How to Write Copy That Kills: Part 4: Write

(Bloggers Note: This is the fourth in a series of six posts: How to Write Copy That Kills. Today’s post is the fourth element: Writing.)

***

I recall the first personal meeting with my editor last February. We met for breakfast in Memphis. What I expected to be an hourlong meeting lasted four and a half hours. The waitress thought we were waiting for lunch.

At the time, I’d yet to put a single word on paper. Light Wins was only an idea. It was a fairly well-organized idea in my mind, yet it was just an idea.

Bradley Harris is not easily impressed. We took our seats and he said, “What have you got?”

So I went through the background, concepts, and the book’s “meat” if you will. And I shared the peripheral possibilities, marketing opportunities etc., etc.

As we bounced back and forth, more ideas developed, and I could see in his eyes he knew we were on to something. Brad was actually a little excited.

Then he said something I’ll never forget.

“May I be blatantly direct with you, Steve?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

“This is all wonderful, but you don’t have **** until you have text. I need text, and I need a lot of it.”

And I took a deep breath.

The long road started there. You don’t have **** until you have text.

***

The headline on this post is admittedly misleading. I can tell you how to observe, think, plan, pursue and execute, but I can’t tell you how to write killer copy any more than I can tell you how to travel to the moon.

At best, I can share with you a few things that work for me:

  • First, you must have text. Just write. Whatever your preferred style, whatever time of day or whatever place you prefer, just get there and write. Short spurts, long binges. It doesn’t matter. Just write. No excuses.

  • Get objective opinions. Pay someone if you have to. Your friends’ opinions are no good. They’ll tell you what you want to hear. Toss something out there. Test and tease a nugget here and there in your blog. Zero comments may mean you have some tweaking to do. Let’s be honest. If you have zero comments, you may want to think about living in a van down by the river.
  • Get into character. I’m a different person when I write. Nobody knows that person but me. Whoever you are when you write, be that person. Put on your writing clothes, your hat, special glasses, sip hot tea, whatever you have to do to be your inner writer, become that person at the moment you sit before the keyboard and let nobody take you away from who you are at the moment.
  • If you’re a binge writer, go on a media fast before the binge. The world will distract you. It will raise your blood pressure. A few days prior, pretend newspapers, magazines, television and internet news posts don’t exist. Clear your mind. I’ve been able to do this to the point where I can literally think when I sleep. When the stars line up, my subconscious can write copy when I’m in certain stages of sleep. You may not believe that, but it’s true. And that makes for some exciting times when I take my first cup of coffee to the keyboard in the early-morning hours.
  • Don’t push yourself into a pattern. This is the anti-thesis of what many will tell you. You may be going along well on a focused chapter, then have another idea that kills. Stop, and write what just came to your mind. Stay there for hours if you must, then come back. Ideas have a way of vanishing if they aren’t written down. I regularly take 15-minute breaks just to get up and walk around, but continue to think. Inevitably I come up with two to three ideas, then I can go back to the keyboard and keep the momentum going.
  • Gauge your gut. When I write something that’s killer good, I literally tingle – and honestly, I’m not impressed with my work most of the time. But once in a while a phrase goes on paper and I’m forced to take a breath. I’m my own worst critic, so if it moves me, it will probably move a reader. Check your gut.
  • Think about Boris. Boris is the fictional character my editor uses to let me know how a reader is reacting. Boris is conservative, grumpy, overweight and set in his own ways.

When Boris grumbles, I’m losing him. If he gets up to pour a scotch rocks and comes back to read more, I’ve got him. Think about YOUR Boris.

  • Stop trying to be perfect. The copy will not be perfect on first draft. It may have grammatical issues, and may not have the perfect flow. It doesn’t matter right now. Get the ideas down. Move on. Perfect later. Injure it first, then kill it.
  • Come back later with a scalpel. Days ago you used a rusty dagger to cut out a rough form. Give yourself time, then come back with a scalpel to make your precision cuts and additions. This may be the hardest part of the entire process.
  • Reward yourself at whatever intervals you choose. Maybe at 10,000 words you go out for a steak. Do something you love for yourself. I don’t set specific intervals for rewards, but I know instinctively when I should reward myself. Walk away and go party, whatever that means to you.

Just remember, you don’t have **** until you have text.

For the previous posts in this series see:

OBSERVE @ http://wp.me/p2bjEC-kf

THINK @ http://wp.me/p2bjEC-kE

PLAN @ http://wp.me/p2bjEC-m2

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How to Write Copy That Kills: Part 3: Plan

(Blogger’s Note: Parts One and Two of this series can be viewed at: http://wp.me/p2bjEC-kf and http://wp.me/p2bjEC-kE.)

Of the six-part series, this is probably the toughest to communicate.

Today’s writer/publisher must live a double life. That of writer, and that of businessperson.

So there’s the art of writing and the science of business.

Because this particular series is focused on writing, we’ll leave the science of business alone today. There are many great bloggers out there today who help you with the science of publishing. A couple of great ones are:

www.catherineryanhoward.com

www.cristianmihai.net

Now the art of writing is a difficult thing to communicate. There’s really no way one artist can tell another how to do his/her work. It’s impossible because:

THERE ARE NO RULES

We’re all inspired/motivated in different ways. We write at different times of the day. Some of us write a thousand words a day on the way to our goal. Others go with the binge style http://wp.me/p2bjEC-6T and write tens of thousands of words at one sitting and may go for weeks without writing another word.

So what advice can we share about how to plan the artistic endeavor of writing killer copy for a book?

I’ll just offer a few short bullet points that work for me.

  • It’s a given that you should read, but in all honesty, I struggle with this, too. I love to read and I love to stay informed about the news of the day, but here’s one thing I noticed recently. On a 10-day trip outside the states during May of this year, I never saw television or a daily newspaper. And during that time I never even realized those things were absent from my life. My mind was free of worldly clutter and I’ve never thought so creatively clear. So for me, there’s a fine balance between staying informed and keeping the junk out for the sake of good writing. But when you do read, read with diversity. It helps most when I read with variety.
  • To the degree that you can, be intentional about your calendar. Every three months or so, schedule a writing retreat for yourself. I do three-day getaways, where I’m isolated from society, and it’s when I do my best work. Schedule your retreats 90 days out and let your family and friends know well in advance that you’ll be out of human contact during that time. Beyond that, be intentional with time that you don’t write. I schedule times that are strictly for fun. No writing on the agenda, but inevitably during those times, I have ideas to bring back to the keyboard.
  • From time to time, use your blog with test-and-measure intention. Every few months I’ll throw out a partial chapter of my book just to see how readers react. One example is here:  http://wp.me/p2bjEC-fO   a post where I recently tested the prologue to my current work. It’s helped guide and re-shape some of the things I do. Now, if a book tease doesn’t necessarily fit with the theme of your blog, consider adding a sister- or cousin-blog that is independent of your primary blog. I maintain three blogs and I’ll write later about the benefits of hosting multiple blogsites.

  • Study metaphors. Many of us write metaphorically and don’t even know it. When my editor pointed out the metaphorical nature of my writing he suggested I study the intentional use of metaphors to strengthen my work. It helped immensely because I now have more self-awareness of my own style. This book really helped me.
  • About “writer’s block.” I’d submit there really is no such thing. Yes, I may go weeks without writing a single word for my book, but the blog is always there to turn to. I do not subscribe to the notion that you must blog every day – quite the contrary. But there is a void in my day if I haven’t written or published something. Use your blog as an outlet. My primary blog serves that purpose. It allows me to write about whatever I choose: news, sports, faith, travel, whatever. The blog helps fill the empty spaces when I’m stuck on bigger things.
  • About outlines. Necessary or not? Just depends on your style. I usually draft broad outlines. If I can see the bigger points I want to make on paper, the details usually take care of themselves.
  • Go easy on yourself. The art of writing is a creative process. (How’s that for stating the obvious?) It takes time. It will not be rushed. Do whatever you can to go easy on yourself for a period. Then when the blood starts pumping, focus like a laser beam.

Most of all just remember:

THERE ARE NO RULES

Next Post: Part 4: Write.

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What It Takes to Write Copy That Kills: Part 2: Thinking

So you want to publish your first book.

Me too.

Yesterday I wrote about the first of the six-part formula I use in my writing. You can see that post here: http://wp.me/p2bjEC-kf, or you can blow right by and I’ll sum it up for you in five sentences.

You must OBSERVE. Your classroom is the world and you need to pay attention. Watch people. Talk to people. Practice your interview skills, and over time, you should be able to walk up to anyone on the street, interview them, and tell an interesting story.

I took a random photo of these two hostess workers (Jennifer, left, and Kanesha)during lunch today at Chili’s. I’ll bet you 5 bucks I could interview either of them for 15 minutes and come out with a fairly interesting story. Everyone has a story.

Today, we’ll focus on the second part of the formula: THINK.

If you’re going to successfully publish your book, there’s a lot everything to think about. So much, in fact, we can’t cover everything. I’ll focus on three things and give you references later to some writing sites that really do help me think.

Three things to think about:

1. What are you going to write?

2. How are you going to navigate the road to a finished manuscript?

3. How are you going to sell and promote your finished product?

WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO WRITE?

It helps to write about the things you know about. Unfortunately, some of the things you know most about aren’t really interesting.

I can just imagine an agent receiving her 125th submission from a woman scorned by divorce, or a man who completed his first marathon. Those won’t fly.

If the woman had killed her husband and just gotten out of jail after 20 years and the facts later show she was abused and only protecting her son, now you have a book.

Or, if the man completed his marathon and had secretly secured 100 donors to give $100 for every mile he ran and the proceeds went to victims of the Colorado wildfires, you’ve got another good book.

You get the point.

Whatever topic you may choose, please read what I’m about to write and it will help you immensely. An agent once shared this with me, and it changed the way I attacked a book.

YOU MUST BUILD A BOOK AS IF IT WERE A LIVING, BREATHING ORGANISM.

It must have the following:

1. Bones

2. Flesh

3. Breath

By the way, this story is gleaned from the Book of Ezekiel. It’s the well-known biblical story of the valley of the dry bones.

BONES – Beneath our skin, muscles, nervous system and our organs, there is a skeleton. Your book must have a strong foundation. An academic premise, perhaps. A theory or belief that you will go on to prove. Obviously, this is mostly true for non-fiction writers. I’m very unimaginative and couldn’t touch the skills of the most moderately talented fiction writer. I admire fiction writers. I’m just not one. So for all you non-fiction folks, build a framework for your book. And make it strong.

FLESH – Now you must have something to hang on those bones, and it’s flesh. It’s the human element of your book. The story or stories. Think of it as soul or the relational aspect of your work. Flesh touches flesh. Readers want to be touched by your story in some way. Will there be that moment in your book where the reader nods her head and says quietly to herself, “Yes, I can relate to that.” If so, you’ve created some beautiful flesh.

BREATH – A tricky one here, but simply stated, it’s the takeaway. The lesson. Your reader must be compelled to do something (maybe differently) because of your work. You don’t have to change a reader’s life, but you are required to bring something to the table for them to take away.

HOW ARE YOU GOING TO NAVIGATE THE ROAD TO A FINISHED MANUSCRIPT?

You can use a GPS and a map, but there are uncharted roads. Twists and turns you’ll never expect. The road to the destination isn’t even on the map. You must expect that.

The only way to navigate is to take someone along who’s been there. You need an editor. Not at the end of the work, much preferably from the beginning.

I have an editor. I make submissions to him about every 5,000 words or so. I’m lucky because he’s good. He teaches, praises, scolds, encourages, berates and whatever else you want to throw in. His guidance has helped me navigate a road I’d never have made it down. He strongly suggests which road to take at the “Y.”

My editor, Brad Harris, (left) during our first meeting. Breakfast lasted 4 hours.

For a bit about my editor, Brad Harris,  you can take a look at another post on my secondary blog here: http://wp.me/p2wzTk-16

In his notes to me, Brad uses an imaginary character, Boris, to react to my work. Boris is overweight, impatient and narrow-minded. Sometimes, he gives an approving growl to my work. Other times, he gets up to go to the refrigerator and get a snack. He may or may not come back to the book. Occasionally, he becomes so bored he gets up for a shot of vodka and goes straight to bed, leaving my “wonderful” work on the foot stool.

If I can keep Boris in page-turning mode, I’ve done a decent job.

Personally, you may choose to hire on an editor at the end. Steady editing throughout the process, however, has helped prevent me from making mistakes I’d otherwise have made many times.

If you’re going to write a good book, you can’t do it alone. You need a really good hired hand.

HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SELL AND PROMOTE YOUR FINISHED BOOK?

There are hundreds of people more qualified than me to answer this question, especially since I’ve yet to sell a single copy.

I’ll try to give you the short and simple of how I view this.

You must first ask yourself this question.

Do you love writing, or do you just want to be a writer?

To sell book, the correct answer is the former.

You must LOVE to write.

I’m writing a book and I have not one, not two, but three blogs. Much of what I write is totally unrelated to book sales. Nobody wants to hear me pounding them day after day about how great my book’s gonna be. I just love to write.

So you must blog. And there will be many times you’ll do a “test and measure” of what you’re writing. Throw something out there from time to time and get reactions. I’m confounded more often than not when the stuff I think is killer falls flat on its face with a reading audience. It can really help guide the process.

You must be passionate about your topic. If you don’t believe in it with all your heart, you’re not buyin’ it and nobody else will either.

Find some speaking engagements. It can be a huge fear, I know, but it’s one you must face. Share your expertise with others, woo them, draw them in … and sell them books.

Buy into these things, and much of the rest will take care of itself.

The next post will be my 100th on this site and I’ll have a few special things to say about that, then we’ll return to the third part of the formula: PLAN.

As promised here are a few sites that really help me learn:

www.rachellegardner.com

www.booksandsuch.biz

www.behlerblog.com

 www.stevelaube.com read Tamela Hancock-Murray or Steve Laube

www.catherineryanhoward.com

www.cristianmihai.net

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Writing’s Most Important Metaphor: Ending on a High Note

Among the group of professionals who call themselves writers (we’ll save my opinion for what makes a professional writer for a whole nother series, a whole nother time) there are dozens of species.

Some will get simple satisfaction from a single book; others will find happiness with the occasional Reader’s Digest or Chicken Soup blurb; many wish to publish a series of either related or unrelated works over a due period of time.

Each can have its merit and worth, but it’s the latter group to which I make a point today.

In the lower left-hand corner of my blog’s header, you’ll see a tagline. Six words, each with a period.

OBSERVE. THINK. PLAN. WRITE. PURSUE. EXECUTE.

It’s the formula I use for just about any project, but it’s particularly effective for me in a lengthy, dead-serious piece of prose.

If you wish to be one of those in the latter category i.e., a series writer with a number of interwoven, published works, you must do this. You must:

END ON A HIGH NOTE.

Let’s think about that metaphor for a moment. Take a 30-second break here and think about the picture the metaphor brings to your mind. END ON A HIGH NOTE… Think NOW…

Now that you have the picture, I’ll share with you what comes to my mind..

THIS IS NOT WHAT I PICTURE:

Go with me on this for a moment.

My mind’s eye visualizes a middle-aged woman, 60-ish we’ll say, slightly overweight, stunning black dress, simple pearls, plainly attractive, but also strangely stunning. And she radiates professionalism. She commands attention.

Her performance: It begins softly, movingly and it brings anticipation. She runs the scale, up, then down, and then she draws you nearer, but quietly, and you know it’s coming. The high note soars, and the drum rolls to a dramatic conclusion.

And it’s over.

ENCORE! ENCORE! ENCORE!

The ENCORE!~ is the writer’s dream. That’s where you want to be.

When I began my first non-fiction work in March of this year, one of the best moves I made was hiring a professional editor to work with me along the way. He is my compass.

Some 15,000 words into the draft, he dropped me an unexpected line. It stopped me, and it changed the course of everything thereafter.

He identified the second book in the series that I didn’t even know was a series.

Yes, it changed everything. Mostly, it presented a huge challenge.

How would I take the anti-thesis of everything I’d written and bring it to an excruciatingly obscure tease at the book’s conclusion and leave every reader salivating to purchase the next one?

***

At the age of 38, (I’m now 46) I decided to run my first marathon. I weighed 248 pounds, couldn’t catch my breath walking up a flight of stairs, and would sometimes pick up a filet-o-fish on the way home from work for a pre-dinner snack.

It began with walking on a treadmill at 5 a.m. on cold winter mornings. Eventually I moved outside. My first goal was to run to the mailbox down the block. Weeks later, I ran a mile. But it was hard to see completing an elevated 26.2 – mile course.

I had to practice VISUALIZATION. I actually had to train my mind to SEE my body running across the finish line and someone putting a medal around my neck.

Eighteen months later I crossed the finishing mark of the St. Jude Memphis Marathon (at a trim 165 pounds I might add.) Taken to the brink of total depletion, the next day, I knew I wanted to do it again.

To do what you must, you have to visualize the finish. You must see the impossible, and you must end on a high note.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin a seven-part series on what it takes to be a successful, professional writer.

That’s my high note for this post.

There’s no way to get where you’re going, unless you know where you want to end up being.

(Steve Watkins is a former journalist and marketing professional with more than 15,000 interviews to his credit. His first two non-fiction works now in the making are: LIGHT WINS: and the darkness is defeated forever… and Dark’s Dominion.)

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Is God “Comprehensible?” – An Interview with A.W. Tozier – Part 1

A.W. Tozier

Q: How do we picture an infinite God in our infinite minds?

A: We learn by using what we already know as a bridge over which we pass to the unknown. It is not possible for the mind to crash suddenly past the familiar into the totally unfamiliar. Even the most vigorous and daring mind is unable to create something out of nothing by a spontaneous act of imagination.

Q: So how does the Bible give us a picture of God?

A: The effort of inspired men to express the ineffable has placed a great strain upon both thought and language in the Holy Scriptures. These being often a revelation of a world above nature, and the minds for which they were written being a part of nature, the writers are compelled to use a great many “like” words to make themselves understood.

When I was a child, this is how I pictured God in my mind, and I must admit my limited imagination still pictures Him this way to a good degree.

Q: What is the role of the Holy Spirit in allowing us to “comprehend” God?

A: When the Spirit would acquaint us with something that lies beyond our field of knowledge, He tells us that this thing is like something we already know, but He is always careful to phrase His description so as to save us from slavish literalism. For example, when the prophet Ezekiel saw heaven opened and he beheld visions of God, he found himself looking at that which he had no language to describe. What he was seeing was wholly different from anything he had ever known before, so he fell back on the language of resemblance. “As for the likeness of living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire.”

The nearer he approaches the burning throne the less sure his words become: “And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the color of amber, the appearance of fire round about within it … this was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” One gathers that the whole scene is very real, but entirely alien to anything men know on earth.

Is this how we are to picture God?

Q: But if we as men are made in God’s “image,” can’t we comprehend that He is like us, only greater?

A: When the Scripture states that man was made in the image of God, we dare not add to that statement an idea from our own head and make it mean “in the exact image.” ‘To do so is to make man a replica of God, and that is to lose the unicity of God and end with no God at all. It is to break down the wall, infinitely high, that separates that-which-is-God from that-which-is-not God. To think of creature and Creator as alike in their essential being is to rob God of most of his attributes and reduce Him to the status of a creature.It is for instance, to rob Him of His infinitude: there cannot be two unlimited substances in the universe. That would be to take away his sovereignty: there cannot be two absolutely free beings in the universe for sooner or later two completely free wills must collide.

Or is this how we are to picture God?

When we try to imagine what God is like we must of necessity use that-which-is-not-God as the raw material for our minds to work on; hence whatever we visualize God to be, He is not, for we have constructed our image out of that which He has made, and what He has made, is not of God. If we insist upon trying to imagine Him, we end with an idol, made not with hands, but with thoughts; and an idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hands.

Q: But the question of “what God is like” is the one thing so many of us want to know. What are we do do?

A: The yearning to know what cannot be known, to comprehend the incomprensible, to touch and taste the unapproachable, arises from the image of God in the nature of man. Deep calleth unto deep, and though polluted and landlocked by the mighty disaster theologians call the Fall, the soul senses its origin and longs to return to its Source. How can this be realized?

I believe Tozier would most conform to this “image” of God…

The answer of the Bible is simply “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” In Christ and by Christ, God effects complete self-disclosure, although He shows Himself not to reason but to faith and love. Faith is an organ of knowledge, and love an organ of experience. god came to us in the incarnation; in atonement He reconciled us to Himself, and by faith and love we enter and lay hold on Him.

(Blogger’s Note: These excerpts come from A.W. Tozier’s “The Knowledge of the Holy.” Tozier, (1897-1963) was a popular evangelical author and minister. The author of more than 30 books, he has been called one of the most influential American evangelists of the 20th Century.)

It’s an Honor: An Open Letter to WordPress Bloggers and Those Who Read My Blog

“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

On any given day, there are at least half a million blog posts on wordpress.com

It’s a dose of reality reminding me that my work is just another grain of sand on a long stretch of beach.

When it comes to writing, I’m a purist. I don’t do “musings,” or “ramblings.” Poetry’s not my bag, and I won’t be sharing recipes with you any time soon. There’s a place in the blogging world for all those things, I suppose. It’s just not particular cup of tea.

There’s an irony to my blogging posts. By day, I’m a private, guarded person with a close circle of only a few friends to whom the guard comes down. But at the keyboard, something magnificent happens because it allows transparency to flow.

I will share with you, the blogging world, my shortcomings, my failures, and more importantly the lessons learned. And I say a prayer before hitting the “publish” button that it will make a difference in someone’s life on any given day. It’s a powerful thing and an honor to be able to share.

Every writer’s greatest honor is to be read.

It’s a rush to sit in a rural corner of northeast Arkansas, USA, and see that someone in Gibraltar or the Netherlands, New Zealand or Indonesia has taken time out of his or her day to read your work.

It brightens my day when someone takes time to read and “like” the blog post of the day.

And whether they agree or disagree, it’s a thrill when a reader comments and gives feedback to the words you typed earlier in the morning.

I’m thankful to have a creative outlet to share an experience, thought or opinion.

And so know this: When you read my blog, you do me the highest honor, you make my day and you reinforce the purpose within me.

For that, I am thankful.

(Blogger‘s note: For the next two weeks, I’ll be blogging from Puerto Cayo, Ecuador with my wife where we’ll be sharing experiences from our own “Amazing Race.” See you on the equator.)

Let’s Pray About It (or just do nothing)

Keenly aware of his own shortcomings, Jack still liked to think of himself as a decent enough man.

Complex by nature and misunderstood by most, Jack walked around most days with an invisible guard that only few could permeate. Very few.

He didn’t necessarily like that about himself, but the circumstances of his every-day life reinforced his intrinsic nature. At least that was his excuse.

But made aware of an injustice against a brother or an urgent need, he could be provoked to radical 360-action in the blink of an eye.

Jack lived a busy life with a good day job and lots of peripheral interests. His phone would ring dozens of times during the day and he was selective in the calls he took, and the ones he let go straight to voicemail.

When his phone rang at 9:14 that morning, he only vaguely recognized the number, but it was familiar enough that he decided to take the call. On the other end was a welcome voice – an old friend wise in years and experience that called every couple of months just to check in on Jack.

He did it because he was a good man, and he cared.

“How ’bout a cup of coffee with old friend,” Simon asked, “… say around 9:45?”

It was impossible to say no to Simon, the man who had counseled him through tough times and even conducted the wedding ceremony for Jack and his wife Diane almost three years ago.

“See you then,” Jack said, knowing any visit with Simon was a time to treasure.

Simon arrived three minutes late whipping into the parking lot at breakneck speed. “Sorry I’m late,” he said, “I had three people come into the church and wanted to talk and I just told them I had an important meeting.”

Simon was an elder-emeritus at a church that over the past year had been on the brink of chaos. A split in the congregation had created deep wounds that compelled Simon to action and take the reigns to lead the healing process. It had become his full-time job. And it was beginning to wear on him.

Jack and Simon exchanged the normal pleasantries and talked about the important things happening in their lives, and Jack noticed an unusual burden on the man he so loved and respected.

“Are you okay,” Jack asked.

“I’m fine, just tired. I’ve made a commitment to the church to see us through until we find a new pastor and then I’m going into hiding for a while. I’m tired,” Simon said.

Jack shared with Simon his plans for a vacation adventure on his schedule in the coming week and Simon’s eyes lit up with curiosity.

“Boy, I wish my wife and I could do that. I need a break,” he said. “I guess I’ll have to live vicariously through you. Will you send me a postcard?”

Jack reached across the table and grabbed Simon’s arm. “This is what I want you to do,” he said. “Think about yourself today, forget everybody else, go and make a reservation to somewhere tropical and get out of here tomorrow.”

“Well you don’t understand, I’ve made this commitment and I’ve got to see it through, and I don’t think we could pull it off anyway.”

And Jack’s wheels started turning.

The conversation continued, the two parted ways, and as Jack drove away he determined to respond to call he believed came straight from God.

“It would only take about $2,500 to send Simon and his wife away on a surprise and well-deserved vacation,” Jack thought to himself. “And we could have him in Bermuda shorts within a week sitting on some Caribbean beach. I’ll chip in my share,” he thought, “and make a few calls to friends who love Simon the most and we’ll have him on his way before the sun goes down. Everyone would surely understand and be compelled to help.” He just knew it.

Over lunch Jack made a quick list of a half-dozen people to whom he could call and make the case. How exciting! What a great surprise for this wonderful man. A few calls here, a few calls there, start the chain call for the cause and the deal will be done.

Jack, the naive dreamer. Oh, the humanity.

“It’s a great idea and well-deserved, the recipient of the first call responded. My first thought is it would be better to do this later, but we’ll pray about it and see what happens.”

“I don’t really have time to give this the thought I’d like too, but it’s something we ought to do,” the second call recipient responded. “The timing may not be right for the church to pull something like this off. I think it’s something we’ll just have to pray about.”

“I’m glad you’re taking the initiative,” the third call recipient responded.”I want to pray about this.”

Let’s pray about it.

Jack saw the writing on the wall. He tried not to be angry, but it was hard.

“The timing’s just not right,” … the message from those he called kept running through his mind.

Maybe we’ll pray about it for another six months and Simon will be so spent that it’s too late.

Maybe instead one day we’ll spend thousands of dollars on flowers for his memorial service and talk about what a great man he was. “We sure did appreciate and love him. He was a great man,” we’ll say with our posthumous honor and glory.

“Let’s pray about it…”

Or just do nothing. That works.

Not.

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