A New Blog For A New Year

I invite readers of the Thimblerig’s Ark blog to check out my new blog, 365 Days of 30 Day Challenges, in which I will write about my attempts to do several new 30 day challenges each month during 2022.

It might interesting to you if you’re looking to give yourself a challenge during an upcoming month, or if you just want to see if I’ll implode trying multiple challenges.

Either way, come visit my new blog! I’d love to see you there.

And for those who would care, I will continue to use this blog to write about non-challenge related things, as the mood strikes me.




Trump and Prophesy

Church talk alert.


Prophecy. And yes, I know.

In some circles of the Christian faith, the idea of prophecy has been an important part of the political scene. Going back to Mark Taylor’s “Trump Prophecy”, where Taylor was famously “told by God” that Trump would be president to Pat Robertson recently saying that God had told him that Trump would be re-elected, the idea of Trump-positive prophecy has played a significant role in this campaign, at least where a certain subset of Christians are concerned.

If you aren’t familiar with the wing of Christianity that buys into the idea of prophecy as a very real part of life and politics, it might surprise you to know that there have been many, many people prophesying (i.e., speaking for God) a Trump second term

Thinking about this has led to a pretty serious bought of reflection on my part. Reflection on how so many in the church often conflate their desires with their understanding of God’s desires, which is interesting from a Christian standpoint, because God’s desires are laid out pretty clearly in Scripture.

One of God’s desires in Scripture is that His children submit. “Not my will, but yours be done,” right? It’s not like Jesus prophesied that angels would take him down from the cross, and then had to tap dance excuses when they didn’t. He submitted to God’s will. Full stop.

So, what can we take away from the way so many in the church married the idea of Trump to the point that they would be willing to publicly conflate their desires with God’s desires?

I’ve got a few ideas.

1) If a person has a vested interest in the outcome of their prophecy, it is suspect. In this case, every prophesy I heard was given by die-hard Trump supporters who weren’t prophesying from a vacuum. They’d tasted power with their guy in the White House, and they’d liked it.

Their prophesies were moot.

2) If a “prophet” is not speaking truth to power, then their prophesy is suspect. Biblical prophets didn’t cozy up to the power structures, but confronted them with hopes that those in power would change their course.If any president desperately needed this, it was Trump.

The fact that they wouldn’t tell him what he really needed to hear rendered their prophesies moot.

3) If a “prophet” has money to gain from their prophesies, then their prophesy is suspect. Like this… the “prophet” does their thing, it goes online, gets shared all over, adds value to their brand, donations go up, books get sold, folks get booked on Jim Bakker’s show or the like.They’re getting wealthy off their prophesies? Their prophesies are suspect. These people know their audiences, and play to their audiences, and profit from their audiences.

Suspect. Moot.

4) If the prophesies tickled the listener’s ears, they were suspect. See #3. It always seems to be about money, inn’t it? Moot.

There are other things to be learned from these past four years, books upon books will be written, I’m sure. For the Church, we need to use this time to take some serious looks in the mirror. If he gave us anything, 45 gave us the valuable gift of the ability to see ourselves clearly. I hope that the white evangelical Christian church will take the opportunity to do spend some serious time in front of the mirror.

What we see may not be appealing, but recognizing the reflection might be the start of making things right.

A Problem with the Hero’s Journey

I’ve taught the Hero’s Journey for years.

I learned the Hero’s Journey in a screenwriting course back in 2007, and it’s been my main focus in my own writing classes ever since, because it seemed so logical. It’s the monomyth, after all. It’s Joseph Campbell, after all. It just made sense.

We saw it in Star Wars, didn’t we? And thanks to The Memo from Christopher Vogler, we’ve seen it in just about every Hollywood movie since the mid-80’s.

The Hero’s Journey is our journey.

But is it?

The truth of the matter is that in promoting the Hero’s Journey, we’ve created a monster.

2020 has revealed the Hero’s Journey to be a pandora’s box of problems when the shit really hits the fan. Because you see, the problem with the Hero’s Journey.. for most of us… is that we are usually not the hero.

The Hero’s Journey teaches us that we are all the hero of our own story, that we are the ones experiencing the inciting incident, refusing the call, crossing the threshold, fighting the threshold guardians, entering the dark night of the soul, finding the strength to overcome and ultimately overwhelm our adversaries, and returning home, older and wiser.

Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins, Katniss Aberdeen… all heroes. All us. Right?

But the problem is that most of us aren’t the hero. Most of us are the ones on the sidelines, dealing with the decisions of the hero. Most of us are the plebes. Sometimes we’re even the threshold guardians working against the hero.

But we all think we’re the hero.

And the Hero’s Journey doesn’t have a place for the plebes and bad guys who think they’re the hero. It’s only concerned with the hero.

So, the Hero’s Journey is problematic, because for most us, the heroic story isn’t our story. We’d like to think that it is, but for most of us, our story is just getting through the day. Our story is dealing with what the hero does. Our story is survival.

And we’ve really seen this during 2020, haven’t we? Acts of heroism in 2020 are staying home. Wearing a mask. Putting others before ourselves. Not Hero’s Journeying. Not going out and fight dragons and defeating The Empire and putting Lord Voldemort in his place.

That’s where we’ve been deceived with the Hero’s Journey. It’s not nearly as sexy and self-absorbed and hero-centric as we’ve been led to believe it to be.

The real and true hero’s journey is not about us and our journey. It’s about the other…. putting the needs of others before ourselves. It’s about realizing that we are nothing but bit players in a larger production, and our being okay with our just doing our part.

Sure, there are heroes among us. And God bless them. But for most of us, we are not those heroes. We are just players acting out our parts. We are often the plebes. We are often the antagonists.

We need to recognize the truth in this.

And so, as I think about what I will teach my writing students in the future, I realize that I need to retool what I teach about the Hero’s Journey, about the monomyth. Yes, it needs to be acknowledged as a method of storytelling, but does it need to be applied to our lives like some sort of universal truth?

I don’t think so.

Because we are often not the hero.

Life in China is seldom boring.

Life in China is seldom boring.

Around 9:30 AM this morning, we had a cake delivered to our flat. We didn’t order it, there was no note.

An hour later, we had three cups of honey bubble tea delivered to our house. We didn’t order it, there was no note. But there was a phone number that ended in 9193. We had no idea who 9193 was, but I did wonder, as a typical American, if someone was trying to poison us.

An hour later, we had a personal sized durian pizza and a bag of four chicken nuggets delivered to our house. Same deal. Same number. Same concerns.

This isn’t so unusual for us, believe it or not. Last week, the guards at our flat said that someone tried to deliver a cake and coffee to us. A month ago, someone delivered several sauces to us. A couple of months ago, someone delivered a bag of stationary to us. The only hint of who was behind this was a note that this was all for an American family (we’re the only one in our complex), and it was sent by someone named Crystal.

Of course, I was immediately suspicious about all of it. Is this stuff poisoned? Is someone setting us up for a scam? What’s really going on? Being an American can really be tedious.

Turns out our anonymous benefactor didn’t do a great job covering her tracks, and left her WeChat info with the guards. We were able to contact her today, and it turns out that K had helped promote her business a while back on Chinese social media, and she just wanted to say thank you.

And so, notebooks and sauces and cake and coffee and juice and honey tea and pizza stretched out over months. Just to say thank you for something we didn’t even realize we had done.

I still don’t who this woman is, but for some reason, she knows who we are, and she is grateful to us.

Life in China is seldom boring.

How we treat strangers…

Noah, my seven year old, and I were on our way to Walmart today when we happened upon a science fair in the mall next to Walmart.

Yes, our daily life in China involve visits to Walmart. More than I wish it would, but when it’s a ten minute walk from your apartment, it’s hard to not go.

The science fair was fun for Noah. There was a real tarantula in a cage, one of those Frankenstein globes, and a live display of the effects of dry ice.

Noah was entranced by the science. I was entranced by the hospitality.

See, there were about a dozen Chinese kids sitting and watching the display, but the host focused in on Noah, the one foreign kid. The host asked Noah to come forward first, to help him with an experiment. Why? Because he was the one foreign kid. All the other kids were dying to participate, but the host chose Noah. The host did his best to include Noah in everything he did.

This is the way we’ve been treated nearly every moment we’ve been in China for the past seven years. We’re foreigners, and we are constantly given special treatment. We’re put at the front of the line, shown extra hospitality, granted special privileges.

This is my experience in China. Regardless of what you are hearing in the news about China, understand that this has been our experience. Consistently.

We have always been treated well.

And when I turn my attention back home, it’s shown me that America has a lot to learn about how to consider people who are different than we are. The foreigners. The strangers. The different. We have a whole lot to learn.

It’s interesting what you can learn on a trip to Walmart.


We all want things to be normal again, don’t we?

Can you believe that ‘normal’ was just six months ago? Less if you aren’t in Asia.

Six months. Not so long ago.

What, exactly, did we like so much about normal that we want it back again? Was it the predictability? After all, before, we knew what would happen tomorrow because it had happened yesterday. There was comfort in that.

Normal was predictable and comfortable.

On paper.

For most of us.

In reality, for many of us, normal wasn’t so predictable. Normal, back then, still had cancer. Normal, back then, still had divorce. Normal, back then, still had accidents. Normal still had tragedy. Back then, normal wasn’t normal for many of us.

Pre-Covid normal still took many of us by surprise.

But still, compared to what we are experiencing now, pre-Covid normal was heaven on earth. Right? Pre-Covid normal was something that we should be longing for, right?

Except maybe it wasn’t. Pre-covid normal took me and my two oldest children on a flight from China to America to watch my mother die. A mother who shouldn’t have died. A mother who was perfectly healthy until just a couple of months before. Pre-covid normal let me and my two oldest children watch my mother die in a hospital with my brothers and my sister. My family.

Pre-Covid normal could be brutal.

Pre-Covid normal could be a bitch.

Pre-Covid saw many of us lose our parents and our children and our friends and our loved ones to all kinds of heartbreak.

Pre-covid normal was not necessarily such a great place.

And yet, we all want things to be normal again. We all want Covid to be behind us. But maybe this is the wrong thing for us to want.

Covid has something to teach us, if we are open to learning. After all, Covid has forced us to slow down, to consider others before ourselves, to reprioritize.

Covid has forced us to reconsider what should be normal in our lives.

Covid has forced us to reconsider.


I don’t have an answer for this question. I don’t know what normal should be for me these days, let alone what normal should be for you. I just know that opportunities like this don’t come around often, and I don’t want to waste it.

Personally, I don’t want things to return to normal.

I want things to be better for all of us.

Now we just need to figure out how what that means.

Our new normal needs to be better. It just needs to be.

A love that transcends all of this

Jesus told us to love our neighbor.

He said this, and then he went on to tell a story about how important it is that we love our enemies.

This covers the gamut. If we follow Jesus, we need to love our neighbors and we need to love our enemies.

It couldn’t be more clear.

This is from Jesus. Not me.

And the love of Jesus is not passive. It’s active. It’s not a hippy dippy “all we need is love” mentality… it’s a get-down-in-the-dirt with people who are hurting and love them mentality. This is the love of Jesus.

The love of Jesus is the kind of love that would find a wounded man on the road and not pass him by. It’s the kind of love that would find a wounded man on the road not pass him by and bind his wounds. It’s the kind of love that would find a wounded man on the road and not pass him by and bind his wounds and take him to a place where he would be cared for, and pay to make sure he was cared for.

It’s the kind of love that would do all of this for a wounded man who is the enemy.

This is Jesus’ love… it is a sacrificial love.

My reading of Scripture tells me that Jesus doesn’t care jack-squat about our politics. Jesus doesn’t care jack-squat about our notions of freedom or liberty. Jesus doesn’t care about our comfort.

My reading of scripture tells me that Jesus cares about the way we treat our neighbors. He cares about the way we treat our enemies. He cares about the way we treat our community.

That’s what my reading of scripture tells me. That’s what my reading of scripture tells me about who Jesus is.

And it transcends all of this.

Anti-maskers… I just don’t get it.

I had an interesting conversation with one of my Chinese coworkers today. We were shooting the breeze about summer school, when I remembered that there was something I had wondered about for some time.

I asked her about the Chinese response to mask wearing. Since January, did anyone ever oppose it? Was anyone ever against it?

It was like I’d asked her if people in China breathe air. Why would they oppose something that benefits everyone?

I told her that some people in America continue to refuse to wear the mask, even when the virus is not nearly under control.

Again, it was like I told her that some people in America refuse to breathe air. It didn’t make sense to her.

And it doesn’t make sense to me.

I can understand that someone could’ve felt this way in the beginning. After all, masks aren’t unusual in Asia, but they are in America. We haven’t had to wear masks before, and they are not comfortable. I can get people not wanting to wear them.

In the beginning.

But now? When the science has shown that wearing a mask helps fight the virus… why wouldn’t people wear them now?

This is my question. If you are a person who continues to refuse to wear a mask… why? What is your reasoning? I’m not asking this to start a fight, I’m truly trying to understand your point of view. What scientific evidence to you bring to your position? And if you are a Christian, how do you respond to the argument that wearing a mask demonstrates love to your neighbor?

Seriously. I don’t want a fight. I want to understand.

Because right now I don’t.


Breathe. Just breathe.


Life can be awful, especially these days. Life punches us in the ribs when we’re down for the count. Life pushes us to our limits and backs us into walls and drives us to the floor.

Sometimes all we can do is breathe.

So then, breathe.

Just breathe.

I’m not talking about breathing in some figurative sense. I’m not telling you to breathe metaphorically. I’m encouraging you to simply, actually breathe.

Literally, breathe.

Just breathe.

Take a moment and feel the air going into your lungs and filling you with life. Make a point to feel it. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Feel it. Enjoy it. Luxuriate in the oxygen entering your lungs. Imagine the fear and the anxiety and the paranoia leaving as the fresh air enters.

Let your breathing give you focus.

The world may be falling apart all around us, but taking a moment and breathing, just breathing, can help bring things back into focus.

Where there is breath, as they say, there is hope.

Where there is breath, as they say, there is life.

So breathe. Just breathe.

Outrage. It’s all the rage.


It’s all the rage these days, isn’t it?

Stories are posted and shared and we’re outraged. And so we share. And then more people are outraged. And then they share and more are outraged.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Outrage is the fashion.

I’m outraged that people are wearing masks. I’m outraged that people aren’t wearing masks. I’m outraged that the government is pushing to open schools. I’m outraged that people are pushing people to stay home and destroy the economy. I’m outraged about systematic racial injustice. I’m outraged that people are tearing down statues.

Outrage. Outrage. Outrage.

If I didn’t know any better, I would think that someone, somewhere, is working hard to keep us in a constant societal state of outrage.

Here’s the thing. Outrage, when responding to specific injustice, can be a positive force for change. But outrage, when carefully cultivated in fearful times, can be manipulated for nefarious purposes.

That seems to be happening in July 2020.

Outrage is benefiting someone, somewhere. But it is not benefiting us. The regular people. The folk. We are not being benefited by the outrage. We are being manipulated.

I suggest that it’s time that we became the manipulators.

We need to PURPOSE to be in a different state, a state of anti-outrage. We need to purpose to be in a state of “inpeace”, as coined by my Twitter friend, Keith Lango.

We need inpeace. Not outrage.

What does inpeace look like? It means being people who look for a peace-building response outraged responses. It means being people who actively seek to demonstrate kindness and empathy and understanding instead of just flaming and being pissed off.

Being inpeaced is an active choice. Especially these days, when there are plenty of voices clambering for rage. These days, when there are plenty of voices trying to sew division.

That’s what we need to figure out: how to be different. We need to figure out how to counter the voices that are working to divide us and encourage us to work against each other.

Outrage. I’m not having it anymore. I’m dedicated to working on being a person of inpeace, even as I try to figure out what that means, practically.

I’m still trying to figure it out. But I wonder… who’s with me?