Why I’ll Never Say “Never” Again. Never!

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“Never, say never!”

The ultimate cliché’ I must have heard 10,000 times … and I hate cliché’s. Really hate them.

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Transparent Background Begins Here:

Four years ago, 19 years into my first marriage, I was a divorced man. My entire life, I said I’d never be divorced.

Subsequently, I cashed out well over $100,000 in a 401k to launch a new publishing and business coaching shop. Six months later we experienced the worst recession in 70 years, businesses stopped advertising, and 10 months after the dream began, I fired seven talented employees, many of whom were dear friends, closed the business, and had zero dollars to my name.

Oh, and by the way, I was newly married. Way to impress the bride, huh?

It was the first time in my life when all vision disappeared. Nothing but darkness with no idea what would transpire tomorrow, much less five years from then.

The depression set in, and I really thought I’d die. Most moments, it was the preferred alternative.

Quick summary: Broke. Depressed. Suicidal.

Yes, being around me – well, it was all kicks and grins as you might imagine.

By far, financial ruin wasn’t the worst of it. It was the darkness, for truer words were never spoken when King Solomon said, “without a vision the people perish.”

Never before had I been without a plan, a hope and a vision, and for two years, those things were completely absent. As remote as the most distant galaxy.

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Truth is, I thought God was punishing me. That I – the wayward son – had become His favorite whipping post. Reality is – that it was more likely a season of strong discipline – the kind a loving parent gives a misbehaving child.

But whatever it was, it didn’t lessen the agony of so many things that hurt like hell.

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Yet it was only for a season, and seasons pass, and time marches on. I’d love to share with you how I pulled myself out of the mirey funk, but I’m sure I had nothing to do with it.

And so the independent thinking, self-employed entrepreneur was thrown back into the working world, at one point working a 20-hour week for a non-profit that paid $10 an hour. Did I mention I was broke, and really needed money?

And for another two years, the jobs came and went, me thinking I was above almost all of it, and that this would be my life’s lot all the rest of my days.

It was no longer dark.  Just very, very cloudy and grey.

Wrongly motivated, I went on a seasonal spree contacting a number of Christian missionary-sending organizations thinking I’d dedicate the remainder of my days serving penance for God in some remote part of the world. Inevitably, it came down to one thing. I was a divorced man, and so my testimony could never measure up to that of what a missionary should have. At least that’s what they said. And I accepted that, because they were the ones changing the world for the good, right?

I was unworthy.

And the worst part is, because I was so down –  so unforgiving toward myself , so wrong about who God really is – I bought into that idea.

I’d owned everything I did, but I was still carrying it all around. And the baggage was very heavy.

Enough of the Bad News

Here’s the Good News, and it’s found in the Gospels.

We’re all sinners who’ve broken God’s laws, and God is intolerant of sin. But Christ showed his love for us by taking the punishment, that should’ve been ours, and He died on a cross making a way out so that we can freely receive the gift forgiveness and right standing.

“Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins.” ~ Acts 10: 43

I spent two years in residency at never-never land, and can assure you Peter Pan was nowhere to be found.

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My two years in Never-Never Land (and honestly up to just a few months ago) had me saying (and believing) the following:

  1. I’d never be self-employed again, yet Dana and I are only days away from launching not one, but three new companies, and it couldn’t be more exciting.
  2. I’d never play golf again, yet I played three times last week and shot an 83 on a beautiful Fall day in Arkansas.
  3. I’d never be smart enough, technologically speaking, to move forward in the field of mass communications which I love so dearly, yet I’ve built a half-dozen web and blog sites in the last year, and three more are in the works.
  4. I’d never see my best friend again, yet he was on the golf course with me last week, witnessed my post at 83, and two days ago shot a 79 himself. What memories!
  5. That because I’d lost my “testimony,” I’d never be worthy of inspiring others again, yet many readers seem to resonate with what I write.
  6. That I’d never have the discipline to write a book and “become an author,” yet I know it will come to pass within months.
  7. That I’d never be a publisher again, yet it was only a few hours ago that we launched this new website for a new global publication that may have more potential than anything I’ve ever dreamed possible.
  8. That because of the branded “D” (divorce) on my forehead, I’d never be worthy of meaningful Christian service, yet one of the organizations that rejected me two years ago, called just two days ago, and now wants to consider partnership with many of the things we decided to do without their help. All of a sudden, I’m worthy again? I’m happy, but confused.

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With forgiveness, comes hope.

And NEVER (there I go again) discount the power of hope.

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On a personal note, I mentioned there was a new bride in the midst of all the husband and wifeaforementioned darkness. Anyone else would have justifiably wondered what they’d gotten themselves into, and walked away. She never did. She held my hand, wiped my tears and she gave me hope.

I love you, Dana. I really do.

Paying Someone to Yell at Me…

The Monette Buffalos 1981 championship team. I still love these guys. At center is Coach Jim Ellis, who will travel with me this summer on a mission trip to Cordoba, Argentina. That's me, #34 in the short shorts.

I love sports.

And for me, there is no greater time in sports than March. The NCAA basketball championship, known more commonly as “March Madness,” has provided me with some of my greatest memories. Coach Jim Valvano of the NC State Wolfpack, God rest his soul: Phi Slamma Jamma; Darrell Griffith of Louisville, who at less than 6 feet had a 41/2 foot vertical jump; the legacies of schools like Duke, Kentucky, Indiana and others. Thrilling stuff.

I was a fair high school athlete, not because of any particular God-given talent, but because at my small school, if you wanted to be “somebody” you pretty much had to excel at sports. I worked hard, had great guidance and “encouragement” from some great coaches and had a fair jumper from 25 feet on the left wing. For a kid, I was a decent power forward.

Thirty years later, I still relive almost daily the memories of 1981 as part of a championship team that may have been among the best junior high teams ever to play in Arkansas. There was beauty in the way my teammates and I played together, and when we were “on,” it was magic.

At the same time, we were a rowdy bunch, and I’m fully convinced had we not had a truly brilliant coach at the helm, we would have never experienced the success that we did.

Coach Jim Ellis harnessed our rowdiness, and our talent, and made us greater tha we really were. It wasn’t always a fairy tale with Coach Ellis. Aside from my dad, that man yelled at me more than anyone on the planet. He once compared my defensive ability to that of his dog.

I miss those days. I miss having a coach in my life. I miss having someone who will call me out and put me in my place. I miss having someone who will take an interest in me to make me better than I really am.

I’d pay good money to have that again, and so I think I will.

Before I became a regular blogger about a month ago, I subscribed to several blogs from authors whose topics interested me. One of those was Michael Hyatt, chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing, arguably the leading publishing house in the world for Christian authors. In a recent post he featured the services of a Christian Coaching firm called Ministry Coaching International, www.ministrycoaching.org and it peaked my interest.

I’m not a “minister.” While I’m involved in some personal humanitarian interests, I have a day job that requires focus. I work with 30 men who are all some of the finest entrepreneurial thinkers in the country and it’s a daily task just to keep up with them. But my personal ministries provide added fulfillment, and they are important to me, and for several months now I’ve followed God’s calling to serve Him better through writing. There’s a manuscript now that awaits publishing but the work is not yet done. It needs focus.

About a month ago, I realized I was losing focus. My personality is easily distracted. I love to learn and when I find something that really interests me, I want to get involved. Lately, dozens of those interests have popped up, and while they are all good things, they have become a distraction to the task at hand. Oh, how that Harley Davidson awaits…

Realizing this, I sat down one morning and created a list of 7 priorities on which to stay focused. I printed that list and taped it to several key locations in my home where I could see it frequently.  The list included: studying the Word; using my gifts; serving my family; focusing on my health; building streams of additional revenue; taking personal time; and developing a diversified investment portfolio.

For three weeks the exercise worked.

The “list” helped me focus. Then the demons of distraction made their way back into my life. Other things about which I read, seemed interesting. I checked them out. I pursued some of them; played around with some of them, and before I knew it, the seven priorities were becoming an afterthought.

At this point in my life, I can’t afford the distractions. I need someone to yell at me.

As it all played out, Hyatt’s blog and the topic of Christian coaching came to top of mind. So I picked up the phone and called the Ministry Coaching International team.

The conversations culminated yesterday with a 45-minute phone call with the president of the organization. We discussed my goals and my “issues.”

Things started clicking and I liked what I heard.  Among his qualifications are that he’s a: professional fundraiser, ordained Presbyterian minister, specialist in organizational resource development; and last, but not least, a clinical psychologist. I like that.

As we discussed my problematic issues with “focus,” he was able to get to the heart of the issue about 40 minutes into the conversation. It may be very well likely that I have a self-destructive personality, a self-sabotaging bent.

I took a deep breath and sat back in my seat on that one. I think he may be right.

For a man, there is nothing like “clicking” with another man. One with whom you can be transparent and who will not find fault in who you are. I miss having a coach and I’m doing something about it.

Ten minutes after our conversation I sent an email with a subject line: “Let’s do this.”

I’m ready. Time to get back in the game.

Let’s do this. Let the Madness and the yelling begin.