Monday, December 31, 2012

My talks from Denver Winter Conference

The last few days I've been in Denver for the Denver Winter Conference. I had a really great time, met some awesome students and saw some of my good friends.

Here are the sessions from while I was there, complete with my talks. This first talk is one you may have seen at some point, it's from Luke 5, about Simon Peter and what he knew about Jesus when he chose to follow him. I take the stage about 15 minutes in:



Here's my second talk. It's a new one, and this is the first time I've done it so it's a little rough around the edges. It's about the Holy Spirit. I come on stage about 43 minutes into this one, and then I harass the MC for a while:



Numero Tres is about the Great Commission and has a modern retelling of Luke 15. I come in about 31 minutes in:

Enjoy! And Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday: Dance for your cola

Why is it that most "Wonderful Wednesday" posts come from Asia? Because Asia is wonderful, that's why. But usually it's Japan that makes a big splash here at BHR. Today, it's SOUTH KOREA with this awesome Coca Cola machine that gives out free sodas to anyone who can dance as well as a boy band.

No, really:


What's that you say? You want to know more about the K-pop sensation whose dance moves are featured here? Okay, fine, here's a video from boy band 2 PM:


And, just in case a young person was nearby who started shouting JUUUUUUNHOOOOOOO while you were watching, here's your score card for keeping track of the boys (stolen from a commenter on YouTube):

Nickhun - the one playing golf
Wooyoung - the one who's in the airplane
Chansung - the one lying near the pool
Junho - the one who wears shades and smiling
Jun K./Junsu - the one who looks like a DJ
Taecyeon - the one who makes this hand poses in the cam and is the one who entered into the yellow car

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas, Little Pigs, little pigs

Merry Christmas everyone!

Right now 3 year old M and I are playing in a fort we made on the couch. It's not quite large enough for me to fit in (so I may have to stay in the stable).

Also, I think I have some catch up to do either with telling M more stories or working on her listening comprehension, because this is the conversation we keep having:

Me: Knock, knock.

Her: Who is it?

Me: The big bad wolf! Little pig, little pig, let me in.

Her (cheerfully): Okay!

Then the "door" swings open and she lets me in. Tomorrow's lesson: The three little pigs, natural selection and when to open the door.

But for today, it's Christmas! And even the big bad wolf should get invited in sometimes.

Okay, we're on our way out to a big Chinese meal for dinner! Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Storymen Episode 3 is up!

I was out all day today and didn't have a chance to tell you all that the third episode of Storymen is up and available for your listening pleasure. You can listen to it here or subscribe on iTunes. This was a fun show... we had Latifah Al-Attas Phillips of Page CXVI and the Autumn Film on as our guest, and she talked about pop culture, Twilight and shared some music with us.

Anyway, if you enjoy podcasts, check it out. And if you don't like podcasts, pretend it's one of those drive time radio shows and enjoy it anyway.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Exciting New Adventure for Young Fantasy Readers!

Well friends, the hard copies of Sword of Six Worlds are out there now, worming their way into bookstores... and your heart. Ha ha ha.

Here's a poster from Logos bookstore in Nashville, which is carrying the book:

Any day now the paper version of the book will be available on Amazon, as well, and I assume Barnes and Noble and other bookstores can't be far behind!

In the meantime, you can go pick up a copy at Logos!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My three year old makes me laugh

In the evening I lay down in bed with my three year old. Lately she has taken to putting her head at the foot of the bed (having moved her pillow there, too... I suppose making it the head of the bed, actually). I lay the other way, with my head on a stuffed owl.

We usually read a book (tonight was Curious George) or sing a song (often Eidelweiss, which I sang EVERY NIGHT to the older girls for many years). M will talk a bit, say things about the days, sometimes says terrifying things about scary creatures (two nights ago she had me close her window shade because she "saw a creeper" out there... a bit of information she delivered with absolute calm). Eventually, just before she goes to sleep, she says, "Good night, Daddy" and I say good night to her and then she sighs and falls asleep.

Tonight, she said, "Good night, Daddy" and I said, "Good night" and she said, "You have to say my name," so I said good night again only this time with her name.

About a minute later she said, "Is it time to go to sleep?"

That was an odd question, and didn't fit our nightly ritual, so I said, "Yes, it is."

Then she laughed and said, "I know, Dad, that was a joke!"

Good one!

And now she's asleep!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My daughter constantly surprises me

My (almost ten year old) daughter, "A", has been having some trouble with one of her friends at school. In fact, this happens pretty much every year. They start and end the year the best of friends, but somewhere in the middle they both drive each other crazy. We talked some about that, and although A was unhappy, I could tell she was thinking deeply about what to do.

Later, she came downstairs from her room and said, "Dad, I've been thinking about the problem with my friend, and I was thinking that perhaps trying diplomacy would be a good idea."

I was, to say the least, surprised by this appeal to diplomacy. I don't know if I looked shocked or not, but she went on to say, "The way diplomacy works is that I would go to her and tell her what I have done wrong, and then tell her what I feel she has done wrong. Then we would try to come to a conclusion that would make both of us happy."

I asked her if she would like to try diplomacy and she said yes. I wanted to ask her if she would teach a seminar on diplomacy for me and some of my adult friends.

I also asked where she learned about diplomacy, and she said from the book Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. So, thank you, Ms. Hale.

She also said that she had checked the school library and couldn't find any more books about diplomacy, a topic she finds very interesting.

I think I just met the future U.S. Diplomat to Chile.

Monday, December 17, 2012

President Obama's speech at the Connecticut Prayer Vigil

If you haven't already seen President Obama's speech at the Newtown, CT, prayer vigil for those killed last week, you should take a look.

I was surprised by the amount of scripture in it, and was moved at several points. It's about 18 minutes long, and well worth your time.



I'm still processing this all (as I'm sure we all are). My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this tragedy (as well as the shooting here in Clackamas).

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fasting Day 467: Twice the Man I used to be

You may recall last summer when I wrote about my forty day fast. Earlier this week I had a special moment that reminded me of my fast.

Dramatic re-enactment. 
I went to exercise before going in to work, so I threw on my workout clothes and grabbed some clothes out of the closet. After my work out I took a shower, dried off and went to put my clothes on and discovered... that I had grabbed the jeans I bought when I was fasting because all my regular clothes had become too large.

Pants meant for me when I was about forty pounds lighter.

So. It was either wear my work out clothes or find a way into those pants.

I'm happy to report that with correct breathing, impressive upper body strength to pull the button and button hole toward one another and a minimum amount of discomfort I was able to put those pants on. I looked like a rock star with painted on jeans.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

More Christmas hilarity from my three year old daughter

Apparently my three year old had made herself an English muffin the other day. It was not split open and it was not toasted, but it was slathered with peanut butter and jelly across the top. She had taken one bite out of it and then left it sitting out on the counter all day.

'Struggling to finish - Traditional Parma - Pugg Mahones AUD18' photo (c) 2010, Alpha - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
I left this for you, Santa.
I asked her: M, are you done with this? Can I throw it away?

M: I don't want it. You can just leave it out for Santa.

Me: No, if you don't want it I'll throw it away.

M: Just leave it there and it will be gone in the morning.

Yes, that's right, kids. Every night when you go to bed, Santa comes and eats everything you leave on your plates. Then he washes your dishes and cleans the kitchen. He's a swell guy that Santa.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday: Arnold's Christmas Party

This party looks crazy. I would go to a Christmas party reunion with these people.



My favorite part is when Arnold shares stories from the Old Country and talks about how Krampus came at Christmas and terrified the children.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New MAN OF STEEL trailer is officially awesome

Yes, it's official. I have sent a note to the Office of Awesome and they have confirmed it.



I will be going to this movie. In my Superman Underoos.

My three year old and why she thinks she should get dressed up for Santa

Seems like Santa could get
dressed up a little bit too.
I came home last night and my three-year-old M was all dressed up in a shiny red dress. This is surprising, because usually she likes to wear a t-shirt and underwear and no pants.

I asked her why she was all dressed up, and she said, "For Santa." I asked her why she thought Santa wanted her to be dressed up, and she said, "Because if I dress up he will bring me the presents I want."

Hmmm. I might have to wear nicer clothes tomorrow.

Also, for some reason, M is very focused on what Santa wants her to wear. Also monsters.

Monday, December 10, 2012

What if God sent the flood again today? -- A guest post from author Daniel Keohane


Today's guest post comes from Bram Stoker Award nominated author Daniel Keohane. You can find out more about him and his books on his website. I think you'll find the book he discusses here interesting... what if God decided to repeat himself and have another flood? What if he did it today? And what if there were quite a number of people he decided were worth saving?

Big thanks to Matt for letting me share his spotlight for the day, inviting me to talk about – well, whatever I’d like, related to my recent novel Margaret’s Ark. Though it took a long time (years) to get this novel to where it is now, writing it was such a joy it was easy to pick a specific topic: asking for help from complete strangers.

Briefly, in Margaret’s Ark thousands of people around the world have the same dream, telling them to build an ark on their from yard, the town square, anywhere they can, then convince thirty others to join them before a new flood occurs. I know, I know, most of you reading this are thinking, wait! God said He wouldn’t.... but I actually addressed this issue in the book and, at least I hope I did, to avoid nasty-grams from fellow believers (I must have succeeded, since I really only had two people slam me for the concept).

There were two moments (among surprisingly few) where I found myself staring at the page and wondering – what do I do now? One came early on when my main character Margaret Carboneau stood on the grass of her hometown common (what we New Englanders like to call the town square) staring at a load of lumber with no idea what to do with it all. I had literally been typing this scene when it dawned on me I had no idea how to build a boat, either (obviously, back then I didn’t outline). I had one requirement: everything used must come from the local Home Depot or other home goods supply store.

I went online to a popular message board for writers and posted my question: anyone know how an average person might build a seaworthy boat for 30 people using only Home Depot supplies? I got a couple of brief suggestions, then a man I still have never met named John Craig emailed me directly after reading of my plight. He explained the type of wood to use, how to bend and shape it, then waterproof everything. He included hand-drawn diagrams (scanned into jpeg’s)! I could tell he was having a great time with these emails, being deep in his element (John was an amateur ship builder who visited the message board occasionally). I used almost EVERYTHING he told me, detail-wise. Some of his other suggestions (“You’ll probably have kids on board, so don’t forget to build some compartments for children’s books.”) made so much sense I worked them ito the story, too.

In later drafts, I added a significant setting in the Arctic Circle in order to better illustrate some “scientific” concepts (quotes deliberate – I’m a writer, Jim, not a scientist) used in the book on how the earth could be flooded. In Googling websites on the town of Resolute Bay, I came across a man named Dave who blogged about his year living in this northernmost town. I emailed him, explained I’m a writer working on a scene in the town. I understood he lived there for a time and could he answer some questions. (This is key – if you explain you are a writer most people will be happy to answer questions... through email, phone calls or in person.) He replied and after about three back-and-forths, I had what I needed. He was very detailed, too, having truly enjoyed his stay there. His love for the town came through in his descriptions and when my characters stepped into the town in the book, it felt very real to me and my readers.

So, as we hear often in church and Sunday school: God provides when you ask, as long as you ask for the right thing. Just remember that sometimes you need to step outside and put your question to the people around you, knowing He’ll get the right person to see the question and answer you. Sometimes the burning bush comes in the form of an email from a stranger you may never talk to again, but you will get your answer. It’s how Margaret’s Ark gained more depth than my own imagination could muster – it’s even how I got my new washing machine... but that’s another story. J

What do you think, folks? Questions or comments for Daniel? Leave 'em here and we'll get him to come by and respond!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Secret Novel update: FIRST DRAFT IS DONE!

As of right now!

I overshot the ending... there will be editing to be done without doubt. But here's the ending word count!



76582 / 65000 words. 118% done!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Star Trek Into Darkness trailer is here!



I hope in this movie that Kirk screams so loud that it's heard from outer space.

Who's going?

EDIT:

I think we need to add this trailer for comparison's sake:

My three year old daughter sends her first emails


My three year old was playing with Krista's iPad the other day and then started sending me emails. She has never sent email before, certainly not without help, so here are the three emails she sent me. All of them came with pictures.

Number One. 

V b bc m c.  .  L $ m. .cv l @huh bm'c.    $!3 e?)?$3&?hvkfdncn.   C. X. C. V.  C.  C. Bvbnngngnfnnfnfnngngnvnnnnvbnv@ bdbnnmv vf, nmcnvnvn ,hbbbgtngkrgjgjjkkjjkylykjffhfbdbdvbfdvgdbngbnbfdjfbffnfbfhfhhhhghhghhghhgbnxj. Bd nbmcbnd. N 






















Email number two:



Email #3:

Congratulations, kid, on your first three emails! Now they are immortalized forever on the internet.

QUESTION: How about you? Do you remember your first email?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Bethlehemenian Rhapsody

Christians can Christianize anything. Here it is... Bohemian Rhapsody redone as a loving Christmas song. Be sure to at least wait for the entrance of Baby Jesus!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

TOP SECRET NOVEL UPDATE



66262 / 65000 words. 102% done!

GAH! I hit my projected word count but I'm still not done. I've got at least 2.5 chapters ahead of me!

Wonderful Wednesday: Awesome Christmas Flash Mob

I wish this would happen to me!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Top 5 posts in November

Here they are the top five posts (by traffic, of course) from the month of November. Number one, unsurprisingly, was my interview with Rachel Held Evans, the author of A Year of Living Biblically.

Second place was this post, where I made fun of Netflix for their description of The Crucible.

Third place, the 1491s and their hilarious skit about Native actors trying out for the parts of Native werewolves in Twilight's "New Moon."

Fourth place, an episode of Eavesdropping with Matt!

Tied for fifth, two goofy stories from my kids. A cute pet name my daughter calls me. and lastly, my three year old explains why monsters are scary.

How about you? And favorite blog posts you saw last month?

Monday, December 03, 2012

This is the song stuck in my head this morning!



Where are you, Crowded House?

BECAUSE YOU DEMANDED IT! Storymen Episode 2: The Apocalypse Strikes Back!

The new episode of Storymen is up and running, with special guest Jason Boyett, author of The Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse.

You can go listen to the podcast on the Storymen site, subscribe on iTunes or, for those who would rather watch us hang out in Google Chat, you can watch the whole thing here (audio is better, by the way, on the audio version. Go figure).



Be sure to check out the awesome new logo and banner from M.S. Corley on the site!

Friday, November 30, 2012

A "what if?" question about the Walking Dead

What if the virus that everyone is infected with is actually a virus that causes disassociative visions, hallucinations and anti-social behavior? Maybe Rick is seeing "zombies" because of his virus, but really he's on a rampage through the real world killing people. He wakes up in a hospital. Then he goes (eventually) to the CDC. Then he ends up in prison. I think this is a journey lots of people with uncontrolled psychotic breakdowns go on.

We know Rick isn't all there mentally. I mean, his phone isn't connecting to the switchboard, that's for sure. This would explain all those moments that don't make much sense in the show, because we can say, "That's all part of Rick's hallucinations."

Poor guy. And here we are, watching the guy's psychotic episodes for three seasons.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Twilight: the New Moon wolf pack auditions (by 1491)

Nurse Shasta sent me a link to the Native comedy group the 1491s a while back, and I particularly enjoyed this video, a satire about the casting of Natives for the Twilight movies. For those who don't know, there's a tribe of Native Americans (specifically the Quieluete tribe) who are werewolves. In the movie, I mean, not in real life. I mean, they're not werewolves in real life. Anyway, the 1491s made this video and it made me laugh a lot. Since the last of the Twilight movies is out now, I thought I would share it:

 If you're interested in the Native point of view on things, here are three places you should take a look:

1) My friend Mark Charles. And ESPECIALLY if you live in the Washington, D.C. area you should consider attending the Conversation for Reconciliation on December 19th.

2) A great book I read recently is On the Rez by Ian Frazier.

3) You might also enjoy One Church, Many Tribes by Richard Twiss.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Update on the secret novel

I thought I should probably update you on my progress on the first draft of my SECRET NOVEL. It's a secret, people, but I can tell you that in the chapter I just wrote there were shadow wolves, sentient rooms and a monster made out of garbage. No, really. Unless... I'm just trying to throw you off from my top secret secrets. That's a possibility.



50705 / 65000 words. 78% done!

Interview with Wm. Paul Young, author of "The Shack" and "Cross Roads"

Hey everybody!

I am partway through Cross Roads by Wm. Paul Young. I should, honestly, be done with it by now, but I got a little distracted with writing my own book this week. When I'm in the middle of a project one of my "disciplines" is to only work on my own novel, and not read anything else for fun. The theory is, if I'm not having enough fun writing my own book, then maybe it's not good enough.

Anyway, I should be done with Cross Roads very soon, and you can expect to see some thoughts here when I'm done.

In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy this interview between my friend Paul Young and my friend Greg Horton.

You may recall Greg from his guest post here a while back. He's a (former) pastor and (former) Christian who has a lot of insight into religion and understands Evangelical culture from an insider's perspective. He often has great questions and thoughts for us to consider.

If you don't know Paul already, he's the author of The Shack and probably one of the friendliest, kindest, most generous people I know. This is possibly because he was born in Canada, but nevertheless, I love the guy.

So, there you go. An interview between two guys I find enjoyable, challenging and interesting. I think you'll enjoy them as well. I'll report back when I finish the book!

Friday, November 23, 2012

It's officially Christmas season! Yay!



This should get you ready. Not that this is strictly a Christmas song, but just pretend for a minute.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Things to do today:

1. Eat a turkey.

2. Try to kick a football.

3. Try to fly a kite without the kite eating tree getting it.

4. Write a note to the little red-haired girl.

5. Be thankful for all my dear friends and family.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Some pictures from the Imaginary Jesus stage play

I have a lot to say about this last week and all the amazing things that happened while I was in St. Louis for the Imaginary Jesus stage play. I'll need some time to process and write it all up. In the meantime, here are some pictures from the play, which opened to sold out crowds last weekend!

 The show will go on the next two weekends, so if you're anywhere near St. Louis grab your tickets and get over there!

Matt is split in two during the play: Matt the character on
the left, Matt the Narrator on the right.
Daisy the donkey is not amused by Matt and Matt making fun of her.
Here's Krista and Matt together.
Shane the atheist, Portland Jesus and the Matts enjoy
some fancy dessert at the Pix Patisserie.

Monday, November 19, 2012

This is how I can tell that you didn't watch the movie

When I was a high school literature teacher, some of my students would try, occasionally, to get away with not reading a book, or not writing a report themselves. I remember once when a high school student was supposed to write about a childhood memory and he instead copied out an essay about baseball from a published book. The only problem was that the person in the book was clearly 40 years old, and the vocabulary of the essay was much higher than that of my student. I gave him a vocabulary quiz using words from his own essay and he flunked. Pretty funny.

And of course, there's always the chance that when you teach, say, The Scarlet Letter, that students will sneak off to watch the movie instead of reading the book. So you have to put some questions on the test that only people who have watched the movie will get wrong.

But then, there are these times when you look at Netflix and see that whoever writes the summary of the movie hasn't watched it. Like, for instance, this description of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible"... a play about the Salem Witch Trials:


I'm afraid I'm going to have to flunk you for this, Netflix. P.S. Yes, I realize that Netflix is probably getting all crazy and commenting on the film by saying it's a "parable" of the hunt for communists. But I think I'll just harass them for not just saying "it's about the Salem witch trials." Because it's funnier that way.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Video clip from the Imaginary Jesus stage play

Tonight, Krista and I are in St. Louis to watch the WORLD PREMIERE of the Imaginary Jesus stage play! Be sure to get your tickets and we'll see you there! (I'm here all weekend, so if you can't come tonight, come tomorrow or Sunday!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Our new podcast: The StoryMen!

Yes, it's true. Clay Morgan, J.R. Forasteros and I have decided to start a semi-regular podcast together. We are, in fact, pod people.

For the uninitiated, basically a podcast is like a radio show. It's the three of us hanging out and talking about things that interest us. We'll have guests, we'll have fights, we'll have laughs. In fact, J.R. and I have a big fight in this one about whether Quantam of Solace was a good movie or not. Well. A minor disagreement, anyway.



The themes of StoryMen will be pop culture, theology and history. That's why we put it right in our banner.

You can listen to our PILOT EPISODE here, in which we talk about Star Wars, Skyfall and Biblical Womanhood. Yes, you read that correctly. We are that awesome.


You can join our Facebook group.

And, here's the StoryMen website.


THINGS YOU WILL DISCOVER IN THIS EPISODE:

1. Which of the StoryMen learned about Lucasfilm being purchased by Disney from Jordin Sparks.

2. Who Clay sides with on the Quantam of Solace debate!

3. What kind of homemade cookie my daughter delivers to me during recording!

4. And much, much more!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday: The Super Great Toilet Keeper can stop professional soccer players from scoring goals

It's time once again for Wonderful Wednesday to come to us from the amazing people of Japan, where scientists have created a toilet able to deflect soccer balls. Why? Because it's awesome, that's why. I am a little disappointed as it makes my (still in development) baseball pitching urinal seem redundant.



You can treat yourself to more Wonderful Wednesday here. Unless a toilet prevent you from doing so.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Guest Post from Josh Riebock, author of Heroes and Monsters


Today's guest post comes from Josh Riebock. Josh lives in Austin, TX with his wife, Kristen, and his dog, Ditka. He’s an author and a fan of all things 80s. He sometimes tells the truth. And he once got a really bad tattoo. For more information, visit: www.joshriebock.com
Put your ear to my chest, listen closely, and you’ll hear a crowd of voices inside me—some of them loud, and some of them tender. Some of them brave, and some of them fugitives. Some of them skeptical—angry even—and some of them innocent. Some of them voices that I discuss publicly, and others that I bury deep in the closet behind the bones of my other skeletons— I’m not crazy. I’m just not as symmetrical as I’d like to be. This reality birthed the idea for my most recent book, Heroes and Monsters. My name is Josh Riebock and today, in this guest post, one of the voices inside me is going to interview me about this new book…
So, Josh, let’s start with this question: why in the world did you write this stupid, stupid book?
It’s not stupid. Actually, I’m really proud of it, and a big part of the reason why is because I wrote it for me. Instead of trying to write a book that I thought other people would want to read, I just tried to write the kind of book that I’d want to read. An artist can spend all of their energy, talent, and ideas trying to guess what kind of stories and art that others will like, or they can simply create the kind of story and art that resonates with them, inspires them, the kind of work that they are passionate about. That’s what I tried to do. And what came out was an illustrated memoir mixed with intentional fiction, an honest, partially experimental, kind of weird, genre-bending story. And well, I’m proud of it.
Whatever. So with that in mind, how much did you worry about this book bombing? Remember how I warned you that it might bomb? I kept saying, “Josh, this is a huge mistake, colossal. Just be normal. Why can’t you be normal? Huh? Just do what people expect, or you’ll regret it. If you write it the way you want to, it’s going to fail.” Remember how I said that?
Yes. I remember how often you warned me. Over and over— 
As you were writing it I kept envisioning someone making a paper airplane that they are convinced is really aerodynamic—a technological breakthrough!—only to have it plunge straight into the ground once they throw it. Crash and burn. I mean, didn’t you worry that no one else would resonate with this thing that resonates with you?
Sure. I worried about it plenty. I think most people fear that others won’t share his or her passions, fear that our heart beats for something that no one else cares about. That’s what being alone is.
You feel alone a lot don’t you.
I know you do.
Of course you feel lonely. 
I suppose I do. Every artist, every person, is destined for frequent bouts of loneliness. But I inflict a fair amount of that on myself. I’m an introvert, so I wander through my own imagination a lot, spend loads of time alone—reading, thinking, movies, whatever—and all of that is good. But sometimes I do it to the point of isolation. Lots of folks do. Humans are really good at building inanimate community: a tight circle of songs and films and trophies and possessions and ideas that we can relate to. We connect deeply with authors and musicians and business leaders, athletes, historical figures, those far away people who share our passions, but we may struggle to connect in a similarly meaningful way with those we can actually touch. Sometimes I work harder to connect with an author I’m reading than a friend or my wife. I’ll watch a movie with my phone in my pocket, silenced, but check my phone repeatedly when I’m with a group of people. I’ll engage significant ideas and emotions in a book, but not in a conversation. I’ll concentrate while I’m writing, but then let my attention drift when someone is talking to me… 
Is there a point in there? Or are you just doing your typical rambling on and on and on thing?
I’m just saying that, chances are, there are people near me who share my passions, but because I’m sometimes so invested in my inanimate community, I never find out. So I feel alone, even though I’m not. In that way, my loneliness is often an illusion. A very lifelike illusion. 
“Illusion”. You like that word don’t you?
Yes.
Any other favorite words?
Man, I’ve got lots of favorites right now. Ragged. Caloric. Fish. I could go on and on. In general, I have a strong love for words. I believe in their power. That’s why the writing process matters so much to me. I don’t just care about what I’m saying, but also about how I’m saying it. Word choice. Sentence structure. Artful prose. The wonder depicted in the form of writing, the form of anything—singing, architecture—can do so much in us, and in others. And in my opinion, that dimension isn’t valued enough. Sometimes we care so much about the what, and neglect the how. And the how is often the very thing that makes a message so profound. When we stop valuing form, we strip the soul out of whatever it is that is being said. Form is the soul of expression.
Speaking of soul-stripping, I get the idea that you are comfortable exploring dark ideas in your writing, ideas about ugliness and pain and fear. True?
I guess so. 
Well isn’t that dangerous? I mean; being comfortable dabbling in dark ideas probably implies something dark about you, that you’re tortured maybe. Or, I don’t know, maybe that you’ve got unresolved issues that shouldn’t be shared with others—not your wife, your friends, your readers—issues that you should keep to yourself. Unless, of course, you want to fill the world with more darkness, be considered a dark person, or are a dark person. Is that what you’re saying? Would you consider yourself a dark person?
No. I’d actually consider myself a hopeful person. But I like to explore the most honest places of life and humanity, those places that we often don’t want to think about, and that, at times, takes me into pretty dark territory. Can it be dangerous? Sure, just like anything handled poorly can be dangerous. But in order to understand who we are, in order to tell great stories, we have to go there. Our frequent resistance to depicting darkness can lead to terrible art, untrue art. Sometimes the “brightest” art feels good, but it’s a total lie. It glosses over pain, and creates false realities, false promises, tidy answers that don’t really exist. Sometimes art has to have elements of darkness if it’s going to be true, if it’s going to bring genuine hope, transcendent hope…that butterfly floating over the ashes of a burned city kind of hope.
Can you give me an example?
Sure, well, I’d say the Bible is the most hopeful book I’ve ever read.
So?
And it’s also the darkest book I’ve ever read.
Alright, well, since you had to go and bring up the God thing: in Heroes and Monsters, you’ve got a character named Jack. What’s up with him? I found that dimension to be weird, wildly annoying sometimes.
Thanks. Yeah, so Jack is a character that represents God. I did it this way because I wanted to capture the physical presence of God in the story of my life, in both the big and small moments, rather than representing him in a distant, floating amoeba kind of way. I wanted people to be able to see how involved God has been in my life, how involved he is in their own life. But I also did it to expand the way we view God. It’s easy to fall into ruts when talking about God, always using the same language, the same images, and in doing so we limit the conversation about God to those who are able to access it in those terms, with those words and pictures. It becomes an exclusive conversation. And because of that, we’re always having the God conversation with the same people. I wanted to create a fresh picture of God that would speak to those who struggle to access the typical God conversation, to talk about God in a way that would engage those who’ve grown tired of the same God talk, and maybe to depict God in a way that would even rattle some folks. Besides, God is bigger than any of our pictures or conversations anyway. I wanted this book to demonstrate that.
Yea, so I think we should stop now. Besides, people probably aren’t going to like this anyway. You know that, right? 
Maybe. We’ll see.
Yeah, we will. Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes.
Oh let me guess. I'll bet I know. This is where you want to tell everyone to go get a copy of Heroes and Monsters, right? At Barnes and Noble or Amazon? This is where you want to tell everyone that if they read this book, they can anticipate being swept up into a story that is unlike most stories that they’ve encountered, being rattled and moved, laughing out loud and shedding tears, being taken deep within themselves, stirred to more intimate relationships with others and God, having the muscles of their imagination flexed, and realizing that life is a thoroughly damned and divine experience. Is that it? Nice. Wow, way to make a sleazy sales pitch—

No.
Good, because I think most readers of this book can anticipate being frustrated by the style and content, possibly offended by the honesty and imagery, bored by the often meandering main character, and using the pages to both ignite and sustain their backyard bonfire.

Maybe. But I’d still like to add something.

And what’s that?

I wanted to tell you that someday you’ll be gone. Someday you won’t bother me anymore. And that day is coming. The day is coming when I’ll just be me. Just me. All the voices within me will go quiet, and you’ll be nothing more than a memory, a vapor, a ghost that used to harass me. When that day comes, you’ll serve the same purpose that every other pain and struggle that I endure will eventually serve.
And what’s that?
You’ll become just one more reason for me to celebrate.