Fear Itself

Climb A MountainOne of my favorite film series is the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Tolkien crafted a wonderful story centered around an ordinary hobbit named Frodo Baggins.  Frodo wasn’t the biggest, fastest, most skilled, nor most educated.  He wasn’t that good with the sword nor the bow.  He was given an impossible task…journey into enemy territory and destroy the “evil” ring of power.  In one powerful scene in the first movie, while all the more “qualified” people debated about how impossible the task was and who was going to take the ring, Frodo stood up and shouted, “I will go.  I will take the ring!”  And he did…and we watched (through 9 hours of movie) as Frodo and his companions braved all dangers (even the dangers within themselves) to achieve their goals.

None of us are going to have to achieve such a fantastic goal.  We don’t have to battle orc, and evil wizards, and Sauron the great, and Nazgul.  But all of us who set out to achieve big dreams and goals must fight that same inner battle with the forces that shackle us and keep us in our comfort zones.  The biggest obstacle that most of us have to overcome in achieving our goals is fear.

Fear, in my opinion, is the single biggest contributor to mediocre lives.  In my position as minister, I see people every day who are stuck because they don’t take that first step toward their goals.  Some don’t even set goals for fear of failing.  That’s not the way we were created to be.  When God made Adam and Eve, they had no fear.  They walked in perfect harmony and peace with God and with his creation.  They were so at peace that they were naked.  Fear does not appear until they break God’s only rule and eat from the wrong tree (Gen 3:10).  Then fear sets in and we’ve been battling it ever since.

How many people are crippled by a fear of public speaking?  How many people would be incredible singers but they’re afraid to sing in front of others?  How many people could have the dream job they wanted but they’re afraid to apply for it or to leave the job they have?  As humans, we tend to find comfortable spots in our lives and stay there.  “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” wrote Henry David Thoreau.  Why are the majority of men and women living lives of frustration and mediocrity when they have it in themselves to be so much more?  Fear!

We all have dreams and goals.  If fear is the one thing keeping us from stepping out and pursuing them, then fear has got to go!  Most people do not realize that the most frequent command in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.”

In Psalm 56:4, David writes “In God I trust, I will not be afraid.”  He wrote this when he was a prisoner of his enemies, the Philistines.  Ever since he was a young man, David showed the ability to face fear and overcome.  While Saul and the whole army of Israel cowered in fear from Goliath, David was the one that stepped out with a sling and a few stones “in the name of the Lord Almighty” and brought down a nation’s biggest fear.  Was David without fear?  No, he feared just like you and I.  In Psalm 56:3 he wrote “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.”  David’s philosophy was simple, when he was afraid, he took his focus off the fear and put it on God and did what he was afraid of doing.  That’s something we all can do!

So what are you afraid of?  Start attacking fear today so that you can achieve big things tomorrow!  Write down something of which you are afraid.  Now go out, face your fear, trust in God, and do it. Only by doing this will you see how big your God really is!

So How Goes the Resolutions?

New Years Resolutionsby Rich Nilsen,

New Years’ Resolutions – you got to love them. We all have great intentions when we begin the New Year telling ourselves that we are going to do this and do that. We are going to finally get this project done. We are finally going to overcome that vice. We mean well.

I think we all know by now that when it comes to resolutions very few people make it past the first couple of weeks. It’s a sad testament to our lack of discipline and focus.

Well, it’s been almost four weeks into 2012 so that is ample time to evaluate how it goes. The great news is that is not too late to get back on track if we have fallen off course.

Some years I don’t think I even made any resolutions. This year I made several, and overall, I’ve done a pretty good job sticking to the plan. Here are the two keys that I have found helpful:

  • Write down your goals for the New Year
  • Every day review what you have written down

It’s hard to get too far off track when every day you look at reminders about your 2012 resolutions and what your plans are for this year.

There are over 11 months remaining in 2012. Let’s evaluate where we at so far, get back on track if necessary, and stay the course for the new year.

Good luck!

Letter to Satan

Letter_to_SatanDear Satan,

It’s me, the man you know so well.  I don’t talk to you much, but I sure do see you a lot.  Everyday, I catch a glimpse of you in the mirror.  Every hour, I hear you scratching at my door.  Every second, your thoughts chew in my head.

Do you chase everyone like you chase me?  Am I really that important to you?  Do you want me so much you’ll try anything and never give up?

I wonder if you do this because I lead you on so.  I do let you in at times.  I do return your catching glance.   I admit it freely.  But make no mistake, you and I are at war.  For even though at times I call you my friend, I am not proud of those moments.  They capture me at my weakest, my most shameful, my ugliest.

Do I love you?  No, for even though I am commanded to love my neighbor and even thought I see you in my neighbor, you are too distant to be my neighbor.  Do I hate you?  No, for hate would give you power, and power is something you have plenty of.  Do I feel sorry for you?  Yes, for I know even you could rest in peace if you took the warm embrace of our Father’s arms.

I am sure we’ll be seeing each other again, very soon.  Just so you know, I’ll be the one fighting to turn away from your glance, and though you may catch it for a moment, you will find yourself holding something you cannot keep—my soul.

In Christ’s name I pray,

James Hale

— James is a porter.  He helps people carry their loads along life’s journey.  He is author of the All Star Press book “Quiet Spaces:  Hearing God’s Call in a Noisy World.”

Independent Bookstores Can Survive

So how can the little guy – the local bookstore – compete with the likes of Amazon?

Some market analysts speculate that Amazon sales will account for 50 percent of all book sales in the US by the end of 2012, which is stunning since book-selling has actually become the minority revenue stream for Amazon now that the company has branched out into a market for everything from video games to sex toys. Amazon has become a primary competitor not just to Barnes & Noble but also to Walmart, eBay, Apple’s iTunes, and even Netflix.

Amazon’s influence has allowed it to position itself not only as the largest bookseller in the country but also as a distributor. This means that it has effectively cut the middleman out of publishing, allowing it to offer books to the reader at the lowest price while paying the publisher a larger percentage of the sales. For me as a publisher, this means that not only can you get the latest title from my press, Black Ocean, for less from Amazon, but my little indie press will also probably make more off that purchase than if you had bought it at your local bookseller.

In the Boston area, two bookstores have managed to not only survive but thrive: the Harvard Bookstore (not affiliated with Harvard University) in Cambridge and Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, MA. These two stores have a few elements in common that have undoubtedly contributed to their lasting success:

  • In addition to new books, they also sell a great selection of used titles at lower prices.
  • They have robust websites that offer options to buy online with quick local delivery (the Harvard Bookstore even offers next-day delivery by bicycle to select areas) as well as blog posts and features.
  • They have interesting and revelatory staff selections.
  • They each host over 100 readings a year (Brookline Booksmith hosts around 150, and Harvard Bookstore is closer to 300).
  • Both stores have been enthusiastic with their response when approached by Black Ocean to sell our titles.

 

Long article but great read on how independent bookstores can survive in this new publishing world that is dominated by online giant Amazon.

 

Touching the Leper

Homeless man on the streetsThis Sunday I preached about Jesus’ encounter with the leper in Matthew 8. What an incredible story told in just a handful of verses.  It seems as Jesus was coming down the mountain from delivering the greatest sermon in the history of mankind (the Sermon on the Mount), a leper came and knelt before him.  The audacity of this leper!  Imagine the moment.  The crowd is pressing in behind Jesus and they’re taking up the whole road.  When out of nowhere a leper appears and throws himself at the feet of Jesus.  Now lepers were outcasts…the most unclean of the unclean.  It was illegal for them to even be on the road at the same time as a non-leprous person.  Imagine the gasp that went through the crowd as this unclean leper steps into the middle of the road and brings the whole entourage to a screeching halt.  All eyes are on Jesus and this leper.  In one collective intake of breath, all wait to see what would happen.

Almost every time I read the Bible, I am blown away by Jesus.  Jesus could heal people with a word.  He could heal them from far off.  He could heal them by telling them some outrageous thing to do and if they had enough faith to obey him, they would be healed.  In this instance, Jesus does the most shocking, unthinkable thing.  He touches the leper!  In my mind, it wasn’t a nice little “lay your hand on the cheek” sort of touch.  The leper would have been clothed in rags from head to toe.  He was on his knees.  In what must have sent shockwaves through the crowd, Jesus probably got down on his knees and reached up and removed the lepers coverings…his veil and his head covering.  He would have looked at this outcast of society directly in the eyes and reaching out and placed his undiseased hands upon the flesh of the diseased man.  Why would Jesus do this, when he could have healed him with a word?

In my opinion, Jesus was into shocking those around him.  He had just got done preaching to the crowds.  He had told them “Do to others what you would have them do to you.”  Instead of being like so many who say the grandiose mottos and catchphrases of christianity, Jesus knew that the best way to drive his point home was to do.  One of the many things that I admire about Jesus, and why I want to be so much like him, is that he was not just a talker…he was a doer.  If he told people to “love others,” he went out and did it.  If he told people to “do to others what you would have them do to you,” he went out and did it.  He was so unlike the many church goers that fill up our churches on Sundays but live without love and compassion and faith the rest of the week.  This must stop if we are going to change the world!

This week we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr Day in the United States.  Why do so many admire this man?  Afterall, he was a living, breathing man not unlike us.  The thing that I think made MLK Jr a hero is that he didn’t just talk his faith, he walked it.  He had the courage to do what he knew needed to be done.  There were many who spoke out against segregation and inequality, but few that would put themselves out there to be stoned, spat upon, hit, jailed, mocked, ridiculed, and killed.  The people that we look to as hero’s, were hero’s because they “did” what they knew needed to be done.

What about you and I?  Jesus touched the leper in one of the most touching and loving stories in the whole Bible.  Do we touch the lepers in our society?  Do we practice what we preach?  If we truly did, this would would be a much different place.  If we followers of Jesus really imitated Jesus, there would be a lot more people attracted to him and to his church.  When we leave our church buildings after our weekly “sermon on the mount,” we have to “do” it!  We have to go against our societal and religious norms and reach out to “touch the leper.”

My friends, this week I challenge you to “touch a leper” in your life.  Some outcast, some down on their luck person, some abused child, someone whom society and the church typically turns their back on and looks down upon will come into your path.  “Touch the Leper!”  I dare you…and watch what God does in your life and in the life of that leper!

– James Smith serves as the senior teacher/preacher at Mt Carmel Christian Church in Cynthiana, Ky.  He is an author of The House that Richard Built (ebook coming in 2012 from All Star Press) as well as numerous magazine/study guide publications.  He is also a regular presenter at training seminars and conferences on a number of issues.

New Quark Xpress is ebook Friendly

Quark announced this month the availability of QuarkXPress 9.2, the new update to QuarkXPress 9 that is free to all QuarkXPress 9 customers. QuarkXPress 9 is award-winning design software that enables millions of creative professionals to publish across digital devices as well as to print and the Web. The best part for authors is that version 9.2 adds new ePUB features, ePUB 3 audio and video support .

QuarkXPress 9.2 and ePUB

QuarkXPress 9 introduced the ability for designers to easily export print layouts to ePUB to create traditional e-books. With QuarkXPress 9.2 designers can now, in addition to converting a print layout to ePUB, create a new project specifically for ePUB export. With the new update, it’s now also possible to:

* Add audio, videos, and hyperlinks to an ePUB e-book

* Create hierarchical tables of content
* Control the format and resolution of pictures on a global or
picture-by-picture basis
* Create new articles, visually crop pictures, and split text
components in a reflow article
* Re-order components by dragging-and-dropping within the Reflow
Tagging Palette
* Specify the default story direction for East Asian ePUB e-books

Along with the new ePUB functionality, QuarkXPress 9.2 also supports audio and video for ePUB 3, the new version of the standard that supports rich media. Read more about QuarkXPress 9 and ePUB here.

QuarkXPress 9.2 and iPad Publishing

A key component of QuarkXPress 9 is App Studio, which offers designers a cost-effective way to create and publish enriched, interactive content to digital devices, such as the iPad. With QuarkXPress 9.2, App Studio templates support iOS 5 Newsstand and meet new Apple guidelines for iCloud storage. In addition to the many enrichment options already available with QuarkXPress 9, QuarkXPress 9.2 and App Studio now include:

* New Play/Pause/Stop/Toggle play actions that allow designers to
build buttons that control other media elements such as sound and
video
* A Hide Controls option for sound and video that allows designers
to make the control bar for a media player invisible
* A Loop option that designers can use to specify that a sound or
video element should loop its playback

 

What is holding you back?

by Rich Nilsen,

what's holding you back?Aspiring writers, what is holding you back from meeting your goals as an author? That is not only the question of the day, it is the critical question for all writers who are simply not getting the job done. Why isn’t that manuscript you always wanted to write finished by now? Why haven’t you started on that great idea for a book?

Possible obstacles may include:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Failure to get started
  • Wasting time on social networks
  • Watching television
  • [Insert your own obstacle here]

Before you do anything else today, stop and think. Just what is it that is weighing you down as an author? You know what it is, so address the issue. In an overwhelming majority of cases, the solution is going to be fairly simple: do the opposite, gain valuable time as a result…and then get started writing.

Publishing Push coming from Apple

Apple

Apple could be hosting a special media event in New York City this month. The event won’t be about Apple’s next iPad if reports are believed to be correct. Instead, Apple will be talking directly to the publishing industry.

The theme of the event will be publishing and e-books. Considering reports indicate Eddy Cue will be prominently involved, it’s a focus area that makes a lot of sense.

Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services, Mr. Cue is in charge of the iBookstore, as well as the iTunes and App Stores, iAd and iCloud. Cue is the one who took the stage the last time the company had a publishing event, when it unveiled News Corp.’s publication The Daily.

READ THE FULL STORY



Author and Blogger Jon Gordon’s 20 Tips for a Positive New Year – Part II

11. Live with the 3 E’s. Energy, Enthusiasm, Empathy.

12. Remember there’s no substitute for hard work.

13. Believe that everything happens for a reason and expect good things to come out of challenging experiences.

14. Implement the No Complaining Rule. Remember that complaining is like vomiting. Afterwards you feel better but everyone around you feels sick.

15. Read more books than you did in 2011.

16. Don’t seek happiness. Instead decide to live with passion and purpose and happiness will find you. www.Seed11.com

17. Focus on “Get to” vs “Have to.” Each day focus on what you get to do, not what you have to do. Life is a gift not an obligation.

18. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements:

I am thankful for __________.

Today I accomplished____________.

19. Smile and laugh more. They are natural anti-depressants.

20. Enjoy the ride. You only have one ride through life so make the most of it and enjoy it.

Thank you to Author Jon Gordon for an excellent posting and outstanding reminders for not only aspiring authors but everyone.

Author and Blogger Jon Gordon’s 20 Tips for a Positive New Year – Part I

1. Stay Positive. You can listen to the cynics and doubters and believe that success is impossible or you can trust that with faith and an optimistic attitude all things are possible.

2. Take a morning walk of gratitude. I call it a “Thank You Walk.” It will create a fertile mind ready for success.

3. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

4. Zoom Focus. Each day when you wake up in the morning ask: “What are the three most important things I need to do today that will help me create the success I desire?” Then tune out all the distractions and focus on these actions.

5. Instead of being disappointed about where you are, think optimistically about where you are going.

6. Remember that adversity is not a dead-end but a detour to a better outcome.

7. Don’t chase success. Instead decide to make a difference and success will find you.

8. Get more sleep. You can’t replace sleep with a double latte.

9. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip, energy vampires, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.

10. Mentor someone and be mentored by someone.

Part II of Author and Blogger Jon Gordon’s 20 Tips for a Positive New Year tomorrow!