writing

A Creator’s Journey #5–Finding Time to Write

Okay, all the stuff I’m about to say? I don’t necessarily endorse any of it. This was a weird situation that’s kind of hard to replicate in any reputable company. But writers with full-time jobs have to find time to write wherever they can and, well…

I used to write my novels and blog posts at work.

Don’t do that. DO NOT DO THAT. Unless you’re in a situation as weird as mine was. Normally, writing on the job is stealing from your company. You could be spending your time doing any kind of miscellaneous work.

However, I worked a certain job of which I’m pretty sure I’m forbidden to speak. That sounds a lot more fun than it is. And more lucrative.

Anywho on this job, the company was a sad mixture of unable, ill-equipped, and inept. The result? Entire days would go by when there was NO WORK TO DO.

I’m not exaggerating. If one particular system was down, updating, or having a weird day, that was it. Everything was dependent on a single system. Every. Last. Task. There were no papers to file, no work that required you to leave your desk, and they never just sent us home. We were to sit there and do nothing. And get paid for it. Paid. To do NOTHING.

So…I wrote. Email was still up, so I’d write ideas out, then email them to myself. While my colleagues sat around and talked, I hashed out tens of thousands of words in the two years I worked there. I probably wrote the equivalent of one whole novel, not to mention blog ideas. I even started whole new stories at work.

Instinct says this is wrong, right? But I would simply reply, “They were literally paying me to play see-how-long-you-can-spin-in-your-chair-before-you-throw-up.” It’s not just that we couldn’t work sometimes, there were times we were actually not allowed to work. 

Why, no, this was not a great company.

So all this week, I’ve been clearing out old archives of stories and planting them in MS Word. I’m down to a dozen emails for a single story series and probably fifty more for other random projects.

Yes! It was that bad!

Extreme situation, yes, but writers write whenever they find time. And if your company wants to pay you to be unproductive, they clearly have no place to judge you for actually doing something.

WRITERS, what’s the worst way you’ve ever squeezed in time to write? How do you find time to write normally?

bible

8 Bible Commands You Can Disobey

Come one, come all, to the gold-paved streets of freedom. For too long, you’ve heard every Bible phrase cited as an absolute because it’s convenient for the legalists and religious tyrants who crave control. But it is not so. There are many Bible verses which can be ignored in many circumstances.

By what authority do I say you can ignore something in the Bible? Why, the Bible, of course!

1. Judge Not.

Matthew 7:1–“Judge not, lest ye be judged” (Old-school lingo).

Let’s start with a classic, used by Christians and non-Christians alike to dodge the bullet of you-dun-messed-up. “Hey, you can’t judge me, Bible says so!”

Actually, it says “Do not judge, or you will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

This isn’t about declaring what’s right or wrong; it’s about hypocrisy and condemnation. It’s “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, thus sayeth the Lord.” You have every right to point out evil. Just remember that God will point out yours, too.

2. Women can’t lead 

1 Timothy 2:12–“I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. Let them listen quietly.”

Sounds pretty cut-and-dry sexist, right? Until you read the book of Judges and find God brought up a woman named Deborah to be a judge right alongside a history of men. So clearly this is not an absolute rule.

Why have it at all? Well, remember that this was a single letter to a single man in a single church. Some scholars think that church was having trouble with women twisting the gospel.

So if women cause trouble, they’re told “Shut up.” If men cause trouble, they get killed (Saul, David, 98% of the kings of Israel…). So not fair (#justjokingpleasedontkillme)

3. Women should submit

Ephesians 5:22, Peter 3:1–“Wives, submit to your husbands.” (roughly paraphrased)

Somehow, this got turned into “Women, submit to all men.” Again…Deborah.

This is a command for wives of husbands, not women in general, and even that isn’t absolute. A Christian woman’s first allegiance is to God, not her husband or anybody. And more than that, Peter’s command tells men to treat their wives properly so that “your prayers may not be hindered.”

Translation: You mistreat your wife, she can cut off your contact with God. Snap!

4. Obey Authority

Romans 13:11a–“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”

The one that’s been used to oppress Native Americans, black people, gays, and anybody else who wasn’t part of the status quo. Cuz Jesus.

Except that early church totally defied every single order to shut up about Jesus. Jesus himself defied the Pharisees. He also resurrected, which technically means he defied the Roman order to die.

Dissenters appear all throughout the Bible and the chronicles of good and righteous men. At some point, God tells us to choose between him and the “governing authorities.”

5. Turn the Other Cheek

Matthew 5:39–“But I say to you, do not resist and evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other also.”

If this was absolute, God would have no power to judge sin. All sin is a slight against him, so shouldn’t God turn the other cheek and let everyone into Heaven?

No. Because this verse is about asserting squelching revenge, not justice. It’s about forgiveness and longsuffering. It’s not a command to  bend over and spread your cheeks for everyone who asks.

Jesus is not above hyperbole.

6. Sell All You Have

Luke 18:22a–“Sell everything you have and give it to the poor…”

That citation alone should tell you the importance of context. This is not a command to every single Christian to give all their crap to Goodwill and live in a box. It’s an extreme lesson in generosity, one that first and foremost applied to this rich young ruler, who it seems had a lot of value in his wealth.

It’s also not the Gospel of Joel Osteen, where you give to his ministry, then pop open your umbrella for the rain of diamonds sure to come. Give because you want to.

Generosity is good. Driving your family to your new home under the bridge–complete with burning trash can–probably a little zealous.

 

7. Dress Appropriately

[ERROR: BIBLE VERSE NOT FOUND]

Okay, to be fair, God did give us clothing to cover our nakedness and there are many verses about what to wear. However, God also made our bodies, so we shouldn’t think of them as completely evil. And the clothing verses are so culture-specific that it’s hard to find one that’s still relevant!

The whole thing is about modesty as not to entice lust. Three problems:

a. Modesty comes from the inside out, not just clothing.
b. Different cultures, times, and peoples have different ideas on modesty.
c. Modesty cannot combat lust. Fully-dressed women have been ogled, raped, and otherwise dishonored.

Christians need to be more concerned with self-discipline than clothing. Just because a woman’s bulbous cleavage is spilling out of her baby sister’s tank top doesn’t mean the dairy farm is open.

8. Don’t look like the world.

[Too many verses to count]

All throughout the Bible, Christians are called to be different. As a result, Christians have shut themselves up in little hobbit holes marked by what they don’t do rather than what they do.

“Don’t cuss, don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, don’t have sex until you’re married, limit marital sex as much as possible, actually just never let anyone know you have a sex drive whatsoever, don’t play video games, don’t watch R-rated movies, don’t do art because they paint naked people, don’t listen to any music except Casting Crowns, don’t play sports if you’re not going to point to the sky or do a Tebow, don’t go to public school, don’t read comic books, don’t read anything but Amish fiction, and don’t eat anywhere that isn’t Chik-fil-A.”

They forget we have to live here. They forget extremes are not norms. They forget that everybody’s walk is different. They forget that if we want to save souls, we have to go find them. And they forget that Jesus himself was accused of being being a drunkard, a glutton, and a demoniac.

Just because the world does something does not make it automatically bad. Just because I like rock and metal doesn’t mean I play records backwards so I can research Satanic prayers. Just because a man drinks doesn’t make him a drunk. Just because a woman wears a flattering dress does not make her a crusty ho-bag.

We aren’t called to hide from the world. We’re called to go into it and make it better. Make better art, better businesses, better company, better friends, better worlds. To do that, you have to hop in. Don’t fret; you can find Jesus in bars, pot shops, and strip clubs. Or at the very least, you can bring him there.

Did I miss any?

Rebel

75 YOF: “Rebel Without a Cause,” and Becoming A Man (1955)

James Dean has been immortalized as a Hollywood icon because the instant he hit his peak, he died in a car crash. If you want to see an icon who’s been put in paintings with Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, and The Three Stooges, Rebel Without a Cause is pretty much your only option.

PLOT:
A troubled youth named Jim (Dean) moves into a new town where he makes new friends and enemies. The film follows a 24-hour period in which he’s challenged to act like a man, an adult, a friend, and many other things he doesn’t know how to be.

IS IT ANY GOOD?
Yes, quite. Dean gives a stellar performance, so you see why people were excited to watch his career rise, and horrified to see it end so abruptly, much like Heath Ledger after playing The Joker. I believe this is one of the earliest “troubled teen” movies. Many before showed youths as misunderstood, but this was one of the first to show that there was a genuine problem going on. 3.5/5 stars.

IMPRESSIONS:
The thing that hit me the most about this movie wasn’t just Dean’s performance, but the impeccable drive to “be a man” and the age-old question “What does that mean?”

Jim doesn’t like being at home because his father is too buddy-buddy, not much of a model or mentor, which Jim needs. His dad is constantly bullied by the women in his life and won’t stand up for himself.

Thus, Jim searches for manliness elsewhere. He’s enraged when people call him a chicken which gets him into a knife fight and even an ironic game of road chicken, dangerous stunts to prove he’s not a coward, like his father, and therefore a man.

However, this macho persona doesn’t work either. His antics get him in trouble with thugs from school and result in a character’s death. Also, his friend Judy (Natalie Wood) has a father who’s so macho he doesn’t want to show affection to his daughter, but lets his son play with machine gun toys at the table.

So none of the main teens know how to be grown-ups or what to expect from a man. They end up figuring it out themselves, but it’s amazing how this trend encapsulated the struggle of so many boys.

Rebel 2

Too many youths don’t know what a man is, so they go by the stereotypes: bullies, alpha-males, and drunks. Today, the sterotypes have evolved to include the black-clad recluse, rock/rap stars, and homosexual caricatures. Then these “men” go on to have children of their own and perpetuate the confusion. How can they teach their sons what they don’t know?

On top of that, there’s the not-so-subtle insinuation that masculinity is “wrong” somehow. Men on TV are often dopes, jarheads, perverts, and alcoholics. Hardly inspirational. Then, there’s the real-life man-bashers.

Just yesterday, I had a woman tell me to my face that all men–and men alone–are potential mass-murderers because of their testosterone. How is a man supposed to grow in such a hostile and uncertain environment?

So it’s difficult for a boy to know how to become a good man, a real man. In my own life, I’ve seen teens who became militant jarheads, stoic statues, and feathery pushovers because that’s what their fathers were. I honestly wondered if I was gay for a time simply because I wasn’t like other boys. I didn’t figure out what masculinity really was until I was twenty-four, far too long, and many still aren’t there.

Rebel 3

 

So what’s the answer? I think Rebel Without a Cause had the right idea: masculinity is a balance, not an extreme. It’s boldness, but not recklessness. It’s heroism without pomp. It’s adventure without neglecting those who need you. It’s inspiration, not demand. It’s being good, not being “nice.” It’s honor, not approval.

By the by, I’m talking about what a man is, not what a woman isn’t.

Men are defined by strength–and sterotyped by their abuse or surrender thereof. A man’s strength is not meant to dominate or destroy. It’s there to protect, to encourage. A man needs his strength so that he can endure the trials of the world and so he can carry the weak and wounded on his back.

More importantly, a man needs incredible amounts of strength so that he can give more of it away. He must give that strength to his friends when they don’t have any. He must give it to his children so they can stand on their own. He must give it to his wife without being threatened by her power. He must give it to the oppressed, the broken-down, and those without voices.

It’s a tall order, isn’t it? How can a man possibly have enough strength for himself and still have enough to give to others? I’ll tell you. You won’t like it, but I’ll tell you anyway. You can’t draw infinite resources from a finite source. You must instead draw from an infinite source. This kind of strength must be drawn from God himself, who used his limitless strength to create, to empower his creations, and to surrender it all in death.

Told you that you wouldn’t like it. There’s this unspoken rule that a man must become a man on his own, without God or man to help him. This is utter foolishness. Why? Watch Rebel Without a Cause and you’ll find out what happens to boys who walk this cruel world alone.

 

PREVOUS: 1954–White Christmas, When Musicals Were Fun

NEXT: 1956–The Rainmaker

Click here for the full list.

Shut up

10 Political Phrases Christians Need to Stop Using

I don’t think Christians see how much is at stake this election season. They’re so worried about abortion, immigrants, and their own rights that they’ve stopped thinking about their witness. They’re sacrificing any future victories to gain this one.

Christians are losing what credibility they have not because of who’s in office, but because of how they act. The world sees us praising Jesus as Lord, then acting like America is Lord, or the right president. They’re seeing us discard our values for political gain.

Yes, I said “us.” I am a Christian, grieved that Christians are knowingly promoting evil as if it were good, ignoring “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.” (Matthew 23:23, ESV).

If we want to have any witness in this country anymore, we’ve got to clean up our act. That means we need to stop saying the following things–or more appropriately, stop believing them.

1. “Make America Great Again.”

Yeah, remember when you could pay women less and didn’t have to pay black people at all? When all them queer-mo-sexuals kept quiet about it and if they didn’t, you could just lynch ’em? When you could run your business without worrying about safety or health concerns? When everyone who didn’t believe like we did was kicked out or killed?

Mm, good times.

Now I’m sure many of you just said, “I didn’t mean it like that.” I believe you–honestly, I do. I think what you’re meaning to say is “Make America great period.”

We can’t recede to old models that only worked for white Christian males. We need God to push us forward to make America great for everybody. And this is a white Christian male saying that.

2. “Vote Republican!”

How about “Vote for whomever is best suited to fill this particular office regardless of their political affiliations”? Or are you implying you must be/vote Republican to be Christian? If that’s the case, you may want to reread Galatians to see what Paul has to say about “God plus.”

3. “I’m voting for Trump because he wants to kick out all the immigrants.”

Quote me one verse, ONE BIBLE VERSE that says wholesale eviction based on race is the Christian thing to do.

4. “Trump is Christian.”

Look at the man. He’s so corrupt his HAIR lies.

5. “Hillary is a liar.”

So is Trump. Is lying bad or is it not?

6. “A vote for a third party is a vote for Hillary.” (or Trump, but I’ve heard Hillary more often). 

Uh, no. It’s a vote for a third party. That’s how this works.

And actually, the more people who vote for third parties, the more credible they become, drawing out more people to put their confidence in them, which furthers their credibility even more, etc.

The less people believe this statement, the less true it becomes.

7. “I’m voting for the lesser of two evils.”

That just means you’re voting for evil.

Where in the Bible do Christians get the idea that it’s okay to stand by a candidate who’s 9/10 on the evil scale as long as they’re not a 10/10? Christians are told repeatedly not to have ANY part in sin.

You can write literally anybody’s name on the ballot box, so what’s this one-or-the-other business? Throw that sliding scale away and do what’s right!

8. “It’s a two-party system.”

What a defeatist statement. “Oh, well, the world is evil, guess we should just duck our heads and go with the flow.”

Jesus lived in a ONE-party system (Pharisees) and he openly defied it. He taught a new way: a way to do good, to do what’s right, to honor God even if it means no political power, no safety, and no freedom.

Have we learned nothing?

9. “Jesus would vote [enter political party here]”

First off, if Jesus is voting, I hope he has the foresight to vote for himself.

Second of all, Jesus is loyal to God’s kingdom, which is a theocracy, not a democracy. And he’s far more interested in doing good than fulfilling party agendas. Remember how many religious people he infuriated? It’s because he wasn’t interested in playing by anybody’s rules but his own.

10. “We need to win this election!”

How do you see that happening? If we vote for a tyrant, our witness as Christians is null and void. If we vote for a liar, our witness as Christians is null and void. If we vote for “the lesser or two evils,” our witness as Christians is null and void.

If we knowingly vote for evil, we lose far more than an election.

We were called to be salt and light to the earth. Translation: be different and be better. By playing the game, by putting all our hopes on a human being, we are not different and not better.

The only way Christians can “win” this election is to stand for God and God alone. We probably won’t get a Christian in the White House, but we can still win. We might not change the policies we hate, but we can still win.

After all, “What will it profit a man to gain the world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Matthew 16:26a) God is the ultimate judge of right and wrong, not political victory.

Don’t be too concerned about winning an election. Think long-term underground revolution. Change by being, not just voting. That’s how the church rose up in the book of Acts. Witness and influence, two things we could easily lose if we continue on our current path.

Jesus said the two greatest commandments were “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27,  NIV).

Will your vote do those two things?

 

White_Chrismas_film

75 YOF: “White Christmas,” When Musicals Were Fun (1954)

You’ve heard the song every year on the radio, but have you seen the actual movie? I hadn’t, so we got to enjoy one more classic musical in our series.

STORY:
Army buddies Bob (Bing Crosby) and Phil (Danny Kaye) form a wildly popular two-man show after the end of World War II. While staying in a Vermont inn to spend time with an attractive sister duet, the boys learn that their old army general is the owner of the inn, which isn’t doing well. They decide to put on a whole show to attract customers to help their beloved general stay afloat.

IS IT ANY GOOD?
Yes indeed. It’s a lot of fun and a real pleasant film, meaning it’s just so upbeat without being cheesy. I liked the characters and wanted them to succeed. The songs were hit and miss, but none of them felt out of place or forced. And, of course, the dance numbers were awesome. The film did drag on a wee bit too long, and while I probably wouldn’t own it, I’m very happy I saw it. 3.5/5 stars.

IMPRESSIONS:
I’ve touched on this before, but I’ll give it more detail here: musicals have evolved in tremendous ways. The one massive identifier for an older musical isn’t just the crooning style, but the fact that musicals back in the day were just plain fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for musicals having darker natures and/or dealing with unpleasant issues (Phantom, Rent, etc.) and musicals that run the full spectrum of emotion are divine (Fiddler on the Roof). However, you don’t see any just-plain-fun musicals anymore.

NOTE: If I’m dead wrong about that, please let me know what fun musicals are being made nowadays! I’d be happy to see them.

White Christmas 1

First of all, older musicals saw themselves as entertainment spectacles. There are countless dance numbers as well as songs. There’s also a scene where the men perform the “Sisters” song to the amusement of an audience. According to IMDB.com, this was unscripted. Crosby and Kaye were goofing off, so the filmmakers used it. In fact, they deliberately kept the “worse” take where Crosby couldn’t keep a straight face.

That’s the air of fun the film possessed, and it permeates the screen and reaches into our living rooms.

White Christmas 2

Second, there was simply a positive air and it shows, considering the film is about honoring an army man. How many movies do you know that honor military personnel without war footage? Most such films show the soldiers in action, blowing the crap out of whomever is the enemy. These can be good and fun, but fankly, they have an air of “Boom, boom! ‘MURICA! Pow-Pow-Pow!”

Not in this film. There’s only about sixty seconds of war footage all of which is soldiers taking cover. The only wartime bravery is Phil saving Bob from a falling building. Rather than glorify a warrior, this film glorifies a man. They show early on that the general loves his men and they love him back, and the boys go out of their way to show him admiration and respect.

Few American films would honor military personnel anymore without taking glorifying America or violence instead of noble character  *coughTransformerscough*. White Christmas glorifies mutual respect.

White Christmas 3

Finally, White Christmas, like most old musicals, doesn’t think it’s gay or feminine for a man to dance. Remember Fred Astaire? Or the entire male case of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? Dancing was something men an women alike did and nobody blinked. This was in the mainstream, too!

But somewhere between 1954 and now, dancing became unmanly. Men were allowed to be into cars, motorcycles, sports, and guitars, but dancing was for chicks and queers. Even today, there’s the unspoken assumption that dancing men are effeminate and/or homosexual.

Oddly, these stereotypes have an air of truth to them. My brother is a dancer and if memory serves, he was the only straight male in his troupe. In fact, he danced for a year or two before anybody realized he was straight. They just assumed.

What happened? Well, it seems dancing itself has changed. Dancing has been a part of society for centuries–millenia! Even the Bible talks about men and women alike dancing. But once more, somewhere between the 50s and today, dancing as a social and entertainment medium waned.

Religion can probably be blamed in part–many Christian parents didn’t want their children doing such a “devilish” thing. But in the 60s, drugs took over the mainstream, too. Nowadays, kids don’t go out to dance, they go out to get high. “Parties” are places to drink and take drugs. Culture has shifted.

But also, dancing became more sexual in recent decades. People still go dancing, yes, but it’s mostly clubbing. Yes, that picture above shows a lot of leg, but today’s motions are more about bumping and grinding than kicking and stepping. True, dancing is a beautiful body art, and certainly sensuality is part of it. However, that’s all you see anymore, at least in the mainstream.

Personally, all this makes me sad. I’m sad to see men of any sexual orientation ridiculed or put into a box because of dancing. I’m sorry to see this active, social, and historic art die out in favor of sitting around getting wasted. And I’m sorry to see an impressive and beautiful performance chopped down to chemicals and close-ups for rap videos.

I guess that’s why I liked White Christmas. Something so upbeat, positive, and energetic couldn’t be made today without being a goofy or raunchy comedy. Perhaps we’ve grown too cynical in recent centuries. Our films certainly point that way.

But art is fluid. Perhaps one day people will start kicking their feet and having fun again without drugs or sex to keep them going.

NEXT: 1955–Rebel Without a Cause

PREVIOUS: 1953–War of The Worlds and Silly Sci-Fi Scariness 

FULL LIST: Click here

Don't try too hard

An Example of How Humility Hurts Like Hell (but Feels So Good)

Ow…Ow…Ow…You’ll have to excuse my metaphorical limping, but I was just crucified this morning.

See, I wrote this article on video games, talking about how choice-based games (where you choose the outcome at various points) are boring and gimmicky if that’s all they are.

Never, ever, EVER say anything on the internet unless you’re willing to be crucified for it. Because I was.

A wild gamer appeared and took me to task, and it was not pretty. This person hit me from every angle and hit me over and over again. I’ll be honest, it was not fair. I was accused of things that aren’t true, slotted as a homophobic knuckle-dragger who wasn’t a real gamer, and called a villain in no uncertain terms. Even when I apologized for offending this person, the attacks continued.

I was reminded of 300. “You will not enjoy this. This will not be over quickly.”

I make jokes, but I don’t think I can accurately convey how much this exchange wounded me. To be ridiculed, dismissed by my peers, whittled down to a stereotype, accused of such mindless and cruel things. I must have paced my room for an hour trying to deal with it.

Originally, I was going to leave the conversation at the commentor’s last blow. Any reply would have been out of pain and anger; I could not write a response and call myself a Christian.

Eventually, I had to drop to my knees and beg God to heal me. The wound was that bad. During that time, I was reminded of the Bible verses that say to pray for your enemies. I said, “I can’t do that right now. I’m in too much pain. I’ll do that later.”

Then I saw a vision of Jesus on the cross, saying “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Then Jesus looked down at me and raised a wry eyebrow, as if to say, “Get it now?”

Side note: You’ll find God is rather sarcastic with me, but that’s just how we talk to one another.

Jesus prayed for his enemies on the FRIGGIN’ CROSS! And as a Christian, I’m supposed to imitate him, so…I tried praying. But shortly afterwards, I realized I had to do more.

I. Had. To. Apologize.

READ THAT AGAIN! I had to apologize to the person who was mean to me!!

Why? Because when you brush away the barbs, the snideness, and the judgement…she was right.

She accused me of being biased. And I was. She accused me of forgetting a whole demographic of gamers. And I did. She accused me of belittling her. And I had. All unintentionally, but that only proved my bias: I had no idea my words would hurt somebody–and entire group of somebodies, perhaps. I’d forgotten them.

But what about all the mean things she said to me? I remembered when Paul said, “Would you not rather be wronged?” (or cheated or defrauded, 1 Corinthians 6:7). And I felt Jesus asking me, “Can you take it?”

That’s when I realized my experience was remarkably similar to Jesus’s. I was beaten, mocked, scorned, falsely accused, unfairly treated, and hung up for the world to see (yeah, this was on Facebook). But Jesus could take being wronged because his life wasn’t about personal gain.

It was about doing what’s right. Could I swallow my pain, forgive and even ignore it, and press on to do what’s right?

Not without God I couldn’t. Thankfully, he was with me.

So I confessed to this person that they were right. I apologized for devaluing them as a gamer. And I even asked them to show me those games I had overlooked and even dismissed.

I just now checked to see if they replied. They did. They gave me a game suggestion and linked it to me. No sarcasm, as far as I can tell.

Is this person sorry for what they said? Don’t know, don’t much care. Christian life is not about telling everybody else they’re wrong; it’s about doing what’s right regardless of what the world says and does. Tweet that.

I didn’t write this to brag about how awesome I am. I’m not. As I said, Jesus is the awesome one. He’s the one who helped me take up my cross. He’s the one who deserve the high-fives here. Without Jesus, I would have made things far worse. He is the only one who is good. He’s the one who deserves your praise.

So yes, this experience was excruciating (haha, etymology joke), but now my pain is gone. I have walked with Christ and done the impossible. And I’ve pushed past a bias I didn’t know I had. And it’s possible, just possible, that I made a friend out of an enemy.

I hope you remember this story the next time someone humbles you without your permission. Pause. Pray. Ask God if there is truth in their accusation. Ask God how to respond. Bite the bullet, hug the cactus, grab that really hot car door handle that’s been in the sun all day.

Because when you walk with Jesus, crying turns into laughter.

UPDATE: After posting this I realize I’d missed an entire massive comment. The commentor gave me a BAZILLION suggestions and seems pretty happy. Only God!

Punch the air

A Creator’s Journey #4–Step 1 Complete!

BIG NEWS!!

Ferryman’s cover art is 100% funded! That means we raised the $350 necessary to get a cover for the book. WHOO HOO!

Even better? The latest backer’s donation spilled into the second step, editing, which is up to $110/$600 (18%), bringing the total funding up to $460/$1600 (28%). We’re a quarter of the way there!

Not bad considering I started this ten days ago!

Praise God. I’ve prayed for help in my artistry and He’s provided in massively surprising ways. If it weren’t for God, I’d have nothing at all. Thank you, Lord. And thank you, backers, for your generosity.

If you want to learn more about or support this project, click here. There are rewards for backers who contribute as little as $5. A little bit here and there helps more than you realize. And for any writers out there, there are editing packages as prizes, too.

OTHER RANDOM STUFF

You know, there’s just not a lot of love for speculative fiction in Christian circles. For those who don’t know, spec fic is sci-fi, horror, fantasy, supernatural, all that good stuff. Well, not so good for Christians. There’s still a bit of a taboo on that.

I’m a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers guild and while there are great aids and resources for Christian writers, it mostly boiled down to the same stuff: romance, historical, and contemporary. Virtually no spec fic. And when I submitted my spec-fic pieces, few seemed to understand them.

So I decided to start my own spec-fic small group through the guild. I asked people on Facebook if they would like to join and a dozen hands shot up. Apparently, there’s been a need for this. We needed four to start and we have ten including myself.

Spec Fiction is always underrated in Christian circles. That’s why I’m glad to find more and more of it emerging from the shadows. Soon enough, we’ll take the mainstream and we’ll be back to where we were 60 years ago when C.S. Lewis came out with Narnia.

See how regressive religion is?

If you want to join me in making Christian art a bolder, better, less religious place, hit me up at fencingwithink.com. Or in the comments, that’s cool, too.

And if you want to see more blogs about movies, books, games, anime, Christianity, freedom, humor, and the journey it takes to become a creator, click that Subscribe button up top to get blogs, updates, and more.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me thus far in one way or another. And thank YOU for reading to the very end of this post.

Idaho

On the Road…AGAIN?!

God seems to love changing his mind.

Remember what happened in Genesis?

GOD: Abraham, kill your firstborn, Isaac.
ABE: Okay!
GOD: Abraham, don’t kill your firstborn, Isacc.
ABE: Okay!
ISAAC: What just happened?!

Or what happened in 1 Samuel?

GOD: Saul will be king.
SAUL: Aw, yis.
GOD: David will be king.
SAUL: What just happened?!

Or even in the Gospels?

GOD: Jesus, you will die.
JESUS: Got it.
GOD: Jesus, you will live.
JESUS: I like this plan.
EVERYONE: What just happened?!

Please note that I don’t say these things to be sacreligious, but look up at my tagline and it includes “most holy irreverence.” I’m a Christian, but I love to laugh.

Why am I talking about this?

Five months ago, I left my twenty-eight-year Midwest home and traveled to Denver because God told me to go on an adventure.

Last week, God told me to pack up and go to Twin Falls, Idaho.

What just happened?!

It seemed to make no sense. We JUST got here. The whole point was to be on our own in a place only God could support us. Now God is telling us–quite vehemently–to get thee gone to Idaho, where my parents are now living. So…back to square one?

And yet I can’t deny it. My wife and I hit a crisis of faith on July 31st due to our circumstances. August 1st, my Mom came to visit. Knowing nothing of our situation, she offered the perfect solution. Why? “God’s been telling me and your father that this is what you should do.”

My parents have an incredible connection with God and my mother has the gift of prophecy (she could tell when I was doing something I shouldn’t have been, but couldn’t tell the winning lottery numbers, dagnabbit), so if they say they’ve heard from God, you listen! Then my younger brother also gave a random encouragement that fit our situation. Then my wife just happened upon a Bible verse that fit perfectly.

But it seemed too perfect, too easy. God calls us to be strong, not comfortable, after all. So we sat down to hear it from God himself. Three seconds into my prayer time, God essentially said, “Look, do you want this golden opportunity or not?”

It’s so crazy that it just might be sane.

Despite all the rough times we’ve had, I never felt like we made a mistake coming to Denver. It got us out and on our own, sharpening our faith.

But more than that, since all their kids had moved so far west (my brother is in Utah), my parents had no reason to stay in St. Louis and my dad’s job was starting to stink. Suddenly one opened up in Idaho and they could move without fear.

The only hangup was my aging Granddad. However, he decided to sell his house and move to Minnesota to be with my aunt. Her daughter, my cousin, called me one day with some serious woes. I felt God telling her to follow our example to Colorado. She agreed in part because Granddad coming made things crowded, and now she’s following God out west.

Back to my parents. Falling in love with Twin Falls, Idaho, my parents bragged about how nice the place was and told us plenty about it, showing us pictures, and even suggesting a certain house.

Enter our crisis of faith. Suddenly all those praises are fitting our situation perfectly. Suddenly that three-bedroom house is more affordable than my one-bedroom apartment (Denver is so, so expensive). And since my cousin is coming to Denver, she may be able to take over my wife’s job, allowing her a better income than she is currently expecting.

This all happened in a matter of five days, and I haven’t given all the details. It’s like dumping out a puzzle and having all the pieces land in perfect order.

So not quite flip-flopping.

I said before that it seems God changes his mind, but the truth is his plans aren’t as permanent as we think sometimes. God never intended for Abraham to kill Isaac; he just wanted Abraham to demonstrate his faith for his sake and for everyone who read his story.

God made Saul king, but it was conditional upon his being a good one. Saul failed, so God removed the privilege. And we all know Jesus died specifically so he could rise again.

As for me, my coming to Denver seems to have been for my spiritual benefit as well as the catalyst for my parents, my Granddad, and my cousin. But it’s true God never said we’d live here forever, or even very long.

Frankly, I’m glad. I hate to malign Denver, but we just can’t see a future here. Twin Falls seems more promising for our specific needs.

However, I need to be sure not to grow my roots too deep. God’s plans may yet have some surprises. After all, this Earth is not my home. I’m just passing through.

WOW

75 YOF: “War of the Worlds” and Silly Sci-Fi Scariness (1953)

What’s more 1950s than a movie about the space age and all the wonders and dangers lurking out there in the cosmos? Rockets! Lasers! Invasions! Golly-Gee Whillakers!

THE PLOT:
Martians attack Earth. Simple as.

IS IT ANY GOOD?
Not really. Back in the 1950s this may have been new and scary, but in 2016, there’s nothing special. The acting isn’t very good, the characters aren’t very interesting, and while the effects are great for the time, they’ve clearly aged. The pacing is also terrible–sometimes too fast, sometimes too slow. Scenes of war and destruction feel like filler after several minutes, especially when they reuse footage you saw five seconds ago. And the whole story is resolved at the last second by the ultimate deus ex machina.

Honestly, the whole thing plays like a lifeless disaster movie similar to 2012 or the like. I can appreciate this movie as significant for the time, but I don’t want to watch it again. 2/5 stars, and it only reached 2 for historical significance.

IMPRESSIONS:
It’s amazing how simple, yet realistic this fear of space was.

Remember: this story was previously broadcast in 1938 as a radio program and it was presented in such a simplistic and realistic fashion that some people thought there was an actual alien invasion when they tuned in.

Sputnik had not yet gone up, but space was all the rage. Thus, fears of that mysterious beyond began to take hold around the 1950s. Rockets and other scientific advances made space a probable frontier for exploration, but what was out there, waiting in the inky blackness of space? Everyone wanted to know.

Today? Not so much.

Aliens

In part, we can blame skepticism. Not many believe that alien life actually exists and therefore there’s no fear of them. In the 1950s, who knew? Even now, we cannot say that there is no life out there with actual certainty (we’ve never been there), but aliens are just so…Hollywood. Alien, E.T., Star Wars, plus video games like Mass Effect… Aliens are so commonly associated with TV screens that it’s hard to imagine them actually existing. Thus, alien invasions have become more exciting than actually frightening.

We can also blame realism. Science has skyrocketed since 1953 and we know infinitely more. Thus, sci-fi terrors have been modified. The fear in Alien wasn’t some massive, indestructible force, but rather a single creature that nobody could understand or escape. The tagline for Alien was “In space, no one can hear you scream.” It’s the feeling of helplessness, and the crippling nature of ignorance that are just as threatening as the alien itself.

We saw a similar thing in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where the fear isn’t so much the aliens as the invasion itself, the subtle, almost invisible way they take over. It’s creepy.

And in 2013 we got Gravity, a movie about space where the enemy is space itself. Low gravity, zero oxygen, lack of control, all natural phenomena that we 100% know exist in space. Even Armageddon gave us the threat of a meteor, something we also know exists and could actually hurt us.  The more we know about space, the more sophisticated our fears become.

Plus, we now have movies that focus more on the wonders of space than the terrors. E.T. taught us that we need not be afraid of what we don’t understand, that goodness may exist out there. Treasure Planet and Wall-E made space look more like a wondrous adventure than a deadly terrain. The more we know about space the less we’ve come to fear it.

Times have changed. That’s why I said I can respect this movie as significant to film history without actually enjoying it. War of the Worlds represented a real fear of a real time. However, it’s no longer 1953. We know more and our experiences are different. I think that’s why the 2005 remake wasn’t so successful. Not many were really scared of aliens by that point, so it was just a movie. In 1953, it was so much more.

But who cares what I think? Do you think sci-fi thrillers have progressed? What do you think of alien invasions? Sound off in the comments!

Previous: 1952–“Don’t Bother to Knock” and the Magnificent, Maniacal Monroe

Next: 1954–White Christmas

See all films.

 

A Creator’s Journey #3–Failure and Rebounding

The day I first met my wife, I learned a lesson in rebounding from failure. I tried to cross over one of those chains they place between poles to section off the sidewalk. My foot got caught and I stumbled. Sensing I was about to fall in front of someone I was trying to impress, I ducked forward and turned my fall into a roll, thus sparing me some pain and earning me some “suave” points with my lady friend.

That’s called rolling with it. Literally. Taking failure and turning it into success.

SAP

The Failure:

My Kickstarter didn’t get funded. I was only able to raise about $800 out of $3000, and since Kickstarter is all-or-nothing, I got nothing and I can’t publish Ferryman right now.

It’s frustrating, disappointing, and a major setback. However, I’m not as bummed as I might have been. For one thing, God helped me not to be bitter against those who didn’t help me, or even bitter at failure itself. For another thing, he reminded me of a book I’ve been meaning to read.

 

While the Kickstarter was going, I read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. The man’s industriousness amazes me. He was always doing something, in fact it became one of his virtues. Thus, when failure was on the horizon, I began to wonder what I could do next instead of bemoaning my fate.

The Rebound:

Kickstarter gave me the idea for a slower approach to Ferryman. Several people had already been willing to back me, so I simply opened up donations with the promise of the same rewards as the Kickstarter. While this model would not have the instant gratification, it meant I could have the money I needed when I needed it and thus divide and conquer.

How is that success? Let me explain. Breaking publication into individual pieces means once I get money for the cover art, I can buy it and just have it on display until I can fund the whole book, rather than waiting for every penny. Fun fact: people like visuals more than vague ideas. How can do you give someone a visual of a book? The cover art, which I’ll have.

Seeing cover art will get people to take my writing seriously (people respect books they can see more than abstract concepts), help them memorize what I’m doing, and pique their interest if the art is good (should be, my guy is awesome and I already have a quote).

The cover art generates awareness of and interest in the book, which increases the number of potential backers for the second step: editing. That’s a bigger cost, but once its funded, I’ll have the bare minimum I need to self-pub this book.

Of course “bare minimum” is not an attractive phrase, so I plan to keep going. Step 3 is hiring a professional to format the book, which isn’t that pricey. Once that’s accomplished, I can comfortably self-pub.

However, I want to shoot for the stars. Step 4 is to get a website where I can promote my books, blogs, and editing services. Finally Step 5 allows leeway for any surprises. These two are more helpful than mandatory, but it’s always good to dream big.

The Future:

After the book is published, I plan to not only sell it normally, but to use it as a promotional tool for subscribers and Patreon supporters to generate a larger audience and more funding so that I can publish new books in the future.

The best part? Step 1 should be done within the week. It’s already 74% funded and I know another backer is in the works to complete it. One domino down…

Thanks to God and Ben Franklin (there’s a sentence…) I was able to rebound from failure and plan for success. I’ve been informing by backers that I’m still accepting donations if they would be so kind and I’ll still honor the reward system. Click here or click the Countdown page up top for more info.

So far, so good. Thanks to those who have believed in me so far and to those who choose to believe in me in the future.