Modern America and the Death of Humanity

“What is going to become of a society which puts emphasis on numbers and masses, rather than on the individual – where medical schools hope to enlarge their classes, where the trend is away from student-teacher contact, which is replaced by closed-circuit television teaching, recordings, and movies all of which can teach a greater number of students in a more depersonalized manner?”

This quote is from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s book On Death and Dying. She’s one of the fore-runners in hospice work. I thought it was wonderful to come across this quote that, for Kubler-Ross was about healthcare, but for me was about education.

An Assault Upon the Flesh

Over the summer, I fasted for the first time. I’m one of those people who’s never really felt like I had a good reason to fast. I felt like fasting was somehow akin to speaking in tongues, and it wasn’t something I felt I ever needed to do in my relationship with God.

Then, I just really struggled.

I struggled with work. I struggled with church. I struggled with friendships. I struggled with family. I struggled with romance. I struggled with reading and writing. Just about the only thing that was going well in my life for awhile was running, so I settled in and trained, and I ran a marathon.

The day I fasted was just about a week after running the marathon.

I felt like God was far away. I felt like I was resistant to Him, even though I didn’t want to be. I felt like everyone around me was falling apart. I felt like I’d never be happy again. I had just quit my job with no prospects for the future. I’d thrown my crap into a rental car days after my last day of teaching, and I drove to San Diego to run a race. And then, after running the race, I just drove.

I planned on driving up the coast and being alone a lot. I planned on walking along the beach, praying, reading, writing, and re-adjusting my attitude.

I thought fasting might be a decent idea.

So, I took one day, and I fasted. I wasn’t sure what the rules are of fasting. I thought about Islam, and I thought fasts in that situation end at sundown or something. I thought about Jews and what they would consider fasting (I didn’t actually know). I thought about whether fasting means no calories at all, or just no solid food… and I decided that I could have a Starbucks and that was it until Midnight.

It was a good day, and I can’t say with any certainty that fasting is what knocked me back into myself. In all honesty, I think it was probably a dozen different things that all contributed to putting me back together.

Then, I was sitting at Starbucks I am sitting at Starbucks, and I just finished reading my daily chapter of Bonhoeffer, and I came to something that I think accurately describes the role fasting played in my life, “As soon as a Christian recognizes that he has failed in his service, that his readiness has become feeble, and that he has sinned against another’s life and become guilty of another’s guilt, that all his joy in God has vanished and that his capacity for prayer has quite gone, it is high time for him to launch an assault upon the flesh, and prepare for better service by fasting and prayer,” (The Cost of Discipleship ch. 16).

Fasting, for me was an assault upon the flesh.

Every time I felt hungry or thought about food, I prayed. I spent a lot of the day thanking God for how much food is available  to me. I live in an abundance of food like the world has never seen throughout its history. I think about food all day, every day, and what I think is, “Should I eat ______, or should I eat ________?” I consider whether or not I want to cook for myself or eat out. I consider how many calories I’m at and whether I can stand putting myself at a calorie deficit for the day. I plan out what times I’m going to eat so that I can exercise, sleep, etc… without feeling uncomfortable. Not eating is interesting, because so many of the decisions I make in a day are about food. With those decisions off my plate (haha!), I found myself feeling really calm and at ease.

And I found myself able to put everything into perspective. All of my struggles seemed less significant in light of how completely secure I feel in God meeting my day-to-day needs. God has never left me hungry. Never. That single fact deserves so much more gratitude than I ever feel or express.

Kindred Friends

I just had coffee with a free-lance editor, and it was amazing.

About three or four weeks ago, Jocelyn, a newish friend at church, told me she has a friend who edits and is involved in the publishing industry. She thought her friend and I should meet and talk about editing my manuscript and/or helping to connect me with small publishers/graphic designers who could do my cover art if I self-publish/publicists…

I said that would be great, but I wasn’t overwhelmingly excited. I basically looked at it as an opportunity that would likely be a non-event in the big scheme of things.

I’d begun to feel pretty relaxed about my manuscript. I was working on a re-write of it that I was adamant would be the last one. Whatever came of this re-write, I intended to move on and write something else. I intended to query a handful of agents, then just go ahead and self-publish the thing if no one wanted to walk through the process with me.

After several years of work on this manuscript, after querying agents, after researching the industry, after working on my platform… I just don’t get overly hopeful about any of it. I’m unimpressed with opportunities, because they nearly always seem to flop in the end.

Enter Jocelyn. She’s sort of a distant friend. She and I have talked/texted several times about getting together, but nothing has really come of it. I honestly half-expected her to forget about trying to connect me with her editor friend. However, she dutifully gave me Kelcey’s info and gave Kelcey my info.

At that juncture in time, I thought I’d wait a week or two until I was a little more settled at my new job before contacting Kelcey. However, Kelcey ended up contacting me, which was nice. I often feel like my efforts to build friendships go unreciprocated. Sometimes that’s fine. Sometimes, I can take an alarming amount of rejection without being phased. Right now, however, I just haven’t felt like working harder at things than anyone else is working. So, honestly, if Kelcey hadn’t taken the reins, this may have never happened. Thank God she did, because we decided to get coffee.

We planned it super far in advance, and I didn’t think much about it. It was just a slot on my calendar that was filled. Then, we finally met at Raging Sage, which is an excellent local coffee shop. Kelcey got there first and got us a table outside.

When I first saw her, I actually thought we wouldn’t be a great fit, because she’s thin and has super-short hair. I know that’s a stupid thing to think and is beyond logic, but it’s what I thought. My first impression of Kelcey could probably be summed up with the word “dainty.” I have never conceived of myself as dainty, so I had an instant belief that she and I couldn’t possibly have anything in common.

However, Kelcey began talking and my prejudice quickly changed. She has a strong interest in mental health. She feels like God has been dismantling her lately. She wrote a journal entry in her tween years about how she wanted to grow up to be an editor. She recently lost some close friends to a move to another city and some sort of emotional mess that she didn’t describe in detail. She mentioned going into an angry-at-You, God- phase, during which, she stopped attending church and had a bit of a break-down.

And I could relate to all of it. Also, I loved the sense of vulnerability Kelcey brought to the table on the very first time we met.

About thirty minutes in, I thought, “Okay, this might be okay.” I thought we might be able to get along working on my manuscript, which is saying a lot, because I feel incredibly possessive and protective of Madi and Wes. The thought of including a stranger in their growth and… for lack of a better word: sanctification, is horrifying. I don’t have any problem sharing Madi, Wes and their story with readers, but letting anyone have input in their lives is a whole other thing.

I think that may explain the snap judgment of believing that Kelcey’s thinness and hair signified a mismatch. I may have wanted her to be the wrong person, because I desperately fear entrusting my characters to her… or anyone.

Once I had given an explanation of my writing to Kelcey, she seemed really interested. She said great things about my ideas, and she was pretty up-front about saying she believes God has brought me into her life.

We decided that she should write up a contract for us and send it to me so that I could consider the partnership.

Then, we just continued talking… and she quoted The Office.

She talked about the time she spent working as a lumberjack in Oregon, and she didn’t seem quite so dainty anymore.

She mentioned her tattoo that’s written in Elvish and says that not all those who wander are lost… and is enormous.

Then she said she likes to Cosplay.

Then she talked about her blog.

Then she told me her husband loves comics.

That’s when I decided that she and I need to be besties, and we talked about possibly attending Phoenix ComiCon together.

She also mentioned feeling alienated lately and really wanting to find friends.

And that’s when it hit me: I miss Ashly so much.

I think maybe it’s the word “bestie” that got to me. It’s a word I started using to and about Ashly because of the show Big Bang Theory. There’s this hilarious character who sort of pushes the bestie label on someone who definitely isn’t a bestie. And it cracks me up. She has this HUGE portrait made of the two of them, then tries to hang it in a super public place. She says really inappropriate things about the “bestie” and it reaches a creep factor of 12. And it’s hilarious. She is the character on the show who I most relate to, which maybe sounds like I’m insulting myself, but, really, she’s a great character.

When I had the thought of, “Kelcey and I should be besties,” is just…

Lauren once said that Ashly and I speak our own language. She and I will get going about a book or a movie sometimes, and nothing anyone else says even seems valid. Ashly is the literary, nerdy wise sister I always craved. She’s humble and caring. She always tries to go beyond even what’s fair to make people feel loved and at peace. She’s attended ComiCon with me, read my manuscript, prayed, and she has been a kindred spirit.

And then, I unintentionally called Kelcey a kindred spirit when she and I were talking. Which sucks, because I don’t even know if she knows why that’s such an important term. Ashly knows. She could explain that it’s how Ann-with-an-e referred to her own bestie, Diana. It’s a term of endearment planted deeply in the love of story that Ashly and I share.

I know this sounds stupid, but Ashly reads Harry Potter the same way I read it. There is something magical about that common love for story and fantasy that extends far beyond J K Rowling’s books. Finding Ashly was finding a person who perceives the world as I perceive it.

Ashly and I have our differences, but even so, I always felt like she and I understood each other in an uncommon way. I felt like we appreciated each other in an uncommon way. And I’ve deeply felt the loss of her in my life for the past few months.

After getting coffee with Kelcey, she and I walked over to a comic shop together – a comic shop I’ve only ever been in alone or with Ashly.

I feel a defensiveness of Ashly against myself. I feel adamant that Ashly could never be replaced, and spending time with Kelcey seems a little like an attempt to fill the Ashly void in my life.

Of course, it isn’t like that. Ashly was blessed with a new friendship almost immediately after moving to CA, and I didn’t resent or lament that; I was so happy for her. Still, it’s an ache to have to move forward. The friendship isn’t over, but it’s changing, and I wish it could remain the same.

Still, it’s nice to know that there are people out there who perceive the world in the same way I perceive it. Kelcey may truly be a kindred spirit, and maybe there’s hope that the three of us can attend ComiCon together.

The Moral Dilemma

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve experienced a legit moral dilemma. I’m not the type to struggle so much as I rush in the second I believe I know what’s right, even if it’s not the thing I want to do. I go at morality like I go at band-aids… just get it over with and things can begin to heal. Another way of saying it is that I try to be single-minded in obedience to the extent that I sprint to whatever I believe is obedient, for fear that disobedience may have a chance to churn around in my thoughts and tempt me. I’ve learned that it’s easier just to immediately obey, and I definitely don’t do so because I’m oh-so-very obedient; I do it because I’m terrified of myself and of God. The worst times in my life have occurred in the time between realizing what would be right and acting on that belief.

This time, however, I’m feeling less certain about what obedience is for me. I’m not in the right position for my job to be as clear-cut.

Situation: Some acquaintances of mine are getting divorced because the husband is gay. They are active in the church and would certainly consider themselves to be believers. Another acquaintance of mine is their pastor and brother-in-law (he is married to the sister of the wife who is getting the divorce). To complicate matters further, their church is currently merging with another church and brother-in-law is stepping down as head pastor. That’s what I’ve heard, at least. Finally, brother-in-law is also a Realtor and he helped the couple sell their house when they decided to separate.

This whole thing is… wrong. I don’t say that because I feel like it’s wrong. In many ways, I feel like it’s far enough removed from me that I shouldn’t care. Then, however, I was talking about this with some friends and one of them was all, “He made financial gain off their divorce?”

At the time, all I said was, “Yeah, he did.”

Since then, that conversation has been sinking into me, and I’m irritated. Some of my other friends are letting the gay husband live with them while the separation gets worked out. They are also believers.

The Bible is not silent on this issue. I wish it was, but it isn’t. In fact, the Bible is pretty much crystal clear on how to handle situations where Christians choose willful disobedience.

I’m not unsympathetic. It would be easy for me to write this and come off like a bigoted homophobe, so I just want to throw it out there that I’ve literally (I do mean literally; I don’t mean figuratively, but with emphasis)… I’ve literally written a book on this topic because it is so close to my heart. I’ve only been in love once in my life, and it was with a gay Christian.

So, don’t get me wrong here… I don’t necessarily even agree with God about how this should be handled. I often struggle with the harshness of 1 Corinthians, where it commands that believers don’t even associate with a brother who is living in sexual immorality. The point, however, is not how I feel or how anyone feels.

The point is that truly believing in God requires us to give up our right to make our own decisions about morality. Rather, we submit our sense of morality to God, because we believe He is greater, wiser, more gracious, more just… than we are… especially when we don’t understand Him…

That is the core of Christianity.

I’m not sure how to explain it further other than to refer to the Bible. Christians do not belong to themselves. They were purchased by the blood of God. Therefore, everything about them belongs to God. Their morality is not their own; it is God’s.

When we start from there, it becomes obvious that the church and its leaders ought to press this couple. The church ought to seek their reconciliation. Church leaders ought to refuse to aid in this divorce.

Tragically, church leaders are aiding in the divorce and prospering because of it.

So… what do I do?

In the absence of others standing up, do I have a responsibility to say or do something? I’m not asking what you, my readers would do; I’m asking what God would have me do.


Way back when, I attended the church that all of the people mentioned above attend. Before I started attending, I went on their website and read all of their core beliefs. While I was reading, I found a shit-ton of grammatical errors. They were not stylistic choices or typos. They were the sort of errors that must be corrected because they make the writer seem incompetent and some of them even distort meaning.

So… being how I am, I emailed the pastor with a list of corrections to one particular page on the website. I didn’t have time to correct the entire website, and I didn’t want to be an ass, so I chose one specific page that I thought was most important to fix, and I sent the corrections.

The pastor responded kindly, made the corrections, and it was all fine.

Not having found any particularly blasphemous beliefs stated on their website, I started attending that church. Within months, I ended up leaving because I began to see things. What I saw made me believe they were disobedient in a few specific ways. Additionally, much of the time when the church was not being disobedient, they were approaching biblical truth in a shallow manner.

That was something like 18 months ago, I think. It may have been more like 2 years. I don’t know.

When I left the church, I thought about bringing my concerns to church leadership, but decided against it. I decided it wasn’t my place, and that God would do what He willed with that church.

Bringing all of that into the context of my question, do I have a responsibility to contact the pastor again and point out his errors? It’s such a sucky thing to do…

I’m not afraid to do so – obviously, I’m the type who tells people when they’ve ended a sentence with a preposition – but I find myself in the same struggle I had when I left that church. I find myself thinking that it’s not my place and that God will do with them as He will. I also feel so tired of being that person who is the doctrine police. Being the grammar police is one thing. It’s a silly compulsion. The doctrine police, however, is a whole other thing. Not only do I feel rude when I’m correcting someone’s doctrine, but I also feel young and I think, “Who do I think I am?”

I wish the people writing websites would police their own grammar and that pastors would police their own doctrine and practical theology. But, of course, we live in a fallen world where things are so often broken.

Am I being lazy? Am I getting it wrong similarly to the way Jonah got it wrong, but for a different reason? He didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he knew they’d repent and be saved. I don’t want to go to this pastor because I believe he will not repent, and he (and several of my other friends) will hate me. I don’t care so much about their hate as an emotion or as negative perceptions of me… I care about the hassle. I don’t want this fight. If I were to choose a battle for myself, this wouldn’t be it.

Am I far enough removed that the task of telling the truth belongs to someone else? Part of me genuinely believes I should say nothing.

NaNoWriMo 2015

It’s National Novel Writing Month again… and even though I thought I’d be ready to fully participate this year, I’m not, and I’m sad about it.

Re: the manuscript I’ve been working on for ages…

This manuscript is incredibly personal. Everything about it is wrapped up in who I am and what I’ve seen. That’s not to say that it’s autobiographical. It isn’t. However, it is personal, and there’s a vulnerability in writing what I’ve written.

Also, this may not seem like a big deal, but it’s my first full manuscript. I’ve written tons of first chapters but only one final chapter, and that one final chapter is contained in this manuscript. I’ve written short stories and essays galore, I’ve been starting novels since I was fourteen, but I’ve never put much hope in any of them until my current Work in Progress. I’ve never believed anything would ever come of them.

Additionally, this is the only time I’ve written anything near the realm of Christian Fiction. There’s a weighty responsibility that comes with that. I feel an urgent necessity, that I hate feeling, in writing something that glorifies God. I chose Weston, my character, because I couldn’t imagine a more heart-wrenching conflict than the one I’ve seen in my friends who are both gay and Christians. I thought it was good timing historically for a book about that conflict. I thought it would be easy to sell. Yet, now that it comes down to either publishing it or not, I’ve got a slow-growing fear based in all of the things that drew me to this conflict to begin with. I’m afraid of how the nation is changing, and how my friends are changing. I’m afraid of how difficult it seems to be for people like Weston to hold onto convictions and trust that God has it covered, and even if they don’t get what they want, to refuse to bow down to any claiming the place that belongs only to the Almighty.

Piled on top of that fear is the problem I currently have of perspective. I started out trying to write my manuscript in 3rd person, because it’s an impersonal, analytical way of writing that allowed me to think the story instead of feeling it. There’s this strange thing that happens in the writer’s mind, where characters are real. It would be impossible for me to write a great story without suspending my disbelief at least as much as I want my readers to suspend theirs, so Weston is a real person to me. I have emotions towards him that only find their match in my relationships to real people. I feel affection, disappointment, anger, and hope for him and for the other characters in his life – Madison, Riley, Dave… all of them. That’s super difficult, because it’s my job to push these people through to most difficult parts of their lives.

I would prefer to do that in 3rd person, even though that wasn’t the right choice for this story.

Alongside the emotions of it, writing in 1st person has a ton of complications because the story is not about what happened. Rather, it’s about what one person thought happened. A narrator who is living the story is almost never going to be 100% reliable, and my character is particularly unreliable because she’s young, foolish, and confused. She’s emotionally invested to the extent that she can’t see straight. The result of telling the story this way is hours – nay, HOURS and HOURS and HOURS – of trying to figure out how a person can tell a story exactly as she experienced it without communicating only what she experienced. Ideally, Madison would tell her story honestly and without concern for the reader, but I’d be skilled enough to communicate to the reader through Madison – that I’d show bits and pieces that Madi didn’t see, or saw falsely.

It’s painstaking work.

Also, I decided to rewrite the entire ending of my story. I got one of those epiphanies that hit at the strangest times, when the muse speaks, and what needs to be written becomes clear. And yet, it’s a ton of work rewriting the entire ending – especially because I did my best to weave the ending into every chapter of the book so that readers could look back and be all mind-blown at the clues that were there all along.

So… where I find myself now is at the end again, rewriting and trying to be intentional about the level of satisfaction I bring to readers… or not. It would be easy for me to wrap everything up nicely and tie it with a bow for readers. OR it would be easy for me to wrap nothing up and leave readers bewildered to figure it out for themselves. Probably, the right thing to do is somewhere in the middle of those.

Finally, the actual news of this post is that I’ve recently been put in touch with an editor who may actually be able to help me, without costing me a boatload of cash, which means I need to get myself in gear pretty quickly here and not let this opportunity pass.


All I want to do is start a brand-new manuscript that I can write in the detached voice of an omniscient 3rd person narrator. I want it to be an absurd dark comedy/social commentary about public education, and I want to be in the planning stage rather than this editing and perfecting stage that I have to be in with Weston’s story.


I love NaNoWriMo… next year, I guess.

I Found My Bonhoeffer!!!!

The funny thing is that I looked on top of the chair. In fact, I removed everything from the top of the chair to ensure it wasn’t hidden underneath a grocery bag. You see, that chair is my just-walked-in dumping grounds. Everything goes on top of that chair.

As you can see….

I almost moved on to the next book, but I am overjoyed that there’s no need.
Happy Halloween!

My Recent Headlines

How to Cut Back on Alcohol Intake: Get a Job You Actually Like

It’s pleasantly surprising how much the rest of my life has fallen into place now that I have a job where I’m treated well. :-)

Lost Book – Call if You Find It (And Also to Return the DVDs You Borrowed)

I’m not entirely sure why I care. I’ve been reading The Cost of Discipleship for like three years, but I swear, I was finally making legit progress in it. I’d gone back and restarted the whole thing, and I was enjoying it, and I intended to finish it, but now, I can’t find it. The last place I remember having it was at home, but it’s nowhere to be found. :-(

Additionally, I loaned one of my favorite movies to someone who is cold-shouldering me now, and I want it back. However, I don’t want to be that a-hole who breaks the cold-shoulder via text that says, “Hey – since we’re not really friends right now, would you mind returning Raisin Helen? After all, it is one of my favorite movies to watch and watch and rewatch… and it’s been more than a year and possibly more than two since you borrowed it… and you’re kind of being an immature baby right now… Thanks.”

Seasonal Sin Devastates Community

What the flip is it with something like 40% of my friends just deciding to give in to sin all at the same time? I don’t write the word “deciding” flippantly either. These are not unintentional sins or sins that have caught them off-guard. These are sins where they believe what they are doing is sinful, and they choose it anyway. These are pre-meditated sins that have been discussed, negotiated, reasoned… and then chosen. Is there an astronomical phenomenon that is victimizing Tucson right now? Is this just a stage of life when people can’t take it anymore? Is it a full-moon and they are all werewolves? It feels that absurd to me – like I’m genuinely wondering how this is possible.

I’m trying not to be pissed about it. I’m trying to roll with the punches. After all, it’s outside the realm of my control, and sin is human nature, right? Right. Only… I feel a strong sense of personal failure every time so-and-so are getting a divorce, or that one friend got a DUI, or that other friend starts dating the wrong sort of guy … I know I should be less naive, but it’s really just blowing my mind how many of my friends’ marriages are either hanging by a thread, or no longer hanging at all because they’ve already plummeted into the abyss. And how are there so many Christian dudes deciding that now is the time to assert their homosexuality – men who were previously pastors or who are breaking up with their wives to pursue men? How is this possible? Where are all of the people who have some fight to them? What happened to the life strategy of, “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you?”

All of the grudge-holding, sexual immorality, divorce, gossip, unequal yoking, etc… have me feeling worn. They seem to be more prevalent now than they’ve ever been in my life, and there are times when it takes my breath away.

And, okay, I’ve gotta give credit that a few of them are trying, but there are a ton of them who are not. They aren’t hiding it. They aren’t ashamed. “They’ve forgotten how to blush…” :-(

I suppose it’s an arrogance of youth that I believed it wouldn’t happen to us. And maybe it’s a personal arrogance that I’m able to question how much fight they’ve really expended. I’m just… pained over it. I’m irritated. I’m questioning how much anyone can have really known God AND made willful choices to transgress/disobey. I’m concerned – not because of the sin, but because of the staggering lack of repentance in most of them.

I’ve been working on memorizing Psalm 51 for a good, long while, and it seems so relevant right now. It’s the one that David wrote in response to his experience with Nathan the prophet’s rebuke over Bathsheba, and it’s full of, “Have mercy on me!” “Purge me with hyssop!” “Wash me!” “Blot out my transgressions!” “Create in me a clean heart!”

It’s possibly my favorite chapter in all of the Bible, because it reminds me that even the men who truly love God need abundant mercy. Also, I love the history that goes with hyssop and its relation to the Passover, when God spared those who were His, and I love the way the chapter, though it’s Old Testament, overtly calls for the grace provided by Jesus.

I wish we were all so close to God that we would come out of our sin with humility and trembling. That’s not the attitude that currently surrounds me. The attitude is more along the lines of, “This is what I’m doing, and it’s not really negotiable. ” :-(