Monday, January 26, 2015

Ditching the Dichotomy- A Christian Response to other Christians about Science

So Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma (who now sits on the Senate Environmental Committee) has been quoted the following statement:

"The reason I am not impressed with Science and Scientists is because the Lord Almighty can overcome all those so-called facts in the blink of an eye."

So, uh, let's break that statement down, shall we?

Other commentators have weighed in on why, exactly, such a stance is, shall we say, problematic for someone responsible for addressing climate change. But let's just skip that bit for now... it's not my wheelhouse.

Let's instead address the theological implications of his statement.

So Christians (which I believe Senator Inhofe claims to be) believe, generally, in an all-powerful God, who can (and occasionally does) interfere with the natural order of things from time to time. This makes what the Senator says technically true from a theological standpoint. It does, however, raise some interesting perspectives on how the Senator sees the world.

The statement that God can "overcome" facts sets a tone of contrariness that is... shall we say, interesting? As if God is somehow opposed to the natural world, and forced to overcome it in order to enforce God's will.

Simply put, that's not how it works. Like, at all.

If you are a Christian, then you believe that God created the world. So all those natural orders that Scientists are studying and learning more about every day? They were made that way by God's will. So God doesn't need to "overcome" the natural order, the so-called science "facts". God might choose to change them, for a time, but that would be like you or I changing our preferences. (Easier, if my track record with technology is any indication.)

But it also means that God isn't going to do so without good reason. The Bible makes pretty clear that God isn't here to do fancy parlor tricks, and that the natural truths of the world are set the way they are for good reason. So yeah, God could CHANGE the Natural Order, if so inclined. But God isn't particularly likely to do so.

Also, the whole mindset of the statement is troubling to say the least. You could far more easily say that you weren't going to put any stock in religion or preachers, because God could "overcome" those articles of faith in the blink of an eye. If anything it is MORE true than the original quote, because as we in the business of faith often get things wrong, God might actually have to do some overcoming, rather than simply reprogramming the universe.

In the end, it isn't a faith statement at all: it's a philosophy of religious nihilism, a denial of any consistent truth, based solely on the omnipotence of God.

And that's really not what Christianity is all about.

Now, Senator Inhofe likely doesn't care two shakes what some liberal pastor in Wisconsin thinks of all of this. More than likely it had more to do with political posturing than any real faith conviction. (That's just how politics works, nowadays.) I just really wish that, when that statement was first made, the first people jumping on him hadn't been environmentally concerned scientists, but rather people of faith saying,

"Uh, Jim? We may need to talk about how you're doing this whole FAITH thing. It's pretty darned problematic."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Playing the Game: the Weird Connection between PUA's and Chaplains.

Well, if yesterday taught me anything, it's that my blog gets the most hits when I am talking about subjects relating to sex. So ask more sexy questions, because if there is anyone to answer the sex conundrums of the Internet, it's the monogamous, fairly vanilla Pastor of a small rural town in Wisconsin.

So let's talk about Pick Up Artists. THAT'll get me blacklisted by some of my readers for sure.

I haven't vlogged in awhile. (I should do that again.) But one time, when I did, an attentive Nerdfighter wondered why a book on the shelf behind me suddenly got obscured partway into the video. He did some screen scrutinizing and couldn't make it out, and finally just asked. Because of the leather binding and gold lettering, a bunch of people assumed it was a Bible.

It wasn't. It was a copy of The Game, the notorious Bible of Pick Up Artists.

I was given it as a joke. Years ago, the woman who is now my wife was hanging out with me and we were joking about dating life. (We both liked each other, but we weren't dating yet.) As a gag, she gave me The Game, saying that she'd heard it would solve all my dating problems. I laughed and took it.

A week later we had started dating, and have since gotten married. (She was a little suspicious when she put that together.)

As it happens, I hadn't read the book in that in between time, but not long after I did out of curiosity. I was working at the time as an Intern Chaplain at a Children's hospital in Atlanta and killing time during a slow on-call shift. I read about half of it (at which point it was just getting depressing) but was shocked by a revelation... a lot of the "methods" being described by the various characters in the book were taught to chaplains learning how to cold call rooms.

No, I'm serious. You can read a lot about pickup artists these days, or watch their movies. They never had to do what I had to do. I mean, there I am, walking around on my floor, I walk up to your door, knock once, and walk in. From the moment I walk into your room I have five minutes, if I am lucky, to get you to open up to me. Five minutes to let you know that you can talk to me, and entice you to do so. If I don't make it in five I can try again later but then I'll have even less time. Usually, if I can't get you talking on that first attempt, I never will. It's just the simple fact of nature.

Zero to Intimacy in five minutes. Most pick-up artists would laugh at you if you asked them to pull THAT off. They have all their rules, all their routines, but most take time, time that I don't have. You see, the difference is that a pick-up artist will normally approach you in a bar, or in a club. Somewhere safe, somewhere public. I have to approach you in a place where you are at your most vulnerable, your least comfortable. And I have to do it between all the people jabbing you with needles, or whatever the medical team is doing. So many people just want to look at one person and tell them to get the hell out, and hey! A Chaplain! I can tell him to piss off and he'll just do it. What does a chaplain do, anyway?

Truth is, more people need us than don't, even people who don't go church, or somewhere similar. They just don't know it. Same as they didn't know why their side was hurting so bad, or why their kid was throwing up so much. So here they are, with doctors and nurses giving them the answers. But when I show up, they don't know who I am, and most don't respect what I can give them. So they want to blow me off. They think it would cheer them up. THAT is what I was up against.

Any Pick-up artist worth their salt would sense that kind of hostility and just go on to the next girl, unless they wanted the challenge. Me? I just walked right in. Every time. It was my job. And if I couldn't get you to recognize how much you need me in five minutes, you won't let me do it.

Some chaplains just give up, and though it makes me sad, I can't say I blame them. They walk into the rooms, get blown off, and walk on, and act as if the act of getting blown off was what they were there for. They never get to do their real work unless something horrible happens, the trauma cases, and those are easy. It's easy to get someone to open up when things are at their worst. To go back to the PUA analogy, it's like picking up a girl on the rebound, no real challenge at all, more about being there at the right time and just shutting up and listening.

So it really isn't being a PUA... it's bigger than that and far more meaningful. But the similarities were there. I wrote a paper about it for my Pastoral Education class and they were all scandalized... save my prof, who gave me an A.

I still have the book because I don't get rid of books. I never did finish it (it really got WAAAAY too depressing. Absolutely NOT an endorsement for the PUA lifestyle, if personal happiness is what you're after.) and wouldn't really recommend it. And PUA's with their hunter/prey approach to women, really don't need to be emulated in any way, shape, or form. So I was a bit surprised at the odd connections, at similarities I saw in some of the routines.

So if you're in the hospital and a chaplain comes by, give 'em a listen. It's possible they're the type who has already given up, and if so, sorry. But a good one will get you talking, and then listen. Even if you aren't religious, there is good research showing the value of spiritual care during healing. So give the ol' chap a shot. You might be amazed how good they can be at getting your pants.

Er, spiritual life. I meant getting in your spiritual life.

I should probably go.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Reader Question: The 10 Types of People You Shouldn't Marry.

I saw your comment on the "10 Women Christian Men shouldn't Marry" article thing that got linked on ANF. So who DO you think Christians should marry? (You don't have to limit yourself to one gender.)  -Your Turn

The first new Question of the New Year! And here I was thinking we were over. Thanks for writing in, mocking name.

Yeah, that article (which I will NOT link here) was pretty darn infuriating. It even seemed to know that it was... half of it's language could essentially be boiled down to; "Now, I'm not sexist, but I am totally sexist." It ultimately boiled down to "Marry a sweet, biddable girl." Now, nothing against sweet, biddable girls, but it's really hard to read that and think that maybe the article cared more about maintaining ideals for women then helping guys find an ideal mate. (Gee, y'think?)

Yeah, the idea clearly wasn't: "Men should read this and marry the right woman." It was "women should read this and make themselves 'marriage material'." Ugh. All the ugh.

So who do I think is NOT marriage material? How would I write that article? Well, fine. Here are the 10 types of people I don't think you should marry.

1: Someone who doesn't respect you.

You are a person of value. This can be hard to remember in a culture where the state of marriage is so oddly idolized, but you have worth as a person on your own. If your partner doesn't recognize, and acts like they're doing you a favor or settling? Don't marry them. It's a partnership you are entering into.

2: Someone who's idea of "respect" doesn't match your own.

This part gets tricky. There are many different ways to value someone, and many different ways to value yourself. Yours and your partners NEED to be at least similar. If your partner respects the heck out of you but that never gets across because their idea of respect doesn't look like respect to you? Then rethink the whole "marriage" thing. And I can't say too much about it beyond that, because this stuff can go SO differently. I, for instance, do not really "get" BDSM relationships. So if I were to be in one, I probably wouldn't feel I was being very respected, whether I was Dom or Sub. That said, there are very definitely people for whom that sort of relationship is where they feel MOST respected. So it is likely for the best that I didn't marry any of them... even with the best of intentions, we wouldn't end up respecting each other, and I am forced to refer you to rule #1.

3: Someone you think of as a "fixer-upper."

The right person at the wrong time is the wrong person. I know so many people who married someone else based on their potential... the concept of what that person would become. People are complicated, and their perception of maturity may not match your own. If you do not want to be with the person they are now, then you do not Respect them. See rule #1.

4: Someone who doesn't see marriage the same way as you do.

I have some dear friends who are VERY religiously conservative. They will both swear, up and down, that the man is the head of the household and the woman should submit to him. They both will maintain, to their deaths, that they are following that model. To any sane outside observer, however, what you see when you see them operate is a woman very much in charge of pretty much everything. You know what? THAT'S FINE, because however weird it may seem, they are on the same page together. If you want to marry someone else, and their perspective of what marriage looks like is light years away from yours, then you will both end up feeling that your partner isn't living up to their side of the bargain. This leads to contempt. Contempt is not respectful. See rule #1.

5: Someone who abuses you.

No, they didn't just "have a bad day." You didn't "ask for it." If you live in fear of this person, then they are abusing you. You cannot simultaneously abuse and respect a person. Abuse is not respectful. ABUSE is not respectful. ABUSE IS NOT RESPECTFUL. See Rule #1.

6: Someone who ignores consent.

If your partner doesn't care whether or not you consent to something, that is very likely an abusive relationship, so see rule #5. At the very least, they don't respect you. See Rule #1.

7: Someone with a hugely different sexual needs.

Sex isn't the end-all be-all of marriage, but how it is perceived is a HUGELY important component. This goes both ways... someone constantly feeling badgered for sex isn't feeling respected. Likewise, someone who feels sexually starved isn't feeling respected, either. There will always be times when one party would like to have sex and the other doesn't, that isn't a deal breaker, but a particularly amorous person paired with an asexual partner are likely to run into problems. If your hope is that their desires will "shift" over time? See rule #3.

8: Someone with hugely different expectations of procreation.

Some people don't want to have children. Some people don't want to have children right now. Some people want to adopt. Some want to biologically procreate. Some what to biologically procreate like bunny rabbits. If you are not in a similar place to your partner, marriage might not be path for the two of you. If your hope is that they'll "see it my way eventually," See Rule #3.

9: Someone unwilling to discuss their feelings on sex or procreation. 

This one makes me crazy, Sometimes it feels like getting people to discuss this thing in premarital counseling is like pulling teeth. Yes, I get that it is personal, but you have to discuss it. If your prospective partner is unwilling to at least compare notes on what they are looking for in sexual relationship, and their views on having kids, that shows a level of disrespect that can lead to huge problems later. See Rule #1.

10: Someone you don't love.

You respect them. They respect you. You are (more or less) compatible in every way, and both of you are in a place where you'd like a "deeper relationship." You're even fairly well in agreement on what that means. It's just that you don't see them "that way." 

It happens. All the time, actually. On paper, someone may seem like the ideal match but it just doesn't click for you, for some reason. I have heard, more than once, about people in a situation like that who just "go for it."

Of all the people on this list, this is the person that is the hardest for me to advise you turn away, but I do. Maybe it's just me being old fashioned, (or relatively new fashioned, as the case may be) but I do feel that Marriage needs more than just by the numbers compatibility. It takes love, which can make so many other things fade, It can also make us stupid, so follow the other rules as well, but if that person who seems perfect except you don't love them comes along, then value them as the friend they are.

Because to marry that person isn't to enter into a loving commitment with them. It's to check off a box, to do a deeply personal thing just because you are supposed to do it. It's using them to hit a life mark or goal.

And that isn't respectful. See Rule #1.     

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pastor Dan Reviews: The Dragon Age Series

So I’ve been playing Dragon Age: Inquisition a lot lately. It has made me reflect on not only how good this series has been, but how unafraid of cool plotlines, or subjects that would, otherwise, be avoided, or had a big deal made of them.

I remember back in High School being horrifically bored with the reading material that was being assigned. I complained to a teacher, asking why we couldn’t read fantasy fiction, or science fiction. She claimed that those stories (with “those” pronounced like someone talking about a particularly loathsome form of dung beetle) were just escapism, while the novels we read in her class were ABOUT something.

I got pissed, and launched into a rant. This was more than a decade ago, so I can’t remember it word for word, but the general gist was that science fiction and fantasy are often ABOUT quite a bit more than any of the more “respectable” novels, because by taking us outside of our world, they can talk about real world subjects without putting readers on the defensive. The lessons are real, it is only the modus operandi that are imaginary.

My speech earned me a standing ovation from the classroom, a detention from my teacher, and a lifelong dedication to fantasy and science fiction literature, a dedication that has paid off as the Nerd stranglehold on pop culture has manifested over the last decade or so. But I never really thought about it in terms of the video games I played.

The Dragon Age series is a Bioware product. Bioware are masters of video game storytelling in that they use well trod ground to tell huge swathes of story in a single brushstroke. If you’ve read Tolkien, Jordan, Martin, Feist, etc, then you feel right at home in the Dragon Age world of Thedas, with old tropes making you feel like you’re walking in a world where things just are the way they are, almost non-fantastic fantasy. And that opens you up to the real thrust of their storytelling: the assumptions they encourage you to make end up making the lessons you eventually take away all the sharper. (Some spoilers ahead for Dragon Age: Origins, Awakening, 2, and then some VERY light Inquisition stuff.)

Such lessons were a tad light on the ground in the first game. Dragon Age: Origins, had to live up to its name, establish the world, building the boundaries of the sandbox. It still had its little moments, though, like when you realize that the EVIL GENERAL who BETRAYED YOU… actually did so with good reason, and was only DOOMING THE WORLD because of information he didn’t have… information intentionally kept from him (and you) by the “heroic” Grey Wardens.


Then came Dragon Age 2. Still a beautifully rendered fantasy experience, a story told by Varric, the Dwarf, to a Seeker trying to ascertain what exactly had happened. But this time, the fantasy setting and combat is window dressing around the story of a small group of… let’s call them friends… that form around a single strong personality, Hawke. And here are some of the tales that get told, when divorced from the fantasy distractions.

A tale of refugees, struggling to survive in a town that is disdainful at best at hateful at worst of immigrants.

A tale of a runaway slave, who was broken and raped and used, and is very distrustful of anyone who reminds him of his slaver.

A tale of a sweet young girl desperately doing research to help her people, and hated because of that research.

A tale of a tough cop just trying to do the right thing in a city that refuses to allow her to make such distinctions.

A tale of a violent stalker, and the grief of the family of one of his victims.

A tale of the horrible things good people can do when pushed to total desperation.

And the tale of a total, complete, jerk.

I’m talking, here, about Anders. Anders is a party member that you meet in Dragon Age: Awakenings. At the time he is simply a mage who refuses to go along with the “natural order,” that being mages submitting to Templar control. He is set up as a fairly dashing hero to begin with, joining your original Player Character as a Grey Warden and helping to save the world, even if you get the impression that he might jet at any time.

When he joins your new PC in Dragon Age 2, he has done precisely that… left the Grey Wardens to pursue “freedom for the mages.” He’s also hosting a spirit in his body, a condition known as abomination, which everyone knows is evil, though he insists this is a good spirit. Here, in brief, is a list of what he gets up to over the course of the game: He emotionally manipulates you into helping his plot, and will start romancing you, even unbidden, at the drop of a hat. (Seriously, comics were made about how hard it can be to NOT sleep with Anders if you are trying to keep your party members happy.) When the runaway slave complains about the mages who enslaved him, Anders cannot help but bust out that “not all mages are like that.” (#notallmages) and belittles him for telling his story instead of just getting over it. He tries to “help” some mages but ends up threatening, and nearly killing them, when they protest just how horrible he is. He uses his friendship to leverage you into aiding with a plot that ends up killing almost a hundred people and starts a battle that kills hundreds, leading to war that spreads all over the world. And why? “Because things had to change.”

And the first time I played? I stood by him. Because in Bioware games, that is what you do. You stand by your party members, and through your support they see the error of their ways and help make things better. But he never did. He manipulated me, was horrible to my other party members, got lots of people killed and in the end stood by his own rightness and rights. We knew he was an abomination, but we stood by him… without even knowing why, as he constantly hurt, and finally killed, people.

It wasn’t even until Inquisition, when yet another PC was trying to end the war Anders had begun when I realized that Varric, the storyteller of the second game, still despised Anders, and hoped he was gone forever. That was when it struck me. I hadn’t made Anders better. If anything, I enabled him to be worse. And why? Because I thought that was how the game was played. A scathing commentary on how we support horrible people all the time for our own deluded reasons, even when given every reason to see that they are horrible.

All delivered in a video game franchise published by EA games, a fantasy series with the word “Dragon” in the title. I won’t spoil too much of what is happening in Inquistion, but it is probably worth noting that in it we are heavily addressing questions of faith, a gay son dealing with disapproving parents, fear used as control, transgender, Race relations…

Done in a medium that shifts the terms and situations just enough that you go in with as little bias as possible, defenses down, ready to kill dragons and get cool loot. But through this, imaginations are triggered, sympathies developed through story-telling, and an idea that once would have been completely OTHER seems a bit more familiar, because we lived it with a character we like.

Not bad for “just a game.”

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Reader Question- Demonology

Hey Dan, just heard a sermon where the pastor talked about the apostles casting out demons. Do you think demons exist or were they curing mental illness or were they actually casting out demons?- Joey


So once upon a time a divinity student was writing his graduate thesis on demonology. He finished editing 12 hours before the deadline, and went to print it out when he discovered that his printer was out of ink. No problem, he went to the store to buy more. Once there he saw that the store no longer carried that kind of ink cartridge. Irritated, he went back to his apartment, saved the file to a flash drive and took it to his schools computer lab. It being finals season, however, all the computers were occupied and reserved for a few hours, and no one seemed in the mood to let him but in just to print.

So, figuring he'd need a new printer anyway, he went and purchased one at the store (making sure it came with ink) and brought it home, only to have his computer not recognize it. He called tech support and learned it would need a driver, which normally automatically downloaded but didn't this time, for some reason. Locating the correct driver, he downloaded and installed it, only to watch his computer crash. When he rebooted, the computer still didn't recognize the printer, so he reinstalled the driver. Another crash, and this time, the computer wouldn't reboot. He called over a tech savvy friend who opened the system up and pointed out a major problem... the motherboard was completely fried, and it might have taken the hard drive with it.

Now panicking slightly, he grabbed the flash drive (which possibly now held the only the copy of his paper in existence) and asked if his friend would just print the paper. His friend laughed, said yes, and they went over to his place, inserted the flash drive, only to learn that everything on it had been corrupted.

The student was forced to apply for an extension on his paper, and learned that both the flash drive and his hard drive were complete losses, forcing him to completely rewrite the paper, which had taken him a month, in four days. His original paper stated that demons were mythological abstracts, anachronisms of a less enlightened time. He is reportedly rethinking his thesis.

Ah... demons. Thanks for writing in, Joey!

Demons... frustrate me. They occupy a strange niche in our culture, a vaguely defined yet definitely present concept in our mythos. The idea of spiritual creatures who can infest us, or the everyday things around us, twisting us or them to evil is an idea that pervades our culture.

In truth, I'd rather do without it. Religious people in general often get it wrong, buying into the idea of a great war between holy and demonic powers struggling for the soul of humanity. The thing is, if you actually pay attention to Biblical teaching, that war has already been won, and fairly definitively, by the holy side. The only power remaining to the truly demonic powers are what we permit them to have.

In the Bible, that was ALWAYS the conceit of demonic possession... the things the tempted are being offered are the things that, in general, they already had. "You will be like God!" the serpent promised Eve... and yet we already knew that humanity was already made in God's image. "All the world will be yours!" But God had already called for us to have dominion over the planet. The devil always won because he had nothing to lose... and what he offered we already had.

My favorite treatise on demonology is probably "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones, and all nicely tied up in one stanza.

"I watched in glee while your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades for the Gods they'd made.
I shouted out, 'Who killed the Kennedys?'"
Because after all, it was you and me."

The very interesting point of the song is that every horrible thing ever attributed to the Devil, or Lucifer, was achieved with human help. And while the showmanship can be fairly impressive, it is hard to see, biblically, that demons have any power of their own at all. The single greatests acts of "demonic" power shown in the Bible, done in the book of Job, are done only with God's direct approval!

So where does that leave us, demon wise? Do I think they existed, or are they just manifestations of misunderstood mental illness?

I'm too much the evangelical to dismiss the concept entirely. While some of the demons were simply dismissed, others actually talked to those who drove them out, so I give credence that something might have been there. Dismissing the Biblical Legion, as, say, multiple personality disorder doesn't seem quite right to me... too literalistic, like trying to build a scientific concept of the Big Bang based off of Genesis. It just doesn't work.

I do think they're out there. I think they can terrifying or tempting, based on what serves their needs, but I also think that we humans can get up to quite enough trouble of our own, on our own. Still, if you feel that maybe you have one of the little jerks messing with you, remember this:

They have no power beyond what you give them. They literally can do nothing without your help. So don't feed the spiritual trolls.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Reader Question: What happens when I don't have answers?

Before I hop into today's question, I want to thank all the folks who contacted me about yesterdays "State of the Blog," and would like to assure you that I am not, at this moment, planning on shutting things down. I am merely noticing that, as the questions dry up, the initial purpose of the blog may be running out it's course, and if that is the case, then the most obvious answer is to change things up. 

I won't stop while I still have pending questions, that is an absolute promise. Now, speaking of which, on to the questions!


As someone who people come to for answers, how do you handle situations when you don't have answers. Or even worse when you have opinions and have a hard time convincing those seeking that they aren't answers but opinions. -Billy 


What? Me not have answers? I've got tons of answers. Boatloads of 'em. It's the questions I'm waiting on, for crying out loud, and...

Oh, wait. You mean what do I do when people ask a question and I have an answer, but I'm not 100% that it is the right one. Gotcha.

As a spiritual leader, it is pretty rare that I get a question like what is 2+2. My questions tend to veer away from the objective into realms where my opinion is being directly asked. And that can lead to problems in some situations. 

A lot of people who grew up in more conservative religious households have been trained to look to their Pastors for certainty. Despite dealing with issues of faith, they want me to tell them how things ARE, not how they could be or might be. Folks often come to me looking for black and white, when what I have is the whole countless color spectrum between the two. 

Now when I answer these questions, it isn't like I am picking an answer out of a hat, or throwing a dart at a board blindfolded and then trying to come up with an answer based on where it landed. I use my experience, my previous studies, various resources, and my gut when I give them my recommendation. And that is probably the first real part of your answer; I make recommendations, not commandments.

Turn on Evangelical Television and you'll hear a LOT of commandments, but they are being given by people who might need a gentle 2x4 to the head to remind them that they are pastors and teachers, not Gods. I give recommendations, and do my best to explain how or why I came to that solution. That way people hear what I am saying not as; "DO THIS FOR PASTOR DAN HATH SAID..." but rather, "Hey, this is what Dan thinks and why."

There are times when I flat out don't know, when something is beyond my abilities or resources. When I am THAT out of my depth, I usually switch to referrals, trying to get that person to the one who can help them, after which my role becomes one of support, rather than direct leadership.

On the flip side, there are times when I am pretty darn sure. When I advise someone to get out of an abusive situation, as an example, I tend to be more authoritative. I don't leave much wriggle room when I preach on the need for more equality in our world, or on the need for us to spend more time loving and less time judging. This is a bit hypocritical, and I own that. It's as much a judgment call as other things, just one I feel VERY strongly about.

I do my best to make this clear, both in the pulpit, here, and on the various forums I inhabit, but I am neither all perfect or all-knowing. While I have a LOT of answers, each deserves a grain of salt, because I'm human, with all the blind spots and biases that entails. I am often asked for answers because of training and experience I have that is fairly unique, but in the end, when you ask Pastor Dan something, I hope you know that you aren't getting some gold-cast truth delivered from on high.

And in general, if you go to a spiritual leader asking for recommendations, and receive commandments, it's time to start really evaluating your relationship with them. On the one hand, they may feel really strongly about a subject, and that might be their bit of bias and blind-spots colliding. On the other, if they are ALWAYS like that, then it may be that the experience and training they are drawing on is fundamentally flawed.

As always, be wary when seeking spiritual leaders.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

State of the Blog- 2015

So I was taking a look at some older blog entries and got distracted by the months column. In July, when I first started this thing, I had 29 entries. August had 22. September and October had 12 each. November had 10. And December had... 2.

I seem to be losing steam.

Or, rather, have basically lost it.

There are still a couple of questions in my queue that I haven't gotten to yet which I WILL be answering so I can make good on promises, but I haven't had anything new for awhile and it makes me wonder what this Blog will look like going forward... or if it will go forward at all.

This has already been, arguably, my most successful writing project, both in terms of longevity and in the number of people who have read it. At this precise moment this blog has had 12,300 hits... a staggering number that truly blows me away. It's been a real honor to have so many people care about my thoughts on various things, and as I was trying to decide what to do with this page going forward, I was also determined not to be disappointed if it became clear that it was time to pack it up. This has been an unmitigated success, no matter how I slice it.

One of my goals this year has been to refocus on my writing. Folks who put up with my blathering on ANF know that I always have a project or ninety in the works, from poetry to short stories to even video games. Between ANF and the Blog I have made good on my own personal promise to write at least 300 words a day... a deal I made with Anne Lamotte, quite without her knowledge, after reading her spectacular book Bird by Bird, but that writing has been largely scattered with the sole exception of this Blog.

I think it might be time to refocus. Of all of my projects, there are two that likely deserve the MOST attention. A novella I wrote called The New Aubrey Public Library which tells the story of a faceless protagonist who stumbles into a Library that is bigger on the inside, where the paths change and where a wild Thesaurus Rex stalks the corridors. The other is an attempt at a true Novel, where loosely titled Weidia Tours, which is a sort of coming of age story set in a fantasy world featuring a teenaged dragon, his would-be slayer, and a Dark Lord who got into his business because he can't stand up to his mother.

I swear, it all made perfect sense at the time.

Anyway, like I said, I will endeavor to answer all the questions I have on the queue. Should I run out, I may take on some random subjects as they occur to me, or if I feel that the whole Ask Pastor Dan thing has run its course, then gratefully step away to give more energy to other projects.

In the meantime, thanks for reading... and I mean that truly.