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Writing a Book? This might help.

June 12, 2018 Leave a comment
garlic shrimp dish

Photo by Buenosia Carol on Pexels.com

There’s a fabulous restaurant in downtown Indianapolis. St. Elmo. You would expect for prices that the food and service to be impeccable, and you would not be disappointed. I’ve been blessed to eat at many such restaurants in many cities, but I never miss a chance to give a shout out to St. Elmo.

Everything about them is world class. The setting, the food, the experience. But they’re known for their shrimp cocktail. One of the cheapest things on the menu at $15.95 and you get 4 shrimp. (Shrimps?) But oh, those 4 shrimp.

St. Elmo blesses you with triple-strength horseradish in your cocktail sauce. Each bite, even with a modest layer of sauce, is a physiological event that goes with you for the rest of your life. You didn’t know such a combination of culinary delight and pure olfactory overload was possible. St. Elmo found a way.

Beginning writers, when not overestimating their abilities, will sometimes feel any attempt they make at writing a book will be met with disappointment. Disappointment in themselves, by readers, friends and families. They believe their book will not measure up to (enter whatever book you think is the gold standard) and everyone will point that out in a review.

Well, I’ve sold and represented many books in my career. Many bestselling, category-killing, niche-defining, ground-breaking books. But I’ve represented many more titles that could not claim such status. They were excellent books. Very beneficial to reader, and successful in the marketplace. Many books that helped propel the speaking or preaching ministries of their authors. Books that connected with many thousands of readers that today would point to something in that book that helped to craft the man/woman, businessperson, pastor, or professional they were destined to become.

The book you are contemplating now may cover ground that’s already been covered. But your perspective may be unique. Your insight may be truly remarkable. Your experience may lead you to voice an opinion on a subject that will cause many people to refer back to your book over and over again; as if it were St. Elmo’s shrimp cocktail sauce.

You can be amazing and remarkable, if you can resist making unfair or off-base comparisons.

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American Independence – In Context

What could motivate a nation to take arms against it civil authority, as it did in 1775?  Weapons built for self-defense and hunting, were turned against soldiers and their authority.  What would it take for you to do that same?  Chances are the answer is…pretty much the same.  I don’t think history books capture the essence of the American Revolutionary War.  This short blog will make an attempt.

The American colonies had almost been converted to the world’s largest plantation.  Ruled by Great Britain, they could only buy and sell to Great Britain.  The colonies were at risk of being a clone of Great Britian, complete with ruling class; yet populated by a people who had left the mother country seeking greater liberty.  Liberty in regards to worship, land ownership, and just about everything else.  They had fought and died just to have land to farm.  They had built cities and formed local governments.  But by the 1770’s, the British monarchy had become more foreign than domestic to them, when previously the colonists were proud loyal subjects.  Oppressive economic policies and the lack of any voice to negotiate a different future, provided the motivation and resolve to resist by any means at their disposal.  The rest is history.

Then came the opportunity to rule ourselves.  After a failed first attempt, our founders gave us the Constitution we have now.  Well almost.  After crafting a document that provided for a more cohesive national government, there was concern that a national government would do just what the last government had done.  That is, force laws onto states without proper regard for state’s rights or individual liberties.  So the founders issued a list of liberties and rights so well underscored, they shouldn’t be misunderstood.  You’d think.

The ten amendments (or Bill of Rights) as they were formed then, must be considered in their context to be fully appreciated.  The context is that individual liberty is worth protecting and defending.  They had just been successful won at great sacrifice.  They didn’t want a repeat of another bloody revolution that had countryman at each other’s throats or in each other’s sights.

The 10 Bill of Rights reads like a list of “thou shalt nots,” but that’s THE WHOLE POINT.  These are limitations on the government to protect the liberties that it assumes we already have.  Here is is in my own modern equivalency; sans all SCOTUS “modifications:”

  1. The government will not establish a state church or make it illegal to worship as we see fit to do so. The government will not take steps to keep us from voicing our opinions as individuals or in the form of organized media.  The government will allow us to petition them with our complaints without fear of retribution of any kind.
  1. An effective fighting force comprised of citizens is essential to a state (and its people) being free from oppression by a federal government. Therefore, we have the right to own, keep, and carry arms for the purpose of offering a check and balance to what could be oppression by armed soldiers.
  1. The government will never, peace time or in war, forcibly quarter soldiers in private homes. In times of war, that can be changed but only by law.
  1. Unless there is established probably cause, we are free from searches by the government. The government actually had to detail what it is looking for and the place they will be searching.
  1. Unless it during war, people cannot be tried for a major crime unless they are first indicted by a Grand Jury. We can only be tried once for the same crime, cannot be compelled to give testimony in our own trial, or be punished in any form without following the legal process. Also, no one can have property of any kind seized without being paid full market price.
  1. We, as accused individuals have a right to a speedy trial where the crime was committed, and by an impartial jury. We have the right to know the accusation, to confront and question the witnesses against us, provide our own witnesses (by compulsion, if necessary), and to have legal counsel.
  1. We have a right to be tried by a jury of our peers. Courts of Appeal must look at evidence as it was provided during the original trial.
  1. Bail and punishment for crimes should be predetermined without any prejudice toward who a person is.
  1. We have other rights, regardless if they are contained in the Constitution or not. These unmentioned rights are just as important as the rights that are expressly mentioned.
  1. Any power not expressly given or denied by the U.S Constitution, or prohibited by a State, belongs to the States individually or to the people.

Its not hard to understand the Constitution.  But some would have us believe we can’t without rulings from courts.  Many believe that the language can be interpreted through the lens of modern context.  I strongly object to this thinking.  Everything said and done by us or by our founders can only be understood fully, by setting the words in their context.

America was founded by, and remains a nation that values our personal liberties.  We’re not a perfect country.  But this is who we are, or we’ll cease to be Americans.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

The Real Lessons Learned at Penn State

July 12, 2012 Leave a comment

A former FBI director has completed his investigation of the scandal that revolved around the monstrous acts committed against young boys by a senior level football coach at Penn State University. PSU has a legendary football program, headed by a coach that became nothing less than an icon in the American sports world.

Its now come out that in light of the abuses, senior leadership (Univ President, Athletic Director, and Head Football Coach); purposely chose to not notifiy law enforcement out of motivation to protect the football program, their careers, and their legacies. They never once challenged the perpetrator after 2001.

Where was the line with these men? Its not sexual battery or the systematic rape of children. Would it be murder? If they didn’t find it in themselves to protect the innocent and defenseless, when would they show up, speak up, and act.

Naturally, we have an opportunity as a society to remark those lines. Reset the standards. Its is WRONG to allow or empower the victimization of the innocent and defenseless in order to protect other individuals and institutions. And this point needs to be clearly articulated by people in leadership everywhere- if they have the moral center to do so.

I don’t recall such a conspicuous and grevious lack of concern for people’s lives by people in authority; outside of the pages of world history. In less conspicuous situations, it happens consistently.

But just once today…look inside yourself, and answer this question. Is there something in my life, in my world, or about my person that I would try to protect, knowing that innocent and defenseless people—children— would be irrevocably and horribly wounded or worse.

If you’ve been blessed with strength, money, influence, or position; its more a responsibility than a blessing for you. You will be held accountable, in this life or the next: for your silence and consent, as well as your committed acts.

God, help and strengthen us all. Amen

Green Eggs and a Life’s Blessing

Green Eggs and The Blessing of a Lifetime
Maybe you can relate to this. A few weeks ago, the Voice inside me was saying that I should go to Arkansas (my ancestral home ) for a visit. My daughter, Laura, was going back for a few days to fulfill a promise to one of her grandmothers, and we would be able to share the ride from Tennessee. The rest of the family would be occupied with work and school.
Smart phones make these things easier. Emailing, texting, calling, playing; all from the passenger seat while being chauffeured. It makes a tedious six hour drive tolerable. Even pleasant, since I could visit with my daughter who had been away at college for her first year. And to top it off, I literally upgraded to the iPhone 4S right before leaving town. So what was an overgrown boy of 51 years to do, but explore every improvement the 4S had over the 3G.
The first couple of days were really nice. I dropped Laura off late that afternoon at my in-laws, who immediately killed my appetite with a big dinner. Then on to Glenwood, where I was able to catch up with my parents, eat a second dinner, “help” with some computer things, and just slow down. There wasn’t much of a plan really on how to spend time, except to catch up with my folks, and whoever I could see before heading back home.
Chapter 1 – Scout badge – DENIED
My uncle John called the house the first morning I was there. He would be at home all day and it would be ideal for me to drop in and have a nice visit. I really like spending time with my uncle John and aunt Holly. They are the consummate hosts, and really know how to make people feel welcomed in their home. I got there before lunch and the “plan” was to go out and get a burger and visit, while Holly was out with a friend.
I should say now my uncle has a very comfortable home that overlooks a private lake from a covered and shaded deck…AND it was a P-E-R-F-E-C-T day to be outside. He offered the choice of 1) going out for burgers, or 2) having baloney (sp?) sandwiches at the house. Baloney on that deck, and on that day, couldn’t be resisted. But after opening the refrigerator door we began pulling out eggs, ham, onions, radishes, tomatoes, cheese, and whatever else we could find. He fried up the ham, and I made omelets. MMM!! Megan, their awesome Australian shepherd, even enjoyed a coupla bites. We would have earned scout badges for all that, had we cleaned up after ourselves. But Holly arrived back home just in time to deny us the honor. John shared a number of personal and private remembrances that day; both anecdotal and documented. He showed me his garden I left there deeply appreciative of his openness and willingness to spend some personal time with me and just to catch up on what our families were in to.
Chapter 2 – By What Measure?
Leaving John and Holly’s, I was pushed for time to get to my niece Delaney’s last home softball game. She is a senior this year and she would soon be capping off her high school softball career. Being the only senior on this year’s team, she was recognized after the game. It brought back recent memories of my own daughter’s volleyball years and her last games. In fact, they were similar in that they lost those games. You don’t always win, win, and win. But you always choose how you lead, play, and contribute to your team. I hope she looks back on a tough year, knowing that she’ll be remembered and appreciated much more for the latter, and not the former.
While I was at the game, I ran into old my baseball coach. His oldest son, who was too young to play with us at the time, was also there. He would help warm up the pitcher, help us take infield, etc. It was humbling to hear him tell me that some of his most enjoyable summers was the ones he spent following us around from game to game. He recalled stories and things I had completely forgotten. Listening to him was like curling up with a favorite book. Thanks DJ! If I had I only known these were some of his fondest memories, what would I have done differently?
The Magic and Mystery that is…Technology
Back to my new iPhone. It’s a serious upgrade over my previous phone. In fact, there are two versions of the iPhone that came after my old phone. This one multitasks, where the old 3G did not. So I was in mild shock when that all-too-familiar Skype ringtone goes off on my phone that following evening. It was running in the background all along. My cousin Nona was placing a video call from Tulsa. Nona’s mother (my aunt) Neoma, was under hospice care at their home and they saw me online and decided to call me from her iPad. So glad they did. Neoma struggled to talk, but she gave it her best as I took the phone around the room to my mom, dad, brother, and niece. This was probably the first video conference for most people in the room and it was actually funny to watch. Technology is as much a curse as a blessing. But I’m sold on making the most of the blessed portion. Staying connected with friends and family ranks high, and it’s more fun than ever.
It’s Only the Beginning
If I had come home the following morning, I would have declared the time and effort completely worthwhile. But waking up that morning, the Voice had returned and clearer than ever. I was thinking of my aunt’s declining condition, and that I could be of some company and encouragement to my cousin, her husband, and daughter. It wasn’t a feeling of empowerment. Just a sense of “calling.” Sort of a “Here am I, Send Me” thing. I had time, opportunity, and transportation. My cousin was very happy with my offer to come, and I hit the road to Oklahoma. It was going to be unforgettable day.
The older you get, the more you realize the gravity or enormity of a moment, as its actually happening. My aunt had been battling cancer for years, and at the same time growing older. She was now 87 and in her last days with us. My cousin is a nurse and very capable of taking great care of her mother. Her husband Dewey is a man that is also a true friend. Her daughter, Leslie, is enjoying her early years of motherhood. And well, she should. Her children are beautiful, inside and out. And her husband John, is a man of Christian character who does more than just fit in.
It was so enjoyable to be near them during this time. They had a joy at their core that this couldn’t defeat. I got there about three in the afternoon. My aunt recognized me and responded with her best voice, while holding my hand. She’s never failed to be interested in the affairs of her extended family. And now, though very weak, seemed fully aware that I had come some distance to see her and her family. We had a sit down dinner, and managed to get re-acquainted and caught up on things.
I’m never at a loss of things to talk about with this branch of the family. We share so much in common. Dewey and are both big into military history, and he puts me to shame in this area. We want to visit Omaha Beach together some day, and now maybe we are getting closer to that goal. (I think it goads him along that I’ve been there once already, and he hasn’t.)
My aunt has two children, the other being a son living in Crescent City, California. Neoma is my aunt by virtue of marrying my mother’s oldest brother, Harlo. Crescent City is where the family was raised. Melvin and his wife Kathy have two daughters (Shellee and Aimee) that still live there or close by. I’ve only ever seen Melvin two or three times, Shellee twice, and Aimee only once. But Facebook has rekindled the relationship somewhat the last few years. They all have quite the sense of humor, and you can just tell there’s shared DNA there.
Later that evening, the Skyping began. First Aimee, then Shellee, then Melvin and Kathy. Each one took time to speak (face-to-face) to their mother/grandmother, express their love, and cheer her on. And then I was able to visit with each one afterwards. It was a trying time for them unable to be present. It meant a lot to me to convey some sense of solidarity with Melvin and his family; if only to tell them that so many of the family were standing with them during this time by praying and thinking of them often.
Later that I night a spoke my last words to my aunt, only to say how much I enjoyed being there, talking to all of her beautiful family, and how wonderful I thought they all were. Her only response was in the brightening of her eyes. It was like playing cards, when you pick up a phenomenal hand and your eyes get bigger to take it all in. That’s how I can best describe it. She seemed to glow inside with a pride that a mother and grandmother cannot contain. John had long since taken their young children home for their bedtimes, and now Leslie was heading home.
I last looked in on Nona and her mother about 1.15am, then Dewey and I headed off to our beds. She passed only moments later. Out of respect, I won’t share the details of the next few hours with anyone outside our family. I only want to share with the people that read this that there were so many things to feel and experience all at once.
Watching people you love go through this process is difficult. There’s no script to follow. You can’t be sure what the next hour or moment will bring. It was the ultimate in “living in the moment.” There are a lot of tears. There aren’t magic words to speak, but there are words to speak and hugs to give. Life goes on and stops at the same time.
The poignancy of the next few hours was heavy. It was the beginning of grief. But seasoned with the comfort and joy of realizing Heaven’s gain, the love of our Savior, and the great reunion of family being gathered on the other side to welcome her. There were things to do and put into motion; but being together, close together, seemed as much instinctive than intentional. It was a painful time and dreaded time. But I observed it to be a very holy and sacred time, as well. Here was a woman who had experienced the years of the Great Depression, married a man who had fought in the Pacific in WW2, and lived to see and experience and influence so much.
I was struck by the expression that the longest of journeys begins with a first step and a first mile. Well, it ends the same way. With that last word, last breath, last blessing, or last moment before we continue our immortal existence with God. What do people feel that don’t embrace a faith that gives hope through and beyond this life? As one of my favorite authors is fond of saying, “the gospel is better than we thought.”
I often draw strength from Psalm 23. Growing up, it seemed to be sweet little verse that people memorized or read because it was the thing to do. But it means more to me with the passing of time and life experience. Each phrase seems independently directed to me at times like these. That night it would be…
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.”
There was no fear of evil that night. Just a blessed assurance that the angels of God that carried Lazarus to Himself, were in attendance and at the ready. “Your rod and your staff,…” were the tools of the shepherds trade. They managed and protected the sheep with these. I remembered how each of my own children would find safety next to me. In the same way, we find it in the awesome power of God. And that our most dread fears and uncertainties can vanish within His protection.
I left Tulsa late the next day a richer man. It was a privilege to share with my parents and daughter how things had transpired. I couldn’t contain it if I had tried. On the road to Tennessee with Laura, I appreciated the chance to share all this father-to-daughter; knowing we could very well be having similar moments in our future.
Green Eggs
Let it be known these exist and not just a figment of Dr. Seuss’s imagination. My mother-in-law (read father-in-law) keeps chickens in the backyard. They enjoy the constant supply of fresh eggs. So happens one of the hens lays green colored eggs. Normal inside. Green on the outside. They sent us back home with a carton of a few dozen “organic” eggs and eight or so green ones. We enjoyed each one.

Categories: Uncategorized

A Rant about Christian Marriage

November 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Hello everyone, I would like to get a reading on who actually tunes in here. If you don’t mind returning even the smallest, non-consequential comment, I would really appreciate it.

I’ve had some time to myself this afternoon. Its dangerous to leave me to my own thinking and pondering, but here is where my mind has been.

Marriage. I want my children to find great life partners (as I have) and enjoy a lifetime of love, achievement, and adventure. But why do I feel as though their chances aren’t that great. I’m seriously questioning what today’s evangelical church has helped to bring upon this generation regarding marriage. I only need to cite the accepted truth that Christian marriages don’t fare any better in the area of longevity than non-Christian marriages. It should compel church leadership to question everything they’ve taught or learned themselves. Of course, I accept the Bible as God’s truth. So the problem must lie with US. Are our expectations so low, our perspective so skewed that we can’t give solid advice and counsel to our own children? Have we grown chicken? Afraid to discuss marriage with young adults from the viewpoint that it is first and foremost a contract? For those of you not afraid to engage a complete stranger in a non-threatening dialog about marriage, I suggest you discuss this subject with young women ages 20 to 30. They’ll tell you, they think they’ll come out on the losing end in a marriage. They’ll wind up divorced, stuck with raising kids with little help, and not enough money. You can debate them if you like. But you won’t have any facts on your side. Society has defined today’s marriage, and more and more, I fear we’ll find Christian adults willing to co-habitate rather than marry.

I am only one. But I am one. Now that my own children are getting older, I’m discussing relationships from a much more practical perspective than I ever thought I would. Simply because the alternative of emphasizing “God’s will” to the exclusion of the practical, with young adults in their sexual prime may not be effective.

Categories: Uncategorized

Never

Never grill meat outside after dark.
Never fail to say thank you to those that serve you.
Never show disrespect to someone else’s flag.
Never disregard your inner voice when its warning you.
Never compromise priniciples with your critics.
Never apologize for taking time for yourself.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Gift of a Moment

March 24, 2011 Leave a comment

I attended a conference last week in San Diego. At the end of it, I was very tired and very ready to come home. I was missing everyone and basically, I just like being home. I traveled overseas for years, and now, I’m making up for it. My thoughts were all about me, my family, what I had to do, what I had missed, March Madness, etc. Flying from the west coast is a long process. I was up and headed to the airport at 4:15am. All joy.

Maybe it was the combination of exhaustion and a mounting to-do list at home that had me swimming in these self-centered thoughts. But while boarding the flight, a rather petite, young woman was boarding what would be a packed flight. She was in the Army, and from her patches, I could tell she was part of the 10th Mountain Division. She was in combat fatigues and carried a huge pack that must have been half her weight.

American Airlines extends every courtesy to men and women on active duty and in uniform. Even with the log jam of people trying to get to their seat, the flight attendant thanked her for her service, and asked where she was going. “Afghanistan” was all she said. You could tell she had just said some very tough goodbyes, and didn’t feel like offering more than that. She didn’t need to. She was going to the far side of the world and in harm’s way. Leaving everyone and everything else behind.

I thought about how it would be months, if not more than a year until she would return home. An eternity to both her and her family. And every day being reminded of the distance and danger. I was taken back by this very brief encounter. What she wouldn’t give to trade places with me, or anyone on the plane. All the press coverage and political debate can cloud the fact that individuals are sacrificing so much of their lives, and even their lives.

All of our lives are surrounded and infiltrated with clutter. Our schedules, concerns, and misplaced priorities can easily blind us and distract us from living every day — this day — to the fullest.
Nothing says it better than this; Ps 90;12 “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

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