Two Years ago, I was introduced to a whole new world. And it was one that moved my heart, beyond measure. I met a beautiful Kindred Spirit, Known as Jill, and she has two boys. The oldest one, is on the spectrum, and is non-verbal autistic. And boys boys are Type 1 diabetic. And at the same time, was introduced to a place called, Camp Attitude! This was a place that literally moved me to tears. Here is a short video clip about Camp Attitude!
I can only hope and pray that Jill and the boys can continue to go to this amazing place. The respit time is amazing! And the helpers, I mean, the tears are flowing right now, thinking of the times I’ve seen, the young people who are devoted to help special needs children! The Buddies are amazing!
Most writers struggle with getting their writing done for one surprising reason. They think writing is a one-step process, when in fact, it’s a three-step process.
What we call “writing” is actually made up of three distinct activities: coming up with ideas, turning those ideas into drafts, and then editing those drafts into publishable pieces.
When I decided to become a writer and made the commitment to write 500 words per day, every single day, I quickly ran into the resistance that holds most of us back from doing our work.
I’d get up early, brew my coffee, and sit down to write. And I’d wait. And wait. And I’d wait for the words to come, but nothing would come quickly. Some days, nothing would come at all.
The minutes would tick by, with me stupidly staring at the cursor, squandering what little time I had before having to go to work. When my writing time was over, I’d pack my stuff up, defeated, and beat myself up for the rest of the day.
Why couldn’t I focus?
The truth is most writers struggle with this. Because they believe the myth that writing is one thing. When I realized that coming up with a great idea, writing 500–1,000 words on that idea, and then editing that idea into something I could publish on my blog — all in one sitting — was, in fact, a ridiculous goal, everything changed.
I began breaking those activities — ideation, creation, and editing — into three separate actions. And you know what? When you have one goal to accomplish, you are far more productive and focused than when you have three.
As I did this, writing became easier and easier. I started writing more. I stopped getting writer’s block — period. I didn’t feel stuck anymore. I knew exactly what I needed to do, and I knew I could do it — so I did.
What resulted was, to my own chagrin, a system. To be honest, I’m not a very organized guy. I wish I were. But the truth is most of my life is messier than I care to admit. But what I’ve realized is every working writer I know has some sort of system to get the work done.
A system doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing. It just has to work. A system is just a way of doing something that gets you a predictable result every time. Like, putting your keys in the same place every day after work (which I only recently started doing).
Below is my system, and maybe it’ll work for you, too. I call it: The Three-Bucket System. And it’s how I get my writing done.
Bucket #1: Ideas
All throughout the day, I capture ideas using an app called Drafts that syncs with Evernote.
That’s the first bucket: ideas.
I have a whole folder full of them for when I’m feeling dry in the creativity department.
You can use a notebook for this as well. The tool doesn’t matter, as long as you aren’t just hanging onto all those ideas in your brain. Don’t trust that operating system. It will fail you.
You must capture ideas in a place where you can return to them later when your memory fails you and the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.
Bucket #2: Drafts
Then, when it’s time for me to write (usually in the morning), I’ll pull an idea out from the first bucket and start writing, usually around 500 words in one session. This process makes it easier to just start writing because I don’t have to think about what I’m going to write — I already have a prompt.
The ideas I collect function as prompts for me, but this is not just a writing exercise. It’s work. I never write something without the intent of publishing it.This is what my friend Marion calls “writing with intent.” The best practice is the kind done in public, and the best writing is the stuff you intend to publish.
Once I’ve written about 500 words on my idea, I save it as a draft in Scrivener (if I’m working on a book) or in Byword (if it’s a blog post). Again, these are the tools I use. They don’t matter as much as the method.
This is the second bucket: drafts.
At any given time, I have a whole bunch of half-finished chapters and blog posts on my computer begging to be edited and completed.
This is not an overwhelming feeling. It’s an empowering one, because when it’s time to edit, I get to choose what I want to work on. I don’t have to come up with an idea or “just write.”
The point of this system is to think as little as possible and just do the next thing.
Bucket #3: Edits
Finally, I pull out one of those half-completed drafts and edit it. I’ll polish up the flow and sentence structure and of course, check for grammar and spelling.
At this point, the piece isn’t perfect, but it’s at least 90% done. I’ll either schedule it for a blog post or tuck it away in another folder called “Finished pieces” on my computer.
This is the third bucket: edits.
These are pieces of writing that are more or less ready for the world to see. The next step is to share them with an editor or publisher or post to my blog. Again, I don’t write anything just for fun. It all has a purpose.
This is what professionals do. They write for an audience, always with the intent of publishing. Anything less than that will result in something that isn’t your best work.
Putting it together
So here’s how this works in practice. But a quick word: if you’re just beginning, you’ll really need two days to get the system fully running.
1. Collect Ideas
Today, as you go on with the rest of your day, grab any ideas that come to you and capture them in a notebook or on an app that you can easily return to later. Shoot for five ideas. Write down a sentence or a phrase. Just enough to save the idea.
2. Write and Save
Tomorrow, when it’s time to write (say, in the morning, or whenever works for you), pull one of those ideas out of that first bucket.
I find that certain ideas speak to me, call to me even, and I try to listen to that voice. But sometimes, I just pick one. Typically, I choose the one that either most excites me or represents a deadline I have to meet.
When you’re done, put this piece in the “drafts” folder and save it for later. Then today, you’re done.
3. Edit and Publish
The day after, return to yesterday’s draft and edit it. Then move it to bucket three, maybe even publish it on your blog or wherever. Then go to bucket one to pull out a new idea and start writing again.
Do this every day, and you’ll never run out of writing topics. You’ll never run out of things to edit and publish. You’ll never have writer’s block again.
As long as you remember: writing is not one thing. It’s three things. So that’s my system. Give it a try, and let me know how it works.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)
The second piece of the armor of God that Paul discusses in Ephesians 6 is the breastplate of righteousness.
In the armor of a Roman soldier, the breastplate served as protection for some of the most important parts of the body. Underneath the breastplate is the heart, lungs and other organs necessary for life. Therefore, if a soldier did not wear his breastplate, he was vulnerable to an attack that could result in instant death.
So, why does Paul call it the breastplate of righteousness? If we do not protect ourselves with righteousness, we open ourselves up to attack from the enemy and can fall into sin.
To be righteous means to obey God’s commandments and live in a way that is honorable to Him. Psalm 106:3 says, “How blessed are those who keep justice, who practice righteousness at all times!”
Unfortunately, our sinful nature often gets in the way of living an upright life. When we decide to live based on our own desires rather than God’s, we make decisions that are harmful to ourselves and others. Romans 8:6 says, “So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”
How can we put on the breastplate of righteousness? We can start by being knowledgeable of God’s Word, which will allow us to understand how to live a righteous life. When trials and temptation come our way, we can base our decisions in His Word.
In addition, through prayer, we can ask God to empower us to resist living in sin and to do what is right according to Him. 1 John 3:22 says, “And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey and do the things that please him.”
As Christians, we can put on the breastplate of righteousness in our daily lives. In becoming aware of the decisions we make, we can determine whether or not they are based in God’s Word. In addition, we can ask Him to give us the strength to live righteously. Ultimately, this will allow us to withstand attacks from the enemy and live in ways that glorify Christ.
It would seem that the dreaming season is back upon us. At least the time to remember the dream.
Last nights dream.
At the House.
My family and I were at our house, a 4,500 square foot, Ranch style, two story home, with a completely finished basement. A beautiful home that Jill, myself, Tyler and Jesse lived, along with Jill’s Mom and Dad. It was on a very large property. A very real country setting. No real next door neighbors, to speak of. A dirt road, with some ruts and holes in the road. Some small ponds, next to parts of the road. With tad poles, and even some trout in others, that were connected to a stream.
One day, in the dream, we were helping Dad and mom move into a new home next to our property, and the boys were being very helpful and wanting to carry some smaller items over to the new house. As they went out to the road, a person on a side by side, quad, type vehicle, was speeding up the road, it was loud and scared the kids off the road. THAT got my attention, and I yelled at the guy driving the side by side. He stopped, turned around and apologized. The oldest of the two was very upset at what just happened. He is a great helper when it comes to moving things, and if disrupted, he just does not like that, at all!
Everyone was happy, and we were walking along next to a pond, just out enjoying the warm clear, weather. A beautiful Spring day. We came across an older, lady, sitting on a rocking chair on her porch, she had white hair, and was most likely in her late 80’s.
We waved at her, and she waved for us to come to her, so we did, and she wanted to share a lemonade with us all. So, Jill and I sat down on the porch, and the boys went off to play and explore. The lady, never did catch her name, while she was pouring our lemonade, began to speak over us. She made the statement, “I see that you two understand what beauty means, when it comes out of ashes!” We looked at each other, kind of speechless and kind of in shock! Our eyes began to well up with tears, as we knew this lady was about to speak live and love over us. She continued, “God gave you both a certain ability that not everyone gets. Also, not everyone gets you two, but you know, deep down inside what HE spoke over you. You both see things differently in this world, and it is going to allow you to take the abilities you have to help other people walk out of darkness into light! It is a powerful calling that HE has placed on your lives, NOW is the time to write, release what you write and pray and watch how God uses what HE has placed in your hearts!” I looked over at Jill, with Tears streaming down my face, and tears streaming down hers as well. And we just sat there, in awe, praying in our hearts!
Then BAM, I woke up, with tears streaming down my face, and praying for Jill and her family, at the same time.
Growing up, my childhood memories were filled with hanging out with my cousins, yes, but for the most part, remember being that of a bit of a loner. Never really had the feeling that I fit it. Felt a bit like the black sheep of the family. Even to this day. Been pondering this thought for a number of years, and now, people still don’t understand who I am. Even family, and you know, learning to be okay with that. There are people out there like me. Found one, who will forever have a special place in my heart. For you see, through a series of unfortunate events, some bad choice were made on my part and scared her off. (Heart Broken to this day).
Those of you from my generation are sure to remember the 1964 animated TV special, “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
In this classic tale, Sam the Snowman narrates the story of Rudolph, a reindeer who is born with a glowing red nose. His father – Santa’s lead reindeer, Donner – feels ashamed, and uses a special cover to hide Rudolph’s nose so that he can join in the Reindeer Games. During some horseplay, the cover on Rudolph’s nose pops off; after seeing his glowing nose, the other young bucks begin ridiculing Rudolph. Rudolph is banned from the rest of the games. Rudolph runs off into the woods and meets up with Hermey, an elf who had been forced out of his job because he was more interested in dentistry than toymaking and singing. The two bond, singing “We’re a Couple of Misfits” after they discover they each have something that makes them unique. Later, they meet a prospector named Yukon Cornelius. The trio manages to flee to the Island of Misfit Toys, an island populated by abandoned toys with idiosyncrasies. Working together, the three save the day by rescuing Christmas, Rudolph and Hermey are no longer ridiculed, and the lead elf finally allows Hermey to open a dentist’s office the week after Christmas.
Wisdom is gained through challenges
I’ve always enjoyed this tale, and I can relate to its powerful message. The morale of the story is that, despite perceived flaws or differences, we are all valuable. Some of my most meaningful work was accomplished alongside folks who, like me, might be considered inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys.
Most of us aim for a positive and progressive career path. Unfortunately, that rarely occurs. Life is never as expected, and challenges are needed to facilitate our growth.
It’s enjoyable to see people you know who are doing well and growing professionally. It’s even better to see colleagues who’ve had some sort of professional setback (unplanned job change, poor work alignment, bad boss, etc.) and overcome the challenge to shine brightly again. I look at these folks with admiration, and I know firsthand just how difficult those situations can be.
I experienced a professional setback during my 15-year career. It was a painful and challenging experience. While I would never want to go through it again, I can look back and see the wisdom gained, and how it fueled the next level of my personal and professional growth. Simply put, I’m a lot stronger and more successful today because of that experience.
Don’t feel like damaged goods!
If you’re the one going through challenges today, or still smarting from challenges that occurred in your past, don’t let these experiences make you feel like damaged goods! You’re not! I believe one day you’ll look back and be grateful for the challenges you’ve overcome. It’s these challenges that bring out and refine our strengths. You’ll gain wisdom through overcoming these challenges, and that wisdom makes you a better candidate for the right team – a team that will value your experiences and the stronger you.
The value of wisdom on a team
Some of the most amazing professionals I’ve ever worked for have had experiences that made them feel like misfit toys. Get to know them well enough to hear their stories and you’ll most likely hear that those experiences shaped their character, determination, focus, and values.
It’s been said that “knowledge” is the facts and ideas we acquire through study, research, investigation, observation, or experience. “Wisdom” is the ability to discern and judge which aspects of that knowledge are true, right, lasting, and applicable to your life. Life’s experiences give us the ability to discern, judge, and make better decisions. When I’m looking for the right people to collaborate with, I prefer wisdom over knowledge.
Why it matters
Whether we are individually working to become our very best selves or trying to build the very best team, let’s remember the Island of Misfit Toys. In ourselves and others, let’s value those life experiences that strengthen, and human uniqueness that allows people to look at things differently.
The Healing, The Restoration, The Amusement Park, & The Confirmation
When I woke, I was crying and praying at the same time.
The setting, Jill, both boys and I were in a place that looked like Disneyland. A lot of activity, music, and the boys were having a blast. Tyler was about 12 years old and Jesse about 9 years old. Tyler needed to go to the bathroom and was getting our attention for that, as we were going from one ride to then next. Tyler was able to easily communicate with us on what he needed, so we asked on of the workers where the nearest restroom was, and we began to walk in that direction. On the way there, there was a sign on one of the walls that indicated that was a special speaker, evangelist in town this evening. I mentioned to Jill that we should check it out. She nodded yes. We were rushing to the restroom to help Tyler, on the way there, we passed a lady, who seemed to have trouble walking, here legs and arms were blue, and she hunched over as we passed her. That was odd. In my heart, I began to pray for her.
We made it to the restroom, and we began making our way to the next ride, on the way there, this other family was walking by us, heading in the same direction, and then I noticed that the lady that was hunched over, that we had passed earlier, was with this family walking by us, heading in the same direction. As we were waking, struck up a simple conversation with this family, then I asked, “Would it be okay we prayed for you?” The husband was a bit shocked, and the wife was open to the idea. They accepted our offer, so we began to pray, Jill, the boys and I reached out to hold their hands, and I began to pray that God would heal the circulation in both their physical systems, and began to declare God’s healing over them, then other people began to join us, as they saw what was going on, as tears began to stream down the faces of this couple, it did to Jill and I as well, as I looked over at Jill, we were both crying as well. That was done, the couple hugged us, and kept thanking us, and we were on our way. As we walked away, Jill looked at me and made a comment, almost under her breath, “YOU Have changed!” To which I stated, “Just doing what God wants me, “US” to do. Tears streaming down my face as we walked, and reached out to hold her hand. Too which, she reached back, to grasp my hand.
Then it switched to a new scene.
We were at the service with the evangelist and can remember the worship, being peaceful, and full of excitement and expectation. Not a show, or entertainment, but a true move of our Creator. We were all able to worship, and enter into HIS presence corporately. Then as the service went on, the special speaker was invited to come on stage, It was a lady speaker, she has written many books, and came to share what God has laid on her heart. Jill and I were sitting on the front row, and as this gal began to speak, she noticed us, and stopped for a second, and said, “Just a minute, I need to find out this couples names, and why they felt led to pray for people, at an amusement park. There is an anointing that rest on their lives, that was placed there by God, and I want to hear more about them!”
Then, boom, I woke up!Crying and praying at the same time.
l. Words of affirmation – using words to build up the other person. “Thanks for taking out the garbage.” Not – “It’s about time you took the garbage out. The flies were going to carry it out for you.”
2. Gifts – a gift says, “He was thinking about me. Look what he got for me.”
3. Acts of Service – Doing something for your spouse that you know they would like. Cooking a meal, washing dishes, vacuuming floors, are all acts of service.
4. Quality time – by which I mean, giving your spouse your undivided attention. Taking a walk together or sitting on the couch with the TV off – talking and listening.
5. Physical touch – holding hands, hugging, kissing, sexual intercourse, are all expressions of love.
Out of these five, each of you has a primary love language which speaks more deeply to you than all the others. Discovering each other’s language and speaking it regularly is the best way to keep love alive in a marriage.
Out of these five, each of you has a primary love language which speaks more deeply to you than all the others. Discovering each other’s language and speaking it regularly is the best way to keep love alive in a marriage.
Seldom does a husband and wife have the same primary love language. We tend to speak our own language and wonder why they don’t respond. The reason is, they did not get the message, on an emotional level. You express your love by doing things for your spouse, but what they want is physical touch. Your spouse gives you a gift, but what you really want is quality time. You are both sincere, but you are not connecting. Once you discover and speak your spouse’s primary love language, I believe you will have discovered the key to a long-lasting, loving marriage. Love need not evaporate after the marriage, but in order to keep it alive, most of us will have to learn a second language. We cannot simply do what comes naturally for us. We must learn to speak their language, and that takes thought and effort. The good news is that you can do it. You can keep love alive in your marriage.
What is the purpose of marriage? Sex? Companionship? Love? To provide a home for children? Social acceptance? Economic advantage? Security? In the Bible, God looked at Adam and said: “It is not good for man to be alone”. The word means ‘cut off, isolated’. God’s answer? “I will make him a helper suitable for him.” God created Eve and said: “the two shall become one flesh.” It is interesting that the Hebrew word for “one” is the same word that is used of God. “ Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one…” It means – composite unity. Father, Son, and Spirit – God is one. Each carrying out a different role, but one. So in marriage, the two are one. Intimacy, unity, oneness is at the heart of God’s purpose for marriage.
Last week, I heard the Lord give me advance warning that, THIS week, He would be pouring out the anointing to clean up messes.
As soon as I heard this, I felt the Lord brooding over it with a deep compulsion and travail.
I wondered why He was telling me this in advance, and He spoke to my heart that:
1) He was giving us time to pray and prepare; and
2) We would need to pray our way through this, because some of the messes we need to clean up have been intimidating us for so long.
I sent this info out by email in a prophetic bulletin (sign up for free email updates here if you haven’t already done so), letting you know that I plan to fast and pray over this word–as well as to sow a seed, which I did. You may want to join me in these things if you feel led to do so.
(Even fasting and praying one meal a day makes a big difference as long as your heart is right before God. And, sowing a seed–and naming your seed when you sow it–tells the Lord you believe/receive the word, PLUS it gets you “skin in the game” in the word–investing you fully in it, which is helpful and necessary if you want to see progress and change. Sowing a seed is also a way to thank Him in advance for keeping His Word to help you in this area.
Today, I asked the Lord to tell me more about this anointing to clean up messes, and here is what He said:
“I am giving you the anointing to clean up messes. The anointing came on you a few days ago, and it will continue.
Clean up messes while the anointing is fresh. Do it now. My anointing in this area is not to do things for you; it is to help you do things you have been needing to do for a long time.
The spirit of intimidation has been working against you, telling you that things are too hard. But, I say to you today that it is not too hard. Really, the enemy’s attack of intimidation should be a sign to you that My help and My grace are sufficient for you; for the enemy wants to keep you from My grace and that is why he intimidates you.
But My help is here for you to clean up messes.
I will work with you and through you to do this. And although the anointing will continue after this week, I will tell you that THIS WEEK is a kairos time to clean up the messes that have been piling up, intimidating you, and frightening you.
Do not be afraid. Fear is not from Me. I am with you always, to keep you and to comfort you.
Look all around you and see; your future is gathering to you.
Your destiny is happening right now. It is no longer in the distant future; it is in the now. But how can you move forward with the messes of the past clinging to you?
Behold, I make all things new.
In order for Me to make all things new, you must cooperate with Me. You must allow the baggage of the past to literally be placed in the trash can.
This is why I need you to declutter right now. The things of the past are old and tired. To move forward, even the things you thought you would fix or repair have to go. Even the things you have kept because of their symbolism, in some cases, will need to go.
It’s not that fixing and repairing isn’t good. It’s not that good and holy symbolism isn’t nice. But, My child, I need you to be agile. I need you to be quick and streamlined and focused. All the mess around you, in whatever area, gets in your way and bogs you down.
I have been telling you that I am doing a quick work, and I am. That’s why the mess must go.
The work that I am doing will make your head spin. The speed of the work will be intense. You will need an uncluttered mind (filled only with My Word, and not with strife or stress), an uncluttered home, and an uncluttered soul and spirit (focused only on Me) in order to advance with Me.
You have no idea how important this is to your quality of life.
The stress you have been under affects everything. Decluttering and cleaning up messes this week will make way for My Spirit to move in your heart, mind, spirit, and life in ways you have only been dreaming of–AND MORE.
This week is a kairos, opportune time.
I will always help you with whatever you need to do, but THIS WEEK is the week I have chosen for you to get these hindrances and obstacles out of your life. Notice that I said “for YOU to get” … meaning, you must do this yourself, with My help of course. This is going to take gumption on your part, but if you will simply surrender to My anointing, My Spirit will help you. He is waiting for you right now, I say; even now.
Do everything you can this week to clean up messes. Do not hold on to things.
I know you have been holding on to some things for sentimental reasons, but again I say: where you are going, there is no time for junk. Keep the things I tell you to keep, and throw away everything else. Do the things I tell you to do, and don’t do anything else. Walk the way I ask you to walk, and don’t go anywhere else.
What you do this week could change your life.
However, it’s up to you. Will you cooperate with My Spirit? Will you allow Me to help you? Will you trust Me to give you grace to overcome the things that have been intimidating you?
It’s up to you; but I promise you that I will be with you if you will but go. Go and do. Go and handle those things I have asked you to handle. Throw dynamite in your log-jam; go all-in and all-out. Clean up the messes that I am asking you to clean, and you’ll be glad you did.
Does this word about the anointing to clean up messes speak to your heart? If so, pray this with me:
“Father God, in Jesus’ name, I choose to surrender to Your help and Your Spirit and Your Word. Please help me to clean up messes this week; I choose to cooperate with Your anointing. Let it be to me, on earth and in my life, just as it is in Heaven. Let my life resemble Heaven more every moment this week, and give me grace to declutter, to let go, and to clean up everything you have asked me to clean up. Thank You, Abba Father. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
Things have been reset in my heart and mind. Walking down the path that I’m called too.
The calling is that of making a positive difference in this world, and helping people walk out of the “HELL” they may find themselves in, for what ever reason, what ever choice that was made. A time of healing and restoration is for everyone. To allow our Creator to make Beauty from the Ashes that may have found itself on your life.
There have been people praying for me, voices that have been speaking life over me for the past year, and was not hearing with my heart, as it was overshadowed in the dark. THAT is no longer the case. There is a movie scene that perfectly depicts how this feels to me in my heart.
A gal, that I know, who is very dear to my heart, her and her family, lived in Hawaii for a number of years spoke life over me for well over a year, and now my heart hears and sees. Here is a scene from Moana that means the world to me, and can actually hear, her singing with the movie, as she sat next to me, as tears stream down our faces as we watch what was going on in the movie. A moving and very powerful scene.
Hatred being softened back to LOVE! Hardness changing to good and beauty. Yes, this is a beautiful scene and there is one gal that, it is my hope, that one day, will be able to thank her in person. Thank you for helping restore the heart of Alexander H. Atkinson, Jr. Without your prayers, this would not have happened, and the prayers of your parents and sister, and my family as well. Embarking back on the trail that was begun many years ago.