Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I Am Giving Away Ebooks THIS WEEK!

Dying to go on Vacation Ebook
Get the book here!

What am I thinking? A first time author giving away the e-book version of his first book? It sounds ridiculous. Not only am I giving it away, I’m actually encouraging people to wait until it is free to download it AND to share the message that it is free with anyone they think might want a copy. There is a story behind this decision.

Last week I was in a gathering with my bishop, Hope Morgan Ward. She has declared the focus for 2015-2016 for the NC Conference United Methodist Churches to be “GIVE.” This is not simply an effort to raise money to keep the institution afloat, but rather a holistic effort for Christians to learn to live generous lives. She is challenging us to live with open hands and open hearts. As I spent the next couple of days reflecting on her message I began to revisit my own life and was amazed at the generosity of others and how God continues to bless me with gifts I can hardly contain. Then I considered, “What do I have that I could give away?” I decided that I could share a little hope into the lives of those who are struggling by giving away my book. The three reasons I am giving it away are that I believe the message is more important than the money, I want to share hope with those who need it most and may not be able to afford it, and I have been blessed so I can be a blessing.

Message > Money
The message is more important to me than the money. After careful consideration I have already insisted the book be priced as low as possible. The average paperback inspirational book is between $12.99 and $15.99 for a printed version and $5.99 for an e-book. I decided several months ago to price Dying to go on Vacation at only $9.99 for the print version and only $3.99 for the Kindle e-book. My goal was to make the print version less than a large sized drive-thru meal, and the e-book less than the fancy coffee drink you might consume while reading it. I did not write the book to make money. God has provided me with a great job that pays my bills and provides for my family. I wrote the book because when others are struggling with a terminal diagnosis I want them to find hope. Hope that transcends the panic of the moment and inspires them to believe that there are better days coming. Hope that shows them that we should not be scared to death of death, rather endure the “suffering of the present age” because it is “not worthy to be compared” with what God has for us. You cannot put a price on that kind of message!

Share the Hope!
This brings me to the second reason I’m giving the e-book away next week, I want to share hope with as many people as possible, especially those who can least afford it. I have been on the receiving end of some very large medical bills. I have cringed when I opened the envelop from the hospital. Thankfully I have good insurance and a frugal spouse who manages our household budget so carefully that we are able to pay the bills. I am the exception, however, not the rule. In most of the cancer networking groups I participate with online, many of the patients are on the verge of financial collapse. They lose their job because they can no longer do the physical work they had before their diagnosis or because of the side effects of their treatment. When they can’t work, they lose their insurance, and so the spiral of cancer bankruptcy goes. I wrote this book as a an offering of a small bit of light into the darkness that is a cancer diagnosis. I would never want a fellow cancer fighter not to have the book because of the cost. So if you know of a cancer patient who needs this message of hope, let them know they can download it for free next week!

Blessed to be a Blessing
I have been blessed to be a blessing. I believe that we are called conduits of God’s blessing, not reservoirs. Our goal should not be to accumulate, rather it should be to let the blessings we receive flow to others. On a whim a couple of weeks I started an Indiegogo Campaign to help defer the costs of editing, publishing, and printing the first 250 copies of Dying to go on Vacation. There are a lot of things about self-publishing that you learn the hard way, one of them is that to produce a quality product it is not cheap. I was faced with a choice, either delay publishing or ask for help, so I asked. My friends and acquaintances overwhelmed me with their generosity. Within 36 hours I had raised by goal amount of $2,500 and over the past couple of weeks, books have continued to sell at a steady pace. That level of commitment from my friends inspired me to share their generosity by giving away the e-book version for five days to make sure they got the digital version to accompany their print version. This also allows me to make sure that anyone with an iPad, Kindle, or smartphone can read it if they want to.

So on Labor Day (next Monday, Sept. 7) when you are looking for something to read, download your free copy. Then, if you like it, share the link on Amazon with a friend and let them know it is free until next Friday (Sept. 11). If only one person who needs some encouragement get is, that will be payment enough! Thanks for your help. I remain:

Consumed by the Call,

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Two Chaotic Years...

“It is my expectation and hope that I won’t be put to shame in anything. Rather, I hope with daring courage that Christ’s greatness will be seen in my body, now as always, whether I live or die. Because for me, living serves Christ and dying is even better. If I continue to live in this world, I get results from my work. But I don’t know what I prefer. I’m torn between the two because I want to leave this life and be with Christ, which is far better. However, it’s more important for me to stay in this world for your sake. I’m sure of this: I will stay alive and remain with all of you to help your progress and the joy of your faith, and to increase your pride in Christ Jesus through my presence when I visit you again.” Philippians 1:20-26

Summer is almost over and my most recent visit to the Duke Cancer Center revealed that my tumors were “stable.” It may be the only time in my life I have ever been happy to maintain the “status quo.” Two years ago in July, 2013, I was sitting in a hospital room in Erie, Pennsylvania wondering if I’d even make it to Christmas. Being told you have metastatic cancer that has invaded your liver and may be pancreatic in origin is really tough to hear. Now, two years later I’m still here and, thanks to improved treatment options with some serious radio-peptide chemotherapy, it looks like I might be around for far longer than I originally anticipated. To say that this has been like riding a chaotic, emotional roller coaster is an understatement. God has been faithful and I have been blessed to be surrounded by people who have loved, supported, and prayed for me all along the way. The journey is changing from being a sprint, to being a marathon of managing a chronic disease for, perhaps, a decade or maybe more. The process will involve continuing cancer treatments every month for the rest of my life, the eventual possibility of significant surgical intervention or more radio-chemotherapy, and dealing with a variety of symptoms that are likely to arise as the disease continues to be part of my daily life. My prayer is that I can say, like Paul, “living serves Christ…If I continue to live in this world, I will get results from my work.”

What have I learned amidst the chaos? What am I gleaning on this roller coaster of my mortality? My goal moving forward is to maintain my focus and not drift back into survival mode and lose focus again now that God has allowed me to re-boot my life. As I look back on the last couple of years a few things come immediately to mind: I have had my faith in humanity restored; I am getting clearer about separating the important from the urgent; and I am learning that relationships are more important that accomplishments.

Faith in Humanity
Ministry can make you cynical. Like my friends who work with social services or in the mental health field, I have often had to deal with people who are in a difficult time in their lives. Whether it is due to a broken system, a broken relationship, or broken choices, pastors strive to bring the good news of the gospel into people’s lives. Because desperate people do desperate things we often see the darker side of life. Also, because so much of what is done in ministry is immeasurable, there are very few ways to quantify whether you are making a difference. You work tirelessly and seemingly endlessly, but often do not see the product of your efforts. Oh, certainly, I know the scriptures about how “some scatter, some water, but God brings the harvest,” but occasionally it would be good to be the harvester and not just the planter. In my present place of ministry, coaching and consulting with churches and leaders, it is difficult to determine a “measure of effectiveness.” I am leaning into the truth of Scripture and investing heavily in those who will outlive me in ministry and striving to bring comfort to those who are struggling physically and spiritually, counting on God to bring the harvest even if I never see it.

When I returned from Pennsylvania, fresh with a terminal diagnosis and staggering from the shock that I may be dead before the new year, I was blown away by the prayer, support, and affection that I received. My congregation, in my absence, had a prayer vigil and the altar was filled with people from St. Paul as well as friends from the community, who came together to pray for me and my family. The outpouring of love and concern was almost overwhelming. Then somebody we don’t know offered us the chance to get away to the Outer Banks for a week to process the news we had received and to recover from my recent attack. Friends raised money to send me and my family to Florida for a family vacation and arranged lodging for us at no cost. Others donated money to assist with medical expenses, opened their hearts and homes to us, and provided strong shoulders to cry upon whenever needed. To say that my family has been blessed during this difficult time is an understatement. Never in my life have I received so many blessings in such a short time. I grew up with a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get on with it” philosophy of life, never asking for anything and just getting by when times were tough. These past five months have allowed me to jettison some of that building cynicism about people and renewed my faith in humanity. When given the chance, and the excuse, people rise to be the best version of themselves. God is still at work through the lives of everyday people like you and me.

Clarity of Conviction
Another gift the awareness of my mortality has given me is an increased clarity of conviction. The urgent is always pressing upon me. Deadlines are always looming. The urgent is so loud that often the important gets shoved to the side and neglected.

Since my diagnosis I have to manage my life at a level I never have in the past. Suddenly my endless energy has limits. Every day I am forced to look at the myriad of demands that come my way and decide which ones are actually important and which ones, if left undone, will have little consequence. When you believe your time is short, when you really believe that your life is “a vapor” you become extremely careful where you invest it. I have resigned organization boards, realigned my schedule, and been intentional about scheduling vacations, all because I’m gaining clarity of conviction. I want to have a full life, and a fulfilled life, not just a busy one. Crammed calendars are not indicators of worth, but of chaos. I now look at opportunities and ask, “Is this worth investing my life in?” If not, then I respectfully decline.

Saying no is hard for somebody who has spent most of his life trying to prove his worth. One of the things that is becoming clearer in my life is my interior motivations. I realize that I have never felt worthy of love. As such I have tried desperately to earn affection through academic achievement, professional advancement, and community involvement. All of these things are good and worthwhile endeavors and I'm glad I am invested in them, but the conviction that has become clearest for me in the past five months is that God loves me for me, not for what I do or how many degrees I obtain. With that in mind I am free to invest my life where my convictions lead me and not where I feel obligated in pursuit of recognition. I can give myself to making a difference. “Living serves Christ…” I want to live like Christ.

Relationships over Accomplishments
I am learning that the most important thing I can do is to invest in relationships. One of the greatest gifts the awareness of my mortality has given me is the reconnection with people from my past who have reached out to me and let me know that the time we spent together, however brief, made a difference in their lives. Like the letter I received from a former staff person, Andrea, who I love like a daughter. Her letter came on one of those dark days when I doubted whether anything I had done in ministry would amount to more than “wood, hay, and stubble.” Her letter, handwritten and laced with a sprinkling of sarcastic humor, humbled me with expressions of affection and outlining the impact I had made upon her life as she struggled with her call to be a Christian leader as a woman and pastor. Another note from Rob, a U.S. Army chaplain who outlined how our time together prepared him for the challenges he would face in ministry. Literally dozens of people from my past of all ages reached out to me and shared how our interaction had helped them learn to love God and answer His call in some way.

More importantly than those in my past, several of the people in the congregation I serve now approached me to let me know that their relationship with God was growing because of my time with them. Suddenly the immeasurable was becoming tangible. This showed me that all of those conversations over coffee, those times sitting in homes during difficult days, and just the daily interaction with people as I tried to let them see the small part of me that reflected Christ actually had an impact. That even though I wasn’t serving the “mega-church” that I dreamed of serving in my youth that I was making a difference in a lot of people’s lives. That the investment in relationships far outweighs any accomplishment I could ever attain.

What’s Next?
What’s next after these two years of living chaotically? My prayer is that some sense of equilibrium will return to my life this year though I’m not sure that is even possible in this crazy world in which we live. I guess my best hope is to strive to keep living what I'm learning.

In some ways it feels as though I have been born again—again. Two years ago my prayer had been to share one more Christmas with my family. Now, after some serious prayer, lots of shots, and serious injected radiation, I have been gifted with a new life to live. I have been gifted with a new life that will require greater focus and intense clarity of my convictions. It will demand a focus on relationships over accomplishments and I will strive to maintain my renewed faith in humanity. So my prayer, like Paul’s above, is that as long as God gives me to live, I will live as a servant of Christ.

Gracious God, thank you for the chaotic life I lead. Thank you for the gift of the awareness of my mortality that I have received in the past several months. Help me to live a life worthy of the calling you have placed in my life, a life focused on relationships rather than accomplishments, a life with clarity of conviction, and faith in humanity. Allow me to live for You that You may shine through me. In the name of the One who died that I might live, Jesus, I pray. Amen. 

One of my new goals is to use my new book to sprinkle some hope into 10,000 lives. In some ways that seems impossible, but with God anything is possible. I hope you will get a copy and pass it along. Also, in a couple of weeks I will offer the Kindle version free for four days so that more people can read the story. This is made possible by the generous support of my friends supporting my Indiegogo campaign.

If you want a copy of the book, you can get the Kindle version here or the print version here.
If you want to help me give even more copies away, support my Indiegogo campaign here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Reserve Your Copy from the First Printing!

Reserve Your Copy from the First Printing!

Would you like a personally hand numbered and signed copy from the first 250 books I receive?

Hi friends,

As August 31st approaches and I frantically make corrections. I have been honored by how many of you are requesting personal copies. I can't wait to get them in my hands to get them to you.

If you would really like to help me make this dream to share a message of hope with as many people as possible I would like to offer you a unique opportunity. Once I have finished the final edits I will be able to order the first 250 copies. It occurs to me that some of you might be willing to help me cover the cost of publishing this story by receiving a hand numbered and signed copy straight from me?
I am offering you, as one of my friends who has supported me along the journey, the chance to get one of the first 250 copies as part of my Indiegogo campaign. Here are the options: 
  • For $5 you will receive my heartfelt thanks and a Dying to go on Vacation thank you card. 
  • For $25 you will receive my heartfelt thanks, a Dying to go on Vacation thank you card, and a hand numbered, signed, and personalized copy from the first 250 copies. 
  • For $50 you will receive my heartfelt thanks, a Dying to go on Vacation thank you card, and two hand numbered, signed, and personalized copies from the first 150 copies. 
  • For $100 you will receive my heartfelt thanks, a Dying to go on Vacation thank you card, two hand numbered, signed, and personalized copies from the first 50 copies, and an acknowledgement on my website on the Dying to go on Vacation information page you can see here along with your endorsement. 
If you are interested you can visit the campaign and get the details here.

Of course you can wait and imply order them from Amazon. The Kindle version will be $3.99 and the print version from Amazon will only be $9.99. I will let you know when they go live! Thanks for support! I am blessed to call you friend, I remain:

Consumed by the Call,

PS. Again, the link to my blog with the two preview chapters is here. Thanks for reading and don't forget to tell your friends!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What Took so Long?

Dying to go on Vacation has been two years in the making. Two years ago I sat on the beach in Rodanthe, NC (where I am today, btw) and wrote the first few chapters of what would become the book about my journey discovering life in the midst of facing death. What took so long? I had the initial manuscript, query letter, and basic book proposal done some where around October or
November of 2013. My friend Lisa Creech Bledsoe did me a HUGE favor and read the initial writing and helped me with some serious edits and re-writes. I tend to write like I speak. It works for me live, but is less focused in print. When I reflect on what took so long, here are my reasons (well, maybe excuses) for why it took so long.

Rejection Letters
Accumulating rejection letters takes time. I sent queries to agents all over the United States as well as submitted proposals to publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts (not very many by the way). Then I anxiously waited by my mailbox for my flattering, complimentary acceptance letter with an advance check and contract. Instead I accumulated twenty-five rejection letters/emails. The first couple of rejections from larger publishing houses and busy agents were certainly expected. Never to fear I had submitted some that I was certain would be accepted. Nope. I would be lying if I said that this much rejection doesn’t sting a little. I mean my blog was blowing up but even super-micro publishers were uninterested. Oh, I got lots of solicitations from folks who would “partner publish.” Of course they wanted $3,000-$8,000 up front. Unfortunately cancer treatment is expensive. So I stacked the rejections on the corner of my desk and let the project sit for a while.

Writer to Author
There is a really steep learning curve between writing and being an author. If you know me, you understand my primary spiritual gift may be resilience. I decided to just finish the book and then take it from there. This is where I realized there is a difference between writing and being an author. There is a difference between firing off a few 1,000 word blogs every week or so and putting together a long form manuscript between 40,000 and 50,000 words and keeping the message coherent and consistent. Thanks again to Lisa and her book series on becoming a published writer and Joseph Michael's at Scrivener Coach’s four amazing free videos I began the process of learning the most confusing word processor program I have ever tried. I needed my book in Scrivener so that I could export it into publishable formats for Kindle, Nook, CreateSpace, etc. if I was going to actually self publish. I am not a “master” yet (that will come when I can afford the entire course after I sell 20,000 books LOL) but I can do the basics and at least get documents done.

Author to Publisher
There is an even steeper learning curve from being an author to publishing, even self-publishing can be overwhelming. Thanks to a relative of a friend, Dave, at Black Mesa books, who sent me an action plan I at least knew where to start. I spent a couple of months reading book after book on self-publishing, Kindle uploading, CreateSpace formatting, etc. I had to learn about ISBNs and cover designs. I was beginning to see why those “partner publishers” charge so much money. It is really easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of decisions and things you have to learn to get a book to print and at every point there are a million ways to screw up. Luckily I happened upon the Self Publishing Podcast and their book, Write, Publish, Repeat and Guy Kawaski’s books APE which were invaluable and became my self-publishing “bibles.” I also am part of Michael Hyatt’s Get Published course. While I am a little late on that course it is still providing a lot of great information and tools for the book launch. On Aug. 31 by book releases and I’m a little stressed that it will have one or two of those million previously mentioned errors, if it does I will try again.

Fear of Rejection
Let’s face it writing, and even publishing the book, is the “easy part.” What is tough is putting a very personal story out into the world and then having it rejected. The closer I get to the book the more I doubt myself. Danelle (my wife) and I were discussing the book the other day and in the midst of that conversation I realized that a lot of my “delay” was not for the reasons I have listed, but instead it was my personal fear of that the story was mundane and uninspiring. Writing a book is like putting your soul into print and then giving it away for others to critique. Being a pastor and public speaker I’ve learned how to do this in a live venue where I can engage the audience. Putting your story in print is a whole new level of vulnerability. Thankfully I happened upon Brene’ Brown’s work and she has inspired me to just put it out there because somebody, even if it is just one person, needs the message you want to share. I once heard the somebody say, “bravery is fear that has said its prayers.” Keep praying!

Oh Yeah, Cancer and Career
My last reason (excuse) is that during the past two years I have transitioned into a new career and had regular cancer treatments. In summer of 2014 I transitioned to work at the NC Conference office for The United Methodist Church. While this is an amazing opportunity to do what I love and invest in coaching and create resources, it also demanded a lot of time and dedication to learn a new job. This derailed the book for another few months until Winter 2014.

On December 17, 2014 I had an experimental cancer treatment that combines my normal medicine with radiation. The treatment was not fun, recovering from it was worse. I wrote about it in “Battle on Three Fronts” if you want to check it out. It took until almost March before I was able to get fully back to work and focus again. I bought Jeff Walker's book, Launch and just decided to do something. I decided to quit making excuses and start making progress. I often teach that progress, even baby steps, is what moves you toward your life that matters. I reread books, made contacts, re-edited the book for the hundredth time, learned how to format, fought with Scrivener, published a trial book, fought with CreateSpace and Kindle, and kept at it.

Now two years later I am two weeks from book launch and trying furiously to get some publicity out there so I can share the story. I have a couple of other projects already underway that I am determined will not take two more years to complete and put out into the world. Thank you for sticking around and for your prayers. I want to live a life that matters and that means to quit making excuses and start making progress. In the comment section below share what your favorite reason (excuse) is for not starting something big in your life!

If you want to pre-order the Kindle version you can do that here. The print version is almost ready for pre-order as well. There may be a Kickstarter for the first 100 signed copies to help get this off to a good start! Here we go!

Consumed by the Call,

PS. Just so we are clear, none of the links are "affiliate" links. That means I'm not making any money by sharing them with you, I'm just telling you what helped me finally get it done. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Will You Help Me?

Hi friends,

I am preparing to release Dying to go on Vacation the end of August. My publisher suggested that I let you all know that it is coming and ask you to please allow me to send you regular updates about this and the other two or three projects that are in the works. I promise not to "spam" you with a lot of emails, just maybe one a week with my latest blog and information about these projects. 

If you don't want to receive these updates I completely understand. Simply unsubscribe using the link below and I will make sure you are removed from the list.

If you decide to stick around I will let you know when the release date is set, how to possibly get a free Kindle version of the book, and discover how to get a simple reflection journal for free if you decide to order the printed version of the book. Plus I will let you know about other cool stuff I find and you can vote on future cover designs, pre-read content, and generally help me share hope with as many people as possible.

Thanks for sticking around! I am blessed to call you friend, I remain:

Consumed by the Call,


To subscribe go the the link here, go to the upper left corner and hit subscribe. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

Why do bad things happen? This is one of those questions we all struggle with. When I first got my cancer diagnosis I was devastated. I had spent the previous few years getting healthier, managing my finances, and investing my life in things that matter than ever before.

A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to share my learnings on this tough topic. If you would like to hear the message here is the link:

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

My forthcoming book, Dying to Go on Vacation deals with this and some other tough lessons I've learned. I am currently scheduling speaking engagements for the fall to coincide with my book. Contact me if you would like me to come speak to your church or organization. I remain:

Consumed by the Call,

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

While You Were on Vacation...

When I arrived at the North Carolina Conference office of The United Methodist Church I was told that July was generally a "slow month." Most people took vacation and things were generally very quiet. While that might normally be true, it has been very busy for me. In addition to celebrating my 2nd Cancerversary on July 10, a lot of projects I've been working on suddenly seemed to come together and I've been struggling to keep up. Here is what's been going on:

In addition to my personal writing, I create a lot of content for The United Methodist Church. Part of my ongoing research is how to engage the missing generation of young adults in serious spiritual conversation. I am excited to be part of a new ebook produced by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership as part of the Wesley Theological Seminary. If you would like a copy of the ebook, Leading Idea to Reach Young Adults, get it here.

If you don't follow the blog, My Invisible Life, you may want to consider it. It is the compilation of stories about everyday people who are dealing with some extraordinary things that are seemingly "invisible" to everyone else. I am excited, after following for a while, to be accepted as one of their story tellers. Here is my latest contribution.

Finally, Dying to Go on Vacation is getting close to publication. Here is the Amazon preview that went live this week as I prepare to launch the book. Read the sample chapter and rate it here.

Here is the secret, for my blog readers only. When Dying to Go on Vacation premiers the Kindle ebook will be a free download for just a couple of days. Make sure you follow me here, on Twitter and Facebook so that you will be able to grab it for FREE. Of course print copies will be available if you want a hard copy. After the initial offering it will sell for $4.99, still quite a deal. There are even some bonus chapters from the other books I am working on. I will keep you posted as we get closer to a launch date! Until then I remain:

Consumed by the Call,