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Author: Daniel

Why “Loser”?

Losers_HIRESWhen people ask me about the book, one question that often comes up is: why I am so focused on the label “loser”? It’s in the title of my book, rendering me by default an expert on the topic. I have identified myself as a loser, and now that identification is out there for all the world to see.

So the questions come: Why are you so hard on yourself? How can a child of God call himself or herself a loser? Don’t you realize you are under grace?

Allow me to answer these questions.

First, why am I so hard on myself? Really, I am not. It’s taken me the better part of my life and a couple of kicks below the belt to realize that I am at best an ordinary, frumpy, broken, sinful person. I have failed more often than I have achieved. I have not now, nor will I ever, overcome the “if-only” syndrome (if only I can conquer this sin / overcome this flaw / achieve this status). read more

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Meaningless sunshine

Photo by Daniel HochhalterEver since I first read Ecclesiastes, I have been intrigued by this mysterious book. Though I have always struggled with its meaning, I have also been intrigued by and even drawn to its words. I hope that this has nothing to do with a naturally pessimistic temperament, though it could very well be.

Ecclesiastes a small poem hidden in the shadow of the much larger and more-often-quoted book of Proverbs. Proverbs offers more certainty, is more formulaic in its maxims: Righteousness leads to good results; wickedness leads to bad ones. Ecclesiastes, on the other hand, is far less certain. It speaks of a teacher who spends his entire life seeking—and achieving—wisdom, and experiencing many of the benefits of Proverbs, but still finds everything “under the sun…meaningless.” read more

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Five seconds on the journey

As daylight seems to be breaking on my long, dark night, I have been taking some moments to look back and reflect on a few things about all that has happened — my responses to the chaos, my emotional spirals, my relationship with God, and especially my trust in all things Yahweh.

Take that last one in particular. During my dark night, at times my trust in God was definitely strained, uncertain. This issue often came up in my prayers. More often than requests for justice over wrongs done to me, or for a miracle check from heaven to pay off my debts and bail me out of my circumstances (though I did pray for both of those things, believe me), my prayers leaned toward a plea to know the future. read more

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Waiting (and waiting) for the thrill

roller_coaster_up_hill2I love rollercoasters. Love them.

I love them for the thrill, the rush, the speed. I love the anticipation, the clack-clack-clack as the cars crawl up that first monstrous hill. I love the loops and flips, the twists and turns, the drool swinging from my seatmate’s wide-open mouth and the bugs slamming into my own. I love the way I vow to eviscerate whoever talked me into this as we crest that first terrifying hill, and then laugh and clap as we roll to a stop at the end.

That’s what I love about rollercoasters.

But apparently, judging by the long lines, everyone else loves them too. And the line is always longest for the best rollercoaster in the place. It provides the longest wait, followed by the greatest thrill of all. read more

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Ahh…political! Relief from earthly politics

elephant-donkey-boxingAs my blog evolves, I often reflect on experiences in my life and how they relate to my overall life message.

One area I have consciously worked to avoid is politics. It’s not that I don’t have political opinions; I do. And sometimes I can get passionate about an issue. Sometimes I want to tear my hair out when I don’t agree with local or national politics in our country.

But politics can deeply divide people into pro vs. con, us vs. them, progressive vs. conservative, or—in Christian-speak—God’s prophet vs. Satan incarnate. I’m sad to think public discourse can be so polarizing, but unfortunately, divisiveness is a part of our fallen nature.

There was a time when I truly believed that the implementation of God’s kingdom on earth depended upon the victory of a particular party. Honest. If “my” candidate won, all was well in the world. If he or she lost…well, pass the Prozac. So, as a follower of Christ who sincerely desired God’s will for my nation, state, and town, my “kingdom work” revolved around leaving literature in screen doors and encouraging people to vote – which, especially if I believed in a particular cause or candidate, I did with conviction. (And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that.) read more

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Pile it on, part 2

Recently a friend asked me a two-part question. In Part 1 she asked whether, given my new book deal, I am now grateful for the painful road that brought me here (see my post,  Pile it on, part 1).

But then my friend asked Part 2: “Does it take something really big or really good to make us finally thankful for a difficult road?”

To be honest, compared to the first question, this one was even tougher. It forced me to think harder to get past the spiritual clichés.

Because, as they say, hindsight is twenty-twenty. It seems superficial to look back after a big God-event and say, “Yeah, now I see God’s hand in the hardship.” I mean, if someone gets canned from a job and then finds one that pays oodles better, it doesn’t take a whole lot of spirituality to “give God the glory” for losing the first job. Giving glory to God in the windfalls is just too easy. read more

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Pile it on, part 1

pile-of-stonesRecently, for the second time this spring, I got The Question again. Knowing my trauma since losing the PhD and my joy at getting a book deal, a close friend asked me: “Dan, standing where you are now and looking back, do you find yourself grateful for the road that brought you here?”

I hesitated.

I didn’t want to look back, didn’t want to remember the times when God really seemed to “pile it on” – the pain, the agony, the humiliation. However, after hearing that question twice within a few weeks, from two different people, I realized God was doing the asking—and he is unrelenting. So I knew I had to answer.

Yet why the hesitation?

After all, I have a book scheduled for publication this summer—and that’s great news. If my dry, narrow-focus doctoral dissertation had passed rather than failed, there’d be no book; instead, there would be only the dissertation, gathering dust on a back shelf in a remote university library, with virtually no chance that anyone would ever read it. In fact, if my dissertation had passed I’d have no hope of redemption—because without pain and failure, there is nothing to redeem. read more

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Killing THOSE people

murder[1]

I killed a guy this week.

Oh, believe me, I was completely justified. He really had it coming. He was one of THOSE people.

I was already miffed because I had been delayed by two separate car wrecks and was running late for work. (Sidenote: Why do I always count my problem of being stuck behind a car crash as bigger than the problem of those being pulled from the wreckage?)

Anyway, even though I was behind schedule already, I still needed to make a stop at Plaid Pantry.

So of course I ended up behind a guy who had to slow down the line and make his problem, my problem. He started picking an argument, ranting at the clerk about having to show ID to buy cigarettes and raging against the idiotic law requiring her to ask him for it. He even tried to rope me into joining his crusade. Worst of all, he looked old enough to have been buying cigarettes for years and he finally did show his ID, so he must’ve known the routine and been through it before. Yet he had to start freaking out now? read more

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Falling from towers to trenches

Mad_Men+FallingThe activity of writing, especially writing something longish like a book, requires extended periods of time alone, so it’s a good fit for an introvert. And that’s what I am: an extreme introvert, one who feels happiest and safest when I am alone at my computer. In order of magnitude, think: introvert…hermit…recluse…me.

But recently, this introvert was stopped short by a brief comment in a minor scene in a movie about something else.

The movie was “God’s Not Dead” (yes, I finally got to see it) – which, as I said, is about something else. But in a subplot, a pastor bemoans doing mundane ministry in the U.S. while his visiting friend does real ministry “in the trenches” of Africa. When the two encounter a weeping girl in need of help, cast out by her Muslim family for converting to Christianity, the African tells the American: “Well, you said you wanted to be in the trenches…” read more

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