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Blog Change Featured

How To Be An Idiot In 2019

(Subtitle: I Wish This Were Fiction)

Harder Every Day

It used to be easy to be an idiot. Just follow your feelings, don’t read books and stay away from positive role models. You watch a little TV, play a few video games and boom, you’re an idiot. 

Today’s problem is that so much of our fun is connected to the internet, and that’s how they get you. You can be surfing along watching YouTube videos about other idiots when, before you know it, you’ve clicked on something.

I know, It’s hard to talk about. But we’ve all been there.

Free This!

They promise you some cool thing for free, the comfort zone for idiots, and then it appears on screen – the dreaded email box. Some deep instinct gives you a feeling of foreboding. Your ear twitches. You snort and paw the ground a few times.

But then you click it. Because that’s never stopped you before.

The next thing you know, you’re subscribed. People are grateful. You’re important to them. They can’t wait to give you more valuable information. You’ve found your place in life. 

So, you click a few more buttons.

Congratulations!

You’re on an email list. You have a channel. There’s a profile to complete. You need a headshot. You have a survey to fill out. So much responsibility!

But still, it was free stuff. So, they’re your friend, right?

The problem with your new friend is that he has friends. And suddenly there’s a house party in your inbox.

Some stranger is offering more free stuff. There’s music playing. Someone’s dancing on the coffee table. Your neighbors are threatening to call the cops.

Seems safe enough.

So, you join LinkedIn to make your mom proud. Now, you have a business profile. And you start a free blog. And podcasting looks cool. And there’s that YouTube channel that’s just sitting there.

So, you take a course . . . 

And that’s how they do it.

But don’t worry. It’s not too late. There’s nothing here that can’t be undone. You can still get back to those carefree days of being a clueless idiot. 

For a free step-by-step guide, just join my email list at: youcanbeanidiot.com

Trust me. I’m an expert. 

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Eye update: Surgery #3

Hello, fellow artists (As in the ART of standing).

I thought I would give you an update on my latest adventures. Friday morning I was putting on my shoes to go and celebrate Suzie’s day off with errands and Mexican food. Yum. But when I sat back up, I noticed a blurry circle in the upper left corner of my right eye, the one that had the surgery. 

Well aware of the meaning of this, I called my retina doctor and headed to Nashville for him to take a look. By the time I got there, I was basically blind in my right eye. Colors and blur, but nothing recognizable.

In short, a small amount of scar tissue had formed which pulled the rest of my retina off thanks to a genetic predisposition for this sort of thing.

It wasn’t much of a stretch to guess this meant more surgery. Because the damage was “through the center” (doctor’s term meaning my retina had detached everywhere except where the last laser surgery had been) it was deemed not an emergency. (Hmm?)

My surgery is scheduled for Tuesday the 18th. This time, according to the doctor, they’re going to “throw the kitchen sink at it.” The plan, at the moment, is to do the same laser treatment for the rest of my eye and fill it with an oil bubble, which may or may not be permanent, to keep things in place.

On the positive side, I like my doctors, the timing couldn’t be better and it’s extremely motivating. It is possible the entire thing will be finished during Christmas break and I can get back to work teaching audio engineering.

I’ve spent the day reviewing all of the ways Suzie and I used to stay encouraged during her cancer calamity. I’m feeling positive even though it’s no fun being unable to see out of one eye.

But one thing is certain – I do NOT have this covered.

It’s important for me to admit that some parts of life are totally out of my control. It will take a team of doctors, a lot of prayers and the healing power of God to solve this. Even a brilliant eye surgeon wouldn’t operate on himself.

What I do control is my response.

I can pray. I can keep my perspective. I can make good choices. I can choose good thoughts. I can call my friends. I can ask for prayer. I can be grateful for the sight I’ve had and what sight I still have.

One good eye is awesome!

And I can have a cup of hot chocolate like I’m sipping right now. Mmm. That’s enough for the moment. Stay tuned for some crazy thoughts and some big changes, God willing.

And thank you for your prayers.

P.S. For those of you who didn’t see it, I posted a chapter of the book late last night . . . very late. Here’s a link: The Gift

•••

Photo by Alina Kovalchuk on Unsplash

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Blog Courage Featured

42 Times You Are NOT Waiting On God

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. ~ Isaiah 40:31

This scripture is often quoted to teach us patience and to show the dangers of “getting ahead of God.” But, as it turns out, the King James translation is misleading. The Hebrew word is actually better translated as Hope or Trust.

This changes everything. I wish I’d realized it sooner. After more than sixty years of life, I often find that while I thought I was waiting on God, He was actually waiting on me.

The word “wait” is used in the Old Testament 94 times but Jesus said it only once when he told the disciples in Acts to wait for the Holy Spirit, who is now with us.

The word “immediately” is used only 8 times in the entire Old Testament but it is used 34 times in the Gospels alone and 11 times in the book of Acts.

If you look at the complete thought of the passage in Isaiah, the whole thing turns around. Listen in the NIV version.

Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who HOPE in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

This doesn’t sound like waiting at all. It sounds like standing back up after you get knocked down. It sounds like, “Never quit!”

Considering how hard it is to motivate yourself to do anything, considering how many distractions are placed directly in our path, considering how many people are energetically trying to interrupt us to buy their thing or promote their ideas, here are:

42 Times You Are NOT Waiting On God

  1. When you have clear instructions and a mission.
  2. When you wait for someone else to do it.
  3. When you wait to be perfect.
  4. When you wait until you know enough.
  5. When you wait for someone more talented.
  6. When you wait for an expert.
  7. When you wait out of ignorance.
  8. When you wait out of cowardice.
  9. When you wait out of political correctness.
  10. When you wait until you feel like it.
  11. When you wait for the perfect time.
  12. When you wait until you have more money.
  13. When you wait without praying.
  14. When you wait without preparing.
  15. When you wait because you allow yourself to be distracted.
  16. When you wait because you’ve never done it before.
  17. When you wait because that’s not the way it’s done.
  18. When you wait until the problem is gone.
  19. When you wait outside the school until the gunfire stops.
  20. When you wait to speak against evil.
  21. When you wait to speak the truth.
  22. When you wait to share salvation.
  23. When you wait because you are too young.
  24. When you wait because you are too old.
  25. When you wait because it’s someone else’s job.
  26. When you wait because you don’t want to get involved.
  27. When you wait until help arrives.
  28. When you wait until tomorrow to do the good you could do today.
  29. When you wait to encourage.
  30. When you wait to love.
  31. When you wait to apologize.
  32. When you wait for someone’s permission.
  33. When you wait to do what you know you should do.
  34. When you wait to live up to your potential.
  35. When you wait to try.
  36. When you wait until it gets easier.
  37. When you wait until conditions are right.
  38. When you wait until someone else tries it first.
  39. When you wait out of habit.
  40. When you wait because there’s plenty of time.
  41. When you wait because it’s all you’ve ever known.
  42. When you wait until it is too late.

So . . . What am I waiting for? I’m running out of reasons.

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Blog

Sight For Sore Eyes: Vision Update

Quick vision update

  • Eye: Better
  • Cool Jello effect: Gone
  • Focus: Getting there
  • Depth perception: Comical
  • Writing: Eyestrain
  • Attitude: Gratitude

Doc said I could do anything I want and then left before I could hit him with an obvious Dad joke. Smart man.

Writing on the computer is still difficult but improving. Now that I can see, my brain is straining to focus both eyes with the new, improved retina. The solutions are resting, writing with one eye closed or using my iPhone up close.

This means no chapter this week but I’m working on it. Describing that Christmas properly hits the edge of my abilities in more ways than just seeing. But if I can write the last chapter, I can write this one.

Thanks for your patience and may God let your eyes see the depth and breadth and height of His love for you.

Dennis

 

 

Photo by Frida Bredesen on Unsplash
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Blog

Golden Electric Jello

When Life Gives You Lemonade

One of the interesting things about living at my house is the invisible, unspoken No Whining Rule. I’m not saying it’s impossible for me to whine. (Ask anyone.) It just achieves no satisfaction. Maybe an arched eyebrow.

When your wife survives multiple primary cancers like some kind of superwoman, it kind of takes the whine out of your sails. So, when I managed to sneeze the retina off the back of my eye this week, I was forced to try and man up.

It was a mighty effort. I’m just sayin’.

Thanks to the skill and patience of some wonderful doctors, I’m going to be fine. But my right eye has a gas bubble in it for the next couple of weeks. And it looks like it’s filled with golden electric jello. Or maybe iced lemonade. Or Tropical Pineapple Jello. That’s a thing, right?

A Google search for Yellow Jello Images

All in all, it’s a happy color. And thankfully temporary. So, I’m just going to enjoy it. After all, I could have been looking at the world through a blue jello filter for two weeks. Or teal.

Or taupe. Whatever that is.

Since it’s hard to focus, I’m laying off the book for a bit. And TV. My current solution is catching up on podcasts. Ahh. That works.

The worst part is having to lie on my right side. On the couch. Instead of working. Ouch.

I’ll be back to work and writing as soon as possible. In the meantime, thank you all so much for your prayers. I’m very grateful. May your day be blessed and your vision clear.

 

 

 

Photo by Mark Kamalov on Unsplash

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Blog Featured

Love Is a Can of Paint

True Love Is A Verb

Love is something you do. We all know this. But it’s easier to make it about feelings. Because feelings don’t require me to paint the kitchen.

This weekend, because of a strange mix of schedules and latex allergies, I ended up taping and stripping and sanding and patching and climbing ladders and painting. I know experts say there are better ways of managing these things. But none of these experts was willing to come by my house this weekend and help me paint.

It was within my skill set. The opportunity was at hand to fix a problem. So, I did it.

DO Unto Others

The Golden Rule doesn’t say “Feel unto others as you would have them feel unto you.” It doesn’t mention “likes” or emojis. Gift cards apparently don’t play into it either.  Words are no substitute. Flowers don’t say it best. Songs and poems don’t count.

Nope. I have to do something.

But, being a veteran rule-inspector, I noticed that there’s nothing in the Golden Rule that says I can’t make it as enjoyable as possible. Right?

Elmer Bernstein

This is where things take a bit of a strange turn. I’ve recently discovered that writing with movie soundtracks stirs up my creative energy. Lyrics take me off course. After going through John Williams and Hans Zimmer, I discovered the man who inspired these contemporary masters – Elmer Bernstein.

Also known as John Wayne’s favorite composer.

Now you get the picture. Imagine me heroically wielding my paint roller to the sound of sweeping western soundtracks at theater volume. (Yes, I had the house to myself. No complaints from the neighbors – yet.)

Yes, it was still exhausting. Yes, things still went wrong. But it’s done. And I slept really well last night. Thanks, maestro.

Priorities

The problem with doing things instead of feeling them or thinking them is that I can only do one thing at a time. That means I had to spend my writing day with a paintbrush in my hand.

This is not an excuse. This was a decision.

Life, in the final result, will not be about what we thought or felt. It will be measured by what we did.

We can talk about love and write about love and use heart emojis and explain our intentions. But these things are easy to fake. Jesus taught that we know trees by the fruit they produce. In the same way, we know people by the things they do.

Actions don’t lie.

Paint On The Wall

The good thing about actually doing something is that the results are real. This morning I woke up with paint on the wall. It will be there tomorrow and the day after.

So many things in life are up for debate long after the fact. Did I write a good sentence? Is this song finished? Did I make the right decision? Could I have been more kind? Should I have kept my mouth shut? (Well, okay. Some things are obvious.)

But a good deed done remains done. Today’s paint was yesterday’s decision.

Now, what will I do with today?

 

 

Photo by Yoann Siloine on Unsplash

 

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Blog Courage Featured

Courage for the Gap

“The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now.”- Zig Ziglar

We live in the gap between good actions and good results.

If good results came immediately and in direct proportion to the pain of our efforts, it would be easier to see the connection. Instead, the delay gives us time to doubt.

Now, I don’t imagine that, without this gap, I would somehow get everything right. The only place that happens is in my imagination. And even my best intentions fall far short of actual action. At least making mistakes teaches us things.

But the delay between my best efforts and my best results does give me time to cause some trouble.

Causing Trouble

Instead of holding the course, I get distracted. I get bored. I get anxious. I get impatient. And I have plenty of help doing it.

The latest shiny thing comes along promising to make my life effortless. It could be a tool, a toy or a strategy. It promises no waiting, no patience required. You could feel good now. Just buy this or try that and your problems are solved.

But they aren’t. Because nothing bridges the gap. Life requires me to wait it out. God requires it.

Why the Gap?

The reason is because the best things in life are in the gap. In the space between good actions and good results, our strength is forged. Persistence is developed. Courage gets its exercise. Goals appear like stepping stones to the future.

Hope trains to lift us higher. Character finds its feet and stands.  Grit moves forward. Faith stretches and begins to run.

Love

Love lives in the gap. Love sees what has been and what could be. What must be. Love sees the best parts of us and encourages them. Love stands beside and whispers, “You can make it.”

Love weaves beautiful dreams of things to come. Love has the vision and strength to build a future worth having. Even if it is a future we might not reach for ourselves.

Forgiveness

But the best part of the gap between our actions and our results is the time it allows for forgiveness. For if our good results came immediately after our best actions, our debts would also be due.

If judgment came immediately for our worst actions, there would be no time for repentance. No place for mercy. No home for grace. No space for redemption. We would have no hope for the future. No growth.

We would get exactly what we have earned – justice.

We Need The Gap

We are built for it. We are born problem solvers and believers. We cannot control our circumstances or guarantee our outcome. But in the gap in between, we have control over how we respond. It is our opportunity to change ourselves for the better. And maybe even change the world a little.

We control what we do with the time we have. Have courage. Do good. And in the gap do more good. Stand strong and have faith that the good result will come.

And for the rest, have the courage to ask for forgiveness.

Because Jesus stands in the gap having paid our toll. And on the other side, the God of goodness and grace will meet us, with blessings we cannot imagine.

Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us. – (Hebrew 12:1)

 

Photo by Omer Salom on Unsplash
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Blog

Half Done Is Not Done

Hi everyone. Here’s a quick update on the writing side of Candles In the Sun.

I have noticed a marked tendency on my part to make my chapters the exact length that I manage to write that week. Given the crazy weeks that sometimes happen and the need to have some longer chapters, I’ve realized that’s unrealistic.

Arc?

I wrote a lot this week but the chapter isn’t done. I have a definite end in mind and am writing towards it. So, rather than make each chapter artificially the same length, I had two choices: give you a half chapter or wait. In this case, I’m waiting because the “story arc” demands it.

The idea that I would ever think such a ridiculous notion as a story arc never crossed my mind when I started writing. I guess it is inevitable that I learn such writer-y excuses for not finishing a chapter because it sounds better than blaming it on my dog, Nessie. But it is easier than figuring out how a dog could eat the internet before school.

As always, the truth is shorter but definitely not easier. It is this – half done is not done.

Courage

It has been said that all writing is an act of courage. No one mentions that it is usually said by writers the day before a deadline.

They say it because facing your fears is difficult. Whether or not writing rises to the level of courage depends on the size of your fears. In my case, the fear of being publicly exposed here as a sham is far less painful than delving back into these memories. Being honest in front of you is less difficult than being honest before myself.

Reliving memories means second-guessing.

At the moment, I have cleaned up my office of all the yellow post-it notes littering my computer monitor. But there is one that I couldn’t take down. It says FEAR.

Stretching

It is a reminder that fear is the only thing that stands between me and my goals. If I keep writing, I will finish a book. Whether or not I will have the time to do it is in God’s hands. Whether or not I have the courage to begin again each day is in mine.

I know of no other way to discover your limitations than to reach them while attempting something beyond your capacity. Our abilities grow when we challenge them and we are blessed with expanded limitations.

And there’s only one way to discover where the new boundary lies.

Failing

To anyone observing, this looks like a man who is continually failing. And I suppose it is. I prefer to see it as a man who is continually striving to be more than he was the day before.

But I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Because I’m a writer.

Finally.

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Blog Politics

The Machinery Of Your Dreams

I do not have the capacity or the time to conspire to such heights of evil as you ascribe to me. I don’t have the energy or endurance to hate you that much. I don’t have the focus or force of will required to generate that amount of malevolence.

Who do you think I am that I have the ability to thwart your dreams? I can’t even achieve my own dreams. Just wait until I take a nap and then take over the world. I’d never know.

Don’t allow the sand of hatred or the grit of blame to clog the machinery of your dreams.

Do good. Make your dreams a reality if you can. I will stand in amazement and applaud your achievement and use your success as inspiration.

Hate is a wretched waste of limited time. Blame is a pitiful excuse. No one cares enough to hate you.

God finds reason enough to love you. I’ll take His word for it. Will you take His word about me?

 

(Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash)
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Blog

The Understatement of Father’s Day

To say that my Dad was the most important person in my life is an understatement. To say that I miss him is to miss that mark. To say that I think about him all the time is still less than the truth

How about this – since my Dad died I spend my time trying to BE him. Because a world without my Dad is less than the world should be.

I’ve mentioned him in passing in Candles In The Sun but he deserves his own book. He shows up in a couple of chapters and you will get a hint.

He will be in my thoughts the rest of the day. Just like every other day.

I am the fortunate son.

Here’s a couple of previous posts about Dad . . .

 

Showdown In The Sand

Haven’t Got Time For The Pain