My 2021 Agenda

(Blogger’s Note: This is Part II in a series of year-end blog posts.)

Last week, I published the newly developed foundation of core ideas that will guide my 2021. They are:

  • Mission (the Great Commission)
  • Gifting (writing/mass communication)
  • Passion (food/hospitality)
  • Love (family)

With these in mind, next year shapes up like this:

•We’ve set into motion a collection of legal paperwork that will create the Tranquility Base Charitable Foundation a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that I’ll lead. Our goal is collecting enough financial support to purchase a nice food truck or food trailer. We will feed the hungry wherever they exist and travel to different disaster locations feeding front-line emergency workers and others in need. I have board of directors spots open if this is something that might strike your interest.

•Also at Tranquility Base, we’ll offer a regular Sunday Brunch for 4-6 people. It will be the ultimate Sunday hospitality experience, not to mention some pretty good food. Give me a call to make your reservation. Proceeds from this project will go directly to our Foundation.

•I’ll launch a new YouTube variety program in January. Honestly, I believe we’ll focus a lot on the culinary world, and interviews with interesting people. This serves no real strategic purpose other than my own personal enjoyment. And we’ll focus a LOT next year on building our email subscription list. Maybe this will be a good tool. Have thoughts about ways you can help grow my email subscription list? Give me a call.

•I’ll continue my work at the Stone County Leader reporting news and writing feature columns.

•Will spend a few hours each month coaching no more than 6-8 clients looking to make headway in the publishing world. If you’re one of those folks, drop me a line. I’ve learned a lot down in the trenches the last few years.

And finally, my two big announcements. I’ll pursue two book projects next year. One is a deadly serious topic that’s timely and needs telling. The other is a “personal pleasure book” designed to help keep my sanity from the deep work of the first one. Let’s begin with the former.

Bless My Heart: Unlearning My Religion in the Bible Belt South – this narrative, non-fiction-ish, memoir-ish book will be a personal recount of what many gospel-focused evangelical Christians have experienced the last four to five years. That is a rather fast evolution where the church that taught us about core gospel principals such as kindness and humility and servanthood and compassion traded in those principals in exchange for hateful hollering matches, braggadocio, focus on self, and downright arrogance. For those of us with a certain worldview, we were called unpatriotic, the enemy, part of the problem, not to mention whatever a libtard is. Bumperstickers in church parking lots boast of guns and ancient racist Southern traditions, and a plethora of other empty convictions. You see, putting a bumper sticker on a truck is easy. Tackling a societal issue like abortion is another. It requires more than running your mouth.

In this book, I’ll discuss from a personal level (with stories from others) what it’s been like seeing the Bible-Belt Christian church I care about become more of a frenzied political group, essentially saying that the values we see exhibited by our current president … well, we need more of that.

The church moved. I didn’t

And I just want to keep the faith.

A final word on this book. Many will perceive it as just another radical taking easy pot shots at the church, written by someone who doesn’t understand the church and what it is, and what it represents. In their righteousness, they will blow off the message and dig deeper into preserving a new creation supposed by people who haven’t dusted off a bible in years.

Those perceptions of this work will be wrong.

I have labored for months about the idea of speaking against the church. It’s a big deal and not taken lightly. There is a certain level of accountability when you begin speaking this language. And it’s a judgment I’m willing to stand in. Because things have reached a point where I believe it is a greater sin to stay quiet than it is to bring these issues to the surface.

Next …

On Assignment: How a Job Telling Stories Made a Life Worth Living – I’m SO excited to bring you this book. It serves no particular grand purpose, and will solve no world problem, but it’s chocked-full of great stories about behind-the-scenes life in the newspaper and magazine world. In one story, I’ll share about an 18-month period covering an ongoing (and very public) saga where I must have written the word “masturbation” at least a half-dozen times a week during that long stretch. Not the kind of thing you expect as an idealistic freshman journalism undergrad.

Outside a focused effort to spend a LOT more time with my family, and serve them as a patriarch should (I am rapidly approaching that status in our family if not already there) the plan above is where next year is going.

There is no mantra for next year, but if there was one, it would be “no empty convictions.” I want to make a difference, not just run my mouth.

PS: I’m pretty happy with how the mission, gifting, passion, love concept help get me through these ideas. If I can help you with your strategic plan for next year, drop me a line.

A New Foundation to Build On

Most years it was just an obligatory exercise. All the personal self-development gurus said it was something you needed to do. So, I did it, sort of just moving through the motions, and by the end of January, most was long forgotten.

Suddenly, in the mid-50s, it’s an important, drawn-out, thoughtful three weeks that has become the most important time I spend each year – often away and alone. Using time wisely now is more important than it’s ever been. The clock is ticking and each passing year feels more urgent than the last.

And this year, it went deeper. To figure out how I wanted to invest my time and energy in 2021, I tore everything down and started over, being honest, and really assessing what’s important.

The strange thing is, the realization that came with my 2020 self-assessment and new-year plan revealed I’d become the very thing that several years ago I pledged never to be again.

I’d become a hypocrite.

It was well-intentioned, but I’d become a hypocrite, nonetheless. In the desire for “validation” in an ever-changing publishing world, I’d become a marketing guy focused on making it in the traditional publishing world and crafting myself as a product the big publishing houses would desire. I conformed to a set of rules I didn’t even believe in, to achieve something that I’m no longer sure is worth the effort. Certainly not so if it means that I’m no longer true to myself.

Because at this stage in life what’s really important is authenticity, keeping it real, and servanthood that comes from a well-meaning heart.

No longer will I work to become a product that sells stories and books. I’ll pursue what’s real, and genuine, and peaceful, and joyful. So I tore it all down to define these four things:

•MISSION•PASSION•GIFTING•LOVE

This is tricky, and in the fog of pursuit, I’d lost my sense of these things – that is what they really are. But this is what will guide my life in 2021, and by definition, here’s how it works for me.

My Mission: While I respect everyone’s right to believe as they choose, I am a believer in the Christian faith that aligns with the gospel accounts of Jesus. It is my core belief, at the heart of all I feel, think, and trust. This is not something to be pushed on others, but I enjoy sharing the lessons learned in my faith walk with Christ. In some way, it permeates my writing, and my approach to life, and my hope for the future. Mostly because I believe Jesus Christ is the source of ultimate truth. So, my mission is the Great Commission. For me, this means sharing stories, and loving people regardless of the label the world has assigned them. Just love people. Most of the rest will take care of itself.

My Passion: To anwer this question, we must ask ourselves this simple question: What most stirs your heart? And in answering this question for myself, I almost made the mistake of not drilling deeply enough. This sounds silly, but at first thought, I saw my passion as cooking. But cooking doesn’t qualify as a passion, really. I think down deep what any person who loves preparing good food loves most is the hospitality of making people happy. Serving them. Bringing satisfaction to a guest’s most instinctive desire. I love cooking great food, but what I’m most passionate about is the hospitality that can be given to people around a table sharing stories, experiences, and letting the boundaries come down. I will spend more time serving people on the mission outpost retreat center we call Tranquility Base.

My Gifting: My biggest mistake has been confusing gifting with passion. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean it’s your passion. God’s gifting to me is communication, and particularly the written word. I am not a mathematician, or an engineer, or even a good handy man. But I can write, and tell stories. It’s just important to keep the gifting in its place and not let it become the overpowering element of your life just because it’s what you’re best at. I am guilty here. You can use your gifting to fulfill your passion and your mission, but your gifting is a tool to be wisely used. I’ll use this gifting in a handful of specific ways next year, and will share more on that later.

My Love: Ambition, work, the desire to be accepted, or validated in any area can consume a person to the detriment of his/her best interests. Sometimes, we are just running from what’s important because there are things too hurtful to face. I have an amazing wife who for some crazy reason enjoys being by my side. We believe in the principal of helpmates, and she is my go-to friend and helper. My relationship with my mom has literally transfigured to one where I consider her my best friend. Funny how age will make that happen. And after the long-lasting wounds of divorce, I am lavishing in the joy of renewed relationships with my three adult children, each of whom is a model of good citizenry, decency, and potential to change the world for the good. This is a God thing. I will spend the rest of my life celebrating all these people, serving them, and basking in the joy of their goodness. More than anything else moving forward, I will honor these people.

And so, these are my guiding principals for 2021.

How they specifically translate into action and not just empty convictions is the focus for my next blog post in the series.

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