Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pulling Out The Stitches

Last week, I got away from it all. Away from the noise, the rush, the stress of life. The last hurrah of the summer--the Student Leader Camping Trip. Nothing but me, the people I love, and God's creation for miles. And it was amazing.

Most of my summers are crazy, packed full of events, trips, and performances. This summer was the craziest so far--I barely had a week to myself before it was time to get ready for the next big thing. But the camping trip slowed me down, made me stop, relax, think. After two and a half months of craziness, I was so ready to get away from everything.

Now, you might say that spending a week with twenty weird (and I mean really weird) teenagers doesn't sound very relaxing, but the truth is, being with my friends is what relaxes me the most. It's what puts everything into focus. Makes it all clear. We can be some of the strangest people you've ever met, but through it all, we're just happy... and content.

When I'm with the people I love, I am at peace with the world--and that's what happened at Cloud Lake a week ago. I was at peace.

I had been dealing with my own struggles, and I was getting so tired by the time the Student Leader Camping Trip rolled around. But God knew exactly what I needed--rest. And so He timed it perfectly so I could go camping with all of my friends for a week--because He's awesome like that.

I needed to heal. I'm not saying that I had some big thing in my life happen that was super hard or anything, I just needed to be put back together. So as I sat in God's creation, I laid down all my stress, problems, struggles, and failures and just let God heal me.

Too often do we take for granted this blessing we have--to rest, to be still in God's presence and have Him make us whole again. We're too busy, too stressed to worry about anything but the next appointment. All the while, God is trying to heal us, revive us, but we won't stop moving. Our savior is sewing us back together, and we're pulling out the stitches.

So I challenge you--be still. Let God recharge you, heal you, put you back together again. Only then will you be able to look at the stress, the problems, and the failures with a mind focused on Him.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

After All

I use to be scared of the future, and to an extent I still am. But something significant has changed in my life.

I use to think to myself, "Wow, the world is so messed up. No one is following God, and even those who say they do are compromising on very important issues. America is going downhill." I would get depressed thinking about trying to be a Christian in a future America,let alone trying to raise a godly family in that sort of environment.

This past year, my outlook has begun to change. This week in particular has really made me reevaluate my thinking.

All throughout history there have been ups and downs--periods where the majority of people in a given country have followed God and have been blessed for it, and then periods where darkness has become the status quo, and the church compromises and gets to a low point.

But it always returns--there is always a rejuvenation in the culture, and life is breathed into the world again. No matter how dark it may get, the light of a single candle is all it takes to pierce it. And through it all, God never leaves us. His promises are true in the dark times and the times of joy.

Statistics say that only 10% of the people in a society have to believe passionately about something for the culture to begin to shift. I fall of us, as Christians, stood up for Christ and DID something about the state of our country, it could change overnight. But we sit on our butts and let the 10% in charge of society right now dictate where we are headed.

This past week I’ve been at a Christian camp in Montello, Wisconsin,pouring out myself and being poured into at the same time. I’ve been humbled,strengthened, and blessed beyond anything I thought possible.

This year’s camp theme was God’s creation. Our culture has been indoctrinated with atheism and evolution for years and years, slowly being pulled away from the truth of Earth’s history and being brainwashed with revisionist history and what many would call, “scientific fact” but what is really just a bunch of assumptions believed through blind faith. The truth about the special design of the universe and how everything points to it has been all but erased from popular culture.

I have heard this topic dozens of times—my dad has taught the subject at youth group often, as well as at camp seven years ago, and we as a family are always reading about it and learning more about what the Bible has to say about the beginning of history. But this time, I came away with something new.

A determination.

The world is messed up right now, it’s true. But that doesn't mean it can’t change, it doesn't mean we can’t be the ones to do something about it, and it DOES NOT mean that God is any less true or any less good. We, as Christians, have a responsibility to the world to show it the truth,to be salt and light—preserving and illuminating—for a depraved generation. And the time to do this is not in twenty years, or in one year—it’s now.

“Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young,but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12

We, as teenagers, and yes, even those that are younger, like the kids I worked with at Kidz Camp this past week, are not the generation of tomorrow—we are the generation of TODAY. If we start today, if we have the courage to stop nodding our heads at the things we know are wrong, if we have the humility to give ourselves fully to Christ and live a life pleasing to him,if we have the faith to go boldly into the future with God at our side—nothing can stop us.

I admit, that scares me. Even as I write this, I am challenging myself with the same concept. I said I was ALL IN at a youth conference in Chicago this April, but did I mean it, and am I willing to actually live it?

Yes. Yes, I am. I have struggled with many things throughout my young life—sins, attitudes, procrastination—but as I sit here in my house after being gone for a week, being filled with the Holy Spirit countless times,and really FEELING God’s presence throughout that week, I really am ready to take that step.

I look down—my shoes are red. A reminder to myself that it will be a hard road. Blood will be on this road, dirt will be on this road,pain, heartache, weakness, and despair will be on this road. But my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is on this road. And so shall I be as well.

God breathed life into me, and it’s time I gave him that breath back—all of it. I owe him that much, at the very least. After all the pain and suffering He went through to save me from an eternity of separation from Him, the holy God of the universe stepping into his creation and dying for it—I have to realize that fact. I belong to God, and if I don’t live my life for Him, then what else is there?

Nothing. Without God, there is no purpose—and that’s why this makes so much sense. The world is too beautifully created to be an accident. Everything points to that fact. And though some would willingly ignore and reject God, I won’t be among their ranks.

You know that fence we all hang on at one point or another,the one that divides the followers of God from those who reject him? I just kicked it down. Yes, it hurts. Yes, giving up things I know are not godly is going to make me bleed, but it is so worth it. The blood on my shoes is a reminder to me.

A reminder that Jesus bled for me. I can do the same for Him. It will never measure up to His sacrifice, but I owe him too much to not try.

The last night of camp I prayed. Prayed more diligently and purposefully then I think I ever have in my life. And I promised God and myself that I would take the first step. That if I was the only one in this generation who would follow Him, I would do it.

But that’s what’s amazing—I’m not the only one. I have a great cloud of witnesses surrounding me, my friends, my family, my church. And together, we can change the world. This generation can change EVERYTHING.

We can be the candle in the dark room. We can be the fire that burns pure. We can be the hope that this broken, fallen world desperately needs. But we can’t do it without God.

And so we are stepping out. I take a step forward, and I look around. Who will join me? Am I alone in a crowd of people that don’t care about the truth? But then I see it. Their feet—they have the same shoes. Red shoes, like mine. They have bled. They have trusted. They will fight.

An army steps forward.

I’m not saying we won’t stumble. I’m not saying we won’t be angry at God sometimes, or be hurting so much we want to give up. But I am saying we will keep each other accountable. I am saying that we will lift each other up, and strengthen each other, and love each other. I am saying that we will give everything we have. For we have seen the light at the end of this broken road we walk, and it is the most beautiful thing we have ever seen.

And so there we shall go.

“Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.” –Proverbs 4:25

That is my prayer for all of us. That we focus our eyes on Jesus and never look back. The army takes another step. And then they begin to sing.

“Hosanna, we are found after all. You are holy.”

Saturday, June 15, 2013

In Awe

It amazes me, God's love for us.

We do everything wrong, and somehow the Creator of the universe still values us, and says we are worth it. Even if we have gone through our entire life rebelling against him, all it takes is for us to repent, and God wipes our slate clean. And even worse--if we have claimed to follow God, but continue to fall into things we know are wrong, He still forgives us.

That amazes me.

I, unfortunately, have fallen under the last category for a sizable portion of my adolescent life. And yet God still forgives me every time I ask him to. He never fails to give me hope, courage, and new life when I've hit rock bottom.

I am in awe.

That reminds me of some lyrics from the amazing poet and rapper, Propaganda.

But worth, value, and beauty is not determined by some innate quality
But by the length for which the owner would go to possess them
And broken and ugly things just like us are stamped "Excellent"
With ink tapped in wells of divine veins
A system of redemption that could only be described as perfect
A seal of approval, fatal debt removal
Promised, prominent, perfect priest
Brilliant designed system, redemption for our kinsmen
Can only be described as perfect with excellent execution
And I'm in awe, the only One truly excellent
The only source of excellence
We are declared excellent only by His decree with His system
The only accurate response is awe
I absolutely love this song, "Lofty", and it's message. We do not deserve God's love, or His son's redemption, or the Holy Spirit's peace. But the God who breathes stars from his mouth gives it to us anyway.   All we have to do is ask.

I am in absolute awe and amazement at the realization that God loves me despite of my flaws, despite of my weakness, despite of my rebellion, and despite of my foolishness. He sees worth in me, and has a plan for my life far greater than anything I could ever hope to dream up on my own.

I don't deserve it. Yet he gives me it anyway. We don't deserve it, but He lavishes His love on us despite it all. And so I pray we take this chance, this one millionth, or one billionth chance we have, and do great things  with it. I pray we let God guide our lives, and allow Him to take us somewhere we could never get to on our own. And I pray that we would just surrender... that we would put aside all that the world has to offer... that I would put aside all this world has to offer, surrender everything I am... and follow Him.

I am determined.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Writing and Representation

For people wondering why I am intensely interested in writing fantasy (as you can probably tell from just reading a few of these blog posts), here are some clarifications.

Well, to put it simply, I love it. Fantasy is my favorite genre of fiction, and has been for a long, long time now. I read fantasy almost constantly, and enjoy the possibilities and intricacies of the genre immensely.

For those of you who don't know, what my friends and I have done is created a fantasy universe with an overarching story in which to separately write different books in said universe. We all have our separate novels and series' planned, all set in the same galaxy and connecting to the larger story.

And we have magic. Contrary to popular belief, magic in fiction is not evil. Obviously, magic in the real world is a bad thing, because God expressly forbids it--and because there are demons behind it. But "magic" in the fantasy setting we've created (and almost every fantasy setting ever created) is simply a way of having the characters do things that normal people can't do. It isn't evil--it's simply a part of their world.

Now, there are demons in the setting as well. They aren't really demons in the real sense of the word, rather a race of beings that was corrupted by the main baddie of the universe, a guy we named Chaos. But these demons represent the real thing, and are an active and dangerous part of the universe, tempting and corrupting people. It is established very early on that these demons are evil, and the powers they give people are also evil.

The premise of the story is a battle between Good and Evil. The fine details of the plot have yet to be put in stone, but the basic story revolves around this battle. "God", as in the real God that is the Creator of our universe, is not in this galaxy (at least, I don't think so, we haven't actually ironed out the details yet), but we have set up our books to be allegories (though very subtle ones) about different spiritual truths and moral problems.

For example, one of the worlds in the galaxy has a type of magic that revolves around truth and lies. The basis of the novel written on that world is going to be focused on the morality of truth. My own series, The Proanadi, is built to be a representation of the journey of redemption, along with a lot of other spiritual truths about friendship, revenge, and other things.

As a Christian, I understand that the only thing that really matters in this world is serving Jesus, serving others, and telling others about Jesus. And I want to do this by writing books. I want to give people good entertainment, but get them thinking about spiritual truths and moral issues, as well as allegories that represent things about Jesus and other spiritual things. And I want to write fiction in which the junk that permeates our society now is nonexistent. I want to show people that you can write books without swearing and sex scenes. And that it will actually be better without it.

But that's just me.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Red Shoes

Last weekend I went to Dare2Share's Follow Tour conference, along with dozens of other teens from our church. It was an amazing experience, as Dare2Share always is, but this year, is was different for me. I have my struggles, and at that point in my life they seemed like they would overwhelm me. I absently noticed that the logo for the Follow Tour was a pair of red shoes, with the words "all in" written on them. Cool, I thought to myself. That makes sense. Little did I know that those two words--and those red shoes, would make a world of difference.

We arrived at the Sears Centre in Chicago more or less safely, and after putting on the bracelets that would stop security from tackling us when we tried to walk in, made our way inside to join thousands of other teenagers in worship. If you've ever been to a conference like this, you know what I'm talking about. The experience was incredible--thousands of voices singing together as one, all to Jesus.

As I stood there, worshipping, something distracted me. I had been wrestling with myself for the past week, trying to decide if I was doing these things for the right reasons. If I was being a Christian, worshipping, serving, not because my parents did it, or because my friends did it, but because I believed that Jesus had done what the Bible said He had done. I didn't want to be singing to God because it was what everyone else was doing, I wanted to make sure that I was doing it because of what God had done for me.

The conference continued, and I struggled with that. Now, I grew up in a Christian home, as a pastor's kid, surrounded from birth with the Bible and Jesus. I learned many different things about how to defend my faith, how to win others to Christ, and how to serve God and others.

But was it really my own? Did I own my faith? I asked myself those questions last weekend, and luckily I found an answer.

It was nearing the end of the conference, and Greg Stier, the founder of Dare2Share, finished with a message that impacted me tremendously. He began to talk about what the words, "all in", really meant, and I found out the significance of the pair of red shoes that was the logo for the tour.

You see, Jesus went all in for us. He became human, humbling himself and walking among us. He put on his own footwear, a pair of dirty sandals, and did as we did. He felt what we felt, he hurt as we have hurt. And finally, after a long, brutal walk, which smeared his sandals with blood and dirt, He died for us.

Greg Stier called a kid up from the audience to come on stage. He asked the kid to take his shoes off, and to sit on a chair that had been set there for him. "You represent everyone here," Greg said, pulling out a pair of red shoes with the words, "all in", written on them--identical to those on the logo. "In a moment," Greg continued. "I'm going to ask you to put these on, but first--" he looked out over the crowd. "--I want to ask everyone with red shoes to come up here on stage."

As you all can probably see, I'm wearing red shoes right now. And I was wearing these at the conference too. For a moment, I couldn't believe it. I was like, "that's me!" I looked around at my friends, saying, "I have red shoes on!"

Finally, one of them looked at me and said, "Go!"

So off I went.

I will always remember running--and almost tripping--down the stairs to the floor of the stadium below. I will always remember running alongside dozens of others as we all headed to the stage.
I will always remember being surrounded by hundreds of others, all wearing red shoes, as we stood around or on the stage, watching as Greg turned back to the kid sitting in the chair.

"You represent everyone here," the speaker said. "Are you willing to put these red shoes on, and go all in for Jesus?"

I wanted to scream YES! Luckily, I didn't.

The boy nodded. "Yes."

Greg put the shoes on him.

It all made sense. My faith was my own. It wasn't my parents' faith. It wasn't my friends' faith. God spoke to me that night in Chicago, and he asked me a simple question. "Are you all in? Are you ready to stop playing at your Christianity, and start to live?"

Yes, I answered silently as the worship band came on stage to finish out the conference with a final song. Then we worshipped.

I will always remember being surrounded by hundreds of others in red shoes, worshipping the Lord.

God calls us to go all in. He calls us not to worship him because we have to, or because everyone else is doing it, but because we are in awe at the sacrifice Christ went through for us. He calls us to put on red shoes--to willingly follow Him even though there will be pain, even though there will be heartache--and to go ALL IN.

So I ask you, are you all in? Christ died for you. Are you going to live for Him?

Friday, April 5, 2013

History, Mythology, and Maps

I know I haven't updated this in forever, but that's mostly been because I've been involved in other writing--and heavily involved at that. As I near the finish of the first part of The Proanadi, I realized that I needed to really nail down the history and mythology of the races and kingdoms involved. There were plenty of sections when I hinted at both events in the past and various gods, but most of that, I admit, was made up on the spot, and all of it wasn't very well thought out.

So for the past few weeks I've been really digging into the past and the religion of the kingdoms that take a major role in The Proanadi, and what I've found is pretty cool. For one, I made a comprehensive timeline spanning from the beginning of civilization as the world knew it to the present day--well, more like ten comprehensive timelines, each from a different kingdom's viewpoint. I'll put them together soon, with all of the events of the nations in one place.

Second, I made the various pantheons of deities that each race pays homage to. The way gods work in the world of The Proanadi is similar to the way Tolkien's world of Middle Earth and the Undying Lands works. A higher power created the gods and set them in the world as stewards, each watching over a particular aspect or function in the world. In the misty past of Serragon, the world on which The Proanadi takes place, groups of stewards who were like-minded gathered together and made races that also shared their mindset. These races split into groups themselves, and the stewards split with them, until a few dozen separate groups of cultures, with their own gods, had developed.

Now that I had this foundation in mind, the things I wrote in my novel had meaning. The things the characters were talking about had depth, and the gods that they spoke of had history and a foundation in the culture of the kingdom. It was pretty cool.

Not only that, but I've also updated my world map--extensively. Originally, the two areas where the book takes place in (Torius/Azatharia for Nimlar, Daelis, and Striker; and Umhati for Poddle, Daegoth, and Tahlavel) were miles and miles apart. I had a big problem trying to figure out a way to get them going towards the same place.

But a month or two ago, I had an idea. I started a hotseat game of Civilization V, in which every civilization represented one from my story. The map that was generated--with a little tweaking--was absolutely perfect. It landed the Crossroad Kingdoms just north of Umhati--solving one problem--and gave me great locations to set the various nations in.

Since then the world has really come alive with history, mythology, sociology, and geography. And I love it. This is one of my great passions--creating a race's culture and constructed their past. I find it immensely satisfying to build the backstory for a story's world, almost as much as I like writing the story itself.

Well, that's my update. Sorry that there's nothing mind-bogglingly monumental in this post--I'll try to think of something a little bit more stupendous for next time.

Thanks, and good reading!

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Rules of Creation

My brother Connor, my best friend Trevor, and I got together one day almost a year ago now and decided to make a world. We started talking about this world, who would live in it, what it would be like, and how we could make it unique. With a random idea and a roll on a chart (and a lot of refining), we thought up the world that would be the backdrop for the story known as The Rules of Creation.

The world operates on the premise that a powerful being called the Creator roams the universe, creating worlds and populating them with diverse life and intricate designs. He creates these worlds with an incredibly powerful substance: his own blood. Using this "Kingsblood", which, whimsically, has been referred to as "creative juices", the Creator made the tapestries and art of the universe, making each planet with unique and utterly amazing lifeforms that functioned perfectly in their chosen world and environments. When he was done creating the worlds, the excess Kingsblood would be "dried up" and become the lava which resides in the worlds' cores.

Where the world of The Rules of Creation comes in is here: the Creator had started on another world, forming it with his blood, when something happened. It is not specified what event took place, but whatever occurred, the process of creation was interfered with, leaving a half-formed blob literally seething with excess Kingsblood.

That's where the epicness begins.

It turns out that, left unchecked, Kingsblood takes on a life of it's own, and begins to create independently of it's designer. In the initial years after the planet's birth and subsequent forming and shaping, great sprays of Kingsblood rocked the world, creating plants, animals, and sentient beings in amazing complexity.

After thousands of years of turmoil and chaos, something happened--something still unknown--which changed the world and considerably diminished the amount of Kingsblood activity over the face of the earth. Kingsblood was still a very essential part of the world, however, and lay across the world in lakes, bubbling ponds, and--still active in some cases--geysers and volcanoes.

The world began to realize that Kingsblood could be harvested--and controlled--and since then, the nations haven't been the same. A great nation of humans, luckily located near one of the greatest areas for the harvesting of Kingsblood has shaped their kingdom to revolve around this powerful substance: harvesting and selling it in mass quantities, capturing and selling new creations as geysers make them, and studying and researching the liquid, eventually creating a whole science out of it.

About this time, one of the greatest scientists ever to walk the face of the earth wrote a book that would help all of the sentient races of the world understand Kingsblood: this book was named The Rules of Creation. This tome compiled a list of circumstances, conditions, and rules that defined how things were created using Kingsblood. Even though the chaotic forces of Kingsblood lacked the Creator to guide their design, the functionality of the creations were obvious and complex, and always seemed to fit their environment. In other words, a creation was always fully functional, able to survive their immediate extremities, and had features that specifically benefited them.

What was created was directly related to the amount of Kingsblood that was released, and the velocity in which it hit a surface (for to create something, Kingsblood had to have sufficient time to activate under the effects of oxygen, and had to hit something with enough force). How much Kingsblood there was determined either how many creations were made and/or how big they were. The velocity determined the complexity of the creation.

What it hit also had effects: if Kingsblood hits a desert for instance, the creation is specifically designed for that environment. If it happens in water, the creation is designed for aquatic behavior, whether it be fresh or salt. And all this it does instantaneously. Numerous and amazing creations abound in the world, and all are specifically suited for their terrains and have been designed for functionality.

It is in this world that our story begins...

  • The balancing force that has kept the Kingsblood checked for centuries now is suddenly disrupted, and the earth begins to careen towards how it was in the years of chaos following it's birth. Since the people that inhabit the world didn't know what kept it balanced in the first place, they have no way to restore it, and as such are helpless to stop the oncoming torrent of destruction... er, creation.
  • A mysterious singular sentient has appeared in a recent geyser blast of Kingsblood, shocking amvasologists (scientists studying the substance) in the region. This person appeared in a torrent that created a number of other creatures all similar, except for him, the black sheep of the bunch. Now this goes against everything the world knows of Kingsblood, since anything that is created in a particular blast is always related somehow, and there is rarely ever a singular person made, since the Rules of Creation state that the thing that is created has to be able to reproduce in some way.
  • A particularly bright scientist and scholar of many subjects (AKA our hero), gets his hands on said mysterious stranger, and begins to study the strangely mute individual, trying to learn more about this odd occurrence. He is confronted with other rival scholars and unscrupulous businessmen, all trying to get their hands on the individual, for their own selfish reasons.
  • This individual (as the reader learns from scenes with him as the viewpoint character), is amnesiac--he has no idea who he is, what he can do, and how to go about in this world. Which is another oddity--created beings are always aware of what they can do and how to survive (and how to communicate, at least in their own tongue), per the Rules of Creation. This individual seems to learn extraordinarily quickly however, learning the local language just by observing the young scholar who is studying him, a fact which even he does not understand.
  • As the mystery deepens, the scholar and the strange being are dragged into the situation involving the disintegration of the balancing force that checked the King's Blood, and learn why it is happening, and how to stop it. 

There is more--much more--but I cannot reveal it, lest it ruin the book for you. But those are the main points. I hope you enjoyed reading the idea, and I hope you like it well enough to read it when we finish writing it (which will take a while, because of the epic scope of the story and the world).

Friday, March 1, 2013

More Than Useless

So I finally realized that updating this blog every day was really unrealistic and essentially impossible--I'm still trying to figure out what schedule I'm going to put this on: once a week, twice a week? Not sure...

Anyway, just a quick update from my end. I was listening to the song "More Than Useless" by Relient K tonight, and the lyrics, though I've heard them a million times, really hit me for some reason. I'm gonna go through parts of the song and explain the impact each has personally on me.

I feel like, I would like
To be somewhere else doing something that matters
And I'll admit here, while I sit here
My mind wastes away and my doubts start to gather
Whats the purpose? It feels worthless
So unwanted like I've lost all my value
I can't find it, not in the least bit
And I'm just scared, so scared that I'll fail you
And sometimes I think that I'm not any good at all
And sometimes I wonder why, why I'm even here at all

This is me. A lot. I seem to feel like nothing I do in a regular day matters at all. I feel like I could be doing so many other things, but what I really end up doing is less than desirable. I saw a quote today along the lines of "I wake up every morning, ready to do something productive, and a voice in my mind says, 'Haha! Good one!'" Too true.

When I wake up in the morning, I feel like I could write chapters upon chapters of my novel, write dozens of songs, or finally get around to finishing the next Static Dynamik video. But the day goes on, and it doesn't happen. I may try to do these things, but I always fall short. I get writer's block, or what I write seems forced or stupid. I'm distracted by other things, and my song never takes off, or sounds cliche. The editing machine is full, or I accidentally delete footage, and nothing happens with the video.

The day passes, and I feel like it was a waste.

But then you assure me
I'm a little more than useless
And when I think that I can't do this
You promise me that I'll get through this
And do something right
Do something right for once
So I say if I can't, do something significant
I'll opt to leave most opportunities wasted
And nothing trivial, that life could give me will
Measure up to what might have replaced it
Too late look, my date book
Is packed full of days that were empty and now gone
And I bet, that regret
Will prove to get me to improve in the long run

To be honest, I cried a little bit listening to these lyrics tonight. I was in the car alone, and there was no around to embarrass, so I shed a few tears. I often forget this most crucial fact: God has given me the promise that I am more than useless. Even when I feel like there is no point, God doesn't. He sees the big picture, and though sometimes I know He must feel disappointed when I go through a day doing so much, but really doing nothing at all, most of the time I think He is guiding me through every step, knowing that I need to take this life one step at a time, one struggle at a time.

And apathy, this slayer of billions, is a struggle indeed.

I'm starting to see what I was missing these past few months, spent without much passion for anything. It was a connection with God. To be someone, I have to start with Him--the One who gives me my worth. To have meaning, to do something purposeful, one has to have a direction in which to travel. That direction needs to be towards Jesus Christ, the only person who can give true purpose.

And that is the direction, starting now and going on for the rest of my life, that I hope to travel,

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Nine Disciplines

I've been agonizing about not having a very good magic system for my novels, but a few month ago, that finally changed. Below is a set of guidelines and lists for my magic system, known as the Nine Disciplines. This is the magic system I am using for my series, The Proanadi, as well as the world in which the scene Prisoner is set in. If you read closely, you can figure out how Alaeph can do what he does.

The way it works is thus: any known magic-user has access to one, several, or all of these Disciplines. All "magic" as people know it derives itself ultimately from the Nine Disciplines. Where magic-users differ is WHERE they get their power from--their power source. There can also be differences in areas of focus, and ways that they use the different disciplines (because, the possibilities within the Disciplines are almost unlimited).

Here are the Nine Disciplines below, grouped as they would be commonly, with three groups of three:

The Nine Disciplines

1 Physical (change in physical matter)
2 Sensory (change in perception)
3 Elemental (manipulation of the elements)

1 Influential (change in feeling)
2 Intellectual (change in thought)
3 Essential (manipulation of life energies)

1 Continuous (disruptions in space or time)
2 Creative (creation of new energy or matter)
3 Potential (manipulation of force)

Examples of something being done with each Discipline below:

Physical: Enhances your (or another's) strength
Sensory: Tricking another individual's perceptions, making you effectively invisible
Elemental: Shooting fire from your hands
Influential: Providing a morale boost to your comrades
Intellectual: Tampering with someone's memory
Essential: Bringing someone back to life
Continuous: Teleportation (space) or slowing time (time)
Creative: Creating food and water out of nothing
Potential: Throwing up a wall of pure force

Now, there are many different limitations and tricks associated with each Discipline, and points where they overlap, but different Disciplines work better in different situations. Where the line is drawn between the different types of magic-users in the world comes from one major thing (though there are other, less important differences): Power Source. Where do they derive their power from?

Below is a list of some magic-users and their power sources:

Wizards – Power through learning (words and rituals that channel the energy)
Clerics – Power through prayer*
Sorcerers – Power through lineage (having some form of magical creature’s blood in your DNA)
Favored Soul – Power through divine connection*
Dragosamns – Power through dragon totems (similar to Stewardic power)**
Roshi – Power through Chaos**
Druids – Power through natural connection and energy
Talir-Knights – Power through one’s own energy
Demons – Power through destruction (breaking down of matter or energy)

* Both Clerics and Favored Souls gain their ultimate power from the Stewards. Only the means are different.
** Although both Roshi and Dragosamns gain their abilities through their dragon blood, their actual power sources come from outside their bloodline, unlike sorcerers.

Different ways of organizing the same categories of energy are found below:

Clerical Blessings

Earthly Blessings
1 Physical (Blessing of the Flesh)
2 Sensory (Blessing of the Eyes)
3 Influential (Blessing of the Heart)
4 Intellectual (Blessing of the Mind)

Holy Blessings
1 Elemental (Blessing of the Burning Blood)
2 Essential (Blessing of the Living Blood)
3 Potential (Blessing of the Compelling Blood)

Heavenly Blessings
1 Continuous (Blessing of the Soaring Soul/Eternal Soul)
2 Creative (Blessing of the Inceptive Soul)

Dragosamn Totems

Physical (Totem of Substance)
Sensory (Totem of Image)
Elemental (Totem of [Insert Element Name Here])
Influential (Totem of Presence/Inspiration)
Intellectual (Totem of Reason)
Essential (Totem of Blood)
Continuous (Totem of Foresight/Passage/Intervention)
Creative (Totem of Origin)
Potential (Totem of Impact)

That is the extent of it, but there is much more in the way of details to be ironed out with this system. Thanks for reading, and I hope you liked it!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Today I sat down to write. But I wasn't sure what to write. So many ideas were running through my head, but none of them were ready to be worked on yet. So I tried something I hadn't done in a while--I wrote something completely random.

A website I like,, is filled with random generators for writing and role-playing games. One specific generator is a writing exercise generator. It gives you something random to write about, whether it be "Write for at least 250 words about a purchase, a rodent, and a payment." or "Write for at least two minutes about a heroic deed, a thug, and a businessman."

With no thought beforehand, I ran the generator, and came up with: "Write for at least five minutes about a prison and a bottle. Focus on creating one compelling character." And so I wrote a random scene, set in the world of my trilogy, the Proanadi. But in a completely distant section of the world that I hadn't worked on much before--an elven nation in the east with a pseudo-Asian culture, Peraian.

And that is where Alaeph and Hatrex were born. Here is the full scene, at least, as much as I've written so far.


Alaeph sat up in his cell, head thumping from a hangover. He pressed a hand to his temple and sighed, wondering how he had gotten here. The iron bars of the cell door were rusted, only barely hanging on their hinges, and the floor of the small, cramped chamber was incredibly dirty. Alaeph cringed, taking his hand away from the side of his head. As he feared, it was covered in a thick layer of grime.

Lovely, the Perenari thought, wiping the hand on his silk trousers. Another pair of pants soiled. At least this time it’s not directly my fault.

“You’ve made quite a mess of yourself,” a voice said from outside the cell. The owner was another elf wearing a cotton uniform, a gold badge pinned to the front. Some sort of prison guard? The clothing is a bit too nice, though…

Alaeph ignored him and shook out his fatigue, getting to his feet and looking around. Pale light filtered in from a small barred window at the corner of the room, and though it only slightly illuminated the tiny chamber, it was like fire to Alaeph’s sensitive eyes.

”You are a matter of public record, my friend,” the guard continued, taking a drink from a cup. Alaeph’s eyes adjusted to the light, and he saw clearly now that the man sat at a wood table a few feet away from the door of the cell, in the corner of the chamber beyond the iron bars. “You’ve been arrested seventeen times in the last six months. Three of those times for disturbing the peace, seven for thievery, three for resisting arrest, and the other four for public indecency.”

“I was under extraneous circumstances,” Alaeph said off-handedly, squinting at the guard as his eyes tried to fight through the stabbing pain that the light caused. “Who are you, again?”

“My name is Hatrex,” the guard said, taking another drink from his cup. “I'm the jamini of the city you just shocked so profoundly.”

Of course, Alaeph thought. That explains the badge.

“Why are you here, Hatrex?” Alaeph asked, his curiosity heightened suddenly. “Couldn’t a less important man be sent to coddle me while I rot in this cell?”

“You know why I’m here,” Hatrex said, smiling. “I really don’t think I have to mention the sixteen times you’ve broken out of prison under the noses of less important men.”

Alaeph didn’t return the jamini’s smile. “You won’t be able to stop me. No one else has, and I don’t plan on living out the rest of my life in a filthy hole in the ground.”

“We’ll see about that, my little magician,” Hatrex said. Alaeph gave him a look, and the jamini smiled again. “Yes, I know about your little secret.”

“You don’t know the half of it, lawman,” Alaeph retorted, turning away. The elf sat deliberately on the other side of the cell, facing away from the man. “We’ll see how important you really are in a few moments.”

Alaeph crossed his legs, concentrating. He cleared his mind and brought the force of his will to bear, channeling the energy around him, and causing it to flow into the Continuous Discipline.

And then, Alaeph stopped time.


Who is Alaeph, and how is he capable of stopping time itself? How did he commit the crimes he did, and for what reason? Who exactly is Hatrex?

I have no idea. But I'm hoping, as I write a little more of this, I will start to understand it myself. This is pretty short, and mostly improvised, just making it up as I went along, but I feel there is a story here--something bigger that I have yet to unravel.

We'll see where this goes, and if I go anywhere with it. But that's all for now--thanks for reading this!

Note: A jamini is just a word that sounded exotic that I used for a profession that is basically a sheriff. The role a jamini plays might change as I figure this budding story out, but that's the basis of it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Lamb (Preconception)

Tonight at youth group, my dad began teaching on a topic that is going to take us a few weeks to cover--a subject that is of vital importance... really, of the utmost importance.

Jesus Christ, dying on the cross, for the sins of the world.

Sermons cover everything, from divorce to creation to the end times, but the singular most important aspect of Christianity, and the aspect that all sermons should point to, is Jesus, and the sacrifice he made.

I like writing. It's something I'm good at and passionate about. As I listened to my dad teach on what happened in Gethsemane and the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion, I began to get an idea. What if I wrote a historical short story that detailed the events before, during, and after the death of Jesus? This was something I really wanted to do--something I could praise God with.

I had a similar idea near Christmas, to write a short scene from the viewpoint of John the Baptist, as he set off to begin the ministry God had called him to. It was brief, but interesting--at least, it was to me as I wrote it. I had always been thinking about doing something like this--a novel or the like of historical narrative that brought the Bible to life in a story form. There are amazing events in the Bible, but unfortunately, it only gives us a "telling" of the story, not a "showing". Hopefully, in the next few months, I can "show" an interpretation of the Bible's narrative. And hopefully you like it.

For right now, I'm going to leave you with the short scene I wrote for Christmas, to give you a feel for what I'd like to do--thanks!

He Is Coming

John stood there, overlooking the town of Bethlehem.

He knew what had happened there, almost thirty years ago now, though he had been little more than an infant when it had occurred. He had heard the stories, though--from his mother and father--about his cousin Mary and her husband, Joseph. He had heard of the night when Mary's baby had been born, and the newlywed mother had laid her offspring in a manger, swaddled in cloth. He had listened to the story of the shepherds, who had been told by an angel of the Lord of the infant's birth in Bethlehem.

And now, finally, John came to the place where God had been born among men.

He had been meaning to come to see the place for some time, but it had only been now, on his way to the Jordan River, when he'd finally gotten around to it. It was an unassuming town, though it had been the home of King David about a thousand years ago. John stared across the land, trying to imagine in his mind the star that had appeared over the city, guiding the magi to the place where the child lived.

What a sight that would have been, John thought, squinting as the desert sun glared down at him from the sky.

John--who would come to be known as John the Baptist--sighed, and started off again towards the Jordan, his spirit aflame with anticipation for what would soon come to this land. He would've liked to visit Bethlehem, and possibly see if he could find the house where Joseph and his wife had stayed, but there was no time for that now. There was too much to be done, and John had been given the task of doing it. He had to prepare the way for the Messiah's arrival, and that would start with preparing men's' hearts first.

"He is coming," he whispered to himself as he took one last look at the lonely town of Bethlehem, and then set off towards the Jordan River, and his ministry.

He is coming.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Proanadi

As some of you may know, I am in the process of writing an epic fantasy (swords, magic, armies, dragons...  you know, the works) trilogy entitled The Proanadi. I've actually been in that process for over a year now, but I've only gotten about a hundred pages done--mostly because I've only seriously buckled down and began plugging away at it for a few months now. The funny thing is, that hundred pages, sixty-two thousand words, and eleven chapters is only Part 1 (and that part isn't even finished yet!) of an enormous work that is going to take years to complete.

The story is based off the adventures my friends and I played through in a role-playing game, albeit loosely. There are six prominent characters (bumped up to eight in the second book), each played by one of my good friends in our game. The plot has changed drastically since I first decided that I wanted to write a book (now trilogy) detailing the characters, places, and events that occurred in our collective storytelling effort--so drastically, in fact, that the world of our game is vastly different in every way from the world I've begun to create for The Proanadi

For those of you who didn't know I was writing a book, and haven't read anything I've written yet, never fear! As soon as I finish and then polish up the first part of the first book, known by the working title Incipient, I'm going to try to get it to anyone who is interested. If you end up reading it, I hope you enjoy it! I've put some serious blood, sweat, tears, and nausea behind those hundred or so pages. 

And for those of you who are interested in it now, here's a brief synopsis for you to hang on to:

A horror that the planet has never known corrupts all.
Those that protected the world are dead, their blood spilled at the hands of men who once shared their convictions. The land is ravaged by war, hunger, plague, death, as it eats itself from the inside out. First, the hearts of men, then the souls of those once noble are devoured. Even the heroes now cower at the darkness that lies at the threshold of the meager light that remains. 
The sins of the fathers break the lives of the sons.
Ordinary men, their blood fating them to become saviors, try to fight a force they cannot begin to understand. A swordsmith has everything taken away from him. A rebel desperately tries to regain his usurped throne. A monster stained with his misdeeds sinks further into despair. 
 A single drop of redemption falls into an ocean of blood. 
Secrets that none possess reveal the past, a stained history of nobility intertwined with horrible sins. The world stands on the brink, awaiting those that would decide its fate, for good or ill. A creature with the blood of a dragon is king and god. A merchant betrayed faces his curse. A man with no memories is torn by his mistakes. 
The ground underfoot begins to crumble.

Yes, I know that's a little vague, but it's actually quite simple. Just reading the first part allows you to understand fully this little synopsis. Well, that's all for now--I'll be updating the blog with news of how the writing is going, as well as some different snippets of scenes and writing I've done for this or other works of mine. I know what you're thinking: "Wait, he's writing other books, too?" Yes, yes I am. None of my other ideas are in any way as fleshed out as this one, but I do have plenty of other novels in the works, including a series about superheroes, and an enormous collective novel (another epic fantasy work, though much more unique) written by some of my friends and I .

All right, that's about it. Thanks for reading these ramblings (unless you just skimmed this and saw the bottom line, then shame on you!)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Core of All Thought

The purpose of this blog is twofold: 

  1. To allow me to write down my thoughts in a journal-esque manner, and to do so much quicker than writing with pen and paper.
  2. To be a place to practice writing in its various forms--whether it be about spiritual concepts, stuff going on in the world, the various universes that are contained within my mind (different book ideas, magic systems, and settings), or just about writing itself.
I'm always thinking about things, sometimes to distraction. My parents will tell you this--I often have to return to them two or three times to be reminded of exactly what it was they just told me to do. Although this is obviously not a good thing sometimes, especially when I forget something important, it's really just the way I am. A thinker.

This translates directly into writing. A quote from my favorite author, David Eddings, explains this: "Words are the core of all thought. Without words, there is no thought." Words, at their very essence, are the building blocks of thoughts, ideas, and dreams. With words we capture concepts and whole worlds in the net of our minds. This is how I express myself--through words.

This leads me to the meaning behind the name of this blog. A story does indeed live in all of us, though it is not always told with only words. Even though at their essence, stories are crafted with the building blocks known as words, they are not always expressed with them.

Everyone has a story to tell. And I'm not just saying that everyone is going to or should be a writer--not at all. Rather, I'm saying that everyone has a journey, or a dream, to share or discover.

Once again, I am a thinker. This might sound a little weird, but I tend to think of everything in the terms of stories, even going so far as to try to contemplate the effects of each minor event that occurs. When you come right down to it, everything is made up of stories. Say you are in line at a fast food place. There is someone in front of you. This person might seem ordinary, mundane, just a minor character in your own journey. Though, in your story, they are, the role they play in their own life is incredibly important--in that story, they are the main character. The story revolves around them.

This thought is at once simple and yet immensely vast: everyone has their own personal story. Everything might seem to revolve around you, because to you, it seems as if you are the main character. But everyone else is too. As this thought starts to sink in, think about how that should affect your view of life. Everyone is going through their own problems, many of which are much harder than your own. It kind of puts things in perspective, doesn't it? What seems so important to you is only a background event to everyone else, and an occurrence that is monumental to that person in line at the fast food restaurant, you don't even give a second glance.

Hmm... that was a tangent. I can already tell that this blog is going to be full of them, but that thought has been nagging at me for a while now... Back to my point, however. Everyone has a journey, or a dream. They are different for each person, and some have both.

A journey is a story within your own life--an experience, good or bad, that changes who you are and where you are going. This is primarily based on reality. Though a person might write about their life experiences later, it doesn't always happen. Many people's personal stories never get "out there". But the story remains, and for those who take the time to learn from it, they can find much of value in each and every person's personal journey.

A dream isn't based on reality, and falls within the realm of writers, artists, and other people who spend far too much time doing what the name implies--dreaming. J.R.R. Tolkien's world of Middle-Earth, and the stories told within, are prime examples of this. This was Tolkien's dream--the story he told, the story that made a mark on the world.

Just as every thought is based on words, every dream is based on stories. The painter is telling a story as he creates an image. A musician is telling a story as he writes a song. A writer is telling a story as he pens the words that will become a part of the library of history.

This is what I wish, first and foremost, to do.

I want to serve my God and Savior, and see my story unfold, page by page, as I follow in His steps. I want my journey to be revolved around Him--and in that, I will see a great masterpiece be uncovered.

I also want to dream. And I want to make that dream into something great. Whether this ends up being with music, words, or both, only time will tell, but a story lives in all of us.

Now is the time to tell that story.