Saturday, December 8, 2012

Overdue Book

For once I don't have an overdue library book in my house! Of course that's because I returned it this morning. And it was one that Andrew checked out on my card...but I'm stalling...

I am happy to announce I have published my novel Such is Life as an E-Book on Smashwords. I call it an overdue book because it has taken me over ten years to write (and at least that many "final" versions) before I had the guts to finally call it complete. And then I let it sit out there on the Internet, no fanfare, no bottle of champagne, no marketing plan or book tour. Just sit there in the ether waiting for my millions of fans to just happen along and find it sitting there, crying to be read.

The truth is, it scares the hell out of me to announce it!

Lots of reasons: may be construed as blasphemy - I do have Jesus Christ as a main character doing a few un-Jesus like things (not like that, just goofy things like enjoying rock and roll, fast ride in a car, hanging out with sinners - oh wait...). And it could be considered a little too autobiographical (please note: the wife in the book, Sherry is NOT Minda - don't let her tell you she is!). And it could be a really bad example of really bad writing by someone who is too dense to understand he really can't write.

But the truth is - and I say this humbly - I re-read it this week and I really like it! And I haven't touched, edited, modified or tweaked it since March (in order to read it with a clean palate). I was surprised, I was moved, and I think it might actually be pretty good.

And despite the playing around with the time/space continuum and putting Jesus in a Cardinal's baseball cap, I believe I have absolutely glorified God with this story. And that was my intention.

So, if you are so inclined, please check it out on your Nook, Kindle, Kobo, iPad, iBook, etc. Here's the synopsis:

One man's need for forgiveness is another man's cross to bear. Just ask Steven Todd. Twenty-five years ago Steven was a teen-aged druggie surviving from needle to vial in Austin, Texas. Now he’s a respectable family man, a quiet but confident  Jesus-freak and a small-business owner on the verge of major success—he’s meeting the U.S. president next week. Most importantly for Steven, his wild past is buried. 

At least until his old friend and shooting partner, Randy Oliver, hitchhikes to town. Stunned to see his old friend wandering St. Louis--alive, no less--Steven welcomes Randy into his home, his family and his church. 

When Randy reveals he has less than six months to live, Steven hopes to introduce him to Jesus before it’s too late. But when Randy reminds Steven of their dark secrets, secrets that could disintegrate Steven's veil of success, he makes a decision that could damn his life—now and eternally.

(This book contains a few instances of rough language
 reflective of the harsh lives and times of the characters.)

And here's the link to Such is Life.

And here's the coupon code to get Such is Life for half-price: AJ24A

Monday, October 22, 2012

God is a Screenwriter

So I have this new friend, Lisa. I don't know her very well - yet. But I am already captivated by her. She has this...presence about her that is part confidence/part vulnerability - perhaps it is part defensive bravado/part childlike-ness (not sure if that is really a word, but I'm the blogger here, so I declare it so!).

Lisa has a simply pretty face that is often serious, and yet, when she smiles, she glows! Whatever it is about her, I strongly believe she is the recipient of God's overflowing lovingkindness (now THAT's a word that has to have God in the definition!) I also believe (instinctively for I have no knowledge or evidence to back this statement up) that she does not realize or recognize that God is raining His lovingkindness down on her.

It's not that she wouldn't love to to accept this gift, I'm sure. I think she has so little experience in receiving such a gift from the people in her world that she has moments of little reason to believe it could come direct from God to her. (I also may be over-analyzing this person I barely know!)

My other new friend, Jennifer, must recognize something in Lisa also. Last night at our weekly get together, she was praying for Lisa and she said two things that perked up my ears. She mentioned God's EXTRAVAGANT love for us, particularly Lisa. And she pointed out that God "dreamed you up, Lisa, to be exactly who you are and that's how he sees you". (That last was paraphrased as I have hit-and-miss memory as we shall see...but it's close!)

Extravagant is another word that I believe requires God's name in the definition. I love that word!

But it was the second statement Jenn made that triggered a memory for me, of an event that happened the previous Sunday night after our meeting. Minda and I were home watching a DVD and one of the characters in the story told the other character, "I wish you could see you as I see you." And at that precise moment - not after, but during the time the actor was saying this line - I heard God whisper, "You need to tell Lisa this." I sat up and hit the pause button on the remote and told Minda, "Wow! I think God just told me I need to tell Lisa those exact words."

It kind of freaked me much so that I immediately started doing what Satan wanted me to do, which was to question, analyze, doubt and ultimately dismiss it as my imagination. Crafty little devil, he is. (At the time, Minda thought I meant our other friend Lisa, who is not experiencing as much drama in her life as this Lisa, so even Minda looked at me a little tilt-headed!)

And so I promptly forgot about it.

Until last night when Jenn's prayer reminded me - and made me realize that perhaps this was the moment when God wanted me to tell her - she was in tears, questioning, doubting, hurting.

So I told her and she smiled, tears running down her cheeks. I think she even glowed a little with the knowledge of God's lovingkindness.

I can't wait to get to know my new friend better.

Friday, October 12, 2012

...With a Cherry on Top

So, it turns out God answers prayers...and then adds a little finishing touch. I can even sense a "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" in His message. Here's what happened...

I've been dissatisfied at, stressed from, and frankly concerned for the future of, my current employer. For reasons that don't need further extrapolation, I have been seeking a new job for over a year. Researching and applying for jobs similar to and a step forward from my current one - what I feel I am supposed to do now that I'm a "grown-up" - was leaving me cold. It felt like I was trading one bad situation for another one. But what's a grown-up to do?

I networked of course, and spread the word to friends and family that I was looking for a "customer service" job. One good friend, Mark, sent me a posting for the company he works for - as a fill-in type position as I looked for my grown-up job. The position seemed, on the surface, interesting but did not pay appropriately. I blew it off almost instantly.

And then I went on an LSD trip with said friend - that is, in our training for an upcoming half-marathon, we ran a Long Slow Distance run - I believe it was eight miles that day. (Truth is, with Mark, it isn't really ever slow!) At some point in our huffing and puffing conversation, he mentioned the position at this small company (DING! - I like working for small companies - always have, in fact that's one of the appeals of my second shift job - small group of co-workers. It's like a small company within a big one.) and how flexible the hours were (DING! - I need a job with flexibility so I can pick Andrew up from school) and that the hand-assembly (DING! - I so miss creating/building/fabricating with my hands) was something I could easily do with my background (model-building) and that the company was full of Believers (DING! - perfect!). Also, the office was located in our community - just 4.5 miles from our house - easily bike-able, even occasionally run-able (DING! DING!)

I sent my resume/cover letter that very night.

And, conversely, interviewed for a position at my current employer a few days later. It seemed like a good move - a day position with a step above what I've been doing on the night shift. It was daytime hours (possibly flexible) and meant working in the large population of "daywalkers". I would still be driving a computer (with my hands) sitting at a desk, but it would be more hours and, I assumed it would come with a significant pay increase. Interviews, three of them, went well enough (backed up with a lot of prayer). It was a grown-up thing to do.

Four days later I was sitting in the office of the president of the small company where Mark works, animatedly and enthusiastically discussing everything from my squirrel feeder patent and how that whole business was started in our dining room in St. Paul, to the good ol' days of architectural model building. We talked about their handful of employees (DING!) and how their products (related to air pollution and auto emissions - I think they have a long and huge future in the upcoming green-conscious next century or two!) are hand-assembled (DING!), that they have flexible hours (DING!). Oh, and did I mention that upon the founder's bookshelf, within easy reach, sat a Holy Bible? (DING!)

I spent a lot of time over the next 24 hours praying, telling God that I really, really, REALLY wanted this job, but that it needed to work money-wise (that whole grown-up thing reared it's pragmatic face). I even posted my little prayer on the KTIS radio website among all the "serious" prayers.

Two days later I received word from my current employer that, though they were offering the position for which I had interviewed to another candidate, they were offering me a different one, a little more in line with my current skill set and certainly helpful in preparing me for stepping into the larger role in the future. But no, the hours were not flexible, and since I am already at the high end of the pay scale for that position, there would be no rate increase at this time. I was a bit relieved (the bigger position had some intimidation factor going for it) and flattered (she sounded sincere in her predictions of future movement) and I told her I would get back to her in the next day or two once Minda and I figured out how to make it work.

And four hours later I received an email offering me the job at the small company. With pretty much everything I had hoped for.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

John 11:40

I wanted to expand on my previous post, mainly to see if I could disect the scripture further and clarify it in my mind.

THe scripture is John 11:40

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

(Context: Jesus is about to resurrect Lazarus from death and Mary questions the intelligence of this plan due to the possible stench of decomposition.)

My take (with help from “Gill’s Exposition”, et al): Jesus expresses a touch of frustration at Mary’s unbelief since he has already told her to believe in him. And he intimates that by exercising her faith (by believing her brother will be raised), she will have a renewed ability to truly believe Jesus is the son of God. Also, those who exercise their faith often will see the glory of God often – in provision and promises.

My situation: I was struggling with the pain in my heels, inconsistent and hard to nail down the cause of (I pretty much avoid doctors, so it was between me and my Physician) and was about ready to give up my running. But when I sent in the registration for the half-marathon – in effect exercising my faith – I felt in my spirit Jesus telling me, “I’ve been telling you all along that it would be okay. You just had to believe!”

My application: I am believing!! And the pain is diminishing daily. I continue to train for th ehalf-marathon and am believing that there is no stopping me now. I am standing in faith that I will see the glory of God in the continued resurrection of my body from the several decades of obesity death in which I had buried it.

Other notes:

*to "see the glory of God", is to see Christ

*Mark 9:23 …"Everything is possible for him who believes."


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Running on Faith

Yesterday I mailed in a form to pre-register for an October 27 half-marathon run. I say run because it’s not a race for me – I have no delusions that I might win! I do hope to beat my time from last year, but more than that, I hope to finish it with my heels intact.

I have been having issues with my heels – maybe Achilles tendon, maybe just bruised heel bone, maybe….who cares. It hurts sometimes, and sometimes it doesn’t, with no rationality to it. And that, according to my wise wife is the key. She believes there is something – a thought, a fear, something holding me back that manifests itself as pain in my heels. And makes me question the sanity of continuing to run.

I actually printed out the registration form Monday a week ago...and it sat on my dresser till Thursday. Still undecided...Maybe I should just stop this nonsense...Stop running for the rest of 2012…Continue biking and rest my heels…Start over in 2013 and plan for the Get Lucky 7K race. No! I’ll just run slow and short miles – two here, three there, and always a rest day between.

So I filled out the form last Friday and sat on my dresser. What's it gonna be (formerly) Fat Boy? You gonna let all the hard work fall to wayside because of a little pain that crops up every now and then? Some occasional pain that makes no rhyme or reason? Sometimes running makes it hurt, but not running for a week made it absolutely worse. And biking? What’s up with that? Biking makes the post-run pain dissipate completely?? How does that work? Maybe it's all in my head?

I mailed the form yesterday and...I feel like an Athlete again! Yes, capital "A" athlete, as in I'm calling myself that again. More importantly I'm feeling like an Athlete again. I'm thinking like an athlete, planning like an athlete, training like an athlete. And it feels good! Feels great!

It's amazing and crazy what a little step of faith will do. Of course when is faith not irrational? And not amazing?!

It feels like that little step – sticking on a stamp and dropping the envelope in the box resonated in my spirit and filled me up with the conviction that yes, that was the right thing to do. No matter what happens, that was the right thing to do.

I got a wink and a nod from The Coach upstairs!! And my heels feel normal. Most of the time.

In John 11:40, Jesus says, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

I’m going to believe…and look for the glory of God to continue to reveal itself as He resurrects this body that I nearly destroyed.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

High Voltage Surprise

I called it the Beast Brick - a brick being a combo of running and biking. The Beast part referencing this being my first attempt at pushing my body this hard. In an effort to ramp up my fitness regimen - and speed up attaining my goal weight of 200 pounds (7 more to go!) - I rode 6 miles, ran 2 miles and then rode another 6 miles. I did all this in 87 minutes.

Tuesday's surprise from God - my Counselor, Trainer and Healer - is that not only did the Brick not kill me, it super-charged me for the rest of the day! I'm talking non-stop energy coupled with zero aches and pains. I was watching for the crash - it never happened. And I was looking for things to do to burn off the energy. I did the planned grocery shopping, added in some yard-work, played Legos with Andrew, prepped a serious Indian meal, cooked said meal for the family and a couple of guests, and even adjusted the handlebar height on Minda's bike. I finally called it a night at 1130 that night. Whew!

And the best part of all, the long-standing Achilles tendon pain I have been battling for several months - which I was afraid would flare-up exponentially after this exertion - seems to have disappeared. Not completely, but nearly so.

Thank you God for giving me the motivation, inspiration and fuel to push myself this far. Thank you for rewarding my hard work with freedom from pain and exhaustion. Thank you for healing my heel pain. Thank you for the high-voltage energy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


This past Sunday our friend Mark mentioned his friend Terry Esau had written several books, one of which is the invitation, "Surprise Me, God".  In Terry's words: "What if you started the next thirty days with those three words?" I'm in!

I'm cognizant of the fact that every day is filled with miracles/surprises from God; I also know I'm often oblivious to said miracles, and miss the chance to thank Him. I jumped into this idea with the sole intent of discerning those gifts and acknowledging His work in my day.

Monday July 9 was day one for me, and as I talked with God in the early morning hours, I asked him to surprise me. And I asked Him to help me notice, to sharpen my discernment.

Anticipation can be sweet torture, but waiting on the Lord has become an easier discipline for me in the last few years. I often say, “Life’s an adventure; what’s God got planned for me next?” But lately I have noticed I’m also intrigued by the timing God chooses. I want to ask Him, “Why did such and such happen that particular day or moment or year?” It’s not petulant childish impatience, it’s pure, delightful curiosity and marveling at His perfect design.

So Monday morning, the temperature was thankfully down from the last few weeks and Andrew and I are outside working on the front lawn (and his “work ethic”, the lesson we hope to impart this summer, God willing!).

The mail carrier arrived as we were edging the lawn. It was our usual carrier, a woman I consider an “old hippy”, about my age. She usually parks across the street from our house, loads up her bag and heads down the street, delivering her parcels along the way, crosses over and ends back at our address for the last deposit before heading out. Today, however, she pulled in right at the end of our driveway – on the wrong side of the road – and hopped out. She said a cheery good morning, delivered our mail (and our duplex-mates as well) and then pulled across the street to her usual spot and went about her usual business of delivering the neighborhood’s mail.

It was kind of odd, but I dismissed it and finished up the task at hand. Heading into the house for a drink of water, I grabbed the mail – a bill, a flyer, a coupon book. And there was an envelope from GC Incorporated.

GC pays us a quarterly amount to private label and market our patented squirrel feeder. Per our agreement, GC has 30 days after the end of the quarter to pay us. With the economy the way it has been, the last couple of years GC has been taking advantage of the full 30-days before paying us, I’m guessing to collect as much interest as they can before disbursing the funds. Good for them, not so good for us. They used to pay within the first ten days. And July always seems to be the worst time of year for us financially.

Petulant childish impatience abounds in late June/early July when the bills come due.

Yet there was the check, on July 9th, answering my prayer from July 5th when I realized we were going to be hard-pressed to make it to next payday with gas in both cars!

Thank you God! But what’s with the urgent delivery? In my mental replay, the hippy mail carrier skids to a stop, screeching tires and all, jumps out, waving the envelope for me to see and then drops it in the box before dancing away. Didn’t happen exactly that way, but I get the feeling God was having a grand chuckle as I processed the ensuing events.

All I have left to say is, “Good one, God! And thank you - again! And, what’s next? Surprise me, God!”

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Mission Unfolding

When I read this*:

“…we should live missional lives…we should befriend people who are different from us…”

“…he was talking about loving people just because they exist…”

“…praying…that God would teach us…to notice people who needed to be loved.”

I thought,
God is telling me to love people – people who may not meet all the bullet points on my check-off list. And I need to love them merely because they, like me, are beloved children of God, no other reason. And I need to be on the lookout for these people, to pray for the discernment to see their pain.

I believe,
God is revealing the mission he has for me, the one he hinted at four or five years ago with the prayer vision of a sun-bleached, sawn-off tree stump, with a growing green shoot and the words, “You think you have reached the end. But I have a new direction for you.”

At the time, with our life settled, prosperous and happy, I wondered what the “end” was and what the new direction was to be. Now I believe I know: the end of me being reclusive and non-confrontational and the beginning of a journey of interaction.

When I think about it, it seems as if my spirit has been in secret communication with The Spirit, for I realize God has already implemented this plan, that God has been attuning me to people who need to be loved. And I have been a willing participant.

I have stepped out of my comfort zone in several instances to open or deepen a relationship with someone I would not normally be inclined toward. Many have been my co-workers; my employer’s place of business seems to be a clearing house for broken people. But there are others in my day-to-day life – neighbors, parents of my son’s friends, etc – to whom my standard rhetorical question, “How ya doin’?” no longer suffices.

And this has been happening for 3 or 4 months: I told one co-worker I was worried that she had given up on her health and sent her an inspiring video that showed God has no use for diagnoses like "You will never walk again." She responded positively to what I said, something that could have been mistaken as hurtful and vicious on my part. Another friend told me she was forgoing her college-education plans due to the expenses that were racking up faster than she anticpated - and I boldly told her, "It sounds like you are giving up on your dreams. Don't!"

Who is this guy with the big mouth?? The old me would never be so bold!

I’m surprised to say I am “hungry” to extend myself toward others. How ironic that God has replaced my hunger for unhealthy food with a hunger for human interaction with people I would normally stroll past, tossing out a circumspect up-nod as I hurried past.

Two days ago I actually approached a co-worker whom I had avoided for two years, and shared a personal story – running, weight loss and goals for endurance running. This led to a surprising and warm conversation between us and ended with an encouraging word for both of us.

I knew several hours before it happened that I was being directed to initiate the conversation. I even tried to procrastinate, secretly hoping he would leave for the day before I followed my direction.

But follow the instructions, I did. And it felt good and right and, most important, obedient. Obedient to this scripture (which announced itself loudly the following morning while I was searching out a different one):

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

I recently had a long talk with God and named and gave him all my fears. I don't know if this one - Fear of Meaningful Interaction with People I Barely Know - was specifically addressed in that discussion. But apparently he opted to include it in the scrubbing. Which is good, as this feels like it could be a bumpy ride. Wish me Godspeed!

*Thank you Donald Miller for bringing these gems to my eyes in your book, “Blue Like Jazz”.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dream Prayer

I woke up abruptly from a dream this morning, usually a good indication God wanted me to pay attention! The dream seemed insignificant except for on e aspect: I prayed in the dream. It was for a "fat kid" that was being picked on at a school. I prayed for God's protection and peace. And then I woke up.

I woke up with a lot of questions:
Who was the "fat kid"?
Do prayers in dreams work? (Duh!)
Why did God want me to remember this dream?

The answers I've received so far are:
I am/was the fat kid. Often picked on in school, I never thought to pray for protection back then - too bad!
Of course, God is not bound by time or the consciousness state of one of his children - the dream "worked" for whatever purpose God had in mind.
The reason is so I would ponder God and all his amazing techniques for saying "Pay attention to me!"

Paying attention is becoming a way of life for me, Father. But I need the reminders! Thank you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Year, New Life

I wrote this on the last day of 2011:

And so begins a new year and a new life. I say new, at the age of 49, because what I learned last year makes this year something unique. I learned that I have a future, that I am stronger than I ever believed. And that my relationship with Jesus can be as intimate and "real" as a worldly relationship, and exponentially richer than I ever realized.

The truth is, God not only blessed me the day I was born, but he was willing to let me spend my inheritance as a young and dumb man. And then he extracted me from the muck of the world I had immersed myself in, wrapped his arms around me and resurrected my life.

If ever I was to consciously live as Jesus lived, the beginning was last year, when he rolled away the grave stone. I am alive and ready to live, thank you, Father God!

What will I do with this new life, this new power with which God has imbued me?

I will follow Jesus more closely so I can truly learn from The Teacher. I will seek the holiness he offers to me, a son of Adam. I will embrace the joy that comes from the title, Son of God. And I will enjoy the peace that comes from living with him in me. I will shed the cloak of fear that has named me Afraid the whole of my life. And I will gladly wear the name, Son of God.

And I will stand, with Jesus by my side, and name the fears. And I will cast them out, with the power of Jesus in me:

Fear of Embarrassment - how silly you are to think you can direct the path of a Son of God. What purpose have you served all these years? For too long you have clamped my mouth shut, tied my arms down, whispered supposed ridicule in my ear. Be gone, in the name of Jesus Christ, my King.

Fear of Violence - when you attached yourself to me, as a child I embraced your whispers of safety and held tight. And now, nearly a half-century old, I shed you like old yellow skin. I discard you like a filthy tissue. In the name of Jesus Christ my Brother, I have no further use of you.

Fear of Alienation - you have crept up on me in the last two decades or so, robbing me of the simple belief in the open hearts and goodness of my fellow children of God. But I have come to realize that, if at the end of all things, no one in the world likes or loves Scott Shultz, I rest easy knowing that the Inventor of Love does, the Composer of Love does, the Author of Love does, the Epitome of Love does. Be gone, Fear, in the name of Jesus Christ my Friend.

Fear of Discomfort - you have many disguises, but your true nature has been revealed. I know you as "Fear of No Money", yet you have never reached your potential; God is my provider. I know you as "Fear of Homelessness", yet you have missed your mark; God has sheltered me. I have seen your "hunger-face" and never known hunger. I have glimpsed your "entitlement-mask" and am ashamed to have tried it on. But God has shown me - his gifts are sweeter, richer, more satisfying than all the "treats" of the world.

Be gone!

Fear of Discovery - you think you hold the secrets of my life hostage and taunt me with threats of ransom and revelation. But the truth is - that veil was lifted long ago. And those who love me, love me secrets and all. Perhaps there are still secrets hidden away, but Jesus holds them in his hands. And he will choose what to do with them. Your tenure is revoked, in the name of Jesus Christ my Counselor.

Fear of Insanity/Health Issues - my days of youth were spent playing in a dangerous laboratory and I have no idea what price I may pay for those experiments. But I do know that your whispers and worries fall on deaf ears now. I know that your prophecies and reminders of "family history" hold the weight of dandelion feather. Already they have been whisked away by a cooling breeze, in the name of Jesus Christ my Physician.