What The Indian Removal Act of 1830 Can Teach Us About The Syrian Refugees

Millions of refugees from Syria are flooding Europe and tens of thousands are potentially headed to the United States. Concerns over terrorists posing as refugees to gain access to western countries has reached a fevered pitch, especially in light of the horrific attacks in Paris, France last week. Even the FBI director has said that we aren’t able to vet these people to know who is safe and who isn’t. And so the question has become whether or not to allow any Syrian refugees into our country for fear that we may be letting terrorists in.

Social media is currently awash with Christians making posts and linking to articles that show us how the Bible tells us to take care of the poor and oppressed. While I don’t disagree with these sentiments, whether or not Syrian refugees are allowed into this country has nothing to do with Christianity. Our government has consistently demonstrated that it doesn’t care about the Christian world view when it comes to policy decisions.

A good example of this is the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Christian missionaries living among the Cherokee people protested President Andrew Jackson’s plan to remove the Indians to land west of the Mississippi river.  The most famous opponent was Jeremiah Evarts who worked tirelessly to fight Indian removal but ultimately died of tuberculosis in 1831. And with him died the hope of stopping President Jackson.

Looking back at that time in American history, President Jackson’s efforts to remove the Indians is universally condemned. Jackson’s own correspondence shows that he struggled with the moral implications of his actions. But for Jackson, the decision came down to one of national security and not morality.

At the age of 14, Andrew Jackson became an orphan. His father had died just before he was born and his brothers died in the Revolutionary War while Jackson’s mother succumbed to illness while treating wounded soldiers. Jackson had seen many Native American tribes side with the British in the Revolutionary War.

In the War of 1812, once again many Native tribes sided with the British and Creek Indians massacred a settlement of whites near Jackson’s home in Tennessee. He had become a Major General in the Tennessee militia and was tasked with leading a force to subdue the Creek Indians. After that success he became a Major General of U.S Volunteers and traveled south to defend New Orleans and that is where his national notoriety took hold after his major victory at the Battle of New Orleans.

So how is this relevant to the question of Indian removal and Syrian Refugees? President Jackson was a product of his time. He saw in Native tribes side with Great Britain in the Revolutionary War and again in 1812 he witnessed the same thing but in his home state of Tennessee. To the south in Florida he saw the Seminole Indians side with the French/Spanish against the United States. In Jackson’s mind, the Native Americans represented a national security risk by allowing them to stay so close to white settlements. He had seen how, given the opportunity, Native Americans would more often than not take up arms against the United States. And so, 20 years later President Jackson used his power to remove them.

Southern plantation owners may have pushed for Indian removal because they wanted their land and Christian missionaries fought against it on moral grounds. But President Jackson made his decision based on what he perceived to be a national security risk that was based on the world view that his life experience had created.

Similarly, Americans here in the 21st century have had our worldview shaped by the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. The deep scars left on our nation from that day have and will continue to shape this era of American history. Those attacks carried out by Muslim terrorists were not the first nor last time that Muslims have attacked this country, it was just the most successful and spectacular in scope. In fact, the first attacks by Muslims against Americans dates all the way back to the late 18th century when Muslim pirates would attack American merchant ships and enslave the crew.

The point is that our history of coming under attack from Muslim terrorists has shaped our collective world view to be wary of people coming from Muslim regions of the world. Just like President Andrew Jackson and many of his contemporaries did not trust the Native Americans because of the actions of a few tribes, we live in a world where we’ve been given many examples of some Muslims who will kill without remorse anyone who is not Muslim. Is it an admirable worldview? History will probably say it isn’t but we are a product of our times.

Ultimately, the number of Syrian refugees that enter this country will be decided by a secular government headed by people who care very little for Biblical principles. It will be a decision that is based on national security risk and political expediency and not at all about Christian moral sensibilities. And what is the Christian’s responsibility in this? To love our neighbor, to care for the poor and the oppressed. Whether they be brought to our neighborhood or are half a world away and the form of Christian love that most of us could hope to render is through supporting relief organizations.

History has proven that Christians can’t expect our government to uphold our values and our response to a human crisis can’t be to cry out to the government to help but to cry out to God and weep for the pain and loss that grips this world we currently call home.

February Bookshelf: The Rise of Nine, UnPHILtered, More Artemis Fowl

In my continuing effort to read more books this year, I give you my February Bookshelf post (a few days late). February didn’t feature anything that I felt was as profound as January and there is less here to recommend unfortunately but they can’t all be winners.

The Rise of Nine – Rating 2/5. This is the third book in the Lorien Legacies series that was made popular by the first book I Am Number Four which was made into a major motion picture a couple years back.  The Rise of Nine was an okay read but with each installment of the series, the writing just gets a bit more ridiculous. If you aren’t familiar with this series from Pittacus Lore (a pseudonym of the two authors who write the books), the basic premise is that a bunch of teenage aliens from another planet are here on Earth trying to fight off some bad guy aliens who are from a different planet from them.

The problem with The Rise of Nine is that it just felt like every time the main characters got into a jam they would miraculously at that moment develop a new Legacy (super-power) to contend with whatever the situation is. The action sequences in the books are also starting to get rather repetitive and I feel at this point that I might not continuing reading the Lorien Legacy series unless I am truly desperate for something new.

unPHILtered: The Way I See It – Rating: 3/5. The latest book from Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson is UnPHILtered. I would not normally pickup a book that is from a celebrity but from what I have watched of the Duck Dynasty show, Phil Robertson’s nuggets of wisdom are my favorite part. The unscripted antics of his boys can get a little old after awhile but Phil usually has something worth listening to. So with that in mind, I decided to give UnPHILtered a shot.

While Phil’s straightforward commonsense world view is present throughout the book, much of it felt like preaching to the choir. I have no doubt that some readers will gain a new perspective on some subjects by reading UnPHILtered but I just didn’t feel challenged by anything in it. I read books to be entertained or to grow as a person. It is hard to do the latter when you already agree with much of what is being said.

Perhaps my biggest gripe with this book is a chapter in which Phil discusses what he would do if he were president. The chapter reads like the wishlist of a child who has no understanding of the workings of government. It would be more aptly titled “What I would do if I were dicator,” because that would be the only scenario where his wishlist would become a reality. Which feels very much like what our current president is actually doing.

The Time Paradox and The Atlantis Complex – Rating: 4/5 for both. I continued my consumption this month of the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. The series is an ongoing tale of main character Artemis Fowl, a mastermind Irish teenage boy who has entangled his life with elves and dwarves and other thought-to-be mythical creatures. The Time Paradox and The Atlantis Complex are books 6 and 7 respectively in the series and both books in their own way deal with Artemis working through the consequences of some of his past actions and battling old foes. There is a bit of a sense of treading over old territory in these
books, especially in The Atlantis Complex, but Colfer is as always an excellent story teller. He does unfortunately ratchet up his “humans are terrible and destroying the planet” rhetoric in these books which is present to some degree in all of his books but to a larger degree here. Even so, it isn’t enough of a distraction to not recommend the Artemis Fowl books as they are an excellent read and I am almost sorry that I have just one book left in the series to read.

That was it for February. I’m hoping that my March book report of sorts will be a more positive report. I’m starting The Road To Serfdom tomorrow.

Give Me Some of that Strong Biblical Wine

WineGrowing up in a Christian home and church and attending a Christian school meant that the consumption of alcohol was looked upon as a sin and something that good Christians didn’t partake in. The only time it was really discussed was in relation to Jesus turning water into wine (John 2:1-11). The teacher or pastor discussing this miracle would often feel obliged to include the caveat that wine in Biblical times had much less alcohol content than modern wine. All of us good little students accepted this caveat without questioning what Biblical or historical evidence was used to reach such a conclusion. Biblically there is no evidence to support this and I will get to that point shortly. Historically there are references to diluted wine in ancient documents but I will also show how this doesn’t support the “weak wine” argument used by modern day Bible teachers seeking to hold onto their view that Jesus couldn’t possibly have created a strong drink at the wedding feast.

The Bible tells us not to be drunk with wine (Ephesians 5:18)0. It is pretty straightforward and something that Christians pretty universally agree on. This verse was also referenced a lot growing up to support the “drinking is okay but not to the point of getting drunk argument.” Fair enough but this most often led to the ancient wines had lower alcohol content argument. The implied lesson here for the student was that the reason all alcohol consumption is viewed as bad is because our modern wines are so much more potent. But are they really? The very admonition from the scriptures to not be drunk with wine would seem to be in contrast with the view that the wine of Jesus’ time contained hardly any alcohol. After all, how do you get drunk on something that has very little alcohol?

It is also rather silly to suggest, with no evidence, that Jesus would have turned water into wine that was of a much lower alcohol content than what the wedding guests had already been drinking. As if Jesus, being God and therefore omnipotent, was aware of our modern day Protestant sensibilities about alcohol and made wine that was only 3% alcohol. Is that really the best argument that can be made?

I would suggest that the strongest argument against the low alcohol content in ancient wine point of view came from Jesus himself and not in a passage that is often thought of when alcohol consumption among Christians is discussed.

The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) that Jesus used to communicate helping your neighbors contains one piece of text that destroys the “weak wine” argument. After the priest and the Levite pass by the man laying beaten along the road the Samaritan man comes along and offers assistance. This is the important part: He treats the man’s wounds with wine and oil. Why would he do that? Ancient peoples knew nothing of bacteria but they could certainly see the affects of it. The alcohol in the wine was able to kill bacteria and someone must have figured out that pouring wine over an open wound could help keep a wound from festering and becoming infected. This must have been common knowledge to Jesus’ contemporaries, otherwise it would have made no sense to reference it.

The really important part though is that it takes a high percentage of alcohol content before bacteria starts to die. Modern wine only has about 12 – 15% alcohol and would take 2 to 3 days to kill bacteria. Once the alcohol content of something reaches about 50%, bacteria begins to die within 30 seconds. So the argument that ancient wine didn’t contain much alcohol falls flat when you consider that ancient peoples were using it to kill bacteria. Evidence for this extends beyond the Bible as references to using wine to treat wounds can also be found in texts of the Roman Empire.

So it is pretty clear that the wine of Jesus’ day was likely just as strong as present day wine and quite possibly much stronger.

By this point in my blog post some of you are probably imagining that I am some kind of raging wino trying to feel better about the amount of alcohol I consume. Actually, I don’t drink at all. I have no interest in consuming alcohol but that is a personal choice and not one that I would try and contort into a sin issue for others. I would recommend that others do the same and the next time someone tries to tell you that Jesus turned the water into wine that wasn’t much different than grape juice, feel free to challenge them to find a historical or Biblical reference to support their claim.

January Bookshelf: A Glimpse of Jesus, Artemis Fowl Series, The God of All Comfort

I decided that I want to be more intentional about reading more books this year. I guess you could call it a New Year’s resolution but that just seems like setting myself up to fail once you start calling it that. So don’t and I won’t either. I should note that some of these were “read” as audiobooks. I do quite a bit of commuting to work and audiobooks help keep me awake and alive.

A Glimpse of Jesus by Brennan Manning, Rating: 5/5. This was the first book I finished this month but I didn’t start it this January. Actually I started it in January of last year after my wife had purchased it for me for Christmas. Taking a year to read such a short book seems a bit ridiculous but I feel like theological and self-improvement books are best consumed slowly. So you can savor the words and let them impact you over an extended period of time. After all if you were attempting to learn how to play the guitar you wouldn’t go through an entire instruction book in one day and expect to know how to play the guitar would you? The same is true of books that deal in matters of faith and just better living in general .

But about the book itself…I had never heard of Brennan Manning until he passed away on April 12th, 2013 when a couple of my Facebook friends posted some thoughts on how he had impacted their lives. That led me on a search to figure out who Manning was and when I read a couple paragraphs from A Glimpse of Jesus on Amazon, I knew that it was a book that I needed to read. I was not disappointed either, Brennan Manning had such a simple and effective way of explaining Gospel truth and God’s love for His people.

The God of All Comfort by Dee Brestin, Rating: 1/5. Due to some tragic circumstances within my family I decided to seek out a book about dealing with personal tragedy from a Christian world view. Unfortunately this book didn’t connect with me at all. It is more of an autobiography with excerpts from Dee Brestin’s journal that jumps back and forth in time as she attempts to adapt the journal into a product with commercial viability. I don’t often give up on books but after forcing myself to stick with it 3/4 of the way through, I finally gave up. Perhaps others could find value in it but it wasn’t for me.

Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, Rating: 5/5. I also read 3 books from the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer. The books are aimed at young adults but are a good enough read for adults to enjoy as well.  Specifically I read The Eternity Code, The Opal Deception, and The Lost Colony. The books follow the adventures of Artemis Fowl, an Irish teenager with suspect morals whose life becomes entangled in the affairs of elves, dwarfs and other mythical creatures. I highly recommend these books as a fun quick read.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner, Rating 4/5. I had never heard of this book until seeing the movie title at a Redbox and decided to check out the book first. I enjoyed The Maze Runner but have to acknowledge that the subject matter of the book definitely stretches the limits of what my mind is willing to accept as a plausible scenario for the characters to be in. Still, it is enjoyable and I look forward to watching the movie and reading the other books in the series.

Wow 6 books in one month! I can’t imagine that I will continue that pace all year but it is a good start anyway. I’m not sure what books will be in February yet other than the first couple that I am getting a jump start on.

Money Talks: Learning from the Founders

IMG_1176-0.JPGYes money talks, or more accurately for this post, currency does. I began thinking recently that there was a lot of wisdom in the founding fathers of this great country and several of those founding fathers have their faces on our paper currency.

As time marches on and the history of our country lengthens, the history books used in schools have less page space to dedicate to early American history. In addition to that, there is a very small but very vocal minority of educators and agitators that take joy in tearing down this country’s heroes of old and make sure we all know how awful they were or how awful they would like us to believe the founders were. No one is perfect of course and the founders of the United States were flawed people just like you and I. But to focus solely on the flaws is to miss the amazing things they accomplished and the wisdom that they can teach us.

To that end I began to wonder if perhaps writing a short quote from the historical figure pictured on whatever currency note is in my grasp might be a way to share some of that wisdom. I should note here that the US government has a law in place in regards to defacing currency in such a way as to make it unusable or not able to be reissued and you should read it entirely before proceeding. While I would not presume to offer legal advice to anyone, I’ve never heard of the government going after any of the Where’s George people.

The point of what I am trying to say is that much of America seems to be bent on moving forward without care to what direction is being chosen by elected officials or what the final destination might be. It also seems easy enough to assume that for the majority of Americans, money and the pursuit of it is very central to their world view. Whether the pursuit of it takes the form of working hard to obtain it or hardly working and getting it from the government. Either way, money is the one thing left in America that we all still have in common.

At a time when politicians and the media take great joy in creating uncertainty and anxiety and separating us by beliefs, by color, by gender, or whatever else the current hot button social issue is, money, the idea of obtaining it, is the great unifier.

With that in mind, why not let the wisdom of great Americans like Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Ulysses S. Grant impart some small nuggets of wisdom to your fellow Americans? Ask yourself, is it the type of wisdom that they are likely to find in many other places in current society?

Want to get started? It is pretty simple, just type the name of the person on your currency in a search engine followed by the word “quotes.” There are many quote websites available to choose from.

If someone were to start marking their currency, even after reading the law mentioned a few paragraphs earlier, a good rule of thumb might be to choose quotes that are short enough to fit on the bill without obstructing anything important to verifying the bill’s authenticity. Perhaps on the back side in an out of the way place.

There is a wealth of wisdom hidden in the pages of history. Perhaps through this small idea, some bits of that treasure can come to light and spur an interest in someone to dig deeper.

10 Months Later: The Story of My Pogo Water Bottle

IMG_1156All the way back in March of 2014 my wife bought me a Pogo water bottle from Target. Unfortunately this water bottle from Pogo was defective and the water spout that pops up would separate from the straw down in the bottle, rendering the water bottle useless.

We had lost the receipt for it so I contacted Pogo directly about my concerns. That was many emails and 10 months ago.  Below is a transcript of those emails. I left out my mailing address and the auto-responses that annoyingly arrived in my inbox every time I replied to an email from Pogo. It all starts out pretty normal but as the amount of time became more absurd, so did some of my emails.

To whom it may concern:

A couple weeks ago I purchased one of your 24 oz Pogo drink bottles. Unfortunately, it has been nothing but trouble since the second day. The part of the cap that pops up to drink out of pulls up a little bit when you open it which creates a gap that lets air through and not water.

Consequently every time I open it I have to push it back down if I want to get any water out. Last night was the worst. As I tried to push it back down it flew off the top entirely and nearly hit me in the eye.

I can’t imagine that all of your products behave like this but this particular bottle has been completely useless for me. I would appreciate a response and replacement or a refund.

Thank you,
Tim Yordy

Pogo’s Response on 03/30/2014:

Greetings from Pogo!

Thanks very much for your purchase and for contacting us! I’m sorry you are having trouble with the flip straw. Let me see if I can help. Is the straw fully and firmly attached pressed into the lid? Sometimes if the straw is not fully engaged the suction is weak.

If this does not help let me know and I can send you a replacement.

Best regards,


My Reply on 03/30/2014:

That is the problem. Every time I open the bottle it comes up a little bit and I have to force it back down to be able to get any water at all out. So yes, if you could replace it, I would really appreciate it.

Thank you,
Tim Yordy

Pogo’s Response on 04/02/2014:

I’m sorry to hear you’re having problems with your straw. I’d love to replace it, and I’ll be sure to notify our engineering team of this issue so we can get it resolved right away.

Please let me know what color you need, your full name and address.

Thanks so much,

My Reply on 04/04/2014:

I don’t care what color it is.

Thank you.

I allowed several weeks to go by before contacting them again on 05/01/2014:

Hello, it has been nearly a month and I still have not received my replacement water bottle. Can you tell me when this item was shipped?

Thank you,
Tim Yordy

Pogo’s Response on 05/01/2014:

Hi there – Thanks for checking in! Sorry for the delay – we are waiting for replacement parts to arrive at our office. Once they do, I’ll make sure yours is shipped.

Thanks for your patience,

My Reply on 06/22/2014:

Hi there,

It has literally been 3 months now since I originally contacted you about the problem with my water bottle. Seeing as we are in the heart of summer right now, I am getting rather thirsty and fear that I might be suffering from dehydration soon since to this day you have done nothing to remedy the problem with your product.

When can I expect a resolution to this?

Pogo’s Response on 06/22/2014:

Hi Tim –

Please accept my apology for the delay on this. I will make sure to put you on the list for a replacement lid this week. We send it via U.S. mail and it can take up to 5 days to ship.

Thanks so much for your patience,

And then my response TODAY:

Dear Jordan,

I finally received my replacement water bottle today and I really appreciate it. You may remember from our last email exchange back in June of 2014 that I had begun to suffer the affects of dehydration due to my lack of a functioning water bottle. As you can tell from my emailing you right now, that I managed to survive the Summer. Squeezing sweat out of my socks to drink might not have been the most tasty, but it got the job done.

Once Fall arrived I survived off of the juice inside some crab apples that were scattered around on the ground. Winter in some ways has been easier as I’ve been able to stay hydrated by eating snow. You do have to eat a lot of the stuff though, what with the way water expands when it freezes. Not much water content in each snowflake.

Anyway, just wanted to thank you again for getting this sent out. I look forward to using my new Pogo water bottle.

When I got home from work today I could see the mailman’s footprints in the snow leading away from our mailbox and up onto our porch. I got a little excited knowing that this meant some kind of package had been delivered. When I saw the box said “Pogo” on it, I thought to myself, “Why does that company sound familiar?” Yep, it had been that long that I couldn’t even remember who they were anymore. Imagine my surprise when I opened the box to find my shiny new Pogo water bottle. I can only hope that they have been using the last 10 months to improve the design. Hopefully I won’t nearly put my eye out again.

New Music Tools

For Christmas some nice folks had given me a $100 gift card to Amazon and I knew right away what I wanted to use it for: A pair of studio monitors. If you aren’t familiar with what studio monitors are, they are essentially just speakers that are intended to produce a flat “untainted” sound. This is especially useful for music production when trying to mix all the elements of a recording together into something that hopefully sounds good to the listener.

I’ve never had studio monitors before and it has definitely been a struggle mixing my songs over the years. I would mix it on my computer and think it sounded good then make a cd and listen to it in my car and for some reason it sounded terrible. So I would go back to the computer and tweak the mix and then make another cd and repeat the whole process. It amounted to a lot of frustration and wasted cds.

Mixing music is an art form unto itself and I can’t hope to match what a professional could do. However, I should be able to have a fighting chance at creating something that doesn’t sound like I recorded it in my bedroom, even though I did.  I’ve learned from past experience not to discuss what musical projects I am working on because I have a pretty bad track record of actually completing them. These new Numark NPM5 studio monitors should make the process just a bit easier though and hopefully lead to some more music actually making it out my house and out into the wild.

Thirty Three

Sometime in late Spring last year I made this blog completely private and shut it down due to some challenging circumstances taking place in my life in the real world. I figured today on my birthday would be a good time to finally relaunch it. I will cover some of my plans going forward for this blog and creative projects more in another blog post. Today’s post is about challenging myself to approach life differently this year.

I turned thirty three years old today and as I was driving to work this morning I began wondering to myself what significance there was in that. After all 33 isn’t one of those popular birthdays that people make a big deal about. And then it hit me that Jesus was 33 when he was crucified.

I began to think about how by 33 years old, Jesus had already impacted the lives of thousands of his contemporaries and of course billions of lives in the two millennia since then. Which caused me to question, in my 33 years on this Earth, whose lives have I impacted? Whose suffering have I eased? I don’t presume to think that I will be used in a way that will be remembered for millennia, because fame and personal legacy isn’t the point of Christianity. And I’m sure the people whose lives Jesus personally touched during his lifetime had no concept of the passage of time that would stretch out beyond that Earthly life.

Their focus and their hearts were touched then and there. Jesus showed compassion to the suffering people in his life in a way that I think for me personally gets lost sometimes. And I don’t think I am alone in that. I grew up with a mindset that many of the suffering people in this country are there by their own choosing. That poverty, substance abuse, and abusive relationships were something that could be risen above if only these unfortunate people would make different choices. A mindset that says that someone on government assistance must be lazy and chooses to stay on government assistance because it is the easy path. Sometimes I wonder if the rise of government assistance was fueled by a decline of charity from the Church or if the rise of government assistance fueled the decline of charity from the Church.

While there are certainly elements of truth in the above paragraph and for some people it is more true than others, what strikes me about this way of thinking is that nowhere in the scriptures do I see Jesus utilizing this same kind of cynical logic to excuse not easing the pain and suffering of the people around him. I was pondering today, what if the woman accused of adultery hadn’t listened when Jesus told her to “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) Would He have said the same thing to her if their paths had crossed a second time under the same circumstances? Would He have then condoned the stoning that the accusers had wanted in the first place? Any answer to these questions is pure speculation of course and I don’t pretend to know the mind of God.

My point here is that, Jesus lived a life of compassion towards humanity during His time here on Earth. Most of the miracles He performed were driven by being moved to compassion by the suffering of people around Him. If we are Christians, people who embrace the teachings of Christ, should we not live the same way?

Every year I choose some kind of theme for the year for my life. I’ve been doing this for many years now and I don’t even remember how it started. This year I want to make my theme Compassion. It is probably one of the more challenging themes I have ever given myself because it requires effort beyond my house, beyond my family and out into the world to help heal the hurting and the lost with compassion.

Last year’s theme was Accomplishment and I failed at it completely. It was a theme built around the idea of finally accomplishing some of my long-term creative goals. And I didn’t accomplish any of them. I should probably more upset about that but 2014 is over and living in the past won’t fix it.

So I am moving forward into 2015 with the compassionate actions of Christ as my guide and knowing that successfully embracing that theme will be a bigger accomplishment than anything I had hoped to do for myself in 2014.


Embrace The Place You’re In

Jacoby Falls - Loyalsock State ForestI often hear people talking about wanting to travel far and wide to experience new things in far away places. While the world certainly does have innumerable things to offer a soul prone to wander, I sometimes wonder if it is easy to miss things that are close to home. There is even a subtle or not-so-subtle feeling among these types that wherever they are at is somehow not good enough for them. That a place is not worth visiting unless it is far away. Similar to how some high-school graduates feel that they have to attend college in some far away place.

When my wife and I first moved to a small mountain town in rural Pennsylvania almost two years ago we very quickly discovered that there were many things to like and some to dislike about the area. Picking up and moving to an area where we knew no one certainly came with its own set of challenges but nothing we couldn’t handle. In the back of our minds was always the thought that this was our first house and one that we would not stay in forever. Eventually we reasoned that we would move “back to civilization” and closer to family and friends again. I realized early on though that we couldn’t let our desire to move again limit how we lived now.Shikellamy State Park Overlook

I remember one day telling my wife that we needed to embrace the place we are in. That we wouldn’t always live where we are now and should explore it and enjoy it to the fullest extent possible while we have the opportunity. What came out of that was experiencing things that we didn’t know Pennsylvania had to offer. Unfortunately when most states spend money advertising for things that tourists might find appealing, that money is often spent in other states to bring in tourists that aren’t already paying them taxes in some form. This can result in a situation where their own citizens are unaware of what the state has to offer.

I’ve found that adventures don’t always have to be a world away, they can sometimes be in your own backyard. While there is nothing wrong with wanderlust, don’t forget to explore what is close to home either. You may be surprised what you find.

Advice For Writers: Add Explosions

During the past several years I have rediscovered my love for writing fiction that first surfaced when I was a young fellow in grade school and wrote a story about throwing a teacher out of the window. A story that inspired a banner that the teacher made and hung over the blackboard for years that read “Creative but Positive.” I’m sure for many parents that visited that room for parent-teacher conferences, that banner seemed a bit odd for a 5th grade classroom. That was when it all began and it continued in spurts throughout my school years until one day I graduated and abruptly stopped writing.

Stopped until one day while attending Visible Music College I wrote a short story for a class and the professor took me to lunch later and told me that I should go to college for writing. This, as you can imagine was greatly encouraging, but I had no love of higher education and my writing went dormant for a long time again. However, in the ensuing years as I was writing songs for bands I was in or for my solo work, the need to write stories began to well up in me again. After several more years of neglecting to actually start writing the science fiction story that my brain had been crafting while I toiled away in a meaningless job that did not otherwise engage my brain, I finally forced myself to put pen to paper. Or 1’s and 0’s to the computer as the case was.

What flowed out of that and is still flowing out of that is a science fiction story that has become far grander and more satisfying than I could have imagined before I started. It isn’t finished yet, not by a long shot. Starting a family, having a full-time job, occasionally still writing songs, publishing a non-fiction book and getting into board game design can definitely cut down on writing time. I am certain that the previous sentence may appear to many as someone making excuses for not finishing what I set out to do. If you have that perception, then you are absolutely correct. Because along with those perfectly legitimate and equally satisfying uses of my time there were plenty of lazy days full of watching television, playing video games, wasted time trying to be an internet marketer and whatever else the brain can come up with to do anything except be productive. If there is one thing I can hold onto as a shred of dignity as a writer it is that I have kept writing, kept developing that story that has been building in me for many years now. I may write sporadically, but I keep writing.

Sometimes writers get stuck however. Sometimes the story you are telling reaches a point where you are in the middle between Point A and Point B and you are not sure how to complete that journey. At least not in any compelling sort of way that makes the reader actually want to come along for the ride. I have discovered a rather useful writing device to help me through those times however: Add explosions. Do something so remarkably dramatic and unexpected that your story and your characters can’t help but be pulled along by it and get to Point B whether they wanted to or not. Your characters might be bleeding and full of scars by the end but get them there!

Some of the more seasoned writers, perhaps those who enjoyed that higher education path to writing,  who may be reading this will likely dismiss the previous paragraph as the advice of a novice to other novices to rely on cheap literary devices to advance a plot point. They might be right, but it makes for fun story telling and certainly more engaging to read. When chapter 1 of my sci-fi book started out rather slowly and with nothing to grab the reader’s attention I realized that I needed to start the book with a chapter that takes place earlier in time than what was presently chapter 1. The result was a new chapter that is easily one of my favorites in the book and is full of action, explosions, and space pirates. While working on a chapter far later in the book I realized with a sudden certainty that one of my favorite characters needed to die. It was unexpected, even to me, and it made the story better. Literal explosions may not fit every fiction theme, say a love story for example, but adding something unexpected that does fit your theme can be a great way of getting you through a rough spot in your story.

So my advice to my fellow aspiring writers that are stuck in the middle of their story: Add explosions. Blow some stuff up.