The Working Artist

One of the life realities for the vast majority of writers is that you still have to pay the bills somehow, and even the small fraction of writers who become financially successful typically aren’t successful until later in their life. Unless you want to do the hardcore starving artist thing, most writers have a separate career, even many famous authors.

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were both academics, George Orwell was a police officer, Kurt Vonnegut manager a Saab dealership, and so on. For my part, I’ve spent the last several years working as an automotive detailer, an inglorious but pragmatic trade that has paid the bills for my family.

When people find out I’m an automotive detailer, they almost inevitably want to know the worst vehicles that I’ve detailed. At this point in my detailing career, that’s a little like God asking Abram to count the stars. However, I’m going to try, stretching back more than five years and four thousand vehicles.   

If you have a sensitive stomach, you might want to bail here. This is going to get graphic:

The Book of Job: A Guide in Suffering

Introduction

It was my junior year of college and I was sitting in my Western Civilization Class at the University of Kansas. While I’d already taken Western Civ. at community college, the credit had only been accepted as an elective, so there I was taking Western Civ. for a second time. Admittedly the K.U. rendition was markedly better, despite being taught by a graduate student who was—let’s face it—probably the epitome of what I would have been in his place, reserved, a little disheveled, and somewhat geeky.

The primary attribute that made the K.U. class superior was the amount of time we spent reading primary sources like The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Aeneid. There was still the same anti-Christian attitude that I expected when I chose the attend the University, in this class partially manifested in the way that the course selected one of the more amenable and lucid chapters in the Koran while selecting the book of Job from the Bible for analysis.

I still remember my instructor discussing the story of Job and in essence saying, “The God in this story is no different than the gods in the Epic of Gilgamesh. He is a bully, who toys with the lives of men.” From that moment on, I found myself drawn to the story of Job, determined to understand it—to the extent that the book remains one of my favorite to this day.

What follows includes a number of my thoughts that have helped me to decipher this story and some of the lessons I have learned from it. I will acknowledge up front that I am not a Biblical scholar in the traditional sense, nor do I speak or read Hebrew. I am, however, a passionate student of history and lover of literature. Consequently, I lean hard on literary methods. The beauty of the Bible and how the Holy Spirit works is that God delights in teaching us using the tools we have. Continue reading “The Book of Job: A Guide in Suffering”

The President Deserves Your Respect

Preface:

What follows is something I wrote in 2015 about President Barak Obama. I thought about updating it—transposing Obama with Trump and changing some details—and when the backlash came, bringing out the original version to drive the point home.

That would have been the more artistic route, but I’d rather speak plainly and challenge those who read to do the transposing themselves, hoping that the reader will engage and reflect. It’s easy not to like Donald Trump, but everything I’m about to say is just as true with our current President as with the prior.

President Obama Deserves Our Respect, Even If We Don’t Agree With Him

President Barack Obama recently visited my alma mater, the University of Kansas. When I perused the pictures and articles surrounding the event, I was overwhelmed by the rudeness President Obama’s visit sparked. Even though K.U. is the most liberal school in a state that voted Republican in both elections, I was still surprised by the backlash.

I won’t go into detail on some of the comments; you can find them easily enough if you’re curious. I realize that with President Obama’s final term coming to an end a lot of Republicans are happy to see him go, and many Democrats are disenchanted with what he’s accomplished. Regardless of your feelings about President Obama, the man deserves respect for several reasons. Continue reading “The President Deserves Your Respect”

1. Atlas Shrugged

If six years ago you were to tell me my favorite book would be an epic, philosophical, economic thriller written by an atheist, I would have assumed that you don’t know me. Nonetheless, I went through Atlas Shrugged three years in a row (2015-2017), and each read deepened my affinity for the book.

Atlas Shrugged grabbed my attention immediately with the characters. Because the story is philosophical in nature, many of the characters are idealistic, yet Ayn Rand writes intriguing backstories for these people. I often found that it was my interest in the characters that spurred me onward in the story. Let me introduce just a few of the protagonists: Continue reading “1. Atlas Shrugged”

When I Am Afraid

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:11-12

It’s strange that I find myself drawn to water, considering that I almost drowned when I was five. I was exploring a field with my brother, took a false step, and found myself in another dimension: air was replaced by water, warmth with cold, peace with fear—I couldn’t swim. A scream goes nowhere in water; it drifts around your head in vacant bubbles. The experience left me terrified of deep waters, yet I always find myself drawn to lakes, ponds, and oceans. Fear is like water, like drowning. It slows movement and brings a unique degree of clarity to life. It shows what we love; it reveals our faith.

***

I never considered myself a fearful person. My mild arachnophobia was an acceptable trait; my acrophobia disappeared in high school, after a week on a high-ropes course; and the phantoms of my childhood hydrophobia, repressed by swimming lessons, resided only as tokens of the past. All things considered, my worries were generally healthy and relegated to practical areas of my life. The last time that panic ran rampant in my thoughts was when I stumbled across a timber rattlesnake. My mind was contemplating the dietary habits of black bass, and his senses were absorbed in basking. Our acquaintance was brief and professional. Continue reading “When I Am Afraid”