Sketchbook #1: Two Different Skies (prose)

It was the kind of night you could look up and see two different skies.

The first sky – the real sky – the far away sky – was at the top. It was the deep velvet violet everyone thinks about when they think about night skies between a fading warm spring and an impending hot summer. No diamond stars, just soft and deep rumination.

The other sky – the clouds, really – the closer sky – laid at the bottom. Just as soft but more overbearing, looming than the first sky. Spectral gray palates singed with halogen orange from suburban streetlights.

The wind was warm, too; hearty branches on lurching trees leaned back and forth anxiously. Leaves’ pale undersides carry the second sky – turning over, they carry the dark of the first sky, and they can’t decide for themselves, and the wind has better things to do.

To feel angry like heat lightning flicker with no rain for relief. To be too inadequate to rest and too apathetic to try.

To know God’s presence and not believe. To know his love and not obey.

To know His love and not obey.

To smolder.

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The Devil At Work (a poem)

Most people think that the devil at work
is a creature with horns, a red cape, and a fork
that sneaks up behind us and tells us to sin
whenever we’re tempted to stumble again.

That could be the case if the devil were God
and was at one time everywhere and abroad
and actually used all the power we give him
instead of the fear in which he has been livin’.

But all our mistakes and the folly we live in
result from the chances we think we’ve been given
and choices we make when we try to be level;
the devil just doesn’t have time to be “devil.”

The devil at work isn’t worth the explorin’ –
our pride and our lust will do all the work for him.

This image shows a crowd of people in a movie theater watching a movie.

I’m Tired of Bashing Christian Movies

I like bashing Christians movies. It makes me feel like I’m actually doing something good when tell others what I honestly think about them, with no grace in my heart at all. I want to “save” people from having a bad experience like I did, so I do whatever I can to win others from seeing such films.

It started back in the late winter of 2014 with the release of the cut-copied-and-pasted-from-the-History-Channel Son of God. Then the Spring of 2014 with the release of the landmark God’s Not Dead. Later in that very same Spring saw the release of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah as well as Heaven Is For Real (although some would argue that the former of those two is not a Christian film…an arguable sentiment, but valid).

After a summer of phenomenal blockbusters came the gem that is known as Believe Me (which you need to see right now if you haven’t already). The Year of the Christian Film at last closed out with Ridley Scott’s so-so interpretation of the Exodus account entitled Exodus: Gods and Kings.

2015 looked promising with the release of Old Fashioned,  but that hope quickly fizzled out with Do You Believe?Since another summer full of high-octane action and adventure has come to a close, War Room has come out, and I tried showing a little grace in withholding what I really thought about it and sharing only the positive side.

But after hearing that God’s Not Dead 2 is now in the works and is slated for release in Spring 2016, I am preparing for another opportunity to bash it and rip it to shreds. Because I know what’s going to be. It’s going to be the same old plot line of someone who believes in God coming face to face with someone who doesn’t.

It’ll be the same old storytellers telling the same old story of “perseverance in trials” and “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me” and the protagonist will come out on top after having defeated the angry atheist.

Then the epilogue will be at the same old concert, and the same old celebrity cameo will urge the audience of the concert (and, by the transitive property, the audience of the film, too) to text their friends that “God’s not dead” (except this time, they’ll have to do it twice…because it’s a sequel…eh? eh?).

Gather ’round, kids; Uncle Brenden’s gonna learn ya something about Art:

  • Art is one part Content and one part Form.
  • The Content is the Message that the Artist is trying to communicate to an Audience.
  • The Form is the Medium by which that Content is delivered to that Audience.

My discontent with Christian films, then, is not with their Content but with their Form. Because I can and most often do agree with the Message of such films – that is, I agree with the Content – but that Message is unfortunately tainted by the Medium by which it is communicated to the Audience.

That Form could be a weak character development – like a one-sided college professor – or a cliché plot narrative – like making all the main characters of a film come together in only one, too brief moment; whatever the case, I find it unsettling and a waste of my time.

But I need to face the reality that some other people actually like these films. Some other people are actually encouraged by the Message of these films no matter how diluted by the Medium they may or may not be. Some people can actually look past the Forms of this Art and see and understand the Content for what it really is.

That this outlook on films is so indicative of how I should be as a Christian astounds me. If I can’t support a film or any other piece of Art because I only focused on the outward Form as opposed to considering the inward Content, what does that say about how I deal with people? That I’m too alienated by the Form of a fellow brother or sister to even be bothered with considering their inward Content? That’s definitely not how I want God to judge me.

Next Spring, I’ll the opportunity to bash another same old Christian movie; or, next Spring, I’ll have the opportunity to exhibit a little grace in expressing my subjective opinions and withholding my condemnations, find something good in that film (even if I have to dig and stretch), and be a little more like Christ when it comes to engaging the culture.

Water Lillies by Claude Monet

Painting (a poem)

Painting…
up and down
up…and down…
up…and down…
up…and down…

Painting…
long and even strokes
long…and even…
long…and even…
long…she’s pretty

Painting…
long and even strokes, covering the canvas…
covering…the canvas…
covering…the canvas…
covering…she’s beautiful

Painting…
long and even strokes covering the canvas
adding vibrant color to a lifeless frame
mixing the colors for the perfect match
stirring the substance of soul…
the substance…of soul…
the substance…of soul…
the substance…she’s a good dancer, too
we even like the same music…common ground

Painting…
long and even strokes in the same direction,
not sloppy with indifference,
but slow enough to savor and fast enough to deliver.
fast enough…to deliver…
fast enough…to deliver…
fast enough…she just said that she was single.

single…I wonder…no…should I?
I might…I’m single, too…
should I be subtle…and romantic…and coy…
should I be the jerk who always gets the girl…
should I do it now…
no…others would gossip…
but that doesn’t matter…not really…
that’s them, not me…
not now…but I will…

Painting…
animating the blank, emotionless panels
and breathing life through the brush
giving them love
Giving them…love…
Giving them…love…
Giving them…she just said she wanted
to stay single for a while.

Painting…
up and down…
up…and down…
up…and down…
up…and down…

Painting…
long and even strokes.
long…and even…
Long…that’s fine with me…
I’d rather her be happy without me…
than her be unhappy with me…
as long as I get to spend time with her…
and even…

Painting…
stirring the substance…
I don’t mind waiting…
of soul…
and down…

I Didn’t Understand the Need for Pop Culture—Until I Read the Bible

Christians who don’t want to engage in popular culture for fear of “conforming to the world” might want to read this (bearing in mind Paul’s advice in “becoming all things to all people so as to save some.”)

TIME

Brian Grasso, a freshman at Duke University, started a discussion this week when he published an op-ed in the Washington Post defending his decision to not read Fun Home, a critically acclaimed graphic novel included on the school’s recommended reading list for incoming freshman. One of several students who refused to read the novel, Grasso explains his decision by quoting the Bible:

Jesus forbids his followers from exposing themselves to anything pornographic. “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he says in Matthew 5:28-29. “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.” This theme is reiterated by Paul who warns, “flee from sexual immorality.”

The problem with this argument is that it equates Fun Home, an award-winning novel written by Alison Bechdel, a MacArthur Genius Award recipient…

View original post 685 more words

This photo was taken by Michael Hull and is available through Unsplash.com.

Driving in the Moonlight (a poem)

my generation drives in the moonlight
of faith filtered by fallacious fear
of hope held down by hollowed histrionics
of love lost in the limbo of legality

illumination without demonstration
memorization without externalization
catechism without asceticism
reading a heap without feeding the sheep
knowing a need without sowing the seed
faith without works – and it hurts

we cry because nothing grows in the moonlight
we have just enough sight to see the path
and just enough height to hit the gas
but we can’t commit to letting God drive

we have to check our headlights and our tail lights
our engine light between every stop light
to provide new cars for our future security
never minding how hot the radiator runs
never minding the thought that rarely ever comes
works without faith – and it isn’t safe

my generation drives in the moonlight
we think we have to go somewhere nice
and we think we have to do something good
but we don’t want to wait for the Son.

Stories

Here’s a collection of my original stories (if you couldn’t guess that by the title).

The Parable of the Content Man

Written in a folktale style (and intended to be performed with a live audience), this story is about the lives of three men: one who is rich and wants everything, one who is poor and wants anything, and one who is content and needs nothing.

The Gray Lady

A newlywed couple has moved into a new house, but a past resident doesn’t want to share anything, especially a specific golden locket. (WINNER of an annual ghost story contest hosted by our newspaper the Shelbyville Times-Gazette.)

Hold Your Breath

Two kids explore a graveyard only to find that Old Lady Dour – buried days ago – isn’t staying down for long. (Submission to that same contest on another year…this one didn’t even place, but I think it’s okay.)

This is a photograph of a wheat field taken by Cole Patrick.

Let Them Grow Together (a poem)

A man said that weeds were showing on the plain
ingrained with the seeds and growing with the grain.
The Creator, up on high, is throwing down the rain,
and we, later, low with sigh, are hoeing in a chain
these weeds of malfunction. We’re sowing with a strain
of deeds of destruction while mowing with the pain.
“Don’t uproot them now, as you’re knowing in your brain,
but let them grow together – as if flowing – as if twain –
and when the harvest comes, burn the chaff, save the grain.”


A poetic reiteration of the Jesus’s Parable of the Weeds as found in Matthew 13:24-30.

This is a photograph by Chelsea Francis that features the lower half of a woman tying her shoes.

The Meek Shall Indulge (a poem)

She said it like I perceived what she was
talking about: “the meek shall indulge.”
She then bereaved how meek she was,
how weak she was, how unique she was.
I then conceived how chic she was,
how sleek she was, how freak she was;
I heard her – and I couldn’t believe she was
talking about another lover she’s indulged.

This is an image of a hollow tree.

More or Less (a poem)

Is anybody right anymore?
Can anybody say the right thing anymore?
Can anybody do the right thing anymore?
Can anybody stand up for the right thing anymore?

More or less.

Will anybody fight anymore?
Can anybody keep the fight up anymore?
Can anybody let the fight down anymore?
Can anybody stand up and fight back anymore?

More or less.

Is anybody light anymore?
Can anybody leave the light on anymore?
Can anybody turn the light out anymore?
Can anybody let their own light shine anymore?

Moral-less.