Finally, A New Post…

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

I haven’t posted to this site since January of this year. I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’ve spent hours reworking the look and feel of the site, adding images and better navigation, but I haven’t written anything, aside from a new landing page.

So here is a post.

You would think that I would have so much stuff to write about that I couldn’t keep up. The year 2020 started out fairly normal, but between ridiculous impeachment farces, murder hornets, the “novel” coronavirus that is anything but novel, senseless violence and riots across the nation, the rise of petty tyrants in state and local governments, and this being an election year, there was indeed no shortage of things to write about. I just didn’t want to.

Every time I would start to write, the words invariably became harsh, angry, and unpleasant to read. Everything went into the digital dustbin, the zeros and ones scrambled to randomness. My mood since March when everything really started to get rolling with “the virus” and I was one of the lucky ones who could do their job remotely, has either been one of deleterious detachment, certain uncertainty, or simmering discontent. I should have felt immense gratitude that I could still work, still earn a paycheck, and not be wondering whether I could pay my mortgage or put food on my table.

I had every reason to be grateful, feel blessed, and thank my God that I was in the situation I was in. But…I didn’t. I said the words. I agreed with my friends who were in the same situation, as most of them were very grateful and said as much in our Zoom conversations. But…I wasn’t. I can’t explain why, anymore than I can explain calculus to a toddler (or anyone else, for that matter). It just wasn’t in me.

After committing to, and succeeding in writing and posting to this site for twenty-one consecutive days in January, I just stopped. The year had not yet even got rolling down the tracks toward the crazy train. I just remember that I was happy that I had written those twenty-one days and I was out of ideas. So began my slow, but inexorable slide into…my current state.

I’m trying to pull out of the slide.

Case in point, I’ve acquired a new hobby – woodworking. I’ve collected and organized a fairly good set of tools, completed my first big project (my workbench), am working on my second big project ( a new desk for my home office), and continue to be fascinated by the amount and quality of information available on the Internet. Between YouTube and other sites, I’ve learned a LOT about how to measure, cut and reconnect wood pieces together so they make things which are useful and attractive (still working on the attractive part).

Woodworking helps fill some of the void in my mood. I am awed by the output of the people on YouTube and other sites, sometimes by the absolute beauty of the work, and other times by the perfection in function. I try not to be discouraged by their success and keep reminding myself that I have just started taking baby steps in this hobby, so I have a long way to go.

Some of you who have read my blog before know that I write books, also. Well…I write parts of books. I can’t yet say I’ve written an entire book, much less had one published. Will I ever finish one? I have over ten in progress, everything from sci-fi and fantasy, to action thrillers, and even a romance. I don’t know the answer to that question. I hope so, if only for the satisfaction of completing something. 

If I am able to make myself continue posting here, expect a post about woodworking, possibly after I finish my current project, at least one post on this weirdest of election years, maybe another with an excerpt or a character sketch from one of my (incomplete) books, and maybe another “random thoughts” post like this one where I can attempt to unravel my current state of mind, or if things go well, report that I am once again mentally and emotionally in better health.

Not that anyone actually reads this blog…posting here is about the same as writing on my basement wall – no one will see it unless I specifically ask them to take a look.

Who knows? Anything could happen. If over-reaction to the virus doesn’t bankrupt us all, or we aren’t all overcome by murder hornets or assaulted by rioters, things could eventually turn around and 2020 end like any other year…but I’m not holding my breath.

 

Photo by boris misevic on Unsplash

21 Days of Posts – Day 21 – The Christian Life – Learning and Pruning

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Welcome to the last day all you who decided to follow along as I posted for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. For those of you just jumping in, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1 (which it does not), then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks to those who were brave enough to join me.

Day 21!

Wow!

I did it!

I’ve posted every day for 21 days straight. Yay, me! Now for this last post…

One of the main points of this fast we do every year is to devote more time to study and prayer, or even just contemplation. When we deny ourselves things we normally do not go without, we tend to notice other things, especially if we are giving up items of food. But even if we are just staying off social media, or not continuing a bad habit, or some other act of relinquishing, we hopefully go through the thought process of “what do I do now?”.

What do we do? What do we notice as we stay away from comfortable, familiar things? If we truly take the time to study and pray more, we probably learn things. Devoting more time to the Word of God is never a waste, nor does it fail to eventually reap benefits. Did you add a devotion to your quiet time? Did you read a book or two of the Bible, or dive into a Christian learning book? These weren’t required, of course, but they could have significantly contributed to your relationship with God.

Did you give up a bad habit? Quit eating an unhealthy food? Quit doing something that you knew you shouldn’t be doing, but just didn’t care enough or feel like you had the will or strength to quit? Are you dying to do that thing or eat that food, or has the desire ebbed and now, you could take it or leave it? A fast is a great way for us to prune things out of our life that aren’t good for us. If you did desist from a habit or food, I hope that you are able to toss it away for good, if that was your goal.

We as humans don’t like to be uncomfortable. We generally like familiar things, creature comforts, and unregimented use of our time. When we fast, we purposefully make ourselves uncomfortable. It is in the discomfort that we should look for an anchor, and I can think of no better anchor than our God. He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, so he will be able to help you, knows exactly what you need, and will never leave you. What more could we ask for in a time of discomfort, whether purposeful, as in a fast, or when the unexpected happens, as when tragedy strikes?

As Christians, we should constantly be going through cycles of learning and pruning, as we strive to be closer to God and to develop those connections mentioned in yesterday’s post. Those connections are critical, as is our learning and pruning process. The more we do to take full advantage of these cycles, the closer our relationship with God will be, and the more fulfilling our life will be, even if it has been stripped of our comforts and familiarity.

Thank you so much for reading to (the very) end! It has been very gratifying to post for 21 consecutive days, even if no one reads any of it.

I will be posting more regularly in the future, at least once a week, so if you are interested, come back by and check out what is in my head. If I have time tomorrow, I will post a conclusion and summary of my takeaway of these past 21 days, maybe in the evening after the celebratory worship service.

 

Photo Credit – Photo by Kamil Szumotalski on Unsplash

21 Days of Posts – Day 20 – Connections Between People

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

Welcome to Day 20! In this post I want to talk about connections, mostly connections between people.

Most humans crave connection to other humans. I say most, not all, because there are people out there who would rather connect with their dog, or cat, or pet python than deal with the chaos of connecting to other people. Connecting to other people can be messy and complicated, as everyone brings their own baggage into a relationship, any kind of relationship. It doesn’t always have to be messy, but more times than not, messy is the operative description.

We crave connection with other people for a variety of reasons. Security. Looking for a kindred spirit. Someone to share experiences with. Love. Some things in life are just better shared with other people. Food. Music. Excitement. Laughter. Pain. Sorrow. Heartache. All of these are generally better when shared with other people.

But how do we make these connections in the first place? I could copy and paste both previous lists right here and be mostly right again. Shared likes, shared dislikes, pain, trauma-all are ways that we connect. Some experiences are more binding than others. If all we ever did with our friends was go out to eat or to a concert, we would develop connections with them, but not as deeply as if we were to experience intense joy or deep sorrow with them. Intensity of experience factors in heavily when we discuss the strength of our connections with others.

Another key component of making strong connections is dealing with unexpected circumstances. This can be as joyous as playing a new game for the first time with a group of friends, or as tragic as losing a loved one, family or friend. When unexpected things happen, bonds are formed that are tough to break. Ask anyone who goes through a traumatic experience with a group. Ask a military veteran how deep the bonds with his or her unit are, especially if they’ve seen combat.

Connections between people make the world go ’round. The saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is so true in so many circumstances. We find that unfair at times, but just as “luck favors the prepared”, so too can we say “luck favors the connected”. People get jobs and find opportunities all the time because of who they know.

High-dollar, luxury item salesmen know the power of connection all too well. If they can make a connection with a potential customer, that customer is more likely to decide they really do need that giant TV, extravagant boat, higher-priced car, or totally useless memorabilia item. Not making a  connection will tend to result in no sale unless the customer had decided what they wanted before they walked into the store.

Not every connection we make is going to be life-changing or even cause us to think twice, but there are three connections we all should make that WILL make a difference in our lives. You know what they are…connection to God, connection to people, and connection to purpose. Sound familiar? I hope so. How are your three connections doing? What do you need to do today, tomorrow, next week, or next month to make those connections stronger?

Thanks for reading to the end! Only one more blog post to go! Join me tomorrow for one last post in this series, then please follow me as I continue to post throughout my journey to complete a book. That series will most likely be weekly, not daily, and will be interspersed with other posts on various topics. More details to follow!

 

Photo Credit – Photo by Mario Purisic on Unsplash

 

21 Days of Posts – Day 19 – Why I Write About Broken Characters

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

Day 19 and I’m writing about writing again. Specifically, I’m writing about why I include broken characters in my works of fiction. It doesn’t matter if the character is a good guy or a bad guy in my stories, they can be broken.

Again, duh! That’s why we love our favorite stories, to see our broken characters overcome their brokenness or, conversely, see how broken the bad guy can be. Sure, that’s true. We love the antiheroes, the down-on-their-lucks, the once-was-bad-but-now-see-the-light conversions. It’s what makes many stories work. It’s the bread and butter of so many action movies, love stories, sports chronicles, and crime dramas. There are entire TV networks that wouldn’t have any programming if not for the shows about really pretty, but broken characters.

The real question is-why? Why do we love these characters? Many of them are violently altered, psychologically damaged, or are just the unluckiest people (characters) alive. Because we love it when things get fixed. We love it when characters mend. We’re tickled by serial character arcs where the good guys become the bad guys, then return to goodness again, or not.

I generally rip things away from my characters “off screen”. I introduce my characters already broken and sometimes let the reader get a glimpse of how they were before. Not that I don’t rip things away from them during the events of the story, but they generally start out missing something. Whether that something is the entire point of the story, or I put them back together as a bonus for completing whatever quest I send them on will vary from story to story.

Their brokenness will invariably be based on things that I gravely fear – the loss of a spouse, severe bodily damage, the loss of a job or livelihood, and more, are on my list of “things I never want to experience”. So I write about them. I don’t know exactly why, but I suspect it is an attempt to comprehend the tragedy without actually experiencing it. With my characters, I can write their reaction, then if I feel it isn’t right, I can rewrite it. You can’t do that in real life, at least not easily.

It’s a challenge to realistically show the development and healing of a character. It forces me to really dive into a character, to ask that character dozens of questions, about their likes, dislikes, family, temperament, and all manner of other probing questions. The nice thing is they can never get angry, or clam up, or change the subject. If so, I would have to ask myself why this character, who owes their existence to me, is acting up…

It’s simple really. Characters drive stories, and whether we can relate to their tragedy or simply be glad we haven’t experienced it, broken characters have the ability to pull us into a story, make us feel the emotions and reactions and cause us to take an interest in what happens to each of them, even the bad ones.

Thanks for reading to the end! Only two more days left!

 

Photo Credit – Photo by Aimee Vogelsang on Unsplash

 

21 Days of Posts – Day 18 – Why I Listen to Billie Eilish

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hello to all who have decided to follow along as I post for 21 days straight as part of our church fast. As you can see, each entry is numbered as a particular day, so if you are reading this and the title above doesn’t say Day 1, then you should stop now and go read from Day 1, or take a peek at Day 2 and pick a topic you are interested in. Thanks for being brave enough to join me.

Day 18! Closing in on the end of this 21 day project! Thanks for sticking with me!

This post will expound on my appreciation for the work of one Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell, known by fans as Billie Eilish or just Billie. She splashed onto the scene in 2015 when she dropped Ocean Eyes on Soundcloud much like a previous artist I wrote about back on Day 14, Marshmello. She collaborates and performs shows with her brother Finneas, who produced Ocean Eyes for its publication on the previously mentioned music website.

Why, oh why, you ask, do you like this odd, unpredictable, earthy teenager’s music? It can be so problematic, so disturbing, so…odd.

Yes, I say, to all of that. Her music can be problematic. She sings about topics many would prefer not to hear about, for a number of reasons. The songs that are free of these disturbing and definitely odd topics are generally incredible. I’ve mentioned before that I not only sing bass, but love to listen to it and Billie’s songs provide that bass groove in spades. Deep, intricate, and imaginative bass lines are a hallmark of her music, as is her breathy, some say ethereal, voice. Oddball rhythms, ambient noise, passionate, but flexible choruses, and probing, intimate lyrics all combine to make some great songs.

I’ll skip any more introduction of the artist. If you’ve heard of her, you’ve probably already checked out her official page and her Wikipedia page. If you haven’t and are interested, the links are right there. I’m going to jump into the recommended tracks portion of this post.

First, the uptempo tracks. You Should See Me In A Crown, Bellyache, and My Strange Addiction all have interesting bass lines, quirky vocals and lyrics, and have a slightly dark overtone to them. The broodiness in the lyrics is countered by the vocal delivery. Watch and its remix &Burn are a little lighter in tone, and both still sound great, whether you like the “rapless” Watch or the “rap enhanced” &Burn. They all will work your speakers hard to reproduce the bass lines.  They’ll get your head boppin’, particularly one infectious bit of the chorus in Bellyache.

Now for the really impressive tracks. These are all downtempo and lot more contemplative. Still quirky at times. I Love You, When The Party’s Over, and Six Feet Under are rich in plaintive narrative about love, relationships, and loss. Billie’s breathy vocals on I Love You, plus the ambient noises and hints of confusion and chaos make it one of my favorite tracks.

Which leaves just a few more tracks that are in the middle between these two extremes. HostageOcean Eyes, and Lovely, a duet with Khalid, are all very atmospheric and experimental at times. They each have interesting lyrics and paint great sound pictures with the instruments. Indeed, Ocean Eyes, with its lush sounds, is the song that started the whole giant swell of notoriety for Billie.

Does her music have issues? A few, yes, but the gems mentioned here are exactly why I listen to her often, as long as I have a good stereo system available. Unless you’re sporting $300 Beats headphones, these tracks will not sound anywhere near as good as they really are. Even then, once you hear these songs on a good system, feeling the bass right in your chest, headphones don’t do them justice anymore.

Thanks for reading to the end! I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe found a new artist you like.

Three more days of posts to go! Come back tomorrow to learn more about my writing style, then we’ll finish with two articles on relationships and faith.

 

Photo Credit – crommelincklars – Billie Eilish @Pukkelpop 2019