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.

2016: My Year-End Review (Part 2 of 4)

(Blogger’s Note: This is the second in a series of year-end blog posts focusing on milestones and challenges in both the old year, and the new.)

“Never get into a fight with a pig in the mud. You get dirty, and the pig loves it.” ~ unknown

It’s not easy to say something that’s practically contrary your very nature, so at the beginning I should first say this:

I have peace. Never have I felt less conflicted about priorities, truth, and the pursuit for growth. And I wish the same peace for you.

Because it happened to me for three long years, and because I’ve lived up close and personal with chronic depression, no one hates a gloom-and-doom outlook more than me. At the slightest hint of gloom and doom, I run. So, there is no great pleasure in the paragraph that follows:

The New Year forebodes the makings of a perfect storm. It reveals a potential like never before to rob us of the things we’ve always claimed as important – things like civility, truth, kindness, charity and an overall goodwill toward humanity.  screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-5-46-09-amIt has the potential for a complete societal reset, destroying decency and bringing new vigor to a shallow, watered-down life of meaningless, labeled identities. And if the New Year takes us there, further than we’ve already gone down that path in 2016, it’s a long road back home. The Prodigal Son had to walk that road when he found himself wallowing with pigs.

Cults have thrived on less well-developed story lines than the one already coming together for 2017. And lest I remind you of a place called Jonestown in 1978. It didn’t turn out well for those who got caught up in the story. There was a devastating metaphor that evolved from that tragedy. It’s now known as “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

Whether you realize it or not, whether you want to believe it or not, even if you immediately deny it as true, as many will – it is true. We’re ripe for a breakdown. I hate writing those words from which I’d normally run.

All this comes not from some lingering frustration over an election, not from loyalty to any polarizing labels that dictate false ideas like “binary choices,” not from any agenda at all, but rather from my own experience in public service and a lifetime of working in, and studying mass media communication. And if you know me, I’ve been writing with melancholy about a deteriorating media for years.

Everything I’ve seen and experienced in the world of public service and mass media points to six foundational components that warn of a seismic societal shift. There are many others and I’ll write about those tomorrow, but the six that follow are critical:

  1. New leadership in the United States is gifted at mass media manipulation like no leadership we’ve seen. Void of substance, it’s based on a keen understanding of bait and switch techniques and preys on demographic vulnerabilities and emotions that couldn’t be further removed from our best interests. It’s the ultimate exhibition in distractive technique. The product, just as intended, is polarizing conflict and division.
  2. By and large, mainstream media lost its objectivity 20 years ago when the economics of survival dictated the need for demographic-directed programming. Pure, pristine news coverage that allows consumers to evaluate world affairs for themselves is long a thing of the past. What mass media now requires is the perpetuation of an ongoing, drama-infused, conflict-driven story. And it needs you to keep watching.
  3. The two circumstances above create a parasitical relationship as never seen before.  screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-2-28-59-amWhile the leadership and the media want you to believe there’s a dramatic, enemy-like tension between them, nothing could be further from the truth. Each feeds off, and perpetuates the other. They are bed partners. Don’t play into the false narrative of their check and balance system. This dysfunctional relationship is the most dangerous thing, foreign or domestic, the US has ever faced. Truth is, it’s the new enemy.
  4. Self-centered, self-interest is now modeled for us at the highest levels. Do you know what creates big changes over time? Exposure. The more we’re exposed to certain behaviors, the more acceptable and adoptive they become. Modeled behavior shapes both the good and the bad, and can do so in big numbers.
  5. If you love words as I do, you might notice two rapidly growing trends: (1) the shifting perceived definition of words that have generally been foundational to an American society (e.g. evangelical, Christian, marriage, truth, man, woman, gender, sex, etc.); and (2) a new kind of empty language aimed at diffusing certain historically narrowly defined truths  (e.g. May the Universe send you light, love, positivity and special vibes today.) These new definitions and the new evolving language speak nothing of substance outside a desire to be gods and goddesses of self. It’s thus consistent with the modeling cited above.
  6. We’re having great difficulty distinguishing patriotism from religious fervor.

I’ve written a lot lately about our need for information filters and anchor points. They may be the two most important foundations for a meaningful and happy life in 2017. Never has the simple idea of “responsibility for self” been more important. A new world demands that we rededicate to some basic, yet important decisions to help us guard our hearts and our heads.

In the next two days, I’ll expand on the challenges I see in 2017, and some practical ways I believe we can anchor ourselves in the blowing winds of a post-truth world.

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