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

Untitled for 25 Years

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I’ve taken a short break after my birthday, sorry for the absence. I wanted to spend some time with my family and friends and girlfriend and think about what to do next, where to go and what mountain I’d like to climb soon. April will likely be scarce for blog posts because of this small break but I hope you’ll forgive me. I want to make the words I deliver to you better. I am trying to do that they best way that I know how.

My fundraiser for Polar Bears International is live on Facebook until the 14th, so if you have a few dollars and would like to help save the polar bears, please consider donating to them.

I can’t think of a better way to open the blog post this week.

There is a lot of pain in this world. There are so many things that we fight against daily. The physical and the mental tribulations that we go through can be a lot of weight. A friend of mine was hospitalized due to the failing of her kidneys a few days ago, she is better as of writing this. At the same time, I’ve just purchased a laptop to replace my current rig, which has dutifully served me for the course of the last seven years. I’ve grown attached to my friends and I’ve watched friends pass away. I’ve seen children brought into this world and I’ve had to buy new bikes because mine were broken beyond repair. I’ve been brought great joys from card games and friends have had their multi-thousand dollar collections stolen from their vehicles. I have been given jobs and had them taken from me. I have loved the abused and I have unknowingly abused the loved. Our life is a cycle and we repeat things whether we want to or not. Each movement in your soul, big or small, can cause lasting ripples that will change you forever. There is no greater joy than pure love and there is no more melancholy silence than the fear of death.

I found myself in a strange place after taking a short break from my business after my birthday. I wanted to maintain momentum but I had nothing to write about, I was floating on the sea with both paddles in my hand and too many docks to choose to land in.

So instead I decided to write without purpose and publish the results, good or bad, for you to see. I’m so excited for all of the projects I’ve undertaken, and I hope to expand on them in the future, but as my birthday came and passed this year I’ve reflected upon my life and the things I’ve chosen to do. Twenty-five is shaping up to be wonderful and I am by no means an old man yet, despite what some may say. I am excited for the future, even when I am lost.

Today I googled “How can I help?” As I was without something to write about in this blog post. I came across so many self-help books and meditation guides, religious institutions claiming a new way to save a soul and more I laughed to myself reading it all through. Not from sadness or despair, not even close. I was comforted that there were so many resources available to those in the world who haven’t found their purpose or who don’t know what they want to do. It was wonderful seeing so many different plans and places to guide a life when one feels like they have no guide. It can be difficult to choose a future and to pursue it. Trust me, I’ve chosen thirty just for myself.

I guess what I’m saying here is that I hope you’re well. Whether you are 25, 18, 48 or 71 I hope you are well.

I hope you are well and that you continue to be well for the rest of the time you have here.

I am blessed to lead this life with you in it. Thank you one last time for giving me another birthday worth celebrating.

This life is a gift, take the present. Unwrap it and use it. It is, after all, the only thing we have any certainty in.

Lifeisnotmeanttobeawful+

www.linmtba.com 4.18.18

The Worry of the World Turning

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Currently I’m writing through a novel and during it there is a scene between the main character Elias and his grandfather Leo that I wanted to talk about in my blog today.

Elias just returns from a failed date and in his frustration he seeks out his grandpa who is his sounding board and one of his best friends, wherein he confesses to his grandfather that he feels lost and scared and he doesn’t know what to do next in his life. He is afraid of taking the next step forward and doesn’t know anything about the next place to go. His grandfather compares that scenario to when he and his wife put in their satellite television receiver. For three days their TV would only display static because the damn thing was installed improperly. They had to call the provider back to get it fixed and finally be able to watch some damn football.

He compares that situation to Elias’ in that, Elias is using his fear as a motivator to run. He constantly fills his time with senseless activity without giving it a purpose. He listens to the radio, he plays video games, he cleans and whatever else he can do, but he chooses to do them without motivation. He sort of ambles around like a zombie and lets all of these things pass him by. I think in the long term everyone is guilty of this, it’s kind of like running on auto pilot. We just go through the motions of whatever it is we need to do and we forget to perceive the great happiness that can be found within our everyday tasks or duties. In my experience, this most often is associated with fear and the worry of the world’s turning. However, those things have only the power we give to them.

What I mean by that is that people often run to the monotony of life when there is a grand amount of pressure. I have put off working on this novel all month because I have been too stuck in all of the other stuff happening, my work schedule is hectic, I’ve been working on a DnD campaign that saps a lot of time, plus trying to see my parents, my girlfriend and my family regularly has been a kick in my ass. So I’ve avoided doing the meaningful things for fear that I will not take meaning out of them. Much like Elias I am trapped in a never ending cycle of “What if…”

This analogy represents all of us because instead of doing what we need to do to get the static off our screen we are content to flip channels and let the noise ease our minds. The blinding white flickers on the screen make a perfect distraction in the way of progress and we should look at that as a failure on our parts. I say that with such strong words because when we go nowhere for no reason, we are bound to fail. Failure, to me, is not an option. I will succeed regardless of the pressure put upon me.

So, I wanted to leave the alternative here today in a short post. Spring break is around this time for most this weekend here, so enjoy your time off and make sure that you live life like you are in a movie.

Everything is meant to be captured and lived passionately. Don’t turn into static because you are afraid of silence or shifting scenarios. Those things are just as much a part of life as we all are.

Embrace them, you’ll thank yourself later. I promise.

www.linmtba.com