Where Did These Giants Come From?

As I continue to move forward in my journey toward turning 50 in September, I sometimes find myself facing two challenges simultaneously as I work to improve my life: the promise of great breakthrough and motivation, matched with opposition, either to me or to the breakthrough that I am seeking.

Like many of us have experienced at one time or another, about the time that we seem to be entering our best job,  our best new opportunity or that new lifestyle we’ve been seeking, we sometimes face outside challenges which oppose us on a much higher level. Just as things are heading in the right direction, we hit problems and obstacles which oppose us—some of them which we’ve never faced before at all.

This is not a new story, but rather a truth which, if understood, can actually encourage us in the midst of these challenges and obstacles. The truth I am talking about is best understood in light of the Bible and the story of God’s precious people, the Israelites   For years, God’s promise to His people was that one day they would enter a land that was so fertile that it could only be described as a land flowing with milk and honey. Talk about breakthrough and a promise being real! How much more descriptive could you be of a changed life than this description gives us? But when the Israelites finally entered their “Promised Land,” all of the sudden they faced giants that they did not face in the wilderness. To the natural mind, it would seem that the right place for the giants would have been in the wilderness, the place where they were being punished for their unbelief and not in the land flowing with milk and honey. I would have thought that they would have had to deal with the giants in the badlands, not in the promised land. Wouldn’t you think that once you have entered into your promised land, the giants would go away? God’s ways are not our ways and I am so thankful that they are not, because God always has a better plan than we do. In our daily life, we would all think that a person would face their own giants when they are down and out; not when they have just landed their best job, or met Mr. or Mrs. Right, or finally went to purchase their first home. If we can learn from history, and we should, we should remember that just when we decide to change our lives for the better, we may find ourselves facing a totally new, unfamiliar giant.

As I move forward making progress toward my big three goals (writing my first book, losing weight and growing closer to God), I have hit my own giants that were nowhere to be found when I was content with putting those goals off until later in life. I know that sometimes there can be obstacles which are really just the byproduct of our wrong or poor decisions, but the giants that I am talking about are the ones that come against us when we are doing everything right. What can we learn about facing these giants as we work to pursue God’s best for us and our families?

1. God Is In Control, Not the Giants.

When we face opposition, it is always important to rest upon the fact that God is in control. He is still God, and the giants are never more powerful than he is.

2. If God Is In Control, Then the Giants That Are in Our Promised Land Are Not There Without His Permission.

God has a purpose for why they are there and that purpose is always linked to your destiny. For example: when David faced Goliath, no one knew that his defeat of Goliath was actually going to be linked to his eventual rise to replace Saul. No one but God knew, but God used that encounter to set David up.

3. Giants Help Us Discover Who We Are Really Meant to Be.

Test and trials force us to face things that we need to overcome, and it’s always in the overcoming that we change and grow stronger. Some people only find their real strength when they face a challenge that requires it. Even Samson didn’t know really how strong he was until he needed to use it.

4. Giants Prepare Us for the New Places That We Will Occupy.

God could have driven all the giants out of the Promised Land, and the Israelites could have walked in unchallenged. But they would have not become the people they needed to become to actually rule and occupy the land that they had inherited. Sometimes God will actually use a giant to keep us humble and dependent on him. We all have seen people become proud and arrogant, only to lose what was gained because they thought that they did it alone. Thank God that he will sometimes use giants to help remind us that it is by his strength, and not our own, that we move forward into our destiny.

5. Giants Can Actually Be Signposts That You Are Moving into God’s Best for You and Your Family.

If you are working to change your life for the better like I am doing, you will face giants. Just remember that God is in control, and they are to be expected there if you are headed the right direction. Lean on God, and like the Isralites, he can deliver them into your hands to help you overcome each one.

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The Family Tree

After hearing from many of you and searching my own heart, I have decided that the book which I will write between now and my 50th birthday will be the fictional book about the two brothers who have never met.

I have had this story in mind for many years. When I was employed as a state trooper, I had a lot of time to think. Nestled between the jolts of action and life-threatening drama were lots of quiet hours spent driving the Florida roads and Turnpike. It was during one of those times of quiet that I got the story of these two brothers, how they were raised separately, and how they finally found each other.

I have the main part of the story, including a very unique twist which ties them together, bound by the wonderful message of forgiveness and second chances. However, I need to color between the lines and define some of the details of their story. I need to define things like:

What time period does this story take place in?

Where do they live?

What are the two boys names?

They are brought together through a natural disaster. What kind of disaster?

Should the story contain real historic events and locations, or fictional ones?

One of the major themes contained in this story revolves around the destructive power of someone believing a lie or untruth. We’ve seen examples of this when an individual makes negative or destructive statements about someone else, and the victim begins to believe that those statements are true of themselves.

The power of what we believe in can control our life and even our destiny. Its only when we refuse to believe the lie that we have the power to live free of what it says. In essence, we only empower the untruth by believing it to be the truth.

Refusing to believe it is refusing to give it life or power over us. The story I will be writing will illustrate how one lie or untruth, if it is truly believed, can change the actual course of people’s lives. Thankfully, this can all be changed when the lie is seen as exactly what it is, and the real truth is known and understood.

In life, the enemy of our souls, the devil, continues to try to destroy the destiny and future of men and women with a lie. He did with Adam and Eve and he has used it ever since to gain power and control in people’s lives. My story will show how truth can set people free.

Are there any lies that you have believed that have tried to take you captive? You are precious to God, fearfully and wonderfully made. Has the enemy told you anything different than that? Then it is a lie?

You may have failed God and fallen in an area that you never wanted to fail in. Has God not said that if you will confess your sins and repent or change your mind that he will forgive you? Only the devil would lie about that and say that what you did could never be forgiven. I hope that my book, once it is written and published, will help others to believe what is true instead what is false.

If you are reading this and you have struggled to believe what is good and true vs. what is wrong and destructive, I will be praying for you this week. God’s truth can bring you into real truth. As you read His word, ask God to break the power of the lie and replace it with the life and power of the truth.

My current goals are

1. For my book! Have a frame for the book and fill in  some of the missing details and questions I listed below. This will be finished by February 4th.

2. For my weight! Establish my workout schedule for the remaining part of the month. I am also looking to invest in a better bicycle to start riding again before the end of the month.

3. Select and identify a devotional book to read and devote specific times of devotional time with God. I will begin the book in February. If you have a great devotional or Christian book that you have just read that you would like to recommend please email it to me at donlnewman@yahoo.com.

Please feel free to email me or comment below with your thoughts, questions, and feedback. I will see you back here at the same time next week, readers!

Which Book Should I Write in 2013?

So much of our life is all about making decisions. Everyday, each of us have very simple choices that we have to make. What do I take for lunch? What do I wear to work? Did I already wear this shirt this week and will anyone notice?

While most decisions are simple, some carry a heavier weight and significance, and are therefore more difficult. I am currently wrestling with a decision on which book I should write in 2013. As most of you already know, my goal is to have a finished manuscript by my 50th birthday in September. I currently have two manuscripts in mind, and I’d like your feedback on which one you think I should write!

Why would I ask others for their opinion? Some of the most successful writers in the world work with teams of people, or at least ask for editorial feedback. One of the worst mistakes a writer can make is to keep it all to themselves, and then just put their work out there for people to like or dislike. A crucial rule for writers is to always write with the audience in mind. In fact, there are some writers who actually blog portions of their book while they are writing and look for feedback. They are looking to see if it is touching the hearts of their readers, or if it falling on deaf ears. Certainly, there may be one or two very famous writers who may not need any feedback, but for all of us who are just beginning, we should seek both content and editorial feedback as often as possible. There is always wisdom in the multitude of counselors.

  • The first book theme deals with pushing past obstacles; my working title for it is Overcomer. The premise for this book is that we become like Christ through the act of overcoming. True joy rests in overcoming, and the truth found in James 1: 2-4: “Count it all joy, my brothers,[a] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

One who overcomes is one who in time can experience what it is to be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  Can you imagine what life would be like to have perfect peace and confidence, even in the middle of trials? Imagine having a true genuine humility, and carrying only the desire to give of yourself because you are full, you are complete, lacking nothing.

I know what this feels like because there was a day that God allowed me to experience this within my soul. Although it only lasted for a day or two, it left an incredible life-changing impression upon me. In this book I will share that experience, and how we literally experience the Kingdom of Heaven when we overcome. Once we grasp this and we learn to trust God, then we can say with full confidence and total honesty that we count it all joy when we face a trial.

  • The second book idea is a fictional story about two brothers who have never met. Through a unique set of circumstances, the brothers end up living two very different lives, but are reunited later in life without the knowledge that they are related. It is not until the brothers find themselves caught in the wake of a natural disaster that the truth behind their story begins to unravel and reveal itself. The working title for this book is The Family Tree.

This story has been in my heart for a long time. Part of the struggle in writing good fiction is figuring out how to write the story without giving everything away in the beginning. I really love this storyline, and like everyone else who writes fiction I can see it as a movie. This book will take longer to write than Overcomer because I will have to do a lot of historical research. I love the plot, and the way it twists and turns around in the end. I carry a deep familiarity with the characters and the subplots, but I will have to do a lot of writing to put flesh on the skeleton of this story.

Which book do you think I should write this year?

 

Feel free to email me at donlnewman@yahoo.com, or submit a comment to this blog to give me your feedback.

Getting On and Off the Track

When I started my journey of 365to50 in September, I thought it would be a challenge, but one that I could (and would) overcome. I knew that training for the triathlon would difficult, but I liked riding my bike and getting up early to swim. I knew that to make progress on writing my book, I would have to carve out and protect time to write. I was inspired and ready to pour myself into three different books; one would surely be easy! There was never a doubt that if I wanted to lose weight and be healthier, I would have to change my eating habits and I was ready to do that also. To really deepen my relationship with God, I would have to spend time in prayer and other disciplines that would lead to and increase intimacy with God. When I started, there was no doubt that I could accomplish any of these goals—simply because I wanted to.

But what happens when you no longer have the “want to?”

What happens when you would rather watch TV than train on your bike, or work on your first book? What happens when work, holiday parties, and family functions crowd your schedule and sap your energy? What happens when the days get long, and those long days slowly snowball into a long week? When the momentum of “nothing” and comfort begins to replace the momentum of disclipined routine and accomplishment?

The answer is obvious: when you lose the “want to,” you are in danger of getting off track. Well, I have been off track for about 60 days, or since my last triathlon. I can’t tell you exactly how or why I lost it, but thankfully I have a long-term goal, and I have plenty of time to get back on track again and still reach my goals. I made the promise that when I started this, I would be real with my readers and hold nothing back.

I stopped when I no longer “wanted to,” and I let my feelings determine my actions instead of letting my actions determine my feelings.

I am ready to start again, and as of today I am moving toward my three goals of:

  • Writing my first book.
  • Losing weight and getting healthier.
  • Growing in deeper friendship and intimacy with God.

Looking at my roadmap:

For My Weight: I am currently at 280lbs which means that I have gained some weight back. But if I follow a healthy weight loss plan with exercise, and lose just 2 lbs per week, I will have lost over 70lbs by my 50th birthday. That would mean that I could weigh 210 lbs on my fiftieth birthday—September 5th, 2013. I can do that.

For My Book: I am currently working to decide which book I should write: the book about being an overcomer, which I have been working on for a little while, or the fictional book which God gave me years ago. It is a story based on two brothers who never knew each other until a tragic accident brings them together. I know God has called me to write the book on being an overcomer, but I also know that this fictional story of faith and forgiveness is going to be great. I am in love with storytelling, and this book brings me to tears, goose bumps and deep thoughts all at the same time. My goal is to make a decision on which book to write by the 21st of January.

For My Relationship with God: I need to develop a set time for prayer and devotion. I always do better when I have a set time for my prayer with God. Starting this week, I have three mornings blocked out where I will spend very dedicated time with God. While I try to spend a daily time talking to God and I am in His word throughout the week, both at home and at work, I need at least three days a week of “soaking time” where I am listening to the voice of God and responding to Him in like manner.

To help me get back on track I am going to start doing the following.

  1. Begin using my Franklin Planner to schedule my daily activities.
  2. Sunday will be “planning day”: the day that I pencil in my week.
  3. Commit to writing at least three days a week.
  4. Exercising at least three days a week.
  5. Spending at least three days a week in prayer.
Where are you at in your 365 journey? Have you found yourself struggling to accomplish any of the goals you’ve outlined? Have you felt a shift in the momentum? If so, dig your heels in today. Your goal is not lost. Your dream is still in reach. Everyone gets distracted or loses the “want to” sometimes, but now is your chance. Take a deep breath and get back on the track with me!

Choosing to “Live in Vision”

Many of you may have already seen the clip of the speech given by Coach Pagano of the Indianapolis Colts after their victory last Sunday. It was one of the most inspiring speeches that I have ever heard by a head football coach. ( I have included a link to the video at the bottom of this page if you have not seen this speech.)

As you watch this clip, I want you to think about what it means to be “Living in Vision.”  For Coach Pagano, it’s a choice to believe, and see himself, in a future that he wants to see himself in.

Currently, Coach Pagano is fighting leukemia. His circumstances are very clear.  Without remission, the leukemia will eventually take his life and keep him from enjoying one of the things he wants to do the most: to dance with both of his daughters when they eventually get married. He and his team are aware of the circumstances. In fact, many of the members of his team have shaved their heads to hold a bond of support with their coach.
More than just shaving their heads, the team has taken a stance to live while believing in something that is contrary to their current circumstances, or at least the ones predicted for them this season. They, together as a team, are believing that they will win the Superbowl! They also are believing that their coach will live to one day dance at his daughter’s weddings.
In my quest to change my life before I turn 50, I am having to make the choice to really “Live In Vision,” and not just in my current circumstances. I recently found myself battling thoughts which suggested, despite my desire to change in the three areas I’ve discussed, that like most people I would mostly just talk about it and not really change very much at all. I have decided, and I have to keep deciding, to “Live in Vision.”

What is vision? A vision is something that we choose to see, an inner image of a preferred future.

It’s not easy to live in vision, but the rewards of it can be substantial. Even with that in mind, we can struggle to believe for something different then our current experience.  Whether it is our fear of failure, or the pain of being let down, we many times decide to accept “what is” instead of “what could be,” because vision can sometimes hurt.

The struggle is this: what is current is guaranteed, but that which “could be” is not. And anytime we choose to believe in something that is not current, we run the risk of being disappointed and let down. I know I struggle with my own ability to live in vision instead of living in my current circumstances. It is not easy for any of us, and it’s surely not easy for Coach Pagano. While our choice of vision could something simple—like the difference between living in a better house than the one we are living in now, perhaps—Coach Pagano’s vision is the difference between life and death.

There is risk involved when we choose to live in vision.

Coach Pagano is risking the fact that, despite his determination to “Live In Vision,” he could be very let down in the end and lose his battle to dance with his daughters.

Coach Pagano’s team, the Indianapolis Colts, are risking the fact that they could end up watching the Superbowl on T.V. instead of the sidelines.

Despite all those risks, Coach Pagano is still choosing to see his life different in the future. You see, Coach Pagano is choosing to see a preferred future, not the one he is currently facing.

Its not hype! Its not living in a make-believe world, where you don’t recognize the truth of the circumstances which are staring you in the face. It’s simply choosing to believe that the end of the book can be different than the the current chapter you’re reading—and as long as there are more chapters to read, it can still change! Listen, whatever you do today, don’t put the book down thinking that you know how it is all going to end. Choose to “Live in Vision,” and your vision may very well rewrite the ending to your own story. We have a choice! Let’s live in vision.

As I continue riding my bike, writing my book, and talking to God about everything, I have a vision of something different for my 50th birthday. As an update, I have completed two triathlons and I am currently working out to enter a bike race in the very near future. I have also written over 3,000 words for my first book. I am finally making progress on this book which I have talked about for so long. I don’t know if it was the election, or just some of the changes in my life, but either way my prayer life is really getting interesting.  I will soon share more on the actual changes in my life in the three key areas I am working on.

Today, dig down deep and find the passion that Coach Pagano and the Indianapolis Colts are living out. Just like Coach and his team, we can rewrite the ending to our story, but first we must learn to “Live in Vision.”

Improvement Comes Before Accomplishment

Last Sunday I competed in my second triathlon. My two goals were to cut a few minutes off of my time, and to run/jog the entire 5k portion of the course. During my first triathlon,I just wanted to finish the race, so walking the last portion of the race, the 5k run, was totally acceptable. I was excited about the improvements that I had made in both swimming and running and I really thought that I could do better. If you follow this blog very long you’re going to find a common theme as I approach my 50th birthday on Sept 5th, 2013. That theme is improvement.

You can’t have accomplishment without improvement.

Many times we are discouraged because we didn’t hit the goal—or in some cases we may have even gone backwards. However, the question you need to ask yourself when pursuing a worthwhile goal is this: “Am I improving?” For that reason we need both long term and short term measurable goals.
If right now I could ask you face to face “What is your worthy goal?” My next question, once you had answered, would be “What is the first thing you need to improve in?” “What is the first thing you need to get better at?” You will need to make a plan to work on improvement that week, that month, and that year.
Lets say you’re worthy goal is to go back to college and get your degree. What do you need to improve in to accomplish that goal? It might be that you need to improve in saving money so that you can register in six months. It might be that you need to improve in identifying your clear objective and need to spend one to two hours a week researching schools and careers. If you’re doing nothing now, and your still doing nothing in a month, then you have not improved—and “improvement always comes before accomplishment.” Even if you spent 30 minutes during the first week researching and asking questions, guess what? You are improving! You are getting better, and most importantly, you are one step closer to the accomplishment of your worthy goal.
My worthy goal is to lose weight, write a book, and get closer to God before I turn 50. The path which I’ve chosen to help me improve, move toward better health, and eventually lose my extra weight is by competing in triathlons and other events which challenge me to train and improve results. During my last triathlon, I had a goal of completing the 1/4 mile swim, 16 mile bike ride and 5k run in under 3 hours. I did better than that; I actually did it in 2:30 hours, or a half hour faster than my first goal. In my second triathlon last Sunday, at the exact same location and course on Amelia Island, I had my two goals: to run the complete 5k portion and to cut at least 15 minutes off of my first time.
The day of the triathlon came, and we were told that because the weather was so bad they would have to cancel the swim portion of the race. They were going start us on the bike and then we would transition to the 5k run. It was raining and it was windy, but those who remained to compete were eager to get started. There was a lot of concern that, because the road was so wet, many would wipe out on the pavement and risk injury or the destruction of their expensive bikes. My bike was probably one of the least expensive bikes there, and because I was riding a mountain bike with a fat tire, I would probably be ok. My daughter Brittnee was also riding her mountain bike with fat tires, so despite the rain and wind, we took off from the start line.
I completed the bike portion and started my 5k run. I felt, despite the stiff wind, that I had done better on the bike than i did in my last race. THis helped motivate me to work toward my next goal, to run the whole portion of the 5k. On a side note, it would be easy to think that because we had skipped the swim that I would have had more strength for the ride and the run. The wind that we had to ride in made up for anything that the swim would have taken out of me.
When I started to run my legs were dead. I remember the first time when I transitioned from the ride to the run, my legs were tired, but this time they really had it. I was motivated to at least try to improve, and accomplish my goal of running the whole 5k. It was nothing more than sheer determination and will as I jogged one step after another. I went the whole 5k without walking. I only stopped once—to stretch, because my legs were cramping up. When I got to the finish line and I saw 1:54.15 on the clock, I knew that I had beat my last time because the clock had started at least 5 to 10 minutes before my official time had started. My jog turned to a sprint and I crossed the line before it turned to 2 hours.  When I calculated my final time, I added in my swim time from the last race, and a generous transition time. I found that I would had beaten my last time by almost 20 minutes if I completed the swim at the exact same pace of the first triathlon. I had improved on the bike by at least 12 minutes and I had improved on the run by at least 8 minutes.

In this triathlon, I came in 5th place for the Clydesdale division. Most importantly, in my second month since I started the 365to50 campaign, I have continued to improve.

My next goals are focused on the month of November. First I want to train for a 30 mile bike race that is to be held in November. Secondly I want to have at least 5,000 words written for my new book by Thanksgiving weekend. Lastly I want to have written in my prayer journal at least twenty entries between now and Thanksgiving.These entries should all be connected to a deepening conversation with God. Pray, Write and Train. As long as I am improving, I am becoming better and I will accomplish my worthy goals.
Have fun and start improving this week!

One Weekend Can Change Everything!

It’s amazing how one weekend can change everything.

Last weekend I saw both my favorite college football team, Florida State, and my favorite Nascar driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., fall out of the top 10 for each sport. This was supposed to be the year that FSU competed for a national championship again. This was also beginning to look like the best opportunity for Dale Jr to take home the coveted Sprint Championship. Incredibly, after one mind-numbing wreck at Talladega and a devastating loss for FSU to North Carolina State, it seemed that all of the time, the effort, and the dream was gone. In essence, both FSU and Dale Jr. have now lost their chance at winning their championships.

Everything changed. In one. short. weekend.

Yes, one weekend can change everything! As I thought about how that weekend had changed my hopes of national championships, my daughter Brittnee reminded me how one weekend in August had changed everything for me personally. She was referring to the weekend that we competed in our first sprint triathlon. Here I am, 2 months later, getting ready to compete in my second triathlon tomorrow. I have already scheduled a 30 mile bike race in November and another 5k after that. All of this change occurred because of one weekend. Because I committed to and competed in my first triathlon, I have found my whole life has totally been changed for the better.

Many times we fail to realize how just one weekend—or even just one day—can change a whole year or more of our life.

What are you planning to do this weekend? Maybe this is the first weekend that you go back to church. Maybe this is the first weekend that you go online and look at going back to college or a trade school. For someone else, this might be the weekend that they spend all their time focusing on their spouse and family. Me, I am going to go to Amelia Island and competing in my second triathlon. I hope to get a better time than the first time I got in August. I hope to be closer to my goal weight. I’m excited because I know that this weekend is going to change me.

Its true-a weekend can change everything!