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.

Categories: Life In General, Religious, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Government, Life In General, Religious, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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…

Categories: Religious, Writing | Leave a comment

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

Categories: Life In General, Religious, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Categories: Government, Life In General, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Categories: Life In General, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

You Never Know When It Matters

555handshake

The house across the street of us is occupied again. It happens from time to time — the landlord (who lives about two hours away) looks for somebody to buy the property, it sits vacant, they rent it out. Typically, it stays occupied for about three or four months (their longest renter stayed just shy of a year), until the renter stops paying rent, forcing the landlord to evict them and clean up the mess they made of the house. This moves the landlord to try and sell it, and the cycle repeats.

The family that lives there now just moved in last month, and already they’re showing the typical signs. What’s worse, they’re loud. They don’t just argue — they scream and holler to the point where we’ve almost called the cops on them. So we decided early on that they were the kind of renters that we wanted to avoid.

Yesterday afternoon, Mary and I were doing some gardening stuff in the front yard and we noticed the lady (wife? girlfriend?), her kids, and an elderly gentleman trying to get into the family car. Apparently, the lady had locked the keys in there. They were unsuccessfully using a coat hanger to pull the lock, so I went over to offer my not-inconsiderable real-life GTA skills.

Yeah. The neighbor’s that we had determined to avoid.

When I failed to unlock the car, I could easily have shrugged my shoulders and left the lady and her loud male counterpart to their own devices. I had done my bit for Good Samaritanship. Nothing was stopping me. Nobody would’ve thought less of me.

But I would have.

Mary and I have had a membership with AAA for almost five years now, and among other things, they unlock car doors. So I pulled out my AAA card, called the number, and they scheduled the local towing contractor to come out and see about the car. I didn’t mention that it wasn’t my car, and they didn’t seem to care. They said it’d be about an hour, so Mary and I walked around our yard discussing garden stuff while we waited. The lady went inside to finish working on lunch before her man woke up from his afternoon nap.

About five minutes later, her man woke up from his afternoon nap. True to form, we heard him before we saw him. He made for the car with purpose, feet thundering as he hulked, mouth thundering louder, spouting an impressive litany filled with words that we’ve told our kids never to say. He looked the car over for a few minutes before finally stomping off down the road, cussing the whole time.

No, I never got a chance to tell him that AAA was on the way.

The neighbor lady came back out, the look on her face a strange mix of stress and apology. She laughed his tirade off, saying that he gets this way and you just gotta let him go off. Mary and I stayed out there chatting with her while we waited, though it was more for her peace than for AAA at that point.

Thankfully, the towing contractor showed up about fifteen minutes later — well within the expected hour wait. The contractor got my card number and the information on the car, then started looking his job over. About that time, the man came back. His face went from angry to confused to anxious, as if he was looking at a locksmith payment that he wasn’t going to be able to make. I made a beeline for him and introduced myself, shook his hand, and told him that the contractor was there on my AAA membership. Yes, I called him. No, you don’t have to worry about a thing — I got it covered.

That’s probably the quietest that I’ve ever seen him.

The contractor got into the car in short order and was gone as fast as he’d come. The neighbor guy still had a confused look on his face. He said thank you again, and asked quietly if he owed me anything. No. I’m glad that I could help. I shook his hand again, gave him and his lady as genuinely cheerful a smile as I know how, and went about my business.

I thought that was the end of it, but this afternoon, I was in the front yard doing my best to leaf blower my pine needles into a pile. Not terribly efficient, to be sure, but it meant I didn’t have to use the rake to move the pile — just to bring in the stragglers. Caleb and Madi were riding their bikes in the street and I saw the neighbor guy inching his way out of the driveway. Of course, they made their way to the curbs as I’ve told them to do. I half-expected the neighbor guy to peel out when the coast was clear, as he was wont to do, but he sat at a dead stop while the kids passed. As he slowly pulled out of the driveway, he honked his horn at me (as if I hadn’t been watching the whole time) and waved at me through the sunroof.

I honestly don’t know what impact I had on him, or how long that effect will last. All I know for certain is that I made an impact of some sort. Maybe he was just as quiet inside the house as he became outside. Maybe they had one less argument last night. Maybe my call to AAA spared him the straw that would’ve broke the camel’s back — at least for one night. Calling AAA on their behalf cost me nothing, but who knows how much of a gift it turned out to be?

For the record, I am NOT telling this story to toot my own horn. Lord knows I’ve got far too many fails and have demonstrated far too much selfishness to give myself laurels that I don’t deserve. The point of this story, rather, is to demonstrate that what you do may seem pitifully small to you, even insignificant, but to the person who receives your pitiful gift, it could make all the difference in the world.

Categories: Life In General, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Disciples… and Peter

Denial of Peter

Mark 16:5-7 –And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

This morning, in celebration of the Resurrection, we had a Sunrise Service at church. As one of our music ministers was giving us a mini-devotional just prior to the actual service, he made mention of this verse. In it, the angel at the empty tomb told the women to go tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus is risen.

Note the separation: the disciples… and Peter.

Simon the fisherman — nicknamed Kepha, Cephas, Petros, Peter — was not just any disciple. He was the very first to confidently declare a notion that some had toyed with: that Jesus was no mere prophet but was in fact the long awaited Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Because of this confession, Jesus named him as the primary example of this confession, “the rock” upon which He would build His church. Some consider Peter to be the foundation of the church. Personally, I consider his confession to be that foundation. Either way, Peter was pretty important.

Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, Peter was not just a disciple — he was the model disciple. He was always the first to jump out of the boat — literally as well as figuratively. He had a knack for boldly rushing in where angels fear to tread because he knew that whatever happened, the Father had Jesus’ back, and Jesus had Peter’s. Jesus was The Guy, so Jesus would always come out victoriously.

When Jesus said that He was going to die in Jerusalem, it was perfectly in keeping with Peter’s nature to deny that eventuality. I’m sure it felt like a slap in the face for Jesus to call him Satan for that denial, but even Peter didn’t realize the full extent of who Jesus was and what He was about, and he was well acquainted with his impulsive nature getting him into hot water. Sure, he was the only man other than Jesus Himself to ever walk on water, but he also sank.

Peter was a man so completely devoted to Christ that even among the Jesus’ core disciples, Peter stood out. He was so committed to Christ that, when Jesus said that all of His disciples would desert him, Peter declared that he would die before that happened. Of course, Jesus prophesied that not only would Peter desert Him just like everybody else, but he would deny Him openly before the night was over. And that’s exactly what happened.

Peter stood apart from the other disciples in his devotion to Christ, but he also stood apart from the other disciples in his denial of Him. Not only did the disciples all think they’d lost their Master when Jesus was crucified, but Peter had also lost himself.

Again, he was the model disciple. As he had once been the epitome of what they could be, he was now the epitome of what they were.

It’s not hard to imagine that Peter no longer saw himself as a disciple, but that he now saw him as less than them, having fallen much farther than they. He, who was supposed to comfort the others, was himself the most in need of comfort.

It seems fitting, then, that the angel would single Peter out as one who should be told that Jesus had risen, for the Master was not just being restored to His disciples, but to the one who thought that he had done the most to fail Him.

I find this individual attention most striking, though not because Jesus wasn’t known for individual attention — He did, after all, tell Peter to mind his own business when he asked what another disciple’s job should be after Jesus ascended. What’s so striking is that, as if to confirm Jesus’ forgiveness of Peter’s “greater” denial, He went out of His way to ask “Do you love Me” and command “Feed My sheep” three times — once for each time that Peter denied Him.

Categories: Religious, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

Hosanna — Prayer or Praise?

Yeah, I know. I’ve been slacking on my blogging. Rather than give a bunch of excuses, I’ll simply plead recovery and time with my kids and be done with it 😉

Well, today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. Today in Jesus’ life, He had entered Jerusalem following the Sabbath, setting up the final days of His earthly ministry. He entered as prophecy had declared, riding on the colt of a donkey, and this didn’t escape the notice of the people of Jerusalem — both Jesus’ supporters and His detractors — and He entered to shouts of “Hosanna!”

A lot has been said about “hosanna” being a praise akin to hurray or huzzah or yippee, but it didn’t start off that way. The word is Hebrew, and comes from two words that mean “save/savior” and “to beg” — literally “please save us”. Now, that’s a far cry from a shouted praise, but there IS a way where it can be both.

Consider that Jesus was thought to be a messiah… though not the messiah we know Him to be. There were Jews that thought Jesus would be a messiah on the order of Moses or David or Judah Maccabee or even Alexander the Great — a military leader who would free the Jews from their oppression under Rome. Crying “Hosanna”, they were praising Jesus — shouting “hurray” at His arrival — but it can be argued that they were also entreating Him to save them, as if to say “Please be the One we’ve been waiting for.”

John the Baptist, just days before his execution, asked much the same question of Jesus — “Are you He, or do we wait for another?” Jesus’ answer to him was very similar to how He answered (by His crucifixion) the Jewish cry of hosanna. He had come to save them, but not necessarily in the way they had expected.

John was prepared to accept that reality. The Jews were not. When Jesus did not satisfy their expectations, their shouts of praise — and petitions of “Please be the One” — turned to demands for His crucifixion, revealing their praise for what it was: focused primarily on their own benefit, without regard for God’s ultimate glory.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.