Here's a short, sweet, simple song entitled "Interlude For The Weary" which had the privilege of being the first song I ever recorded a demo for, about a year ago. No, it's not a very good demo. I was just learning how to use Reaper (the audio editing software I use to edit my podcast, my music, and all of the other audio stuff I do) and I wasn't using the best of mics (I also plugged my guitar into the computer, rather than getting an acoustic recording from in front of it). But hey, it was my first try, and I think it was an admirable one. And I love the song itself, no matter how the recording sounds. So here it is.
Here's an essay I wrote six months ago about the meaning of love. This was at the very beginning of my journey of thinking about this topic in detail, and though I still agree with every word, there is a lot more to say about it, and I'll definitely be talking about it in the future. Until then, enjoy!
Over the past few months, I've really dug into an interesting concept: what it means to love people as a Christian. There are all sorts of views about this, and most of them can be categorized in one of two categories: "Love" and "Justice". People on one extreme say that we should never judge anyone and just "love" everyone, in which they mean give them grace in such a way that ignores their actions and the consequences for their actions. On the other extreme, you have people who are going around telling everyone how wrong they are, and that they're going to hell, and God is going to judge them for the horrible things they're doing. Neither extreme has it right, and as in most things I've found related to God, there is a balance between the two that we as Christians need to walk. But the more I thought and studied the topic, the more I've come to believe that "love" and "justice" are misleading terms since the two are actually mutually inclusive. But let me back up.
God is love. One can know this simply by reading any part of the Bible with an open mind--the thread of God's love for humanity lies throughout the entire narrative, in every poem and song, in every historical account, in every prophecy, you can see the overwhelming desire of God's to be in an intimate relationship with His creation.
But we need to define the term love, as Christians. After some considerable thought, I believe that this simple definition might be the most accurate: loving someone is giving them what they need emotionally. Most of the time, that is acceptance, companionship, grace, servitude--being there for someone. Everyone has a deeply rooted desire to feel like they belong and loving someone truly is to show them that they do belong and that they are accepted. But if love can be defined as giving people what they need, then there comes a point when what someone needs is not going to be what they want.
My parents can tell you this, from hundreds of experiences throughout their illustrious careers as youth leaders, that loving people with the truth is hard but necessary. They've told me time and time again that you have to be okay with people not liking you for a while, maybe even hating you. But hopefully, as God works on their heart, the person you spoke truth to will be able to look back and thank you for it.
Obviously, different situations call for different approaches. For the most part, if you're in a situation with a non-Christian, and they are involved in sin, calling them out on it will neither be productive or loving. But there also come times when the truth does need to be spoken, and at that point the most loving thing to do is often not what modern Christians would call "loving".
We, as Christians, need to keep each other accountable with our actions and our words and dancing around subjects because you don't want to hurt people's feelings is a horrible way to do that. There needs to come a point when one follower of Jesus Christ looks at another follower of Jesus Christ and is able to say "what you're doing is wrong, and you need to stop", and the recipient of that criticism will be able to, with an open mind, evaluate their actions and line it up against what the Bible says. If they are in error, they should change. If they are not, well, God's Word takes prevalence over man's.
In that sort of a situation, one obviously needs to make sure that one's own actions and words are being held to the same standard, so as to not be hypocritical, but using your own faults as an excuse not to lovingly correct someone else's (in the context of brothers and sisters in Christ) is not only unloving, but it's really sort of a cop-out. We have a responsibility to people on this earth. We're all headed in a downward spiral further away from God, and only by keeping each other accountable to God's moral standards and guidelines for our lives will we be able to have credibility when speaking on His behalf.
This is not to say that we are not broken people. Of course we are. And we will undoubtedly make mistakes. But there is a difference between stumbling and falling, and that difference is what defines those that have surrendered to their sin and those that have surrendered to God. Iron sharpens iron, and sometimes that process will hurt, and it will create sparks. But in the end, we will be better for it.
So, really, the love versus justice argument is faulty. Love is justice, and it is grace, mercy, acceptance, truth, and a host of other things. God is love, and so every aspect of God's character is an aspect of the definition of love. The same God who died on the cross for the sins of every man also told the adulteress to go and sin no more. And that was exactly what that woman needed in that situation--Jesus did not condemn her, He did not throw stones, but he did not pull any punches. He spoke the truth in love, and that was probably the turning point in her life.
As a closing thought, the thing we need to be most careful with when trying to be more like Jesus is letting our pride get in the way. This can take many different forms--thinking that we are so good that our sole duty is to tell people how they are wrong without challenging our own brokenness, being so caught up in the theology of what love is or isn't that we lose sight of the people we're supposed to be loving...even using our own weaknesses as an excuse to not try to live up to God's standards for our lives, no matter the cost, can be a form of pride--focusing so much on how screwed up we are that we forget that God redeemed us, and that means we have a responsibility to everyone around us.
In the end, God is who the Bible reveals him to be, and trying to put him into the "mercy" camp or the "justice" camp is neither correct theology nor anything but an unproductive waste of time. God is love, and love is anything that God would do. Follow His example, and don't let your own feelings get mixed up in it, and you'll be fine.
We have less than two weeks until Kidz Camp begins. Everyone is getting ready--worship team just finished our final main practice before getting to Skylodge today, and the filming for the skits begins tomorrow. I thought it might be pertinent, since it's a topic that's going to be on a lot of people's minds in the next several days, to share some of my thoughts from a previous year--Kidz Camp 2013, one of my favorite years of all time (not only for Kidz Camp, but the year in general). Enjoy :)
I used to be scared of the future, and to an extent I still am. But something significant has changed in my life.
I use to think to myself, "Wow, the world is so messed up. No one is following God, and even those who say they do are compromising on very important issues. America is going downhill." I would get depressed thinking about trying to be a Christian in a future America, let alone trying to raise a godly family in that sort of environment.
This past year, my outlook has begun to change. This week in particular has really made me reevaluate my thinking.
All throughout history there have been ups and downs--periods where the majority of people in a given country have followed God and have been blessed for it, and then periods where darkness has become the status quo, and the church compromises and gets to a low point.
But it always returns--there is always a rejuvenation in the culture, and life is breathed into the world again. No matter how dark it may get, the light of a single candle is all it takes to pierce it. And through it all, God never leaves us. His promises are true in the dark times and the times of joy.
Statistics say that only 10% of the people in a society have to believe passionately about something for the culture to begin to shift. If all of us, as Christians, stood up for Christ and DID something about the state of our country, it could change overnight. But we sit on our butts and let the 10% in charge of society right now dictate where we are headed.
This past week I’ve been at a Christian camp in Montello, Wisconsin, pouring out myself and being poured into at the same time. I’ve been humbled,strengthened, and blessed beyond anything I thought possible.
This year’s camp theme was God’s creation. Our culture has been indoctrinated with atheism and evolution for years and years, slowly being pulled away from the truth of Earth’s history and being brainwashed with revisionist history and what many would call, “scientific fact” but what is really just a bunch of assumptions believed through blind faith. The truth about the special design of the universe and how everything points to it has been all but erased from popular culture.
I have heard this topic dozens of times—my dad has taught the subject at youth group often, as well as at camp seven years ago, and we as a family are always reading about it and learning more about what the Bible has to say about the beginning of history. But this time, I came away with something new.
The world is messed up right now, it’s true. But that doesn't mean it can’t change, it doesn't mean we can’t be the ones to do something about it, and it DOES NOT mean that God is any less true or any less good. We, as Christians, have a responsibility to the world to show it the truth, to be salt and light—preserving and illuminating—for a depraved generation. And the time to do this is not in twenty years, or in one year—it’s now.
“Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12
We, as teenagers, and yes, even those that are younger, like the kids I worked with at Kidz Camp this past week, are not the generation of tomorrow—we are the generation of TODAY. If we start today, if we have the courage to stop nodding our heads at the things we know are wrong, if we have the humility to give ourselves fully to Christ and live a life pleasing to him, if we have the faith to go boldly into the future with God at our side—nothing can stop us.
I admit, that scares me. Even as I write this, I am challenging myself with the same concept. I said I was ALL IN at a youth conference in Chicago this April, but did I mean it, and am I willing to actually live it?
Yes. Yes, I am. I have struggled with many things throughout my young life—sins, attitudes, procrastination—but as I sit here in my house after being gone for a week, being filled with the Holy Spirit countless times, and really FEELING God’s presence throughout that week, I really am ready to take that step.
I look down—my shoes are red. A reminder to myself that it will be a hard road. Blood will be on this road, dirt will be on this road, pain, heartache, weakness, and despair will be on this road. But my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is on this road. And so shall I be as well.
God breathed life into me, and it’s time I gave him that breath back—all of it. I owe him that much, at the very least. After all the pain and suffering He went through to save me from an eternity of separation from Him, the holy God of the universe stepping into his creation and dying for it—I have to realize that fact. I belong to God, and if I don’t live my life for Him, then what else is there?
Nothing. Without God, there is no purpose—and that’s why this makes so much sense. The world is too beautifully created to be an accident. Everything points to that fact. And though some would willingly ignore and reject God, I won’t be among their ranks.
You know that fence we all hang on at one point or another, the one that divides the followers of God from those who reject him? I just kicked it down. Yes, it hurts. Yes, giving up things I know are not godly is going to make me bleed, but it is so worth it. The blood on my shoes is a reminder to me.
A reminder that Jesus bled for me. I can do the same for Him. It will never measure up to His sacrifice, but I owe him too much to not try.
The last night of camp I prayed. Prayed more diligently and purposefully then I think I ever have in my life. And I promised God and myself that I would take the first step. That if I was the only one in this generation who would follow Him, I would do it.
But that’s what’s amazing—I’m not the only one. I have a great cloud of witnesses surrounding me, my friends, my family, my church. And together, we can change the world. This generation can change EVERYTHING.
We can be the candle in the dark room. We can be the fire that burns pure. We can be the hope that this broken, fallen world desperately needs. But we can’t do it without God.
And so we are stepping out. I take a step forward, and I look around. Who will join me? Am I alone in a crowd of people that don’t care about the truth? But then I see it. Their feet—they have the same shoes. Red shoes, like mine. They have bled. They have trusted. They will fight.
An army steps forward.
I’m not saying we won’t stumble. I’m not saying we won’t be angry at God sometimes, or be hurting so much we want to give up. But I am saying we will keep each other accountable. I am saying that we will lift each other up, and strengthen each other, and love each other. I am saying that we will give everything we have. For we have seen the light at the end of this broken road we walk, and it is the most beautiful thing we have ever seen.
And so there we shall go.
“Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.” –Proverbs 4:25
That is my prayer for all of us. That we focus our eyes on Jesus and never look back. The army takes another step. And then they begin to sing.
“Hosanna, we are found after all. You are holy.”
This is a piece I wrote on contentment around six months ago. Since today is Tuesday, that means it's time to pull something out of the archives--and I thought this would be a great choice. Enjoy!
One of the things that I've been thinking about a lot over the last few months is the subject of contentment. Being happy with where you are in any moment--not regretting the past or longing for the future (or the other way around), but simply being present and living for the here and now.
All of our lives as human beings, our natural tendency is to rely on anticipation. We wait for the year that we've convinced ourselves will be "where our lives truly start". When we start dating. When we get a job. When we get married. When we finish college. When we have kids. But those moments often come and go, and they don't fulfill our expectations how we thought they ought to.
The event, no matter how great it is, will never live up to the expectations we've set up for it. That birthday party will never be quite as fantastic as you pictured it in your head. That's just the way the world is. And the more we rely on expectations, the more we wish we were in a different place and time than we are now, the more we become disconnected and unhappy with where we are right now.
And that's not what God called us to do or be. He calls us to be content in every circumstance--to trust Him. The more I live my life, the more I realize how horrible a sin worrying really is. When we worry, we not only waste time, we aren't trusting God.
The level of happiness and joy in our lives is directly dependent on our level of trust in God. And until we can learn to be content in every situation we find ourselves in, and not be longing for or dreading things that may or may not ever happen, we will be anxious.
There will never be a point in your life where you can say you've arrived. There will never be a time that you can look at definitively and say "I was the closest to God I'll ever be right about then" or "I was the happiest I'll ever be at that point in my life" because it's simply not true. Or at least it doesn't have to be. People are constantly growing and changing, sometimes for the worse, but sometimes for the better. But looking forward in time and thinking "I'll be a follower of God when that happens" or "I'll be happy when that happens" is just wrong, and it will drive your focus away from what God has for you in this very moment.
You have to live every moment as if it's the best moment of your life. Joy, pure joy, is not something you just stumble upon--it is something that you strive for. It is something that comes from a conscious change of attitude. If you base your actions on however you're feeling at the moment, what happens when you're feeling depressed? God has better things for you to do than to wallow in melancholy because of how horrible a person you are.
Life is about your attitude. There's only so much that other people can do. The rest is up to you. You have the Living God inside of you, and all you have to do is ask for his Holy Spirit to fill you up, and bam, it's there. And that is a conscious choice you have. Life is not about what you're feeling. Life is about what you choose to do with those feelings.
So, let's go. Let's live in the moment. Be content with who we are, where we are, right now. God has some amazing things for us to do, and all we have to do is take a step of faith and trust Him, and He'll lead us. Stop longing for a time when things were better. Stop worrying about what the future might hold.
You're alive now, and you have a job to do.
Around nine months ago, one of my best friends in the world, Miranda Steiner, had a birthday. Now, one of my favorite things to do is to give people presents, and one of my other favorite things to do is to write songs...so, I decided to have the double favorite of writing a song as a present for her! And since it's Tuesday, and I pull something from the archives on a Tuesday, I thought this might be a good one to post today. Besides being one of the best songs I've ever written (in my opinion), it's also one of the only songs I've ever really recorded a demo for and what not (even though it's still very rough).
So, without further ado, here's Oh, My Dear Sister, a song written to the girl who I love like the female sibling I've always wanted.
Over the course of several years, my brother Connor and I have been filming and releasing a series of parody videos on the show Man vs. Wild, featuring Bear Grylls. We've affectionately named the main character (and the series title) Grill the Bear. It's a silly "survival" show featuring all sorts of weird things such as fights to the death with tennis courts, strange cameramen, and of course, flying cougars.
As a throwback today, I'd like to take a moment to sift through these episodes and share with you the entire continuity of craziness. And yes! We are still making these. We have two more episodes filmed that I still need to edit (as you'll know if you've read the Film section's "Goals" tab).
So, sit back and enjoy the both of us being goofballs.
Two more are on their way, so be looking for those. Until then, enjoy these :)
So, I have this hobby... It involves rolling dice.
There are some people who believe it is Satanic. Most people think it's incredibly nerdy. But as a person who has played role-playing games for over ten years now, I am standing before you (figuratively, because this is the internet) and saying that both of those views are incredibly wrong and harmful to society. I believe that everyone should be involved in role-playing games (and that parents should really be pushing their kids into it), and I'll show you a few reasons why. But before I do that, I should probably explain what role-playing games (RPGs) are.
I like to explain it to people like this: RPGs are a perfect mix between an interactive storytelling experience and a board game. You want to tell a story with some friends, and the game sets up the rules to make that experience as fun as possible. The rules help you to be creative and come up against interesting challenges to make the game worthwhile. Otherwise, the story would be boring because it would be so easy to win.
Now, there are a lot of different RPGs out there. Hundreds in fact. The classic Dungeons & Dragons, of course, lets you play as warriors, wizards, priests, thieves, and a host of other things in a pseudo-medieval fantasy world in which you fight demons and dragons and go on numerous adventures in an attempt to make your character better and get rich. One of my personal favorites: The Hero System, is an incredibly diverse rule system that allows you to control every facet of character creation through the assignment of points, and as such, allows you to play in any genre imaginable with any sort of weird powers or gadgets imaginable.
Now that you have a basic idea of what RPGs are, here are a few of the reasons why I think everyone should play them:
Social Interaction. Role-playing games are an incredibly social experience, and you get to know people really well when you have to work together to defeat that massive dragon that you just stumbled across. You learn social skills playing this game: conversational skills, teamwork, leadership, and so on.
Creativity. If you have ever played a role-playing game, you know what I'm talking about. There is something about the freedoms (coupled with the constraints) of an RPG that gets your mind working. You combine things you didn't think would work together before. You try new things in an attempt to solve your current problem. And that is creativity at its finest. As a player, you learn how to get into the mind of a character and make them unique. As a gamemaster (the storyteller who controls everything except the players' characters), you learn how to build a story, build a world, build an entire universe that you can play with.
Education. You learn so much through playing role-playing games. Most of the big words I know I've learned through reading books (mostly fantasy books) and playing role-playing games. Those game manuals have complicated words, man! And not only that, you learn acting skills, improvisational skills, and a host of other things that are invaluable later in life. RPGs encourage you to be creative, to have fun, and to learn.
And that is why I will always play them, and I will encourage my future kids to play them. They help you. They're fun. They're creative outlets. And I wouldn't be the person I am today without them.
Oh, and to all the people who say D&D is Satanic... Please, do your research. Don't just judge without any context. I'm sure there are weird people out there who are already involved in that sort of thing and then put weird mystical stuff into their D&D sessions...but most people don't. And in those instances role-playing games are not the problem. Satan is. The Devil has a habit of taking harmless, innocent things in our world and using them to mess with people's lives. That doesn't mean those things are evil, it means Satan is.
So, I'll raise a glass of orange juice and toast you, Mr. Gary Gygax (rest in peace), for paving the way for the rest of us to roll dice.
It's Tuesday, and that means a look back on something I've created from years gone by. I thought I'd open with the only story I've ever made a lick of money from so far ($3.90). That is, of course, the short story I released on Noisetrade about a year and a half ago: "Would You Still Love Me?" Here's a short little synopsis:
Now for the story. Enjoy!
“If I was bald and ugly, would you still love me?”
It was Mallory. She had looked up from the floor of the office, where she sat coloring with a collection of markers. Her auburn hair fell across her shoulders, and a pink ribbon was pinned just above her forehead.
Jason glanced at his beautiful six year-old daughter, smiling at the remark. “Of course I would. You know that.”
“For real?” Mallory said, her face skeptical. “What if I had warts and a face that looked like a monster and huge claws that looked like scissors?” She emphasized each of her comments by scrunching up her face and trying to look menacing.
Jason laughed in spite of himself. Oh, Mal, he thought. My lovely, silly little daughter. You have the same overactive imagination that I do.
“This isn’t funny, Daddy!” The little girl folded her arms across her chest and began to pout. “I’m being serious.”
“So am I,” Jason said, setting aside the laptop and getting up from his writing desk. He walked over and sat cross-legged on the hardwood floor beside Mallory. He brushed her hair gently and looked her in the eyes. “I will always love you no matter what you do, no matter what you look like. You’re my little girl, and you always will be.”
Mallory smiled. “What if I became a princess? And I lived in a big castle far away and could never see you or grandma or grandpa ever again? And you couldn’t come to see me or call me or anything. Would you still love me?”
“Yes, I would,” Jason said, smiling again. “Even if you were the most stuck-up, bratty princess in the entire world, I would still love you.”
Mallory smiled back. “You really mean it? Even if I was horrible and angry all the time and threw you out of the castle when you tried to visit?”
Jason nodded, his smile deepening. “Even if you did that.”
Suddenly Mallory threw her arms around her father and hugged him with all her might. “You’re great,” she said, then she gave him a kiss on the cheek and lay back down to start coloring again.
“What are you drawing?”
She held up the drawing for him to see, which held three stick figures, holding hands. The one in the middle was considerably shorter. “That’s you, and that’s me,” Mallory began, pointing at the figure on the left and the one in the middle. “And that’s Mommy.”
Jason froze, staring at the picture. “Mallory, it’s…” It had only been a year since she had...since his wife had passed away. The wound was still deep. “It’s very good.”
“I miss her,” Mallory said, setting down the picture and finishing the coloring. The sky wasn’t quite finished yet, half of the expanse still white, while the other half was a pale blue.
Jason felt his eyes start to water, and he got to his feet, wiping at them. “I know, Mally. We all do.” He went back to his desk, sat and began to write again, trying to not to think about what his mind refused to release.
“When will I see her again?” Mallory said quietly, still coloring, though more slowly, her strokes wavering in their determination.
“When we go to heaven, we’ll see her again Mally.”
“But when will that be? I want to see her now.”
Jason felt tears drop to the keys of his laptop. “We can’t see her right now, Mally, you have to wait.”
The room fell silent. “I’m sorry, Daddy. I didn’t mean to make you angry.”
Jason went over to his daughter again, closing the laptop. He wouldn’t get any writing down now. “I’m not angry, Mal...I’m just...sad.” He sat down next to his daughter and kissed her head. She put down her drawing and climbed into his arms. Then she started to cry. It was a quiet sniffle at first, then a sob, then a silent stream of tears.
“Mal,” Jason said, cradling his daughter. “If I was angry at you, like, really angry at you, yelling and screaming, and I wouldn’t stop, would you still love me?”
“Of course, Daddy. Just because you do something wrong, doesn’t mean you’re not still my daddy.”
Jason kissed her on the head again. “Exactly. Always remember, Mally, no matter what you do, no matter where you go, you will always be my daughter. You will always be my little girl, and nothing you or me or anyone else does will ever change that.
“I will still love you, always.”
Seven Years Later
Jason parked the car in the driveway and pulled the key out of the ignition, sighing. His whole body ached, but he forced himself to get out of the vehicle and stretch. Another day, another dollar, Jason thought as he walked up the sidewalk to the front door of the house. He had spent another day digging ditches. It was grueling, strenuous work, especially in the July heat, but it put food on the table and let them keep their house. So he did it. For her.
Jason took the mail from the mailbox near the front door--bills and junk mail, most likely--and stuffed it in his pocket. Then, unlocking the door, he went inside, taking off his work boots almost as soon as he entered. The socks came next--they were pretty dirty after a day’s work--and then up the stairs he went, getting ready to jump in the shower. He stopped in his office to drop off the mail so he could sort through them later, and saw, as he did every day, the pile of rejection letters that stood in a crumpled heap next to his writing desk. Three hundred different envelopes. That was how many times he had gotten rejected in the last eight years. He kept them there to fuel his determination, to remind himself that no matter how many times he failed, he would keep going. And he would. He would keep writing. He had a good feeling, a feeling that he was close. Just a bit more, and he would finally reach the goal he had been stumbling towards for so long.
Whistling to himself, he stripped and deposited his dirty clothes in the hamper, and then made his way to the bathroom. The shower felt good. It always did, coming home after a day of work. As if he was getting a fresh start, a chance to sit down at his desk and try again. A new opportunity.
After he dressed in clean clothes and got himself a roast beef sandwich, Jason made his way to his office to read through the mail. Maybe a letter had come. Maybe he would finally get an offer. He saw the clock as he entered the room: 3:00 PM. Mallory would be home anytime now.
He set down the sandwich and picked up the first envelope. Something about a credit card offer. Junk. Next two, junk, junk. And then…he froze. It was the letter. The letter he had been waiting for. He had sent his latest novel to every publisher he could think of, but what was in his hands right now was the one that counted the most. This was from one of the big publishing companies--Island Books. If they published his work, would get him enough notoriety to start making a living off of his writing. He wouldn’t have to dig ditches anymore. He could do what he loved to do, what he knew he was meant to do, and get paid for it.
He opened the letter. And, almost at once, he was disappointed for the three hundred and first time. Thank you for considering us, the letter read. But unfortunately, we don’t have a place for this kind of book on our line right now. He scanned the pages, his hope melting with every word. Too odd… interesting concept, but poorly executed…
No! he thought, pushing the letter away in frustration. No, this isn’t how it was supposed to happen! I could feel it, I knew that this was the one. But...it looked like he had been wrong. Again.
With a sigh, he placed the envelope in the pile. He picked up the next letter in the bunch, ready to sort through the rest of the bills and the junk mail. Four more envelopes. The first three were bills, but then...there it was again. Another letter. Another publisher, Red Moon Books. Not quite as recognizable as the last, but still a big company. His hope returned. Could this be the one?
Please, God… he prayed. Please, let this be the one.
He opened it with shaking hands. Another rejection. Another failure. He threw it across the room. I was so close. Why does this keep happening to me? I thought I had this one!His questions and thoughts fell away in the silence. No one was answering him, not even God.
Usually, this was the point when he would resolutely shake his head, sigh, then flip open his laptop and start writing again, determined to keep trying. But...what was the point? He had failed so many times… Why did he keep going back, if only to fail again? Maybe hewasn’t supposed to be a writer. Maybe he had heard wrong, all those years ago, when he was a young man, ready to face the world. Maybe God had had a different plan for him, and he had missed it.
He put his face in his hands and just sat there, defeated. That was it. He had blew it. God had planned differently for his life, and since he hadn’t listened, he was stuck here, digging ditches, forever. The realization hit him like a wave. He hadn’t trained himself to do anything else, he had been so sure that he was meant to be a writer. I’m a failure…
“Dad?” Mallory stood in the doorway, her face concerned. “Are you okay?”
Jason looked up and smiled, a half-hearted smile that he knew would look fake. “Yeah, I’m okay. Just another rejection letter, that’s all.”
Mallory gave him a look, her auburn hair bobbing behind her in a ponytail. “You’re a horrible liar, Dad. I wouldn’t recommend you ever considering ‘con artist’ as a career choice.”
Jason chuckled. “I can never getting anything past you, can I Mally?”
Mallory gave him another look. “Please don’t call me Mally. It sounds like a baby name.” She was so much like her mother. That same serious expression in her eyes, that same look about her face. Even her hair seemed to be just like Natalie’s. It was like a mini-version of his wife was standing in front of him. In some ways, that made the pain hurt less. He could at least still have this piece of her.
“Sorry, sorry,” Jason said, holding up his hands. “No baby names, I know. How was school?”
“Oh no,” she said, walking in and shaking her head. She dropped her backpack on the floor and went over to the desk. “You’re not changing the subject. What’s wrong, Dad?”
Jason sighed. “Mal…” He didn’t know where to start. How could he tell his daughter that he may have heard wrong? She was his most avid supporter, eagerly reading anything he wrote. Just like Natalie used to. “What if I’m not supposed to be a writer?” She gave him another look, but he held up a hand. “Just hear me out. What if God had something else in store for me, and I missed it? What if I made the wrong choice? And...what if I’m stuck here now, digging ditches, for the rest of my life. Would…” He looked down. “Mal, what if I can’t help you pay for college, what if we lose the house…” The thought was almost unbearable--this was the house he and Natalie had picked out, so many years ago. It was their dream home, she had told him. They would grow old together here. “What if I ruined everything?”
He looked at her again, tears in his eyes. “Would you still love me?”
“Don’t even ask me that, Dad,” Mal said. “You know what the answer will be.”
Asking each other that question had become almost a game throughout the years. They would say the most ridiculous things, and then ask if the other would still love them. The answer was always yes. But...Jason was still worried. What if he had followed a fool’s dream, a dream that his friends had told him wasn’t possible? You could never support yourself as a writer, they had said. You had to get a real job. Natalie and his parents had been the people who kept him going. And now Mallory, his own daughter, was the only real support he had anymore.
“Look at me, Dad,” Mallory said, her eyes fierce. “You are an amazing writer. You have a gift, and don’t you dare give up now. You’ve gotten so far. Your work is way better than it was when you started, and you can only get even better. Just keep at it.”
“But what if I’m not supposed to?” Jason snapped. “What if God had a different idea?”
“Dad, God doesn’t give people gifts unless he wants them to use them. He doesn’t give you a desire like the one you have and then make them choose a completely different career. You taught me that.”
Jason stared at his beautiful, intelligent daughter. She was thirteen, thirteen, and she was giving him a lecture. And she was right. He knew he wanted to be a writer. He knew he was good at it, and that was where God wanted him. But why is it taking so long? Why does it seem like every door has closed?
“You’re right,” he said, shaking his head. “Lord help me, you’re right.” He reached for his laptop and opened it up. I have to keep trying. For her.
“There you go,” Mallory said. She leaned down and kissed her father on the cheek. “I love you, Dad. Good luck.” She turned away and headed towards the door. She stopped to grab her backpack, but as she did so, she pulled something out. A white envelope. Jason saw it out of his peripheral vision, and glanced at her. “Oh,” she said, turning towards him again. “By the way, you forgot one when you grabbed the mail.” She handed him the envelope.
The return address read, Island Books. The first publisher, the big company that had rejected his latest novel. What in the world? he thought, staring at it. Why would they be sending me another one?
Mallory looked at him with a twinkle in her eye. “Open it. Let’s see what you got.”
Jason opened the envelope.
Inside was a letter, not pertaining his most recent project, but the one before it. The one that he had sent Island sample chapters for, and then the whole manuscript when they had asked for it, but then had never heard anything back from the publisher. He tore open the envelope, and stared with awe and shock at the words he read.
I am happy to tell you...offer you a book deal...I would like to speak with you...I absolutely loved this novel, and I think it can get better…
A letter from one of the editors at Island. A letter offering him a book deal.
Jason leapt up from his chair and cried out in absolute joy. Mallory jumped back, startled. “I got it, Mal,” he told her, giving her a crushing hug. “This is it, this is it!”
“Awesome...Dad…” she told him through gasps. “Can you...let me go?”
He did so, looking sheepish. “Sorry.” He showed her the letter and she read it quickly.
Mallory looked at him and smiled. “I told you so. Now, get on the phone and call the editor. I’m gonna go get some food.” She started to leave, but stopped. “And, Dad, as soon as you’re done talking with him, go back to writing. You’ve got some work to do.”
Jason smiled and nodded as his daughter left the room. Then, after she was gone, he locked his door. He didn’t want to be disturbed. He loved Mal, but she could be nosy sometimes. But he didn’t call the editor, not yet.
First he got to his knees and started praying, thanking God for everything He had done for him.
Four Years Later
Jason closed the laptop and looked up at his daughter, smiling. He had been working on the last novel of a trilogy, the first two of which had already been published. The project was getting close to completion now, he could almost see the finish line on the horizon. The past four years had been good to Mallory and him. Now that Jason had a steady income, he had been able to quit his old job digging ditches and become a writer full-time. It was tiring, busy work, but it was what he loved to do. And he was happy.
Mallory, it seemed, was not. Her face was pale and her fingers trembled as she closed the door to Jason’s office. It was decidedly un-Mallory. The seventeen year-old girl didn’t get fazed by much. Jason’s smile faded. This was serious.
“What is it?” he asked. “Mal, don’t give me that look, what’s wrong?”
She didn’t answer. Silently, she stepped over to the empty chair next to his desk, her spot whenever she came in to bug him while he was working. She sat and looked him in the eye. He looked back, and saw tears glistening therein.
“Dad…” she finally said, her voice shaky. “Remember that game we used to play when I was younger, the one where would ask each other the question: ‘would you still love me?’”
Jason nodded, wondering where this was going.
“Well, what if I made a mistake. A really big mistake, and there was no way I could fix it. I just had to face the consequences. Would...would you still love me?”
“You know I would. What is this about, Mal?” He leaned in close and took her hand.
“Dad…I don’t know how to say this.” She glanced down. “I’m pregnant.”
The news washed over him like a wave, threatening to knock him from his seat with the weight of it. “You’re...you’re pregnant,” he repeated, staring in disbelief.
“It was an accident. It was never supposed to happen this way...one time…” her words were interlaced with sob, and she trembled even more. “I’m so sorry, Dad…”
He didn’t know what to say. This was the kind of thing that happened to other people. Not to you. Not to your daughter, his daughter, his perfect, beautiful daughter. The daughter that he had taught from birth to always do the right thing, even when people were pressuring you to do otherwise. Mallory should have known better, she shouldn’t have… Jason stopped himself. This wasn’t the time to get angry. Mallory was beating up herself enough over this. Now was the time to love her.
“Did Robby...make you?” Jason said, referring to her boyfriend of two years. He hoped to God that Robby hadn’t. Jason wasn’t sure what he’d do if he found out that…
“No, no,” Mallory shook her head. “No, he didn’t force me. We...both messed up.” She buried her face into her father’s shoulder. “Dad, I’m so sorry… I knew it was wrong, but…”
“It’s alright,” Jason said, brushing his hand along her hair. “I’m here. Everything’s going to be okay. We’ll get through this together.”
Mallory cried. For a long while, they just sat there. They wouldn’t abort the baby, they knew better than that. Two wrongs didn’t make a right. But Mallory’s life would effectively be put on hold. Senior year was just around the corner, but Mallory wouldn’t be able to go through her last year of school the same way she had the first three. Everything would change.
“Dad…” Mallory said after a long while. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m, I’m so sorry--”
“I would,” Jason said, interrupting her.
“What?” she asked, glancing up at him with tear-streaked eyes.
“You asked me if I would still love you, even if you had made a huge mistake. Yes, you did make a mistake. But I would still love you, I do still love you. I’ve told you it before, Mally. Nothing you ever do, no mistake you make will ever make me stop loving you. Ever.” He took her face in his hands. “Don’t you ever forget that. We will get through this together. And everything will be okay. You will be an amazing mother, just like your mother was. I know your mom is looking down on you right now and she is so proud… You are a beautiful, talented, amazing young woman, and God and I both know it. We are going to grab God’s hand, and we are going to walk through this together, Mal. You and me.
“Don’t listen to anyone but the Lord, Mal. Don’t listen to the lies that the Devil’s trying to put in your mind right now. You are worth it. God has a plan for your life. And He loves you unconditionally…” Jason stood and reached out his hand for his daughter. “So, let’s do this, you and me. Together. We’re going to walk through this fire, alright?”
Mallory nodded, resolved.
And so, father and daughter went forward, facing whatever life would throw at them. Together. And Natalie, wife and mother, looked down from heaven and smiled.