Official Review of “The Shack”


Yep. I watched it. I swore I wasn’t gonna. I was absolutely sure that the criticisms about it were accurate. But on my wife’s insistence that I form my OWN opinion, I suffered through it.

…and confirmed to myself, once again, that context is everything.

If you’ve read all the negative press from steadfast Christians and all the positive spin from the neo-Universalist crowd, you already have the gist of the storyline — a man who’s angry at God has an otherworldly experience that changes his entire view of God. Of course, some people get stuck on the representation of the Trinity as two women and a man, or about the notion that someone can get saved after dying as an unbeliever, but if you’ll bear with me repeating myself…

Context is everything.

As I said, I’d bought into the presumptions about the Shack, but I know my wife to be a wise and Godly woman — one who ABSOLUTELY AFFIRMS the holiness of God, such that He cannot suffer sin, nor submit His sovereignty to forgive the unrepentant — and she reminded me that a wise man LISTENS to the wisdom of others but does not DEPEND upon it. So if I were to form any rock-solid opinions about the Shack, I owed it to everybody — including myself — to actually watch it and see what was what. Which is what I did.

So… my thoughts…

The Shack, first and foremost, is NOT an evangelistic movie, and it never tries to be. Quite the opposite, I take the Shack to be a commentary on the Problem of Evil/Suffering — a philosophical argument that many atheists use to undermine religion in general and Christianity in particular.

As the movie progresses, you come to realize that the main character, Mack, is not an unbeliever per se — not the way many would understand the term. To the contrary, Mack believes that there is a God, and he nominally tries to please Him, but because of life experiences with his Dad, and of course the murder of his daughter, Mack has a very broken view of God. He “obeys” (in loose terms) God in order to avoid punishment, or to “do the right thing”, but none of it comes out of any actual “love” for God. He recognizes God as the Omnipotent, Omniscient Judge and Ruler of the Universe… but that’s ALL he sees God as. He can’t look at our world, with all its suffering, and equate an all-powerful God with a GOOD God.

This, ultimately, is where the main body of the movie takes place.

When Mack first meets God (called “Papa” in the movie, because that’s how his dead daughter always referred to God), he meets God as three distinct and separate people. Of course, some theologians will cry “modalism” at this, and there “might” be an argument to be made about that, but I find it an incredibly weak one.

See, the character of Papa is played, as you already know, by a little black woman. The thing is, the woman who Papa appears as in the Shack is the very same black woman who comforted Mack once as a child, after Mack’s father beat him. Given that Mack has a broken view of God, it makes perfect sense that if God were to CHANGE Mack’s view, He would meet Mack with that view in mind. So when God first appears to Mack, He appears as perhaps the only genuinely loving face that Mack has ever known — someone who Mack did not know, and who did not know him, but nevertheless showed him unconditional love. The fact that this “face of unconditional love” was a little black woman was entirely beside the point — it was a face that would put Mack at ease, and allow him to accept God as entirely DIFFERENT from the God that Mack expected.

As the movie progresses, we run into this theme several times — Mack presumes, God corrects. In many ways, the movie is NOT about revealing who God is, but about revealing that Mack is WRONG about who God is. It does this in a variety of ways — by challenging Mack’s notion that God is (directly or indirectly) the source of evil, that God is impotent to punish the “right” people, etc.

One particularly powerful scene is where Mack, who has deemed himself worthy to sit in judgment of God, meets the manifestation of Wisdom (who is arguably another manifestation of God, one that Mack might perceive as neutral) and is asked to decide which of his children will go to Heaven, and which he must send to Hell. When Mack balks, she tells him, “I’m only asking you to do something you believe God does.” She shows him his remaining daughter, who shuts him out, says hurtful things, etc, and contrasts her with Mack’s son, who she reveals is being disobedient, sneaking out, lying, etc.

The point of the scene is to ask, “If God’s intent is to judge, then who should get a pass, and who should be condemned?” It never questions that God judges, but rather, who are we to say that God is not judging RIGHTLY?

Mack, of course, does not want to judge EITHER worthy of Hell, and tries to refuse. But Wisdom tells him that he MUST choose, that he cannot step down from the responsibility. And so Mack speaks out in love — “Take me. I’ll go instead of them.”

The message of the Cross… and he doesn’t even realize it at the time.

The movie (and presumably, the book) is riddled with scenes like that, where God deftly maneuvers Mack through his presumptions to show him that he does NOT have a complete picture of God, so that when God’s nature IS revealed to him, he is able to accept it.

Now then, there is one scene in the movie that gives me pause — the scene where Mack meets his abusive father, who Mack poisoned as a child. In the scene, Mack (who has already seen how his grandfather had abused his father the same way that his father abused him) confronts the spirit of his father. His father breaks down and begs his forgiveness, and Mack gives it. They embrace, and it appears that the spirit starts to glow a little differently, possibly in healing of some sort.

Because we know so little about the circumstances of Mack’s father’s death (whether he repented, whether he even knew Christ or was broken and backslidden, etc), we have no way of knowing whether or not God had forgiven Mack’s father before his death. Because of this, it’s “possible” to see this scene as an argument for receiving salvation AFTER an unbeliever’s death, but after a bit of thought, I think that would be a mistaken assumption. See, the entire movie is about¬†coming to know GOD — knowing Him as He is as opposed to how we expect Him to be, and coming to relationship with Him. If that is the CONTEXT of the movie, then Mack’s father receiving salvation at this point does not jibe with the rest of the movie, because the entire exchange was limited to Mack and his father — God was only there in the background. There is no message of restored relationship between Mack’s father and God, a theme which is otherwise CENTRAL to the movie. That being the case, and without any CLUE what happened regarding the father’s own redemption, the only SAFE assumption about this scene is that it’s all about Mack’s ability to forgive the unforgivable. To assume more than that is to possibly get it all wrong.

Now then… is this movie (or book) what I would call evangelistic? No, I don’t think so. It’s tailored for a specific mindset — that of one that believes in God, but can only see Him as judge, jury, and executioner. It won’t speak to people who don’t believe in God, nor will it necessarily speak to people who go into the movie with presumptions about what it is or what it should be (ironic, that LOL). What I WILL say is that the movie has the heart of a parable — it gives an incomplete picture of the truth because the truth is so much bigger than the parable can reveal. The purpose of this film is NOT to share the Gospel (though it could possibly do that), but to show how God can be both infinitely sovereign and infinitely merciful, without sacrificing either to satisfy the other.

Of course, I’m sure there are PLENTY of my friends who think that I’ve just gone heretic, blaspheming God in disagreeing with X theologian or Y preacher in their condemnation of the movie. I accept that. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve made my friends look at me sideways, and it probably won’t be the last. But those who know me know that I am anything BUT a heretic, that I have ZERO inclination to belittle the sovereignty of God.

To those who are open to it — I think the Shack has gotten a bum rap. To those who just feel the urge to pray for my correction, please do — I’d sooner be wrong about the Shack, AGAIN, than to get sideways with the Lord and not be given the opportunity to get right. But in EITHER case, I ask that before you pass judgment, see the movie first so that you are able to pass a KNOWLEDGEABLE judgment. Don’t rely on somebody else to form your opinion for you. Do your own legwork.

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In The Shadow Of The Manor



“A village living in the shadow of a castle. Once a year one villager receives an invitation to the castle and a spectral carriage pulled by nothing comes to collect them a day later. They are never seen or heard from again. If someone declines the invitation they are found dead in their bed. The protagonist has received their invitation.”

The above is a writing prompt that was offered this past Friday on one of the writer’s boards that I’m a member of. The following is my response to it. Hope you enjoy ūüôā


Ciaran¬†sat, hunched over his knees as he waited by the curb of Aughnahilla’s cobbled main¬†street. He could feel the gaze of the passersby, looking on in a palpable sympathy but saying nothing. Let them look. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t done the same¬†innumerable times himself,¬†to whatever sorry sack had received that year’s invitation.

This year, it was him. He stared at the¬†card in his hand¬†and sighed. He’d done that a lot over the last twenty four hours — staring, sighing.

There was nothing particularly noteworthy about the card. By itself, anyway. It was simple, little more than a square of rough paper sporting his name, written in red so deep that it approached black. Fitting, that. He read aloud from the card, as if hoping that the words in his ears would be a different name than his own.

But they weren’t. He sighed again. No, the card itself was simple, plain, unassuming. And yet, it meant the end of the world to him.

He lifted his eyes and cast them northward. There a mountain rose, providing something of a windbreak from the autumn cold fronts moving in. At the summit sat the castle, Dunamase.

Ciaran¬†looked away, and his eyes fell upon a familiar face.¬†Old Lady Murphy, the owner of the curio shop. She was out and about, running her errands, doing so on the far side of the street so as to not disturb¬†Ciaran as he awaited Coiste Bodhar. Or perhaps, so she wouldn’t receive a card of her own. In either case, he would’ve welcomed the company — even hers — as it might help him to forget that tonight was his last.

Once a year, every year, since before his grandfather’s grandfather was born, an invitation was sent out from Dunamase, bearing the name of that year’s guest. They had¬†but a¬†day to get their affairs in order. The next evening, as the sun set, the banshee would wail her dreadful song from the parapets of Dunamase, and Coiste Bodhar would begin its trek from the castle walls to the home of the invited.

Ciaran had actually watched the approach of Coiste Bodhar with his brother Donal one year — two stupid lads with nothing better to do than to peek through the hedges at some luckless soul as they went to their fate. No horse¬†pulled the black coach, nor did any driver steer it. Nevertheless, the monstrous conveyance¬†found its guest — Seamus O’Malley, that year¬†—¬†and the coach door¬†swung open of its own accord.

No rider had ever come back from their invitation. None had ever returned from their ride in Coiste Bodhar. None were ever heard from again. So some, like poor Seamus, simply refused to ride.

He, like any who refused, was found dead the next morning.

A low cry echoed down the mountainside from Dunamase, jerking Ciaran from his thoughts. The banshee. He cast his eyes across the street, and for a moment, Old Lady Murphy’s gaze met his. Her lips formed a tight line, and her eyes twinkled as the dying day reflected against her unshed tears. She lifted her right hand,¬†as if to wave. Instead she crossed herself, warding against evil, and turned toward home with nary a word.

As soon as it had started, the wailing stopped, replaced by the distinct rumble of old wood and rusty metal. Coiste Bodhar had begun its run.

Ciaran watched the highroad leading to Dunamase for a long time before the coach came into view, its black mass rolling with no steed to pull it. His stomach churned as the¬†black carriage disappeared behind a copse of trees, only to reappear a moment later. Barn, building, haystack —¬†the approach of Coiste Bodhar was broken in his view, vanishing and reappearing, as if to taunt him.

Finally, it reached the bottom of the hill and entered the long stretch of road that led from the base of the mountain straight into Aughnahilla. Straight to Ciaran.

Swallowing hard, Ciaran stood and brushed the dust from his trousers. The black coach seemed deafening in his ears as it drew near, and yet, it was muted, far away, as if it were coming for somebody else. It wasn’t until Coiste Bodhar stopped in front of him, its door creaking open without the touch of any human hand, that it became real for him. The time had come.

“Ciaran O’Neill,” came a dry whisper from within. “Submit ye to the summons?”

“Aye,” Ciaran rasped, not sure until that very moment that he actually would. Numbly, he shuffled forward, climbing into the velvet lined interior. The smell¬†of mildew filled his nostrils as he settled upon the dusty cushions. There was no sensation of movement as the door swung shut behind him and the coach rumbled forward. Coiste Bodhar could’ve been standing still for all that Ciaran felt.

In fact, Ciaran felt nothing at all — no movement, no cushions, no heat or cold. His shirt and trousers didn’t touch his skin. The wind of their passage didn’t lick his cheek. A soft lethargy stole over Ciaran as his body went totally numb. Was this what death felt like? Was he…?

“Retrieval successful, Captain,” a voice said at the very edge of Ciaran’s awareness. An angel, perhaps? A demon? The world around him faded from view, going as black as the coach itself.

…only to be replaced by a sterile, white light. Ciaran opened his eyes blearily to a cold, metallic¬†room filled with blinking lights and mechanical sounds.

“He’s awake,” came the voice again. “Ciaran? Ciaran, can you hear me?”

Ciaran turned his head — he was laying down — he turned his head toward the voice. He blinked a few times, hard, and his vision sharpened. “Moira?”

The tall brunette —¬†how did he know her name? —¬†beamed at him. “Hey, sleepy head. Welcome back to the land of the living.”

“Living?” he asked, confused. “Sure’n I thought meself a goner, when I saw Coiste Bodhar…”

“Sure’n? Coach de Bauer? What in the… Ahhh,” she said as realization dawned. “The program.”


Moira straightened, adopting a business stance at his bedside. “Your name is Ciaran O’Neill. You’ve been¬†in suspended animation¬†for a hundred and forty three years. You’re on board the Colony Ship Dunamase, named aft–”

“After a ruined castle in Ireland,” Ciaran finished for her. It was all coming back to him — the ship, the mission to colonize the Trappist 1 star system. “I dreamt that I was there, in a village at its base,” he said, noting absently that his Irish accent had already faded.

“That was the sleep program, occupying your mind while we travelled. It was designed to make your mind think it was awake, and the world you were experiencing was real. Unfortunately…” She pursed her lips and nodded across the room. Ciaran followed her eyes, and found cadres of¬†medical staff¬†at various beds in the bay, pumping airbags and doing compressions on their respective patients.

One of them was Seamus O’Malley. Even from this distance, Ciaran could see the skin bluing, against his doctors’ best efforts.

“Unfortunately,” Moira continued, “the program was a little too effective.”

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How Fiction Can Bolster Faith

It’s amazing how the minds works, where performing some task or thinking along a certain line can open up your understanding to new and unexpected things.

See, I’m working on the sequel to my book, Gemworld. I have a minor character from the first book who must serve as liaison between the humans of the Cause and the Flight, a society of intelligent dragons that entered the story at the end of the first book. The draconian species is divided into five races, each representative of one of the five magical soulgems — Wyrms (Ruby, the soulgem of Fire), Serpents (Sapphire, Water), Caduceans (Emerald, Life), Galvanics (Amethyst, Energy), and Basilisks (Granite, Matter).

Now, as dragons are magical creatures, the draconian genetic structure (as well as its effect on the reproductive process) is rather complex. They are able to magically take on a humanoid form, though even in this form it is obvious that they are not “human”.

If they, as humanoid, mate with a human, their super-dominant draconian DNA will most likely produce a dragon or a stillborn human, though there are rare occasions when a human baby is strong enough to survive and be born of this union.

If, on the other hand, a dragon mates with another dragon, the super-dominance of draconian DNA will most likely produce a feral dragon or a “drake”, semi-intelligent and animalistic. Though the dragons have tried for eons to incorporate their drake kin into their society, the severe intelligence gap precludes any relationship closer than that of a master and a pet, which the dragons find so distasteful that they prefer to count their drake offspring as dead, and love then from afar as the drakes grow up wild in nature.

My main antagonist, the Highest, finds great value in capturing drakes and domesticating them. The dragons hate him for this, because while they cannot being themselves to “tame” their wild offspring, neither can they accept the Highest using them as beasts of burden.

Now then, having said all that, do you know how much of that will make it into my story? Virtually none. But that’s entirely beside the point. See, the vast majority of a writer’s worldbuilding is never directly used in his story. Rather, it serves as a driver for the story BEHIND the scenes. It provides the WHY to the “what” of all that happens. So even though all of this history regarding my dragons has no place in my story proper, it is nevertheless vital to my characters being as realistic as possible.

In a very strange way, this bolsters my faith in the validity of scripture, particularly my adherence to the Young Earth Creation theory of Genesis. See, even if God did create the universe from nothing some 6000 years ago, I would still expect to see ALL of the same evidence we see that supports an Old Earth, because there must be a why that drives the what — even when that what is a self-sustaining universe.

Think of it like God writing our story for the past 6000 years. Even if this 6000 years is all that there ever “really” was, there are parts of our story that are necessarily implied behind the scenes, that serve as driving effects for our story, just as surely as my draconian history drives my dragons even if it is never actually mentioned in my books.

Just some writerly food for thought…

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Time And How We View It

Had a random thought this morning, and as I haven’t updated this page in a while (Daddy stuff and Hubby stuff don’t always play well with creative stuff hehe), I figured this’d be a good share.

Of all sci-fi and fantasy tropes, I think my favorite has GOT to be time travel. Not only does it touch on the obvious (changing the past, paradoxes, etc) but it also naturally gives rise to alternate realities. I’d go so far as to say that the principles implied by linear time and how it functions goes a long way to inform my worldview and even my walk with Christ.

Consider how much is affected by how we view time. We tend to see each successive minute as dependent upon the previous, and we line those minutes up straight and neat, when in fact, time isn’t so simple. While the moments themselves are orderly, the affect of time is not.

Consider the recent tragedy during the OSU homecoming. I have family there, so this one strikes pretty close to home. They were planning on being at the parade — on the very corner where that woman plowed uncontrollably through the crowd — but they overslept their alarm. What if they woke up on time? I would likely have lost my wife’s cousin, his wife, and their two kids.

That’s what COULD’VE happen. What DIDN’T happen? Well, the driver DIDN’T drink responsibly. The onlookers DIDN’T choose another corner to stand on. People DIDN’T get otherwise diverted.

Imagine that tragedy under the lens of a flexible timeline. What if you could CHANGE things? With all possible futures being EQUALLY possible — depending on the decisions one makes — consider the varied alternate timelines. A timeline where my loved ones died. A timeline where other people didn’t. A timeline where the parade passed completely without incident. ALL of them are equally valid, equally possible — the only difference being, in THIS timeline, things played out the way we know them to have played out.

Take that thought back further. What if America had lost the Revolutionary War? What if the Vikings had settled North America more invasively, more completely, than they did? What if Marco Polo had never made his treks to the East? Now you don’t have just alternate timelines — you have alternate REALITIES, entire histories where the world turned in completely unexpected ways… but in THOSE realities, they would seem perfectly acceptable and OUR timeline would seem alien.

This is the very STUFF of speculative fiction — the “what if”.

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The Pointlessness of Waiting

We’ve got a talent show at church tonight, so I REALLY ought to be sleeping — my rendition of Big Daddy Weave’s “I Am Redeemed” is gonna come awful early hehe — but between unsavory dreams and a wife that steals the covers, I’m too wide awake to sleep.

I tried. Honestly I did. But my eyes popped open at 0313 — at least, that’s what the clock “seemed” to say through the goo of night time crusties that hadn’t solidified yet — and after the obligatory water break, I found myself lying in bed, first staring into blackness, then Candy Crushing, then examining my eyelids for holes again, but to no avail. No matter how I waited, sleep simply would not come. So here I am.

The dream that woke me is kinda indicative of that pointless waiting. I dreamed that I was ticking away at my computer, chatting with someone while Mary Facebooked on the bed behind me. The kids kept running in and out of the room, sneaking kisses here and there in between the tattle tales. I don’t recall who I was chatting with, but I do remember that everything seemed peaceful. Strange, applying that term to my household, but there it is.

As the dream went on, time drew near for the kids to go to bed. We prayed, sang a song, and I sent them off, them kinda fading into the background. Mary kinda grew nondistinct too. It seemed that everything narrowed to that chat bubble on my computer screen. It became clear that it was actually MARY on the other side of that chat bubble, and it felt like something was wrong… but not.

Long story short, I was dying, and chatting with Mary from the other side of the veil that separates life from spirit. And we were coming to the end of our conversation, which is what the wrong feeling was.

So as I tossed and turned, trying to get back to sleep, that scene kept replaying in my head over and over, and the sense that rode like an undercurrent beneath the peacefulness of the dream crept to the surface. I still haven’t sussed out “exactly” what I was telling myself in this dream, but one thing seems pretty clear to me — this is what I’ve been doing to myself over the past few weeks.

Ever since getting the news from my doctor that I’m going to have to have open heart surgery for a valve replacement, I’ve been operating under the stark reality that I might die on the table (as my “break” from writing and my recent blogs can attest). Though the surgery has become standard, and as a 96% survivability rate, my pessimism begs my current motto — “Somebody has to make up that other 4%.” Sure, I may say it with a smile, but inside I’m seething.

Mary can tell you. She’s been having to put up with me.

I don’t want to think like that anymore. I don’t want to silently worry with a smile on my face and a quick joke on my tongue, pointlessly waiting for a surgery that could very well prove what a FOOL I’ve been for worrying, and for putting my family through my endless bouts of dark comedy. No, I’m no less a pessimist now on this side of my dream as I was prior to it, but I can choose not to let it define me.

And this is something that’s been coming for a few weeks now. I had good intentions, posting blogs as legacies to my kids, but I found that pre-planning my written observations — looking for things to blog about in life, rather than simply letting my observations MOVE me to blog — only muddled the process. I still want to leave my kids a Jeremy 101, but it’s kinda like my approach to writing fiction: it has to be spontaneous. It has to have a life of its own — coming THROUGH me rather than coming FROM me — or I can’t do it.

I’ve been thinking about Fractures for a few weeks now — not constantly, mind you, but off and on. Ya know, just wondering where my characters are and what they’re up to. I had a bout of “just in case” about two weeks ago, where I planned to write a short synopsis of what happens in Fractures, Prism, and Soul Taker. I told myself that the synopsis was to remind me of what I want to do in the story — a glorified outline, if you will — but no, it was a “just in case”.

I set out to give only the briefest overview. It wound up being 5500 words, pouring out of me over the course of four hours.

Every day since then, my break from writing has seemed more and more pointless — like waiting around to die on a table that MOST LIKELY WILL NOT kill me. Each day I pack my backpack for work, I look over at my laptop, sitting unused, and I find it harder and harder to justify this “break”.

I go back on Day Shift tomorrow morning. I’m pretty sure my laptop will be coming to work with me. I’ll still probably write my blogs to the kids, and maybe a letter or two to Mary, but I’ve been on hold long enough. I’m through the worry — or, at least, as through it as I CAN be. October’s coming fast, with our Disney trip on the first week, and my follow-up cardiologist appointment (read “the date setting”) just a few days after we get back. I got too much living left to do to be worrying about when — or¬†if — I’m gonna die.

Besides, the Highest is just as evil as he’s ever been, the Cause is just as worthy, and Sal’s still stuck on Te’ra. They need me ūüėČ

Fractures - final

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Rearranging My Priorities — My Book, My Kids, My Need To Speak

If you’ve followed me at all — on my blog, on my Facebook page, on my page regarding my book Gemworld, or elsewhere — you know that I like to talk. A lot. What can I say? I got a ton of ideas bouncing around in my head at any given moment, and I need an outlet!

Thing is, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, Unexpecting the Expected, I recently got word from my cardiologist that I’m going to need open heart surgery within the next six months or so.

I won’t bore you by rehashing the details. Suffice it to say that my mind has been all a-jumble where writing is concerned. I feel compelled (more than usual) to be vocal about the things I see happening in the world today, but my work on Fractures — the sequel to Gemworld — has ground to a near halt. Oh, I still do some work in it from one day to the next, but every time I open up my novel writing program, my mind is drawn inexorably back toward the largest landmark on my horizon — the surgery.

As much as I’d LOVE to devote my energies toward finishing this second book, I just cannot seem to engage my thought process. I know exactly where I want to go next, and who I want to feature doing what, but…

Part of my process is to lose myself in the story, to “live” my story in my head to the point that it’s so real to me that the story ultimately tells itself, be it dialogue or plotting or twists or what have you. And so help me, with my surgery looming, I just can NOT disengage from real life enough to make that happen!

What IS at the forefront of my mind, and what I CAN lose myself in, is the idea of leaving these blog posts for my kids as a legacy — a living, continuing reminder of their Daddy.

Make no mistake — I DO NOT expect to die in this surgery! I’ve done my due diligence (read: “panicked and jumped on Google at the first opportunity”) and I know that my type of surgery — aortic valve replacement — typically has a 96% success rate, and unless my valve (which has lasted me 43 years) takes an incredibly RAPID turn for the worse, I fully expect to make it to my surgery in good health, make it THROUGH my surgery with strength and resolve, and be back at work — both on my book AND at my nuclear plant — so fast it’ll make your head spin.

Still, that success rate is 96%, and somebody’s gotta make up the other 4%.

As such, I’ve got roughly six months to say what I want to say, to download as much Jeremy Bullard into my blog posts as I can, so that, should the worst be realized, my kids will have access to enough Daddy to hopefully speak to them for the rest of their lives. At least in digital form. I’m sure I’ll speak on my normal range of topics — current events, scriptural application, bits of God-gold that just happened to occur to me out of the blue, the same stuff I post on my blog and on Facebook already — but I will be tailoring my posts to them as much as possible.

In order to do this, I’m going to have to put Fractures on indefinite hold — at least its completion and publishing. As I said, I’ll still be working on it here and there, as I have opportunity and inspiration, but the book itself will be going on the back burner.

Should the worst be realized, I’ll have my notes for Fractures and Prism ready for my wife to post in my stead, and my short story blog unlocked and opened to the public (the ones I was compiling for an anthology *SIGH* hehe), so those who are curious as to what happens to Sal and Company will have the answers they require.

I will try to post all my new stuff to my blog rather than Facebook, for posterity sake, and will link the blog posts to my Facebook page and my Gemworld page, in case you want to follow along and see what ELSE makes Jeremy tick besides gemstone magic and the¬†shol’tul arts, but rest assured — should the Lord see fit to give me those extra years that I so desire, I’ll have two whole months of NOTHING but bed rest and recovery following the surgery before I can even THINK about going back to work or doing anything more around the house than sweeping and dishes, so yeah — I think I’ll be able to get Fractures out there in short order and take a decent bite out of Prism to boot.

I’m not arrogant enough to presume that this will disappoint anyone, but if you are one of those surprising few, you have my most humble apologies and my most earnest vow that I will do as well by you — as quickly — as possible. I covet your prayers, and thank you for your understanding.

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What’s in a Word?

Phone. When I say that word, what springs to mind? For most of us, it’s a collection of plastic and wires that allows us to play games, watch movies, and — of course — talk to each other. But what does the word phone mean? It comes from the Greek word for “voice”. That’s it. No games, no movies, no bells and whistles. Well, except for Alexander Graham Bell, anyway. The word has morphed over the years. It had the prefix “mega” attached to it, to refer to the amplification of voice, or sound in general. There’s the suffix “graph”, which referred to a recording of voice — and again, the application of the phonograph moved beyond voice to sound in general. Then as I mentioned with AGB, the prefix “tele” speaks (pardon the pun) to the transmission of voice. But still, for us, the word phone means our favorite iOS or Android device, which has become less a telephone and more a computer. Computer. There’s another one. The term refers to a device that computes — that takes numerical input and produces a numerical response. The abacus is one of the oldest computers known to man. Millennia later, the slide rule. Then comes the calculator (another term that means just a little more than it did in the days of gears and paper tape). The first “computer” as we would recognize it filled multiple rooms. Decades later, the advancing technology compressed that computation ability small enough to fill a space vehicle and take mankind to the moon. Today, each one of our phones (“tele” phones, that is) have computation ability capable of running an ARMADA of those early space ships. And how about those computer peripherals, like the mouse? An electronic pointer, not a rodent. Scanner? Not something that “looks briefly”, but a device that copies and records images. Notebook? Not a collection of bound loose leaf pages, but a portable computer, small enough to fit in a briefcase or on a lap. The point is this. When we read or write, we expect a word to mean what WE think it means, when in reality, the meaning is determined not just by its definition but also by its context — which incudes an agreement of meaning between the author and the reader. This has bearing in all areas of life, from computers to fast food to politics to religion. Webster — God love him — is not the final say on what a word or phrase means. On the contrary, that is determined between the writer and his target audience. When we as readers come in as outsiders to that target audience, we are ultimately reading over their shoulders, reading a message that, though we MAY understand it, was written TO THEM in a language that they DID understand. It is incumbent upon us to not simply read that writing as WE read it, but to read it as THEY did.

Categories: Blogroll, Government, Life In General, Religious, Writing

All Money Ain’t Good Money

When I was learning how to play dominoes, I was so eager to get points on the board that I didn’t play strategy. I was HAPPY to get five points here, ten points there… and I would lose practically every hand. I noticed my friend, holding dominoes that COULD’VE earned him points, but he’d play them later, earning three and four TIMES as many points — sometimes even locking the board for an easy win. When I asked him about it, he always said the same thing — “All money ain’t good money.”

In life, it’s our nature to look toward the first “good” that we come across — good situations, good rewards, good accomplishments — and we end up disappointed when we fail to achieve that “good”. But hindsight is 20/20, though, and if we HAD achieved that “good”, it might bar us from something GREAT.

Count EVERY situation as a blessing, even those situations that fail to realize the way we expect.

Categories: Blogroll, Life In General, Religious, Writing

What the Lord has called me to do with my writing…

“What has the Lord called you to do with your writing?”

I don’t know if you can ask a writer a more difficult question. Considering that writing is little more than giving life to imaginary worlds, one can easily equate this question with another common stumper — “What has the Lord called you to do with your life?”

Now, some people can give you an answer right off the cuff. I’ve never been that guy. I’ve never had that much insight into my own life, let alone the life of the world I’ve created. As relating to God, the only thing I can say with certainty is, “I am whatever the Lord wants me to be at any particular moment.” It’s the same answer for writing as it is for living.

The cool thing is that, while you may not have that level of insight into what God wants out of your writing, you do know that He wants SOMETHING, so you’re able to provide whatever raw materials you have at your disposal with the trust that whatever God plans to build, He plans to involve you in the building.

I’ve never really considered myself a Christian writer, just as I don’t consider myself a Christian security officer or, when I worked at an auto shop, a Christian mechanic. My relationship with Christ colors everything I do, from fixing cars to guarding nuclear plants to writing novels, but I’m not “fixing” Christ, nor am I “guarding” Christ — though, like I said, Christ colors my work, and thus opens opportunities for me to share Him with others. Likewise, when I write, I don’t write with the intentions of “writing” Christ. Instead, I allow ME (the “Christ colored” me) to flow from me, manifesting “me” in whatever I do. Nonbelievers might be resistant to connecting with a Christ that they cannot see, but if I can get them to connect with me, I might be able to connect them with Him who sent me.

That seems to be a running theme in scripture, so I’ll go with it ūüėČ

Of all the ways that Christ interacted with the people of His day, my favorites are His parables. I find far too many people, even Christians, writing them off (pardon the pun hehe) as convenient or poetic fictions, but that doesn’t really ring true to me. It seems that if Christ is in fact Emanuel, God With Us, then it stands to reason that He would have a grasp of human history, particularly, those times in human history when “real life” reflected the exact events in Christ’s parables. There were at least 2000 years in the run up from Creation to the Incarnation — plenty of time for there to be ten virgins or a house built upon the sand or even a rich man and Lazarus. These parables are too realistic, and God too omniscient/omnipresent/omnitemporal, for them to not be real. I think this fascination with Christ’s parables is what led me to be a writer. Well, that, and a penchant for “the strange, the bizarre, the unexpected.”

Yes, I used to watch Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! If nothing else, it was proof positive that God is, among other things, infinitely inventive ūüėČ

But that’s really what you do as a writer. You take a collection of what-ifs — of your own making, or as provided by the world at large — and connect the dots in unexpected ways, revealing to the world something miraculous that might otherwise seem mundane.

Thing is, when I first started writing (inspired as I was by the Deathgate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman) I never dreamed that my writing would be anything other than internet doodles and disjointed stories. When I finally published, I did so more at the insistence of my online friends — a community of believer who, like me, were writers who just happened to be Christian — than anything else. I hardly expected to sell more than a few copies. I hardly expected ANY return on investment, other than being able to leave my kids a legacy of imagination, and a little proof that their Daddy (who is sure to become an idiot in their eyes, as soon as they hit their teen years) is actually a pretty smart cookie.

I didn’t have any real expectations out of Gemworld, and don’t hold many more expectations for its sequel, Fracture. All I expected was to provide God the raw materials — the raw ME — for Him to use in whatever manner He saw fit.

I still don’t know exactly what God has called me to do with my writing, other than to just be me (the “Christ colored” me) and let Him do the rest. But I do know what He HAS done so far, and I stand amazed and eager to see what comes next!

Categories: Blogroll, Life In General, Religious, Writing

The Penitent Thief

“The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left.”

This was a project that I was given on a writer’s page that I frequented back in 2014 — to take the above line and turn it into a piece of flash fiction. I wasn’t “feeling” anything from the line at first, but I stewed on it a bit while I listened to a podcast. I can’t remember who was preaching on the podcast, but it had to do with the Crucifixion.

And then it hit me who “Tag” might be!

I beg your pardon if the story feels “rushed” — there’s only so much you can do with flash fiction to make it flow right. ūüėČ


The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left. The unconscious body on the floor behind him all but sealed that fate.

“Thagellus, don’t,” the teacher insisted. He raised a bloodied hand through the bars, stopping Tag’s own hand halfway to the door lock.

“But you’ll die,” Tag argued, though not moving toward the lock again.

The prisoner, broken and bruised, yet mustered a smile and a quirked eyebrow. “Would you let the world die so that I might avoid a death that has always been reserved for me?”

“You… you don’t deserve this. Not this,” Tag argued weakly.

“No, I don’t,” the other admitted. “But my family does. My friends do. You do. Those guards that will soon be upon us — they do. I do this for them, not because they deserve it, but because I would see them escape what they deserve, to know the Father as I do.”

Tag nodded his head, defeated. As if the argument could’ve ended any other way. The keyring fell from his hand nervelessly, and he followed shortly thereafter, collapsing against the bars in bitter tears. Behind him, he heard a groan. Gaius, the jailer, was waking up. He was out of time.

“You could still leave,” the rabbi said with a sad smile. A knowing smile. Tag wasn’t going anywhere. After all, where could he go that he wouldn’t see his master’s face everywhere?

No, he’d stay right here. He looked up into the prisoner’s face, broken and beautiful, and felt a resounding peace. Sure, he’d be arrested — for the theft of Gaius’s keys, if nothing else. And he’d own that theft, without hesitation, and likely die right along side his master. But in that moment, even as he heard Gaius the jailer gaining his feet and declaring his arrest, there’s no place Thagellis Dysmas would’ve rather been.

Categories: Blogroll, Religious, Writing

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