Loud Smith Media and Publishing

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Day 91 – Thursday Thoughts

Day 91 – Thursday Thoughts

Pool was good – they added some extra chlorine so my eyes were blood red when I got finished.  I like to keep my eyes open in my pool time and so I guess it’s my fault.  Still, this red-eyed look most likely impressed the clients I met with today – I did get a double take from the President of my Lubbock homes for sale contact – He asked me if I had pink eye and I told him no.  When I said it was from pool chlorine, he went ahead and offered his hand for a handshake.  Smart to check – You don’t become the President of anything being cavalier with anything (except maybe the President of the United States). 

I started my day meeting up with my Lubbock corporate housing manager who assured me that they were happy with how our company was handling their marketing and SEO – they renewed for a six-month period again.  But I did get bad news from my Texas colleges point person.  This would be their last month using us as their marketing front due to a serious budget deficit.  This was shocking to me and it even saddened me because I had built such a good rapport with them over the year.  I guess clients cannot stick around forever – nor should they.  There does come a point when I have done all I can to get them to the best analytical place in the rankings.  I just wanted another month with them so we could finish super strong.

You lose some but then you win some right back – It turns out that ten minutes after getting that news of the client quitting, I got a call from a new restaurant that wanted our company to take over their Lubbock catering marketing.  They had been referred by the other restaurant I am working for in Lubbock.  They signed up for a one-year contract and so my company was happy to hear it.

Oh, I forgot to mention my sleep since this is part journal/part sleep study– I had another night like yesterday evening even after taking some knock-you out pills.  I just rolled around until 4 a.m. and my brain finally shut it down for the early morning.  I also had more strange dreams that I was part of a drug abusing club of people who got stoned all the time on various elements.  They kept trying to get me to take Heroin, but I told them no.  You see, I have conviction in my dreams…

Melissa had to work the late shift so she slept most of the day to get ready for the onslaught of hospital work.  Even though she had the wreck, she said she was ready to get back to work.  She is definitely tougher than me.  Her traveling nurse friends always said that Melissa was a truly compassionate and dedicated nurse and that the patients always loved having her work with them.  So, even though her colleagues pick on her (because they are much lazier than she is), she continues to rock it.  I’m happy she will be my wife sometime soon.

 I hope she will be glad I am her husband…

Day 88 – Monday invites

Day 88 – Monday invites

So, Melissa was so excited about the Bible Study idea that we made a flyer and about 100 copies of it inviting people to a study of the book of Ecclesiastes – She was going to pass them out at work and to the people who lived at our Lubbock corporate housing space –

 

Ecclesiastes?  Why not begin with the meaninglessness of life and the existentialism of this life we have?  Always a crowd pleaser…  I told her that if we had all 100 people come, we wouldn’t have enough space.  She said that I just needed to trust God and so I shook my head.  She was right again.  This Bible study will begin in two weeks on Monday nights and will just cover the themes in Ecclesiastes.  Maybe I will tell you about it each Monday or maybe I won’t.  It depends on how it goes.  I’ll say this about Ecclesiastes – it doesn’t play around.  It gives it to you straight with a right jab and then an uppercut.  It smacks the American culture around and makes you really look at the life you are leading.  It also tells you what not to pursue because of its uselessness.  I’m actually excited about this one.  I’ll make the lessons in Ecclesiastes my meditations for a while until it all sinks in.  The author of this book was given God’s full wisdom and yet he basically blew up his own life with all sorts of foolish actions.  It makes me think that no matter how wise you are, you can still act stupid.

 

But, I’m getting ahead of myself – I had a workday today that was fruitful.  I hit all my contacts to check in and give some reports that were important.  “Lubbock homes for sale” is a phrase that the realty company identified as very important to their online success and I was able to show them how well it was moving up the charts.  They are at a solid number three and I think they will have the top spot in no time.  “Best colleges in Texas” is the main phrase that Western Texas College wants to move up – what college wouldn’t want to be seen on the first page for those words – it would certainly catch my eye as a prospective student searching out Texas colleges.  I have it moving up too and they are happy.  Same for my Pre K Lubbock group and my Lubbock lawn care crew.  I’ll let you know about the other guys later.

 

A question for those of you who have are using your valuable time to read about my life:  How physical is too physical for a Christian couple as they await their marriage date?  I have to admit that I didn’t think it would be a problem to wait to cross physical boundaries and to become intimate with Melissa because we are both taking our spiritual lives so seriously, but I was wrong.  Every time we are together and alone it has become harder and harder to just kiss.  We have to basically take cold showers (alone of course) to keep our relationship relatively pure.  So, what do you think?  Any advice out there for a couple that is getting married and is waiting for marriage to have sex?  What is too far?  What should we do to keep ourselves from crossing any lines?  Any words of help would be much…Thanks in advance. 

Day 87 – Sunday church stage design

Day 87 – Sunday church stage design

I didn’t make it to my church service yesterday in the afternoon so I got up early enough to get to the early service.  What was cool was that the church architects had moved from 3D animation and architectural renderings to actual design.  Since the church was rolling out the changes in stages, half of the church stage design was completed.  You could tell that there was a lot of people in the congregation noticed it like it was a shiny, new toy.  They walked around on it like it was amazing.  And honestly, it looked exactly how the church architects had projected it would look.  I’m sure that this roll-out gave a lot of confidence to the whole congregation that what had been promised in the entire project would come to pass.  I bet the tithing was higher this Sunday because of that.

I took Melissa with me and we had donuts in the foyer before the service started.  Melissa still had fairly fresh scars on her face from the wreck and I thought she might be insecure about them, but she was just as friendly to the people around her as she had been.  This just showed me that my girl was filled with an internal security that far outdistanced my own.  I was again happy that I had her by my side.  Even when we are not talking about deep things I learn deep things about her by just watching her.  She was not ashamed of her appearance and she was not ashamed of me.  A nice combination.  It was not that she looked that bad.  And though she walked with a pronounced limp she just went with it.  Even cooler was that the people around her didn’t look at her as if she should be ashamed.  They were all very nice and loving – it reminded me of how Christ would love.  It made me glad to be at this church.  Once the sermon about faith was finished, Melissa grabbed my hand and took us to the front of the church where we could be prayed for – she told the person who would be praying for us that we were going to be the first ones married in the new chapel when it was completed and that we really needed prayer to develop a stronger relationship around God.  We got prayed for and it was a nice time.  But it did show me that I needed to be more of a spiritual leader in this relationship.  While I love Melissa’s heart, I want to be the sort of guy who doesn’t shy away from leading his wife toward a deeper relationship with the Lord.

We had lunch at a place that also specializes in Lubbock catering– it was good.  We talked about maybe hosting a Bible study at our Lubbock Corporate Housing space.  We have had parties, so why not send out invitations for people who want to grow closer to God.  We both agreed that it would be a fun exercise.  It also made me think of how I needed to get my butt into gear as far as studying the Bible so I can be the facilitator for such a group.  Meditating on your own is great but when you are the teacher and leader of others you better dig in and learn to prep for others’ growth.

Okay, that was a good Sunday – Thanks for reading.

Change Agents and Capital Campaigns

Capital Campaigns and Change Agents

Most people do not like change. If people have been doing things one way and someone introduces a change that will force them to shift their behavior, there is typically push back. This degree of this push back is usually determined by how much change is required. I recall working at one church where leadership decided to set up a new model for committees and since this forced the staff and the congregation to radically change how they related to the system of church democracy, there was a near rebellion. I guess what I am getting at is that change does happen and often it needs to happen, but that does not mean this change will be easy. In fact, some changes, no matter how necessary and no matter how small, are not accepted. The naysayers win the day. All of this can be seen in every level of society and I think most of us have had to either introduce change or be asked to change.

And like everyone, I have been a jerk when someone tries to make me change a system if the current system is working. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, right? If the change is going to cause me to learn a lot of new things that slow me down or asks me to alter my finances or my actions, I typically balk and join a little faction of other people who would rather overthrow the institution that goes the way of the change.

So. With that being said, I get to our topic of change today – Church Capital Campaigns. Church Capital Campaigns are attempts by a congregation to raise extra funds from their particular flock to either renovate a current part of the building, or to raise extra cash to pay for a whole new set of buildings. Both of these two ventures are introductions of change because people are asked to give more money and because the leadership usually forms its focus around this project. In other words, leaders shift their focus to get their congregants to get on board with the new change.

But, I have to say that any sort of change that tries to open wallets wider is the most difficult change to get people to accept. People tend to not like when churches are asking for any money from them much less asking them for even more money. Knowing this, a church that is trying to raise extra capital really needs to bring in experts who know how to introduce this most difficult change. These experts are called Change Agents.

Change Agents understand how to bring about the vision of new church design and shifts in architecture, slowly bringing the church members to buy-in. How do they do this?

More on that in the next article…

The ups and downs of Corporate Housing

Corporate Housing (aka Extended Stay) has its ups and downs.  Having recently moved into one myself, planning to stay for two months, I have to say that there are parts of it I love and parts of it I hate.  But since Corporate Housing beauty is in the eye of the renter, I'll tell you what to look for if and when you need a non-apartment solution for a work trip that is going to leave you in a city for more than 30 days.

Cost and design:  Most corporate housing is fairly affordable in the sense that most of the choices are furnished and already have wifi with cable built into the price.  But after trying a few of these homes-away-from home, I gotta say this:  Even if the monthly rent is higher for one really nice extended stay versus a cheaper and less nice extended stay, go with the more expensive one. I found that not only did I have more space to move around in my furnished suite but the entire operation was far more professional.  The cheaper version I tried was shoddy.  The sheets were too short, the remote control had been chewed up by some past guests' dog and the overall feel was claustrophobic.  As well, at the cheaper version there were hardly any staff on site and this led to waiting long periods of time for anything I needed.  Compared to the other Lubbock Corporate Housing and Midland Extended Stay options, which had higher price tags, this one corporate housing space was, in a word, ugly and poorly kept.  At these other sites, the furniture was nice and clean, the breakfast options were good, the staff was very pro, the rooms were designed in a more modern way and I felt safe in those places.

Truth in life:  You usually get what you pay for...And if you don't want to become Jack Nicholson from The Shining, try places like At-Home Corporate Housing or HomeStyle Suites and leave the cheaper versions to scoundrels and scalawags.  

Marriage 101: Why get married?


Before You get married:  Answer the Relational FUAQs (Frequently UnAnswered Questions)

                                             

MARRIAGE 101

Have you ever asked the Frequently UnAnswered Questions? 

If not, you need to.  I am not expecting you to take them all on at one time.  But if you can take them slowly and have your significant other do the same, you will be a long way down the road to knowing what potential problems you might face (or actual problems you are facing) in your relationship.

Most of the questions below are questions about hopes, dreams and expectations and they are divided topically.  What I suggest is that you be as honest as you can with your answers, even if your answers vary widely from your partner’s.  Pay special attention to the areas where there is wide variance between you and your partner.  Where major gaps exist are where major relational problems originate.  Big gaps force big compromises or big issues, which can lead to anger, resentment, bitterness and especially disappointment.

*One must realize that keeping anger, resentment, bitterness and disappointment at minimum levels is a crucial thing when it comes to marital health. 

So, if you do discover big gaps between you and your partner while you answer the questions below, do not ignore them or wish them away.  Make sure to find someone who can help you determine how to best bridge these gaps now before it is too late.

Now without further ado, let’s jump into our first set of FUAQs about why you want to get married in the first place…

I.  Motivation Questions

Do you have the correct motivations for marriage? 

Motivations are what drive you to act.  Motivations are what get you to press the pedal down and charge into a decision.  Motivations are the why behind the what.  They are the reasons why we move.  And if we move for the wrong reasons - if we step out because of misguided motives - and if things do not go the way that we thought they might, we will live doubt-ridden, frustrated lives…

I know far too many people who have less-than-perfect motivations when it comes to stepping into the search for a life partner.  People want to get married, but they desire a relationship for the wrong reasons.  Some of the most classic motivations are listed below with accompanying explanation and critique. 

1.  It’s time - Our culture is pretty clear.  Marriage is supposed to happen for normal people at some point between the ages of 19 and 35.  If you do not land someone for an altar meeting ‘I do’ during this stage, you will be quietly judged as a relational failure or some sort of oddball.  In America, marriage is an expectation.  It means something.  And it has a timeframe, which carries with it a pressure for most people. 

“I have to get married soon.”  That is what I hear people saying beginning from the time they graduate from high school until the ceremony is planned.  This voice gets louder and this pursuit gets more desperate with each passing birthday.  “Are you seriously dating anyone?”  That is the question coming from all directions.  And we feel it and we act to answer it. We know the “acceptable” window to grab hold of a significant other and we do all we can to check this off of our lists before the furrowed brows and turned down mouths undo our self-confidence.  As a result of this, we tend to settle for some one rather than the right one.  Or even worse, we bring someone into our most intimate nearness before we have been fully formed. We allow the cultural pressures to rush us into a hasty decision.  We do not wait because we cannot wait. 

And isn’t culture correct?  Look at the mirror.  The mirror agrees.  My reflection is at its best during this timeframe.  I have the best chance to get the best person if I have fewer wrinkles and tighter pecs.  I am at my most attractive now, even if I am still emotionally and spiritually immature.  I can attract a better-looking human if I sign up now.  So let’s go.  Let’s give in to cultural expectations.  Let’s give into our reflections.  Let’s set ourselves up for a soul-crushing divorce.  

“Not the best idea, Culture!”

While it is true that one will never be completely ready for marriage, this does not mean that the “soonest moment” is as good as any.  There are relational, emotional and spiritual lessons you can master before vowing your way into a lifelong covenant, which will help to increase your chances for joy and success within marriage.  It is a better time for marriage after you have “educated” yourself in these things.  So whether you are 18 or 45 (13 in Kentucky), do not let the rush set in.  Do not be motivated by someone else’s timeframe for you.  Become as ready as you can before you order the wedding cake.

2.  Completion - In the 1990’s there was hardly any movie quote more famous than the one Tom Cruise spoke out to Renee Zelwegger in the movie Jerry Maguire.  As Tom looked across the room, over several couches I am sure he was longing to jump on, his character told his estranged wife, “You complete me.”  And while super cheesy, this line has become a motivation for people as they seek to ‘hook a lifer’ to put in their heart’s prison. 

I have counseled many people of both sexes who will speak out this same sentiment.  Either “I want someone to complete me,” or “I am marrying this person because they will complete me.”  Sounds cool, if only we were puzzles (but then it would not be that cool if we were puzzles, because puzzles do not marry – they are inanimate.) 

The best part of this stated motivation is that people who say it are correct in their self-assessment.  They are incomplete and they do need completing.  We are all gapped and chipped and most of us are well aware of these breezy spaces.  This is an important realization that I do not want to minimize.  It is this realization that brings us to the truth of our personal brokenness, which can lead us to seeking help.  But it is a dangerous motivation for marriage. 

Why?

Reality:  The person you are either dating or searching for will be like you in their incompletion.  They will not complete you and you will not complete them.  In fact, this person will do more to complicate you than complete you.  “You complicate me,” is what we should be saying to each other. 

We all bring craziness to the table and to think that another imperfect human who is carrying their own emptiness into oneness is going to be the missing piece we need is foolishness.  And it is actually a cruel expectation.  To bear the weight of having to be someone else’s completion is too heavy a burden.  If this is the reason you are bringing another human into your life, you will be disappointed.  They will not be able to do it. 

3. Straight-up attraction - Some people meet someone who fits right into their marriage ideal.  This person/prey is both hot enough and cool enough to warrant an immediate proposal.  Most of us have our lists and when someone matches most of the physical items on these lists, we claim them.  In other words, we become motivated by our ideals and driven by our common and physical senses.

This is a weak motivation because most of the things we are attracted to will fade and many of our ideals are not ideal.  People who marry beauty will struggle as their mate loses muscle and shakes hands with unattractiveness.

4.  Compatibility – Just because two people really, really like the same music, the same movies, the same television shows, the same style of hipster eyewear, the same restaurants, the same type of beer, and the same political party, does not mean they should get married. 

Yes, it is true that compatibility and shared affinities typically link people into fun friendships.  And yes, it is nice when these things exist within a marriage.  It would suck to be married to a Lady Gaga groupie who re-watches Friends episodes when you prefer Death Metal and think television has been created for idiots.

But, as a lot of “compatible” couples find out after moving from the fun, romantic dating relationship and into a busy and often stressful marriage relationship, a life together is not built solely on what you both enjoy.  Unfortunately they do not realize this truth until they’ve already locked in for life.  Many couples are easily fooled by the compatibility motivation because there is the thought that “I’ve finally found someone who is a lot like me, because they like what I like.  We have too much in common for this not to be a workable lifelong partnership.”  This is a mistake for many reasons:  the compatibility focus is on external similarities which usually change over time; people often temporarily like what you like because they want to be in a relationship with you and don’t want anything to get in the way of perfection.

In conclusion, if you can find a person who you are extremely compatible with and they also pass some deeper, internal tests for lifetime partnership, you are a blessed human being.  But do not let yourself fall in love with someone you would do better going to Coachella or on a cruise with once a year.

5.  Offspring look-alikes - Most people want kids.  I am not sure why.  Babies cry and poop.  Toddlers pull stuff off of store shelves and throw tantrums to get the newest video game systems.  Then, after twelve years of having every one of their needs met, they morph into teenagers who borrow money, mock their parents and wreck family cars. 

Anyway, I am not here to argue with the claim that there is no joy like having mini gene pool pals that will someday stick their parents into nursing homes.  I’m not the children-Grinch.  Kids are most certainly a blessing and I’m not trying to rain on any fertile parents’ parades.  I love playing with my nieces and nephews and training all of them how to successfully and sarcastically manage the world as it is.  (Having kids around can also be quite good for the person who needs to have their selfishness levels knocked down a few notches.)  But I will admit that I am here to attack “having children” as a motivation for marriage.  People who want to walk down the aisle with another person just so they can get one of these homemade tots are off their rockers. 

Having kids within a marriage is a grand miracle.  But let’s be honest – one command that has been adequately taken care of is “Be fruitful and multiply.”  We've got plenty of people on the earth and no big crowd is outside your window chanting for you to add to the pile and to the traffic. 

Just because you have the equipment to make it happen does not mean every couple should make use of that equipment to own a cool real-life doll to dress up and train in your odd manners and customs.  Go to the American Girl store and pretend first before you marry someone merely to have a partner who is willing to raise a kid with you. 

6.  Companionship/Fears of Loneliness – The Beatles sang it well:  “All the lonely people.  Where do they all come from?  All the lonely people.  Where do they all belong? Ah, look at all the lonely people.  Ah, look at all the lonely people.  Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name.  Nobody came.”

Who the heck wants to be Eleanor Rigby?  Who wants to be one of the lonely people?  A person who lives on a crowded planet, but without having anyone who knows them, who hears them and who loves them.  That sort of reality sounds like a nightmare for most people (minus a few well-adjusted introverts, hermits and recluses.)  And to keep from becoming one of these permanent lonelies, people grasp at marriage as if it will be their salvation from one of their greatest fears. 

“If I am married, I will always have someone who cares about me, who will always be with me and who will love me despite my weaknesses.”

A marriage = A lifetime companion = Someone to hang out with every day = Someone who will know me and care about me more than anyone else.

This is a really strong motivation for marriage in a lot of people.  And it is not a bad one.  But, here is some good advice for anyone who has this as a primary motivation for marriage:

-Don’t become dependent on one person for your happiness or your companionship.  This dependence can be smothering and can drive people away; as well, set you up to make ridiculous compromises to hold onto them.  If you “need” one person, you most likely won’t set healthy boundaries with them. 

-Have very low expectations for your lifetime companion.  Most humans are more horny attack dogs than faithful Golden Retrievers.  Don’t let a lonely heart fool you.  

-Don’t expect marriage to kill loneliness.  Some of the loneliest people in the world are married and cannot figure out why.  Most of the time it is because they have not built up a solid support structure of people outside of their marriage. 

Suicide Not...?

A lot of good people have committed suicide -

And when I say good, i really mean, "likable" or "friendly" or "talented" or "kind."

(I don't think anyone is "GOOD" especially in light of what Jesus said about his own lack of earthly goodness - If JC didn't claim goodness for himself, then I'm not going to apply that tag to myself or anyone else.)

Anyway, suicide is a common act chosen by people from just about every spot on the "good continuum."  And it is not as simple of an act to understand as most make it out to be - Determining a successful suiciders' motivation for taking themselves out cannot be done with a quick "selfish" or "stupid" or "easy way out" or even "they were depressed."  

Even if you have a suicide note in hand which might try to detail the reasonings behind the self-killers' movement, you don't have much to really go on.  Truth is that most people who kill themselves are not entirely sure why they have decided to end it all.  

Life is complicated and typically filled with a lot of pressures, losses, and negative circumstances - Sadness and pain stacks up for most and sometimes the final catalyst for a suicide might be the Jenga-pull put in the note, but it does not tell the entire journey from breathing to brutal stop. 

So, how about we stop guessing?

How about we simply assume this instead:  The person was having a really hard time - a time we cannot understand - and we will never be able to fully grasp their decision.  This assumption does not wrap it up as nicely as we might want it for the sake of closure, but it is more honest.

On the topic of suicide, it seems that far too many people involved in the creative arts kill themselves.  As a creative person myself, and as a person who has suffered from crushing levels of chemical depression and anxiety which have led me to the edge of this decision, I imagine that the above assumption still applies best.  In this world, we have many promised troubles that are not easy to persevere through.  

You might not have ever faced down a stack of troubles big enough to lead you to consider/desire death, but don't think you are past the possibility.  I never thought I would ever stare down a superstack of chemical, financial, relational, mental, and physical rainy days - But then a domino fell onto others and I found myself looking at one final writing project - my note.

Thankfully, my note turned into a journal entry and my God rebuilt (VERY SLOWLY) my world that still has plenty of troubles.  As well, thankfully, I changed the way I talked about suicide as a destination and I stopped simplifying the journey of pain that leads to a seemingly unstoppable jump.

Ever been at the edge?

What led you there?

What kept you from diving into the finality?

I hope to share my story with you over time, but I hope even more that you can feel free to share your story back.

We are survivors who know those who just could not go at it one more day.  

Check out my book series Mesus - if only for the first sections which deal with the subject of suicide - and lean hard on God - I strongly suggest making Jesus into your Master of choice too for he is the only one I can think of who was known as a man of sorrows and who actually faced "sorrow to the point of death."

Thanks for support from my friends at Steve Shepard art and from the creative masters at Dream Taxi Media and Marketing.

 

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