the sun was jealous of the moon

If you were to have walked up behind him, quietly, he wouldn’t have noticed you.  He was lost in his writing, scribbling down the last words of humankind.  His journal was the sides and corners of some operating manual he had found – it was the only paper around.  The zigzag of words and idea flowed over, above and around the preprinted text, making these final, sacred words a jumble of memories and inked, mechanical instructions.

“My name is Carlos, and I am the last living human,” he had written not long ago.  He read those words to himself again, agonizing over whether they told the depth of his pain and loneliness.  It seemed to him like there should be some kind of adjective or modifier that should accompany such a dramatic statement.  He wasn’t much of a writer, really.  It was a bit of a shame that he should be chosen to write the final words of mankind.  His name, Carlos, suddenly seemed silly to him.  From Adam to Carlos.  Some name beginning with “Z” would have been more catchy.

“I had a beautifully horrific view of the destruction.  The Sun set out a solar flare that was immense, like a whip trailing across our little Universe.  When the flare made contact with Earth, it was with such precision one might have thought the Sun was jealous of the moon’s eternal dance with our world.  The flare cracked upon the Earth, destroying it.  I saw it all happen; I watched the destruction of my homeworld happen in a flash, before humanity had a chance to say a prayer.”

He was proud of his words there.  He liked that thought… that the Sun was jealous of the moon.  It gave him something to believe in.  He thought that maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t the only sentient being still alive.  Earth was destroyed.  His friends, his family, his crew were dead.   Maybe, he hoped, there was something else still out there.

Carlos stood up, walking on the soft dust of the moon, towards his lunar base.  His team had been the living on the moon for only a month when the disaster happened.  They were the first of such teams to be sent to the moon; NASA had finally gotten its act together and planned to develop a way of life on the moon.  The plan was to build a small, sustainable city there or no more than 1,000 people.  Progress on Earth due to the EPA requiring alternative fuels and sustainable products had finally made it feasible to live off of our home planet.  It was made financially possible by the networks; they had broadcast rights to life in space.  The science made it feasible… the entertainment value made it profitable.

Carlos stood with one of the camcorders in his hand.  He was just supposed to be a stagehand.  He knew camcorders inside and out… he wasn’t creative enough to be a director but he had a keen eye for the angles and a soft focus.  It was time for another burial.

Carlos took his time setting the camera on its tripod, trying to catch the right light from the sun.  He would always have the lunar base in the background to give the burial some sort of perspective.  He hated how people thought the first man-on-the-moon was from a soundstage.  He hit the record button, and began digging.

“I’m digging this grave for Nathan Ellis.  Captain Ellis was good man, the last of the crew to give up.  I think he wanted to be the last of us all.  He would have made a better last human than me.  He would have honored us all with better words and a better dream.

I didn’t mean to kill him.  He just wouldn’t stop breathing.  We chose to keep our mics always on so we could hear each other in case of emergency.  He would breathe so heavily.  I tried to turn him down but it got louder and louder in my head.  He wouldn’t listen to me and just shut up.

I’m using his oxygen tank now, in honor of his death.”

 

It had been a week since the Sun’s destruction of the Earth.  When the flare struck the Earth it wasn’t what they might show in the movies.  There wasn’t some massive explosion, sending rocks every which way.  It was more like a boiled egg cracking, then falling into pieces.  It might have even been possible that some people might have found a way to live on these large chunks separated planet, but Carlos didn’t allow himself that hope.  Slowly, over the week, the chunks were getting further and further apart, each with their own gravity field.

Carlos had stopped looking towards the Earth in several days, so he hadn’t noticed anything unusual.  It wasn’t until a human body, disfigured but clearly in civilian clothes (possibly shorts?  A tank top?) landed on the ground in front of the camera.

“No,” was all he could mutter.

Carlos saw a piece of the Earth slowly drifting towards the moon, pulled in by its gravity.  The smaller chunks of the Earth had been drawn to the moon.  He guessed that maybe 100 miles away from his base, an Earth comet was about to crash into the moon.  In the comet’s orbit, he saw hundreds – maybe thousands – of human bodies.

Carlos was paralyzed.  Human bodies were landing on the moon’s surface all around him.  He began digging deeper.  They would all need graves, he thought.

A redheaded woman landed near him… or at least that’s what he thought it was.  It was hard to tell if she really was even a human, but in Carlos’ mind he saw her.  His daughter was a redheaded beauty of seven years old.

 

He patted Molly on the head.  She was a beautiful sprite of a child, her poise full of grace and her hair full of mud.  A tomboy, for sure, she took after her father.  Carlos had loved Molly like a precious jewel.  He understood the world that lived and breathed around him and new that once she was old enough there would be enough pain and anguish for her deal with on her own… he wanted to be sure that her childhood would be filled with all the care and affection he could give.

When Carlos was approached to work on the lunar base project, he did so with two caveats.  The first was that he would be allowed to use the video equipment to send personal videos back to his family.  The second was that Molly and his wife, Mary, would be in the first group of civilians to make the transition to living on the moon.

Carlos only took the job knowing that he was building a better future for Molly.  Being away from his family was going to be torture, but a man can be brave when he knows that he’s been tasked with making history.   He ruffled Molly’s hair, bent down, and gave her a loving, almost casual, temporary hug goodbye.  He would see her soon, he told her.

 

Carlos scooped up the decayed, charred bag of flesh that had fallen near him.  Had you been there with him, you would have told him that it wasn’t Molly.  There weren’t any distinguishing features.  From your perspective, you wouldn’t have been sure if the charred thing in his arms was Molly or a pet dog.

Carlos wept.

Openly, unashamedly, he wept as he held his beautiful Molly in his arms.  What father is meant to bury his daughter?  What father should know that he could have held on a little longer, could have been a little less brave, should have not done the right thing for his race and instead stayed home, riding a bike with his child and making mudpies?  What father wouldn’t have chosen a few more weeks with his child instead of being the final survivor of the human race?

As he looked up from the charred remains of Molly, Carlos saw his last glimmer of hope walking towards him.  Slowly, as if he was in some slow-motion movie sequence, a woman was walking towards him.

‘Could it be?’ he thought. ‘Someone survived.  Someone else is alive.  I’m not alone.’

“Thank you, God,” he said aloud, though his mic, where it was picked up by the still listening camcorder.

Carlos could feel his energy returning, his blood filled with hope.  He didn’t find it odd that she walking towards him without any protection, no restrictive space suit.  He could see her every curve and brilliant beauty.  It did not surprise him that she was on fire, her hair made of flames and her skin bristling with heat.

“Hello, Carlos.  I’ve come to save you,” she said.

“Save me?”

“I love you, Carlos.  I am the Sun, I am all powerful.  I take what I want.”

“Why… why me?” was all he could stammer out.  He was on his knees now, taken aback by the sheer heat of the Sun.  He was weak.  He was showing his submission to the Sun. 

“There were too many humans, Carlos.  I only ever wanted you.”

“But I’m no one special.  Why am I the last to live?  Why did you spare me?”

“Clearly, you’re a survivor.  You must be special if you’re still alive and everyone else is gone.  Look around you… nothing remains here for you.”  Sharpening her eyes, glaring into weak Carlos’ tortured mind, she said, “Only the Sun remains.  Only I have love for you.  Don’t you love me?”

The heat had dried his memory.  Gone was his concern for the charred remains of some fleshly thing that had fallen near him.  Was he ever married?  He couldn’t remember her name… surely he was married once.  “Love you?” he asked.

“Yes, Carlos – Love me.”  It was more a command than an answer to his question.  “You’re the last human to live.  Surely you know what love is.  Surely you want to love and be loved.  Isn’t that what humanity is all about?”  The Sun smiled a smirk of a smile and turned away.

“Please, don’t let me die alone,” were his last words.

The Sun just walked across the moon’s horizon, into the ball of gas light years away, ever so slightly with a sway of her hips.

Carlos sat there, on his knees, for what must have been hours.  He mind was empty, it seemed.  He slowly stood up, letting the blood return to his tingling calves and cold feet.  He took a few steps backwards, the weight of his steps crumbling the charred remains he so tenderly held only moments (hours?) ago.  He didn’t notice.

He climbed into the lunar base, walking past the camcorder and Captain Ellis’ grave site.  He walked down the echoing halls, past rations and the few remaining oxygen tanks.  He walked past his room and carried off no personal effects.  He walked to the ship’s docking station, climbed into the captain’s chair and initiated the take off sequence.  Carlos set the ship on autopilot and, in moments, his retinas were burned from the light of the sun.

 

If you had been there, you might have picked up his clumsy journal of an operating manual.  If you had been there, you might have finished Captain Ellis’ burial.  If you had been there, you would have watched as Carlos drifted off into space, seeking love one last time.

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My First Published Comic: John B. Olson's Powers

Somehow... I forgot to blog about this.

Back in early 2010, B&H Publishing Group published a comic book adaptation of John B. Olson's Powers - an incredible fiction novel (I'm not just saying that; I don't read much Christian fiction but this was well worth the read).  The intent of the graphic novel was promotional, the idea being to give people a taste of the novel quickly (comics read faster than novels), so they can get a glimpse into the story before they purchase the book.

It just so happens the comic book adaptation was written by me and illustrated by M. Daily Walden. Check it out and let me know what you think of my first officially published comic book.  I may even have a few physical copies laying around, if paper is your thing. 

John B. Olson's Powers: Graphic Novel

 If you like what you see and read, the full novel is currently available on Amazon.com for $6 - this book is definitely worth at least that much!

The Near Future of the Bible: Collide Magazine Article

Recently I had the chance to write an article for Collide Magazine that is the sum of my thoughts in the year 2008: The Near-Future of the Bible.  Through conversations with friends, attending and speaking at conferences, and spending time working on a yet-to-be-finished sci-fi novel, I began to craft a vision in my head of what the future of the Bible might look like.  Amazingly enough, Scott was kind enough to let me put some of those thoughts into a few words... and then thought they were worth printing. Fast forward a few months, and the article is now available online for your reading pleasure by clicking this link. If you've been around me the past few weeks, you know how important I think this kind of work is, and how happy I am to be working at a company who sees value in exploring these ideas and possibilities.  Check out the article and please, let me know your thoughts!
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Why the Future Matters for the Church

This article was originally written for a magazine that focuses on the ministry of church Deacons, but could very easily stand as an overview of why I feel thinking about the future is so incredibly important for today's church.  The article, written in March of 2008, is now in publication but was heavily edited for space in the actual magazine.  I have been given permission to republish the article here, in it's entirety.  Due to the editing it is a very different article than saw print and, per the editor-in-chief's request, should not be associated with the originating magazine.  I am very thankful for the opportunity to publish the article in it's entirety here.
The day-to-day responsibilities of a Deacon can change from church to church.  Some deacons may be involved in benevolence, while others may be making administrative decisions.  The Deacon Handbook for First Baptist Church, Garland, Texas (pdf), lists three of the most important responsibilities a Deacon might have:    
  1. To lead the church in the achievement of its mission
  2. To minister the Gospel to believers and unbelievers
  3. To care for the church's members and other in the community
One underlying element to these responsibilities is the need to not only take care of the needs of the Church and her people today, but their needs for tomorrow and the years to come.  To fully appreciate the responsibility of deaconship, one must consider that the church will always need leadership and must think about how today's missions and ministries will impact not only your congregation, but the generations to come. The trouble for many church leaders is finding productive ways to anticipate the future.  We know the ending - the Bible contains a wonderful book of prophecy for end times - but the time between the resurrection of Christ and His second coming is full of years and advances the disciples never anticipated.  The fact that I can download the Bible over a cell phone network (nevermind the fact that I can readily read one or purchase one) would have confounded even the writers of the letters that make up the New Testament.  The availability of the Gospel is exponential to 2000 years ago; as is the indecency of pornography, the villainy of murder and the diversity of world religions. And yet, the writings and inspired truths of the New Testament speaks to us even today.  The works and morality thereof were timeless.  The seeds sown 2000 years ago were written not only for the present but also for the future.  The question that follows then, is simple: what are we doing today to prepare for the future? Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired magazine, writes of his concern for Christianity's lack of concern for the future in his article, The Next 1000 Years of Christianity:
In a fast-paced time when the future overruns the present every day, when the young spend more time inhabiting what is coming than what is happening, when every corporation and secular institution has a future strategy, the only large entity lacking alternatives for the future is the Christian church. It is still surrendering the future to science fiction authors, corporations, new agers, technologists, and all who understand that we make the future by inventing it.
If we have the freedom to consider what Christianity and the world might look like for our children, should we not consider our children's children?  Our great-great grandchildren?   According to research by David Aikman, former Beijing Bureau Chief for Time Magazine, "at the present rate of growth in the number of Christians... it is possible that Christians will constitute 20 to 30 percent of China's population in three decades" (Jesus in Beijing, 2003, 287).  Taking that number the next step, Kelly clarifies that "given the speed of church growth in Korea and China, and extending that another 500 years, by the year 2500 the world might identify Christianity as primarily an Asian thing" (2007).  In other words, given the current trends, in just a few short generations Christianity will be completely different. Two of the leading thinkers in the area of studying the Future are Dr. Peter Bishop and Andy Hines, editors of "Thinking about the Future."  In their text, Bishop and Hines explain that
the purpose of looking to the future is to understand the possibilities ahead in order to make more informed decisions in the present.  Good futures work reduces the risk of being surprised or blindsided.  It can build momentum towards more favorable pathways and away from unfavorable ones (2006, 29).
Bishop and Hines have a clear goal for their futures studies - to help make a better today.  Can we as church leaders make a better today by considering tomorrow? Bishop and Hines, as a part of the Association of Professional Futurists, have outlined a fairly robust method for considering the future and applying it to the present.  The first - and perhaps most important step - is the framing of the topic of study.  This article has, so far, been mostly framing a perspective about the need for Christianity and the future.  We can consider now that Christianity will change within the next 500 years and, hopefully, we see a need for understanding the impact of those changes today. Being a part of the framing process is one of the most influential responsibilities to culture that a Christian can undertake.  Many culture shifting conversations and issues are handled by niche strategists and specialist in their area, defining questions and issues to any topic before it become mainstream.  Years of research proving the cloning was feasible we undertaken before the reality was ever covered by Time magazine.  GLBT groups were fighting legal battles for decades before MTV launched the LOGO network.  There are conversations that are nearing public consumption today (pedophilia, cybernetic enhancements, the church of Scientology) that many Christians are oblivious to and have not been involved in.  By not being a part of these conversations - by not protecting the future 20 years ago - our lives are impacted by the cultural shifts that the church was too late to have any real influence over. After setting up perspectives and research on any given topic to frame it, there are three steps for research to any formal forecasting: scanning, forecasting, and visioneering.  Scanning is the process of putting the pieces together of separate stories.  For example, connecting the rising cost of gas and the geographical locations of churches may lead to planning for a multi-site church campus. Forecasting deciding upon what the possible futures may be for your given topic, while visioneering is interpreting what implications that future might have.  If China becomes the seat of Christianity, what does that mean for America?  If China is still persecuting the church in 2500, will that mean that the majority of Christianity will be a part of the persecuted church?  Are we preparing ourselves and our children for the reality of religious persecution? Finally, a formal strategic document would contain two sections on resolution: planning and acting.  If we determine that the future is one we should be prepared for or should alter, how do we go about doing so?  And, if we have a plan, how do we communicate and follow through with that plan? Enlightened with the idea that we can - and should - think about the future puts a burden on us as leaders in our local church.  What are the plans we have made to impact our community not simply today, but in thirty years from now.  Will you have resigned as Deacon and enjoy the senior adult ministries at your church, or will you have moved on to some other community where someone else is (hopefully) thinking about your future even now?  Will we fear for our children on topics we chose to ignore today when they rear their ramifications in a few short decades, or will we be able to smile at the alternatives we planned and prepared for? Wendell Bell explained the pain of not thinking about the future rather eloquently:
Many human capactities in any society remain undeveloped and unrealized, that is, most people never develop more than a small fraction of their potential for learning and innovation.  They generally fail to see the possibilities for change within themselves.  As adults, people tend to trudge through lifechanged tot he routines of everyday behavior that they have learned, oblivious to the more challenging and desirable alternatives open to them.  This is at least partly because most of them have not been taught to look at the world as it could be.  They have not been taught to search beyond the cultural conventions and manners of their own groups for possibilities either for their own personal futures or for their society's future. (Foundations of Futures Studies, 2007, 77)
If we as leaders are given the responsibilities to lead the church in the achievement of its mission, to minister the Gospel to believers and unbelievers, and to care for the church's members and other in the community, then we must not simply think about today and tomorrow, but of next year and the next generation.  We must continue to strive to search beyond "cultural conventions" and look beyond our "own groups" and find, and prepare, a future for the Church and her members.
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New Deacon Magazine Article: Why the Future Matters

I think one of the most edifying things for a writer is seeing their words in actual print.  I get giddy with excitement whenever something I wrote shows up in my mailbox for me to thumb through.  LifeWay's magazine cycle is WAY ahead, so typically you're writing almost three quarters ahead of time.  This article that I wrote for Deacon Magazine, "Why the Future Matters" then got delayed an issue, so this article has been waiting for just over a year to see print.  Welcome to the world, little sliver of my thoughts; I hope your readers like you! Deacon Magazine Future Article
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New Media Article for Relevant Magazine's Neue Quarterly

A while back I had a post about an article I was writing for Neue Quarterly. Today I'm proud to say that the premiere issue of Neue Quarterly is available for reading online, from the Neue website.  Click into the magazine image on the page, or click here to get into it directly. My article is on page 46.  I'm pretty proud of the work (even though they cut out quite a bit... I definately over-wrote and did a bit too much philosophizing in the original, uncut version) - let me know what you think! (And a special thanks for Cynthia Ware letting me know that Tall Skinny Kiwi had posted about it... I didn't even know it was online yet!  I got scooped on my own article!)
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When the Editor Tells You to Change

I have been asked to be a part of the premiere issue of Relevant Network's first issue of their new resource for leader, Neue.  I'm honored to take part, as I truly believe this is going to be incredible resource for leaders.  However, because this is the first issue for the resource, I'm having a bit of trouble finding the right voice for my article. My initial take on the topic (new media for ministies) was to approach it from a philosophical point of view.  I blog regularly, I create videos, I'm working on my own personal metanarrative stories, I'm utilizing micromessaging for LIfeWay content... I'm deep in the trenches of utilizing new media on a regular basis.  So, what interested me was something a bit more abstract, talking about some of the history of media and how we got to "new media," and then connecting the two to see a bit why we do new media the way we do... and, thus, how we should do it. My editor, the wonderfully patient Corene Isreal at Relevant Networks, wasn't interested in all that.  ;-) The great thing about working with an editor like Corene is that she is able to both uplift me in what I've done right but also sternly let me know what she's looking for.  The fact of the matter is they have a plan and an image for their product; if I'm going to tell my message the two need to match. I think the key for any freelance writer that's starting out is a willingness to be teachable and flexible.  I know the messages that are important to my heart and threads of them will naturally come out in anything I write.  Corene, however, knows what she wanted for this article, and waxing philosophically about the history of media and the cultural concepts behind new media was not it. To quote Corene's first round of feedback for me:
In general, you should give specific examples of churches, websites, blogs, etc., that are doing cutting-edge things. As someone who knows a lot about new media, you likely come into contact with or know about a lot of innovative things happening. When you talk about blogs, for examples, give examples of some churches/ministries that are doing some creative and cool things and talk about why. Same with the other sections. Be specific and allow people to really hone in on what you're talking about.
Yeah, that's totally what I didn't do.  Oops. It's tough for me because of the dreaded "curse of knowledge" - like she said, I come into contact with innovative things that are happening all the time.  But, at my pace of life, what was innovative a three months ago is copied and processed and old hat already.  Writing this article really made me stop and think: if I could only point someone to a few faith-based blogs as prime examples of what TO do, what would I include? I like that Corene challenged me and knew that I had the answers in me, it just took some massaging to get me to slow down and catch her vision.  I like that my article is going to fit with the flow and tone of the rest of the product.  I like that what I have written is something that may actually help church leaders dip their toes into the blogging world instead of me speaking a language that doesn't really connect yet. I like that my editor told me to change.
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Launching Satellites: Going Multi-Site

Lauching Satellites, my first article for Collide Magazine, is now available on their website. The article features stories of how various churches went multi-site, including North Coast Church in Vista, CA, McLean Bible Church in McLean, VA, and Long Hollow Baptist Church right outside of Nashville.  Check it out!
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Magazines!

Magazines!

That's right!  This past week, Aaron became an officially publisher writer!  The first magazine that came was Deacon (which you can purchase a copy of here) featuring my article on Blogging, Pornography and your Church's Website.  It took almost a year to get here (I wrote it in June of 07!), but it's quite the excitement to see my article all dolled up with graphics and real ink.
Deacon Magazine Article
I then recieved my copy of Collide Magazine!  For them I wrote a piece on satellite churches.  I have to say, the design and content of Collide Magazine is really top-notch.  These guys get it.  I'm also proud to mention that I turned in my second article for them today, on churches using Facebook apps.
Collide Magazine Article
One of the great things about writing these articles is that I'm getting to interact with awesome guys who are real pioneers in using media and technology to help build relationships.  It's a bit odd to be "the press," but it's also incredibly fun to get to hear these stories and passions and broadcast their message of quality, relationship and innovation out to a much larger audience. As a follow up to my "Launching Satellites" article for Collide, I also was contacted by Ka You Communications about their installation of the satellite service for McLean Bible Church (one of the churches featured in the article, along with Long Hollow and North Coast Church).  I encourage you to check out these churches to see the ways they are pioneering in mulit-site campus thought, and bridging the gap between church and local communities. Seeing these articles in print really is an awesome feeling.  For anyone who is struggling with writing, let me tell you that it's worth it to keep knocking on doors and trying to put yourself out there to write.  One of the reasons I try to keep this blog rolling is to keep my fingers typing and writing things out.  With both magazines it took a while for the editors and I to connect and find the right topic for my knowledge base and their audience, but in the end it's worked out great and I hope to be a regular contributor to both of them. Now I'm wondering how my short story pitch to Asimov's is doing...
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writing a mass-market Bible study

so... I've been processing through the idea of writing a mass-market Bible study.  By that I mean a study that would be accessible to people across the U.S., whether via retail or via digital download and whether through a publisher or independently. Before I can allow settle into the actual process, there's a lot that I'm working through in my head about the venture in general.  I don't know that I need to find answers to these questions, just that I have to give them due diligence.  And, as I go through this process, I'm sure that I'll find more questions arise.
  •  Can my spirit handle it?
Twice a month Ashley and/or I prepare a lesson/session/space of time for our small group.  In the back of my mind I'm always working through what to say, how to say it, etc.  When I'm focused in on getting the time ready, it's usually a pretty strong spiritual battle for me.  I try to refine things, making sure that we're teaching what's in the Word and not simply regurgitating stuff we've been told by other people in the past. Preparing for the time with our small group is always spiritually exhausting.  Teaching others and sharing some of my spirit with them is a complex, supernatural thing.  And that's just for our small group, people who I know love us and would heap grace upon us if we ever did mess up somehow.  How spiritually stressful would it be to prepare a lesson/space of time for people I'll never meet who could use the plan however they'd like?
  • Why would I want to do it?
There are plenty of mass-market small group studies out there... let alone opportunities for groups to actually study the Bible, sans additional resources.  Would I be bringing any wisdom to the table, or just adding to the noise? Working for a Bible materials publisher full time, this is a topic I'm continually digesting.  I think we will always need to produce new materials because time keeps moving forward.  While the Bible doesn't change, the concepts and cultural issues it intersects with do.  Paul, the great theologian, never had to deal with cyber-sex or the potential for humanity living on the moon/Mars.  New materials allow us to shine the light in new places.  If I am to write any kind of study, it needs to be in conjunction with my life's story and the things that I am an "expert" in.
  • Does it meet a need?
Here's the need that I see: For the past four years or so, I've been doing dinner with a group of guys.  The members of this group have been fairly fluid throughout the years, but it's always been a time set aside for building relationships, discovering life, and eating good food. A couple of times we've tried to focus the time a little bit more toward some kind of spiritual study... but it's never really worked.  Amidst all the resources out there, we couldn't find anything that fit our flow of conversation and styles of learning.  Member books are a bit too clunky.  Men's studies are about being outdoorsy or sporty (which we aren't).  Many studies now rely on multimedia elements.  Preparation can be confusing. Those things I just listed are not bad things.  Member books and multimedia elements are perfect for many, many small groups.  But they just don't work with my guys.
  • Who would lead a study written by me?
I don't mean this as a belittlement to myself, but an actual concern: who would be the person leading it?  I know what I mean when I use certain phrases and I know I have a very stylized voice.  In many ways, I think that if I wrote a study I would want/need to give the leader the bulk of my efforts.  But how do you properly prepare a leader that you'll never meet?  And is there a way to prepare quickly, but also offer the opportunity to prepare deeply?
  • Who am I to write a study?  Or is it pride?
And this is probably the biggest one for me.  I don't know at what point it's "ok" to say "Hey!  I've got a bit of wisdom to share."  This is one of the issues that prompted me to write the "Career Christian" post. I've been told time and time again as a Christian that we should be humble and meek.  How do I reconcile that with saying "Hey, I wrote something good enough that you should pay for it."  If I do think I have something to say (and, to be honest, I do),  is it ok to be bold about it? Is it ok to think that God and Sister Wisdom have blessed me in a way that maybe, just maybe, I have something worth listening to?  Is it ok to say that it's worth it's weight in paper, ink, design, legal, shipping and editorial costs? So that's where I am, on this journey to writing a mass-market Bible study.  Feel free to pray for me as I continue to process through the opportunities, the spiritual angst, and internal monologues of these questions.
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I am the Light

Craig Webb is the internet producer for LifeWay, and works just down the hall from me.  Every couple of weeks he calls me into his office to check out the PowerPoint presentation he's putting together for his pastors.  This week - for Easter - he's got a PowerPoint and sermon outline called "I am the Light."  Craig and I are planning on some collaboration in the future with some creative elements that I might be able to contribute from the digital media side of things.  Inspired by the title (but mostly unrelated to the content of his lesson), I pulled together this piece of spoken word just to jumpstart the creative juices a bit. I've been mostly dealing with other people's work or been entrenched in MBA work lately, so jamming out a little something was quite a bit fun.  Here's to hoping that once this final MBA capstone course completes, I'll be able to start back up on the novel and such. I've found an excellent tool for helping when I write poetry/spoken word where rhyming and cadence are important: Microsoft Excel. I write one syllable into each cell so I can easily see where the pace is, and easily see when the rhyme needs to come up.  Ah, finding the creative in the completely mundane.
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My First Article going to Print!

Way back in June of 2007, I was contracted to write an article for Deacon Magazine.  LifeWay works on a very far ahead schedule for their magazines and that first article I was contracted for should be out this coming quarter's edition of the magazine. Mid-January I was contracted to write for Collide Magazine.  A couple of days ago, Scott McCellan announced on the Collide blog that the March/April issue of the magazine (with my article on multi-site church technology in it) went to press.  It's exciting to finally know that a piece that I worked on is on it's way in the mail to my hands. Hooray!  You can subscribe to the magazine here. In other freelance news, Deacon Magazine has contracted me for a Futures-related article.  This is incredibly exciting for me as Futures research for the church/technology is where I'm heading a few years down the road.  I'm in the Futures degree program at University of Houston, so it's pretty awesome to be able to write about the topic already.  Not sure how I'll crush my thoughts down to 1200 words... but we'll see how it goes!
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David Webb and Christian Fiction

A while back, I got to meet with David Webb about the B&H pitching process.  Our conversation back then really turned into a "get-to-know-you" meeting, and we talked a lot about the Christian Fiction market, what his job was, who some of the new authors were, etc etc.  The information he was sharing - as well as his passion for Christian Fiction - seemed to me to be something that anyone interested in Christian fiction might want to know.  How often do you get a chance to sit down with one of the top guys in the business? The video is also a lot of fun because you get a peek into David's mind as to how the whole process works, and how involved an editor might be in a story (David talks about how one time a story really needed a character to die...).  David also talks a bit about upcoming books by authors Jamie Carie, Leanna Ellis, and Rebecca Seitz. So, without further ado, here's a video conversation with David Webb.  [kyte.tv appKey=MarbachViewerEmbedded&embedId=10054074&uri=channels/30228/96816] 
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Elements of the Novel Pitch

Back when I was trying to pitch stories for Mavel Comics, I didn't really know what format they were looking for.  Andy Schmidt was giving me good feedback, but I never quite knew what all I should include in the pitch.  This hurt my chances, as I wasn't thinking the pitch out to their expectations.  There was one pitch I wrote that Andy liked and said he wanted to know more on... but he didn't bite because I made the story too long.  He wasn't looking for a mini-series from a fresh, new author. So, for this novel, I wanted to be sure that I was approaching it the right way so that in the end I could hopefully get it published somewhere/somehow.  David Webb at B&H was able to help me out and get me their novel proposal form.  Looking over the elements they want included, I realize that I made the right choice in taking this approach first.  Working through some of the information they want will help me better frame the story as a whole, and help me make a more complete work. That said, there were several things in here that I really hadn't thought all the way through, or really even begun to work on... Audience So who is going to be the audience for this book?  Even without an MBA, it's common sense that for a publisher to go through the process of editing, marketing, printing and selling a book, there has to be a market out there for it.  What I find interesting here is that I would think that a lot of this work would already be done by the publisher themselves.  They know what sells of their own books and what doesn't.  And, well, sci-fi Christian books simply don't sell right now. For me, I'm going to have to do some research here and discover why sci-fi Christian books don't sell.  Are they marketed wrong?  Is there an untapped audience? Also, as part of the "audience", I would think this is where an author can come in and claim their own audience.  If Neil Gaiman or Ted Dekker write a book, they bring with them an established group of readers.  One of the nice things about having a blog is that I can claim a small built in audience... but right now, that's pretty small. Suggested Package How do you determine if a book is worthy of a hardcover or not?  Is it it just a budget book?  For my novel this is where one of the key marketing elements will come into play for me: this book needs to be digitally distributed.  I don't imagine a hard cover book... but if I don't ask for one and I shortchanging my manusrcipt? Purpose/Vision In essence, this is asking whether or not this book is intended to have any long-term effects on the reader's life.  I can honestly answer this one fairly easily: yes.  One of my goals with the novel is to make me think about what the future might be like and, in turn, let the reader think about it.  In studying to be a futurist, I've read and seen very little so far about what the future of religion and spirituality might be like.  That's one of the primary topics I want to discuss in this novel.  Honestly, that's a bit of the crux of this novel... to introduce Christians to the idea of thinking past two generations from now and considering how their actions today can influence the lives of people 200 generations from now. Author Platform It makes sense... if the author has oppertunities to speak at various locations, that's a personal touch and gives the author more chances to sell the book.  So, um... anyone want me to speak at their conference? Endorsement Opportunities Essentially, who would be willing to put their name on your book to promote you.  Who do you know that already has an audience that can bleed into yours.  This is where all those nice quotes on the back of the book come from. Competing Products This is your best friend and your worst enemy.  If there aren't any competing products out there... is your idea so novel and great that it can create an entire new marketplace?  If there are too many competing products... why would yours stand out?  Again, this is purely business... but important business.  An author must know his or her contemporaries. Those, of course, are just some of the elements that B&H is looking for, outside of the expected synopsis and themes and such.  I think a lot of this legwork is important, though.  There's a difference between just wanting to write (which I can do on here any time) and wanting to be published.  If I'm not willing to go the extra mile and do the leg work... how bad do I really want to share my story?  And if I don't want to share my story bad enough... why should the publisher take the burden of risk on publishing it? As an aside, I'm giving myself the deadline of September 30th, 2008 to finish the manuscript.  Yes, I know that's nine months away... but even still, that's qucikly approaching.  I'm taking the summer off of school, so that's when I expect to get the bulk of the writing done. 
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so... about that novel

what can i say?  life got in the way, and it wasn't meant for me to write a full length novel in the month of November.  However, thanks to NaNoWriMo, I've got a great start with some great ideas and a few chapters to build off of.  I will see this to completion, even if it's a few months away.  At this point, I'm thinking I might even take a few days of vacation spattered here and there to work on it. In doing things like this, I like to know what all the possibilities are.  If I'm going to write this thing; poor my time, energy and ideas into a manuscript... then I want to make sure that there's at least a chance that someone will discover it and enjoy it.  I've done some minimal research and found that, at the very least, there is one place I will be able to publish it: Amazon Digital Shorts More likely, however, I would put it for publishing through Amazon's digital services, which would allow a different pricing structure.  Either way, this will allow the manuscript to be read on a Kindle... which... would be very fitting (if you've read the first chapter).  I would like to firmly state that the manuscript did begin before the Kindle was released/publically known about. So on my quest for information regarding my publishing options, I got a chance this past week to meet with David Webb of B&H Publishing House.  I was quite pleased to get to know him; he seemed to be a genuinely nice guy who is as passionate about books as my wife is.  It didn't hurt that he had artwork from an Alex Ross calendar or a Worf mug in his office, either.  What I liked about Webb is that he told it to me straight: there isn't much room for sci-fi in the CBA market. Seeing as I'm getting my MBA, I was actually quite interested in his perspectives on the market, as well as the future plans for the B&H fiction line, in general.  I found it amazing how much the market is geared toward women... as most faith-based products are nowadays.  Why aren't men buying faith-based entertainment? We talked briefly about the struggles I would have with writing a Christian-based sci-fi novel, but he also offered some like a group of authors who recently went on tour promoting their sci-fi and fantasy work.  Webb was very encouraging when we got to the end of the conversation, as we both agreed that sci-fi was a great place to explore faith.  Being followers of Christ allows us one constant - that God is and always will be God.  So even if I place my story 100,000 years in the future... God is still God.  And that allows me a world of creativity. So I now have two assignments:
  1. Finish the novel
  2. Write the pitch
The pitch is going to be interesting... but I think I might tackle most of it first.  There are some things they are looking for that I hadn't really thought out yet.  And, the pitch does include the full synopsis.  It might be good to decide how my story ends... even though I prefer to discover it along the way. So... about that novel.  I'm still working on it.  Maybe you'll get to buy it someday.
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i'm way behind (and a preview of Chapter 7)

oi - I am way behind on the novel.  I currently sit at 3,689 words.  I'm supposed to be done with about 10,000 by now.  My first two days were strong, but then Saturday I filmed a wedding for 5 hours, and Sunday I had lot of homework (and a little Christmas shopping for Ashley) to do.  Last night I managed to get over my first bit of Writer's Block and jumped from the end of Chapter 2 on to Chapter 7.  Which means, at some point, I'll have to go back and fill in a lot of the details. I've put a preview of Chapter 7 after the break.

The door opened, like a slow castle gate being drawn in.  This asteroid they were on was clearly a prison, and what lay beneath the surface was the grand mystery.

The matter of sending convicts off planet was not a new one.  On Earth, sending prisoners to the moon became a regular activity fairly quickly after the moon tourism began.  In order to bring the cost to their customers down, many space tourism companies brokered deals with the government to transport prisoners to the moon in exchange for a sizable amount of money.  The private guests were never any the wiser, until a malfunction let loose a prisoner once... and he killed the all the guests and crew.

This event allowed the space tourism industry to form true space imprisonment services.  The government still needed to ship high profile convicts off planet, but regulations said that the prisoners could not travel with citizens.  As such, the fees for space imprisonment sky-rocketed, and fueled the growth of space-related business.  The space imprisonment research went largely unchecked because the cargo was, in fact, people that were needed to be gotten rid of.

Eventually, as the moon was populated by normal citizens, the prisoners needed to be moved off planet again.  And so, even before the 3000s, prisoners were being shipped to asteroids where convict cities were developed.  Living on a floating asteroid, in a man-made city of convicts, would be enough tension to drive any prisoner insane.  They were constantly monitored, but it was all done remotely.  If something went wrong in a convict city, it would take years to travel to the asteroid in the early days.

It was clear that something had gone wrong here.

Jabin was the first to puke.  He was a researcher.  He wasn’t some grand space cowboy, travelling the open sectors.  This was the furthest he’d ever been away from home; as far as he knew convict cities were a myth.  Opening the door to go beneath the surface, three long decayed bodies fell out, one touching Jabin.  His puke covered the corpse.

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upon writing a novel

a few days ago, self-friend Ariah posted a blog about November being National Novel Writing Month.  I've been meaning to get some more writing out of my system, and the encouragement of knowing there are hundreds of people doing the same thing at the same time has led me to bite the bullet (hooray for mob mentality!). The goal for myself, Ariah, and hundreds of other people is to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.  I'm not sure if I'm doing this for the creative/social experience or because I (apparently) love punishment so much. This is also one of the reasons I posted the short story yesterday.  Translating the comic script i wrote a few months ago into a short story was a test to see how much I could write during lunch.  The short story was written over two 45-minute periods... the story is 1900 words long, so I should be able to average 1000 words an hour.  At that rate, I would need to work at least an hour and forty minutes a day. Oh, why did i just break that down to myself like that. Other November projects: 1) Be a good husband 2) Run with the dogs at least twice a week 3) Work a full time job 4) Develop and lead lessons for our small group 5) Finish up my Intro to Future Studies Master's class 6) Develop Nathan Jey's website 7) Film and edit a wedding 8) Finish Halo 3 (only one level left!) Yup, I'm a glutton for punishment.  There might be some occasional updates here on the blog, or even some sample chapters and what not.  Please take some time to comment on them... I'll need some encouragement during this sprint/marathon of writing!
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the sun was jealous of the moon (comic script version)

Page 1

Journal:  My name is Carlos, and I am the last living human.

Over the shoulder view from Carlos on the moon looking at a scorched, destroyed Earth.

 

Pages 2 & 3

Journal:  I had a beautifully horrific view of the destruction.  The Sun set out a solar flare that was immense, like a whip trailing across our little Universe.  When the flare made contact with Earth, it was with such precision one might have thought the Sun was jealous of the moon’s eternal dance with our world.  The flare cracked upon the Earth, destroying it.  I saw it all happen; I watched the destruction of my homeworld happen in a flash, before humanity had a chance to say a prayer.

 

Page 4

Journal:  Life as the final human has been surprisingly mundane.  I have enough rations to last another three years, so I won’t be dying anytime soon.  Unless, of course, I decide to release the oxygen tanks.  I’ve thought about it.

 I spent a week burying each of my companions.  They didn’t last very long out here.  We never got along too well anyhow.  Who am I writing this for?

Page 5

Carlos sitting on a moon rock, playing tic-tac-toe against himself.  In the distance we see some objects in the sky, flying towards the moon.  Carlos notices them, as they get closer, and starts to run.

 

Page 6

Spalsh page of Carlos running, with human bodies slamming the moon all around him.

 

Page 7

Carlos takes cover under the his moon base/ship and the bodies start to slow down.

Carlos speaking: Bodies.

 

Page 8 & 9

Carlos begins to walk around the bodies, inspecting them.

Carlos:  Hello?  Is anyone alive?

Carlos: Mary? Dad?

Carlos: Oh please, someone be alive.  Please, what’s your name? Please?

Carlos falls weeping on a charred body.

 

Page 10

Carlos looks up.

Carlos: Thank you, God.

We see the shadow of a person walking towards Carlos.

Calros: Please be real, please be real

We get a close up of a hand touching Carlos’s spacesuit, where his chin would be… the hand seems to be on fire.

 

Page 11

Splash page of the female personification of the Sun.  Well… Carlos’s delusion of the personification of the sun.

Sun: Hello, Carlos.  I’ve come to save you.

Carlos: Save me?

Sun: I love you, Carlos.  I am the Sun, and I take what I want.

Carlos: Why me?

 

Page 12-13

Conversation between the Sun and Carlos

Sun: There were too many humans.  I just wanted you, Carlos.

Carlos: But I’m no one special.  Why am I the last to live?

Sun: You’re a survivor, Carlos.  You must be special if you still live.  Don’t you love me?

Carlos: Love you?

Sun: Yes, Carlos.  Love me. You’re the last human to live… surely you know what love is.  Surely you want to love and be loved.  Isn’t that what humanity is all about?

The Sun begins to walk away.

Carlos:  Please don’t let me die alone.

Sun:  Come love me, Carlos.

 

Page 14

Carlos walks on the charred bodies, trying to follow the Sun who is walking out of the atmosphere toward the real Sun.  We see a smile on Carlos’s face.

 

Page 15

Carlos is in his ship, strapping in.  We see him at the controls, preparing for take off.  The ship lifts off

 

Page 16

Carlos’s ship is drifting towards the sun.

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May I talk about Robots? (Spoiler: the answer is "No")

This post will set the tone for the next two years of my life.

But first, I have to say how much I appreciate the team over at threadsmedia.com.  They are doing a great ministry over there, trying to be honest about faith and life and trying to sort out what it means to be a Christian in today’s world.  They’ve let me play in their sandbox as an almost “adjunct” team member going to (some) team meeting and posting my thoughts on the blog.  I always want to add to the conversation and add to their ministry, never detract from it.  And that’s why I’m OK with this:

A blog post of mine was recently taken down.

The official reason is that it was off-topic from the direction the blog has been heading.  I’m ok with that.  The post (which we’ll get to in a few lines) was definitely an experiment and, honestly, not my best work.  It is more the kernel of an idea… the thoughts that I’m struggling with right now.

The intent of the blog at threadsmedia is to talk about our reactions to things that happen in life.  My post was my reaction to something I read that really hit home with me and I thought would be a great way to open up a new conversation for the readership of threadsmedia to discuss.

Ironically, I did not put the post on this blog for two reasons:

1)      I wanted to start diversifying my writing between what goes on here, threads, and my readingthebible blog.

2)      The post was written with the threads audience in mind, introducing them to my struggles in life with a topic that most people who know me personally (i.e. the readership of this blog) probably already know.

 Without further ado, the lost post of Aaron on threadsmedia.com:

***  May I talk about Robots? It was recently announced by Tennessee Congressman Zach Wamp and Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Doyle that, starting in September, there will be a congressional caucus to learn about robots.  This… could be big. As robots get more and more pervasive in society, it’s important that we begin to try and figure out what the ethics and morals are for them.  Eventually, their artificial intelligence will match/exceed our own.  As robots move past being our vacuum cleaners or pets and become integrated into society, life as we know it will quickly change.So, now that the American government is waking up to the realization that there is something to discuss here, shouldn’t we as the church begin to sort out our thoughts? What happens to us, morally, if someone write some bit of code that gives robots true feelings?  Are we morally obligated to them? What happens when some software is finally written that doesn’t need to be rebooted and can stay on forever, learning and thinking… do we have a right to take out its batteries?  Are we to hold true to Asimov’s three laws… or does that essentially make these robots little more than slaves? I don’t have any kind of answer for any of this yet.  But I want to explore it.  Shouldn’t the church and all our visionaries begin to enter this conversation?  Is this something that we need to be involved in, or do we trust that this is some subject the government can handle on it’s own? How do we as Christians begin to work through our morals and spirits to something so absent of life yet so full of potential? ***

So… it’s not my best work nor is it a fully-realized document at all.  To me, the ideas presented there are more like saying “hey, there’s a thing called an iceberg” moreso than studying what’s a mile or two deep into the iceberg… let alone 100 miles deep.

This conversation, however, is so far off the norm for typical spiritual conversation that it looks odd and out of place on the threadsmedia blog.  Like I said – I’m not at all upset, wounded, or disappointed with the choice to take it down.  I get it.  I understand the reasons and fully support it.  I’ll keep on writing for the blog and be honored and amazed that they even let me have a login.

My struggle is coming down the line, though.  I’ll be seeking people to have these kinds of conversations with and I’m not sure where to have them.  I’m genuinely concerned for the Church of America that is blind to what’s happening around us in regards to science, biology, culture and, well, the future.

And so, this August, I will begin working through the University of Houston’s Studies of the Future Master’s Program under the tutelage of Dr. Peter Bishop.  I hope to join the conversation of contemporary futurists and help shape culture there.  I hope there’s a place for me in the conversation of the Church to figure out how we are to react to changes in culture that are coming.  I pray that I’ll still be loved an accepted by my Southern Baptist brethren as my words and ideas might be new.

I know that there are struggles coming for me.  It’s going to be hard to walk the line between being informative and helping change lives with my studies and not sounding like an eccentric sci-fi author.  Taking this new knowledge and translating it into some kind of text or study will have to be prompted by the Holy Spirit because I don’t know how to approach it.

I want to talk about synthetic life and what it means for Creation.  I want to talk about gay bomb warfare and what it means for sexuality.  I want to talk turning off DNA, installing auditory nerve implants and I want to talk about whether or not turning off robots is morally ok for a Christ-follower.

I’m excited to start the futurist program at UH as it will give me an opportunity to have these conversations and, just maybe, gleam some insight as to what it means for us spiritually.  Maybe one day God will grant me some nugget of wisdom worth imparting so some listening audience, somewhere.  And perhaps, just by chance, I might get to talk about robots.

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