Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Marriage and Stuff

Last week, my wife and I had the opportunity to take some time away to enjoy each other’s company. Every once in a while, we’ll leave the kids behind to visit either a place we’re familiar with or a place we’ve always wanted to go. This year, we chose to do the latter and decided to explore The Blue Mountains.

The Blue Mountains Chalet
The Blue Mountains Chalet

Located a couple of hours north of Toronto, The Blue Mountains is a resort/cottage community that hosts a large following during ski season. Along with a few friends, we managed to secure one of those fancy chalets overlooking the mountains. The view was great, but, having grown up in Italy where I would wake up to the sight of the Italian Alps every morning, it didn’t impress me as much as, say, it did with some of my friends. I can take or leave mountain views. Nonetheless, it didn’t diminish the enjoyment I had with my wife.

The vacation was a wonderful cap to my newest book release. I had been running around many weeks prior that I hadn’t realized just how much I needed the downtime to regain focus.

Rather than give you a summary of what happened every day, as I’ve done in the past with my other vacation posts, I thought I would give you the highlights of what I enjoyed most about the getaway instead, and about the lessons learned.

First off, because we were sharing the chalet with friends, we each had separate rooms and shared common areas. Kitchen, living room, hot tub and balcony were all common areas. Some couples also shared bathrooms. As troublesome as it could have been, it worked out quite well. No more than two families had to share a bathroom, so mornings were fun.

The Blue Mountains
The Blue Mountains

Other than breakfast, the organizer cooked everything. Kudos to her! The food was simply delicious. The meal I liked the most was also the meal served the last night we were there. It was roasted chicken with rice and veggies. I’m not sure how she made it, but the flavor led me to go for seconds without a problem.

My wife and I spent most of our time together with the exception of breakfast, lunch and dinner, which we spent with our friends. Our main entertainment was each other, and because of this, I’ve learned something interesting. I knew about this little truth but didn’t know until recently how to put it into words.

Before getting married, we did everything together because we enjoyed each another’s company. What that means is we did what we could to spend as much time with each other, not because we had to, but because we wanted to. It wasn’t duty. It was because we really enjoyed being together.

After getting married however, somewhere along the way things changed. Jobs, kids, finances, new homes, deaths, health issues–you name it, resulted in the creation of a quiet mission statement that stated we were bound to please the other person. Not to sound preachy, but the idea that we wouldn’t be happy unless the other person was happy crept into our lives. It’s not a bad thing to want to please our mates. It is, though, a bad thing doing it out of duty.

With that realization, this past year our marriage has gone through a transformation of sorts. We’re no longer doing things to please each other, but we’re doing things because we enjoy doing them together. For us, it has become a matter of perspective. The idea being, we now share acts of kindness with each other, not because we have to but because we want to. All of a sudden, the enjoyment we once felt before marriage has returned and we can’t get enough of each other.

Okay, so maybe that was an overshare.

But I don’t care. If it helps others find what they once had, then I’ll shout it from space!

Anyway, that was our weekend. What are your plans this weekend?

Get the Ranger Martin zombie trilogy now!

What do you like about traveling?

Posted in My Journey

Everlasting Life Through Christ

Eternal life is God’s gift to those who believe Jesus is his son. Not many promises to God’s elect are as direct, as resilient, and as foremost, as that written by the apostle Paul in the letter to the saints in Rome. And few promises stand out as being the one promise for which every Christian ought to aim:

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Jesus said about the resurrection to everlasting life, “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25).

Jesus is talking about us and about our destiny. We may think we know where we are going, perhaps assumed true, or even accepted what others have told us, but our Savior and King says it plainly that we will neither marry nor be married when resurrected. We will be as angels but not angels; for Paul says we will ultimately judge the angels, “Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life” (1 Corinthians 6:3).

Our lives are in preparation for a time far greater than the mortal life we are living today. Eternal life promises a life with God the Father and Jesus sitting at his right hand, glorified with them and judging the world, as Paul says in verse 2, “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?”

The destiny we look to is beyond anything we can imagine this life can provide. The ultimate joy we will experience once we die will not compare with the lifetime of pain we may have had to endure by claiming Christ as our savior.

Yet God’s rich favor over our lives is worth more than mountains filled with gold and chests brimful and running over with jewels. Nothing comes close to what we will have after this life.

Let us count it all joy to know God loves us that much to have us live forever.

Posted in My Journey

Trust in Jesus Until the End

My wife and I recently celebrated another year of marriage. As it has been our habit of late, we booked a very nice hotel for several nights north of town and enjoyed each other’s company in the midst of all that has been going on in our lives. We are incredibly thankful we could do that, considering our autistic son’s condition. He really wanted us to leave him in his younger brother’s care while we had time alone. It was a tough decision, but it also involved a certain amount of trust from our end to feel everything was going to be fine when we came back.

Now I understand what Jesus must have been thinking when he left his disciples to be with the Father. As it says in Acts, “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11).

Much like my wife and I did, sending text messages to our younger son to reassure him we’d be back soon, Jesus sent his angels to his disciples to reassure them that he would be back soon. Sometimes, we, as parents, have to let go in order to allow our kids to grow. Jesus, who loves us, oh, so very much, is doing just that with us, Christians. The apostle Peter confirms this when he wrote:

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8)

There is nothing God would not do to save us, including giving his only son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins (John 3:16). As we grow in knowledge and in truth in Jesus, let us grow to love one another as Jesus loves us, so that when he comes back on that fateful day he will be able to say to us all, “Well done, good servant!”

Posted in How-To Guides

5 Tricks to Get Along with Others

We see our friend from across the room. He smiles. He laughs with his buddies. When we slowly navigate our way through the crowd to offer our hand, he takes a step back and looks at us as if we had just dropped from a nearby galaxy.

Life could not be more perfect.

Why are some people so difficult to appreciate? Is there a sign on our foreheads that invites others to walk all over us? Or, are we simply too sensitive to understand the nature of relationships and how they work?

1. Be Honest

Every relationship we have comes from an event we either approved or disapproved.

The relationship is there, it is alive, and it will not be going anywhere. Good or bad, it will always be there.

The first step to cooperating with one another is to admit we have to cooperate with one another. As simple as it sounds, it is one of the most challenging things to do. Being honest with those around us will make all the difference.

If we are in a situation where someone asks us our opinion, we need to tell the truth all the time. Some may feel that is a drastic step. Why tell the truth? Why expose us to possible criticism?

Because it is easier to remember the truth than to remember a lie.

2. Show Manners

We walk into a store, find the item we are looking for, and head to the counter for the purchase. Somehow, the cashier has not had the best of days, and she is looking to us as another excuse to vent her frustration with life and the pursuit of happiness.

But we decide to engage her on another level.

She hands us the avocados, and we say thank you. She asks if we will need a bag. We say yes, thank you. We ask her to hand us the receipt instead of placing it in the bag, please. She does so.

We walk out and notice, looking back, a slight smile cresting on her face. Could it have been something we said?

A please and a thank-you can change a situation quickly, diffusing bad feelings, and transforming a potential nuclear event into a kitten’s purr.

3. Appreciate Everyone

When was the last time we patted someone on the back? For some, it may be a meaningless gesture, but for others, it translates to a positive experience.

Let us take a moment to think about how it would feel if someone came to us and expressed their gratitude for something we did. Picture their face. Hear their words—if there were words.

Random acts of appreciation bond people.

Whenever we take it upon ourselves to make someone happy, we, in turn, by extension, make ourselves happy. Silly, is it not? It is true, though. Can someone say feelings of euphoria do not course through our veins when we show gratitude toward others?

That little bit of wonderful happens whenever we give of ourselves to others in a selfless and meaningful way.

4. It Is Not All About Us

Sometimes we are the ones who are the biggest stumbling blocks for others.

Either we face the reality that the world will continue on its merry way with or without us, or we continue believing everything we do deserves a spotlight.

There comes a time in one’s life that being a contributing member of society is far better than living in drama.

Here is an example: Johnny decided he was not going to attend his best friend’s wedding. He could not bring himself to shake the jealousy he feels when he sees his best friend with the girl who once rejected him. So he came up with the flimsy excuse that he will be in Europe that same weekend. What Johnny failed to tell his best friend is that he made his plans for Europe the very moment he received the wedding invitation.

Another example is the story of Mary, who hates that her sister bought a new home. Every time her sister posts a photo of the house on Facebook, Mary skips the post and moves on to other items on her newsfeed. One day Mary came upon one too many photos, that she unfriended her sister. Yes, it was an awful thing to do. Of course, she did later regret it and tried to explain it away. Apparently, Facebook had a glitch that unfriended people on her list arbitrarily. Or so she said.

In both cases, Johnny and Mary allowed envy to take root and skew their perspectives. Instead of being happy for his best friend’s upcoming marriage, Johnny drove a wedge between them that will forever affect their friendship. As for Mary, she may have gotten away with lying to her sister this time, but how many more times will she do the same and not hurt their relationship?

Any one of us can become Johnny or Mary.

To prevent this from happening, we have to remain focused and not succumb to the temptation of always wanting to be the center of attention.

5. Help Whenever You Can

The homeless person on the corner of that hectic intersection needs something to eat. What do we do? Do we give money? Do we hand over a portion of our lunch? Or do we extend an invitation for a meal together?

It is easy to turn away people in need. All we have to do is say we are busy and look the part. No one bothers busy people.

But is that something we want to do?

Days before his crucifixion, Jesus said, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:34-40 ESV).

Getting along with others is not just about agreeing and moving forward. It is about getting involved and making a difference in someone’s life.

This also means helping those who do not like us.

Imagine what a world it would be if we all did that.

Posted in Wednesday Warriors

The Men of Friends

Has anyone else watched Friends and said, “I know those people, they’re my friends!” I’ve done that. In fact, I’ve watched episodes of the sitcom thinking, “Gosh, has someone peeked into my past to document my life in a comical way?” The television show, which was a hot commodity in the late 90’s, early 2000’s, is now a syndication gold mine. What better way to celebrate Wednesday Warriors than to include the men of Friends?

Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer
Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer

Each male character in the Friends universe has his quirks. Ross (David Schwimmer), for instance, is never quite sure where he stands in a relationship. Chandler (Matthew Perry) is the wisecracking joker of the group. Who doesn’t have a sarcastic buddy in their group of friends? Then there’s Joey (Matt LeBlanc), the struggling actor who doesn’t seem to have much luck landing a job in his profession. Together, they make up the men of Friends.

Let’s go deeper.

Friends
Friends

Ross Geller—He works with dinosaur bones. He knows a lot about science. Ask him about carbon dating and he will tell you everything there is to know about the subject. Unfortunately, Ross’ problem is not his job but the women with whom he falls in love. His first wife left him after becoming a lesbian. Divorce soon followed. To make matters worse, at the time of the split, she was pregnant with his child, which she carried to term with her new wife by her side. His second marriage lasted a day. She was English and the sweetest thing, but also a control freak he luckily shook from his life with a second set of divorce papers. His third marriage was with Rachel Green (Jennifer Aniston), the love of his life, but we won’t count that since they hooked up in Vegas and were drunk to high heaven while doing it.

In spite of Ross’ affinity to falter in his relationships with women, he really is a nice guy. Rachel once fixed him up with the pizza delivery chick and said that once she got to know him, she’d find he was kind, considerate and gentle. She would realize what a good heart he had.

Chandler Bing—Crazy Chandler. Nothing but sarcasm spews from his mouth, but in a good way. Quick-witted, funny and wise beyond his years, Chandler rules every scene. His problem? He uses humor to hide his insecurities about his present state. The more awkward the scenario, the funnier he gets as the humor rolls from his lips in buckets. Chandler also has one other slight problem that gets in the way. He’s been dating Janice (Maggie Wheeler) since, like, forever. Janice is, what you would call, annoying. Her laugh can cause any man to drive an icepick through his skull.

Yet, Chandler’s good qualities are his tolerance for his goofy friends and his perpetual willingness to help those in need. Can anyone forget the $1,500 he wanted to give Joey as a way to help him ride out a glut in his acting career? Generous is what makes Chandler special.

Joey Tribiani—He’s Italian. He loves food. And it’s a guarantee he also has forgotten how many sisters he actually has. His issue is that he’s been looking for work in acting for such a long time that he’s numb with the silly jobs he’s held in the meantime. Wait, Joey did have one job as a doctor in Days of our Lives, but it blew his head so big that he trashed the writers. The writers did one better. They threw his character down an elevator shaft. It was a dark day in soap opera history.

Joey’s biggest attribute is his big heart. He’s the traditional naive character with the generous eyes. He loves the women, but he’ll drop them in a second if it meant helping a friend.

And those are the men of Friends, folks. In some strange and wonderful way, each character in that show reminds me of my very own friends. How about you?

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Have you seen the show Friends? What do you enjoy most about the show?

Posted in Wednesday Warriors

David Dunn

Of all the Wednesday Warriors I’ve written about, David Dunn, the mild-mannered hero of the movie Unbreakable, and today’s highlight, is one of my favorites. If you haven’t seen the film directed by The Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan, then I don’t want to spoil it for you. You can skip to the last paragraph to get the general gist of the film. For everyone else, keep reading.

Bruce Willis as David Dunn
Bruce Willis as David Dunn

A train wreck leaves everyone onboard dead except for David Dunn (Bruce Willis). In fact, he doesn’t only survive, but he walks away from the tragedy without a scratch. Returning home, his wife Audrey (Robin Wright), with whom before the accident he wasn’t getting along, takes her husband’s survival as a sign that their troubled marriage is worth saving.

In another part of Philadelphia, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) finds himself reading about the accident and about David’s miraculous event. No one should have survived that crash. No one should have just walked away without a scratch. As with David, there is more to Elijah than anyone knows.

One day, David’s son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) retreats in the shadows as his father lifts weights. It’s one of those scenes where the audience is slowly discovering something about David that Joseph is realizing himself. What exactly does Joseph see?

Joseph sees that his dad is not ordinary. Joseph sees his dad is capable of lifting more than anyone could possibly lift. Joseph sees his father as extraordinary.

David Dunn of Unbreakable
David Dunn of Unbreakable

In another scene, David asks Audrey if she remembers the last time he was sick. He comes to the realization that he’s never been sick–not even a sniffle.

On the other hand, at one point or another, Elijah has broken every bone in his body. Sickness follows him wherever he goes. Confined to a wheelchair is something he’d rather not admit to but can’t avoid.

From there, David dons a poncho and wanders the city. In a busy metropolis train station he extends his arms and allows the people to brush his hands. It is then a superhero rises from the devastation his life could have been. No longer does he wander to discover his abilities. He knows who he is. With a poncho acting as his cape, he can rescue those in need. He can give aid. And his life has turned from a helpless victim to that of a strong father figure boys could emulate.

Lastly, every superhero has an arch villain with whom to contend. If David were unbreakable, with neither train wreck nor bomb unable to harm him, then logically, someone who is on the opposite side of the spectrum, breakable, will have to be his archenemy. There is only one person who could fit that description.

As with all superhero origin movies, the character has weaknesses to overcome, strengths to discover and dark demons to fight. In David’s case, there is more to his life than what others may see. He possesses a disturbing curiosity as to how far he can go with his abilities. The critical question, however, is much more personal. How far would we go should we discover we are not who we think we are?

Get the Ranger Martin zombie trilogy now!

Have you seen Unbreakable? What do you think of the David and Elijah relationship?

Posted in Freedom Friday, Other Things

Letter to Future Self

How would you start a letter addressed to your future self? Let’s say you know you’ll be opening it twenty-five years from now, what would you say? Would you start it off congratulating yourself for having survived another quarter century? Or would you simply turn over in bed one morning muttering something silly under your breath? Perhaps you would say, “Meh.”

I’ll tell you how I would do it…

Writing a letter to future self.
Writing a letter to future self.

Dear Jack,

Here you are, twenty-five years later. How does it feel to be officially old? Imagine where you were/where I am now, and pat yourself on the back for having survived this long. It takes guts to go through a full lifetime having read all the warning labels on products, obeying your traffic signals and eating the right things to live another day. But you did it. You’re here and there’s no turning back the clock.

How did I do? Did I finally become that best selling author I dreamed of becoming? Whatever happened to the blog I wrote? Did it go out peacefully, or did I call it quits while I unceremoniously set my laptop on fire? Do I still use a laptop? I would have thought by now I would have been typing on an air keyboard complete with optical sensors and biometric security.

Whatever happened to the movie I wanted to make? Did it ever become a success? Okay, so maybe that was shooting too high. At least I would have hoped to have realized it, right?

How are the kids? Did they grow up to become what you had wished—contributors to society? I didn’t forget that it doesn’t matter what they have become, as long as they’re healthy and happy, that’s all that matters. You do remember that, right?

Hey, how’s retirement? Did you retire like you were planning or are your working as a greeter at a department store? Not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just that, I would have imagined flipping burgers being more fun in the elderly years. The image of a cranky old dude flipping burgers seems like a lot of fun. Now that I’m thinking of it, did I do that? Yeah, if I have forgotten about my retirement plans it’s because of what I just wrote.

How’s the love of my life? Has she grown old with me? I’ve always had a sense of recognizing how important she is to my well-being. Did she provide the encouragement to become the best I could be? She is the mother of my children, after all. Did I comfort her during her down times? Did I offer her guidance as we moved from year to year? How is marriage treating me? Hopefully, as good as it is now.

Listen, Jack. I gotta tell you something. You know this, but after having read it twenty-five years later, I’m sure you have forgotten it. Have fun with your life. Keep focused and enjoy. I’m sure I’m going to have some nasty battles to fight. It won’t matter. As long as I know I will survive, that’s all I care about.

One more thing: About that Romance novel I will be publishing—I don’t need to mention again why I had written it, do I? It was something I had to get out of my system. The only thing you have to remember is that it was my way of decompressing from the zombie genre.

And the superhero thing—but we won’t get into that.

Yours in the past, always in the future,

Jack

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Have you ever written a letter to yourself?