The Christian Label

It would be easier to call myself Christian, because it isFollower of Jesus a label. The problem I have with this label is that I feel it is currently misrepresented and taken for granted. Somepeople have taken this label and used it to destroy others.
I did it. Not too terribly long ago.
I used the bible to rip people apart, to “prove” that I had a divine truth that few others understood. I tried to force others to abandon their own sacred truth and adopt my mentality, my beliefs, my understanding of this sacred text. I screamed from the mountain top that Jesus was the only way, never thinking that maybe, just maybe, we were worshipping the same God or Gods but calling them different names.
I chose to call myself Christian and simply sell out to the idea that ALL Christians should and do believe exactly the same things. BUT, and this is a big but, this is not the truth as I have found it. Otherwise, there would not be so many different churches, so many different “teachers”, so many different “belief structures”.
And while I believe Jesus is an incredible teacher and a marvelous man to follow, so are many of incredible spiritual leaders I am studying. So is Buddha. So is Martin Luther King Jr. So is Gandhi. To name a few.
Now, I understand that there are those who place Jesus at the head of the table as the divine Son of God, but my question is this: If we believe in the Holy Spirit and is all of the Holy Trinity and that Spirit that inhabits all people, are we not all Holy? Are we not all Sons and Daughters of that Holy Being? Are we not all striving to be worthy of the sacrifice of Jesus and God in general? We think of the crucifixion in terms of Jesus’ sacrifice, but what of God’s sacrifice? Allow me a small tangent, please.
Imagine being God for a moment. Any parent could tell you that Jesus had it hard, but imagine for a moment being a parent and having to watch your son go through all that? Imagine not interfering as you hear your son screaming out. Imagine not stopping a group of people torturing and crucifying your dearest. So, Jesus wasn’t the only one to feel that pain, I believe God felt it too, perhaps as intensely, maybe even more so. And MOST of the Jesus followers I know (myself included) have tried to identify with that pain and feel it as well. So, in a sense, the crucifixion was the equivalent of mutually assured destruction.
But let’s go farther… ALL of this happened not to glorify THAT pain, THAT death. But so that we could see of what? It’s stated that it was THE example of the ultimate love, the ultimate sacrifice. And this was offered not just by Jesus, but by our God, whatever name IT does by. And this name (God, Jesus, Christ, Allah) is not what is important. This is how far and wide love will go.
Coming back to the word “Christian”, Jesus himself did not name his followers. It was a name chosen BY his followers FOR his followers. And it remains as such.
But has it’s purpose changed? I believe so.
Now, it is a dividing line. Are you or are you not a… Christian? It is no longer about how you act (loving or otherwise), it is now about what you profess to believe. I watch televangelists asking for money, churches judging the homeless and poor, and preaching their own interpretation of scripture rather than reading it in context with both time and situation it was written. I listen to Christians scream out in road rage, criticize the politicians, and focus on every negative aspect they can find without even attempting to offer a faction of the hope that Jesus/ God did.
This is my answer to the word “Christian”… Show me your life, your behavior, and allow me to decide myself. Don’t tell me what you believe, show me with your life. I’m not saying people should hide their crosses or their bible. But I do believe SOME people hide behind their crosses and bibles. And when I look at some of their lives, these are NOT the people I would understand to be a biblical definition of the word “Christian”. Just saying.
I am not to attempting to be judge-y, and I know that some of my previous statements come off that way. And I am very sorry if this post hits you that way. I am but offering my perspective of what I’ve done, where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, and where I currently am. And why I personally cannot go back to relaxing into a title or label.
I would rather fight daily to be my best self and allow others to call me whatever they will.
In my belief structure now, I aim to focus on our common Holy Spirit, our common love, and this goes by too many names to count. I focus on love, happiness, being healthy, and being positive. In my belief, these bring us all closer together, they do not separate us. I acknowledge that we are all on different journeys to different places, mentally and spiritually. And the simple truth, for me, is that a lot of the issues and disagreements we have will not be resolved until after our death. So why let it destroy our lives, our beliefs, our friends, and our family?
I would much rather focus on unity and the things that bind us, rather than the labels that keep us all canned.
Amen. Namaste. Aho.

37 Today

Greetings to my peeps worldwide! I wanted to take a minute and say thank you for the love y’all have shown me over my lifetime, and especially over the last year. My life has calmed down considerably compared to where it was even three years ago. And while I am grateful for the calm, I never want to become complacent. 

So, the year in review… 

I had a job this time last year (that went horribly bad very quickly) which I quit in January  when Jules got a new job in Tullahoma.

This year, theatrically, I was in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” as Hysterium, then “Shrek” as the Bid Bad Wolf, “RENT” as Benny, “Wait Until Dark” as Roat, “Scrooge’s Christmas” as Bob Crachit/ Jacob Marley, “The Gift of the Magi” as Jim, and “In His Presence” as Luke. 

And I worked behind the scenes on “Alice in Wonderland” and helped mentor 24 kids in doing this. 

I finished my first novel and then went to my first convention as an author, thanks to Allison Cassatta (this was also my only convention this year). 

I read over 90 books this year and I practiced my ASL, French, and Spanish a bit. 

This was also the year Writers Online Network was reborn and put into a coma, resting quietly….indefinitely.

 I lost 40 pounds and found BeachBody, Cize, and Shakeology and became a health coach. 

And I became a Zumba instructor. 

So, yeah, 2015 has been a crazy year filled a lot of highs and a few lows. And I am so grateful to all the people that stood by me and helped me grow over the last 365 days, especially Jules! 

I am declaring the next year, my 38th year on earth, the year of “Happiness and Health” as I continue on my journey to stay on the healthy track and share my journey with others. I am also working toward writing more, editing more, and reading more. I have three acting gigs lined up for next year already, including my first directing project in this area. I have my plans set, my accountability group in place, and I am prepared to make the best of every chance given. So, here’s to a life lived happily!!!

Picking the Healthy Road. Finally.

I hated exercise, there I said it. I was never a terribly physical person, I didn’t play sports or exercise regularly because I didn’t see a need for it. Sure, I would go for a walk or hike every once in a while, but overall, I just didn’t enjoy getting hot and sweaty.

 The most active I’ve ever been was when I walked back and forward to work, an average of two to three miles a day. But even that was in my early twenties and only because I had to. And I eat so poorly that I continued to gain weight, in spite on my “active” lifestyle. 

Fast forward ten years, and I still hate physical anything. I’d rather sit on the couch and watch tv or find a job where I sit on my butt and and answer phone. I do not consider  myself lazy, I just don’t want to waste what little energy I have exercising. From my early twenties until recently I stay in the 240 to 263 range, hating nearly every picture of me but not caring enough to change my patterns. 

A little over two months ago, something changed. 

Jules wanted to enter this weight loss competition. And although I wasn’t really interested, I wanted to support her. So I went to the first meeting and sat in a room with 250 people and listening to Joe McKamey speak about Lose 2 Win. He spoke with such energy and passion that I was hard for me to not want to get involved. He talked about how the challenge was not a diet, it was about changing your life and your relationship with food. 

I went to the library that night and registered for the event, curious about what he meant and how I could emulate this incredible man. Over the next few weeks, he suggested changes that I could handle… drinking 64 ounces of water a day, intentional exercise 25 minutes a day, track anything you put in your mouth, and stay within your calorie range (around 2400 for me) . Yes, it was more disciplined then I’ve been before, but the accountability and the encouragement of knowing that 200 other people were doing this, taking on this same challenge, made a huge difference for me. 

SO… here I am, a little two months later, 30 pounds lighter and I find that my mentality has changed. I now drink around 100 ounces of water a day, no problem. I think about every single meal and snack and try to figure out how it will affect my body (and I have stayed at 1800 calories a day for over a month) 

 And my attitude toward exercising? I will admit, I love exercising now. I no longer loathe moving, because even on the days I don’t want to, I feel better after doing it anyway. And I have found out that exercising gives me far more energy then it takes away, especially when I add the right fuel aka healthier food to my body! I no longer go by time, now I measure my activities by caloric burn… I aim to burn 500 calories a day (which equals 88 minutes of 3.5 mph walking). 

I found out at the beginning of the competition that technically I am diabetic and I go for a follow up visit next week to find out if I’m still in that range, but regardless of whether or not I am, I plan to continue doing the things that have brought me success and happiness over the last two months. 

I’m going to become a Zumba instructor and teach classes four times a week at least. I’m going to become a BeachBody coach and continue to encourage others and keep myself accountable to not just surviving, but thriving! 

Thank you to everyone who has cheered me along. Know that you are a part of my journey, and we all share the success! My next goal is to be under 200 by the end of the 2016 Lose 2 Win, so by next March. 

If you are interested in more details of my journey, please ask. But even more importantly, if you are interested in joining me on the path to “becoming your BEST you”, send me a message so I can cheer you on and get involved in your journey and your story. 

Running my Spirit! 

Today is a spiritual epiphany day! 
As I was showering after I worked out, my mind wandered and I started to realize… I am about to cross the “30 pound weight loss” place. And as this thought entered, another jumped on board… My body is MY temple. 

And while I don’t identify as any particular religion, my spirit leapt for joy in understanding that I am finally treating it with respect. I am being disciplined in my eating and workout routines. I am forcing myself to read nutrition labels and health books, strengthening my mind in this “master of my body” war. 

  
This is not “some health kick” I will abandon. 

This is the change that will decide whether I make the most of my life, or will I enjoy all the food I can and laziness I can.   

My third thought was… It is not about being perfect, it is about trying as hard as I can! 

And this is my challenge to anyone reading this… “TRY! Get up and exercise, read about everything you put in your body, and make a decision to live your BEST life!”

This is what I’ve lived by for over two months and I feel better than I have in fifteen years. Be inspired, and know that I am here as your friend, your cheerleader, and someone who has both “been there” and “done that”. 

You are incredible, marvelous, and made of wonder. Now treat yourself that way! 

An opportunity to grow

Believe it or not, I’m trying to write as much as I can, blog as much as I can. But the last few weeks have been difficult. 

Actually writing wise I haven’t done a lot since Rainbow Con almost a month ago. 

The reason: I let myself get defeated. Shortly after RC, I had an insightful and extremely challenging talk with one of my beta/editors. She told me that I had a great idea, but everything I had done to help that idea grow had been wrong. She did not say anything to be hurtful. In fact, quite the opposite. She questioned how well I knew my characters, my plot, and my project as a whole. 

And in challenging me, it helped me dig deeper and really look at “Lightning in a Bottle” in a different, harsher light. To be honest, I think this is something more authors need. I can not count how many books I have thought should have been beta battered to death and they would have been so much stronger. 

But when it happened to me… My first, second, and third reaction were all the same: I want to quit. I can not write. I just need to give up. 

But here’s the problem: I can’t. 

I’m addicted. I couldn’t quit writing any more than I could quit breathing. 

So, now… Three weeks later, I have decided to put on my big boy pants and fight on. I have been researching telling vs. showing, omnipresent 3rd POV vs head hopping, passive voice, and filters. And while I have yet to even begin to understand how to correct these issues, the only way I can see doing so is to continue to write and let my paper be soaked in red ink. 

So, here’s to another day of learning, writing, and trying to remain optimistic in the face of failure that is not failure. It is merely an opportunity to grow. 

Now, just to get my brain and my fingers on board. 

Day 9/365 – The Choice I Make and the Steps I Take!  

Aka The Trinity Nightmare: a Bad Situation, an Artistic Emotional Basketcase, and a Public Space! 

Aka How I Learned to Stop the Emotional Rollercoaster Mid Track and Ride the Waves to Hippie, I Mean, Happy Town! 

Every once in a while we get presented with feedback, reviews, or a decision that we as an artist might not agree with. This can happen anywhere, but it can be made worse when we are at a big event, convention, and/or work related scenario. 

Im not talking about something small here. I’m talking about something that hits us hard, sometimes to the core of who we are as artists. And then it wiggles deeper into how we think of ourselves as a person. 

This kind of feedback or decision can sometimes shake our faith in our ability to create, to network, to love ourself, and to honor our art. It can even get so big in our head, that if followed, we decide to give up and walk away. We can decide to abandon any effort to try and give in to a world full of haters and negativity. 

Now, maybe you’re lucky. Maybe you aren’t encountered a moment like that. Maybe your creativity path has been roses and butterflies and fans of your art form lavishing you with kisses and praises. But I know very few that have had it that easy. And by very few, I mean none. 

So what happens in this situation? What do I do when my soul has been crushed and I’m thinking I would rather swallow hot coals than ever write/create again? 

And while it may feel like I’m being histrionic, all it takes is A:) one read of one horrible review or one email with a negative tone B:) received at the worst possible time or C:) getting blind sided with not-so-great news (which for me is even more difficult to handle with finesse). 

So, what to do?

Well, here is my five step plan to dealing with rough situations: 

Step One: Smile through the news. Be professional and polite as much as possible. Don’t be fake, but don’t use the fact that someone or something just shit all over your/my parade as an excuse to be rude, mean, or an asshole to the person giving you/me the news. In most situations, they did not delight to making you/me aware of the badness. And if they did delight or you/me perceived they did, that’s still not an excuse to throw a hissy fit. It’s an opportunity to be the better person and rise above being a obdurate child.

Aka suck it up, buttercup. For this moment, the world is not your/my oyster. In this space, I am trapped in a port-a-potty (or under it) and I  just need to understand that manure eventually makes every growing thing more beautiful. In the future. Just not at this second. 

Step Two: If you can’t smile through it, or you’re like me and you realize the bottle is strong but will break shortly, excuse yourself for a few minutes or however long it takes to take the cap off and let the carbonated energy calm down. 

My wife and my dearest friends can tell you, when I get super upset, I cry. Not pretty, but ugly loud tears that scare people.In the past, I didn’t care if people saw me. It feed my inner drama queen. I wanted the attention. 

Nowadays, not so much. 

If something affects me deeply, I pull away from the crowd because I have learned that I can affect the mood and create chaos as much as I can bring calm, positivity, and love. And I make the choice to bring the latter, not the former. 

Step three: Because I am a loquacious person to the nth degree, I need to talk to process information. I need people who won’t coddle me but are going to be sensitive to the fact that I am vulnerable and that vulnerability is one of my strengths. I take everything very deeply, even things that some people would defect, which is why I fight for positive thinking. So, I surround myself with people who know this/me. These people will either pull me out of the deep end of the pool; or they will jump in the water and be my life preservers. Either way, I trust them and they wrap me in a blanket of good energy and then slap me with as much reality as they think I can handle at that moment. For me, this is a very private process. I don’t want a crowd or hugs or spectators. I want my near and dear, those that won’t go a-gossiping. 

Because that generally makes things worse. And I am NOT a fan of drama off stage and screen!   

Step Four: Do not apply alcohol. I know me, I know how alcohol affects my emotions and amplifies everything good or bad. If I do apply vodka, rum, or whiskey, I do so carefully and cautiously. And for the most part, privately. I’m a fan of “nobody needs to deal with my brand of stupid” which is why I don’t drink in public very often anyway. 

Step Five: Find the positive! This is the most important step for me. Start a pro/con list, talk to people who are positive-prone (step three) and will help adjust the point of view. There is literally no situation that doesn’t have a positive. Granted, some are much harder to find. But I guarantee it’s there. Find it, hold it, write it down, repeat in your mind or verbally, whatever it takes to become the mantra, a safe haven in a Sharkado! 

Step Six: This is my bonus step…Chocolate, candy, books, or bananas…pick your poison and celebrate your life! Because you only get one and it’s way too short to stay caught up in the web of drama, hysterics, and bad juju! 

  
Questions? Thoughts? 

Day 8/365 – The Reality of Writing 

Sorry, guys and gals! I took a few days off to celebrate the completion of my first novel. Well, the first draft of my first novel. I am excited that I actually have it done, and that twelves betas have the first thirteen chapters in their hands. 

So what’s the next step for this work? The steps I plan are this: do the first round of beta feedback looking for continuity and content issues. And then, I will be heading to Editing to look for grammar issues, comma mistakes, and passive/filter issues because I know these will take a while for me to fix. And then I will be sending it out to my second round betas to catch any final errors before actual publishing. All told, I will have had twenty people at varying levels of expertise giving feedback over the next month and a half, so that it is ready for public consumption by Labor Day. 

For this project, I have pretty much decided to go with self publication because I want to understand more about that process and I need to feel like I have more control. But I am also open to the option of subbing the book to traditional houses, particularly because it is the first book in what I plan to be a thirteen book series. 

My secret not so secret hope is that I can self publish the first book so I can see what it takes and then go into the house that supports this project the most. But we should see…

I know the next month will be very difficult because this is the part of the process that is not about writing as it is about allowing others to rip my writing apart to help it get better. But I’m lucky: my betas are voracious readers who also possess the ability to analysis my work and give me harsh but truthful perspective! I adore them beyond words. 

Over the last two weeks I have written 30,000 new words. That’s huge for me, not just because I did it. But in the fact that I remained focused on one project and finished it! 

And this, to me, is the reality of writing… It is the actual work of sitting down and writing or editing or plotting. 

So much of the last four years has been about dreaming and hoping and talking about what I want to accomplish, but putting very little effort to actually doing it. Yes, I have six shorts, four of which were published, but now I need to use those    stones to build something more.

So, in the next few weeks you will read about my actual plan to conquer, and then you will see this plan in action. So stay tuned, this writing is about to get real!