Book: 7 women 

 We all want to know the secret of greatness, reading 7 Women by Eric Metaxas made it clear the cost of living a life that changes society doesn’t come at an easy price.  We see people on social media with glamorous lives who seem to blend the lines of being influential and fame. We interpret the only way to make a difference in culture is to be famous. In pursuing fame we become deaf to God’s instructions and the endeavor becomes more about self than about others. Chances are, what He wants us to do, is not glamorous at all.

Reading the stories of these seven women made it clear, each of them served others sacrificially. I was fully expecting to read this book to feel inadequate but instead realized I have the ability to serve people where I am at in my life just like these women did. These women never had fame on their minds and never cared about who was following them but focused on being obedient to Christ. Each day they took one step closer towards what they knew God would want them to do.  It’s clear how easy but yet how very hard it is to do just that. Jonah of Arc allowed herself to look crazy to those who did not believe it was God who was speaking to her, Mother Theresa paid attention to society’s outcastes, Corrie ten Boom opened her home to strangers in need and continued to do so during the Holocaust even when her life was at risk. Hannah More used her gifting as an artist to influence culture to reveal how evil the slave trade was.

Reading about these 7 women show me the power of being faithful, faithful to God, to family, to work, and how that alone makes the difference in the lives of those around you. It’s faithfulness and obedience to God that creates a new culture, over flowing to others.

Book: Miracles by Eric Metaxas

I admit, I have a writer’s crush on Eric Metaxas, author of one of my favorite books, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. It started when I watched all the videos about him on youtube, then followed him on twitter. His speeches and random humor made me feel like we were friends. I was excited when he said he would retweet someone who took a photo with his new book. I thought this would be my chance to get some tweeter attention. So I bought the book and took a photo with it. If it was a marketing trick – I fell for it. This was my chance to be friends with one of New York’s Christian elite. It work – I got retweeted. 🙂

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I found Miracles refreshing. I read the first few chapters with my boyfriend so I could really understand the miracle of creation and the science of our existence. I pretty much failed science so reading it with someone and being able to ask questions really helped bring the text to life. For the first time, I could understand why the fact the Earth it’s self, is indeed pretty amazing.

“Reason and Science compel us to see what previous generations could not: that our existence is an outrageous and astonishing miracle, one so startlingly and perhaps so disturbingly miraculous that it makes any miracle like the parting of the Red Sea pale in such insignificance that it almost becomes unworthy of our consideration, as though it were something done easily by a small child, half asleep.” 

I was encouraged when I read about a dream Eric had when he was young. It was the dream that would change his life and bring him to faith. It was full of unique imagery that explained the gospel in a language that only Eric would understand. It spoke his language. I myself have two bother-n-laws who I am praying who would one day invite Jesus to be a part of their life. When I pray for them, I never know what to say. Everything seems cliche. But after reading about Eric’s dream, and how God suddenly made perfect sense to him, my prayer is that God would speak to my brother-n-law’s in the language of their own heart.

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“God knew me infinitely better than I knew myself, and he had taken the trouble to speak to me in the most intimate language there was; the secret language of my own heart. That was that.”

The last chapter read as beautiful as a C.S. Lewis conclusion,

“We may fool ourselves into thinking we are avoiding the question, but to avoid the question, to avoid answering the question, is to answer the questions. Whether we knowledge it or don’t. We fool ourselves into thinking that to table the question or to wait longer before we answer it and make our decision is wisdom, when in reality it is self-delusion and folly.”

I’ve always been one to believe in Miracles but reading about recent one’s that have taken place in the lives of people who Eric know personally encouraged me to believe they happen more often than not.

“I wish I read more.”

 The past year I’ve gotten into the habit of reading and finishing books. It use to take me 6 months to complete a book. The problem; I couldn’t stay still long enough to focus. The moment I would sit to enjoy a book, my mind would wonder leaving me frustrated I didn’t understand what I was reading and then asking myself, “What did I just read?”
As I’ve been reading more often these days, I’ve been having lots of people comment, “Ugh, I wish I read more.” I remember being in that same spot; wanting to read but failing every time I tried. The books I’ve read and share with you have dramatically changed my life in one accept or another. The only way I can describe it, I feel like my brain works better now.
I finally can understand anything I want, as long as I take the time to understand things deeply.
There are so many benefits to reading and you are selling your mind short by not developing the skill. “I’m not smart.” is an excuses to be lazy.  If I didn’t start reading I’d probably still be making a few bucks an hour, still be single trying to figure out whats my problem, and be very stressed out that life isn’t working.

Sounds extreme but that where I was five years ago. Reading challenges me to keep on growing as a person. My boyfriend, Gus, still tells me, that a quality he first saw in me that really caught his attention.

Some benefits to reading:
1. Learning and understanding concepts faster by reading about them.
2. The more you learn about different subjects, the more the mind creates connections between subjects, helping to discover new ideas and finding solutions.
3. Reading about or from successful people and about their life lessons help you work better with people and give you a path to follow and try for yourself.

So my secret:

Buy a non fiction book that catches your current interest. You have to want to read it. For me, a physical book helps me focus on the pages, reading on my iPad is too tempting to switch to another app…Like Netflix.

Sign up to audible to download a new book every month. This will help you read the books maybe you aren’t SUPER passionate about but still want to hear what it has to say. Create a morning habit of listening to your audiobook instead of morning news.

Focus is a skill you must strengthen. Set a timer on your phone for 20 minutes. Get comfortable and read. Reward yourself after you complete the time with some downtime watching something on Netflix or TV. Your mind deserve to zone out.

Make it a goal to read everyday and try to finish the book in that month. Shop for your new book near the time you are about to finish your current one. This will motivate you to complete the book even if you’ve grown bored w the subject.

Highlight text that speaks to you.

Do a recap when your done. I blog about it as my way of saying I understand what I read enough to share about it. I often tell Gus about my book, waiting for his questions to see if I understood the book. Having these conversations are always super fun. I love having deep conversations and hearing feedback on the subject I’ve currently grown passionate about.

Display your books as your trophy case. Completing your book will give you a scence of accomplishment.

Make it into an event. Go out, find a cute coffee shop and read. Soon it will become the reward you look forward to.

Now go find a book to fall in love with.

Summer Bookshelf

I’ve been obsess with reading books and listening to audio books. This summer if you hung out with me, you would have heard, “There’s this book I’m reading about..”  My friend who just passed the bar said with great concern, “Wow, you’re reading a lot of books.” I laughed because yes, I was becoming that Portlandia skit of, “Have you read…” Look it up if you haven’t seen it, super funny. Well, here is my summer reading list. I found every book life changing and insightful!

41k9x2bg6RL._AA160_ The 5 elements of Effective Thinking

was mentioned by a rich successful guy during an interview that I heard on the radio. He mentioned it super fast, and once I got home I downloaded it. I loved the simple principle it gave. Over all, “Understanding things deeply.” Which lead me on this race to read every book I hear a successful person mention. I liked when the author said, “Be Honest with what you don’t know and on the missing parts.” So many times I allow unknown knowledge become a handicap, but the key is to improve understanding.

51KEubrpFkL._AA160_Linchpin was yet again mention on a podcast.

I am on my second listen. I enjoyed the encouragement it gave to become the linchpin at everything you do. To hold things together and become an artist in the office or where you find yourself working. It’s a choice to put my humanity, and heart into my work to make it in to a price of art. Sounds crazy? Yeah, as a creative, I’ve put what I’ve been learning to discover this is what my job ask of me. I am grateful I work as a place that embraces making a difference. “You have an opportunity to enjoy what you do, make a difference and to unlock the genius inside you.”

51mA7IoWUIL._AA160_ I discovered Jesus, -A pilgrimage at a bookstore in Santa Cruz.

The book was so thick, I thought to myself, “There has to be some more information about Jesus that I don’t know about.” I was right – and fall in love with this book. Father James Martin walks us through his journey into the holy land while asking questions and seeing sights where the gospel took place. I read about Jesus home town, what it looked like and what type of people Jesus grew up with. His community, his culture, – learning the context He was living in brought the text in the bible to life. This book brought Jesus to life for me. “As I stood under the broiling sun, I was gobsmacked to see rocks, thorns, and fertile ground. No one planted the thorn bushes, carted in topsoil, or arranged the stones to make the locale look as it did in Jesus’ time, as if we were in the theme park called Jesus Land. They where just there. It dawned on me that when Jesus used objects from nature to convey his message – seeds, rocks, birds, clouds, water – he may not have been talking in generalities, but about these things right here.” 

51Ml+jD9l3L._AA160_The Power of Habits was to understand the science behind the habits.

Not only to create new healthy habits but to understand our currently ones. We have cue’s that make us do task that give us rewards. “How WILL power becomes a habit, by choosing a certain behavior and following that routine when inflection points happens.” Basically this book showed me how to trick my brain into going to the gym, “When a person goes to the gym, they receive a reward that will make them feel better about themselves, causing them to make better decisions about their spend, the food they eat, causing them to achieving their goals.” [paraphrase]

41zz9A8RF8L._AA160_My So-Called Freelance Life was very wordy and chatty.

I tested out my speed reading on this book. The largest take away, to start a job when you received all the information for it instead of creating something with vague descriptions. Gather the content. Over communicate professionally and limit emails- emails take time to write and read, use it when necessary. For me, if I know the person is in the office, I stop by their office to ask them my short questions. To create your freelance price – do you research. What would it cost if you where going to hire yourself, google it and then work from there. “People are not necessarily going to remember how much something cost but they’re going to remember your attitude and how they felt when they went through the process with you.”

51YUixmUSXL._AA160_ I bought, Boys Should Be Boys for my sister but couldn’t help to read it first.

Reading this book help me discover so much about the men in my life. Their development or lack of. The importance of nature of a boy’s father and mother. How each are equally important into a boy’s life into becoming a man. I loved reading the hope God can give to a man who might have had a troubling childhood with their father or mother. “They know that they have a place in the universe despite every failure. They know that God cares and can understand their thoughts and fears when no one else can. Restoring a boy’s fallen spirit is a monumental task and everybody knows it. Giving a boy the security of God, the God that will always see him and always love him is the defense parents can offer up their child.”

Over all – take time to pay attention to your current interest. As you see, my reading list was random, but in a strange way – all connect.

Book: You are Not Special

I came across a YouTube commencement speech titled, You’re Not Special given by english teacher, David McCullough, Jr. To my surprise it was an extremely insightful speech. He gave the point that there are millions and billions of us on earth and we think we are the center of the universe, but when we recognize that we aren’t special, we can finally see everyone is special. Our life isn’t just for our own satisfaction but for the good we can bring others.

Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. 

Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up, get out. explore, find it yourself and grab hold with both hands. 

I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in anymore than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about. 

I came across the book when I was on vacation and knew it would teach me something new. One aspect of the book I didn’t realize and I should have because after all the book is written by a high school english teacher; it was full of new vocabulary words. I had to look up new words to understand the sentence. Each word was a new discovery. I knew I could use some of these words in my writing and speech. They would make cliché sound fresh!

The chapters took me forever to complete but with each page I was learning something new. I was learning about what its like to be a teacher, a parent, an encourager, and a mentor.

Day after day being a kid, being a person, is an exercise in trail and error. This is learning, which is growing, which is incremental evolution into a new person..

..enthusiasm matters most of all – for your students, for your subject, for the day ahead. 

The teachers I remember most, are the ones who I felt cared for me and who were passionate about the subject they taught. I enjoyed sitting there listening to them talk about their passion. I started to visit the school library during lunch after I saw my 10th grade teacher get excited over Catcher in the Rye.

Fulfillment will come only when you’ve achieved your own definition of success. 

You have to persevere through setbacks, through your own discriminations, trepidations and self-doubt, trying your best not just a matter of principle but as a leap of faith. Process matters wholly, and there are no shortcuts. When you encounter a limitation, work to push through it. When things don’t go your way, try again. In this way you prove yourself worthy- you prove it to yourself.

And so many more encouraging passages to quote from. I’ve been out of high school for 12 years and still an english teacher is teaching me something new. What a fresh perspective to read from. Thanks Mr. McCullough

Book: Story by Robert McKee

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The first time I heard of Story by Robert McKee it was 2008 and I was hanging out with my good friend/editing mentor Nick Khoo in Australia. He didn’t give me much details about the book but said, “You have to read this.” When I saw how thick the book was, I knew I wouldn’t bother.

Last year I was in Burbank visiting another editor friend when the book found me again. I walked in to a used book store, and there it was, in a pill of film books.

I often think books find their way to me at the right time. I finally finished the book and it has taught me so much about storytelling, humanity, God, the struggles of life, and how we long for story.

“…I slowly came to realize that stories mean much more than words and pretty pictures.”

Learning the art of storytelling has taught me how to better understand my story.

“Deep within these characters and their conflicts we discover our own humanity. We go to the movies to enter a new, fascinating world, to inhabit vicariously another human being who at first seems so unlike us and yet at heart is like us, to live in a fictional reality that illuminates our daily reality. We do not wish to escape life but to find life, to use our minds in fresh, experimental ways, to flex our emotions, to enjoy, to learn, to add dept to our days.”

I often see my life as I would see a movie, knowing that today’s struggles will build my character.

“True Character is revealed in the choice a human being makes under pressure- the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.”

“..choice under pressure will strip away the mask of characterization, we’ll peer into their inner natures and with a flash of insight grasp their true characters.”

It was fascinating to learn how important conflict is to the story. In the long run, it is the story. How the character over came, how the battle was won…

“Life is conflict. That is its nature.”

“…conflict is to storytelling what sound is to music…as long as conflict engages our thoughts and emotions we travel through the hours unaware of the voyage…if conflict is kept on hold for too long, our eyes leaves the screen. And when our eyes leave the screen they take thought and emotions with them”

“The Law of Conflict is more than an aesthetic principle; it is the soul of the story. Story is metaphor for life, and to be alive is to be in seemingly perpetual conflict.”

As a writer, editor, photographer – an artist, its our mission to connect with the audience..

“If you give me your concentration, I’ll give you surprise followed by the pleasure of discovering life, its pains and joys, at levels and in directions you have never imagined…Insight is the audience’s reward for paying attention.”

“We go to the storyteller with a prayer: Please let it be good. Let it give me an experience I’ve never had, insight into a fresh truth. Let me laugh at something I’ve never thought funny. Let me be moved by something that’s never touched me before. Let me see the world in a new way. Amen.”

“If the audience expects to happen happens, or worse, if it happens the way the audience expects it to happen, this will be a very unhappy audience. We must surprise them.”

We all have stories inside us and sometimes sharing them takes courage and honesty. There is no telling the power a story can have on the listener.

C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”

I read an impacting passage from C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”, that I feel the need to share with the world, after all, I create these post as a diary of the creative journey that I am on.

Listen and Read..

This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.

The first step is to recognize the fact that your moods change. The next is to make sure that, if you have one accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious readings and churchgoing going are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?”

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For me I kinda have to know why I am doing something, C.S. Lewis explains it perfectly here why its so important for personal devotion with Christ. I highly recommend the book.

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good”.

You can listen to it on youtube if you like.

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