Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A One Way Journey Through Life

Life is a one way journey.  I have no desire to go back in time to revisit my younger days.  There are enough activities on my plate today to fill up each day as it comes.  No longer am I in a hurry to rush through the items on my calendar for the sake of checking them off the list.  My life is intentional.  Each day has its own purpose.

My window is wide open this morning.  A strong cool breeze ushers in 71º air from the outside. I'm listening to all the sounds of nature while penning this story.  There is so much to appreciate.  The birds do this instinctively with their sweet songs.  The trees are sprouting their Spring leaves in unison.  And the crickets contribute to the music.   Another storm is in the distance.  Like all the other storms before it, it will pass.   Perhaps its role is to remind me to appreciate the moment I'm in now, to savor it.

Wherever you are today, I hope you are enjoying your one way journey through your life.  May you find enough time in your day today to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of nature.  Have a great day.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Joyful Flash Mob

Placa de Sant Roc, Sabadell, Spain. 
Have you ever seen a live flash mob?  I came across an amazing YouTube video yesterday, shot at the placa de Sant Roc in Sabadell, Spain.  The video begins with a lone street musician displaying a cello in a public square.   He is dressed in a tuxedo.  A young girl places a few coins in his top hat and steps back a few paces to watch him play.  Moments later, a second musician joins him.  The small crowd forms a circle around the musicians and soon an orchestra emerges before their eyes.  Children are dancing.  The audience is treated to one of the best flash mobs ever.  Tears of joy rolled down my face when I watched this video for the first time.

The joy we experience in life comes from sharing our gifts with others.  Each person in the video had something to contribute that made the experience so special.  May this video inspire you to pursue the gift(s) given to you at birth and share them with others.  You are an instrument in God's orchestra and he is calling you to join the flash mob...

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Are You a Good Map Reader?

The next generation is so reliant on their cell phones for navigation that the art of map reading may become extinct.  Remember the Thomas Brothers?  You looked up a street and then searched for it on the grid.  In many ways, the Bible is like the Thomas Brothers...it's filled with all kinds of directions for finding your way if you take the time to use it properly.  Here are some ideas to consider about using the Bible as a map:
  1. All of the quadrants are linked together.  The Old Testament points the way to the New Testament.  When taken as a whole, Jesus is revealed.  He is the way, the truth and the life.
  2. The characters in the Bible are there to show examples of lost travelers who found their way.
  3. The prophets were given the gift of GPS technology and they use it to predict the correct course for all map readers to follow.
  4. Just because the Bible is the oldest map around, it doesn't mean it's outdated.
  5. No matter how lost you may feel, you can always find your way to Jesus by following your map, even if you're off the grid.
There are some who claim the map contains errors.  They argue about which way is the right way.  Avoid these traps and always go to the source for guidance.  As long as you trust the source, you will always find your way.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Plans for Summer Snow Balls

There is a motto at my day job about how we are always a season ahead.  This is carrying over to my personal life in a big way.  My wife and I are working on a financial fitness strategy that will produce snow balls in the summer.  Here's how it works:
  1. Cut out any and all unnecessary spending.
  2. Focus all energy on the smallest outstanding bill.  This is your first snow ball.
  3. Once the first bill is paid in full, add the next smallest bill to the snow ball.
  4. Tell your friends and family you are building a snow ball and you won't be able to make any splurges until you are done.
  5. Set up an emergency account with $1,000 to prevent your snow ball from melting when there is an unexpected expense.
  6. Once your debt is eliminated and your snow ball is full size, find another area of your life that needs attention.  Follow the same steps for every area of your life until your front yard is full of snow balls.
  7. Be thankful every day of your journey.  You can have fun building snow balls if you work together with the people you love.  You may inspire others to build snow balls in the summer when they see how much fun a project like this can be.
Are you making any plans for summer snow balls?  What area of your life needs the most attention right now?  I would love to hear from you.  Here's a picture of the first snowman I made in my new home state of Iowa...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Armor of God

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. ~ Ephesians 6:10-17

The Bible verse above is one of my favorites.  It gives me confidence to stand up to anything and everything that attempts to block God's plans for my life.  Sometimes, the distractions appear harmless, like a television show that comes on in the middle of a writing session or an email that pops up while I'm researching something for a blog topic.

The Evil One has many weapons, including busyness.  If you are too busy to work on the important tasks God asks of you, you are losing.  If you fail to put on the belt of truth, you may begin to believe the lies.  That breastplate of righteousness is there to protect your heart.  The shield of faith is necessary when the Evil One tries to knock you to the ground.  Put on the helmet of salvation and be delivered from the consequences of sin.  Fight back with the sword of the Spirit and know that God is all powerful and all loving.  And at the end of the day, rejoice that you are still standing.  There is no force that can defeat you when you put on the armor of God.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Do You Have a Happy Dance?

Do you remember a time in your life when you had a "happy dance"?  Maybe it was the first time you hit a home run?  Perhaps it was the day school got out for summer?  Or your parents gave you a puppy for your birthday?  Do you remember how good it felt?  When was the last time you showed off your dance moves and didn't care what the world thought?

I'm dancing the happy dance today.  There is no one particular reason for my joyful outbursts.  I'm just plain grateful.  The only sad part about my life is seeing people around me who can't find a reason to dance.  They feel overburdened.  They carry around guilt and can't seem to let go of it.  Some simply forgot how to dance.  Their lives are without music.  If the only music you're hearing today is the blues, try these pointers:
  1. Ask Passion -- that inner part of you who knows your hopes and dreams, to be your dance partner.  Passion already knows all the moves.  Passion knows what makes you tick.  Passion will make your heart race.
  2. Find one thing in your life you are thankful for and celebrate with a happy dance.  Don't think about how funny you look when someone sees you dancing -- just do it.  
  3. Don't be afraid of the dance floor.  You were created to dance in all circumstances.  Let go of all those excuses you have for avoiding the dance floor and get out there.
What is your favorite happy dance?  If you feel like sharing, please do so in the comments section below.   

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Is Your Half Empty Half Full Glass Leaking?

We've all heard the half full vs. half empty glass question.  The reality is that the levels in the glass are always changing.  Debating how much liquid is present takes the focus away from something more important:  Is the glass leaking?

A leaking glass is similar to the frog in hot water who isn't aware the heat is being turned up -- one degree at a time.  Eventually, he boils to death.  If the leak in the glass is small enough, the fluids may escape without the glass debaters noticing.

Imagine that something you value is inside your glass, such as your hopes and dreams.  Half the people in the world believe in you and see your glass half full.  The other half see your glass half empty.  I ask you, "Do you see the leak?"

If you're having trouble identifying any leaks in your glass, ask yourself these questions:
  1. How much fluid was in your glass last year?  Five years ago?  Ten years ago?  In your childhood?
  2. What do you think is causing your glass to leak?
  3. What solutions do you have for making glass repairs?
I don't trust my own senses well enough to answer question number 3.  Instead, I put my faith in the Holy Spirit.  I believe the Holy Spirit can repair any leaks, even the ones I can't see.  I also believe the Holy Spirit can restore any fluid that leaked from the glass.  The quality of the water the Holy Spirit adds to my glass is heavenly; when I drink it, I'm no longer thirsty..."but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." ~ John 4:14

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How to Handle Tough Times

Our arrival in Iowa over one year ago was somewhat embarrassing.  We calculated our travel expenses to the penny and ordered a moving truck.  The gas prices were lower than expected, however, the miles per gallon estimates were overly optimistic.  We limped into town with our wallets empty.  In fact, due to a math error, our checking account balance dipped into the negative on our last gas fill up.  Fortunately, our direct deposit from my wife's final paycheck saved the day when it showed up twenty-four hours later before the gas purchase was processed.

I shared this story with a peer at my day job and she said, "Wow Michael, even the immigrants who came to our country arrived with something."

If you are going through tough times right now, today's story is for you.  Just as nature has four seasons, we also have seasons we must cycle through.  Spring always follows Winter.  The sun always rises after a sunset.  And you, my friend, will get through tough times.

Here are three ideas to help you handle tough times:
  1. Everyone on this planet goes through all four seasons from birth to death.  The ones who do the best are the ones who see the lesson in every season and who believe all things will be new again.
  2. Appreciate the season you are in now; it has a lesson to teach you, hope to give you and opportunity to provide you.
  3. There are many generations who came before you with less resources, less technology and less amenities than you have today.  They endured tough times so that you can be here today.  Remember the sacrifices they made when they arrived with not much more than a dream.
The measuring stick I use today is different than the one I relied on growing up.  I no longer fear tough times or difficult situations -- I embrace them.  My life is measured not by what I take, but what I give.  This blog is my gift to you.  Please, take the seeds and plant them.  If you are struggling with tough times and you aren't sure when Spring will come, please plant the seeds in your garden.  I promise you, Spring will come. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

How Do You Define Victory?

God tends to pour blessings on people going in a direction He wants them to go. ~ Dave Ramsey, The Total Money Makeover - A Proven Plan For Financial Fitness

My wife opened up her book she checked out from the library and said, "This quote is about us."  The quote was from Dave Ramsey's book, a New York Times bestseller.  I read a few more pages before returning to my daily writing routine.  His points hit me like a brick.  Dave mentioned his ideas won't work when both spouses are in disagreement about his step-by-step plan to become debt free.

My wife has that gazelle intensity Dave refers to in The Total Money Makeover.  She made a ladder on a sheet of paper showing the steps we need to take to eliminate all our debts, including our mortgage.  Both of us can see that day when we declare financial independence.  Debt has always been our Achilles heel.  Any kind of debt is not good when you want to run like a gazelle.  It prevents you from crossing the finish line and declaring victory.

Victory may have many meanings.  For me, it means getting up after every fall.  It means being unshakeable in your faith no matter how dire the current situation may be.  Victory is about doing whatever it takes to carry out the plans God has for you.  I agree with Dave Ramsey's quote:  God tends to pour blessings on people going in a direction He wants them to go.  Every day, that dark tunnel my wife and I have been traveling through appears shorter and the light at the end grows brighter.  The gazelle holding my hand says, "keep running, honey, I see the finish line."  Yes, our lives are one big obstacle course and we are determined to cross the finish line together, no longer slaves to our debts.  How about you?  How do you define victory?  Your comments are invited at the end of today's blog.  Thanks for sharing.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Typical Day in My Writing World

My wife and I enjoying the Amana Colonies.
One year after leaving the comforts of Southern California, I'm settling into a writing routine that brings me overwhelming joy.  I'm no longer dreaming about being a writer... I am one.  And I can confidently say this blog will be clicked on over 1,000,000 times within five years, based on conservative predictions.

There are a handful of you out there who believed in me since day one over 1,300 days ago.  Your support really helped me on days when I thought I was losing my mind.  Thank you.  I've never been happier.  My family has never been happier.  They prefer anonymity, so I don't mention them much, however, each one of our children inherited the writing gene prevalent in our family for generations.

For those of you who are thinking about taking a crack at writing, today's blog is especially for you.  Feel free to try any of these ideas and let me know if they help.  Here is a typical day in my writing world:

5:30 AM -- Wake up, say a prayer to offer my day to my Creator, read a Bible verse, compliments of K-Love, a Christian radio station I discovered while living in Southern California.  My Bible verses arrive in my inbox in the middle of the night.

With my eyes closed, I let my mind drift until a writing topic pops into my head.  Sometimes, the stories come to me in the middle of the night.  Once I have a story, I open up my Blog and begin typing.  It looks and functions like a Word program.  All my work is saved online and I can access it from any computer.

After I'm done with the blog story, I peruse the internet for a catchy photo to match.  Many readers find my blog because they like the pictures.  Next, I program the blog story to publish at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time and head off to my day job in the marketing department of a company that, like my family, prefers anonymity.  They don't even know I'm a writer.

When my day job is over for the day, I head home, answer emails and post my blog to Twitter via Hootsuite.com.   I use Hootsuite because they allow me to compress my story title so it fits better on Twitter, which only allows 140 characters per tweet.  I also share the story on Google+.

I spend about thirty minutes a day studying online material that can help me get better at writing and publishing.

I have two days off every week.  One is set aside as a day of rest, although I still write a blog story on that day because I don't consider it work.  On the other day off from my day job I work on my long-term writing projects and update my blog layout.  I average two to three hours on my day off developing my novel, The Caveman in the Mirror.  At the end of the day, I make sure to go to bed early enough to get eight full hours of sleep.

I'm a big believer about participating in projects that maximize my personal strengths.  I also love to coach others.  It makes sense to share everything I learn about writing with you so that you may have an opportunity to learn from my own mistakes.

Due to the time constraints I have with my family and my day job, it's not always easy for me to respond to your emails or your comments.  I do my best to respond within a 24 hour period.  If you have any questions, please add your comments below or email me and I will be happy to reply.  Have a great day.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Which Dragon(s) Are You Fighting?

Dragons come in all shapes and sizes.  They go by many aliases.  How many of them are in your life?  Do you recognize any of these names?
  1. Bitterness
  2. Jealousy
  3. Pessimist
  4. Prejudice
  5. Intolerance
  6. Lazy
  7. Procrastinator
  8. Pride
  9. Time-waster
  10. Bully
If any of these dragons are in your life today, it's time for action.  The same strategy applies for multi-headed dragons as well.  Just make sure you go after the meanest head first and slay them in descending order.   Face your dragon(s) head on.  Do not show any signs of weakness.  Don't look at the dragon(s) too long.  You must make a quick kill so you can have time left to enjoy your family.

If your giant didn't make my top ten list, please add it below.  Don't forget to share how you got the upper hand.  thanks.  And have a great day.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Life On The Balance Beam

It's a good thing I have more than a 4" balance beam under my feet.  I need all the help I can get to maintain balance in my life.  There are so many times in my life that I've been out of balance I feel like the world around me is spinning and I'm going to fall down due to my dizziness.

If you are like me and you are seeking greater balance in your life, try these ideas:
  1. Don't try to re-invent the wheel.  There are many mentors around who understand the fundamentals of balance.   Read as much as you can about how to find balance in your life.  Attend conferences.  Study people who are experts at maintaining a healthy balance in their lives.
  2. Spend 80% of your time on the top 20% of your priorities.
  3. Schedule days off, vacations and fun activities and sleep 8 hours every day.
  4. Pretend your work area is a playground.
  5. Laugh.
  6. Don't spend more than you earn.
  7. You have one mouth and two ears.  Remember to listen twice as much as you speak.
  8. No matter how busy you are, take a fifteen minute break every two hours.
  9. Exercise.
  10. Eat healthy.
Please share a little bit about how you maintain balance in your life.  I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

This Is Only A Test

How are you doing on your life test?  Did you pass your mid-terms?  What action steps are you taking for the final exam?  Here are some sample questions...
  1. Do you believe you are in control of your life?
  2. If you answered "yes" on question #1, how is that working out for you?  If you answered "no" on question #1, who is in control?
  3. If you were given one wish in life, what would that be?
  4. If you were given an opportunity to do one thing over again, what would you change?
  5. How do you feel about free will?
  6. Do you believe in God?
  7. If you answered "yes" on question #6, what are you doing differently with your life compared to those who answer "no"?
  8. Are you aware that your life is a test?
  9. If you answered "yes" to question #8, what are you doing today to pass the test?
  10. If you answered "no" to questions #6 and #8, do you like hot places?
Remember, these are only sample questions.  You are not obligated to share your answers with me or anyone else.  There are no specific grades on your final exam.  There will be only one question and the answer will be pass or fail.  If you are interested to know what the final exam question is, read on...

"Do you love Me (Jesus) with all your heart and do you love your neighbor with all your heart?"

You have the rest of your life to work on your answer.  Remember, this is only a test.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How To Know When It's Time For Change

So, it's not your first rodeo.  In fact, you've been on the same race track so long that you know every speed bump.  You can almost make it through the day without even opening your eyes.  If this describes your life, maybe it's time for something new.

Here are some clues you are ready for change:
  1. You can't remember the last time you felt your heart race.
  2. The place you're at right now is not the place you want to be.
  3. You find yourself asking the question, "is this all there is?"
  4. You dread getting up in the morning.
  5. You haven't figured out the meaning of life.
A little over a year ago, I found a new race track.  It was scary to show up in a new state with no money, no job and not much of a clue about my future.  I only knew two things -- I was ready for change -- my family was ready for change.  I admit I haven't figured out the meaning of life yet, however, I'm getting a pretty good sense about why I'm here.  My life is turning into an adventure.  I'm following the footsteps of Charles Dickens and publishing my next book in weekly chapters.  People all over the world are checking in to read my stories.  I get up every morning eager to discover what God has planned for me.  And I get the opportunity to share my life lessons with you.

How about you?  Are you ready to embrace a significant change in your life?  Don't forget to share in the comments section below.  Thanks for stopping by today.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Are There Ghosts In Your Rear View Mirror?

Are you haunted by something from your past?  If you're seeing ghosts in your rear view mirror, today is a good day to get rid of them.  They can be a real distraction when you're moving forward with your life.  Here are some tips for making those ghosts invisible:
  1. Stop feeding your ghosts.  They are following you around because they have a voracious appetite and you are serving their favorite food -- fear.  You can't change your past but you can change how you view it.  If you remove fear, your ghosts will disappear.
  2. Stop looking in the rear view mirror.  Your past is behind you.  That's exactly where it belongs.  There is nothing you can say or do to change it.  How many times do you have to keep turning around?  What will it accomplish?
  3. Concentrate on the ghosts that are with you in this moment.  They are the ones that really matter.  Every action you take or choose not to take is important.  The ghosts in your rear view mirror are meaningless and they deplete you of your time and energy.  If you are able to confront a ghost in the present, it will vaporize right before your eyes and leave you alone forever.
  4. There are some ghosts waiting for you in your future.  Some of them will never show up if you are living your life to its fullest and doing all that is necessary with the tools you have.  The present day ghost I'm battling right now is named "Debt."  Although he has been in my life for a long time, I'm counter-attacking with some new moves.  Once I vanquish him, some of his buddies lurking in my future won't want to waste their time trying to haunt me and they will vanish before I get a chance to meet them.
  5. Learn from children.  Have you ever seen a baby turn around and return to his or her mother's womb?  Did a kid ever say, "I want to go back to first grade because second grade is too hard"?  Do children ever look in the rear view mirror?  Maybe they are more concerned with going forward when they keep asking, "are we there yet?"
If you are like me, you have enough present-day ghosts in your life to battle today and you don't need to get double teamed by the ones in your rear view mirror.  Do your best to stay focused on today.  And if you have time, please share your ideas for getting rid of the ghosts in your rear view mirror.

Monday, April 15, 2013

How To Thrive With People You Don't Like

Jesus teaches us to love others.  He never said anything about liking them.  If you are having trouble thriving with people you don't like, here are some tips:

  1. Remember where they came from.  Like you, they are children of God, created with a purpose.  Their purpose is not to make you miserable.  They may not have discovered what that purpose is yet.  In the process of finding out why they are here, they may flounder.  They may struggle with people who seem to have it all together.  
  2. Find out what makes them tick.  The more you learn about them, the easier it is to love them.  They may be going through some difficult trial right now and you happen to be their outlet.  Let them vent.
  3. Look for patterns.  If the people you don't like don't get along with anybody, you know where the source of the tension is.  If they work well and play well with everyone except you, you may need to look in the mirror to find the source.  A few simple adjustments can go a long way.
  4. Don't expect anyone to like you.  They are not required to be your best friend.  If they do, that's a bonus.  If they don't, don't worry about it.
  5. Keep your cool at all times.  Some people push your buttons because they enjoy seeing you squirm.  The more you show your displeasure, the more they taunt you.  If you are able to remain calm in difficult interactions, eventually they will move on to easier targets.
  6. Pray for them.  The benefit to this is that you will begin to care for these people.  Most negative people don't have friends.  You may be the only person in this world willing to pray for that person you don't like.  This works.  Try it for at least 90 days and see what happens.
  7. Offer to talk with them away from others.  Ask them if you did something to upset them.  They may be holding on to a grudge you are unaware of.
  8. Don't try to change them.  They may be difficult because they sense you have a hidden agenda and they are on that agenda.  Let them be who they are.
  9. Don't spread rumors about them.  They may be torturing you, however, sharing your scuffles with the rest of the world won't make anything better.
  10. Offer it up.  Any time you have any kind of pain in your life, remember all the pain Jesus endured for you.  Now, offer the pain of your strained relationship to Jesus as a sacrifice.  He put these people in your life for a reason.  They may be a long-term project.  Take it one day at a time and offer up the challenge as a sacrifice.  It will make the pain more bearable.
Have you ever faced a situation where you were around people you didn't like?  How did you deal with it?  Please share your ideas below by clicking on the comments button.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Are You a Member of the Enough Club?

You may be wondering, what is the enough club?  The answer is simple... it's a group of people who believe they have "enough."  It covers every area of your life -- time, money, talent, friends, etc.  Here are a few examples of people who are not eligible to be in the enough club:
  1. Most politicians.  They never have enough money to spend and they don't seem to have enough time to get important things done, like deciding what to do without enough of your money.  If they ever got the courage to join the enough club, they would find they have all the money they need and they would have more time since they would not be fighting so much to get more money.
  2. Complainers.  If you listen to them, they have a long list of things that bother them.  They never have enough time, enough money, enough talent or enough friends.  Those brave souls who attempt to keep them company eventually flee because they grow sick and tired of the constant complaining.
  3. Attention getters.  They focus on the things they don't have and spend all their time whining about it.  They hold up signs on the side of the road that list the things they don't have enough of.  Some of these people are more than capable of joining the enough club, however, they are unwilling to move to areas where there is enough opportunity to give them enough.
If you are thinking about joining the enough club, answer these ten questions to see if you have enough of what it takes:
  1. Time.  You are allotted the same as everyone else on this planet -- 1,440 minutes.  Is this enough for you accomplish your important tasks?
  2. Money.  Do you have enough resources to get through this day?
  3. Talent.  Do you have enough talent or are you too busy comparing yourself to others?
  4. Friends.  Do you have enough friends?  If not, consider giving others more of yourself so they will want to be your friend.
  5. Gratitude.  Are you thankful for all that you have or are you focusing on all that you don't have?
  6. Joy.  Are you joyful?  This comes from within.  It's a choice you make every day.
  7. Forgiveness.  Do you forgive?  This also comes from within.  It's also a choice you make every day.
  8. Wisdom.  Are you wise enough?  This comes from having enough life experiences to know what you can change every day, what you can't -- and what the difference is.
  9. Guidance.  Do you have enough guidance?  The Bible is a great resource.
  10. Inheritance.  Do you understand you are a child of God?  Do you believe your Father in Heaven loved you enough to send His only Son to die for you so that you can live forever with Him?
How did you do on the test?  If you failed, perhaps there is not enough room in your heart for Jesus, the One in charge of giving you enough daily bread.  Invite Him into your heart today and see what happens.  Don't forget to share your results in the comments section below.  And if you have enough time today, please share this story with a friend.  See you tomorrow at 8:08.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

How Are You At Being Still?

He says, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." ~ Psalm 46:10

Type A people don't like to be still.  I recall an observer remark, "There's no moss growing under his feet."  I even request days off from my day job on the slowest days because I enjoy the fast pace on the busy days and I want to be around when there is the most action.  The Bible verse above speaks to me because it puts the focus back on the One responsible for all the good around me.  It reminds me I need to slow down.

If you are having trouble hearing from God, try slowing down.  Turn off the TV.  Go to a quiet place and be still.  Here is a YouTube video to help you...

Do you have any suggestions to add to the conversation?  How often do you make time to be still?  Do you have a favorite place to go?  Your comments are appreciated.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Modern Writing Idea for Modern Times: E-serialize

"No, my children, this is not your father's printing press."

One of the fringe benefits of having children who are in college is that you learn new ideas from them you may have missed the first time around while you were in school.  My daughter follows my blog stories and recently she shared how Charles Dickens became a published writer back in the 1800's.  He started as a newspaper journalist, then began publishing his early novels in weekly newspapers.

"I thought I had an original idea," I told my daughter, completely unaware that other novelists were doing this in the Victoria Era.  That's what I get for spending all my time on the tennis courts during high school and college instead of learning more about history or composition.  My senior year in high school, my English teacher asked us to bring in what we liked to read.  I showed up with a Captain Crunch cereal box.  Our assignment was to write a composition about why our particular genre was important.  The good news is that I got an "A."  It was easy -- the material was rather sugary.  The bad news... that's about all the effort I put into my craft.  Thank God for my children who are filling in the gaps for me.

E-serialization, although not an original idea, is publishing a novel in parts on the internet before it is fully composed.  Readers anticipate new chapters at predetermined intervals set by the author.  In my case, this modern writing technique is helping me to acquire new readers from all over the world at a rapid pace.  I offer my stories at my writer's blog every Friday at 8:08 AM, Pacific Time -- free to all visitors and guests.  I call my writer's blog a cyber-bistro because it's an online gathering place for readers and writers.  I'm offering readers a new experience based on what I thought was an original idea.  Charles Dickens beat me to it.  The ghost of Dickens' past is haunting me from the grave.  If he were around today, I believe he would be raving about e-serialization.  I love this idea so much that I'm going to continue doing this with future works.  My web traffic is growing exponentially.  I'm having the time of my life.  And blog readers are coming back every Friday to read new chapters.  Not bad for a Captain Crunch cereal box reader who didn't discover he was a writer until he was almost fifty, huh?

What's your opinion about E-serializing?  Bah-humbug or five stars?  Check out my modern writing idea for modern times at Caveman Reflections Cyber-bistro.  Click here for the link to the free chapters, e-serialized style.  Now if I can just figure out a way to serve you a cyber-cup of coffee or some Captain Crunch e-cereal to go along with the story -- that would surely make the bistro world-famous.  Thank you, my daughter, for giving me a history lesson.  At least I know there's a name for what I'm doing.  Don't forget to add to the conversation below in the comments section.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Quirky Things I Do To Make Ends Meet

Every time I get out of my car, I roll the window down first so I can reach the door handle on the outside.  The inside handle broke about six months ago.  "How much to get that handle working again?" I asked my mechanic.

"One hundred dollars."

"It's been broken for six months and I think I'll wait until some other priorities are taken care of before I get this fixed," I replied.

The door handle is the tip of the iceberg of my financial quirkiness.  Even in the best of times, I drove an old Honda to work that my wife owned when we started dating.  People would laugh at me when I pulled into the parking lot.  I didn't care.  They probably didn't like my food choices either.  Every day I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while my buddies splurged.  I used the savings to invest in real estate.  After a quarter million miles, I traded my car for some landscaping work and transformed my yard into something special.  It was a great bargain for both parties.

My frugal ways paid off when I launched a new business with a team of business partners.  My daughter wanted a car but I didn't have the resources to help her.  My sister and brother-in-law stepped in and made an offer I couldn't refuse:  they bartered a used Honda for tennis lessons for their son.  The only problem with the deal was that my daughter didn't like the sound of the modified muffler.  I refused to buy a new one.  She refused to drive the car.  The stalemate broke when I decided it would be my new driver.  I love the sound of the muffler -- it's a little rough, like me.  And I still pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I head off to my day job.

Here are some other quirky things I do in the interest of debt-free living, a dream I'm pursuing daily:
  1. I learned to clip my own hair between visits to the barber shop.  It's not perfect, but it cuts my visits in half.  My wife helps me with the back side.  I still need the barber shop visits to maintain the style my wife prefers, otherwise, I would go with a shorter look that I can do myself with my home shaver.
  2. We shop at thrift stores and garage sales.  The best negotiator in the family is my youngest son.  When we need something, we bring him.  He is brutal.  I stay out of the way and let him do his magic.  Every piece of furniture in our home has a story.  The dining room table we use in our basement to play family games was the best deal my son worked out for us -- $10.00! 
  3. We made a commitment to stop using credit cards.  This is painful.  For me, it requires discipline.  To help me stay out of trouble, I don't even know our checking account balances and carry no money in my wallet.  I tell my wife in advance what purchases I need to make, like gas and limited groceries and she keeps the checkbooks.  We stay committed to the no credit card rule unless it's an extreme emergency, like an auto breakdown.  We are approaching combined miles of 300,000 for both our paid-off cars.
  4. My wife got me hooked on the home improvement channel.  We transformed our kitchen by adding a back splash for one hundred dollars.  Slowly but surely, I'm learning to do my own repairs.
  5. I found a tennis buddy who attends the university.  We use his student status to cut our indoor court fees from $20/hr to $12.  Then, we play doubles and split the fees four ways, reducing my exercise budget to $2.00 per week.  Now that the good weather is returning, I can play outdoors for free if we change the venue.
I have a long way to go to become debt free, however, I think my quirky ways are helpful, especially when the world tempts us to buy today and pay later.  If you have an idea to share about how to make ends meet, please add to the conversation below. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Long Tail Serenade

These blog stories, all 1,323 of them, are my long tail serenade dedicated to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Thanks to Google Translate, cyber-space comet watchers from all over the world are able to read these stories in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic and Chinese.  Jesus is the source of all my tales, each one guided by the power of the Holy Spirit.  As the comet nears the sun, the Holy Spirit lights up the sky with a radiant tail that stretches across the Milky Way Galaxy, encouraging readers to follow the Son -- the One who knows the way to the Father.

The only item missing in this long tail serenade is your comment.  What are you doing in your life to bring honor and glory to God?  Would you be willing to share this serenade with a friend?  You are invited to become a part of this blog's long tail by clicking the "join this site" button on the right margin.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why I Asked Jesus To Be My Banker

My conversion experience didn't happen overnight.  Many Christians can tell you the day and the hour they surrendered their lives to Jesus.  Not me.  I did it in stages.  The first steps were easy.  They were usually prayers for Jesus to help me.  I set goals.  Then I asked Jesus to help me achieve those goals.  When it came to money, that was the last step.  The thought of turning over my finances to Jesus made me squeamish, probably because I falsely believed money somehow defined me.  The more of it I acquired, the more secure I felt.  Jesus never appeared to be the aggressive growth investor I was seeking.  He turned water into wine -- that was amazing.  But 401k's and mutual funds?  I don't recall Him ever carrying around a wallet with money.

All the areas of my life that Jesus was in charge of were stable.  I asked Jesus to guide me in my marriage and with our three children.  I sought His wisdom in my career.  He led me to write stories about all the good He was doing in my life.  The one area that was out of control was the money.  I started out strong.  I purchased commercial properties.  My retirement account became so large I was classified as a "priority investor."  Then the fall came.  Ouch!  The dominoes were clanking all around me.  My home value plunged three hundred thousand dollars.  When I finally let go of my finances, I turned over nothing but a handful of liabilities.  I told my wife, "only Jesus can get us out of this mess.  It's going to take a miracle."

The easy thing to do when I was at rock bottom was to declare bankruptcy and move on.  I prayed about this and the answer I got was to avoid bankruptcy, trust Jesus and let Him be in charge.  I gave Him permission to be my banker and told my creditors to take a chill pill.  Yes, Jesus is a miracle worker.  I'm 100% at peace.  My creditors are getting paid -- perhaps slower than they would like, however, better than nothing.

Jesus doesn't like debt.  His people are to be free from all forms of slavery.  He is the best banker I know.  Trust Him with all your possessions.  Turn them over to Him and ask Him to be in charge.  And don't forget to recommend Him to your friends.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Will The Real Snow White Please Wake Up?

The other day I told my wife, "our lives are a fairy tale and you're Snow White."

"No," she replied, "You're Snow White.  I'm the one who woke you up."

Call me a romantic.  I like to picture myself as the knight in shining armor riding in on a white horse to rescue my damsel in distress.  But... Snow White?  Are you kidding me, my princess?

She went on..."you're the one who has been sleeping.  I had to wake you up.  I dreamed of a better life and now we are both living that dream."

The casual observer may argue that I ate the apple while living in Southern California and fell asleep.  After all, it doesn't get much better than going to the beach on New Year's Day or playing tennis year round.   The onlooker doesn't see the burdens of the sky-rocketing cost of living or the high taxes.  Our debt load was out of control.  Our business wasn't providing enough income to support multiple partners.  My family was eager for a fresh start; they were ready to explore new opportunities.  So, my princess kissed me and woke me up.  When I opened my eyes, we were in new surroundings.  The unemployment rate is below 5% and the economy is thriving.  My bride has a new full time job doing what she does best and I get to write every morning at sunrise before heading off to my day job in the marketing department of a fast-growing company committed to serving our community.  Whatever name you call us, we are wide awake from our slumber.  We have a plan to become debt free.  The whole family is living happily ever after.  No...it's not Heaven, but it sure is close.  We are in Iowa, surrounded by my wife's siblings, living the dream.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

It's Official: 100,000 Page Views

My precious family joins me at my first author talk.

The picture you see above is from my first author talk.  I hosted the event at the new Ramona library in California when I independently published God's Black Sheep Squadron, a memoir about my dad's last days on earth.  Dad has the best seat in the house today as I announce a new milestone in my writing and blogging career -- 100,000 page views!  Thank you.  I appreciate you.  It warms my heart to know you're taking the time to read my stories.  And I promise you I will keep writing -- everyday, for the rest of my life.

The One I follow is the One who gets the glory today and every day.  He sends His Holy Spirit to guide me and inspire me to write.  These stories are about Him and all the good He is doing for us.  Thank you, Jesus, for being with me every step of the way on this incredible journey.  It's time for me to take a knee and bow before the One responsible for all the good in my life...

to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. ~ Jude 1:25

Saturday, April 6, 2013

After the Fall

Jesus fell three times while hauling His Cross to the place where He was crucified.  One time would have been enough for me to see the lesson.  Jesus wanted the exclamation point.  He knows how many times we fall in our lives.  I think I've been on the ground more often than I've been on two feet.  And I've needed help from others to help me carry my own Cross, just as Jesus needed assistance after the third fall.

Do you ever wonder what motivated Jesus to keep getting up?  I believe the answer is love.  It started with the Father.  He loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us.  It wasn't an easy job.  It involved torture, humiliation, isolation and a whole lot of agony.  And Jesus kept getting back on His feet.  He followed His Father's plan.  He gave up His life for us in order that we have new life -- life after the fall.  That's how much Jesus loves us.

I feel inspired today to get back on my feet.  There is nothing in this world that can stop me from following Jesus or sharing all the good that He is doing for us.  And I'm motivated by people I know who refuse to stay down after a fall -- like my friend, Major Bryan Forney, a marine who was critically injured while serving overseas.  His body is covered in burns.  His loving wife, Jenny, writes daily updates about his surgeries and his roller coaster ride.  If you would like to follow the story, click here.

There are many others around me who inspire me to get up after every fall.  Some are in the final season of their lives.  Others are regular people with not so regular challenges.  They keep getting up.  They know that not even death will stop them from getting up.  That is the joy of the Resurrection.  Remember this:  He is risen!  Follow Him.  Jesus is the expert.  He knows how to get back up after the fall.  And He loves you.  Do you need help carrying your cross today?  Ask Jesus.

Friday, April 5, 2013

What Do You See?

"Anonymous" leaves world a gift.
When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in an Australian country town, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.

Later, when the nurses were going through his meager possessions, They found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.

One nurse took her copy to Melbourne. The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in mags for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.

And this old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this 'anonymous' poem winging across the Internet...

Cranky Old Man

What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. . ... . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . .'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . ... lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking?. .Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . ..my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, .. ...Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future ... . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
It's jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigour, depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man .
Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. .... . ME!!

***Editor's note:  If you see something special here, please pass this on.***

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Power of Two or Three

"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” ~ Matthew 18:20

In the business world, I've noticed people pay more attention when two people walk into an office as opposed to just one, even if the second person is silent.  I don't know why two people seem more credible, however, the results are almost always significantly better.

If you are trying to find your way alone, try pairing up with a teammate and see if that helps.  My favorite prayer partner is my wife.  Her presence adds some kind of electricity to the air.  Prayer communities stick together in difficult times and become aware of the needs of the group.  This sets the stage for the Holy Spirit to make His presence known.

If you have ever witnessed the power of two or three, please share how this benefited you in the comments section below.  And if you happen to be alone with no one to pray for you, email me and send me your prayer request.  I will be happy to be your cyber-prayer partner.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How Do You Find Inspiration?

Inspiration:  The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative: "flashes of inspiration".

Imagine yourself locked up in a room with no windows.  Every day you follow the same routine.  Contact with the outside world is limited.  One day you wake up and discover the door is unlocked.  You go outside and feel the warm sun heating up your pale skin.  You hear birds singing.  The wind is whisking through the trees, brilliant with color.  You feel alive.  The sensation you're experiencing is what inspiration feels like.  The thoughts drifting into your brain are the sparks of creativity that ignite fire in your life.

You have the key to your own prison cell.  Your thoughts seek freedom from captivity.  Unlock the door and let them out.  Change your routine.  Visit new places.  Make new friends.  Try new experiences.  Set your creativity free.  And don't forget to share how you find your inspiration in the comments section below.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Can you see the Holy Spirit?

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." ~ Acts 1:8

The first time I saw a dust devil I was a young boy growing up in the Arizona desert.  I marveled at the miniature tornadoes shooting columns of dust high in the sky.  My brothers and I tried to chase the wind and get into the center of the swirling dust devils.

The Holy Spirit is like the wind.  You can never see the wind, however, there is much evidence of its force.  When people are caught up in the wind, some are able to be understood in languages they cannot speak.  Others develop a power to heal.  And others exhibit power and strength that does not come from the natural world.  The Holy Spirit is invisible, however, the gifts that come from the Holy Spirit are clearly visible, just like the dust devils are evidence that the wind is present.

I have been receiving emails from people who keep seeing the number 808.  They want to know why I use it in my name.  All I can say is that the Holy Spirit uses ordinary things and ordinary people to accomplish tasks that bring glory to God.  If anyone is seeing signs from God, it's because God is calling them.  I was inspired to use the number 808 the day I started blogging.  It's a life-long work to bring glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The number eight on both sides of the zero, when rotated 90º, are the infinity symbols representing the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  When my zero is connected to the Jesus, I find myself caught up in the wind and my number has meaning.

The next time someone asks you if you believe the Holy Spirit exists, tell them you believe in the wind even though you can't see it.  Jesus was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit.  He became man so the God could become visible.  One day Jesus will return.  I have a feeling the wind will be blowing on that day and the world will see more than a dust devil.

Monday, April 1, 2013

50 Proven Shortcuts to Success Available Today Only

50 Proven Shortcuts to Success will only be available today for free to the first fifty visitors who click here.  Please share this link with your friends before the visitor count reaches fifty.  Once the counter below reaches fifty, today's offer will be terminated.