what’s deadlier than the deadliest sin?

When I was in high school, I went to youth group at my church every Sunday evening and I loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that I basically got my degree in youth group. I would not be the man I am today if I didn’t have my youth group. I’m a youth minister now because of my youth group. (I said “youth group a lot in that paragraph. No apologies.)

Unfortunately, youth ministry as an institution of the church is not perfect. Some things—like so many youth groups’ obsession with incorporating puns into everything they do—are pretty excusable. Others have the potential to be damaging to a young person’s theology, or even their self-perception. As much as I hate to publicly criticize the field in which I now hold a job, I feel like I need to shed light upon an issue that has been a major stumbling block in my life.

Back in my youth group days, a tradition at nearly every Christian youth camp or retreat was a specific guys-only and girls-only session. Without fail, the people putting on the event found a way to split us up. Even sometimes at youth group we would split up by gender and have specific talks.

The girls would go off with the female adult leaders, where most often (from what I have heard from women who grew up in youth group, not firsthand experience of course) they would be affirmed in their beauty—inside and out—and their identities in Christ. They would be taught that they are princesses, daughters of the king, and as a result they should be very careful what guys they let into their heart. Not just any dude is worthy of dating them. This was a time of love and encouragement, and probably a time of a lot of crying too.

All of these are great and true things that I believe every young woman needs to be taught and reminded of frequently. It’s unfortunate that so few outlets are providing this affirmation for the ladies in our society. I have absolutely zero problem with this.

What I do have a problem with is that when the guys would go off by ourselves, it seems that we got a much different message. I can’t really think of a single “guys-only” session that had a primary focus other than “quit that lusting, dude!” And yeah, for 90% of guys (and the other 10% who are lying [that joke isn’t mine]) lust is a very serious deal that is almost always very destructive. I agree that it absolutely needs to be talked about openly, and I know that these “guys-only” talks were genuinely well-intentioned. However, I do have two major qualms with them:

  1. Lust ain’t the only sin.

Lust is not even the worst sin, really. After all, few people in my Christian tradition believe that there is an actual systematic hierarchy of sin (in God’s eyes, at least), even if the consequences of some sins differ greatly in severity from others. And yeah, we treat some sins like they’re worse than others (usually if they aren’t the sins we struggle with), but we do understand deep down that sin is sin in God’s eyes.

However, as a teenager I had it hammered into my head that I had to focus all my strength on getting to sleep that night without lusting so I could mark my calendar with a smiley-face instead of a sad-face. By the time I did finally get my lust wrestled into submission, I found to my great surprise that I was a prideful, angry, hateful, apathetic jerk. At the risk of sounding dramatic, my heart had atrophied.

Somehow, I got it into my mind that lust was the absolute worst thing, and if I could somehow get over it I would be okay. My attention was so focused on the giant of lust that I didn’t notice those other things slipping in, things which were just as sinful and just as destructive. My life became defined by struggle rather than by grace. When that happens, I believe, it eats away at you until there’s not much left.

  1. Guys need consistent affirmation too.

For some reason, our culture has this perception that guys are so tough that they could never be in need of encouragement or affirmation. You can kick a dude in the teeth with truth and tell him got walk it off, knowing he’ll be okay soon enough. That’s just the way guys are. That’s what it means to be a man.

I bought into this lie hardcore. I have always been obsessed with being viewed as strong, emotionally if not physically. In high school, I made certain that externally I always appeared self-assured and needing nothing from anyone. But on the inside, I didn’t think too highly of myself. I was lonely and depressed. I was dying for someone to affirm me as a man.

However, it felt like the only message I heard was “be a man” when what I really needed to hear was “you are a man.” I craved for someone to gush over me about how much God loves me and how strong I am in Christ, like it seemed the girls were always getting in their “girl talks”. Unfortunately, that was rarely the case.

Instead, it seemed that everyone was telling me to just cut it out with the lust stuff already. As a result, I couldn’t imagine that God could love me all that much, and he certainly couldn’t like me at all. Each time I failed, all I felt was shame, emasculation, and depression. My entire faith became predicated on mollifying what I perceived as God’s inexorable wrath against me. Grace wasn’t a factor at all. I couldn’t even understand it.

I was completely beaten down and defeated by what I saw as my terrible moral failure. Each time a “guys-only” session came up and I still hadn’t conquered my lust, I felt more and more hopeless. It was a rare occurrence when I truly felt like who I was more important than what I did. I wondered, “If God really loves us all the same, and wants to forgive us no matter what we’ve done, shouldn’t that be spoken loudest and clearest? Why do I—and so many other guys—feel like I have to behave before God will love me?

Now I don’t want it to sound like I’m saying we should quit talking about lust, or that we should excuse it as a natural part of growing up. That’s absolutely not what I’m saying. Rather, I’m saying that we should talk about God’s love and forgiveness just as much if not more. We should go out of our way to let people know that a struggle with any sin isn’t going to stop God’s love for them, just like death, life, angels, demons, the present, the future, the powers that be, heights, depths, or anything else.

For me, it wasn’t until an adult leader from my youth group came alongside me and pulled me to my feet that I started to see hope for myself. He spent time with me and listened to me and showed me unconditional love. He reinforced grace over sin management and Jesus’ blood over my blunders.

Kids are always going to fail. You’re always going to fail. I’m always going to fail. And while sanctification should certainly be our goal, we should be screaming out that the gospel starts with love and salvation. If that’s not our primary message, then there’s a problem.

The difficulty, though, comes in balancing truth and grace. Both are absolutely imperative, but too much of each can be dangerous. An overemphasis on truth can become Puritanism, whereas an overemphasis on grace can become moral relativism. Achieving a healthy balance of each would be an act fit for a circus.

What does that mean for the subject at hand? I still believe we need to teach the truth about lust (that it’s destructive, but that it’s not the only bad thing out there), and do so in an overwhelming context of grace. Too often, I think, grace is treated as a footnote rather than the overarching theme. “Yeah, there’s grace—kind of as a back-up plan—but you really need to get your act together, dude.” Thankfully that’s not the way the gospel works.

Truth convicts and grace restores. When I was in high school, I got the truth convicts thing down perfectly. But it wasn’t until I understood grace that my faith became real and my heart began to change. That’s when I realized that the joy of the Lord is my strength, not my ability to resist temptation. That’s when it was clear to me that I was not a man because of anything I did or didn’t do, but because of what God has already done on my behalf.

five things i’ve learned in five years of volunteer youth ministry

It’s Little League World Series time, which is one of my favorite sports events of the year. It’s just a bunch of eleven-, twelve-, and thirteen-year-old kids who go out and perform ridiculous feats of athleticism that are typically performed by grown adults. Not only is the baseball talent spectacular, but the sportsmanship is top-notch and unfamiliar in most other sports contexts.

When I was the age of the boys in Williamsport, I craved to play in the Little League World Series. Now, as an adult, I still love watching the Little League World Series and there’s a part of me that’s still jealous of the kids who get to play in it. Too bad I’m way too old to play, and I don’t know enough about the mechanics of baseball to coach.

I really wish I could coach a team to the Little League World Series. When ESPN “mics up” the coaches, they’re always speaking words of encouragement and occasional hilarity to the kids on their teams, even when those teams are down eighteen to nothing. Getting to do something like that would be awesome, especially within the context of competitive sports (which I love).

I have to remind myself during these times that I already have opportunities like this, and have had them for the past five years. While volunteering with youth at my church never got me on ESPN (and would probably have been a pretty boring show), it allowed me to be the kind of influence in the lives of youth that I saw played out on TV. And I guess that’s more important than getting famous on TV…

Unfortunately, I don’t think the seventeen-year-old kid I was when I began working with the junior high youth ministry at my church was the most effective youth volunteer on Earth. I mean, I was still a student in the high school ministry myself, and a rather immature one at that. However, I’ve changed and learned a lot in the five years since then. I’ve graduated from high school and college, gotten married, acquired a full-time job, and, most importantly, grown a full beard.

Granted, I’ve learned a lot about youth ministry because I have a degree in youth ministry, but I would also say that the most important things I’ve learned have been learned from experience. I think most people would agree that experience is usually the best teacher.

For the purpose of this blog post—and just for you—I’ll recount five of these things I’ve learned posthaste. Five things learned for five years of volunteering in ministry. Poetic, huh?

But first, a disclaimer: I am not an expert. My experience is embarrassingly miniscule compared to most people in the profession, so please grant me grace where I’m wrong or arrogant. I can only convey the things that I’ve learned in that short time, even if they’re simple or silly. If you disagree, that’s cool. Let’s discuss it.

Okay, here we go.

Lesson #1: It’s not about me.

This is number one on my list because it has been the hardest lesson for me to learn. In fact, I would consider this still a work in progress. When I first started working with the youth group, I saw it as an opportunity to feel good at myself. Whether it was kicking middle schoolers’ butts in basketball while making them die of laughter at my remarkable wit or getting showered with praise for my “martyrdom,” my primary reason for working with youth was largely a selfish one. I know that doesn’t sound nearly as spiritual as it should, but at least it’s honest. I wanted to baptize kids, not because of any care for their eternity, but because it would make people stop and say, “Man, he must be one heck of a youth leader. Do you know how many baptisms he’s done?” Yeah, I know, pretty despicable, isn’t it?

However, I will say that in my five years of volunteering, my attitude toward the work I was doing took a definite shift. The more I grew up and came to an understanding of what I was actually doing, the less youth group gatherings, trips, and special events became about me. Now, I can’t say that I all of a sudden became completely selfless because that’s not true. Sometimes I really want it all to be about me, but I truly believe that those are the times when I am the least satisfied and effective in my ministry.

If you’re reading this right now and you work with youth, let me just remind you: it’s not about you, and it’s not about me. It’s a tough pill to swallow, for sure, but I can’t stress enough how important this maxim has been to me in my short time working with youth. If you’re working with youth primarily because of how it makes you feel about yourself, please get out because you’re wasting your own time. There are a thousand better things you could be doing than hanging out with kids who are quite a bit younger than you.

But if you, like me, feel like there is a deeper impetus for why you’re drawn to spend time with middle and high school aged dweebs, then I implore you to get this through your head as soon as possible. It will make you a much better youth worker, and it will save you a whole lot of heartache when you realize that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t be as cool as a fourteen-year-old with bombin’ Nike socks.

Lesson #2: There is power in presence.

Note that I said “There is power in presence” not “There is power in presents.” For the love of God, please don’t start buying the kids in your youth group iPads and stuff so they’ll like you. That’s weird. Spending money on people, I think, is not nearly as important or meaningful as spending time with them. (You like that wordplay? I sound almost like a preacher.) This is particularly important with teenagers, who may not necessarily have adults who invest much time in them—although a good number of them do, so don’t try and replace those relationships if they’re already there!

The best part of spending a good amount of time with students is that you don’t always have to be diving into really deep spiritual conversations. In college, I had enforced small groups in several classes, where nearly 100% of those relationships involved deep spiritual discussions, and those relationships mean precisely nothing to me. The relationships that do mean something to me are the ones that are a) characterized by a great amount of time invested into them, and b) 40% sports conversation, 35% literature conversation, 20% laughing about poops and farts, and 5% deep spiritual conversation.

I think relationships with teenagers should be similar. Time spent with someone is so very important to developing a strong and meaningful relationship with them. And let’s be honest, if you try to force spiritual discussions anytime you spend time with a student in your ministry, they will invariably get burned out and freaked out. That might make me sound like a bad youth worker, but in my experience as a student and a volunteer it seems to make sense. Sometimes drudging that kid in Mario Kart can mean way more than making him spill his guts regarding the spiritual ramifications of his parents’ divorce. (This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t engage in spiritual discussions with kids. If the opportunity presents itself, of course you should take it. All I’m saying is don’t force things where they don’t need to be forced.)

But before you can even begin to consider what you’ll do with a kid, you’ve got to decide that you’re committed to spending time with them. You don’t have to have an extravagant plan or a minute-by-minute itinerary; just be there, be loving, be a good role model, and be willing to dive deep should the appropriate opportunity make itself available.

Lesson #3: Get away sometimes.

This one relates back to the previous. As important as presence is in youth ministry, it’s also important for you to get away from it sometimes. I know that fifteen-year-old kids seem like they’re really awesome, but letting them be your only friends will burn you out so fast. Taking time away, time for yourself or with people your own age, will (most likely, I hope) preserve your longevity in youth ministry.

There have been times when I’ve had to tell kids no when they ask me to hang out with them because I had just spent the past week at camp or something, and one more second with a teenager would drive me absolutely insane. It sucks to say no and the students usually have a hard time understanding why, but in those times it was really important for me to have that time away to recuperate.

Even Jesus took time away from ministry, and if the Son of God could do it then you can do it too. It might feel wrong for you to take a week off of youth group or say no to a kid who says he needs you right this second, but you’re only human. Do yourself a favor, man, and get away for awhile. I promise it’ll be worth it.

Lesson#4: Sometimes I’m the heart, sometimes I’m the sole.

No, I didn’t misspell “soul.” I meant to write “sole,” like the sole of your foot, that disgusting part of your body that no one in their right mind would want to touch or even see. It’s a play on words, see? “Heart and soul”; “heart and sole.” Anyway.

Some days you’ll get to be the metaphoric heart of the youth ministry. Maybe you get to teach the lesson at youth group, and three thousand students get baptized as a result. Maybe you introduce the best game that has ever been played in the ministry (probably the most exhilarating experience of my life). Maybe your answer to one of the youth minister’s discussion questions makes the whole room bust up with uncontrollable laughter. Those days are the best. Those days you’re the heart.

Other days you’re the sole, like when you get back to the church after a long trip to camp and the youth minister asks you to unhitch the trailer from the van by yourself. It’s pouring rain, it’s one in the morning, and all you want to do is go home and sleep. Not to mention the day before—the last day at camp, the day when everyone cries and seeks counsel from adults—none of the students wanted to talk to you about what God’s doing in their hearts, so you feel like a second-rate youth leader, like you just wasted your whole week. Those days you’re the sole.

I’ve learned that nearly every youth worker has days where she’s the heart and days when she’s the sole, and I think both experiences are valuable. The days when you feel like you’re the heart of the ministry are the days when you’re instantly reminded that what you’re doing really matters. However, some of my greatest growth as a youth worker has come from experiences of being the sole, when I feel inadequate and incapable. Not only am I forced to grapple with my own humility, but I’m also able to identify and learn from mistakes as well as learn to rejoice with others in their successes.

Obviously, the “sole days” are not nearly as fun as the “heart days,” but without the “sole days” I’m pretty sure it’d be easy for us to get really thrilled about ourselves and how awesome we are and how much we are doing for the kingdom. A balance of both kinds of days, I think, keeps our attitudes and motivations where they need to be for us to be successful in ministry. Being the sole can feel demoralizing, but it’s important to realize that it’s okay to be the sole sometimes because good growth can come from it.

Lesson #5: It’s okay to not feel qualified.

When I first started working with the youth at my church, I was under the mistaken impression that I had to have everything figured out, and that it was cause for alarm if something came up that I was unprepared to handle. Luckily, I’ve learned that this isn’t the case. I say “luckily” because I’m not a very smart dude, and the chances of me getting things even remotely figured out are slim-to-none.

Of course, a basic understanding of the Bible and adolescent development is imperative when it comes to working with youth in a church setting, but thankfully a dual-PhD in child psychology and systematic theology are not required. The most important things to have are a willingness to serve and a genuine care for the students. Those two things are foundational, not optional.

It’s okay to be asked a question and not know the answer. A youth minister expecting each volunteer to have the ability to answer each and every question accurately would severely narrow the list of candidates. In general, I would say that youth aren’t primarily looking for people who can answer all their questions. I think they’re more concerned with finding a caring adult who is willing to help the find out the answers to their questions.

If you got involved in youth ministry and you feel unqualified, then join the club. History is filled with people doing things they’re totally unqualified to do, whether that’s biblical history or not. What that means for you is that you can’t use this as an excuse to quit. Guess you’ll have to work a little harder then.

nine books i think you should read

When I was a kid, my mom would make my brother and me read books during the summer before we could do other stuff. For him it was a drag, but I loved it. (A totally unrelated fun fact: he’s still in college, traveling all over the world, making tons of money; I’m out of college, working two jobs, and making very little money.) My parents would punish him by making him read, and punish me by not letting me read.

I’ve always been a major proponent of reading. I strongly believe that reading is essential to growing in wisdom and intelligence, while refusing to read is self-imposed ignorance. It’s especially frustrating to me when young people say things like, “I hate to read,” and then spend all day reading on social media. You love to read, you just don’t realize it yet.

If you’re one of those people who thinks reading is boring, I feel sorry for you. But if you are one of those people but you don’t want to remain one of those people, you’re in luck. I’ve crafted here a list of nine books I think you should read (or at least the ones that came to mind when I was making the list). They aren’t necessarily my favorite books of all time (though some of them are) or the best books ever written, but I think that each of them is spectacular in its own way.

Also, let me claim the right to disagree with my list in the future, or add to it. I didn’t really do an exhaustive review of every book I’ve ever read, but I think the following list pretty accurately represents the books I would choose if a reputable website wanted a similar list.

Anyway, reading is good for your brain and it actually has some benefit for you as a human being (unlike video games, social media, and the like). So why don’t you take a look at the list below (or another list of books, I don’t really care), pick something that sounds good, and actually read it. You might find that—GASP—you actually like it.

  1. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

This is one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors. It’s really long and occasionally confusing (nineteenth century Russian culture is a little different than ours; read an annotated version if you can), but it’s freaking amazing, to put it poetically. It’s about three very different brothers who reunite after years apart, only to find their detestable father murdered a few weeks later. The depth of plot and character is mind-blowing, and its ability to affect your emotions is impeccable. It might take you a year of solid reading (and a few visits to Sparknotes), but I guarantee it’ll be worth that time. Fyodor Dostoevsky is a literary genius and this, his final novel, is pure brilliance. If you want to feel smart, read Dostoevsky.

  1. Columbine by Dave Cullen

This is one of the few non-fiction books I’ve actually read that weren’t textbooks or theology. The subject matter here is incredibly solemn and not really the kind of book you’d consider for curling up on a rainy day. Hailed as the best book out there about the Columbine tragedy, Columbine is a compellingly intimate and real account from all angles. Dave Cullen is a journalist who has been reporting on Columbine since the beginning, so he is one of the best candidates to tell this story. The book is at once fascinating, demoralizing, hope-stirring, and grotesque. Also, Columbine is fantastic. Sure, the story isn’t the most uplifting, but it’s true and it’s powerful. And, thankfully, it tends to focus more on the triumph of good rather than the tragedy of evil. But still, you should prepare to feel pretty depressed for the next few weeks.

  1. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

This was one of the few assigned books I actually read in high school, and I’ve read it two more times since then. At a surface level, Lord of the Flies is just a really good book about some kids who get stranded on a desert island by themselves, make huts, hunt pigs, burn fires, and kill each other. At a deeper level, though, it is an allegory of people in general. Many, many people smarter than myself have said a lot about the deeper meaning of Lord of the Flies so I won’t really go into it, but suffice it to say that you’re missing out if you haven’t read this book. And come on guys, it’s a short book. You can handle it.

  1. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Everyone knows about Oliver Twist wanting more soup, but there’s way more to the story than that. It’s the story of an orphan boy trying to make his way in the world through the exploitation of wicked men, the charity of nice ladies, and by his own strength and determination. Charles Dickens was pretty progressive for his time in his recognition of and care for the plight of the poor, and he displays that compassion in this novel while still providing us with an engaging story. And, let’s face it, you just can’t go wrong reading Charles Dickens. The man could wield the English language like a master swordsman.

  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Technically, this is a young adult novel, but I still think you should read it even if you’re not a young adult. It’s hilarious, a little bit dirty, and completely poignant. If you don’t know much about the challenges facing Native Americans in twenty-first century America, then this is a pretty good way to get your feet wet. It’s not too “in your face” and a pretty fun read while still offering a sobering glimpse into reservation life. I’ve learned a ton from reading Sherman Alexie, and this is probably his most accessible book (at least that I’ve read). This is a quick read, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it while it makes you consider some stuff you might not normally consider.

  1. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

I can’t say I completely enjoyed reading Moby-Dick, but I can say I did read it. This book made the list because of a few reasons. For one, it is one of the first great American novels, so if you really want to be patriotic, loosen that grip on your gun and pick up Moby-Dick. Also, reading Moby-Dick takes a lot of guts and heart, because it’s long and filled with superfluous detail (like an entire chapter dedicated to whale penises). If you can finish it and understand even a little bit, you’re more than deserving of a high five. Let me just say, though, that Moby-Dick isn’t all bad. I found myself enjoying quite a bit of it, actually. When it comes down to it, it’s an epic adventure of man doing what he loves best: ruthlessly slaughtering anything he considers a threat until it utterly destroys his soul.

  1. Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich

When it comes to faith, few things I have read have challenged my thinking as much as this book. Let it be known that Paul Tillich is no Max Lucado. Some people (most likely conservative evangelical Christians) would consider his perspective on faith to be heretical trash and dismiss it out of hand, but I think that’s a waste of an opportunity for a good old-fashioned dialectic. Whether you’re coming at this from a traditional Christian or a non-religious worldview, I’m sure this one will cause you to wrestle with some interesting interpretations of what it means to have faith, while also causing you to laugh at some of its absurdities. Either way, this is another short book to add to the list, if you’re one of those people who like short books.

  1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

“Another book by Fyodor Dostoevsky?” you ask. Yes, because he’s that great of a writer. If The Brothers Karamazov was too long for you, then try this one out. (Sure, my copy is still 650 pages, but compared to 950, that’s not too bad.) Crime and Punishment is about a dude called Raskolnikov who decides one day to deposit an axe in the head of an unfair pawnbroker and the emotional fallout that results from trying to avoid discovery by the police while dealing with the guilt of such a heinous crime. It’s thought-provoking, uncomfortably familiar, and very entertaining. You need to read it, stat.

  1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien

Technically, this is three books, but I’m combining them into one because I can. The Lord of the Rings is the premiere fantasy epic, and is the foundation for nearly every other fantasy series written since then. If you’ve seen the movies and think that’s good enough, smack yourself in the face and then go check out the books from the library. The Lord of the Rings might not have been written in the 1800s and might not take place in our world, but it is still classic literature at its absolute best. The complexity of the world of Middle-earth is astounding, and the emotion and the power behind the story is truly—if I may use this word—beautiful. Oh, and if you think that reading fantasy is a dweebish thing to do, get over yourself.

So there you go. Get to it, folks. I don’t really care if you read one of these books, just as long as you read something. Don’t stay ignorant!

grace in the waves

Most of the men keep their eyes on the deck, because if you look beyond the ship all you’ll see is a lonely horizon. There’s nothing to see here but oceans all around. No silhouettes of rescue ships, because we were sent on this voyage to die and no one’s coming for us. We’re all of us liars, killers, traitors, and thieves, with no grace in our homeland and no hope on the ocean. Of course, that doesn’t stop us from coming together to try saving ourselves. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll find some port where we won’t be immediately rejected. And perhaps the ocean will dry up before we all drown.

I’m the youngest criminal on board the ship, but not the least deserving. I don’t want to discuss my crimes. I know them well, the courts know them well, and God knows them well. Disclosing them here will not change my fate.

It’s storming today. “We’ve survived worse, men,” says our de facto captain, but the more the rain pours, the more the lightning flashes, the more the thunder crashes, and the more the ship pitches beneath my bare feet, the more I become concerned. What if this is it? Even though I know I’m going to die, I’m not ready for it.

We all know how we’re going to die. If it’s not starvation, it will be drowning. I’m not sure which one would be worse. And honestly, I haven’t thought about it much. Like I said, I know it’s going to happen, but I haven’t felt it yet. Death is such a foreign phenomenon, so incomprehensible, that its inevitability doesn’t even feel real.

But now, today, the waves are as wild and choppy as I’ve ever seen them, and my stomach is as roiled as I can remember. “We’re going to make it,” I tell myself, because frankly that’s my only choice. The one option I have is to trust that we can save ourselves from this nightmare. We’ll sink for our sins someday, but it won’t be today.

Men scramble all around me, screaming orders at one another and pulling on ropes. I see a group of burly men playing tug of war with the gales and for whatever reason I decide they could use my help. I grab a hold of the rope and pull. It burns my hands like fire, but I bite the inside of my cheek and pull again. I’m not going down with the ship.

My palms feel like they’re being shredded. Rain soaks my clothes. My arms ache. The winds whip my hair around my face. My feet are being stabbed by little splinters poking out of the deck. The smell of unwashed men burns in my nostrils.

But I’m not going down with the ship.

And then I’m flying. It seems almost surreal, like I’ve been plucked from the horror by the hand of heaven.

But I slip through the fingers and hit the water with a crash and the deafness of drowning. Deeper and deeper I sink. No flailing of my arms or my legs can fight it. I never learned how to swim. I was a guttersnipe, after all!  When would I have had time to learn to swim?

My heart seizes with terror and I open my mouth to

i killed my mother

scream. Nothing comes out, but

i stood over her sleeping body and gripped her throat in my bare hands

only water rushes in. That’s when I realize I am going to

she never even woke up

die. I try to look up, but I don’t even know which direction that is. All I know now is

i’m a killer

the burning in my lungs. Everything else is

sink sinner sink

numbness.

there is no grace in the waves

another idiot

Being serious is one of my least favorite activities, but I feel like one’s first blog post on a new site should contain at least a scintilla of sobriety to it, lest the readers decide with a certain amount of disgust that the writer has nothing relevant to say and should forthwith be religiously ignored. And while that last bit may be true of this site, I would hate to tip my hand so early in the game. Thus I will attempt to quell my satirical spirit and present a preface that is both concise and meaningful. I admit that I am reticent to do so, as it seems like such a commonplace introductory task for a pastime that has recently become quite commonplace. Everyone has a blog, and everyone has a brand-new, radical impetus for writing, when in reality they mostly suffer from the same banalities. However, as much as it pains me to fit a semblance of a mold, even for a short time, I press on.

Writing has always been a particular interest of mine, or at least it has been since the fourth grade when I wrote my first groundbreaking novella, which in reality was a blatant rip-off of The Hobbit. Ever since then, I’ve written a great many prologues and a great few epilogues. Once, I even wrote a full-length novel that caused a dear family friend to approach my dad with concerns regarding my spiritual and emotional stability. It was a truly awful story that will hopefully never been read by another living soul.

There are several things I love about writing. First and foremost, I love stories. Maybe it’s because I don’t live a particularly adventurous lifestyle, or maybe it’s just because we all love stories deep down. Secondly, I love putting words together. I salivate over Charles Dickens, because most of the time I have no idea what he’s talking about. Thirdly, writing makes me think. I’m pretty easily distracted, so if I don’t have a clear chronicle of where my thoughts have been, I’m going to lose them. Finally, I love writing because I love ruffling people’s feathers. I love shock value. I love making it seem like I’m going to say the thing you’re supposed to say, and then saying the opposite. (And let’s be honest, the thing you’re supposed to say usually isn’t even the right thing to say.) I’m kind of iconoclastic in that I’ll push back really hard and ostentatiously against something that seems impractical, irrelevant, or nonsensical to me. Or maybe I’m just oppositional.

So that’s it. I can’t promise that this won’t be a complete waste of your time, but I also can’t promise that this won’t be the best thing you can find on the Internet. Only time will tell.

Kisses.

-ZD

P.S. To those of you thinking, “This idiot already has a Blogspot blog. What in the heck is he doing making another one?” The answer: My delightful wife informed me that Blogspot blogs are gauche for anyone who considers himself to be a writer of any merit. She also told me that I should have a blog where I don’t post poems, because let’s be honest, guys, poems are lame. If you want to read some lame poems (and other lame stuff), check it out here: www.zacharydeloach.blogspot.com.