I am going to the bar with my Christian bookstore.

When you hear “an Australian, beer, and ______”, you may not assume that the last part of the triad would be “the Bible”, but it totally is. At least, it will be next Sunday (February 15th from 7-9pm) at Founder’s Brewery in Grand Rapids, MI.

Baker Book House and Harper Collins Christian Publishing are partnering to host “Skeptics Night” at Founder’s with John Dickson, author of the book “A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible.”

When the posters first went up in the bookstore, I think we shocked a few of our patrons. After all, the primary feature of the advertising is a pint of beer, which is not what you expect to see next to posters for southern gospel singers.

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When I first previewed the posters with the management, I asked, “Is this too much?” My manager replied, “I welcome the fights this will bring. People need to understand that you aren’t going to find many skeptics willing to attend an event at a Christian bookstore. So we’re bringing the Bible to the bar.”

I’ve overheard a number of customers who agree with this sentiment. But I’ve also heard the opposite; i.e. people who can’t imagine why a Christian would step foot in an establishment that serves alcohol. I mean, it isn’t like Jesus ever had anything to do with beer or wine or the type of people who drank such things. Right?

Anyway, if you are in the Grand Rapids area next Sunday night, you should check it out. Just be warned that seating is limited, so it would be a good idea to let us know on the Facebook event page if you are planning to attend.

Mere Christianity | My Bible Study So Far…

I mentioned earlier this week that my men’s Bible study is going through Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis. We just finished reading the first section of the book, “Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe.” As I always enjoy the discussions that arise from our readings, I thought I would share a bit with you.

I find if difficult (near impossible, really) to synopsize (new word I just made up) Lewis’ thoughts without trying to simply re-write the book word for word. He does such a good job of leading readers through the logical progression of a moral basis for the belief in a higher power that I suggest you just read the full version. However, since I set out to provide a bite-size version for my blog readers, I’ll have a go at it.

Chapter 1: The Law of Human Nature | Humans believe that some morality is universally shared (like broken promises are not good), but we don’t always adhere to these universally shared morals (people still break promises).

Chapter 2: Some Objections | Isn’t what we are talking about really just our herd instinct, something that evolution put there? No, we are talking about the abandonment of self-preservation (an evolutionary idea) in favor or doing something good for a higher reason.

Chapter 3: The Reality of the Law | Stones follow the Law of Gravity when they fall; they have no choice in the matter. Humans live according to the Law of Human Nature when they interact with each other; they choose whether to do good or not. Some people say that decent conduct is determined not on an individual basis, but by the human race as a whole, as in the example that it is better for everyone if everyone is unselfish. But this breaks down when the individual is concerned. If you ask “Why should I care what is good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?” then you will have to say, “Because you ought to be unselfish”, which is circular logic. Just like if a person asks, “Why should I play football?” and a person responds, “In order to score the most points.” That isn’t why at all, it is simply part of the game. The fact that the game exists is because someone came up with it. Accordingly, the concept of morality exists because something came up with it, and it cannot be ourselves because it existed before we were born, and it cannot be an evolutionary trait, because then we would always act as we ought to act (which we don’t).

Chapter 4: What Lies Behind the Law | The question is this: Is the universe the way it is for no particular reason or is there a power that designed it to be what it is? If it exists, the power cannot be part of what is observable any more than an architect of the house can be a wall or a fireplace in the house. So how can we find this higher power? If we observe nature scientifically, we can see the truth of how things happen, but not why things happen. The only evidence that we have about why humans behave as humans do is because we are humans. Is it a coincidence then that in the only place where we can observe whether a higher power created a system of ethics, we find that one exists? We aren’t yet to the point of believing in a Christian God yet, simply that some power has determined a system of morality for us to either abide by or feel bad when we do not.

Chapter 5: We Have Cause to be Uneasy | If you feel like I am tricking you into believing in the Christian God, that was not my intention. I am simply pointing out the way things seem to be. If you think that we have tried the religious thing before and we can’t turn the clock back, consider that when you are going the wrong direction, the most sensible thing to do is turn around. Secondly, all we have so far is that something like a mind that is outside of our universe has designed things in a way that proves morality by showing our immorality, nowhere near the Christian God yet. Thirdly, my reason for the roundabout way was to show the existence of depravity in order to show the need for forgiveness. You do not go to the doctor until you realize that you are sick. The Christian religion responds to the facts that we have been presented with, but they are not always the comfort that people imagine them to be. We still have to face the fact that the world is a dangerous place, that people both love goodness (when they experience it) and hate goodness (when they choose to be mean), and that if there is a higher power that provided us with a sense of morality, then we have bungled it up completely and we’ll have to answer to that in some way.

So, there’s what we’ve gone through so far. Mere Christianity is one of the few non-fiction books that I genuinely enjoy. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. If you want to join our Bible study in an online way, comment below and we’ll include you in emails and such.

Do you have thoughts that you want to share based on my poor synopses above? Please do. Let’s start a discussion!

And if you find this sort of thing interesting, here are some links that you might like as well:

An Atheist Converts to Catholicism – Why? The Moral Argument

The God Debates: Genuinely Intelligent Discussion on Theological Questions

Mere Inkling: A place where faith, history & writing converge.

The C. S. Lewis Institute

Thanks for reading!

P. S.  I’m still looking for guest posts.

Video Fun with Rhett & Link

Normally, I put some links up on Friday to awesome blogs or writing-related stuff that I’ve experienced during the week. This week, I just wanted to have a bit of fun.

Meet Rhett & Link.

The videos and lyrics are clean. In fact, these are the same guys that to the songs about the books of the Bible for Phil Vischer’s JellyTelly programming. “Rub Some Bacon On It” is just an all-around wonderful song, and the rest of these are good songs with amazingly edited videos.

Anyway, enjoy the videos below!

Duotrope, the Flashing Cop: A Hero’s Journey -or- Links

This week, I’ve been away from my keyboard more than I’d usually like. My work has stepped up the remodeling plan (demolition is coming next week or the week after) so we’ve all been coming in early or staying late in order to get things moved (roughly 80,000 used books, 90% of our music department, 90% of our gifts department, and our shipping/receiving department) before the bulldozers knock off the front half of our building. Anyway, as a result, I took one night and set up the blogs for this past week to post automatically.

That all being said, this week’s links are all good. I didn’t have as much time to poke around other people’s blogs, so I went with links that I am familiar with already. Here are some cool places online to check out:

Axe Cop – This is web-comic about a cop with an axe. The thing that makes this site great is the fact that all the stories are written by a 5 year old (although that was when the comic started, now he’s 7) and then drawn by his 30-something year old brother. Why is this great? Because many of us have forgotten how a child thinks, and if you want to relate, either as a parent or a writer or both, it’s a wonderful way to climb into the mind of a child for a few minutes.

Duotrope: This is a site for writers to find homes for things that they’ve written. You can do searches and submissions and contests and more. It’s quite a resource. As for the name, this is from the site:

“Duotrope” is a word we made up. Since “duo” is the Latin root for “two” and “trope” is from the Greek “to turn,” we think of a duotrope as two objects spinning in orbit around each other, such as a writer and an editor. That’s just our concept of what a “duotrope” is. Feel free to come up with your own. (“Duotrope” is the registered trademark of Duotrope, LLC.)

The Hero’s Journey: If you have ever wondered why some stories seem to get written over and over, there’s a reason. Think of Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and even the story of Moses from the Bible. Joseph Campbell came up with something that he called Monomyth or The Hero’s Journey. If you are writing a tale of epic proportions and need an idea of where you are going, or if you are a reader and you’d like to be a better critical thinker while working through that book on your nightstand, check it out. Also, I’m not the only one to write about this theme, here’s a bonus link to another blog on the same topic.

10 Flash Fiction Writing Tips: This week, I’ve been a bit focused on flash fiction. If you want to try your hand at writing ridiculously short stories, here are some things to keep in mind. I should probably start using this advice myself.

So, there you go. Just when you thought you were tired of the internet, I give you all these reasons to go back online. Oh, one last plug for my contest and we’ll be all set. Check out yesterday’s post for full details, but it’d be great to get some entries.

How I did this week. Also, fun links!As far as a report card for this week, I made sure that something posted on the blog every day, so that’s good, but I didn’t spend everyday writing for it, so less good. I went out writing twice and last night I added about 700 words to my manuscript. I’ll give myself a solid B.

Okay, that’s it, now have a nice weekend.

Meet the Cast Tuesday | Daniel O’Ryan

Daniel O'Ryan | Orphan, Freshman, NephilimAs I mentioned in last week’s post, this week I’ll be introducing the main character from my current WIP (work in progress). The project began as a 3-day novel contest entry. I had just finished another trip through the Harry Potter series, right on the heels of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series, and I had the magical orphan genre on the brain. My goal was to write a book in the genre that actually had a chance of being published.

The thing is… I work in a Christian bookstore, which is owned by one of the top five Christian publishing houses in the country. Also, I have good friends with connections to two other top-tier Christian publishers. Up to this point, none of my writing had any sort of religious tint to it. I’d done humorous flash fiction, and dystopian thriller, and that was it. Writing something for young adults that would be able to find a home with a Christian publisher was going to be a challenge.

Of course, I wouldn’t be able to use magic outright. I’d run into enough protective parents that would be shocked and disgusted to know that I loved Harry Potter to know that magic is not acceptable to the core audience I was hoping for. So I would have to replace the magic with miracles of some kind. Or, as I finally decided on, choose a character that has built in extra-human abilities. So I decided on the human/angel half-breeds that the Bible mentions a couple times, the Nephilim.

Nephilim are a popular subject for writers. Because the Bible mentions that they were the product of the “sons of god and daughters of men,” and that they were mighty warriors, they are already pretty cool. But given that the Bible doesn’t say a whole lot else about them, there’s a lot of wiggle room where authors can fill in the gaps.

I decided to do some research on the topic, which brought me to the apocryphal Book of Enoch, which goes into some creative details about the fallen angels that helped spawn the original, pre-flood Nephilim. It has a very interesting take on things and provided me with a list of character names and abilities, places, and motivations. That information and inspiration led me to create my main character and his storyline.

But enough back story. Who is my main character?

His name is Daniel O’Ryan. At fourteen years old, he’s one of the oldest boys at Stockton’s Home for Disadvantaged Boys.

He was dropped off as a baby at the orphanage by his father, a fallen angel. His mother was killed in an attack by the angel Gabriel, who sought to fulfill his ancient charge to kill the Nephilim. After dropping him off at Stockton’s, Daniel’s father disappears.

Now, fourteen years later, strange things are happening to Daniel. First, there’s his new school, the prestigious Blackwood Academy. Mysterious forces are at work in bringing Daniel and his best friend, roommate and fellow orphan, Ian Langston, to Blackwood.

Freshman year is hard enough, but at the new school, Daniel and Ian make few friends.

When Daniel accidentally throws the star of the rugby team, Hunter Garrison, across the locker room just days before the homecoming match, things look very dim. And when Daniel is completely unharmed after Hunter drops him from the roof of the school, he starts to question his own sanity.

Fortunately, Daniel receives guidance from teacher and angel, Abdiel, who explains the truth about who Daniel is and what he can do. And what’s more, Daniel has a chance to rescue his father from a fate worse than death and restore the family that he’s wanted for so long.

But before he can save anyone, Daniel has a lot to learn about himself and his abilities (360 degree visibility, lightening speed, sonic attacks, heightened strength, and built-in shadow armor). With the help of his friends, the Undesirables, and his teacher, Abdiel, Daniel begins the quest to find and recover the fruit of the tree of life from the long-lost Garden of Eden, the only thing that may help his father.

That’s the plot of book one. Daniel’s story will span three books, and I sincerely hope that you’ll see the whole series on bookstore shelves soon.

P.S. – Stay tuned for this week’s book giveaway.