I hate not posting.

 

grayscale photography of people walking in train station
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

There was a time when I would go for weeks without posting anything and feel only a twinge of guilt.

These days, I feel kinda anxious when I can’t hit three posts a week.

Life has been super complicated and full and challenging and good lately. I’ll tell you about it sometime soon. In the meantime, you’ll need to bear with me.

So, in lieu of new content, a question for you, dear reader:

What’s one positive thing from your 2019 so far? Big or small, share your joy in the comments below and let us celebrate with you!

I’ll be back on Wednesday with more short-story talk and hopefully a return to regular posting!

#30ThankYous: Lightning Round Part 2!!!

Let’s go with another lightning round of #30ThankYous posts! Today, I’d like to highlight 4 writers whose work has deeply affected me creatively, emotionally, and/or spiritually. (And please forgive the seemingly-random numbering–I’m trying to keep track of the days I skipped this month!)

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#19 – Ray Bradbury

Ray,

I don’t remember when I first encountered your work–it may have been a short-story that was given as part of a reading assignment for school. But from the first time I read your prose, I was hooked. I loved your imagination and the way you highlighted the enchantment and magic of everyday things, the mystery hiding just behind the ordinary. I think most people know you just as the Fahrenheit 451 or Martian Chronicles guy, but you had so much more to offer. Books like Dandelion Wine and The Illustrated Man captured my imagination even more, and made me want to be a short-story writer. Even now, I love the short-story format, and I find myself drawn back to it every time the writing bug bites. Thank you for sharing your magic with the world and inspiring a generation of writers who came after you.

#20 – John Bunyan

Brother John,

Your testimony is powerful and convicting, and your passion for the truth, no matter the cost, humbles me. But I want to thank you most for The Pilgrim’s Progress. Your little book has had a mammoth impact on me. Every page drips with Scripture, and every scene reveals truths about human nature and the Gospel. The stories of Christian and Christiana have become more and more affecting to me in recent years, and each time I read them, I am gripped again by the power of grace and the faithfulness of God. This is a book I encourage every Christian to read because it reveals a vault of wisdom and a treasure trove of insight with each reading. I praise God for your ministry, your witness, and your words.

#25 – Tim Challies

Tim,

It’s hard to think of another Christian writer or blogger today who has as much influence as you do and uses it so well. Your book reviews have become a trusted resource for me, and your frequent blog posts full of links and recommendations are helpful in directing my attention to edifying and insightful content. Your books, like your blog, are written in a clear and compelling style, full of humble exhortation. I was particularly helped by The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment and have used it more than once to prepare for Sunday School teaching. Even when you had to shift mediums due to your recent physical challenges, you have still kept your focus on serving your readers (and now, viewers) well. Thank you for honoring the Lord by striving for excellence and consistency in your use of the written and spoken word. Your contribution to the Church should not be underestimated.

#26 – Charles Spurgeon

Pastor,

It’s unavoidably trendy for a young (or, I suppose, now middle-aged) Calvinist to be an admirer of yours. Frankly, it’s almost become a cliche. I’m sure the surge of “Spurge” fandom would be embarrassing, if not infuriating, for you. But if you will allow me a moment (and how can you not, since you’re in heaven, enjoying the presence of God, so why would you care?), I want to express my gratitude for your writing.

Your preaching ministry is renowned and rightly so, but your writing has made a huge impact on my spiritual walk. Lectures to My Students and your articles in The Sword and the Trowel have been challenging to me both as a preacher and teacher and as a follower of Jesus. Books like All of Grace have brought me comfort and hope. Your handling of the “Downgrade Controversy” demonstrates a constancy and perseverance few in my day could muster. No doubt, the opposition you faced wore you down all the way to the end of your life, but while your candle burned, brother, you shined brightly, and generations who have come after you have seen your good deeds and praised your Father in Heaven.

Thank you, pastor, for your faithful pen, and for your faithful heart. You have strengthened multitudes with your work.

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Okay, that almost catches me up! Four more “Thank You’s” to go! See y’all tomorrow!

Go See “Gosnell” This Week.

Gonsell_Facebook_Banner_820x462One of the descriptors that is thrown around too often when describing a work of art is “Important” (with a capital “I”). But I saw a movie on Tuesday that I would argue deserves that capital-letter descriptor.

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer is an independent film based on the harrowing true story of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an abortion provider in Philadelphia who was responsible for the death of at least 1 pregnant woman, along with the brutal death of at least 8 babies born alive during abortion procedures. This is a sensational news story that you may have never heard about, because as these true events were discovered and prosecuted, national media outlets were very slow to cover the details of the story.

And let me quickly add here: this isn’t simply a movie “about abortion” or merely an “anti-abortion” story. This is a story about women’s health, about the dignity of patients in a time of crisis, and the callous indifference of bureaucratic inaction in order to avoid controversy.

The film production is top-notch, especially considering the size of their budget. Some of the CGI effects were a little unrealistic, and a few of the minor performances were wooden, but on the whole, the acting and production values were excellent. As writer/producer Ann McElhinney stated in a recent interview, this movie is meant to have the feel of a Law and Order episode, so that the viewer is caught up in the story. I can confirm this; even knowing how it ended, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

I have to admit, though: while it’s not as graphic as it could have been, not by a long-shot, it is a hard watch at times. So use your judgment, if you are sensitive to the subject matter or have concerns about PG-13 language. And this is probably not a good movie to take younger kids to, though teenagers should be fine.

The film is an adaptation of McElhinney’s bestselling non-fiction book of the same name, covering the discovery of Gosnell’s crimes and the details of the case. Some of the names are changed, and some of the scenes are dramatized, but the most chilling, unbelievable details of this story are all actually documented and verifiable. Kermit Gosnell is, by all accounts, a legitimate sociopath who practiced abortions in Philadelphia for decades. He violated dozens if not hundreds of health and safety regulations and risked the lives of his adult patients, all the while under the protection of a Pennsylvania statehouse and health department that refused to enforce its own regulations against the abortionist.

Other writers have noted how the movie has fared in terms of media coverage (not much better than the actual case, to be honest). NPR refused to run advertisements unless the filmmakers removed the word “abortionist” from the ad copy. Facebook has removed advertisements and blocked posts for “offensive” and “political” content. Some have documented theaters suddenly pulling the film or randomly cancelling screenings. Nevertheless, the film brought in $1.8 million in its first week, good enough for #11 in the box office (despite showing on fewer than 700 screens).

More movies are opening in theaters every weekend, so if Gosnell doesn’t do a brisk business, it will be gone from the theaters very soon. It’s ironic that a cineplex currently full of make-believe monsters and Hollywood hauntings is crowding out a true story of actual human horror that has been largely ignored.

So here’s my challenge for you, dear readers: Go see Gosnell this week–tonight, if possible. And take your friends.

If you don’t see it soon, you’ll probably have to wait until it reaches home video. If you think this story deserves to be heard, support it with your dollars and your feet by heading to your local theater over the next few days.

In a world full of noise and “fake news,” this story about the dignity of human life and the darkness of the human heart is truly Important.

You can check out the trailer here. You can buy tickets through Fandango (not-sponsored) here.

Addendum: If you went to see Gosnell after reading this post, please comment below and let me know what you thought! And if you’ve seen the film already, I’d love to get your take on it in the comments, as well!

#FridayFive: 7/27/2018

Five blog posts about writing and work to take you into the weekend!

My 500 Words: A Writing Challenge: The blogs I’ve written over the years are documentary evidence of a push-pull within me when it comes to writing. I swing wildly from not writing much at all to cranking out post after post. Sometimes these shifts happen on a dime. (Wasn’t it just two weeks ago that I said I would start posting less often? Well…) After reading this post by Jeff Goins, I’ve decided to take the challenge and begin writing 500 words a day. (For the record, today is Day #3, and you, dear reader, are looking at my 500+ words for the day.) Not all of it will be published, and not all of it will be here, but I do expect a bump in activity here.

Why you Should Write for 182 Days: Dovetailing with the first article is this piece by Chomwa Shikati detailing so many good reasons why you should write every day for 6 months. If you’re like me, and you find that the love of the craft sometimes isn’t quite enough, this post may perhaps give you a bit more inspiration to sit down with a notebook or keyboard and do the work.

Library Rules: I work in an “open office plan” office, and frankly, some days it’s a miserable experience. The goal (presumably) is to “help encourage collaboration and creativity” but what it really encourages is distraction and irritation (at least in our experience). I spend my day with headphones in, trying to drown out the partial conversations and speakerphone calls that drift up and down the hallway. You tell me: would it be too passive-aggressive to email this link to everyone in my department, with no commentary attached? Yeah? Okay, fine. I’ll just stew about it a bit more.

5 Easy Ways to Build Your Writer’s Personal Brand: Okay, first, ugh; I hate the title, because I hate both “5 easy ways” posts and cheesy “branding” discussions. However, as I’m really starting to read about and think about how I want to move this platform (blergh) forward and use it to promote my online writing (here and on Medium, check me out!) along with any future book projects, I need to take my “brand” a bit more seriously. Suffice it to say, I’m going to be doing more reading, thinking, and likely writing about this in coming months.

“…Every Revolution Begins with Words”: Another Jeff Goins post, this time reminding us of how truly powerful well-crafted, passionate words can be. This is both an encouragement and a challenge to us. The landscape of social media and the Internet in general is pock-marked with the mortar blasts of heedless speech and hateful hearts. If we want to make a difference in people’s lives, we should consider very carefully what we say and how we say it.

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There you go, friends. Five articles for your weekend reading and edification.

You may have noticed that this site has undergone a bit of a face-lift, as well as a change in address (yay!). You’ll see more changes in the near future as I start to set up some new ventures. Don’t worry, I’ll still be posting book reviews and bullet-lists and a whole bunch of other fun posts on this site. I’m excited about what’s coming down the road, and I hope you are, too.

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

“Guess who’s back…back again…”

“Good grief, Dave, the first post in 2 months, and you lead with a 20-year-old Eminem reference?”

Shaking the rust off, dude.

“What about all those promises to post reviews of books you read this year, remember that? Regular content, you said. I assume you *have* been reading books. So where are the reviews?”

Yeah, about that…

“You have talked frequently about spending less time on social media and more time ‘creating.’ You even wrote a Medium post about that. And that was it–just talk. Are you still on Twitter and Facebook?”

I deleted the apps off my phone.

“What about the browser? Are you logged in to them on your phone’s browser?”

“Look, man, I don’t mean to come at you so hard, right out of the gate. But you keep telling me that you want to write consistently. You have interesting ideas to explore. You wanted to do a whole series of posts about The Federalist Papers, remember? You wrote 4 or 5 posts before stopping. That was 16 months ago. And it was an interesting idea. You should follow up on that at some point.”

Yeah, I keep thinking about that.

“There are book reviews to write, sermon manuscripts to share, maybe even some short stories or poetry. Remember? You used to write poetry, too.”

That’s true. My wife really enjoys when I write poetry.

“See? All I’m saying is, it may be time to start delivering on the promises and good intentions you’ve been carrying around for all these years. How old are you now, 38?”

I’m 37. Birthday’s in October.

“Okay, then, 37. How about this? We start now with some regular content. Start flexing the ol’ creative muscles. And then we start working on the manuscript to your NaNoWriMo novel, Good Shepherd, and get that baby done before 40 comes around.”

That’s…not a bad idea. I still really like that story.

“You’re right, it’s not a bad idea–it’s a great idea. That story should be told. But we gotta baby-step this one. It starts with writing consistently.”

Okay, I’ll do it. Starting today, I’m gonna–

“STOP. Stop making promises. No more resolutions. Just do it. Don’t tell me about it. Just do it.”

Okay. Today, then.

“Today.”

Done.

#FridayFive: More Medium Meanderings!

Happy Friday, friends and readers! I’m back (finally!) with another 5 Medium posts I’ve read recently that I thought you might find interesting!

“It’s Time To Stop Feeling Guilty About Everything”–Stephen Altrogge gives us a great reminder about the difference between godly guilt (conviction) and fleshy/worldly “guilt.” It’s helpful for me to be reminded that some of my “guilty feelings” are not from God, but are self-imposed and dumb.

“One Year Without A Smartphone”–I’ve been reading a lot of posts lately about the pros and cons of pulling back from technology/social-media, and I found this post by Noah Lekas to be pretty thought-provoking, particularly the idea that intentional “boredom” is a boost to creative thinking. I’m not getting rid of my smartphone anytime soon (especially since I’m still paying it off, which galls me, but that’s another issue), but articles like this help me to regard this tech a bit more suspiciously.

“This is the ONLY Thing You Need To Do To Become a Multi-Millionaire”: Okay, I’ve read more than a few Medium posts, and many of the productivity/rise-and-grind/go-get-em posts seem like they follow a template, or at least fall into a series of cliches and tropes. Well, Luke Trayser nails the tone and ridiculousness of such posts with this great satirical piece. Worth a look…unless you don’t want to be MEGA-SUCCESSFUL!!!

“How 2,000+ random coffee dates changed our company culture”: I found this piece thought-provoking, particularly with how it may be transferred to a church context. Obviously, you would make adjustments for the sake of wisdom and propriety, but in larger churches, it might be an intriguing way to introduce people and families who don’t know each other.

“Forget Atticus: Why We Should Stop Teaching ‘To Kill A Mockingbird'”: Normally, I would put such articles into the “this is why we can’t have nice things” pile, but this one caught my attention. At the risk of sounding dismissive, the author’s issue with TKAM is not that the troubling language and content is offensive, but that the book’s protagonist isn’t “woke” enough. Again, I have a tendency to shake my head at “revisionist interpretations” of classic (or at least much-beloved) literature, but I was interested by the author’s argument: Atticus Finch, forever heralded as a beacon of progressive color-blindness, still holds the experience of black people at arm’s length. By teaching children to emulate Finch, this author posits, children learn to be paternalistic, classist, less opposed to racist language and thought as much as mildly disgusted by and dismissive of it. FWIW, I don’t agree with the author’s overall premise, but I think his reasoning is worth considering as we take another look at this literary figure.

Bonus Video: Cal Newport is a smart guy. Here’s a TED talk from him, arguing why you and I should stop using social media:

Feeding Habits.

I noticed a couple of things recently about my online reading habits that I thought might be helpful:

One:

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a tendency to bookmark a lot of blog posts and news articles but can never keep up with them. Almost immediately, I develop an ever-growing backlog of posts, and the thought of catching up on all this material that I was (at least at one point) interesting in reviewing becomes too daunting to consider.

I went through my Feedly bookmarks list, which at that point was over 500 links strong, and started deleting stories that I wasn’t interested in reading anymore. As I did so, I noticed that much of what I was deleting were news stories and hot takes about “current events” that, up to a year later, now don’t seem very pressing or even informative. So many breathless responses to political events or online squabbles, so many “five results of the latest decision by X” that didn’t pan out the way the author thought (or at all).

I was reminded of a truth that everyone knows but that hides in plain sight: much of what we consider “urgent” and “newsworthy” won’t matter in six months, or a year, or ten years, or eternity. They are blips and shadows, made of nothing and gone.

The more I think on this, the fewer times I hit “bookmark.” I find myself now, scanning what might amuse or inform, and saving what I want to ponder that may actually matter.

I’ll get around to it all someday, I’m sure.

Two:

Speaking of feeds, I was looking at my Medium bookmarks again. (Remember when I said I wanted to do a weekly round-up of things that were interesting? Yeah, I’m gonna try to get back to that this week.)

You can tell a lot about the state of your heart/mind by what stories draw your interest. I would encourage you (even dare you) to try it, just to see what it is that draws your attention these days.

(And there is also the question of curation: we can limit or expand what stories we search and see on such sites. Mainly, I’m pulling from the few topics I’ve marked as interests for the site’s algorithm [that’s a whole ‘nother discussion] as well as sites I follow. I think the idea still fits, though.)

In the interest of authenticity, here’s a sampling of what my Medium bookmarks reveal about my heart interests:

  • I haven’t given up on the idea of writing novels, even if I’m not following through by actually, ya know, writing.
  • I’m interested in procrastinating less / producing more; having a killer morning/evening/lunchtime/workday routine; sleeping more; sleeping less; drinking lots of coffee; leveling up my life in a host of potentially contradictory ways.
  • I’m feeling politically orphaned, and want to read other people who agree that being conservative doesn’t necessarily mean riding the GOP bandwagon all the way down the line. I’m also interested in hearing about the experiences of people I disagree with politically, but only as much as it doesn’t annoy me greatly.
  • I want to quit social media. Badly. But I can’t seem to do it.
  • Yeah, I really want to be more productive, it seems. So many #LIFEHACKy things.
  • I’m curious about self-publishing my books, and have been collecting all sorts of tips and tricks.
  • I like thinking about storytelling in film and books, and how those things speak to cultural and spiritual discussions.
  • Posts about fitness and fatness, about food and exercise, about healthy self-image.
  • No surprise, an up-tick in articles about fatherhood at the end of last summer.
  • “Social media is terrible! Let’s read 300 articles about it.”
  • Posts about Christianity and about marriage are coming up more frequently in recent months.
  • Morning routines! Habit-building! Do more! Make more! Ship more! Ugh.
  • …And after you finish working out at 5 a.m. like all the #LIFEHACK #WINNING people are, isn’t it time to start working on that book, Dave?

There ya go. I…I’m gonna go take some time to ponder my life. I’ll catch ya later.

The4thDave Reads: …the Pentateuch?

Whew. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

As I noted in my last post (last…uh…year), my reading goals for 2018 are two-fold: reading only physical books that I owned as of 12/31/17, and to write up a review or reflection for every book I finish in 2018. Good plan, right? It *should* produce steady blog content, and it helps step up the fight against tsundoku–not that it would prevent me from collecting more books, but that it would force me to prioritize the books I already own.

Things haven’t gone quite as expected. By this time last year, I had already read 5 or 6 books. But this year, for whatever reason, I’ve really been struggling to read finish books. Oh, I have 5 books that I’m currently “reading” but none of them consistently. I’m like a literary hummingbird–I’ll get 50 or 100 pages into a book, lose interest, and jump to something else. I’m struggling to stick with anything heavier than light fiction, so it’s becoming work to press on through much of anything.

As it happens, the only book I’ve actually completed cover-to-cover so far this year is the Pentateuch–specifically, the first volume of the ESV Reader’s Bible 6-volume set. (A very generous Christmas gift from Mrs. 4thDave.) Since it was a complete cover-to-cover read (I finished it in mid-January), I’m counting it. SO here I am, with some thoughts–not a review, just some reaction.

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For those who may not know, I’m a Christian. (If you didn’t know that, it means you’re new here–welcome!) This means I believe the Bible is infallible, meaning it makes no mistakes; that it’s inerrant, entirely without error; that it is authoritative, because it is God-breathed and carries the weight of His commands; and that it is completely sufficient for everything it intends to direct and describe (meaning it won’t tell me how to fix a car, but it will tell me how to live with integrity before God and others).

Any honest reader (let alone student) of Scripture will admit that some parts of the Bible are a bit more challenging to read and understand. There’s a reason that few churches are advertising sermon series through the book of Deuteronomy — which is a shame, because there’s great stuff in Deuteronomy. Because of this, I wonder how many church-going Christians have ever really read through the sections of the Bible that are more difficult to wrestle through, like the Old Testament Law or the less-Christmasy passages in the Prophets. I have to admit that my familiarity with some of these passages and books is passing at best. There are definitely sections of the Old Testament that I’ve never actually read before.

My hope is to change this in the next few months by sitting for up to 30 minutes a day and just reading–not studying, not analyzing, just drinking it in. I try to pray as I begin that the Holy Spirit would “open my eyes to behold wonderous things in His law” (Psalm 119:18). And then I just read, seeking to learn and understand.

Some sections are easy, some sections are challenging or even a bit offensive, but I always approach the text with the firmly-held conviction that all of it is true, trustworthy, reliable, and authoritative. And that has made all the difference in how I read even the hard parts of the Old Testament.

My reading this year has reminded me of many things, but two of the most clearly demonstrated themes in my reading thusfar are: 1) God is always faithful to His word, even if man is faithless to his; and 2) all of God’s purposes come to be, despite the conniving and scheming of men. These truths have been a comfort to me already this year.

If you haven’t read through the five books of Moses in a while, I would encourage you to do so. Just set some time aside, take up the Bible, and read. Read with an open and submissive heart, trusting that the loving and sovereign God of the Bible will teach you through His Spirit. And be encouraged that the God who controls all things will never break His promises to His people.

Good gravy, two and a half MONTHS?!?

I’ve let you down, bloggy blog. I’ve been neglectful.

Let me esplain — no, there is too much, let me sum up:

  • I’m a daddy to an almost-five-month-old, and that’s still an amazing thing. She’s an absolute delight. I’ve got 3 pictures of her staring back at me around my desk, and even in those 3 pictures, she has already changed more in appearance than I care to consider. It’s still a bit surreal to me, having a daughter. Part of that is because I don’t get to see her for long stretches every day (unlike my beloved wife, who can’t get away from her for more than a couple hours at a time). But it’s also because she’s starting to develop her own personality, and it’s now catching up to me that in the next few years, this fifteen-pound, wriggling, squealing, squeezable little person is going to push out teeth, crawl, walk, run, start speaking words and then sentences, learn to dress herself and feed herself, and eventually learn to read and count and create. She’s a person made in the image of God, a person with a soul, a person whom my wife and I are tasked with shepherding and caring and disciplining. It’s…daunting. Exciting. But intimidating.
  • Marriage is excellent, 3 1/2 years in. I think we’re out of the “honeymoon” phase, but that is in no way meant to indicate anything negative. I think we’re really settling in and getting to know each other and serve each other better. I’m also seeing how intention is paramount when it comes to being a husband. It’s easy to coast and give half-effort. But that isn’t loving my wife well. I’ve got to try harder, be better than I am naturally. That can be a challenge, on days when I want to be lazy and selfish. It is a choice to walk out the role I’ve been given: “die” first, in all the little ways I need to in order to love and care for my family. Die to my own agenda, die to my own selfish desires. Be like Jesus.
  • Work is good. Busy. I feel like I’m contributing. That’s pretty cool.
  • Church is good. I’ve been getting opportunities to preach, both at my home church and elsewhere as there is need. That’s been a challenge and a blessing. And I’m back to being part of the Sunday School teaching rotation, though I’m sharing the load with more people, which is both good and bad.
  • Creatively, not much is happening. There is still a book or three I’d like to write, and those ideas keep bubbling up to the surface, but I’m in a season where other things need to take precedence. And I’m part of an upcoming web series that is still “upcoming,” since post-production has hit some delays with staffing and resources, but we’re hoping for a release by the summer. I’ll let you know about that when I have more info. But that’s just it. Basically, all my creative energies are being diverted into just taking care of what’s in front of me. Hoping for more in the future, but other things must take precedence.

That’s pretty much it for an update.  I’ll have a post up tomorrow with my end-of-year reading list (you didn’t think I’d forget about that, did you?) and maybe another short post about my 2018 reading plans.  (Holy cow, 2018, kids.)

Until then, I remain your obedient servant, T4D.

 

Hey friend…ya got $2?

For the last six months or so, I’ve been working with a great team of creative folks to put together a new web series called “Presto Fairy Tales: The Web Series! (The Musical!)”

Think Shelley Duvall’s Fairy Tale Theater…but weirder, and a little more punk rock, and a little more DIY. The writing is hilarious, the actors are great, and the show has so much heart.  The first season of the series will include 5 great stories that you probably have never heard before!

PLUS! There will be original music, including several songs with lyrics written by yours truly.

ALSO! I’m the villain on one of the stories! So you get to see me playing a BAD GUY. Cool, yes?

Here’s the deal, gang: We need funding. We have a shoestring budget, but shooting locations, props, sets, costumes, music recording, and all that costs more than a shoestring.

We need your help. Even if it’s just a few bucks, we can definitely use it.

Here’s the link to our GoFundMe page. Check it out, get the details, watch the video, and then go…fund us… Please? Pretty please?

Thanks!