How To Launch A Platform In Five Minutes Or Less—Really.

Spotlight II


   One day shortly before the 2016 election, I was listening to a radio talk show when a young woman called to comment on something the host was saying. I’d tell you who it was but it really doesn’t matter; pick a host with a live, syndicated, nationwide talk show with tens of millions of listeners and you get the idea. But here’s what happened: In the course of the discussion, the young woman mentioned that she had a blog, although she didn’t presume to plug it (it would’ve been deleted on the 7-second delay) and so the host sort of sighed and then asked whether she’d like to mention the name of her blog. Well, who wouldn’t? So she did. (Although it took four mentions before listeners could really catch the domain name because she had “blogspot” or some silly thing in the name. Don’t do that.) At any rate, she finally gets the site name out, makes her comment and hangs up. The host sighs again and says, “Of course, her site will crash because right now millions of people are trying to get on there, but give it a little time and she’ll be up and running again.”

   Platform launched!!

   The iconic “platform”—it goes by many names: your “soapbox,” your “arena,” your “spotlight.” Shakespeare said it best. “’All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…’” (As You Like It).  But is that a good thing or a bad thing? Is it good or bad that, according to Will, we’re all on a “stage” trying to “make it”? What stage? And make what?

  No doubt Will was being sarcastic but maybe he was just a writer who saw the reality of the theatre market of his time: Write something the public will like—and pretend to like it. Maybe he was railing against the “platform” requirements of his day. Granted, he didn’t have much in the way of social media to work with but still, early on, even he was required to grow a following in order for his plays to be enacted on stage. He felt the burn. And it’s a Catch 22, is it not? Unless you have “name recognition” or a “social following” or a “platform,” you can’t get a record deal or get published or find a business investor. In other words, unless you’ve already achieved some sort of recognition, you can’t do the thing that would get you the recognition. And why?


   Annoying? Maybe, but it’s not about the money; who doesn’t want some? I can’t blame the producers or the publishers or the investors. But I guess what started me thinking about this whole “platform” thing was a blog post I recently read (by a guy whose name I can’t remember) about the essential futility of even trying to build a platform. Evidently he’s a writer who’s achieved some sort of success, but he said that in spite of all the years he’s spent blogging and tweeting and making Youtube videos, it really doesn’t much work. And since that’s the case (he said), we should really only do those platform-building things we enjoy because in the end, it’s all just a waste of time anyway.

   Don’t get me wrong—I really don’t have any problem with the concept of building a platform so you can sell that CD or book or business. What I have a problem with is how you’re supposed to do it. Spending days and weeks and months tweeting and commenting and posting video bites is not my idea of tons of fun. Or any fun. Instead, being a former advertising/promotions’ person, I happen to believe there are easier and more effective ways to build name recognition and platform. Just plain advertising, for example, works. That’s why it’s been around since the dawn of time. (What do you think those cave drawings were for?)

Let’s be honest: The care and feeding of a platform is going to cost you either time or money. Which do you value more?

   Will advertising take some cash? Absolutely, but you know what they say: “You have to spend money to make money.” And that’s true. But face it—you’re spending it anyway, aren’t you? Buying your own books or CD’s to pass out, or giving away a free product or service so people know you exist? Of course, that’s how the game is played. But what if, instead of spending $ that way, you spent it on a publicist who would get you on radio or TV?

   I once heard a publisher talk about how a writer invested in a publicist who got a very famous TV commentator (think ten million viewers) to do a five-minute plug of the author’s book; the very next day, it sold 18,000 copies. And how much did it cost the writer? Only three thousand dollars! (If you’re not aware, that’s an incredible deal.) Throw in a couple more grand for the publicist and the writer essentially bought an instant platform and name recognition for under 5K. Think that’s too much? Every day in this country, thousands of people spend ten times that much starting up businesses. Promotion is simply part of the cost of doing business and your book or CD or work-from-home “cottage industry” is a business.

   Next question: “Just how am I supposed to get the money to do this, Missy? I ain’t rich, you know!” I know. Neither am I. But how many weeks or months would you have a work a part-time job to bank a few thousand dollars? Not too many. Not as many years as you’ll spend tweeting and commenting and posting quotes on Instagram. Or, just do what the girl did: Call a famous show and plug your site. Just make certain before you do it that you have a web or blog and a Twitter account and a FB page because those are the tools you’ll need to take that five minutes of instant stardom and turn it into a permanent platform. But however you get the world’s attention, just make darn sure that when folks come looking for you, they find something—content or product-wise—that makes them want to come back for more. Like the girl did.

   She’s my hero.





Burlap Weddings: A Symbol of Something Larger?

Burlap Wedding


   Respect is the foundation for love and without respect, there can be no love. There may be relationship, but there won’t be love. There may be compliance or service but there won’t be love. There may even be nice words or the occasional hug, but there still won’t be love. Why? Because if we don’t respect a person, it’s much more difficult to like them. And if we don’t like someone, it’s nearly impossible to love them. (Except for mothers; mothers can love anyone.)      

   Right now, the very fabric of our society is being shredded for want of respect among its members. Lack of respect breeds all manner of nasty sentiments and behaviors in people: resentment, rebellion, gossip and slander, arrogance, and certainly division. And the key factor in all of it? Many people who refuse to show respect toward a person (or persons) feel entitled to their behavior. And the rationale? The person hasn’t “earned” it.

So—the big debate surrounding respect: Is it owed or is it earned?

   Once upon a time, respect was the default position toward another simply because he or she was a fellow human being. “Please,” “thank you,” and “after you” were all common expressions. But not so much anymore. Is it so surprising then that civility has seemed to go the way of the wringer washer and the icebox? Too often people fail even to pay each other the basic courtesy of polite listening, especially in view of a difference of opinion. Instead, the arguing ensues, along with name-calling, a generous helping of mockery and, in some not-so-extreme-anymore cases, even violence results.

   It’s interesting (to me, at least) to talk to teens today and pick their brains about respect. Almost without exception, they’re adamant that they will respect an adult only if they feel that that adult deserves their respect. Then I move on to share stories of a “once-upon-a-time” when gentlemen would show respect to ladies by opening doors for them or holding a chair for them to be seated. After much face-making and expressions of disgust, I inevitably hear comments from boys like, “That’s stupid!” and “She can hold her own door!” Girls, for their parts, sometimes get downright belligerent at the thought that they should endure a man holding a door for them. “I can do it myself!” seems to be the consensus. And forget standing when an elderly person enters a room—how dare anyone even suggest anything so demeaning! (“Why should I stand up for some old person?”) I know. So outrageous.

   Nevertheless, it was once widely believed that respect was owed to a position because of the authority it represented more so than to the person occupying the position. For example, students would show respect to teachers simply because they were teachers or the public would show respect to policemen simply because they were policemen. Note I said folks would “show” respect, not necessarily feel it. Today that’s all changed.

   Many people now believe that their inward feelings are the criteria for determining whether or not one shows respect, not any outward criteria like job or position.

   Ask any parent, pastor, teacher, principal, judge or policeman—anyone charged with enforcing rules or maintaining order—and they will tell you that positional authority is now passé. People will respect authority only when they “like” the person holding the position of authority.

   Respect for positional authority seems to be much out of vogue these days.

   Okay, disclaimer: That’s not to say that authority should never be challenged because left unchecked, bad things happen. But is an auto-default to disrespect and ridicule and rebellion the only answer? Only if we want division to rule and reign in the marriage or the family or the streets or the nation.

   So is that what people really want? Do people want to be living in a barbarian climate where respect and civility are deceased and the funeral long over? Do people really like to see screaming and rioting and chaos in the public squares? I don’t believe so. And here’s why: In the past ten years, a trend has surfaced in the wedding industry—which, you wouldn’t think, would be at all related to respect (and which, for the life of me, at first I couldn’t explain). But I believe this trend is much indicative of something larger happening in our nation.

   The wedding industry is being overrun with burlap and mason jars as wedding décor.

   Why on earth, I wondered, would brides prefer burlap tablecloths over satin, or mason jars over crystal? Especially on the one day in a lifetime which is elevated above all others? Wouldn’t brides want something unique on their wedding day? Wouldn’t they want something dazzling, something exquisite, something thoroughly uncommon to honor the concept of matrimony?

   I puzzled over the trend until my brain hurt; it just didn’t make any sense. Then one day, as I was talking with a girl about her preference for “rustic,” it hit me: it wasn’t just the burlap she wanted, it was the idea behind the burlap. It was the yearning for “the good old days,” the return to more simplistic morals and values—or maybe a return to morals and values in the first place. Burlap symbolized, to her, all the nostalgic ideals so lacking in our society today—honor, commitment and, yes, respect.

   Maybe the concept of respect is not a shiny, new “modern” idea. Maybe it’s more old-fashioned but—here’s a thought—maybe it’s not the threat to civilization many presume it to be. In fact, maybe it’s even okay (dare I say “right”) to respect our spouses and pastors and policeman once more. Maybe respect really is the foundation of civilization the way we once believed it to be. So if that’s true, let’s all lift a mason jar to the possibility that the notion of respect might, in fact, be back in style.

   Perhaps the concept of respect actually deserves a little respect of its own.






You Can’t Do What You Can’t Do—Until You Do What You Can.


   Picture this: a ten-month old, precariously gripping the edge of a coffee table, contemplates the wisdom of letting go and testing this new mode of transportation: feet. As daddy coaxes and coos, Little Guy finally decides “What the heck!” and lets go, tipping and toddling his way toward the goal line, thereby achieving his longest distance ever—1.5 steps! It would’ve been two steps if his toe hadn’t gotten in the way, but daddy doesn’t care—tears are drizzling, video is streaming, and Little Guy is an immediate FB superstar. To celebrate, daddy immediately signs him up for Pee Wee football. After all, he has a month to train.


   How about this: Joey, a 7th grader, gets an A on his first biology test. The next day, he applies to med school.

   Dumb? Probably. But still, hundreds, thousands—even millions of people do it every day: get ahead of themselves. Of course, the average 7th grader doesn’t apply to med school, and I can’t remember the last time a toddler scored a TD, but others jump right into things they’re not remotely ready for.

   Remember, you can’t do what you can’t do until you first do what you can do. In other words, we’ll blow up the big dream if we don’t first do the time developing the skills we have.

   Maybe we think we can jump right into the big time, but we won’t stay there long.

   “Do not despise the day of small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zech. 4:10).

   A lifelong relationship begins with a “hello”. A business begins with the very first customer. A mighty oak tree begins with a small acorn. Writing a book begins with the first word. A concert pianist begins with “Chopsticks”. Losing pounds begins with the first day of the diet. A dynasty begins with one man and one woman.

   God rarely begins a person on the highway to his or her destiny in a big way. Not that He can’t, but there is much to be learned on the road from small to big. And depending on what our dreams and destinies are, lessons will vary.

   For example, how to manage people is a big lesson for anyone wanting to head up an organization, manage a department or own their own business. Businesses rarely begin with more than a handful of employees so that owners learn how to hire wisely, manage workers with the right balance of respect and authority, and handle personnel problems. Imagine trying to learn all of that with dozens of employees.

   Or a military service member—he or she begins as the lowest-ranked soldier or officer and grows into more responsibility through promotion. To begin as an admiral or general would probably not work.

   Many other examples come to mind. Talents for writing or music or art must be developed; one begins small, writing for a school paper, performing a music recital, or painting a school mural.

   “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.”

   We often want to start big and then get frustrated when we can’t. Or, we get tired of working, practicing, doing and re-doing and so we quit, thinking the dream will never happen. But here’s a principle: The bigger the destiny, the longer the prep time. Oak trees take decades to become full grown. Masters take decades to perfect their crafts. Multi-million dollar companies take years to become that profitable.

   The fact is that to appreciate the value of “small beginnings,” we have to realize that all of life is about “becoming.”

   We make the mistake of asking children what they want to “be” when they grow up. Rather we should be asking them what they want to “become.” Small distinction but the message is huge: “becoming” takes time and work.

   The Bible’s King David, for example, spent years by himself learning to shepherd sheep and fight lions and bears. Afterward, he spent 16 years hiding in caves from Saul who wanted to kill him. What did he learn from all that trauma?  Warfare, leadership and honor. And what did he become?  A mighty warrior and a king.

   Both Joseph and Esther are examples as well.

   Joseph was sold into slavery to a rich Egyptian (not fair), during which time he rose to favor for his ability to organize, grow, and prosper his master’s entire estate and business. Esther, likewise, was kidnapped and cast into a Persian king’s harem in an impossible-odds contest to become his queen (also not fair). But what did both Joseph and Esther learn in their prisons? They mastered the foreign languages, cultures, customs, and upper class etiquette of a foreign people. In addition, Joseph learned large-scale people management and government leadership skills because God was training him to become an administrator and Egypt’s second in command to Pharaoh. Esther learned a great deal about how to navigate the politics of a royal court—intel she needed in order to function as queen and save her people from total annihilation.

   So—what do David, Joseph and Esther all have in common?

   They all made the best of their humble situations by doing the best they could do. They exhibited grace, excellence and honor despite long seasons of obscurity, opposition, grueling work, and demanding tests of faith. But here’s the endgame: each was promoted to royalty.

   Not one of them despised their days of small beginnings nor did they reject the prep time critical to the success of their assignments from the Lord.

   Lesson? Don’t be discouraged at the small beginnings of your dream or destiny. Granted, it can seem overwhelming when you envision how far you have to go but, as Michael Hyatt says, “Just do the next thing in front of you.”

   The bottom line: You can’t do what you were called to do later until you learn to build on what you can do now.




“You’re Just Not Good Enough.”

MercyMe II


   Recently I saw the movie I Can Only Imagine about Bart Millard who co-founded the band MercyMe and wrote that incredible song. The thing is, he wasn’t supposed to be able to do that. His whole childhood, he was brutally abused by a father who regularly beat him to a pulp and served it up with a blistering side of condemnation for his hopes and dreams. “You can’t do that” and “You’re not good enough” were never-ending proclamations over Bart. Not that mom helped any; she abandoned Bart when he was ten, leaving him all alone with his abusive father.

   Still, Bart never gave up on his dreams. Being a big guy, he played football in high school and dreamed of a career in the NFL—until the day he suffered a grave injury, ending that dream. Dad’s only comment? “You were never good enough anyway.”

   God wasn’t kidding when he says, ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’” (Is. 55:8). This means that God’s thoughts are incomprehensible to us and, as a result, many times we can’t make sense of why he does what he does.

Moreover, God loves to take what we think we know and dump those assumptions on their heads.

   For example, we know what we’re good at, our strengths, our talents, our giftings—and we play to those. Nothing wrong with that. But then along comes God and decides that what we really need to be doing is that one thing we have no talent for, we’re terrified of doing, we’ve failed at doing, and/or we’ve been told we’ll never be “good enough” to succeed at doing.

   Fast forward:  While recovering, Bart is persuaded (by a pretty girl—no surprise) to join a chorus class—where he refuses to sing—which is how he ends up being the sound techie for the choir. Ironically enough, his music teacher overhears Bart singing one day and so, without his knowledge, casts him into the lead of “Oklahoma”. Bart is livid but she refuses to take no for an answer and a star is born. But does dad come to hear Bart sing? Of course not.

   Finally comes the day when Bart graduates and moves out. He and the band go on the road, and eventually, MercyMe begins to gain some recognition and a fan base. One night, several top record execs show up at one of their shows to check them out and Bart and his boys are so excited; this would be their big break! The execs’ response? “You’re not good enough. You just don’t have what it takes.” And they weren’t even nice about it!

   What was that? It seemed that God had steered Bart from the path he’d chosen for himself—football—and detoured him to the path, the destiny, that God had for him—music. Then it all blew up into nothing. But why?

   Sound familiar?

   Moses experienced the same. God told him to go back to Egypt to speak to Pharaoh and warn him to “let My people go.” Moses’ response? “You’ve got the wrong guy!” Then he began to list all the reasons he wasn’t qualified to deliver any message to Pharaoh: He’d been rejected by the Hebrews, he couldn’t speak well, and Pharaoh would never listen to him anyway. In fact, Moses protested for so long that God finally allowed his brother Aaron to be Moses’ spokesperson.

   So Moses and Aaron traveled all the way back to Egypt and appeared before Pharaoh, delivered the mail, and Pharaoh, terrified, immediately released all of the Israelites to Moses.


   Wrong. Nothing went right in that little scenario. Pharaoh was livid and the Israelites ended up working harder and being treated more brutally than ever before.

   Ever had that happen?

   Have you ever argued with God about why you’re not qualified to do that thing he’s obviously calling you to do? Not talented enough? No degree? Might get laughed at? Disqualified because of your past? How about you just don’t want to?

   Here’s a thought: Don’t ever tell God what you won’t do; I think he takes that as a personal challenge.

   When I was in junior high and high school, I hated it. I was bullied mercilessly back in the day when there was no help for victims except “suck up and deal.” That didn’t work for me and so I graduated hoping and praying that college would be different and I’d never again have to relive the terrors that I’d survived during those years. And when I say “survived,” I’m not exaggerating. At 14, I was pushed out in front of a car and spent 2½ months in the hospital with a head injury and in traction with a busted femur. So when God called me to teach high school, I was less than compliant.

   Looking back, it’s interesting that he didn’t even bring it up until long after I’d already graduated from college—ten years after high school. Even so, once I went back to college for an education degree, I had, of course, to student teach. And that experience turned out to be such a nightmare that, once through it, I was absolutely and unequivocally over it. The students had behaved so badly—deliberately rebellious and disruptive and actually downright mean—that I finished out the eight weeks and never looked back.

   I was done.

   I’d obviously misheard God and been mistaken—horribly mistaken—to think that he would call me to go anywhere near a school ever again. And so I didn’t teach for ten years after that.

   But still… God never stopped calling. He allowed me to wander and hide during those years but he never quit.

   “God’s gifts and call are irrevocable” (Heb. 11:29)—no matter how far we run, how badly we feel, or how terrified we are. 

   Maybe God is calling you to a destiny that is nothing short of impossible. Maybe you are uneducated. Maybe you have failed before. Maybe you have grown up hearing how you “can’t” because you’re “just not good enough.”

   None of that matters to God. He sees only the gold buried deep inside of you, the “diamond in the rough,” the beautiful pearl that’s taken decades to form.

   He sees you. And he’s chosen you. Only you can do that job or write that book or run that business or parent that child or impact that group of people the way he wants it done.

   But only you can answer his call; no one else can do it for you. Don’t look back someday and regret that you didn’t say yes, that you didn’t at least try that thing he’s created you to do. And on the journey, no matter how scary, just remember one thing: It’s up to you to say yes. After that, it’s all on him.

   But that’s another principle for another day…






The Key to Destiny


   Alex couldn’t stand the sight of it—one more baby, another young mother—at the mall, at the grocery store, in the park where she sometimes wandered, imagining her child on that little slide. Everywhere she went, babies in strollers in the neighborhood, in car seats at the gas station, in the nursery at church. Alex wanted a child—she’d shared how much—but for her, it was not to be. She and her husband had tried, almost from their wedding day, but still, no baby. There was only cruel disappointment as months turned into years and a decade passed.

   But one day, that all changed—but not for any reason Alex could ever have foreseen. It happened when she learned about the Biblical law of “sowing and reaping”: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal. 6:7). Essentially, this means that we harvest what we plant. This is a foundational truth in both the physical and spiritual realms, also known as the “Principle of Return” or the “Principle of Reciprocity” (derived from the word “receiving”). In short, how we implement this law will determine whether we succeed or fail in the pursuit of our dreams and destinies.

As Biblical laws go, “sowing and reaping” is huge.

   However, most people are not aware of the scope of its effect; many understand that this truth impacts finances—monetary giving results in a financial return—but many don’t realize it also influences all other areas in life. Yes—all. Here’s why:

   Principle #1: You reap because you sow. Every farmer knows that in order to produce a crop, he must first plant seed. If he chooses not to plant seed, he won’t reap a harvest. Period. There is, after all, nothing there to grow and multiply. And while we might think that fact would be a no-brainer, many is the person who plants no seed in some area and yet expects a harvest in that area. Take finances for example: a person might be fervently petitioning God for provision, yet gives no money in donations or offerings; in essence, he plants no seed. That would be one reason for no harvest.

   Principle #2: You reap what you sow. Every farmer also knows that if you want carrots, you plant carrot seeds. You don’t plant watermelon seeds or bean seeds or a coconut. If you need money, you give money—and you give it first. We do not reap before we plant. That’s all. Moreover—and this is crucial—this principle applies to anything we sow: if we sow anger (or kindness), we will reap anger (or kindness) from others. If we sow division (or unity), we will reap division (or unity) among groups. If we sow unhealthy habits, we will reap illness, disease and even death. If we sow healthy habits, we will sow health—mental, emotional and physical. The problem is that many people sow bad seed, but still expect a good harvest and are totally dumbfounded when they reap disaster.

   Principle #3: You reap more than you sow. Farmers also know that seed is multiplied after it is sown. For example, one apple seed produces an entire apple tree, itself bearing hundreds of apples, each apple producing multiple seeds. The same is true in the spiritual realm: Whatever we sow, we will reap as a multiplied harvest. That’s great if we’ve planted good seed, but if we’ve sown bad seed, then we will reap pain, loss, disaster and regret—lots of it. Furthermore, if we don’t plant anything, we’ll reap nothing but drought. In other words, say we sow neglect in a relationship, chances are good that we won’t just reap reciprocal neglect; we may well reap a loss of the relationship. Still, some people think they can “get away” with sowing bad behavior because they don’t see a bad return on their bad seed. Yet.

   Principle #4: You reap later than you sow. Seeds take time to grow and crops take time to manifest. That’s why we have “seasons”; there is planting time and harvest time. We don’t harvest in the spring, meaning we don’t harvest immediately after we plant. The same is true in the spiritual realm; harvests take time. But—and this is key—a crop will appear. We will reap the consequences of our actions. Moreover, just as some seeds take longer than others to produce—beans sprout in weeks; oaks take decades—some actions take longer to manifest consequences than others. Lesson? Just because a harvest doesn’t happen immediately, doesn’t mean it’s not coming. This is good news for folks awaiting a good harvest produced from good seed. It’s not particularly good news for those who’ve sown wrong seed.

   So what of Alex? After she grasped the law of sowing and reaping, she decided to host a baby shower for every pregnant woman in her church—no lie. In short, she sowed the kind of seed she wanted to produce. Within a period of time, she became pregnant and had a child and I believe she now has two children. She sowed seed into the lives of others of the kind she wanted to reproduce, and she was blessed with a “harvest” of that seed.

If you take nothing else away from this principle, understand this: If you sow no seed, you will not—you cannot—reap any harvest. A crop cannot grow where it has not been planted.

   Need money? Give money. Want to get married? Bless others in their marriages. Want to see loved ones saved? Pray for others’ loved ones. Want success in business or school? Help others to succeed in theirs. It’s not difficult.

It is your key to destiny.






That Mysterious Highway to Destiny

Highway with Moon II

   Late one last-summer night, I was driving south on Interstate 81 after dropping son #2 off at college. The road before me was dark, but the brights were on, and I was wide awake. Still, I never saw what hit me. But whatever it was slammed my front bumper so hard it cracked the grill and shut down the hybrid’s electrical system. I coasted to the side of the road, certain of only one thing: I had never taken my eyes off the highway, even for one second, and I still never saw anything in the road—no deer, no furry little critter—nothing.

   The road was empty.

   The road to fulfilling our purpose in life is much like a long highway trip—peppered with potholes, detours, speed traps, slippery bridges, traffic jams, fog, and even crashes. And often we don’t see them coming. That’s the bad news. However, much of our lifelong journey is also filled with breath-taking scenery, divinely-appointed encounters, adventurous explorations, iconic diner stops and, if we’re lucky, a whole car/van/truckload full of beloved backseat drivers along for the ride. “Are we there yet?” isn’t so annoying when you realize it means you actually have a destination.

   And we do have a destination: our destiny. The problem is that the road to achieving it is not going to be all starlight and moonbeams—but we expect it to be. We know bad stuff happens to people—but not to us. We know fulfilling our dreams and visions won’t come easily—except to us. We know that failure is always a possibility—except that, deep down, what we really believe is that failure only happens to the weak, the lazy or the “bad” people of the world. And we’re none of those.

The point? Our expectations set us up to believe that nothing can stand in the way of achieving our dreams if we just obey the speed limit and drive.

So when things do pop up in the middle of the road and we bust an axel on the Cinderella coach of life, we flip. “How could that have happened to me?? I pay my tithe/work hard/rescue little kitties from mean people! It’s so unfair!”

   Can I just make a suggestion? It ain’t like that.

   Will we always have a full gas tank, smooth highways, and an accurate GPS? Absolutely not. On a long highway trip, we map out the route before us. We program the GPS, anticipate the gas station stops, and reserve the hotel rooms. However, the GPS isn’t always up-to-date, the gas station is farther away than we calculated, and the hotel we booked is overpriced—especially considering the cold showers, slooooow room service, and thin walls.

   So what do we do? How do we accomplish our destinies when the unexpected leaps out of the darkness and smashes our windshield? What happens when our expectations of life, love, and liberty are stalled, roadblocked or even T-boned? We have two choices: We can either abandon our destiny and climb back onto the hopeless hamster wheel of life or… Option #2: Get a new battery, find another route or, after any necessary rest and recovery, start all over again. We may need a brand new vehicle—a new means of “getting there,” of fulfilling our dreams and destinies, but we’ll find a way to get one.

   Is it fair when we’re the one life chooses to dump down the rabbit hole? Probably not—although it helps to know that we all have to crawl out of some dark sinkhole, sometime, somewhere. A bankruptcy, an illness, a relationship irretrievably broken—all dark pits, no question. However, like deep ruts in a broken road, those pits aren’t bottomless.

   Is it frustrating to spend 22.5 hours on a trip that should have taken six? Of course. But how often do we find out later that that traffic gridlock kept us from participating in a pile-up further down the road—one that would have kept us from ever reaching our destination? A layoff that launched us (albeit kicking and screaming) into a far better job—just before our old company went belly-up. Or an illness that revealed a deadly disease while it was still treatable. All delays along unpaved and pitted roads. Sometimes we have to fight our way back to the highway despite the dents, busted rims, and/or the rusted undercarriage—but we keep driving.

   Will it be hard? Absolutely. If you’ve ever had to push a car out of a ditch, it can seem impossible. But you probably didn’t do it alone—you got help: a group-push or a tow—and together you accomplished what you couldn’t do by yourself.

   Have you ever had to (heaven forbid) stop and ask for directions? There are times in life when the road to our destiny is foggy or we’ve been detoured and don’t know how to get back on track or, horror of horrors! the GPS  has “lost satellite reception”. Sometimes we simply need to humble ourselves and be willing to ask for guidance or counsel. And not from Siri or Alexa.

   Have you ever had to back completely up and re-learn how to do something you thought you could ace? We all have. A return to school or training or practice? Writers get it: learn and revise then do it again. And again. And…

   So fun.

   Or… you might be having one of those days when the car won’t even start and you don’t know why. Sometimes our dreams and destinies do the same; they stall and we don’t have a clue. Then what? Well, for our cars, it’s a trip to the mechanic for a hook-up to the diagnostic machine. Sometimes for us, it’s a trip back to the drawing board to diagnose what’s gone wrong.

   Destiny-chasing is not easy; don’t expect it to be. Just the same way we invest in car insurance—and not because it’s mandatory but because we know sometime we’re going to need it—we need to expect that things on the destiny highway are not always going to go smoothly. There will be bumps in the road and we need, as best we can, to plan for them.

   Business is slow? Budget for marketing from the start. Trouble meeting deadlines? Hire help, get an intern or consider an accountability partner. Potential lawsuit by one of “those” customers? Get liability insurance. Cash flow problems? Arrange for a line of credit. Inventory shortage? Partner with multiple suppliers. You get the idea—plan to stay ahead of problems.

   On the highway to your destiny, may the lights always be green, may the traffic always be light, and may your adventure change the lives of everyone you meet.


The “Calling”…

Butterflies ITHE “CALLING”…

   Fact or Fiction: Monarch butterflies flutter a thousand miles every year to escape below-freezing winter temperatures in Canada and the northern United States.

   That’s fiction. They travel two thousand miles.

   Monarchs fly about fifty miles per day for two weeks until thousands gather at butterfly sanctuaries in Mexico. And why do they do it? They don’t know; they’re just driven to do it.

   Why do you pursue that dream you do? Why do you put up with the frustration, long hours, exhaustion, self-doubts, fears, rejection, and sometimes, failure—only to start all over again—and again and again?

   Because you’re “called”.

A calling is that destiny you’re wired to pursue, that desire to accomplish something you can’t get away from, you can’t run from, and you can’t quit.

   You might try, but you always go back—to writing that book, pastoring that church, working that business, chasing that degree—day in, day out, month after month, year after year, until you either get it right or die trying.

   That is a calling.

   Jesus had a calling. He was born to die. He knew it, and he couldn’t escape it. Oh, he could have, at any given moment, cashed in his chips and gone home. He could have gone back to his carpentry shop, gotten married, and had kidlets—don’t think he couldn’t have. But he really couldn’t have. He was driven to do what his Father had called him to do: to sacrifice himself for the sin of mankind. And he knew where that would happen too. The Bible tells us that Jesus traveled through towns and villages, healing people and doing ministry, but “always pressing on to Jerusalem” (Luke 13:22). Jesus knew he would be killed in Jerusalem just as all the other prophets had been, but like the butterflies driven to endure the exhausting journey to Mexico, he was compelled to get to Jerusalem. That burden haunted him, despite knowing he would die an excruciating death, hanging naked and despised, on a bloody and splintered cross. Nevertheless, he said, “’I am under a heavy burden until it [his death] is accomplished’” (Luke 12:50, LB). And what were Jesus’ very last words before he died?

   “’It is finished.’”

   If you’re feeling the pressure to quit something that’s not quite working out, sometimes a failure to succeed might be an indicator that you’re not called to that thing. But if that’s the case, you should be able to let it go. Sure, there might be some mourning for the death of something you’d put your heart into for so long, but if you’re not called to that job or ministry or activity, the grief should pass. However, if the drive and passion to do that thing simply won’t leave you, if you know, deep down in your soul that it would be wrong to let that thing go, then that’s an indicator, too: you really are called to that destiny.

   I remember my last writers’ conference. I was halfway through a three-book thriller series; I’d finished the first book, tweaked it, polished it, and perfected my pitch. I had paid for my registration, scheduled my appointments with agents and editors, and packed my bags. Then I hit the road. I was absolutely certain that finally my big break would come!  

   So I met with agents and publishers—and several asked to see my book (or pieces/parts—you know how they are) so I went home and did the due-diligence proposals. Everything was going as planned and pretty soon I would be hearing back from folks asking for more…


   I heard virtually nothing except from one agent who did give me some (rather confusing) feedback. So I quit. It was clear that I had no business daring to presume I could get published—ever. Wasting any more time under the delusion that I could be a writer would just be stupid; I needed to face the fact that I simply didn’t have what it takes and move on. Moreover, I wasn’t just hosting a temper tantrum, either; I really believed it. So I didn’t write for six months. I read a lot but I was done with writing. Instead, I cried. And I ranted some, particularly that Jane Austin could use telling “ly” words and still get published or that Taylor Caldwell could “head-hop” three times on the same page and get away with it.

   It was all so unfair!

   Still, with each passing day, I began to feel the lure of my long-neglected pen. Eventually, I ventured to write some short pieces—but just for fun, mind you. However, when those showed some promise, I began to think that perhaps, just maybe, I could play around with a couple of other book ideas; maybe it was just that one particular book I’d have to let go. Still, the whole time I was whipping up new characters and trying on new plotlines, I knew, deep in my heart, that I had to go back to the first book and try again.

   It was that book I couldn’t get away from, no matter how often I put it down “for good”.

   So, with much trepidation and just a little hope, I’ve resurrected the manuscript from its dark cocoon and begun to chop, revise, and rewrite until what’s emerging from the chrysalis is a very different creation than that which had dared to call itself a novel before.

   I don’t know whether it will ever be published, but I’ve come to realize that I have to finish that book. At times, it feels like I’m hiking uphill fifty miles a day but still, I know one thing: I’d rather do what I’m called to do and fail than to look back from my deathbed and wish I’d given it one more shot. Or one more after that.

   Like a butterfly tempted to thwart its advance to Mexico and camp in Milwaukee or Topeka or Santa Fe, the lure to abandon our assignments and settle can be overwhelming at times. But we can’t; we have to see our callings to their destinations. That’s Destiny—like the butterfly has.

   Like you have…







“Promotional Anxiety Disorder”—It’s Really A Thing.

Promotional Woman II - FREE


   Have you ever heard of Eve’s Garden Café? No? No one else has, either. That’s because Eve never promoted it.

   Would you rather have your fingernails pulled out with pliers than have to promote your business or book or “brand”? You’re not alone; many people who love their businesses still hate promoting them. And it’s not unusual to feel uncomfortable doing that. However, as any successful businessperson, agent or publisher will tell you, promoting your biz is not just a “nice” idea, it’s the difference between success and failure.

   Now for the good news: promotions don’t have to be scary. Rather, it can be fun to promote your business or your brand (and even if you’re job seeking, you have a brand: you). Just recognize two things: the fears surrounding promotions and the ways to overcome those fears.

   Fear #1: “I don’t have what it takes.” Let’s face it, not everyone has a “salesman” personality, meaning not everyone naturally feels comfortable pitching their product or service to others. The fact is, when we think of a successful salesperson, we sometimes make two wrong assumptions. First, we assume a person has to be obnoxious in order to succeed in sales, and second, we think that a person is either born a salesman or not. But both are myths. Still, we think these things are true so we fear even trying. After all, we’ll fail. And then we’ll look stupid. Or we’ll tick people off because we’re too pushy. And we’ll look stupid some more. And then we’ll hurt our business because who wants to do business with stupid? Right?


Being pushy is only one way of selling something; it’s not the only way, and it’s not the most effective way.

   Fear #2: Fear of failure. Let’s be clear: If you’re passionate about your business (and who’s not?), then you’re halfway to being a good promoter. The other half is simply telling people what’s great about your business (or book or brand). Tell lots of people—and then leave it alone. You don’t have to be aggressive or arm-wrestle them into buying your product/service or signing your book or hiring you; just hand them a business card, offer to answer any questions they may have, and smile. That’s all. They’re adults, if they want to do business with you, they will. But here’s the key: the more people you tell, the more customers you’ll get. It’s like planting seeds; who goes out to plant a garden and plants only one seed? (If you do, no offense, but that’s why you don’t have a garden.)

   Will you convert every conversation into a sale? No. But that doesn’t mean you’ve failed—no one turns 100% of their pitches into sales. If they tell you otherwise, they’re lying. Just begin your conversations with a simple, “May I tell you about my product or service?” If you’re required to present your pitch in writing, make certain it’s the best proposal, query, or resume you can. And if you don’t know how to write one, find someone who does and learn.

   Fear #3: Spending money. As the old saying goes, “It takes money to make money.” A portion of your budget should be allocated to advertising and promotions. However, if your budget doesn’t allow you to invest much, there are a few inexpensive things you can—and must—have. First, get a logo for your business. A logo is simply a uniform presentation of your business name and can be as simple as finding a computer font and color you like and typing your name. “Coke,” for example, is just one word, but it always  looks the same; that’s a logo.

   A logo can be more elaborate with pics, etc. but it doesn’t have to be, and you can DIY or hire someone. Regardless, your logo should be on all your promotional materials because it helps customers to visualize and remember your biz name.

   The same is true of a business card—you must have a nice business card. They’re not expensive; you can get 500 or so for $10-$30 on sites like or I designed and got my own four-color, glossy cards for around $35 (and having the company design your card doesn’t cost much more). These companies also offer brochures, signage, banners and any other print thing you might need. However, whatever you can design on a computer, like letterhead with your logo, do yourself.

   A website is also a must-have but here’s a tip: you don’t need an actual “website” for a stunning-looking site with multiple pages, pictures, social media links, etc. All you have to do is to choose a free (yes, free) “blog” site from somewhere like WordPress. You can pick from hundreds of styles and then choose options to make the site your own. Just pay for your domain name from somewhere like for $10 a year!! (If you don’t want to pay for a domain name, you can get a free one from WordPress but it’ll have “wordpress” in the name and I don’t recommend that.)  I pay $18 a year for my domain name and not one penny for this WordPress blog site you’re reading.

   Now, for the disclaimer: If you want lots of other things on your site that involve code, you may have to go with a web designer to put it all together. That will cost up to quite a bit more so do your research first. The point is you may not need to do all that.

   NOTE: When choosing a business name, ALWAYS check to see if your business name domain has been taken!! DO NOT PRINT ANYTHING UNTIL YOU DO!! Just type in to see if it’s available. (And try to get “.com” because that’s what people are used to typing in.)

   Social media is another must-have and accounts are free! While you may not be on all social media, begin with the major players: if nothing else, a Facebook business page should be a priority and then Twitter if you want to push special promotions on your FB page. If your biz includes products or services that will benefit from pictures, have an Instagram account.

   And did I mention that it’s all free?

   Industry trade shows are another great way to reach customers actually searching for the products and services you offer. Just buy space at these shows and you’ll meet these potential customers in person. Trade shows include bridal fairs, home and garden shows, health and wellness fairs, and car shows as well as lots of others. Granted, these can cost hundreds of dollars for exhibit space but, like any investment, while not guaranteed, there should be a return on your money. My rule for making any kind of investment, whether it’s promotions, products or anything else is this: “What can I afford to lose if this investment doesn’t work?” If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t spend it.

   Want low-cost ways to market your business? Mailing lists or databases of potential customers can start at relatively low prices and then, to save on postage for mailings, look into bulk rates. Also, check out radio and television sponsorships for news, weather, or special programming which tend to cost much less than actual 30 or 60-second ads.

   I could go on but you get the point: promoting your business is easy and fun! Plus there’s nothing like seeing a professional-looking postcard, website, sign or vehicle ad with your name and logo on it! In-person selling is just a small part of promotions and you don’t have to be a pro salesperson to talk up your business.

   So pick a promotion and get busy because one thing will always be true: You can have the best product or service on the planet but if no one knows about it, it won’t sell. Period. But once they know about it, there’ll only be one thing you’ll have to worry about…

   Can you keep up?




Giants In the Land

Corporate Giant II


  Throughout history, there’ve been some people who have, as they say, “beat the odds”. History is full of them, as is the Bible—even Cinderella overcame the impossible. And whatever you think of Donald Trump, you have to admit that he beat the odds as well—very long odds—to become President of the United States. When he entered the presidential race, there were 18 other people running for the Republican nomination, including powerful political “giants” like Jeb Bush, Chris Christy, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and a bunch of other people whose names I can’t remember. At the same time that that circus was brewing, Hillary Clinton—fueled by the whole Washington political establishment (not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars)—symbolized a giant in her own right; even should Trump become the Republican candidate for president, he’d still have to face down the powerful Clinton machine. The odds were very much against him winning even the Republican nom much less the election.

   Rewind a few thousand years and you have the same story with David and Goliath. David was a little shrimp of a nobody suffering from delusions of grandeur. After all, he had the unmitigated gall to think that he could possibly be any match for the heavy weight champion of the Philistines, the renowned Nephilim giant called Goliath. David had no military training, no armor, and no support—even his own brothers thought he was an egotistical little snot. Still, he had a slingshot. And he had defeated a bear. Oh—and a lion.

   And then there’s fast-food giant Chik-fil-A… Of course, it didn’t start out as one of the most successful food chains in history. In 1946, Founder S. Truett Cathy founded the business when he and his brother opened an Atlanta diner known as “The Dwarf Grill”. (Does anyone else see the irony in that?) Chik-fil-A—from dwarf to giant—just like Donald Trump, catapulted from political non-entity to POTUS, and David, from an unknown shepherd boy to the most famous king Israel has ever known. Yet despite all of the adversity that has come against President Trump, King David, and S. Truett Cathy (for closing on Sundays to give employees time to attend church), they have not been defeated. To the contrary, they’ve been victorious on a scale unprecedented.

   How is that even possible??

   There’s only one reason: When faced with the giants of their times and industries, they did not speak fear, back up or run away; they continued on the path they believed they had been called to and no “giants” were going to stop them.

   On the flip side, we have the account of the twelve men assigned by Moses to go into the Promised Land and spy it out so that the wandering Israelites could finally move from the desert into the land that God had promised them—a land “flowing with milk and honey”.

   If you don’t know the story, Moses sent twelve men into the land of Canaan, instructing them to get intel on the strength and numbers of the people living there, their cities, and the land and crops. The men returned (carrying grapes so huge that it took two of them to carry one cluster on a pole) and they gave Moses their report:

   “‘We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the walled cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there… We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us… all the people whom we saw are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim [giants]; and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight’” (Num. 13:27-33).

   Except for Joshua and Caleb, the men were intimidated by the challenges presented by the Promised Land: the walled cities and the giants. Because of their fear and consequent reluctance to move into that land, God banned them from going in—except for Joshua and Caleb—who believed God and were therefore willing to take on the walled cities and the giants.

How many of us have a dream, a destiny, that we know we’re called to pursue—and yet, we don’t? We’re too afraid of the walls in front of us and the giants surrounding us.

   “Walls” represent obstacles to our dreams, those things which deter us and keep us apart from our goals. The Israelites faced them—the “fortified” walls, strong walls, keeping them from achieving their God-ordained goal of conquering those cities and those tribes. Ten of the twelve spies ran from the walled cities but two did not; those two, Joshua and Caleb, were allowed to enter the Promised Land after all of the others had died. However, when they did, God had a rather unusual plan for tearing down those walls; when the time came to conquer Jericho, the Israelites marched around the walled city, shouting and declaring the word of the Lord. It was an unconventional plan, but because it was God’s plan, it worked. The Israelites conquered the city that day.

   As for the “giants” in our lives, they represent the competition that we often face when we venture out to break into some new industry or business or to achieve some prized goal which thousands of talented others are also vying to win. Think about competing for a job or a business deal or a spot on the sports’ roster or a publishing contract. Or think about breaking into an industry with a new business among others already long-established in the market share or founding a ministry that others judge you unqualified for.

   The competition—the giants—can make us tremble and flee.

   But—the “lions” and “bears” represent all that God has led us through in the past: victories in the face of impossible odds. David vs. Goliath. Trump vs. Clinton. Cathy’s Chik-fil-A vs. McDonald’s (and Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell)—these are all examples of those who refused to look at the strength or height of the giants or the walls; instead, they kept focused on the goal. Moreover, they looked back at what they had already accomplished, knowing that God had used all of the “lions” and “bears” of their past to prepare them for the challenges of the future.

   It’s the same with you and me: In pursuit of our dreams and destinies, we’ve all faced terrible giants and fortified walls—and we will again. The only difference will be whether we stand and face them or we turn and flee.

   To strengthen our faith and resolve, we need to focus on the fact that if God never backed his people in the midst of impossible odds, he’d never get anything done through us. And he loves to work through his people.

   Keep that in mind the next time a ten-story wall looms in front of you or a Goliath rears up in your face.

   Remember the lions and bears.




Just Having A Little Fun. Right…?

Rip Off Alert


   Are people really trying to rip you off? Yes. Yes, they are. And you know what they say about a fool and his money, right?

   Take Beth, for example. She thought she’d save some money by shopping at the big department store’s “May Day” sale where she bought a cute sweater for a cool 50% off! Killer deal, right? Maybe—except that she still paid $100 for that sweater. Now, to hear Beth tell it, she would never have paid that much for a sweater but this one was on sale and it just would have been wrong to pass up a half-off sale!

   Now I know what you’re thinking: “But if it’s a brand name then…” Maybe. However, unless I’m wearing that brand-name tag on the outside of the sweater, I don’t normally move in circles where someone would come up to me and notice that that particular sweater deserves to cost $200. But maybe that’s just me.

The dirty little secret of the marketplace is that many stores mark up merchandise just so that they can then turn right around and mark it down for a “momentous, one-time-only sale that you can’t afford to miss!”

   (Yeah, I can. Really.) And ever notice how often these retail stores offer these “incredible, one-time-only events”? Let’s count ‘em.

   In January, there’s the “New Year’s Sale” and the “Martin Luther King, Jr. Sale,” not to mention the occasional “Big Snow Event Sale” or “Polar Vortex Sale”.

   In February, there are sales for Groundhog’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Lincoln’s birthday, Washington’s birthday (or a “Presidents’ Day Sale), and somewhere in the mix between February and March are the Marti-Gras’ sales.

   Come March, of course, are the HUGE St. Patrick’s Day sales—and being Irish is not a prerequisite to have a sale commemorating ‘ol St. Pat (although you do have to like collecting a little green). And these “Pot O’ Gold” sales continue for at least two weeks—or until followed by the “Spring Forward” sales (celebrating the dawn of daylight savings time). Of course, then the “Spring” sales immediately commence, regardless of whether Mother Nature has finished her infamous snow dumps or not. (“Not” seldom occurs .)

   In April, there may, in fact, be an “April Fool’s” sale (no joke)—unless Easter comes early, in which case those sales can run simultaneously for three weeks, overlapping the “Spring Break Sale,” and/or “End of Winter!” sales. And don’t forget all of the weight-loss companies “guaranteeing” that you can lose “UP TO” 15 pounds before summer!  (Realize that “up to” starts at a half pound…)

   Besides flowers, May brings the afore-mentioned May Day sales as well as Mother’s Day, college graduation sales, and Memorial Day sales.

   And on it goes—the big Madison Avenue conspiracy to separate you from your cash.

   Summer brings still more grad sales plus more “Big Savings” for Flag Day, Father’s Day, the 4th of July, and “Christmas in July”. (Really.) And that’s not all! Beginning in July are also “Back to School” and “Dog Days of Summer” sales—both of which continue ad nauseam till fall. And don’t forget—you can also lose UP TO 15 pounds before fall—if you call right now! (So exciting!!)

   Then it’s the “End of Summer” sales, followed immediately by Labor Day sales which continue until the Columbus Day sales (celebrated even by those who strongly disapprove of Christopher Columbus) and Grandparents’ Day sales. Somewhere in the mix begin the Halloween sales because that’s a huge cash cow with people in the U.S. spending $92 billion a year on costumes and candy. Of course, immediately following the nationwide candy chow-down, you can conveniently lose UP TO 15 pounds before the holiday parties—and save! (But only if you call in the next 15 seconds.)

November 1st kicks off the Veterans’ Day sales—merrily brought to you by corporations and companies who never give another thought or discount to veterans any other time of year.

   And somewhere in there fall the “Fall Back” sales (lamenting the end of daylight savings) and the pre-Thanksgiving sales. These are followed close on by Black Friday sales which now begin on Thanksgiving evening (not to be confused with the Thanksgiving Day sales), the Super-Saturday sales and the Cyber-Monday sales.

   Then, before we’ve barely had time to digest the pumpkin pie, it’s time for the “holiday” sales: Hanukah, Quanza, and Christmas—all the way till 11:59pm on Christmas Eve. The “After-Christmas” sales begin on December 26th (although the occasional “Christmas Night” sale has been spotted), and post-holiday sales continue till the New Year’s sales—followed closely by the “Lose the Holiday Weight” campaigns (up to 15 pounds). And all of these sales, naturally, drag on until the MLK sales… then rinse and repeat.

   Of course, there are also all of the national “Fill-in-the-blank Day” sales—like national Donut Day, Pizza Day, Hat Day, Library/Book Day, National “Smoke-Out” Day (not sure what’s on sale there…), and—drum roll, please… Coffee Day! Add to that gifts for the various “Teachers-Policemen-Nurses-Firemen-Administrative Assistants’” days and you have the “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to save money dozens of times a year—and that’s not even counting all of the anniversary sales that most stores launch two or three times a year! Just think of all the cash you’re saving!! Especially at “up to” 50% off…

   So, grab your water bottles, shopping lists, and riot gear and hit the malls. And may the sales be with you!

   Oh, disclaimer.: Lest anyone become so bothered by this massive corporate conspiracy that sleep aids should become necessary, rest assured—none of this is really true; there is no Madison Avenue back-room think-tank, and no one’s really ripping you off.

   I made it all up.