Archives For March 2015

How Great is Your God?

March 26, 2015 — 86 Comments

Reserved 12 by Steve Snodgrass on FlickrYou probably remember the first time you prayed and something happened, even if it was really small.

Maybe, like one of my childhood friends, you prayed for pizza at dinnertime, and ta-da! There it is.

One friend of mine has a daughter who prayed that the automatic window on their SUV would work again, after weeks of malfunctioning. Ta-da, now she can order milkshakes at Sonic.

And it’s hard not to roll your eyes at the myriad parking spot miracles out there. It’s enough to fill a very boring book.

And on the eighth day, Adam sought a space large enough for his Prius. The sun approached its apex, and the cinnamon rolls he desired would soon be discarded, forever out of reach. So he closed his eyes to pray and – lo, and behold! – his front bumper knocked over a parked motorcycle, giving him enough clearance to set up camp.

This gave me a really skewed idea of God. Shouldn’t you be praying to find a good spouse, raise good children, freedom of religion, and a fulfilling and prosperous career? How does finding a front row parking space outside of Whole Foods on a Sunday afternoon factor into God’s priorities?

How May I Help You?

Not wanting to skew HIS priorities, I decided early on to ‘help’ God.

No more praying for small stuff. God is an important figure in the universe.

Like, if a boss I wanted to impress gave me a job to do and I couldn’t find a pen, I wouldn’t bother him about it. Instead, I’d do what I have to, go buy a pen, and get the job done. Because, as I believed it, God shouldn’t be bothered with trivial things.

It would be better, I thought, to pray that I write a really great book, or built a business that gave me complete financial freedom. Or, if my spouse had a major disease one day, I’d save up my goodwill with God for a real big miracle at that moment.

If we’re dealing with regular human beings, that is a great idea. Except we’re not.

How Great is Your God?

I was trying to build what’s called Emotional Equity.

As if every time I didn’t bother him about something small, I preserved my capital with the Most High.

And every time I pursued my calling, or helped someone, He’d really pay attention when I prayed for the big stuff.

I was praying as if every prayer was subject to a holy audit.

You Cannot Bankrupt God.

Emotional equity is a great tool and a savvy way to live when building long-lasting relationships with people. It sucks as a foundation for your friendship with God.

What God is really looking for is a relationship with you. Any prayer, of any size, opens the communication channels, giving you face-time with the Creator. Small ones build your faith. Big ones honor God’s capacity to bless you, and when fulfilled, they vindicate your faith.

In God’s eyes, every time you talk with Him, it’s a deposit!

So pray for the small, petty, inconsequential stuff. It’s cool, He want’s to hear from you. You’ll also be less nervous about prayer when you go to Him for the big stuff, and won’t hesitate to seek His counsel first – in all things.

Piggy Bank and Calculator by Images Money on FlickrI was wrong. The kid praying for pizza was right. God is good.

Go for it. What are you going to do, wipe Him out?

Luke 18 (NIV) Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

 

 Photo Credit:

Reserved 12 by Steve Snodgrass (courtesy of Flickr.com)

Piggy Bank and Calculator by Images Money (courtesy of Flickr.com)

 

Original: LARK SWAP MEET by Dave Parker on FlickrSometimes the crazy people you meet make so much sense that you realize you were the crazy one all along.

While researching for a book series, I became interested in all the things that make spies and MacGuyver-type characters so awesome. It’s the skills and problem solving, executed with a flare that is sock-rocking impressive.

On the way out from Lowes, getting supplies for a related hobby, I ended up chatting with a retired veteran.

His car was a few spots from mine, and when I spotted it, I saw a monstrosity sticking out the back of his trunk. It looked like the photo to the left.

He also had two more antennas than the car in this photo.

“Anyone who pays money every month for a cellphone is a sucker,” he said.

“It’s not ideal,” I said, “But what’s the alternative? Do we give up text and internet, and tell all our friends to buy CB radios? ‘Breaker breaker one-nine, this is rubber ducky…'”

And he proceeded to tell me about HAM radio.

HAM RADIOS

I got the idea he knew something I didn’t.

He holds up what looks like a tan, military-style blackberry. “I can talk, text, and video chat with anyone I want, and it’s free.”

It sounds cool, but you probably have to have your own cell towers, and the equipment probably costs tens of thousands, I thought.

And then he tells me the large 80-meter transmitter on his car cost him about $680 bucks to build and install.

He can call on his handheld HAM to an antenna, which bounces it to the 80-meter (that tall tower you see in the photo), transmitting it pretty much anywhere in the world he wants.

I was skeptical, but then I gave him my number and he called it!

This meant he could talk to anyone using his HAM. Rock on. He could order a ham pizza using his HAM if he wanted to!

So not only could he call anyone, and do so away from his car, he could also do it for less money than most people pay for a year of cell-phone service.

Except, instead of paying a cell-phone provider to use their systems, he can drive around with his own radio tower.

Radio Tower? You mean like radio stations and stuff?

Yeah. AM, FM, CB, and a host of other frequencies. If you’re willing to look a bit like a nutcase, you can have a free radio that you can use to talk to anybody.

And Internet, too?

That may be the wave of the future.

There are organizations like the San Francisco hackerspace, Noisebridge, that are building an alternative network modeled after the Internet. This could provide high-speed connectivity for a fraction of the cost of traditional internet service.

Skype-style communications like video chat are already available to HAM operators. If your computer has a camera and it’s on, HAM operators can face-to-face with you.

And systems like Packet Radio allow you to make long-distance wireless networks to transfer text and other messages between computers. While a bit on the slower side, this technology could speed up as our need for it increases.

When it pays to be a nut

So why would we need it?

The answer should be no!I could think of a few reasons here with the FCC Net Neutrality rules…but instead I’ll let U.S. News do it.

Right or left, soccer-mom or hippie, I think we can all agree on this:

I don’t know about you, but oligopolies – industries ran by just a few companies – are something I’m against. Why? Because they can halt new technologies, treat customers badly, and even price fix if the existing anti-trust laws are not enforced.

In short, they don’t have your best interest in mind.

Same with bills our elected officials aren’t allowed to read. The U.S. News article has other reasons why it’s a bad move, but the fact that the Congressmen can’t read it is proof enough that it doesn’t have people’s best interests at heart.

That aside, let’s say regulation blocks certain parts of the internet, creating a digital gulag. Where’s the alternative? HAM can be that alternative – accessing necessary information during crucial times.

If superpowers like Russia can use ‘white boxes’ to block cell and internet signals, how are people going to communicate under such circumstances? What if extremists in the Middle East block signals while committing genocide against Christians and Atheists?

They can pray… if they’re willing to do so.

But what they can also do is use HAM to get the word out if they can’t use Twitter or Facebook.

But what about the most common reality we face in the western world today…natural disasters?

HAM radio is twitter for when things goThe man continued showing me his tech as he explained, “A hurricane swept through a town in North Texas a while back. Me and a few friends – about ten of us – we went up to the town while all land lines and cell towers were down. For about a month, we provided communication to citizens and their families – for free. And there’s about 670,000 HAM operators in the US alone.”

The Great News

The FCC rules regulating HAM radios have created a special culture. I don’t know all the rules yet, but here are some:

1. HAM operators cannot use their equipment or HAM radio-related services to make money. (NOTE: I get the impression this rule is intentional, to protect the oligopolies while keeping the frequencies from getting too crowded)

2. They must be registered. (It takes more work to track down a HAM operator than the constant surveillance of cell users, but it is possible after enough signal watching)

3. No swearing. Keep in mind you are operating a radio, and a little kid could be listening to that frequency.

4. Morse code knowledge  – just kidding, that rule was dropped in 2007. But still, the veterans of HAM radio can speak another language, giving them a whole new level of competence.

This means we have a bunch of competent people, who are generous and not predatory, with cleaner language than me.

My hat goes off to these 600,000+ people. All potential heroes, just waiting in the wings in case disaster strikes. The next time we see a Hurricane Katrina, A giant snowstorm in the Northeast, an EMP attack, earthquake, or civil unrest, know that you or a loved one could one day be assisted by one of many such heroes. These heroes can help call out and let others know they’re okay, get necessary supplies, and be a lifeline to their broken world.

Do You Want to Ham it up?

Learning about Ham-radios and their capabilities has filled a major blind spot in my quest to one day be self-sustaining. In the not-too-distant future I want to start accessing the conveniences of modern technology without sacrificing privacy, and this is a great way to do it.

And if you’d like to:

  • reduce your dependence on oligopolies,
  • save thousands of dollars
  • look like a nut-job
  • protect your privacy
  • Anger your Homeowners’ Association
  • Stop future-Hitler from getting away with murder
  • and be a hero in the process…

Then maybe HAM radios are for you.

Find out more at many different websites, like the old-school HamUniverse, or check out the how-to guide from Wired.

Photo courtesy of Dave Parker on Flickr

Edge Conference by Jeffrey Zeldman at flickr

You ever spend time on an event for a specific reason, and then get something completely different out of it?

I came to the ReWrite conference last week expecting to get a lot of tips on how to improve on marketing, and perhaps figure out when a traditional publishing deal would be worth my while.

What happened instead is that I ran into my people.

You know, your people? A group you can be yourself around?

If I’m lucky I develop friendships with 1-2 of those kinds of people per year.

Imagine running into 100 of them in 2 days.

Esther Fedorkevich of the Fedd Agency set a strong, indie-friendly tone in spite of her traditional publishing background. The feud between indies and traditional publishers is fading fast, and she is definitely part of the solution in that area. Rest assured, I still hammered her employees with ‘Audit the Fed’ jokes.

Personally, as long as I live in a relatively free part of the world, I’ll use whichever route achieves the goals that matter to me, as long as those decisions are legal, moral, and ethical.

Traditional? Sure, why not?

Indie? Sure, why not?

Keynote speaker was Ted Dekker, who wrote the Circle series, Thr3e (also a movie), and many other bestselling novels.

People who stood on stage and said things

Like the subtitle? The tone of the festival was that all authors are equally important, because even the top selling folks were at one point learning the basics. And people learning the basics are just like the top sellers, traveling on the journey from where they are to where they want to be. It was a judgment-free zone, and even the major players were in the audience taking notes, just like everyone else. That is some real ‘walking the talk’.

At the risk of leaving out any names, or name-dropping, here were some other panelists and attendees:

Takeaways

Here are some lessons that anyone can take with them, writer or not:

“When you love your neighbor as yourself, you love yourself, because we are one.” – Ted Dekker

“Everything you do in life will flow out of who you are…rewrite what you believe about yourself.”

“Do not despise obscurity” – Mary DeMuth

On gurus and how following their checklists often fails to bring you the success you seek. “What if the ‘Guru’s’ advice works?! You might risk pointing to them or yourself rather than to God.” – Mary DeMuth

Just because God is in something, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will prosper the way we want it to.

“It’s difficult to read the label (your qualities) when you’re standing inside the bottle.” – James Rubart

“Culture is a gathering of people around a common idea, item, or belief.” [that is the goal of social media] – Sandi Krakowski

“Nobody [successful authors interviewed] could identify a single moment of breakthrough… they only noticed breakthrough after the fact.” – Esther Fedorkevich

All the moments pushing the flywheel led to the breakthrough.

“Think less like an author [on PR] and more like a journalist for a news outlet.” In the end, that’s what social media is, and our job as creatives or businesspeople or writers is to report on what’s making the most impact in our respective subject matters. – Randy Shelton

Don’t put your identity in your work. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword (paraphrase of Ted Dekker). On a personal note, I noticed you can replace ‘Sword’ with…well…anything. Also notice if you live by God, you die by God, but since He’s the source of salvation it is the only way that death turns into an illusion.

Chad Allen showed me something called the living systems theory, which in my opinion is one of the reasons that change can be so hard sometimes. Living Systems Theory = when you change 1 or 2 parts of a system, the whole system changes.

“If you spend your whole life teaching a fish how to climb a tree, the fish will spend away its whole life thinking it’s stupid” – Kevin Kaiser

 So, should you go, if you’re a writer?

I’d say yes, if only to get your head in the right place. In the future, I’d like to see more case studies and tactical stuff, but it is what it is. If the above quotes helped your mind in any concrete way, look into it the next time the event comes around.