21 Days of Posts – Day 15 – Why I Write About Impossible Decisions

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 15! Woot! We’re moving along in this 21 days of posts.

First, I want to thank you for reading these. It’s fun writing them and I hope they are fun to read.

Today’s post expounds on why I write about impossible decisions. This is another one of those times, dear reader, where you may say “duh!” because lots of stories, particularly ones we cherish, are all about impossible decisions. We encounter self-sacrifice, heart-rending choices, and “no way out” situations all the time in books, movies and TV shows.

We are teased by these moments, because they invariably occur at the end of a chapter, or at the end of a movie in a series, or at the end of the current episode of our favorite show. We’re then made to wait, either long enough to turn the page, or for a whole year (or two) for the next movie to come out, or just a week or so before the next episode. The whole time we are debating in our head “how would I choose?” and wondering how our hero or heroine is going to choose.

Sometimes, a third party intervenes, and the impossible situation or choice is taken out of the hands of the lead character. We’re generally let down by such deus ex machina moments, unless it’s in an action movie, because that’s pretty much their bread and butter. We expect it then. Other times, and these are the ones we actually like more (usually), there is no sudden rescue and the choice, once made, results in loss, heartbreak, or other bad things happening that have to be cleaned up later (or not).

One of the best examples of dealing with impossible decisions is found in the CW show The 100. The show is loosely based on a YA series of books by Kass Morgan. The show runs right past the books in the first season and thank goodness for that. I can’t really recommend the books unless you just want to see the differences. With that said, I can’t really recommend the show to the age group the books were targeted for. There are themes and situations in the TV episodes which take place after the events of the books that are very adult, not “young adult”, defined as 12-18 year olds in the literary category. But back to impossible choices…

The lead protagonist Clarke Griffin, is quickly thrown into a leadership position she really doesn’t want. Time after time during the first season, and even more in later seasons, she must make decisions that not only affect her and the people she considers family and friends, but the entire human race. Your head and your heart ache for her as she is repeatedly forced to make decision after decision, none of which have good choices. I highly recommend binging on the first six seasons before the seventh, and probably final, season starts in April 2020.

Enough promoting a favorite show. The point of all that was to say that it really only takes a few of these gut-wrenching decisions to make a book, a movie, or a show your favorite. We vicariously participate in the decision process, weighing the options, seeing no good one, then trying to find that slim chance to escape the choice altogether. This is why I write these into my books. I want to drag the reader along on a journey with the characters and make them feel what the character is feeling. Done right, this is some of the best entertainment available. I hope someday you all will get a chance to read about the impossible decisions my characters will face.

But that means I have to finish, really finish, a book and as I have stated before, I hope these 21 days of posts help to jumpstart me on that journey.

One last list before this post concludes. If you are looking for books or movies that involve impossible decisions, without resorting to Nicholas Sparks style fiction, I recommend the following items:

The Divergent series by Veronica Roth. You have to read all three books to get the full effect.

A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. There’s a lot of words to slog through, but the choices and decisions made by multiple characters are intimidating and difficult. I don’t recommend taking the shortcut and watching Game of Thrones as so much detail is left out there, even with all of its adult content.

Rogue One, the best of the Star Wars side story movies, is an excellent example of impossible decisions (and sacrifice).

I hope you enjoyed this post and hope that you maybe found a new favorite show or book. Come back tomorrow as I expound on my thoughts on the church as a body.

Thanks for reading to the end!


Photo Credit – Photo by Jens Lelie on Unsplash

21 Days of Posts – Day 14 – Why I Listen to Marshmello

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.

It’s Day 14 and I’ve decided to NOT change my topic, or artist.

Before we get started, I again want to thank you for reading these posts. They are short and many times have no point whatsoever, but I enjoy writing them. I hope they get me fired up and ready to finish a book this year, and I hope you get some amount of pleasure from reading them.

Marshmello. Nope, that is not a misspelling. The EDM artist and DJ, Marshmello, who wanders around in a marshmallow-shaped mask/bucket all the time, much like Daft Punk and Deadmau5 do with their headwear, is kind of a big deal on the music scene. His real name is Christopher Comstock. Ever since 2015, when he released an original track on the music website Soundcloud, he’s been making waves, and not just musical ones, everywhere he goes.

Marshmello has collaborated with musicians across the spectrum, from pop queens like Selena Gomez, to R&B and rap artists, like Khalid and Crankdat to rock bands like A Day to Remember. His music ranges from extremely chilled to wildly chaotic, and the lyricists and lyrics range from the syrupy sweet to the downright vulgar.

Yes, there are a number of tracks of his I don’t listen to, as they glorify the same kinds of terrible ideas that some rap and rock music do – drugs, misogyny, “ghetto life”, gangs, promiscuity, and crudeness of all kinds. But the tracks that these thorny issues are absent from are almost all incredibly enjoyable.

Before I dive into recommended tracks, I feel obligated to explain exactly why I like Marshmello. That’s kind of the point of the post. I like listening to Marshmello for at least three main reasons.

First, I don’t just sing bass, I love to listen to bass, and Marshmello never disappoints when it comes to quality, deep, bass lines. Even in the songs I don’t listen to, the bass lines are awesome. Maybe I can find instrumental versions of those. (Ha ha)

Second, almost all of his work is multi-layered synths and electronic loops over which talented lyricists sing their songs. I grew up fiddling with music on early home computers and that electronic sound is a huge part of my musical psyche. I love the ragged waveforms and thick mixes that Marshmello puts together.

Third, I respect the wide collaborative arc that he has pursued. I’ve already mentioned some of the artists he has worked with and the number is growing. Being able to work with such a wide range of styles is a tribute to his skills as a music producer.

So, what’s safe to listen to from Marshmello?

I highly recommend Sad Songs, Room To Fall, and Rescue Me, all from Joytime III. There are other gems on that same album like Falling to Pieces, Run It Up and Down. The singles AloneHappier, and Wolves are all excellent choices. That’s a good start, and further exploration I leave to you.

As I mentioned already, you have to be selective about which tracks to listen to, but the talent and the great music are worth the time to curate some lyrics. Google makes it easy to do this, and most of the time, if you know anything about the collaborating artist, you’ll have some idea what kind of lyrics will accompany the music.

So there it is, another look into my musical playlist. I hope it didn’t convince you I was crazy…

Thanks for reading to the end! Tomorrow we’ll circle back to an exposition on one of my recurring writing themes and the day after that, I’ll post about the concept of the church as a body.


Photo Credit – Q1q2q3qwertz  –  CC BY-SA 4.0

21 Days of Posts – Day 10 – Why I Like To Listen To The Cure

Est. Reading Time: 4 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 10 of this 21 day journey brings the first of three (planned) “why I like to to listen to” posts.

This post will cover why I listen to The Cure, that wonderful English band that defies categorization aside from “rock”. The labels “alternative”, “post-punk”, “new wave” and the band-hated category of “gothic rock” have been applied to them as their music (and the band personnel) has changed over the years. They still manage to not fit neatly into any given musical category.

They’ve been around in some form almost since I was born (which makes them…nope, not going there), but I didn’t really discover them until I was in college, a year after Disintegration came out. I was hooked hard by that album, and even more hooked by the following album, Mixed Up. When Wish came out, I realized I was permanently addicted. My favorite tracks are on those three albums and the compilation album Staring at the Sea.

But why, you ask, do you like this gloomy, goth, sneaker-gazing, band with the alternating whiny or nasal vocals, quivering guitar, and mind-invading synths?

I’m glad you asked. Three reasons.

First, The Cure are the absolute, hands-down, best intro writers ever. The instrumental introductions to their songs last anywhere from thirty seconds to well over two minutes. They generally start with an instrument or two, and they build and build until you almost forget there’s supposed to be lyrics for the song, and may not care if anyone ever starts singing.

The best examples are To Wish Impossible Things from Wish, and the exquisite Plainsong and Homesick from Disintegration.

To Wish Impossible Things has only a ninety second intro, but it is one of the most beautiful intros ever written. The violin that starts about a minute into the track is hauntingly, achingly gorgeous, and the buildup to the vocals at the ninety second mark is a tingly, progressive affair. I love this song, despite its heart-breaking lyrics. The black hole of loss it leaves you in doesn’t diminish its beauty.

Plainsong is half intro and half lyrical song. The track lasts for five minutes and fifteen seconds, and two minutes and thirty-five seconds of that is wordless intro. Homesick takes it even further. The intro doesn’t really start to boil over until two and half minutes in and the words don’t start until three minutes and fifteen seconds into the seven minute song. These two songs are also markedly dark and melancholy, and speak of unspeakable loss or the fear of such a loss. Again, this doesn’t detract from their absolute brilliance and beauty.

Second, while The Cure could do dark and gloomy really, really well, their songs at the other end of the spectrum are also incredible and completely different, both in style and mood. The Cure has some wildly happy and exuberant songs, like Friday I’m In Love, High, and Doing the Unstuck from Wish, and of course Love Song from Disintegration (which Adele masterfully covered on her album 21, but listed it as Lovesong, all one word). These uptempo songs have short intros, the longest at thirty seconds and are bursting with happiness, love, affection, and optimism.

There are other masterpieces in between the gloomy and the ecstatic, including the creepily good Lullaby and the oddly indifferent Fascination Street, both on Disintegration, and the Never Enough, Close To Me, and In Between Days remixes on Mixed Up. The originals for the last three are so-so, but the remixes are fantastic.

Third, these songs became a part of my extensive and diverse musical psyche during a remarkably formative time – college. It was a time of happiness, learning, pain, sorrow, and frustration experienced during a time when I was probably as far from God as I had ever been since I was saved. I accidentally and actively rejected any ideas of regular church attendance, finding Christian friends, studying the Bible, or any other activity related to my salvation. How much easier college would have been if I’d had the support of Christian friends, a church community, or if I had simply studied the Word.

I buried myself in these songs, the dark and gloomy for my dark times and the happy and exuberant for my good times. I can vividly remember sitting in front of my tiny aquarium in my dorm room, watching my fish swim around, oblivious to my mood, good or bad, with my stereo (which was my pride and joy at that time) audibly thrusting  Disintegration or Wish into my ears, depending on my circumstances. This was my go-to “wild mood swings” music (yes, that’s a reference to another album by The Cure).

It’s why I still listen to The Cure, regardless of my mood.

Thanks for reading to the end of this somewhat longer post. Tomorrow I will get back to posting about the Christian life and contentment. Contentment is why I can listen to The Cure now, as I said above, regardless of my mood. Please join me again tomorrow.



21 Days of Posts – Day 3 – Romance

Est. Reading Time: 4 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.

It’s Day 3 of my 21-day post sequence and I know many of you are wondering “is this just some kind of Internet confessional?” and are about to quit reading from either boredom or horror. Bear with me for this post, as it does have a point.

It is time to play some self-imposed “truth or dare”.

Want to know a big, ugly, weird, juicy, truth about me?

Sure you do…

I’m a heart-fluttering-weepy-falling-over-stupid romantic. Yep, I confess, that’s me. It will never, ever come up unless I bring it up, so here it is. Welcome to my hidden thoughts…

I’m a sucker for a good love song (The Cure’s Love Song or Dave Matthew’s You & Me are good examples), a sad break-up song (Liykke Li’s Possibility* and The Cure’s Apart both prime examples), various Nicholas Cage movies (The Family Man, It Could happen To You, City of Angels), some Nicholas Sparks books/movies, and even crazy stupid romances like Twilight (you are free to laugh hysterically at this point, if you didn’t start laughing at “Nicholas Cage”).

People like me love both the romances that make perfect sense and those that don’t. The real question is why are we drawn to contrivances such as impossible romances? Isn’t love and romance hard enough without fighting social norms, ridiculous twists of fate, and death itself? I would wager we (us romantics) have been fascinated with the impossible romances since even before Romeo and Juliet.

Which is why all kinds of people were drawn to Twilight…all three books and four movies. We’re drawn to stories where it seems impossible any peace or equilibrium can be found in a potential relationship. We’re particularly drawn to stories where a huge sacrifice must be made by one or the other romantic partner, or by both of them, to make the romance work. Twilight has this motif in spades. City of Angels also invokes this theme of ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of love. Sometimes it works out great, a la Twilight, sometimes not, as in City of Angels (oops, mini-spoiler).

We like to see the happy couple stay together forever after overcoming such adversity. Sometimes we get that glimpse, sometimes we don’t. It all depends on what idea the story creator wants us to take away from the story. Does the author want us to believe it is better to love deeply for only a brief moment in time after overcoming all odds, or does he want us to finish the story, or movie, with a perfect sense of “all is well” because the main couple fought and overcame <insert terrible adversity here>? Some would argue one is better than the other. I find them equally satisfying, if the author does their job correctly.

When Harry Met Sally is one of my favorite movies of all time. I tell my wife that is “our” movie. Some couples have “their” song…we have “our” movie. The movie is about friends who eventually become lovers, who eventually marry, but along the way fight with every fiber of their being at various times to reach a different goal. The movie falls into the “leave the viewer happy” category, and not just for the main protagonists.

Other movies, like The NotebookThe Family Man, and City of Angels all show the work and/or sacrifice that went into the relationship, but leave the viewer, if not sad, at least a bit melancholy at the end. We see incredible devotion and love displayed by those in the relationship, and we see them happy, for a bit, then the movie shifts and moves on, just like time moves on.

I have to admit that romance as portrayed in books and movies is usually problematic. That’s part of what draw us to them. My favorite book/movie series to pick on, Twilight, has all kinds of problems and has been lambasted by critics for its glaring relationship issues (but I’ve read the entire series at least three times). Books and movies by Nicholas Sparks are so dependent on outlandish twists of fate that we all usually breathe easier because we don’t have to suffer through what his characters experience. But we still indulge in escaping to those fictional landscapes, if only to shake our heads at the characters as they struggle.

We haven’t even touched on one of the the most difficult aspects of most book and movie relationships, that of the “love triangle”, where gut-wrenching, heart-rending decisions have to be made by the characters involved. Sometimes the author will ease us out of that frightful tension with a unicorn-and-rainbow solution (see the Twilight series, from New Moon to Eclipse to Breaking Dawn), but sometimes they will not (see The Notebook and the decidedly unromantic Hunger Games series), and we have to vicariously experience the heartbreak and fallout from someone’s decision. At least it is vicarious, and not real.

Yes, love, romance and relationships are hard enough without crippling diseases, terrible accidents, and <gasp> vampires. Why do we subject ourselves to the fictional heartache? Don’t we have enough hurt to deal with? Maybe, but we get to experience, and then discard (sometimes with effort) the pain and suffering of another, and maybe, just maybe, experience a taste of unrepentant and wildly ridiculous romance without disrupting our real lives. Catharsis is a powerful tool and running ourselves through the wringer of fictional, impossible romance every now and then is probably healthy (but I’m no expert).

So what is the point, you ask? I remember; you were promised a point. The point is that as much as these crazy, impossible, fictional romances may appeal to (some) of us, the greatest, craziest, most possible of impossible love stories is that of our God desiring to be in communion with us, his children. This REAL love story has it all – a complete lack of equilibrium, an unimaginable sacrifice, even a happily-ever-after. It outshines all other love stories ever written. May the love of God wrap you up in complete contentment, or as complete as it can get on this earth, for the duration of the fast and beyond.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end! I sincerely hope it was worth it to you and that you will continue to read along with my fasting journey.

*This song, I believe, was originally written as a break up song, but the sequence of scenes it is used with in New Moon make it even more wrenchingly impactful. I can’t listen to the song without hearing Bella’s desperate screams of emptiness. Stupid romantic…

Photo Credit – Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

About Life Getting In The Way…

Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s funny how the life you want to live keeps getting interrupted by the life that is. Or maybe, it’s not that funny for you. I have to admit, it’s not that funny for me, but I’m set on moving forward.

It’s been months since I have posted, as usual. When last I posted, we were looking for a house, I was looking for some old blog posts, and everyone was looking for some sanity to come out of Washington D.C.. We did at least find a house, but as for those old blog posts and sanity from D.C., those have yet to be found.

Peter Mayhew and Rutger Hauer were still alive, but nobody knew Jan Michael Vincent was already dead (that was an odd one…).

I was determined to finish a book before NaNoWriMo kicked in again, but here it is, the cusp of October, and there is no way I will finish a book before November. Will I start a new one in November? Probably.

I am going to re-post some of my old entries. Actually, I have already done that. I dropped three re-posts right before writing this one. More to follow.

For the two of you who read this, I want you to know that I am re-dedicating to posting more consistently. I have a fairly full head right now, and in the absence of a pensieve, I’ll need to blog to remember it all.

A separate post is coming right up after this one, detailing some moderately deep thoughts about what I have been learning in my Christian walk over the past few months, from searching for a house to going through the life ordeal of seeing my daughter get married.

After that is another post, potentially quite controversial, about how I feel we as a church do a disservice to new believers before they even accept Christ. I will be opening up comments on this post as I really desire to know what others think.

What does the image above have to do with this post? Absolutely nothing…

Stay tuned.