you might as well read this announcement, you have nothing better to do

You may have been previously unaware of this, but since I began this blog I have attempted to publish a new post every Monday. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but I have really failed reached that benchmark recently. The reason for this is threefold. First, my days tend to be busy, and by the time I am able to sit down and write, all I want to do is watch TV and vegetate. Second, I’ve spent some time traveling recently, which sounds rather sophisticated until you learn I’ve only been to Texas and Missouri. The third reason for my intermittent blogging is the reason for this particular post.

I have been working on a project that is far broader in scope than those to which you have been privy here. See, writing about things such as politics, social justice, theology, and ministry have been delightful paramours of mine, but my first love is writing fiction. Ever since my world-renowned first novel, The Mystery of the Bike, was published in 1999, I have been creating stories nonstop. Most of them rarely get to be longer than a page, and hardly any of them have ever made it to the eyes of another reader. I’ve always been hesitant to let others read my stories, partly because I never seem to be able to finish them, and partly because I don’t want to find out that I’m actually the worst writer the world has ever known.

But this past month (which happens to have been National Novel Writing Month), I wrote (and completed!) a full story that will be published on this blog. It’s not a novel by any means, but rather a short story of about 15,000 words (which I’m sure some of you wouldn’t consider to be all that short). The other short stories I have published on this blog are in the 1000-2000 word range and are, for the most part, biographical. This one, however, is completely fictional and significantly longer. You have no idea how excited I am to share this with you (if you choose to read it, I suppose, which you certainly don’t have to do).

The story, which is entitled The Perfect Place to Stash a Corpse, will be published like the serial novels of old, meaning I will be posting the story in four parts. Each part will be posted on a Thursday, with the first to be published this week (December 3rd) and the conclusion to be published on Christmas Eve. Hopefully breaking the story up into four pieces will make it more palatable for those of you who wouldn’t consider yourselves to be avid readers.

I don’t want to tell you too much about what the plot of the story is, because—as the title suggests—there is to be an element of suspense to it. For those of you wondering given the timing of its publication, I suppose you could call it a Christmas story if that’s the kind of thing you’re into, but if it’s not then you can just call it a regular old non-festive story.

I’ll leave the suspense to King, the satire to Dickens, the allegory to Lewis, and the loquacity to Dostoevsky, only hoping that you’ll read what I have to offer and maybe enjoy it along the way. And if you hate it, that’s okay too. Just know I will never forgive you.

See you Thursday.

a response to the destruction of Alderaan

My fellow citizens of the galaxy,

By now, you have most certainly heard the harrowing news of Alderaan’s destruction. If you have not already been privy to this knowledge, then I am sorry to inform you that this relatively peaceful planet and its two billion inhabitants have been annihilated by the iron fist of the Galactic Empire.

A statement from an Imperial spokesperson purports that the obliteration of Alderaan was “a requited response to the seditious anti-Imperial movement sweeping the planet.” I will agree that as the governing body of the galaxy, the Empire is well within its rights to subdue any threat to its supremacy. But, my friends, we must consider this question: at what point do the Empire’s actions shift from preventative measures to ensure its continued authority to assaultive slaughter of its own innocent citizens?

From what I have gathered, an act intended to intimidate the Rebel Alliance has only fomented countless others to join the Alliance’s cause. Open civil war, now, seems imminent. Our galaxy, which has already seen its fair share of tumult in the past two decades, is on the brink of something that could destroy us. I fear the horror of the Clone Wars could be eclipsed by what’s about to happen.

War seems to be the only recourse, and how terribly tragic that is, for war has never solved a thing. Galactic history is a series of wars with intermittent pockets of peace dashed here and there. When one faction wins its war, it is only a matter of time before another usurper arises to play at another war. Should the Rebellion, by some cosmic miracle, happen to win this war and topple the Empire, I can assure you the peace will not last. Perhaps the Imperial remnant will rebuild and respond, or perhaps a new threat will wrest control of the galaxy. Whatever face the enemy takes, be sure it will always exist.

There are some rebel sympathizers who say, “If we want peace, we must prepare for violence.” Unfortunately, history proves that violence does not beget peace, only more violence. Perhaps if all life forms across the galaxy were not so reactive, violence could engender peace. But this is not so.

So, assuming we have already condemned the Empire and its pernicious acts, what are we to do? Do we strap on our blasters and march off to war, knowing full well this could bring us to ruin? Do we load up our X-wings and strike, knowing at best we can only win a transitory peace before the next menace thumbs its nose at us? Are these “intermittent pockets of peace” worth sacrificing hundreds of thousands of lives?

These questions I cannot answer, nor is anyone asking me to do so. I only hope that those who must will consider the questions carefully before taking action. Our lives, and the future of our galaxy, balance precariously on the blade of a knife, and a whiff of breath in one direction or another could change everything we’ve ever known.

May the Force be with us all.

we are the champions, but more so me

The Kansas City Royals have won the 2015 World Series. If that statement is news to you, I hope the rock under which you live has a quality central heating system because it’s about to get cold outside. So many people have said so many things about this unthinkable phenomenon that I’m not sure I can add much more to the conversation. But that’s not going to stop me this time.

I really like to make a big deal of the fact that I began religiously watching the Royals in 2005. In that year, they played on a TV channel called RSTN, which had some of the worst picture quality you’ll see on a 21st century sports broadcast. Since I was only twelve years old during that season, most of the Royals games went later than my bedtime, so I’d fall asleep listening to Denny Matthews’ unflappable voice on the radio. That year the Royals won only 56 games and lost 106. I’ve been following them with zeal ever since.

The reason I tell people so often that I’ve been following the Royals for a decade now is because I want them to know I’ve gone through the wringer with this team. For years, the Royals were a group of also-rans shooting for even fourth place in the AL Central, and usually missing that by a lot. I stuck with them through those dark, dark times, long before the days of Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and company. Guys like Doug Mientkiewicz, David DeJesus, and Mark Teahen were the Royals’ heroes then, but who even remembers their names now?

I found it really frustrating this postseason when people I specifically remembered to be vociferously against baseball in high school were all of a sudden losing their minds for the Royals. Other people who had made constant cracks about how bad the Royals had been were suddenly going on emotional tirades about how proud they were of this team. How was that fair? I wondered. These people were basking in the glory without enduring the struggle!

As I so often am, I was reminded of a story told by a dude I’ve really come to like. That dude is Jesus, and in Matthew 20 he told the following story:

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Now, I doubt very much whether Jesus was talking about Royals fans in this passage. He was really talking about people who have been devout Christians since they were born getting whiny about guys like Ted Bundy who become Christians just before they die. Like me, they asked, “How is that fair, when I was the one who was faithful when it was hard?” I guess the answer is that it doesn’t have to be fair. In the end, a denarius, eternal salvation, and a World Series title are all great rewards, whether you endured for them little or much. That’s a little something called grace.

So whether you have been a Royals fan since the franchise began in 1969 or you just started watching this team a week and a half ago, welcome aboard the bus. Rex Hudler is driving and it’s sure to be a wild ride. I suppose it doesn’t matter how long you’ve had to wait for this to happen. It’s here now, and we all might as well enjoy it.