Get Rich Quick!

Back in 2000, I worked in Jackson, Mississippi. While working at Office Depot, I experienced a formative event that taught me how to get rich quick.

 I was the victim of a very basic, but effective con.  The entrance was undergoing construction which led to lots of chaos.  The craziness led to me working the register, which was amazingly uncommon at that location.  A man walked to my station and bought a $1.07 bottle of water with a $100 bill. 
I knew right then that something was up. But I thought I was smarter than this guy. I might have been. But he had experience to fall back on.  He had a goal.  He knew how to accomplish his goal and, possibly most importantly, he was smooth. It is my most embarrassing work experience. 
Being conned is a horrible experience. Knowing that you are being conned without being able to stop it is much, much worse.

Fortunately, he only got away with $20. 

That experience made me appreciate the art of con.

What is it about scammers and con-artists? I hate that I love watching them work.

This past Friday at my 8-5, a guy came in and tried to get his CDL without proper documentation. He worked it really well. He complained that it was too much work. He had a sob story. He even told us that the information was private and none of our business.  He didn’t succeed. We informed him that if he wanted a CDL, it was our business and that documentation was necessary.  That being said, it was fun watching him try.

I had another person try to work my travel agency this morning. He demanded compensation and had some pretty interesting evidence… Except that he admitted that he broke contract with us in his complaint. It didn’t help that my agent knows how to document well. The client had an experience of cutting corners to save money. But in doing so, he hurt his own chances at getting his goal.
Here is something that I have learned when dealing with businesses. If you ask for something extra, there is a better chance of getting it. Be prepared to pay for it, but you never know, they might give it to you for free. Most employees want to satisfy their customers/clients. However, trying to rig the system to never pay for anything… Well, that’s not good. But it is a way to get rich quick.

A Medicated Homeless Lady Named Carol

Tonight, I was a part of something bigger than myself.

Actually, that is misguided.  I have been a part of this something for just about a year.  Tonight was the payoff.

Monday evenings are my Toastmaster nights.  The club usually ends at 8:30pm while a few of us get out closer to 9:00pm to clean up.  I got to talking to a couple of other members afterwards and a lady walked up to us.  Immediately, the three of us could tell that something was a little bit off about her.  She asked if we could provide a ride to a local McDonalds.  She had just walked a couple of miles from Deaconess Hospital and confused us as members of the church that we met.  Carol was very honest from the beginning – she was homeless and on medication.  But she needed a ride.

Rich and I worked out a situation for our safety to make it work out.  Together, we took Carol to the McDonald’s while Sue would meet us after we dropped her off.  Carol explained how tough life had been since they lost their previous house.  She and her family were to move into a new house next month.  For now they were living among the trees.  On the ground.  No tent or tarp.  She said they had to sleep in their regular clothes while it was storming and raining last night.

I won’t lie.  I was scared.  I know that most people aren’t going to do anything.  Even most crazy people aren’t going to do anything.  However, the internet makes things scary.  There was a time when I was 18 that I stopped anytime I saw a car on the side of road to see if I could help.  But that was 19 years ago.  Now I have a family.  I wanted to call my wife and tell her that I loved her.  I wanted to hug my daughter one more time… just in case.

We arrived to the McDonald’s and Carol got out.  I wanted to give her some money, but I don’t carry any cash.  We told her to be safe and then Rich and I met Sue.  Nothing bad happened.  Rich and I were safe.  Life went on.


One year ago, I put my name in a hat to be the Vice President of Education (VPE) for my local club and was confirmed.  I went to training and understood very little.  Another VPE gave me a leadership handbook and I felt like I got myself in over my head.  The VPE is considered the most time consuming job of the local club officers.  However, I found a goal to work towards – the President’s Distinguished award for our local club.  To be President’s Distinguished, our club has to meet certain criteria.  It is not necessarily hard, but it is difficult.  It is the highest award a club can receive, beyond Select Distinguished and Distinguished.  I set my eyes on the goal and started finding ways to put our club in position.

To make a long story short, six month membership dues are in October and April.  On April 1, we had 14 active members.  We started the year (July 1) with 22 members.  We had over 12 people join between July 1 and April 1, but we were down 8 members.  We had met the requirements to be Distinguished in January and were well on track to be President’s Distinguished by the middle of April.  But to be distinguished, a club needs 20 members.  We were also facing smaller club meetings because of life events and did not know what was going to happen.


The club officers decided to make a concentrated effort on not only bring in new members but do a better job of retention.  There is 40% attrition across Toastmasters International.  Our club had as many as 34 memberships and were down to 14.  That is 59% attrition for our club.  Most of our attrition was to experienced members moving on in life.  Only a few of the 20 had joined during the Toastmaster year (July 1-June 30).  Several of our officers started working through the Successful Club Series.  A new member joined here.  Another there.  A couple of members who had life events happen renewed.  Another joined.  We have had several visitors over the past 3 months and we have a really positive club environment.  It was frustrating when we accomplished the final goal to be President’s Distinguished in the middle of May and were still 3 members short.

Going into the meeting tonight, we had 19 members.  A few other Toastmasters offered paper memberships – membership where they would join on paper if no one else did, but they would not take on any of the duties of being a member.  These members have no longstanding ties to the club.  I have a problem with this.  We worked our butts off to get to a place that would have been cheapened if we accepted a paper membership.  I would rather have 19 and no award than 20 with a paper membership.

When the meeting started, we had 3 guests.  None seemed inclined to join at that moment.  We had a great meeting.  Again, none of the guests showed any interest of joining tonight.  Our club started to wrestle with accepting a paper membership or sponsoring a honorary member.  It was a bit tense.  Then, one by one, each guest asked if they could join tonight.

We will have 22 members on June 30, 2016.  Our club reached a goal that looked impossible at times this past year.

I believe in the mission of Toastmasters.  It is to help make leaders and communicators more effective.  It is relatively inexpensive – about $6/month and provides more training and education than you will find in many other programs.  It is a nonprofit organization.  This is what makes paper memberships so frustrating.  The practice does not help anyone in the long run.  Sure, we can pump up numbers, but why would you pay money to join a club and never participate?  Especially when you already have a club you do participate?  This doesn’t teach leadership.  I could only come up with one answer… pride.

Look, I struggle with pride as much as many do.  But pumping numbers to receive an award will be costly in the future.  Eventually, the numbers will catch up with a group of leadership that is doing nothing wrong and reflect badly on their reputation.  We could have reached our goal in April if we went the paper membership route, but we would still struggle having enough people fill our weekly roles.  But we want members that want to be there, that will show up and learn to be better leaders and communicators.  There is a good chance we would have stayed at 19 through July 1.

Tonight, I was able to share with my friends and fellow members the payoff of something bigger than myself.  Our club is Presidents Distinguished.  A medicated homeless lady named Carol got a ride.  Next month, she is moving into her home.  Next year, we will work towards Presidents Distinguished and 30 members with no paper memberships.

“They” say…

“They” say that people compete on FB. They only post things that make them look good and feel pressure to look just as good. I guess I find that funny because humanity in general wants to be seen in a positive light to most people. Very few of us share our darkness with just anyone, and there is a reason for that. I try to post positive things because there is always so much good that I don’t celebrate in life. There are days that suck, but even then, there is usually a silver lining in retrospect.

Today was a good, but tiring day. The kids I taught at church were well behaved, I had a great lunch and conversation with a friend and I am sore as anything playing basketball. I scored points in both games I played! My heels, elbows, knees are bruised and my back is in tremendous pain. I love it! 

My family is a little bit weird. For the first several years of my daughter’s life, we rarely spend more than a night apart. These past few months have been intense as I am busy four nights a weeks and have had several appointments on Saturdays. So 2016 has had us spend more evenings apart as a family than any other period in our life together so far. This coming week I will only have Tuesday evening to spend with them both. 

Because of this, we spent the whole day yesterday together going mall walking. You have to understand, I hate going to malls. But it is a way for me to see how out of step I am with culture. We went to 4 malls and explored the ins and outs. 

Tonight, when I was about to leave to play basketball, she hugged me long. It crushes me to leave her. She threatens to never let me go. My heart breaks. My daughter is a super sensitive person. In this particular way, she is just like me when I was growing up. I had the thinnest skin around. I would cry because of about anything.  

The last time I remember doing it publicly was after a junior varsity football game. My mouth had been pretty foul when I was on the field and we got penalties for it. The next day, I apologized to my teammates and all of a sudden, a floodgate of tears run through my eyes and I am a slobbery, sobbing mess.  My coaches and teammates felt very awkward. That was the last time I allowed myself to cry in front of my schoolmates. There are a few other instances that I cried in front of my church after that, but that was the day I started shutting my emotions down.

My daughter has developed this same condition, but it goes even beyond me. Her empathy for others is astounding. She literally feels their pain.  Until yesterday, I never connected the dots. I thought she just needed to develop thicker skin like I supposedly had done. But my thick skin has only led to more heartache that gets pent up so deep inside me that I am passive depressive. I don’t want that for my beautiful girl.

I told her that something on the ride home and she was surprised. I told her that “Most people are not going to understand why you cry. They will make fun of you and call you names. But there will be a day that others will come to you because they know you will care. They will trust you. It might not happen until you are college age or older but it will happen.”

Maybe this seems trivial to you. But this is the behind the scenes of my “perfect” life. Of course I am going to post pictures of me that I feel good about. It is my Facebook page! I don’t want to post something I don’t like! Good things are happening in my life. As I seek to accomplish these tasks in front of me, the reality is that my daughter loves me and never wants to let me go….

….Excuse me as I go cry.

How To Win at Church Basketball

I apologize.  Some of you are looking for strategies to win at church basketball games.  That is not what this post is about.

For those of you still reading, church basketball leagues are known to bring out the worst of humanity.  Really this is not limited to basketball or even church leagues.  These are simple ways to make life better.  Having played in several over the years, here are some handy tips at #winning:

  1. Greet every single player on all teams before the games start.
  2. Thank the refs for coming out.  If you hate refs, just thank them and move on.
  3. Thank the score keepers.
  4. Give it your best.
  5. Don’t question foul calls.  They aren’t going to change them anyways.
  6. Figure out how to overcome your disadvantages.
  7. After the game, let all the players on both teams know that you appreciated sharing the court with them.

These 7 simple things can set the tone and make the games more fun for all involved.

Until next time.

Love Is Not Against the Law

Politics or love can make you blind or make you see; Make you a slave or make you free but only one does it all.  And that’s giving up your life for the ones you hate the most. It’s giving them your gown when they’ve taken your clothes.  It’s learning to admit when you’ve had a hand in setting them up, in knocking them down.

Because love is not against the law. Love is not against the law. Because love, love, love.

Are we defending life when we just pick and choose lives acceptable to lose and which ones to defend?  Because you cannot choose your friends but you choose your enemies.  And what if they were one, one and the same?  Could you find a way to love them both the same?  To give them your name?

Because love is not against the law.  Love is not against the law.


~ Derek Webb


love is not against the law

One Month

Can you believe it is already/only January 30? In some ways, it feels like it is already May, while in others, maybe January 10!  

Because it is a Captain America Ornament

For me, the month has been interesting. I have made some serious investments in my hobby of Toastmasters by getting more training for leadership and taking on speaking opportunities in other clubs. I have not been part of this program even a year yet, but I continue to meet great and interesting people from all walks of life. The leadership training actually crosses over to my travel agency. 

I have the pleasure to work with 11 other individuals in accomplishing their dreams. For some, selling travel is their ultimate goal. Others are using it as a hobby until they move on to something else. I am privileged to help both.

Because my daily drive to work is 30 minutes each way, I finally found a way to maximize my learning while in the car. I listen to podcasts. Also, I listen to them at 1.5 or 2 times the regular speed. Once I roomed with Bob and he was able to listen at something several times the normal speed… Speed listening! We can train our minds to hear and comprehend the same thing quicker. This has helped me work through several hours of listening material in only 2/3 the time.

My daughter is getting older every day. She does not seem like the little girl from January 2. She is becoming a teenager at 9 1/2. Yikes!

My 8-5 job has gone well. I have one of the best bosses I have ever had. He has both the will to tell me when I make mistakes and the grace to tell me in a way that helps me do better. Oh my… I just made a Will & Grace reference…

For the last two days of January, I have a pretty busy schedule: today my family and I are helping others as a reminder that we have been helped in the past; I am investing in myself in a way I have not done in a long time (we are talking about over 10 years) thanks to the encouragement of Kim, Laurette, and a few others. This is scary for me because I usually take calculated risks. Most importantly, my family and I have to watch a lot of Doctor Who tonight and tomorrow night? Why? Because 42.

Get Back

One of the joyful times of being a current pastor.

One of the joyful times of being a current pastor.

Well… since my last post, a couple thing have happened.  I was fortunate enough to win the humorous speech contest and immediately humbled the next morning as I (felt like I) butchered the homily in my church service.  The high of facing deep competition and winning with a speech about dressing up for Halloween contrasting with giving a sermon about desperation knocked the wind out of me.  It was a great reminder that you cannot remain fixed on any one thing – be it good or bad.

This coming week, we will be cruising.  Still scared about that.

On a positive note, my Toastmaster conference (and some specific support in the following few days) have helped me to push forward in taking more opportunities to speak my story.  This is nothing new for me to consider, but I am starting the process to add being a professional speaker to my plate.  I also plan on self-publishing my first book within the next few months.  I have a few ideas in mind for some other projects, but decided that staying true to form, my first book should be about my transitioning from being a pastor to not being one.  Several of you have read the Former Pastor/Somewhat Minister series and I will be editing and adding to make it fit a more traditional book format.  I believe with this extra period of time, I have been graced with freedom from much of my bitterness and that my story might be helpful and hopeful for others.