I am Mary Todd Lincoln. Maybe.

My wife and I have joined a non-church-sanctioned couple’s Bible study. Yeah, we’re rebels.

Our group formed about a month ago when a newly married couple at our church expressed an interest in getting a bunch of couples together to talk about marriage. They could have gone through the official church channels to make it an official thing, but then the curriculum would have to be approved by some kind of board and the whole thing could have been killed by bureaucracy. So instead, we’re holding it in the homes of couples within the group and keeping quiet about it on Sunday morning. (I’m hoping that no one at my church actually reads this blog, by the way)

It’s a bit like Fight Club in that way. Only it’s a Marriage Club. And everyone knows that fighting and marriage have nothing to do with each other. Right?

9780310291442We’re going through Gary Thomas’ DVD series, Sacred Marriage. Thomas asks the question, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

My wife and I are set to lead the second session of the study, which focuses on the refining power of marriage.

Abraham_Lincoln_November_1863In the DVD, Thomas talks about Abraham Lincoln. In most polls, Lincoln is ranked pretty high on the list of best Presidents. At the same time, Mary Todd Lincoln scores consistently low among first ladies. So if we believe that God is in control of everything, why would he put such a great guy with such a terrible lady? Thomas suggests that God was preparing Honest Abe to keep a nation together by giving him a challenging wife and telling him to keep his marriage together. Good stuff.

It makes me think about my marriage and how my wife might be preparing me for something larger. If Lincoln’s contentious wife helped him stick with one of the bloodiest wars in history in order to keep the Union together, what does that mean for me?

464px-Mary_Todd_Lincoln2cropMy wife is no Mary Todd. Instead of being mean, cold, and crazy, she’s pretty darn great. She’s hardworking and kind, a great mom to our kids, and she’s smart as a whip. I think it’s possible that God is using her to teach me how to be more like my wife, but I think it’s more likely that I’m the Mary Todd of our marriage.

Chances are pretty good that God is using my terribleness to teach her how to be a great leader of some kind. Perhaps she’ll be able to diffuse World War 3 or something later on. Who knows?

Anyway, I’m a big fan of marriage and so far, I’m enjoying the Sacred Marriage study. My hope is that, even though I think I’ve got a pretty great marriage already, I can learn new ways to love my wife and to help both of us to be more holy.


Saturday Photo Prompt | Contraption

jmspp_logoLook at the picture below and write a 100 story. It really is that simple.

If you care to share, either post a link to your story in the comments, or post the whole story.

I can’t wait to see what you write!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Experimenting with Squirrels


“For Science!”

That’s what I told my wife when she asked why I had tied an ear of corn to the tree in our front yard with some string. Well, technically, I tied it up there with dental floss, because we had just visited the dentist’s office and what else are you supposed to use it for?

“The neighbors are going to think there’s something wrong with us,” said my beautiful wife.

“No, they won’t,” I assured her. “If anything, they’ll think there’s something wrong with me. You are too pretty to have anyone think bad things about you.”

“Just explain to me the science part of what you’ve done here,” she said.

“Um,” I started. “I want to see if the squirrels want the corn badly enough to risk shimmeying down the floss to get it.”

It isn’t like I’m starving them. You’ll notice that I filled their regular squirrel feeder at the same time as I tied the experimental ear of corn up. I’m not cruel, you know. And so what if I’m going to hold off on restocking it for a few days after all the corn is gone? It’s my corn and my feeder and I don’t have to share if I don’t want to.


“You just want to see a squirrel fall off the tree,” she said.

“For Science!” I exclaimed again. “Besides, just imagine how funny it would be if we were here to see it.”

“Okay,” she agreed. “It would be pretty funny.”


*Portions of this conversation may or may not have happened like this in real life. I’m terrible at remembering how these things actually go.

Reading Old Manuscripts

Just about every Monday night, I meet with my writing buddy, Bob Evenhouse. We take a few minutes to catch up on life stuff. We discuss our goals for the evening and what we’ll be working on. We write.

Usually, I work on a blog post to stay ahead of the curve. Invariably, something will come up during the week to make it difficult to write a post for the following day, so it’s handy to have an extra post in the hopper. But this past Monday night, I didn’t write a post.

I didn’t write at all.

I read.

Are these the demons from my Daniel O'Ryan story or are they my unfinished novels coming to torment me?

Are these the demons from my Daniel O’Ryan story or are they my unfinished novels coming to torment me?

I read through one of my unfinished fiction manuscripts. The book is called Daniel O’Ryan and the Tree of Life. It’s my homage to magical orphans novels.

The main character, Daniel, is a Nephilim (half-demon, half-human) who has been kept in the dark about his supernatural identity. But when he and fellow orphan, Ian, are placed into a school for the wealthy and gifted children by a mysterious benefactor, Daniel’s abilities begin to emerge. Mentored by an angel disguised as a teacher, Daniel is tasked with rescuing his fallen-angel father. For a boy who wants a family above all else, is this opportunity too good to be true?

I read about forty pages of the story and I noticed a few things. One, even though I put a lot of work into it after its inception, it still reads like a 3-day novel (literally written in three days). Two, some of the characters are a bit one-dimensional. Three, I still really like the story and want to see it finished.

The reason I went back and read it was because I have been struggling lately with my identity as a writer. Not that I doubt that I’m a writer, rather that I don’t know what I’m supposed to be writing. To date, I have: a full series of short stories aimed at young adults and primed for a graphic novelist’s assistance; an unfinished dystopian novel; an unfinished YA fantasy series; an unfinished YA time-travel series; a few finished flash stories waiting for publication; a blog; and a memoir or two waiting to be written. That’s kind of a lot to be working on.

I know that what I need to do is just pick something and finish it. I need to be submitting the things that are finished. And I need to keep reading in order to be familiar with trends and to fill my own inspirational well. But it’s been a while since I’ve worked on any of my unfinished projects, and I struggle with being pulled back into something that has already led to dead ends. Of course, the only way to not have them be dead ends is to write my way to a satisfactory ending.

I think I’m ready for that. Or anyway, I’m getting there.

Are there things in your life that you’ve put down for a while because the task of picking them back up seems too daunting?

My Favorite Banned Book

It’s Banned Book Week! This week, we celebrate all the books that society fears/feared.

I9780060850524‘ve read a bunch of books on the list (naughty, naughty!), and though I am quite fond of the Harry Potter series, probably my favorite banned book is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

I first read the dystopian masterpiece in high school. It was required reading in my AP Literature class and we read it on the heels of 1984. The book opens with some shocking imagery (innocent children playing sexual games) that sets the tone for the entire piece. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the book since then, but every time I do, I discover new insight on the world in which we live.

So why is it a banned book? Well according to the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression:

In Baxley, Georgia, the school board banned Brave New World – along with John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Richard Wright’s Native Son based on a local church minister’s objection to the texts, despite parents’ and teachers’ approval of the book.

Now, I can definitely understand how certain passages would be offensive, but I believe that they were written to offend. How else can we have a cautionary tale but to show the offensiveness of society? I sincerely doubt that Huxley, a humanist, set out to specifically offend the religious establishment with his novel. Rather, he shows us what life would be like in a world where progress and self-pleasure are the only gods. Had the minister who objected to the content of the novel understood this, he might have found that he and Huxley shared more common ground than not.

Want to know something else about Aldous Huxley? He died on the same day as C.S. Lewis and John F. Kennedy. Crazy but true.

What is your favorite banned book?

For more information about what Banned Books Weeks is all about, check out this link.

Reading the Not-So-Fine Print

I have trouble reading things thoroughly. Unless I’m getting paid to read, I think I get about halfway through a sentence before I decide that I know where it’s headed and move on to the next sentence.

I once made a super spicy version of Meatball & Pineapple Hoagies because I didn’t take the extra time needed to realize that the recipe called for 1/4 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper and not 1/4 cup. Whew! That was a spicy meatball hoagie!

charlies_bar_and_grilleBut most recently, I spent my family’s hard-earned money on a Groupon for a restaurant called Charlie’s Bar and Grille. It seemed like too good a deal to pass up. And when my wife and I couldn’t decide what to make for dinner the other night, I made the executive decision that we needn’t make dinner at all. We would use our Groupon and someone else would cook. But when I went to print the deal out, I noticed the address of the restaurant was different from what I remembered. Was it possible that there were two Charlie’s Bar and Grilles in town?

charleysA quick Google search later and I had discovered my mistake. I purchased a Groupon for Charlie’s Bar & Grille, but what I wanted was a Groupon from Charley’s Pub & Grill. You see, Charley’s is a little bar and billiards place near our house that serves up locally grown food for great prices. We’ve never had a bad experience and we’ve been there more than a few times. But Charlie’s is an unknown entity. Plus, it’s all the way across town. And since my wife doesn’t get home until dinner time already and my girls go down for bedtime shortly thereafter, I have no idea when we’ll be able to use the Groupons that I mistakenly bought.

But who knows? Maybe they have fantastic food. Maybe they too value locally grown produce and meats. Maybe they will be our new favorite restaurant.

At the very least, their food has to be better than my Meatball & Pineapple Hoagie Massacre.

Moral: Read thoroughly.

I am a fashion terrorist (and hypocrite)

I posted this to Facebook recently:


With the help of my wife, I’m getting better, but I’m not there yet. I only hope that my children will see the well-dressed man I have become and not the fashion terrorist that I was in college.

Though, in my defense, the chopstache is severely misunderstood by today’s society. 21st President, Chester A. Arthur, was a visionary of facial hair. I believe that the chopstache WILL rise again!