Working & Walking

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Before I go into any actual devotional rhetoric, let me brag on our God for a moment. He is so faithful and awesome. The Lord always blesses me with pleasant surprises, helping me to glorify his name.

Earlier today (while at work), I trolled WordPress blogs for good reads and inspiration because my writing has been stunted this year. What can I say? I’m experiencing a dry spell, and the well could really use some replenishing. During my random searching, I discovered “When I’m With You…Whitney Ibe Blog!” and was instantly smitten by this brilliant blog created by a faithful sister in Christ. After reading a few of Whitney’s blogs, my spirit was willing…but my flesh proved to be weak. For the bulk of my lunch hour, I stared aimlessly at a blank Word screen trying to force a story into existence. Finally, I conceded defeat, shut down the blank document and went on about the business of my profession, wondering when a time would come when I could leave this line of work behind for something better suited toward writing for the Lord.

After work this evening, I stole away to my favorite prayer closet to spend time with the Lord. The iPod was plugged into the Bluetooth speaker. My bible was set on my bed. The sounds of rainstorms filled the air. I hit the floor, but at some point during my prayer-time, I dozed off. Personally, I think it was the thunder and rain pounding through the speaker. I awoke frustrated but determined to at least get my read so I sat up and stretched. Opening my bible to the next chapter of Acts, I never made it five verses into the chapter, before the Lord showed up with inspiration. I stopped reading, opened my laptop, and immediately began typing.

Acts 18:3-4 (NKJV) – “3So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. 4And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.”

The Apostle Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees. He was a learned man of Scripture. He was a former terrorist who had completely souled out to Jesus. He performed miracles of healing and even raised the dead during his missionary trips. He was…a tentmaker by trade. Family, pastor-brother Paul was a regular Joe with a day job! Yet, somehow he managed to consistently make it to church every week and preach with such boldness that he led Jews and Greeks to the Lord! Man, I really felt led to share this revelation because somebody out there is seriously questioning what God is doing in their life, in regards to the profession they find themselves in.

Throughout the New Testament, we see examples of Paul’s tremendous effectiveness for the kingdom of God. But these two verses in Acts also proved that Paul was merely a man who—just like us—needed to make a living. His tent-making profession may not have directly helped him to further God’s purposes, but it sure did help him eat, I’ll bet. And his day-job never hindered his ability to preach the Gospel and win souls to Christ. God blessed Paul with that specific skillset and profession, to help support himself.

Maybe your day job isn’t glamorous. Maybe you’re questioning the Lord’s purpose in positioning you right where you are, professionally. Maybe you’re frustrated with long hours or little pay—or both. Remember that God knows exactly where you are, and can use you in your profession. We simply have to live out our Christian walk, even on the job. Let me close this with a true story.

Last October, I was placed on a construction site as the Engineer’s site representative. I was to work closely with the site’s Superintendent—a feisty, foul-mouthed youngster with a loud personality and the girth to back up his temper. A few days into the project, I wondered what the Lord’s plan was for sticking me with this young man who, at first glance, shared nothing in common with me. But, as time and the project rolled by, I learned some things about my young friend. Frank had grown up Christian, and though his language might tell otherwise, he remembered a few things about scripture. I never had to pressure Frank, or hit him over the head with the bible. But, little by little, he grew curious about whatever he saw in my life.

Last week, Frank came to church with me, and fell in love with the Lord. He has a light in his eyes today that I’ve never seen before. Two days ago, he purchased a new study bible through Amazon, and seems excited about its arrival. For the last few days at work, we review his bible trivia app during lunchtime. Best of all, Frank is planning to shut the job down at 3PM this coming Friday, so that he and I can make it to church at 7PM, to celebrate good Friday!

I did nothing, family. This miracle’s glory belongs solely to God! I simply went to work every day. Paul held his day-job and still won souls for Christ. The Lord can use you for his purposes, right where you are. Some preachers are called to full-time ministry, but for us regular people, God provides a means of supporting ourselves in addition to the call on our lives. Never doubt where he has you. Maybe you are there to fulfill his purpose.

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Get To It!

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You ever sit down at the keyboard, fired up to write, only to discover you’ve got nothing? It’s like a cruel joke, isn’t it? When the block lands square on top of your creativity, it feels like you have no option but to submit, pack it all up and try again tomorrow. But…if I may, let me offer you a bit of advice, wordsmith:

WRITE ANYWAY!

Yeah, that’s right: write anyway. I don’t care if you write a simple two or three line paragraph about the fact that you have nothing to write about. Write anyway. I’ve discovered that when I limit my writing to the times that I’m really feeling inspired, my craft suffers.

Last year, I made up a simple calendar printed on a sheet of 8.5″x11″ paper. I taped it to the side of my dresser. Each time I wrote a blog post or an article, that day was colored in with a yellow highlighter. At the end of the year, you wanna know what I discovered? In 365 days, I had written less than a third postings as there are days in the year! Folks, that was less than 122 blog posts and diary entries for the entire year! If I plan to grow and flourish in my craft, I simply have to write more.

I once wrote, “Writers write”. Hmmm…maybe it was more like, “Writers gotta write”. I think you get the point. We need to exercise our ability regularly, just like a body builder works out constantly. Creativity is, after all, a perishable skill. You use it or you lose it.

C’mon! What are you still scrolling for?! Get busy! Tell me about your second day of the new year! I just blew through 300 words to make a point. Start writing about anything wordsmiths!

The Story of US (Prelude)

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Everyone has a story to tell. As long as we live and breathe, we are someone’s story: God’s. Perhaps you live a life of nonstop adventure, where every event is a celebration. Or, like many of us, maybe you live a simple life of Monday-Friday workdays, grocery store shopping and weekend Netflix. Maybe you’re the life of every party, or maybe you constantly fly under the popularity radar and that’s just the way you like it. No matter where you may fall on the “interest” scale, rest assured: you have a story to tell.

My wife and I just celebrated our 15th year of marriage, this past August. We are the parents of 5 children, ages 10 to 24. For the most part, we live seemingly normal lives of carpooling, school days, work days and church. We don’t drink alcohol. We’re non-smokers. We don’t party hard on the weekends. We haven’t experienced a genuine family vacation…ever. We drive a 10 year old Dodge Grand Caravan and a two year old Ford Fiesta. Together, our large family cram into a three bedroom home with one bathroom. Uh, did I mention that there are three women in the family? One bathroom can be quite challenging at times. On the surface our lives may seem dull, simply existing one day at a time. Perfectly harmless.

But then, you don’t really know us, do you?

You might not believe some of the things we’ve experienced individually and together. You might be shocked to discover that addictions and abuses have affected our family in ways that might end other relationships, if not for the grace of the Lord. You might deny the fact that Misty and I can each truthfully say, “I might not be here, if it weren’t for God”. You may even question the validity of our Christianity after discovering some of the things we’ve done, and continue to struggle with.

For years, we’ve tried to bury a past that would have left us a broken and splintered family. Some mistakes of our youth continue to resonate in our present. Past deeds haunt and hinder our future. But we know today that the God we serve can, and often does, grant us his grace and mercy. He supplies for our needs and also makes a way for us to break through. The more we grow in the Lord, the more I see the time approaching, where we will face our past together and share our stories with the world.

People are hurting. Individuals and couples alike are facing difficult situations daily; carrying secret pain that cannot be reconciled no matter how hard they may try. Our time to share is now. We want people to know, no matter how dark your situation may look, God can restore. God is the healer. Through him, all things are possible, especially redemption. I know personally.

This October, we’re stepping out on faith. Together, Misty and I will begin the journey of writing our story, in the hopes that it may one day inspire and encourage others who may be going through some of the experiences we’ve endured together. It will be painful, because it means facing demons, answering hard questions all while reaffirming our forgiveness of one another. No one is beyond God’s grace and mercy.If he continues to restore and strengthen us, just maybe our story will encourage someone out there to seek his face. We’re ready to share. Are you ready to experience our story?

 

Just Checking In

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Hey!

How’s it going tonight, wordsmith? How’s the writing coming along? You are still working at it aren’t you?

Now hold on a second. I just saw that shift in your countenance. I’m not gonna sit here at this computer and listen to you make excuses for why you’ve decided to put your writing on hold for awhile. What happened to the passion of last week? Where’s the creativity?

Oh, I see. You’re one of those writers. You know; the, “I’m waiting for inspiration” type. Well…let me let you in on a little secret. If the greats wrote only when inspired, they would have never made their mark in the literary world. Don’t believe me? Write a letter to Stephen King and ask him. You may be surprised at what comes back. I’ll give you another example, closer to home. I don’t even feel like writing right now! It’s true! But, I’m writing to you to find out how your project is coming along because I don’t want to see you fail. At the end of the day, we writers really have to stick together and support one another.

Recently, my assigned marketing representative, at Xulon Press, told me, “People love to interact with people. The best thing you can do to promote your book is to get out there and show your face.” You know, I believe that’s true in our writing as well. People love to read good writing, even when it’s not so good. The key is to get your voice out there. Let the people know who you are, and what you care about. Hey, you may not get many comments, but you’re honing your skills.

Sometimes, I find that writing when I’m not in the mood to do so actually produces the type of stuff people really want to read. It’s real life. I’m just a guy working pay check-to-pay check, just like 90% of the unknown writers in the world. I’m just like you. But, I refuse to give up on this dream no matter how old I grow. I’m gonna ride this dream until the wheels fall off, or until it explodes and changes my life forever. I’m hoping and praying for the latter.

So check in, friend. Pick up your pencil; tap those keys; let your thumbs walk the touchscreen. Write! Tell me how your project is coming along. I’m rooting for you, so don’t give up!

The “ABC”s of the Simple Life of an Everday Writer

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This really is not an original idea. Why try and reinvent the wheel, when what you have is perfectly fine? The premise is simply enough: one takes every letter of the alphabet and writes a word starting with that letter. Then, one creates a post incorporating every letter written down. So then, let’s get started.

A Atlanta N Nobody
B Batting O Opposites
C Chiseled P Punish
D Dangerous Q Questions
E Exceptional R Right
F Future S Smith
G Games T Tales
H Home U Universe
I Instant V Vegetables
J Jersey W Wrong
K Kill X Xylophone
L Liar Y Yesterday
M Milk Z Zoo

So…my list is made up of some pretty basic words; nothing too fancy-shmancy. After all, I’m just a simple guy who never graduated from college. Now, allow me to tell you a short story of my life.

When I was a youngster, the world was my playground and imagination was my permanent home. Though I was a shy introvert, I harbored exceptional dreams for my future; dreams of success beyond measure. While I had no idea of how my plans would someday come to fruition, I didn’t bother to indulge in any questions that might kill the spirit of triumph within me.  When you’re young, anything is possible and the universe is obtainable.

“Someday, I’ll find myself signing books in New Jersey, Atlanta, San Diego, and Tampa Bay,” I used to think. Nobody could convince me otherwise. I was so sure that writing would take me places I’d never seen before. People would pay top dollar for my tales, and I would enjoy the benefits of a life spent earning a living doing what I loved.

That was my yesterday. Yeah…once upon a time, I could drink whole milk and eat vegetables without worrying about the consequences on my digestive system, too.  My today is much different. Unfortunately in the writing game, I am not batting 1000; not even close. Success as a writer has continued to elude me, giving room for doubt to set in, where exuberant confidence once took up residence in my heart.
“Man, whoever told you it would be easy is a liar,” I tell myself a lot these days. “That dreaming stuff is dangerous. Maybe we ought to focus on the realities of everyday life, Mr. Smith. No more daydreaming of instant success.”

Sometimes I think God has given Satan the green light to punish me with childish dreams that I can’t seem to turn off. That big dreaming kid I used to be and the cautious older man I am now are total opposites, but linked by the same hard headed dream.  Whether it’s right or wrong for my future, I can’t shake the fact that I’m supposed to write.

So I’ve come to accept the idea that maybe I will not become a successful writer, by the standards of the world. Hey, I accept the fact that I will never decide to learn how to play the xylophone, or take up bodybuilding to work on chiseled abs either. But, I think I can be happy by just writing for the Lord and affecting change in the lives of people around the world. If my writing can get them to at least think about Jesus and the after-life, then I can live with that.

Who’s got time for all the petty games associated with success anyway? Not this guy. I’ve seen the world of the rich and famous, up close. It’s a zoo! Most of those folks are so busy grinding, scheming and eating each other (figuratively speaking of course) for money, that peace is simply not an option. I think I’d rather be poor and content with my work for the Lord through the gift he’s given me, than to be filthy rich and miserable every day.