365to: Round Two!

Photo credit: Tyler Neinhouse
Photo Credit: Tyler Neinhouse
Today I kickoff my next round of blogging. I took a little time off after I hit my 50th birthday to reflect and just focus on things that needed my attention. I am now focused on my next year-long journey, leading up to my 51st birthday in September of 2014! I’ve discovered that so much can get done in the span of a year when I live intentionally. 

This year I have four goals that I am focused on.
1. Finish my novel “The Family Tree” and begin my second book.
2. Continuing to work on getting healthy by losing weight and eating better.
3. Having a year where I purposefully focus on choosing my words wisely.
4. Reading 12 new books I haven’t read before. I will provide reviews on this blog.
5. Having set times of silence and solitude so that I can deepen my ability to reflect and hear God’s voice better.
I plan on sharing more about these five things, and what I learn as I focus on how to actually accomplish these goals over the next year. I encourage you to follow along, and tell me about your goals, dreams, and you how are accomplishing them as well!
What landmarks or milestones are you trying to live intentionally for? Tell me below!

 

 

 

 

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0to50: What I Learned From the This Past Year!

Today, as I awake to the reality that I am now 50 years old, I am reflecting on what I have really learned this last year. It was over a year ago, as I was getting ready to turn 49 years old, that I decided to have a year fully directed at changing my life in three areas.

The first area was to lose weight. I was almost 300 lbs when I turned 49. Today I am a very healthy 248!

The second goal was to write my first book. Last year I started with an undeveloped idea in my head. Today I have a book in the making as I have defined the characters, the timeline and most of the plot lines. My book idea is alive and growing every day!

The third and last area was to deepen my relationship with God. No doubt about it, this past year has brought me closer to God. While you can’t measure being close to God like you can losing weight or writing a book, there are key signs like hunger and dependency. I am more hungry for and dependant on God than ever before.

I am so thankful for the progress that I have made this last year in not just those three areas but other areas of my life. While I learned a lot from this last year, I think the main thing I learned was the power of living life on purpose. Here are some of those insights.

  1. Living life on purpose brings lifelong change. I have lived life on purpose, and I have also let life happen to me “as it may”, and now I see the difference between the two. I started last year with three goals in mind. Defining and setting those goals helped me to direct every decision that I made this last year. In essence, my life now has a road map, a compass, and a vehicle for movement. I have changed because I had a plan to change.
  2. Living life on purpose brings wisdom and understanding. I can look back and see that during this past year, I learned more about life and myself than any other year. Living on purpose brought that. Psalm 90:12 says it best: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” I numbered 365 of them and it caused me to gain wisdom and understanding.
  3. Living life on purpose brings more purpose.  Living life on purpose last year has filled me with more purpose for this upcoming year. I don’t know exactly why getting control of your life fills you with more vision, but it does. I have a greater vision for my life today then I did when I started this 365 days ago. Purpose begets more purpose!

This is not the end of 365to50 but really the beginning. Next week I will post my new goals for the New Year! A very good friend of mine shared with me that today is Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of a new year according to God’s calendar. He called this “the year of open doors to new opportunities.” I believe that and I am ready to define and set my course for my next 365 days until! I encourage you to do the same and watch what happens when you live life on purpose. Meet me back here next week, and let’s do it together!

The Resume of My 40’s

As I approach my 50th birthday, just one week from today, I am reflecting on the wonderful things that occurred during the decade of my forties. A lot of life happened during this decade. In fact, I would say that I experienced some of the most important events of my life during my time from 39 through 49 years old.

Here are a few things that happened from 39 to 49!

  • Left Florida for the first time in my life as Tracee, Hunter and myself moved across country to Texas to be part of a new church.
  • Moved back to Florida 2 years later to plant a new church in Winter Springs called Crown Pointe.
  • Traveled to more places, both internationally and nationally, than all the places I had ever visited in all of the first 30 years of my life.
  • Watched my children graduate from high school and two of the three graduate from college. My youngest is getting closer to his degree every day!
  • Walked my daughter Ashlee down the aisle as she was married to Lee Kasten. The memory still warms my heart!
  • Experienced the birth of our first granddaughter, Paislee Kasten. There is nothing like having a grandchild!
  • Had one of my deepest spiritual experiences of my entire life in Wales when I was 39. Had another one, just as significant in Wales again when I was 41. Nothing compares to an encounter with God!
  • I Finally finished college for myself, earning a Bachelor of Theology degree.
  • Coached high school football at Winter Springs High School and loved every single minute of it.
  • Went to work at Chase Card Services and became one of their top national sales representatives two years in a row. By God’s grace, I literally went from worst to first.
  • Took a brand new career path in sales and publishing at Xulon Press, where I eventually became the Sales Manager.
  • Competed in my first triathlon! A year later, I would actually place second in my age group.
  • Proudly watched as my wife Tracee published her first book, The Adventures of Akeem.
  • Started working on my first book, a novel called The Family Tree.
  • Finally went to my first Garth Brooks concert in Kansas City (when he came out of retirement just for me!).
  • Traced my family history all the way back to England and actually visited the historic church that my 7th great-grandfather founded in 1771.
  • Made over 100 new friends that I know by name.
  • Laughed almost every day!
  • By the Grace of God, I matured more in this decade than any other. I feel like it was my forties that caused me to grow into a man that fully loves God, his family and his friends. I thought I knew how to be a man in my twenties and thirties, but I am now sure that it takes years to make a man and decades to make a man of God.

These are just the main highlights. While I can’t fully describe everything, I can tell you that this decade has been the most significant one so far in my entire life—both in the great things that occurred and the deep testings that we went through, this decade is like a lifetime of its own.

Are you getting ready to turn 40? If you are, don’t dread it, look forward to it! If your journey is like mine, you will experience some of the greatest things that life has to offer during the next decade. A lot of life is getting ready to happen! Make sure you take it all in and that you take a few pictures along the way. You’re going to want to remember it one day! It makes me look forward to next decade of my life. What will I do in my fifties that I have never done before?

Next week I will post my 50th post of this blog on my 50th birthday. I will share what I have learned on this incredible 365-day journey to my 50th birthday!

The Book That My Wife Dared to Write!

I have an amazing wife who I am very proud of. When I first met her over 30 years ago, it was her faith that really challenged mine and caused me to deepen my belief and relationship with God. It has been an amazing adventure with Tracee and I am very blessed to call her my partner and my best friend.

momanddad

Several years ago Tracee felt a desire to write her first book. The story was about a little boy who lived in Africa named Akeem. A fictional adventureThe Adventures of Akeem is the exciting story of a young boy growing up in the bush country of Africa who learns about God and discovers to hear God’s voice for himself. The first of three books, it begins a story that ends with Akeem becoming not only a man, but being used by God in a very special way.

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The Adventures of Akeem. (Click here to purchase on Amazon!)

Tracee would get up early every morning as she worked to create the story, and also to seek God’s voice as He directed her to write. I still remember her getting up as early as she could to work as long as possible before her day began. Once she finished writing Akeem, she then had to travel down the path of getting it edited and into the hands a few publishers. Like many new authors, she met the same disappointment that many find when they try to introduce their book to be published. It was complimented and even praised, but they were not going to publish it.

Have you ever felt like all of your work and all of your effort ends with failure? That even though you have given your best and everything you know to do, in the end it just doesn’t work out like you would have hoped it would have?

Tracee knew that she was supposed to write this book and that it was destined to help young people find God and learn how to hear His voice and discover their destiny. But it’s hard when others don’t see the same thing that you see.

What do you do when you feel like your dream is real but it’s not given any doors to go through? What do you do when you feel like your dream is trapped in a cocoon that won’t open, so that your dream can become a living reality.

Sadly, many people let their dreams die and—even sadder—they choose to never dream again. Tracee could have let that dream die and taken those first rejections as a sign of permanent rejection. The truth is that one or two or even a hundred rejections are never the sign of total rejection. The secret of success is simply: those who never quit, who never give up, usually in almost every case end up succeeding in one way or another.

Tracee never gave up and eventually, over 13 years later, her book was published by the company that I work for, Xulon Press. She never let the lack of belief by others stop her personal belief. Her dream came to life last year as she worked with a group of editors to present the final manuscript. Now, a year later, she got her first royalty check from sales that occurred last quarter. I could not be more proud or excited for her, her dream of publishing her first book, and receiving her first royalty check.

Tracee

Rejected in the beginning by publishers but accepted and desired by readers in the end. That is success! Don’t let your beginning determine your end! Don’t let the publishers of life decide if your dream is worthy or not to be read.  In the end, they are not the final judge of whether your dream is real. Never give up on the dreams that God has given you. For even if they die for a season, even if they are delayed, if those dreams are from Him, He will resurrect them and bring them to life. No publisher can stop Him from publishing your dream!

Tracee’s book, The Adventures of Akeem can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and directly from Xulon Press. It also can be purchased in eBook format.

21 Days and Counting

In just over 21 days I will finally be a grown-up, as I will turn 50 years old on September 5th. Wow! It has been an amazing year and I have learned some incredible things about life and myself. I am so glad that I did this 365to50 project, and I am planning to do it again next year as I set my annual goals to achieve before I turn 51 next September.

My goals for this year were:

  • Lose weight and get into better physical condition
  • Write my first book
  • Grow closer to God

I am so happy to report that I have made steady progress in all three of those areas. I have lost weight, and now I am in good enough shape to compete in triathlons. I have the story line for my book “The Family Tree”, and I have had breakthroughs with God that I so desperately needed and wanted. All in all, its been an awesome journey!

I am so glad that I didn’t let momentary failure keep me from moving on. I shudder at the thought of what it would have been like to face 50 while extremely overweight, with no book idea at all, and no closer to God than when I turned 49. That would have been a wasted year, and I have had my share of wasted years. You see, it’s not that I had to get everything right and hit every goal along the way, I just had to move from where I was at. To have stayed in the exact same place without moving forward would have been failure and another wasted year. While I have not entered the promised land of being a 205 lb author who knows God like Moses did, I am miles away from being a 299lb man with just a dream and ideas that were on hold. I tell you, there is no feeling like being miles away from where you never really wanted to be.

So, what do you want to leave? To leave the place that you don’t want to be in, you need to do these three things:

  • Love the Dream! Do more than just hate where you are at: you have to love where you are going. While it’s true that sometimes you will move when your misery factory gets bigger than your fear factor, misery alone will not make you move. You have to have a dream and desire that you love
  • You have to be willing to risk failure. So many people, including me, fail to move because they don’t want to fail. Every successful person’s path to the dream they desire is built by the bricks of failure. I have failed over and over this past year, but here is my secret. I fall forward. Yes, I fall down, but I fall toward my goal. Thats why, despite failure, I am miles away from where I started from.
  • You have to move! You have to take one step! My goal for every triathlon was to “Compete and Complete” every race I entered in. I never let the fact that I was far from winning keep me from entering the race. I may actually win a race one day, but I have to compete in and complete a lot of races on the way to achieving that goal. What are you failing to compete in or complete because you feel like you can’t win? Movement is winning! Just ask Lazarus!

I am now focused on a 21 day challenge to really hit the boosters as I hit 50 and start my next goals for 51. Follow me over the next few weeks as I really begin to reveal what I have learned from this journey.

What place are you trying to leave today? Leave me comments with your story below! Don’t forget, you can also follow me on Twitter here.

Taking Life In! Finding balance between living and growing.

As I get closer to the end of my 365to50 journey, I have learned so many life lessons. One of the biggest is that even when you are working on a great goal, you have to stop and take life in. The hardest thing hasn’t been the 40 mile bike rides or 6 a.m. swimming sessions, it has been finding that delicate balance between working for the future and living in the present. How do I share time between my goals of being in shape and becoming an author with family dinners? If we stop growing, we give up the person we are supposed to become, but we must be people who achieve their goals without losing what’s important.

Last week my wife Tracee and I joined our best friends, Jeff and Linda Welker, in Chicago for the wedding of their youngest daughter Kaleigh to her fiancee Bill. One thing that stood out to me as I watched the wedding was how each moment counted. Each individual moment in that evening would never happen again; they were, in a sense, eternal. The procession, the presenting of the bride, the vows, the toast, the special dance Jeff had with his daughter and the tossing of the bouquet. All these moments were once-in-a-lifetime. That’s why we pay photographers thousands of dollars to capture them—because we know they’ll never happen again.

So how do I find the balance between achieving my goals of losing weight and writing a book, and still making the most of every moment? Here is what I believe helps me keep my priorities while still becoming a skinny author who loves God.

1. Have long-term goals. When you are in such a hurry to get somewhere, you feel the pressure to cut out everything else except for that which takes you to your goal. I set my goals almost a year ago. This allowed me time to live regular life while making small steps toward my goals. Small steps really do matter! I didn’t have to exclude my family from my life so that I could go after my goals. I had long-term goals, and small steps allowed me to keep the balance between being a husband and father, while becoming a triathlete and an author. What are your long-term goals, and what are your small steps?

2. Be Present for the Eternal Moments of Life. What are the eternal moments of life? These are moments you would choose above achieving your goals if you only had one month to live. I would choose to laugh with my wife and family during dinner instead of writing a best-selling novel if I had 30 days to live, but I wouldn’t choose surfing facebook over writing my first book if I had only 30 days. Yesterday I came home from a hard day at work to find my family having a cannonball splash contest in the pool. Everyone wanted me to join. I had a lot to do and a bike ride planned, but I was in my swimsuit within 3 minutes and made the biggest and best cannonball splash of the evening. My granddaughter laughed at me as I became a kid again, jumping into a carefree pool full of water and eternal moments. Do you recognize eternal moments when they pop up?

3. Cut Out the Stuff That Does Not Matter. What are you giving your time to that doesn’t 1) produce eternal moments, or 2) lead to achieving the goals that God has for you? Come on, don’t hold back! Have you been on any extended lunches with other people who you wouldn’t spend the last 30 days of your life with? There’s nothing wrong with having lunch with friends, but what would happen if you only did that 2 days a week and spent the other 3 eating at your desk and working on your goals? Maybe you need to trade some of your television for reading, studying, writing, whatever. Are you willing to cut out or limit things you wouldn’t do if you only had 30 days to live?

You will only get one chance to live your life and achieve your goals. I love the picture above of Jeff dancing with his daughter Kaleigh. He got both things right. He had a goal that he had to achieve as a father and a provider, but he was also present and living in the moment.

The good news is that you, too, can have both! You can achieve your goals and grow into the person you are supposed to become. Leave me a comment below and let me know how you plan to do that this week!

Follow me on Twitter and the 365to50 Facebook page.

Write Your Own Story!

As I continue working toward my goal of changing my life in three areas before I turn 50, I’ve found that I have to challenge myself constantly or time will just slip by and I will stay the same. Honestly. It is just so easy to just wake up and find that I have not progressed any further—or even worse, that I have slipped backwards. This is a reality that I face every week and every month.

Now I find that I need challenges. I need to challenge myself in ways that cause me to go further and cause me to dig deeper. I think that is what 365to50 is all about for me, a way to challenge myself and a way to stop losing valuable time to things that really don’t matter. Yesterday, I challenged myself again by signing up for my next triathlon, which will be held in July. It’s my next step in ensuring that my time is serving me, rather than me serving my time! I plan on doing at least two triathlons this summer and the challenge of training has already kicked in. Once I paid the money and committed myself to another triathlon experience in the Atlantic Ocean, I actively chose which way my life would head, at least for the next few months. It’s so easy to just let life happen to us, instead of us happing to life!

Since I work in publishing and my job is to help writers become published authors, I would like to use this illustration: our life is like a book or a novel that is currently being written; written by the circumstances, influences and choices that we make on a daily basis. Without our own individual and deliberate input to direct the story in the way we would like for it to go, it is easy to just let life and circumstances become the author of our story. Do you know what people really want?  They want the story of their life to be so meaningful and impactful that even they themselves can’t wait to read the book! The good news is that we can all end up with a wonderful story.

 

 

Here’s five keys to having a great story.: 

 

 

  1. You must realize that you didn’t write the introduction or beginning to your story.

    There are a lot of people in the world who do not necessarily like the beginning of their own story. It is so important to realize that everyone’s novel has already started before they actually enter the picture. There have been many wonderful and exciting novels that began with a tragedy or a set of unfavorable circumstances. Everyone from Winston Churchill to Michael Jordan, started with a novel that they didn’t begin, but was already started for them. Key: Don’t let the beginning of you novel determine the value or the ending of your story. Remember it’s just the beginning!

 

  1. You must understand that your story is unique and unlike any other story that will ever be written.

There will never be another story written just like yours. It is special and will never be repeated again. The world is waiting for your story to come forth because it is an original.  Key: Don’t try to make your story be a copy of someone else’s story. You are too special to try and be a copy. Go ahead and be an original, be your own first edition! 

 

  1. You must know that in every great epic story, there is always more going on than meets the eye. Things are not always what they seem to be.

I am sure that like my own story that I am living, that each of you have things that don’t always make sense. How many times have we seen a detour or even a delay end up being for our best? But in “chapter 3” it didn’t make any sense at all. It wasn’t until chapter 7 that it all made sense. Key: Don’t allow what you see determine what you believe. Things are not always as they seem! Write your story despite what you see and in time it will either make sense or won’t even matter.

  1. You need to learn that almost every great novel has at least three disasters in it.

If you look at the wonderful stories that you love to read and the movies you love to see, you will find several common denominators. One is that every great story has at least three disasters or challenges in it. Take any story and you will see the pattern. Key: Disasters, disappointments and setbacks are all part of great stories. If you’ve faced these, realize your story is a candidate to become a best seller.

 

  1. You must believe that it is still possible to end your story with the line “and they lived happily ever after.”

There have been all kinds of stories with more twists and turns than you can count, which have ended well. It may have only happened in the very last sentence of the very last chapter, but they ended with a happy ending in the end. Your story, your novel, can end happy but you must believe in happy endings. You can’t let the tragedy that entered into chapter 7 keep you from writing chapter 8 and 9. If you will believe and not quit in the middle of writing or finishing your story, you can finish it with an ending that is happy Key: You’re not in control of how your story may have begun, but you are able to influence how it will end. The key is to keep writing your story every day with your happy ending in mind.