Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekend Worship—Coarse Correction

And my God will supply all your needs, according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:17

Change can feel harsh and grating
At first glance you may think I missed a major typo in the title of this blog, but I assure you I didn’t. Once again, the course of my life has shifted, from the mother of three growing boys, to the mother of three grown men. And I have to tell you, I’m not a big fan of change.

Webster’s defines coarse as harsh, grating. That pretty much sums up how I feel about this course correction. And my emotions are rubbed raw from dealing with it.

Oh, I knew this change was coming. It was as inevitable as breathing. I knew our boys were going to grow up and leave home. Truthfully, we’ve spent their whole lives teaching them what they’ll need to know to leave home and become independent. And, after our oldest chose the Marine Corps straight out of high school, I thought letting the others leave would be easy. Not so much.

Jimmy, John & Kirk
There are good things about this time. We’re proud of the men our boys have become. We love the women in their lives right now, and we’re excited by the future God has planned for them. But in the midst of all that is the feeling we’ve forgotten something—left some vital piece of information out of their education. Even as I rejoice in their independence, I recoil at the things they’ll have to face without us.

Of course, all this stems from something else I deal with on a regular basis, control. For those of you who know me, this bit of information won’t come as a surprise. Intellectually I know I’ve never really been in control of our kids’ lives. As I wrestle with this new time of life, I realize my fears for them are just another attempt at control. I’d equipped . . . I’d given . . . I’d prevented.

In reality, we haven't been the ones to equip, give or prevent. God has. Oh, He’d allowed us to help on occasion, but He’d been the one who’d orchestrated events to prepare our sons for life. It’s a good thing, too. I have no idea where our sons’ lives are headed. I could make some guesses, but so far my track record hasn’t good. But God’s track record is perfect.

This verse in Philippians gives me comfort and peace as I face this new paradigm. I can count on God’s promises to not only be true in my life, but also in my children’s lives.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Life Lessons—Breathe In….Breathe Out

by Reba J. Hoffman

Watch your stress level
I was fortunate to meet some of you at last week’s ACFW conference in Dallas. What a grand time we had. Whether you attended that conference or not, this seems to be a time of year when writers’ stress level increases.

You have edits, or what’s worse, nothing to edit when others are buzzing with red pen syndrome. Children are back in school activities and volunteered you to be the team driver. Your spouse thought it would be a great idea to invite their boss to dinner. So what if you didn’t get the memo.

There are some things you can do right now to help you survive and thrive during this very busy season. Here are just a few. I could list more but I don’t want to overwhelm you.  
  • Breathe in… breath out. Seriously. Yes, I mean now. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Consciously doing nothing except breathing in and out will give you a vacation from the chaos. It will also increase the blood flow to your brain.
Write it out
  • Make a list. It is empowering to have the things you need to accomplish right in front of you. As you complete them and check them off your list, it energizes you and helps you tackle the next project on your list.
  • Write it out. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or tugged in so many directions you feel you need a name change to Mr. Gumby, sit down and write how you’re feeling. Not only could you uncover a hidden roadblock, but you’ll get those emotions out. No mulligrub stew for you.
  • Turn in your cape. You’re not superman, no matter what you or the world expect of you. You’re mere moral and can only do so much and it doesn’t include leaping tall buildings with a single bound. So, turn in your cape and give yourself permission to just do your best… whatever that is today. 

It won’t all get done. It wasn’t meant to. Life isn’t like that. You weren’t designed to be all things for all people and you aren’t expected to do everything. So cut yourself some slack. Breathe in… Breathe out. Relax. It’s all good.

Are you overwhelmed today? What’s got you that way? Share it here.

Reba J. Hoffman is the founder and president of Magellan Life Coaching ( She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Counseling and is a natural encourager. She serves as Member Care Coach for My Book Therapy and is the author of Dare to Dream, A Writer’s Journal. You can connect with Reba through her motivational blog, Finding True North, or by email at You can also follow her on Twitter at @RebaJHoffman.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thursday Review—PART II: Technology and the Brains of Digital Natives

a guest post by Jackie E. Perry

If you read last Thursday’s blog about Digital Immigrants, you learned a bit about the challenges Digital Immigrants face as their brain attempts to navigate today’s rapidly changing world of technology. Neuroscience research reveals that the hardwired brain of Immigrants may at first resist life in a digital world but because of the malleability of the brain, it can slowly and surely adapt to new technology.   

This week we will discuss technology’s impact on the brains of Digital Natives.  To help you assess whether you are a Native, I have made a checklist a la Jeff Foxworthy.

“You might be a Digital Native if
… as a small child your parents often entertained you with their cellphone or laptop instead of a rattle and some blocks.”
…you have to ask someone what the letters VCR stand for.” 
…your first words were ‘Google’ instead of ‘gaga’!”        

If technology was your primary way to communicate with, record, educate, and understand society as you grew up, you are most certainly a Digital Native. 

Can You Pat your Head and Rub your Belly at the Same Time?

Remember that challenge from grade school? Since many forms of digital technology are typically being utilized at the same time, multitasking for Digital Natives has become a way of life. In his book iBrain, Gary Small reveals that exposure to multiple devices at once, particularly during formative years, affects the neural networking process in the brain. These synaptic connections become hardwired to expect and even desire more than one stimulus at a time.

My teenage daughter, like many Digital Natives, prefers to do her homework with headphones on while toggling between Google, Facebook, Twitter and the inbox on her cellphone. In fact many Natives do quite well balancing more than one thing at a time and often struggle with focus when forced to complete one task at a time! Small notes that some research attributes this shift to changes in cognitive capabilities and increased average IQ scores. Others point out that while there may be an increased breadth of knowledge, the changing brain may now be experiencing limitations in its ability to contemplate, think deeply or fully assimilate concepts or new ideas.  

Hundreds of Friends, Fewer Friendships

Some researchers believe this idea of breadth versus depth may also be impacting the quality of social relationships in this digital era? Many people these days have hundreds or even thousands of “friends” and “followers” online. But could the depth or quality of individual friendships be at risk when digital devices seem to dominate the way many people connect with one another? Since the brain learns and adapts through exposure, when conversational rhythms, intonations, empathic expressions, facial cues and nonverbal expressions are limited, the brain may not adequately develop neural connections that are critical for deep and intimate relationships.   

Tech-Free Brain Training

So while Digital Natives are at an advantage in their ability to scan and assimilate information at rapid rates, when it comes to deep friendships, the digital world cannot sufficiently provide the depth and breadth of social learning that occurs in vivo. In order to help Digital Natives and Immigrants with increased deficits in this area, Small devotes the latter half of his book exercises and tips that will enhance social skills by learning how to empathize, read, listen, focus, and genuinely engage with others for the sake of brain health and human happiness.
 1Marc Prensky, On the Horizon (MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001)       

Jackie E. Perry is a counselor, speaker and writer. She has spent the last two decades counseling teens and families. As a dynamic speaker and writer Jackie is passionate about encouraging and equipping parents and professionals to walk purposefully and lovingly alongside adolescents in their final trek toward adulthood. She's married to her best friend and together they are the parents of two teens and one tween.

You can connect with Jackie through her motivational blog,, follow her on Twitter at @Jackieperry67, or you can contact her to speak at your church, organization, or professional group by sending an email to

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Learn to Earn a Living as a Freelance Writer, Part 7—Writing Profile Pieces Like a Professional

Once you learn to write profile pieces like a professional, it will help you earn a living as a freelance writer. They are a great way get clips, earn income and practice your craft. They’re also the backbone of the magazine article.

Research your subject thoroughly BEFORE the interview
Before the Interview
  • Research your subject thoroughly. This is vitally important—for several reasons.
    • It helps you learn what the public already knows about your subject so you won’t be going over well-known facts.
    • It will turn up interesting facts that can lead to the focus of your interview.
    • It will keep you from asking the same questions other interviewers have.
  • Test your equipment. I recommend you invest in a good quality mp3 digital recorder. Find one that allows you to transfer files to your computer for ease of transcription. Make certain it’s compatible with your computer. Some don’t interface well.
  • Have your main questions already written down. This doesn’t mean these will be the only questions you have, but it helps to have a roadmap of where the interview is headed. It will also help you guide the interview where YOU want it to go. As the interviewer you should be the one in charge. Let the subject talk, but you are the captain of this ship.
  • Email questions ahead of time. Personally, I like to email some of the questions I’ll be asking, to my subject ahead of time. This gives them a chance to consider the answers and often results in a better interview. It also gives them a level of confidence that this interview isn’t a waste of their time. 
Ways to Conduct the Interview
  • Telephone: Many of the interviews I conduct are done over the phone. I always make an appointment with the person I’m interviewing. I allow between 30 minutes and an hour for the actual interview.
  • Email: This type of interview is less personal because you can’t really ask in-depth, follow-up questions. But if you phrase your questions well, you can still build a good article, it’s just a little more difficult.
  • In Person: This is my personal preference because I can get a sense of how the person I’m interviewing feels about what they’re saying. I can describe that in the article and convey that sense of immediacy to the reader. 
A digital recorder makes writing the profile much easier
During the Interview
  • I rely heavily on my recorder, and try to take as few notes as possible. It’s important to make eye contact with the persona you’re interviewing. This will establish a good rapport and result in a much more personal interview.
  • Watch the other person’s face for signs that a subject I’ve touched on is important to them or one he feels passionate about. Then I ask additional questions, mining that particular subject for interview gold.
  • Watch the clock. People are busy and it’s important I’m respectful of their time. If I say an interview will last thirty minutes, that’s how long it lasts. It doesn’t matter if they tell you it’s okay to go longer, often they’re just being polite.
  • Be Ready to Veer off Your Original Plan – Often times in interviews you’ll catch a glimpse of something your readers might like to know more about. Go ahead and follow that trail. Some of the best interviews came from a wise writer who was willing to ask more about a seemingly inconsequential comment.
  • Don’t Shy Away from the Hard Stuff. Now don’t misunderstand me—I’m NOT advocating an automatic cutthroat approach. You’ll always get further if you’re nice and not combative, but many time people appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight.
  • Never ask Yes or No Questions. Questions with one-word answers lead to dead-ends. The point of an interview is to learn more about the subject, and this requires a conversation. Ask open-ended questions and then encourage the person to elaborate.
  • Stay in control of the interview. Even when the interview isn’t a hard-hitting expose’ type of interview, the subject can tend to dominate the direction of the interview. You are the one in charge. Don’t hesitate to redirect the conversation with a respectful, “Getting back to the subject at hand.”
Clarify, by email, anything you're
not certain about
After the Interview
  • Don’t Hesitate to Clarify or Verify Information through Email: It’s important to find a way to follow-up if you have additional questions. Get permission to contact your source through a quick email.
  • Transcribe the Interview as Soon After as Possible: Trust me on this one. You’ll write a much better piece if you do it while it’s fresh on your mind, rather than waiting several days.
  • Send a Thank You Note: I know this sounds old-fashioned, but it will make a lasting impression on your subject. If you can’t send one through the mail, at least send a thank you email.
  • DO NOT ALLOW THE SUBJECT TO PROOF THE ARTICLE: I cannot empathize this enough. This is the biggest beginner mistake I see with writers and it ALWAYS turns out badly. You are the author of the article and will have a much better perspective on what your readership wants. It’s fine to verify a quote or two through email, but DO NOT show them the article until it’s published.
For those of you who've written interview pieces, please add your tips to those above. Also, be sure to post questions in the comments section and I'll try to answer them.

Don't forget to join the conversation!