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I’m Here For You

Hi. How’s your day today? If your night was anything like mine you went to bed far too late and were awakened far too early.

Since:

Becoming a parent

Entering my forties

Being diagnosed with sleep apnea

I have more nights/days like that. Rest is a fleeting commodity. Add to that work pressures, comitments, obligations, family issues, and sometimes I want to pull the escape hatch.

I’m sure you’ve felt the same, right?

Sometimes life is too much.

But I’m a guy. I’m supposed to be tough, stong…

I’m suposed to be able to handle it. Thing is, I don’t always. I don’t handle it at all well. Sometimes, my coping strategies involve just about exactly the wrong thing.

I have struggles I don’t want to have.

My prayer of late, after trying to lay ahold of kingdom promises, has simply been:

“I’m not strong, I don’t have it altogether. God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

How about you?

If you’re a guy, and you’re going through something you’d rather not be, I want you to know:

YOU’RE NOT ALONE.

I’m here for you. This blog is a safe place. It exists for our mutual comfort and encouragement.

I’m here for you.

Can I count on you when life is hard?

A Little Girl’s Dream

image

Hi! This is my daughter, Bella; she’s a Daisy Scout. This is her, and our, first year involved with scouts. We’re heading into cookie season, a fun time for the girls (and their families). Cookie sales fund a number of scout programs, such as camp, troop activities, etc.

Ours being a brand new troop, expectations aren’t very high for sales. Even so, her mother and I always try to encourage Bella to dream big.

You have a dream; you might be pursuing it now. Or maybe you had a dream, and have forgotten how. You remember what it is dream–what it feels like to see it out there, shimmering on the horizon before you. It’s so sweet, you can almost taste it.

It’s right there at your fingertips.

You didn’t get there alone. You had a lot of help, a lot of encouragement, along the way.

My little girl has a dream, too:

She wants to sell 1500 boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

If she can, she’ll earn a one-day trip to Disneyland (one of her favorite places). 'Take that, Girl Scouts!!' photo (c) 2012, An Mai - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

From the Girl Scout’s website:

“When a Girl Scout sells you cookies, she’s building a lifetime of skills and confidence. She learns goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics—aspects essential to leadership, success, and life.

By putting her mind and energies to something, a Girl Scout can overcome any challenge. There are no limits. She can be anything. She can do anything. Help her build a lifetime of skills and confidence.”

The Cookies

Can I count on you to order cookies, and help a little girl’s dream come true? They’re only $4.00 per box. Contact me at: Chad Jones, and we’ll work out the details.

My #OneWord for 2014 Is Actually Two

'Control' photo (c) 2010, runran - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I’m proud.

Egotistical.

Stubborn.

Fiercely protective of my work.

Handle criticism poorly. (This gets me in no end of trouble).

While I can be at times mellow, catch me at the wrong time and I’m downright mercurial.

I come from a long line of overreactors.
My name is Chad, and I’m a recovering control freak.

My One Word© for 2014 is actually two:

Letting. Go.

How about you?

Can we “let go” together?

A Soft Place to Fall

Widely regarded as the best film in the franchise, Raiders of the Lost Ark is replete with iconic lines. Lines such as:

“It’s not the years, it’s the mileage,” and

“I’m making this up as I go.”

This is true of me, too: my life has (if not similar adventures, or dangers) been a process of making it up as I go. Not having examples, or mentors, I’ve had to figure out how to be a husband and dad. And I thought coming to Christ would fill my life with meaning and purpose; in a sense, it has.

However, at forty-four, I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to do, or who I’m supposed to be. I have a great job, which had become a career, that I fell into. (Looking back, I believe it was God guiding me). The job provides for my family and I, but it’s not fulfilling in the deepest sense. In fact, I can’t point to any one thing which has fulfilled me.

That, I think, is my problem–the crux of the matter. I’m still, at forty-four, looking to things outside of myself to define me. It’s a never-ending quest, a fruitless pursuit. The Constitution guarantees me the right to pursue happiness, but never defines just what that happiness is.

Don’t get me wrong: I have a wonderful wife, two great kids who adore me, and more blessings than I know what to do with. Everything I’ve looked to give me purpose and meaning has turned to dust and ashes. Victories which tasted sweet in my mouth turned sour in my belly.

Even this blog. I came to blogging in earnest when some real life friendships came to their different ends. The hard truth here is that friends are not friends forever (no matter what Michael W. Smith sings). The things I previously discussed with friends needed an outlet.

So I came here.

And mostly you (collectively) have been most kind, welcoming me with open arms. For this I’m very thankful.

But I would like to also apologize for placing upon you a burden you were never meant to carry; namely, I’m sorry for trying to elicit from you tacit statements that I matter. (“Please love me”).

My heart is a needy beast.

Everything I’ve done, if it’s been about anything, it’s about that: wanting to know that I matter. Because I grew up in a story where I didn’t. My dad was too lost in his own woundedness to pay any attention. And my mom was too busy trying to bridge gap.

Listen: I know I matter to my Heavenly Father. I know what’s true. But knowing and feeling are often two very different things. And it’s all too easy to lose sight of what one knows in the trenches of life. The voices tell me I don’t matter, but what’s true is that I’m loved by my Heavenly Father, that I’m a husband of almost twenty-three years, and a dad to two wonderful, precocious, sometimes frustrating, but always awesome kids.

No matter what else I do in life–if I never publish a book, or never do anything other than resolve technical issues
–no one can take that away from me.

I only hope that my kids aren’t as hobbled coming out of the gate. That they know their parents love them. That they know Jesus loves them.

That no matter what life throws at them they know that they are loved, and have a soft place to fall.

How about you? Who was your soft place growing up? Who’s your soft place now? Are you a soft place for someone?

It’s late, and I’m rambling. Please don’t forget about the Church Hopper giveaway here: Church Hoppers to the Rescue Click through to enter. Thanks!

Sudden Writing Challenge

The other day I was tasked with taking part in a writing challenge. The brain children behind this exercise are Joseph Craven and Ricky Anderson. The following is the text of an email I received from young master Craven describing the challenge:

“Oh hello there.

Earlier today, Ricky Anderson and I were chatting and he told me of an idea he had to try to get a handful of people involved in a fun little game. We would come up with a general topic and then have to write a short story about it. Nothing huge, so we don’t have to worry about making it super fancy or fully fleshed out or anything like that. Just sort of a spur of the moment thing.

Since it’s a little similar to the concept in the 48 Hour Film project, we thought, “Hey why not just basically do it the way they do?” So we will give you a general topic and three things that MUST be included. The rest is entirely up to you.

So here are the details. You only have until Friday, August 23 at noon Ricky time (mountain time) to finish the story. Exciting!

The Category: A Caper. Now, this isn’t limited to a bank heist or something (though that’s definitely an idea!), but it’s definitely not an action-hero shoot ‘em up. Use your imagination with it, because it can be serious or humorous or anything you want it to be, as long as it sticks with the general concept of a character in a tight spot having to figure a way out.

Required Elements: These can be used as little or as much as you like, but must be included.
1. A rooftop
2. A custodian named Glenn
3. The line “Well, that’s not how I would have planned it.”

What follows is my attempt to craft a story which technically adheres to the rules, but which also subverts them. What is on display is my philosophy of writing, my rules for good writing:

1) Know the rules. Know when/how/why to break them. (i.e, show, don’t tell–but know when to tell)

2) Less is more. The most evocative writing leaves readers wanting more.

3) Characters must have believable motivations. If they do, oftentimes other story flaws will likely be overlooked. Otherwise, if the motivations are murky, or unbelievable, you lose your readers faster than the Roadrunner making a beeline away from Wile E. Coyote.

I’m no expert, but I think those things elements worked out very well for me in the following:

—————————–

“How did I get myself here,” Glenn Bateman mused to himself. Of all the pickles he’d been in in his life, this took the cake. What a joke! From the pinnacle of the financial world on Wall Street, to this: custodian for an elementary school. Only he wasn’t “Glenn Bateman” anymore; no, he was now “Overstreet,” Dal Overstreet. Bateman had a record. Overstreet was a clean start. Or was supposed to be. It was supposed to be a simple grab: take the money, and run. Only it didn’t quite work out that way. No…

Which was why Overstreet was here, wounded, on the rooftop of an abandoned warehouse, awaiting his fate.

“I’ve got no fight left,” he said to himself. The overhead sun baked into his brown custodial uniform. “Why…” he coughed, wiping blood on the back of his hand. It was only a matter of time now… He staggered to his feet, walked to the edged of the rooftop. A trail of blood followed him.

“Well, that’s not how I would have planned it,” he said, shading his eyes from the fiery sun, looking down to the pavement below. He was a man truly alone–without a hope, or help, in the world.

“Well, that’s not how I would have planned it,” he repeated. He could hear the sirens of the approaching police cars… The cops were coming. His boss, Mr. Cortwright, was coming.

There was only one way out of this, and Bateman took it:

Launching himself from the roof as best he could, he said, again, “Well, that’s not…”

———————-

As I said above, I technically adhered to the rules, but in my case the caper happens offstage. I did this because that–the caper–wasn’t the most compelling element of the story to me; rather, it was Glenn’s state of mind. In order to get you into the action, I employed the time-honored literary technique known as “In Media Res,” meaning that I gave you the end before the beginning, or middle. (If I wanted to continue this story, I could go back in time, show Glenn’s fall from grace, etc). I had to deliver believable motivations for both perpetrating a crime, and according to the rules of the challenge, give him a (believable) way out. I’d like think that I also followed my own writing rules, told you an effective story, and yet left you wanting more. It was a fun exercise, and I’m glad I took part. I almost didn’t. Tell me what you think in the comments.

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