Archive for February, 2017

A House of Love, or Hate????

Posted: February 28, 2017 in World On The Edge

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“The Pleasure of Company: A Ghost Story,” is the last story in my collection, Birds of a Feather, published by Wiseblood Books. It is set in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1880, when ghosts from the Civil War still roamed in the heads of some who served as soldiers.

To say that war changes a person is surely an understatement. The ghosts of any war linger for a lifetime in the heads of those who fought it—-and some, like the soldier and his wife in this story, find the ghostly battles of the mind even more ominous than the war itself. Except, this is also a love story; one in which the opportunity to forgive an enemy (which might be oneself) is offered, but you’ll have to read it to learn whether that opportunity is actually taken.

Here’s an excerpt from the story.

Click on the book cover to order the book.

THE PLEASURE OF COMPANY: A Ghost Story

A year ago, when she could not bear to speak to a soul, when she did not comb her hair or wash her face or dab herself with lavender water, or wear her corset (because any underclothing cut off her breath), Julia began the night walks into the woods, taking off her gown and lying upon the ground beneath the ancient oak. But neither the cooling breeze upon her breasts nor the sparkle of stars kissing the leaves to silver against the dark sky lifted her melancholy. The night walks have become her futile attempt to make sense of meanness. Still Julia cannot fathom a reason for the death of her child; still she has no face for Hattie’s murderer.

Clara and I come.

We follow her home. The next morning, Clara and I watch as Joseph, Julia’s husband, instructs Esther to, “Restart the clocks, uncover the mirrors, and draw open the curtains in Miss Julia’s bedroom.”

Julia protests. “Joseph, it’s too soon.”

“It’s been a year, exactly,” Joseph says, motioning Esther to begin. He is tall and thin, with a once pleasant face, now pinched by sorrow and the worry of a much older man.

The old black woman, Julia’s childhood nurse, carefully lifts the customary black satin from the mirror on the dressing table. The light causes Julia to shut her eyes and lower her chin into the high-necked collar of her funeral dress, made from the same bolt of satin that covered the windows and mirrors. Every night, Esther washes and irons it for Julia because she’ll wear nothing else.

“What if Hattie’s spirit has been trapped behind the mirror?” Julia asks.

“The covering of mirrors is just superstition,” Joseph says. “Hattie has not been trapped. She has not been kept from Heaven.”

Clara and I hear and understand his thinking; that the only trapped spirit is Julia’s, and he desperately wants to help it escape.

He motions Esther out of the room so he can be alone with his wife. In the uncovered glass, her unkempt brown hair hangs about her oval-shaped face. Her narrow shoulders slump forward and her opaque eyes, once buoyantly blue with the promise of a happy life, are as tarnished as neglected silver. He has to do something meaningful soon, before he loses her forever.

Yesterday, he suggested a dinner party. Once, she loved celebrations. “The dinner party is what you need, Julia,” he reminds her. “You’ve not had the pleasure of company for more than a year.” He bends to kiss her cheek, but she shies away from him as she has come to do, giving a bitter wince at the touch of his fingers on the nape of her neck.

Who Should You Trust???

Posted: February 24, 2017 in World On The Edge

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All that needs to be said about friendship.

1 Sir 6:5-17
A kind mouth multiplies friends and appeases enemies,
and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.
Let your acquaintances be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant.
When you gain a friend, first test him,
and be not too ready to trust him.
For one sort is a friend when it suits him,
but he will not be with you in time of distress.
Another is a friend who becomes an enemy,
and tells of the quarrel to your shame.
Another is a friend, a boon companion,
who will not be with you when sorrow comes.
When things go well, he is your other self,
and lords it over your servants;
But if you are brought low, he turns against you
and avoids meeting you.
Keep away from your enemies;
be on your guard with your friends.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds;
For he who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his friend will be like himself.

Do We Have to LOSE to WIN??

Posted: February 23, 2017 in World On The Edge

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A  dream is  spiritual aspiration. I have often been called a dreamer. My father was the first to label me so. That’s because he was a dreamer, too, and understood.

He understood that life would be hard, and that no one can get away from that truth. He understood that imagination and persistence is required. He understood the knocks of life, and afterwards, the joy that comes from achieving a dream. He understood experiencing the small hurts, and even the great pain called for, in exchange for something of greater importance. In other words, my father understood that life for each of us holds a Crucifixion.

So, do we have to lose to win?

Yes. Sometimes.

We cannot get away from personal suffering in this world. We are not infallible even if we sometimes believe we are. But there is purpose in it, something of greater importance. Out of our pains, sufferings, and sacrifices comes a victory. Perhaps it is not quite the dream we put our finger on, but even better.

To dream, to want, to aspire is part of our spiritual nature, given by God, and role-played for us by his son, Jesus Christ.

What did God want so much that He would allow his son to suffer crucifixion?  He wanted to accomplish a spiritual purpose.  Our redemption.

I am no disbeliever in spiritual purpose and no vague believer. I see from the standpoint of Christian orthodoxy. This means that for me the meaning of life is centered in our redemption by Christ and what I see in the world, I see in its relation to that.–Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor wrote to her friend Louise Abbot saying; “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”

But it’s hard to accept a cross, much less carry it with hope. I don’t even like to think about it. This is where God’s grace comes in, allowing us to get through it and continue on.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

–Langston Hughes

 

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I have been changed by books I’ve read, and I’ll bet you have, too. I’ve thought about the characters and their motives, their place in time and how that affected them. I’ve wondered about the author’s reason for creating a certain character, and what he/she wants the character to impart to the reader.  All  handled by authors who have something very particular to share with readers. And I’ve judged books as by this criteria: Do they speak of the good, truth, and beauty of our world? By this, I don’t mean that the book must be anywhere close to squeaky clean. Sometimes these things are only apparent when a story accents the lack of them.

Story comes from Christ himself–history is His story.  Christ teaches through stories, through fiction, such as  The Prodigal Son. A work of art, a story told by Jesus Christ. We see something of ourselves in the story, either in the forgiving father or the wayward son. Something that moves us, even changes us.

The evangelizing power of literature has been sanctioned by Jesus, himself–Joseph Pearce.

Joseph Pearce (born 1961) is an English-born writer, and as of 2014 Director of the Center for Faith and Culture at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee. Previously he had comparable positions, from 2012–2014 at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire, from 2001–2004 at Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, Michigan and from 2004–2012 at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Florida. He is known for a number of literary biographies, many of Catholic figures. Formerly aligned with the National Front, a white nationalist political party, he converted to Roman Catholicism in 1989, repudiated his earlier views, and now writes from a Catholic perspective. He is a co-editor of the St. Austin Review and editor-in-chief of Sapientia Press. He also teaches Shakespearian literature for Homeschool Connections, an online Catholic curriculum provider.–Wikipedia

Below is his full talk, “How Literature Shapes the Christian Character.”  It is well-worth hearing–especially for writers–but in case you don’t have time to watch, here are some major points.

First of all, our imagination is the image of God in us as the creator. We are called to be creative. The Christian character can be defined as the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Even if we don’t do it well, it’s worth doing–in life and in our creative efforts, be that writing or something else.

If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly. G.K. Chesterton

We are given talents by God to be used. God does not remove the gift just because we abuse it. Many times we start doing things badly in order to do it better, but we won’t do it better until we continue doing it badly. Practice makes perfect. So, we must keep creating, keep writing.

Nature is a study for eternity for those so gifted–Tolkien

“The Lord of the Rings” is unadulterated Catholic ideology. God becomes man on the Feast of the Annunciation–same day the ring is found. The ring is synonymous with sin–the person wearing the ring fades, which is the addictive quality of sin.

Certainly NOT comparing myself to Tolkien, but my own writing is based in Catholicism, as well.  My characters may not be Catholic, they may even be enemies of the church, but regardless, they are all human beings, created in God’s image and likeness, living in a world in which God’s presence is infinite, and available to all.

 

WHY DID I DO THAT!??

Posted: February 21, 2017 in World On The Edge

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Every action has a consequence. Do we consider the consequence before we move ahead?

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.–Warren Buffet

Our lives are rambling questions. Daily we make decisions, acting from our motives–our reason for doing something.

That ‘something’ may be good, not-so-good, or just plain evil. A good motive is easy to see. A not-so-good motive is often easy to understand, as well. But it is rare that we can actually understand a truly evil motive. This is because we were created to be good–in God’s likeness, not Satan’s.

BUT…the Evil One (And yes, Satan is real) fiddles around with our motives, tells us that what we know we shouldn’t do, or have, is good for us. And because we are human and possess God’s gift of free will, we often excuse evil.

Satan is all about self, and selfishness is his motive; the same motive he polishes up in us. And when he’s polished it enough, when we think we need his kind of good, then he can sell us anything.

Let’s talk about “need.” I spent twenty years in advertising; a cardinal rule is to find a need in the potential buyer, then create a campaign focusing on something that appears to fill that need, then put the cherry on the top with a deal that is too “good” to pass up.

Making something appear too good to pass up is Satan’s way, as well, and judging by his success rate, no one can fool a vulnerable buyer better than Satan. So, we let ourselves be pulled toward the good Satan presents to us, and then….we buy it.

What happens then?

We become poison to those around us. We try to lead them to our way. We don’t need God. In fact, we pitch Him–our Creator–out of our lives and start to think of ourselves as God.

This is why it is so important to guard the goodness God created in us by looking at the true motive behind everything we do.

Is the action we are going to do in line with our Faith in God–or is it only Satan’s ploy?

The Bastardization of Love??

Posted: February 17, 2017 in World On The Edge

Translating a World on the Edge

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Whole societies cannot love whole societies, unless love first begins and acts in a singular heart.
Love is a thing of beauty, and of spiritual purpose, not a tossed-about bone of hypocrisy that looks good in letters on signs used in the six o’clock news.

Our ability to love is how we human beings share in God’s divinity. How we carry out that ability has a great consequence.

Love is not meant to be denigrated, not meant to be used for a lesser, and yes, hateful purpose. Love is purpose, itself, and it can only be had within the context of TRUTH.

Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy. –Warren W. Wiersbe 

The way the word Love is being used today is a bastardization of TRUTH. A bastardization of our Creator, our God. The true, sacred meaning of love is being debased by those who are…

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The Bastardization of Love??

Posted: February 16, 2017 in World On The Edge

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Whole societies cannot love whole societies, unless love first begins and acts in a singular heart.
Love is a thing of beauty, and of spiritual purpose, not a tossed-about bone of hypocrisy that looks good in letters on signs used in the six o’clock news.

Our ability to love is how we human beings share in God’s divinity. How we carry out that ability has a great consequence.

Love is not meant to be denigrated, not meant to be used for a lesser, and yes, hateful purpose. Love is purpose, itself, and it can only be had within the context of TRUTH.

Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy. –Warren W. Wiersbe 

The way the word Love is being used today is a bastardization of TRUTH. A bastardization of our Creator, our God. The true, sacred meaning of love is being debased by those who are anything but loving, and only use the word in a self-interested way.

Is it loving to scream and spit at a fellow human being because you don’t agree with him/her?
Is it loving to set out to destroy another person?
Is it loving to demolish what belongs to others?
Is it loving to misconstrue (lie about) events for your own personal gratification, or personal agendas?

This is not love.
This is sin–Love’s opposite.
This is puffed-up self-importance, when there is only one way, and it is MY way.

An election was held. The majority ruled.

Misplaced pride and unwillingness to play fairly will not only back-fire, it will greatly harm America.

Half the harm that is done in this world
Is due to people who want to feel important.
― T.S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party

Right now, the water is wide between two factions in our country, but TRUE LOVE, not hypocrisy, is our boat, the vessel which will carry us across the ocean of our differences.