Take a Chance – 1½ minute read

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A packing area at Kit and Drew’s house

In high school, I developed a sophisticated formula related to probability and submitted it as a paper to our regional science-math competition. Won a blue ribbon–as I recall–cut from cloth with a pair of scissors. But the real prize was a life-long understanding and appreciation for mathematical prediction.

Scripture proves that God sometimes suspends the laws of nature. But the truth is that He does that only rarely. Normally, when you throw something into the air, it falls back to earth–perhaps hurting someone, if you’re not careful. Nature also has laws of probability. God suspends the laws of probability occasionally, but not very often. People who violate those laws frequently hurt themselves or others.

Those who have read our Life Skills book on making good choices know that I think gambling is foolish. “A tax on people poor in math,” one wag said. Our readers may also remember that I endorse taking chances–when the odds are in your favor. Risk taking is almost always necessary for great accomplishment or reward.

In a previous blog, I reported that FamilyLife’s departure from Little Rock leaves us no reason to remain here. We are hoping to have an adventure moving somewhere new, perhaps Washington State. Some people have shook their heads in wonder, “Why would you do that at your age?”

We think the odds are in our favor. And at our age, we certainly have less to lose. Currently, we are busy packing up and preparing our house for sale. We’ve been to Washington and done meticulous research. We have a solid plan.

Let me encourage you, dear reader, once you’ve carefully worked something through, if the odds of success are good, take a chance.

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No Time to Make a List – 1 minute read

DSCF2457The company where I worked as engineer periodically provided consultants to give us time management or productivity training. Various books on prioritizing and avoiding the tyranny of the urgent circulated among us. All the plans ultimately boiled down to: write the things you need to do in a list, designate the items #1, 2, or 3 by relative importance, then start with the #1s.

Invariably a wag among us would ask, “What if you don’t have time to make a list?” The instructor would politely laugh at the thousandth time he’d heard that one and answer something like, “Write down, ‘Make a list,’ on any piece of paper then put a #1 beside it.” Unfortunately, Kit and have been in hectic situations for months in which we felt like we didn’t have to make a list.

Too bad, because the principle of list making has been proven to improve effectiveness. Unlike many people, I’m a natural list-maker. First the list de-clutters my head trying to remember all I need to do. Secondly, the list combines all the tasks into one big job. When I’m working on the list, I don’t feel guilty about neglecting something specific, because I’m working on the one big job.

In addition to peace of mind, Ephesians 5:16 tells us to make the most of our time. So I’m a believer in effective time management. But I think that one category of task should be prioritized even before #1 important. Those are the things that if not done will require much more time later. For example, I know to add fuel stabilizer to our lawn mowers before winter. Two years ago I felt too busy speaking and writing to mess with lawnmowers. The following spring we had to take each of three mowers to have the carburetors cleaned–perhaps 100X as much time and effort as protecting them would have been. Time and effort that could have been spent on more important things including speaking and writing.

If you’re not a natural list maker, I encourage you to try it for the new year. Several incidents of wasted time due to poor planning have forced Kit and I to do what I already know is effective–make a list. And yes, our lawnmowers have been winterized for this year.

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Emotional Snapshots – 1 minute read

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Photo wall at Kit and Drew’s house

Everybody has photos that remind them of people, places, and occasions. My favorites are those that remind me of times when God did something special. Like the Old Testament Israelites built monuments of stone as reminders of God’s work, Kit and I have many photos on the walls of our home.

But I also carry a different type of reminder–memories that serve as an emotional snapshot of an experience. I can revisit positive feelings of jubilation, overflowing joy, gratitude, relief, and calm peace. They help me re-enjoy wonderful moments. Other emotional snapshots are negative–sorrow, regret, fear, or hurt. Here’s the surprise: Even negative memories add to the richness of life. Try asking an older person about highlights of their life. They are more likely to recite hard times survived than good times enjoyed.

Negative emotional snapshots make me congratulate myself for having recovered. Then those memories put my experiences in perspective and make me less critical of myself. They say to me, “Aren’t you glad for your current circumstances?”

A recent article in Aeon magazine calls pursuit of unbroken happiness a fetish. The writers claim that denying negative emotions can result in anxiety or depression when expectations are not met. For example, some fantasize about having a perfect Christmas. Holiday disasters are some of my favorite emotional snapshots . Aeon also makes a good case that failure to balance our emotions also makes us vulnerable to manipulation to buy products in pursuit of happiness.

Regardless, emotional experiences are a large part of our lives–both the positive and negative. All our emotions make life rich. Please don’t discard any emotional snapshots, especially those of Christmas. You may cherish them later.

Merry Christmas,

Drew

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Meeting Diverse People – ½ minute read

dog (2)Those who know Kit and Drew well also know we are both strong introverts. Only one activity brings out an extrovertish quality–meeting diverse people. The Coonses are like a dog with its head out a car window while meeting people very different than ourselves.

Christmas markets–where we sell our books–give us that opportunity. You can learn something from any person. Surprisingly many ask questions and are open to advice. We offer our meaningful novels and biblical Life-Skills books and often encourage people to look at their own life experiences to see what God can teach them. Getting outside our comfort zone to meet and talk to diverse people has enriched our lives. 

The Arkansas Democrat Gazette newspaper interviewed us as authors and printed a few comments within the article about Small Business Saturday in Section B of today’s paper.     

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Thanks from Strangers – ½ minute read

DSCN1708 (2)Many friends and relatives have told us that they love our novels. But we returned with some trepidation to a Christmas market where last year we’d sold books to strangers. How would those customers react? To our joy, perhaps a dozen strangers came to tell us how much they had enjoyed our stories. One lady stood in front of our booth telling others to try our books.

This Thanksgiving we are most grateful for the strangers who encouraged us. And we’re overjoyed that each book we can get into circulation carries a positive message. Even our novels written for young adults are selling well, especially as Christmas gifts.

Lord, help me recognize opportunities to encourage strangers.

Drew Coons

 

 

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Downton Abbey – 1½ minute read

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All I wanted was a cool theater and popcorn. The late summer selection of movies was meager. In desperation, we tried the Downton Abbey movie. Neither of us had watched the TV airings. To our surprise, we found the movie engaging. I then amazed Kit by checking out the PBS series from our library–all six seasons. We watched the episodes over several months. They made a restful diversion after busy days.

Soon, as an author, I also became intrigued by the story-telling craft of Downton Abbey. The stories have no special effects, no stunts, and almost no violence. Clever dialogue carries the unpredictible plot. Nearly all the storylines are about relationships and about choices. Although only occasionally referring to God and religion, the programs show consequences of bad behavior. They give positive messages about self-sacrifice, honesty, and caring for others. Tremendous worldwide audiences followed the program.

How did the writers manage this? I first observed meticulous and detailed research. Maybe they idealized the cozy relationship between the lords and their servants, but the settings and historical context are authentic. Tension is maintained by multiple sub-plots involving both likeable and unlikeable characters. Nearly all the characters are nuanced–like most people acting good or bad depending on the circumstances. Many subplots have non-religious, nevertheless redemptive, themes.

Stories change lives for better or for worse. We are trying to incorporate some of the same story-telling techniques into our novels and books. But unlike Downton Abbey, we position God well.

 

 

 

 

 

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A last grand adventure? – 1 minute read

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Sunrise over Mount Rainier as seen from the Olympic Peninsula

Kit and I are known to have adventurous hearts. After all, we met in Africa. Fortunately for us, adventure and serving God can be nearly synomous values.

With FamilyLife leaving Little Rock, Kit and I have no compelling reason to remain in Arkansas. And we anticipate that our 4,400 square-foot older house with steep stairs and 23 care-needing acres will soon be to much for us to manage.

Does God have one last grand adventure for us?  Maybe. We’re looking for exciting places and showing our home to potential buyers. We’ve just returned from a vision trip to Washington State. The Olympic Peninsula is spectacular and sparsely populated. Nearly everybody knows about the lush rain forests there. But on the lee side of the mountians we found a cool moist area with only a third the annual rainfall of Little Rock. No kidding! 

Our More Than Ordinary Lives website is dedicated to encouraging readers to experience lives which include adventure. The theme of our novels is people rising above ordinary by the choices they make. But there’s sometimes a thin line between adventure and self-inflicted diaster. The difference is all related to making wise choices. Sadly, many Christians do not make good choices. More Than Ordinary Choices by Kit and Drew Coons

Drew

 

 

 

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Relaxation – 1 minute read

DSCN1528 (2)While researching for a new novel set in California, Kit and I discovered these sea lions enjoying themselves in the morning sun. We watched while several babies cavorted in the surf and the adults did what sea lions do so well . . . relax. I worried a bit that a killer whale would take one of the babies. We’ve all seen nature shows where the orca lunges onto the beach to grab an unwary young seal or sea lion.

Unlike the hundreds of sea lions infesting the piers in downtown San Francisco, these were purely wild animals in a pristine and secluded spot. Nor did a mob of gawking tourists admire them like in the city, just Kit and me. A moment to remember and cherish.

I found myself envying the sea lions and their relaxed joy. Our lives are hectic, hectic, hectic right now. Opportunities compete with difficult circumstances not of our making. I don’t have all day to relax in the sun. This picture reminds me to deliberately take time to relax a bit in the midst of seemingly endless urgency. Yet I keep an eye open for killer whales or mistakes we could make in our haste to complicate matters further.

Drew

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A Summer of Conflict – 1½ minute read

EPSON MFP imageWe’ll remember 2019 as the summer of corporate conflict. Just a few examples:

1. The power company misread our electric meter in June and sent us a bill 12X normal. After complaining, I found them replacing the meter that proved our case. After many hours on the phone, every time with a different representative, they corrected the bill . . . in late October.

2. A NYSE company gave misleading financial statements. Stock rating agencies didn’t research thoroughly and touted them. The FBI raided their offices. All the culprits pointed fingers at each other. Nobody went to jail. A class action lawsuit made a lot of lawyers rich. We lost a year of living expenses.

3. A roof air conditioner dripped water onto a grocery store floor. Kit slipped and broke her kneecap. Two weeks later the store hadn’t corrected the situation endangering other customers. Their legal representatives have done all they can to minimize culpability.

4. Our phone service tried to charge us for repairs to get the phone working even after we proved that they hadn’t been delivering a signal to our house.

We all know the value of peace. The Bible has much to say about resolving conflict with people. A corporation is not a person you can try to communicate with and reach a biblical resolution. What should a follower of Christ do?

#1 – Don’t take your frustration out on the corporation’s representatives. They are just trying to make a living by following policies designed by executives to maximize profits.

#2 – Don’t confuse a corporation with a friend. Regardless of the “We love our customers,” ads run on TV, the purpose of a corporation is to make money. They see us as a source of revenue or frequently, if one has complained, as an adversary.

#3 – Don’t confuse obstinacy in yourself with principle. If the matter is small, say under $100, just save the trouble and allow yourself to be cheated. This is consistent with Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.

#4 – Apply Jesus words, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16

Drew Coons

A published article by Drew on responding to injustice

 

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Our Most Embarrassing Moment Followup – 1 minute read

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An event WLFJ promoted for us

Last week we posted “A Dark Secret” revealing our most embarrassing moment in front of a lot of listeners. The story included a kindness extended to us by a friend. Steve Mitchell of South Carolina recognized himself as the kind friend and wrote in:

“I remember it well! Drew gave a heads-up about your appearance to some of his “lunch table gang” at work, so I was able to listen to you guys on the drive home. Now the thing was, in those days, I didn’t have a cell phone, so the “drive time slot” meant I had to speed home and call WLFJ from the house. I think you guys were just about to wrap things up when I called. But I do remember a lot of silence!  ☺ Glad that you guys were willing to step out in faith and bless so many folks over the years. I know you made a difference in our family! – Steve”

Steve and his sweet wife, Freda, played a major role in that 1990s ministry as did many others who may read this. Not only did God use you to touch hearts at that time, but you helped Kit and me get the experience we’ve used to serve God around the world. Steve and others of you also brought the quality of kindness into the ministry.

In literally 50 years of Christian service, I’ve seen many people who speak gently and with a smile. But their words and actions are anything but kind. I’ve been unkind myself on occasions. I’ve come to believe that kindness–which is closely linked to Jesus’ Golden Rule–sets apart followers of Christ from practitioners of religion. Extending kindness is always the right thing to do.

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