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It’s a War, My Friends

Without a doubt, it’s an all-out guerrilla war with no rules of engagement to speak of. It’s filled with IEDs, RPGs, and enemies seen and unseen that will kill you. Truth is, the enemy has won infinitely more battles than the good guys, but the war rages on.

Reaching any goal is a war.

In case you don’t know:

IED – Improvised explosive device
RPG – Rocket propelled grenade

Oh, it’s very real

The IED/RPG part is figurative, of course.

RPG. I dodged this one.

RPG. I dodged this one.

In my experience, when I’ve sought the right path for the right reasons, and somehow found myself on it, objects have started flying at my head. More than usual. For years, I never recognized it. I just became frustrated, angry, and felt sorry for myself that my plans were interrupted. I typically found the nearest corner and hunkered down. I quit the thing I was doing, whatever it may have been at the time.

I started many an undertaking only to quit when the going got tough. I can count on three fingers the things that were legitimately quit-worthy. Each of those shouldn’t have been started in the first place. The rest, well, I simply quit when the first salvos were fired.

Press on, soldier boy

I credit a good and wise friend for helping me to see the light and understand there is truly an unseen war raging. Just because we choose the right path, doesn’t mean things will be sweet and the living easy. In fact, it’s oftentimes soooo completely the opposite. The first, most important, step is recognizing that fact. Second, is learning to combat it, which is where I find myself now. Sometimes I win a few battles, sometimes I don’t.

For instance, 15 years ago I sat down and began writing my first book. 14 years, 360 days ago I ceased writing that book, because I talked myself out of it. I listened to the enemy in my ear saying, “No one will publish it. No one will read it. What makes you think you can write a book?

Oh, here’s another good one. Seven years ago, after a couple of years of freelance writing for several publications, I was offered a part-time position as a managing editor for a small sports media company (very small). After a few weeks, I learned the round of funding that made the position possible didn’t come through. I got mad, threw a few tantrums, quit writing and began seeking the wrong paths.

Ah, yes. Here’s a battle surely lost. Just before the managing editor fiasco, I started a venture that would allow for meaningful contributions to a couple of my favorite organizations. Soon, it was apparent the number of hours needed to get it off the ground was daunting and the possibility of failure was very real. My resolve began to waiver at about the time I was asked to speak about my venture at my church. I declined the offer and saw the venture make a quick retreat into oblivion. That one really stung, because I simply didn’t give it a chance. I listened to the enemy in my ear say, “You’ll make a fool of yourself. This is doomed to fail. Shut it down, now!

Today, I’ve made significant inroads toward the needed perseverance. That’s all we can hope for. Since self preservation is part of our existence as humans, we naturally want to limit failure, which lends to a fear of it.

The first RPG

Obstacles will arise; small ones, big ones, real ones, posers. When they do, I believe we have to press on. Many of you are like me; you feel like you’re meant to do that certain thing (it’s different for us all). So, do that thing!!

Don’t talk yourself out of it (obstacle number 1) before you start. I know, you may have been conditioned by the old, faulty maxim, “You can’t fail if you don’t start.” That’s a particularly dangerous RPG if I’ve ever seen one, because its a weapon often launched at us from people we love and respect; parents, siblings, friends, etc. They fire it at us, mostly, because they don’t want us to endure failure. It is, however, a faulty premise. That saying should go this way, “If you never start you already failed.”

So, get past that first obstacle, because its a myth grounded in timidity, and on your way to something great!

As I wrote this, I watched the Denver Broncos take the lead against the New England Patriots with just over one minute remaining. TV Camera pans to Tom Brady. He doesn’t appear scared. He’s ready for the battle that remains. The Pats ultimately lost, but he was ready.

Do you have any perseverance stories? Good or bad, it can be helpful to us.

Image courtesy DVIDSHUB.

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A Dentist in a Dangerous Place

You’ve seen dangerous places on the evening news, but unless you’ve read Robert Young Pelton’s books or seen him on Fox or other news outlets, or gone there in person, you don’t know dangerous places.

Hint: They aren’t places for the faint of heart. Myself? I’ve only been in a few dangerous spots, but none on the scale of RYP or the people I mention below.

As I said in this earlier post, I/we/you know imageof at least two other people who know dangerous places. Dr. David Sperow and his wife, Marty, know dangerous places, have been to dangerous places, and they’ll go back to dangerous places. That’s where the hurting is located. That’s where the help is needed.

Dr. Dave, and his NGO (non-governmental organization), La Cima World Missions, was just featured on the news. Read the story of the recent Iraq mission here.

LaCimaWorldMissions.org – A decade-long record of combating evil and spreading light in dangerous places.

Changes your view of dentists, doesn’t it?


The Lion and the Butterfly Effect

At this very moment, what things are right in your life? What things are not as you had hoped? There’s a fair amount of both, I’m sure. It seems small decisions transform into big consequences.

Upon the recommendation of a good friend and brother, I’ve been

A majestic creature, but a foul beast!

A majestic creature, but a foul beast!

reading Mark Batterson’s book, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. You never know what you’re going to get with book recommendations, since we’re all so different, but I liked the title and the image of danger it conjured. I have different categories into which all the books I read fall. This one goes into the top category, as it is potentially a life-changer. I say “potentially,” because whether it changes anything is dependent upon me. It certainly stirs the fire.

Not So Calculated Risk

In the book, the Biblical character of Benaiah is featured. Benaiah, who first became a guard under King David, rose to become commander of all the armed forces of Israel. He got his start by taking on two Moabites, chasing a lion into a pit (on a snowy day, mind you) and slaying it, and fighting an Egyptian despite lack of armaments. He took some risks, wouldn’t you say?

I differ from Batterson’s contention to a small degree because I don’t think at least one of these was a totally calculated risk. At least with the lion, there has to be a fair amount of conviction present in a person in order to say “Here goes nothing!! One of us ain’t coming out alive, you foul beast!” I’ve never met an ancient Egyptian or Moabite, but I don’t think they weighed in at anything approaching 500 pounds, didn’t have paws and claws as big as your head, or a mouth full of teeth that could crush your skull, nor were they as unpredictable as as a wild beast.

The Moabite and Egyptian slayings could’ve been the result of calculations. After all, Benaiah was, apparently, a warrior-type. He liked his chances, despite the odds. But, there must be more to the lion story. I’m guessing the lion did something sufficiently heinous as to cause Benaiah to go Medieval on it (Yes, I know “Medieval” hadn’t come around 3,000 years ago, but anyone can “get medieval” at any time in history). Point is, he made a split-second decision that the lion was not coming out of that pit alive. It did not.

The further point is, those three decisions shaped the course of Benaiah’s life. They all involved some degree of calculation. Was he scared? Every time. The Bible doesn’t say he was, but he had to be.

Lions: Faced and Otherwise

If you don’t want to reflect on your life and ponder your future, then don’t read In a Pit with a Lion, because you will. In looking at my life now, the good, the bad, and the ugly (and the pretty, as I do have two daughters and a wife), I see the decisions that got me where I am.

There have been many times where I said, “Wow. There’s TWO Moabites. I’ll wait for backup.” And, “I can’t deal with that lion right now. It’s too overwhelming. And scary. I’m a bad dude, but only 175 pounds (well 200, but who’s counting) and he’s 500. I have a new knife I got for Christmas. It’s sharp, but he has 10 razor-sharp claws and, from the looks of it when he roars, 700 huge shark teeth. And, you know, he’s probably got a family to care for, sooo….”

Most of the times where I shied away from my lions have resulted in the parts of my life that have fallen short. In some situations, I’ve cut my losses, moved on, and it was the right calculation. On the contrary, when I simply neglected to do a thing because it was difficult, well, I got what I earned.

The Butterfly Effect

As I’ve said before, where might my writing career be if I had faced the lions of negativity? At worst, it would’ve failed, I would’ve reassessed my tactics and gotten better. As it stands, I might now be facing that very problem in the future, rather than it being a thing of the past.

At the time of each decision, they didn’t seem like much. Batterson highlights the Butterfly Effect theory in In a Pit. You know, the theory that a butterfly flapping it’s wings can have an impact on something clear across the world. Each decision not to take on a challenge or face a problem didn’t feel like much, but over time they compounded and had a huge impact.

In the past few days, I’ve taken steps to ensure that I make the most out of the lions I have slain, face the lions that are in my way, and dispatch them without delay. I will fail, I will succeed.

The lions that seek to inhibit me deserve to die a quick death.

What are Your Thoughts?

I know I could stand to hear some success stories? Do you have any? Are you facing any lions and need some encouragement? Speak your mind in the comments and let’s all assist one another.


The Time Has Not Passed

No matter what you may hear or have come to believe, the time for feelings of great triumph and enthusiasm has not come and gone.

Oh, the mistakes we make!

One of the greatest things about being a well-seasoned 40-something, is the mistakes I’ve made throughout adulthood.  You read it right, I’m grateful for mistakes.

I fully accept that I’m a flawed creation. Always have been, always will be. I could list my flaws, but then you would all be scared away, never to return.  I dare say, however, my list would be much the same as yours. If you doubt it, drop me an email and we can begin comparing our lists.

In The World According to Me (Alan), every person has a healthy list of issues, problems, areas of concern. For those that don’t accept that maxim, well, the rest of us can give you least one item with which you can begin your list.

This post isn’t about our mistakes and misgivings, but it is necessary to travel through them and admit them in order to arrive at the destination.  The destination being that I’m now an expert at the things I’ve overcome, and the things I’m overcoming. Again, so are you.


Overcoming Negativity

Here, at the outset of a new year, much of my free “thinking” and planning time has focused on writing and where I’m taking it. It’s important to me. As with last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the decade before that, my great enthusiasm has been hampered by the evil of negative thoughts. HUGE mistake.  As I’ve come to realize, the thoughts we think become the things that happen.

For instance, I’ve seen some small measure of writing success. I’ve published articles online and a couple in print. I established a bit of a name for myself in a small section of one subject area. That’s great. The thing is, that’s several notches below where I wanted to be at the outset. Several years ago, I started writing a book, because I was compelled to do it and believed I could. Keep in mind, I said “started,” not “completed.”

At the time, the only accepted method for publishing a real-live book and have a shot at success was through traditional publishers (what they now call “Legacy” publishers).  Before I had written a chapter, I convinced myself that I’d never find an agent to assist me, and, even if I could find an agent, no publisher would buy my book.  As you can imagine, with that mindset my book did not get written. My writing stopped, entirely, for a few years.

Like many, I even had people close to me say things like, “What makes you think you should be famous, anyway?” And, “Well, you should just be happy with a good job.” And, “Don’t try that. You might fail.” The last one is a sort of conjugation of many statements that meant the same thing. (Note: Everyone has a reason for the advice they choose to give you. Be discerning)

As the years passed, and the Internet became a staple of life, I summoned the courage to reach out to some websites that focused on something I loved. I immediately had writing success, but I knew I hadn’t reached for what was in my heart. Given that fact, when a stumbling block came along that shook my confidence in the writing business, or my little section of it, I quit again. “That’ll show ‘em!” I thought. How stupid was that?

Triumph! Finally.

I’ve always been a late-bloomer, which is where I’ll place the blame for having taken years to realize that negative thinking was killing my writing career before it started.

Last spring, armed with the optimism that comes with the end of winter and the fact that I couldn’t go on any longer without taking action, I began writing my book. I finished MY book late in the year.

I’m still revising and there’s a long way to go before publication, but I was not prepared for the feeling of triumph that accompanied completion. It was amazing! I had a great sense of accomplishment that teetered on the edge of feeling powerful. Superpowerful, even.

Here’s why I’m glad

I’m not focusing on the “what could’ve been” when I say this, but rather on what others can learn from what I’ve experienced.

What could’ve happened if I had not let the walls of negativity stand in my way? I could’ve been standing in the middle of a great writing career, writing my seventh or seventeenth book, earned extra money for retirement, paid for my kids’ college, built a clinic in an impoverished area, built a spaceship.

Or, I could’ve failed. But, even if I had failed, I could have picked myself up and tried again.

As it happens, I’ll never know what could’ve been. I can only go on from here. With my writing, I’m happy with where “here” happens to be, because I’m progressing, undaunted toward the goal.

I’m also glad that I can now use what I’ve learned as a lesson for others. My lessons learned are not just for writers, anyone can apply them to the area(s) on which they’ve given up.  Don’t give up, pick it back up and run!

If you’re beginning to experience the things I have, heed my warning. Don’t succumb to the forces acting against you. Your time for action has come!

We’re a lot alike, you and I. We are experts at many things.

I’m curious about something. Does anyone else feel that when you’re on the verge of doing something important/great/good/life-changing, a force (maybe the Dark Side of it) tries to ensure you don’t follow through? I firmly believe such a Force exists. It’s totally beatable, though.

Special thanks, again, to David Sperow. His recent FB post was a great companion in creating this one.

Image Source: Artemis Liu.


We Didn’t Come to Watch

As you can see, this is the first post to this site. I’m not troubled, at this point, about tons of traffic and visitors.

Later, it will feature my books and other things I write, posts about writing and the publishing world. Then, lots of traffic will be a good thing. As I’m building this thing out, establishing functionality and aesthetics, I’m going strictly with the gut and the heart, as far as content goes.

Yesterday, as my big kickoff, I crafted a post about the potential for the new year and the La Cima World Missionspotential in all of us, the importance of taking action, and so forth. Oh, it was a thing of beauty, I can assure you. But, it simply didn’t feel right, so it will have to wait.

The focus will remain on the potential inside us all, but I’ll give you two real-world illustrations in the persons of David and Marty Sperow. They are the finest examples of what can be achieved by simply deciding upon a direction and entering the arena.

Not Rupp Arena!! Not even close!

La Cima

Mere hours ago, Lexington, Kentucky, residents David and Marty Sperow once again returned from the breach. They touched down on home soil after a successful mission to the heart of the hurting in the Middle East. Answering the call placed upon them, and armed with the notion provided in James 2:26, they successfully provided medical, dental, humanitarian and spiritual aid directly to those in need. Their journey to this point started a nearly a decade ago when David, a Lexington dentist, and his wife, Marty, founded La Cima World Missions. They didn’t have years of training. Their education didn’t include courses in “running a non-profit.”  What they had was a calling to put their passion to work. David’s dental and medical training and Marty’s gift of languages were the initial tools used in conjunction with the foundation and promise that God gave them.

Years later, and after successful missions to Central America, the South Pacific, East Asia, and the Middle East, La Cima is going strong. The number of lives they have touched can’t be numbered.

Why? They simply set out on an adventure. They knew what they wanted to do and did what it took to make it so.

David and Marty with supplies on the Kurdistan/Iraq relief mission.

David and Marty with supplies bound for refugees on the Kurdistan/Iraq relief mission.

They didn’t succumb to negativity. They didn’t worry about the naysayers, “those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” (You know those people. The ones who revel in the failures of others). In fact, they took the possibility of failure as just that, a possibility, but they knew the upside was tremendous. So, they went after it. They have obtained that upside tenfold.

I am fortunate to call David and Marty friend. Family. Brother and Sister in Christ. They have been an inspiration to me.

Find out more about them at LaCimaWorldMissions.org. You will see in the history and story of La Cima the possibilities that are present in you, me, and everyone.

I’ll leave you with David’s own words about this newly born year and what it can hold:

“BE DANGEROUS: I am making this plea to all within my sphere of influence. FIND YOUR PURPOSE FOR BEING! A new year is a chance for a new beginning. PLEASE do not play it safe in 2015. For the sake of yourself and those around you, identify a cause greater than yourself and attack it with all your being. Take chances, risk it all, do not settle, ignore those who try to stop you. Be afraid but do it anyway. Take your licks, then get back up. Live life in such a way that no one will have to hear what is important to you, make it so obvious by your actions that they can see it with their own eyes. Don’t make excuses and don’t stop when it gets hard. Come alive and make a difference in the life of someone who can never return the favor. The widow, the orphan, the oppressed, the poor, the hungry, the naked, the imprisoned, the heartbroken, the downtrodden, the hopeless….they are legion…and they are within your reach. Go to them.

Spoiler alert: On the journey to serve the Least of These you’ll find yourself.

No one can do it for you. It’s up to you. Do something amazing…or don’t. Your call.

‘Life has a certain flavor for those who have fought and risked all that the sheltered and protected can never experience.’ — John Stuart Mill”

Follow David and Marty on Facebook and be challenged/inspired/amazed/shocked on a daily basis.

PS – If you want to support an organization and ensure your donations go to where they are intended, support La Cima.

A special thanks to Teddy Roosevelt for one of my favorite quotes, a portion of which was used above:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”