That Thing That Matters

Man with Tears


   Today I looked around my classroom and my eye caught some words posted on my board: HAVE, DO, and ARE (grammar/vocab stuff). Those words got me thinking—are we defined by what we have, by what we do, or by what we are? And who defines us? Or—does it matter?

   It should matter because who defines us and as what shapes how we see ourselves, which, in turn, determines whether we believe we can fulfill our destinies—or not.

   So—are we defined by what we have?

   Do we have a car? What kind? New or not new? Pretty or not pretty? Luxury or basic? Don’t tell me people don’t “feel” a certain way when they buy a vehicle. Proud? Ashamed? Envious? Disappointed? And what about our clothes? Do we “feel” the same way when we’re wearing our finest suit or dress than when we’re dressed in casual clothes? And let’s not forget money. Lots or little? Savings in the bank or living paycheck-to-paycheck? Retirement pension? 401K? Or not? Do we feel secure or scared? Grateful or frustrated? Do we own a house? How big a house? Where is it located? Is it as nice as our neighbors’ houses? Or—do we not have a house?  Where we live often has something to do with how we think about ourselves. Not always, of course, but can we honestly say that nobody judges themselves of the basis of where they live? I know that once upon a time, I did…

   Are we defined by what we have?

   If so, let me mention a few of the best people history has ever known: Take Jesus, for example. He didn’t have much and what he did have, he lost. In the end, all he was left with were splinters and thorns. And there was Mother Teresa—I don’t know what she had before she moved to India but once there, she gave it all away. I could cite dozens of others but the point is that neither of these people let what they didn’t have keep them from fulfilling what they did have—a destiny.

   We are not defined by what we have.

   Are we defined by what we do?

   In a world where we’re pushed to “become something,” the world often defines for us what we “should” do. And that’s reinforced when we meet someone. Small talk usually includes a “So what do you do?” or “Where do you work?”

   Does it matter?

   Are we better people if we’re dentists rather than dental assistants? Do we have better character if we’re professors rather than teacher aides? Have we accomplished more in life if we’re the CEOs of corporations rather than small business owners? If we lose our credentials or our titles or our paychecks, are we lesser people?

   We are not defined by what we do.

   Let me repeat that—and not for those who don’t have the lucrative positions or incomes, but for those who might: We are not defined by our achievements. In other words, if we were to lose that position tomorrow, our circumstances might be different but we’re not—unless we define ourselves by what we do.

   I remember my father telling me that he’d once met one of the richest men in the country and that that man was one of the humblest, most down-to-earth people he’d ever met. Why? Because that man did not define himself by his money or position.

   Are we defined by what we “are”?

   There’s a question that haunts many: What are we? Are we rich or middle-class? Are we young or elderly? Are we married or never-married or divorced? Are we black or white or yellow or brown? In a world where we are increasingly defined by our outward appearances and/or statuses, those things can too often determine how we think we should think, behave and even react. To complicate the problem, the dawn of DNA testing has some people finding that they are not who or what they thought they were. But does DNA really define what we are—or are not? The culture, traditions, and values that we’d grown up with—are they all null and void if the DNA doesn’t line up?

   Can our DNA really disqualify us from belonging?

   And here’s the bigger question: What if (not like this could ever happen) we’re treated differently because of what we “are”; does that really make us different?

Are we more or less of a person because we’re rich or poor or married or single or black or white or tall or short or blue-collar or white-collar?

   The fact is—and this is so often repeated that it’s almost a cliché (sadly) —we’re all children of God. Period. It doesn’t matter whether there’s money in the bank account or whether there’s even a bank account at all; it doesn’t matter whether we have a low IQ or we’re Albert Enstein; it doesn’t even matter whether we have wrinkles or not (honest!). Our identity never changes. But if we allow it to change, if we’re swayed by the opinions and prejudices of others, then we’ll never fulfill the destiny that we’re called to tackle. Look at it this way: How we were created was designed to perfectly equip us to accomplish that one thing we were created to do.

   It’s not about what we have, what we do or what we are; if it’s about anything at all, it’s about the character we display. And that’s the one thing that transcends all races, all statuses, all ages, and all abilities. To paraphrase the great Martin Luther King, Jr.: We look forward to the day when we are not judged by the color of our skin—or (may I say) the ages of our bodies or the images in our mirrors or the bottom lines on our tax returns—but by the content of our characters.

   In defining ourselves, our character should be the one thing that determines what we have, what we do, and what we are.

   It’s all that matters.



Peacemaker—Or Peacekeeper?



   The Convair B-36—aka the “Peacemaker”—was a bomber used exclusively by the U.S. Air Force during the 1940’s and 50’s; it had an intercontinental range of 10,000 miles, an 87,200-pound bomb capacity, and was the first bomber capable of delivering any of the nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal. In other words, with the “Peacemaker,” the United States could make peace around the world—one way or the other.

   On the flip side, the LGM-118 “Peacekeeper” was a land-based ICBM (inter-continental ballistic missile) used by the United States for the intent of shooting down any nukes launched against the U.S. (primarily by the then-USSR). The “Peacekeeper” was armed with a 300-kiloton warhead—a rather convincing deterrent to attack.

   The point is that the “Peacemaker” was an offensive weapon, and the “Peacekeeper” was a defensive weapon. The “Peacemaker” was designed to launch a first-strike attack against another nation for the purposes of offsetting a more destructive engagement, while the “Peacekeeper” would defend against a first-strike after a nuclear launch from another country.

   Now while the United States no longer employs these weapons, that’s not to say that there aren’t currently peacemakers and peacekeepers in the country today. The only difference is that these models aren’t bombers, they’re people.

   Let’s face it—sometimes making peace is messy. The fact that you have to make peace in the first place implies that something is out of alignment and that usually has to do with relationships—whether between people or nations. “Peacemaking,” by definition, requires that some person or group steps up and puts an end to a conflict already engaged, whereas “peacekeeping” simply endeavors to maintain a lack of conflict.

   Which is not to say that conflict is not happening.

   Is there “peace” when no one dares to speak because if he says the wrong thing or uses the wrong tone of voice, there’ll be hell to pay? Is there “peace” when some group has to be continually pacified, mollified, or coddled so they don’t pitch a fit, hurt someone or riot in the streets? Is there “peace” when all’s quiet in the kingdom but iron-clad tyranny lurks in the shadows?

   There is no peace where there is no peace of mind.

   The Apostle Paul said, “’The kingdom of God is… righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’” (Romans 14:17 NIV). Jesus said, “’From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force’” (Matt. 11:12 NASB).

   So which is it? Is the kingdom of God peaceful or violent? Who’s right—Paul or Jesus?

   They’re both right. True peace, “kingdom of God” peace, must be hard won and—make no mistake—the battle will be bloody. Sometimes bodies bleed, strewn across muddy battlefields littered with bullets and bayonets. More times, hearts hemorrhage at front door showdowns with tear-weary words: “Your home or your drugs (or rage or lies or…). Choose.”

   Sometimes peacemaking requires harsh change, heart-wrenching decisions, or grueling sacrifice.

   It’s the day the short, skinny kid stands up to the bully who’s been tormenting another—even though there’s a very real probability a public humiliation will be posted later for all the middle-school universe to savor.

   It’s the day the honest bread-winner visits his boss with the news that he can’t be a part of the latest company scheme to make a fraudulent buck—even if it costs him his job, his unemployment benefits, and his future recommendations.

   It’s the day the trembling wife with the carefully hidden bruises steps between her child and the man who’s about to hurt him and says, “Never again.”

   It’s the day a naked body hung impaled upon a cross by razor-sharp spikes, a body all splinters and blood—to liberate billions from the chains of eternal fire and torment.

   That’s peacemaking.

   Jesus said, “’Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’” (Matt. 5:9).

   At no time did the warrior Son of God ever call a summit and sit down with the devil to negotiate a peace treaty. Nor did the skinny kid, the honest bread-winner or the trembling wife. The fact is that peacemaking is not easy, it’s not fun, and it’s not popular. It is sometimes bloody, often terrifying, and always heart-shattering. But, in the end, it brings true “righteousness, peace, and joy”.

   Peacekeeping, on the other hand, is easier. That is, if one enjoys walking on eggshells, guarding toxic secrets, petting demons, and compromising one’s very soul. 

   Maybe it’s time to pick up your sword and make peace.       






“Destroyed for Lack of Knowledge”

2018 Evidence of God Conference III - Chris


   “God can’t tell the future.”

   I blinked. Had I heard correctly? Was I dreaming? Or was a professor at a Christian college really standing up in front of several hundred people telling us that God was not omniscient?

   The spawn of Satan continued… “God can’t tell what’s going to happen ahead of time; he finds out when we do.”


   I looked around the auditorium but none of the other students at this fine institution of faith seemed bothered. To the contrary—they seemed quite impressed. This professor did, after all, have a “PhD” after his name. And who were we to question the almighty doctorate?

   “God!” I whispered, “Are you listening to this?? Do something!”

   And God did do something—just not what I expected. He said, “Ask him a question.”

   “Who? Me?” I looked around. No one else seemed to be having this conversation. It was beginning to dawn on me that perhaps this was about to become one of those cans of worms that you wished you had never opened. I think I squinted. “What question?”

   God told me. I sighed. “Professor,” I called out (from my customary refuge in the back of the hall), “can I ask you something?”

   He stopped and peered in my direction. “What?”

   “Do you believe the Bible prophets were able to tell the future?”

   “Yeah, of course.”

   “So they can and God can’t?”

   Professor PhD was not happy. The next thing I knew I had been challenged to a debate to happen in a few short hours in a very public forum. I hardly knew what had hit me. I only knew that I had a very, very bad feeling about it. It seemed hardly likely that this prof would challenge me to a debate he wasn’t certain he could win. I suppose I could have declined, but that didn’t occur to me till later.

   I got slaughtered.

   And I was crushed. I had never before encountered someone who could twist a Bible verse like that person could, and all I could think was that I’d only made it worse. All of those impressionable students who had been so deceived with his original lies about God would now be doubly convinced he was right. After all, he’d won. Only now, looking back, I realize he didn’t win—I’d lost. And all because I didn’t know how to respond to the challenges thrown around by skeptics and atheists. Here are some of the most common:

   “If evolution is not true, then where did all of those almost-human fossil bones come from?”

   “Jesus Christ was not really God; he was just a ‘higher-intelligence being’.”

   “Hell is not an actual place; it’s simply a state of mind.”

   “God wouldn’t really exclude people from heaven just because they worship in a different religion. All roads lead to heaven—one faith is as good as another.”

   “Every religion believes in reincarnation—even Christianity.”

   “Science and the Bible are simply not compatible.”

   Do any of these claims make you uneasy—even the tiniest bit? Maybe they’ve kept you from believing in God, or maybe, in the depths of some dark night, they haunt you, causing you to wonder—

   What if…?

   Discover the truth about deliberate deceptions surrounding evolution, creation, the “Big Bang,” parapsychology, the occult and the New Age at the upcoming EVIDENCE OF GOD: “Equipping the Saints” Conference in Baldwinsville, New York on March 24th. Learn how deception has crept into our colleges and culture, blending lies with truth—often in the name of “science”—and discover how to defend your faith from these subtle counterfeits. And most importantly, find out what deceptive strategies are being planned next. The fact is that we cannot guard against danger that we don’t know about.

   Do not become the next victim “destroyed for lack of knowledge.”


For conference registration details, see the bottom of the flyer (above). For information on speaker Christopher Rupe, co-author of Contested Bones, visit his website at

   Sponsored by New Heart Ministries, Baldwinsville, New York.     



Memo to My Children: I Will Never Be Your Maid.


   Because I love you, I will never be your maid. A maid will always pick up your filthy socks and underwear, wipe up the hair you left all over the bathroom, and clean up your grungy bedroom. A servant will never pick up your filthy socks or underwear, wipe up the hair you left all over the bathroom or clean up your grungy bedroom—unless you’re too sick to DIY, you’re working and I’m not, or you’re dying.  This is because…

   A maid enables. A servant teaches.

   A maid works 9a-5p, M-F, no nights, no weekends, no holidays. A servant works 24/7, no exceptions.

   A maid murmurs and complains while working for you. A servant thanks God and prays for you while working.

   A maid doesn’t care who you hang with—as long as they don’t get mud on the carpet. A servant cares very much who you hang with and doesn’t care if they get mud on the carpet.  (You’ll clean it up later.)

   A maid doesn’t do homework, windows or change dirty diapers. A servant doesn’t do homework either (but will help you with it), supervises you while you do the windows, and won’t change your diapers either—after you’re fully potty trained.

   A maid responds to orders, demands, and commands. A servant does not respond to orders, demands or commands—at least, not in the way you’d like.

   A maid works because she has to. A servant works because she wants to

   A maid works to get paid something. A servant works to honor someone.

   A maid gets compensated with cash. A servant gets compensated with a hug.

   A maid will never do more than the Union allows. A servant will do whatever unity requires.

   A maid believes you’re worth a paycheck. A servant believes no paycheck could ever equal your worth.

   A maid quits when you get unreasonable. A servant never, never, never quits on you. 


   So, my beloved children, because I love you so much, I will never be your maid—but I’ll always be your servant. 

                                                                                                      Love, Mom



10 Easy Ways to Shipwreck Your Destiny

Shipwreck II


   Sometimes we spend vast amounts of energy trying to rocket-launch our dreams and fulfill our destinies. We drive hard, burn the midnight oil (especially as writers), and follow the experts, trying to do everything they say. Now I’m not knocking the experts; they’re experts for a reason. But sometimes in spite of the sacrifice of time, the worry, and the fervent prayers, things just don’t happen like they’re supposed to. And the frustrating part is that there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why. Right?

   But there may be a reason. Sometimes we spend so much time trying to pursue the “shoulds” that we don’t recognize when we’re doing the “should nots”. In other words, there are some Biblical principles which, when violated, will shipwreck any good thing we’re trying to do.

   Thing #1: Put God first.  In other words, we cannot put our dreams, visions or destinies before God. Jesus says, ‘”Your heavenly Father already knows all of your needs… Seek first his kingdom and righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well…’” (Matt. 6:33). Our “needs” are not just categorized as physical needs; we need all kinds of intervention for all kinds of things. No matter—same principle applies: the big “if-then”—if we put God first, then he supplies whatever we might need. Period.

   Thing #2: Misusing Authority. I Peter 3:7 admonishes husbands to treat their wives with understanding and respect “as the weaker partner… so that nothing will hinder your prayers”. Now forget the debate over whether wives are the “weaker partner”—not the point here. The point is a larger one: A “weaker” person is defined as anyone who is under the authority of another person. Furthermore, everyone in authority is held accountable for how they treat the “weaker” people under their authority. Whether it be a child, student, employee, or congregation member, the warning is real: If we abuse or treat poorly people under our authority, we can’t then wonder why our prayers concerning our dreams and destiny are having no effect.

   Thing #3: Disobedience. We’ve all heard the term “brass heaven” meaning, essentially, that our prayers are “bouncing off the ceiling” or blocked. A “brass heaven” is referred to in Deuteronomy when God gives several “if—then” consequences to his people for both blessings and curses. In short, obedience = blessing and disobedience = curses, and one of those curses is hindered prayer. “’And your heaven that is over your head shall be brass, and the earth that is under you shall be iron.’” (vs. 23-28). While in context this curse for disobedience refers to a lack of rain, Matthew Henry makes the point that the curse impacts all things affecting the person, not just rain. Disobedience causes God’s deafness for everything from pleas for relief from curses to petitions for blessings.

     Thing #4: Lack of Love. Lack of love, particularly in a practical sense, hinders prayer. God has always had a soft spot for underdogs whom he vows to protect and vindicate. In Isaiah 58:6-12, the Lord clearly indicates that our actions impact our consequences. The “’fast [sacrifice] that God has chosen [is to] loose the cords/chains of injustice… untie the cords of the yoke… set the oppressed free… share food with the hungry… shelter the wanderers [homeless]… clothe the naked…’” The Living Bible expands upon this principle: “’Stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn.’” And the result? Then you will have revelation, healing, righteousness, protection and “’Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: Here I am’” (vs. 8-9). The lesson? We reap what we sow and if we sow mercy, then God answers our prayers. For example, a Roman centurion asked Jesus to come and heal his servant and the Jewish elders “earnestly implored Him [Jesus], saying, ‘He is worthy for You to grant this to him; for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue’” (Luke 7:1-5). As a result of the centurion’s love-in-action, Jesus listened to the man’s petition and went to his house.

   Thing #5: Unconfessed sin.  The prophet Habakkuk says to God, “’Your eyes are too pure [even] to look upon evil; you cannot tolerate sin’” (1:13). “Tolerate” is a little mild for the translation. The KJ version says, “’You cannot [even] look upon sin’”. And the word “cannot” in all translations means “cannot”. It doesn’t mean “might not” or “can-if-He-wants-to-but-just-doesn’t-want-to”. God is not able even to look at sin, much less have fellowship with someone in it (thus the reason Christ died—but that’s another post entirely).

Therefore, since prayer is interaction with God (and God cannot interact with sin), then unconfessed sin results in unanswered prayers.

   However, confession of sin restores fellowship with God. For example, King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, lied about it, and then killed her husband, Uriah, to cover it up. Now if anyone should have had their prayers tuned out by God, it would be someone who’d done all that. But David repented of his sin, pleading, “’Don’t keep looking at my sin. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God, Renew a right spirit in me…’” (Ps. 51:9-10, LB). After David confessed his sin, God was able to interact with him again.

Thing #6: Unforgiveness. In Matt. 18, we’re told the parable of the servant who was forgiven by his master but who wouldn’t forgive his fellow servant. The master finds out and says to him, “‘Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?'” He goes on to tell the servant that because he would not forgive another, he would not be forgiven. Therefore, if we refuse to forgive and so are not forgiven ourselves, we  carry sin, and this renders God unable to answer our prayers. (Reference #5 above.)

   Thing #7: “Evil speech.”  Our words can be another hindrance to prayer. Gossip, slander, accusation, arguing, lying, complaining—all of these can impede our prayers. Now, thank God for his mercy because who hasn’t, at the very least, complained? But for those who continue in these things without repentance, their prayers won’t accomplish much. Isaiah admonishes, “’If you do away with the pointing finger [accusation] and malicious talk… then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday [revelation]. The Lord will guide you always [direction]; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land [provision] and will strengthen your frame [healing]…’” (58:9-11, interpretations mine). Peter says, “’If you want a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies’” (3:9).

   Thing #8: Pride.  This is another no-no if we’d like our prayers answered. We all know pride is bad—no surprise there. For example, Naaman implored the prophet Elisha to pray for his healing from leprosy, but when Elisha told Naaman to go and dip in the Jordan River seven times, Naaman thought that ridiculous and refused. His pride got in the way. Consequently, he didn’t have his petition for healing granted until he decided to humble himself and take a dip. Then his prayer was answered. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5-6).

    Thing #9: Wrong response to authority.  We see this principle in Paul’s warning to children to submit to and obey their parents and they’ll be blessed. Why? Because their parents are the authority over children. But that warning about authority applies to all of us, not simply children.

And why does God feel so strongly about submission that He ties conditions to responses to authority? Because anarchy ensues and societies are destroyed when people rebel against authorities.

   (Watched the news lately?) So God has built into His principles the condition that if we submit to authority, then we will be blessed. And answered prayer results in blessing.

   Thing #10: Have faith in God, not in faith itself. “Having faith” is not about how much faith we have, it’s about whether or not we trust God. Period. The problem is that sometimes we treat faith like heaven’s money; if we just get enough of it, we can cash it in for whatever we want. But it doesn’t work that way. That’s because the essence of faith is the question “Do I trust God—whether or not He answers my prayers the way I want Him to?” That’s vastly different than “Okay, God, here’s how much faith I have so here’s how I want You to answer my prayer.” Faith is not cash, and God is not a vending machine. If we think so, I think I can predict that our prayers won’t be very effective.

   Bottom line: We are not saved by works—not disputing that—and the idea here is not to bring fear or condemnation but freedom and success. But the success of the works that we are called to do on this earth (our destinies) certainly depends upon whether or not we obey the principles affecting answers to prayer.

   If you’re feeling like your prayers are bouncing off of that “brass ceiling,” then how do you undo the hindrances to prayer that you might have unknowingly activated? It’s simple: a sincere and heartfelt, “Lord, I’m sorry for…” will open the heavens to you. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (I Peter 3:12).

   That’s a promise.










To Forge A Heart

#Love Hearat


     This week, Valentines Day arrives—and for some in my family, it’s a week of sorrow and for others, a week of joy. There has been a death in the family—an exemplary man—a cherished husband, father, and grandfather who fought a long and brave fight and who, I have to believe, is now in a better place. Also this week is the wedding of a beloved niece, about to start a new life with the love of her life. And both of these events are occurring in the midst of a week symbolized by hearts everywhere we look—candy hearts, balloon hearts, card hearts, flower hearts, chocolate cake hearts…

     So I have to ask—what makes a heart?

     Is it the red paper, the white lace, the scissors and glue? Is it the once-a-year words written with ink that fades as the months go by? Is it the glitter, the sparkle, the shine? Or is it the 144,000 beats per day, day in, day out, month after month, year after year for, perhaps, eighty years or more? No time-outs, no vacations, no rest, one beat after another… Four billion, two hundred and four million, eight hundred thousand beats in a lifetime?

     Or—is it more?

     Is the heart the gasp you feel when he says, “Will you?” or when she says, “Yes!”? Or is it the chest-racking sobs the day your front door slams shut for the last time and taillights disappear down the road and into the dark night?

     Is it the single tear trickling down your cheek as you stand helplessly by as the quiet beep-beep-beep of the heart monitor fades into silence? Or is it the loss for words that comes when the doctor looks you in the eye and says—”benign”?

     Is it the moment you meet your newborn, ten little fingers, ten little toes, a vulnerable heartbeat ticking on your chest? Or is it the swelling in your throat as you walk your baby down the aisle and place her hand into the hand of her future happiness?

     Is it the scarlet sunset across the sparkling waves or the pelting rain upon your face?

     Is it the deep crimson roses delivered to your door on your birthday or anniversary? Or not delivered…?

     What makes a heart? 

     Is it the day you cut the bright ribbon and open the doors of your dream? Is it a piece of paper saying “Mr. and Mrs.” or “Class of 2018” or “I was thinking of you”?

   Is it the pink rage on your cheeks the day your child gets off the bus, head hung low, and whispers a word you prayed he’d never have to hear? Is it the green haze that clouds your eyes and pollutes your soul when she walks by, owning his hand instead of you?

            Is it the day you collapse hard onto your knees, unable to speak, slow tears pleading for someone to hear your heart splintering ?

     Is it the smile you give to a stranger, the last twenty dollars you give to a young man without a coat, or the time you give to read that same storybook, out loud, for the forty-third time?

     Is it the extra job you work long into the night so that you’ll see those shining eyes on Christmas morning or so you can pay that tuition bill for someone who could never dream of succeeding without you?

     What makes a heart?

     Not shiny cars or shimmering diamonds or crisp hundred dollar bills but laughter and tears, sorrow and joy, hope and fear, gratitude and friendship, love and loss.

     Life makes a heart. And life breaks a heart.

     But without all of life, there can never truly be a heart.






The Big, Bad Competition—And Other Scary Stuff



   I’ve always wanted to go into business for myself (although this applies to any dream). I’ve worked a couple of businesses through the years helping others and I’ve learned the business-end ropes, so to speak, but now I want to do my own thing. However, while I’m exploring my options in the direction I want to head, I’m finding one thing consistently: the competition is fierce. And honestly, that’s a little intimidating. Can I succeed in a market with businesses already up and established in my industry? How do I break in? Do I have enough money? What if I invest but can’t penetrate the market?

   What if I fail?

    Now I can cite the standard “not trying is failing” philosophy and there’s some wisdom in that. Nevertheless, it doesn’t quench the fear we often have of the competition which, in a nutshell, boils down to one thing: What if I’m not good enough? The logic goes like this: If I were “good enough,” then certainly I would succeed. However, as I’m finding, “good enough” or not, there are other factors besides talent in the mix.

   Thing #1: Do I have the stamina to succeed? Breaking into anything—business, writing and publishing, the music industry, even climbing the ladder at work to attain that desired position—all of that takes really long-term persistence. Do I have that? For instance, I also write fiction and the struggle to reach agents and publishers can be disheartening, to say the least. To offset that, there have been times when I’ve had to work hard to restore vision by reminding myself that even the most famous authors, at one time, faced demoralizing obstacles. (The business, by the way, is intended to fund the writing dream.) So, knowing that the way to success is often fraught with discouragement, downturns and disappointments, will I have the endurance to be successful in business?

   Thing #2: Do I want to do this thing long-term? That’s a question I’m seriously contemplating. Even if I do manage to achieve some level of success in the business venture I’m considering, will I someday grow bored with it? To be perfectly honest, I get tired of the same old thing, year after year, so one thing I’m researching is whether this business has the potential for change, for evolution, for creative expansion. Since it’s a creative-type venture, I’m pretty certain it will but I have to ask the question. If the answer is “no,” the next question would be whether or not I could sell the business and make a reasonable profit. The bottom line is that the last thing I want to do is to create a potential grind or to lose my initial investment of time and money by simply closing up shop.

   Thing #3: What type of economy am I located in? This is a question which cannot be overlooked because it explores the economic conditions of a potential business market. For example, are a majority of potential customers economically struggling, just making ends meet or prosperous? And is the product or service for sale a necessity or a luxury? Will there be repeat business or is the product/service a one-time expenditure? If the product/service is a necessity and especially if it’s a consumable necessity, then it should work in any kind of economy. People need the product or service and they need it on a repeat basis. However, if it’s a luxury item or service, then perhaps the best place to set up shop would be in a prosperous market. Otherwise, it may not succeed. In terms of what I want to do (involving the wedding industry), I need to consider these questions. Are weddings big business? Yes, but even within the industry, some products and services—like wedding cakes and DJs—are standard across the board. Others, like high-end, expensive venues or event-planning services, might perhaps only be successful in more prosperous locations. We need to know the economic landscape of our potential market.

   Thing #4: How much competition will the market bear? Every industry has its competitors, whether one is selling a product or service, opening a restaurant, or trying to get a recording or publishing deal—whatever. Competition is just a fact of life. However, it’s something I need to consider in terms of where I set up shop: How much competition in my target business market is too much? If my competition is too prevalent and the market is already saturated with the type of business I’m considering, will the market bear another business just like it? In other words, will there be the customer base to support what I want to do?

   Many years ago, I invested in a pyramid-type business with what I considered high-quality products—vitamins, nutritional supplements and the like. And while I had never quite trusted that type of business structure, I knew that the products were good and that, being consumable items, repeat business could be expected. What I didn’t realize was that the awesome money that the people above me were making was not because of the great product; it was because they had convinced so many people to sign on beneath them. Consequently, I found out—the hard way—that the market in my area was already so saturated with people selling this product that there was no more room in the market for that business. And since I’m not comfortable trying to make money off of the sales of other people, I had no interest in trying to sign people on beneath me. So, I learned that lesson, cut my losses, and moved on.

   Still, there is some good news in terms of competition: There is always going to be a need for a new generation of up-and-coming people and businesses to replace those leaving the market.

   Whether you’re trying to break into a business industry or the arts, don’t be discouraged by the competition trying to make it the same fields. Writers, bands, artists, actors—they all eventually (how do I say this delicately?) exit the market, most through retirement, some because of health problems, and a new generation is needed to take their places. The same is true of businesses; each has its run, and the market needs to replace those which move or go out of business.

   So what do you do in the meantime? While you’re waiting to “break in” to your field, VOLUNTEER!!! Go out and find that person or company already doing what you want to do, explain that you just want to learn the business, and ask if you can help. You might have to knock on a few doors but someone will take you up on free labor. That way you’ll gain some experience, find out what you didn’t know that you don’t know, and maybe even find a mentor who’s willing to help you to catch that dream. In other words, go out and find your own internship. (Hint: It doesn’t matter what age you are, either—from a corporate-business perspective, free labor is free labor!) And then, when an opportunity happens, guess who’s right there and ready? Volunteering in your industry is a great way to find out whether what you’ve been dreaming about doing is really your dream come true.

   So—once you do a little research, evaluate your location and market, and tuck a little experience under your belt, that big, bad competition won’t seem so scary anymore.

   Who knows—maybe one day soon, you’ll be the competition!



Fear of Pride?

Bass Player Edit - FREEFEAR OF PRIDE

   Have you ever held back from doing something you know you’re gifted and called to do because of a fear of pride?

   Is that really a thing?

   It is if what you do puts you out in front of people where you’re likely to get attention and/or compliments—speaking, preaching, singing, acting, politics, any kind of leadership. And if you do get attention, how should you respond? Would simply saying “thank you” suffice or would it look bad that you’re not acknowledging others for your talent? So should you explain that it’s really not you who should get the credit but your parents or your teachers or the person who gave you the opportunity or even God? Or, on the other hand, would that sound like false modesty?

   Believe it or not, many people whose dreams put them in any kind of spotlight do struggle with these questions. Tragically, some of them come to the conclusion that maybe the answer is simply not to take the chance—they just won’t do that thing that brings attention. Especially if they’ve been told by anyone else that even to worry what other people think is a form of pride in itself.

   It’s not. Those questions are often just part of the “getting used to the limelight” process that many people have to work through.

   Another fear people struggle with is this question: “What if I’m not prideful now but if I get attention for my acting (or singing or writing or business accomplishments or promotions or…)—what if it all goes to my head? Then will I become prideful? What if I turn into a diva??  What then??

   Can I just tell you—if you’re worried about becoming prideful, you’re not prideful.

   Nevertheless, here’s something you might be concerned with: not doing what you’re called to do because someone else might have a problem with it.

The truth is that no one else has to stand before God and give an account for what they did with your talent except you.

   It’s rumored that God never has given anyone a pass for quitting because they were afraid. In the parable about the talents, the master (God) was not happy with the man who buried his talent rather than use it because he was afraid of something or somebody.

   “But,” you protest, “it’s wrong to be prideful!” Right. But how do you know that’s even going to be a problem if you quit before you begin? Smarter people than I am have made the observation that “you can’t please all the people all the time.” And may I add that when deciding whether or not to pursue that dream, we shouldn’t worry about pleasing people at all (unless, of course, it’s someone directly involved in the pursuit).

   But what does pleasing people have to do with pride, anyway? Plenty. Let’s face it, the more success your destiny brings and the more visible you become, the more likely it is that someone, somewhere, is going to be envious of you and would be very pleased if you just benched yourself instead of getting out there and playing ball. Remember the Apostle Paul’s words to young Timothy: “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (I Tim. 4:12). Paul knew that people would be jealous of Timothy for his ability to teach and preach at a young age, and he indicated that that jealousy might even be vicious; “despise” is a very strong word. The unfortunate fact is that people might even hate you for doing what you do, but you can’t allow that to stop you. The Pharisees hated Jesus because he healed the sick, raised the dead, and preached salvation—and they couldn’t. But the real reason they hated him was because their followers began following him. And that made them very, very angry.

   Ever seen the TV show Nashville? While it’s fiction, it’s probably quite realistic in its portrayal of the jealousy, slander and backstabbing that go on behind the scenes in Music City. And as intriguing as that might be to watch, the eye-opening paradox is that the famous people who do manage to remain humble are not exempt from falling victim to jealous and mean-spirited villains. In fact, the most down-to-earth often end up with the biggest targets on their reputations. After all, there’s nothing an envious person despises more than a talented, successful person who has not let it all go to their heads.

   Still, one of the best things we can take from Nashville is the recognition that you can pursue your dreams, get really good at what you do, achieve all kinds of success and recognition—and still remain a good, humble person.   

   Tim McGraw speaks to up-and-comers regarding the temptation to stray from your grounded roots in his song “Humble and Kind”:

   “When those dreams you’re dreaming come to you…When the work you put in is realized… Let yourself feel the pride… But always stay humble and kind…. When you get where you’re going, don’t forget to turn back around… And help the next one in line…. Always stay humble and kind.”

   So go ahead, accept that pat on the back for what you’ve done—or even the applause, if it comes to that; just say a simple “thank you” and don’t worry about those who think you should’ve said more. Or go ahead and give credit to mom, dad, God and the whole cast and crew making your success possible—and don’t worry about whether someone thinks you’re full of false humility. (Someone will.) Just do what you feel is right. Do that thing you’re good at, that thing you long to do, that thing the world really needs. And don’t worry—you’ll be fine.







That Broken Road “Not Taken”

Country Road - FREE


   Donna and Joey (not their real names) had tried to have baby for five years but were unable. I won’t get into the details but Donna and Joey decided that, rather than undergo fertilization treatments, they would adopt. Within eighteen months, they had adopted siblings—two little boys from Eastern Europe. In the next four years, Donna gave birth to a baby girl and then a boy.

   That was unexpected.

   Donna and Joey’s situation is not that uncommon. It’s uncanny how often couples who cannot have children find themselves expecting after adopting one or more children. There are different theories among some medical professionals as to why this happens and some have no explanations at all. However, here’s what those adopted children have: stable homes with parents who love them. And while Donna and Joey and couples like them might initially never have chosen to take the adoption road if another path had been possible, would they, looking back now, have chosen differently if it meant never having met their precious adopted sons and daughters?

   Doesn’t it seem that perhaps the hand of God might be busy behind the scenes in these difficult circumstances?

   That health scare that put you on the road to a longer, healthier life? That devastating break-up which freed you to meet your true Prince or Princess Charming? That difficult circumstance your errant son or daughter was forced to endure—perhaps reaping what they’d sown—and yet now he or she is a changed person? And while their pain was excruciatingly heartbreaking for you to watch, helpless, from the sidelines, chances are good that neither of you now would wish the trial away. Perhaps that experience even saved a life.

   That difficult, broken road…

   Joseph found himself in that situation. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, he eventually ended up in prison, accused of a rape he’d never committed. And yet it was his training ground to learn the Egyptian language, customs and culture—all things handy to know when your destiny is to become the legendary savior of a nation. In the end, Joseph rescued Egypt and the fledging nation of Israel from starvation during the worst drought in history.

   And Esther. Do we think that she, a virtuous Jewish maiden, thought it any honor to be kidnapped and forced into the harem of a Persian king? Gone were her dreams of a marriage to a nice, respectable young Jewish man, raising respectable Jewish children. Instead, at best, she would have children by a man whom she didn’t know and she would watch them be raised according to a pagan faith. And she herself would be confined to the women’s quarters of a palace, never to see her friends and family again.

   There’s a shameful, broken road.

   Nevertheless, Esther, like Joseph, spent her time learning the language, customs and culture of the Persian empire—all in preparation for her coronation as Queen of Persia and, more importantly, as the savior of her people, the Jews, from absolute annihilation.

   Maybe you’re on that road right now. Maybe you’ve run smack into the brick wall of crisis which has forced you down a path you don’t remotely like, don’t want to be on, and would never have chosen. It’s rock-hard, it’s often lonely, and it’s painful beyond description.

   Maybe it’s called “the road not taken” for a reason.

   Perhaps. But still, don’t back up and do not quit; not now. That broken road can lead to a destiny and a destination you just cannot get to any other way—a place that, right now, you only dream of finding.

   Stay the course. And then one day may you say that taking that lonely road “has made all the difference.”


Frost Poem





Disappointment: The Silent Killer of Dreams

Bride in Ruins

   Growing up, there were two kinds of kids: those who experienced disappointment from life’s little setbacks and those who were protected from feeling any of those same disappointments. Fast forward a few decades and now there are two kinds of adults. There are those who face disappointments head-on and bounce back, knowing that life doesn’t always check with us to see how we’d like it to turn out, and there are those who’ve had no practice dealing with disappointment and melt down every time life throws them a curve ball.

   Let’s face it—it hurts to be disappointed. However, “disappoint,” per se, is not an emotion; it’s come to mean that we feel “let down,” so to speak, but that’s not the original definition; the original is much stronger. The word itself means “to be unappointed” or, in a more general sense, to be demoted, removed, rejected—in essence, to lose.

   Disappointments come in all shapes and sizes. We face minor disappointments when we lose a sports game or the car we wanted or a good grade on a test. More serious disappointments—losses—include lost jobs or promotions; lost opportunities for, say, scholarships or business funding; and lost life experiences such as the ability to live where we’d like, to pursue a talent or passion, or to retire sooner rather than later. And then there are the life-altering, even tragic disappointments in life. These include (but are not limited to) lost relationships or broken marriages; business failures, financial hardships and/or the irrevocable loss of a dream; and the ultimate disappointments—a failed medical treatment, a life-limiting disability, or even a death.

   We tend to think of “disappointments” as relatively trivial things, but they’re often not minor losses at all. Moreover, the effects they can have on our emotions, perspectives, and expectations can, the end, be quite devastating and destructive.

   The sad truth is that we can’t escape loss and disappointment; it is, unfortunately, part of the human experience. But what happens when we can’t seem to cope with disappointment in any form? For example, what happens when we get the trophy in Little League just for participating—no actual winning required—and then we don’t get the promotion just for showing up for work? What happens when we get to retake the test over and over in high school but in college we get a big, fat, non-negotiable F ? What happens when, as kids, mom and dad never tell us “no” when we want something and then the boss tells us “no” or the police tell us “no” or the person of our dreams tells us “no”? Does that mean “maybe” or “keep asking”? Or is it time for a meltdown because we didn’t get our way?

   What if we just can’t deal?  

   What often happens is that “dealing” with a disappointment means that it’s someone else’s fault. For example, what happens when we lose a position because we didn’t do the job? Is it the boss’s fault, a co-worker’s fault or our mommy’s fault? Do we get angry and demand a “safe space” or do we put on our big-boy pants, hit the asphalt and find another job? But what if the disappointment is someone else’s fault? Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t—I wouldn’t know—but I can say with some certainty that burning buildings or bridges won’t make the situation any better.

   Here’s a thought: If we can’t handle the relatively minor disappointments of life, how will we ever be equipped to handle the big disappointments—especially the ones over which we have no control? The economy tanks and so the business fails or the layoffs begin—what then? Will a meltdown get us another job? (Insert Jeopardy theme here.)

   What if we experience repeated disappointments? That does happen—a difficult subject in school with multiple failures or a difficult boss at work who evaluates everyone poorly? Do we pitch a fit and blame the teacher or boss? (Well, maybe—for about five minutes.) But do we quit?

   Repeated disappointments and failures are the worst, the most debilitating. Sometimes, in the face of failed dreams, broken relationships or multiple rejections, it’s difficult not to take those losses and failures personally. Sometimes people quit, stamping themselves “NOT GOOD ENOUGH!” Sometimes people get angry and rage at themselves, at others—even at God. And sometimes people simply lose hope—any expectation at all that they might succeed or that things will ever get better. Sometimes repeated disappointments can even lead to despair.

   Or not.

   If we learn to manage our disappointment over small things, then we’ll be better equipped to handle the larger disappointments life likes to sling.

   Furthermore, the ability to deal is not a talent, it’s a skill. The ability to cope without a meltdown can be developed—and it needs to be.

Hopefully, we begin to learn this while we’re younger rather than older. It’s wonderful to protect our children but there’s a rather big difference between protecting them from actual danger and protecting them from hearing that they lost a ballgame.

   The bottom line is that we’re not doing ourselves or anyone else any favors when we don’t deal well with disappointments. Here’s life truth #36: The inability to handle loss and disappointment only breeds more loss and disappointment.

   Disappointments and losses will come—Jesus even said so.

   Don’t let them destroy you.