Archive for August, 2022

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in instructing catechumens, wrote: The dragon sits by the side of the road, watching those who pass. Beware lest he devour you. We go to the Father of Souls, but it is necessary to pass by the dragon. No matter what form the dragon may take, it is of this mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will always be concerned to tell, and this being the case, it requires considerable courage at any time, in any country, not to turn away from the storyteller. — Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose)

How do you tame your dragons? Are you even aware of them, or do you hide them like most of us do? Do you know their names? More than likely, it’s one of these: envy, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, and pride.

Throughout life, our personal dragons never really leave us. They hover very close to the things we desire, waiting to turn us in harmful directions. So often, and in various ways–through people, or events– we are warned to beware of them, but just as often, we set the warnings aside.

In my novel, SHOOTING AT HEAVEN’S GATE, envy plays a big part in several characters, but specifically in Mal Hawkins. In fact, my Prologue begins with him.

Envy is a littleness of soul, which cannot see beyond a certain point,
and if it does not occupy the whole space, feels itself excluded.

—William Hazlitt

SHOOTING AT HEAVEN’S GATE

PROLOGUE

Dr. Malcom J. Hawkins III, Professor of Psychology at Bethel University, sits at home in his favorite chair with a pompous grin on his face. His hands move ritually up and down the chair’s arms, endlessly soiling the upholstered pattern of apples and bananas. Day by day, as he rubs the arms of the chair, the smell of rot increases. Day by day, he eyes the table beside the chair and the drawer where he keeps the gun he plans to show the fool. Day by day, he patiently assesses the progress of the despicable Ginnie Gillan, wife of the fool. Why is she so admired by everyone at Bethel? How is she even a tenured professor? He read her many publications—too many, in his opinion. Nothing but drivel about spiritual warfare going on beneath the surface of all the earthly things one does. She contends that great literature portrays a battle between personified love and hate, good and evil in the flesh. In one of her silly articles, she even challenges the reader to choose a side: “Whom do you follow?”
Ha! Mal follows Me, not Thee. He is interested in a more powerful deity, one who will not allow himself to be crucified but will live and destroy all loftiness, all goodness and love, leaving only the reality of down-to-earth hatred behind. Ginnie Gillan and all her kind must be destroyed. Not by him, though. Mal will keep his own hands clean. Instead, he has chosen the perfect pawn.


Oh yes, beware of people like Malcolm Hawkins. See them for what/who they truthfully are, for they can destroy you.

Some of my characters are often shocking, flamboyant, disturbed, unkind. And yet others are merciful, gracious, empathic, loving. My characters demonstrate the dualities of human nature. Edmund, in “Shooting at Heaven’s Gate,” allows himself to be used by evil. Rather than condemn his actions, I would like my readers to acknowledge the frailties of the human heart. We all are capable of doing great evil, but how do we come to that? I like to show reasons. And hopefully you will find reasons in this novel.

So, don’t seek clearly defined protagonists and antagonists here, however. These characters are complicated. They’ve done horrible things, witnessed horrible things, been the victims of horrible things, yet they continue rising each morning and putting one foot in front of the other. They fulfill their obligations to each other while these horrible things gnaw at them from the inside out. But while presenting the repulsiveness of my character’s actions, my goal is to also present the opportunity they have to recognize the truth in supernatural grace, and to allow its better-urge, that distinct drive toward love.

Shooting at Heaven’s Gate will be officially published on August 15.

EVIL NEVER GIVES UP

Posted: August 4, 2022 in World On The Edge

EXCEPT GOD IS STRONGER THAN EVIL …

“When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock — to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

Am I shouting loud enough to be heard through my writing?

I often wonder–because it’s what I want to do.

I want to portray the world I see through a Christian lens, and the world I see is not a sweet and fluffy world. Not anymore, if it ever was. So don’t expect that in my NOVELS.

Ours has become a raw world, on the edge of losing the reality of absolute Truth–which by the way is not defined as our opinion. And each of us is individually guilty of nudging society toward the Lie.

When our goal in life is only whatever makes US feel good. When it’s all about ME. When my ambitions always go ahead of others. My satisfactions. My addictions. My face, and only my face, in front of the crowd, or the camera, or the photographer. When YOUR face doesn’t matter because the goal of MY life is ME. When those we look up to–leaders from every facet of society–do the same; we promote the Lie that says, I am God. It is a Lie that will literally kill us, individually, and as a nation.

My stories reflect these deadly, human attitudes, but I hope they reflect something else, too. That we can re-discover the Truth about who we were created to be. Because we are meant to be more than examples of humanity’s flaws. We are meant to be, and to live, as if we are children of a flawless God. Our attempt to do this–to allow God’s Grace to work within us–can re-spark us, until in Truth, we are alive again.

But when we feel the world crashing down upon us, when we are worried about the future of our families and country, we are fearful. We search for answers to our problems. We want to fix them, right here and now, except we may not be in control of the solution. What a relief it is to allow someone else to lead us, someone we TRUST; and then, with confidence, follow their lead.

The most secure place to put our trust is in God. And when we trust in Him, He will lead us. When we let go, like a frightened child standing on the pool’s edge, and jump into our Father’s arms with faith; he will not only catch us and keep us from drowning, he will teach us to swim.

Of course, it takes courage to overcome fear with faith. Will we jump anyway?

I have seen God’s work in my own life. I have experienced His loving leadership through events I thought I could not possibly survive, physically or emotionally.  When I tried to handle everything on my own, I was closing off God’s presence in my life, and couldn’t take advantage of the grace He offered me when I needed it most. And I surely needed that grace!

I found that trusting in God is a continuous mindset–always a first ‘go to’ — that brings a real peace.

Everyone on the earth is born with two, innate possibilities for living out his or her time here. It’s our choice. Will we live out goodness, or evil? My stories are about the choice we all have, and how an individual character handles it. I hope you’ll read them. And if you like, critique them, too.