Getting Unstuck (or why I started this business)

getting-unstuckOkay, this is embarrassing to admit.

I’ll just come out and say it.

Nine years.

That’s right, nine years. That’s how long it took me to write my novel Java Wake and get it published. I started it during a jet lag-induced, early morning writing session in April of 2006. Our family had just moved back to Indonesia after a long medical leave and I guess I had a lot of pent up creative energy. It just started pouring out of me that early, restless morning.

I kept on here and there, inspired by John Grisham’s daily goal of writing 1,000 words a day, and plowed through chapter after chapter.

And then I got stuck. Because I didn’t outline the chapters ahead of time, I didn’t really know where the story was going and I picked up too many characters along the way toward the book’s complicated climax. I wrote myself into a corner, not being able to figure out how to solve all the plot tensions I had baked into the many characters. The 100,000-word novel felt to me like a humongous knot impossible to untie.

I tried to tighten it up without untying the whole knot. But when I gave out early versions to friends, my suspicions were confirmed. Although they enjoyed the story and the backdrop, they couldn’t keep track of all those characters. I couldn’t blame them…I couldn’t either and I was the author!

And that’s where it stayed, for years. A big, tangled ball of knotted up string in the corner of my life. I felt embarrassed that I had started something so time consuming that I wasn’t able to finish.

Before I resolve that plot tension, let me say that’s how a lot of aspiring writers I know feel…stuck. They had this creative idea and they finally started writing it out in a semi-disciplined way. For a season they made it to the coffee shop and drank tall lattes of inspiration while getting more and more words down on that growing document. They gathered the courage to tell their friends and family that they had started writing a book. Wow, good for you! They started dreaming of actually finishing this toiled-over manuscript and getting it published one day. And then the stuckage creeped in. Now they hope those same friends and family don’t ask them about it anymore.

java-wake-white-boardI finally summoned the will power to get unstuck. I hung a white board right above my desk and outlined the chapters. I wrote down all the characters and plotted them all out on a big timeline. There were so many names and squiggly lines on that white board that one friend assumed it was an emergency evacuation plan for our community. That’s what if felt like to me…an evacuation plan out of my stuckage! The realization finally stared me in the face that I was going to have to take out of a bunch of those characters, who had become like my imaginary friends, and delete about the last third of the book. So long imaginary friends and all traces of you. That was tough. That was a lot of rewriting. A resolve rose in me though, that come writer’s block or high water, I was going to cross the finish line and get this book in print.

I think if I had a little help, someone to walk with me through the process, and show me a glimmer of light at the end of the long publishing tunnel, I could have done it a lot faster. I could have shaved a few years off that excruciatingly long process.

And that’s why I started this little business, to help aspiring writers cross that published author finish line.

I gotta say, it’s so worth it to get to that finish line. Having that first batch of books delivered to your doorstep is a bright burst of ecstatic joy. If you could somehow taste a little of that thrill ahead of time, I think it would motivate you to keep plodding through the stuckage.

Keep on plodding people! Get unstuck!

— Mike O’Quin

Director, Mantap Publishing

P.S. Some people have asked me what “mantap” means. It’s an Indonesian word, pronounced mäntäp (like the “a” in father), which literally means steady, solid or sound. The connotation for that word in Indonesia is much stronger, though, used after things like drinking a delicious cup of coffee and wanting to express satisfaction in the fullness of its flavor. It’s said as an exclamation of delight: mantap! That is the essence I am wanting to deliver in this business, giving clients that same satisfying fullness of flavor when they finish and those books hit their doorstep. Ahhhh.

Drudgery Schmudgery

old-time-country-storeWhen I was 22 and newly married, I worked as an essay grader for a standardized test that the State of Texas inflicted upon fourth graders. My job was to evaluate, on a scale from one to five, how well 10-year-old students across the state could describe a picture of an old time country store that they were given and instructed to write about (using a number two pencil, of course). I evaluated at least 200 essays per shift along with about 100 other people desperate to find better jobs. After the first week I started keeping count on a little scratch pad how many times the essays would start, “Have you ever wondered what an old time country store looks like?” I very quickly stopped wondering.

The gig was temporary and the pay sub-par, but the job was at least enough to put food on the table, which for us at the time was a borrowed and scratched up end table we used as we sat on the floor and had our meals together. Those were the romantic honeymoon days—not a lot of straw in our nest but there was a lot of love. I enjoyed my home but dreaded my job.

A Bible verse kept my heart alive during those mind numbing work days, and I meditated on it often. It was Paul’s advice to the pitiless people who found themselves under an unfair yoke of tyranny:

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  – Colossians 3:23-24

After every last old time country store essay had been evaluated, I got a job as a reporter for a new political magazine in Austin called Politics Today. It sounded a lot more prestigious than it actually was. The editor was an ambitious grad student who studied science but whose real passion was politics. He saved up enough of his own money for his start-up magazine that he would pit against Newsweek and Time. I was all in as long as I got paid (plus there were no old time country stores in the job description).

His limited budget allowed for one full-time reporter (me) and a one-room office in a seedy area of town. Across the street there was an adult book store, and from my office window I could see creepy looking guys going in and out all day. I worked 8-hour days and made a lot of phone calls to get interviews (these were the days before the internet made research much easier). No one had ever heard of Politics Today, of course, so I had to bluff my way through as many interviews as I could get over the phone. I did long pieces on things I didn’t know that much about and that very few people would ever read. My young boss, who only came into the office once a week, mostly complained that my work wasn’t in-depth enough. I felt it unfair for him to have all these expectations while offering no real resources. He hardly ever said a kind word to me. I did enjoy the creative part of the job, but as an extrovert I hated working in an empty office all day by myself.

I kept good ole Colossians 3:23-24 in the top drawer of my desk and pulled it out often to read it, eventually memorizing and personalizing it: I am working not for this unfair editor but for the Lord. I will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward for being faithful here, so I will do this job with all my heart. It is the Lord Christ whom I am serving.

I didn’t have to wait until heaven to get a reward from the Lord. Politics Today folded after just three issues and it wasn’t long before a found a much better job, one with a dynamic team of people and exciting new challenges. I loved it and worked there for years.

My true boss was never the State of Texas or an unfair grad student. It was and it is the Lord, and He is a rewarder of faithfulness. He who is faithful in little will be ruler of much, so goes the spiritual principle.

I love my job now. Maybe you love your yours, too, enjoying your co-workers, feeling energized in your work environment and admiring your boss. I sure hope so. Maybe you toil in a place drudgery, obscurity or unfairness. Whatever the case, know that God is watching you. He is watching for that which He can reward. Your sincerity of heart pleases Him, and you will receive a reward directly from His hand which delights to honor. He will promote you as one who has been faithful in little.

It is the Lord Christ whom you are serving.

Drudgery schmudgery. Take that, old time country store!

Forward Culture Shock

The Cambridge Seven, 1885

The Cambridge Seven, 1885

Culture is strong stuff. It’s always bearing down on us, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We usually don’t realize its shaping effect on our lives until we visit another culture. There we experience “culture shock,” because the way they do things is not the way we do things.

If we lived in that new culture long enough, we would be significantly reshaped. So much so, that coming back to our own home culture, we would experience what is called “reverse culture shock.” Hey, I thought this place was home, but I have changed so much that it doesn’t totally feel that way anymore! That was definitely the case for my family after calling Indonesia home for nearly 14 years, and then returning to the U.S. three years ago.

The culture of this world, warned Paul, shapes us in hidden, sinister ways. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,” he wrote to Roman believers living in a godless empire, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). Unless we swim against the current of our culture (at least the godless parts of it), we will simply not advance the kingdom culture of heaven upon the earth.

As revolutionaries, believers in a non-believing world, it is we who should be shocking the culture, not the other way around. Forward Culture Shock. I don’t mean blaring pipe organ music from our car speakers. I mean forward shocking the earth with the values of heaven. When we see injustice, we shock it with God’s value of justice. The poor we empower. The lonely we set in families. The lost we find. The broken we heal. Fear is met by faith. Generosity marks our lives more than greed. When we encounter the deeds of the flesh, we respond with the fruits of the Spirit. We are constantly at odds with the culture around us, shocking it with our sheer kingdom-culture audacity. Our lived-out kingdom values will cause the world to take a few reverse steps backwards.

Every now and then, a group of revolutionaries shock their culture so much that the world takes notice.

In 1883, a small group of college students in England forward shocked their academic culture. A visiting evangelist named Dwight Lyman Moody came to their campus of Cambridge University in England to bring some revival fire with him from what God was doing in America. As someone who had never graduated from college, Moody was reluctant to visit such a prestigious school but finally was convinced to come. The small group of students who came to hear this backwoods preacher mostly came to mock him. But there were a few in the audience who were riveted by his fiery words, one of them named C.T. Studd. Something Holy Spirit inspired happened to him during the course of those revival meetings, and by the end of the meetings 1,800 students were coming out every night and also experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit.

C.T. Studd, like most of his fellow students, came from the upper crust of English society. He enjoyed his privileged status, riding thoroughbred horses in the English countryside. He also became a well-known athlete on campus. But after those revival meetings he was never the same again. Many of his companions were scandalized that this natural-born leader on campus had gotten “saved,” but he shrugged off their condescending remarks. Eventually Studd influenced a group of them to become as fervent for the things of God as he was. This group of zealots became a cultural oddity on their campus.

Many expected C.T. to rise to the ranks of other famous English athletes, but instead he felt a call to move to China. Out of this band of disciples, seven of them committed together to move to China as a mission team together after graduation, a shock to the system of their sub-culture. How could these seven men throw away their promising lives on a prospect as dim and remote as China?  How could they throw away their promising lives?

They did move to China together upon graduation. They learned a very difficult language. They adopted the clothing of the local people. For ten years they labored there and were effective at reaching Opium addicts and other desperate people of society. They felt through it all that not one drop of their lives had been wasted.

Once C.T. became very ill and was forced to go back to England to recover. Once there, he started sharing the story of “The Cambridge Seven” which inspired countless college students to also give their live to missions. Their inspiring story was credited as one of the sparks that ignited “The Student Volunteer Movement.” On hundreds of campuses, thousands of college students signed a pledge card that read, “I am willing, if God allows it, (to serve Him) in a foreign country.” This volunteer movement lasted for over 50 years and launched 20,500 cross-cultural missionary workers to the nations over the next decades. Shocking!

One mind was renewed. Then many. One culture was forward shocked. And the world was never the same. Not bad for a bunch of thrown-away lives.

Sources:

“Europe’s Moravians: A Pioneer Missioary Church,” from Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, Fourth Edition, Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, 2009, William Carey Library, Pasadena, CA

The Creation of a Student Movement to Evangelize the World: A history and analysis of the early stages of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, Timothy C. Wallstrom, 1980, William Carey International University, Pasadena, CA

The Reward of His Sufferings

I want to be inspired. Don’t you, too?

In this current toxic and noxious political climate, I find my stomach queasy over the political leaders being held up before us, and my heart is yearning for inspiring leaders who walk in humble integrity.

Time to take a trip back to the 1700’s and talk about a leader who lived out of such godly passion that he changed his world. His transformative life was shaped not out of selfish ambition but deep humility, all centered upon Jesus.

Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf was born into a wealthy family in Germany in 1700. Though raised in a Christian stream of pietism, little Ludwig adopted the standards of the noble class he grew up with, becoming a spoiled nobleman unconcerned by the plight of his poor countrymen who served his estate. But once when he was 16 and visiting an art museum, he saw a painting of the crucifixion with the inscription, “All this I have done for you. What have you done for me?”

Nicholas’ heart was cut to the quick and he soon gave his life totally to Jesus. His relationship with the Savior grew strong and sweet.

When Nicholas was 22, a group of Protestant refugees from neighboring Moravia sought shelter from persecution at his estate in Hernhut, Germany. The count allowed them to move in to the large Berthelsdort estate. Soon after setting up houses and shops, there was much bickering among the stressed-out residents. Nicholas worked with the group’s leader, an itinerate carpenter, to try settle the quarrels and pastor the flock.

The two men led the inhabitants of the new village to cry out to God together. On an August night in 1727, God answered their prayer in a way none of them could have expected. The Holy Spirit descended one night in such an intense way that it totally transformed the community.

Spiritual renewal swept through the community and offended parties repented and asked each others’ forgiveness. Nicholas grew more madly in love for Jesus and His passion was infectious. It was said of him he would walk around the estate and could be heard muttering under his breath, “O fairest Lord Jesus,” just living moment-by-moment in intimate communion with Christ. He wrote hundreds of hymns of praise to God which the community sang together with gusto. He organized a prayer meeting started where shifts of these Moravian believers would pray around the clock seven days a week.

In 1731, Count Zinzendorf met a black slave from St. Thomas Island who pleaded with him and the community at Hernhut to send missionaries there. A missions fire was kindled in the fellowship of 300 people. Two men volunteered to go to St. Thomas Island and reach slaves with the Gospel. Many more followed their example, some even selling themselves into slavery so they could have closer proximity to the slaves they wanted to reach.

The Moravian motto became, “The Lamb is worthy to receive the reward of His sufferings.” As more Moravian believers left their familiar surrounding for foreign fields, they started a custom became to wave goodbye from their boats to teary friends and shout out, “The Lamb is worthy to receive the reward of His sufferings!”

This one fellowship in modern-day Saxony of Germany sent hundreds of missionaries to far flung outposts all over the world: the Caribbean islands, North and South America, the Arctic, Africa and the Far East. People in this community were trained in practical skills like shoemaking so that they could move anywhere on the planet and root down.

Their little mission’s movement in the following two decades sent out more missionaries than all Protestants and Anglicans had sent out in the previous two centuries! The prayer meeting that started during the spiritual renewal continued unabated, 24 hours a day, for 100 years! The prayer room became a furnace that stoked their missions fire and ignited passion in the hearts of the pray-ers. Within 150 years, this movement sent out a total of 2,158 of its members to countries all over the world. This was of course in the days when there was no electricity, computers, cars or airplanes. Nothing stopped them from making Jesus’ Name famous to the ends of the earth.

John Wesley, who started the Methodist movement, was converted after his contact with Moravians on a ship. Their passion for Jesus and willingness to pay any price for their beloved Lamb deeply impacted him and caused him to truly repent and fully pursue Christ.

A holy passion stirred in one man’s heart that ignited a flame in his community, which in turn spread out bonfires that lit up the globe.

“I have one passion,” he wrote, summing up his life’s mission. “It is He, only He.”

It all starts there. It always does.

O Lord, consume us with zeal for Your Name. Fill us up with a love and passion for You and Your fame. You are still worthy to receive the rewards of Your sufferings. Light that Moravian fire in us and our fellowships once again…to have that same driving passion for You and You alone.

Sources:

“Europe’s Moravians: A Pioneer Missioary Church,” from Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, Fourth Edition, Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, 2009, William Carey Library, Pasadena, CA

Count Zinzendorf, John R. Weinlick, 2001, The Moravian Church in America, Winston-Salem, NC

All About the Moravians, Edwin Sawyer, 1990, The Moravian Church in America, Winston-Salem, NC

Why I Wrote This Book

Growing Desperate - Book Cover - Mike OI’m a desperate man.

And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

I do think the way you and I sometimes feel about desperate people (avoid them) is way different than how Jesus feels about desperate people (they attract Him).

I started writing this book out of desperate places in my own life, when my marriage was in a bad place and our family was hit with a devastating diagnosis. God met me in that place, and I started writing in a raw way to process that journey toward restoration. “Thoughts untangle when they move through lips and fingertips,” someone once said. That was definitely the case for me, a soul in crisis untangling itself through fingertips on a keyboard.

Christianity for me had become a set of neat Christian teachings whereby we become really neat Christian people. I wouldn’t have exactly said it this way, but spiritual self-sufficiency was sort of the goal. Give me some good principles and I’ll take it from here, Jesus.

But the rug got pulled out from under me and I cried out to Jesus in a heartfelt way, reaching out to clutch on to the hem of His garment like the hemorrhaging woman in Luke 8.  Just like her, I felt His transforming power.

I also got a greater heart for desperate people during that season.  As I looked up out of my own desperation and into the eyes of Jesus, I could see and sense His compassion for other people in desperation. He fully intends His church to be fueled with heaven’s compassion toward them. There’s a Part I on desperation (in us) and a Part II (toward them).

So that’s why I wrote the book and I hope you love it.

Here’s a short little promotional video and some other promotional, pluggy type stuff:

Paperback and Kindle edition now available on Amazon.

Book Release Party, with live music performances by Dave Nevland, Clark Zaunbrecher and Andy Combs, along with a dramatization of the Luke 8 woman by Crystal Kehn. Friday, September 23, Opa Coffee Bar, Austin, 7-9 PM

Book Signing at Barnes and Noble in South Austin on Saturday, September 24, 1-4 PM

A sneak preview in sermon form.

Advance Praise:

“Honesty is what you will find as you advance through the treasures that await you in this unforgettable book. The words are not the hollow ramblings of an academic, but rather the wisdom of a man who writes from the depths of his quest to find meaning and hope in the darkest and loneliest circumstances you have ever endured. My life has been profoundly and deeply shaken by my friendship with Mike O’Quin. I invite you to read his meditations on human desperation. Prepare your heart. I dare say, you will never be the same.” — Paul Richardson, author of A Certain Risk: Living Your Faith at the Edge (Zondervan, 2010)

“Growing Desperate offers a most inspiring and compelling insight into Jesus’ promise of the kingdom for the poor in spirit. It’s well-written and chock-full of fascinating stories of Mike’s experiences from his life and the lives of people he’s served both in the U.S. and Indonesia. His winsome, transparent style of writing invites the reader to be more than okay with our own neediness. Most refreshing is Mike’s call for us not to just look inward but to also look outward to others who are needy. Mike lives what he’s addressing in his book, thus it carries much authority.” — Ron Parrish, author of From Duty to Delight: Finding Greater Joy in Daily Prayer 

“One of the biggest dangers for the Western Christian is to wrap our lives in so much bubble wrap, that we no longer remain vulnerable, raw, broken and, most of all, dependent upon Jesus. Mike carefully removes the bubble wrap we have put around our own souls as he reminds us that it’s only in our desperation that we can fully meet the perfect love that saves us. Growing Desperate reminds us that, in the same way Jesus noticed the desperate hemorrhaging woman, He notices our own, everyday brokenness as well, if only we would be desperate enough to reach up. After reading this book, you will be.” — Jessica Honegger, founder and CEO of Noonday Collection

“Mike O’Quin is equal parts storyteller and theologian. His writing is crisp and relatable, his stories are engaging, and he unpacks the Scripture with the insight of a seasoned pastor. Growing Desperate poses one of the most troubling central questions of my faith journey, ‘Where is God when I feel desperate and alone?’ It’s a question we’ve all asked, and Mike provides an answer we all need to read for ourselves.” — Rob Stennett, author of The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher and The Perfect Dad

“There are generally two types of writers who fill the pages of books in stores. The first are famous people who need some help to make their story readable. You’ll buy the book ‘cause you know who they are but struggle to finish reading their passable drivel. The second are people you’ve never heard of who have ridiculous writing talent.  Imagery leaps off the page so vivid and real you forget you’re reading. You’re living the story.  You can’t wait to read more, wished it wouldn’t end and ache to read it again. Mike O’Quin is that second type of writer. Even better, he’s lived desperation from Austin to Indonesia. You’ll feel his stories tugging at your soul. More importantly, you’ll hear the voice of God calling you to a life that’s richer, riskier and singing a new song.” — Peter Nevland, author of Exposing the Psalms and I’m Going to be a Zebra

“A much needed message for all who have come to the end of themselves and have realized their brokenness and desperation. Mike O’Quin eloquently shares how those who have exhausted themselves spiritually, emotionally, and relationally can find rest and healing for their weary souls. Growing Desperate is an excellent, moving explanation of both the heart of God and the Gospel. A highly recommended read that is sure to bless believers at every stage of life.” — R. Duncan Williams, author of the Thinkwave series

“Mike is a great communicator whether he is speaking, writing, or just in a group at lunch telling stories. Mike is also vulnerable and honest. He is good at opening up his own life and struggling with how he is doing at pursing his deepest values more than 20 years into his walk with Jesus in pastoral ministry and as a missionary. Growing Desperate will bring a challenge and comfort to you as the reader, or to a friend who really needs the encouragement.” — Mark Buckner, pastor, Community of Faith Christian Fellowship, Boston

I hope you love it! If so, please share it on your social media and review it on Amazon or GoodReads. If not, send me a personal, private email. 🙂

Thanks so much — Mike O

The Popularity Contest

My kids started back to school this week, making me feel nostalgic. Some of that nostalgia is sweet, some not so much. I remember how desperate I was in junior high to get out of nerdom and into popularity, or at least semi-popularity.

Here’s some context first. I grew up happily in a patch of soybean field called Marion, Arkansas. There were plenty of friends to play with and soybean fields to tromp in. Wild and free. When I hit junior high I got to ride my Honda scooter to school on the shoulders of the highway, which was mostly used for large, lumbering John Deere tractors.

One day when I was in the seventh grade my dad came home and announced that he had been laid off, and a few months later I said goodbye to my friends and the soybean fields and my family moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A new job waited in a city named Ocean Springs for my dad along with the scary unknown for me.

Compared to Marion, Ocean Springs was cosmopolitan and sophisticated. I tried to fit in but it was hard as the country bumpkin now living in the big city (population 20,000). One day I rode my Honda scooter to school and I was pulled over by the police and given a ticket for driving without a license or a license plate. I appeared before the judge and held back tears as my mom pleaded for mercy. It was clear I didn’t belong here.

My country fried accent made things worse. In Arkansas my sister and I used to say things like “gol’ lee” and “good gravy” as exclamations. Those were not cool words in Ocean Springs. You know your accent is hopelessly thick when the kids in Mississippi make fun of it.

At junior high I was immediately assigned to the bottom of the food chain and sat with the other bottom dwellers at lunchtime. The geeks were the only people who welcomed me into their gang. My two best friends were both named Thien Nguyen (pronounced Tin Win). They were children of Vietnamese fisherman who immigrated to the Gulf Coast, and like me, they didn’t really belong. But they were decent fellows. Every day I would sit at the nerd table with them and we would encourage each other as we slogged through another day of nerdom together.

From my vantage point as a bottom dweller I could see the other people happily swimming above.  I knew I would never be able to become popular, to sit with the beautiful cheerleaders and the glorious football players, but maybe, just maybe, I could secure a spot with the semi-popular people one day. At this level you would never be voted into the coveted categories of the yearbook’s Who’s Who pages, but you could probably show up at the school dance with a date you wouldn’t be ashamed of.

One day in biology class, my lab partner John Courtney unexpectedly invited me to eat lunch with him. I was shocked. He was a member of the semi-popular set and I felt like I had just been handed a get-out-of-jail free card while sitting on death row. This was my ticket out and for the first time I actually looked forward to lunch that day.

At lunchtime I wasn’t quite brave enough to sit myself down at the semi-popular table right away, so I took my place at the nerd table and waited for the signal from John. As usual Thien Nguyen One and Thien Nguyen Two, as we called them, were being friendly and chatty, but I was distracted, waiting for my discharge. The moment soon came. After John got settled at his semi-popular table, he nodded at me to come on over. Without a word or a farewell, I stood from the table and marched with my tray towards freedom. This was it! Just a few steps away towards semi-popularity…

To my horror, I heard behind me Thien Nguyen One and Two get up from the table too. I turned my head and saw that they were actually following me. The problem was of course that John had only handed out one golden ticket, not three. This was going to be so uncool to show up at the table on initiation day with two my nerd sidekicks. I would probably immediately be rejected and be forced to return to the lonesome losers, with no hope of ever getting out again.

I had to think fast. I quickly got to the table first and sat next to John. I knew the names of the other guys at the table and a few of them nodded at me, as if to say, “What’s up?” John spoke warmly to me, with a hearty “What’s up?” and it was clear that he had invited me in. There were only two empty seats, right to my side, and the Thien Nguyens took their places at those. A collective frown formed around the table and of the more popular guys at the table asked aloud, “Who are these f**s?”

My heart was pounding fast. I had to make the decision right then and there. Would I choose the loyalty of friendship or the possibility of popularity? The decision, I’m ashamed to admit, was way too easy for me at that pivotal junior high identity moment.

With my back turned sideways to both of my faithful friends, and not making eye contact with either of them, I answered the group’s demanding question with a shrug. “I don’t know,” I announced, showing that these losers weren’t with me. My determined eyes stayed focused into the faces of my hopefully new friends, and I could see them giving dirty stares back to the uninvited guests. It was a long, awkward moment and finally Thien Nguyen One and Two both got up, and shuffled slowly back over to the nerd table.

I had made it. Freedom!

FYI, I do feel your hatred for me right right now, so no need to spew that in the comments section. Also please don’t unsubscribe from this blog until I make my point.

Trying to make yourself popular…pretty yucky. People do all sorts of hurtful and twisted things to scratch their way toward just a little bit more popularity.

Now, much later and a hopefully a little bit wiser, I have found a new mission in life. It doesn’t involve hurting people but actually lifts them up. It’s all about making someone else popular in a way more honorable contest.

That person is…and you probably saw this coming…Jesus!

Orient your life toward that popularity contest and honor gets splashed all over the place.

The Power of Parable

rob williams“We’re all stories being written,” says Rob Williams, author of the young adult novel, “Thinkwave.” In this audio podcast, Mike O’Quin interviews Rob on why our hearts resonate with parables so much and why Jesus often conveyed timeless truths through everyday stories. Rob’s novel is a parable on the renewing of the mind, aimed at young hearts. In this conversation he describes the process of creating this science-fiction adventure story, and offers encouragement for aspiring authors with stories stirring in their own hearts.

From the back cover: “A malevolent force is on the move. Even Ecclon, the lone planet that is able to halt the onslaught of the enemy, is in peril. Hope now rests on the shoulders of a thirteen-year-old human boy. Harvey George is unexpectedly warped to another dimension where he encounters creatures beyond his wildest dreams. His mission, if successful, will forever change his life and, indeed, the future of every other world. Armed with only his thoughts and accompanied by a mischievous alien hound dog, Harvey must quickly learn to combat the malicious power.”

You can listen to the first two chapters of Thinkwave for free by clicking here and see Rob’s author blog for more on this novel and other articles. Click below to hear this conversation or search for “Faith Activators” on iTunes or Android to subscribe to this podcast.

On The Process of Editing

editingGreat, you’ve been writing hard and you’ve got some good content down. Problem is, it’s not good enough. Now the hard part. The grueling, editing, rewriting, getting brutal feedback, even more rewriting and polishing part. Mike O’Quin interviews his published author friends Eric Bryant and Rob Stennett on some encouragement to get to the finish line. Books they mention in this podcast are Eric’s Not Like Me, Rob’s The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher and Mike’s Java Wake.

If you didn’t hear our first conversation on the process of writing, click here to listen to that.

Click below to listen to this new convo, or you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes by searching for “Faith Activators.”

On The Process of Writing

writing process

In this audio podcast, Mike O’Quin interviews his author friends Eric Bryant and Rob Stennett on how they go about creating content for their articles, screenplays and books. They give a lot of helpful tidbits on how to carve out time to get into a creative flow. The books they mention in this conversation are Eric’s Not Like Me, Rob’s novel, The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher, as well as Mike’s novel Java Wake. You can find out more about them by visiting Eric’s blog and seeing Rob’s Facebook page for his upcoming book, The Perfect Father.

In a follow-up podcast to be posted next week, they discuss the grueling but crucial process of editing. Click below to listen or search for “Faith Activators” on iTunes to subscribe to this podcast.

8 Things Savvy People Do To Get People To Read Their Blogs (You Won’t Believe Number 6!)

savvy people computer1) Get Savvy

2) Have a Blog

3) Post an article to your blog

4) Find an image of a savvy looking people at their computer as the thumbnail for your article

5) Create a teaser headline which includes the phrase “you won’t believe” to get people to visit your blog article, and then share it on social media

6) Ask the Tooth Fairy to help drive traffic

7) I told you that you wouldn’t believe number 6

8) Chuckle to yourself with a sinister laugh that people visited your blog to read your meaningless article