Accidental Murder

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Isn’t it funny in the most macabre way how we inspect our failures after they shine in the worst times? Each motion of the sea serves to draw beasts from the depths closer to the shore, but when they emerge it will be too late, won’t it?

The brakes in my truck have been failing for a while, and I knew I needed to get them changed. A little over a week ago I made plans with my father to change them that Friday and make sure my truck was running properly. When the day came for me to replace the brake pads, I woke up early to help pops with a class at our church and my girlfriend needed the truck that afternoon to run some errands for her new job. I was exhausted, not having gotten any sleep and getting called in to work that night myself, I asked to reschedule. It was no problem for dad, he let me reschedule, knowing I’d be around to fix them as soon as I had the availability to.

I went home and went about my day, returning from work as my girlfriend took the truck and headed to her graveyard shift. I was sitting quietly at home when she called me and told me that the brakes failed, and she needed a ride.

A sudden wave of realization washed over me as I realized what had actually happened.

Have you ever watched something occur, and it took a few moments before your brain processed the event? Something catastrophic like a train wreck or a hurricane making landfall? It was in the scale of that for me, because I am a bit of a drama queen naturally.

Still, the realization struck that if the scene had been just slightly different, if there had been lots of traffic, if she didn’t know about the emergency brake, if she was on the freeway, there was a real chance that I would have lost my girlfriend that night.

It was all due to my negligence.

I’ve often wondered how a parent can allow something to happen to their children in the same way, there have been a handful of national cases involving negligence over the past few years, children passing away untimely in the event that their parents weren’t paying attention to them or something that they were doing.

I’ve chastised that concept for years.

“How could you be so careless to not take care of the things your loved ones will be doing?”

“How could you not make sure everything was safe before you let your kid play around out there?”

“What were you doing that you weren’t looking towards them and caring for them?”

Albeit, she isn’t my child, but the comparison still rings true.

I could have fixed the brakes that day, really. I could’ve called my mom to give her a ride. I could have sucked up my exhaustion and done what needed to be done, as a boyfriend should.

However, I didn’t, and I thank God that my laziness and negligence didn’t turn into a waking nightmare for me.

Don’t get me wrong, the probability of something worse actually happening was slim, but it wasn’t nonexistent. Which is what I would rather in all scenarios. The fact that it could have been done in two hours or less is the kicker. I had plenty of time. Hell, I could have fixed the brakes and still napped before work, but I made the argument to myself that I had too much that needed to be done, it was more important for me to get work done and get my girl to the bank. When in reality, I ended up staying up late that night panicked because I could have accidentally murdered my girlfriend due to nothing more than laziness, or negligence.

I think I see the side of the negligent more clearly after this.

No that it is an excuse, but I can see how it happens.

When your own life and needs come before others, bad things can happen. I’ve nearly lived it, and I don’t want to live through it again. I hated the thought of something happening because I was more concerned with my exhaustion, and my own needs than I was taking care of the vehicle we both share.

The point is, I am not the most important person in my life anymore, and I would do well to remember than when important things arise.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I released the first vlog on my writing YouTube channel this tuesday! If you’ve ever considered writing or had the idea that you could make a story, this will definitely be a channel you’ll want to see.

www.linmtba.com

Make The Best, This Carnival.

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I didn’t publish last week, I apologize. I was caught up in celebrating my girlfriend’s life and accomplishments with my family, and some of hers.

My schedule is back on track now. Enjoy, today. We get nothing else.

You know the feeling, the terrible yawning inside of your head, nestled in the back of your skull as you stare at something. A microwave, as your third frozen dinner this week rotates slowly around the turnstile. You know the feeling, staring at your low budget coffee maker drip slowly from the filter and fill up the pot as you stand before it, buttoning your shirt or reviewing emails. You know the feeling of staring, silently, at something. Feeling the expanse of space within your mind growing, distancing you from your own soul, somehow. It is only when the inevitable beep from the microwave timer rings through your dirty, unvacuumed one-bedroom apartment where your girlfriend is sleeping comfortably in your room, that you wake up from your daze. As if struck by a club the wind is knocked from you. Your Zatarain’s steaming in the center of the microwave, and still, as if pulled by a force you can’t comprehend, you still stare. Your mind still expanding and growing. Your eyes unblinking as each droplet of coffee hits the growing pool, you know that it won’t really help wake you up. You haven’t been awake in God knows how long, another cup of coffee, another blackberry Red Bull drink won’t pull you back.

You’ll button your shirt and pour your cup of coffee and in the blink of an eye you’ll be back home again, staring at your microwave, marveling at how tired you seem to be despite not having done anything taxing in days. You’ll write off your eleven-hour work days, you’ll yearn for a weekend at the beach, you’ll question the legitimacy of your coworkers asking you for coverage, so they can go visit their granddaughter. Each one of them are where you are. They go home, they stare at their microwaves, they gaze without passion into the depths of a pint of Squatter’s White IPA, sucking absentmindedly on a dab pen in a bar that is somehow listless and full of life all at once. It will all spiral around, and they will find themselves, just as you will find yourself, standing in your shower, wondering how you got to where you are.

It will come at least, once, if you’re lucky, you will only find yourself there a handful of times. You’ll only watching your paper plate stacked high with chicken nuggets rotate for a few moments amid a lifetime. If you’re really, lucky, you’ll never see yourself in that yawning expanse as you put your best foot forward and push on to the next task. The way your mind stretches in that time. Like the blade of fate is shaving so close to your soul that you can feel the cold shivers of the steel brush against your dreams.

I’ve heard it described by exactly two people, what death feels like. They both said roughly the same thing. A man who wrote a book and a man who wrote a forum post online who described death to the best of their ability. It is funny, that to each of them, death offered the same longing and stretched out yawning that I feel so often, staring at a blank page or a screen, my cursor hovering over the latest time waster I’ve adopted into my life.

They said that death is a bit like reaching the end of a carnival ride. You can feel the giant machine that had been pushing you forward slowing down. The hydraulic arms retracting slightly, aligning you with the take off ramp, but it won’t be your ramp to ascend again. You are getting off, and the slowly rolling coaster cart is pulling you home against your will. You want that ride to take off once more, to shoot through the glistening heights of the steel dragon you’ve spent the last forty years a part of. To feel the falling and the rising. To feel the hands of your best friend gripping your shirt in fear, because they are horrified that despite the ride being carefully groomed and cared for, there is still that sliver of despair that they won’t make it out of the ride alive.

That is the essence of life, no one makes it out of this ride alive.

It is funny to me that these descriptions of death were perfectly in line with the way I feel when I watch my food rotate in the microwave. The way I watch the last puffy piece of cereal dance around my spoon as I trace it across the surface of the milk in an effort to savor just one more bite, in an effort to avoid being wasteful. To, by the grace of God, make breakfast last just a few seconds longer.

If I can make breakfast last just a few seconds longer, perhaps the yawning in my mind will halt. Perhaps the way my mind stretches into infinity will be cut short, every few moments. The handful of moments I spend each day dancing with my last bite of cereal can stretch and stack together, into infinity. If I can spend just a few seconds each day outside of the confined task of eating breakfast, just to dance with my food for a moment, to let my mind be present on the act of chasing down the last anchor shaped marshmallow.

The ravenous desire to find anything in my mind that isn’t a cheap imitation of a better idea that I had come upon days before. The growling hunger inside my heart for defined purpose. The echo, as I call out, screaming with my head inside of a microwave, hoping that someone can hear me over the alarm.

It’s hard to get up some days. It’s hard to pull my shirt across my shoulders, shifting the weight of my world from one spine to another. We have all felt it, that sprawling moment of time just before our alarm sets off. Just before the bell rings. Just before the buzzer sounds. That moment, that we can stretch for just a moment. Five more minutes of sleep, ignoring my alarm, knowing how much it grates on those around me. Holding your students in class for a few more moments, to impart something worthwhile, to show them that this world is brutal and hungry, and we are the perfect mix of savory and sweet. To hold that ball as long as you can, to push the clock into overtime, to try, with all of your purpose for a few moments, to reach for another goal. Whether you’re winning or not doesn’t matter.

What matters, is that you can take those infinite moments, dancing with your cereal, dashing for the end zone, bracing the bars of the thing that locks you in place eternally and screaming at the top of your lungs…

“I am alive today. I am alive in this moment.”

This infinite moment.

It is all we have, some days. Those miniscule moments that flirt with infinity.

Once, a long time ago, a mentor told me that I define my purpose too broadly. That I put my all into everything and have nothing left for myself.

I think about that, while the timer on my microwave counts down. The fifth frozen meal this week spiraling in the center of the box while I wonder how long one could survive within a microwave. I think about the people who have difficulties eating. Those who force themselves to vomit after a meal, who are unsatisfied with who they are or what they look like. I think about the time a friend refused to work her shift because her eyeliner wasn’t even. I think about how frustrating it was to cover that shift, knowing that the staff knew why I covered. It wasn’t a secret. She wasn’t ashamed, to her, she was ugly.

What a horrible thing to be.

Ugly in your own eyes.

Lost, in your own eyes. I think about that as I watch my meal spiral still.

Once, a long time ago, a mentor told me that I paint my life with a broad brush, that I give everything for these projects and these people and save nothing for myself. I argued, as much as I could, but he quickly ended my protest when he told me that purpose isn’t defined by the broad-brush strokes. The large patches of color aren’t what make a painting beautiful. It is the small things. It is the tiny, fine details that seemed to have taken eternity to get just right. I didn’t understand until I saw a painting next.

Each broad color was accented with small strokes of laughter, of joy, of sorrow, of remembrance that these moments can stack together forever…

But will not be infinite.

We are given but one ride to enjoy, and in times where we meet the Yawning of Death, those moments where our mind needs to rest. Where we find ourselves at the cusp of a new day at the same job, doing the same things, seeing the same people, we have all of the power to look up and button our shirt a bit differently. To pick a new pair of jeans. To find some funny socks to wear beneath our slacks.

Those moments, right before the small things end, those are the best places to harvest life.

They last forever, and shouldn’t we be seeking something that will make our memory last forever when we are gone?

Will you be remembered much for staring at a screen, hoping for words to come, or staring at a loved one, hoping for the right thing to say? Will you be remembered for logging every moment in a digital journal, possessing yourself with your own caution, praying that you see a new day?

Or will you be remembered as the one who forced the new day to rise, to burn out every last second of that endless time, to wake the Yawning Death and remind Him…

You have so much further to go.

 

Don’t worry about the website today. Instead, tell a loved one what I’ve said here. Make sure that you use your infinite moments wisely. We don’t know how to control time, we must be a slave to it until one day, down the road, we become the masters of time and infinity will be always.

Life is not meant to be awful.

Don’t let it be.

Cut Up Towel

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Everything you do folds into everything else you do. Each moment of your life you are acting or reacting to other things, it is up to each of us to make the best out of what we have available to us.

The other day as my girlfriend and I were cleaning our house, we dragged a bunch of stuff out and cleaned up the bedroom, I worked on my office and we had decided to take a break, the following day in an effort to drum up some more inspiration to continue the cleaning project, she went to go clean my truck as how dirty it has gotten has begun to bother her. While she did this I went to work on some projects for Salt + Iron and she pulled this pink towel I’ve had for years out of a box. In it’s past life I’ve used it to wrap my consoles in when I brought them to other places. Since I’ve moved out and purchased a laptop, that isn’t necessary any more and It’s laid in the bottom of a backpack for a number of months. She asked if she could cut it up when she was cleaning and use the scraps as rags.

She went ahead and did it as I continued about my day and later that evening I went shopping with my mom, just to spend some time with her and talk about future plans for my life and my business and to get in some quality momma bear time. When we got back I invited her up to the apartment so that she could look over what we had been talking about and we talked about it briefly. Before she left, she noticed the towel still on the plastic table in our living room and turned to me. Her voice almost quivering as she asked me.

“Did you guys cut this up?”

I nodded and said yes, when she told me that it was a wedding present from her brother. 30+ years she had held on to that towel and the rest of the set he had gifted him, long after Montie had passed away and she had shared the stories of his life with her.

As she was explaining that it was a gift from my late uncle I felt a sudden burst of anger, a feeling that I should have known better. That I should have had my girlfriend rip up a different towel, or a T-shirt I don’t wear anymore. Anything but that towel.

I apologized immediately, furious with myself because I should have known better. There was a reason I dragged it around with me and didn’t ever get rid of it. I should have trusted my instincts. I didn’t, because I didn’t remember. I didn’t recall the importance of the towel, if any resided within the cotton still. I had no idea why I dragged it around, assuming at the time that it was just there because it was ratty and old and I didn’t feel a need to use it for drying myself off anymore.

Still, I apologized. Knowing how much small things mean to me, I could only imagine what it meant to my mother that these towels would remain intact. It was a physical representation of her brother and I had given my girlfriend the go ahead to slice them up.

After momma left the apartment I talked to my girl about it, she was really upset that we had ruined something that held so much intrinsic value to my mom. I was upset too, and somewhere in my heart there was this thing tugging at me, knowing the feeling of making a mistake as it clawed at the inside of my head.

I returned to my office to continue working and sat down at my desk, unable to focus on my work. It was a towel, of course, it was silly, but it wasn’t just the fact that it was a towel. Just like my grandfather’s pocket knife. It wasn’t just a knife. It was my grandpa’s. I try to take delicate care of those things in my life, because I know how much the memory means to me. I don’t often keep pictures. I keep fragments of memories that rest in shelves or in cases, between the pages of books that tell stories of my grandfather and my friends. The concerts I’ve been to reborn as bookmarks to keep the new stories I read wrapped tightly within memories. The shirts I wore to concerts worn down to slivered threads with each wash as I keep them and drag them to shreds, remembering what I did as I wore them. Hats and beanies my mother have made stick on a rack until I need them again to hold my unkempt hair together.

Memories surround me. The stone I keep in my pocket that I panic when I lose was given to me by my mom years ago. My tools a gift from my father. My words, each and every one, a composed structure that was given to me by my family. The small bead keychain I don’t keep on my keys because I’m afraid I will shatter it. The tickets from dates with my girlfriend and more all revolve around my life. Many of them hung and pinned to the calendar hanging above my main computer where I do my writing. All of them hung there as memories and keepsakes of moments in my life that I look back on often when I am lost and when I am afraid.

How could I have thought so carelessly about a towel? I wondered.

So I penned an apology to my mom. Promising that we wouldn’t cut it up and we would use it with great care in the future. When she responded, I didn’t expect the answer, though I know my mother well enough now to know that I should have.

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It made me think about my life and how I just use things. I use people’s kindness to my benefit when I need assistance. I use their trust when I want to gossip. I use the items I’ve been so graciously given by those in my life like they are just similar pieces to an ever-expanding puzzle. I allow things to come and go freely between my heart and mind without consideration of where it came from.

I thought about the weight of the towel as I held it in my hands the next day and realized that I don’t carry the weight of what we all do quite enough. Each word we say and each thought we entertain creates who we are. As time goes on, we become worn and battered, meant to be a gift to those around us. Not one to be squandered and tossed away. We aren’t impractical. If the life we share is a wedding. We are not picture frames, not ceramic vases. We are not these things that are meant to hang on walls and be looked at. We are so much more practical. We are towels to clean wounds, to rinse the rainwater off our friends. We are rags to soak up oil and we are much more simple gifts to one another. In their eternal search for purpose and meaning. We are a simple gift, sent from one home to the next to provide a service to them that they cannot get elsewhere.

Will a bookshelf soak the tar of life from the carpet of your home? Will a cell phone clean the wine stain from your dress?

Will an unused word grow the hope of another bride or groom, wandering the soil alone and searching for purpose?

No, it won’t. It never will.

Not until we look at one another as the truly simplistic and still incredibly complicated gifts that we all are. The gifts we all have to give are wildly unique and special. We cannot see it any other way if we want to live meaningfully, with purpose and most importantly, with immeasurable hope.

The next time you brandish scissors in your hand, consider your own use. Are you a gift, practical and useful in your application? Can you survive the next 31 years doing your duty, or will you wither on the shelf as you fill your soul with temporary decorations that can easily be destroyed by a rampant fire of pain or a few days without the water of life?

If your answer is the latter, consider my uncle’s towels for a moment.

Find your purpose.

Pick the scissors up if you need to, but whatever you do. Whether you slice apart the towel or not, consider what it came from. The life that it gifted and the worlds it changed so effortlessly with groundbreaking thoughts and compassionate speech.

Cut the towel, or don’t.

Whatever your life will have you choose,

Live it with a smile.

If you enjoyed this, consider checking out my website where you can see when I will be uploading next! (Every Wednesday + Friday.)

www.linmtba.com

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

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.

 

God of the Gateway

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The stars are these celestial beings spiraling above us at all hours of the day, singing hymns for the purpose of this universe. We are not unlike them, as we sing our own purpose too. With our passions and our hobbies, the way we meticulously trim grass or paint houses, we are adding to this kind of infinite chorus of the universe.

Each time you step out your front door the world changes, every time you make a decision it changes again. We live for this great meaning and yet so many of us don’t know our actual purpose.

There is a time and a place for all of us, it may not be today, it may not be next year, but every year that goes past we are given unlimited ways to build up and create our own life.

I like to think of it like this, at the onset of every morning, we are given a choice, stay in bed for a while and find the momentum to stand up, or stay there and rest. When we get up we have a handful of new choices to make. Shower, eat, get to work, play video games, paint, whatever the choice may be you have decided to move forward in one way or another. If you shower and eat, you are filling yourself with energy for the day. If you sit down to game for a while before jumping into your tasks, you are training your reflexes and hand eye coordination. If you read in the morning you are expanding your breadth of knowledge by a bit with every turned page.

Each action we make causes a new set of decisions to unfold before us. We can rarely choose multiple paths, lest we find ourselves overwhelmed by the pressure of completing many things at once. Of course this isn’t always the case and that idea is remarkable.

We can take on an infinite amount of tasks and jobs, or whatever the case may be. We will do many things in our lives but even if we stack up all of the things each of us chooses to do, let’s take the things we say, for example.

If we counted up on a celestial abacus all of the things each human that has ever existed has said, we still would not come close to the number of stars hanging in the sky above.

We are not infinite, not in our physical bodies, at least.

This also means we have been blessed with a kind of choose your own adventure that nothing else on earth is allowed to have. We can decide our own fate and our own destinies simply by the first choice of getting up in the morning. Having that kind of power is awe inspiring, isn’t it?

Within each of us there rests a small piece of something that another human needs to make it through the day. Encouragement, love, inspiration, a stern talking to. Everything we do, and I literally mean everything is watched by our peers. Every time I make a foolish decision, someone sees it and someone knows that I have done so, which will later on be used to see me in a different kind of light. When I do something that is encouraging or good for another, people will see that and they will likely turn around and do something the same for another.

We are linked together through this small connection, endless energy pouring out of our souls and into one another much like the stars that hand above us. Galaxies crash into each other the same way we meet people and become friends or partners or associates. We are all tiny galaxies adrift in the ever stretching galleon of space and time. A ship within a ship, I believe.

All of these choices we have to make, for good and for bad, come down to our own minds. Will we take up the honor of the stars and do everything in our power to love and uplift, or will we take a moment to consider that in a machine this large, nothing truly matters?

I think my answer is the former, and my response to the latter is this:

We were not built to be machines. We were built like trees. We grow upwards and our roots sink deep into the earth. We may leave our homes but those roots will always be there to feed us. My family will always support me, my friends will always be there for me. My life will always carry significant meaning because of the people that have crossed paths with me. All of these things rest in the end, on my shoulders.

I would much rather stand tall and stretch out, even on a lazy day, to be there when someone needs me than to sit idly by and watch as the world, as big and wondrous as it can be, still shake someone to the bones.

The world around us is a mean and nasty place sometimes. We know this right now more than we ever have, we can turn on any news station and see that this world is not what the peace bearing leaders of our past wanted it to be, so we should take up their mantle and fight.

Not with hands, but with words.

I believe in a God. This is not an unknown idea, and I believe this God did not design us to watch the world around us spiral out of control. I think our purpose is much grander than just picking up a passion, although important, I think we need to find our passion and use it to uplift, encourage, and to remind those around us that we are all just like stars. Each one of us twinkles in the night time, regardless of what we have done, there is purpose born into us.

We will never outgrow that, even those who choose not to use it.

The first step to all of this… is looking at the gateway before us and stepping through.

If you like this, be sure to check out the Life is not Meant to be Awful compilations over on Amazon! There you’ll find the first four years worth of blog post goodness.

Feel Every Yard (BIG Announcement!)

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Before I get to the post today, I promised you a couple things from Wednesday. Sorry if it was a tad bit misleading, I wasn’t about to shout out some cool stuff if I wasn’t sure it was happening, but here we are.

So, first of all, I’ve been releasing a few shirts over on Teespring for Random Acts Creations. Year One through Year Four shirts/hoodies/v-necks are available now + I don’t plan on pulling the stock ever. I’m working behind the scenes to release a spring line towards the middle of April this year. It will be full of rad stuff like hoodies, T-shirts, and phone cases. (There is more but Imma keep some of it a secret!)

Second, I’ll be releasing a compilation of poetry from the blog itself (edited and updated, I promise.) Some of em were pretty rough around the edges but They’re shaping up nicely + you’ll be hearing more about them towards the third quarter of the year.

Third, I’ll be putting out another blog compilation this November, Year Five is going to come with a lil bonus though, I don’t want to give you too much about it, but I’ll tell ya you might want to keep some space available on your wall. 😉

All of that being said, if you’ve made it this far, you can check out my website, freshly updated and looking super fly to see my release schedule every single month. I’ll have days scheduled for blogs, poetry, YouTube videos + anything else I’m doing. Don’t think I’ve been forgetting about some of the older stuff you all loved. Over on the S+I Facebook page i’ll be bringing more happiness and inspiration than ever before. Snapchat will be live with some new tutorials just for kicks and I have SO much more. 2018 is just getting started and your favorite hippy is swinging harder than ever.

Best believe that.

It’s funny how they say time is money when we are so reluctant to spend time but we will freely throw away our time. Before I get into this week, I hope that you spend much more time this week than you do money, it is so much more valuable and so much more appreciated.

Last week I was having a conversation getting to know a new coworker and discovering their interests when they told me something I have said to others. We were talking about his passions and his dreams and he told me that he wanted to travel, he was going to set up a motorhome and just drive around the country in the next three years. That his dream was to see every state in the US and then he continued by saying something I have said countless times before.

“I know it seems stupid…”

Right before he launched into the description of his dream since he was a child, he wanted to touch every piece of dirt in the USA and he looked away from me in shame as he told me that.

It rang a bell inside of me that has been softly ringing since the day I picked up a pen.

I remember when I was that kid, unsure of my future with lofty goals and dreams, this grand desire to be all that I am working to become, an author, a YouTuber, a poet, a musician, a business owner, a chef, a friend and a blogger among so many other things. I remember being in that exact same place, telling others that my dreams sound stupid.

That was before I found The Buried Life, I’ve written about the show before + in case you’re new around here and have been hiding under a rock, they set out with this idea to cross off items from a collective bucket list and along the way help others cross one item off of theirs. The show + corresponding book inspired me so much that I decided to do the same.

It’s funny how these things that cross over into my head overlap so often. It is a still small reminder that my purpose is clearly defined and I cannot stop building for it, fighting for it and praying for guidance along the way.

I lost my job and began to panic about making money, how I could support myself still, how I could keep moving forward and what I could do to pay my bills, when I was provided for as if by magic I silently prayed a thanks and kept moving, without realizing that I had begun orienting my time beneath making money. The time I spent with friends decreased, the time I spent working increased and I began to trip up a lot, wondering if I was worth it or whatever.

Well that’s some shit if I’ve ever heard it.

Talking to my friend I was reminded of the madness that my life has become and how I enjoy every last second, every last wasted cent, every last smile and tight embrace between myself and those that I love.

This life is so much more than we always think it is. In the midst of darkness, for you or me, there is always light. You have your purpose and I hope that you consider it if you feel lost today. You have dreams and goals somewhere within you, you have a calling and there is no greater sin than wasting you valuable time.

Spend it instead, searching for the next step and moving forward. If you want to become an author, start writing. Streaming on Twitch? Download the app and go. There is no back tracking as long as you are aware that you are accomplishing goals and dreams with every new step you take. So don’t stop stepping.

Just get out there, climb in your motorhome and hit the road. We have a long list of items to work through, it is going to take a minute…

…and every minute will be worth it.

Thank you so much for reading.