Diet for Dreamers: Sending Out an S.O.S.

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Ever feel like you’ve lost your vision? Like you’re swamped with the problems of life, and your dreams are slowly sinking, drowning in a sea of “stuff”? If your unfulfilled goals could talk, would they cry for help? Would your neglected dreams, feeling as though the end might be near, send out a distress signal — an S.O.S.?

In the case of goals, dreams, and visions, that S.O.S. is a plea for very specific action. If we’re to find the time, energy and resources necessary to pursue our goals and rescue our unfulfilled dreams, then we need to do three things. Quickly, before it’s too late.

Part I:  The first letter of the Dreamer’s S.O.S. stands for SIMPLIFY! It’s absolutely the first course of action in any rescue operation. If your life is too complicated you’ll be mostly ineffective at accomplishing the things necessary to keep you moving forward in the pursuit of your goals. Your time, energy, and resources are limited, so it’s imperative to wisely manage these assets. Simplifying your life is the best way to start.

We suggest several key areas of life that tend to get “tangled up”: areas where there’s too much, activities that are too often, things that are too complicated.

1. Simplify your schedule: chances are, you have too many activities planned for too little time. Come on, do you really think you can do everything? You can only accomplish so much in a day, a year, a life. Decide what’s most important — like achieving your goals — and limit your other activities. No, don’t become obsessed, but realize your time and energy are precious, and simplify these other areas:

2. Simplify your Recreations: sports, hobbies, TV, video games, interests, etc. If you go jogging everyday, followed by a few rounds of golf or a game of tennis with a friend, you’ll have far less time and energy to accomplish your goals. Leisure time and light distractions are good for our mental health, and hobbies are fun, but we need to limit how many pastimes we have and how often we indulge in them, if we intend to get anything else done. For instance, TV and theatrical movies are entertaining, but trying to keep up with over a dozen weekly shows and take in every new movie could be the death of your dreams. S.O.S!

3. Finances: Remember, every time a department store sales clerk talks you into opening a charge account with them, you are further complicating your finances and your life. Getting 10% off your first purchase is tempting, but you’ll pay for it later. We know people with dozens and dozens of store cards, and they spend hours and hours keeping track of their purchases and making sure each account gets paid on time. Who needs the headache? Similarly, we know people who belong to dozens of book clubs, movie clubs, etc., and they’re drowning in those crazy little cards demanding they reply by a certain date. S.O.S!

4. Relationships: This may sound sacrilegious, but you can have too many “friends”! All meaningful relationships require time, energy and commitment. “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” so lots of friends eventually equates to lots of needs. Friends need time to get together, socialize, catch up, vent. S.O.S! How many hours are there in a week — AFTER you subtract work and family responsibilities? Limit your friends to a few and you’ll also reduce your number of social obligations. Now, this doesn’t mean you can stop being friendly! Jesus is our example. When He walked the earth He was friendly to everyone. But He had only a handful of close friends.

 5. Purpose and Focus: Decide what you’d like to accomplish in life. Pick a couple goals and narrow your focus. Master a few things, instead of being mediocre in many things. Again, Jesus is our example. He healed the sick, fed the multitudes, and taught the masses; but Jesus never lost sight of His primary mission: the Cross!  Which is why He limited all the other activities and ministries that could have kept Him too busy. (John 6:5) S.O.S!

Are your leisure-time “distractions” distracting you a little too much? Are you tied up in paperwork and payment deadlines form overly complicated finances? Do too many friends keep you busy chatting and texting and meeting for lunch? Do you feel pulled in several directions at once? S.O.S.

Simplify! “…Martha was distracted with all her preparations; …But the Lord … said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary….” (Luke 10:40-42 NASB)

Next Monday: Part II of Sending Out an S.O.S. — “O” is for …?

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Encouragement for Creators: He’s Still the Man!

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Today, May 15th, is the 67th Birthday of the State of Israel. On Monday we wrote of how the dream of the Jews ever returning to their homeland and establishing a Jewish nation, seemed an impossible one. But even “impossible” dreams can come true! Such is the case of a writer and creator who typifies the indomitable spirit of the impossible dreamer, a guy named Stanley Martin Lieber, whose aspiration was to pen the Great American Novel. But the road to fulfilling one’s destiny can be long and meandering. It might even hold a surprising detour or two. Stanley never wrote anything quite as revered as Melville’s Moby Dick or Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, but he did manage to … well, we’re getting ahead of ourselves again. First things first.

The oldest of two sons, Stanley was born to Romanian Jewish immigrants, in Manhattan, New York on December 28, 1922. During his teens, Stanley’s family weathered the Great Depression, eventually downsizing to a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx, where he shared the bedroom with his brother, Larry. The boys’ parents slept on a foldout couch.

After attending high school in the Bronx, Lee began his journey to becoming a Great American Author … by delivering sandwiches for a local pharmacy to offices in Rockefeller Center, by ushering at the Rivoli Theater on Broadway, and by selling subscriptions to the New York Herald Tribune. Oh, and he also worked as an office boy for a company that made men’s pants. Lee did, however, get occasional writing jobs: mostly composing obituaries for a news service.

In 1939, with a little help from an uncle, Stanley found a position as an “assistant” at the newly-formed Timely Comics. The publisher of Timely, Martin Goodman, was the husband of Stanley’s cousin Jean — so no one could quite label this as an act of nepotism. Initially, Stanley filled inkwells and fetched lunches for the staff, which included Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, two Jewish guys who’d just created Captain America! Later, the young writer graduated to proofreading and even got to pen a one-page Captain America filler. When he wrote this first comic book material, he did so under a pseudonym. Stanley was saving his real name for literary fame.

Stanley soon found himself writing full-length comics stories, and when Simon and Kirby abruptly left in 1941, following a dispute with the publisher, Goodman promoted the 19-year-old “assistant” to interim editor. But Stanley demonstrated such a talent for the business that Goodman  eventually made him editor-in-chief, a position Stanley held until 1972, when he actually succeeded Goodman as publisher.

Along the way, as he traveled further and farther down the road to his destiny, Stanley watched his dream of writing that novel fade in the distance. He was kept too busy writing the tales of “superheroes” for four-color comic books, a not very respectable “toss-away” medium. Whenever friends asked him exactly what he wrote, Stanley would hesitantly tell them he wrote “children’s literature.” But he kept his chin up and made the most of his opportunities. For instance, when the popularity of superheroes waned during the 1950s, Stanley created and wrote a string of wildly popular horror comics, along with romance and western features — whatever was selling at the time.

By the 1960s, there was a resurgence of interest in superheroes. Over at DC Comics, home of Superman and Batman, many of the company’s previously-mothballed characters were being rebooted. And Goodman took particular notice that DC was enjoying great success by teaming up several of its heroes in a single comics magazine. So he asked Stanley to create a team-up comic for his own “MCG” line of comics. Well, by now Stanley was feeling trapped in a fast lane leading him far away from that Great American Novel he longed to write. Partly as an escape, partly because his wife encouraged him to take creative liberties, Stanley wrote a story about a somewhat dysfunctional team of reluctant heroes for a comic book that would be years ahead of its time: he created The Fantastic Four.

Stan Lee tidies things up in Iron Man 3 movie.

Stanley Martin Leiber, the kid who wrote under the name of Stan Lee because he didn’t want to be associated with comic books, never did write that novel. But Stan “the Man” Lee did go on to create or co-create dozens more characters, including Iron Man, the Hulk, and Thor, and he also successfully rebooted Captain America — “literary” characters that became household names and spawned a multi-billion dollar industry; intellectual properties that continue to provide the inspiration for Hollywood’s biggest box-office hits.

U.S. President George W. Bush honors Stan Lee with the American National Medal of the Arts.

Today, at age 92, Stan Lee is still happily working with comic book characters, and after 67 years of wedded bliss, his wife, actress Joan B Lee, proudly proclaims that Stan is still the Man. He continues to guide the characters he created, as an executive producer for each new movie in Disney’s tremendously successful “Marvel Cinematic Universe”; and in every one of these movies, he can be seen in a brief cameo role, hamming it up, having a blast, embracing his destiny — and enjoying his status as one of the greatest, most famous writers of fiction the world has known.

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