Sunday, January 22, 2017

Media Influence

I sometimes comment on politics, but overall I like to stay away from the subject. Today, I just have one point I'd like to make.

Many people, both online and around the world, are treating today as though nuclear war is about to be unleashed. Many others are treating today as the dawn of a new era of prosperity for America. And while I've been openly vocal about the fact that I didn't (and still don't) support any of the candidates we were offered, I refuse to allow myself to give in to the fear-mongering of the left or buy into the hype of the right.

I don't claim to know what's going to happen. There are things that Trump has said that I like. There are other things he said that make me recoil in disgust. But as I watched about 5 or so minutes of the inauguration lunch, I was again reminded of just how little most of us realize the large part the media plays in our perceptions.

The station I stopped on was msnbc. I didn't choose that channel on purpose, but that's the one that came up. And in the 5 minutes I had it on, I heard two things that infuriated me. Two things that the average viewer probably thought nothing of. Two things that were said not out of some dedication to journalism but rather as veiled attempts to paint a specific image in the minds of the the people.

The first was just before the pastor came up to give his prayer. One of the anchors handling the broadcast said something about how the day had been going so far - I honestly forget what. But the other anchor chuckled and said, "Don't worry, we'll get through this together." With a nation already full of people terrified at the prospect of a Trump presidency, a statement like that only serves to enforce and justify those fears in the minds of his opponents. It's basically saying, "Hold on America, it's gonna be a rough ride!" And that creates fear. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to the present state of this country.

The second thing that was said came after the prayer. One of the anchors said, "It was certainly odd that, as Donald Trump took to the podium today, only then did the first drops of rain begin to fall." Again, they are painting a negative picture of a black cloud over Washington in the minds of viewers who are already panicked about what this president may or may not do.

To be clear, I don't like Trump. I didn't vote for him. And there is a part of me that is terrified about what he may or may not do in office. But I can't help but wonder how much of that fear has been fed to me and subsequently amplified by the media. Now some may think, "A couple of comments by news anchors aren't going to affect the views of people." I want you to know that they do. They most certainly do. Because it's not just a couple of comments. Those are only a couple of examples. This kind of behavior is prevalent in newscasts from all channels on all sides of the political spectrum. We don't know anything REAL about politicians or government except what we are allowed to know by the media. And every newscast, interview, talk show, etc. - they're all designed to paint a picture with a specific agenda. And while the American people are being FED lines like the two above, their views become stronger, their attitudes become harder, and conversation between the two sides becomes less and less productive.

And that's exactly what politicians and the media are doing to the American people. They're not CHANGING people's opinions, they're POLARIZING them. They've created an environment where healthy debate on any subject is not possible anymore. If you say you like Trump's stance on ANYTHING, you're labeled a misogynistic racist bigot. If you say you think Trump's attitude and behavior are dangerous, you're labeled as a social justice warrior and an idiot. On the whole, healthy conversation and debate between the two sides is largely ineffective now because neither side wants to hear what the other has to say. And while I say that the media is the driving force behind all of this, they are not the only ones to blame. We are just as much to blame for allowing ourselves to get to this point. We are just as much to blame for allowing complete strangers on a television program tell us what we should think. Strangers who are selling you a product (the news) and will do whatever it takes to bring you back. Viewer retention is what keeps these channels going. Each one has their target demographic, and of course they're going to tell that demographic what they want to hear. And they're going to avoid telling you want they don't want you to hear.

If Trump does something stupid, you can bet that Fox News will either glaze over it entirely or they'll try to spin it in a way that somehow makes it acceptable. If Trump does something good, CNN is going to either twist it to look horrible or they'll suddenly release a report on something ELSE horrible he's done to distract from the good thing. Either way, you're being told how to feel about something without ever realizing that you never had the opportunity to decide for yourself.

And that's the point I wanted to make today. Don't let the media tell you how to feel. Don't let the internet tell you how to feel. Don't even let your friends or family tell you how to feel. Take the time to think about the issues, the subjects at hand, and the events that take place. Take the time to discuss them with the people you trust the most, not some random talking heads on TV. And after you've fully explored and discussed the issues, take the time to form your own opinions and conclusions based on how you feel about the issue.

Most importantly, understand that not everyone is going to share your viewpoint - and that's OK. That doesn't mean they're bad people. It doesn't mean you're a bad person. It means we're all human, and we all have different experiences, knowledge, and emotions that lead us to form differing opinions. Instead of shouting down each other for disagreeing, it's time we start working together to understand each other. Because this culture of anger and resentment that we have created will not change until we as a society re-learn how to engage in healthy, honest, and civilized debate.

Now, anyone want to join hands and sing "We Are The World?" No? Just me? OK. Well, I'll be here waiting when you guys are ready.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Two Doors

Two doors, one purple and one white, stood side-by-side high above the ground.  A large crowd of thousands gathered beneath the purple door, tirelessly building a staircase to reach it.  A much smaller group worked beneath the white door, resulting in a far smaller set of stairs.

A man approached.  As he did, the foreman in charge guided him toward the purple side.  “Step or strut?”


“Step or strut?”  The foreman pointed toward the purple door.  “We’re building steps to reach this door.  We need more help to meet our deadline.  Would you like to build a step or a strut?”

The man looked to the white staircase.  “What about them?” he asked, gesturing toward the few struggling workers.  “Don’t they need help?”

“Don’t be silly,” the foreman said.  “Look at our progress.  We’re on track to finish our staircase on time.  The white staircase will never be finished.  Your help would make no difference.  You’d be wasting your energy.”

The man’s eyes returned to the doors. The purple door was slightly open, giving a glimpse to the other side.  Even from far beneath the frame, he could already see what awaited them:  Anger, bigotry, oppression, failure, despair, hatred, and violence.

The white door, however, remained closed.  “What’s behind the white door?”

“No one knows,” the foreman said.  “And no one cares.”

“Why not?”

The foreman was beginning to get impatient.  “Because it doesn’t matter.  Like I said, the white stairs will never be finished.  Now, step or strut?”

The man looked at the materials scattered on the ground.  “What’s the difference?”

A passerby carrying a step chimed in.  “Oh, you definitely want a step.  Built for progress.  Can’t get anywhere without them!”

Another called from the crowd.  “But without the struts, the steps will fall!  Support struts are far more important!”

Again, the man’s eyes turned to the purple door.  Something that sounded like screams and gunfire drifted through the opening.  “What if I don’t want to?” he asked the foreman.  “What if I don’t want to go through the purple door? Why should I help you?”

“Stop being difficult and just pick one,” the foreman replied.  “There aren’t any other options.”

Again, the man pointed to the white door.  “But there are!  The white door is another option!”

“Forget about the white door!” the foreman shouted, forcefully turning the man’s head to the purple side.

“But if we all worked together, we could build the steps we need to get there!”

Disgusted, the foreman threw up his hands and backed away.  “Fine, go to the white side, then.  But when we reach the purple door, we’re dragging you and the rest of your friends with us.”

“Not if we finish first,” the man said defiantly.  “What’s our deadline?”

The foreman ground his teeth as he walked away.  “November 8th.”

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Logical Arguments for the Existence of God

Are human beings the most intelligent species to ever exist across the entirety of the universe?

If your answer is yes, you are claiming intellectual superiority over a universe of which humans have explored and studied less than a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction.

If your answer is no, you can't be an atheist.

Before I begin, I want to make something clear:  This not about "proving" the Christian God.  Yes, I am a born-again Christian and I do believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins.  But this is not about proving which religion is "right."  For that matter, it's not even about proving God exists.  It's about acknowledging the very logical possibility of the existence of a Creator.

Atheists like to throw around words like "logic" and "reason" in an attempt to make themselves appear superior and to both degrade and demoralize those who disagree with their reasoning.  After all, if you're not logical or reasonable, you clearly aren't the sharpest knife in the drawer, right?  But if you take a step back and observe the workings on the universe for just a moment, you'd find that it's both unreasonable and illogical to assume there is no God, much less declare this as a fact.

We see varying levels of intelligence in the various species on our own planet.  Insects, animals, humans - we all have differing degrees of intellectual capacity, and it is clear that humans stand at the top of that list.  Right away, that begs the question: What about other planets?  Does any other life exist out there?  If it does, is it smarter than us?

Critics will jump all over that comparison by saying that comparing the possibility of life on other planets to the possibility of a Creator is not equal because we see life on our own planet yet do not see any scientifically measurable evidence of a divine being.  Again, I direct them back to the "levels of intelligence" point from the previous paragraph.

For example, a dog can't design a satellite.  A bear can't invent an energy-efficient vehicle.  Lower forms of life lack the intellectual capacity to understand the concepts required to be able to accomplish what humanity has.  To them, the inventions of humans work by magic.  We, however, know that these things are not powered by magic because we understand the science behind them.

To those life forms, we are the divine beings due to our superior level of intelligence.

With that in mind, now ask yourself the question:  How did the universe begin?  Whatever your answer may be, ask yourself what came before that.  Then ask what came before that.  And before that.  And before that.

No matter what reason you come up with, you can always ask the question, "What came before that?"  This demonstrates the human brain's limitations.  Humanity cannot truly comprehend a hard "start" to existence because our brains tell us something must have come before that.  The law of cause and effect states that for every effect there is a cause.  So our minds tell us that whatever we believe "started" the universe, there must have been something to cause that.

But this plane of existence we call the universe had to begin somewhere, right?  The only option we have left - whether you do or do not believe in God - is to accept that our intellect is too limited to understand what many refer to as the "First Cause" of the universe.

So if we can demonstrate that the human brain is indeed limited, and we can demonstrate that there are varying levels of intelligence right here on our own planet, how can we possibly assume that there's nothing out there with an intellectual capacity greater than our own?

Most atheists will discount believers who invoke the "God did it" response to biblical events that would appear to be scientifically impossible.  Again, I want to reiterate that my goal here is not to prove Christianity but instead prove the possibility of a divine creator.  With that being said, why is the answer of "God did it" so impossible to us?  Regardless of the context, whether it be a miraculous healing or a worldwide flood, why do we discount the possibility that a divine Creator could do these things?

The answer, usually, is because these events seemingly go against the laws of physics and contradict much of what science knows regarding how the universe works.  So let's talk about that for a minute.

Your dog enjoys riding in the car with you.  To him, the car is this sleek red container that he jumps into and it takes him on this amazing ride through town.  He's always known it to be the same shape, color, and size, and there's nothing he can do to change the overall appearance or workings of the vehicle.

Then you buy a new car.  Your dog has no idea why, but his formerly red container has now become a wide green container.  It sounds different, looks different, and smells different.  How could this be possible?  It goes against every understanding he previously had about the appearance and workings of his travel container.

To us, the universe has always adhered to certain expectations.  The planets revolve around the sun, the tide rises and falls, etc.  And although we may put dings and scratches on our world much like that dog would put on the car, overall, it's the same universe it has always been.  Based on that, science has observed certain scientific laws regarding the nature of the universe.  And in our understanding of things, nothing can break those laws.

But what if something with a greater intellectual capacity does exist out there?  Again, the owner is smarter than his dog, so the owner completely understands why his car changed.  If there's something out there greater than humanity, how do we know it couldn't break what we call the laws of physics in a way that would be perfectly understandable if we shared its level of intelligence?  Why is that so impossible?  To declare these scientific laws 100% universally unbreakable is akin to declaring mankind the most intelligent species in the universe.  It is basically saying, "If we can't understand how it would be possible, it simply cannot be."

Yeah, the dog said that too.

When presented with these arguments, the atheist will typically say something about how there's no evidence that any of the workings of the universe are guided by a divine being and therefore there's no reason add one into our line of reasoning.  After all, if science can explain how a thunderstorm works, why do the religious add God into the mix?

Because nothing happens without cause.  Science teaches humanity how things work.  It does not teach why they work that way.  The question "Why?" is similar to the question "How did the universe begin?" because it can never be truly answered.  No matter what the response, you can always ask "Why?" again.  We know how thunderstorms and earthquakes work.  We know how televisions work and how motor vehicles are operated.  But why do they work that way?  And whatever answer you have in your mind, ask why again.  And again to that answer.  And again to that answer.  Keep going and going, because every scientific response you give - right down to the most basic laws of physics - still do not and cannot give a definitive answer to the question of "Why?"  If you can ask it again, it hasn't been resolved.

Science learns how the universe works, but ultimately has no idea why it works that way.  It's like learning how a car works without acknowledging the fuel that makes it go.

So if we can accept the possibility that humans are not the most intellectually superior beings in all of the universe, then we must also accept the possibility that there is something greater out there.  And if we accept the possibility that there might be something greater out there, we must also accept the possibility that this greater form of intelligence could understand and manipulate the laws of science in ways that the limited human brain cannot.  And if we accept that possibility, then we must accept the possibility that God exists.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Breaking Through the Walls

I never thought I'd find myself in this position.

I work a job right now that I never would've considered taking on my own.  It's a job I sort of fell into - a position that God put in front of me that I didn't expect.  And at the time, I didn't really want it, either.  But I had bills to pay, and I knew that responsibility had to be placed ahead of my anxiety.

It's funny how God teaches us things whether we want to learn them or not.  As you may or may not know, I'm a pretty socially awkward introvert.  I keep to myself in public, I don't have many friends, and I spend a lot of time at home with Laura.  There are those I've encountered throughout the course of my life who take that as arrogance, as though I think myself "too good" for them.  On the contrary, I see myself as not good enough.  I'm boring and plain.  I don't drink.  I'm not into the clubbing scene.  I don't dine in fancy restaurants, and I'm not a concert goer.  I like plain milk chocolate.  Vanilla ice cream.  T-shirts.  The band Chicago.  (That's the first time I've ever admitted that, by the way.)

I don't talk much about my non-writing work online for a couple of reasons.  First off, I work for a well-known worldwide company, and privacy and security are two of the most important aspects of our business.  Second, I prefer not to put too much of my private life out there.  I've been with my employer since moving to St. Louis five years ago, and I hope to remain there for a long time to come.  For that reason, as well as moral obligations, I won't divulge too many details.  But what I can tell you is this:  I make presentations to different groups of people on a near-constant basis, most of whom are initially complete strangers to me.  That puts me in sort of a public-relations type of position that is quite different from my old retail jobs, a spot that does NOT suit an introvert in the least.

But as I said, sometimes God teaches us things whether we want to learn them or not.

In school, I was absolutely terrified if I had to do any sort of public speaking in front of the class.  Oral reports were the worst - they may as well have been Armageddon as far as I was concerned.  I didn't want people to look at me, I wanted to sit in the back quietly and be forgotten.  There were times when the stress and anxiety made me want to throw up.

This past January, I spoke in front of an audience of nearly 80 people for a couple of hours.  And I did it with relatively little anxiety, no speech or script planned, and everything went extremely well. I realize that 80 people wouldn't be considered a lot in the eyes of some, but there was a time not too long ago when I would've quit my job long before I got anywhere near that conference room.

Anyway, I don't tell you these things to pat myself on the back or solicit anyone's praise.  I'm proud of the things I've accomplished, but I know there are millions out there who've done far greater and more important things with their lives than I ever will.  I tell you these things because I want you to know something:  If you run away from every situation that scares you, you could wind up closing doors on absolutely wonderful opportunities.  If you let nerves stop you from doing something, if fear makes you cower in the corner, if challenges make you tuck your tail and run, you will never know what you are truly capable of.  You will never learn, never grow, and never really feel a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction with your life.

Don't get me wrong - I totally understand the fear, especially when the critics in your life want to do nothing but bury you beneath it.  I've covered in the corner more times than I can count, and when challenges come along, the instinct to run away is still the first thing that pops up.  I'm still an introvert.  I still prefer to stay home and avoid public places.

But if I need to do something that initially sparks those fears, I now find that there's a bravery just beyond the anxiety that I can call on when I need to.  If I find out today that I've got to speak in front of a group of 100 tomorrow, I'll be OK with that.  Not because I'm not scared, but because I allow God to put me in situations to teach me what I can accomplish.  To show me what I can do.  And if you never step out of that comfort zone, you'll never know what comfort really is.

Because the honest truth is that there's nothing more comforting than knowing you are no longer imprisoned by fear.

God bless,


Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Hero


It was during kindergarten that I first remember you standing up for me in a way that might have embarrassed other kids.  I was an introverted bundle of nerves that somehow managed to make a few friends only to find myself in a lunch period with none of them.  You came to the school and talked to the principal to request my schedule be changed. 

From the moment you began making breakfast while simultaneously packing our lunches to the moment when you finally sat down to read a little before bed, you did nothing but serve your family.  Between the duties of raising four children and working side-by-side with your husband to run the family business, you barely had a moment to breathe.  But when we needed you, you always made time.  If I needed a ride to school, you made time.  If I needed supplies for a school project, you made time.  If I needed help with my math homework, you made time.  You taught me to respect others, appreciate what I have, and that the only thing I should ever hate is the word hate. 

You've been one of the main supporters of my writing aspirations from the very beginning.  You urged me to follow my heart and work hard for what I wanted.  And without that support, I would've likely given up many years ago.  I've written a total of ten books to date, one of which you even edited for me.  I can't say enough about what your support has done for my writing career.

More than all of that, however, you have been a living breathing example of what Christianity is truly all about.  You taught me that the first and most important commandment is to love others.  I've seen you volunteer for charity work, give stuffed toys to children's hospitals, bring strangers into your home, and most of all, care for your husband during his final years. 

Morality is no longer "in" these days.  It has been rejected by a society bored of chivalry and consumed by a culture that revels in self-adulation.  True heroes are all but extinct.  Yet, were I to be asked for my definition of a hero, I'd point my finger squarely at you. 

I owe you everything I have and everything I am.  You are a counselor and a teacher.  A barber and a cook.  A nurse and a cheerleader.  A fighter and a defender.  A friend and a mentor.

You're my mother.

And you're my hero.

With all my love, respect, and gratitude,


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Episode V of The Fourth Dimension: Outcry


After two and a half years, it seems I'm finally back at the keyboard.  And I've returned with Episode V of The Fourth Dimension: Outcry, my online webseries!

I'm truly sorry it took so long to get back into the groove.  Creativity can be a fickle thing, and I really wore myself out with non-stop promoting, blogging, interviewing, and other tasks meant to increase my online presence.  I'm done with that stuff, now.  I love writing, I love creating, and I love adventuring in the insanity of my imagination.  But the task of promoting made it feel like a job.  I had placed expectations on myself that were extremely difficult to meet while also working a full-time job.  Other authors do it, and I commend them for it, but I can't keep up with it anymore.

So I'm going back to the schedule that works for me:  I'll write as much as I want about what I want whenever I want.  If I feel like all I have in me is one paragraph, that's what I'll write.  If I have twenty pages of material ready to go in my head, that's what I'll write.  No blog schedules.  No more word counts.  No more page expectations.  Just pure and free creativity.

I'll continue posting here from time to time to try to give you updates regarding future projects.  With Episode V of Outcry finished, I've already begun work on Episode VI.  I don't know how many episodes there will be, but I know where I want to take the story.  I hope to finish it this year so that I can move on to Volume IV of The Fourth Dimension next year.  But I'm not holding myself to timetables anymore, so whenever it happens, it happens.  I'm just glad to be writing again at all, because for a while I felt like I'd never get my mojo back!

Oh, and I intend to eventually update the look/presentation of all my websites, but again, I'm in no rush.  

I hope you enjoy Episode V.  Feel free to leave feedback either here or on the Outcry official page.  Either way, thank you again for being so patient with me.  I'm back now, and I plan to be here to stay!

I hope your 2015 has gotten off to a great start!

God bless,

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Deconstructing "The Miracle on 34th Street"

At some point every holiday season, we sit down to watch The Miracle on 34th Street.  Not the atrocious 1994 remake with John Hammond and Matilda - a movie that, in my mind, had no business being made - but the 1947 version with Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood.  I've seen this movie countless times throughout my life, and the assumption I'd always made was that Kris Kringle was really Santa Claus and that the ending of the film confirmed that fact.  However, after watching the movie this year, I came away with a much different conclusion.

Kris Kringle was not Santa.  He was indeed "just a nice old man with whiskers."

Kris Kringle was simply an elderly man who had made it his mission in life to act as a sort of real-life version of Santa Claus.  I think he believed he was the real Santa Claus, perhaps due to some form of dementia or other psychological disorder.  But nowhere in this movie is it suggested that he is the jolly old man from the North Pole who delivers presents to children all over the world on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer.  Sure, he acknowledges the reindeer in the beginning of the movie and even shows the drunk Santa how to lash the whip, but acknowledgement is really as far as the movie goes.

When Doris first meets Kris, she asks "Could you play Santa Claus?  Have you had any experience?"  Kris laughs and says "A little."  It is reasonable to believe that, although this line was crafted to make the audience wonder, the truth is that he HAS played Santa before.  Later, his interaction with the kids inside Macy's supports that theory.  Yes, he speaks Dutch to the child, however as Doris says, "Susan, I speak French, but that doesn't make me Joan of Arc."

Haven't you ever wondered why, when the children sit on his lap, he doesn't just tell them he'll bring whatever gift they've asked for?  Instead, he tells the parents where they can find those gifts.  He tells the boy's mother where to find the fire engine.  He tells another girl's mother where she can get skates.  Seems odd - why wouldn't Santa just bring them himself?

When Doris begins to question Kringle's sanity, she finds that he lives in a home for the elderly under the care of Doctor Pierce.  Shouldn't Santa live in the North Pole?  Or if Kris spends the "off season" as a member of the general population, wouldn't there be some questions about his whereabouts whenever he returns to the North Pole?  None of this sort of thing is suggested - instead, Dr. Pierce appears to know Kris well and seems to have a positive relationship with him.

As for the gifts, just about each one of them is explained throughout the course of the movie.  As already noted, Kris tells the parents how to get their children's requested toys during the Macy's scenes.  Later, we are shown a scene in which Mr. Macy gives Kris a bonus check.  Mr. Gimbell asks Kris what he's going to do with it, and Kris says he knows a doctor who needs a new X-Ray machine.  This is the X-Ray machine later given to Dr. Pierce at the end of the movie.  Then there's the part where little Tommy, after coming off the stand in the courtroom, runs over to Kris and says "Don't forget, a real official football helmet!" to which Kris replies "Don't worry, Tommy, you'll get it!"  At the conclusion of the case, the prosecutor (Tommy's father) exclaims "I've got to get that football helmet!" and runs out of the courtroom.
This brings us to the finale, where Susan's grand request for a house is fulfilled.  Not just any house, mind you, but the exact house from the photo she gave Kris.  If you notice, the picture is a page out of either a newspaper or magazine.  Additionally, you can see that there are other homes on that same page.  It is probable that this page came from a real-estate listing of some kind, and all Kris did was show Doris and Fred where to find the house knowing full-well that Susie handle the rest.  Remember, when they enter the home in pursuit of Susie, Fred says "The sign outside says it's for sale.  We can't let her down."  Kris didn't give them the house.  He just showed them where to find it.  As for the cane against the wall, it could've very well been left there by the people who moved out.  Or Kris might have left it behind either by accident or to solidify Doris' belief in him as Santa. 

Maybe everyone else already picked up on all these details and I'm late to the party.  I don't know, but these subtleties give me a new respect for Miracle on 34th Street as a remarkable piece of storytelling.  Just don't ask me to watch the 94 version.  I won't react well.

I hope you and your loved ones have had a safe and Merry Christmas.  As we approach 2015, I pray for a peaceful, prosperous, and uplifting new year for all of you. 

God bless,