The Bristly Truth

 

I’m right at that point where the crazy itchiness is giving way to warm comfort.

I recently told one of my daughters that it was like a warm blanket was covering my chin. She didn’t understand. She thinks I should shave.

I’m doing a No-Shave November.

If you’re not familiar with it, that’s where men around the world go a month without shaving to highlight men’s health issues.

It would be a lie to say that was exactly what I was doing.

For one thing, I shaved this morning – but just those pesky hairs that pop up on my upper cheeks and earlobes. I know, weird, huh?

Also, I’m mainly using November as an excuse to see how my beard looks nowadays. I know it’s mostly grey and makes me look older. But I kinda like it.

I might just keep it. Stay tuned.

Don’t get me wrong, I think men’s health issues are important and if my not shaving reminds some men to get more proactive about their health, that’s great.

What I’m far more interested in is men’s mental and spiritual health.

We have become a society that measures its members by what people have rather than what they do.

There’s bumper sticker that says, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” It should say

“He who dies with the most toys dies.”

I read recently (in “The Men We Need” by Brant Hansen) about a Mouse Utopia. A social scientist set up an experiment where a group of mice were given everything they needed. They didn’t have to do anything to get food. Their enclosure was kept clean and safe. All they had to do was reproduce.

At first, they thrived. Then, they reached a peak population far below the capacity of their enclosure. The mice lost interest in everything, even reproduction. They turned violent, killing each other. Finally, the colony died off.

This happened over and over.

What went wrong?

The mice had no purpose. Their God-given instincts to find new food sources and struggle to survive were denied an outlet.

We’re not mice, but we have a God-given need for purpose.

In learning to write novels, one big thing I’ve learned is that there has to be a struggle or conflict or people will get bored and stop reading.

The same is true for people and especially men. We have been given a need to fight to survive and prosper. That includes working to support our families. But I believe it goes beyond that.

We have a need for a greater purpose – to make an impact on our world.

We have a tendency to try to fill that need with video games and sports. While there’s nothing wrong with those, they don’t do much for us. We need to make a real difference to feel fulfillment.

The bottom line is:

DO SOMETHING.

Step outside of your comfort zone and do something that will impact people outside of your normal sphere.

When you make an impact on this world, you’ll be amazed how much your efforts will impact you.

Not Yet!

I love Christmas!

I’ll put up Christmas lights until they can be seen from space.

But I refuse to turn them on until the day after Thanksgiving!

A local radio station started playing Christmas music on November 11th

and I want to yell “STOP!”

Friends post pictures of their trees put up early

and I want to block them until December.

Walmart’s garden section is gone, replaced by a plethora of trees, lights, yard décor, and garlands.

Yes, I avoid that side of the store.

Did Scrooge infect me with a heart two sizes too small?

Did Rudolph punch me in the gut with his red snout?

No!

I just want to dwell in the attitude of

Thanksgiving.

This used to be a time that people celebrated the harvest. People would be truly thankful to God for the provision of food for the winter.

I know for many, this is a lean season. Inflation has hit hard at a time that many companies are downsizing. We are having to find ways to cut our budget.

But we still have so much to be thankful for.

I am reminded of a family I met years ago in Tijuana, Mexico. The mother worked at a mission to the poorest barrio. She invited our mission group to her home.

She was very proud of it. She prepared a simple dessert for us as we made our way in our fancy American cars into her neighborhood. It was on a hill, well above the flood zones that affected the barrio by the mission.

When we pulled up, we saw the plain cement block home with a metal roof. Upon entering, we were greeted by the bright colors of Mexican blankets covering the walls and the few seats.

The whole house was about the size of our living room.

She beamed as she welcomed us to her happy home.

I have also had customers who lived in grand homes with every luxury you can imagine.

And some of them were miserable!

What was the main difference?

Thankfulness.

That woman in Tijuana thanked God she no longer had to deal with floods, or a leaking roof. She had a job and food for her family. Life for her was awesome.

That wealthy customer always looked at what he didn’t have. He strove for the next big deal. He was all business. Sure, he had fun with all his toys, but they never satisfied.

Each of us has so much to be thankful for.

Do you have food for your next meal?

Do you have a place to sleep?

Do you have friends?

Do you have breath in your lungs?

If you answered yes to any of those, you have something to be thankful for!

So, before I get caught up in the excitement of the season of the Advent of Christ, I will dwell on my blessings.

Then, I’ll be thankful for the biggest blessing of all, God’s arrival on Earth to redeem humanity.

And then I’ll decorate the house until it looks like Santa’s elves are moving in.

I Don’t Understand!

I spotted this list on a customer’s wall.

That’s a lot of missing stuff.

I’m only showing the bottom of the list because there are names attached to some of the solved items higher up.

It sounds like most of the missing items were misunderstandings.

Understanding might be the one thing most missing in relationships.

This group of co-workers often misunderstood where an item should be or what items they could take for their own use. This list brought that out into the open and avoided some hard feelings.

I am reminded of a time when I misunderstood my son.

Something was missing and all evidence pointed to him. He refused to admit it so I took a treasured item of his until he would confess.

I never found the missing item but I found my senses when he still maintained his innocence. You see, he is on the autism spectrum and finds it very difficult to lie.

He refused to confess because he was innocent! I was the one in the wrong and had to apologize and, of course, return his treasured item.

Now it’s easier for me to understand him but he still has a hard time understanding others. Autism often makes it difficult to recognize the subtleties of expression and inflection.

He has learned to recognize my sarcasm but still has a hard time reading faces.

And people have a hard time reading him. He’ll refuse to shake hands, not because he dislikes someone but because of a fear of germs and a lack of understanding of the importance of social norms.

Will we ever get to a place of everyone understanding one another perfectly?

Of course not!

What a boring world that would be.

But we can recognize that we don’t understand each other perfectly and not get so uptight at perceived anger, insults, and injustices.

I say we keep exploring the mysteries of human communication as we seek to understand each other.

And be quick to apologize and forgive.

Never is that more important than election season.

Many will read this on Election Day.

We each have our heart-felt political beliefs and tend to not understand how anyone can think differently and still be a good person.

I have news for you – they can.

They just think differently than us so we tend to misunderstand them.

And speaking of misunderstanding,

the first thing that popped into my mind when I read #24 on that list was

“to Candy Mountain”.

If you don’t get that reference you are truly blessed. If you must know, search for Charlie the Unicorn on YouTube (and don’t blame me).

Flaky Outlook

When I was a kid, snow was a thing of awe!

Growing up in Fresno, CA, I can recall only one time that it snowed at our home. All the kids went out into the yard to scrape together snowballs, build a small snowman, and have a snowball fight.

All the kids but me. I somehow managed to come down with a cold that day. Mom wouldn’t let me go outside.

Then we moved to San Mateo, near the coast and snow was a few hours’ drive away.

Now I live in Colorado and tend to take snow for granted.

Snow in the forecast conjures up visions of shoveling, bumper to bumper traffic, and fender benders.

I caught that snowflake above last Thursday at Eldora Ski Resort where they hope to open this week! My customer there pointed out the amazing flake shapes that were coming down. They’re tough to capture on a phone camera but they were really cool (literally).

Despite the awesome snowflakes,

I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that winter is coming.

The short days and cold, achy temperatures get me down.

I’ve wondered before what advice I would give to my younger self. Maybe I should flip that script.

What would my younger self tell me about winter?

  • “You’re so lucky you just have to go outside to play in the snow.”
  • “If I could afford it, I’d put up a million Christmas lights, and leave them up all winter!”
  • “I bet it’d be fun to go sliding in your car around a snow-covered parking lot!”
  • “Mmmmm, hot chocolate!”
  •             “I can catch more snowflakes on my tongue than you!”

Maybe I’ll listen to my younger self this winter.

I’m certainly game for more Christmas lights. I’ve already had my first hot chocolate of the season. And if we get a big snowstorm, don’t be surprised if you see an even bigger snowman on out front lawn!

For now, I intend to enjoy these next few warm days before it really starts cooling off.

Pardon me while I go get the sleds ready while the garage is still warm…

The Perfect Edit?

Caution – red pen at work. (Also Spoiler Alert – don’t read manuscript if you don’t want spoilers).

 

As of a week and a half ago, I have written three books in the Wil Clarey Series. Books two and three are in rough draft form –

very rough.

Book One – The Impossible Summer is in much better shape. It is as thoroughly self-edited as possible. It is completely ready for professional editors.

So I thought.

In preparation for editing book two, School of Hard Knocks, I read through Book one with an eye toward maintaining continuity through the series. I even made a spreadsheet to list all the named characters and details about them (There are 34 named characters in The Impossible Summer at last count).

Of course, I read my paper manuscript with red pen in hand.

The red pen has a mind of its own. It found several poorly worded sentences, a few unneeded lines, and a handful of typos.

So much for “ready for professional edit.”

If you are a casual reader, you might not realize how many times most books are edited before publishing. I used to think that someone would proofread a manuscript and then it would be printed. That’s just the final step.

Here’s a few of the possible edits a manuscript will go through:

  • Developmental edit – This one can be painful. This type of edit may lead to major restructuring of the story.
  • Structural Edit – May be included with developmental edit. Looks at the flow of the presentation to make sure the reader can follow along.
  • Continuity edit (or fact checking) – I just did a bit of that with Book one. For instance, I realized that July 4th needed to fall on a Tuesday to stay consistent with the calendar I chose for books two and three. It can also include checking for consistency in character names and ages, layout of settings, etc.
  • Copy edit – checks for errors in grammar and spelling.
  • Proofread – checks for typos.

Some edits may be combined or split to suit the publisher and the book. I’ve seen about as many interpretations of editing as I’ve seen articles on the process.

The bottom line is, a good book is the work of the author and several others.

Just like a lawyer representing himself has a fool for a client, the author who self-edits beyond the first couple of edits has a fool for an editor.

As I don’t have the cash to lay out for a series of professional edits, I am praying for a traditional publisher. In the meantime, realize that any excerpts you may see here or at WilClarey.com may not be as they get published.

I promise you that I will not publish whole books without completing the editing process. I’m not that cruel.

Okay, maybe I’m a little cruel.

These blogs and my Christmas stories are self edited.

I hope you enjoy them anyway!

Moments that Move

Bob Wiley (bobble head) is excited to see the end of the book.

One day last week, I was typing along, trying to wrap up the rough draft of Wil Clarey: The Mystery at the Mill, when I got to the end of a paragraph and tears threatened to spill from my eyes.

No, it wasn’t some emotional scene.

It just hit me, as the last few words hit the page, that it was the end of the book.

With my busy schedule, it has taken me over a year and a half to write it.

It was a momentous occasion!

I was brought up to stuff emotions inside.

“If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about”

was heard around my childhood home more than once.

Later in life, even my father realized how destructive that phrase was.

Now I’m a big softy.

My kids like watching emotional movies with me so they can see me cry. Of course, I use the “I’m just stuffed up” excuse every time but they know better.

The same thing happens to me at a powerful worship service – especially if we sing songs that hold nostalgic significance to me.

Brant Hansen writes about having experienced emotional envy. (Blessed are the Misfits c. 2017, Brant Hansen). Being on the autism spectrum, situations that would be emotional to others didn’t faze him. He makes the point that those experiences and the faith that goes with them are not dependent on emotion.

When I lived in Arizona, I attended a church where the worship leader got so emotional every week that it distracted me from the worship experience. After a couple of months there, I ended up going to a different church because of it.

Worship can be an emotional experience.

So, what am I trying to say?

Is emotion good or not?

Anyone who has experienced tears of joy should be able to tell you that emotion is good. I agree. But,

Emotion should never take the place of faith.

Faith will produce an emotional response in most people. But faith based on emotional experiences has an unstable foundation.

In preparing for this blog, I tried to think of experiences I’ve had that were emotional. There were many. But it wasn’t the emotional response, but the situation and the faith involved in it that were life changing.

I could go on and on about emotions. There are so many negative emotions that can make people feel trapped.

I’ve been there.

I can offer no easy escape, but I can say that positive emotions help.

So, next time that song has you in tears, that unexpected blessing brings tears of joy, or that leap of faith brings release from anxiety, savor the emotional experience without basing your life on it.

You may just find those flashes of joy help light the way to an emotionally and spiritually healthy life based on

truth and faith.

The Sound of Silence

 

My legs burned.

My breathing was heavy but calming.

I leaned against a stump.

The moment my feet stopped, I felt the profound quiet.

My ears rang with the suddenness. My footfalls had been loud compared with the absence of sound that surrounded me.

True, the silence wasn’t complete. A distant plane faintly hummed. The occasional car could be heard in the canyon far below. But, those sounds were distant and very faint. Bird calls and faint wind song were all that could be heard close by.

I took out my phone and started photographing the view. As I concentrated on composing a scene with a weathered dead tree, Boulder Canyon below, and the morning sun beyond I was startled by a strange noise.

I turned toward the sound seeing nothing but a pair of hawks flying away. Then I realized, it was quiet enough to hear the sound of their wings beating.

I lingered on top of Sugarloaf Mountain for some time. I don’t know how long. There was no one else there and my mind soaked up the silence like a desert traveler soaks in water.

I made it back home before noon and kept busy the rest of the day with typical Saturday responsibilities. My legs were sore but my sole was rested.

At creation, God set the standard for rest – one in seven days. I do a lousy job of sticking to that standard. But, one thing I’ve learned is that my mind needs rest as much as my body does. Yesterday was a good day of rest for my mind. I need more of those.

The Wide View

This photo gives me a wide perspective of the town and the landscape below. Looks like a great place for me to base a story. Maybe someday, but it’s been done before. If you don’t know where it is, read to the end.

More exciting news first.

I may have just written the ending of Wil Clarey: Mystery at the Mill!

It came suddenly. The story is full of action and suspense. I let the story tell itself and my characters went a bit crazy. They reached the climax of the action before I expected.

Problem is, the book is not done.

I’m not just talking about the rewrites and edits. I let the story move along so quickly that I left out whole sections that I need to insert before I can call the fist draft done.

So, right now, I am stepping back and taking a look at the big picture. I am reviewing the story to see where I can bring in the parts that will make it complete.

It’s not easy but with the wide view, I can get the perspective to see how the story plays out.

I try to do that with my life about once a year too. I take a day and step back from my life to get a perspective on where it is going. It’s been a busy year and I haven’t done that yet but I have plans.

Then there’s the really big perspective.

They don’t call it a “God’s eye view” for nothing.

I believe God has the full perspective and can see everything. That’s a big part of my perspective day, to seek out what God’s perspective on my life is.

That brings me to the God’s eye view of that town. The popular story based in the town was called Goonies. If you haven’t guessed, the town is Astoria, Oregon. The photo was taken from the top of the Astoria Column. I happen to be writing this blog from a vacation condo not too far from there.

I’m not here to get perspective this time. Just looking forward to another day of fun.

Here’s to hoping you find some fun and perspective in your life.

 

Out of the Ashes

Why would I post a photo of a house under construction?

I’ll get back to that.

It’s been a rough week.

A friend from high school passed away yesterday. I was in the middle of a group of new friends when I found out and it was embarrassing when I couldn’t hold the tears in.

This morning I heard from another old friend. He and his wife are now going through a divorce. I know that pain first hand. My heart breaks for him and his kids.

I once asked the boys I teach at church if they had gone through any tough times. Some said yes. There’s some pretty tough stories out there. Most said no. I probably sounded pretty negative when I told them that

tough times will come.

I didn’t leave it there. I told them of the hope and peace and joy that comes from trusting Jesus. God is close to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18).

The two families I described above and many others are going through broken-hearted times. I have no simple answers for them except to stick close to God through the tough times. I can speak from experience about how

The love of God has brought me out of the ashes of my severely damaged life.

So why the house under construction?

Last December, we had very dry conditions and a day of hurricane force winds. By the end of the day, nearly a thousand homes had been destroyed or damaged by fire. (Our city escaped damage). This house, across the street from the Louisville, CO Police Department is one of the first being rebuilt. It has literally risen out of the ashes.

You might feel like your life is damaged or in a pile of ashes. The roof has collapsed and you feel injured and exposed.

You can be rebuilt!

There is healing and power in the Name of Jesus! I seen it time and time again.

The closer you get to God, the closer you get to healing.

If this sounds a little preachier than normal, thanks for hanging in there and reading to the end. If you have any questions about how to turn to Jesus or just want to complain about my “religious” post, feel free to contact me.

Charcoal Theology

I love to grill.

I love to eat grilled food even more.

That’s what brought me to my deck on a recent 100 degree day.

I have a gas grill but I love the taste that charcoal gives. I add applewood chips to add even more flavor.

Those burgers were good!

The chicken was even better!

Staring into the coals as they heated, I was struck a simple fact. Before they are ready to cook, they have to be close to one another. They need the heat from each other before they are ready to be spread out and do their amazing work of preparing my feast.

We were made to bring God’s amazing flavor to this world.

We need each other to accomplish this. With that connection to each other, we have the strength to spread out and influence the world.

I know a few “Lone Ranger” Christians. They’re awesome people. But, for some reason or another, they avoid the local church.

More often than not, the reason is past experience. They have been shunned for something they said or did. In some cases, it was something that happened to them through no fault of their own. They have endured insults for having different political views or styles. Worse, they have been ignored in their times of need.

In case you thought this was going to be a blog urging believers who aren’t part of a church to join a church, it isn’t. I would absolutely welcome them into our church. But this blog is directed at those of us who are connected to local churches.

We desperately need to correct the attitudes that drive people away from church.

This is not a social club.

When I was in Bible college, I developed a vision for what I would like to see in a church I would lead. Circumstances prevented my completion of that program so I am one of many volunteers instead of a pastor. But the vision remains.

Being a history buff, I envisioned the church like a castle.

It is a place where people come to fellowship, train, find protection, heal, and celebrate. It is a place where our various talents and styles come together to create a vibrant, growing community. It is a place where we are challenged to excel.

Without that place, we don’t have the community to grow within and we are subject to attack by an enemy we have no defense against.

If you are living an isolated life, know that you are welcome at Orchard Church and at many other good churches around the world. Here, we have a saying:

Nobody’s Perfect,

Everyone’s Welcome,

Anything’s Possible.

If you are in a church, look around and see if your church is doing its part successfully. If not, bring about change so that many more could find refuge and fellowship within that community. Do your part to welcome those who would otherwise be driven away.

I’ll step down from my soap box now and enjoy the smoky goodness of my grill.