Every Mountain (Poem)

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It always seems to be that in the midst of the deep darkness that we find the most perilous climb to return to the light. The shadows make everything seem so much larger, so much harder, so much more difficult.

If only we had the eyes of giants, we could see that the world that stands above us is no larger than it was the day before, it is only the shadows that make it seem more vicious.

2018.5.23- Every Mountain

If you’d like to see when I post (Wednesday + Friday) and a calendar of what I’ll be releasing, check out my website!

www.linmtba.com

Dungeon Crawler

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I spend an exhausting amount of time each week writing, between the two to four hours I spend working on my novel in progress or novella or whatever big project I have, plus the writing I do for the blog, I also have been running a D&D Campaign that meets once a week. Despite what a lot of people on the internet seem to assume about D&D it is a time-consuming beast. Each session requires a lot of work to balance and create the session. Making sure that my players can survive the encounters, making sure I have resources backed up in the event they make a move I hadn’t anticipated and so on. Because I am a story-teller, I put a lot of effort into building the world around us and creating something that my players can vividly see within their own minds. Each character that I plan for the session is finely tuned, their personality carved out as well as I can carve it and each of them have their own separate goals and passions. Much of that comes from my desire to write a good story. Something that sticks with its viewer for much longer than I will. I build lore for my own work while creating D&D Campaigns as well, which tallies the full creation time up to quite a few hours each week.

Of course, I accept this as a fact and despite my numerous attempts at shaving off unnecessary work while planning I find myself still sucked in for hours and hours while I build this world for my players to dig through and discover. I think that’s most of the joy for D&D for me. I am creating a place for my friends to live out power fantasies about things we could never truly be. I am giving them the reigns to be powerful and destructive in a safe environment. I’m giving my players the ability to be anything they could imagine. Their ability in the world is only limited by the progression of their own ingenuity.

I think that same reason is why I have such an affinity for writing. I am allowed to do that same thing and make those same fantastical grandiose worlds for people to enjoy, albeit slightly different.

Still, with D&D and other forms of gaming it allows something more prominent to emerge through all the hours I may need to put in to get where I want to. It gives me an outlet to spend time with loved ones doing something that we all enjoy. The thrill of taking down a big boss or solving a puzzle that was kicking our teeth in for days is something that I will never grow tired of. But it is so much better when I can do it with my best friends.

What I’m saying is that for those of you who are workaholics like I am and spend as much time as you can working on something, consider taking an hour or so to do something with your friends every week. The longer you work the older you get, and the older you get the closer you are to kicking the bucket. So, make sure you’ve got a lot of good stories for that bucket before you go.

Thanks for reading my lil baby blog post today. If you’d like to see when the next stuff is up make sure you poke around my website, I’ve got a calendar there for you to see what’s new.

www.linmtba.com

Sink (Poem)

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When I was younger, I was one of those kids who prided himself on being the man to go to when people had questions about life. When people needed help I was the guy that had all the answers, despite not having any life experience to back up my words, I still prided myself on that fact. That I could be the guy that would be there to help others through life. This was especially relevant when it came to relationships. I remember regularly talking my friends through relationship problems before I had been in one of my own before I had any real-life experience. I don’t necessarily think everything I said was bogus, but I know for a fact I didn’t lead my loved ones down a wise path. I often offered self-indulgent information that would be the “what you want to hear” as opposed to what you needed to.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot as of late as more of my friends are winding up in relationships and how often I come to them asking for advice on how to be a better boyfriend, a better man, a better person in general. It is so easy to offer other people advice in light of your own shortcomings. You know what you do wrong and you know that you need to fix it, but somehow the way our minds work we just don’t want to listen to ourselves. That’s why I think those people are so important. You can go to them, and they can tell you what you should hear despite you already knowing it and already wanting to abandon your own advice. They reinforce it if you’re lucky. They’ll hold you accountable for yourself which is especially helpful when you are self-destructive and often flounder around your mind with thoughts of the unmade ideas in the back of your skull.

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www.linmtba.com for a calendar of blog posts + other content coming out each month. (Sometimes they are a little late, sorry!)

In Search of Something, Desperation

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I find that more often than not, media that stems from my faith is dictated by a series of hidden puppet masters who inspect the content and make sure it is “Jesus approved” by a host of likewise sinful people who chose to cheapen a message by hiding it behind a mesh screen and chose to swing Jesus’ name around in the sky like a rickety bat instead of telling us why Jesus’ name actually matters.

Disillusionment is never the answer.

I will forever be honest about my faith, and I will forever be honest about how shitty I can be, how shitty the world around us can be.

This is about three things:

  • How Christian media presents themes you should respect and look up to, but does it in the worst way possible.
  • How Underoath’s return has broken my heart.
  • How I struggle with the fact that I am a Christian, writing fairly “un-Christian” books, and yet still find my purpose in writing them.

I told you today would be about a struggle within the context of my faith, and here it is. Why I strive to be the best version of the collected gifts I have been given. How I want, above all else, to be a Christian who will always level with you and understand you. Regardless of your faith. Regardless of your life. I want to be someone you can come to.

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Back when I first released “The Darling Bones” I had a friend from church who read it and afterwards, make some rather questionable comments to my parents about my faith. Among them, they claimed that my novel was not a “Christian” novel because in the book a character directly refutes God’s existence. They also suggested I seek guidance through prayer and scripture to get back on track amid my walk of faith.

Of course, when this news returned to me I thought it was ludicrous. For several reasons, chiefly among them, “The Darling Bones” is not a Christian novel. I don’t write “Christian” novels. If I wrote a Christian novel in the manner that many religious minds expect, it would be the worst one of my career without a doubt. Perhaps a useful tool for prompting other Christians to seek out clarity in their faith, but undoubtedly not something I would feel is worthy of advertising, let alone accepting as my own.

That’s a lofty claim to make considering I am whole-heartedly a Christian and I truly believe the only reason I am able to do what I do is because I was given the talent for it.

However, despite how talented I may or may not be at telling a story, no talent, God given or earned through dedication, will remain a talent without constant and difficult work. You cannot be a champion weight lifter without lifting champion level weights every day. You cannot be an Olympic swimmer without swimming with the charge of an Olympian. Why is it that Christian Media is any different?

I grew to understand this idea years ago when I met face to face with Underoath. Labeled by some as “bad boys” of the Christian music scene. Their lyrics were, by all accounts to a thirteen-year-old, dark and edgy. They screamed with passion and their music was heavier than much else out there. No offense to the likes of Toby Mac, but I just couldn’t get behind worship music for a long time. I followed Underoath as a band for years, using their radio station on Pandora to seek out other bands in the same vein where I found Demon Hunter, As I Lay Dying and more, all of whom stood out to me as a young man searching for his place in the world as strong Christian influences that proved I could be exactly who I was and still be a man of faith. I could have both worlds and I could live in them at the same time.

Then Tim Lambesis tried to assassinate his wife.

To be honest, that really threw a wrench in my whole ideology.

If you are unaware, Tim was the lead singer of As I Lay Dying, a band who for a while proclaimed their Christian faith and stood out among the masses as one of the heavier bands who stuck to their guns amid the metal scene, despite being a Christian group. To make a long story short, if you want to read more information on the story I’ll leave a link, but their lead singer got jacked on steroids and decided he wanted to kill his wife, so he hired a hitman who was actually an undercover cop. He went to prison and that was that. AILD was broken up and I was more than a bit disappointed.

As his trial approached, I came to follow the story closely and in one interview he made a comment that upset me much more than the fact that his band had broken up and he turned out to be a despicable human being. In this interview he had made a comment about how many of the current (At the time, 2016. Who knows what has changed since then.) Christian bands were honest about their faith. In various interviews, which gave all kinds of sporadic information in no sensible order and actually let to more confusion in the long run about his situation, he claimed that 1/10 Christian bands that AILD toured with were actually Christian.

For you to understand my frustrations you should understand that I was somewhat shielded from things. Not in a “My parents wouldn’t let me do anything.” kind of way, but more like a “I thought every story had a happy ending, even when it didn’t.” Kind of way. I think in my youth there was this idea in my head that it was impossible for bands and even to a small degree, individuals to lie about their faith. I just assumed that a Christian would be honest about their walk and that was all that needed to be said. Of course, this is bullshit because we inherently are deceitful creatures. Christian or not. We quickly learn to lie about things to hide our shame or to process our own pride. Regardless of our stance on God.

After the news broke about Tim Lambesis I went through a patch where I would obsessively research the backstory and interviews of the Christian bands I listened to, to try to uncover the deep seeded secrets they were hiding. As if my research and silent pleading would change their minds if they had stepped away from their faith. I clung to this idea of Christian bands that were good and not cheesy for so long that I never wanted it to end. I wanted bands like As I Lay Dying and Haste The Day to exist forever. I felt the same way about Underoath, who had broken up in 2013, then crowd funded the completion of a DVD and returned in 2015. Later to release their first album in eight years, Erase Me.

My thoughts on the album itself are separate from the content of this blog. To be truthful, I love the direction the band has gone in. Their music sounds refreshing and new to Underoath, but I perhaps think I’m such a fan of it because I have been a fan of Bring Me The Horizon for years, with their latest release That’s The Spirit being one of my all time favorite albums. If you aren’t aware, BMTH has never been religious, in fact they’ve been openly opposed to religion on many accounts. Which brings me to a comparison that I find ironic, if not disheartening.

BMTH has been making music for quite a while and you can hear Underoath’s influence on their sound with each album, with the release of TTS I fell in love with what they had done, and I considered it their best work yet. The same can be said for Erase Me regarding Underoath, musically it is great, and lyrically it is dark and difficult to listen to, but that relates to my passion for what Underoath was to me.

I had built them up to be some kind of monolith in my mind, that if those guys were a Christian band and were as grungy and real about life as they were, I could do the same thing in my writing. I had such a strong appreciation for Underoath for many reasons but chiefly among them it was because Christian music just seemed so… empty.

It isn’t that the music was without substance. Many of my favorite religious bands sand about things I would experience in my life or things that I would feel, worship music was worship music and it all served its purpose, but after I found Underoath and other bands in the same vein I realized that their music was not only rooted in the faith I shared with them, but it was just damn good.

Comparing Christian music and movies to secular music and movies you see a stark difference in content. Many of the “huge” Christian movies were rooted in deeper religious philosophy that was beaten over your head with a board at best, or at worst, simply created to outright disrespect non-Christians. (Looking at you, God’s Not Dead.)

I’ve always sat through youth group move nights with a bad taste in my mouth. It isn’t that Fireproof is a bad movie it’s just…

Actually yes, it is. It is exactly that Fireproof is a bad movie. The Left Behind series tried to be horrifying and apocalyptic, whatever else you want to plug in here tries its best to be a tear jerking story of salvation, but it is deployed so ungracefully that it ends up being stagnant and difficult to process. Especially when you sit through the whole movie feeling like you’re getting hammered with the Jesus Stick. Compare that to any secular movie with meaning and you will find yourself comparing the two and seeing what I mean. Put Fireproof, a movie about the struggles of a relationship and using pornography as an addiction, compared to a movie that you can compare, Don Jon, about pornography and the struggles of a relationship, you can see that one of them had a much higher quality of production, one of them allowed people to connect with the message, and one of them didn’t constantly use God as a cattle prod.

I use this as an example because this is the same sort of thing we see in Christian music. Obviously, regarding the two movies, a Christian production company is not going to allow anyone to portray pornography on the screen. That’s against a core value of the faith. Still, there wasn’t a better way to show the character’s struggle with the addiction? Fireproof, though I haven’t seen it in a long, long time was even one of the bolder movies at the time. I was shocked to see them tackle pornography in a movie that went to the big screen.

This heavy-handed mystery that Christian media tries to inject into their creations comes across as half hearted and difficult. Obviously, porn is not going to show up in a religious film and that is fine. There are other ways to show that struggle without displaying any film of it. I have critiques to both, but I’ll save that for another time. This Fireproof problem occurs just the same in music as it does in film, and it leads me to the final point of today: Why I am actually heartbroken that Underoath has stepped away from their Christian title, why “Christian” art gets a bad rap for what it is and what that means to me, as a Christian.

A few days ago, I listened to a quasi-interview with Aaron + Tim from Underoath as they talked about their new album and their past actions as a religious band. One thing came up that I’ve always been curious about. On an early UO album, there is a line in a song called A Boy Brushed Red Living in Black And White,

“Well, look who’s dying now
Slit wrists sleeping with the girl next door
I always knew you were such a sucker for that
It doesn’t matter what you say
You never mattered anyway
I never mattered anyway”

In the third line, “I always knew you were such a sucker for that…” the band members talked about how the original lyric was supposed to end with the word “whore” and the producer/label told them to cut it because it was a bit too edgy for a Christian band to be singing. For context, the whole song is likely about a younger couple, possibly teenagers, who are raised religiously and begin having sex and then the boy in question becomes addicted to sex with the girl. Not at all uncommon in the world of heavy Christian music. Back in 2007 they’d tackle a lot of topics that my generation was beginning to deal with. Relationships, Virginity, Drugs, whatever. While it seems cheesy to someone who is outside of these circles, this was real shit back in my day. I had friends who related ferociously to this song. They believed it described their actual life and their feelings towards the ex-girlfriend they went toe curling with two nights a week.

As I listened to the interview and looked into a few other lyrics I’d always had hunches about (I found nothing relating a label-oriented change in lyrics there.) Regardless, it echoes the problem I have with Christian Media.

It’s like they are afraid to be real with themselves and with their fans.

They create these images of real struggle but make them holographic and immaterial for the sake of saving face at their local worship meetings. I’m not here to lambast every single Christian artist in the world, there are so many who do such good with what they have and I’m not ever saying that this kind of artistry doesn’t have a place, but there is a huge difference between selling yourself as a Christian and selling your art as Christian. I think it is much better to be the former.

Life is real. It is disgusting. It is difficult. To my fellow Christian readers, there is some gruesome shit in the Bible. Last I checked, we didn’t get to gloss over the crucifixion, so we didn’t have to bear the image of what happened to Jesus. We don’t get to have the lashes of the whip and the spear through his side implied to us. It is all told. Explicitly, on the page. We don’t get to hide from the reality of the world just because we have faith to shield us. Moreover, we don’t get to push out half assed work for the sake of saving face. (To those of you who will process this like I’m sure many will, assuming I’m encouraging my fellow Christian readers to begin creating graphic torture porn, no. Stop it.) I’m not saying you must fill the lyrics of your songs with the explicit scenes of a child murder. I’m not saying your movie must have a rape scene. I’m not saying you must fold and abide by the rules of the ever-growing power play that AAA media is becoming. We don’t have to do things louder and bloodier to get our point across.

We must do them better.

If you were given a gift, a talent to create, then create. By all means. Create the best thing you can. Inspired by God, inspired by your imagination, we will attribute it to the same thing regardless. The only reason I am who I am is because I believe in God and I believe in the gifts He gave me. So, I’m calling you to do the same thing. Don’t falter your work because you think it isn’t Christian enough. If a character in your novel walks away from his faith, then let him walk away. Make it hard. Make it heartbreaking. Make it impossible for you to read to yourself aloud. Because that’s what life is like. If I were to walk away from my faith today, it would be the hardest thing I’ve ever done or ever will do. I wouldn’t just emerge from the other side of it okay.

Which is why Underoath’s resurgence as a non-religious band hurts me so much. Not because I’m some integral part of the band, not because I believe they are doomed now. Not because I want to see all my favorite bands in Heaven. It hurts because that band kept me focused on Christ in the darkest moments. I held on to the messages of their music for so long, knowing that every season of drought would end. I would listen to them when I was afraid. I would listen to them when I was unhappy. I would listen to them every chance I had when I felt distant from my faith or lost. Having that taken away from me is painful. It meant a lot to me that I could always seek Underoath for that. That there was a band out there who unflinchingly told things like they were. Yet, in the end, they turned away from their faith and walked away from the Christian label. I don’t fault them, to be honest. I would have walked away from labeling myself a “Christian” author too if I were in their shoes.

So, I won’t start labeling myself as such. I have no desire to cheapen the message of my work to make it clearer that I am a man of faith. My work is not “Christian” because it isn’t meant for a Christian audience. My work was penned by a man who believes in a Savior. That will not cheapen what I have to say, because I won’t be writing it behind a screen and pretending that I am immune from the struggle. If it finds you I will rejoice, but it is meant for anyone who is hoping for help. Anyone who is hoping for love. For those who are lost and need just a glimmer of hope. Those things aren’t exclusive to Christians, so I won’t be writing just for those in my same cloth. I decided long ago to write for those who need it. Those who are in touch with the darkness in the world and don’t have a light of their own. Who don’t know what to do, what to say, or where to go. I won’t pull punches in the telling of my story. I won’t pretend that I don’t struggle. I have been honest with you through this blog and through my writing every single time I’ve released something. At my core, I am born again and because of that I understand that I’m not shit in this world. I am a speck of dust that writes books, thinking he is important on a floating pebble, adrift in a sea of infinity and yet, I have a purpose. There is no reason for me to be loved, yet I am. By so many. There is no reason for me to exist, but I do. Because I was meant to. There is no reason for anything to care about me, but I am cared for by the creator of the very sea I float in.

For that, I will write.

I will write well and true.

That is that. My faith does define me. My faith is the only reason I exist today.

It is the only reason I am who I am, today.

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I’ll release my thoughts on the album itself soon. Until then, live well. Stay true to yourself. Ask questions. Answer some.

Live.

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www.linmtba.com

I Hate It (Poem)

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Now, before you read this poem and get all weird about what I’ve said here, I’m releasing a much longer blog post about things this Friday. This poem kind of came about as I was listening to a band who used to be one of the grounding parts of my faith on their most recent album they’ve disavowed that faith overall. To catch my opinions on the concept of Christian Music/TV/Movies etc. I suggest coming back this Friday and reading all of what I have to say. I will post a short album review (A new possibility with the blog.)  Shortly thereafter, I don’t have an exact time as of yet. Regardless, I hope you enjoy this poem.

I mean what I said. Struggling in your faith is difficult, struggling in anything is difficult, but when it is the thing that grounds you to your reality, it is that much worse. I hate it.

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Check the website out to see a release calendar for the upcoming blog posts and other projects I’m releasing! I’ve been thinking about doing some new stuff on the blog just to kind of feel out what I’d like to grow into as I approach next year. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed. I’ll see you again soon.

www.linmtba.com

Separation Therapy

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Welcome Back

(Wanna see a schedule of the weekly releases? Cool, I thought you might.)

I find it most comforting that after a long day, I can come home and visit my girlfriend, relax and do whatever I please. I am blessed with the comfort of knowing I am taken care of. I am comforted knowing that I have a home. A place to sleep. A place to think.

I took some time after my birthday to just be, for a while. A lot has changed since the day I decided to put forth something worth consuming. I have spent so much time only soaking in things and I wanted so badly to put those things back into the world in a new way. I just didn’t know how.

Hell, I still don’t know how, but I’m building.

I’ve noticed a problem in my work pattern and my personal life that needs to be addressed publicly before I can really work on it privately.

I’m terrible at owning up to things. I am possibly one of the most passive aggressive people I know, I am cluttered, and I am messy, and these things make up a pretty spectacular light show failure as each connected bulb pops one by one.

I have a hard time committing to a schedule, even though I schedule things adamantly. I have a purpose, and in an effort not to let this block of text bore you into slumber, I’ll get to the point.

I have a purpose, but somehow, I don’t know what I want to do. I have so many things in my back pocket that I slowly chunk off one by one with each passing day. I work adamantly at everything that I do and I come tell all of you about it on the blog. But what is it truly worth? I’ve seen a decline in the way I’ve been behaving. Short tempered and obsessive. Things I am not, not truly.

I came to be a part of this world and not to simply absorb what others can offer me. This led to my break. After a rather impressive period of high stress and panic, my own insatiable despair mounting in a way I had not anticipated I found myself somewhat lost at the crux of this moment that I had spent so much energy preparing for. My birthday is often a big deal to me, something that I choose to celebrate all month long with my friends and family, as well as any fans I’ve picked up along the way.

I have lists and lists of birthday related projects that I want to work on with each new year, I have novels to write and poems to create and I know all of this consciously, but I realized that I wasn’t in quite as much control as I’m used to this spring. I was set to finish my latest work in progress in March, and I put it off every day for one reason or another. Spend time with friends, family, girlfriend, random dogs I find in the street, whatever.

As a creative I often find myself caught up in things. Things that vary in importance. I can spend hours looking up fantasy names for a D&D campaign and do absolutely no work. I can spend the night playing video games instead of sleeping. I can spend a day in a coffee shop reading instead of studying. I can do all of these things and I have this profound ability to waste time, but it is wonderful.

The fact that I have this choice at all, is wonderful.

I have been blessed with a monumental gift that I have often squandered. In most blog posts, I’ll tell you that I mean writing. Not today. That isn’t the purpose of this blog post. This is a reignited fire. A part of me that sleeps so frequently and finds itself awake in the midst of a torrent. A part of me that is alight with energy because I felt the presence of this wonderful gift that each of us shares.

We exist.

We exist and there is a clock on our heads. There is a moment where everything will run out and we will be gone forever, but between every ticking second, we have all of the time in the world. We have all the ability we could ever hope for to stop the clock and look around us. To make time stand still and really see what it is we get up and fight every day for.

I needed a moment to do that, so I’m sorry you didn’t get anything from me all through the last month. Then again, without that break I wouldn’t be here now, would I?

I don’t know. That’s the beauty of life.

I don’t know anything, and it is my job merely to learn and experience. Everything afterward is a choice of my own making and there are few things more beautiful than that.

Take a break today, rest the stress off. Play video games. Watch a movie with your kids. Just…

Live.

 

Ether (Poem)

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Welcome Back.

I’ve missed this.

2018.5.2- Ether

If you enjoyed this, I post a new poem every Wednesday! If you’re curious about the upcoming posts + if I have a schedule, you’re in luck! I do. It’ll be going live on my website this Friday.

If you go now, you can find a link to some new shirts from the RAC line there. I think you’ll like them.

www.linmtba.com