Before I Write: Five Things

A favorite travel photo from walking across Spain last year. It speaks so much to me about the pilgrimage.

A favorite travel photo from walking across Spain last year. It speaks so much to me about the pilgrimage.

Reading and participating in social media “forums” is a favorite pastime. It’s a good way to learn, laugh and network with others who have similar interests. I participate in groups ranging from Latin American expats to birdwatchers to hikers and writers.

It often bewilders me when I see posts for writers who have difficulty generating writing ideas. Really? It’s a rich world out there. If a writer has consistent difficulty with ideas, it may be time to rethink things altogether. There’s almost no reason whatever for the absence of good subject matter, and outside scheduling conflicts there’s no reason you can’t write every day if that’s your chosen path – not that it necessarily should be.

For me, writing is all about what happens before I sit at the keyboard. It’s about five things mostly.

#1. There Must be an Outline in My Head or On Paper

My pre-writing outline organizational method is pure madness. It involves multiple notebooks in multiple places, various phone applications, Post-It notes, napkins and other scrap paper tidbits.

At 50, my ideas require immediate documentation, or they’re gone forever. I’ve attempted memory techniques, but they’re epic fails. This means there’s a notebook by my office computer, my kitchen table computer, my bedside, in my truck, my briefcase and one dedicated especially for church where so many themes are born.

There’s a notes application on my phone used mostly when I walk, and a dedicated place on the kitchen counter for a stack of random restaurant napkins, wrinkled Post-Its and usually a bank deposit slip or two and maybe a grocery store receipt where I’ve written other random thoughts.  There are both predictable (church, in bed, working out, etc.) and unpredictable (driving, the shower, grocery store, and many other) environments where my ideas get generated, and note readiness is necessary in all these places and more.

Periodically, I review all these caches and gather the dozens of related, if fragmented,  ideas into new groupings. These very rough outlines become the first foundations for blog posts, book chapters and future possible bigger ideas. I mull on them sometimes for hours, other times for months. Then when the inspiration hits, I rearrange the rough foundational outlines into a sensible order, and that’s when the writing may begin. It’s constant chaos until that point, but it’s what works for me, and by the time my fingers hit the keyboard, the writing typically flows pretty well. By that point, it’s almost written in my head.

#2. I Know What Inspires Me

Much of the above leads to the fact that if you’re going to record your inspiration, you need to know where/when/how you typically get inspired.

Inspiration owes me nothing. In fact, it hides around corners and in the dark, and rarely falls into my lap. Inspiration is jealous. It requires that I pursue it, and learn through experience how it ebbs and flows as the tide.

Unquestionably, my best ideas come when I sweat, and it’s even better if the sweat comes outdoors in a natural setting. Neurological research proves this true.

A 2015 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found 90 minutes of walking regularly, especially in non-urban areas, reduces tendencies toward depression and mental illness. Scientists could actually see this at work in people’s brains. Another study used a test group to prove that backpacking and disconnecting from technology boosted creative thinking and problem solving by as much as 50 percent.

Long walks and hikes work best for me. If it’s raining, or if outdoors is inconvenient, a treadmill works fine. My current big project was developed on a 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain and the next one will likely involve a similar adventure. I do believe the best creative ideas flow first as salty liquid through my pores.

It’s not the reason I go to church, and for a time I felt guilty because of this, but I never leave a Sunday worship service with less that a half-dozen good ideas. Since I tie much of my experiential writing to metaphorical and parable-type themes, church and personal bible-reading time always bring anticipation for ideas. It’s often the place where I get the first picture of my future work from 20,000 feet.

#3. Read

This pretty much goes without saying. To create good work, you have to know what good work looks like. You need exposure to what’s good, bad and everything in between.

If I could create a perfect writer-self, I’d be 60 percent Pat Conroy, 30 percent Lewis Grizzard, and 10 percent Larry McMurtry.

You should read books, newspapers, magazines, billboards, business cards, greeting cards – every media you can find. Somewhere in the deep recess of my mind, my subconscious edits social media posts and I just can’t help it. If you’ve used an apostrophe to create a plural, you’ve made me cringe at some point. It hurts so badly. And yes, if you’re a “christian” writer you probably ought read the bible regularly. Two Corinthians has some good stuff, according to Donald Trump.

Another favorite photo from last year in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador.

Another favorite photo from last year in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador.

#4. Travel & Live

I’m never more inspired than when I travel – 10 miles down the road, or 5,000 miles from home, travel brings out my best creative ideas.

Though I’ve been an objective journalist a lifetime, I learned more than 10 years ago in Cancun, Mexico that my creative bent loves new places.

It was during an early-morning run just at the centro came to life when I saw an older, obviously poor, and possibly homeless woman on the street. From the top of her lungs she was yelling at a storefront mannequin as if she saw it possessed. She was obsessed with the figure, cursing, crying in a spiritual battle with a counter spirit she sensed right before her. It was an amazing thing to witness and I was thankful, 2,000 miles from home, to be in that place, at that time, and see the event play out. I felt so sorry for the old woman, but also couldn’t help thinking about all the life experiences that brought her to such a place. Of course, it made me want to write on the spot.

Pat Conroy once said:

“Once you’ve traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”

It’s true. I’m most alive when I’m traveling.

#5. I Understand My Creative Limits

This is a true product of time and getting to know your creative self.

I can write journalistic-type copy any time of day, but creative copy is a different animal. I’ve worked at it long enough now to know that I have three to four hours a day, about four days a week when I can produce decent work. I also know it must happen between 4 a.m. and 1 p.m. My creative day is toast after 1.

Knowing this also helps me know when I need to do something different.

Today, I desperately need to work on a book chapter, but the creativity’s not there. It would be a total waste of time and I knew it when I woke up this morning. That doesn’t mean I can’t write. It simply means I can shift my focus to something else – a more analytical blog post like this requiring almost no creative juice. And with it, my need to create and express is fulfilled.

***

When the stars align with the things above, I get to do what I love. Someone once said, “The only way I know  what I think or how I feel is if I write it.”

That’s true enough, and after all these years, I’m glad to understand it better.

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House Hunters International: Our “Tryout” Story

In one form or another, I’ve worked in mass communications my entire life – and 99 percent of that as a print journalist.

Never, I repeat, never, did I have the ambition to work for a single, solitary moment in broadcast journalism, especially television.

At best, I’ve always had a face much better suited to radio.

So there’s a quirky irony that for the next three days Dana and I will work withhouse hunters international a film crew from New York to produce an  upcoming 30-minute episode of House Hunters International set to air on HGTV this fall.

Here’s the short story of how it happened.

On December 21, 2012, we left Jonesboro, AR bound for Puerto Cayo, Ecuador, in search of an adventure we’d remember a lifetime. We were looking to put down some roots here on a part-time basis that would allow us to pursue a different kind of lifestyle several months out of the year. One where, above all things, we could immerse ourselves in a different culture, broaden our horizons a bit, and live out a life on mission in a place where circumstances don’t exactly hand you a dozen roses each and every day.

We’ve been here almost 100 days now.

Steve and Dana WatkinsBut a month or so into our stay, I received an email from a friend whose family was featured on House Hunters International about six months ago. HGTV was looking for new families interested in filming, and was soliciting the help of their alumni.

So she forwarded the information to me, including a casting contact based London and said we should drop her a line if we were interested.

For years, Dana and I had spent time watching the show, living vicariously through the featured couples who pursued crazy dreams in far away places. We didn’t even think twice about giving it a go.

So early that evening I fired off an email to an HHI casting director, told her our situation, background and a few other details, pretty sure I’d never hear another word. Early the next morning my inbox contained a reply that said, “Let’s talk.”

Honestly, that was pretty exciting.

A few days later, we orchestrated a Skype session from our home base in Puerto Cayo to Michelle James in London. We discussed our goals, our interests, our cultural philosophies, etc. Mostly, I’m pretty sure she just wanted to get a good look at us. By the end of the conversation, Michelle said she’d like to move forward with our story, but we’d need to produce our own four-minute “casting video” to give the producers better insight into our personalities.

We told her we’d have it ready in a week.

Did I mention I am a print journalist?

The next day, Dana and I sat down and drafted a rough film script outlining where we’d film ourselves and doing what exactly…

We filmed ourselves from the top of Puerto Cayo’s overlook, where we’d first seen this picturesque fishing village and its beautiful coast. Took shots on the beach riding our moto-scooter. Shopping and relaxing in Puerto Lopez, and several other special locations. Going into the self-made casting video, the producers told us they really wanted us to express our personalities and give them a glimpse of what we are really like.

We’re not shy. So we let it all hang out and went for broke.

Dana downloaded it all to Vimeo and the producers said we’d hear back in a few weeks. I put it all out of mind, and life went on.

Just a few days later I had an inbox email from London.

I’m quite sure they say this to everyone they bring on, but nevertheless, Michelle said the producers loved our story, and they invited us to come on the show.

Dana was cooking breakfast when I looked up from my computer to tell her.

“House Hunters wants us on the show,” I said.

“What?!” … was her reply … and I think the eggs and toast burned at this point.

Dozens of Skype sessions and a plethora of emails later, we have our casting call today and filming begins at sun up tomorrow. Ten to 12 hours a day for the next three days, and a full day of filming back home in Arkansas on April 4.

The show should air in late July or early August.

Fun times.

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After 85 Days in Ecuador: 10 Things I Can Say

“No one ever became poor from giving.”

~ Anne Frank

Today,  Dana and I log our 85th day in Ecuador. The next three weeks will be a time of busy preparation and list checking before returning to the United States.

Anne Frank

Anne Frank

Today, we waded through the Ecuadorian bureaucracy of a successful visa extension, and during the hourlong drive home I reflected on a few things.

These are some things I’ve learned, come to understand, or believe even more because of our time here.

1. I don’t care what anyone says, … generally, most people in the world are good. I said most!

2. There’s a great irony in the notion that we spend a lifetime learning, and yet I’ve discovered that oftentimes, and in many different situations, the best attitude I can have is to be present in the moment, forgetting everything I ever thought I knew.

3. As much as I detest labels, on the liberal-conservative, left-right spectrum, I’m probably more of a leftist-liberal than ever, and for that, I make no apology. Three months in a third-world country causes me to believe even more that government’s role is to provide:

  •  creative reinvestment and philanthropic scenarios for the wealthy;
  • stability for the middle class;
  • opportunity, a safety net and support system for the poor.

4. Church is not a place you go, but rather an attitude you embrace, and it’s found wherever you are at a given moment in time.

5. The American educational system should require that students be at least bilingual, and preferably have fluency in even more than two languages.

6. Charity, and a charitable spirit, is a fine quality in a man or woman.

7. A smile, and a friendly pat on the back, speaks volumes between those who otherwise may not communicate so well. And between those who do, for that matter.

8. Fear absolutely can be eliminated from your life.

9. As much as I love to stand up for what I believe is right, it’s not necessarily always the best thing to do. Oftentimes, yes, Always, no. It’s tough.

10. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone use the cliché’, “it changed my life,” after an extended trip abroad, I’d be rich. I’ve always hated that cliché’. And the interesting thing about this time in Ecuador, well, of course, it’s changed my life.

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Why Are You So Aggressive Toward the Things You Believe are Wrong?

(BLOGGER‘S NOTE: For a writer (at least for me, I should say) there’s no higher honor than reader commentary – good, bad or indifferent – it’s my cocaine. Last night, I threw out a quick Facebook post about my dilemma for choosing today’s blog post, with low expectations for feedback, and was overwhelmed with the response. Allow me this moment to say “thank you” to each of you, and anyone who reads either regularly or sporadically. From my heart, thank you. So … discounting the lady who submitted votes on behalf of her three pets, here’s today’s winner.) ~ steve

***

There it was, tucked away in the in-box, about at subtle as an elephant walking into the room. It came during what was a nearly 24-hour social-media hiatus, and when I returned, it was waiting.

The private, in-box message was a reader response to this Sunday post, one that left me physically, spiritually and emotional drained. Depleted. Spent.

It was one of my anti-religion posts. If you’re a regular, or even occasional reader at this site and don’t have the faintest idea what I mean by anti-religion there’s probably no point in reader further, so go on and have a nice day.

***

The subconscious is an amazing thing, is it not? Hiding back there in the shadow, lurking just behind the soul, prodding a low-grade awareness of certain things we may or may not wish to recall, yet always there.

Know this. When a reader points to a writer the very same thing the subconscious reminds him/herself about – well, it’s revelation.

***

Seeing the name, I opened the in-box message as a priority and quickly came to an attached YouTube video. Less than 10 seconds in, the narrator posed to himself this question:

“Why am I so aggressive toward the things I believe are wrong?”

And so Jay Gunter, a man in many ways my spiritual soul mate, had done it

aggressive behavior

For me, it’s an ongoing exercise to just breath, and relax.

again. Pointing out something he AND my subconscious knew, but bringing it to the surface for my own awareness’ sake.

I’d show you the video here, but it’s much more powerful a bit down the line, so come along, you’ll get it soon.

In the meantime, why am I so aggressive toward the things I believe are wrong?

***

As a writer soliciting public consumption, I’ve been called everything. Unpatriotic, blasphemer, un-American. One reader even called me the blackest white guy he’d ever known.  And because of my style, I consider the latter high praise, for I’ve never wanted to fit into any certain genre.

The question the narrator posed took me back about 10 days, when a man I hadn’t seen in 20 years asked me to meet with him and discuss blogging of all things. He drove 75 miles to ask for some tips on how to get where he wanted to go, and so first I posed the most obvious question:

“Just where is it you want to go?

His response was not only transparently profound. It was as if his words had come right out of my own mouth.

“I’m 50 years old now,” he said, “and because of so many life circumstances, I’ve been quiet. If you and I sat across this table from one another even just three years ago, and you offered up an opinion on some topic where I felt the polar opposite, I’d have stayed quiet just for the sake of avoiding confrontation. But I can’t do that any more because I realize it has to come out, and I realize I haven’t been true to myself all this time.”

This guy’s gonna be a good blogger one day. Really good.

I have to be true to myself. It has to come out. I can’t do it any more.

Been there. Done that. Yes.

In response to the question at hand, I suppose this is what I’d say:

I’m so aggressive toward the things I believe are wrong because they’re the very things about which I’m most passionate … and I’ve spent a lot of years suppressing passion. It’s time to be true to myself.

***

why are men so intense

Unfortunately, intensity and aggression are prevalent, even in a friendly golf match with best buddies. You’ve gotta get your game face on, right?

Jay’s comments, and the message in his attached video, put me in an introspective mood, and I set aside a time to consider for myself: Why am I so aggressive toward the things I believe are wrong? I set the time aside because when a wise man offers up such a notion, it’s wise, in turn, to ponder it one’s self.

A bit later, I pulled out pen and paper and wrote down the topics that spark my writer’s aggression and considered all the reasons I believe they are so wrong.

So here’s my list:

1. Chief among them is the very thing we’ve all made of “the church.” Now, you’re about to get the opportunity to click on that video I promised earlier, but first, one of many personal experiences … and it’s one of ONLY many:

I’ve been a member of, or attended just about every denominational church you can imagine. Three years or so ago at the outset of an extended personal depression (yes, I can talk about depression for there’s no shame therein) I joined a non-denominational church. Almost immediately, the skids came off a place that previously seemed really safe.

This is a church most caught up in itself, focused inward, inside four walls. Structural leadership is regarded in high esteem. Elders are elected by the body, the elders, in turn, manipulate the people, and the people back-bite the elders on any given Sunday.

Losing control, the body fired the pastor, created a tri-lateral bureaucracy and spent the next nine months immersed in writing a set of rules and regulations for governance they call the constitution and bylaws. And in the end, they recreated what they originally established 30 years before – a self-governed fiefdom, blinded to genuine outreach.

Those are sharp words, for which I am accountable.

So if that account is self-righteous on my part, it’s mine, and mine only, for which to answer. But such a thing makes it hard to stay quiet, and I necessarily removed myself from the circumstance. I wish they would simply own it, and move on to better days.

As one friend recently, and so aptly put it, the value of most churches today is keeping the sin franchise alive.

If you have five minutes to set aside today, in no other way could it be more well spent than viewing this video. It profoundly captures what we’ve all done to the church.

2. Legislating morality. What a slippery slope. Most of my closest friends maintain strong positions on immigration, same-sex marriage, the death penalty, abortion, etc. For the record, and morally, I agree with them. But I simply do not believe we can legislate morality because it’s forced, enacted absent of love and sends the “minorities” an entirely ineffective message. I’ve learned over time that true heart change comes only from within and we can never impose “goodness” on others. Even if it makes us feel good, it NEVER works for the greater glory, or higher purpose. And so I stand against it, wholeheartedly, but respectfully. That’s a whole different column in the upcoming post list.

3. Racial intolerance. What can I say? It’s prevalent around me and I hate it.

4. Repressing freedom of speech. It’s truly one cause for which I believe every veteran would say he fought. The most aggressive post I ever wrote was one that conjured up a reader’s comment telling me to hush up. It’s one of the few times I’ve completely reacted to such a comment, and I’m not sure if I’m sorry or not about my response.

5. Self-righteousness. This was never more fiendishly prevalent than in the U.S. presidential race that turned into a red-state, blue-state debate over who had the higher morality – and a week later, it still saturates every venue in social media. The debate was good for us in many ways, but it became so personal.

One kind reader offered last night that she took such a strong position in support of Mitt Romney she believed she’d offended some people and reluctantly stopped offering her opinions. I wonder if this piece will offer her any condolence or recompense?

6. Passive-aggressive manipulation. I’m all for aggression, but I loathe passivity. Say it straight up, face-to-face, or don’t say it at all. Don’t be a coward.

7. Cultural superiority complex. Ever been to a foreign country and become frustrated with the way things work there? Have it in mind they are doing things all wrong? The world’s beauty is found in all the ways people do things differently. Right or wrong is all in your mind.

8. Rules. I truly believe Jesus died because he knew we could never follow the rules. I’m self-employed now, and hope never to be corporately employed again. Especially when it comes to managing creative people, I believe it’s the greatest misunderstanding in the corporate world today. Truly creative people can’t follow rules. Mathematically, I’d express it in this way:

Freedom³ x (x) = ∞

In words: Give a creative person, ultimate and unwavering freedom, and there is no limit to their capacity for achievement and success.

9. Hidden agendas. I (and probably you) see it all the time, and it flies in the very face of transparent value.

10. Blasphemy – It’s that which crosses the line of loving your enemy. I’m guilty many times over, and I hate it as much when I do it, as when I see it in others.

image of marathon runner

Perhaps the most intense moment of my life summoning up all the aggression I could muster — Mile 25 of my first marathon – the Memphis St. Jude. At Mile 25, a man poses to himself many questions including, but not limited to: What the Hell am I trying to prove, and to whom am I trying to prove it?

Two final notes on aggressiveness:

“Now, there’s one thing you men will be able to say when you get back home. And you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee and he asks you, ‘What did you do in the Great World War II?’, you won’t have to say, ‘Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana.'” ~ George C. Scott as General George S. Patton speaking to the  Third Army in the movie, “Patton”

  • Ever watched a young boy play? His spiritual DNA causes him to turn fingers into guns, sticks into swords and dirt clods into grenades. He’s built to fight and defend honor. Young boys aspire to become the likes of cowboys, police officers and astronauts, seeking a life full of adventure. No young boy dreams of living in a van down by the river.
  • Much of our confusion comes from misunderstanding the character of Jesus and the whole “meek” thing. It’s a whole different topic for an entirely different day, but research it yourself. Jesus was anything but a passive, man who stood on the sidelines.

***

I have no idea what dialogue this may bring. I say only this.

Raise up the brave warrior within you my friends, and bring it.

You’ve been great. I’ll be here all night.

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Case Study: When a Reader Says, “I Know How You Think.”

my writing office

MY COMFORT ZONE – The familiar place where I write every day.

“If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing.” ~ Ben Franklin

***

That’s exactly what one reader said in reference to this blog post last week.

“I believe I know how you think,” the reader said, and he went on to recommend one particular author with whose work he thought I’d identify.

***

For a moment, his comment took me aback. Not in a bad way. It simply caused me to pause and think. I wonder just how many readers believe they know how I think? And is that a good or bad thing? Is my work overly predictable? Is it too simplistic? Locked in a genre? Have I failed to offer variety to those who read? If so, it’s all a crying shame.

Or … have I been successful in establishing a stylistic brand that resonates with a specific audience … and, if so, is that what I really want … because I honestly despise predictability and status quo, and would much prefer my reader be surprised, and caught off guard from one post to the next. The ultimate goal in my writing is to make people think. Think, perhaps differently, than they may have thought before.

So what exactly does it mean if a reader knows how a writer thinks? It’s a formidable question.

***

writing tips for authorsIt just so happens that I know this reader. We’re not best buddies, we don’t hang out. We run into one another occasionally, mostly when I visit his retail store in my hometown. But mostly our relationship is via social media, and those communiques are only once a week or so at best.

But when Jay Gunter does send a few words my way, I pay attention. He’s a tactical, skilled entrepreneur, deep thinker and we relate in an extraordinary way on the topic of grace. We share a radical thinking on grace and a mutual distaste for works-based theology.

So when Jay writes, I get quiet, and read, and re-read his every word. I find priceless nuggets in the thoughts he puts into words.

“I believe I know how you think,” he said. Now that’s a pretty audacious thing to say, unless you’re dead solid perfect right. And so he was.

***

Friends and readers (not necessarily exclusive to one another) recommend books to me all the time. If I read every book ever recommended that’s all I’d do.

But that’s exactly what Jay did. He recommended I read the works of Robert Capon. “I think you’ll really identify with what Capon says, and how he says it,” Gunter wrote.books by robert capon

The last 30 minutes of my day, just ahead of bedtime had me researching Capon’s work. Two great reads are: The Parables of Grace and Kingdom, Grace, Judgment: Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus.

In reading the Kindle samples, it took about 10 seconds to experience an extraordinary revelation.

Capon directs much of his effort towards not only breaking down the parables of Jesus, but he teaches through his own parable writing, and suddenly I realized what Jay didn’t say.

I’m prone to write in parables of my own, especially in this post which Jay referenced, and I didn’t even know it.

Now when a reader points to a writer and it produces a revelation like that, well, it’s enormous.

And it’s created a whole new self-understanding of a writing style I never knew I had. What’s the value in that? Priceless, because now, that style will be used more purposefully and effectively.

It’s like seeing the sun come up in the east for the very first time. Those moments are far and few between, and when they happen, you savor them.

Thanks, Jay, for your profound audacity that gracefully revealed a life-changing moment.

And thank God for the readers who presume knowledge of how we think.

Good, bad, or indifferent, I value reader commentary, so fire away any time.

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What We Fight For, Cherish and Honor – But Almost Never ENJOY

Yellowstone National Park in Montana

Me, two years ago, stretching arms and checking a bucket list item in Big Sky Country at Yellowstone National Park. Freedom.

“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.” ~ John Steinbeck, East of Eden

If you’re among the 16 percent who didn’t, count yourself as lucky – but recent statistics show 84 percent of Americans woke up this morning hating their job. That means sometime, most likely around 5 a.m., just over a billion Americans woke up and dreaded going to work. That’s billion – with a B.

***

Roughly, 100 million Americans attended a church service yesterday. Forty percent of the church-goers left feeling frustrated, ostracized, criticized, guilty and unloved. They were frustrated that much of their church activity is centered around carpet, curtains, choir robes, procedure and doctrine – and they left wondering – is this what the church is really all about?

And I get that. Up until a few months ago, I felt guilty, condemned and spiritually insulted by every church I’d ever attended.

***

Failure is not an option.Two months shy of the New Year, millions of Americans are already thinking about their list of upcoming resolutions. They’re frustrated with their busy-ness, lack of goals, or lack of goals achieved. They are shamed by inner-conscience guilt for their past failures and shortcomings. They’re mad about the analysis paralysis they experience because they just can’t trust their gut to take a leap of faith into the yet unrealized dream of launching a new business, losing 20 pounds or repairing a lost relationship.

***

Here’s a quote from a Facebook friend, just yesterday, that got me thinking about this:

“Once you decide to step out of the program, the programmers (i.e.-controllers) no longer have the prerogative to fit you into the scheme of their design… that’s when you realize that you’re free to live as the One inside of you desires.  It really is for freedom that you’ve been set free.  Be free to live and love.

“In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off.” – Galatians 5:1

***

And while we’re flirting around with the Bible, here’s another bit of truth that has me thinking about it further:

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

Show me a single place in the Bible where God says he wishes guilt, condemnation or shame on you and I’ll send you my next paycheck.

And either this is truth or it’s not. A boss once called me half-joking, but serious still yet – “a religious wack-job.” I’m sure it had something to do with the WWJD bracelet I wear on my right hand. And for the record, I almost always wear it inside out because it’s not for public display. It’s just for me. His remark was actually funny – I’m about as anti-religion as you’ll ever find. My friends will tell you I RAIL against religion.

Freedom to fail.

I choose to embrace the truth that God grants me the freedom to fail; that he’s not keeping account of my shortcomings; and that he won’t ask for my spiritual resume – EVER.

Last week, I re-read Bruce Wilkinson‘s Prayer of Jabez. If you’ve never read it, this was the young man’s audacious prayer:

“Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be upon me, and that you would keep me from evil.”

In the seven days I’ve been praying that prayer, I’ve:

  • Paid off three credit cards;
  • Paid off a vehicle;
  • Developed two new sources of income with two more strong potentials.
  • Learned a new golf grip that has me sailing a 7-iron about 155 yards straight down the middle of the fairway with the faintest of beautiful draws (this is among the greatest of blessings);
  • and started a checklist for a great new adventure that will begin on December 21. I’ll write much more extensively about that beginning a week from today.

That’s not braggadocio mish-mash. It’s God’s honest truth.

It’s not a prayer to Santa Claus. It’s a prayer to the God who assures me that he has a plan for my GOOD and not my GUILT.

July 4, 1776. We celebrate it every year as our Independence Day.

I’ll tell you the day you were set free. It was more than 2,000 years ago when every smidgen of your guilt, shame and regret was nailed to a cross – forever, done deal, over.

Success is 99 percent failure.

Now. Don’t just go celebrate your freedom. Live it. ENJOY it.

god of second chances

Embrace it. ENJOY it.

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