Books to Movies… And Back Again…

When The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came out in the fall of 2012, I was excited. I had just finished reading the book a few weeks before the movie debuted. It was the opposite case with The Lord of the Rings; I actually watched the movies before I read the books. I didn’t want that with The Hobbit.

I’m usually that guy who points out what did or did not happen in the book when watching a book-movie. Sometimes I’m sort of a snob, especially if it’s a book I really enjoyed. Yet there’s something I’ve come to notice about how I treat the book-movie genre: I’m expecting the producers/writers/directors to follow every bit of every detail to the letter. For one thing, it’d be a ridiculously long movie (perhaps why The Lord of the Rings movies were so long?). For another, even if the book was followed in every detail and was of reasonable length (you know, like no more than ten hours?), it still wouldn’t do the book justice.

Why?

It wouldn’t do the book justice because when one reads a text, one’s imagination is engaged and creates a world no one else could even come close to. That’s why I love reading fiction; because it causes me to create a world no one has ever seen before (maybe God?). Sure, the author sets the scenes, describes the characters, but the exact shapes, sizes, and appearance of everything is totally different through my imagination. Perhaps not far off the mark, but completely different nonetheless.

Another thing that I’ve seen happen when I get all bent out of shape about the movie making alterations to the book is I tend to miss out on the story being told from the movie-writer’s perspective. Think of the Gospels; we all might assume that they’re telling the same story just from a different perspective, but they actually aren’t. Sometimes there are subtle differences and other times there are major differences. But there is no question in my mind that after a good side-by-side comparison, I know that because I read John it doesn’t mean I also read Matthew.

Every time a writer receives a cool story (or really any story) and goes to put it to paper, they change things. They add in characters (like Legolas being in The Hobbit) or completely alter the setting of the story (Blue Like Jazz: Don’s an undergrad living in Reed College’s dorms instead of auditing a few classes). Whatever the change may have been, it was changed for a reason. Either they were short on time, or they’re trying to say something through the change – like Legolas helping to foreshadow The Lord of the Rings or Don the college kid possibly being more relatable to a broader audience.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to seek out the book before I watch the movie. But when it comes time to watch that movie, I think I’d be better off recognizing the differences and trying to figure out the creative purposes of those changes – instead of pretentiously pointing out to my friends that I can read.

Believe it or not, creativity is not limited to any book. Instead, it’s everywhere where a story takes place. We might actually enjoy a little more in life if we listened to the story – even if it bears the same title as our beloved book.

Four Years Old Today…

In the spring of ’07, I started an electronic journal in my dorm room at the University of Oregon. Right around the same time (perhaps a few months later), I started writing Facebook notes. Much of what I write in my electronic journal (it’s a Word document) is what I’ve been emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually processing and when I started posting some those entries on Facebook, I soon found out that there was always somebody else processing the same stuff. On October 4th, 2009, I launched this blog.

I turned it into a blog to help open up various ways of connecting with people. After writing a few posts, I quickly discovered other bloggers writing about similar stuff or stuff that I hadn’t thought about. Seeing many other people processing the same stuff that I was went a long way in telling me that I’m not alone. This, of course, led me to recognize that none of us is alone.

Online communities will never replace the authenticity of in-person communities – like your local church, Bible study, book club, or even your workplace. Yet what online communities enable – via blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and plenty of other social media sites – is a space for people to share their thoughts, beliefs, and questions (in no particular order) in their own time. You don’t have to wait until your next Bible study to ask a question about Jesus or share whatever it is that God has brought you through. I’m not saying the internet is going to have all the answers, but I can say that it opens up the possibility of discussion. And more than likely, you’ll find someone who’s been where you are before.

Above all else, what I have found to be most beneficial from blogging is the depth of therapy in the act of writing. You see, journaling goes a long way to allow the individual to process the things around him or her. But until those thoughts are shared in community, the individual will remain as such: an individual. They will never hear what we all need to hear at some point in our lives: “Me, too.”

As I said above, blogging (and online communities in general) will never take the place of face-to-face meetings (Skype and Face Time kind of help, but being physically present is most essential). Yet in the last four years, I’ve seen how blogging has helped enhance those face-to-face meetings. It has helped formalize my thoughts and feelings so that I can more clearly and succinctly talk things out with my various in-person communities. And it has taught me that there are plenty of other people who’ve had similar experiences in life (growing up without a father, having suicidal thoughts, seeing your church community evaporate, etc.), but processed them differently.

All I can really say on my blog’s fourth birthday is that I would not be where I am without it. It makes me excited for what’s to come (especially being at George Fox Evangelical Seminary). I’m excited for the things I’ll learn and the people I’ll meet. I’m excited for the communities I’ll grow with. And I’m especially excited to see what God is going to do through it all.

Writing goes a long way to help the introvert and extrovert in their walk with Jesus.

Thanks for reading and God bless!

Blogging When Busy…

It was slightly alarming to see that I haven’t written a post since June 8th. Two weeks would have been more understandable, but three? Just ridiculous.

A couple things have happened since then, though. I started reading a lot more, which took time away from writing. And I also took up a second job working for the Eugene Emeralds as part of their grounds crew, which took time away from both reading and writing. With July right around the corner, I now have to make sure I have a place to live in Portland before I start school in September. I’m a little hard pressed to find time to write these days.

Yet it’s no excuse. I love to do it – partially because it seems to encourage others and mostly because it helps process things I learn from the Lord. And while journaling goes a long way, putting something into a blog takes a little extra effort. I can’t sit down, spill out all my thoughts, and expect people to understand. Virginia Woolf was good at that, but I don’t think I am.

Instead, I have to edit and rephrase. I have to say it out loud as I write it to make sure it sounds understandable (this is especially fun at Starbucks when I’m sitting alone). As my good friend Tyler once told me, I can’t just throw a bunch of letters on a document and see what sticks. Every word, sentence, and paragraph is there because I chose to put it there.

I say all this to point out that finding time to write is more than finding a mere hour there or half hour here. It’s finding a solid several hours without any other obligation to work on my craft – to fine-tune it to make it the best I possibly can. It sounds tedious and boring, but I love it. Because at the end of it all, when I see the post fully written, edited, and published on my blog, I don’t simply feel productive; I feel satisfaction in having to work hard and work well to create something.

What these last three weeks have taught me is that blogging in seminary is going to be tough. Not only will I be a full time student; I’ll also be working at least part time, which means there’ll be little time for much else. Strangely enough, though, I’m excited about all of this. I’m excited about spending hours upon hours studying and reading and then turning around to go to work. I’m excited about experiencing life in the largest city I will have ever lived in. I’m excited about taking a plunge into something that fully engages me. Such an experience will need to be processed, which means I will have to blog at some point.

A lot is going to change in the coming months and every bit of it is exciting. Despite how busy it will be, I want to commit to writing posts in here partially because they encourage others, partially because it helps me process things, and mostly because it honors God to practice the talents and gifts we’ve been given. It doesn’t matter how busy life gets; if you aren’t doing what you love (even if you aren’t getting paid for it), then you’re doing it wrong.

On to more posts!

God bless.

Accepted…

Most job interviews I’ve been in have been awkward, especially group interviews. People stutter, nervously tap their shoes, or have something stuck in their hair when they walk in (you know who you are). Wednesday’s group interview was incredibly different, for none of us was applying for a job; we were applying for school.

George Fox Evangelical Seminary was one of the first schools I had thought about back in ’09 and ’10 when I was figuring out my future. Of course back then I was also considering law school, but due to terrible LSAT scores, I wisely gave up that pipe dream. And in the fifth year of undergrad studies, I had the opportunity to take two more Religious Studies classes with my favorite professor, Daniel Falk, who not only wrote me a letter of recommendation to George Fox, but also thought seminary would be a good fit for me.

During those classes I read material, participated in group discussions, and wrote more than I ever have before for any of my English classes. It was stressful, uncomfortable, and nerve-wracking, but I loved every bit of it. When that winter term was over, Dr. Falk invited both of those classes (totaling maybe 20 people, tops, with three overlap students – myself included) to his house for dinner to celebrate a fun term. We watched The Life of Bryan with side commentary from Dr. Falk and ate Yumm bowls, which were surprisingly delicious. Afterwards we talked church, theology, and Scripture and it was then that I truly knew what I wanted to do next: Seminary.

At approximately 11:30 Thursday morning I received an email from one Sheila Bartlet, admissions counselor for George Fox Seminary, congratulating me on my acceptance to the Seminary for this fall. Even though it has been two full days since that email, it is still sinking in. An idea I had in the fall of ’09 has now become a reality; I’m going to be a seminarian. I have the opportunity of a lifetime waiting for me right around the corner. With a few more forms to fill out and some finances to gather together, the only thing I really need to do between now and September 2nd is show up. Somehow, I am dumbfounded by this.

And yet I have never been more excited about attending school and I know that the excitement will only increase the closer we get to September (I’ve always been one of those weird kids who gets excited about school not for seeing all my friends again or getting new clothes – though they’re a part of it – but for the new pencils, paper, backpacks, and other school supplies. I am a nerd. I was born that way). While the excitement is a great thing, I know (and hope) that this will be the most challenging academic environment I have ever been in. I will read, discuss, and write more than I did in those two classes with Falk or really with all the classes I’ve ever taken combined. Whatever social life I did have, especially on Facebook, will probably be non-existent. Yet I believe there will be one more thing, something I noticed while in the interview on Wednesday: Belonging.

Unlike any interview I’ve ever been in, I felt comfortable in that interview. I mean I still stuttered, tapped my toes, and I’m pretty sure something was in my hair, but none of those things kept me from being engaged in the discussion of the group surrounding me. I felt more than focused; I felt as though I was where I belonged.

A little under three months remain between now and September 2nd and there is a lot I need to prepare for: moving, finances, a potential car change, and refreshing my mind on the things I’ve studied with Falk. All that to say there might be fewer posts in July and August, but there also might be more posts because I tend to write more when I’m reading more. Those posts might also become more theologically and/or Scripturally based due to my reading material. But I hope to keep writing no matter what – even through Seminary – on the things God teaches me and leads me through. Some grow by talking about it; I grow by writing about it.

What I cannot help but acknowledge is how this feels like a major accomplishment, which it is, but it is only the beginning. It’s going to be tough and my mental, emotional, and spiritual endurance will be tested again and again at greater levels than it has before. But I believe I’m ready for it.

Thank you to everyone who helped encourage me in this pursuit, despite it taking me at least two years to finally do. Your encouragement, however small you might have thought it, proved to be enormous because it kept me thinking about it. It kept me asking God about it, which is always what encouragement should beckon one to do: seek God.

God bless.

Story Intro…

Here is a short excerpt from a story I began writing tonight (this morning? It’s that awkward period when I’m still awake from Saturday, but technically it’s Sunday). I thought I’d post it and see what everyone’s thoughts were as to where they think the story is going, if it should be a novel or short story, what they think it’s about, or any other thoughts that come to mind when reading. Hope you enjoy and please feel free to leave comments, questions, and concerns. Thanks!

Richard loved his wife.

Amidst the trembling, tears, and dust flowing around the attic air, he could hear his own breathing. And foot steps. Heavy foot steps. Lots of them. All slowly pacing around the wooden floor beneath Richard. He dared not to even move his arm lest one of the floor boards beneath him shift with him and he be discovered. A bead of sweat, mixing with the dust and blood on his face, slowly traveled down the side of his left brow, curling with his cheekbone, and making its way to his jawline. Every nerve in his body sought to wipe the sweat away, but terror of the men below him stayed his hands.

And then it fell.

Right through the floor boards.

Landing squarely in the middle of the search party.

The heavy footsteps stopped.

Richard started shaking – hoping they wouldn’t look up. He prayed to whatever God or gods he could, asking for deliverance, asking to be a free man. Unbeknownst to him, his body, curled up between the attic stairs and a storage chest, started rocking back and forth. With his head bowed and eyes closed, he dreamed of what once was – decades past. He dreamed of a time when Elizabeth and he were free to roam, free to travel, to read, to write, to love. He dreamed of a time when he could stand toe-to-toe to anyone who threatened her or their life together. He dreamed of a time when he was half the man who now cowered in the attic of his own home.

Elizabeth’s scream stirred his dreams.

Eyes now opened, body trembling, heart near stopping, Richard listened as the men below him dragged Elizabeth – his wife, his beloved – from hiding. Hearing her struggle, her feet kicking to and fro, he nearly opened the stairs. He nearly dropped down to free her. He nearly became half the man he once was.

She screamed all the way out the door, through the fields surrounding their home, and on out of range of Richard’s ears. His head now rested against the storage chest, eyes staring into dark places of imagination. What were they doing to her? Worse yet, what were they planning on doing to her? He could still breathe and his heart still beat, but death was claiming him. It was claiming the part of a man that stands against evil, that dares to risk one’s life and limbs to see justice done and peace restored. Yes, death was claiming the better part of him. His body now leaned against the chest. It moved.

“He’s upstairs!”

Initial Thoughts After One Day of Only-Phone Calls…

I didn’t make many phone calls today. Of course, when your sole objective for the day is to get your room clean (something I did not accomplish), you don’t really need to talk to people. But I noticed something about the few phone calls I did make and it’s something that I’m going to have to guard myself against.

My brother sent me a text reminding me of an upcoming phone bill, but he used a particular phrase that I paused over for a bit. He said, “When you’re up for it, we’ll talk…” I know that he meant it in a way of saying, “when you’re free,” but my comfort zone’s lawyer whispered, “He said, ‘When you’re up for it,’ well you don’t have to be up for it right now; you can be ‘busy’ with something…”

The whole point behind my decision to only call people for one month (at least, maybe longer) was to challenge myself in vocally engaging people. I had today off and apart from cleaning my room and heading over to Barnes & Noble, I had nothing planned. The only way for me to have been “busy” with something was if my room-cleaning had somehow distracted me from my phone or if my car had exploded. What did I do? Shirking the comfort-zone mentality, I called my brother.

What I’m finding a little unnerving is that this was only day one; there are 30 days (at least) left to go. If I’m already avoiding calling people, then I’ve already lost in this challenge. There’d be no point to keep going with something I already lost at. And I can’t even imagine how I’d feel if this had been a New Year’s resolution; it’d be a long year for sure.

In short, today was a success, but had potential of becoming a failure. I made nothing but phone calls, finished reading a book, wrote in my journal, and now have written a blog. In regards to my resolutions, I’m (thankfully) off to a good start (except that asking-a-girl-out part). But today was day one; it’s time to put my head down and commit to the long-haul.

God bless!

(And kudos to Sierra for also having a successful day!)

Seeking A Better 2013

After seeing 2012’s annual report for my blog, I’ve gotten a stronger urge to write. The problem I’m finding, and it’s a bit of a challenge for next year, is that I’m not sure what to write about. In most cases, I follow where the inspiration leads, but it gets really difficult when there isn’t any inspiration. In the spirit of new year’s resolutions, I thought I’d come up with one specifically for this blog.

I’d like to say that even though I’ve written awesome posts, I’d like to write even more awesome posts in 2013. But, sadly, I can’t promise anything. What I can strive for, though, is a deeper honesty. In a writing class I took two years ago, we were taught to ask after every piece what it cost us, as in, what about this piece is uncomfortable to share? How much of myself is spent in what I share through here?

This is my one breaking point with many blogging and writing jobs; they want content created for the sake of having content created. What I’m compelled to do, however, is to write something somewhat meaningful – posts that cost me something to write. I just don’t like my words being empty, void of emotion and substance.

And yet, with as much of an internal urge or desire to write as I’ve had in recent weeks, I feel the challenge of writing in a greater frequency – like, instead of four or five posts a month, maybe ten or twelve. Having a challenge like this before me, though, forces me to write even without inspiration. And when inspiration isn’t available, I have nothing left to turn to except for honesty. If my goal, then, is to write more posts, they’ll likely have to be written with more honesty.

As my recent post posed the challenge of more intentional communication, this post poses the challenge of doing more stuff. Inspiration is rare, honesty less rare, and more activity even less rare. What I mean is, I can help my quantity by simply doing more. Going to more events in town, being involved more with ministries, or simply hanging out with friends – no matter what it is that I might commit myself to, if it involves doing more and getting out of the apartment more, it won’t hurt the writing.

My overall goal with this blog going into 2013 is to push myself with writing. It’s been a while since I listened to him, but a few years ago, Nelly remade a song title, “Heart of a Champion.” One line from that song that has always stuck with me is, “I push myself to the limit so my talent [will] surface.” Or in other words, the only way to run the fastest is to run more often.

What will this blog look like in 2013? At this point, I can’t tell. I’m striving for more honesty and more frequency, but I don’t know what that’ll look like. It depends on what I do and what the Lord presses on me. All I know is that on the brink of 2014, I don’t want to be looking back wishing I had challenged myself more. I want to look back feeling satisfied that I gave it my all, that I spent more than I was comfortable with.

God bless.

P.S. I’d like to take a moment and thank my readers. You’re the reason I write and whatever success I’ve had in the past or may have in the future is owed to you. And Nate, you’re awesome!

Also, Brian Schaudt was here.

Happy New Year!