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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Hard Words

It seems these days that no one wants to say the hard words or to ask the hard questions.

Oh, I don't mean that people won't say what's on their minds or even that people won’t say in public what should only be said in private. But rather…people seem to shy away from saying the truly hard things...things about life and truth. Words about personal responsibility and the cost of citizenship. Words about the proper use and function of sex and marriage; or words about how abortion is the taking of an innocent human life, or how choices really do matter.

I find myself wondering if it felt any different for Betsy and Corrie tenBoom as they hid Jews from the Nazi army; or if it felt weird for Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he took a stand against Hitler. I hear more contemporary voices crying out to "ask not what my government can do for me, but rather what can I do for my government?" Oh don't get me wrong, I know that's not exactly what President Kennedy said, but it does rather reflect what he meant.

Then comparatively speaking Dr. King asked that neither he nor his children be judged by the color of their skins, but by the content of their character. And here we are today--at our enlightened state--and all we can talk about is hyphenated this and hyphenated that.

Whatever happened to us? Is that a hard question too?

Perhaps its time we all begin to ask the hard questions, to say the hard words. Truth matters. Life matters. We matter.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

By The Numbers

Recently I began a study in the Old Testament Book of Numbers. I can almost hearing some of you rolling your eyes at the thought. I can even imagine hearing some of you say the only thing worse would be a study of the book of Leviticus. Well, I just finished that one.

One of the first things I learned from the book of Numbers was the question, or the idea of perception.  For instance, the title, Numbers. We western minded students have taken the meaning of the book, its primary expression, to be concerned with the numbering of the nation of Israel; thus its name. While in reality, the true name of the book, as it is known in the Hebrew, is Bemidhbar and means literally, in the wilderness.  (Hint-hint, it’s about our life on earth as we seek to learn about who God is and what His purpose for our lives is.)

Now, you may be wondering what all this has to do with anything. I'm glad you asked. I have found that when it comes to writing it is chiefly about perception. As a writer, I am actively trying to get you—my reader—to perceive a world or a character in a certain light. Is Aragorn merely an untrustworthy Ranger of the North; or is he the long awaited heir of the throne of Arnor, the 35th king of Gondor? Perception, it’s all about perception.

Take this current election cycle. Regardless to which party you are favored, both are trying to impact your perception of what they are about and who they really are. Too often in this pursuit the question of truth is left unanswered in favor of the more comfortable...or shall we say less challenging idea of style or presentation.

Let's look back at the study of the Book of Numbers. Is it a book about the census of nation and how fast each of its twelve tribes reproduced? Or is it the study of a people who wandered in the wilderness trying to learn and apply the lessons given by an Almighty, All knowing God who loved them and wanted to teach them to live by a superior standard in the chaotic world that was their norm?  You see, your perception of the book will determine how you approach it; and how you approach it will determine what you find in it.

The same is true in life, whether writing a new manuscript or trying to decide which way to vote; it’s all about perception. Think about it.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Book Review: The Gladiator and the Guard, by Annie Douglass Lima

Pure Believable Fiction

Every once in a while I am surprised by a book. The Gladiator and the Guard, by Annie Douglass Lima did just that. It surprised me. With a blur of action and intrigue, I was instantly transported into a world that felt real…that had history…that had depth.

From the moment, I met Bensin, Ellie, Ricky and I just loved this, Coach-Dad, these characters felt as if they really were. What Lima has done is created a world and a people that feel as though they truly exist, and a place where if you only knew where it was, you would visit. In our world where the NFL and MMA exist as the kings of the contact sports—sorry hockey fans—Lima has introduced Cavvara Shil. This world has weight, has substance and a sense of history; and while Cavvara Shil is not a real martial art, the principals upon which it is built is truly martial in nature.

Lima captured what my martial arts friends call, the Bushido Code—The Way of the Warrior—and rolled into it the life of her protagonist, Bensin. As in real life, Bensin doesn’t get to experience his challenges in the sterile Petri dish of flat-fiction; it is instead presented in the dynamics of culture and society, where the question of the value of human life; and perhaps to a greater degree, the question of the value of one’s personal honor are examined.  

In this fast past adventure, the reader is never bored, never left hanging, and never left wanting. The reader is pushed right along with the characters on this journey of growth and exploration. Lima allows the reader to see and feel what the characters feel through the clever use of reflective writing. She does this while not significantly slowing the pace of the narrative. She also avoids the trap of creating an alternative world built of stereotypes and clich├ęs. This is truly a journey the reader will enjoy and return to time and time again to discover the nuisances the writer has so cleverly embedded in the text.

Although I received a free copy of The Gladiator and the Guard, by Annie Douglass Lima, the thoughts and the opinions here displayed are my own. It is a true honor to recommend The Gladiator and the Guard to all my readers and those new readers looking for a great adventure.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Truth: No Time Like the Present

Truth. Ali’theia. Verdad. Chshmartit’un. Jinsil. Egiatasun. Truth. A rose by any other name, William Shakespeare once said, would smell as sweet. The question that seems to confront us today--especially in this election season--is, however, have we lost our taste for the fragrance of truth.  

At last count, there were 127 police officers killed in the line of duty in 2015, and 25 this year already. Over a hundred and fifty men and women (husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sister) died, putting their lives on the line to serve their chosen communities. Each of those lives lost left vacancies that will never be filled. Children who will never see their father’s again. Wives who will never have that last embrace, and mothers who will never again welcome home that favored "son". This is not a cry that would say every cop is perfect, or that cops never makes mistakes…never had a break in judgment; or even just plain messed up. What it is, is a reminder that there is ONE, even Christ, before whom every life matters. Every Black life. Every White Life. Every Brown Life. Every Native Life. Every life matters. This is not only my truth, is the Truth.

Referring back to Shakespeare, he said, “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” Just for a moment consider it to be true and ask yourself what part are you playing? Are you the protagonist that plots along the narrative like Luke Skywalker bringing peace and balance to an otherwise capsized universe. Or are you the antagonist, a Darth Vader or an Emperor imposing your will on all around, forcing them into your version of realty?  

Or perhaps you take comfort in just being a role player one of many hidden-faced storm troopers just carrying out orders never once stopping to ask the question, “What is truth?”  

As long as we, the masses are willing simply to follow, then we will have the political leaders, the law enforcement, and the criminal element we deserve. Of course, the opposite holds true as well. And even at that, it is not enough to just get involved…to just do something. It is ultimately important that we do the right thing. While standing before Jesus, Pilate asked a question that Jesus never answered. He asked Jesus, "What is truth?"  I often wondered what might have happened if Jesus had disclosed….I wonder what would happen in your life if He answered it for you.