Category Archives: How to’s

How to Prepare for Your Future; Be a Positive Person of Influence

iStock_000003092203XSmallYOUR FUTURE

Who can guess what tomorrow will bring? Every day awakens new challenges. Your future depends upon you. You must face the future boldly. Don’t cling to the past. Don’t fear the next obstacle. Don’t try to avoid the next encounter with people who make you uncomfortable or insecure. You can be a person of peace and joy. Simply walk each day, each moment expecting that grace will be yours. Envision what you want to see in your life. Be gently bold. Give the benefit of the doubt to those you’d usually attribute negative motives to. Remember, you don’t know anyone’s motives. Give grace. Give generously of your favor and time.


Consider others better than you. Remember this: If you get your needs met by God, you will never have to use people to meet them. Then you can be truly generous to all without using them. Try to have no skin in the game when it comes to relating to people and you will be free. No skin in the game means there’s no hidden expectations you have on others. There’s nothing you’re trying to “get” from them. That way you’re free to commit and be “all-in” without being hurt or used. Can you think of anything better than being the kind of person this post describes? That would be peace of mind and freedom of conscience. You’d be FREE.


Every blessing as you apply what seems good to you from what you’ve just read. But . . . be prepared for life to change drastically for the better. Oh, and remember . . . it may get somewhat worse before it gets better. But you will press through that to the freedom and victory that comes from being courageously creative. You will be a rarity in our declining culture–a person of influence for good.

QUESTION: Why not take a second and share this post with a friend–that would be an act of grace and generosity. Please . . . Let us know how things turn out for you.


©2014, David C Alves  All rights reserved.

ONE MISSION —The Ultimate Christmas Shopping Experience REFOCUSED

[This is a revision and reprint of a Post I do each Christmas season]



My friend Ken has forever solved the Christmas shopping dilemma for me (and those like me who dislike Christmas shopping).

Here’s how it works.

1. Make sure that you understand the strategy: ONE DAY, ONE PURPOSE, ALL ALONE. That’s the ONE MISSION. {Repeat out loud 4 times, then Memorize}

2.  Set ONE DAY–a full day, morning till evening—one full day—for you to spend ALL ALONE at the stores. Plan on being out from 8am to 9pm. Make sure your spouse and family know that you won’t be home for any meals that day. You may not need ALL that time, but plan for it in case. This day may be AFTER Christmas instead of before Christmas. After all, most of the sales follow Christmas. For some, that can add even more enjoyment to the Mission. If you choose the after-Christmas option, then give cards to people that say “Gift Coming Soon.” And give them their gifts a couple of days AFTER Christmas.

3. Remember, ONE PURPOSE—You can’t have anything scheduled that day that would cause you to have to rush or hurry. You have ONE PURPOSE–to buy ALL your Christmas presents at one sweep. Don’t let anything push or pull you. Relax, take your time. Shop all you want. You have no pressing engagements.

4.  Bring Music! Several days prior to the target-day, equip yourself with a music listening device and make sure that you select holiday music that you love to listen to that quiets your busy spirit. This is an essential ingredient. If you say that you’ll do without the music, then Ken (and I) cannot guarantee the results of your experience. We both agree that without the Christmas music, your mission falls short. It’s not just about gifts and shopping; it’s about refreshment, joy, and praise too.

5. Dress comfortably. Layers are best. You can always shed or add on by going to the car. Don’t bundle up—you’ll be too hot. Don’t wear to little—you’ll be too cold.  You get the point.

6. You take your meals out, beginning with a good breakfast [this one meal you can do with a good friend who is also on his/her ONE MISSION that day]. Today you want a Farmer’s breakfast–two eggs, homefries, short stack of pancakes or French toast, steak (if you must), baked beans if you can get them.

The strategy here: breakfast is the least expensive meal of the day.

Eat a big one. Less spent later on lunch and dinner. Maybe no lunch at all!  I can already see your wheels turning: (well, I’ll eat breakfast at home, pack a lunch and save money that way). Nice try!!

The problem here?  You just RUINED the reward system that is built into this day where you not only get all your shopping done in ONE DAY, but . . . you also get rewarded with a memorable experience (and a little well-deserved break from fixing your own meals).  So don’t cheat at this point. Breakfast, AND dinner while out shopping are a must if you’re going to be a purist of the ONE MISSION this Christmas season. Lunch is optional, depending upon how much walking you do. More walking and exercise, more reward (if you reward yourself with food–probably not a good idea). Follow your mentors on this one–we’ve been there, done that, got the T-Shirt! Big breakfast, mid-day snack, special dinner.

7. Now, beginning with your list, TAKE YOUR TIME in the stores. You’re in NO HURRY. You have no place other than the present [no pun intended] to be.

You’re listening to nice music. You can smile at people. Be nice to the store clerks. So what if someone cuts ahead of you in line. Smile, and enjoy your music and think about that steak/lobster you’re going to have for dinner later. A lobster that you don’t have to cook. Someone else is going to cook and serve you tonight. You’re just working down your Christmas list.

8. Make sure that you take extra money along for gift-wrapping.
No matter what you have to do, make SURE that the gift-wrapping people at the mall wrap your gifts for you. Not only does this save you an extra day, but . . . they do a nice job, your gifts will look nicer,
the ladies who serve you will get a little extra for their trouble (tip them, it’s nice), and you’ll be able to arrive at home without the stress of wondering where to hide your newly purchased gifts. You won’t
have to struggle with finding an extra day to set aside for wrapping. Oh . . and who has to go to buy wrapping paper, scotch tape, pens, labels, sharpen scissors . . . get the point [no pun intended]??

9. This is not Ken’s, but my own added little tip: Make sure you get a Café Vanilla Frapaccino at Starbucks (size is immaterial, although on a day like this, I prefer Venti, (1700 calories) with an extra shot of espresso—not that I need the caffeine, but I love that coffee flavor with the Vanilla and the calories will keep you going the rest of the afternoon and evening; you might even be tempted to skip dinner).  I normally arrive at Starbuck’s at about 3pm, when I hit that afternoon slump for about an hour, where I just want to sleep. By the way, if you get tired, no problem. Grab a quick nap in the car.

10. ESSENTIALkeep the negative self-talk to an ABSOLUTE MINIMUM. No self-deprecating stuff:

“Well who’s going to want that?”

“Why would you ever pick that color?”

“No one’s going to buy you anything this nice.”

“All that money you spent today could have housed and fed the poor of Detroit or Rwanda”

“If you weren’t so chunky, you wouldn’t be whining about carrying these packages.”

Just say, “Quiet!!  Wrong Address. I’m not listening to you . . . “ OR hold your hand out in front of you at arms length and say, “Talk to the hand!” Don’t worry about appearances. No one will think anything of it. Remember, you’re at the mall!

Oh yeah, and if you work a job where you get tips, set your  ONE DAY as close to Christmas (before or after) as possible (more time to accrue more tips).

And . . . enjoy yourself!!

You might want to bookmark and take along this post in your smartphone or iPhone so that you can review it or read it for encouragement at breakfast or dinner.


Make Ken and I PROUD!

P.S. Make sure to report back to us. How’d it go?



Watch “MyFourMonitors” on YouTube

I use a four monitor setup for my work. It works great for my purposes as a researcher, author, and teaching pastor.

Do’s and Don’ts of Facilitating a Reading Group Meeting

Girls Thinking At Bible StudySo, you’re either already in a reading group and have responsibility to host or facilitate; OR you’ve been thinking about starting a reading club or group but have been unsure about where to begin; OR you’ve happened upon this post by accident and can’t wait to browse some other posts here or elsewhere . . . .


Whether you’re a reader of not, if you have any kind of small group meeting in your home or if you ever plan to host such a group, hang in here for a few more paragraphs and see if you can use some of this stuff. It comes from decades of experience at facilitating small groups and will save you tons of anxiety and conflict as you facilitate your reading group.

Since it says so in the title, I’m going to assume this is a reading group we have responsibility for. Ready?

DO establish Group Rules/Guidelines. Some groups fail to do this and end up paying the price down the road. Even though we tend to hate rules, they help everyone know what’s expected and agreed upon. Therefore they lend stability and a level of predictability to the group experience. These in turn help the group cohere

Group rules/guidelines should be decided upon by the group for ownership. There’s always somebody who will conflict with the rules unless they understand that it’s not just you as facilitator/leader that has decided upon the standards, but the entire group that has set the standards in place. If we weren’t such easily offended, touchy, literary types, this would not be an issue, but this is 21st century America. In addition, people like to know what’s expected and allowed.

  • Housekeeping Items to share with the group should be shared up front. These can include things like deciding whether you’ll meet at the same place every week, or rotate through the homes of those who volunteer to open their
  • Meeting Times – Decide at the first meeting if the beginning and ending times work out for everyone. Set times that all can agree upon. Then KEEP THEM!!
  • Begin on time. This is important. Plan 15 minutes up front to catch up, banter. But begin on time! This is the right place to say END ON TIME too. I’ll hit this one more time later in case you’ve forgotten by the time you go through this post of do’s and don’ts.
  • ALL Cell phones OFF (or set to Airplane mode) – This is REALLY important. Far too many people are tied to their cell phones as though they were umbilical cords. Most people do not need to be immediately available. Unless you’re Secret Service, a brain surgeon on call, or a Navy Seal on active alert, you can probably go without the cell phone for an hour and a half.
  • Provide a comfortable circle – Set up chairs so that you are in a circle. Try not to have too many hard chairs. Do you to strait to the hard chair to plant yourself for the next hour?
  • Eliminate distractions – Don’t allow for ringing phones, howling dogs, demonized cats, parrots that quote Shakespeare. Some distractions can be very cute, but over the long haul, people will begin to drop out and you’ll never understand why. If your husband does Elvis impressions, ask him to perform in “the meeting AFTER the meeting”–when those who wanted to, have been able to spare themselves by way of a hasty departure
  • Decide ahead of time about refreshments – Does the host home provide them all? Or do you rotate who brings them to the meeting place.

DO Establish “House rules.” These are the guidelines/rules that hosting home or establishment sets out for the group. The group should determine if this is a house group or a group that meets in public (e.g. at Starbucks or Joe’s Bagel Emporium). If in public, make sure you (or someone) has talked to the manager or asst. manager to find out what their expectations are. Work within them and you may have a great experience. You’ll be happy and they’ll be happy to have a regular group of customers.

If your reading group will meet in a home–your home–unapologetically lay out your expectations. After all, this is YOUR house. You are sharing it with your fellow readers, but they are not renting the space. They are in your home. You can expect them to understand that you really don’t want smoking in your home or dirty shoes on the wall-to-wall white carpeting in your formal living room. Or on the imported Persian rug in your library. If you’re unsure about what guidelines you’d like to establish, then seek out someone who’s experienced at hosting and they can give you a heads up on what you might realistically expect.

  • What about kids? Will they be attending since some of your readers may be single moms or dads?What about your own kids? Will they be allowed to interrupt the group whenever they want attention or another glass of chocolate milk (part of the problem already perhaps)? Some parents of young children seem clueless when it comes to allowing their children too much freedom to be front and center. I’ve heard every excuse for why continual attention-grabbing is ignored or dismissed by some parents. Be honest with one another and discuss how children will or will not fit into the plan. We have found that a babysitter, or older sibling–paid for by the group–is often the perfect solution. We put a love-bowl on the table and even the parents who don’t have children present usually give generously and the babysitter goes home happy too.
  • Provide Orientation – which door do you normally use? Let them know. Show them the bathrooms. Let them know if nothing but paper goes down the toilets please. Is it OK to get a glass of ice water or do you have a special time for “snacks & refreshments?” Anything they  should know about parking? You get the picture.
  • Purchase Helpful Resources – You might like to purchase some resources in the form of reference books to have on had for your meetings. Have Helpful Resources on hand (see my “5 Helpful Resources Every Book Club Should Own”).
  • End on time. I repeat this because it’s very important. Better to have them leaving and wanting more than to have them continually fidgeting and glancing between your clock and their phones. You can always end on time and announce that whoever would like can mill around another half-hour. So now, I’ll lead by example. THE END.

QUESTION: What are some DO’s and DON’Ts you have discovered from your experience in a Reading Group/Club?

© 2013, David C Alves

Writers: Have You Discovered Dual Monitors?

I use two monitors when I write. I have done this for over four years. I bought a new monitor about a year ago. It’s bigger and HD. I love using two monitors. Here’s why:

With dual monitors, you can have your current work open in front of you and have an array of other  programs open on the second monitor. No more switching back and forth. I simply look to the right to see my second or third program window.

Because you can extend the desktop, when you slide your mouse to the second monitor, as soon as it leaves your main monitor, it shows up in the second. I often copy text from monitor two and paste in monitor one (my main monitor).

Actually, I’d love to have three monitors. For now, space and finances require that I remain at two.

My Array

Normally, for writing I keep Word open in my main and Chrome is takes up half of the display on monitor 2. The other half of 2 is usually either OneNote 2010 or Priority Matrix (an awesome tool for projects and for laying out a book outline or novel plotting).

If I’m doing a non-fiction post or article, it’s usually dependant on Scripture references. So Word is open in  monitor 1 and my Logos Bible program is fully open on monitor 2. Since monitor 2 display is 26 inches and monitor one is 19, I’m able to see the multiple segments of my Logos program in monitor 2. I often set the view to 115%. That really works out great for close study, especially of footnotes or cross-references.

For Writers Especially

For writers who work on non-fiction, monitor 2 can be your research display. Monitor 1 can by your main word processor.Or monitor 2 can have your outline open (assuming you use one). If I had a third monitor I’d have my Cloud Player and Calendar open on it, both of which I always have open in back on monitor 1.

For writers who are working on fiction, monitor 2 can keep track of characters or timeline. Whatever software you use to plot or keep track of characters or images can be open on monitor 2 while you keep your manuscript open on #1.

Two monitors work especially great with floating windows (which many programs make use of). You can simply float out a window and drag it into either monitor. Of course, all of this works best if you have Windows 7 or better. But it will work with XP as well.

2nd Monitor

When you purchase your second monitor, make sure that the monitor can be turned vertically as well as horizontally if you use lists. Long lists or excel sheets look great on a second or third monitor when turned vertically.

Today dual or even triple monitors are not out of reach for the pocket-book either. Some really nice, large format monitors can be purchased for below $200. So sell an article or two and do yourself a great favor.

When you buy your second monitor, make sure that you purchase an adaptor that will allow you to plug into your VGA plug on the back of your computer and give you a splitter into either 2 or 3 monitors. For 2 monitors, you don’t need any special software. I’m not sure once you get above 2 monitors. I hope to find out though.


If you’re not using two monitors yet, please do yourself a favor and make it a priority. Develop a motto. Sell your typewriter (no, on second thought . . . don’t do that yet). Whatever it takes, even making your own favorite coffee beverage instead of going to Starbucks. And save for that second monitor. You’ll be glad you did.

QUESTION: Anyone using three? If two, what’s your array look like?

[photo by me]

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