An American Christian

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This is a special message to followers of The Navy Christian Report, now titled, An American Christian.

For the longest time, I’ve tried to make an impact in the world as “The Navy Christian.” I had hoped that I could encourage Americans to pray for the military, and specifically for believers in the military, and thereby be part of God’s plan to reach the military. This seemed like a natural extension of my on-again, off-again ministry to military seekers and believers as a lay leader on various ships and shore stations.

The problem is that I greatly overestimated God’s call on my life regarding the military. I had always thought I was called to lead some great, self-perpetrating revival. Each successive generation would reach more people. This was going to obviously spill out into the surrounding communities, first in Navy cities, and then others as well.

Wow! So full of myself. So willing to assume I knew the will of God. Instead, what I learned was that God was going to use me to reach specific units, and inside those units, individual seekers and Christians. Despite my arrogance and misguided assumptions, God did use me to reach several people. I’m grateful for that.

The Navy Christian Report began, once upon a time, as Military Prayer Week, which was supposed to be my natural outcropping of my “The Navy Christian” blogging ministry. After several years of trying to make that work, it became increasingly clear that, once again, I had misunderstood God’s plan for my life. So Military Prayer Week became The Navy Christian Report, because I thought my commentary might resonate with people.

It has. Several articles, such as my article on visiting a black church, my take on the Nike ad campaign, and persecution in the military in particular, seemed to hit a nerve.

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Photo from Nike as published in USA Today.

Unfortunately, these aren’t navy issues. They are American issues. The thought occurred to me that, instead of being “The Navy Christian,” it should be called “The American Christian.” It didn’t take long to realize that I was being arrogant once again by calling myself “the,” so I quickly changed it to “An American Christian.”

What can you expect with this change? Much of the same commentary and theology, but designed in a way to use the American context as a lens in which to view our response. I will utilize interviews, commentary, and other resources to help you become a stronger Christian. Most importantly, I will not subvert the Bible.

Two points you should know:

  1. I am not perfect. Won’t be perfect. Can’t be perfect (in this life). I write as a flawed man trying to reach other flawed individuals. You don’t have to be perfect either. I will write assertively, with active language, in order to present an idea that we need to make changes to the way we do things. Also, we need to learn the Bible better. But I will not judge you. I promise that. My goal is to encourage you and me in our walks.
  2. I am a contrarian. This means that I tend to naturally fall on the opposite side of an argument. You want to talk about the political reasons for a border wall, and I’m going to take you to the spiritual implications of almost ZERO ministry and outreach going on in Mexico. You talk about how homosexuality is a sin according to the Bible, and I will agree, even to the point of wondering why churches allow divorcees to lead ministry positions when they are guilty (in almost all cases) of adultery.

Where does this leave us? Simply put, some are not going to be happy with the new face of The Navy Christian Report, just as many were not happy with the change from Military Prayer Week to The Navy Christian Report. I totally understand. I don’t want to cause you undue strain or stress. This simply better reflects my actual calling from God, as well as my gifting.

I hope you’ll stick with me in this process, even to the point of sharing this page with your friends and loved ones and, when a particular article strikes your fancy or encourages you, share that as well.

You are welcome to sign up for my mailing list as well, and receive monthly updates about my writing, particularly my Christian fiction. You can sign up HERE.

The Bookfunnel Campaign Post 1

In an effort to be transparent about my Bookfunnel campaign, and to possibly help authors in the future, I’m going to spend the next three posts discussing my results for The Dirty Campaign. I will cover the build up to the campaign, to include the writing process, the Bookfunnel campaign in general, to include the raw download/newsletter signups data, and finally, at year’s end, I’ll talk about what’s still working with the campaign, meaning, am I seeing newsletter signups turning into fans.

I know that’s a lot. First, an assumption: I assume that people reading this three-part blog series are writers, or interested in the craft and business of writing. If you’re not in that situation, this may sadly get boring pretty quick. Anyway, that assumption is also a sort of disclaimer. I have switched to writing almost exclusively fiction, so you’ll find a lot of nuts and bolts in this blog series.

First things first: My plan of action

1.  Write the story. If you already have a system for writing, then don’t worry about this. Just do what you normally do. I did try a new thing that I’ve continued to incorporate. I’ll write about that in the future.

2. Edited the story significantly. I verified POV so often I got sick of some of the characters. But it paid off in the end.

3. Sent the story to a handful of beta readers. Not all of them gave me feedback unfortunately, but enough of them did that I could feel confident about moving forward.

4. Converted the final draft to .epub and .mobi using draft2digital.

5. Uploaded the files from draft2digital to BookFunnel.

6. Paid for advertising on Facebook (because that’s where my page already resides and I knew it would cost for people to actually see it). 

7. Wrote several blog posts to announce the coming publication. Shared on Facebook. 

8. Prepared a drip sequence in Mailchimp ready to go for new subscribers as they signed up for the newsletter and downloaded the novelette. This drip sequence introduced new readers to me as the author, to the fictional town of Sunset, Kansas, and to my characters, and included three emails spread out over two weeks.

As you can see, I laid out what was basically a business plan. I had all of this ready to go two weeks before the soft launch, which went to current subscribers and to my personal Facebook page. The soft launch occurred one week before the main launch, and gave me a chance to reward my current subscribers for their loyalty as well as test out a couple of ideas in a setting that allowed me to make corrections before going wide release.

In the next post, we’ll do the numbers!

 

* None of the links in this email are affiliate links. I don’t stand to make any money off of this blog post. It is for informational purposes only and for the edification of other authors.

Of Nike and Chick-fil-a

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Photo taken from Chick-fil-A site.

Do you remember, in 2012, that all liberals were going to boycott Chick-fil-a? Remember how all of the conservatives went to their local restaurant in droves to support the chain? Fast forward six years and the shoe is on the other foot (see what I did there?). Now the conservatives hate Nike and the liberals can’t heap enough praise on them. Guess what? Nike isn’t going to go down either. Just like Chick-fil-a, supporters will march into those stores and buy Nike shoes like they’re going out of style.

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Photo from Nike as published in USA Today.

News flash, white people don’t buy as many Air Jordans as minorities. Oh, and here’s another newsflash, conservative people love Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby. And by conservative people, I mean people like me.

Meanwhile, conservatives get riled up by Colin Kaepernick and liberals hate Trump. Here’s another newsflash…they both love the hate and the love. Both of them, and all of the other people stirring up controversy, get to keep hearing themselves talk.

If I may delve a little more into this current controversy…

Nike paid Kaepernick who knows how much money to be in their ad campaign. That ad campaign will spur shoe sales, undoubtedly buoyed by minorities (my son wears Nike running shoes for cross country, BTW). The ad suggests that Kaepernick gave up “everything” when he began taking a knee during the national anthem.

I wrote a huge post on that protest. I even walked away from football for a while. It was ugly (my brothers and father can tell stories of heated text exchanges). And Colin hasn’t had a football contract since. Now, I was mad at him since he took Alex Smith’s job away from him, so my disdain goes back a ways. Never mind that for now.

A lot of social media attention focuses on whether Nike should have gone with someone like Chris Kyle or Pat Tillman (the NFL connection). It is true that these men, and so many thousands like them, made the ultimate sacrifice. As a career Navy Chief Warrant Officer, I am the first to want to put one of our military folks above an athlete.

But could it be…just could it be…that Colin Kaepernick did actually sacrifice a lot when he started taking a knee? All of the extraneous issues aside, such as whether he started it for the purist of reasons or not, could it be that he did make a sacrifice?

And couldn’t it be that all of those who have given “the ultimate sacrifice” also…well…sacrificed?

I wouldn’t compare Colin Kaepernick to the likes of Rosa Parks and MLK, but I wouldn’t compare my “sacrifice” to that of anyone who passed in the line of duty, whether that was military, police, fire, etc.

And most of all, I hope that good-natured, intelligent folks on both sides of the arguments realize that we have to treat each other with more respect or this is all going to fall apart at some point. I do actually think that America’s future depends on this, though I am encouraged to know that the real America doesn’t exist like the America of Facebook.

I interact with people of many races each day. We have civil conversations and we keep things at a reasonable distance. Real life isn’t the anonymous firefight that Facebook is. I’m grateful for that.

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If Facebook Causes thee to Sin…

 

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29)

I suspect that this post will surprise you because you all know how much I love posting on Facebook.

Lately, however, I’ve come to realize that, like the sin Jesus talked about so harshly in Matthew, I’ve had to change my thoughts on social media. My primary reason for tearing out social media is because I waste a considerable amount of time scrolling through the feeds of my friends and pages that I follow. It’s not that my friends aren’t doing fun things (or amazing things, or sad things, or infuriating things!), it’s just that I don’t need to know every last thing you’re doing. You don’t need to know everything I’m doing either.

Let me give you an example of the above: Do you know that I like to run? Of course you do. I used to post just about every run I accomplished. It could have been a slow run, a long run, a quick jaunt, or whatever. It doesn’t matter what it is, I post it. And I had a friend who used to make fun of me for that, and he was right…I just never realized the gravity of it.

Then there’s the issue of wasting time. Did you know that there’s literally a Facebook page that’s called, “Bored Panda” and another one called, “I waste so much Time?” I know them very well, I click on posts from them all the time. I’ve never “liked” those pages, but enough friends post them that I see the feeds. And don’t get me started on fake news…

And that’s not all, folks! Facebook allows me to engage in idle conversation and rude discussions. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve attacked someone on Facebook? How many times I’ve crossed the line in conversations in Facebook? How many times I’ve wanted to cross the line in conversations? If Matthew 12:36 is true, then I’ve got to clean up what I say and do, and that includes removing a temptation like social media.

I started my process by closing down my Pinterest account. Then I closed down Twitter. After that last one, I almost immediately felt less angry. I’ve become convinced that Twitter is just one big shouting match. I’m glad to be done with it. Then I had to decide what to do with Facebook.

This is my story, not yours! Please don’t think that I might be judging you. I know that most people don’t struggle with the same temptations I do. I realized that I needed to step away from Facebook’s personal page and messenger. How long I fast social media is up to God, my wife, my accountability team, and myself. However, I’m not walking away from all aspects of the social media giant.

As an author, I use Facebook to help share my stories. I have a page of over 1300 “likes” that I use extensively to promote my writing. I realize that, if everyone suddenly felt like I did about social media, that I’d quickly lose a major promotional source. But that’s not a reason to keep something that causes me so many other problems. My wife, who is my link to the Facebook page, doesn’t share my issues with social media, but if she suddenly did, then the page would shut down altogether.

And then what? Well, I’m not completely sure, but I’d figure it out.

At first, I thought, “but how will I get my news?” And then I remembered that I subscribe to the daily newspaper. I actually help pay people to be journalists. I’ll be fine. Then I thought, “but how will I know what my favorite authors are doing?” Then I remembered that I can sign up for their mailing lists and actually see less overall noise. By the way, you can sign up for my monthly mailer too!  I also wondered what I’d do without my friends updates. Then I remembered I can text you and call you!

You may see me as a hypocrite. That’s ok. I sometimes think that about me too. And, in fact, I’ve thought of myself as a hypocrite for some time. I’ve known that Facebook causes me problems (more than I’ve listed above) and that I needed to close down my account. Yet I balked at actually carrying through what I knew needed to happen.

The simple fact is that Facebook causes me to sin. I’d much rather enter heaven answering the questions God has with, “And then I closed Facebook down.”

I’ve lived without an active Facebook account for just short of two weeks as of this writing and I haven’t died yet. However, I always reserve the right to return if I must. I don’t think I will any time soon, however, because the truth is that I’ve become far more productive in its absence. And peace like a river floweth…I could watch the Super Bowl last night without yelling at my friends on Facebook or Twitter. What a change!

If you decide that you also need to leave social media, I hope you will find a way to stay connected to me and this ministry of writing! Send me a text, leave a message in the comments section, or give me a call! Above all, do what needs to be done, and enjoy the effects, whatever they are.

As always, you can sign up to receive updates on my social commentary by going HERE.