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Daniel Hochhalter Posts

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

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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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Facing the F-word

fail_stencil2It’s been a couple of weeks since David C Cook went live with the official Losers Like Us webpage. I’ll admit, seeing my book on websites like Amazon is a bit surreal, and I am very grateful for the opportunity.

But I also must admit, I cringe every time I read the first sentence of the book’s description: “After permanently failing his PhD…” There it is: the “F” word. I am a failure.

Of course, I can’t complain too much. This is the book description I provided. But it still stings.

I could have sanitized the word choice. I could have softened it to: “After not receiving his Ph.D…” Or I could have played the victim card: “After getting robbed of his Ph.D…” After all, there may be some truth to that. read more

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Saturday in limbo

rainAs I write this, it’s a gray Saturday morning, with the rain pounding against my window. Today is very different from yesterday, which was a sunny Friday. Specifically, it was Good Friday.

Just hours ago, I attended my church’s Good Friday service. As always, it was an unsettling time. A time to do three things: Remember Jesus’ death. Eat the elements. Go home.

There was no message about the resurrection. No announcement about Easter Sunday activities. No promise of coming hope.

Not that I’m complaining. In fact, I think Good Friday should point to the cross, not the resurrection. Because Jesus’ death is too important to forget. And it’s only bearable because in hindsight, we know it wasn’t the end. When Jesus spoke his last words – “It is finished” – he meant his work on earth in the flesh, not his whole story. read more

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“Friends” on Facebook: To stone, or not to stone

stone in handI have finally come kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century: I am now on Facebook. I have resisted social media because: 1) I find the interaction to be somewhat superficial, and 2) I’ve never heard of journalists or potential employers checking a person’s social media and finding anything which raised their estimation of him/her. However, due to the upcoming book launch, my publisher asked me to start a Facebook page. So I pulled the trigger.

One important part of setting up a page (other than figuring out how to get the stupid thing to work the way I want it to) is to find “friends.” But that’s a broad term. On Facebook, sometimes getting “friends” feels more like feeding a narcissistic urge to see how many people remember me. read more

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Spoiler alert: Noah survives the flood

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I know it’s been discussed to death, but I finally had a chance to see Darren Aronofsky’s movie “Noah.” I love the story of the Bible and I love epic movies, so I was looking forward to seeing this one.

On one hand, I enjoyed the bigness of the story. I’m a guy who enjoys good visual effects, so for me this movie was a fun – though very loose – interpretation of a familiar story. It was sort of “Genesis meets Lord of the Rings” – with giant stone people (Watchers) instead of Tolkien’s tree people (Ents). And it did agree with the Bible that the Creator sent the flood because of humanity’s great sins. read more

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Sticks and stones…

The Internet is buzzing about the latest rant against God from Bill Maher. Set off by the upcoming movie Noah, Maher calls God a ”psychotic mass murderer” who “drowns babies” and has “anger management issues” worse than Russell Crowe’s. Many Christians are shocked, offended, and even enraged by what he said, and everyone seems to be talking about it, so I thought I would offer my two cents as well.

Thought #1: Bill Maher is an atheist. What else would we Christians expect from an atheist? Atheists don’t believe what we believe. They mock what we hold sacred. They will blaspheme a God who, to their way of thinking, does not exist. We can’t possibly hold the expectation that they should treat us and our beliefs with respect. read more

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Hope in the sting of loss

February is always a difficult month for me because it marks the anniversary when my doctoral dissertation died a sudden and violent death. February is the month that I flew out of England for the last time.

This February, like the last six, was not a happy time. I approached it with a sense of dread, grief and sadness, still feeling the pain of the loss of my work. This February, though–the sixth since my postgraduate research went sideways–I had the joy and thrill of a recently-signed book deal, and with it a sense of newness. It is a new chapter. Perhaps a sense of hope. Yet I continue to grieve. The loss still stings. read more

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