Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Those who don't learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them

I once wanted to do things that made me feel good,
now I wish I would have done things that my daughters would have approved.

God blessed me with an awesome wife and three perfect daughters. We homeschool our children because my wife insisted. Thanks to that decision, my daughters have instincts about what's right and wrong that I didn't have when I was their age—or now, for that matter. I can't count the number of times they walked in on me in the living room while I was watching a prime time sitcom and told me that the show wasn't appropriate. Bad words. Inappropriate scenes. Excessive violence. They instinctually know what's right and what's wrong, and don't hesitate to tell me when I'm letting bad things into my head.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Phil. 4:8 (ESV).

Looking back on my childhood, I see very different priorities.

The boys I hung out with as a child did stupid, dangerous things. One started smoking marijuana in junior high. One introduced me to “mens magazines.” One tried to talk me into going to the park to start a fight with some other kids.

A few of the kids I grew up with were decent fellows. They introduced me to science fiction. I started reading novels in sixth grade thanks to them. Looking back it seems like I always had a novel in my hands. They introduced me to role playing games, which helped to develop my creativity and intellectual curiosity. They encouraged me to try out band so I started playing the trumpet and enjoyed it. Later I gravitated to another intellectual pursuit that these good kids were involved in, speech and debate. Thanks to that decision I discovered something that directed my steps for the rest of my life. Had I not picked up a whole slew of other bad habits, I might have gotten my adult life off the launch pad much sooner, but that's for another chapter.

Then came the fraternity

There's a large part of my young adult life that I'd rather not tell my daughters about, at least the more seedy parts. After a year in college I joined a fraternity. Before this fateful decision, I had lived a relatively pure and innocent life. I hadn't started drinking yet—wasn't 21 and respected the law too much—at least not in excess. Sure, I did drink a beer or two every now and then with my friends from high school, but very rarely and certainly not every weekend. The fraternity changed everything.

First, the drinking started. I drank lots of beer every weekend, and most days of the week. It started slowly. After all, I wasn't 21 so had to rely on brothers to buy my beer. But within a few weeks of pledging, I was drinking heavily every weekend. I didn't think I was ever too drunk to drive back then, and on a scale from 1-10, I was probably around 2 when I did drive. Still, as a current DUI defense attorney, I am certain I met the legal definition of impaired driving.

Most concerning about this aspect of my college slide is my unwillingness to acknowledge the very real risk I faced of becoming an alcoholic. It's in the blood and my mom constantly reminded my of this fact. My biological father died in his front yard after going on a bender and I recall many nights leading up to the end of my parents' marriage when he came home late very drunk. My maternal grandfather was also an alcoholic. Both these men were full of potential. Very smart and, before the booze destroyed them, very successful in their chosen professions. Alcohol destroyed the men first, then their vocations, then their lives.

Second, I often tell myself that I hated college so much that if I hadn't joined the fraternity I would have dropped out. That's a lie. The fact is I had a A-B average before joining, and graduated with a C average. The parties, road trips, hangovers, skipped classes, etc. killed my grades as well as my early dreams of becoming a lawyer. Thankfully, I grew up and my brain wasn't too fried when I took the LSAT several years later, so scored in the 80th percentile. But I often wonder how things would have turned out had I realized my academic potential back then and gone straight to law school after college. While I still insist that the lifestyle I chose back then was a mistake that I do not want my own daughters to follow, God used those mistakes to mold me into who I am today.

Lost friendships

The thing I most regret are the lost friendships. We make choices and take forks in the road many times in our lives. With those choices we move from one relationship to another. It's a part of being human and growing up. Sometimes our interests take us in different directions than the people we hang out with. This is especially true when we find Christ after living a rough and tumble life. Do not be deceived: 'Bad company ruins good morals.'” 1 Cor. 15:33 (ESV). Sometimes it's a good thing to move on.

This sin't what I'm talking about. Remember those friends I had in high school, the ones who inspired me to read, to join band, to get involved in speech and debate, to play healthy, mind-growing games? These are the people I sacrificed when I chose the fraternity. I chose to leave them behind. This was not a Christian thing to do. One friend in particular should have been an inspiration to me. He had a girlfriend. She got pregnant. They got married and she had the baby. They are still married today, decades later. They honored the gift of life God gave them as well as repented of what led them to that position. They honored God by honoring the relationship that is marriage. I should have embraced that friendship more and not run away from it. We should pursue friendships with men of character, the kind of men who stand up for their families and take responsibility for their decisions.

He's not the only friendship I abandoned. There were others. I walked away from good people and embraced a lifestyle that I wasn't ready for.

It wasn't the fraternity, it was me

I do not judge the fraternity itself or my fraternity brothers harshly. The fact is there were many good men in it. A few were men of faith who maintained their purity and innocence even in that hedonistic atmosphere. I even told them in my later years that I wished they would have come out of the closet, so to speak, and witnessed to me. But that wouldn't have helped me back them. I would have done what a few others in the fraternity did. I would have made fun of them. It's what immature, selfish people do. The reason I see those days as dark is because they revealed something in me that was not pretty. They brought out my selfishness and insecurities.

Adults should join fraternities, not children.

My wife and I raised our daughters differently. They have been bathed in the Word. They have been taught that everyone should seek God's purpose in her life and hold out for the something more that God has planned for her. As a result, my 14 year old daughter is much more mature than I was in college. Her morals won't be compromised by college life. Indeed, unlike me, she wouldn't even think about joining a Greek sorority. She'll probably join a Christian fraternity or sorority and be a better person as a result. I have no doubt that my two younger daughters will turn out the same.

Water under the bridge

I cannot relive my life. No one can. What's done is done. I am thankful that God used my poor decision making to form me into a better person, someone better equipped to serve the Kingdom. Indeed, the fraternity provided me my defining moment, the moment that I suddenly woke up and realized what I was becoming. The moment that, to this day, compels me to help others avoid the same mistakes I made in my youth.

It happened in my final year in college. The fraternity's final rush party was going on and I had consumed lots of alcohol, but I had plans that evening. Ironically, the plans were with the good man I discussed above. I'd set him up with a blind date a few weeks before and he was returning the favor. So, after spending time at the party, I drove twenty miles to home. I cannot remember the drive, but I'm sure I was all over the road. I do remember getting home and calling him to tell him I was on my way. I remember my slurred words as I tried to speak clearly. What I didn't know was that my mother was listening in on our conversation. She kept me from leaving and probably saved my life. The highway from Bedford to Irving, Texas, was as busy back then as it is today and there's no way I would have made it there without getting into an accident and possibly killing myself or someone else. I stopped drinking to get drunk then, and several years later I stopped drinking altogether. Today my primary mission field is DUI defense. I share the gospel with people who deal with alcoholism every day, and my experience in college gave me a terrific testimony to share.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (ESV). Still, as a father my perspective has changed. I survived my youthful indiscretion but I do not want my daughters to make the same mistakes I made. Temporary pleasure isn't worth the risk, especially for girls. Thus, in hindsight, I once wanted to do things that made me feel good, now I wish I would have done things that my daughters would have approved.

Copyright © 2014 by Kevin Mark Smith

Monday, January 20, 2014

Goals for the new year

Have you set your goals for 2014? Hope you don't call them "resolutions." No one sticks to those.

For me, I want to follow God's direction in my life, not my own path. I want to make the most of the gifts and talents he's given me so I can spread the gospel message in my careers.

Two proverbs keep repeating themselves in my head: "Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed." 16:3. "In his heart a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps." 16:9.

I love the law but I love writing even more. Prism Book Group published my debut novel, Flashback, in 2013. For an ebook from a first time author, it sold well, even breaking into Amazon's top ten in several categories a few times. I love the story and the reader reviews indicate fans like it, too. But it was just the beginning.

Prism is publishing my second novel, Love's Strong Shelter, sometime in 2014. My goal is to use the success of Flashback to springboard LSS to even greater success. It has a message about domestic violence and divorce that will resonate--might even anger a few people. It also has unexpected twists and turns like Flashback so should be well received.

Law firm wise, my goal is to continue to look for opportunities to share the gospel with my clients. I plan to give copies of LSS to my domestic clients. Maybe they'll consider God's Word when contemplating divorce?

On a more personal note, my mom gave me a fitbit for Christmas. Lost ten pounds already. Plan to run a 10k, half marathon, and the Dallas White Rock Marathon in 2014. It's been 14 years since my last marathon and two years since the last half marathon. I better get to work.

What are your goals for the new year? Do you have someone to share them with to hold you accountable?

Blessings and happy 2014!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, January 17, 2014

Check out the reader reviews for Lisa J. Lickel's new book The Last Detail

The Last Detail, by Lisa J. Lickel, is a perfect blend of faith and romance. It shows the reader what can happen when we follow God's direction even when it means personal sacrifice. "Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you as well." Matthew 6:33. I recommend it. Five stars!
Available thought Amazon, BN.com, and the publisher, Prism Book Group.
Check out a couple of other reader reviews...
5.0 out of 5 stars Encouraging outcome January 7, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
When Merit Campbell is sent home from the mission field, wounded in an uprising at the Middle Eastern clinic he runs, he finds himself in Illinois. He ponders what is in store for him if he can’t stay in the field.
Dealing with the details of his uncle’s enormous old house has been left to his sister; but since Merit is in the area, he’s interested in investigating the home where he had so many childhood memories before his parent’s and older brother’s deaths and the disappearance of his youngest brother, Justice.
Amalia Kennedy is introduced to Merit by a mutual friend. She owns a company that deals with the client’s final wishes and estate details. She’s already agreed to help Merit’s sister sell the old house, but Merit decides to live there and turn it into a place for missionaries on leave.
Amalia parents thought she’d marry her long time business associate, Hudson. Merit, a confirmed bachelor, and Amaila each find an attraction growing for the other. His ministry interrupts their relationship and tragedy finds them. Will they learn to trust each other enough to succeed?
Ms Lickel writes a compelling story of two people who are struggling with their faith and where it has brought them. Amalia wonders if she’s doing enough and Merit wants to finish the job he started. The characters are believable and the story brims with love and hope.
...5.0 out of 5 stars Story stayed with me for days - awesome! January 8, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
The Last Detail is the most recent work of Lisa J. Lickel and while billed more as women's fiction, it has a nice romantic thread to it.

Merit is a medical missionary who is injured on the field and sent home to recover. The only problem is, the mission board refuses his request to return to the field. Cast adrift and trying to figure out what to do with his life, he moves into a large empty home that is an inheritance left to him and his sister. While struggling with his value and direction, he is intrigued with Amalia who has taken on the task of managing final details of the estate that the house is a part of.

Amalia runs a business called The Last Detail, (hence the name of the book), that helps people with other end of life planning beyond the funeral. She is stuck in a relationship with the funeral director, Hudson, who assumes they will marry. Can Amalia break out of her rut and embrace a larger life than the one that had been prescribed for her by her parents and business associate? Perhaps one that takes her beyond the borders of her city?

Both characters have to struggle with their relationship with God and with each other as obstacles continually emerge to confuse and complicate their lives.

I don't want to give any spoilers away! Just read the book and enjoy the story as it unfolds. This is a well-crafted story that has hung with me for days after reading it.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Chapter 1 of my next novel, Mercy

Following is chapter one of my next novel, Mercy. First person who guesses where the story is headed gets a free signed copy of Flashback. Also, please comment on whether you're intrigued enough to read further.

Chapter 1
Murphy's Law

Rebecca Dean is a witch, Howard Stein thought as he walked down the hallway leading to the office of the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. He flashed a wan smile to a few clerks he passed, nodding to a couple he recognized. Most weren't smiling, except to return his own half-hearted smile. Everyone on the floor reported to Rebecca. They think the same of their boss as I do. He chuckled as he approached Dean's office then reached for the knob. He entered, shaking his head as if it were an etch-a-sketch that revealed to the world exactly what he thought. Shame if she knows what I'm thinking, as if she doesn't already. 
Doesn't matter. She'll be axed before the mid-terms. He laughed again. The middle-age woman sitting at the desk between him and Dean's office looked up and scrunched her brows together, tilting her head to the side. He shook his head and forced his lips to curve downward. “I'm here to see Secretary Dean.”
“Of course, Mr. Stein. She's expecting you.”
She's not smiling either. No one likes the witch. Nonetheless, the otherwise friendly lady punched a button on her headset. “Mr. Stein is here to see you.”
She nodded and tapped the button again. “She's ready. Would you like coffee?”
He nodded and walked past the desk. The door behind opened just as he was about to grab the handle. An older, grey haired yet fit looking woman with a perpetual frown on her face greeted him. “Come in. Need to keep it short. Have a press conference in twenty minutes.”
He nodded but frowned back. Thin ice didn't phase her, it seemed to him. She turned and walked back to her desk as he followed, shutting the door behind. Back still turned, she said, “So what is it you had to tell me in person that couldn't be said on the phone?”
She sat and stared at him, firm lips and frosty eyes shooting hateful daggers into his soul, fingers tapping the desk.
Howard Stein wasn't much younger than the cocky, spiteful, bitter woman who sat at the desk. President Yassim Hadar appointing her to run the most important department of the government at this time in history made him doubt the legitimacy of Hadar's alleged 150 IQ. Of course, no one knew at the time that the administration would be able to shove HadarCare down the American People's throats by legislative mechanizations that circumvented more than two-hundred years of safeguards that demanded adherence to the constitutional amendment process as opposed to legislative and administrative fiat. Had they known they'd succeed in taking control of almost 20% of the American economy, Hadar would have nominated someone with real world experience and not a political climber who's only real experience was serving as Kansas Insurance Commissioner for a term and governor for a couple.
“Orders. The President sent me. The marketplace rollout was bad enough, now the cost guarantees he stumped are unraveling before our eyes. Twenty, thirty, even fifty percent increases in costs in some states. This won't do. We barely survived the internet marketplace mess. This will sink the Democrat Party for years to come.”
“That's not my fault.”
He laughed out loud then leaned forward, pounding the edge of her desk. “Rebecca, this is your fault. You failed to keep him informed of the problems before the rollout. You failed to update us on the policy and delivery costs. You failed to reign in those shifty contractors hired to build the marketplace and recruit the insurance companies and health care providers. This is all your fault.”
She leaned back and smiled for the first time, laying her arms on the rests of the large, puffy, brown leather office chair. The smile turned to a smirk. She looks sort of pretty when she smiles. He shook off the thought. Still, his wife died a few years before. Dean was pretty. But she was more than that. She was well put together. Yoga? Running? He wondered. Almost seventy yet she had the body of a thirty-year-old. He noticed a bracelet on her right wrist along with a gold watch on the left. Hmm.
She nodded. “It's a HeathTracker. Tracks steps, calories burned, and with the smartphone app, calories eaten and other fitness goals.”
“Yep. Been using it for a year. Remember when I first took office? I was forty pounds heavier and couldn't walk from the car to the front door of the office building without stopping to rest.” She lifted her arm and said, “This thing saved my life.”
He sank back in his chair and briefly glanced down at his waste line. 40 inches. He suddenly noticed the weight of the pack of cigarettes in his suit breast pocket. Helen, Dean's secretary, entered the room from behind and sat his coffee cup down on the desk in front of him, and a bottled water in front of Dean. He reached up to grab the sugar pack from the side of the cup, but instead reached for the cup. Can't hurt to skip sugar at least this once.
“Where do you get them?”
“Any electronics store. They're everywhere. My doctor...” She looked down at her wrist, eyes squinting, mouth puckering. She nodded and looked up at Stein. “Howard, please tell President Hadar that steps are being taken to reign in costs. I promise. The issue is throwing all those unhealthy people into the healthy pool. It causes rates to rise. Get that problem dealt with and everything else is fixed.”
“Sounds like magic, the same kind we were told would happen when we pushed for this legislation.”
“It's about lifestyle choices. People make good choices, the costs go down. Get the ones making bad choices out of the pool, or turn them around and make their choices better, and it's smooth sailing.”
He shook his head and chuckled through his nose as he lifted the cup to his lips. “I don't have to tell you the precarious position you're in right now. Unless we see something positive soon, you won't have that chair anymore.” He stood and added, “Thanks for the coffee,” he pointed to the HeathTracker, “and the idea for that tracker thingy. Didn't know that's what helped you get in shape. I think I'll get one.”
She smirked again, crunched her lips tight, and nodded.
* * *
Dean sat in her desk chair, alone, rocking gently with eyes shut tight and lips pursed. She rested her elbows on the chair arms, hands at first resting there, too. Her shoulders were slightly slouched, not so much as to indicate defeat or despair, just a more relaxed look than she had when the President's Chief of Staff had paid a visit and made the not-so-veiled threat that her days were numbered. She brought her hands together, tips of the fingers of one hand touching the other and forming a tee-pee with her index fingers gently brushing the tip of her nose. “Yes,” she said, “this will work.”
She dropped her hands down and rubbed her right wrist where she wore her dark blue, rubbery HealthTracker. She leaned forward and tapped the intercom. “Helen?”
“Yes ma'am?”
“Please find the number for HealthTracker, Inc.'s CEO.”
“Yes ma'am.”
She tapped the off button and looked at the tracker. She tapped a button on its side and the time lit up on the bluish-white digital readout, then stood and walked to the door, grabbing a gym back next to the coatrack. She opened the door and walked out. “Need that number when I get back from my workout," she said as she passed Helen's desk, "okay?”
Helen nodded as her boss left the office.
As Dean walked down the hallway to the elevators, she noticed something different in the faces of those she passed. Shock. She chuckled. Probably the first time they've seen me smiling in weeks. This will work. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Check out this wonderful children's book by award-winning author Lorilyn Roberts!

“The Donkey and the King”

A donkey longs for an easier life with no heavy burdens and no one to tell him what to do. He runs away and becomes lost, but “good” finds him in the most unlikely of places.

Travel to the Bible lands and meet Baruch, a stubborn donkey, and other lovable animals:  Lowly, the pig; Much-Afraid, a small, lame dog; Worldly Crow, who isn’t as bright as he thinks he is; and a sheep, Little, sent on a special mission by the King. The ending of the story will delight young readers as they discover “good” exists in the world if they look and listen for it.

If you enjoyed looking for the mouse in “Goodnight Moon” when you were young, your child will delight in looking for “good” in “The Donkey and the King.” The moral:  There is good in the world if you look and listen for the King’s voice.

“The Donkey and the King” (A Story of Redemption)
99 cents December 1 through December 16
24 reviews, 4.8 stars
Ages 2-6

From December 1 through December 16, the John 3:16 Marketing Network is hosting a Christmas Book Launch and “The Donkey and the King” is a featured book.

As part of the event, the Network is offering a $200 Amazon gift e-card to one lucky winner. For a chance to win, go to http://bit.ly/Christian_Books  and enter the Rafflecopter (toward the bottom of the page). And be sure and pick up your Kindle version of “The Donkey and the King” for 99 cents at http://bit.ly/Donkey_Kindle      

Next stop on Lorilyn Roberts’ Excerpt Tour:  Visit Emma Right’s blog on December 9 at:  http://www.emmaright.com
Lorilyn Roberts is an award-winning author who writes family-friendly books for the young, the young at heart, and all those in between. Visit http://LorilynRoberts.com to learn more.