The Storm and its Purpose

I recently woke in the middle of the night for my regular visit to the restroom. Before I drifted back to sleep, I heard light hail then strong rains. The storm didn’t last long; finished before I returned to my dreams.

Storms are curious things. Some are short, like the one I encountered recently, and others last for hours or even days.

The morning after I heard the storm, the ground was wet, puddles full of water, but by midday there was no sign it had rained the previous night. The storm and its aftermath were history.

Last year we had frequent and heavy rains around my home town that caused multiple floods. Schools were canceled, roads were blocked, gates were locked to keep the river from flooding the city, cars got stuck, and crops were ruined. The results of those storms affected things in our community for weeks and even months.

We constantly deal with storms in our lives. Some are short, quickly forgotten within hours or days of the experience. Maybe they water our character much like last night’s storm watered the grass but had no other lasting effect.

Other storms will come and go but their impact will remain for months, years, and sometimes for the rest of our lives.

Our current storm, COVID-19, will continue for some time. Although it will end, at least in a significantly-impacting-the-world kind of way, it will live with each of us for the rest of our lives.

No matter the size of storm in your life, you can take comfort that God is in control—no matter how things look.

That doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily understand the reason for the storm.

In Genesis, God was the cause of the storm, bringing his judgment to the Earth, but protecting Noah and his family.

In the gospels, Jesus rebuked and stopped a storm that threatened to destroy a boat transporting him and his disciples.

In Job, God allowed Satan to use a storm (a mighty wind) to kill Job’s children.

God’s role in each of these situations was different, yet they have one thing in common: God was in control.

So whether we’re dealing with a minor storm that comes and goes or a major one that floods and destroys, God has a purpose for that storm in your life.

We can’t know God’s purpose for COVID-19 on our land, but we know that God has a plan in the midst of this storm that has upended our world, nation, state, and local communities.

We know that God is with us in the midst of this pandemic. And we know that God is in control.

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A phone call changed my Labor Day Weekend plans

This year has required a lot of flexibility. And let’s be honest, most of the changes have created anxiety.

I don’t know about you, but most of the news I’ve received this year has been bad. I’ve had little to get excited about.

The Friday going into Labor Day weekend I finally got some good news and it radically changed that weekend’s plans. In fact, it’s changed my plans for several weeks.

Some background.

The current story I’m writing is a sequel to a murder mystery I completed last year. I’m about half way done with book two and had hoped to finish the rough draft by mid September. Thus, I had planned to spend most of the three-day weekend working on that novel.

The first story in the series is a murder mystery set in Halstead, Kansas and centers around the empty Halstead Hospital. I can see the hospital from my front porch and walked by it nearly every day when I wrote the rough draft of the murder mystery nearly four years ago.

The story is complete and has been for a long time. I hadn’t decided what I wanted to do with the story, but then had an idea. I called Azzy Reckess, who runs the company that owns the hospital, and asked him if I could have a book signing inside the hospital. He was gracious with his time and we talked for several minutes. And he said yes!

Even though the story was done there is still a lot of work to do before I can publish it. So I spent most of the weekend contacting the people I need help from to get it published, writing the extras that go with the manuscript, and researching potential cover ideas.

Now for the next several weeks most of my free-time attention will go toward getting ready for the book launch/signing. 

And for once this year I have something to look forward to.

If you made it this far I want to reward you. For the first time publicly, I’m announcing that the book signing will take place on Saturday, October 24 from 6-8 p.m.  I’m still working out details, but I will be inside the main entrance at the Halstead Hospital.

Please plan to stop by. Even if you don’t purchase a book, come help me celebrate an exciting achievement!

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Author Interview: Jared Vaughn (Another Time)

I met Jared Vaughn at my first Comic Con (Little Apple Comic Con in Manhattan, KS) in 2017. We traded books (Vetrix/The Longest Time). I loved everything about his book! His characters grew up in the same time period I did and the frequent music references are heavy on the Beach Boys, my favorite musical group. I have been one of his many fans waiting patiently for him to finish the sequel, and quickly volunteered to beta read the story so I wouldn’t have to wait until he published the book. Another Time is a great sequel and I encourage everyone to consider reading both books.

I’m thrilled to have Jared as my first author interview and hope you enjoy some insights into the author, the cosplayer, and the publisher that is Jared Vaughn. At the conclusion of the interview I include a short bio for Jared and he graciously shared an excerpt from his newest book.

Share a little bit about The Longest Time

Charlie is 5 years old when Lisa moves in next door. They quickly become best friends and experience a lot of good and bad times growing up in the ’70s. All this time, he’s too shy to tell her that he loves her. As time goes by, they go in different directions. There comes a time when Lisa’s in trouble and Charlie is the only one who can truly help her… and that’s when the twist comes in.

Tell us about the inspiration behind The Longest Time and Another Time.

It was originally a movie idea in 1999. I just imagined someone who’s in love with this perfect girl who’s also his best friend, yet can’t bring himself to tell her for fear of ruining it. He misses his opportunity and lives to regret it until he finds a certain way to fix it. It wasn’t based on anything real, but Charlie is a lot like me and the situation is believable. I guess you could say that the inspiration comes from so many thoughts and conversations in real life when I or a friend would say, “I wish I could go back and change that.” We all have those things that we wish we would’ve done differently, and I think that’s part of the reason why people like this story so much. We actually feel what he’s going through because we’ve been there and we cheer him on to find his peace and happiness.

Why did you choose to make music such a significant factor in your books?

I love it so much that it naturally found its way into my writing. Musical talent runs in my family, and I used to write songs all the time. Still do once in awhile. Some of the best scenes in the book came from hearing certain songs. Since it’s also set in the ’70s and ’80s, I chose to use references to the music of the era (or earlier) to help you feel like you’re there. Music has an unparalleled ability to bring back memories and stir the emotions. I even have carefully selected soundtracks to go with the books, which you can find on Spotify. Listening to the songs that go with the scenes as you read just takes it to another level and makes it more meaningful. The music tells the story.

Do you have an interesting writing quirk?

Most of the dates mentioned in the books are actually birthdays or anniversaries of family and friends. Sometimes I also use names or other identifying characteristics that they will notice and hopefully bring a smile. I also sprinkle in a lot of movie references, especially Back to the Future. Another Time even shares a universe with two movies and a certain influential TV show.

What is your favorite time of day, and why?

I think it’s late at night. Before I was on my current work schedule, I would stay up late, almost like I just didn’t want to give up. I still do that whenever I have time off. I think it’s because it’s quieter and I can focus more on writing.

Jared Vaughn as Marty McFly and his friend Shaun Fogg as the DR. Emmett Brown meet Thomas Wilson (Biff) and Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown).

A lot of people know you as much for your cosplay as they do for your writing. Where did your interest in cosplaying originate?

We were coming up to October 21st, 2015. That was the futuristic year of Back to the Future Part II. Everyone was excited about it becoming a reality, and being the fan that I am, I also saw a unique opportunity. I put together a Marty McFly costume that I started wearing to cons and it was a hit. By the time I published my book in 2017, I was already known for the costumes, they just didn’t know that it tied in with my book also. That was the icebreaker. What was once used as a tie in and marketing technique turned into a true love for the artform and another way to express creativity. I’ve added many more characters to my repertoire since then, and do as many group cosplays as I can.

What is your next project?

After a short break, I’m going to dive into Part 3. The kid’s book I’m publishing, Tobias’ Travels by Shoshanna Aaliyah, is getting closer to being finished. Ray Gordon and Alli O’Neal are working on the art, and there are only a few more pieces left to go. So that’s pretty exciting. I’m also thinking pretty seriously about publishing a book of humor possibly as soon as next year. I have a lot of material from the past twenty plus years already. It will be a great way to stay sane and balance out the more serious material of the third Time book.

What are your long-term goals as an author?  More books? Movies? Publishing?

I started out with movie making aspirations, but with the uncertain state of the industry, I’m not going to get my hopes up. I still have this book series to finish, then the spinoffs. That will include a stand alone book about Sammy and three other series. It’s what I call the Longest Timeverse. That can include other forms of media including a planned scripted series for my YouTube channel. I also have many more books by other authors to publish including Tobias sequels, a kid’s book by Shaun Fogg, and several others who were included in the short story collection, Free Time Tales. I’d also like to make more of those books at least once a year. So basically, my long-term goals are to keep coming up with new ways to be creative and help others along the way.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

I have a lot of goals, but honestly, sometimes I feel like giving up. This is a tough gig. It takes a long time to write a book, even harder to try to convince people that they need to read it. For those who do read my stuff, I can’t thank you enough. Knowing that there are people who like what I do and want more, who tell me how much my writing has affected them personally, that is what keeps me going. It’s more encouraging than you think. I don’t just write to entertain, but to put something positive out there. As long as I have an audience, I’ll keep giving you the best I can give. Knowing what I have planned, the best is yet to come.

Biography:

Jared Vaughn is the author of the acclaimed novel, The Longest Time. It’s a nostalgic story about a unique boy named Charlie, whose love for his childhood friend, Lisa, leads him to fulfill a heroic purpose. Readers of all ages have unanimously agreed that they “couldn’t put it down,” and eagerly awaited the sequel, Another Time.

He loves to encourage dreamers in his writing workshops and panels at conventions, libraries, and schools, with a special emphasis on the youth. Jared’s vision extends beyond The Longest Time series with his company, Time Honored Productions. Other published works include the short story collection, Free Time Tales and the upcoming kid’s book, Tobias’ Travels by Shoshanna Aaliyah. The company of artists and writers also perform in group and individual cosplay with characters from Back to the Future, The Princess Bride, The Addams Family, DC Comics, and many more.

Whether he’s riding a hoverboard or writing a story, Jared Vaughn is always looking for innovative ways to express his creativity and share the Power of Love. He encourages you to take Doc’s advice–“The future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one.”

Excerpt: (from Another Time)

“Whoa. Dude,” Lisa said. “This is like next level, adventure book, Harrison Ford kind of stuff.”

He chuckled. “Yeah. Pretty awesome, huh?”

She smiled. “Yeah, it is.”

They peeked into the darkness, then turned back to each other.

Her face became more serious. “What are we getting ourselves into, Charlie?”

He put his hand on her shoulder and looked into her eyes.

“The adventure of a lifetime.”

She smiled again. “Well, when you put it that way…”

“If you really don’t want to continue, then we don’t have to. I think that whatever we find is going to change everything. There’s no going back after this.”

“We didn’t come this far only to come this far. We’ll find what we’re looking for.”

He smiled and took her hand. “Let’s find out together.”

They turned off the blacklight and returned to the regular flashlight. They slowly and cautiously stepped into the entrance. Each step was taken carefully. Every inch of their surroundings was fully considered with their flashlight. Their footsteps were the only sound in the darkness. Slowly they made their way forward, compelled by curiosity, driven by the desire for answers. Answers not only to the mysteries of the notebook, but to the strange feelings that urged them. They could almost hear their names being called aloud, practically begging these explorers to press on. It didn’t take long until they found something unusual.

Book Locations: TimeHonoredProductions.com, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords

You can learn more about Jared, his writings, and his production company at his website, Time Honored Productions.

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Habits – August 2020 Update

My word for 2020 is habits, so each month I select one habit that I want to stop and one I want to start.

So far in 2020 I’ve given up:

January – Watching shows for entertainment
February – Soda
March – Chocolate
April – Chocolate
May – No hitting the snooze
June – No hitting the snooze
July – Avoiding the national news
August – Avoiding the national news

For August I didn’t give up the national news as much as moderated my intake. And compared to months prior to July, I listened to significantly less. I had a good balance in August of paying attention to the news and maintaining inner peace.

I want to give up soda September. I did this in February because I thought it would be challenging and good for me. I’m doing it now because I want to. I’ve increased my running mileage and am considering running a half marathon in the fall. Adjusting my diet is a natural step in the training and so it will be my next step in my habits journey as well.

My starting habits for 2020 include:

January – A daily devotion using the YouVersion Bible app and a ten-minute writing timer (TMT)
February – Read a list of truth declarations (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
March – Twelve minutes in prayer (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
April – Twelve minutes in prayer (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
May – Two minutes of prayer after devotions (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
June – Two minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
July – Three minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
August – Four minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)

I upped my prayer time by a minute in August and it didn’t feel any differently. I think that’s the key is making changes small—they’re rarely noticeable.

I broke my streak of daily devotions this month. Ninety percent of the time I do my devotions first thing in the morning, but one morning I didn’t do it and my day got away from me and I didn’t pause for quiet time. So I started a new streak. I ended August at 8 days and counting.

I was hit and miss with the core work in August. Though I did it more often than not, it still takes effort and does not feel natural. Maybe it takes longer to feel normal since it isn’t an every day activity. Or maybe it’s hard because I don’t like it. Either way I will keep at it.

I increased my daily writing for at least one ten minute timer (TMT) session to 244 straight days (since January 1). In eight months of writing TMTs I have completed 902 TMTs, which is 9,020 minutes (150 hours) of new writing in 2020.

I have a set of truth declarations I wrote some time back. My goal for September is to read those every morning during my prayer time.

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Be careful, not fearful

My church is going through a sermon series titled emotions. It’s appropriate as there seem to be a myriad of emotions that people are experiencing in our country, out state, and our local communities. I know I’ve been through quite an array of emotions lately.

But I don’t want to write about emotions in general; I want to address one specific emotion that I believe is too prevalent and unnecessary. Fear

It’s natural to look at an unknown virus like COVID-19 and freak out a little bit. We all did in March as few resisted the extreme measures we took to protect ourselves from the invisible germ that had survived and thrived its way from China to our local neighborhoods.

And while there’s still reason for us to be careful and take thoughtful precautions, we have enough data now to show that most of us don’t need to live in daily fear.

Let’s start broad and work our way closer to home.

One of the reasons (and I understand there are lots variables that I don’t have time to explore now) that we continue to see cases of positive COVID-19 tests as we open things up is that we have chosen this path.

What I mean is this: last spring we chose to shut things down so we didn’t have a ton of coronvirus cases all at once. We didn’t want to risk overwhelming out health care facilities and chance running out of ventilators and ICU beds, which could have caused extra and unnecessary deaths.

Those precautions didn’t mean that in the long run the United States would have less cases, it meant that we chose to spread them out. Stated another way: we didn’t prevent the spread of COVID-19, we slowed it down. If our goal was to have lower numbers in August than in April, we could have left everything open and I guarantee our numbers we be lower. I’ll leave it to others to decide if that was the right decision or not.

There are 331,002,651 people in the United States and so far 5,682,491 have tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 176,223 deaths in U.S. That’s 3.1% of those infected by the coronavirus died and .05% of the population. Tragic? Yes. Catastrophic? Not by historic standards.

The Spanish flu a century ago killed between 17 million and 50 million people. That’s when the world’s population was at 1.5 billion. The equivalent death toll today would mean that between 86 billion 253 billion people died. We’re currently around 815,000 deaths.

The population of Kansas is just over 2.9 million. As of Sunday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment had reported 419 deaths as a result of COVID-19.

Harvey County has a population of 33,804. According to the Harvey County Health Department, we’ve had five deaths. That’s less than one death a month since we started shutting everything down on March 12.

To put that in perspective, a month ago Harvey County had three young persons (ages 22, 21, and 33) killed in automobile accidents in less than a week.

The average age of death from COVID-19 in Kansas is 79. Ninety-one percent of deaths (381) have been age 65 and older. Zero deaths have been reported under the age of 18. I repeat—zero. Only two deaths in the 18-24 age range, 5 for 25-34, and 7 for 35-44.  That’s according to the Kansas Department of Health and environment website on Friday, 8-23-20.

That’s a lot of numbers and I’m sorry, but I think most of the fear has come by looking at one number every day—the total positive cases. A narrow focus can lead to irrational and emotional conclusions that are based on fear and are untrue.

My purpose is not to talk anyone out of being cautious by social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing your hands. By all means, partake. But you can be careful without be fearful.

My purpose in writing is to calm some nerves because no one is better off by living in fear.

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Habits – July 2020 Update

My word for 2020 is habits, so each month I select one habit that I want to stop and one I want to start.

So far in 2020 I’ve given up:

January – Watching shows for entertainment
February – Soda
March – Chocolate
April – Chocolate
May – No hitting the snooze
June – No hitting the snooze
July – Avoiding the national news

I have to give myself a C+ or B- on giving up national news. I avoided my usual news sources for big chunks of the month, but did listen to a little talk radio on a couple of longer drives, and checked out a few clips online. Overall, cutting down significantly I think helped in my mood, attitude, and peace.

It seems like the stopping category each month is harder to succeed at than the starting. I think for the third time in a row I will duplicate my stopping. This time I’m not doing it to help solidify a habit as much as I don’t want to go back to a big dose of national news, so keeping the goal in place should help me to at least keep my intake moderate. Ultimately, I would like to find the right balance for me to intake news and keep my sanity.

My starting habits for 2020 include:

January – A daily devotion using the YouVersion Bible app and a ten-minute writing timer (TMT)
February – Read a list of truth declarations (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
March – Twelve minutes in prayer (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
April – Twelve minutes in prayer (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
May – Two minutes of prayer after devotions (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
June – Two minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)
July – Three minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)

Starting my day with devotions and prayer now feels normal. I’m doing it consistently and naturally. I no longer think about doing it so the excuses like I don’t have time, I can do it later, I’m tired, etc., never enter my mind. As soon as I get dressed I sit down. The habit is there! For August I will increase it to four minutes, and if I’m having a good prayer time I won’t make myself stop.

The core work is still hard. I missed a handful of times, but in the middle of the month remembered a quote from James Clear. It’s probably in his book but I remember it from one of his interviews. He said never miss twice in a row. Simply doing that will guarantee you do something at least half the time.

So, In August I will continue the two-minute core workout after running for and see if another month will help it start to feel normal. I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s still hard as this is the first month I succeeded most of the time. But at least it was an improvement over June.

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I have successfully continued my year-long goals of daily devotions and daily writing for at least one ten minute timer (TMT). My hard drive crashed on my computer, so I don’t know how many TMT’s I had in July and in total for 2020, but I did write every day and have done so for 213 straight days as of July 31.

Looking back on my original goal for the year, maybe one habit a month (for both starting and stopping) wasn’t enough time. I’ve often repeated my monthly goals. At first that discouraged me, but now I realize that 30 days just isn’t enough, usually to even establish a routine, let alone get it to the point of feeling like habit.

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July 2020 Storytime Blog Hop

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Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

Near Success

I turned my head as the car reached the young boy. It was over in seconds. I calmed my queasy stomach and ran to toward the lifeless body.

“Damn!” The boy’s soul was gone. I had lost another one.

Then I saw something disappear behind the sky scraper in the next block.

“Wait!”

I soared over the building, in time to see the soul fly under a bridge and vanish into the ground. I dove hard. My chances of catching it were slimming.

Before I reached the ground it popped up and whizzed by me. I screamed and changed direction. I didn’t have time to chase souls around town. I had another death scheduled soon.

Around a corner; across an empty lot; into the woods. He will be hard to keep up with in there.

Before I reached the tree line I heard a sound that made me stop.

“Hi, G.R.”

“Shiela!”

Dale’s sister. The beast. And I don’t mean that in the good way.

“I don’t have time.”

I tried to dart around her but she quickly blocked my path.

“Ah!” I shouted into the air. The soul was gone. I would be in so much trouble.

“Did you lose one?”

“I, I had it until you came along,” I said through gritted teeth.

She stood with her hands on her hips. “I came along because you still owe me a date.”

“I had almost caught up to him.”

“You made a deal with my brother. You promised.”

“I’m busy.” And you’re scary. I didn’t have time for this…for her. “I’m in my probation period and I need to focus on my job.”

“You’re so important, aren’t you?”

I puffed my chest. “I finished top of my class.”

“You are so awesome you had to bribe my brother for the easiest job on the first day?”

“I made that trade as a favor to him and you,” I shouted. “That was not an easy collection.”

“It was rated the easiest and you let the old geezer get away.”

“What? But how…” She couldn’t possibly know that. “You’re following me!”

“Everybody knows your first got away!”

I sank against a tree. The records were supposed to be private, but of course someone leaked when the top student failed.

But maybe I could use it to my advantage. Sheila wouldn’t want to go out with a loser!

I spit out the truth. “Already a week into my solo probation period and I haven’t caught a single soul.”

Sheila giggled. I glared.

A single soul…Soon we both were laughing uncontrollably. More reaper school humor!

Once we settled down Sheila offered, “I can help.”

“You’re not old enough for Reaper School for another year,” I sulked.

“I don’t need Reaper school. I have eight older siblings,” She countered. “When’s your next death?”

“This evening.”

“We better hurry, then.”

Soon we were in the back seat watching Julie, my next collection, drive.

“I don’t understand. How will watching her before her death help?”

“It gives you time to prepare,” Sheila explained. “You know, so you don’t miss it.”

“You have been following me!”

“No, look, you scored nearly perfect in school but can’t catch the real thing. It could only mean one thing—death bothers you.”

“But—”

“It’s normal,” she said understandingly. “But you need to adapt. Just picture the death over and over in your mind. Then the real event will seem like a thought.”

So I did. I must have seen Julie crash into the telephone poll a hundred times.

Then the moment came. She pulled out her cell phone and stared down. Up and down her head bobbed. She squealed excitedly, took one final look up, then tried to steer with her knee while typing.

I visualized the crash one final time, then Bam! She wrapped the Civic around the pole, dying instantly.

I didn’t flinch. I thought I might get sick at the sight, but I watched. I watched the whole thing.

“I did it!” Thrilled, I gave Sheila a tight hug before my cheeks burned with embarrassment and I quickly let go. We both laughed.

“Best date ever!” she screamed.

She had saved my career, my pride. “I can’t count this as a date. I owe you one proper.”

“Really?” she squealed.

“Yes.” I held out my arm for her to take. “Shall we?”

She giggled. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

I followed her gaze.

Fading in the distance was Julie’s soul.

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Thank you for reading! Now enjoy some more great stories from my friends…

1. Alexa by Barbara Lund
2. What They Wanted by Karen Lynn
3. Night at the Museum by Vanessa Wells
4. TRIBULATION Culled, eclipsed by COVID19 (A Poem) by Juneta Key
5. The Right Tracks by VS Stark
6. The Guardian of the Sandsnake’s Temple by Katharina Gerlach
7. The Last One by Jemma Weir
8.The Pooka Plays Pool by Nic Steven
9.The Longest Night by Sabrina Rosen

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Habits – June 2020 Update

My word for 2020 is habits, so each month I select one habit that I want to stop and one I want to start.

So far in 2020 I’ve given up:

January – Watching shows for entertainment. February – Soda March – Chocolate April – Chocolate May – No hitting the snooze June – No hitting the snooze

My goal is to stop the habit for a month. At this point I haven’t tried to permanently quit any of these. I simply test them for a month and gauge the likelihood of any sticking. Plus, I think it’s a good discipline to deny ourselves desire on occasion. I repeated chocolate because I failed in March. I repeated the snooze because I wanted to build on my success.

JUNE: I had another successful month of not hitting the snooze. I only used the snooze button three or four times, and those were days when I had the luxury to do so. I’m not going to make it one of my goals this month, but I want to continue the practice of not hitting the snooze very often. I think I’m at a point I can find a balance with this one.

JULY: For this month I am going to give up national news. I’m tired of the negatives, the lies, and the manipulation of my emotions by reading/watching the craziness. I will not listen to talk radio and will not watch any videos or podcasts that pertain to current events.

I will limit my time on Facebook, but since I use it for work some at this point I’m not giving it completely up. We’ll see how the month goes; Facebook could be an August goal.

My starting habits for 2020 include:

January – A daily devotion using the YouVersion Bible app and a ten-minute writing timer (TMT) February – Read a list of truth declarations (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing) March – Twelve minutes in prayer (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing) April – Twelve minutes in prayer (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing) May – Two minutes of prayer after devotions (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing) June – Two minutes of prayer after devotions; Two minutes of core after running; (Plus daily devotions and TMT writing)

JUNE: About a week into June I upped my prayer time from two minutes to three, which felt like the right amount of time, though I can’t explain why. I only missed doing my devotions and prayer first thing in the morning three or four times, and only once did I not do them in the morning, waiting until just before bed.

I did well with the core training goal for the first half of the month, but then I went on vacation and it went by the wayside.

JULY: I want to repeat both goals. The morning routine is starting to feel normal and I want to build a good, long base for it before I consider expanding the time. I want to give another shot at doing the core work for two minutes. Hopefully I can get a streak going that I can take into next month.

Halfway checkpoint: The year is half over, which makes this a time to evaluate whether this adventure should continue for the full year like I had planned.

I’ve had mixed results on the stopping goals. I gained myself more time by giving up watching entertainment and seem to have found a morning routine by not hitting the snooze. My food denials haven’t gone as well. At this point I don’t know what I should give up going forward. That tells me that I need to spend some time considering and praying about this. I think I’ll start by rewatching the habit sermons that started me on this journey.

I’ve had great success with the two goals I started at the beginning of the year. I’ve only missed one day of not doing my YouVersion devotional on my phone. I have completed 37 reading plans and am currently (as of June 30) on a streak of 79 days in a row.

The ten minute time challenge (TMT) is where I set a timer for ten minutes and write, usually new fiction. I have not missed a day in 2020, logging 182 straight days of new writing. During that time I’ve completed 753 TMTs, which is 7,530 minutes of new writing (probably 80% of which is fiction), or 125.5 hours or writing. That doesn’t count rewriting, revising, plotting, planning, marketing, reading, research, etc.

Even though I’ve had many failures, I’ve had some successes, which means I’ve made progress. The failures simply mean nothing changed. No harm, no foul. The successes mean that something, no matter how small it may be, changed. And like Craig Groeschel said in his first sermon on Habits, “Successful people do consistently what others do occasionally.”

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Duh! Read more than the headline!

I came across a headline on Facebook announcing that Chuck Norris had died from COVID-19 at the age of 80. I read the short online story. Several sentences spelled out his storied career in martial arts, movies and television.

Then, I reached the final two sentences.

“However, after his minor inconvenience of death, Chuck has made a full recovery, and is reported to be doing quite well. It has also been reported that the Corona virus is in self isolation for 14 days due to being exposed to Chuck Norris.”

I laughed and thought it was a well-done Chuck Norris joke, so I shared it on my Facebook wall. I got a few laughing emojis and likes and then an old high school classmate slapped me with a Snopes fact checker, insinuating I had posted a false story.

Curious, I went to Snopes, and yes, it gave the story a false rating.

Um, duh!

Hello! It’s a joke, not a story! But then, you have to be intelligent enough to read past the headline.

I’m not sure which is worse—that Snopes fact-checked a joke, or that people rely on others to tell them what to think about jokes.

I asked my friend if he had read the whole thing. He still hasn’t responded. Obviously, I know the answer and he may be too embarrassed to admit he hadn’t. He should be.

Several months ago, I posted an opinion piece on my church’s website and my pastor shared the link on Facebook. The story had to do with infanticide. Someone complained to Facebook and they blocked the site from their platform. Now, no matter what I write on the church website, even inspirational devotions, Facebook won’t allow my articles to be referenced on their site.

My opinion piece was similar to one I wrote in the newspaper around that time. When it appeared in the paper, someone wrote me a scathing note accusing me of abandoning my journalistic integrity to express my opinion.

Of course, she hadn’t read the stories I referenced or watched the video I commented about. I guess she didn’t need the details in order to make up her mind.

After she read the stories I had criticized and listened to my explanation, she apologized and recognized how I came to my conclusion. Maybe she shouldn’t have abandoned her journalistic integrity to criticize my column.

One of the great faults of our current society is that we make judgments outside of context.

From time to time, I hear people complain that Facebook has blocked something they wrote or shared. I know that Twitter and YouTube have done the same.

They are private companies, so they are welcome to put/allow whatever they want on their websites. That being said, it’s dishonest and deceptive not to have clear rules about what they will and will not allow. It’s also rude not to respond and provide an explanation to honest requests by those being blocked.

There are legal distinctions between a platform and a news outlet. I’m not a legal expert, so I may have my terms incorrect, but if a business is a platform, then they can’t sensor what’s posted. If they sensor, then they become liable for the content posted on their website. I’m guessing we’ll see legal battles arise as websites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook continue to block, and fact check material posted to their sites.

Do we want an organization that fact checks jokes to be the arbitrator of truth?

Yes, technically the headline on my post about Chuck Norris was a complete fabrication known by me to be so when I shared it. But, that was the whole point.

Enjoy the Chuck Norris jokes for now; they may soon be gone.

PSA: In case Snopes hasn’t yet investigated, all memes posted in this article are factually untrue. Read at your own risk.

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Habits – May 2020 Update

My word for 2020 is habits, so each month I select one habit that I want to stop and one I want to start.

So far in 2020 I’ve given up:

January – Watching shows for entertainment

February – Soda

March – Chocolate

April – Chocolate

May – No hitting the snooze

My goal is to stop the habit for a month. At this point I haven’t tried to permanently quit any of these. I simply test them for a month and gauge the likelihood of any sticking. Plus I think it’s a good discipline to deny ourselves desire on occasion. You’ll notice I had to do chocolate twice. That’s because I crashed and burned in March.

My starting habits for 2020 include:

January – A daily devotion using the YouVersion Bible app and a ten-minute writing timer

February – Read a list of truth declarations

March – Twelve minutes in prayer

April – Twelve minutes in prayer

May – Two minutes of prayer after devotions

For the habits I have started, my hope is to continue and build on them throughout the year. I haven’t had complete success, but overall I have made progress.

In May I decided to give up hitting the snooze button for the month. To put this into some context, I honestly cannot remember a time when I haven’t used the snooze button most days of the week.

I love hitting snooze once or twice; to slowly wake and allow myself to mentally prepare for the day. Most of the time I go right back to sleep until my five, nine, or ten minutes (it’s been different snooze times with the different clocks/phones I’ve had over the years) expires.

Yet, I successfully gave up the snooze in May. Only twice during the month did I succumbed to the call of the snooze. Once was on a Saturday when I literally had nothing scheduled so could have slept all day but didn’t want to. The other time happened on one of those dark, rainy, cold mornings. Yeah, both failures were worth it.

My goal for June is to repeat the no-snooze goal. This time I’m repeating my goal because I had success and want to give it more time to see if I can turn it into a habit.

My starting goal for May was a carry over because I struggled with it in April. Each day I spend time doing a devotional through the YouVersion Bible App on my phone. I added a two-minute time of prayer after the devotional.

I chose two minutes because James Clear in his book Atomic Habits suggested the best way to start a habit is to make it simple and short in order to get used to doing the activity. The pattern also creates a trigger. In other words, what I want is for the completion of the devotion to become a trigger where I naturally move into a time of prayer.

Originally in April I had tried twelve minutes of prayer, but that length of time intimidated me and I failed more often than not. Clear states in his book that we can’t improve a on habit we don’t have (I’m paraphrasing). So, I’m developing the habit and eventually I hope increase the time spent in prayer.

I want to be more consistent in doing my devotions first thing in the morning. Eliminating the snooze in May helped in my success of that.

The changes in May made a significant difference. Most days I successfully did my devotional and prayer time in the mornings. When I missed, I did them at night. I didn’t keep track of how many days, so I can’t quantify it. I think I will do that for June so I will know how well or not well I am doing with my new habit.

Also for June I want to add at least two minutes of core work after running. I run 4-6 days a week and love it, but I hate doing core work and have never succeeded in consistently working my core for any length of time. I want to use Clear’s two-minute theory and get myself used to moving from running into core and hopefully create a trigger that makes my body believe that core work is natural.

On January 1 I started using ten minute timers (TMT) to help me write new words. On May 31 I finished the month with 167 TMTs. For 2020 I have completed 631 TMTs and successfully completed at least one every day of the year (152 straight days). I’m on pace to have one of my most productive years writing ever.

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