Coffee Break Bible Study: Acts 11-15

I provide Coffee Break Bible studies to help you pause with God’s word in your busy day/week. I would love to know if these are a blessing to you!

 

Read Acts 11.

How did Peter handle criticism?

What was Barnabas like?

 

Read Acts 12.

What miracle did Peter experience? What can God free you from?

When Rhoda told the people praying that Peter was at the door, how did they react? What does this reveal about praying with expectation?

 

Read Acts 13.

What touches you about Paul and Barnabas’ ministry?

How did people respond to their ministry?

 

Read Acts 14.

What did Paul and Barnabas do when people attempted to stone them?

How did Paul and Barnabas react to the people putting them on a pedestal? What does this say about humble service?

 

Read Acts 15.

What argument came up between two groups, and how was it resolved?

What other disagreement arose?

 

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Three Time Management Myths

Several weeks ago, taught a two-day class on Effective Time Management. There are lots of blogs and books about managing your time (I’ve even written one) and there are some “conventional wisdom” concepts that are familiar to any of us who are interested in being more productive…the types of concepts you would expect to hear in classes such as this, or read in books about productivity.

However, I’ve started to wonder if some of the “conventional wisdom” of productivity concepts are actually myths–at least for some people.

Here are a few that I find I am thinking differently about:

Don’t Check Your Email First Thing in the Morning

If I’d followed that advice the morning I drafted this post, I wouldn’t have had the lead time to make some changes to my schedule. Apparently during my bed time, a couple of emails were exchanged regarding the possibility of a different place for a lunch gathering today. By seeing that email early in the morning, I was able to adjust my schedule for the day more easily.

I do realize email can distract us and we shouldn’t be addicted to it. However, a quick glance in the morning may not hurt, to see what, if anything, may change the course of your plans for the day.

Only Check Email at Set Times of the Day

For some positions, I can go along with this. But for the types of positions I’ve held in the past (many years as administrative assistant/office manager) email was the source of much of my day’s work. It was also important to me to give quick answers to those we served. Thus, I never got into the idea of batching emails for certain times of the day. For the most part, I’m able to monitor it as it comes in, respond if necessary, or drag it into a task list, and go on my way. That works for my personality and workflow. It may not work for you, but the assumption that everyone should only look at emails at certain times of the day is too general.

Make Appointments on Your Calendar for Projects and Tasks

I used to do this. In fact, friends used to good-naturedly joke with me when they learned I would schedule out even mundane things. I finally learned, though, that my days did not often follow the exact flow I put in the calendar. So now I save my calendar for set appointments (sometimes referred to as “hard lines”) and then just use a pad or white board during my morning quiet time to map out a specific approach to the day’s tasks, making adjustments as the day goes on, for the spaces in between. For example, I’m currently at a coffee shop and have jotted down a basic plan of attack for doing my writing. That doesn’t have to be on my main, electronic calendar. (And to be honest, I’m often adjusting that paper/white board to deal with internal and external distractions, which is easier than changing the electronic calendar throughout the day.)

Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:16

How about you? Are there any pieces of conventional time management advice that you actually find do not work for you? Share your thoughts!

Coffee Break Bible Study: Acts 6-10

I provide Coffee Break Bible studies to encourage you to take a pause with God’s Word on your busy days. Print it out for a coffee or lunch break, or have a discussion with others!

Read Acts 6:

Why did the apostles feel it was right to delegate the table serving to others?

What do you learn about Stephen?

 

Read Acts 7:

In this chapter, Stephen relays much of Israel’s history to the high priest. Why do you think he did this?

What do verses 49-50 remind you about God’s power? Do you need a reminder of this regarding a personal situation this week? God is powerful and knows all the details.

Read Acts 8:

Here we see the ugly past of Saul. How can you rejoice that God redeems the past?

How did God Philip? How can He use you in your city today?

Read Acts 9:

How did God get Saul’s attention?

How do you think Ananias felt about the call to go minister to Saul?

Read Acts 10:

What do you understand from Peter’s vision?

In verse 17 we see that Peter was “perplexed.” Then God sent someone to him. How can you trust God today about something that is confusing to you at the moment?

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10 Steps to Publishing Your Own Book

Do you have a book inside you?

I’ve self-published a handful of books, all of which are available on Amazon and provide me some monthly income (click on the links in the sidebar to learn more.) From time to time, when people realize I have self-published, they become intrigued because they have a book inside of them, too. They want to know how they can publish a book.*

Since I’ve been asked more than once how to go about publishing a book, I thought it would be helpful to write a blog post to help anyone out there who wants to become a published author. Here are ten basic steps to take, based on my experience. (Note: experiences vary…this is just how I do it.)

1. Consider starting a blog.
What does this have to do with your book? A lot. Blogging will help you get into the habit of writing regularly, and help you define your typical reader. It will also help you build an audience so that when you do publish, you’ll have some customers! Here’s a link to a way you can set up a WordPress blog quickly and without much expense.

2. Write the book.
This takes discipline. Many people have an idea for a book but never start putting their thoughts on paper. If this is you, I encourage you to carve out a set amount of time per week during which you will start drafting a small portion of your book. If you are already blogging, you can “kill two birds with one stone” and publish some of this work in the form of blog posts. Once you have several good ones, you can tie them together into one package to sell. (Yes, even though people may read your blog, they will probably consider buying your book too for the convenience of having everything in one place. I do suggest also adding something unique to the book so it is not just a series of blog posts.)

If you find it hard to be disciplined, it may mean that you are feeling overwhelmed by the overall task of “writing a book.” Instead, break it into small pieces. Set a small word count goal for yourself, and/or make a weekly appointment for writing and write for an allotted amount of time. (I call mine “Writer’s Block” referring to the block of time I carve out for blogging.) Some people find that practicing a certain ritual before writing helps get their mind into gear (i.e. using a particular app, listing to a certain type of music, writing any time they are in a coffee shop.*)

Tip: Don’t edit too much when you are first writing your ideas. Just let it flow. Go back and edit later.

My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe. Psalm 45:1 ESV  Thanks to this site.

3. Start building a platform.
A good part of publishing a book is marketing the book. These days, you don’t need a traditional publisher to help you market. You can begin to build a following through social media and blogging. Seek to serve your audience. If you like to speak, volunteer to present to various groups in your city or church. Utilize social media to share thoughts. Read other blogs and provide encouraging comments, building relationships. Try to collect email addresses and send meaningful newsletters. I highly suggest reading the book Platform by Michael Hyatt. (It’s in my store on this page. Buy it through me and I get a bit of your purchase.)

4. Hire an editor/proofreader.
Once you have your manuscript drafted it is a good idea to hire an outside person to objectively read it. This may cost you something, but you should not skip this step! One of the downfalls of the accessibility of self-publishing is that some books are being put out there at subpar quality. You don’t want yours to contain obvious typos, formatting errors or run on sentences, to name a few mistakes. A good editor/proofreader can help you avoid that. (Go to my recommendations page for more info.)*

5. Design a cover, or hire someone to do so.
There are lots of options for cover design. If you have some talent in this area you can do it yourself. Not great with graphic design? You can hire someone independently, or even use a service such as 99 designs or Fiverr (I have done my own or hired a designer so I don’t have personal experience with these sites. However, others have.) Create Space offers a cover creator you can use to design your own. A good cover is valuable so your book looks professional.

6. Consider your printing and distribution options.
For my first book, I used a local copy center to produce spiral bound versions with just the quantity I wanted to have on hand to sell at events. Now, I use www.createspace.com to create paperback books. I love Create Space because there is no up front charge, and they are connected with Amazon. They provide a seamless process of uploading and reviewing your files and proof copies, and then making them available on Amazon. You don’t spend a publishing dime until someone wants to buy your book. When the order is placed, Amazon takes their cut and deposits the rest into your account.

I use Kindle Direct Publishing to produce e-books. I personally don’t create a paperback book every time I publish an e-book. I find that you can create a stream of income with an e-book as well, and I actually sell more e-books than tangible books, typically.

7. Beware of scams and expensive publishing options. 
Some “publishing” companies like to make writers feel like they are a highly accomplished author, but could very well just be willing to print anything sent to them (even if it’s junk) and make money off that writer selling the “book” to their friends and family.  Do some research at sites like this or even Google “publishing scams” and you’ll see what I mean.

I once submitted a book proposal to a publisher, and received a letter of interest, only to find out that basically–they wanted to print my book at a cost in the hundreds to thousands to me, even though, to be fair, I believe that cost could include some editing and marketing help.  While not exactly a scam, I consider that type of business to be somewhere between a “print shop” and a “publisher.” They may offer a couple of helpful services, but if I have to pay that much, I would be better off going with something like Create Space and outsourcing to individual editors and graphic designers. If you have a huge audience and are pretty sure you can re-coup that size of investment, then you can choose to go for it. Me? I’m sticking with as little up front costs as I can.

8. Be prepared to handle administrative tasks.
My small business has a retail license and I file sales tax for in-state sales. When selling books at an event out of state, you’ll need to check the rules of sales tax for that state for the event at which you’ll have a table. You’ll be receiving 1099s for royalties from places like Amazon (for when they sell your book) and if you co-author a book and split the profits, you’ll need to provide a 1099 to the other author(s) even if they earn less than $600 in a calendar year. Once you know the procedures, it’s not that hard to keep up with. I use recurring tasks to remind me to file sales tax, for example. But it’s important to set up systems ahead of time and not be caught by surprise regarding taxes, licenses, etc. By having good systems in place, you can take care of small tasks monthly and when tax time comes around, it won’t be too stressful to gather all the info you need.

7. Begin to market.
The idea of marketing makes many of us cringe. It’s hard to self-promote without feeling proud or self-serving! But, remember, if you have something of value that will help someone else, you shouldn’t be afraid to share it.

There are lots of ways to market. One of the best I’ve found is the “offer it free” and/or “countdown deals” programs through Kindle Direct Publishing. As long as my e-book is exclusive to Amazon, I’m allowed to offer up to 5 free days for every 90 my book is in the program. This is a great way  to get the book into more hands because LOTS of people download free books. It can connect people to other books you may have on Amazon as well. Some of my books (one for which I’m a co-author) have made various “Top 100” Lists (paid and free.) This has happened several times. I believe using promotions like this has been a large part of why we’ve enjoyed this blessing.

You can share about the free books on your social media networks, sell tangible books when you speak to groups, arrange book signings at local coffee shops and bookstores, set up a table at fairs, etc. Some of these ideas may work better than others, depending on the customers at that event and what your book is about. It’s an experiment!

10. Take responsibility, be realistic, and keep building relationships
The book you produce is your book. Even if you happen to be accepted by a traditional publisher, you will be asked to do much of the work, mainly–marketing. Traditional publishers often want to sign authors with established platforms–authors that can generate enough buzz on their own to shoot up one of the common bestseller lists. (Yes, their books may be good, but be realistic–they rarely become a bestseller just because of the quality of their book.) It’s your responsibility to continue to build relationships and offer valuable content to people, not just for the sake of selling, but serving.

Several of the NY Times Bestselling authors have an established following who they continue to serve with good content and engagement between books. This builds loyalty and “primes the pump” providing enthusiastic initial buyers for their next book. Full marketing strategies utilizing current fans go into making the best seller list. I’m not saying this is unethical. Just be realistic. It’s probably rare for an “unknown writer” to suddenly be picked up and become a best selling author without either building their own platform or being shared or recommended by someone else’s. (I know of one author, for example, who saw a definite spike in sales once a bestselling author mentioned his book to their followers.)

Sometimes, you can enjoy more freedom and even make more money per book by self publishing and marketing on your own to your own audience. Be realistic and understand that may mean less overall sales because of reduced volume. But it’s not easy to be accepted by a traditional publisher, so some sales as a self-published author may be better than no sales while you wait to be “discovered.”

The world of publishing is changing, and self-publishing carries far less of a stigma than it used to. Why keep a book under wraps, waiting for a “traditional publisher” to decide if it’s worthwhile? If you have a book in you that can help others, go for it!

*Credit to this  Beyond the To-Do List podcast episode for this idea.

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Coffee Break Bible Study: Acts 1-5

Congratulations on finishing the Gospels!

Read Acts 1.

Who is the author of Acts? What type of writing do you think he will do?

What do you learn from verse 14?

 

Read Acts 2.

What would it have been like to be with the believers at Pentecost? How can you enjoy such unity with diversity today?

 

How does the Holy Spirit help you day by day?

 

Read Acts 3.

How did the lame man react to being healed?

How does Peter give credit to God? How can you accept praise graciously while also glorifying God?

 

Read Acts 4.

To what does Peter attribute his power?

What did the disciples do despite being commanded not to speak of Jesus?

 

Read Acts 5.

What was the main issue with Ananias and Sapphira’s scheme?

What may you be holding back from God? Spend some time in faith releasing it/them to Him.

 

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Weekend R&R (and R, and R, and R)

How do you spend your weekends?

Weekends are unique for each person. For some, it is a time to catch up on errands and housework. For others, it’s a chance to get away and visit with friends and family, or participate in some event. For still others, it’s packed full of kid’s activities like sports games, road races, or birthday parties.

For quite awhile now, I have tried to design my weekends to be for R&R. I’m at a stage in life (empty nesting) where I have more freedom with my schedule and choices. Yet I believe that at any stage, we can give wise consideration to what is truly the healthiest for our families. For some, that means lots of activities. For others, it’s much needed down-time. There is no one-size-fits-all.

Here are some components of weekends that I find myself able to incorporate more often than not, and this is working for me in this season of life. It’s my personal “R&R” plan.

Revere: formal worship time/Sabbath

Weekends are a good time to attend services.  We select the service that works best with any other commitments that particular weekend. Each service time offers its benefits. I’m not sure we have a favorite. Regardless of the time, we like to have a committed time each week for corporate worship and solid Bible teaching.

Rest: dozing; enjoying a less structured schedule

I like to have a spirit of rest and slower pace on the weekends, starting if possible on late Friday afternoon or early evening. I try to avoid writing out a schedule–a typical practice on weekdays– and just move through the day as the Spirit leads. Sometimes I’ll work on something off the “someday” list (tasks with no particular deadline, usually small projects like fixing a piece of jewelry or sewing a button) or will do a catch up load of laundry. Generally though, I make an effort to do home chores and professional work during the week so there is nothing on either task list for the weekend.

I also like to nap on the weekends, sometimes just one day, sometimes both Saturday and Sunday. It just depends on what I need to rest up from, or rest up for!

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. Mark 6:31 ESV

Reflection: discussions, reviewing for next week

Saturday morning often becomes an extended time of fellowship for my husband and me. It’s nice to move at a leisurely pace and have time for discussion.  Often on Sunday, I review with him any plans for the upcoming week.

Relationships: invested time with family and friends

The weekends give extended time to spend together. Once a month we commit to a “couples night out” with friends. We also try to attend local sports games and try to connect with others for interesting outings or meals together. We don’t book something every weekend, but it’s nice to have at least one or two times a month where we are intentionally investing in friendships.

Recreation: finding fun things to do, exploring

The weekend is a good time to participate in a 5K, take a drive, play disc golf, go on a hike, etc.

Reading: extended time to read books by choice

While I don’t do professional work on the weekends unless it is a scheduled event, I don’t limit the types of books I read to “recreational only.” I read what I feel like enjoying on the weekends, preferably without feeling any sort of pressure or deadline, though.

Restoration/Recuperation: allowing body and mind time to unwind.

Sometimes I’ll attend a class at the Y designed for restoration, or enjoy some time outside. The main thing is to, as much as possible, not have the weekend be characterized by long to-do lists or tight schedules.

My general guidelines:

Other than planned events, I avoid professional desk work on Saturday or Sunday.

I do not do much housework on weekends other than daily tasks such as running the dishwasher and making the bed.

I follow my typical procedure for cooking, but may allow for more elaborate meals or snacks that take more time and provide leftovers for the week ahead. I find that having some food prepped before the week starts helps me stay on better track with eating healthy, but I’m also regularly doing more than one kitchen task at a time during the week too. This makes it an ongoing effort.

 

Question: What do you do on your typical weekend?

 

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Coffee Break Bible Study: John 17-21

Take a pause with God’s word this week!

Read John 17.

What do you glean from Jesus’ prayer to His Father here?

Re-read the prayer, inserting your name where appropriate.

Read John 18.

How did Jesus handle Judas’ betrayal?

What struggles with faith does Peter display here? Are there times you struggle with the same thing?

Read John 19.

Consider the meaning of verse 11. How does Jesus show compassion here?

What touches you about the fact of Jesus bearing His own cross for part of the journey?

Read John 20.

How does Peter approach the tomb?

What do you learn from Jesus’ interaction with Mary Magdalene?

Read John 21.

What would it be like to hear Jesus say to you, “Come and have breakfast”?

How does Jesus’ conversation with Peter encourage or convict you?

Seven Life Lessons from Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Image: daisy via Compfight

In February, 2014 Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500 for the second time. I’ve followed NASCAR for a long time and have really come to respect Dale Jr. Time after time he demonstrates positive characteristics while living in the shadow of a near-legend racer and in front of a legion of his father’s–and now his–fans, often referred to as “Jr. Nation.” That’s a lot of pressure for one person to live up to and he does it well.

When he won NASCAR’s “biggest race” he was overjoyed. He spent the next several hours and days celebrating and doing a whirlwind media tour. He also got active on Twitter (and does a great job with it.) Here are a few things I learned from watching him through this experience:

Revel in the moment.

Junior was like a little kid. He had a genuine smile and truly enjoyed the media tour, in part because he was able to share it with friends. Here’s one of the responses he gave to a fan:

the best part is having Amy and my friends on this trip. Experiences matter more when you share em with people ya love and enjoy

Don’t forget who got you there.
One of the first things Junior did in victory lane, before even talking to the media, was hug each of his team members. I’ve not seen it done to that degree before. He made the media wait. He wanted to share the moment with the guys who got him to victory lane.

Honor those behind the scenes.
Later in the evening, Junior gathered with the media photographers to have a group picture with them. This time they got to be in front of the camera. Junior knows the media does play an important role in the sport and honored them.

Keep Your Promises
Junior has had a Twitter account for years, but he was reluctant to use it. However, he said that if he won a championship or the Daytona 500 again, he would get active. Sure enough he did. His first tweet was within hours after the win.

Focus on Others
That first tweet, which thrilled many fans, showed Junior’s appreciation for others. In it he asked how his fans were doing and acknowledged the big WE of sports.

Tonight seemed like as good a night as any to join Twitter. How is everyone doin? #2XDaytona500Champ
 

Remember What’s Important
Nearly every week now, Dale or his girlfriend Amy tweets out a photo of the Scripture verse that Stevie Waltrip writes out to go on the dashboard of his car.

 

Retain your Focus
The very next week, Junior got back to business. His spotter had to miss the race, but with a backup spotter, a crew chief he knows is leaving at the end of this year for a media career,  and his enthusiastic team, he came in second in Phoenix. He didn’t rest on the laurels of the Daytona 500. He had a new challenge ahead of him. Yet I’m  sure he will never forget the beginning of the 2014 season and I—along with many fans–would love to see him crowned champion at the end of it.

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. Luke 6:31