Terry’s Rules of Life

Over the past several years, I’ve created a list of things I find valuable. This list has grown and changed over the years, but it has become a guiding document for how I live my life. These are not items I’m perfect at, and I can’t say I’ve mastered any of them completely. I try to do them daily, but sometimes I fail at that too. It’s just my rules for a vibrant life. I hope you find these ideas helpful

  1. Follow a daily list. This is perhaps the most crucial of all items. If you are unable to regularly do a set of tasks, you will struggle in all areas of life. Create a list of activities that will cause growth in body, mind, and spirit, and do them regularly.
  2. Read the Bible daily.
  3. Pray daily.
  4. Learn to calm the mind. Control the flow of noise into your mind, and calm your thoughts. Biblical meditation is a powerful tool. It is about filling the mind with the correct things, and controlling the mind when negative thoughts happen.
    1. Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2 – meditate on God’s Word
    2. Rom 12:1-2 – be transformed by renewing the mind
    3. Ps. 63:6 – Meditate on God
    4. Phil 4:8 – Think on these things
    5. Phil 2:5 – Develop the mind of Christ
    6. Ps. 46:10 – Be still and know that I am God.
  5. Control your state. Your thoughts are not you. Make them behave and put them where they belong. Identify quickly thought cycles that take you to a negative plac. Think about what you’re thinking about. You’ll always have low spots in life, but you don’t have to stay there. You can choose to be in a good mood.
  6. Do not assume you are strong because you succeed. All strength and power comes from God. Use the abilities and talents God has given you, but there is no room for boasting, and there is always room for growth.
  7. Don’t bring the pains of yesterday into today.
  8. Love your life… you only have one.
  9. Be a lifelong learner. Take the opportunity to read and study different things.
  10. Work hard at your current assignment until you receive the next one.
  11. Make the jobs of those you work with easier, including your boss, your peers and those you manage.
  12. Focus teaching core biblical values, not fringe doctrines, and allow others to create their own personal convictions.
  13. Allow people to be angry with you. It’s OK if people do not like you or your actions. The same is true for Jesus.  
  14. Don’t own the emotions of others.
  15. Don’t own the attitudes of others.
  16. Don’t transfer the negative feelings of others.
  17. Speak against issues not people.
  18. Avoid stereotyping. Not all Christians, piercings, Atheists, Muslims, Liberals, Conservatives, blonde, tall, etc people are the same.  People are very different.
  19. Stretch your muscles every day
  20. Maintain a regular workout.

5 Tips for a 30 year marriage

Marriages that Last are built on a relationship with God

Some of the best marriage advice I received as a young man came from my pastor.  He said if you want a marriage that lasts, then find someone who’s been married a long time and watch them.  At the time the “Old People” in my life seemed really strange and I thought they’d have no clue how to face the current issues of my day, but I was wrong.  These older couples may not have been experts in my culture or changing technology, but they did understand relationships and how to strengthen them. Today (July 2nd) was my 30th wedding anniversary, and now that I’m walking on the other side of the fence I’d like to offer a few tips of my own.  Below are five tips for a thirty year marriage.  

The first tip is to never say the “D” word. Divorce–doesn’t even sound good does it.  My wife and I decided very early in our marriage that we would never say the word divorce.  No matter how mad we got or how tired we were, we would not mention that word in an argument.  It was difficult at times and the word often popped into our minds, but it was never spoken.

It’s too easy to say things you don’t mean when you’re angry, and when you begin to throw the “D” word around you begin to think about it.  You begin to believe it. Before long it seems like the only solution to your problem. Instead of looking for reasons to stop being together, you should look for reasons to build your marriage.

The next tip is: don’t go to bed mad at each other.  I would be lying if I said I never went to bed mad at my wife, but I can say we made it a priority to resolve our issues before the day ended.  There are times when couples need a little distance, and some time to work through hard feelings, but when its all said and done we need to learn to set our emotions aside and communicate openly and honestly.  

We still have fights after 30 years of marriage, but they look a lot different than when we were first married.  Arguments these days often last about 2 minutes. I say what’s bothering me, she says what’s bothering her and we drop it.  I’ve learned to hear what she’s upset about and try to make changes and she does the same. We don’t have very many “BIG” fights any more.

Always make sure to kiss each other goodby.  You never know when your last kiss will be, and we’re not guaranteed of tomorrow.  And I’ll also add, on occasion throw in the 10 second kiss. I won’t say much more on that….just try it.

Tell your spouse, “I love you” everyday.  One of the most basic needs of every human is to be loved, and it’s important you tell your spouse that you love them.  Try and think of the kind words you use as building blocks to your marriage. The more nice words you use, the stronger your marriage will be, and probably the nicest thing you can say is, “I Love You.”

There are certain roles only a spouse can fill, and don’t allow others to fill them.  When we think if intimacy often times sex comes to mind, and that’s part of it, but only a small part.  Sex is one of those things that only your spouse fulfills. That may seem obvious, but infidelity happens, so maybe it’s not as obvious as you would think.  

Beyond sexual intimacy there are places in the heart that should only belong to a spouse.  I consider my wife as my best friend. She listens to me when I talk. She laughs at my jokes.  She makes corny comments, and just hearing her say them makes me smile. If I were ever to allow another woman that place in my heart it would be wrong.  That place belongs only to her.

If you were to ask a hundred people what makes a marriage last you’d probably get 100 different answers, but these are a few of my top tips.  I’ll leave you with one final thought. A marriage relationship is never complete. You’re always pruning it, watering it, and working on it.

 

The Death of Science Fiction

My fascination with science fiction started when I was six—I’ll never forget the excitement I felt as I watched X-wings and TIE fighters scream across the screen, followed by the roar of engines and blaster bolts exploding against metal.  I wish I still had my Luke Skywalker and Momaw Nadon action figures. They would probably be worth a lot today, but I think they gave me my money’s worth.

I’ve noticed a trend away from science fiction over the past 20 years, and a decline in quality movies for the genre.  I’ve been disappointed far too many times by poor quality stories.

On one occasion as I walked through the sci-fi isle of my local video store, a new movie cover caught my attention.  It had an image of an earth-like planet completely enveloped with jungle vines, and it was titled Savage Planet. Sounds pretty cool huh?  I was excited. I rented the movie, made some popcorn, put my feet up, and got ready for a nice movie. You’ve heard it said, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”  Well I say, you can’t judge a movie by its cover either.

This was one of the cheesiest movies I’ve ever seen.  It was about a group of people who discovered a way to transport to another earth-like planet.  When they arrived, they were all systematically hunted and killed by gigantic mutated bears. Yes, you heard me right…bears.

I’m not sure what was worse, the horrible storyline or the cheaply filmed video.  With movies like that it’s no wonder some don’t enjoy sci-fi.

Science fiction is hard to define.  It has several sub-genres, and it covers a variety of topics like time travel, space exploration, cybernetics, alternate histories, etc.  I’ve heard it said that sci-fi is like pornography, it’s hard to describe, but you’ll know it when you see it. My simple and broad definition of science fiction is this:  The stories built on or around undiscovered advanced technologies. .

Good science fiction will always be based on good stories.  The Star Wars saga is not about lightsabers, star destroyers, aliens, or the Death Star.  It’s a story about one man’s fall and his son’s struggle to save him. Don’t mistake the setting as the story.  World-building is an important part of writing—create a separate document describing the world your story takes place in, and fill it with all kinds of detail.  Be specific. I like to use a three ring binder with tabs for different topics like species, planets, history, cities, characters, etc. This document is for you, and it’s not your story.  Use it to set the scene, but make sure the story never gets lost in the details. Reveal only enough to make it believable, and let your story do the rest.

Another factor that makes writing sci-fi difficult is the rate of scientific discovery.  What we grok about our world has grown exponentially over the last hundred years. There is only one constant…things will change.

Isaac Asimov, one of the twentieth century’s greatest contributors to the genre, was not exempt from this problem.  Several of the short stories in his book Robot Dreams are built around a super intelligent computer called multivac that filled an entire room, and used punch cards.  It was state of the art at one time, but who knew in 50 years a computer that powerful would fit on your wrist. Things are changing much faster today, which makes it more difficult to predict the technologies of the future.

No…this is not the death of a genre…sci-fi will not disappear.  As long as we have children fly their imaginary rockets to the stars, as long as we have creative individuals willing to share their imaginations, and as long as we have people who can dream the impossible, science fiction will flourish. I love this genre and challenge you to be creative.  The possibilities are endless, and a canvas as broad as the night-sky awaits the aspiring galactic calligrapher.

Christianity, Politics, and the Great Divide

There are many things the Church has faced throughout history that have threatened its existence. The great persecutions of the past were harsh and caused many disciples to flee. Nobody likes to face hardships, but often times persecution has the opposite effect-people are scattered, and the Gospel spreads. When we are pressed from the outside, we ban together under a common cause. People seek God.

Christianity has also had its fair share of internal threats. Squabbles on the inside often center around doctrinal issues. Many of these are small and relatively insignificant, and is why we see so many denominations today. Even though we have been divided in what we believe, we’ve still been able to overcome our personal convictions and work together. I have lots of Christian family outside of my fellowship, and wholeheartedly expect to see them when I get to heaven.

In recent years, I’ve seen a new threat wedging its way into the fibers of the Church. I have a feeling in the pit of my stomach that a storm is coming and it troubles me. I’m not afraid for myself, because I know who I am in Christ, and what I must do, but I worry for those who will be shaken. I worry for those who have fastened themselves to the wrong foundation, and when the wind starts blowing they will fall. 

There is a new type of internal conflict in the Church and it’s tied to politics and connectedness. Part of it is about the left-right divide that has gripped our our planet. Politics has been around almost as long as religion, so what’s new in this generation? The internet! We’ve entered a time period like no other in humanity’s past. We are connected both instantly and constantly. Personal connection with others is a good thing, and I would even say that we were created to be connected, but the connection we experience through the internet is different. We act differently online than we would face-to-face.  It’s a bit like road rage. We post and say things without thought, or care of how it might affect others. It is not a give and take relationship we experience online — it’s about throwing out our opinion. It’s about grouping ourselves with others that have the same opinion so that we will feel good about “being right.”

Politics has always been divisive, but that in itself isn’t bad. Our political system was created to keep itself in check, so some disagreement is unavoidable. But when you take politics, and couple with it an incomplete method of communication you get a recipe for disaster.

The political divide has now begun to permeate all areas of life–even our faith. Our atmosphere of “being right” is preventing some from carrying out the true behaviors of Christianity–loving others and treating them with patience, respect, and kindness.  Both left and right are using Christianity for their own benefit. That’s nothing new; Charlemagne, Constantine, and many others mixed religion with politics to gain followers and drive them to action. There is a political force today that is trying to pull every single person to one side or the other, and it doesn’t want you to stand in the middle.

As you read this I want you to stop and think.  Set aside the talking points. Think Biblically for a moment.

How does this behavior follow the Apostle Paul’s instructions? “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others

How does it follow Jesus Golden Rule? “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

How does it follow the Apostle Peter’s words? “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”

Christianity is not Republican, nor is it Democrat. Do not allow yourself to be pulled to a political side.  I can guarantee you, political motives are not biblical.

In closing, I do not think it’s wrong to be politically active. We can look at Paul’s example in the New Testament, where he spoke often about his Roman citizenship. He definitely used it to further the purpose of the Gospel. I just think, as we participate in the political process that we should always apply Biblical principles in our communication. Our biggest mandate is to spread the Truth. Stand up for what is right, and speak against issues that are immoral. Stop the name calling. Stop the spreading of half-truths and lies. Be respectful when speaking with others and about others. If we become indistinguishable from the world, then we lose, but if we hold up the values of Christ, then we win.

Why I Believe

I’ve always tried to take a balanced view of life.  I think every person, whether Christian, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, or someone of any other belief system needs these three things…. reason, emotion, and faith.

Reason is important and without it we could not live.  We need it to get up in the morning, to drive to work, to live our daily lives, to build things, to invent things, but our reason can fail.  A few years ago, I was driving to a nearby city and I heard my brakes dragging all the way there. Once I got to my destination, I decided to get out of the car and reach my finger in behind the tire and touch the brake pads. What was I thinking?  Well, I wasn’t! They were hot and it singed my fingertips—I wasn’t using much reason at that time.

How much knowledge does human society have? Do we know 50% of everything there is to know? 20%?  Of everything in the entire universe I bet we know less than .0001% of all knowledge that exists, and maybe even a lot less than that.  It is not probable that our society will ever know all there is to know.

If we take a look at black holes, the mathematics that describe them breaks down at the singularity.  How can something become infinitely dense? Some would say they aren’t, but we won’t go there. General relativity does not work well with quantum mechanics.  And just how many dimensions are there in our universe? Three? Four? Eleven? We just don’t understand how things work. Again, I’m not saying we will never understand these things, we are making great strides in formulating a theory of everything, but I am saying that logic alone is is fleeting, and not the only thing we need in life.

Let’s say you’re in a room full of people.  Some of them old, some young, but the only other person you know is your spouse.   Then someone lights a bomb in the room, and you only have a second to save one person. Who would that be?  Logic say’s you should pick a young person. You should pick someone with a longer life span because they have the most to loose, but your emotions say it should be your spouse.  Logic without emotion is a bit empty.

The second thing we need is emotion.  As mentioned above, a life without emotion means nothing.   Our emotions can help us make good decisions, and there’s nothing quite like a good intuition.  But emotions can fail you. I remember watching a TV series the other day about phobias. There was a stronger macho-looking guy that was really fearful of dogs.  It was difficult watching this full grown man being terrified of even touching a dog. His emotions were leading him in the wrong direction. He needed to use more logic and less emotion, and he knew it—it was just difficult for him to do. Emotion and logic work better when used together.

The third thing we all need is faith.  You may say the atheist needs no faith, but I would disagree.  Life makes assumptions (faith).

There are things that we don’t understand that others do, and we accept them by faith.  For example, some people may not know how electricity works. You turn the switch on the wall and the light turns on.  That’s all they need to know. They have faith that someone else has it figured out, and they can just use it. Maybe for you that might be the process of nuclear fusion, or how a combustion engine works, or what code makes a web browser work … the point being we take those things by faith they will work.  We just understand that someone else understands.

There are also other things in life that have no proof that we take by faith.  I’m going to use for an example the topic of our beginnings. When it comes to beginnings, we can narrow it down to two possibilities.  It was created or it just happened. When it comes to the science of beginnings it is all speculation, and has little or nothing to do with the scientific method.  The scientific method requires a hypothesis to be formed and then tested. We cannot create a universe nor can we know the exact conditions that existed at the beginning. We can form all the hypotheses we want, but without the test it’s not science, just a guess.

I can look at the very same data an evolutionist does and come to a different conclusion.  The evolutionist looks at rock strata and sees millions of years, and I see deposit from a grand flood. Neither can be tested by the scientific method. Check out this article from the Institute for Creation Science on how rock strata can be laid down fairly quickly. They form an opinion based upon observation of data.  It takes faith to say life began on its own because it cannot be proven.  It also takes faith to say there was a creator because it cannot be proven.  In my life, I try to employ a lot of logic, some emotion, and a little faith.  For me it’s easier to believe that a creator made what we see than it is to believe it just happened. 

So why do I believe the Bible?

Literary Consistency and Longevity.  The Bible is an incredible document.  It contains 66 books written by 40 different authors over a time span of 1600 years and in three different languages.  Despite all of these differences it holds an astounding unity within its pages. You can pick any book of the bible and after doing a solid investigation you get a feel for what it’s about. Its basic message is that God created man, man is imperfect and needs the help of a creator who has willingly offered help.  There is no other book that has been read as much as the Bible, or has had as many copies over the years as the bible. With the number of original works we can be assured that what we read today is very close to the original version. Even despite the attempts of many down through the ages to destroy it, the Bible has lasted.

Its claims.  The bible makes bold claims that it is the only inspired Word of God.   2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is inspired by God.” Jesus quoted the Old Testament, and approved of the writers of the New Testament.  Jesus claimed to be the one and only way to God. John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Historically accurate document.  The bible has never been proven wrong through archaeology.  They’ve discovered a number of things mentioned in the bible: Jericho and its walls that were actually fallen.  The five cities of the plain mentioned in Genesis were thought to have been nonexistent, but they were recently found.  We also see the histories of the bible matching up with other historians comments and historical documents. The first century historian Josephus speaks about Jesus in some of his writings.

Prophetically accurate document.  There were many prophecies made in the Old Testament that have already been fulfilled.  Daniel chapter 2 predicts the next three world kingdoms very accurately…the Medo-Persian, the Greek, and the Roman empires.  The prophet Isaiah predicted in Isaiah 44:28 that a king by the name of Cyrus would come and help in the restoration of the Jewish people.  He made this prediction about 150 years before it happened. 700 years before it happened the prophet Micah predicted the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  Zechariah predicted about 400 years in advance that the Messiah would be betrayed with 30 pieces of silver. He also predicted that none of His bones would be broken and He would be pierced in His side.  There are many more prophecies that have been fulfilled. I challenge you to look them up, but to keep this article short I’ll stop here. These Messianic prophesies are not ones that Jesus could have fulfilled by choice.

It works.  My last reason is that I can see that the principles laid forth in the Bible really work.  Millions of lives have been changed by the words in this book. I’ve applied many of the principles to my own life and I’ve never been disappointed.  Can the Bible be proven to be the Word of God or to be absolute truth? No, but for me it is a reasonable option. It does take faith to believe in God, but it is not blind faith.  It is faith built upon good observations.

The alternative for me seems less probable, and beyond that has little hope.  When I think of a world without God, I find no hope. There’s none in politics.  All I see there is bickering and fighting, and a group of people just jockeying for power.  I’m reminded of the statement that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I find little hope in fame;  I see little hope in money. A little money is needed, but beyond our basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing, money does not give you happiness. I supposed there’s some hope in family, friends, and society. But honestly, society changes.  In Africa, we see the morals of the head-hunter society that are pretty different from ours; in our prisons we see an entirely different set of values, and the values of today are vastly different than they were in the 1920s. I don’t think society is the foundation we can put our hope in.  And in the end, we die and everything we’ve learned, valued, and loved disappears. Maybe we’ve impacted others in this life and have passed on things of value, but eventually they pass on too and all we’ve done, valued, loved is gone. And maybe we’re one of the very lucky ones who has impacted society in a way that we get our name in some book and it lasts generations.  Eventually that disappears too, and in the end life has passed and nothing we have done remains.

I choose God because it’s a logically plausible choice that I feel with my emotions and believe with my faith.  I do not chose my faith in God because it gives me hope…but I can say there is an amazing hope in my faith in God and the Bible.  I believe there is life after death, and what I do in this life affects the next. I have a hope that in the next life, I will see some of those I knew in this life. I have a hope that by passing on this hope to others that they too will enter the next life.  With my faith in God I feel that I have a purpose. And that purpose is to help others find this hope. And that purpose will affect the lives of others for eternity.

The implications of this choice are huge.  Because without God life is all about me and what makes me happy.  Whether that means a life of hedonism seeking all the pleasures possible to man, or a life dedicated to working my way up in society and becoming popular and important–really it’s all about me. But if God is real, then His Word is truth and I should do my best to live by it and up hold it.  Suddenly, my life is no longer about me, but about God. I am not perfect, nor will I ever be; I’m just trying to do my best.

Many think the Bible is just a book of rules, but really you can narrow its heart to just two.  The first says this: Love the Lord God with all your heart, body, mind and soul. And the second says: Love your neighbor as yourself.

World Building

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “World Building” you might get a mental image of huge machines covering the surface of a dead planet carving rivers, planting forests, and pumping oxygen into the atmosphere.  Truth is—that’s not far from reality. World building is the art of bringing to life an imagined world through descriptions, back-story, maps, drawings, and other creative means, and is one of the greatest tools a science fiction writer has for adding depth to a story.

World building is a huge topic, and there have been many books and classes discussing it, but in this article I plan to give you just a few brief thoughts on the subject.

First and foremost, let your world building be an enjoyable process…it should be fun.  Much of the writing you do will have several reads and rewrites. The kind of stuff that you review, review, hand it to a friend to look over, and then review again, but your world building document can contain raw ideas.  You don’t have to worry about getting everything perfect; if you have some dangling modifiers, misused semicolons or run-on sentences. It’s OK. This document is yours, and nobody will ever see it, so give your eraser a break and let your ideas flow.

With that said, don’t go crazy.  You need to give your world building ideas some organization so you can find the information you need when you need it.  I like to keep my ideas in a three ring binder with tabs for subjects like: places, species, and organizations. On some pages I have hand-drawn maps and diagrams, on others I have typed notes, and still on others I have tables full of terms and definitions.  This also allows you to shuffle your pages around, and add or remove them if needed.

Keep informed on scientific facts.  One thing that ruins science fiction quicker than anything else is incorrect or inconsistent information about the world your story takes place in.  For example, it’s probably not the best idea for your story to take place on a planet that orbits a pulsar; it would be difficult for life to exist in such a hazardous place.  Your readers will pick up on mistakes like this, and your story will lose credibility.

Make sure your facts are consistent.  If your planet orbits a yellow star at the beginning of your story, make sure that you don’t call it a brown dwarf later on.  Inconsistency will cause your story to fall apart, and the reader won’t be able to paint a coherent picture of your world.

Brainstorming often follows writing.  Sometimes as I put my ideas to paper, or the binary ones and zeroes of my computer’s storage system, I’ll have an idea for some new aspect of the world I’m writing about.  I’ll immediately jot that idea down along with all its associated facts to keep things consistent throughout the entire story. Later on when I write of that idea again, I can review my summary and keep things straight.  It would be bad to have a species described with five legs in one place and four in another, or a character with no siblings at the start of a story, and an older brother half-way through.

Finally, be complete…think about things like culture, history, geography, languages, and why the world is the way it is.  The more content you put into the brainstorming document, the easier it will be writing the stories that happen there. 

When creating your world-building document consider the butterfly effect.  If a butterfly flaps its wings on earth, does it cause a hurricane on Mars?  Things are deeply connected, and one tiny action may have large repercussions in other systems…so think it through completely.

If you’re interested in creating unique places and things check out serpenshead.com and see worldbuilding in action.  Come be a part of a community of creative individuals and build your world.

Writing to Remember

A memory conceived among many senses will not be easily forgotten.  The goal of communication is to deliver a message to a recipient in a way that it can be received and comprehended, but I think communication should go beyond that.  We should communicate to be remembered. If it’s worth saying, it’s worth remembering.

Memories are more than words and concepts, they are life experiences.  Try thinking of an emotional event in your, life like an argument with a close friend. You probably remember it more in terms of how you felt than the words that were said.

Have you ever gotten sick while eating a certain food?  Once, when I was a teenager, I got extremely intoxicated.  I was so out of control that my mother gave me a bath and I didn’t know it. That’s probably a good thing. I still have no memory of what happened to me that night, but I remember how I felt.  For years the smell of any alcohol would make me sick. The reason I remember it so well is because the event is tied to several senses – smell, taste, touch, etc.

I’ve had many opportunities throughout my life to speak before various groups. I’ve spoke at churches, community settings, in front of children and adults.  I enjoy speaking and writing, and helping others understand things. When I speak to a group, I try to employ methods that will touch as many senses as possible.  I was speaking some years back on the topic of sharing and half-way through my speech I had a pizza delivered to the podium. I stopped for a moment, paid for the pizza, picked up a slice, took a few bites, and began speaking again.  Seven years later someone approached me and said, “Hey I remember that time you spoke, and gave me a slice of pizza”. Why did they remember? Because they heard, they saw, they touched, they tasted, and they could smell what I was saying.

This same principle applies to us as authors. You may not be there when the reader picks up your piece, but you can trigger memories they’ve stored away.  Don’t just tell them what happened; drop your reader smack dab in the middle of a scene.  Let them experience your writing through their memories.