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Me, how I used to be in traffic. I’m almost totally never like that nowadays… 😏 *cough cough*

I’ve always had a weakness for dark or dirty jokes. I think they’re hilarious, and I’m dangerously good at making new ones. The allure is, of course, that most other people think they’re hilarious too. Few things are more fun than making people laugh.

The problem is the Bible tells us to be mindful of our speech. The power of words is vast, so if we are to win others for Christ, we have to be careful what we say. The quality of our witness is critical. It has to be genuine and sincere – not faked when we’re around non-believers. (I’ve been known to act one way behind closed doors and another when I’m in plain view. Instead, God wants us to be the real deal all the time.)

Ever heard the saying, “What goes into the mind also comes out?” Lately, God’s been showing me just how true that is. Dirty memes and pictures, foul language – all of it will enter your mind and make it easy to act in ways you shouldn’t.

Want pure thoughts? Want peace? Want praying to be easier? (I do!) Be intentional about what you’re exposed to.

I got rid of sooo many dirty memes and other inappropriate content from my phone. Even things that weren’t necessarily dirty, but were hateful or angry. Political content – including stuff I agree with – can be damaging because it stirs up anger. I’m tired of hearing negative things about people. I don’t care if they think differently than I do. I’ll save my opinions for respectful discourse, if it happens. And if it doesn’t, I’ll put my frustrations to bed.

I love making people laugh, but if the joke is dirty, it’s not worth ruining my witness. I want people to see Jesus in my life. I want them to experience Him like I have, and I want them to live a renewed, fulfilled life for all eternity.

Paul was my spirit-animal when he said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)

Literally me every day.

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Photo Credit: Jerra Fullo and Adam Bonilla

Feeling disconnected from God is the worst. You can’t think of what to pray, and even if you do, you feel like you’re talking to a wall.

Today it happened to me. As it did yesterday and the day before that, too, I think. So earlier, as I drove to get lunch with my mom, I found myself frustrated and angry at God. I pressed Him about why He seemed distant. And to my surprise, He helped me understand.

Reality is, He’s never actually distant. When God feels distant, it’s always a matter of faulty perspective. Which is to say, either you’re distracted, or you’re ashamed, or you’re living in sin.

If you’re living in sin, the obvious solution is to repent and make things right with God. But, it’s worth noting that many Christians believe they’re living in sin when they’re not.

Allow me to clarify: I think a lot of people have a sin habit – a sin they struggle with – and it causes them to think they’re living in sin. If you commit the same sin over and over, but you hate it and ask God to forgive you each time, you’re not living in sin. Living in sin is deliberate. So, if you’re dealing with a sin habit, ask God to help you avoid temptation and give you the grace to overcome it.

Which brings me to my second point. Unfortunately, the enemy uses sin habits to make Christians live in shame. The enemy will lie in your ear about how God’s angry with you because you’ve sinned too many times. And then, because of your shame, you’ll feel distant from Him. Don’t buy into the lie. As my friend Thomas Nelson put it, God understands your weakness. You’re just dust. Ask God to forgive you. Ask Him for the grace to not do it again. And then simply move on.

Finally, being distracted from your faith will make God seem distant. In my experience, Satan attacks the mind more than he attacks anything else. He crafts his lies so believably that it’s hard to notice he’s involved. In this situation, God’s not distant. Technically, it’s you who’s distant.

Fortunately, the solution is simple. Go worship Him.

And then, as you become aware of His ever-enveloping presence, stop and listen to His voice.

 

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is Your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23

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Low-Res image used with permission. I am a proud DB member.

This is an entry I intend to publish quietly. It’s the kind of thing a lot of people post to get attention, and attention from this topic isn’t what I want (except from my future wife, of course). But it’s Valentine’s Day, and I feel a day will come when I’m glad I wrote it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve dated, a little over five years. And that’s okay. I’m not desperate. In fact, I really haven’t put much effort into meeting someone. But, even though desperation isn’t a burden I carry, having a girlfriend (hopefully future wife) would be nice. And my parents are pressing hard for it because I’m 30 and they want grandkids and all that. (I’m not here to discuss children. I’m just pointing out that my parents bring it up a lot.)

So, in case the girl of my dreams happens to stumble across this post, here’s my Valentine’s Day letter to her:

Dear Miss Whoever-God-Picked-Out,

First, I’d like to say thank you for having the courage to let me belong to you. I, too, am a fan of giving to charity, so there’s already something we have in common. I think that’s nice.

For real, though, all jokes aside – thank you. If God blessed me with your companionship, I truly am a fortunate man. Believe me, I don’t say that lightly. I know what kind of girl I’m looking for. I know what God told me to seek. So, if you are her, then you are lovely and special, precious beyond measure, and godlier than I deserve. And I adore you for it.

I so look forward to the things we’ll do together. For my part, if you’re interested, I’d like to take you hiking and do photography. I don’t know whether you’re already a photographer, but I wouldn’t be surprised. (If you’re not, that’s okay, too!) You know how it is these days. You can spit in any direction and wet the hair of a photographer. I’ll bring my drones, too, so we can capture the world from the sky. And I won two hammocks at a retreat last year, so we can set those up when it gets warm and just enjoy being outside together. We’ll talk and listen to the wind and birds and all those good things.

Did I really just suggest listening to birds? I hope none of my friends see this.

I’m also excited to watch movies with you and enjoy meals together. Holidays will be extra special because you’ll be a part of them. The companionship – getting to pour my life into yours – the notion is so amazing. God has overflowed my cup, and I’m eager to share it with you.

I want to write for you. I want to craft entire worlds with you in mind, and then use them to tell you stories. I’d write you a million books if I could, each word in them possessing the incredible purpose of wooing your heart to me. Were it that I could!

But here’s what I’m looking forward to the most: Sharing our love for the Lord. You have no idea how excited I am to pray with you. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to pray with someone I love, but, ironically, it’s my prayer that we have that kind of relationship. I’ve also asked God for a unique chemistry between us, one that causes us to spend hours talking about Him. You know what I mean? Those kind of conversations. The absolute best kind. The kind where we enjoy each other’s company while dwelling in the presence of the Holy Spirit. That kind.

I guess what I’m trying to say, Dear One, is that we’re going to have a blast. I promise you that. So, Happy Valentine’s Day, whoever you are. I await God’s moment!

In loving anticipation,                                                  

The Madman

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Last Monday, the church held a staff retreat at Sharptop Cove up in Jasper, Georgia. As you can see, I brought my drone. Fantastic place to fly.

Anyway, we had a devotion about making the most of our joy in Christ. And I’ve got to give credit where it’s due: I didn’t come up with this. I’m really just reiterating what I learned. But it’s too good to keep to myself, believe me.

I’ll be honest about something else, too. I haven’t experienced much joy in a long time. I can’t sit here and tell you it’s been a hard summer, because it hasn’t. Actually, all things considered, it’s been a great summer. It’s just that I’ve fallen into some bad habits, and it’s taken a toll on my quality of life. I’ve allowed things – stupid things – to rob me of my joy.

I certainly subscribe to the philosophy that Christians can choose to have joy. If we choose to take certain steps, we can enable ourselves to have a good attitude. And of course it follows that, as Christians, we can always find joy in Christ if we try(something I haven’t done often lately).

So, what can one do to experience joy? Well, onething you can do is recognize things and experiences that help you notice God’s presence. For me (I made a list), those things include:

  • Having coffee in the morning
  • Helping my dad at his farm
  • Walking through the woods and taking pictures
  • Getting lunch with my mom
  • Meaningful, peaceful, thoughtful conversations
  • Reading a good book
  • Writing
  • Spending time with my family at Hillcrest (our farm in Virginia) or Rockwood (my dad’s farm in Georgia)
  • The atmosphere of Thanksgiving and Christmas

I know the list made me look like a softie, but hear me on this: Those are a few of the things that help me notice God’s presence, and they bring me tremendous joy. Joy not merely because they’re enjoyable, but also because they add perspective and awareness of God’s presence. When it comes to the believer, a calm mind is a mind that’s open to the Holy Spirit.

But what about things that rob me of joy? Most of those involve me sinning or dwelling on something negative. I made a list of those too:

  • Watching too many YouTube videos: I was in the habit of spending hours each day watching political videos or videos of cops arresting “sovereign citizens” or people getting into fights. It’s entertaining, but it poisons the soul. I ended up just deleting the YouTube app from my phone because I couldn’t keep myself from opening it.
  • Being late: Sometimes I’m late, and it frustrates me to death.
  • Spending too much time playing with my phone: Seriously, no lie. I’ve gone to family gatherings and ruined my experience because I spent the whole time looking at my phone. Complaining about it sounds like something an old person would say – I know. But believe me. When you spend too much time on your phone, you miss everything. You might as well not even be there because your mind isn’t. A lot of what you miss is sacred, and you’ll never get it back.
  • Skipping my quiet time or church: If you’re not being fed, not only will you not grow as a Christian, but you’ll actually shrink. And that was definitely my situation this summer.

My list was actually longer than that, but you get the idea. Make changes that’ll help you focus on the Lord, and be filled with joy!

As a Christian, I want people to recognize the uniqueness of my relationship with Christ. Lately, I know that hasn’t been the case, and I’m so sorry for it. But now that my joy has been restored, I’m confident that brighter days are on the horizon.

How to Rescue a Drone from a Tree

Posted: April 28, 2018 in Drones

My good friend Landon lives in an apartment a couple buildings down from mine, and he works in the café at church. He makes one heck of a latte. But among other things, he’s a rock climber, and even more importantly, he’s crazy enough to use that skill to climb trees.

So, remember a few entries back when I told you how my Phantom 3 got stuck in a tree? Here’s a photo I took with my Spark of how high it was:

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You probably can’t tell, but it was way up there. Roughly 100 feet, in fact. Landon took one glance at it and was like, “Eh, I can definitely get that.” I told him to go for it and don’t get killed. I’d much rather buy a new drone than deal with chunks of Landon all over the yard. Disgusting.

Like a pro, he got it – and some might say he made it look easy, too. I am not one of them. I thought it looked hard.

Okay, well considering all the weather that thing endured, this is amazing. But watch how it flies:

I can’t believe it. The only things wrong with it were that the gimbal was off-centered to the left, which is an easy fix, and the rotors needed to be replaced – also an easy fix. What a drone! Nice one, DJI.

Sources of Inspiration

Posted: April 21, 2018 in Painting with Words

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I said it in my Instagram story, and I’ll say it again here: When I go to Heaven, I’m going to eat and watch TV all the time. Because the resurrected body will be perfect and won’t get fat.

Really, though. I wish I could get away with eating however much I want of whatever I want. I love food. I love feeling full. Being an absolute pig is my specialty. I actually lost about twenty-five pounds over the last four months because I stopped doing that, but boy let me tell you: It’s tempting.

ANYWAY…

I’ve been working on my novel for years. It’s almost stupid because I keep redoing chapters and altering ideas, never really coming close to finishing it. I guess it has to be perfect, otherwise it’ll drive me insane when I read it later. So, the question is, if you’re a writer like me, what’s the best way to improve your talent? I pose this question because I’d like to stop having to redo everythingwhen it’s not good enough.

The answer: Inspiration. Inspiration not only spawns ideas, it also improves your skills. It’s a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of deal.

Taking classes or participating in workshops are great for harvesting talent – that’s true – but I think the best thing you can do is learn from the works of others. As Stephen King put it, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

I want my book to have a little something for everyone. Actually, I want it to have a lot for everyone. I’ll be happy if it contains a ton of technical know-how for all the science lovers out there (like me), but I’ll also be happy if I manage to write the best romantic tale ever created. (Shoot for the stars, amirite?)

Thing is, guys, it’s hard to fit all that in one story. I don’t want to include science if I’m no good at making it interesting. If it’s got romance, by all means it needs to make you cry and laugh and emerge from the pages happy. For every aspect of the story, it’s got to be done right.

So, there are lots of fictional goldmines that I dig inspirational currency from. And taking the approach of learning from others’ works is not only the most useful thing a writer can do (really, it is), but it’s also enjoyable.

There’s a TV show I like called The Expanse. From it, I find inspiration to write action in a way that’s both ruthless and exciting. Action scenes cannot feel slow if they are to have the desired effect. The Expanse enables me to better visualize this before putting it to paper.

Leviathan Wakes is the book-version of The Expanse, an absolute masterpiece. It helps me remember to make the technical side of my story – all the sciency stuff – as raw and realistic as possible. I figure the science part of science-fiction ought to be as true to the universe as I can make it so the reader is fully immersed.

The Last of Us (see my review of it here) is a videogame that blew chucks of my soul straight out my backside. The amazing thing about it wasn’t so much the overall story as it was the father-daughter relationship between Ellie and Joel. Their story encouraged me to make the lives of my characters meaningful and their interactions deep. One of the marks of a great story is having relatable, likeable characters. Today, so many TV shows and movies neglect this, and folks wonder why nothing good comes out anymore. Contemporary writers tend to create stories that are dark, ugly, and depressing, usually sporting characters that hate each other and only care about themselves – and then they call it beautiful. Not me. My book is something I think you’re going to enjoy.

Last example. Mass Effect and Halo inspired a sense of adventure when I played them. Both of those games have you exploring alien ruins and extrasolar worlds. I just love it. I want the readers of my book to experience that too. I remember the first time I beat Mass Effect, I realized the adventure of my story wasn’t in-depth enough. At the time, it was about how aliens attacked earth, and then we attacked them back and won. Today, it’s much deeper and more complicated. As far as I know, my idea for the story is something that’s never been done before, and that makes it so exciting to write.

Those are my favorite examples. There’s so much to gain by partaking in the imaginations of others. If you’re the creative type, do it.

Before I go (I don’t even want to tell you how late it is), I will say there are some works you should not try to get inspiration from. A better way to put that might be to say there’s plenty of examples out there of what not to do. It’s important to be able to determine what’s good and what isn’t.

I won’t give you a list of what I think is bad. It’d be hilarious if I did though.

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Let me start by pointing out that guilt and conviction are two different things. Conviction is when you are made aware of sin by the Holy Spirit and urged to repent, whereas guilt is a finger pointed at you by Satan to cause discouragement. It’s important to remember that, and it’s frightening how easy it is to forget.

Sometimes spiritual warfare looks like this: You make a mistake – some kind of sin – and you ask God to forgive you. But you keep feeling bad about it, and you get frustrated because you wish you could take it back. Amidst your frustration, you lose perspective of God’s mercy, and that makes it easier to slip up again. Then, if you do slip up, you get even more frustrated. In the back of your mind, you might feel like God’s presence is no longer with you, that He’s punishing you by ignoring you. Or perhaps you’ll even buy into the lie that God won’t have anything to do with you until you deal with your sin – sin you’ve already asked forgiveness for.

And so, it continues in a cycle. You sin, you feel guilty, you get frustrated, you sin again, you feel guilty again, you get more frustrated. You pray and feel like you’re talking to a wall (which is always due to a loss of perspective, by the way), which frustrates you even more. Then you sin again, and it goes on and on and on.

I think this is why some Christians backslide. They get so discouraged that they give up.

Ignore the Accuser’s lies. The illusion of being abandoned due to sin is a farce. The Bible says God doesn’t accuse us like that, especially in such a way that delivers so much pain. We are free because of what Christ has done for us. (Have a look at Hebrews 4:16.)

It should happen like this instead: You sin, then ask God to forgive you and help you do better next time. After that, you recognize that you’re free and forgiven, and you praise Him for it. And then, finally, you move on. Embracing your freedom is part of what gives you the correct perspective. God’s not looking down at you angrily – of course not!

That isn’t to say sin isn’t bad and won’t elicit cause-and-effect consequences. That just comes with the territory. I’m purely talking about how God sees you.

Don’t underestimate the power of His love – that unlimited, unconditional, eternal love.