Writing the script

pen-paperI remember the very first script I wrote.  I was in 7th grade, and my history teacher, Mr. Lively (which was a pretty funny name for the man since he was not particularly lively – nice, yes; lively, no), put us into groups for a project.  He assigned us an explorer – and we had to come up with a creative way to  “share” his achievements with the class.  My group decided to do a mini-play, and I volunteered to write the script.  I wish I still had that script.  I’m sure it was a bit lame, but I thought it was hilarious.  Most importantly, it was my start.

Since then I have written almost 200 scripts – most of them short sketches that have been used in church.  But on the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also written three full length plays.  For the  most part, it’s been fun.  Occasionally, it’s even been easy.  Those are the good days, the days when I sit down to write and the lines jump right onto the paper.  And there are those other days when my only inspiration is a deadline.

People often ask me how to write a script.  Some of it just comes naturally – but if you want to write a script, there are also some “rules” that you have to follow.  Here are a few of them:

1.  You need conflict.  If you want to have a good story, you have to have a good conflict.  There must be some tension to resolve or some problem to fix – that’s what creates drama.  Some examples… Will the guy get the girl?  Will the secret agent foil the plot?  Will the underdog triumph over the opposition?

2.  You need complications.  No good script moves happily along.  You need a series of ups and downs – mini-conflicts to keep things interesting.  For instance, let’s say the guy finally has the girl’s attention – we can’t end the story there!  No, something has to happen to mess things up.  Maybe she decides she wants to become a nun.  Now the story gets interesting.

3.  You need characters.  We’ve got the guy and the girl, but the audience needs to be able to identify with them.  People have to be able to see themselves in those characters.  If our nun-girl is uncertain, it connects with our uncertainty.  If  the guy is angry – we understand his anger.  We can relate to those emotions.

4.  You need a climax.  Everything in the story moves toward the moment of resolution.  Usually the resolution is good; occasionally it’s not – but the outcome wraps the story up.  (By the way, I’m a big fan of happy endings.)  The  best resolutions are the ones that you don’t see coming – where the story takes a twist that totally catches you by surprise.

There, you’re now ready to write a script.  Or maybe not.  Maybe the idea of staring at a blank piece of paper (or a blank computer screen) and creating something from nothing seems too intimidating.  But really, that’s the fun part.  Because you get to make it up – even as you go.  Sometimes you’ll get heading in one direction and a character will say something that totally changes the direction and it catches even you by surprise – which is a really weird experience when you are the one writing the script.  But that’s what makes it fun – it’s an adventure on paper.  And even you as the author never know exactly where things are going.

Sounds like life, doesn’t it?  Never knowing exactly where things are going?  That’s where I am right now in my life.  But that’s where I always am – it’s just that sometimes I don’t realize it.   My only consolation is that I know I can trust the script writer.  He’ll get my story right.  However…

He’s probably going to bring in some conflict, a little tension to add to the drama.  He might add some complications, those every day wrinkles to wrestle with.  He may even write in some characters that steer things in unexpected directions.   But that’s only going to make my story better.

But when God writes the story of a person’s life – He’s never surprised at where things go.  No, He has the entire script already written, including the resolution.  What I am most excited about is the twist that’s going to come with it.

The script has been written.  I can’t wait to get into the next scene.


About those garage sales…


I am not a big fan of garage sales.  I seldom stop at them.  My thinking is that if it’s junk to someone else, it’s junk to me, too.  I know, I know, you can get good deals at garage sales.  At least that’s the rumor.  Who knows?  Maybe you can.

Me?  I can only think of three things that I have bought at garage sales.  I bought a toaster oven before I went to college.  That was a good purchase.  I bought a box of plastic tinker toys for .50.  That was a good deal, too.   And I bought a little plastic chair for $1.  I got hosed on that one.  And there you have a detailed account of my garage sale purchases.   My life long list.

My wife has tried finding bargains, too.  She’s not done much better.  One time she bought a hammock – disguised as a bed.  Hmm.

Right now there is a garage sale going on in my driveway.  That’s a little too close for me.  But I’ve been doing some observing, and some contemplating.

1.  The thought that what is in my driveway right now has been living in my house disturbs me.  For instance, why have we been keeping the puzzle map of Mexico?

2.  The strangest thing for sale right now is a half-knitted scarf – still on the knitting needles, still attached to the yarn.  Is someone really going to pick that up and think, “Yes, I’ve been looking for something like this all over town!”?

3.  The best thing we sold was a remote control truck.  The little neighbor boy across the street bought it for $3.  Watching him play with it for the past day – priceless.

4.  Our worst sale.  Some Barbie stuff.  We discovered too late that what we had was selling on ebay for $100.  Yep, we sold part of the set for only $7.50.  Oops.  (Let me say right here that I was not all that disappointed.  The thought of no more Barbies in my house was worth the loss.  Just think, no more little shoes in the vacuum.)

5.  It’s hard selling some of the kids’ stuff.  We don’t really need it anymore – but I feel like I’m selling off part of their childhood.  Like the Barbies.  I still remember the girls asking Luke to play with them.  He would take the Ken doll and use it to head butt all the girl dolls.  I was so proud.

6.  It’s impossible trying to decide prices.  If it sells right away, we priced it too low (see the note on Barbies).  If it doesn’t sell right away, we priced it too high.  We seemed to have priced most of the stuff too high.

7.  We tried something unusual this year.  We started our sale at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday.  At least we tried.  But after fighting people off all morning we gave up.  But you should have seen the crowd at 4:00!

8.  My wife has been on a rampage – dragging every possible thing out of the house that we might be able to sell.  Took me the longest time to find my toothbrush this morning.   Fortunately, it hadn’t sold yet.

9.  I think the “courtesy purchases” are the best.  You know – where people walk up and think, “What an unbelievable collection of worthless junk” but are too polite to say it, so they find some weird little thing for .10 and buy it – just to be nice.

10.  I have to agree with the guy who said, “The only difference between a garage sale and a trash pick-up is how close you set it to the curb.”

The faith-o-meter

meter-faceHere’s my confession for today – this faith thing confuses me.  Does God only respond when I get my level of faith high enough?  Is there some faith-o-meter in heaven that He checks to gauge my progress?  Is he watching the needle, and when it slides into the red zone, does He signal for the release of all the blessings that I have been wanting, that I have been praying for, that I have been conjuring up enough faith to deserve?

Something doesn’t seem right with this picture to me.  Somehow grace needs to come into play.  I know I’m supposed to have faith.  And honestly, I’m somewhat embarrassed that I don’t have more.  But where am I supposed to get it?  From God, I know that.   But how am I supposed to get it?  That’s what puzzles me.

I can only have faith as God gives me faith, right?  And how does He give me faith?  Through grace.  It’s a work that He does in me.  But He seems to do that work by putting me through trials.  He uses trials to build my faith.  That’s the desired outcome.  That’s what’s supposed to be the result of the trial.  But when I’m in the trial, I’m not all that excited about some resulting, down-the-road faith.  I’m much more concerned about having enough faith for the moment.

It’s at those times that my faith looks pretty ugly.  I doubt.  I panic.  I give into fear.  But I keep looking to God.  Maybe it’s “little faith,” but it’s still faith.  I tend to question whether or not God will, but I still believe that He can.  Is that enough?  Is my faith pushing the needle higher?

Have you ever noticed how failure is so much a part of progress?  Whenever a teacher feels a student has mastered his material, he pushes that student harder.  At first the student struggles, but he eventually gains mastery.  A coach does the same thing.  When the player conquers one skill, the coach challenges him with another.  And the player flounders – but if he’ll keep at it, he’ll add another facet to his game.

And maybe that’s what God does with us.  He sees us make progress with our faith, so He adds the next lesson.  And we wrestle with it – often at least somewhat unsuccessfully.  I don’t think God is surprised; maybe not even disappointed – because He knows what the result will be.  And yes, right in the middle of the test, He (through his grace) pumps more faith into us.  And the needle goes up.

If God is waiting for me to redline the needle on the faith-0-meter, it may not happen.  But if He can take this little bit of faith that I have, and somehow add to it, maybe it will be enough.  And if it takes some trials to make that happen, then Lord, increase my faith.

Things I like…

My newest thing in life has been to deliberately do something everyday that I enjoy doing.  And just in case you are wondering, I think God is ok with this.  In fact, I think He probably likes it.  Too often the temptation is to focus on the negatives of life, and in the process miss all the opportunities for positives.

With that in mind, I have identified some of my favorite things in life.  And rather than playing Julie Andrews and singing about them, I’ve decided to simply list them.  And do them.

So here are a few of my favorite things…

I like to play soccer.
I enjoy walking around the trail in the woods behind our house.
I love to pull one of my vintage games out of the basement and make the kids play with me.
I like to read Louis L’Amour books even though they are all basically the same.
Some days I even enjoy yard work.
I love watching the sun set over Lake Michigan.
I like playing catch in the front yard.
I enjoy walking around Lowe’s or Home Depot.
I like to tell corny jokes just to see my kids roll their eyes.
I like playing in the snow.    Actually, I like snow – just not in April.  (Is someone making a note on that?)
I like watching the NCAA basketball tournament.
I get a kick out of trying to sneak the Oreos into the grocery cart.
I like watching American Idol.  Ok, that’s a lie, but my kids like it, so I watch it with them.
I love camp fires, and looking at the stars, and catching fire flies.
I like sitting in front of the window and watching electrical storms.
I love power tools (and urgent care centers).
I love squirt guns – as long as I am on the giving end.
I love trying to convince my wife that schlaberf is word – and that there is no need to challenge me or check the Scrabble dictionary.
I love Breyer’s mint chip ice cream.
I like looking at old photo albums.
I love corn mazes in the fall.
I love spring in northern Indiana – both days of it.
I like parades.
I like pepperoni pizza.
I like tents in the living room (even though my wife does not share my joy).
I love college students – what a great time of life.
I enjoy passing on a compliment.
I love taking my wife out for dinner.
I enjoy watching reruns of the Dick Van Dyke Show.
I love picking apples off the tree.
I enjoy trying to sleep in on Saturday mornings.   I can’t, but it’s still fun not to have to set the alarm.
I love ordering root beer just for something different.
I enjoy cheese steak sandwiches and movie theater popcorn.
I love family vacations – and seeing how many activities we can pack into one day.
I love watching my kids while they’re sleeping – even though they are pretty big now.
I like reading the sports page while I eat my cereal for breakfast.
I love rolling down the windows and doing 60 on a warm summer night.
I love playing sardines.

And I like going to the beach – so that’s where I’m taking the family today.

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