the other side of the fence.

The fence dividing believers and non-believers is the most challenging one to knock down.  One side argues that as man increases his understanding of science, God becomes smaller.  They search for the smoking gun they call the "God particle."  What about the "God Particle" placed in a manger 2,000 years ago?  The demons know all about Him.  They know where He came from and they are certain He is coming back.  When He returns, they will be forced to the other side of the fence for eternity.  Not because God hates them, but because the other side rejected Him.

I do believe there is a God particle.  It rests inside our souls.  It inspires us to break down our walls and live our lives on the other side of the fence.  Our job is to help the world find the God particle.  When they see how we love our enemies they will finally discover the God particle they are searching for.  All we have to do is make a choice to live in peace on the other side of the fence.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life

Last night my wife told me the classic Christmas movie, "It's a Wonderful Life" will be disappearing.  Demographics are changing and every year the ratings slip more and more.  Although the movie was filmed in black in white, it's rich in colorful pictures painted by George and Mary.  It reflects a time period when people said, "Merry Christmas."

I find myself surrounded by people who are hurting or have broken dreams.  Like me, they've lost important people in their lives.  I think of my father around the Christmas season because he was born on Christmas day and he's no longer with us.  I remember my mother-in-law who got called up to Heaven just before Christmas Day and my father-in-law who joined her when our children were still little.  Now, my high school classmates and I are reflecting on one of the most positive people we were blessed to know from our high school days.  Nancy struggled in pain for three years with brain cancer.  Last week she got her one-way bus ticket to Heaven.  Those who knew her are grieving her absence.

It's easy to let our broken dreams get the best of us when Christmas is supposed to be a happy time.  We turn on the TV and can't find a decent Christmas show even though we have hundreds of channels to sort through.

Even Mr. Positive from "It's a Wonderful Life" needed an angel to remind him of all the good that was right in front of him...someone to show him that he truly found a way to lasso the moon and reel it in for his wife.  His treasure was in his friendships.  Those who are no longer with us have a message...

"It's a wonderful life.  Live each day to it's fullest and stay close to your loved ones.  Keep in touch with your friends.  We have earned our wings.  Now it's time for you to earn yours.  Make a difference.  Your life is a gift."

The spirit of our departed friends and family members lives on in the lives who were touched.  Here's an impersonation of Jimmy Stewart, someone who learned the best things in life are often right in front of you.  Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Different Camera Angles Inspire the Bible

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. ~ 2 Peter 3:8

Sherlock Holmes, a fictional character created by author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, solved many mysteries using his uncanny reasoning skills.  He could spend a lifetime attempting to crack the Bible code and still only scratch the surface.

Outside the Bible belt are many skeptics who never made it past the first book, Genesis.  Detective work is needed to make inferences believers call the "leap of faith."  Clues such as "a thousand years are like a day" help us to understand how God made something out of nothing and how long it took.

Prophets in the Old Testament saw the script in advance before the screenplay was completed and did their best to give readers a sneak preview of the plot.  Although the camera angles often appear to be identical for Matthew, Mark and Luke, there is one important difference.  Luke wasn't filming his shots as they happened.  Matthew and Mark were there in person.  Luke heard all the stories and recreated his shots years later.  John was given permission to bring his camera into Heaven and capture some scenes the other three didn't get to see.  The Movie Director wanted to make sure the audience understood the full meaning of the Bible and all four camera angles were necessary.  Like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Luke was not only a writer, but also a physician.  Luke is responsible for writing the Acts of the Apostles.  This section of the Bible depicts life after Jesus turned over His ministry to His followers.  In order to gain market share, the Holy Spirit appeared like a wind to light a fire in the hearts of the followers.

If you're looking for a good mystery, read the Bible from cover to cover.  Here is a chart from Wikipedia showing the similarities and differences between the four camera angles used in the New Testament.  May it help you understand the story line...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

In Memory of Nancy Schwartz, SHS class of '78

My high school classmate, Nancy Schwartz, has departed this world after forever leaving her imprint.  Her legacy is her ability to make the world laugh even in times of trouble, just as she did during her three year battle with brain cancer.

Some of my high school classmates, like Miguel Casa from my Spanish class, got an opportunity to have more experiences with Nancy beyond high school graduation.  Their children went through the school system together all the way through high school.  Others visited with Nancy during her brave fight with an enemy she was powerless to defeat.

I know this foe very well.  My mother-in-law was diagnosed with brain cancer shortly after Helen and I announced our wedding engagement.  Myrna departed just before we celebrated our first Christmas as husband and wife.

Nancy had many interests and tennis was one of them.  Her tennis team was one of the best in Phoenix and they will be long remembered as one of the best ever to represent Sunnyslope High School.  My tennis playing cousin often practiced with Nancy.

I didn't get to see Nancy after we graduated.  It has only been recently that I emerged from my cave to reunite with some of these treasured friends.  I will remember all the times Nancy made me laugh.  The greatest lesson Nancy taught us is by the way she handled her final exam.  Her A+ was earned by the manner in which she confronted certain death.  I can hear laughter in her voice as she tells us one last time, "pretend you are being tickled even when the pain is overwhelming... and don't forget to flash a smile.  None of us can cheat death, however, we can choose how we will fight it."

Nancy, you have left this world better than you found it.  May your family be consoled and may your memory live on in all who were fortunate enough to know you.  Classmate Jeff Grant recalled our road trip to Disneyland celebrating high school graduation... "After we had been on the road for a few minutes, Nancy grabbed the driver's microphone and welcomed everybody to the 'Pleasure Palace bus'...everybody cracked up and burst out laughing."

Now you are on the bus one last time, headed for the happiest place OFF earth.  You will pave the way for those you leave behind.  We are reminded our time here is short and we still have studying to do, musical instruments to play, and a bucket list to cross off.  Nancy, you have graduated the school of life.  You earned your Phd at such an early age of just 51 years.  Keep an eye on us from your Heavenly view and if any of us get out of line, grab that microphone and shout out loud for us to carry on, no matter what challenges we face.  God bless you, my friend.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Latest Google Plus Sandbox Toy

If you have a gift to share with the world and you're not using my latest sandbox toy, Google + for businesses, you're are missing out on one the biggest cyberspace tools ever invented... and it's FREE!

Google + for individuals has only been around for about five months and it already has millions of users.  Yesterday, I saw this button on my Google Plus page that offered a free page for businesses.  I created a page for promoting my books in about fifteen minutes.  It's a great way for songwriters, authors, artists, small business owners and hobbyists to connect with the world.

Want to be part of my caveman network?  Click on the link to my new author talk page and then create yours.  Don't forget to invite me to be a part of your circle so you can get some free advertising.  I'm going to start a new circle just for people who follow this blog and want to connect with my friends.  Anyone who joins my network will be invited to future hangouts.   Here's the link...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Between Two Miracles

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. ~ Isaiah 40:29

I would like to welcome Mark, Chris and Paul to my blog.  They are childhood friends that I re-connected with this week and we've been sharing stories about the games we played while growing up.  We invented our own games, like string tag.  Every day we picked a different front yard and made elaborate mazes using kite string.  The person who was "it" started outside the maze and everyone else had to find a way out without getting tagged.  At sunset, we reeled in the kite string and started over the next day with a brand new layout.

Mark recounted his discovery about his home being sold while he visited cousins over the summer.  When he came back to the neighborhood, he was shocked when he found out he was moving to another state and only had about three days to pack his bags.  All of us were devastated when we lost our buddy.  What a joy to be reconnected with these old playmates after forty years of separation.

The Caveman in the Mirror is similar to string tag. I'm inside a giant puzzle searching for a way out.  There's an opponent trying to tag me and take me out of the game.  Every morning when I wake up, I recall some kind of inkling for the book given to me while dreaming.

I found a large nugget last night at 1:00 AM, four hours into a deep sleep.  It's a link to the naked caveman Luke writes about in the Bible.  Most scholars don't pay much attention to this man possessed by demons.  My life is dedicated to understanding him.  For me, he's the missing link connecting me to Jesus and the world.  His past, present, and future have many parallels to my life and I see new clues each time I look at my reflection in the mirror.

Today's message is to help readers understand how to find this caveman in their Bibles.  Instead of referring to chapters and verses, I want to paint a picture of the encounter.   Jesus is in a boat sleeping while traveling to a foreign land.  I have a feeling He's dreaming about what's ahead.  His dreams become nightmares as He visualizes encounters with demons and His own death on the Cross.  This massive storm manifests itself almost causing the boat to capsize.  His eyes remain closed while His followers tremble in fear.  They shake Jesus until He awakes from His dream state.  Jesus is not afraid.  It's not His time yet and He trusts His Father completely.  He raises His hands and the seas calm.  The winds quiet.  It's a miracle.

The boat is headed for a land where Jesus is unknown.  They set foot between two Bible miracles in a place often misunderstood by the Gospel writers who recorded everything Jesus did.  Because they are in an unfamiliar land, the followers give different names to the place where they visited in their individual accounts.  For the sake of simplicity, let's nickname the place "pig valley."  The presence of pigs in the area is significant because it tells us we are no longer in a Jewish community.  Pigs are so unclean that a Jew is not even allowed to touch them.

Jesus is getting ready for the second major miracle which will take place after His return trip home.  I'm referring to feeding 5,000 men plus all the women and children with five loaves of bread and two fish.  This is one of the most famous miracles of Christ's three year public ministry.  Before returning to His people, He must answer the prayers of a lowly caveman, possessed by a multitude of demons.

Jesus and the caveman are the only two who know where Jesus comes from.  The followers in the boat are starting to get a clue that this Jesus is really special, yet they still don't know He's the Son of God.  The naked caveman knows.  Not because he is some kind of prophet.  It's because of the demons inside of him, enough demons to make 2,000 pigs go crazy, run off a cliff and drown in the lake.  That's a lot of demons.

When Jesus gets off the boat, the naked caveman confronts him and asks, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I beg you, do not torment me!"

These "legions"...multiple demons clearly know who this traveler is.  Thanks in part to this possessed caveman, all of the apostles first learn who Jesus really is.  They're a little dense, so it takes three years of miracles and a visit from the Holy Spirit before they solve the mystery and follow the caveman's footsteps into public ministry.  Meanwhile, between two miracles, on a distant land, a man once possessed by demons becomes a publisher.  Every day he tells everyone he comes in contact with from childhood friends to strangers about all the good Jesus is doing in his life.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sand Castles

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. ~ Romans 8:14

What happens when you let your child play in the sand and you give him a shovel and a bucket?  I think back to the first time my oldest son discovered the beach.  He literally covered himself from head to toe, rolling around and burying his whole body in it.  When it was time to go home, he tried to cling to it with both hands and refused to let go of it.

I feel the same way about my "sand box" time.  When I enter my play area loaded with writing toys, all I want to do is transform the sand into sand castles.  This is what happens when you discover your reason for existing.

It's time to bury myself in the sand and create a new sand castle.  Soon, the sun will pop up over the horizon and the rest of the world will wake up.  I'm thankful for this daily morning time to play in my sandbox.  When my masterpiece is complete, I look forward to sharing it with you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Write Your Own Screenplay

Today's post is dedicated to my daughter, a college student with an undeclared major.  In writerspeak, she's a writer with a blank manuscript... or an artist standing in front of an empty canvas.  The other day she told me she is signing up for an upper division course -  writing screenplays.  It could turn out to be another elective or it may open a door to an adventurous writing career.

The challenge for parents is to guide their children to their own destinies.  Each of our three children is wired differently and we seek to help them find their unique talents.  Parents who try to mold their children into images of themselves or their own unfulfilled dreams are only stifling their offspring.  The other danger is living dreams through children while forgetting to write their own screenplay.

Like parents, teachers have small morsels of time to plant a seed.  I thank my high school Spanish teacher, "Snora" Ehlers, for introducing me to a fascinating world of words spoken with rolling R's and south of the border spiciness.  Even in her retirement years, she is striving to master new languages.  Her latest venture is Italian.  While she is at one end of the spectrum in her golden years, and my daughter is at the other, both teach us screenplays are to be written at every stage of our lives.

Parents are only granted temporary custody of their children.  Letting go of them when they grow up is not easy.  I find comfort in the prayer sung by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli.  It's an original soundtrack from the movie "Quest for Camelot." May it encourage you to remember you are on a find love and fulfill your destiny.  May your life's screenplay challenge the world around you to become better.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Writing Journey

I can relate to the blind squirrel who finds a nut once in a while.  Those who are around me in the writing world are still trying to figure out my zany methods for putting books together.  Who in their right mind puts a time target out there for a book before the first memoir is even completed?  And who markets books before they are written?  There are probably a few other writers out there just as crazy as me, however, I've never met one who shares his or her journey on a daily basis during the writing process.

For me, writing is like playing in a sandbox.  Everyone is invited to join me as I search for nuts while blindfolded.  I'm not using my eyes to find the chapters.  It's easier to write from my heart.  It's like Luke Skywalker from Star Wars.  There is a force guiding me.  I can't see it but it helps me find the nuts buried in the sandbox.  It would be easier to find the nuts with my eyes but I would only see the ones on the surface.   The other four senses are needed to discover the nuts hidden underground.  Writing is a process that involves creating a gourmet meal with no recipe.

Thomas Edison made the light bulb functional by first discovering all the ways light bulbs don't work.  His school teacher called him "addled," meaning confused or mixed up.  This ended his three years of official schooling.  He went on to apply for over 1,000 patents, publish and distribute his own paper, the Grand Trunk Herald, and founded what is now General Electric.  His teacher saw a kid who was wasting time playing in a sandbox.  His mother saw a visionary who could find nuts while blindfolded.

No.  I'm not claiming to be a Thomas Edison.  I'm a blind squirrel searching for nuts in a public sandbox.  I promise to deliver a heart-felt story that transcends time and space once I find all the missing nuts and add them to the recipe.  The timer is set and my story will be served in 466 days.  Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Experience Jesus in 3D

     In the last days, God says,
   I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
   your young men will see visions,
   your old men will dream dreams. ~ Acts 2:17

Today's message is a follow-up on yesterday's story about inspiration.   For those of you who found this blog because you are searching for the meaning of 808, you may be interested in my latest revelation.  I spent part of my day yesterday doing research for The Caveman in the Mirror and I found a YouTube video showing the Gospel of Luke done in a foreign language.  It was broken down into separate clips.  The odd part is that the clip showing the boat arriving to meet the caveman ends at exactly 8 minutes and :08 seconds.  I don't always know how things are related.  Every day I learn more about how God is using my number in His plans and how I'm connected to you.  Today's story came to me at 2:00 AM.  Usually, the inspirations are short and I go back to sleep quickly.  This one made me toss and turn for about two hours, disrupting my wife.  As she was preparing for work, I shared my vision.   She was no longer mad at me for causing her to lose some sleep.  Here's what I saw in my dream...

Experiencing Jesus in 3D is like going to a movie theater with all the latest bells and whistles.  I'm referring to seats that shake when there's lots of action in the film.  And smells that shoot out from behind.  The 3D glasses are needed to get the full effect.  When Jesus extends His hand to touch you, you actually feel Him while you are sitting in your seat.  At the end of the movie, you want to go out and tell everyone you know about your experience.  Some get it and some don't.  How can that be?

Those who don't show interest in Jesus can be divided into two categories, those who are afraid everything about Jesus is a lie and those who are afraid everything about Jesus is true.  If it's a lie, then seeing a movie about Him is a waste of time.  If it's the truth, then the atheist has to change.  By avoiding the movie, those in the latter category can maintain their non-belief in Jesus.

If we look at the screen play from God's point of view, we comprehend the script and all the characters involved.  Only the Father knows when the movie actually ends.  He sent Jesus to be the main character.  In the first half of the script, certain people called prophets got to have an advance screening.  Their reviews actually became part of the Old Testament.  Because they only saw parts of the movie, they limited the reviews for one target audience, the Jews.  Critics attacked the Jews because they were jealous about being left out of the script.  This led to slavery, murder, and a terrible Holocaust that some critics deny ever happening.

When the lead actor showed up, everything changed.  The chosen ones accused Him of being an imposter.  He even had the audacity to heal a woman from the enemy camp, an enemy that the Father wiped out in the first half of the movie.  The plot twisted and turned causing the target audience to boycott the movie.  Outsiders were invited to become stand-ins.

Newcomers from all walks of life were attracted to the movie the same way Happy Gilmore drew in large crowds of misfits to the golf world.  The antagonist in the movie was once a rising star and despised getting kicked off the movie set after He tried to re-write the script.  He started a smear campaign to keep people away from the movie about Jesus.  Sometimes, He shows up at movie theaters disguised as a movie goer.  He's that disruptive tall man or woman directly in front of you often talking on His cell phone.  He will do anything to ruin your movie experience.

For those having trouble understanding the movie, here's some cliff notes about the script to help you interpret the theme.  Although four different writers were used to write the script, each tells the story from his own camera angle.  Matthew, Mark and Luke depict their scenes from similar points of view while John relies on key close-ups the other three writers weren't privy to.  John also got invited to see a special engagement of the films sequel.  This final chapter is mentioned in the script and will be shot on the same location sometime in the future.

If you want to experience Jesus in 3D, get your advance tickets today.  They're free and everyone is invited.  Don't rely on a bad movie review from a disgruntled actor whose candle burned out long ago or the atheist who refuses to accept the script as reality-based.  Don't get stuck in the middle of the fight between believers who are splintered because they interpret the script differently.  Instead, experience Jesus in 3D for yourself and form your own opinions about who He is.  Should you choose to follow Him, there is a place in show biz just for you.  It may not be on the main screen but it's just as important so others can get a great movie experience.  Jobs include selling tickets, ushering, serving food and drinks, and clean-up.  There's even a job for the caveman once possessed by demons.  Jesus told him to become a publisher and tell everyone just how good it is to experience Jesus in 3D.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Finding Inspiration

Another storm appeared out of nowhere the other day.  After the rain clouds passed, I went outside and discovered something in the puddles.  It was inspiration, staring back at me as I viewed my reflection in the pools of water.  I reached down to touch it and it ignited a spark that electrified my whole body.  In my head I could hear new music, a combination of Bach and Beethoven mixed with modern music of our time.  An aroma of sweet flowers drifted in with the light breeze swirling around me.  I memorized each sensation so that I could return to my writing and find the words to match my thoughts.

I don't know how to describe creativity or the inspiration that allows it to appear out of nowhere.  You can't find it with a road map.  It finds you in the midst of the winter storms.  As I look at the chessboard of my life, I now see how each piece has a purpose; each of the five senses plays a role in sharing the vision with you.  Somehow I'm separated from the confines of time and space.  I see the moves that are ahead.  Now it's time to find the words to match this new inspiration that sprouted from the rain clouds.  Today will be a big writing day.  I can't wait to share my next book with you.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Change the Light Bulb

Changing light bulbs can be bothersome.  They come in so many different sizes and when they burn out, you have to remember to get the right replacement or live in the dark.

Our souls are like light bulbs.  For some of us, the light bulb burned out in our childhood due to some kind of catastrophe.  At first, maybe we missed the light but that memory faded and we got used to living with a burned out bulb.  Darkness became normal.  We associated with others who lived in darkness because we felt comfortable.  Will these friends behave like vampires if we change the light bulb in their presence?  Are we afraid they will flee and stop being our friends?

Take a look at your light fixtures.  Consider replacing all the burned out bulbs in your life.  Restore broken relationships.  Forgive those who hurt you.  Some of these people may no longer be alive, yet you are still living in darkness because you are holding on to the hurt they caused you.  Letting go of that hurt is as easy as changing the light bulb.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pray Big

What's the deal with that teeny tiny mustard seed you're carrying around?  Why aren't you planting it?  The truth is, most of us don't really believe in dreaming big.  Moving mountains and walking on water is not for us; it's for others.

The demons trolling the world are doing everything to take our eyes of all the things possible in Jesus.  It's time to plant that seed and start believing.  I'm not talking about a bigger car or a larger home.  I'm talking about a one-on-one relationship with the One who created you.  He died for you.  That's right.  For you.  Once He's living in your heart, you have the power to do big things for the benefit of others.  Pray big.  Dream big.  And watch miracles unfold before your eyes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My First Acting Gig

The other day, my mother told me about a reunion she had with ladies from her woman's church group.  "Some of the ladies in my group read your blog," she told me.

I'm thankful for the support you give me.  Some of you were around when I played Ebenezer Scrooge at MHT.  It was a seventh grade play based on Charles Dickens novel, A Christmas Carol.  The lead actor dropped out just before the play was to be staged.  I got picked to stand in, the lone sixth grader.  I did my best to memorize the script but got lost a few times and the lines were whispered in from the side stage.  This was one of the best experiences from my childhood.

Nearly forty years after my first acting gig, I see an uncanny link between Scrooge and the naked caveman.  Scrooge was visited by the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present, and the ghost of Christmas yet to come.  The naked caveman in the Bible, also known as the man possessed by demons, was visited by the One who has power over all demons.  Both characters were never the same after their encounters.

My heart skipped a beat when Mrs. Eerie asked me to play Scrooge.  It almost stopped when the Holy Spirit showed me I was God's pick to play the naked caveman.  Like Scrooge, my past, present and future were revealed when I perused the Script for the first time.  There is no acting involved here as my life is a mirror-image of the first caveman who met Jesus 2,000 years ago.

All of us have a script to follow, a destiny.  My role is to set the stage for the Christmas yet to come.  The first caveman played his part well.  When Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him.  My role is to gather a crowd for the grand's a tough act to follow, but a role I was born to play.  You can read all about it in The Caveman in the Mirror.  This time, I'm not going to forget my lines.   May the Spirit of Christmas be with you always.