Our Heart for Hungary

Hello, everyone,

This is the first time I am blogging about the adoption process that my wife, Andrea, and I are working through. We decided that we wanted to blog about the decisions that brought us here, the decisions and challenges we are currently facing, what we need to do next, and how you can be involved in all of this.

First, let me start with the decisions that brought us here. For a little background my wife and I both come from families that have adopted. My wife has five adopted siblings and I have one. We both knew from early ages that the example our parents were setting for us was something we wanted to emulate in our own families. This desire simply grew as we became adults and found each other. Adoption was something that we both felt strongly about and wanted to find a spouse who felt the same. Praise God that we did!

Once we realized we shared a common goal in adoption, we knew that we needed to start the process. Some people asked us why we are not waiting to have a child “of our own” (a phrase that, even if meant in love, makes adoptive parents cringe) and we answer, “We are. They just don’t know us yet.” We see the children we are blessed to adopt as “our children.” Just because they don’t share our DNA doesn’t mean they don’t share the DNA of our heart. Which brings us to the first step in the process, finding the right agency, and person, to help us find our children.

Andrea and I, after much prayer, decided to start by simply sending our information out to different agencies. The agency that we got the best and most professional response was from an agency who did international adoptions as well. You may have noticed a word there that you may not agree with – International. Why are we not adopting from here? Aren’t there children who need to be adopted from here? We will be and yes there are.

We didn’t decide to adopt internationally just ‘because.’ Please understand the heart behind our choice. Andrea has a heart for children from other countries and I have a heart for children from here, but the most important fact here is this: every child deserves a good home. We did plenty of research before finally landing on Hungary. Important factors for us was the efficiency of the overall process and the health of the child. We didn’t want to want to wait several years before the process was completed and we knew that we are not currently equipped to adopt a child with significant health concerns. Maybe someday we could but not right now. And we discovered, much to our surprise, adopting from the US comes with it’s own issues and obstacles that made us more inclined to adopt from somewhere besides here. On top of that, we discovered that adopting from Hungary could match us with a child, or a set of siblings, in little over a year. Furthermore, we could be reasonably confident that the child that is placed with us would not have significant health concerns. All of those factors combined together led us to conclude that we had made the right decision in choosing the agency we chose and Hungary.

We now had a country and an agency. Next we needed to start raising money and working through the plethora of paperwork. International adoptions are expensive because they involve two governments, two adoption agencies, numerous government officials and workers, translators, travel expenses, medical expenses, etc., etc., etc. Once this process is all said and done, we need to raise a significant amount. This fact, along with the fact that my wife and I are not yet wealthy millionaires, lead us to the conclusion that fund-raising would be essential to us successfully completing this process. It is not the easiest thing in the world to ask for financial assistance, especially when this financial burden would not be there if we were adopting locally.

As a man, the hardest thing is admitting you can’t provide the funds necessary for adding a member to your family. You feel it is your responsibility but this process has grown me and taught me that sometimes you can’t do everything yourself. We have felt the love and support of so many people, including our families, through this process that I’m glad we had to ask for help.

Now, where are we currently at? We have completed the first round of paperwork and fees, and the agency has determined neither one of us are bad, crazy people. The next step is the home-study where an agency, who works in conjunction with our agency, comes out and evaluates our home to make sure it will be safe and comfortable for the child. They also check our financial stability and that we have the emotional/psychological ability to a care for and raise a child. The size of our home and the number of bedrooms also determines how many children we can adopt. For instance, if we want to be able to adopt siblings of different genders we would need two separate bedrooms, which we don’t currently have. We weren’t sure if we liked that fact and we had planned on moving but we feel the Lord has told us to stay where we are at. After all is said and done with the Home Study, all of our paperwork goes to a judge in the State of Arizona who will continue to make decisions about us as individuals and as a married couple: he/she will make the ultimate decision (at least here in the states) about our fit-fulness as parents.

Now that is a lot of information and we understand if people still have questions or still don’t understand the entirety of the process. That’s ok, we are not experts ourselves. We are happy to answer any questions and are not looking for just financially support. We appreciate prayers, well-wishes, or any other type of support you would like to give us. We are so thankful to be going through this process and want to share our joy with everyone.

Going forward, Andrea and I are going to try to be better about updating all of you as we move forward. We realized that we haven’t done the best job updating people and we want to change that.

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A Reflection on the Psalms

I haven’t used this blog in too long of a time. I have also failed to faithfully read my bible in too long of a time.

You don’t realize how much you miss something and how much returning to it fires you up, until you actually go back to it. So let’s fix both issues in one fell-swoop, shall we?

Today it’ll be on the Psalms, God only knows (literally) what tomorrow will be about.

But let’s start with the latter half of my first statement. I’ve been trying for years to find the perfect way to read my bible. Yes, I mean, “the perfect way.” I’m a perfectionist and killing those habits is just as hard as telling myself not to breathe. This has created a barrier between myself and God. One that God looks at, sighs, and shrugs saying, “He’ll figure it out at some point.” So here’s my attempt at taking down the first brick in that wall. I love writing and I love, love, love reading scripture.

Those two revelations have lead me to the conclusion that I can’t just read and meditate, I have to share. It’s just how I digest scripture. I don’t know how not to share. I know that’s a double-negative but it’s completely true. I lack the knowledge of how not to share what I’m feeling or thinking. Maybe it’s arrogance that what I’m thinking is worthy of being shared but I am what I am and no amount of self-reflection will change that.

So what in the world do I feel is so important that I had to blog about it? Well, the beauty and simplicity of the Psalms.

I am a college graduate of a Christian University so one thing I definitely know how to do is read scripture. Trust me, I did well in my Biblical Studies courses (my major, by the way). Now, I’m not saying I’m the most brilliant theologian there ever was, no, absolutely not. In fact, if there is one thing that school taught me it’s that I know very, very little. However, after four years, you have a few things drilled into you. I learned those practices very well but I also picked up one very bad habit, a habit that I deal with in every other area of my life: I overcomplicate scripture.

Reading scripture reminds me of renovating a house: you can do it very simply or you can go crazy and completely redo everything down to the foundation. Scripture allows us to do something very similar. You can cross-reference one passage for months and months and never leave that one passage. I have, for the longest time, taken that to mean every time I read scripture it’s supposed to be like “Moses and the burning bush” revelatory experience. That’s just not the case. Not every conversation with your family or spouse are deep, mind-blowing experiences. Sometimes it’s as simple as “how was your day? Good? I love you” and that’s it. It’s just the experience of enjoying one another’s company.

That’s the Psalms.

It’s a combination of worship of an amazing, powerful, holy God and just saying hi to your Papa. It’s bowing down in awestruck wonder and coming to Him as a child. A child doesn’t know that their parent is the President of the United States or the CEO of Microsoft. They know that person as “Mom” or “Dad.” Now, as a child matures they begin to understand but they still see that person so differently than the rest of the world.

This is why I love the Psalms because they simplify everything in my mind. Because they were written as songs of praise and worship they aren’t trying to make big, theological points (even though they absolutely can and do it well). The purpose of the Psalms is “I’m focusing on YOU, Lord. I’m coming humble and fully aware of just how unworthy I am.” I was reading Psalm 8 and verse 4 is so powerful, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Anyone else hear the author’s gratitude and understanding of his lowly position in front of God?

The Psalms do such a great job of reminding us that we should be so, so grateful that God has chosen to love us and save us. God is not to blame for sickness, violence, and every kind of sin. We are. It sucks to say but God would be perfectly just in condemning us all to Hell. God isn’t JUST love. He is mercy, justice, and righteousness to name a few. We can’t forget that there are Psalms where David asks God to “break the arm of the wicked.” God doesn’t mess around with sin and injustice. It’s the part of God’s character we love to minimize in our churches now. We want to “love people into Heaven” which can be amazing and a perfect approach to a situation. You shouldn’t beat people over the head with your bible but you shouldn’t minimize a portion of God’s character in hopes that “you will love them into Heaven.” There is a very good reason why Jesus spoke more on Hell than Heaven. Jesus didn’t mince words or water down the gospel in hopes that it would save one more person.

The Psalms don’t attempt to be politically correct or just be about love. They talk about depression, feelings of inadequacy, and the injustice in the world, but, above all, they talk about the character of God. They talk about His attributes: His glory, His strength, and His majesty. They talk from a place of honesty and humility. I love the verbs that the author in Psalms 8 uses. He uses verbs like “have given,” “have made,” and “have put.” You might be asking “……. and????” well each of those verbs is preceded by the noun “You” in reference to God. It’s not “because I’m awesome God did this.” Every time the author talks about an action of God, it is ALWAYS at God’s prerogative. God decides what God wants to do.

My final thought on the Psalms for today is God is not just one attribute. He is not just love. He is not just wrath. Too often in our churches we see something in our world we don’t like about other Christians and we change our theology because of it. Please don’t do that. Look first to the scriptures and study to see if a change is needed. The Psalmist didn’t look at his world and think, “Well, people are mean and violent, I don’t want my readers to think God is that way. I won’t talk about His wrath.” He also didn’t think, “Man, people are too wishy-washy, I can’t tell if my fellow believers are true belivers or not. I’m going to focus just on His wrath and hate for sin.” Psalms 9 contains both aspects of God in one chapter. Verse 1 “I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” Verse 5 “You have rebuked the nations; you have made the wicked perish; you have blotted out their name forever and ever.” God is both loving and just.

Never look at scripture and say, “Well, I don’t like this version of God so I’m going to explain it away.” Scripture is messy and ugly and sometimes hard to swallow. There is nothing wrong with struggling and searching for answers but don’t let your emotions decide what God you will serve. He is who He is. He doesn’t change and doesn’t hide who He is because our culture isn’t a fan of His. Realize where your pitfalls are going to be and give them to God. And the perfect place to do that is the Psalms. I would encourage you to read them in a new light, not just as a song of praise but as a holy conversation between you and your Papa.

You’ve been lied to

The hot topic right now that I see, especially among Christian friends of mine, is the “Inequality of Wealth” in this country. Now, this is a real issue and needs to be addressed but lets first look at why this topic is so prevalent and popular.

I believe this is happening for two reasons. One, we genuinely want to help the poor and powerless in our society. Many friends of mine believe and hold to Micah 6:8 which basically says, “Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly.” (Note: Just checked my tattoo to make sure I quoted the verse right) This is a great desire and I whole-heartedly encourage and support this desire. We, as Christians, should strive to live this verse out in our daily lives.

Its reasons two that I have a problem with. Two, and I think this is the bigger issue, we are so frustrated with big-box companies and the “One percent” not giving the way WE WANT that we are ok with, and in some cases even agree with, the government interfering. Is this really the way we should go? We see graphs, stats, and facts that tell us the poor are suffering. We see plenty of evidence all around us that companies in the US and overseas don’t really care about their employees. We also see the affect the minimum-wage, dead-end job is having on this country. People are upset and for good reason.

There is a deeper issue here. One that won’t be solved by the government “making” companies and the vaunted one percent give of their hard-earned riches more generously.

The root issue here is companies and the rich elite are being told they are selfish, they are hard-hearted, and that because they are rich (TOO RICH  according to some) they should give much more than us to the poor. Is it our responsibility to tell someone else how to spend their money? Should I, as a lower middle-class worker, complain and demand that the wealth of this country be redistributed? Should the rich be punished for their success?

We assume that every rich man or woman gained their riches by abusing their employees and that they hoard it in their mansions. We assume that the rich avoid taxes like Howie Mandel avoids germs. We are being told that they are the problem without being told the whole picture.

Let me ask you. If someone told you forty-percent of your income was going to taxes, what would you do? What I asked you to pay more right after you just got a raise? You’d cry foul, wouldn’t you? You certainly wouldn’t enjoy that raise nearly as much.

Should companies be more generous? Absolutely. However, this country was founding on the freedom of a company to refuse to do exactly that. We have no right to tell someone “You make too much! Give me some!” The idea of being one of those one-percenters used to be a goal in this country. It used to be if you worked hard and, honestly, got a little bit lucky you could be one of them. 

I agree with many people who point to the mega-corporations and loudly decry their treatment of their employees and the lack of permanent, sustainable careers at these corporations. Those are GREAT questions and those are REAL problems. However, we as a country have gotten lazy. Instead of voting with our wallets and voting with our ability to be the ones to create those new companies, or be the ones to change those corporations from within, we’ve turned to the government as the answer.

We look at how wealth “should be ideally distributed” forgetting that there is no such thing. People will succeed when they shouldn’t, people will fail when they shouldn’t. You can’t look at someone’s paycheck and say “Well, I’m going to take from this person since they make more and give it to this person.” It not only doesn’t work but it goes against the fundamentals of hard work and keeping what you earn.

This country has just hit the fifty-percent mark for the percentage of the population who receives some type of government assistance and I honestly ask, “Could that not be contributing to the overwhelming poverty and inequality that we see in this country?” I don’t believe its the only reason but why is that being not discussed?

We seem to believe, as a country, that it would be “better” if wealth was more evenly-distributed. We seem to believe that if we just spread the wealth out a little bit more everything would be better.

That is a lie.

If we really want to reinvent this country, we need to stop blaming the rich and martyring the poor. The are good rich people and there are evil poor people, and vice verse. If WE really want to change this country, maybe WE need to stop looking at paychecks and starting looking at the character of those who inhabit this country. If WE really want to change this country, maybe WE need to encourage companies to be more generous.

Maybe, WE THE PEOPLE, need to support the poor with our time, money, and effort. Maybe, WE THE PEOPLE, need to get out of our pews and get back into our communities. Maybe, WE THE PEOPLE, need to lead the charge by inspiring the next generation to be self-sufficient and not rely on the government. Maybe, WE THE PEOPLE, need to stop blaming inequality and the unfairness of our economy and start making a difference.

Maybe, WE THE PEOPLE, need to make the government obsolete.

Socialism isn’t the answer. Capitalism isn’t the answer.

This country WILL ONLY CHANGE when WE THE PEOPLE rise up and tell companies we’ve had enough. This country WILL ONLY CHANGE when WE THE PEOPLE decide that we want the freedom to succeed, to fail, and especially, to keep what we have earned. We have allowed greed to taint our view of the rich and we’ve allowed our love of celebrities and possessions to taint our view of NEEDS. We have allowed ourselves to be sold the lie of EQUALITY.

The answer is we need families to be together again. We need to say NO to teen pregnancies and single-parent homes. We need to say NO to a lack-luster education system, fifty years behind the world our students live in. We need to say NO to race and class warfare and a government big enough to take away everything from you at a whim. We need to say NO to heartless companies and cookie-cutter, assembly-line, so-stupid-a-monkey-could-do-it jobs.

Our countries has ALOT of issues and none are easy to fix. But its OUR responsibility to fix those issues NOT the government’s.

Socialism is a lie. Just like unfettered capitalism is a lie.

WE THE PEOPLE need to create close-knit communities that love their neighbor as themselves. WE THE PEOPLE need to “redistribute” the wealth to those who are less fortunate, not mandatorily, but FREELY.

You can claim I speak of an idealized society that doesn’t exist but if it doesn’t, then its our fault.

 

From Mario to Master Chief: How Gaming is growing up

Video games as a form of entertainment and as an industry are growing up. The days of the eight-bit sprites and kid-centric marketing are all but over. This maturation, coupled with a tsunami of popularity, has brought with it waves of controversy about guns and violence in a medium just out of diapers. Games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty have been at the forefront of the debate and will stay there as long as they sell millions of copies. However, this fixation on guns and gore is not what the industry is about. Military shooters and gangster-focused crime are just a small part of what video games have to offer.

As technology continues to improve and the internet creeps into millions more homes around the globe, video games sit at the crossroads. Budgets have ballooned into the billions and Indie game studios have begun their march into the American psyche through games like Bastion, Braid, Minecraft, and Fez. Indie game studios have gone from a niche on the Xbox dashboard to being the push behind some independent consoles like the Ouya. Mobile games on Android and Apple and the Free-to-Play craze have pushed the medium even further into an identity crisis. Should developers get rid of physical copies of their games and go to a digital download format like iTunes? Should studios focus less on budget and graphics and more on the aesthetics of play?

You would think that this crisis affects only gamers and their families, but that just isn’t true. Just like the latest box office blockbuster decides the landscape of cinema so to does the decisions of millions of non-gamers affect the gaming industry. Parents have more of an affect on the gaming industry than I believe they realize. It wasn’t the hardcore gamers who made the Wii the phenomenal hit that it was, it was parents. The landscape of gaming before the Wii and after are so fundamentally different that Microsoft and Sony poured millions upon millions of dollars into the motion-control gaming arena with varying degrees of success.

Looking into the future, studios like Irrational Games (creators of Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite), Supergiant Games (creators of Bastion), Quantic Dream (creators of Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls), and Jonathan Blow (creator of Braid and The Witness) will have close to, if not more, of an impact on the direction that video games take as studios like Infinity Ward (creators of Call of Duty), Bungie (creators of Halo and Destiny), and Epic Games (creators of Gears of War).

This paradigm shift has seen the resurrection of Adventure Games, a genre long proclaimed dead, by Tell Tale Games (creators of the Walking Dead adventure game) which was awarded Game of the Year by GameInformer magazine. Furthermore, the industry saw the rise of the crowd-funding model which has allowed Tim Schafer of Double Fine Games to raise over three million dollars for an adventure games the big publishers said was “not profitable.” This shift has also lead to the departure of many industry leads from big companies to found their own independent studies.

Hopefully, this means the argument will shift from guns and gore to which games deserve to be in museums right alongside the Mona Lisa. Hopefully, this will lead to the drive for the preservation of classic games in the same way Cinema enthusiasts are striving to preserve their own history.

Video games are the perfect medium to explore the human condition and what it means to be good or to be evil. It is the perfect medium to raise the question of choice and whether our free will is an illusion or something that makes us who we are. Video games can include the player in a way that no movie or book can. The current shift of game design has gone from cut-scenes and button prompts to more realistic moral choices and a focus on player agency. This push is overriding the lowest common denominator of meaningless violence and “harmless” fun in mainstream video games. I believe that very soon we will see video games asking bigger questions in more unique ways and evoking more discussion than movies like Inception or the Matrix. Soon it won’t be unusual to see a player craft their own unique adventure that is unlike any other player’s in the entire world.

Gaming is growing up.

Love Does Not Meaning Accepting Sin

I have seen the firestorm that has erupted as the topic of Homosexuality has again been brought to the forefront of American culture. I have tried my best to stay out of the debate since arguing on the internet is inherently unproductive. I can’t speak thoroughly on a topic or give a friend or fellow believer a complete explanation of my stance in a Facebook post. However, as friends of mine have shown their support for same-sex marriage and have placed love in higher regard to truth, I have been forced to say my piece.

Loving others DOES NOT mean accepting their sin. Throughout scripture we see the Lord being very clear on His stance on sin. Now, I don’t believe in stoning Homosexuals or some of the things spoken about in the Old Testament, but I do believe that the Lord has not changed His mind in terms of how he feels about Homosexuality. In fact, Romans 1 makes God’s stance pretty clear. Homosexuality is a sin.

Now, does this mean I HATE Homosexuals? ABSOLUTELY NOT! The reason why the Lord sent His Son to die for us on the cross is BECAUSE He loves us. The gospel of grace is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. However, the love God has for us comes in spite of our sin. God did not pardon us of our sins, HE PAID FOR THEM! The reason why Jesus died on the cross is not because sin is acceptable. Jesus died because the price tag for sin IS DEATH!

When we, as Christians, come into a relationship with the Lord, we are given the freedom to continue sinning but the Lord has very clear expectations of our behavior. In light of grace, we should strive to live godly lives BECAUSE WE LOVE OUR LORD. Moreover, the Lord expects us to balance love, grace, and truth. The Lord is a perfect being who has grace, truth, love all wrapped up EQUALLY in His character. The gospel is a message of BOTH love AND truth. Love was in the sacrifice and the reason for coming to earth to die. BUT ALSO He came to PAY THE PENALTY FOR THAT SIN to satisfy His justice.

The Lord also demonstrates this balance through His love for us and through His justice. For instance, the Lord loves us unconditionally, but He only allows those who have accepted His Son into heaven. The Lord loves us unconditionally but abhors sin. The Lord loves us unconditionally but disciplines us as a father disciplines those he loves.

Love DOES NOT mean accepting others sin as acceptable behavior. In fact, we are calling to hold our fellow believers accountable for their sin. The famous passage that talks about not judging others has the expectation that we will strive to live godly lives, BUT THAT WE WILL ALSO hold our fellow believers accountable BECAUSE WE LOVE THEM! If I love my fellow believer, I’m not going to allow them act in such a way that God has clearly said is ungodly. In fact, if I do allow them to do so then I am enabling them.

Love, by definition, means loving someone no matter what but also holding your friend, spouse, family member accountable for their behavior BECAUSE YOU WANT THE BEST FOR THEM. I want the best for my fellow believers who struggle with or have surrendered to the temptation of homosexuality. I DO NOT HATE THEM. I DO NOT JUDGE THEM. And I will love them NO MATTER WHAT. But I WILL NOT sit by as they choose to live a life contrary to what the Lord has clearly outlined for us.

We, as Christians, are Christ’s ambassadors. We are the light and salt to this world and if I want others to come to the knowledge that will save them from Hell, then I am honor-bound to be as godly as I can be. And if another Christian is going to compromise that mission, I will go to them IN LOVE and ask that they change their behavior. I don’t expect IMMEDIATE CHANGE. I fully expect trails, tribulations, hard times and lots of prayer, tears, and frustration, from them and me. BUT I WILL NEVER GIVE UP ON THEM OR CALL THEM WICKED.

That is the true definition of what it means to love someone.

Explaining the Vision of an Author

Goal of everything I write is to teach some truth or impart a little piece of knowledge into someone’s life. I don’t write frivolously, although I will admit the task of writing is fun (and simultaneously ardous), the intention is not simply for entertainment. When I am writing, at least the current books, poems, etc., I am working on, are all built around some ideas or ideals that are self-contained metaphors. I don’t write to reflect current culture but rather create worlds that may, or may not, parallel current events or situations I find fascinating.

To give you a for instance, in my current novel Graveyard of Dreams, which started long ago (five, six years ago to be precise) as simply the backstory of a villain in a video game I liked. This “plot” was a juvenile goal that began to grow beyond its simplistic confines as soon as I took the task of writing. The next step in its evolution was that I wanted to create an anti-hero. Someone you wanted to cheer for but put you up against the moral qualm of his “means to an end” approach. Or it didn’t because that fit your moral paradigm but it at least brought that worldview into the forefront.

However, that skeleton was far too devoid of muscle for my taste, so the nest step was to add a world of conflict and opposing views that could further fuel my machinations. My inspiration was drawn from three video games Bioshock, Bioshock 2, and Bioshock Infinite. Each of these games did (or are doing since Bioshock Infinite is just currently being released) revolutionary things. They combined story, atmosphere, ideology, and scenery to create one complete vision.

I wanted to reflect that same design. So the world that my character inhabits is artificial and for good reason (which I won’t spoil). Built in some improbably fashion beneath the ancient remains of a simultaneously more advanced and far more primitive culture, at least in the eyes of the general populace. Add a cult that worships and wishes to control these spires and a government that, much like the Matrix, is hiding things from its citizens for its own reasons, and you have the recipe for difficult choices.

I now had my anti-hero. I now had a world he could inhabit that would give him meaningful choices. Choices that would force you, the reader, to look at your own moral compass and determine whether he could be held accountable for his actions or if he was coerced, or even brainwashed, into those actions. I now had my vision.

This was not an easy process and, in fact, I had to scrap over one hundred and forty pages of a nearly finished version of my book to realize this goal. The version I am currently writing is only thirty pages long but is already far better. One very good reason is a technique that I am gleefully borrowing from the aforementioned games: deleting “cutscenes” wherever I can.

Now I know what you’re thinking, books don’t have “cutscenes”. And in essence, you are right. However, books do have “text dumps” where the author is forced to give page after page of exposition about the world, the people, etc., to give the world context. I abhor such practices because it doesn’t allow for the exploration of the world by you, the reader. Instead, you are treated to a tour where you are force-feed knowledge you don’t need and will tune out at every possible convenience.

This technique is so prevalent in books you probably have no reference by which to judge their success. Let me give you two examples, both  are excerpts from my book, to show the difference. Each are detailing the world the main character, Mitch, lives in.

Except 1: First draft of Graveyard of Dreams

“As the haze of sleep slowly lifted from my mind, I thought back to the night before and the dreams or should I say dream that haunted me relentlessly. The images came rushing back like a flood, overwhelming me. A feeling akin to being doused in ice-cold water, leaving my body covered in a glistening sheen of bone-chilling perspiration. This quickly broke me loose from the fog of sleep and drove all thoughts of sleep from my mind.

If only I could wrap my mind around the mystery of why I was having this same dream over and over again, then maybe I could have peace. Even if it was momentary, it would still be a respite from this endless cycle of feverish dreams and exhausted mornings. My mind needed a break or, I feared, it might break. I wanted to sleep so badly.

The dreams were trying to tell me something and I wasn’t getting the message. Almost as if it was a bad transmission or a fragmented message or I was just broken, which I had already come to suspect and had plenty of evidence in favor of.”

Excerpt 2: Second draft of Graveyard of Dreams

“The hologram blinked close and Mitch checked the time. It was only quarter after six. Far too early to be conscious. He groaned, wishing he could crawl back under the covers, but he got up nonetheless. He threw on a jacket and a pair of raggedy jeans and stumbled his way out of his bedroom.

He plopped unceremoniously down at the table and slumped as far down as the chair would allow.

His mom raised an eyebrow at his entrance. “Dramatic entrance, princess.” She moved around their kitchen flipping eggs, turning over pancakes. “Why are you tired lately?” she asked, concern evident in her voice.

Mitch paused, unsure of how to respond. Bursts of images from the night before flashed through his mind: “He’s losing a lot of blood get him to the ER quick!” Hospital beds and hospital gowns. Cold eyes staring at him through goggles and white masks. “I don’t think he’s going to make it! His breathing has slowed way down.” His skin still felt icy cold and the feeling of déjà vu was overwhelming.

“Mom?”

“Yes, honey,” she replied, completely unaware of the battle that raged inside her son.

“Have… Have I ever been in the hospital?”

A plate shattered on the floor. Mitch jumped in surprise. His mother stood motionless in front of the stove.

“Mom?” Mitch asked slowly.

She half-turned then moved to clean up the mess. “It’s nothing, sweetie.”

“Really?” He raised his eyebrow in disbelief.

“Mitch, really I’m fine,” she replied, doing her best to reassure him.

She quickly cleaned up the mess and returned to cooking, acting as if the strange moment had never happened.”

Notice the difference? No? Go back and read through how much was really revealed about Mitch’s dreams in the first draft and then check the second draft. In the first draft, lots of words, words, words surround the simple statement:

“I thought back to the night before and the dreams or should I say dream that haunted me relentlessly.”

In the second draft, that same thought is summed up in this few sentences:

“Mitch paused, unsure of how to respond. Bursts of images from the night before flashed through his mind: “He’s losing a lot of blood get him to the ER quick!” Hospital beds and hospital gowns. Cold eyes staring at him through goggles and white masks. “I don’t think he’s going to make it! His breathing has slowed way down.” His skin still felt icy cold and the feeling of déjà vu was overwhelming.”

This may seem like more words to read but did you notice that right after the internal monologue it flows right into a conversation that includes his mom and the strangeness surrounding her reaction (a fact that in the first draft didn’t happen until ten pages later). I eliminated over fifteen pages of words to sum up what could’ve been said in just a few sentences.

By deleting the “cutscene”, I can now spoon-feed you as a reader, tidbits and details about Mitch’s dream without resorting just to mountains of text. And now it flows faster, you as a reader don’t get bogged down in detail. Same amount of character development, much less detail. My goal as the author is to give you as much fun, as much complexity as possible without resorting to mountains of words. So why not let the world speak for itself? It has a mightier voice than I could ever muster.

The Ugly Truth

I sit and stare

At this blank screen called life

Hoping and praying

But there’s nothing there

Well is dry

Engine is broken

Hit a crossroads between pain and promise

I see the destination

But what about this pothole

Laid right before my feet

Its like a pit

Bottomless, empty

And the sun just a little nightlight on the horizon

So many people lie, cheat, steal for the glory, the fame

Promising themselves they will never be called lame

They are broken

Like the promises their fathers made

As they laid

Little angels in their uncomfortable beds

With lice, fleas, and ticks munching on their heads

Keeping themselves warm with their thin sheets

Because Daddy doesn’t have two nickels to call his own

Instead he stuck a needle in his arm

And down the drain went the rent, the water, and now the lights

This reality isn’t a show

It doesn’t just have teeth it has fangs and it really bites

The little angel is slowly losing her wings

Crying, weeping, sobbing through the night

Wishing mommy with her tender words and soft cheeks would come back

But Daddy said

Honey, everything will be ok

Well he lied little darling

You sell your soul

That’s an investment you can never get back

Dark words for darker days

Terrible predictions for these terrible predicaments

Little princesses

Losing their crowns

Losing their minds

Selling their bodies to the court jester claiming to be a king

But this is all a joke, right?

Where is the reset button, the undo tab?

Why isn’t life a game?

Why couldn’t your man be Mario and you be Peach?

Instead, its all turned around

Its upside down

Your prince is in another castle

And you just used your one and final life

You checked out, shut down

Now you’re buried underground

Forgotten by your addict dad

And terrified mom

So many say goodbye to this cruel world

Too soon

Too few stand in the gap

Too many stand aside

Too many drive on by

We are all prodigals

But we are not the good Samaritan or the destitute Jew

We are the Priest who passes on the other side

We are the Levite who doesn’t have time to be the broken man’s guide

We seldom give comfort

But we greedily accept it

We bully

We mock

We scoff

We taunt, we tease, we refuse to see the greatness in the least of these

We build monuments in our minds

Monuments to our sin hidden behind religious dogma and false doctrine

Rude awakenings and fiery judgments await us wicked servants

A blind eye can only be turned so many times

Before its owner realizes his own lie

Told too many times

The eye is healthy

The man can see

But the question is

Will he?

This Ain’t Easy

This ain’t easy.

This is an answer I’ve given to loved ones as to why I struggle.

It seems to be in jest but really it stems from a broken heart that is drowning in the pain of addiction and is screaming out for help.

It is easy to write off the answer “This ain’t easy” as an excuse or an arrogant, defensive reply seemingly saying “You don’t get it!”

The problem is that this type of answer pushes away loved ones and puts up a barrier that further pushes the addict further down the rabbit hole of porn. This answer is so flippant that it fails to describe the depths of agony of the addict and turns off the potential supporter.

For the addict, it puts you on an island of protection, where your chances of recovery deteriorate even further. You have basically burned all bridges and made yourself a one-man army without any weapons or hope of survival.

Problem is This ain’t easy

Is a true answer.

It stems from a heart of pain in most cases (including mine).

When someone looks you in the eye, calls you a pervert and tells you bluntly,

“Why can’t you just quit?”

All words fail you. Your heart breaks inside your chest and tears well in your eyes. You can’t believe the lack of sympathy and deep inside bitterness grows, putting up a wall between you and that person.

It shatters you to your very core.

That happened to me.

I had two choices: I could hide or I could persevere and find others who could help me.

I hid.

I choose to allow the lie a human told me to pervade my mind and drown out the voice of God.

A voice that promised victory and peace.

But that was a much harder road to walk. That required sacrifice and the personal deprivation of self-satisfaction. I didn’t want to win.

Hiding behind an excuse (no matter how heart-felt its origins) is safe. Its comfortable.

But we, as men of God, are called to so much more.

Excuses like that don’t cut it.

Our Lord and Savior looked death in the face and cried tears of blood to His Father asking if there was another way. But then, He obeyed. That is the example we need to follow.

I would encourage all of you, especially the ladies, to understand the deep pain and hurt that lies behind the addiction to porn. Many men are addicted to the pleasure, and it doesn’t excuse their degraded view of women or their self-indulgence despite knowing better, but many of us are just broken men in need of support.

I’m not asking you to approve the behavior but many of us need to know that we aren’t perverts.

We already know that we’re broken. We already know how disgusting our behavior is to you. We already know that we need to change.

We want to change.

We just don’t know how.

We feel every tear so acutely. Every time we stumble, its like a knife digging deep inside our soul. We can’t even begin to explain just how badly it hurts to hurt those we love. Every mistake is etched in our minds and we ask ourselves “Why isn’t this easy?” “Why can’t we just overcome?”

No one understands better than us how sinful our behavior is.

We need people to kick us in the butts. Challenge us. Hold us accountable. To look us in the eye and say, “You know this isn’t right.”

But there are other times where your judgment just pushes us farther in.

Your hurtful words, stemming from your own broken heart (a break we caused), destroys us. Makes us feel like we are truly nothing.

It makes us feel so alone.

Then we seek the comfort of a companion who never complains. Never judges. Never asks anything of us.

We cowardly follow the temptress.

We give in to our sinful lusts. Actions that are in no way, shape or form, acceptable. But that is the only option we see before us.

We know it to be a lie and yet we fall right in.

All I ask is

Please don’t push us farther in.

This ain’t easy. This ain’t simple.

We, as addicts, have to change.

We know, deep, deep down, that we absolute, unequivocallyneed to change.

We know that we are on a path of no return where the only outcome is us being totally alone. We know that at some point the support is going to end. Our loved ones are going to leave us (as they rightfully should). Our addiction is going to keep growing and will, soon, overwhelm our work life and spiritual life. And growth into our spiritual life starts far earlier than we realize. A sure sign of our inability to actually feel anything spiritually.

I know this path isn’t an easy one. But I know it is the only path before my feet that doesn’t end in ruin.

This is #Day2 and This Ain’t Easy.

More Questions than Answers

The tone of my thoughts,

The pace set by my emotions,

Steadily heads towards the realm of uncertainty.

I have asked these questions before

And I’ve never been less certain of the answers.

Why God did I have take this path?

Was this pain planned in sovereignty?

I didn’t want to be broken and betrayed

Once,

Let alone twice.

I didn’t want to lose, who I thought,

Was my soul mate.

I didn’t want to open myself up

Only to have a fresh twist

On an old betrayal.

Once so naive about love,

Now helplessly jaded,

And slightly afraid.

Vision of the past

Don’t seem to fade,

I wish for reconciliation,

The only thing to make everything all right.

I will bend, almost until I break,

To make things right,

When its not my fault everything went so wrong.

Why does life have to be so hard?

Why why why why?

I ask the question over and over again,

Without an answer from the skies.

Why are you silent tonight?

Where were you when I prayed?

I asked, I pleaded to know

What your will was,

But I never wanted this.

Why did you take me to such familiar territory?

Why did we have to go here?

Don’t you know, Lord,

This is the realm of my fears.

I was here once and was destroyed,

So what reason could you possibly have

For a return trip?

I am losing faith

In the concept of love.

I am tender-hearted

And I have been hurt,

Left with more questions than answers.

I’m told I’m kind,

I’m told I’m gentle,

I’m told I’m a great guy.

All beautiful words,

That don’t soothe the feeling of loneliness

That creeps in when the light fades into night

And I’m left to wonder about my life.

Doesn’t help me

When I wonder why I wasn’t good enough to keep.

Why did he have

That I couldn’t give?

What could I have said differently

To persuade you to stay?

What could I have done differently

To keep myself from being betrayed?

Why do I care so much

If you’re hurt, sad, or confused?

Why can’t I accept circumstance

And not rail against fate?

I’m left with only tears

And questions without answers.

Reminders of the past,

Pop up like putrid flowers

In the cemetery of my past relationships.

I understand the doom and gloom

Of my seemingly hopeless words,

But sometimes the night seems endless,

And the light so far away.

I’m stuck in the moment,

Not understanding the grander plan.

I want to obey,

And seek your face.

But failure after failure

Have slowed my step a pace.

Anger, bitterness, and salty tears

Make me hesitant to step out in faith.

I’m sorry, Lord,

I wish I was stronger,

But I’m just a broken man.

I haven’t faced the devil himself,

But I’ve met his devils

And they’ve done fine work.

I want to persevere

I never want to step back,

But, Lord, I’m tired.

I’m tired of being alone.

I’m tired of making mistakes.

I’m tired of being betrayed.

Why can’t this be easy?

Why can’t you shout in my ear

Shatter my eardrum with good news?

More questions than answers.

Pray It Like This

Sit alone,

Learn about yourself,

Change the situation,

Rewrite your history,

Make it make sense,

Make yourself believe

In the story you’ve told yourself for so long.

Room full of empty promises,

Ghosts of your darkest dreams,

No longer make-believe.

What do you do

When the demons come for you?

What do you scream

When the silence reigns?

What do you pray

When there is nothing left to say?

What do you believe

When the pain just won’t leave?

Pray it like this!

The silence terrifies you,

The emptiness envelops your soul,

Confront yourself in the mirror,

And see what you’ve become,

Make sure you trim those horns.

Flush out

All other sounds,

Make it loud,

Until the windows shake,

Make me proud!

What do you do

When the demons come for you?

What do you scream

When the silence reigns?

What do you pray

When there is nothing left to say?

What do you believe

When the pain just won’t leave?

Pray it like this!

Wish list,

Are you strong enough to fight through this?

Is this emptiness you feel

The only thing that’s real?

Can you feel me?

I am right beside you,

Always behind you.

Can you hear me?

I am always so close,

Comfortable,

Whispering in your ear!

Am I the lies,

That try to drive you to

The very edge

Of sanity?

Am I alive,

Or am I

The grave,

Telling you

To be so brave?

What do you do…. (tell us how to stop this)

When the demons come for you?

What do you scream…. (silent prayers, you’re just whispering)

When the silence reigns?

What do you pray…. (hands folded, hearts so cold its so sad)

When there is nothing left to say?

What do you believe….. (now the truth will be known, this world is

not your home)

When the pain just won’t leave?

Pray it like this!

Pray it loud,

Pray it long,

Pray it proud.

Never give up,

Never give in,

Never shut up!

Never back down….

What do you do

When the demons come for you?

What do you scream

When the silence reigns?

What do you pray

When there is nothing left to say?

What do you believe

When the pain just won’t leave?

Pray it

Like this….