It’s Friday Night And I Just – Just – Juuuust Got Paid

Note: How appropriate that I made a mistake with the title. Got, not God. Geez.

(The title to the blog: ‘Nsync, anyone? No Strings Attached album? No? Yea, I never really listened to ‘Nsync either……………..)

Some time last week, I received a check for the Bible study I wrote on prayer for the Converge Bible Study series. It wasn’t like I made bank, but I was very grateful for the opportunity (don’t tell Shane this, but I would’ve done it for free…) and even more grateful for the check that came in the mail.

It was a surreal moment.

I wanted to frame it — like business folks do with the first dollar they made — but I’m too cheap for that and we need a new vacuum.

I got paid for writing. That’s a weird feeling. I mean, I once got paid for a small book review I did for my friend’s Annual Conference. But this is different. This reached a scope beyond one Annual Conference and beyond my 3 readers on this blog (thanks wife and mom).

Even though I got paid for writing something — I don’t think I could ever consider myself a “writer.” Because I’m a horrible writer. Like my religion professor told me in undergrad, “You write the way you speak, and the way you speak is incorrect.” (He might’ve said it more grammatically correct.)

I can’t believe how that one little statement has hung over my head for so many years.

Turns out, writing like how I speak has become a necessity when I write my sermons. (So, ha! Dr. Crawford! — though he was one of my favorite professors. Maybe that’s why the words hang around after all these years).

And me speaking in a wrongly way? (bad sentence on purpose… give me some credit). In honor of my pidgin speaking friends: ainokea. (I no care).

Well — I do. I mean, I don’t want to sound like a complete moron. I’m okay with moron — just not a complete moron.

And, in the words of Juan Pablo — English is my second language. I’m a product of ESL. Ees okay.

Actually, I only joke about ESL. I think I’ve taken 1 ESL class or however it was done in my life and that was in the first grade. So, 20 years ago. Okay, another lie, 20 years ago would make me 26.

About 3-5 years ago, I remember how I really wanted to write a book. I was looking at all sorts of opportunities for me to pitch an idea. And I never really had an idea for a book. I had a few decent ones, but they were more suited for a series of blog posts, not a book. One thought I toyed with was how jealousy can destroy a team ministry by using people like King Saul as an example. His obsession and jealousy towards David destroyed him. But again a good blog post, not deep enough for a book.

I can’t really tell you why I so wanted to be a published writer. But, it most likely had to do with boosting my ego and self worth.

I gave up the thought of writing a book when I realized (through someone’s blog post) that in many ways, we preachers are writers (also when I realized I had nothing to write about. And when I realized I’m not that great of a writer.)

We write a sermon week in and week out. Although this pastor blogger said that pastors write 15 pages of manuscript each week. 15 pages? My sermon manuscripts come out to an average of 1500 words (2.5 pages at most). It only becomes over 15 pages on Sunday mornings when the font size is changed to 24 so that I can use it to preach. 15 pages?! Per sermon?! Am I doing something wrong…?

It’s funny how things happen when you let go of it.

I was approached by Shane, not once but twice, to write a bible study for the Converge series. Both times (especially the second time) I was floored, humbled, and grateful. Really? Me? Again?

Through this experience, I am learning that I don’t think I could ever write a book.

Writing the Bible studies (particularly the new one) was difficult and beyond my intellectual capacity (please note: I’m not complaining). And that’s with a 2000 word limit per session and only 4 sessions at that (I can math this: that’s 8000 words per study! Math, like English, also not my strongest subject. I bring dishonor to my ethnicity).

I know writing a book goes deeper and takes more effort. It’ll feel like going to school. And school and I are not the best of friends. On top of that, my church used the Practical Prayer study for a small group study. What they loved the best was the questions each session asked. And I had nothing to do with the questions. That was all Shane and Co.

I think my wheelhouse is in blogging. Of course, if the chance to write a book ever comes up, I won’t deny it. Hopefully that’ll mean I’ll have something worthy to share. But if it never does, I got other things (real things) to be concerned about than doing something that ultimately promotes me as a person. That can’t ever be what my life is about. I got bigger and more important things to push and promote — like God’s love and restoring grace.

And that’s done best through actions than words.

Jon Acuff and His Advice

Opening Keynote with Jon Acuff

I like Jon Acuff. I think he’s funny. I wish I had his sense of humor.

He’s also the one that came up with one of my favorite Christian phrases: The Jesus Juke which I use often.

I thoroughly enjoyed his Stuff Christians Like and thought it was hilarious, though a few people very close to me didn’t think so. But I tell them, often, that they don’t have a good sense of humor.

He’s coming out with a new book in a couple of weeks called Start. And they were offering a whole bunch of things if you pre-ordered his book. As I was pre-ordering his book, I remembered he was offering something when he released his second book, Gazelles, Baby Steps and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt: he would take a look at your blog and give you tips, insights, and suggestions.

Well, I did pre-order that book but he never took a gander at this blog. It was no biggie. I honestly had forgotten about it until I was preordering Start.

So, I just tweeted him basically saying, “Hey you never reviewed my blog after I preordered Gazelles” thinking that he’d never see or get that tweet.

Wrong. He responded back immediately and then DM’ed (direct message) me asking for my email address. Immediately, I felt guilty and bad because I realized I basically called him out. But in our short exchange of emails, he was very kind and gracious and gave me these tips:

1. Be careful about the length of your posts. 5 years ago people would accept 800 word long posts but now with twitter and pinterest, the length needs to be shorter. Your last post was over 1,000 words. Shorten them.

2. Think about breaking longer posts into multiple posts. Do a series instead of one long post

3. Figure out a consistent posting schedule. I couldn’t figure out how often you post.

4. Cut your disclaimer in half. I think you can just say, “My thoughts don’t represent …”

5. Help me as a reader know what topics you are going to focus on. Maybe make that clearer in your subhead.

Great tips.
I already took care of #4 and #5. My subhead now reads “Thoughts on Life and Faith and everything in between, like Batman.” That’s a bit more clearer on what this blog is about than the previous one “Loving God and making my mistakes look gracious,” which the second part were lyrics from a Jason Mraz song.

The first tip — keep it short, I think is helpful (or if I know it’s going to run long, do a series) because there have been times where the post just keep going and going and going and I have no idea how to end it. Then I get discouraged, and I store it as a draft to revisit them later. (I have over 10 drafts sitting and waiting to be revisited…)

On the same line of thinking, I once thought preaching for 40-45 minutes was great. Gave me plenty of time to address everything I wanted to. Nowadays, I really enjoy preaching for 20-25 minutes. It makes preparation easier and I think it makes listening easier. I realized the extra 20 minutes in a 40 minute sermon were used for fillers, transitions, and/or various illustrations. I could still get the heart of the message out in 20-25 minutes without the extra stories.

I think shorter posts will also help keep this blog updated in a consistent manner, which brings us to tip #3.

I also don’t know my own posting schedule. I tried to aim for every Wednesday, but that doesn’t really work out for various reasons. I forget; I didn’t know how to end the post, so I store it as a draft; and other various reasons/excuses. I also aimed for two post a week, but that didn’t work out either. But I’m working on it. Having a consistent posting schedule, I believe, will help me stay on track, focused, and disciplined on something I really like doing.

Anyway, I’m grateful for Jon’s tips (and still a bit apologetic for my tweet). This blog gives me joy and an outlet to share my thoughts (though at the end of the day, that’s a bit egotistical. But, so am I, I guess) and so I do want it to be the best that I can make it.

So thanks, Mr. Jon Acuff for your help. And as always, thanks for reading.

Half-Finished Blogs and Books and

Writing

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve had… well, I dare not call it a “writer’s block” because I feel that one has to be a good writer to experience such things.

So, lack of inspiration? Lack of dedication? Too much apathy, not enough passion? Meh.

But, I have lots and lots and lots of half written posts lying around and even more one line thoughts and ideas stored on Evernote.

I get excited about the things that are floating in my head. Then I start typing. Then I stop. Then I read what was typed. Then I get… I don’t know. Bored? Disinterested? Or, I just don’t know where to go next. So, I just stop and move on to a different project.

More recently, I notice that I do that with books, too. I have more half-read books lying around than unread books. I start reading. I get excited about the new thoughts that the author proposes. Then… I don’t know. I get bored. Or something. The TV seems to be more alive than it should be. Or there’s something shiny that gets my attention.

In fact, I almost half-wrote this post about half-finished posts and books. And, this time, it really was because I saw something shiny outside. It turned out to be just a glare from someone opening their car door (currently sitting at Starbucks.) But, you know, once the head and eyes are no longer fixated on the screen, there are so many things to look at, assess and ponder. Like people. So, I start people watching. Sometimes coming up with a narrative for them. Other times just wondering about them. What do they do for a living? Why are they here? Work? Rest? Caffeine fix? Where they gonna go after? Why was she so rude to everyone? Why is he in such a hurry? Why are those two adults talking about Twilight?

And why is that person looking at me looking at him? Uh oh. How long have we looked at one another now? Do I look away first? But, it’s obvious that I got caught looking at him. Do I smile at him? Would that make it more awkward? I should just look away. But, I don’t want to lose this game of staring chicken that somehow we got going here… Geez, I better look away first before I’m obligated to buy him a drink… Now where was I?

My friends, that is a glimpse of my weird, awkward, and a bit neurotic mind.

People have written and shared that one should just power through in times where inspiration or motivation of writing runs dry. Write first — critique later. You know, kind of like the slogan from a very obscure apparel company: “Just do it.”

So, I did — with a book first. I received a copy of Who Is This Man? by John Ortberg. I told myself, even if this book is horrible, I’m going to read the whole darn thing.

Fortunately, it was not horrible. I thoroughly enjoyed it and gained lots of new and different insights from Ortberg’s writing. It also helped that the second half of the book was read on a boat on the Caribbean Sea. And, I would recommend it (the book. Oh, and the cruise) — though not to people of my congregation because there are some things and ideas that I want to “borrow” for my sermons and I don’t want them to hear those ideas in a more eloquent and sophisticated and better (and original) way than I have to offer.

I also intend to finish all those half-written, unfinished blogposts one of these days. Well, maybe not finish all of them, because some of them really don’t deserve to be finished or given a second thought.

I intend to continue writing, not because I want to attempt to make a career at it, or drive visits to the blog, or because I think I’m good at it (I’m not. I think I live up to my name in that I’m just average. In almost everything. Except being awesome. That’s one area where I am not an average Joe. I exude awesomeness. Just FYI).

But simply put, it gives me great joy and relief, even.

When I preach, I don’t want to preach for 40+ minutes. (I can take my voice for only so long…) But there are so many things I want to address that doesn’t fit in to the sermon or doesn’t help the sermon flow. I have an outlet for moments like that — the blog.

When I have something I want to get off my chest — I have the blog. When I really have something I want to get off my chest, I have my personal journal, where names are written down (kidding. I don’t use names, but adjectives. Heh).

My prayers? I write those down, too. No particular reason why. I like writing my prayers down. And I like visiting them months and months later to reflect on my prayers. How they were answered? What made me pray such prayers? Have I grown? How? If not, why? And so forth.

Having this blog for about 6 or 7 years has been a healthy outlet for me. It’s given me enough of an ego boost by being a small soapbox for me to stand on. It’s also kept me humble knowing that only a handful of people are gracious enough to take time and read my blog. And even more humbled that people are gracious enough to actually take time and read the things I write.

So, here’s another year to updating this blog (if for no other reason, I already shelled out the cash to keep my domain name with wordpress for another year).

See you sometime next week. But I’ll leave you with a thought:

There are 2 secrets to success:
1) Never tell everything you know.

5 Years and 10.8 Months Ago…

January of 2013 will mark 6 years of having this blog. 6 years.

I don’t know why I started a blog, but I always had one throughout college with xanga and blogspot. But in January of 2007, I started this particular blog to… I guess more to reflect and hash out my thoughts and feelings. It was a new life for me. I was married and had my first full-time ministry gig. So, I figured I had lots to reflect about and lots of things to hash out. Regarding the full-time ministry gig– not the marriage.

My very first post was about my hesitation (which I realized, today, that the title of the post and, hence, the URL of the post is misspelled. “HESITIATION.” Go figure…) to go visit a 12 year old who had cancer — and ultimately died before I got to see her again, which I briefly shared in a post about the passing of a parishioner here at St. Mark.

The funny thing is, I hated writing all throughout my school career. I didn’t like English. I didn’t like all of my writing classes that I was forced to take. Couldn’t avoid grammar mistakes. Was told by one professor that I write the way I speak, and the way I speak is wrong. What can you do with that?

Yet, since the age of 12, I kept a personal journal. When I was 14 or so, I kept 2 separate journals, because I discovered that my parents were reading my journals. Tsk. Tsk. So I kept a dummy one out where anyone could find them, filled with mundane entries. “School was okay, but I don’t like school. I like seeing my friends and hanging out. And I like doodling in class. Here’s a picture of Mario.” I kept the real one hidden where no one could find it and in that one, I wrote my deepest and darkest of secrets. Not really. It was still the same as the dummy one. Except, with this one, I knew that no one was reading it but me and had the comfort of knowing that I could write something very secretive that no one would know. Oh. I would use expletives here and there. “School was okay, but I @#$&!*% hate school.”

I had no idea why I put in so much effort to maintain this blog. It was fun. It was a release, too. And there was this struggle within me — I wanted as many people to read it, but at the same time, I wanted to keep my anonymity as much as possible, therefore wanting no one to read it.

During the early days (years) I would obsessively keep track of the visits to the blog, all the while hoping that no one from church would discover it. I was frustrated that no one seeing this blog — and tried all the free ways to boost traffic. Blogging can be such a vain medium. I mean, really, what can I offer? What impact can my voice (writing) really have in the sea of millions of better bloggers? Even more in the early days when all I wanted was heavy traffic to my blog.

I’ve made mistakes here and there through these almost 6 years. Some posts — they remain private now– should have never been made public, particularly one about the events that took place at the end of my tenure at one church. My good friend who worked at the church had to call me and ask me to take it down because kids had found that post and were asking the leaders about certain things.

I don’t post as much as I used to. I don’t know why I tried to have one post per day during those early stages. Currently, I shoot for at least 2 a week. I read that consistency keeps the blog alive. Also the experts on blogging said that I should have a clear theme/purpose for this blog. Which I don’t have. It’s about my thoughts and experiences. And again, it’s vanity to think that people would want to read it.

I’ve also stop being obsessive about the traffic to my blog. It wasn’t helping. And I realized how narcissistic I was being. It also gave me a freedom to talk about whatever I want to talk about. Instead of fussing over traffic numbers, I used that energy to really think. (And that takes a lot of energy for me).

It’s been a nice hobby to have. I’ve never really been creative but always yearned to be. This blog has served as an outlet for whatever creativity I have. It also has been an outlet to think and reflect and document things that are happening in my life. But the real deep things — things that I don’t want public or might hurt people or incriminate me somehow, someway — I still have a personal journal for that. It has also open a few small doors and opportunities here and there, and every opportunity and doors opened, I am extremely grateful for.

Thanks for being part of this, rather vain and narcissistic, journey with me. I apologize for all those posts that made you think you wasted precious moments of your life. And I am grateful and humbled if any of my posts made you think and go, “huh, that was interesting.” Even if it was used in a negative way. And also, I should apologize for all the grammatical errors that run rampant on this blog. It happens when I speak, too. English just hasn’t been a good, good friend of mine.

But, really, honestly and truly — thanks for reading.

The Blog’s Good for My Mind, but the Journal is Good for My Soul…

I like updating my blog because it gives me a venue to share my thoughts, ideas, observations among other things (granted, no one asked me to share these things…).

It also helps continue thoughts that I couldn’t share in a sermon because it would take too much time and focus away from the heart of the message.

And well, honestly, it’s nice to have a soap box to stand on, even if no one’s around to hear the opinions coming from the one standing on this soap box. It’s just nice to know there is one.

And it’s been an interesting journey for me, blogging. I’ve had many since my college days, starting with Xanga. Then I moved on to blogspot and started many different types of blogs (the best one being a bit exaggerated sagas of my personal life). Then in 2006, I started this one, with the intent that it was going to reflect who I am as a person, a child of God and as a pastor.

Over the years, I’ve had some decent post, but mostly some hodgepodge of thoughts that were okay at best.
I’ve had interesting comments made by people, some that I had to delete. One person called me out on my “inappropriate” language on this blog, especially since I’m a pastor, to which I simply replied, “uh… you don’t have to read my blog…”

Overall, I really enjoy blogging. And yea, maybe it often serves as a small ego boost here and there.
I wish I could provide solid content without the grammatical errors that drive my wife (and perhaps you) crazy mad. Meh, I’d be content with solid content.

However, since a very young age, at the suggestion (read: command) of my parents, I kept a journal.
The early entries started out with, “Today was a bad day. Mom made me clean my room. I just want to play outside. She’s Mom, why can’t she clean my room? I have better things to do. If she wants it clean, I think she should clean instead of making me. I’m happy with the way my room is.” and (thankfully) the entries got deeper as I matured.

Oh, I also once discovered that my parents were reading my journal, so I kept a dummy journal out in the open, but kept the real journal hidden where I could write things like what I just shared with you without the fear of repercussions.

Whereas the blog may be where I share intellectual thoughts, the journal is where I pour my soul into. It’s filled with joy, anger, praise, worry, anxiety, discontent, unhappiness, frustration, complaints, hopes, fears, mundane thoughts and descriptions…
I write about my day, where I am spiritually, where I’m lacking, where I need to start lacking…
I complain about things and people in church, and yes, I use real names so that years from now I can still hold a grudge against you. (Kidding.) If someone were to obtain this, I think it could jeopardize my job at the Church (that’s right, not just my local church but the Church church).

I like going back and reading my entries.
At times I’m thoroughly embarrassed of my reactions and interpretations of certain events. Being years removed and able to see what I wrote without highly charged emotions, I can say “Yea… I totally overreacted.”

At times, I’m (and please hear [er... read] me without thinking I’m arrogant) rather pleased with myself with how I handled a situation or interpreted certain actions of people and say, “Yea… I’d handle it the same way today.”

There are times where I see that I’ve come a long way and other times where I realized I haven’t changed at all. There are times where I see that certain scars are (surprisingly) still there and I still need to work on healing them. The writing also has served as therapy or as the necessary buffer before responding to someone (given that I have time between events and confrontation). Writing out my honest-to-God feelings and emotions help me (most of the times) to get most of the strong emotions out of the way and approach the situation with a cooler head.

I think every pastor, nay every person, should keep a daily journal.
For me, keeping a journal has helped me mature and grow. It has helped me to get to know myself a little bit more, as strange as that may sound.
It’s good to know how I handled past situations to help me deal with current situations. It’s rewarding to see how I have grown and eye-opening to see where I still need to work on. And it’s fun to see my past-self from the eyes of my current-self.

Now, if anyone were to find my journal… I think I’d be in trouble…