Monday, September 30, 2013

Sinning in my Anger

In his letter to the Ephesians (4:26), Paul admonishes his Christian brethren as follows: "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger."

Recently, this is one of my greatest consistent failures as a follower of Christ. Paul is very clear that anger in and of itself is not wrong; in fact, certain instances should stir our anger. We should be angry at injustice, at our own sin, and at the devil's working contempt into humanity for its own creator. These realities should anger us.

But then we should have patience. Gentleness. Meekness. Self-control. Kindness. Goodness. We should bear with one another, forgiving each other. Constantly. Consistently. Earnestly. This is the response to which we are called.

"Be angry and do not sin." But I do. Oh how I do. Wrath, slander, malice, yes, even obscene talk pour from me, defiling me, in my righteous anger, despite the fact that I have Colossians 3 etched on my heart, and I know it specifically states that these things ought not be a part of the Christian's behavior.

I am loathe to admit this, but I can do nothing else. How I sin in my anger. Sometimes with the aforementioned displays of malcontentedness, other times with the whispered slight or thoughtless contempt-ladened jeer.

It's a strange thing to your sin so well, even as you seek to overcome it. I feel my blood boil, and I think, "be angry and do not sin...bear with another, forgiving each other. Just as the Lord forgave you so you also must forgive. Let the peace of Christ rule in your kind, one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, even as the Lord for Christ's sake has forgiven you. You must put these away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth." And as the verses meld and resound in the passages of my mind, I so often, all too often, hold to that which is evil, and fail to grasp what is good.

I bring all this up because that's how living life loving Christ looks. We go day-to-day, defeating one sin and storing up verses in our heart, even as another sin burrows into our soul and those same verses come to our aid. We brandish them as a sword not against the world but our own broken hearts. It is a war within us, that is against ourselves, our old selves, our selves without Christ.

I have no real admonition to you tonight. I have no advice. Tonight I come, in earnest, to confess that I have fallen to sinning in my anger, and I am in need of our Savior's tender renewal, and his Spirit's calming breath.

I wonder if any of you need it also. I wonder if I was finally led to type this post because one of you reading it sees yourself in my plight. I am praying for you. Be encouraged. Conviction is the evidence of the Spirit's voice being heard, of your openness to his restorative grace. Listen. Accept. Confess. Repent. I'm right there with you, before the throne of grace on my knees, needing my Savior.

I hope that this post in some way encouraged you, if in no other way to assure you, that you are not the only sinner of your kind. We are all led to seeking forgiveness and healing, again and again and again. My hope is that the Spirit will work in my heart, so that I offer it to others also.


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Inclusion of this translation does not imply endorsement of this author's thoughts by the copyright holders. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Satellite Kite: A Recommendation

Approximately one year ago, I discovered a link to Beautiful Euloogy's debut album, Satellite Kite, by happenstance. I have no idea how I found it, and I would not have gotten it were it not free.

How fortunate I was on both counts.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Brain Drain and Missing a Beat

I have a confession to make. My writing has suffered greatly since taking my job. I just don't have the brain-power to dedicate to the craft. I try to spend 30-50 minutes on it at lunch, 4 days a week, plus a day on the weekend or an evening when I get it, but really, if I'm honest, I have been slacking. My brain just doesn't seem to have the capacity. At least not at the keyboard. I can sit in front of a piece of paper and go-go-go with notes-upon-copious-notes on this outline, these characters, or that idea, but sitting at the keyboard and doing the work, well, let's just say that the bulk of that brainpower is going straight to the blog.

I'm tired. I know it. I'm tired, and it takes a toll on me to keep plugging away at, well, whatever. I'm just spent by the time I try to dedicate time to the craft. Even as I type this, I can feel my eyes getting heavy and my mind fading, reaching for things in the background to distract it, trying to go lax on its pumping out new ideas.

And still I'm here, my fingers dancing across the dimly lit alphabet, as my eyes watch words of black find a home against a white wall, proving to me that I'm still doing it. I haven't quit. Not yet. There's hope in that. Hope, and a desperate exhaustion. Even now, I feel like I am reaching for sentences just to bulk up this post.

And that "dancing" my fingers are doing. It's not Fred Astaire. No. It's more like last-man-swaying-at-the-end-of-the-wedding-reception, the type of dancing performed by a person whose body says stop but their heart keeps their limbs limping, not in a great rhythm but enough of one to feel like the music hasn't stopped. And I will tell you this--he's enjoying himself, even if he's ready to stumble back to his chair and take a nap. He's still trying to catch himself from falling or giving into slumber, just for one more song. One more.

Here's hoping that as I get over the initial 90-day learning curve my brain starts to get some of its power back. I have my doubts, but we'll all see how things pan out come November when NaNoWriMo starts. That's gonna be a doozy.

Thanks for hanging in with me despite my incoherent and exhausted ramblings these days. I know Monday was specifically free and loose, but I dug it. Will try to keep pace with the blog schedule and keep 'em coming.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Imagining the End as the Beginning

Can you imagine it? Arriving in heaven. When the day comes, and our broken eyes with their dim sight cease to look upon a damaged world but rather unimagined beauty, a reality beyond our present reckoning.

I have. 

I have. 

I imagine it will feel like present waking. The few moments when consciousness grows and casts aside the wistful happenings of our vivid dreams. Of course, our lives will be the fading thing--our regrets, our pain, and our disappointments.  A life's worth of hurt will be washed away by a flood of new reality.

And then I'll see Him.


The one to whom I called in the darkness. The one to whom I owe my life. The one to whom I've come to rest. He'll invite me to sit on a bench of stone amidst a garden of cloud and wonder. He'll smile at me to assure me it's real. It's truly happened. I've arrived. I'm alive, about to begin an eternal journey, one for which I was destined since before time began.

But before I leap into my new life unending, he bids me come to sit and speak.

I have no words. I have no lips. I need neither. My soul speaks freely by an unknown means. Without the confines of language and caution, I communicate unbound. Tears--in whatever form they take--flow in rapturous joy and unrestrained worship.

In truth, I cannot believe I'm here. I cannot fathom that the time has come. It seemed long--the wait til now, yet I cannot remember the stuff of it, just the longing finally met, the satisfaction of "well done".

I must be standing. He bids me sit. And when I do, he touches me, however souls make contact there. It's a gesture of welcome and further assurance, blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. And so had he has been for many years, though I failed so oft to love him well. He stood beside, remaining long, abiding while I looked away or sidestepped right or left his side. He remained, ever true. Never failing, ever sure.

And I now I'm here. No sin to chide me, to pull me hither or entice.

Tis he and I alone for a time, before We join his Holy host. All I can think to say is "sorry", to beg forgiveness for crimes forgotten, to seek absolution I've already received. He stops me quickly, rebukes me gently, no longer need I bear such thoughts. My faith was sure. My hope is secured. One end has come but borne a bright new beginning.

Then I will break in a new sort of way, when the truth of his presence finally strikes to the full. And I fall to my knees, no thought beyond gratitude, no expression beyond thanks and thanks again and still more.

Millennia pass as this outpouring comes, a surging flood of all I have--my longing, my praise, and all my love. And when I pause--but for an instant--a voice speaks gently into me, and I know it is time for the glorious journey, for my life to appear as it been held in waiting, ever-sinless, restored in full.

The gates beyond the garden open; widely swing the doors of grace. I pass through them to infinite pleasures, seeing glory all my days...

Can you imagine it? 

I have. 

Do you ever try? Why not? Give yourself a moment to be captivated by hope, then live life with the knowledge something far greater is coming--something beyond finite imagination. Something divine, without hindrance or barrier. Something so pure it cannot be known now. 

That is future for those in Christ. That is the truth for those in his hands. And that is the reason to live well and love better, because all that is coming will surpass all that's been.

May The Lord see you all to His side, in his kingdom, and for his glory, 


Friday, September 20, 2013

The Man with The Money Glasses

He stepped onto the bus with a stilted swagger--not the kind that's truly felt but the kind that wants to be felt, the kind of swagger that says, "Check me out, I'm something" (which ironically is the opposite of real swagger). He was short and thin but tried to look larger by wearing an oversized shirt and low-hanging shorts. The youth was clearly ready to face the day. His bag and his bus fare were ready when we stopped, and he entered with a skip in his step.

None of this, however, would have been unique--many men, myself include, have strut our thinly-disguised sense of insecurity with such lying body language and dress (for guys with my build, it's wearing a shirt one size too small to make your muscles look bulging). No, the main feature of this rider were his specialized. Mainly because they weren't really.

He wore a pair of novelty glasses with large, opaque faux-holographic dollar signs for the lenses, like one might see someone wear in a music video or to some party as a joke. How he saw beyond them I can only guess, by looking either above or below the s-shaped slope, I suppose. But that didn't matter, for he didn't want to see past them anyway.

I learned this when the bus driver asked him about them, "Got the dollar shades on today, huh?"
"That's right," the rider said. "gotta keep my eyes on my money and not on those fools."
"I know that's right."

The man in the eyewear continued past me and made his way further back on the bus, and while his back was turned the driver rose and shook his head about the recent encounter (all the while wearing a smirk on his face). I heard the man in the shades speak loudly about something, but I didn't look back or try to decipher it.

I just thought about the great irony I'd witnessed, and how immensely human it was. Yep, keep your eye on your money at the cost of seeing everything else, especially "those fools" whoever they may be. And frankly, it's not the man himself for whom I felt saddened but for all of us who looked at him with contempt, all the while being a living example of his unintended statement, so focused on our jobs and careers at the expense of our lives happening away from our offices, or our checking Facebook and Twitter for comments and feedback even while real human beings are sitting on the bus beside us. After a few moments of reflection, I almost felt more embarrassed for myself than the man. Funny how that works.

I kinda love when real-life events play out like a short story. Makes the commute interesting and gives something about which to write before the weekend, but more than that it reminds that Lord is always telling stories, some less subtle than others but all steeped in truth. He's creative like that.

Thanks for reading and have a good one,

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

5 Things a Writer Must Accept (and expect)

Writing is work, and like any kind of work, writing has aspects that are unfavorable. In fact, they are downright discouraging; and if you want to get the job done, you will need to accept these unwanted results of the trade. I won't sugarcoat them:

1) You need to accept rejection.
When you write, you will be rejected--both by those who read what you write and by those who don't. And you'll be rejected explicitly, to your face, and implicitly, through apathy. It'll happen, and it'll hurt.

2) You need to accept criticism.
People who don't write will be sure to tell you how, and people who do write will be sure to tell how they would have done it better. They will have the best intentions; and sometimes, more often than you'd like, they will be right. Criticism is a part of the game, because your work is imperfect. That's the reality. Even if you refuse proofreading or editorial help, at some point, if anyone besides you reads your work, you are going to hear how and where you can improve (and that can be a very frustrating thing).

3) You need to accept failure.
I'm really sorry to tell you this, but someone should, and I might as well be that person. In some area of your writing, you will feel like you are a failure. Whether it be your financial remuneration, your social impact, or your personal fulfillment. At some point in time, in some fashion, you will likely feel like you really blew it. You probably didn't, but maybe you did. You may indeed be a complete failure as far as your personal goals are concerned. You may need to own the fact that you set out to sell 100,000 copies and win 3 awards in your first year of publication, and you simply didn't. You failed (inasmuch as those goals are concerned), that's the truth.

4) You need to accept disappointment.
This is somewhat coupled with the (1) and (3), but it deserves it's own number for the sheer fact that the disappointment can run more deeply than the others. Maybe its not the rejection that bothers you; of course The New Yorker was going to decline reviewing your book. Maybe criticism didn't hurt either; maybe you used every bit of it to improve your drafts, and you knew you could not produce a better piece than the one you did. Maybe you sold less than 100 copies, and you don't even have an review, let alone an award, but you didn't need those--you just needed to finish. No, none of that stuff hurt like the fact that you published the book, and life just continued as it always had, and you were still you, despite thinking that "finally doing it" would change something (anything). It's silly that some of us can think that way, but we do, and we can just plain be disappointed about that--in fact, it's a part of the journey for a number of us.

5) You need to accept that writing is real work--toil.
If writing is your hobby, and you are making a go of it, and you are successful, and it feels like you're not even trying, congratulations. I do not know a single person who remotely had a similar experience to yours. Every person I know who is writing like it matters--for revenue or on mission--sees it as work; because it is. Days they don't want to do it, they do it anyway. Days where it goes wonderfully are celebrated, usually because they are the exception, not the rule. The rule is sitting at the keys and getting stuff done and not leaving until you do. That's called toiling, and writing fits the bill.

Now I know this does not feel uplifting or encouraging. This post may in fact have ruined your day (and your dream), but I have great news for you. If you're a writer, chances are I'm not telling you anything new, and you've not only experienced everything I've mentioned but you've also continued writing in spite of it. So, you're in good shape. Or perhaps you haven't experienced this but are going to discount it altogether and write anyway, because that's how it is, that's what you do, and everything I've mentioned isn't going to touch you--and if it does, now you feel ready and you're going to keep writing regardless.

That's the truth and beauty of accepting all the pains I've outlined. They really don't matter, because when you a writer, you write. Rejection, criticism, failure, disappointment, and toil don't scare you, don't deter you, and don't define you. You know what these hardships do? They fuel you, they invigorate you, they ignite you to make their next work that much better. And in time, when the emotional dust settles, you'll take satisfaction in the fact that you've faced the gauntlet and kept going. Most days, that's enough to get back to it.

I have this crazy feeling that's a fair portion of you reading this. So write on, friends.

Write on. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

After the Call...

In December 2010, I began to seek the Lord in earnest about my leading my wife and what he wanted from us as we looked to the future. By January, I had a very clear leading to do two things. First, move east. Second, write a novel. I began the process of each that very month, and I took steps to follow the direction I had received. The former was realized by August 2012; the latter was done in May 2013. Both roads were hard. They were taxing--not only spiritually but mentally, socially, emotionally, and financially.

I won't lie. At times, they are still difficult in all those ways. Delaware is different than California. Our lives look differently here. We are still relatively comfortable, but that comfort is not the same as it once was. The people that we miss, we miss very deeply. "Getting on our feet" has taken longer than we would have liked (or I expected). Bottom line is that following the Lord's leading has cost us.

And some days I am left sitting at my desk, thinking "what now?". Indeed. I felt like I capped off my two big "to-do's" four months ago, and while I haven't necessarily been sitting twiddling my thumbs, I have been wondering what next steps we need to take, and how they will honor the Lord. My wife and I have started looking at how we want our lives to look one year, three years, five years, even ten years, from now. Ours are modest dreams as far as American life is concerned. We still have a few areas of disagreement, and I think that my megalomanical narcissism always tends to make my personal goal set a bit too extravagant to be responsible. But for the most part we are on the same page, and we are looking toward the future with hope and tempered expectations.

And I am praying, frequently, for the Lord's direction, perhaps for another calling, something to give me a mission. I beg the Lord to reveal to me what he wants of us, who he wants us to encourage or bless, where he wants us to place our energies. I ask to see opportunities and capitalize on them. I ask him to speak vividly to us, to keep showing me his heart and transforming mine to look like it.

And I keep hearing the same words echo in my mind. You will likely recognize them: "He has shown you, O man; what is good and what the Lord requires of thee. But to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."

That verse, that short exhortation, has been the resounding answer to my prayers again and again. Of course, the rub is putting them into practice, of knowing how to do what the verse describes and how to look at long term goals and life in light of it. Some days I feel like those who are far wiser than I have been operating under this paradigm for years--not praying to the Lord to "outline next steps" or provide a "Damascus-road experience" but simply looking at Scripture, putting it into practice, and praising God in the process.

Frankly, I don't think that the Lord has really settled us here, just yet. I think that "a change gonna come", and we're not going to expect it, but our calling will be to navigate it well, with Christ at the forefront of our words, actions, and attitudes. It's like anticipating a coming storm despite a clear sky. I feel like it's out there, somewhere, but it's not here just yet.

Until it gets here, I suppose the best thing to do is to live in light of what I've learned: That God is good and takes pleasure in our doing good, in our loving him and others. Perhaps that's all the "calling" I'm going to receive for a long time. And that's enough. God knows what he is doing, even if I don't all the time. And that's a very encouraging thought.

Hope you have a wonderful workweek, all.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

September Links

I Didn't Love My Wife When We Got Married
Pastors have been saying this to their congregations for a long time, but one more take won't hurt

On Vocation and Money
John Mark Reynolds addresses the issues of work, life, ethics, and balance

4 Ways to Tell if Your Spiritual Questions are Good Ones
Matthew Lee Anderson sums his book quite nicely for RELEVANT magazine

On Mindless Entertainment
John Mark Reynolds Addresses the issue of resting well

Not Even a Hint

A great article from Kevin DeYoung on what we are watching and how we respond

The Love That God Desires
Seth Fuller on love that pleases God

But I Like It
John Mark Reynolds on Interests and Pleasures

The Power of Our Words
On Childraising and Language

Six Easy Tips for Self-Editing Your Fiction
The Huffington Post Gives some help to Writers

Exactly How One Author Sells 50-75 Books a Day
A little bit of strategy on how one author is making it work

10 Successful Tips for Independent Authors
Some good thoughts and advice for the self-publisher

A Time to Read, A Time to Write
A quick read, on reading

How to (really) Make a $1,000,000 Selling E-books
A long article on the work required to make it as an indie author

There is a Man Wandering Around California with 3 Mules
An article about one man's space, which technically belongs to all of us

The Wealthy's Compassion Deficit
An Interesting Article on Entitlement and "The Have's"

Pornography: The Pink Elephant in the Room
Some thoughts on one huge sin in the church that makes people feel very uncomfortable

Why "Duck Dynasty" Viewers Heeds Its Call
Some perspective on why that show with "the bearded old guys" is so popular

Pornography: The New Normal
Some Thoughts on what may be the Number One Pastoral Problem in the World

Is Anyone Sad for Ariel Castro
Thoughts from Desiring God on the suicide of "A Monster"

Mom Versus Mom: The War I Didn't See Coming
One woman's thoughts on female interaction

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Music Of Matty Rineer: A Recommendation

I met Matty Rineer in the fall of 2012, and I was quite taken with his friendliness. He is one charismatic cat. Of course, anyone can make a great first impression. My respect for Matty and appreciation of his character grew as I ran into him on more occasions, during which he consistently made an effort to connect. He has a great heart that he wears on his sleeve.

And puts into his music.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How to Write When Time is Short

I was recently corresponding with someone who asked how I managed to get the initial draft of my novel done while also working full time. I felt that my response might prove useful to some of you on the verge of diving into your own projects! I've done some slight reformatting for content. Enjoy!

The way to accomplish anything while maintaining the nine-to-five grind is to sacrifice in other areas at home and stay the course day-to-day. If I boil it down to the core, that's all the advice I have.

Frankly, it's like losing weight. You sacrifice foods you love and dedicate yourself to 20 minutes to an hour of intensive training, 5 days a week, 6 if possible. Over time, the efforts compound, and you find your rhythms. You look forward to that part of the day, and you take advantage of it. When you're not on a clock, the 20 minutes turns into 2 hours because you enjoy yourself, and you see real results over the long term.

Because I am not always good at seeing distant goals, however, I also developed rewards for myself. 1 minute of writing = 1 penny for my Lego fund, which means if i want to buy that $20 Lord of the Rings Lego Shelob set, I gotta put in 2,000 minutes of writing. It's not the primary motivator, but it is an extra something to give some incentive.

In the first 6 months of developing my writing habits, I also did accountability, wherein every two weeks, I wrote two guys and told them what I accomplished and provided them a time-log. Knowing I had to this helped me on days when I would have preferred not to bother.

In the end, it comes down to your ability to be disciplined with time and energies. I've talked to a number of guys who have "a novel in them", but they won't give up their video games or DVR. Those novels have gone unwritten as a result.

Can't be that simple, right? Well, no. And yes. It's not that simple because good writing takes time, and it can be taxing on your faculties over the long term wherein you're not seeing your Pullitzer or your name on the bestseller list. But it is that simple in terms of accomplishing the work itself. Sure, you will only get from your writing and marketing what you are willing to give to it. That is true and clear, but first thing first is getting the words onto paper, and well, I am living proof that the above-referenced methodology works.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Multiple Teachers and the Attributes of God.

For years I did not attend a local church. I believe that during that time, I was deeply in love with Christ, that I sought him daily, and that I had continued consistent relationship with fellow believers. In fact, I believe that some of my most valuable growth in my entire life occurred under those circumstances. My wife and I simply did not have a church to call our home, but my relationship with the Lord was vibrant and real.

But the dynamics that placed us in that situation are the stuff of another post.

What I want to discuss here is the teaching paradigm in which I found myself during those years. I was at a job wherein I was often left to myself to complete my tasks, which allowed for listening to podcasts and sermons while I worked. I was able to hear a great deal of teaching from a number of pastors during those days.

One of the most useful lessons I gleaned from this time (and there were many) was as follows: different teachers and preachers highlight different attributes of God, and therefore, by listening to a varied number of teachers, one gets a more full perspective of God. I believe that this is natural, useful, and inherent to the faith given that each of us has a unique relationship with God; and as each of us sees truth regarding God more clearly, he or she wants to communicate that to others. 

I was fascinated as I listened and saw that each pastor's demeanor was, in many ways, dictated by this outlook on who God was and what they felt was the most necessary attributes of him to explore. Whereas Dr. John Piper's sermons almost always focused on the glory of God, Dr. Tim Keller seemed to feel that the hinge of the faith was a Christian's life in light of the knowledge of Christ.

I bring this up because now that we are in the local church and getting weekly teaching, I am further convicted of the value of seeking out teaching elsewhere alongside the weekly sermon I hear in a local context. We have a wonderful pastor, and his sermons are often thought-provoking and very useful. However another church that I follow in Canada teaches completely different subjects (though still in-line on primary doctrines) and puts my mindset in a completely new place after I hear its messages. Again, my pastor and the Canadian pastor do not disagree, but they point me towards God from varied perspectives and the cohesion of their teaching provides me with a more multifaceted and holistic approach to my relationship with Christ. What a gift that we have in the modern age to be able to hear the teaching from so many useful brothers and sisters on a regular basis in order to help us conform to the person of Christ and his actions and attitudes! Indeed, this is a glorious time to be a believer in search of wisdom and instruction!

I recommend that you take 40 minutes on youtube this week and put that technological advantage to use. Below is a list of the pastors that I have listened to on a semi-regular basis over the years as well as some of the themes I've seen in their teaching.

  • Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian): Loving the Lord with your mind and putting that love into humble social practice.
  • Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill): Fulfilling the God-given gender role that you have been assigned and recognizing your need for his aid in doing so.
  • Francis Chan (Various, Formerly Cornerstone, Simi Valley): Recognizing the cost and sacrifice needed for our relationship with God to be real and organic. 
  • John Piper (Formerly Bethlehem Baptist): The glory of God and our calling to make our relationship with him our number one pleasure on earth as it most certainly will be in heaven. 
  • Paul Washer (Itinerant Missionary): A constant call to examine oneself as a workman approved, for the life of the Christian is one that manifests Christ's attributes, and many claiming Christ do not show them (to their own condemnation). 
  • Bruxy Cavey (The Meetinghouse): Christ is all, but the world has good in it; ergo, God has given us much to enjoy, but we must engage all things through the lens of Christ and love. 
  • Bo Matthews (Brandywine Valley Baptist. Our church): The Bible is a vibrant living word by which we can live more fully as we seek to love Christ and gain greater intimacy with God.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Summer Writing School 2013

 This summer I have been going back to school at the movies. I am seeing brushstrokes and devices in films that not only make the experience more enjoyable but far more interesting and layered. Frankly, all the movies I've seen thus far have run the gamut from bad to excellent, and I have picked a few teachable things from each. I've been very fortunate to have an "escalating" experience, in that each subsequent film I have seen has only gotten better, less the last one. Regardless, they are all bringing different lessons to the table.

Iron Man 3 - Love the ideas behind Iron Man 3...but execution is everything.
Some surprises don't work: if you have strong material to adapt, don't toss it out the window to be "hip".
Pay-off your toys: nothing is worse than showing a bunch of really cool stuff...and then barely showcasing at all. The final battle of Iron Man 3 is the most disappointing climax in a Marvel film since the final battle in Iron Man 2.
Remember your audience: if your core demographic is young boys, don't have your protagonist tell a boy in the film he doesn't need to be an [insert needless obscenity] for feeling sad that his father left. It's irresponsible.

Fast and Furious 6 - For all its faults, the screenplay of Furious 6 (according to the title frame of the film) is one of the better action screenplays of the last few years. If the Avengers is going to be the template for studying how to do a superhero team movie, Furious 6 should be a requisite piece of additional viewing/reading.
Establish the relationships in act 1; invert by act 3: No spoilers, but this flic does it...and well.
Know your strengths; Play to them: If there's anything Justin Lin and company know about the F&F franchise, it's what works: the moral gray and a complete disregard for the real world. These are comic book fair for people who enjoy antiheroes without capes or armor.
It takes VERY LITTLE to make ending conflicts earned: The script for Furious 6 sows its seeds early, waters them with brief but memorable moments, and ends them with satisfying conclusions.

Man of Steel - My full perspective on Man of Steel is elsewhere on the blog, but here's some specifics that I did not highlight in it.
Give minor characters weight: A supporting right hand heavy hitter is worth 50 nameless thugs in an action scene, and a few well-placed lines can make a minor character one worth watching.
Don't be afraid of scale: If big consequences are at stake, then the cost of stopping them should be high.
But Don't lose sight of the forest for the trees: of course, if things get too big and loud and long, many will get bored. Extended destruction without visible consequences feels false.

Wolverine - So close yet so far from being the perfect comic entry to such a loud summer season. 
Ask Yourself: Does my sci-Fi really need this bizarre thing or not? Just because you can fill a story with strange beings doesn't mean you need to. And when you give them powers specifically geared toward solving writing problems, it can feel cheap.
Human drama can and should carry a story. When you lose sight of that in favor of an action-laden final act, it can damage all that came before it. So, if you are making a smaller film, it can stay small and still have weight.
Sometimes saving the kitten means killing the kitten (At least for some troubled antiheroes). For those who don't know, "saving the kitchen" is an industry term for establishing your main character's heroism early in the story. But that can be done in many interesting ways.

There you have it. Looking forward to learning more this fall.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Feeling "Off"

Yesterday I awoke on the so-called "wrong side of the bed". I was irritable and frustrated, and feelings about a number of things buried beneath the surface began to come to light. I told my wife as much, and I apologized in advance for any poor reactions I may have during the day.

I went to church. I confessed. I worshipped. I desperately wanted the Spirit to wash me, and I wanted to have a better attitude. I was thinking in terms of Psalm 51. I wanted renewal. I needed it.

It did not come.

I was on-edge, and we had a big family event planned for the day, but I did not want to ruin it with my sullen or curt demeanor. Before the festivities began, I took a nap, thinking that may help me.

It didn't.

As the day progressed, my attitude didn't change. I was terse, I was provokable (and provoked), and by day's end, I had made a fool of myself more than once. I couldn't sleep, but instead of prayer and Scripture, I spent time watching music performances on Youtube. After I finally lulled into sleep, I was awoken by phone ringing when a blocked caller dialed me at 2:12 AM. I was disoriented, and I answered it just to stop the ringtone, then I disconnected. They called back immediately, but they didn't leave a message. That kept me up again for a while thinking about all those "what if?" And "who might it have been?" questions.

Today, I awoke. Felt the same. Got some news that was less than encouraging. Felt worse. Now I am sitting in our room with the lights off, the open curtains allowing for a dull bluish-gray light to pour toward me. The thunder rolls beyond the window pane. It sounds like the storm is gonna be a doozy. I cannot help that is a reflection of what is happening inside my soul right now.

I don't share this to scare or discourage anyone. Yes, I want my blog to be an encouraging place, a place that drives people toward Jesus. But today--well, today--I am trying to encourage you toward Christ in the same way that Lamentations does in the Old Testament. It's in these days, and at these times--times of knowing full well our desperate need for his deliverance--that his glorious face looks so bright and necessary, not just for our eternal salvation but for strength for the moment. Each passing moment. In the day to day we can lose site of that, but not when we're here. Not when we see our need so obviously.

Thanks all for reading, and please do not be discouraged in this nor become worried about me. I have Habakkuk 3:17-19 (along with Isaiah 25:1) rolling in my mind today, and the Lord is faithful.

Thanks for reading,