Giving away a piece of me

Tonight I performed at a fund-raiser for an upcoming Leadership Training camp in South Africa in 2015.  Even though our performance was only a small part of the evening, I felt honored and humbled to be a part of such inspirational efforts from our young people.  It’s amazing to see the global vision of our youth!   I can only hope and pray that our churches will become communities that will encourage them and elevate them so they can see even further, rather than simply institutions that try to wall them in.

During the evening I gave a copy of Among the Ashes to a friend whom I know was going through a difficult time as a Christmas gift.   As gifts go, obviously this was not one of great monetary value.  But I was so touched when I saw her cradled the book in her hands as if handling something of great worth.  Right there and then in that little exchange I felt something special has taken place which reminded me of the essence of true gift-giving:  Giving away a piece of yourself, giving something uniquely yours, something that only you can give.

Can I challenge you with this as we draw ever so near to this “gift-giving” season?  I know we all have our share of “frivolous” gift giving to do at this time of year:  gift exchanges at parties, “Secret Santas” at work, etc.  But, for those whom we love, let’s try to give them something that is unique ours to give: It may be words of encouragement for your children that only you can give, or reaching out to express love for your spouse that can only come from you, or how about the gift of forgiveness that you have been withholding for years?

Of course I have no clue what those special gifts may be for you, but I think you do.  I pray that you too will experience the joy of giving something that truly touches the person, not because it is something of great dollar value, but because it is something unique that can only come from you.

P.S. I continue to be encouraged by the positive response to the book.  Amazon.com right now has a holiday sale on, and you still can get the book shipped by Christmas through their amazing shipping set up.  Obviously I cannot autograph the book before it is shipped to you, but hey, that will give you another reason to get together with me, right? :-)

Among the Ashes, page 173…

Among the Ashes has 172 pages.  172 pages that I wrote.

I am looking forward to what’s in store starting from page 173…

Part of my hope in writing Among the Ashes is to see how my story can encourage others in theirs.  I am looking forward to seeing how the story will continue to unfold beyond the last page of the book.  A quick update:  It looks like I will be helping out with a depression support program in the new year and Among the Ashes will be part of the material used as the curriculum!  I am excited, scared, nervous all at the same time.  But isn’t that how you are supposed to feel when you turn another page on a good story?

Thank you for all your encouraging response to the book so far.  Please keep letting me know your thoughts.

Here’s to page 173 and beyond…

Encouraging Words…

“Among the Ashes” has been out for about 10 days, and I have been blessed by many of your kind words in response to the book.  Some of you have shared your thoughts with me by email, private messages, and posting comments on my Facebook.  I want to let you know that I treasure every word.  As you can imagine, writing and releasing a book like “Among the Ashes” is a very scary thing to do, and I can use all the encouragement in the world!   Please keep your responses coming!  I am really interested in hearing what you think!

One comment in particular made an impression on me.  It came from someone who attended my church many years ago.  He reminded me of something that I apparently said in a sermon all those years ago (I have no recollection of ever saying it :-P ).  He wrote:

“After i finished your book, the words you said long time ago on one of your sermons keep on cycling inside my head. You said “do not put your faith in people, for they will fail you. Do not put your faith in money. For it will fail you..do not put your faith in the church, for it will fail you too. But have your faith on God, for he will never fail you.”

Thank you Alfred for sharing your story. It’s an awesome book.”

I was touched by that comment because 1. The person remembered something I said over 10 years ago, and 2. It showed me that the writing of Among the Ashes is not something that “just happened”.  The story chronicled in Among the Ashes is part of a wider story that was set in place years ago.   I am eagerly looking forward to what is on the next page of this story…

A quick update:  We should be receiving the second print run shortly from our printer.  Please let us know quickly if you would like to order copies.  Also, Amazon.com has a US Thanksgiving sale on, and you can save a couple of dollars if you order the book there during the sale.

First Run SOLD OUT!!

Thanks to your support, the first run of Among the Ashes is sold out!

A second print run has been ordered and we should be receiving the shipment soon.  Please go to the “Buy the Book” section to purchase your copy.  As we are approaching the busy holiday shipping season, please place your order soon to ensure you receive it by Christmas!

Thanks again for your support!  I am grateful and humbled beyond words…

Motivated by Fear or Love? The battle behind the publishing of Among the Ashes

John Lennon once said “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love.  When we are afraid, we pull back from life.  When we are in love we open to all life has to offer…”.  On the night before the “birth” and release of Among the Ashes, I found myself staring at that very question.

Writing Among the Ashes has been, without question, one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life.   The writing itself took about a year, done in bits and pieces late at night after my family has gone to bed.  After the manuscript was finished, I was blessed with the opportunity of working with Annabel Middleton, a FANTASTIC editor.  The design, editing, rewriting took another few months.  It was a big day when the final, ready for print files were sent to the printer.

The night before the release of the book, I woke up in the middle of the night and asked myself, “Do I REALLY want to do this?”  “Do I REALLY want to lay my story out there, with my failures literally for the world to know?”  “What will people think of me?”  “May be I should pull the plug on the whole thing while I still can!”

That was when I remembered the John Lennon quote, and I realized I had a choice to make:  Do I want to be driven by fear, and hold back from releasing the book because I am afraid of what people may say?  Or do I want to be motivated by love, and share my story with the world?  Yes, some will not respond well.  Some will judge.  Some will be unkind.  BUT, some will be encouraged and helped.  And it is for those that the book was written.

I am thankful that initial response to Among the Ashes has been tremendous.  The first run has sold very well.  But that is not my concern at all with the book.  If you read it and find it helpful to you, if the book and my story has played some small part in encouraging you in your own journey, then for me, it is all worth it.  Because, at the end of the day, you are the one for whom the book was written.  Perhaps together, we will encourage one another to keep telling our stories.  And together, we will remind ourselves that life is so much richer when we are motivated by love rather than driven by fear.

New Book!!

Among The Ashes_Cover After spending literally every spare moment on it for a year, my new book is just about ready to be launched!!  Many thanks to the many people who helped make this happen (you have to get the book to read about who they are and how they helped) :-)  A special shout out to Annabel Middleton, my editor and designer for her awesome work!  Check back here SOON (VERY soon) :-)  to find out how you can get your very own copy!   We are also going to be redesigning this website to make it easier for me to keep you all updated on my work as a speaker and of course any upcoming concerts and musical projects!!

So…who wants a copy?? :-)

Huge lessons from a little person

My older daughter Taylor started attending a new school this year.  After first day of school I asked her, “So, how was first day?”

She barely could contain her excitement: “It was great Daddy!  I already made 3 new friends!!   And 1 enemy!”

After the second day I asked her, “So, how was your second day.”

“It was good…but my enemy is turning into the devil.”

After the third day I asked the same question:  “How was school today?”  I was not prepared for her answer:

“It was GREAT Daddy!!  I wrote my enemy a note saying I was sorry for calling her names.  She read the note and said she was sorry too.  Now we are friends!!!”

Somewhere in those three days, there are some huge lessons for all of us to learn.

 

A few thoughts from the ice bucket challenge…

The ALS ice bucket challenge so far has been the most successful marketing/fund raising campaign by a non-profit in recent memory.  It has all the element of a “dream campaign”:  It caught on globally.  It went viral on the internet.  It got a lot, make that A LOT of people talking about a disease that was previously relatively unknown.  AND, it raised raised more money than anybody expected.

Not surprising, there are those who did not like the campaign.  Many for good reasons:

Some felt it was too gimmicky.

Yes, I can see that.

Some feel that it promotes a sense of false charity – that by dumping a bucket of water on their heads, people feel that they have done a “charitable act”.

Got a point there.

Others object to the fact that the campaign wastes a valuable resource in many parts of the world – clean, drinkable water.

Although not as strong an argument (in my opinion), but there is some validity there.

And, lately it seems more and more people are objecting to the campaign, or raising an eyebrow when talking about it, because it is raising too much money.  Much more than the original target.

Excuse me?

This one, I don’t get.

I am reading posts on social media (FB, twitter, etc) that says “ALS has raised enough money and awareness with this campaign.  It’s time to give money to other charities.”  Others do some “research” and come up with the old “ALS only spends x% of their funds on research while y% is spent on fundraising and overhead”, implying people should stop giving money to them because their donation won’t go towards “helping people”.  This is another giant myth about charities that I LOVE to talk to people about, but that’s not the point I want to make today.  For that, listen to Dan Pollotta’s awesome TED talk who presented the argument against the “they spend too much on overhead” myth better than anyone I have heard.

But today, I want to focus on one question:  Why do we feel a need to punish a charity for being “too successful”?

We never do it to for profit companies (“Son, tomorrow we are going to start drinking Pepsi, because Coke is making too much money”).  Why would we say things like “We believe ALS has generated enough money and awareness already…”  Have you ever heard anyone say the same thing about cancer research, or AIDS relief, or world-hunger programs?

It is not my intention to preach a sermon here.  I simply want to point out one simple fact:  Everywhere we turn in the world today we see HUGE problems.  We see GIANT sized issues.  These are the issues that many, many charities take on to hopefully solve.  We need to get rid of this attitude that says “Be suspicious whenever a charity raises too much money.”  Yes, ask question about transparency.  Yes, do research to see how a charity operates.  But don’t clip its wings by saying things like “They have raised too much money already.”  We have Goliath sized problems in the world.  Charities go up against them, sometimes hopelessly outsized like David.  Let us not go and make the fight even tougher by taking away the stones.

A final point:  Some people have  encouraged others to do the ice-bucket challenge and donate the money to other worthy causes.  It is not my intention to criticize them here.  They made the suggestions out of a spirit of good will and we all know we need more of that in the world.  But consider this:

Your church started a fund-raising campaign to pay for a new program.  You designed a kick-ass poster that for sure will motivate people to give.  You put up the posters all over the place.  If I go to your posters, and where it says on the poster “make your donation to ABC church”, I put a giant sticker over it with the name of my organization instead.  How would that make you feel?

I wrote this post because it is my conviction that in order to begin solving these huge problems in our communities, we need people to work together:  business sector, charities, churches, temples, etc.  In fact, that is the one part of my job that I am most passionate about.   But working together is not as easy as it sounds.  The first step towards building that kind of environment is an honest spirit that respects and honours the work done by others and what they bring to the table.

Ok.  End of rant.  Now back to 0ur regular programming :-)

 

 

 

RIP, Robin Williams…

These days, with the manuscript of my new book completed and handed over to the capable hands of the editor and designer, I have been feeling a little more relaxed.  So tonight after dinner the Lam Clan decided to go for a little coffee and cookie run.  On the way home, we remembered we had run out of cold cuts to pack sandwiches for lunch.  My older daughter, ever the opportunist, seized the moment and suggested, “Can I have pizza for lunch tomorrow?”

We stopped by a pizza place close to home.  I went out to grab a slice for my girl to pack for lunch.  When I got back to the car, my wife looked up from her phone with this expression that tells me something was wrong.  Before I could ask, she said: “Robin Williams died.  Depression.  Suicide.”

Her words stopped me dead in my tracks.  As  I have battled depression over the last 10 years, every time I hear news of someone with depression or another form of mental illness committing suicide, I feel a deep sense of loss.  I feel as though I have lost another comrade in battle.   Today, the battle took another one from us.

Mr. Williams, you took the fight as far as you could.  You have fought well.  You bore the wounds and scars while you gave us laughter and joy.  Now it is our turn to continue the battle.  May you now rest in God’s peace.

Long time no post!

It has been a couple of months since my last post.  In addition to the usual craziness of summer with 2 young kids and a vacation in the middle, I have been spending most of my “spare time” working on my book which hopefully will come out soon!!  I have completed the manuscript, and now it is moving into the next stage of editing, design and layout.  The book is a telling of my story of living with depression over the last 10 years or so, and how it has transformed my life and given birth to a new way of believing.  I have found the writing process to be quite therapeutic and I hope the book will be a source of encouragement for the readers.  Stay tuned, as there may be exciting announcements coming up as we draw closer to the release of the book!