T Minus Three Days and Counting…

election

So. Election Day is Tuesday. And I’ve got to make a decision because, quite frankly, I haven’t done so yet, and time’s running out.

But before I even start my rant, a few definitions.

Libertarian — the philosophy that government’s power to intrude upon the lives of private citizens should be as limited as possible. This is the view that government’s legitimate purpose is merely to serve as a buffer, a barrier between my life and your life, between the individual’s life and the majority’s lives, and between our collective lives and the lives of foreign nations. It’s the philosophy of “I am the boss of me”. In this philosophy, the role of an elected representative is that of a steward, someone who sees himself as the EQUAL of the person he represents, and who exercises authority on their behalf, benefit — not unlike a stock broker, who may be smarter with money than you are, but nonetheless is bound to invest as YOU see fit.

Authoritarianism — the philosophy that government’s power to intrude upon the lives of private citizens is, to a greater or lesser degree, legitimate so long as you have enough support. This view belies equality, in my view, as it necessitates that otherwise-equal citizens gain superiority by being elected to public office. It’s the philosophy of “I am the boss of me AND you.” When an authoritarian gets elected, they are (in their mind) given the power to dictate terms to private lives, mandate an external morality, mandate redistribution of wealth, that sort of thing. In essence, an authoritarian sees government as a tool to legitimately RULE people.

Having covered that…

First decision is… do I even vote at all? If I decline to vote, I help and hurt all campaigns equally — which is to say, not at all. I’m held harmless for endorsing a candidate and permitting the harm that I’m convinced they will do. But I believe in being active in the political process — not a duty per se, but a right to have my voice heard. I always have the option of not voting, if I can’t come to consider any option viable, but if at all possible I’d prefer to politically say my piece.

But, if I’m voting, who do I vote for?

Clinton is a nonstarter from jump. Rare is the day that I vote Democrat — not because of the party, but because of the person — but I have been known to vote for the Democrat if I think they’re worthy of my support. My former sheriff in Arkansas can attest to that. That said, Clinton has never demonstrated herself worthy of my support, not even remotely. She’s an authoritarian, first and foremost. Beyond that, she’s a redistributionist, a social justice warrior, a liar, a thief, a hypocrite. She’s negligent of her responsibilities, and she thinks the law doesn’t apply to her. She’s an elitist who has completely forgotten that she is not entitled to ANYTHING from the American people, but rather that every stitch of political power she has EVER wielded is on LOAN to her from the American people, both those who voted for her and those who did not.

So… no 🙂

Jill Green’s another that’s a no from jump. Some libertarians would like you to believe that she’s got libertarian qualities, and maybe she advocates some libertarian POLICIES, but when it comes to core PRINCIPLES that inform those policies, she’s so authoritarian as to practically be totalitarian.

This segues to Gary Johnson — the Libertarian Party’s candidate. Not so much. While LP had a good shot at legitimacy with Austin Petersen (my run-away favorite from this election cycle), they sacrificed libertarian principles to go with name recognition. The further the election has gone, the more Johnson has proven himself to be a principle authoritarian that flirts with libertarian policy when it suits him.

So… Darrell Castle? Not so much. I LOVE what he has to say morally, but in policy — again, authoritarian. It seems to be a running theme this cycle. While Castle would likely be very libertarian in a number of his policies, he does advocate for legislating morality, which God made a very voluntary, relational thing. As far back as the Garden of Eden, He commanded not to eat of a particular Tree… but then left it up to us to choose to obey or NOT obey, and to accept the consequences of our choice. Morality has ALWAYS been about relationship — between us and God, between us and our friends and loved ones, between us and total strangers. It’s necessarily BIASED, so it’s a serious problem when you try to enforce biased morality with a legal system that’s fundamentally UNbiased. Besides which, Castle is a write-in for my state — with access to enough electoral votes to win the election, but not officially on the ballot in Alabama. This presents a bit of a problem for me, as it makes him both a viable candidate AND non-viable. I already have issues with him being president, so to cast a decidedly losing vote for somebody that I can’t even guarantee my support for — that, in my mind, would be WORSE than not voting at all.

And that brings me to Trump. Heh.

If you’ve followed my Facebook AT ALL, you’ve seen all my commentary already, but to sum it up… Trump is an authoritarian. He’s never held public office before, but he HAS been in the public eye for his entire career in business. And in all that time, he’s never demonstrated even the SLIGHTEST tendency toward stewardship. He handles investor money in such a way that it benefits him… and hopefully, his investors. Ya know, as a bonus. If it DOESN’T benefit his investors, well, he can live with that. He’s still huge. He’s still tremendous. His investors will get over it, because he’ll make them great again.

Yeah.

See, I couldn’t care less that he’s arrogant — that has no bearing on his ability to perform the task at hand (although it does speak to his lack of stewardship, which requires a bit of humility). I couldn’t care less that he’s not well-spoken — many brilliant people aren’t, and yes, Trump is brilliant. I couldn’t care less about the media’s crucifixion of him — the vast majority of the stories are, well, trumped up. What I care about is, will this man represent ME — whether I support him or REFUSE to support him, as is the foundation of representative government — or will he represent himself in my name?

So in case you’re keeping score, I’ve got nobody that I can vote for for president.

But what about VICE president?

Well, you got Tim Kaine who, if it were possible, is even WORSE than Clinton, both in principle and in policy. Same with Bill Weld, who’s even more authoritarian than Johnson, and very anti-gun to boot — very scary combination. The VPs for Castle and Green? I ain’t got a clue, really.

But Mike Pence?

Finally, there’s somebody on the list that I can actually get behind. Granted, he does have his authoritarian ways, but he demonstrates a libertarian streak in two key areas — immigration, and taxation.

In 2006, Pence forwarded a radical immigration plan that would curtail illegal immigration by streamlining it… but requiring the process to be started in the immigrant’s country of origin. In other words, the illegal COULD LEGALIZE, but he would have to self-deport BEFORE he could become legal. I thought that plan was BRILLIANT, as it addresses the real problem of illegal immigration while offering redemption to illegals WITHOUT it being amnesty, and also taking a libertarian stance regarding those who legitimately want to immigrate. It put the power to make amends squarely in the hands of the one who broke the law in the first place. HUGE points for me.

Then there’s taxation. Pence is one of the few politicians at his level of government who favors the FAIRtax, a consumption-side tax that replaces the mandated income tax with a national sales tax, leaving control over taxation in the hands of taxpayers. Now, the typical libertarian stance on taxes is that “taxation is theft”. I would kinda disagree. Taxation ITSELF is not theft, but HOW you tax — i.e. do you take it without consent, or do you allow the taxpayer the decision of how, or IF, they want to pay. FAIRtax makes high marks here. Don’t wanna pay tax at the grocery store? Grow a garden. You make your own food, you keep money that would otherwise go to tax, AND you remove yourself as a potential welfare burden. It’s man’s nature to try and scam the system, and under the current system such tendencies hurt the country, but the FAIRtax actually BENEFITS from that tendency. It’s wins, all around.

Now, these aren’t marijuana stances — policies where, like Johnson, you can have authoritarian principles but like the policy. No, with both immigration and taxation, your policy HAS to reflect your principle, because they both go to the core of how you as a politician see your constituent (current or potential), and how you see yourself in that light. Current immigration sees the politician as the host and the immigrant as the guest. Current taxation sees the politician as the employer and the taxpayer as the employee. Both of Pence’s revisions necessitate a view of politician and constituent being EQUAL, neither superior to the other. They don’t work — they don’t even make SENSE — with any other dynamic.

So while I can’t support any of the current presidential crop, my choice for vice president is VERY confident — Mike Pence. What this means for Tuesday? That’s what I’ve got to figure out. Do I want Pence enough that I can justify a vote for Trump? Or does Trump, as frontman on the ticket, trump Pence? I dunno. But I’ve only got a few days to get it together.

Categories: Government, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Casting a “wasted” vote…

hillary-clinton-donald-trump

Okay, I’m real tired of fellow Christians trying to shoehorn me into casting a “lesser of the evils” vote for Trump, because Hillary will X or Johnson can’t Y or Who in the world is Z? So let me bring this question front and center with the following illustration…

The Body of Christ has become incredibly Laodecian. Sure, there are a few hold-outs that truly honor the God they claim to love, but for the most part, the church is overrun with pseudo-Christians that simply wear a title but don’t actually live the life.

Now, your respective collective is electing new leadership. The Catholic Pope is retiring. The Orthodox Patriarch has died. The President of the Southern Baptist Convention is stepping down. Whatever the church, whatever the reason, you find yourself having to elect new leadership… and your choices are all bad ones.

There are two extremely popular frontrunners. The first is one who’s very likely a closet atheist, whose only intent is to bring the church to ruin, but he is popular because he tickles the ears of many Laodecian believers. The second is a televangelist who claims to love God but shows very little interest in actually obeying Him. This guy preaches strongly against all the popular sins, but lives life as if his doctrinal positions are matters of convenience, not born out of any true submission to Christ. He tickles a completely different set of ears.

There are also a handful of also-rans who fall in a range roughly between these two front runners, and you can’t stomach ANY of them… but then there’s this one guy. Few people know his name, and he’s not even on all the ballots, but of everybody in the race, he’s the only one, the ONLY one, that visibly honors God with his life, even when that honor brings him inconvenience or even pain. You’re convinced that the guy doesn’t stand a chance — not with the Laodecian voters, and not with a God that has pretty much left the church to go the way of the Pharisees.

Time comes for you to vote. Everybody in your cliche tries to push you toward the televangelist or the closet atheist, but you want to honor God with your vote. Do you vote for the televangelist because it’s less likely that he’ll bring the church to ruin? Or do you vote for the one that you’re convinced would honor God with his position, even if you’re sure he’s not going to get the vote?

This is where I am with the whole Trump/Clinton/Also-rans thing. Feel free to vote your candidate. Feel free to vote the lesser of the evils, if you feel it wise. But never, for a second, think that my vote for X is a vote for Hillary, just because it’s not for Trump. Don’t think you can shoehorn me with strawman arguments or fear tactics. I have only one aim — to honor the principles that this nation was founded upon. If I don’t believe your candidate of choice will do that, your candidate will not get my vote. Period. You wouldn’t ask me to betray my faith for the more popular church leader. Don’t ask me to betray my patriotism for the more popular presidential candidate.

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Fifteen Years

History is made of a lot of different things — trends, cultures, people, events. Some of them have little bit parts, only locally significant of themselves, but strung together to give significance to the picture overall. But other things are monumental, things that are so individually significant that they define a generation and rock the world.

The Boston Tea Party was one such event, as was signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Bombing of Pearl Harbor and D-Day, the Assassination of Kennedy and Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, Woodstock and tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

Today, we recognize another such event — the 9/11 Attacks. There are so many emotions packed into that day and the days that followed that I could write a tribute every year for the rest of my life and still not hit all of the high points. But today, what strikes me is not so much the memory of 9/11 itself, but of the country that we became because of it, and the stark difference I see between that country and the one we currently live in.

In the days following 9/11, there was a sense of unity that I’d never seen up until that point. I did a lot of my growing up in Alabama in the 70s and 80s, and had seen first hand the benefit of a neighborly culture, “where they know you by name and they treat you like family”, as the song goes. And yet, for all that I knew to expect that from the South, I was shocked — in a good way — to see that culture permeate mainstream America. For a time, at least, people prayed for strangers, gave blood, volunteered, donated, did whatever they could to support and uplift their fellow American. Eventually, sadly, that unity wore off, and we settled back into our native cultures and assigned roles. I kind of expected it, but it made it no less sad.

Nowadays, I’m almost nostalgic for those days of indifference.

Turn on the news today, and you’ll find stories of athletes sitting down for the national anthem. You see instances of people standing, burning, or even defecating on the flag. Anti-religious sentiment is getting more prevalent as freedoms are stripped from people of faith in order to service people who reject their faith. Racial division is at a modern high, and racist hypocrisy is even encouraged by leaders and the media.

Here we are, fifteen years after a horrific event that brought the BEST out in the American people… and I’ve never seen America WORSE than it is today. My kids were all born after 9/11, so the world that I’m lamenting, they’ve never even seen. Thankfully, they’re still kids, and the South is still largely the South, “where they know you by name and treat you like family”, but I gotta wonder just how long that will last. As 9/11 fades more into the past, so does that brief day of unity, like the calm before the storm. It almost makes me thankful for the evils that bin Laden perpetrated — certainly not for the suffering that they caused, but for the brief moment that America was, once more, one nation under God.

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Separation

I remember doing VIP (Volunteers In Preschool) when I was at my previous church, and these parents dropped their kid off with us. Sweet child but incredibly clingy (yeah, I know — insensitive; I’m a guy, deal with it hehe), so when the parents went on to the worship service, the kid started to scream bloody murder. Of course, he could only go full throttle for so long, so as soon as I found an opportunity, I distracted him. Worked for a while, but if he ever got a chance to think “Mommy and Daddy ain’t here”, he’d start back up again.

This, of course, was in stark contrast to the other preschoolers that were with us, instead of in Little Kid Church, Big Kid Church, or Grown-up Church. Yeah, some of them were kinda sniffly when Mommy and Daddy dropped them off — and maybe even a little ticked off that they would dare leave them alone — but they knew they’d come back.

I can’t say that I couldn’t relate. I remember when my Dad was in the Navy, and he’d go off on his ship and be gone for months on end. I hated to see him leave, but after the initial shock, I found myself just biding time until his first phone call from port or his first letter, when my missing him would kinda hiccup — go away for a moment, only to come back worse as soon as the phone call or the letter were concluded, followed by recover and then more waiting.

My kids still do this, particularly my son. They’re always wanting to go to the store with me… and not because Daddy buys them stuff. Far more often than not, the only thing they get at the store is a big fat NO. But they ask to go anyway.

See, the important thing isn’t that they get some special privilege, but because they got to go someplace with Daddy, la tee da, and that makes all the difference in the world.

What’s striking to me, though, is that so many people look at death as being so different from what those kids in VIP experienced, even though they grieve in very similar ways. As we lay my wife’s grandfather to rest today, I expect to see many of the same stages taking place, from overwhelming grief to grudging acceptance to bittersweet patience. I might even see some anger, but I kinda doubt it. Bill Harding Sr didn’t foster a whole lot of that in his kids and their kids.

And just like those kids — who, to varying degrees, were able to look past the fact that Mommy and Daddy ain’t here “now” but they will be here later — many of Grandpa’s loved ones will find a bittersweet peace, knowing that while the separation is painful, it has nowhere NEAR the permanence that some people would ascribe to it. As they grieve, they will grieve in the knowledge that they’re not grieving their lost loved one, but themselves, who now find themselves patiently biding their time until they can be reunited.

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How “compassion” is destroying America, or “Why I’m a libertarian”

Yes, there is a reason why that word is in quotes. First, though, a definition…

Compassion is actually a compound word, joining “com” (meaning “with” or “together”) and “passion” (meaning “suffering”). So, quite literally, the word means “to suffer with” or “to suffer together”.

Now, most people believe they know what compassion is. When they see someone hurting, they hurt. The most basic of them stop there and call that compassion. Not so much. Compassion moves us to action — to not just hurt from the sidelines, but to get involved in those who are hurting.

Those who “do something about it”… yeah, THEY’RE the ones who are compassionate!

Not so much. And that’s the part that’s destroying America. See, we’re johnny-on-the-spot in pointing out somebody else’s hypocrisy, but we’re kinda slow at recognizing our own, and nowhere is this as evident (to those who are looking for it) than in our politics.

See, I was discussing with some friends the concept of mandated vaccines. My position is that the government has no place to force people to get vaccinated, because that individual’s body is sovereign territory. Though the government does have the authority to protect an unwilling third party from this person’s “stupidity”, it does NOT have the authority to tell this person that they cannot be “stupid”. The subject of public schooling came up, and how unvaccinated students endanger the rest of the population, and that the only way that they could both protect the right of a student to be unvaccinated and the right of the other students is to deny unvaccinated students access to the public school system.

Yep. I totally agree.

I can just imagine the guy I was talking with turning blue and swallowing his tongue. “You’d deny a child an education? Don’t you care?”

My thinking, of course, is that while your body and your property are sovereign territories, as soon as you step out into public, you are in shared territories — places where your sovereign rights end where another person’s sovereign rights begin (thank you, Oliver Wendell Holmes). This is how I can stand against seat belt laws but support drunk driving laws, and support both the denial of vaccination and the denial of access to public education.

“Where’s your compassion? Those seat belts keep people safe. Those vaccines protect innocent children. That homeless person has no food. X person needs Y help. Don’t you care?”

Well, yes. I care deeply. But I don’t care so much that I’m going to deny your rights while I am fighting for theirs. And that’s precisely what’s wrong with America today — far too many people are unwilling to say that when it becomes inconvenient. It’s absolutely hypocritical.

Progressives see the suffering of the homeless, or the indigent, or the oppressed, and the hurt in their heart. Their response is to dig into public funds supplied by mandated taxes and seek to relieve that suffering — to mitigate the consequences of happenstance and poor judgment by forcibly rolling those consequences onto somebody who didn’t sign up for them. They just can’t watch the suffering of someone who is disabled (or simply didn’t maintain their health), or someone who walks into a desert to cross a border illegally, so rather than letting them deal with the consequences of life, and rather than getting personally involved, they bail these people out of those consequences… by rolling those consequences onto shoulders that they presume are strong enough to bear it. Compassionate as heck to the person receiving the aid — not so compassionate to the taxpayer being forced to provide it. Their justification? “They don’t need/deserve compassion as much as X”.

Conservatives are much the same. They see the suffering that drugs and alcohol represent, that prostitution and gambling brings, and institute prohibitions. They see people struggling all over the world, abused by tyrannical regimes, and they send in the military to rescue them. Though their “compassions” are different, their response is similar — to mitigate the consequences of happenstance and poor judgment by legislating against the actions that cause such pain and suffering. They just can’t bear to watch marriages fall apart due to Daddy taking time with a hooker, or babies being raised by drug addicted Mommies, so they make these things illegal. They can’t bear to see a people struggling under the weight of an oppressive government, so they “intervene”. Just like progressives, they cannot bear to witness people unjustly suffering the consequences of life, so they look for ways to prevent those consequences or mitigate them… not by getting involved personally, but by rolling those consequences onto shoulders that they presume are strong enough to bear it. Their justification? “It’s for their own good.”

The heart of this problem is that we as a nation do not understand the fundamental concept of compassion — again, which means to suffer with the suffering. That’s a natural side effect of compassion, a necessary CONSEQUENCE of it. But we don’t like consequences. We love to shift blame, to shirk responsibility, all while claiming credit for a job well done.

Oh, make no mistake about it, none of us want to see somebody else suffering… but we’re rather reluctant to share that suffering ourselves. So our response is either one of two things — to spread the consequences over the taxpayer base, or to prevent the actions that lead to those consequences. That way, no matter who we want to help with whatever suffering, we don’t have to suffer with them.

Makes perfect sense… as long as you don’t dig deep enough to find the hypocrisy. Because when we put this logic into practice, we find that we can’t forcibly spread our compassions to others without denying compassion to those we force our compassions upon. In other words, we can’t relieve suffering without causing suffering to others because we don’t want ourselves to suffer. Ultimately, we’re hypocrites.

That’s not to say that there aren’t bastions of true compassion left in America, of course. Churches. Soup kitchens (often church-funded). Foreign missions. Pro-bono clinics. GoFundMe and the like (for the most part). Charities, true charities, that operate NOT on taxpayer monies but strictly on donation. These are the people that are truly suffering with those who suffer. They get out their and they feel the pain that others feel. They provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and job placement, seeking to relieve burdens without themselves becoming a burden.

And how do we respond to such glowing examples of humanity? We regulate their gifts of food through the Health Department, or permits and business models to (pre-emptively) protect the rights of for-profit industries. We dig into these charities and issue mandates on how they do what they voluntarily do… at the taxpayer’s expense. Rather than us physically share in the suffering of others — to actually work a soup kitchen or personally pick somebody up for a ride to a job interview or take missions trips ourselves to foreign lands to help liberate an oppressed people — we roll it over onto the taxpayer who has no choice but to shoulder part of our “suffering”.

America is DYING of a false sense of compassion, its liberties being sold cheaply because although we know how to “feel” compassionate, we refuse to ACT with compassion.

The single greatest example of true compassion, of course, is the sacrifice of Christ, but I dare say that this example is incomplete without the reality of Hell. See, without Hell, the sacrifice of Christ really has no meaning. “The Cross saves us!” Absolutely… but from what? Unless there are consequences to sin, and unless God is willing to allow us to suffer those consequences, then the Cross means nothing.

Of course, our progressive example would be “God is compassionate, so He will forgive whether we repent or not” — bailing us out of the consequences. Similarly, our conservative example is “God is compassionate, so He will make us to repent” — pre-empting the consequences. Truth is, though, God IS compassionate because He shared in our suffering… and allows us the opportunity to make that choice ourselves, KNOWING the consequences of our rejection and dreading them, but allowing them anyway. Out of love.

See, God hates the consequences of sin, just like we in America hate the consequences of life. But God demonstrates compassion by feeling pain with those who feel pain, and rolling up His sleeves and personally getting involved. We, unfortunately, are reluctant to love the way God loves. We steal liberty for the sake of granting liberty, stealing rights for the sake of granting rights, stealing compassion for the sake of granting compassion. We’re quick to point this out in others, but we turn a blind eye to it in ourselves.

So, plugging this into how “compassion” is destroying America, how do we fix compassion? Quite simply, to do it like God does it — to love like God loves. We get involved. We give of our own time, our own resources, and never expect or demand that somebody does our job for us. Our military is for national defense only — not for sending into a conflict that is not inherently ours. We stop regulating “help”, recognizing that our charities aren’t required to help in the first place. We allow people to make their own choices… and live with the consequences of them. Make no mistake, I’m NOT suggesting that we throw people to the wolves, but when we exercise compassion, we exercise honest compassion, suffering with those who are suffering — never creating suffering so that we don’t have to suffer as much.

Loving how God loves, in our politics just as in our everyday lives.

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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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Has God Abandoned Our Nation…?

I’ve heard this question asked, and while I think the answer is pretty obvious — God is in the hearts of individuals, not in nations — the question is a valid one. Still, whether or not God has abandoned us, in my opinion, really isn’t the issue. Rather, the issue is whether or not WE have abandoned HIM.

We’re told in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that if God’s people, who are called by God’s name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways, He will hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their land. We’ve heard that a million times, but I don’t think enough people actually take the time to pick this verse apart and actually READ what it says. God promises to heal the land of the people who do this, but who are these people?

1) They’re people who turn from their wicked ways — sure, we understand this. They’re people who forsake their sin, and choose obedience to God.

2) They’re people who seek His face. They don’t just assume God is there, but actively LOOK for God in their situation.

3) They’re people who pray — not just sending God their Christmas lists, but spending TIME with Him, CONVERSING with Him, doing their due diligence to find out what PLEASES God.

4) They’re people who humble themselves. They don’t assume that they’re in the right — even when they are. They’d sooner find their ERROR so they can CORRECT their error, because they know they HAVE errors that can’t be addressed until they FIND them.

Most importantly though…

5) These people are “My people, who are called by My name”. ALL of these things, all the prerequisites for God’s promises, are promised TO GOD’S PEOPLE. For God to heal a nation, He does not require that the nation humble itself, pray, seek His face — He only requires that HIS PEOPLE AMONG that nation do this.

If God isn’t healing a nation, if God has ABANDONED a nation, it’s not because of the conduct of that nation — it’s because of conduct of HIS PEOPLE WITHIN that nation. If we want to see God back in this nation, it won’t happen because we witnessed to the lost — it’ll happen because we straightened out the redeemed.8545373

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Some not-so-random thoughts…

When in life, it becomes necessary for a people to politically “divorce” themselves from each other, and to reclaim a place that’s always been theirs — separate from their “divorcees” but equal to them, owning the exact same rights that God gave them all — common decency requires that these people should tell their former country what drove them to seek divorce.

We believe these truths to be common-sensical and irrefutable…

  1. That all people are inherently equal
  2. That our Creator gave us all certain rights that cannot be taken away, rights which fall generally into one of three categories…
    1. Life
    2. Liberty
    3. The pursuit of happiness
  3. That to protect these rights, people institute governments which have NO POWER of their own, except what power the people LOAN to them
  4. That whenever any government abuses its borrowed power, the people who loaned it that power have every right to either change the government or abolish it entirely, and to form a new government in its place, based on such principles and defining (giving AND limiting) such powers as would see the people’s rights once again protected.

Now, common sense dictates that people should NOT change or abolish their governments on a whim — and in fact, history proves this, in that people would rather suffer injustice (so long as they are able) than to rise up against the government that they are used to.

But when the government has a long track record of abuse, to the point where the people feel that they no longer own their own lives but are in fact owned by their government, it is their right — their DUTY — to abolish that government, and to create a new one in its place that WILL protect their ownership of their own lives.

***

I’m sure most of you realize this, but these words aren’t really mine at all. Rather, this is the first part of the Declaration of Independence, written and signed two hundred forty years ago this Monday. I realized that MANY people in the US today have little time or desire to sift through all the “these” and “thous” of the original language, so I thought it beneficial to put the thoughts of the Declaration into today’s terms, to demonstrate just how RELEVANT the Declaration is, even in this day when politicians are claiming that our rights change with the times.

As if.

1776

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Father’s Day 2016

When I think about this Father’s Day, of course it doesn’t take me long to think about how close I came to NOT being here for this one — how close I came to my kids MISSING their father on this Father’s Day. I’m constantly second-guessing my ability to do this job, but my kids still love me so I gotta be doing SOMETHING right 😀

What comes to mind, though, when I think about how my kids celebrate me, is what went in to me becoming the father that I am. See, I’m in a rather interesting position in that I’ve had not one, not two, but FOUR fathers (to varying degrees, and not counting God Himself — He’s in a class all His own 😉 ) throughout my life.

Of course, there’s my first father, Richard. He’s my biological father — half of the equation that explains why I’m here in the first place. Now, granted, he wasn’t there for the vast majority of my life, and even now our relationship is “distant” at best, but he gave me a few things that are vital to who I am.

He gave me my DNA, and through that, part of my Indian heritage, as well as a good portion of what makes me who and what I am physically. You wanna blame somebody for me being Chewbacca? Blame Richard 😉

He also gave me the blessing of perspective — not by his presence, but by his absence. For many years, I was angry at him for not being there… but it was an unjust anger. I didn’t know who he was, what prompted him to leave, why he stayed gone, what could be so repulsive about my Mom and me that he chose not to be my Dad. Never did I realize that, just like me, he’s human. He makes choices that he might later regret. Or not. More to the point, I made his leaving about me, or about him, or about Mom, never taking into account that sometimes, stuff just happens, and nobody’s to blame.

As an adult, I’ve learned how pointless it would be to be angry over his choices… because had he made other choices, my life would be absolutely unrecognizable. For one, my Mom would’ve never met my Dad — the next one I’m gonna talk about hehe — and had my sister Sharmeen. And Richard would’ve never met his wife, Jackie, and had my other siblings, Talitha, Tabitha, Tiva, Beth, Richard II, and Zeb. Considering how much has been ADDED, not just to my life but to the world, how could I possibly be mad at him for his choices???

Would I have preferred he had stayed? In a way. I would’ve gotten to know him as a father rather than as the friend and fellow artist that I’m coming to know him as now. I would’ve gotten the benefit of having a single, unbroken home. But I would have LOST so much as well. I wouldn’t have the family I have, the EXPERIENCES I’ve had. My personality would be entirely different. Had he stayed, I would not be “me” — certainly not any “me” that I would recognize. So I’m thankful to Richard, not for what he “deprived” me of (if I could even call it that), but for what he GAVE me.

Incidentally, one of the things that he gave me was the opportunity to know my Dad, George. Because of Richard’s absence, a void existed in my Mom’s life — a void that was filled (at least temporarily) by my Dad. They met in the Navy, where she was a single mom and he was a rebel without a cause. Their personalities couldn’t have been more different — she ordered and he chaotic, she responsible and he impulsive — but for a time, they worked.

Dad, of course, gave me the lion’s share of who I am. First and foremost, he gave me the love of a man who DIDN’T HAVE to be my Dad, and yet CHOSE to be anyway. Even when heartache came, he wanted ME in his life as well as my sister, his natural child. He could mess everything else in our relationship up, and mess it up BAD, and I’d STILL have nothing but admiration for the man, if only for that reason.

But he gave me more than just that. He also gave me my love of science fiction, fantasy, books, games, movies, entertainment in general. He showed me the value of my imagination, of asking “what if” and then actually trying to logic out the answer. He’s the reason I’m a gamer, and a writer. He’s the reason I’m writing this blog post, and why I’m so social on Facebook (funny, because he’s a veritable hermit hehe). He made sure I knew who God was, and helped lead me to Christ. And between my faith in Christ and my love of “what if”, Dad’s influence was instrumental in how I have GROWN in Christ, coming to know Him more and more even APART from those in the world and in the church that “claim” to know Him but fail to live up to Him when it matters.

But as I alluded, Dad’s personality quirks (which became MY personality quirks) clashed with Mom’s personality quirks (some of which I inherited as well, to be honest), so leading to their inevitable divorce, and Mom to my third father — Jim. Now, as much as Dad helped to build the kind of man I am, Jim helped to build the kind of DAD I am. Unfortunately, that’s not always a good thing, but for the life of me, it never ceases to amaze me how much my kids still love me in spite of it! Shouldn’t be surprising though — I loved Jim in spite of the very same.

I’ve already blogged about Jim, so you can go to that post and read all about him at your leisure, but for the sake of this blog, I want to focus in on how he has influenced me — namely, my expectations of my kids. Jim was an old Army hangover, concrete contractor, tough as nails, it’s-GONNA-get-done kinda guy. In fact, every time I have to get onto my kids, I hear Jim speaking in my voice — “You can either do X, or you’ll get Y punishment and STILL have to do X. Either way, I’m gonna get my way, so you might as well just make it easier on yourself.”

When I make my kids tow the line, it’s Jim. When I lose my cool and yell myself hoarse, it’s Jim. When I take the commonplace things we take for granted and turn them into profound life lessons, it’s Jim. He had an uncanny ability to see beyond the obvious, and to convey those things to his kids — very similar to how Dad taught me “what if”, only “thinking outside the box” on a much more practical level. Much of my work ethic is due to Jim. He knew that I’m lazy by nature, so he played specifically to that part of my nature to get through to me. Things like, “If you do a half-ass job, you’ll do it twice”, or the old laborer’s standby, “Measure twice, cut once”, to teach me that any job worth doing is worth doing once, and to the best of my abilities, so I don’t have to retread old ground (something a lazy person like me loathes).

Every one of these simple lessons had myriad applications in everyday life, and only VERY FEW of them specific to the context that they were given. When he taught me, he taught me on my level. He established a common ground that I would recognize — say, the hammer I was holding in my hand, or the shovel I was using to move gravel from this pile to that — and build his lesson from that point. Very abstract, and every valuable. It was a manner of teaching that helped me not only see life from perspectives not immediately apparent, but actually helps me to understand obscure things in scripture — specifically, parables. When Jesus taught His disciples, He spoke in the same way that Jim spoke to me — from a common ground that the disciples could readily identify with, to illustrate something that would otherwise be beyond their grasp. Nowadays, when I’m talking with my kids, driving down the road with them, working on the cars, mowing the lawn, or whatever I’m doing with them, I find myself doing the same thing Jim used to do — teaching, looking for new ways to explain the ordinary, so that the ordinary can be seen in an extraordinary (and often unexpected) light.

But love him or hate him (depending on the day), I was nevertheless deprived of him in 1998… which left the door open for my fourth, and presumably FINAL, father.

Like Jim, me and Bobby haven’t always got along. For all that Mom would suggest that Bobby’s personality is like Jim’s, it’s not. Nor is it like Dad’s or Richard’s. Bobby is Bobby. He has his own way of looking at things, his own value system, his own expectations. Where Jim was complex, Bobby is simple. Where Jim was quick-whitted and sharp with his criticisms and even insults, Bobby is (semi) respectful but blunt as a baseball bat. Bobby is similar to Jim in that they are both hard personalities, and they both have a tender underside, but it’s like they’re flip sides to the same coin — not opposites, but mirror images.

In that way, I guess, Bobby is doing exactly what Jim did with a younger me — pushing me along in who I’m supposed to be. Where Jim’s complexities drew me aggressively from my ignorance, Bobby’s one-track simplicity teaches the adult me to be steadfast, focused, unwavering unless it’s something that REQUIRES change. I don’t give Bobby NEAR the credit that he’s due. I have a nasty habit of saying that he’s my Mom’s husband, that “I’m too old to have a step-dad”, when in fact, that’s clearly not the case. I may not always think I need to learn something… but neither did I think I “needed to learn” from Jim, or from Dad, or from Richard. But however I think I need it or not, it happens all on its own.

And I’m not done. There are MANY fathers I’ve not named — grandpas, coworkers, friends, examples I see in life and on TV, people who’ve shown me a wisdom that I didn’t have before I met them, and whose wisdom has invariably wound up becoming part of the me I am today. As I look to today’s “me”, because of all the fathers that I’ve had in my life, direct or otherwise, I marvel at the Dad I am, and more, at the Dad I am becoming. How long before my Daddyhood is passed on to my kids — in how my boy emulates me, and how my girls measure the men that they will eventually tie themselves to? How long before the process that I’m in the middle of starts all over again in them?

Or has that process already started? I rather think so. I started to become me long before I can remember. I think about how I’m an unfinished product, unrefined, less than perfect, and yet I’m planting these flawed seeds in my kids’ lives, and the prospect worries me… but there again, I’m sure it did all of my fathers as well. To look back on them now, and see that I’m now OLDER than three of them were when they came into my life, I can’t help but think that they too were works in progress, unfinished and unrefined, planting flawed — yet incredibly valuable — seeds in my life.

And I love who I am because of it. For all THEIR flaws, I still turned out fine! So it gives me a great deal of peace that my kids will not suffer too badly because of all of MY flaws. They have an adequate teacher, because I had some excellent ones 🙂

Richard, George, Jim, and Bobby — Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for being you, because you have made (and continue to make) me into me 🙂

fatherhood

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Fessin’ Up — Fractures Edition

Fractures - final

Okay, update time…

This week, I returned to work after over two months of recuperation from my surgery. Having survived the certainty of my death, I thought that I’d be able to use that free time to write.

But I was wrong. Long story short, I labored over my book-to-that-point — all 67,000 words of it thus far — and realized that I’d left huge chunks out that should’ve been in there. For just one example, I’d completely forsaken the dragons that I introduced at the end of Gemworld, and when I tried to reintroduce them, the whole thing felt artificial.

So I dropped back and punted. As of this moment, my official wordcount stands at zero. UNofficially, I still have all my text to pull from as needed — all 67,000 words of it — but I’m essentially starting over from scratch.

The reasons are many — the dragons are only one — but the biggest reason is that I’d been effectively absent from my world for so long that I felt like a stranger to it. So to remedy this, I’ve been working on character outlines — starting at the very beginning of the book from each individual’s perspective, and following through to the end of the book without interruption — and it’s been working out wonderfully. I’m discovering new facets to each character, new motivations for why they do this or why that happens, and setting up for things to be explored in book three and the one-off.

When will I be done with the book then? I can’t really say. To be honest, I’ve only got three minor characters and one major character outlined so far — I still have Sal, Retzu, and at least one other minor character to do. But I can say this. The outlining, the worldbuilding type stuff, that’s the hard part for me. Writing is the easy part. If I’m struggling, I might squeeze out 500 words a week, but if I have a clear idea where I’m going, I can kill 5,000 words a day easily. For reference, Gemworld was 157,000 words 😉

I deeply apologize if you were one of the five people that actually anticipate the publishing of Fractures, but as quickly as I want to get the book out to yall, I want even more to give you my best efforts. Thank you for your patience 🙂

Jeremy

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