Picture me changed

March 5th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

RhondaRhea2015

Welcome my very funny friend, Rhonda Rhea to today’s post. She has some of the best book titles: Amusing Grace, High Heels in High Places, Turkey Soup for the Soul: Tastes Just Like Chicken! and her latest: How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?

My computer told me I should erase my history. I chose the 80’s—solely on the basis of hair. Thankfully my hairstyle changes on a bi-weekly basis. That way I can’t be caught in the same embarrassing style for more than a couple of incriminating pictures in a row.

Every once in a while, I like to do a big-time hair change-up for the travel adventure alone. When I’m speaking somewhere and I’m picked up at an airport by people I’ve never met, I have to admit it’s sort of fun to watch them holding a sign with my name for a few minutes before I confess I’m the one they’re looking for. The people generally will look at some publicity photo they have of me, then they’ll look at me. Pause. Look at the photo. Back at me. Pause. Then they’ll move on to try to find someone who looks more like me than I do.

Yeah, like I would ever have a publicity photo that actually looks like me. It’s not just the hair. All authors and speakers are required to have a publicity photo. But nowhere in any of the contracts is it written that the photo has to be an accurate representation.

I’m telling you, I have a genuine sympathy for photographers. Authors want a photo that looks natural. We want it to depict who we really are. And yet we don’t want any wrinkles. Or spots. Or multiple chins. Or those glasses. Or that nose. And those cheek bones have to go. And pretty much that entire face altogether. It’s a total no-win for the photographer.

When it’s publicity photo time for me, I’ve now completely given up the pretense and resorted to a makeup job that essentially involves painting over everything on my face that I don’t like. Can I pretend that looks natural? Then I still ask the photographer to do some major touch-up—starting with making it into a uni-chinned photo, thank you.

By the time we’re both done, I’m Halle Berry. No one can find me at the airport, but boy do I take a mighty fine pic.

Trying to change ourselves on the inside is even more futile. We don’t change ourselves in that initial work of salvation. Why would we ever think we could change ourselves in the process of our sanctification? It’s time to call in The Professional. Jesus said in John 15:5:

      “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

Paul got it. In Philippians 3:3 he wrote:

      We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort.

Society continually sends us the message that we need to have self-confidence. But self-confidence is not only wishy-washy and unreliable, it’s ineffective. Want real change? Change self-confidence to God-confidence. It’s never misplaced. A person surrendered to Christ and confidently relying on Him will be changed. Period.

The more we know about our God, the more confidence we have in Him. The more we comprehend even the tiniest bit about how powerful He is, the more confident we are that He will change us in every way we need to be changed.

Now, where are the people who were supposed to pick me up at the airport?!

Adapted from How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?

cancelled

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you know that I’ve rented a car and am driving home from the Florida writers conference since winter weather has caused the cancellation of thousands of flights with the earliest rebooking Tuesday. So, after spending 18 hours with delays and cancellations to fly to Florida , I’m driving the return leg in less than 15 hours! It’s frustrating and exhausting, but it sure beats a kidney stone. Which, as you’ll see from an old newspaper column, puts everything in perspective.

Everyone needs to have a kidney stone once in his or her life time. Preferably, the sooner the better.

You see, experiencing the sensation of having a semi tractor-trailer with snow chains and a load of rolled steel park on your lower back tends to put life into perspective.

For instance, if you’re riding in a tour bus and the rest room door suddenly swings open and you can’t reach the handle without creating an additional sight on the tour, you can say, “Hey, sure beats a kidney stone.” (All of these examples are, of course, hypothetical and have never happened to me personally.) Or your daughter calls you at 1 a.m. in the middle of winter and says, “Uh, Dad, did you know that a ’95 Neon can straddle a traffic island?” you can say, “Hey, sure beats a kidney stone.”

This perspective also works for times you attempt to repair the toilet yourself and manage to not only cripple the commode, but break off the main water shut-off valve. (I did mention that these are strictly hypothetical examples, didn’t I?) It helps when your mother-in-law backs into your brand-new car. The time your five-year-old son drives spikes into your coffee table. When you lose a great job as an editor at a publishing house due to corporate down-sizing. While you’re recovering from double-hernia surgery and something on TV prompts a belly laugh. When you’re spending half your vacation time sitting in a traffic jam in downtown Chicago with a stick shift, no air-conditioning, and two kids in the back seat waging a fight to the death. You can always say, “Hey, sure beats a kidney stone.”

It also works for intestinal flu, crashed computers, lactose intolerance, sadistic dental hygienists, arthritis, overdrawn checking accounts, terminal toasters and transmissions, impacted wisdom teeth extractions, prostate exams, IRS audits, and flat tires in the rain fifty miles from any form of civilization. Now there are some things that are worse than a kidney stone such as death, divorce, and “Saved By the Bell” reruns, but most domestic disasters and occupational pratfalls pale in comparison to a kidney stone. And that puts everything in perfect perspective.

It’s been six years since my painful epiphany, which brings me to another kidney stone insight: “All things must pass.”

Copyright © 1997 James N. Watkins

Thanks for your prayers for safe travel!

The best and the rest: 2.28.15

February 28th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Welcome to the best—and the rest—of my week’s cartoons and comments on:

      Keeping your dreams alive
      Burnout or balance (DiAnn Mills, guest post-er)
      My air travel survival guide
      Cartoons on writing
      Turn your ‘shaft’ into a mine
      Pressed . . . but not crushed
      Study: humor can increase hope

You can follow my encouragement and entertainment daily on Facebook and Twitter. And thanks for not giving up Hope&Humor for Lent!
jimlogo2


Friday

CoatOfManyColors

Keeping your dreams alive
I’m sharing two of my favorite talks this afternoon at the Florida writers conference: “Confessions of an Author and Speaker” (click to read)and “Keeping Your Dreams Alive” (click to read or hear). My dreams talk is applicable to any vocation: business people, blue collar workers, rodeo clowns . . .


jimshortswalkingbyfaith


Thursday

DianMills

Burnout or balance
I’m enjoying speaking and meeting authors at the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference. I’m pleased to welcome DiAnn Mills—writer and speaker extraordinaire—as guest post-er today. And, if you’re not a writer, simply replace “writer” with your vocation. [Continue reading]


Wednesday

jimshortsromans828

All things work together for good . . .
Good news: FWA has free WiFi, comfortable couches with outlets and a nice restaurant.

Bad news: My 7:20 am flight was cancelled due to mechanical problems, so have a six-hour wait for the 1:32 pm flight.

Good news: I have plenty of work on my laptop, plus I packed Cecil Murphey’s The Promises of Ophelia Bennett. He sent me the novel with a note that he wrote in moi as a walk-on character. Can’t wait to read it and learn if I’m an international spy, billionaire philanthropist, or just me.

Bad news: I have only 40 minutes for my layover in Philly. Agent assured me it’s a “legal” connection. (As opposed to what?!)

Good news: Romans 8:28 applies to air travel! Thanks for your prayers that I get to Orlando safe and sound!


airplanelegroom

My air travel survival guide
What I’ve learned from delays, cancellations, maiming food and drink carts . . . [Continue reading].


Tuesday

jimshortsauthors

Cartoons on writing
I’ll be flying out early tomorrow morning for the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference. Thanks for you prayers for safe, on-time flights (I don’t need any more airline “adventures.”) Meanwhile, some of my favorite cartoons on the writing life.


Let the record show . . .
Just to be clear: I have never taken RPG fire in Iraq, reported under “combat situations” in the Falklands, or served in the special forces. But I really did live in a girls’ dorm for six years! [Continue reading]


Monday

chocolatediamond

Turn your ‘shaft’ into a mine
Often our weaknesses turn into our strengths; our failures into our successes; our worthlessness into our greatest value [Continue reading]


jimshorts2cor4

See also post Pressed . . . but not crushed


Sunday

Humor can increase hope
Scientific proof from Texas A&M University of the importance of regularly visiting Hope & Humor! [Continue reading]

FloridaWritersConference

It is such a joy to be at the Florida Christian Writers Conference: hanging out with writers and editors . . . and warm weather! Perfect! Here are some links for those I’ve met:

ACW Press An independent publisher with the highest quality and lowest possible prices. I serve as editorial advisor.

Wesleyan Publishing House A royalty publisher focused on books that encourage readers to grow in their faith. I serve as associate acquisitions editor.

Hope and humor for writers A whole ream of writing resources on agents, conferences, editorial services, publishers, self-publishers and the writing life including . . .

I’d love to meet you, so stop by my table at lunch or dinner or make an appointment.

Burnout or Balance

February 26th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

DianMills

I’m enjoying speaking and meeting authors at the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference. I’m pleased to welcome DiAnn Mills—one of the speakers—as guest post-er today. And, if you’re not a writer, simply replace “writer” with your vocation.

Recently I took an honest evaluation of myself, and I didn’t like what I discovered. Exhaustion pelted my mind and body. Did I mention cranky? I rose earlier in the morning and hit the pillow later at night. I cancelled breakfast meetings with friends and attended a writer’s conference where I failed to make all the necessary connections. Still the work piled up, and I wasn’t enjoying what I’d previously loved.

In short, my professional life had spiraled downward into a pitiful heap, and I needed to find a solution.
Some of you may be feeling the same way. For certain, burnout is a painful disorder, but I have an antidote. The following twelve items helped me, and I bet they’ll help you.

1. Everything begins with prayer. Every dream. Every decision. Every dilemma.

2. Read Ephesians 4:1-7 and write down your purpose. I also refer to this as your ministry.

3. Thank God for everything placed in your path: the good, the bad, the victories, and the challenges. Write them down and repeat it every morning. I use a “Thankful” journal.

4. Write what you enjoy about being an author [or your vocation]. Be passionate! Creating through the written word should fill us with unspeakable joy and allow us to worship God in a personal way. If it doesn’t, then we’re in the wrong ministry.

5. Take time to rest. A writer can’t focus if she’s in sleep-deficit mode. Take a few naps and crawl into bed earlier.

6. Listen to soothing music.

7. Follow a healthy diet and commit to exercise. Remember the temple you’re supposed to take care of? Creativity does its best job when the body is being fed the right stuff and it’s in shape.

8. Don’t forget loved ones—family and friends. A too-busy writer lingers in cave mode and forgets about people. Our role on earth is not about how many books we’ve published or our status in the social networking field. We’re to touch lives beyond the written word.

9. Discern what is stopping you from writing. A wise woman told me there are many wonderful God-projects in the world, but that didn’t mean God intended for me to get involved with all of them. Practice saying no.

10. Eradicate all those negative influences stopping you from writing. The manuscript waiting for your next words may be your next published novel or the first novel of your heart.

11. Do you need cooperation and support from your family? Call a meeting and pour out your heart. So what if you shed a few tears? We earn our title of drama queen honestly.

12. Establish a schedule that works for you and stick to it. An accountability partner ensures you’re working toward your goals and accomplishing the purpose for which you were created.

This list won’t stop the down days or the mistakes made when we don’t take care of ourselves. But it will help when burnout overwhelms us. When a writer achieves body and soul balance, creativity flows like a winding river.

Copyright © DiAnn Mills

Related posts
Hope and humor for writers (Lots of resources)

chocolatediamond

Did you see all those commercials before Valentines Day trumpeting Le Vian’s “unique chocolate diamonds”?

The only problem is that brown diamonds are the most common and least valued for jewelry. (The most valuable are white and blue.) So, for centuries, brown diamonds were used only for industrial purposes. Then the Le Vian family decided on a creative marketing strategy. Instead of calling them ubiquitous and virtually useless brown chunks of compressed coal, they hyped them as “Chocolate Diamonds.” Everyone loves chocolate! And Le Vian family has been making a whole mine of money selling them!

Or maybe you have seen the ads for Snyders of Hanover’s “Flavored Pretzel Pieces.” The TV ad claims that they contain so much “intense flavor” that no one can eat a whole pretzel. Another genius marketing plan! They’re selling off the broken pieces from the pretzel line.

Kellogg’s did the same thing with “Corn Flake Crumbs.” I worked at the cereal company four summers while I was in college. One night, I worked the corn flakes line. (There is nothing better than hot, crisp corn flakes right from the oven.) But what do you do with all the broken flakes? You install a giant vacuum over the line with the suction carefully calculated to suck up crumbs and dust, but not the whole flakes. Voila! Corn Flake Crumbs!

What once were considered rejects, scraps, damaged goods fit only for the dumpster, are now proudly marketed as something truly wonderful. (You know where this is going, don’t you?)

What in your life is a brown diamond? A broken pretzel? A Corn flake crumb?

We all have areas in our lives that are not perfect, investment-quality Grade-A Fancy. But often our weaknesses turn into our strengths, our failures into our successes, and our worthlessness into our greatest value. The apostle Paul writes:

      That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).

How can you turn what appears to be a dark, cold “shaft” into a diamond mine?

I actually score over 100 on the Autistic Spectrum Disorder scale (150 and under is still “high functioning”). But I have managed to turn “quirky” into creative. I’ve used my clinical depression as motivation to write with hope and humor. And my OCD seems to balance out my ADD, so I am extremely organized and, thus, extremely productive: over 30 books, 2,000 articles and hundreds of blog posts, along with hundreds of speaking engagements. (I don’t suffer from mental illness, I thoroughly enjoy it! And I think my readers do as well.)

So, how about you? How can you turn dinosaur doodoo into “chocolate” diamonds?

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

Related sites
Are authors in their “write” mind?
I’m a mess. You’re a mess
You may be depressed if . . .

Note
Thanks so much for the support and encouragement in my honesty about my own mental health issues. However, a good friend loving emailed me to say, basically, “Don’t call yourself—a creation of God—mentally ill.” I so appreciate that, but one of my “hope and humor” goals is to educate the church on mental health issues affecting God’s creations.

Telling someone with depression to get off anti-depressants and “just have a positive attitude” is like telling someone with high blood pressure to get off their meds and “just think lower BP thoughts.” Those “voices” probably need Haldol rather than an exorcism. And someone born with a propensity to addictive behaviors needs support and encouragement rather than condemnation. It’s often bio-chemical imbalances not sinfulness.

If we have cancer, the whole church will rally behind us. If we have schizophrenia, most of the church will stay clear of us. But mental illness is not a “spiritual” issue any more than a broken leg is a sign of lack of faith. We live in a fallen world that causes brokenness physically, socially, spiritually . . . and mentally. Help is available, so see a licensed professional if you’re struggling with mental health issues. And find a Christian group or a trusted friend from whom you can receive prayer, support and accountability. Prozac and prayer is a powerful combination!

The best and the rest: 2.21.15

February 21st, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Welcome to the best—and the rest—of my week’s cartoons and comments on:

      James Robert Watkins; soul brother
      When answers aren’t enough . . .
      Five habits of happy people
      Just 47 days until Easter
      God is not a formula
      Becoming like little children
      Presidents’ Day mattress sales

You can follow my encouragement and entertainment daily on Facebook and Twitter. And thanks for not giving up Hope&Humor for Lent!
jimlogo2


Saturday

A beautiful week in NYC
A perfect match. This week New York City hosted fashion week and the Westminster Dog Show: beautiful hair, sleek bodies, with lots of preening and strutting. The only difference is that the dogs are allowed to eat.


Friday

WatkinsSlaveCemetery2

James Robert Watkins: soul brother

Before Black History Month gets away from us, I’d like to introduce you to my soul brother and fellow writer, James Robert Watkins. He wrote an inspiring story of his escape from slavery and crusaded for freedom of all people! [Continue reading]


‘I’ll talk!’
I’m at McDonalds checking email and Facebook while music from the 50s is playing. I’m sure forcing me to listen to guys singing like girls for an hour qualifies as “torture” under the Geneva Convention!


When answers aren’t enough . . .
A friend wrote on FB:

“Heart and spirit hurting today. Dealing with anger and hurt and too many emotions to go into. What Scripture helps you most when you’re hurting like this?”

I responded: To be honest, no scripture helps. No people help. Not even inspirational Facebook posts help! Only throwing yourself at the feet of Jesus and telling him just how much life can suck. (Yikes, that wasn’t a very “spiritual” answer, was it!)

“When answers aren’t enough, there is Jesus.” Scott Wesley Brown.


Thursday

JeanetteLevellieCover

Five habits of happy people
Although Jeanette has been through unhappy times, she always has a smile to share in person and in print. Here are five habits that will make you happy, or twisted around, five things happy people don’t do: [Continue reading]


Wednesday

EasterEggs

Just 47 days until Easter
Today is the first day of Lent: the 40 days plus Sundays until Easter—and hopefully, warm weather! Here are some links for your entertainment and encouragement. [Continue reading]


whiteoutjpg

The Corn Borer, Indiana, dog sled race?
Alaska’s iconic Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has had to move the start from Anchorage to Fairbanks because of lack of snow. Here’s an idea: start the 1,000-mile race in the Midwest and end in New England! Corn Borer, Indiana, has perfect dog sledding conditions! (That’s the main state highway outside of town.)


Tuesday

jimshortsGodsmath


Monday

faithandfam

Becoming like little children
I’m turning 63 today. Old enough to draw Social Security while it’s still around and young enough to enjoy life while I can still get around. So, I’m taking the day off and running an old newspaper column on the importance of being young at heart. [Continue reading]


jimshortspresidentsday2

Five habits of happy people

February 19th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

JeanetteLevellieCover

I’m pleased to welcome my very funny friend, Jeanette Levellie, as guest post-er today. Although she has been through unhappy times, she always has a smile to share in person and in print.

Here are five habits that will make you happy, or twisted around, five things happy people don’t do:

1. Happy people don’t live in the past or the future. They receive God’s forgiveness and look forward with hope, but they never dwell on past mistakes, or ruin their todays by thinking, “When I get my raise…”

2. Happy people don’t read into what others say and do, taking it personally. They realize that the universe doesn’t revolve around them. If Boo-boo didn’t say ‘hi’ this morning in church, it may be because he or she is worried or distracted.

3. Happy people don’t have super-sized expectations of others, which usually lead to disappointment. They expect God to move on their behalf, but they let others make mistakes, and treat them with grace.

4. Happy people don’t hold grudges. They realize that bitterness destroys the one who holds onto it, and do whatever it takes–praying for, blessing, giving gifts in secret–to forgive those who’ve wronged them, so they can move on with their lives.

5. Happy people never give up on themselves. They continue to sing in the rain and whistle in the dark, holding out their hands to God, trusting in His love to turn even horrible circumstances into trophies of his mercy.

Are you happy today? Which of the above habits can you apply to your life to make yourself happier?

Copyright © Jeanette Levellie

Just 47 days until Easter

February 18th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

EasterEggs

Today is the first day of Lent: the 40 days plus Sundays until Easter—and hopefully, warm weather!

Here is an Easter basket full of entertainment and encouragement:

Top ten thing I (Jim) am giving up for Lent

Hope and humor for Easter (A whole basket of Easter entertainment and encouragement)

Easter cartoons

Have a meaningful Lenten season!
jimlogo2

Becoming like little children

February 16th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

faithandfam

I’m turning 63 today. Old enough to draw Social Security while it’s still around and young enough to enjoy life while I can still get around. So, I’m taking the day off and running an old newspaper column on the importance of being young at heart.

My wife would often roll her eyes and refer to pre-school Faith and Paul—and me—as her three children. Maybe it was our wrestling matches which involved pummeling each other with decorative couch pillows or all three of us making funny faces when Lois scolded us to “Be serious!” for family pictures. She probably had a point. Now that I’m a bit older—okay, a lot older—I can still act I like a 60-year-old pre-schooler. But I take comfort in the words of Jesus:

      “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:4).

There is, however, an adult-sized difference between being child-like and childish. The apostle Paul writes:

      When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11).

I really have worked hard on knowing the difference and acting accordingly—most of the time. I still get the look from not only my wife but now from my children as well!

Child-like adults are trusting; childish adults, gullible

A sign at an old general store read, “In God we trust. All others pay cash.” We are taught to “trust in the Lord with all our heart” (Proverbs 3:5), but Jesus warns us to examine the “fruit” of those who claim to be His followers. Paul teaches “prove all things” and John warns to “test the spirits.” So, even though I admire the trust when children and grandchildren jump off furniture into my arms, I also want them to jump into the arms of trustworthy people.

Child-like adults are innocent; childish adults naive

Jesus teaches us to be “gentle as doves, but wise as serpents.” Or, as the Chinese proverb warns, “Fool me once, your fault. Fool me twice, my fault.” I want to extend grace to everyone I meet, but as I was warned by hosts in Third World countries, I’m going to always keep my back to a wall.

Child-like adults are enthusiastic; childish adults, impulsive

I’m still learning to look before I leap, weigh options before acting, discern long-term consequences and be careful that my ADD doesn’t get the best of me.

Child-like adults are imaginative; childish adults, delusional

This explains the lottery, Internet scams and grandiose dreams that often turn into disastrous nightmares. The neurotic builds castles in the sky; the psychotic moves into them.

Child-like adults are creative; childish adults, destructive

Does our unique approach to life build up or tear down, lift up or put down? A college president for whom I wrote promotional material once called me “dangerously creative.” At the time, I viewed it as the highest compliment. Now, I’m trying to be “cautiously creative.”

And child-like adults are curious; childish adults, nosy

Nothing was more fun as a pre-schooler than rummaging through my grandmother’s purse. I’m not sure why. There was little in there of interest to a four-year-old boy. I still have that curiosity, but now I have to watch myself that I am being curious about life, rather than a voyeur, gossip, or scandal-monger.

Child-likeness is essential for being a trusting, innocent, imaginative, creative, and curious child of God. But we need to be careful that it doesn’t become immature childishness.

Put away childishness? Yes! Put away child-likeness? Never!

Copyright © 2008 James N. Watkins

Related posts
I’m 8 pills old
Top ten wishes for my 50th birthday
Introducing JamesWatkins 60.0
Your best year yet

Pic: Lois with kids and grandkids: Hannah, Faith, Kaylah—and me

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