Wednesday, January 30, 2013

INSPIRATION | Good to be Alive

Which song makes you smile?
Jason Gray’s “Good to be Alive” is my recurring song of gratitude these days. It’s from Jason’s A Way to See in the Dark album. For those not familiar, you can find the track here:
As I listen to that song, things stop around me. It occurs to me, one again, how blessed I am to be alive today. Gratitude to God rises in my heart and tears start to glaze over my eyes.
Years ago, as a high school student not far from Cleveland, my chemistry teacher mentioned to our class that he’d had car trouble the other day. He also mentioned he’d started to laugh on the side of the road.

We asked him what was so funny. Nothing was funny, he said. We asked him why he laughed. His reply intrigued me: “You can either laugh or cry, so you might as well laugh.”
Sometimes people say things that you take to heart and adopt as a personal standard by which you want to live your life.
I don’t remember much about my chemistry teacher. All I remember is the day he got ready to perform an experiment in front of the class using chemicals and probably a flame or mechanized device. He told those sitting in the front row—which included me—that we might want to get up and stand back a few feet. When we asked why, he said it was because standing too close could render us sterile. Within a split-second, all of us guys in the front row had bolted from our seats and left plenty of leeway. As a 16-year-old guy, you don’t know everything you want in life, but you know you want your swimmers.
But I digress…
“You might as well laugh.” I’m a Gen-Xer, and Gen-Xers have radar for detecting insincerity. This teacher wasn’t trying to sound clever. His reply was genuine. It sounded like a solid idea to me.
That day, I adopted it as my own.
I try to make people laugh. It’s a fun challenge. But I also enjoy hearing laughter because it means the person’s life just got better. I don’t know where they’re coming from in life, but for that moment, I know their life has a shimmer to it. (So today, I got to dance *NSYNC style for my friend Karis.)
Life is good. We have so much to be thankful for, even on the rough days. It’s in our perception.
Sometimes we have dark seasons in life. Or a gritty circumstance. Or a bad day.
I have a blunt sense of humor, often pointing out the ridiculous aspects of the negatives, just to spite those negatives.
But finding humor in negatives also requires you, by definition, to focus on the negatives. Sometimes the negatives can creep in and build up inside that way.
Oftentimes, whether I’m in the midst of a rough stretch or simply pay attention to negative words that have escaped my mouth over recent weeks, and I discover I’m on a treadmill. I’ll reach the point where I say, “Okay, stop!”
In those moments, I’ll often look up to God and say, “I’m sick of talking about the bad stuff. Thank You for everything that’s right in my life. Thank You for everything that’s going well.
I’ll make myself find five simple things to be thankful for. Random things that are easy to overlook. It’s amazing the little things that make life so rich:  Hot water. The light that hangs in my living room. A flannel shirt. The scent of wet pavement during a summer rain. The way my brother Mike’s handprint feels when he gives me a pat on the back to let me know we have a bond.
That artist Jason Gray? I heard him in a recent radio interview. What a testimony. Many people don’t know this, but that guy—the artist who sings “Good to be Alive” with such fervent passion and strength—fights a stuttering issue. Not an occasional stutter—a severe one. It’s noticeable in almost every sentence he speaks. Yet he fights the fear, takes his stand, and sings about how wonderful life truly is. When he sings, the words come through flawlessly. People who press through barriers inspire me.
A Way To See In The Dark
We have a big God.
We’re not alive by accident. You and I could have been born any other time. But God let us be born today.
2013 will be a good year. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what’s coming.
Never give up!
John Herrick
Today’s playlist:  “Good to be Alive” by Jason Gray

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

INSPIRATION | Wandering in Circles

It seems I’ve spent many years of my life going around in circles.
In your job or other areas of responsibility, do things operate in cycles? Do you catch yourself saying, “Yep, it’s February. That means it’s time to do X again, and we need to do it in Y fashion because that’s the way it needs to be done”? And can you remember sitting in that same spot last year saying the same thing? It might be a seasonal project, or the end of a fiscal year, or for students, final exam time.
If you’re a creative person (or maybe not), it can drain your creativity. When you realize you’ve traveled in the same circle over and over again, it can trigger a quick re-evaluation of your life. It can become painfully obvious that you’ve fallen short of your goals. Or it can cause you to wonder if you’ve harmed your future by staying in one spot for what feels like far too long.
Around and around. Nothing appears to change.
But the key word in that sentence might be “appears.” After all, things aren’t always what they appear to be.
I’m in some cycles right now.

So a few minutes ago, I got back from a walk on a cold, winter evening in St. Louis. As I walked, I got honest with God like I often do. And I figure He knows everything about me anyway, so my attitude with Him was, “Lord, why do I need to go through the same crap over and over again? Other people get to move forward with X or Y, and but I need to spend more time in this cycle that doesn’t seem to change.”

For those of you who read my blog and aren’t already aware, I’m a Christian, albeit one who’s pretty far from perfect. Whatever goes on in my life, I tend to view it through the lens of faith, the Bible, and those bits of revelation God gives you along the way. And I believe big time that God has a long-range plan. So much so, that I’ve said to Him many times, “I sure hope You’ve got my life and calling and job details taken care of, because if You don’t, I’m in big trouble!”

Maybe ten minutes later after mentioning the cycle thing, God reminds me of a Bible verse about the potter and the clay:
“Does clay talk back to the potter: ‘What are you doing? What clumsy fingers!” (Isaiah 45:9 The Message)

“Yep, You’re right God.” God has a plan. He’s shaping the future.

Then, another mile or so into my walk, it got even better.

Have you ever seen a potter using a pottery wheel? It starts out as a lump. It spins around and around, and not much seems to happen. Just the same thing, over and over. Talk about boring, not to mention slow.

At first, it doesn’t look like the spinning does that clay any good. But soon, as the potter uses his hands, the clay starts to take shape. You can’t detect a big difference with each individual revolution, but combine those cycles together …

It gains height. More revolutions. The body gains a unique shape. More revolutions. A lip forms along the top. And so on.
With each revolution, further refining takes place.

More often than we prefer, the cycles in our lives seem like such a waste of time. We don’t see progress. But maybe that’s just the way it appears.
Maybe the truth is different. Could it be that, with each cycle. God is fine-tuning the nuances of our lives, adding patience here, adding endurance there, tweaking a skill or attitude there. And we might not see the payoff until years down the road—when we’re glad we went through that mundane process. We learned what works well. We also learned what doesn’t work well.

With some things, I’m so glad I learned from a mistake when the mistake didn’t matter much. Maybe God knows if I’d made that same mistake in a future scenario, it would have cost an awful lot.

I’m thankful God works those mistakes in our favor too. I’ve learned He can work all things together for my good, even when I’ve screwed up to an extent only He can repair:
“But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make” (Jeremiah 18:4 NASB).
What? The clay shifted out of place and its arm fell off? Perhaps you made a major mistake. Or maybe a friend or loved one broke your heart, left a gaping hole, and doesn’t really care that the broken piece is just sitting on the dirty ground.
Whatever it is, the Potter can work that piece of clay back into the vessel. And when He does, what’s fascinating is that oftentimes, no one else can tell anything went wrong. It looks as if your life came together like it was supposed to.

Probably because the Potter knew the mistakes we’d make before we’d ever made them—and just worked them into His plan when He mapped out our lives. (“Okay, we’re gonna need to factor in a pit stop right there…”)

So we go around and around and around. And with each revolution, we get refined a little more … and a little more … and a little more …

Your life does matter. You’re never beyond hope.

I’ve clung to that truth so often, I’ve lost count. I hope it was the exact encouragement you needed today.

Never give up!

John Herrick

Today’s playlist: Hunter Hayes, Hunter Hayes (LOVING this album!)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Landing Now Available for Kindle

I hope your new year is going well!

The Landing is now available as a Kindle ebook at Thanks to everyone who has asked about it and for those who have spent time with the book so far.

Pieces of a fourth novel have grabbed my heart and swirled in my brain on a heavy basis for the last month or so. As usual, it has resulted it a stack of notes written on random slips of paper and napkins! My goal is to sketch out all the details this year and hopefully finish a first draft. We'll see how that goes. Meanwhile, the third book is being read by early readers. It could turn out the fourth book gets released first, who knows. That's what happened the first time around!

Never give up!

John Herrick

Today's playlist: R.E.D. by Ne-Yo

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers: The Landing by John Herrick

Much thanks to the "chef" at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers blog for reviewing my novel The Landing!

Never give up!

John Herrick

Today's playlist:  Letting Go by Jennifer Knapp