“Thank you for coming”

Photo by Cristian Newman

Last night, something totally unspectacular happened. Our church is one of several that visits a local nursing home to hold a little church service for the residents. The youngest resident is a 27-year-old man who receives oxygen through a nasal canula. The eldest is a little lady in a wheelchair who is now 101 and has a mind full of memories. 

Typically, our services aren’t long. We sing a couple hymns to the accompaniment of a piano. Then anyone who has a prayer request can share it with the group. One of us visitors (anywhere from 6-12) will pray, and then one of us will share a 20-minute message from the Bible. 

At the conclusion, we linger a little and chat with the residents, getting to know each other and sharing a little humor or tidbits from our daily lives. Nothing earth-shaking. 

Last night, I wasn’t the one who had shared from God’s Word (I take my turn, but not last night). I was only one of several who had gone to be part of the group. So, when a little gray-haired woman in a wheelchair shook my hand and said, “Thank you for coming,” her words left a special imprint.

What had I done? Not much. I came, sang, listened, chatted, and slipped in a comment or two that sparked smiles. The investment of time hadn’t been huge. So, for what was she thankful? First, we remembered them. The old saying declares, “Out of sight, out of mind,” and I suppose nursing home residents know the feeling of being forgotten. Yet, when our group from church arrives and greets them with smiles and holds a humble church service for them, they not only enjoy the fresh faces of visitors, but they receive proof that they aren’t forgotten. Also, we treat them with respect, like peers, not as patients. Our simple conversations allow them to feel plugged in to the outside world, not just passing time inside the same walls. 

True, any observer would declare nothing spectacular happened. Nothing worthy of a Hollywood movie. Nothing a journalist would write up for the local newspaper. Yet, we shared the love of God and brightened the evening of a group of people whose days on earth are winding down. And they say, “Thank you for coming.”

To make a positive difference in this world, you don’t need to pack enormous stadiums with people. You don’t need to be rich, famous, good-looking, or active in politics. If you’re willing to care for people, treat them with respect, and shine a little light into their lives, those small gestures have an impact. And that is pretty spectacular.

Close to Giving Up?

In 1901, brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright were discouraged. Struggling to find a way to make heavier-than-air objects fly, they had designed different wings for gliders. Their latest experiment in North Carolina had failed again. On the train back to Ohio, an exasperated Wilbur declared, “Not within a thousand years would man ever fly!”

The brothers must have felt like quitting. Instead, they tried new tactics. They built a miniature wind tunnel with a fan at one end. They experimented at home, compiled data. They discovered errors in earlier calculations. They worked with a mechanic to build a lightweight, four-cylinder engine…

At last, on December 17, 1903, Orville climbed aboard their flying machine and became the first man to fly. That flight lasted only 12 seconds, 120 feet. Later that day, Wilbur took a turn. The man who had complained that mankind might live a thousand years without flying soared for 59 seconds and traveled 852 feet. Through persistence and attention to tiny details, they succeeded! *

How about you? Ever felt tempted to throw in the towel? Maybe your job frustrates you. Maybe you feel like a failure in a personal goal. When discouragement strikes, the temptation to give up grows huge. Haven’t we all been there? 

Now, I’m not going to promise you can accomplish anything by sheer effort. If you sing bass, I don’t guarantee you can become a world-class soprano. If you dropped out of school in 3rd grade, chances are you won’t become a brain surgeon. 

But even as Orville and Wilbur encouraged each other toward a difficult goal, I’m coming alongside to say, “Don’t abandon your dreams too quickly.” Instead of quitting, maybe you need to change tactics. You might need to study the problem. Or practice. Or to seek advice. But if you evaluate the situation and believe the goal is worthy and reachable, then don’t give up. Press forward. Progress may come in inches, but all progress is progress.

A final thought…

I recall a time when life was crushing me. On my own, I couldn’t survive. If God had taken my life, I would’ve been happy to go. But I clung to Him. He was my Lifeline. Each morning I opened my eyes, read the Bible, and told God I needed His help to go another day. And He helped. I survived. I grew, adapted, and tried new things. The Lord restored my joy. 

If you’re at the end of your rope, maybe it’s time to let go of that rope and cling to God instead? 

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9, ESV

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28, ESV

*https://www.thehenryford.org/explore/stories-of-innovation/what-if/wright-brothers/

Time for a New Start?

The starting line. Photo by Braden Collum.

Okay, I confess: Several years ago, I created a new author website with a blog. Somehow, though, I never seriously committed to writing that blog on a weekly basis. Oh, when I did add a new post, I appreciated the comments people left. But life got busy. I became a caregiver for aging parents. The blog slipped down the list of priorities. You know how it goes.

This week I’m committing to a new start. Each Wednesday (assuming I’m alive and not in a coma), I will add a new post to my blog. It might be an update on my writing, or an observation on life, an inspirational thought, or something else. But whatever the topic, I invite you to share it with me and then to jot your own insights in the comments. By making this commitment and exercising self-discipline, not only should I sharpen my skills in capturing thoughts in words, but you and I can share friendly connections and encourage one another, too.

Yet, even as I make this fresh commitment, I’m already wondering about you friends. Chances are, I’m not the only person in the world who let a one-time idea slide. If so, maybe you’d like to make a new start, too? One person might resolve to read at least one chapter of the Bible each morning. Another might decide it’s time to begin one healthy change in daily eating habits. Yet another might commit to reading one book a month. Or to bank some money each week. Whatever. If there’s something you would like to begin but simply haven’t started, I invite you to join me and make a new start this week. 

Of course, making a public commitment can be daunting. If I miss a week, some of you will email me: “Uh, Rick, where’s that blog post for the week?” But that’s okay. If I miss, go ahead! Because sometimes even the sincerest commitment can use a little encouragement from friends!

A Tip for New Writers

Recently a writer friend wrote to me about a problem. She’d been writing non-fiction material (and successfully selling it). However, when she returned to fiction, she felt paralyzed.

She wrote, “I’m struggling when I try to write fiction. I’ve been working on a short story for a few days, and the sentences are so slow in coming! Sometimes I fear I may be overthinking it. I’ve learned about using strong verbs instead of too many adjectives and adverbs, about showing instead of telling, about not insulting the reader with too much description, about keeping the action going, about giving my characters layers. So I sit and stare at my screen instead of writing what I think isn’t good enough….”

I can relate, and I bet many of you writing colleagues can, too. If I spend even a few days writing non-fiction, it’s challenging to switch gears back to fiction-based thinking. Composing logical non-fiction material and crafting fictional characters into stories are different skills.

Maybe this lesson I learned will unshackle your own creativity: You must give yourself permission to write junk. Nobody’s first draft is a masterpiece. Even successful authors who teach writing courses don’t produce flawless prose on the first draft.

Writing is like creating a snow sculpture. Before you can sculpt, you must expend energy amassing a big, ugly pile of snow. After you’ve done that, you can take spoons and butter knives and start shaping the mass into a statue. But you can’t simply pick up handfuls of loose snow and pat them one at a time into the final, completed sculpture. You need the intermediate stages as you chip away and shape the snow into a shape worth seeing.

Similarly, in writing don’t worry if the words you type into your first draft are bland or break rules as they appear on the monitor. The first draft is the raw, creative stage. In it, you’re accumulating all your ideas (like piling up loose snow) into one spot and into a general shape. Once all the basic characters, ideas, and plot are there, you go back with your writer tools and rework that rough manuscript into the story you envisioned. If you’re a normal writer, you’ll need to work through it multiple times before the final version emerges. Even then, you’ll want to retouch it here and polish it there to make your final creation shine!

Those are the tips I shared with my struggling friend. Some days later, she wrote back to say, “It worked! Thank you so much for the advice. I may have to start paying you, lol.”

People paying a writer for his words? Now there’s a novel idea!

 

Interview about My Screenplay, The Methuselah Project!

The Methuselah Project

Dear friends,

Today author/editor Tisha Martin asks lots of great questions concerning how I adapted my novel, The Methuselah Project, into a screenplay that became one of the Top 10 Finalists in Movieguide‘s annual Kairos Prize.

BONUS! This interview includes a chance to win a FREE paper copy of the original novel!

Check it out here!

https://tinyurl.com/y9dksh2u

 

 

Valentine’s Day Reflections: Love & Lust

One scene from a nearly-forgotten movie remains fresh in my mind: A criminal visiting a run-down apartment looks through a doorway and spots a scantily clad girl sitting on a bed. She’s high on drugs. Immediately the lowlife tells his buddy, “I’m in love.” He proceeds into the bedroom to take advantage of the stoned woman.

In that film, the criminal doesn’t achieve his goal. The moment he touches the girl, she comes alive and fights like an angry cat. I stopped watching, but the scene stayed with me, a cinematic reminder of how people confuse love and lust.

Both men and women can experience either love or lust. With some couples, one person might genuinely love the partner, while that partner merely lusts the other — but believes his/her feelings are love. After all, nowadays people stretch the word love to express appreciation for ice cream, their favorite TV series, a new fashion… whatever. So, what’s the difference between love and lust? Although they can look similar, there are huge differences:

Lust expresses strong interest in another person, but for selfish reasons. In the movie scene above, the criminal  felt strong sexual arousal. He wanted to enjoy the woman’s body. The same happens in the real world. Although a person in lust might be witty, charming, generous, and do “thoughtful” things to win appreciation from the one he/she lusts, the underlying goal is self-centered: to engage in sex, mainly for personal gratification. Lust cares more about getting than giving.

A person in lust, say a man, might believe he’s in love. But if the target of his attention makes clear that sex without marriage isn’t going to happen (or that it’s not going to happen anymore if it already has), he might grow frustrated, even angry, when the desires of his hormones are thwarted. (He might eventually give up and seek an easier target.)

The fact that a physical relationship brings pleasure doesn’t guarantee it’s a love relationship. The prostitution trade proves that even total strangers can enjoy the physical sensations of touching, kissing, having sex–all without love.

Contrary to lust, Love is more concerned with giving than receiving. Genuine love is concerned with meeting the needs of the loved one, regardless of whether the loved one can reciprocate. Neither is love purely emotional. To a great degree, to love or not love is a decision.

An older couple had been married many years. When the husband suffered a heart attack and other health issues, he lay in the hospital, unconscious and surrounded by machines, tubes, and wires. His adoring wife could get close enough only to caress his bare foot as she waited to see whether her mate lived or died. Selfless dedication. Caring. Giving without receiving… Love!

Although love might be expressed in a touch, it can survive without sex. In fact, love can endure even when there’s no touching, even across many miles, as in time of war or travel for business.

There are various types of love (love for a child, for a spouse, for a family member), and each differs

in intensity and type of commitment. But if the love is genuine, its primary concern will be the welfare of the other, not using that person to please self.

The Bible declares in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” So the best description of love will come from God’s own Word. See for yourself the image on the right to review 1 Corinthians 13, and see what God says on the subject!

 

A “Wow!” Update about The Methuselah Project

Dear friends,

Quite a few of you have finished reading The Methuselah Project and then declared, “This would make a great movie!” Thank you. Allow me also to thank the many who have practically demanded a sequel to find out what happens to Roger Greene and Katherine Mueller after The End.

The truth is, I’ve been working on a sequel. So what’s taking so long? I’ve also been working on a movie screenplay of the original Methuselah Project novel. However, I’d had very little experience with writing movie scripts. It’s a whole different art from penning novels, and it’s taken me quite a while to learn the in’s and out’s of the craft.

The Methuselah Project

Now, though, I’m excited to announce that this past autumn I submitted my screenplay to Movieguide’s annual Kairos Prize for beginning screenplay writers. As of last week, out of hundreds of submissions from 20+ countries, my script for The Methuselah Project made the final cut and is one of the 10 Finalists. On February 2 in Hollywood, one of us ten hopefuls will win the $15,000 prize. In addition, all of our scripts will be available for interested professionals in the film industry to review for consideration. I praise God for helping me to learn this new (to me) craft of writing, and for helping me to polish my project well enough to become a finalist. I’m sure the other submissions are excellent, and some of those writers have more experience with scripts than yours truly. Yet, whether I win or lose the Kairos, I feel God’s hand of blessing and sincerely thank Him for this level of achievement.

Along with some unfortunate realities of life that have claimed large chunks of this writer’s time, studying screenplay writing has definitely slowed momentum on the sequel to my third novel. Now, though, I plan to proceed “full steam ahead” with that sequel. Thanks for your patience, and thank you all for sharing my excitement as a Kairos Prize finalist. The odds are still 9 to 1 against me. However, 9 to 1 is lightyears better than the 100s to 1 odds that existed when I submitted my project. On February 2, I’ll be in Hollywood and holding my breath. We’ll see what happens!

Here’s a link for more information about the Kairos Prize and my competition:

Kairos Prize Finalists Have Been Announced!

 

 

Miracle of Miracles: The Screenplay of The Methuselah Project

As some of you friends and readers know, I’ve been studying the craft of screenplay writing. And even though novels and movies are both stories, and both depend on writers to create them, there is an enormous difference between novels and screenplays. So, learning the ins and outs of crafting a professional-looking script has been quite a learning curve for this novelist.

Now I can announce that–miracle of miracles!–the screenplay I created from The Methuselah Project actually made the semi-finalist list for Movieguide’s annual $15,000 Kairos Prize. I’m amazed, since there is tons of competition. In past Kairos competitions, 500+ scripts have competed for the winning spot. This is my third time to enter, but it’s the first time I’ve made the final 15. Even if I don’t win, being a semi-finalist is tremendously encouraging. If nothing else, Movieguide’s announcement gives me some confidence that I’m finally gaining a proper feel for screenplay-writing. Thank you to all of you who have sent me your congratulations for this milestone!

If you would like to see Movieguide’s announcement, here’s the link:

Semi-Finalists for the $15,000 Kairos Prizes Announced!

What’s distracting YOU?

Recently, a friend made this observation: “Procrastination is an evil temptress. Her goal is to destroy your dreams with her siren songs of “Someday,” “Gonna,” and “Later.” Your protector is the Warrior Princess Now, and her sword, ‘Immediate Action.'”

That metaphor started my mental gears turning. After considering her observation, it occurred to me that even people who don’t consider themselves procrastinators face an equally powerful temptress: Procrastination’s evil sister, Distraction. Make no mistake–although Distraction is evil, she is by no means ugly. To the contrary, Distraction is quite attractive, and she intuitively knows your hobbies, your personal pastimes, and all the little things you find interesting. Then, when you’re striding down the path toward your daily goals, Distraction steps into your path with a smile and says, “Want to see something cool?” Step by step, she guides you away from the path of ambitions and goals by dangling her bait in front of your eyes.

What bait does she use? Distraction adapts her lure according to each person. If you enjoy web surfing, Distraction smiles and reaches for your hand, for she commands a never-ending supply of links to hinder you from your goals. Why, Facebook alone can fritter away hours at a time as you catch up with others with humor, selfies, and personal news. For another person, Distraction offers sports. Or seemingly eternal TV news (or “news”) and commentaries. Interested in politics? Pull up a chair; you ain’t goin’ anywhere, bub! And so it goes until, much later, you surface from this sea of trivia realize, “Oh no! I was planning to accomplish some really good things today!”

In your heart, you tell yourself, “Tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow I’ll buckle down and do twice as much.” But Distraction smiles, then turns to her sister Procrastination and gives her yet another high-five!

Promo Blitz! Ebook of The Methuselah Project just $0.99!

From now through Friday, January 20, the ebook of The Methuselah Project is available for only .99 cents! Already read it? Then please consider sharing the news with a reading friend who hasn’t.

Thank you, dear readers, for each mention, each share, and each tag you’ve made to reach an even wider audience. Blessings to you all!

Amazon Link: http://amzn.to/2iyZoyG

 

 

And in case some of you have heard about the book but still aren’t sure it’s right for you, let me share a quick screen capture of the latest reviews: