Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Does waiting on God work?

I used to live next to this great guy named Genaro. Genaro worked so hard and he loved it! He'd work all day at his factory job, and as soon as he came home, he'd be in his back yard, sawing or pounding, making something, cleaning something, always working working working! (I told him: "Genaro, your version of hell is going to be lying in an inflatable lounge chair in a pool drinking pina coladas.")

I'm a novelist. I usually have ideas lining up, just waiting to be written. Until now, that is. I haven't had a good idea for a book in months. So what did I do? I pressed. I'd bludgeon an idea up from my soul. Life was too short to wait for inspiration, and I wanted to work. I needed to work.

And what were the results of my whirlwind effort? Nothing were the results. All I did was frustrate myself. I'd racked my brain for ideas. I'd read what other writers were writing. I'd Googled it, for Pete's sake. And all I got was more nothing.

Being a hard-head I naturally decided to triple up on getting an idea. I got an idea to search for a book on my bookshelves about achievement via living consciously. For sure that held my answer! Oddly enough, instead, I came across a book I wasn't looking for. Although, in hindsight, it may have been looking for me.

It's called Beyond Failure: Discovering Grace and Hope in the Hard Times of Life by James A. Scudder. But honestly I didn't even read the title, I just randomly cracked open the book and saw that I'd underlined the following:

We have all been guilty of taking matters into our own hands when it comes to dealing with a difficult situation, thinking that if we sit back and wait on God, nothing is going to happen. (pg 25 in the paperback)

Huh. That certainly got my attention. For I was supremely guilty of what it accused. I had taken matters into my own hands in this difficult situation all right, and I was thinking that if I sat back (ugh, just the thought of sitting back, even now, makes my skin crawl) and waited on God, nothing was going to happen.

So where to go from there?

You got it. Sitting back and waiting on God. I gave it a try. The results?

I'm still not writing, so it didn't work, right? Well, in a way yes, but in a bigger way, it did work, because I'm relaxed again. I'm myself again. I'm no longer frantic.

Will I ever find an idea for my next novel? I don't know. But I had no guarantee I'd find one before, and at least this way I am living my life at peace with myself and God. And that is so much better than how I'd been living.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

When you're stuck in life

I'm writing this post for myself. I'm a writer and I'm stuck. I've tried everything to get unstuck and none of what I've tried has worked. I've tried everything from little mental tricks (sit in the chair for an hour and the writing will come) to sheer force of willpower. And nothing, nada, nyet, stugots has worked. But I think I found something that's promising. It's from the author Vernon Howard:

When you grow tired of a certain activity, it merely means you have temporarily used up that particular pool of energy. When this happens, you should simply go along with nature to a different activity which calls upon another pool, permitting the previous pool to refresh itself. When tired of mental work, do something physical. You won't need to think about changing an activity; it happens by itself whenever a pool is exhausted. Just be aware of the signal and follow it. (italics mine)

Simple, right? Not for me it isn't. I just keep banging my head against the same wall over and over again. I have to write my novel. To do anything else feels like a failure or a cop-out or a waste of time. My mind says, "This is what I should be doing. (And anything else won't do.)"

What's helped me is to see that what Howard suggests is a natural process. The pool of a particular activity gets used up. It make no sense trying to find water in that dry pool. Go on to a new pool. As Howard says, in the meantime, the previous pool will refresh itself.

Doing this blogpost was my first attempt at following Howard's advice, and honestly as of right now it feels pretty terrible. But at least I'm not banging my head against the wall anymore, so in that sense it's real progress right there.

I think the key for me is recognizing the signal that the pool is dry. Doing so is tricky because sometimes I am able to force my way into writing. It's just now I know if it's time and time again I can't write, I need to find something else to do.

After that, the writing will come. And I imagine the process isn't any different for any other life situation where I find myself stuck.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Will God bless cheapskates?

I attended a church service for the first time in six years and it reminded me very quickly why I stopped attending in the first place. The service started with good heartfelt worship music, which was great. Then the pastor took the stage. And went on a twenty minute rant about how the congregation should give more money. He said that "tithes (giving 10% of your pre-tax income) and offerings" should just be "the starting place" for giving. He said it was "okay" if you "just" gave the 10%, but really you should pray to see "if God wants you to give more." He said, "Did you ever notice that God really takes care of the people that give a lot?" Which is a thinly veiled way of preaching "the prosperity gospel," where you "give to get." (The prosperity gospel goes back all the way to Oral Roberts' "seed faith" ministry, which has you "planting the seed (money) of faith in the ground and when you do, God will grow it." Of course you're giving the money to Oral Roberts, not God. Which reminds me of the saying 'If someone is preaching about the joy of giving, you can be sure he wants to be on the receiving end.')

Years ago when I went to church regularly I was just scraping by financially. And I can't tell you how many services I sat through where the preaching was on giving. The most quoted Bible verse was 2 Corinthians 9:7 and it was "...for God loves a cheerful giver." The thing is the preachers always leave off the first part of the verse which is: "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion..." (italics mine) And the compulsion was abundant in those church services. If the "God loves a cheerful giver" verse didn't work, it would progress to verses like you were "robbing God" (Malachi 3:8). Specifically the verse says: "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings." And that verse was often used in variations like "That's God's (tithes) money!" 

So I sat there, a financial sinking ship, listening to all this, thinking, This isn't right. And, amongst other reasons, I haven't gone back until recently. Now, I never stopped believing, but yeah, I didn't need to hear this money grubbing preaching either. 

I was warned I'd never make it without being in a church. That the Devil works by isolating people and then he tears them apart. 

They didn't scare me. Maybe they were right; maybe they were wrong. I figured I'd find out for myself. 

And God blessed me. Financially and otherwise.

What a lousy God He would be if He only blessed the big bucks givers of the world. Or this notion of "robbing God." How utterly ridiculous. Like God needs to get better anti-virus software. 

Nope, God will bless you if you can't give, and He'll bless you even if you can and don't. 

He blesses everybody who sincerely seeks him. Everybody.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What's with all the 111111111s?

I'm seeing 111111s everywhere. Yesterday I looked at the number of downloads I had for one of my books and it was 1111. I went upstairs into my apartment and looked at the kitchen stove digital clock. It was 11:11 a.m. I got back to work for a couple of hours and the very next time I looked at a clock it was 1:11 p.m. Then after a long trying day I was writing in my journal in my bedroom and I looked at the clock there and, you guessed it, it was 11:11 p.m. Then I went into the kitchen (the clock in my bedroom is fast) and it was 11:11 p.m. on the kitchen stove clock and on an atomic wall clock.

And I'm writing this post on 11/1. (November First)

I've been seeing these ones for years. Once driving in my car, just driving, watching the road, I suddenly looked at the odometer. And at that exact moment it turned 11,111 and 1 block. 111111.

A friend of mine calls such things "God winks." I searched online and there are new age articles about vibrations and such. I'm not sure what they mean but they must mean something, right?

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Do you have spiritual GPS?

You're lost. You're driving around. You're not sure if you're going east or west. Maybe you took that turn back a couple of miles ago you shouldn't have. This isn't good. This neighborhood is looking bad. It's getting dark. Then you remember you've got a GPS unit in the glove compartment. You plug it in and hit the "Home" button.

"Turn right in 200 yards. Turn left, go 400 yards, stay to the right, then take the highway..."

And just like that you're going in the right direction. You're not home yet but you're not lost either. Yes, you're going in the right direction. And it feels good. You relax.

What's the home button in your life?

For me it's prayer. It's when I finally stop trying to find my way in life and look up and say, 'Hey, my way isn't working. What should I be doing, where should I be headed?' That for me is like a spiritual GPS. It might not get me home quite yet, but it gets me back heading in the right direction. It gets me out of that bad neighborhood and going to some place safer, some place good, some place with purpose. And yeah, it feels good.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Why I want to be an Australian

I want to be an Australian. Is this normal? Okay, I'll tell you why. In a nutshell it's because Australians say "Cheers" all the time. I just find that expression to be so overwhelmingly polite and optimistic and wonderful. The mailman drops off the mail and you say, "Cheers." You pay your grocery bill and say, "Cheers." You do a TV interview and when you're done you smile and say, "Cheers."

And you say it whether you're feeling cheerful or not. You say it because it's an affirmation of life, because it's a shorthand way of saying, "I wish you well, friend," because, no matter how hard life may seem at times, life is good.

So sign me up to the Australian fan club. I admire you guys. And oh yeah, (I almost forgot), "Cheers!"

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The secret benefit of being creative

Ernest Hemingway said he loved it when he was done writing for the day, that he could really enjoy his free time then. In other words, if he'd been creative, he was happier.

How about this quote by Gay Hendricks (from his book Conscious Living):

If you are expressing your creative potential, you get to feel good about yourself. If you are not, you don't.

Granted, the quote sounds pretty conclusive, but I think it's true. I'm not going to pretend to understand the dynamic behind it, but I know from my own life that really is the case.

And I've gotten to the point where if I'm not creative during a particular day, that I do feel worse. (And I've also gotten to the point that I crave being creative.)

I think after you get used to being creative for a while, being creative becomes a way of life. And it's a very pleasurable way to live.

So create something—you'll feel better! It doesn't have to be anything big. Just be creative in whatever you're doing. Give it your own personal flair!

Monday, May 29, 2017

No matter what happens there will still be love in the world

                                        memorial day parade Itasca, Illinois

I just watched the Mark Wahlberg movie "Patriots Day" (about the Boston Marathon bombing) two days ago. And today I just watched the Memorial Day parade in my hometown, Itasca, Illinois.

Parades always move me. The idea that people come together to celebrate their lives, their country, their friends and families, their hopes and dreams. It warms my heart. But today I was also moved for another reason.

Fire engine sirens heralded that the parade was getting close. I live right on the parade route and have seen it so many times I have how it works down pat. So yeah, I grabbed my camera and went downstairs. The people. Old, young. Some pregnant. All happy. Laughing. Together. Excited. I relaxed into the warm, loving vibe.

Then BOOM! Down the street, just out of my line of sight, the Civil War re-enactment soldiers marching in the parade had shot off their muskets. The pregnant woman next to me jumped a little, and I saw a dog shivering with its tail between its legs.

                                          this puppy got spooked by the musket boom

When the pregnant woman realized what had happened she laughed, and the dog owners bent low to comfort the puppy. And that was the extent of the effect of the boom.

But I couldn't help but think of the "Patriots Day" movie and the after-effects of the boom/explosion for the runners and the crowd gathered to watch the Boston Marathon. The explosion knocked people from their feet, tore the limbs off some, killed others. People scrambled to help but the smoke and confusion and fear made it hard. It was terror, chaos.

And all for what?

I'm an optimistic person, but I can't help but wonder why human beings on this earth can't get along. Why hate still drives people to kill their fellow human beings.

But I'm sure of one thing: the power of the love I experienced today in the coming-together of people wanting to live and love and build the world up will overcome whatever powers of darkness confront it.

Sting has a song called "After The Rain Has Fallen" that has a lyric:

"After the thunder's spoken, and
After the lightning bolt's been hurled
After the dream is broken, there'll
Still be love in the world."

Yeah, nothing'll stop love from being in the world. Nothing.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

R-E-S-P-E-C-T and why you don't need it

Hamilton is all the rage right now on Broadway. And of course, Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Duels were all about restoring one's honor after being disrespected. Duels meant you would rather die than be disrespected.

You see it today too. Especially with the gangs. Countless lives are lost because so-and-so disrespected so-and-so.

Really it's so stupid.

My nephew has a female Alaskan Malamute. He takes her to the dog park and says: 'It's so cool. All these dogs there bark at her and try to get her going and she just ignores them.'

It's the same with us. People who "disrespect" us are just looking to get a reaction from us. As the saying goes 'it takes two to tango.' Or the idea that if there is a fire and you throw logs on it it will increase. If you don't throw logs on it it will die out.

There's a book called What You Think of Me Is None of My Business. People are angry at me. Disappointed in me. Disrespecting me. Hey, that's their thing. They are basically like those dogs barking at my nephew's dog. They're saying: 'We're trying to hook you into getting upset.'

But you can just let them bark to high heaven and happily go about your business.