My Second Half

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I’m not much of a sports fanatic. Occasionally, I’ll watch a basketball game (haven’t been interested in my Pistons since the 2004 squad disbanded); maybe even a football game (my Lions–nevermind). The second half is usually the turning point for a lot of teams who find themselves falling behind. It’s the time to refocus on the mission; to rally the individual players into a single unit, with the singular purpose of winning the game.

If we look at life as the ultimate game, then why shouldn’t we treat the second half the same way? Six months after my 45th birthday, I’m really looking back on the first half of my life, and taking stock of where I am. I’m also regrouping to plan on the second half.

For discussion purposes, we’re going to assume that I’ll live to be 90 years old. If I live longer than that…we’ll say I was granted that “1UP” life. You gamers know what I’m talking about. Anyway, I digress.

Did you know that many people deal with bouts of depression right around age 45? Of course you did. That’s where the term “Midlife Crisis” comes into play. Instead of replaying self-appointed shortcomings and failures in my personal game, I’d like to look at the lessons learned and accomplishments achieved. Successes and failures in life really boil down to perspective. It’s all in the way you look at things, that determine your attitude.

In my first half, I saw my wife and kids grow; wrote and published a book; wrote, produced and published music; and (most importantly) gained a relationship with Jesus. Unfortunately, I found myself running life’s hamster wheel for more years than I care to count. Because of that, there are regrets of experiences I wish I could have given my family. But, I’m a firm believer in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

I have been called, according to his purpose. I have faith in that knowledge, so I know that the good and bad plays of my first half will only strengthen my gameplay in the second half. Someone might ask, “Enn, how do you plan to play your second half? What are you going to do different than the first two quarters of the game? Some might think your play pattern is set.” Well, that’s a great question.

If I take up the mantle of “coach” for a second, let’s pretend we’re in the locker room regrouping. My personal talents, attributes and dreams represent my offense, defense and special-teams factions of the squad. These are some things I might say to my team.

  1. In the second half, we need to go out there and gel. I can replay moments (during the first half) when offense and defense worked independently of one another, and each totally ignored special teams. Sometimes, my talents operated without the use of my attributes. I can’t follow my dreams if talents and attributes aren’t lining up. People who continue to fall prey to this, often look back on life with regret.
  2. We’ve got to execute. I’ve got all of these ideas in my head. My problem is putting action to those ideas. I’ll give you a prime example: A few years ago, I put together an instrumental album on Bandcamp and Noisetrade called, “Takin’ It Back To The Oldschool“. Now, if you know me personally, you know I love old school hip hop and actually produce my own music. I had the great idea of producing instrumentals incorporating that old school hip hop sound. Then I would reach out to old school artists like Will Smith, MC Lyte, Rakim, KRS-One, etc. to get them to flow new rhymes over these tracks. The problem was…I executed as far as producing the instrumentals and never reached out to the artists. Flash forward to 2017: Will Smith, DJ Jazzy Jeff ft. Biz Markie and Slick Rick drop a video for Will’s song, “So Fresh“. Jeff and Will executed their idea fully. I only partially executed. Partial execution doesn’t score points in a game.
  3. We’ve got to defend. Listen, the older I grow, the louder the voice of doubt screams in my head. It reminds me that other people have the same ideas and better resources. It reminds me that I’m not as young and adventurous as I once was. It wants me to doubt God’s ultimate plan for my life. It reminds me that I don’t even know what that plan looks like! I can gel as a team, and execute to score all the points in the world. But, if I can’t defend against the opposing team’s attacks, I still lose the game. In my personal game, Satan is the coach of the opposing team. He has no problem with trying to thwart my plans and frustrate my faith. He’s frustrated my writing in the past. He’s frustrated my dreaming. He’s kept me running that hamster wheel for far too long, under the guise of “This is just how life works. Accept it and keep running“. As a Christian, I know he’s a liar. That truth doesn’t make his attacks any easier to block. So, in the second half of the game–my game–I need to step up my defense. My relationship with the Lord has to continue to grow. His word; His time; my prayers; His will for my life. This is my defense against the opposing team. At the end of the game, I want to be able to say what the Apostle Paul said to Timothy:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

Gel, execute, defend. These are the tactics for my second half. Maybe you’re in a season of life when you’re looking backward instead of moving forward. Maybe midlife has you questioning where you go from here. Maybe you just need to take a breather and refocus, friend. It’s never too late to refocus your efforts, or repurpose your God-given gifts. Make your second half count.

 

 

 

Wisdom in the Tale

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Ted,

I think the mark of a truly gripping story is its ability to seamlessly graft its audience into the role of the protagonist. Sometimes, such stories mimic a heavy truck starting a decent down a gentle slope. It’s only a matter of time before that truck gains enough momentum to become an unstoppable force. At that point, you need to grab the wheel tight with both hands and hang on for dear life. The final-destination is a mystery, but the ride is the thrill. Great stories take us on a journey and cause us to ignore the destination for joy of the ride.

I’ve read through “The Circle: The Complete Volumes” edition three times, and with each read, my respect and admiration of Thomas Hunter grew. He doesn’t resemble me in the slightest. Yet…I watched him grow through the complete story—from a naïve young hustler, into a full fledged seasoned hero. Thomas is the kind of warrior I envision King David was. Heroic. Fearless. Human. I fell into the role of his character and lived out his journey with ease. Each time, I not only learned something new about the character, but learned something new about myself through Thomas’s experiences as well.

When I first learned you were writing a new book tethered to “The Circle” series, I was immediately stoked! The idea that Thomas’s adventures might continue filled me with great anticipation. I ventured to my local Barnes and Noble, walked straight for the Ted Dekker section and purchased my hardcover copy without hesitation; in and out in 5 minutes, man! No need to look for anything else. When the time was right and I had space to devote my full concentration toward beginning the new journey, I plowed right in and was immediately introduced to my new protagonist. Not one to drop spoilers, I’ll stop right there. Needless to say, I was a bit…surprised…at the roll of the lead character. But like that ol’ truck spoken of earlier, I resolved to fasten my seat-belt and take my foot off the break peddle. And you know what? Roughly 160 pages in, we’re rolling, baby!

Ted, it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything of substance, I think. On my 45th birthday, I bought a nice blank journal to get back to putting pen to paper. Writing the old-fashioned way helps to get the creative juices flowing when I’m dealing with writing-draught. In addition this year I resolved to really focus on reading through the entire bible. Between the physical writing and the devoted time with God, He’s really been challenging me and my walk. Sometimes it’s frustrating seeing my broken way of thinking laid out in front of me. But, at the same time, I think God’s fixing my understanding. What’s all this got to do with “The 49th Mystic” you might ask. I’ll give you the answer by a single name: Talya.

By the time I realized Talya was speaking directly to me (with his teachings), I acknowledged my full immersion into the role of our protagonist. Once again, the transition was seamless. It wasn’t like, “We’re in first gear; shift to second; shift third; etc.” It was more like, “I’m reading a story; I’m in the story; the elder is speaking to me personally!”

Talya gave me 6 hours of silence to work on adjusting my perception by the truths contained in Romans 12:2. Ted, do you know how many times over 9 years I’ve read that particular Scripture? Yet, it never hit me as square in the face as it did while Talya took me through the first training lesson. Amazing! God can use anything to get to anyone.

I’ll tell you what I’m learning through the process of reading this story. I’m learning that I’m the Christian looking forward to the joys of the life after this one, but stuck trying to figure out how to enjoy this life. I’m learning that, though saved by grace by faith in Christ Jesus, I’m still struggling with judgment which keeps me from understanding what true love looks like. Perfect love cast out all fear. I’m struggling to understand how to live that out because fear binds up my writing.

Even now, I struggled to begin writing this…this…whatever you wanna call it…addressed to a specific author, because fear told me I’d be wasting my time in reaching for someone untouchable. Yet…you conquered your fears at some point in your career. You faced the same battles I struggle against. You pressed through. That much is clear because, as a fan, I’ve purchased the evidence of your triumphs.

Talya, rather God using the fictitious character Talya, is inviting me to go deeper into the waters of my walk with Christ. It’s uncomfortable, man! I can’t see what’s under the surface of those deep waters. I don’t even like to swim. But…I know He’s calling me into something greater. So, I’m forcing myself to keep moving forward. I can’t wait to see where this journey leads, both for me and for our protagonist. The journey is scary, but so far it’s a wild ride.

Ted, I want to thank you for your obedience. The story’s going to be another best seller for sure. But, even if it isn’t, you need to know that through your God gifted talents, you managed to reach through time and space to help a brother in need. I needed a helping hand to remember my purpose in Christ. Your story and your characters are helping me to Re-member.

Soldier At War

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1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV) – “Pray without ceasing,”

My nephew recently enlisted in the Marine Corps. As we speak, he’s being trained (physically) in the ways of a fighting military soldier ready to defend our nation and our interests at a moment’s notice. He will receive special weapons training; learn to be proficient in hand-to-hand combat. He’ll be taught mental toughness techniques; learn to use his fear as a self-motivating tool to press forward. The military will teach my nephew to become a man ready for war.

My cousin recently made the decision to give his heart completely to the Lord. As we speak, he’s being trained (Spiritually) in the ways of a fighting Christian soldier ready to defend our beliefs and our faith at a moment’s notice. He will receive special weapons training; learn to be proficient in apologetics combat. He’ll be taught mind-renewing toughness techniques; learn to use his own fear as a catalyst to seek the help of the Lord and press forward. Jesus will teach my cousin to become a man ready for war.

I am a Christian soldier. I do not use an assault rifle; I use fervent prayer. My frontline is not a physical land border, but a spiritual realm plane. My sword is not a sharpened blade, reserved for close encounters. It’s my bible, and I use it in daily battle. I’m not trained to push my body to its physical limits through rigorous physical activity. I’m trained to push the physical limits of my aging knees, as I assume the prolonged posture of prayer.

My brothers and sisters in arms are with me–and I with them–as we stand in the gap for those in need, just as our respected veterans stand beside one another in defense of the weak and helpless. Military soldiers muster courage in the face of insurmountable odds. Christian soldiers stand fast in the face of overwhelming hostility. Although our battle is not against flesh and blood enemies–but against rulers of the spiritual realm–we are ready to fight against our adversary at any time.

I am a Christian. I believe Jesus is the son of God. I believe He died on the cross and was resurrected. I believe I am saved by grace through faith in Him. I am a saint of heaven’s army. I am a soldier at war.

 

 

Calling All Wordsmiths!

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Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV) – “A man’s heart plans his way; But the LORD directs his steps.”

I love to write. For those of you who actually follow my blog, this year may not have proven that to be a true statement given the infrequent number of times I’ve actually posted content. See, that’s part of my challenge in doing the thing I claim to love: inconsistency. I can think of a million different distractions to keep me away from the keyboard. But, in the end it all boils down to being consistent and purposeful.

I have a gift. Not everyone can sit down and crank out a couple hundred words to draw a reader into a personal connection. I can do that. Sometimes I do it well; sometimes, not so much. The gift can only get better with increased usage.

When I first started this blog a few years ago, I didn’t really have a plan for it. The thought was, “I’ll just use this as my internet space to put down a few thoughts here and there. If anyone follows me; great! If no one follows me; no big deal.” There was no set goal or focused direction for my blog, so it comes as no surprise when I learn that after a few years of internet space, roughly 120 followers stick by my side. It’s easy to let my pride tell me folks down follow because folks don’t get me. But that’s not the case.

I am a Wordsmith. My subject of choice is the LORD. As I sit here at the keyboard on November 14th, 2017 (at 5:35pm if you really want to get specific), I’m admitting that I want more readers to discover my gift. Not just that. I want more readers to hear what I have to say about God, His Kingdom, what it means to me and what it can mean to them, from my perspective based on my experiences. I have a limited number of followers because I haven’t actually thought about what direction I want my blog to follow. I haven’t come up with a plan.

My good friend Gus once said, “E, you’re fiction is really good. But, I think your non-fiction writing is what will get people to follow you. That’s what really touches people.” Even when that was said, I didn’t take the time to really think about it.

Recently, my friend Cassy asked, “Do you want to turn your writing into something full time, or are you just doing it as a hobby?” At the time, I couldn’t really sit and think about it, so I put it off. As I sit here thinking on it now, I think I would like to see my gift make room for a full time position in my life. I think in order to make that happen, I need to admit out loud that I have a plan to become a professional writer.

Proverbs 16:9 is my favorite proverb. I like the idea of God planting something in my heart; something that I desire to do. Then He orders my steps to see it accomplished. Does God want me to become a successful author? I have no idea. I believe he wants me to write for Him. Whether I become successful or not really doesn’t matter much as long as I’m fulfilling my purpose. I think that purpose is to write for Him and His kingdom. To that end, I want to have more readers.

I have to choose to be consistent with my posting. Consistency increases my chances of reaching more readers, and gaining more followers. The more folks read my blog, the more people I have an opportunity to share the gospel with. There are only seven weeks left in 2017. I’d like to end this year, and transition into the new year strong. I’m going to make a decision (right now) to post something at least once a week. Fiction or non-fiction doesn’t matter right now. I simply have to purposefully write and get back into the swing of truly loving what I do.

I’m going to challenge some of my fellow Wordsmith’s to dig deep and finish the year strong. Let’s share some great stories, inspirational blog posts, and encouraging words between us and with new followers. Are you up for the challenge Cary, Lindsay, Doug,  and Sheldon (just to name a few)? I’m calling all Wordsmith’s! Let’s finish 2017 strong in our craft.

 

Working & Walking

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Before I go into any actual devotional rhetoric, let me brag on our God for a moment. He is so faithful and awesome. The Lord always blesses me with pleasant surprises, helping me to glorify his name.

Earlier today (while at work), I trolled WordPress blogs for good reads and inspiration because my writing has been stunted this year. What can I say? I’m experiencing a dry spell, and the well could really use some replenishing. During my random searching, I discovered “When I’m With You…Whitney Ibe Blog!” and was instantly smitten by this brilliant blog created by a faithful sister in Christ. After reading a few of Whitney’s blogs, my spirit was willing…but my flesh proved to be weak. For the bulk of my lunch hour, I stared aimlessly at a blank Word screen trying to force a story into existence. Finally, I conceded defeat, shut down the blank document and went on about the business of my profession, wondering when a time would come when I could leave this line of work behind for something better suited toward writing for the Lord.

After work this evening, I stole away to my favorite prayer closet to spend time with the Lord. The iPod was plugged into the Bluetooth speaker. My bible was set on my bed. The sounds of rainstorms filled the air. I hit the floor, but at some point during my prayer-time, I dozed off. Personally, I think it was the thunder and rain pounding through the speaker. I awoke frustrated but determined to at least get my read so I sat up and stretched. Opening my bible to the next chapter of Acts, I never made it five verses into the chapter, before the Lord showed up with inspiration. I stopped reading, opened my laptop, and immediately began typing.

Acts 18:3-4 (NKJV) – “3So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. 4And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks.”

The Apostle Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees. He was a learned man of Scripture. He was a former terrorist who had completely souled out to Jesus. He performed miracles of healing and even raised the dead during his missionary trips. He was…a tentmaker by trade. Family, pastor-brother Paul was a regular Joe with a day job! Yet, somehow he managed to consistently make it to church every week and preach with such boldness that he led Jews and Greeks to the Lord! Man, I really felt led to share this revelation because somebody out there is seriously questioning what God is doing in their life, in regards to the profession they find themselves in.

Throughout the New Testament, we see examples of Paul’s tremendous effectiveness for the kingdom of God. But these two verses in Acts also proved that Paul was merely a man who—just like us—needed to make a living. His tent-making profession may not have directly helped him to further God’s purposes, but it sure did help him eat, I’ll bet. And his day-job never hindered his ability to preach the Gospel and win souls to Christ. God blessed Paul with that specific skillset and profession, to help support himself.

Maybe your day job isn’t glamorous. Maybe you’re questioning the Lord’s purpose in positioning you right where you are, professionally. Maybe you’re frustrated with long hours or little pay—or both. Remember that God knows exactly where you are, and can use you in your profession. We simply have to live out our Christian walk, even on the job. Let me close this with a true story.

Last October, I was placed on a construction site as the Engineer’s site representative. I was to work closely with the site’s Superintendent—a feisty, foul-mouthed youngster with a loud personality and the girth to back up his temper. A few days into the project, I wondered what the Lord’s plan was for sticking me with this young man who, at first glance, shared nothing in common with me. But, as time and the project rolled by, I learned some things about my young friend. Frank had grown up Christian, and though his language might tell otherwise, he remembered a few things about scripture. I never had to pressure Frank, or hit him over the head with the bible. But, little by little, he grew curious about whatever he saw in my life.

Last week, Frank came to church with me, and fell in love with the Lord. He has a light in his eyes today that I’ve never seen before. Two days ago, he purchased a new study bible through Amazon, and seems excited about its arrival. For the last few days at work, we review his bible trivia app during lunchtime. Best of all, Frank is planning to shut the job down at 3PM this coming Friday, so that he and I can make it to church at 7PM, to celebrate good Friday!

I did nothing, family. This miracle’s glory belongs solely to God! I simply went to work every day. Paul held his day-job and still won souls for Christ. The Lord can use you for his purposes, right where you are. Some preachers are called to full-time ministry, but for us regular people, God provides a means of supporting ourselves in addition to the call on our lives. Never doubt where he has you. Maybe you are there to fulfill his purpose.

Get To It!

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You ever sit down at the keyboard, fired up to write, only to discover you’ve got nothing? It’s like a cruel joke, isn’t it? When the block lands square on top of your creativity, it feels like you have no option but to submit, pack it all up and try again tomorrow. But…if I may, let me offer you a bit of advice, wordsmith:

WRITE ANYWAY!

Yeah, that’s right: write anyway. I don’t care if you write a simple two or three line paragraph about the fact that you have nothing to write about. Write anyway. I’ve discovered that when I limit my writing to the times that I’m really feeling inspired, my craft suffers.

Last year, I made up a simple calendar printed on a sheet of 8.5″x11″ paper. I taped it to the side of my dresser. Each time I wrote a blog post or an article, that day was colored in with a yellow highlighter. At the end of the year, you wanna know what I discovered? In 365 days, I had written less than a third postings as there are days in the year! Folks, that was less than 122 blog posts and diary entries for the entire year! If I plan to grow and flourish in my craft, I simply have to write more.

I once wrote, “Writers write”. Hmmm…maybe it was more like, “Writers gotta write”. I think you get the point. We need to exercise our ability regularly, just like a body builder works out constantly. Creativity is, after all, a perishable skill. You use it or you lose it.

C’mon! What are you still scrolling for?! Get busy! Tell me about your second day of the new year! I just blew through 300 words to make a point. Start writing about anything wordsmiths!

The Story of US (Prelude)

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Everyone has a story to tell. As long as we live and breathe, we are someone’s story: God’s. Perhaps you live a life of nonstop adventure, where every event is a celebration. Or, like many of us, maybe you live a simple life of Monday-Friday workdays, grocery store shopping and weekend Netflix. Maybe you’re the life of every party, or maybe you constantly fly under the popularity radar and that’s just the way you like it. No matter where you may fall on the “interest” scale, rest assured: you have a story to tell.

My wife and I just celebrated our 15th year of marriage, this past August. We are the parents of 5 children, ages 10 to 24. For the most part, we live seemingly normal lives of carpooling, school days, work days and church. We don’t drink alcohol. We’re non-smokers. We don’t party hard on the weekends. We haven’t experienced a genuine family vacation…ever. We drive a 10 year old Dodge Grand Caravan and a two year old Ford Fiesta. Together, our large family cram into a three bedroom home with one bathroom. Uh, did I mention that there are three women in the family? One bathroom can be quite challenging at times. On the surface our lives may seem dull, simply existing one day at a time. Perfectly harmless.

But then, you don’t really know us, do you?

You might not believe some of the things we’ve experienced individually and together. You might be shocked to discover that addictions and abuses have affected our family in ways that might end other relationships, if not for the grace of the Lord. You might deny the fact that Misty and I can each truthfully say, “I might not be here, if it weren’t for God”. You may even question the validity of our Christianity after discovering some of the things we’ve done, and continue to struggle with.

For years, we’ve tried to bury a past that would have left us a broken and splintered family. Some mistakes of our youth continue to resonate in our present. Past deeds haunt and hinder our future. But we know today that the God we serve can, and often does, grant us his grace and mercy. He supplies for our needs and also makes a way for us to break through. The more we grow in the Lord, the more I see the time approaching, where we will face our past together and share our stories with the world.

People are hurting. Individuals and couples alike are facing difficult situations daily; carrying secret pain that cannot be reconciled no matter how hard they may try. Our time to share is now. We want people to know, no matter how dark your situation may look, God can restore. God is the healer. Through him, all things are possible, especially redemption. I know personally.

This October, we’re stepping out on faith. Together, Misty and I will begin the journey of writing our story, in the hopes that it may one day inspire and encourage others who may be going through some of the experiences we’ve endured together. It will be painful, because it means facing demons, answering hard questions all while reaffirming our forgiveness of one another. No one is beyond God’s grace and mercy.If he continues to restore and strengthen us, just maybe our story will encourage someone out there to seek his face. We’re ready to share. Are you ready to experience our story?