Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Prayer Acronym

I was going over different types of prayer with my students this past week.  I like to use the ACTS method of explaining the different kinds of prayer: Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  I tacked on Petition at the end, too, though I suppose I could have adopted PACTS as the acronym.  But that would mean giving Petition pride of place as the first type of prayer discussed, and I think Adoration should take the number one spot.

Of course, in my personal prayer life, I find that Petition dominates.  Contrition is a not-too-close second, followed by Thanksgiving, with Supplication dutifully bringing up the rear.  Deliberately adoring God is tacked on at the end, assuming I remember to tack it on at all.  So my personal prayer acronym is PCTSA.  Looks like initials for a once-influential-but-now-in-decline social group: Practical Connecticutian Social Activists, or People Constructing Tolerance, Solidartiy, and Awareness, or maybe a sign for a cable-news channel advertising a job opening: Professional Carpers' Thoughtless Scribbles Accepted.

Where ACTS denotes powerful events and deliberate choices, PCTSA is an unpronounceable jumble of meaningless consonants that added a vowel to try to appear respectable.  It is a bunch of letters pretending to be a word; a tangle of intuitions masquerading as a thought.  How do I untangle this prayer-knot?  By remembering that I am a creature, wholly dependent on God for the powers of my mind and will; my very existence.  If I can keep the understanding of my utter dependence foremost in my mind, it should help me to remember how awesome God is, and why I should routinely admit that He is so.

And yet, and yet... my very dependence on God moves me to ask Him for what I need, not selfishly (I hope), but in light of recognizing that everything is a gift (a Christmas gift?) from Him.  Jesus commanded us to ask God to fulfill our needs, and the Our Father includes some serious petitions along with its praise.  I suppose petition can be praise if it is done in the right spirit, so perhaps it should come first after all... and PACTS does recall the Covenant.  As a teacher of Hebrew Scripture, I do like that.

Well, whether ACTS or PACTS, I need to change my prayer acronym to something intelligible, something that is a true word, something that conforms to God rather than something that tries to conform Him to me.  Advent is an ideal time to do just that.  Thank goodness there is still a whole week of it left!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Advent: Ready Your Hearts

I'm so happy to present a post from my sister.  Please enjoy! - Joshua

Ready your hearts…

This is a phrase that we hear every Advent, but do we really do it? Do we ready our hearts for the immense gift, the True Gift, whom we celebrate on December the 25th? Or do we get swept up in the artificial “meanings” of Christmas? For me, it’s a little bit of both. I love the feeling of joy and expectation that the celebration of our Lord’s birth is soon, but I also get caught up in the figuring out of gifts for family and friends and making sure I get to different parties and have fun. So when I heard the phrase “ready your hearts” last Sunday at Mass, it got me thinking about what that truly means. How does one “ready their heart” for the greatest gift the world has ever known?  How can a little human heart get ready to hold infinite love within it?

And then it came to me: marriage preparation!

I am not married, but I am friends with quite a few people who are recently married or who are engaged so I have heard stories about marriage preparation. It’s not that you are directly told to ready your hearts during marriage preparation, but it appears, at least from the individuals that I know, they do ready their hearts. They do it by prayer, conversation, reflection, and sacrifice. These brides and grooms were readying their hearts to receive the gift of each other and the blessings of the union that was made with God’s love. We, during Advent, are readying our hearts for the birth of our Savior and for the blessings and graces God wants to bestow on us. Just because this Sunday begins the second week of Advent doesn’t mean that it is too late to ready your heart for Christ…it is never too late to ready your heart for Christ. And in readying our hearts, we are opening them to Christ and the love He and God the Father have for us. So let us all be like brides and grooms during this Advent season. Let us be readying our hearts, be opening them, and be waiting for the true love that is coming soon.

I plan to do some Advent reflections on the four themes my sister mentions above. Maybe I'll even convince her to write some of them with me!  Happy Advent!  And thank you, my dear sister!

Special Advent Post Coming Soon!

I'm quite pleased to say that my sister will be making a guest post very soon!  I can't wait to read her Advent reflection!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Champion: Mapping the Message

When I first decided to write my novel, I knew I would have to draw a map.  I am a terrible artist, so I did not relish the idea of struggling to draw the continents and seas of my imaginary world.  Thankfully, my friend Eric was able to transform my pathetic drawing into a beautiful image.  Thus was Lariel finally born.

This is my poor attempt.

This is Eric's beautiful illustration.

You may notice that Lariel resembles a certain country in North America.  That was not my original intent.  Long ago, I had drawn a version of Lariel with Daelihm and Thrine arranged in such a way as to make the main continent appear to be the wings of a dragon.  Daelihm has lost its dragon-body shape and has drifted South, while Thrine has shifted so far East that it no longer suggests the presence of a dragon's tail.

Lariel's current form is that of a Pangea-style supercontinent with a few neighboring landmasses of merely continental size.  And yes, I know it resembles the United States of America.  I have a few things to say about that.

First, Lariel is not some past or future version of Earth.  It is a different planet.  It may exist in this universe, or it may exist in a universe that is adjacent to our own.  Lariel's reality is indeed connected to Earth's, but I do not envision any future contact between the two planets.  At least, no contact in a physical way.

Second, as I stated before, Lariel's main landmass is a supercontinent, thousands of miles wider than North America.  The distance between Lihn City and Oasis is roughly the distance between New York City and L.A.  That said, Lariel is slightly smaller than Earth, and its year is shorter than our own.

Third, the resemblance to America is unintentional, but not undesired.  The Champion's message is in many ways an American one, and if the reader is reminded of the United States by the map of Lariel, so much the better.

I wanted to write a Fantasy story that reverses a few of the classic cliches, the foremost being that Fantasy stories are always about a seemingly powerless individual whose choices radically change the entire world.  While those stories are great and very necessary, I wanted to focus on power and responsibility.  Like America, my hero is very powerful.  He has a responsibility to use his power for the benefit of others, but, initially, he does not want to change the way he is leading his life.  He likes the status quo.  He is not a bad man; indeed, he is a very good man.  He is prepared to make any sacrifice for his family and friends.  But he is not yet willing to make sacrifices for strangers, and that is what he is called to do.  It seems to me that America is much the same.

The second cliche I wanted to avoid was the coming of age story.  My hero is not a boy becoming a man.  He his a man fulfilling his responsibilities, embracing his vocation.  He has an adventure, makes new friends, and learns wisdom, yes, but he does so as an adult.  In a similar way, I think that America has come of age, and it is time for it to embrace its true vocation.

The last cliche I wanted to avoid (as far as this post is concerned) was the story about the hero winning the heart of his beloved by the end of his adventure.  That's why my novel starts with a wedding.  The hero is not just winning a woman's heart; he is making a covenant with her.  In this way the story belongs just as much to the heroine as it does to the hero.  Indeed, it is not about one or the other, but about them together doing what they are called to do.  It seems that we have lost that sense here in America: that a wedding is not just the end of an adventure, but the beginning of a new mission.  Marriage is the work of a lifetime.  Two lifetimes, in fact.  I may be unmarried, but I understand that marriage is not merely what our culture says it is: a mutually advantageous economic arrangement that has something to do with feelings and sex and maybe kids. It is the binding of love that sets love free.  It is a wild journey through a mysterious land.  It is not the saving of a kingdom, but the founding of one.

So, if you think that The Champion is commenting on America, you are right!  My thoughts about this nation have influenced the narrative, and its message is aimed at the average American.  Is The Champion an allegory for America in some way?  Nope.  But there is a moral to it, one that I think this nation should put into practice.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reflection: Why Write?

I'm going to be writing a series of posts about my novel, The Champion, in the coming days and weeks.  As I try to convince people that my fiction is worth reading (and even buying!), I think it will be helpful for me to consider why I have done what I have done.  After all, if I can not give a good reason for someone to take interest in my work, then what is the point of publishing it?

This post will be an examination of the reason why I wrote my novel.  If you are a writer, it might contain some thoughts that will resonate at the same pitch as your thoughts about your own work.  Or not.  But I think that going through this process will be worthwhile for me.

I believe that the overwhelming majority of writers write because it brings them pleasure.  Writing is interesting, challenging, and fun!  My primary reason for writing is because I like to do it...

It is funny how as I wrote, "I like to do it," I said to myself, That's a lie, you love to do it!  And then that thought was immediately followed by, Hold on, you love to write at certain times, and only like to do it at other times.  This last thought I hold to be true.  I always like to write, but I only sometimes love to write.  I wonder why that is.

I think I know.  I enjoy putting words together in creative ways.  I think it is cool to calibrate countless quandaries, quotes, and queries into prose and poetry.  I really like alliteration!  I like the feel of fitting words into wonderful patterns of meter and rhyme.  I like constructing towering verbal behemoths and tiny linguistic pearls alike.  I like the constant struggle to avoid cliches, and I like finding those rare instances when using the right cliche really hits the spot.  I even like editing my work to try to make it better.

But what I love about writing is singular: I love to tell of beautiful things.  The joy that comes from encountering beauty is so... incredible, immense, invigorating, intoxicating, and irresistible that I can not help but try to share it.  To experience True Beauty is itself something that kindles the fires of the soul, but to speak beautifully of Beauty, to tell truly of the Truth... that is a thing so exquisite that no net of words ever could be woven so fine as to ensnare it.  The very experience of doing so is a burning that extinguishes all attempts to put it into words.  And that double joy, experiencing Beauty and then telling of It, is not additive but multiplicative; and exponential when another person is helped to see the Beauty I saw because of the words I wrote.

And yet, it is not right to claim authorship of the words, for, if they contain even the smallest shard of True Beauty, then they owe their existence not to me, but to the Source of Beauty that exists outside of me.  If I tell Truly of Beauty, it is only because I somehow have reflected a ray of that original Beauty, not because I am its source.  And acknowledging that truth, accepting that I am a mirror or a prism, is itself another great joy.

Is my novel Truly Beautiful?  I hope that, somewhere in its pages, there is something Truly Beautiful.  I hope that it is the beginning of a story that will have some small measure of Beauty.  But I am compelled to say that any True Beauty within it is not my own, but merely a glint of a far off light.

And that is why I agree with those writers who say that writing fiction is essentially seeing a scene and then reporting what happened.  It is having a vision that grows ever clearer as it is recorded.  The writing strengthens the memory of Beauty; it does not replace it.  Well, if the writing is, or at least tries to be, Truly Beautiful, it strengthens the memory of the vision.  If not, then the Beauty that was experienced may be forgotten, or it may be transformed into a horror.  Woe to the writer who sees Beauty and then writes what is ugly; he has wounded his own soul.

There is a lot of talk about the New Evangelization in Catholic circles nowadays.  I think that, at its heart, it is about trying to use new media to tell Truly about the Beauty that is the Good; the Beauty of God.  It is about the Glory of God, or maybe even the Greater Glory of God.

That is why I write.  For the Greater Glory of God.

At least, that is why I write when I am at my best.  Usually I am far from my best.  But, even so, I still write.  And there is a lot of writing left to do.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Champion: Softcover Edition

I am proud to announce that my novel, The Champion, is now available for purchase in softcover!

Just as with the Kindle version of The Champion, a portion of all the proceeds from the sale of the softcover version will be donated to Notre Dame High School of Fairfield, CT during the 2011-2012 school year.

Purchase The Champion from Createspace and $2 will be donated to Notre Dame.

Buy it from Amazon and $1 will be donated to Notre Dame.

Or, if you buy the novel directly from me, $3 will be donated to Notre Dame.  The normal cost is $15, but Notre Dame students and members of the ND community will be able to purchase it for $10.

Why the differences in cost and donation?

Well, Createspace takes a significant chunk of the cost as commission if you buy from them.  Amazon takes even more.  But I can purchase copies of my novel at a reduced rate and sell them directly at a lower cost while simultaneously making a larger donation to Notre Dame.

Additionally, it takes Createspace and Amazon between one and two months to send me any proceeds, which means there is a great delay between the time of an online purchase and the time when Notre Dame receives a donation.  If copies are bought directly from me, ND receives a donation within days.

If you live in Connecticut, email me to order a copy of The Champion.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Champion: Kindle Edition

I am proud to announce that my fantasy novel, The Champion, is now available for purchase in digital format!

Click here to preview and to purchase The Champion on Amazon.

During the 2011-2012 school year, I will be donating a dollar to the Catholic high school at which I teach for each electronic copy sold.  A soft-cover version will be available very soon - there will be a big announcement when it is ready!

This version of The Champion is meant for the Kindle.  If you don't have a Kindle E-reader, you can download the program (for free) for your device of choice from the links below.

Click here to download the PC version.

Mac user? Here's your link.

IPhone or IPod Touch? Click here!

Want it on IPad? Click this one.

And if you have an Android phone, click here.

You will have to set up the Kindle application and register with Amazon, but it will be worth it!  If you do not have an Amazon account, you will have to make one of those, too.

More information about The Champion will be made available when the softcover version is ready.  In fact, I will consolidate all this information into one post to make it easily available.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thoughts and Prayers

I thought about writing something to mark this day.  Maybe a poem would be the best way to express my thoughts?  Or maybe a short meditation?

My memory of that day is vivid.  It was my freshman year of college.  My friend Rob was standing next to me in his bathrobe.  We were watching the image of the burning towers.  I'm pretty sure his toothbrush was in his mouth.  We were silent.

That silence has continued for me, because, when it came down to it, I could not think of any words worthy of utterance today.  But I did find something I wanted to share: the statement of the USCCB.

My heart is still heavy, but my faith leavens those feelings.  Days like today make me so grateful for the gift of the Mass.

God bless you, and God bless America.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Poetry: Memento Venti

In honor of the imminent weather:

Memento Venti

You water-mongering dervish!
You peddler of precipitation!
You cacophonous yowler!
Traipsing up the coast,
Like a lush, an inebriated llama,
Spitting torrents on us,
You thrill all the meteorologists;
Like fault lines, they quiver with anticipation.

We gobble plywood, batteries;
We drain Poland Spring in preparation.
We shudder with our candles,
Fumbling with matches,
Like stoned Baby Boomers
Grasping at shreds of memories.
We tie up all our garbage,
Afraid to lose it during your visitation.

You scoff, you scowl, you scuttle;
You lick your lightning lips;
You breathe thrasonic thunder.
Toppling the trees
Like the walls of Jericho,
Sundering our power,
You remind us of the fragility
Of everything we take for granted.

Batten down the hatches!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fiction: The Blind Wizard's Journal 4

Been a while since I've posted anything new in the journal.  Here's the next entry:

            We spent the day at a forge.  It has been many months since I have shaped metal.  I did not realize how much I missed it.  I do not think I will ever be able to work a forge again.  I cannot take Tak out of the Tower, and it is wrong to demand that Mirrin spend all her time chained to me.  She passes many hours with me as things are; she needs time to herself.  One of the reasons I have taken up writing this journal is because it is something I can do independent of her, and that gives her time to spend as she will.
            The sound of David Vint's hammer is ringing in my mind.  His work is art.  He will make many of the components of our new armor.  Joseph judges him one of the best smiths in the city, and I agree.  His shop is small and well-kept.  He has three apprentices.  Two of his sons visited him during the day, and he left his work for an hour to care for his mother.  Mirrin and I watched his apprentices when he was gone.  Not only did they have correct technique, but they showed care for one another.  They were both thoughtful and full of thought.  David has taught them well.
            When I was in my reflection room, I spent almost as much time thinking as I did testing my pain threshold.  I became a man in that darkness.  It is funny, now that I think about it.  I thought about the kind of man I wanted to be.  I though about the things I had noticed about men I respected.  Then, I pretended that I was like those men and acted that way, in the sense of an actor playing a part.  After a while I was not pretending any more.  I became the man I wanted to be.
            I should correct that.  I spent time thinking and praying in the darkness.  It was not just me in there.  The presence of God was like a cool compress on my forehead.  When I grew frustrated or pushed myself too far too soon, a whispered prayer would restore my focus and soothe my mind.  Prayer also helped me understand what a man really is in the sight of God.
            Now prayer is more important than ever, but I cannot spend all day on my knees.  I practice with the war wizards for several hours each day, and I spend another two to four hours each day devising new spells to use against Idoun's army.  Most of them are adapted for first or second tier wizards.  Efficiency, effectiveness, and ease of cooperative casting are my main goals.  But sometimes I think about new ways to use my full might against him.  Accessing the new part of the flow of magic is not as simple as channeling more energy.  Now that I am starting to understand it, I realize how lucky I was to survive my battle with Idoun...
            I have not pushed myself to my threshold since that fight.  It is time to test my limits.

There's going to be a lot more about this wizard on the blog in the near future.  Keep checking back!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fiction: The Champion: Blurb

So I'm in the process of preparing my novel for E-Publishing, and I was starting to put together ideas for a blurb - you know, the short description that is supposed to hook the reader.   Here's what I've got so far:

Derek and Mirrin Tult want nothing more than to live out their small-town dream of raising a family together.  But, when a messenger from Lihn City arrives on the night of their wedding, they are forced to abandon their home so that Derek can fulfill a different vow.  Now, they must live in a city torn apart by religious violence.  Will they become a source of hope amidst the chaos, or will politics and prophecy destroy their dream forever?  And even if they endure the dangers within the city, will they have the strength to unite their people and to stand against a truly legendary evil?

I would really appreciate any comments you can offer.  Thanks!

EDIT: got some feedback, here's a new version:

Derek and Mirrin Tult want nothing more than to live out their small-town dream of raising a family together.  But, when a messenger from the capital arrives on the night of their wedding, they are forced to abandon their home so that Derek can fulfill a different vow.  Now, they must live in a city torn apart by religious violence.  Politics and prophecy conspire to destroy their dream forever, while a truly legendary evil prepares to ignite a conflict that will burn the world...

Or something like that.  No questions, just statements.  Which do you like better?

EDIT 2: here's a little bit different version:

Derek and Mirrin Tult want nothing more than to live out their small-town dream of raising a family together.  But when a messenger from the capital arrives on their wedding night, they are forced to abandon their home so that Derek can fulfill his oath to compete for the office of Champion of Lihn.  Now they must live in a city torn apart by religious violence.  Politics and prophecy conspire to destroy their dream forever, while a legendary evil prepares to ignite a conflict that will burn the world...

Fewer commas, some more specific details, still under one hundred words.

EDIT 3: a little more info

Derek and Mirrin Tult want nothing more than to live out their small-town dream of raising a family together.  But when a messenger from the capital arrives on their wedding night, they are forced to abandon their home so that Derek can fulfill his oath to compete for the office of Champion of Lihn.  Now they must struggle to bring healing and hope to a city torn apart by religious violence.  Politics and prophecy conspire to destroy their dream forever, while a legendary evil prepares to ignite a conflict that will burn the world...

I like it, but is it too wordy?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Reflection: Austin in Shadows

So I was in Austin for the wedding of some dear friends.  I sang, and I do believe it was the best rendition of Schubert's Ave Maria I ever have had the pleasure of performing.  I was in St. Mary's Cathedral, watching my newlywed friends place a bouquet on the side altar beneath the statue of the Blessed Mother; it just felt so appropriate, so entirely right for me to be there singing that song.  I suppose the Spirit was a-movin,' and He dun got up inside a me, and I couldn't help but sing my heart out.

At the reception a gentlemen offered me what is perhaps the greatest compliment regarding my singing I have every received.  "You did some beautiful excrement," he said, though, 'excrement,' was not the precise word he used.  He said a few more kind words about my... work.  Indeed, never before had it been so effusively praised by a stranger.

What does the above have to do with Austin in Shadows?  Well, it all happened in Austin, but the quality of the lighting at the time really had nothing to do with it.  I just wanted to share the story.

Anyway, did you ever play that game where you can only jump on tiles of a certain color?  When I was little, my father taught me how to play Othello.  Somehow, trying to flip chips from one color to another was translated into hopping on only one color of tile.  Perhaps I thought that I could turn all the white tiles black if I hopped on only black tiles?

My experience walking around Austin in the afternoon reminded me of hopping from black tile to black tile, only, rather than prancing from curb to curb, I was hoofing it from one shady spot to the next.  You see, Austin is hot in the summer, especially at four in the afternoon, and Mr. Sun beats down on those streets like Goku beats up Frieza.  Each shadow was a refuge, an oasis of soothing darkness in the blistering light.  I found myself flitting from shadow to shadow to keep cool.  Ok, maybe a guy my size (nearly six-four) does not, 'flit,' but it was a nice image.

It made me think about the symbolism of darkness vs. light.  So often in classical works, dark is evil and light is good.  Too often in modern works do the roles get reversed so the writer can feel clever.  Not nearly often enough are both darkness and light recognized as good; different, but good.  Going back to Mary, I think it is important to remember that the Light of the World first incarnated in the darkness of her womb.  Life grows in the dark.  Dreams are woven and love is made at night.  When God created light, He also created darkness.

So, I guess the lesson is that, while evil is done in the dark, dark itself is not evil.  It, too, is a child of God, and should be embraced in its proper way.  Naturally, one does not treat darkness the same as one treats light; but one should treat them both well.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Poetry: Summer Tyrant

I wanted to write a poem, so I asked on Facebook for some ideas.  A colleague suggested heat.

The first three words are his suggestion verbatim.  The rest is my attempt to do justice to the topic.

Summer Tyrant

Heat.  Relentless Heat.  Tyrannical Heat.
Upon his golden throne, he bends his thought
Toward burning and withering, toward scorched grass.
The shriveled leaf is his joy, the wilted bloom, his delight.

Asphalt apparitions dance at his whim.
The very air buckles at his touch,
Recoils like a child from a monster.
He is the master of motion, micromanaging each inch.

Shadows conspire against him.
Waters seethe with treasonous intent.
The moon sunders his towers to their very foundations.
But each morning finds him enthroned again, his towers soaring higher.

There is no sure relief, no secure shelter;
No artifice can long endure his reign.
His subjects resign themselves to supplication,
Each drop of sweat a begrudged oblation.

How's your AC doing?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reflection: Parentheses

Hey, look, I have a blog.  Maybe I should write something for it!

So I've been tweaking my fantasy novel, and, in my efforts to remove unneeded words and to enhance the flow of the narrative, I realized that I had to get rid of all the parentheses in my text.  Doesn't sound too hard, but I had included over two-hundred parentheses in my novel.  Yikes.

As I wrote I thought, "Hey, these asides are pretty entertaining, and this I like this style of writing... yeah, I think I've found my voice here."  It was a way for me to make little 'conversational' comments in my novel.  In my mind, these comments made the narrative feel more like a story told by the fireside, and I liked that feeling.  It was comfortable, like a pair of sweatpants with an elastic waistband.

But then I gave out hard copies to different readers, and they found the parentheses problematic. They disrupted the flow of the story.  They diverted attention from the plot.  They committed the mortal sin of Telling and not Showing.  They had to go.

So they went.  And, while the editing process was at first a little hard on my ego, after the first few sets of parentheses were excised, the rest came out quicker than a cheetah with rocket boots.  The parentheses were not really part of my style.  They were a lazy way of writing that hindered what I was trying to do.  A dash of humility and a few hours of work was all it took to make my novel stronger.

I started to think about my previous mindset: the parentheses are my style; they make my work, well, my work.  I looked at my life and thought about the things that I did that I believed made me more myself.  A lot of those things were good and true.  But a lot were not.  They were parentheses.  They were distractions from what was most important and what had to be communicated.  They had to go.

Seems to me that we humans do that pretty often.  We all have our own parentheses that we think make us who we really are, when in fact they just get in way.  Heck, sometimes we will yell and fight for the right to our parentheses and convince ourselves that they are something other than the shoddy work they truly are.  "This defines me," we say.  "This makes me who I am.  This makes me special."

Sometimes those very things by which we define ourselves are the things that most alienate us from who we really are.  Or perhaps I should write, "who we are really called to be."

Now, I may have removed the parentheses from my book, but I've still got a whole bunch in my life.  I probably have not noticed even ten percent of them.  But, today, I'm going to start editing them.  Eating too much?  Out!  Being half-Italian does not justify gluttony.  Jealousy?  Gone.  Red is a much better color for me than green.  Wrath?  Deleted.  Installing a harpoon gun on my car would be too expensive.

Of course I'm going to eat too much, be envious, and have road rage at some point in the future.  But I'm going to consciously try to remove these parentheses from my life little by little every day.  With a few years of dedication and whole lot of God's grace, maybe they'll be broken down to semi-colons, or even commas.  Maybe I'll be able to say what it is I was made to say before I hit my final period, though I'd rather end on an exclamation point, if I can help it.

I suppose the question I'll leave you with is this: how much of your story is stuck inside parentheses?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Poetry: Man of Brass

So I entered this poem in a poetry contest.  I did not win, but, hey, them's the breaks.  I never met my grandfather, but this poem is about him in a way.

Man of Brass

The brass is cooled.  The forge is cracked.
The mill is silent in the day.
The shop is closed.  The dog is caged.
The church is sold for bills to pay.

His hands are weak.  His face is wan.
His family fingers colored beads.
His eyes are wild, His muscles worn.
His morphine drips; the pain recedes.

The dream is dark.  The sun is dead.
The moon is greedy with its light.
The cloud is dense.  The race is done.
The goblins rule the land of night.

If brass was worked, if brass was wrought,
If mill-men lit the forge anew,
Then dark would wane, and light would gain,
And Mill-Man would himself renew.

Then brass would sing, and pistons ring,
And working men would lift their voice.
If song took wing, then everything
Would always follow Mill-Man's choice.

But strength is spent, and dreams are rent
By mental metal scored with rills.
The craft was bent, without consent,
By other men in other mills.

The forges fell.  The church's bell
Is rung, and Mill-Man's son ensures
The papers tell he lived life well.
Mill-Man is dead, but brass endures.

I'm going to try some non-rhyming poetry in the near future.  I want to get the words to come alive on the page.  Maybe I'm trying too hard to rhyme?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Poetry: Mac 'n Cheese

So I just attended the wedding of two of my dear friends.  I had resolved to write some kind of poem in praise of love and marriage and post it here as a sort of tribute to them, born of the affection I bear for them.

But yesterday, even amid the joy of the reception, I felt a new emotion creep into me, one that eclipsed even my love for my dear friends.  I describe this new feeling as a sort of blending of unquenchable wrath and ravenous longing.  Due to the actions of a certain friend, something was denied me.  Something very important.

I'll let the muses say the rest:

Mac 'n Cheese

As I did sit at table taking my most well-earned ease,
I caught the scent of something wafting on the gentle breeze.
Aroma overpowering made all the world to freeze,
For I smelled nothing other than pulled pork on mac 'n cheese.

My heart did burst within me at the sight of that hors'douerve,
And so unto the waiter did I cause my course to swerve.
But when I came up next to him, oh, gosh, of all the nerve,
He did not have the mac 'n cheese to me I'd hoped he'd serve.

I went back to my table, a new strategy to think.
My friend (who had some mac 'n cheese) offered to fetch a drink.
Quoth he, "Good sir, I shall return more swiftly than a blink."
Yet when he came, I felt all love that dwelt within me shrink.

His right hand held a beverage that was bliss personified.
His left hand carried nothing (I don't think he even tried
To get that drink for me).  Right then something inside me died,
For both my hunger and my thirst were totally denied.

The next day, during breakfast-time, beside my 'friend' I sat.
With others at the table both my 'friend' and I did chat.
Yet always conversation seemed cleverly pointed at
My awful lack of mac 'n cheese.  Can you imagine that?

Indignity and torment were upon my poor self heaped.
My persecutors scorned me while imported tea they steeped.
Their mockery I bore with grace, though in my heart I 'weeped.'
With vicious words they tore me (on TV those words are bleeped).

The bee may have its flower, and the bride may have her groom,
But the flower of my longing withered 'fore it showed a bloom.
Learn well the lesson of this poem: the moment you must seize
If ever you hope to enjoy pulled pork on mac 'n cheese.

Forget me not.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Play's The Thing

Being music director for a high school play is quite an endeavor!  No blogging until next week!

Happy Divine Mercy Sunday!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reflection: Alleluia

Alleluia!  He is risen!

The event that shoots rays of light through the fog of human history has taken place.  Jesus, who was crucified, lives again.  The first of us to defeat death has returned to share His great work with all of us.  This is the heart of the Gospel, that love is stronger than death, and that Jesus Christ has come back from the dead.  This is the day that turns sorrow into joy, weeping in laughter, and rigid cynicism into unguarded wonder.  He comes back from the grave to give us all new life.

Alleluia!  Rejoice!

What greater joy can we have?  What greater cause for celebration?  That most hated foe of mankind, that shadow that stalks every step of every one of us, is now the pathway to paradise.  Christ has come to wipe away our tears and gladden our hearts. He comes to comfort, that is, to give us strength so that we may participate fully in the celebration.  That happiness banishes despair, but it does not end the need for labor.  Indeed, our mirth is drawn from His work, and it is in cooperating with that work that our joy is completed.

Alleluia!  Victory!

There war is over.  The great struggle against our fallen nature has been won forever.  Though we may yet stumble, though we may yet lose our way, the great accomplishment of Christ lifts us up and carries us back.  His triumph resounds through all ages, and He shares with us the fruits of the struggle.  We are called to the glorious feast to revel with Him.  The trumpet of His victory thunders through the halls of time, announcing to all creation that the Lord has come, and He has conquered!

Alleluia!  Praise God!

Nothing is higher, nothing is more deserving of devotion, nothing is more praiseworthy than Him.  What great strength!  What a great, indomitable spirit!  What great love!  In Him are justice and mercy reconciled; in Him are we reconciled to God.  Who else could do such a thing?  There is no other. Christ alone is the one.  It is the name of Jesus that compels knees to bend and tongues to confess the wondrous truth.  It is the name of supreme blessing.  It is the name of salvation.  It is the name of new life.  Thanks be to God for Him!  Alleluia!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Poetry: Days of Creation

Had Nietzsche been around on the first Holy Saturday, he would have been right when he said, "God is dead."  That idea is what inspired this poem, though certainly not the way Nietzsche meant it.

Days of Creation

You fashioned all creation in the work of Seven Days.
You know where the foundation-stone of all creation lays.
Your love ignites the stars that pour their light into the sky.
Your love was poured out on the cross, and for us did You die.

You blew Your breath into the clay that by Your Word was made.
When You drew breath our words of hate were how You were repaid.
You made us clothes by Your own hand when all was sin and loss.
We took Your clothes and cruelly nailed Your hands onto the cross.

The Seventh Day You hallowed though You did not need to rest.
The hollowed earth received You when the spear had pierced Your breast.
Your angels hovered over us to guard us as we slept.
The guards we posted at Your tomb cared not when women wept.

You gave a firm foundation when in stone You set Your Law.
The stone was cracked and pushed aside, and weeping women saw
Into the tomb in which You took Your sanctifying rest.
They ran and found the others and all this to them confessed:

"The Master's tomb is empty, and the angel said He lives!
He spoke to us upon the road; to us this charge He gives:
To tell you He is Risen, and to never be afraid."
And two of the apostles went to see where You were laid.

And so it was, on the Sixth day, You re-created man,
And on the Seventh day You rested for a sacred span.
And though we may think that these days of all days are the worst,
The Sixth and Seventh Days do pass and give way to the First.

Rest up.  Tomorrow is a big day.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Reflection: "Father, into your hands..."

"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

Again, Christ calls out to His Father.  His final words from the cross mirror His first.

This last word of Jesus illuminates the touchstone of existence: the love between the Father and the Son.  Everything has been about this loving relationship, for it is out of this love that everything came into existence.  Every angel's song and infant's murmur, every whisper shared between husband and wife, every cry of delight; every sound of rejoicing owes its existence to the Word of God, and that Word is Love.

What is happening here?  Christ has already given over His entire earthly life to the Father's will; He has done everything in accordance with it.  What more is there to give?  His spirit.  His soul.  The immortal part of His being.  The love He shares with the Father motivates His final act: giving over the totality of Himself to the Father.

This is the ultimate example of love.  He is crushed, despised, tortured, and killed, and in the midst of His agony, He thinks not of Himself, but of us, and of His Father.  His focus is always turned outward.  He gives and gives, and when the world thinks He is spent, He gives one last time.  Of course the world does not recognize the gift, for the gift of the spirit is not of the world.

This is the love to which we are called: to be willing to give everything for others.  Every breath, every ache, every word; to give our lives to others.  This is the message of the cross, that love really does demand, "my life, my soul, my all."  To stop short of that is to fail to love.  Christ did not fail, and, in His victory, we are saved.

So, we must give everything over to Christ, who gives everything over to the Father.  Where does that leave us?  In the tomb, with Christ.  But not forever.  Just as Christ rose from the dead, so too will we be raised in Him.  In all of our giving to Christ, we must not forget that He is the gift given to us by the Father.  We give ourselves to God, and He gives Himself to us.  What does God really gain in this exchange?  Our love, for that is what He most wants.  What do we gain?  Forgiveness and new life, for that is what we most need.

We can step out of ourselves and into Christ at any moment.  We can be swept up in that new life at any time.  All it takes is the choice to give up control to God.  All it takes is the trust to commend our lives into His hands.  No longer will we be burdened by the tedious and deadly whims of our fallen nature.  God will give us a new nature, one subsumed in His own divine love.  If we give up what we call freedom to do His will, we will discover that, in doing His will, we become truly free.  He will completely satisfy us.  He will make us truly happy.

"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."  For those words to be true should be the goal of every moment of our lives.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reflection: "It is finished."

"It is finished."
Jesus' life is ending.  The women who had the courage to stay by the cross know it will be over soon.  His mother, who brought Him into the world, bears witness to His departure.  But Jesus is not just acknowledging that the end of His life has come.  He is announcing that His greatest work has been accomplished.

By His death, Jesus gives us forgiveness.  It is a basic precept of Christianity.  But it is the Resurrection that proves it, and the Resurrection is still days away.  So, given that it is returning from the dead that demonstrates what He has accomplished, in what sense is Jesus' work finished?

This statement parallels the first chapter of Genesis.  On the sixth day, God created humanity, and that was the completion of His work.  Then, He rested.  On Good Friday, the sixth day, Christ redeemed, or re-created, humanity.  Then, on Holy Saturday, He rested.

His whole ministry has led to this point.  He had been teaching the apostles, molding them into the men who would lead His Church, showing them by example how to love.  With His death, the foundation of the Church has been laid.  Now all that remains is to turn the work of building up the Church over to us.  Yes, He grants us the Spirit, and it is the Spirit that inaugurates the Church, but it is we Christians who have been commissioned.  The Holy Spirit works in us.

So, while Pentecost is the day the Church is born, Good Friday is the day the Church's development in the heart of Christ is finished.  We can imagine that the structure stands, silent, awaiting the mission.  The Church is ready to house all who draw near; we only wait for the Spirit to open the doors.

Another lesson to learn from this sixth word is that, no matter how severe it is, suffering does eventually end.  To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, Christ died and died and then death was over.  It was defeated, and new life began.  There is a certain point where we stretch, and bend, and crack, and then finally break, and then it is over.  Suffering ends.  If we unite ourselves to Christ, then the end is nothing to fear.

There are many endings in this life; each one leads to a new beginning.  Our hidden life in the womb ends, and our life as an infant begins.  Infancy becomes childhood, childhood grows into adolescence, and adolescence becomes adulthood.   Then adulthood matures into old age, and, finally, we die.  But then we enter into the new life Christ has prepared for us.  One could rightly say, "It is finished," at any of these junctures, but there would still be more left beyond the next beginning.  One word ends, the next begins.

Perhaps the most valuable wisdom we can gain from this word is the ability to recognize an ending for what it is, and then to further recognize that there is a new beginning beyond it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reflection: "I thirst."

"I thirst."

For what does He thirst?  Water?

When He met the Samaritan woman at the well, He asked her for a drink of water.  She was stunned by the request, for Jews and Samaritans were enemies.  For a Jew, let alone a Jewish man, to speak to a Samaritan, especially a Samaritan woman, was incredible.  It truly was an event people would not believe.

What brought them together?  Thirst, that most basic human need, stronger even than hunger.  They both came to the well for the same purpose, to satisfy a fundamental need.  But Jesus perceived that the woman had a need even more fundamental than thirst: love.  She had been in a succession of relationships that she thought would bring her love, but they did not.  Jesus promises to give her the Living Water so that she will never thirst again.  He tells her that He is the Messiah.  She is so overwhelmed by the encounter that she returns to her village and tells everyone about Him.  Why?  What affected her so very strongly?

His love.  He asked her for water, but in so doing He was really giving her His love.  That is the secret of Christianity: Christ asks us to give Him everything to satisfy His thirst, but He does not leave us empty.  Rather, He fills us with His love, giving us back what we offered Him a thousandfold.  He fills us to bursting with His love, to the point where the Living Water is like a fire in our bones, and we must share what we have been given with others.

On the cross He tells us that He is thirsting so that we will offer Him something.  Through the opening created by that offering He will pour out Himself.  Even if the opening is so tiny that only a drop of His love can slip through, it is enough.  The smallest part of His love contains the fullness of His passion.  Even a drop of it can transform us into springs of Living Water.

But He longs to give us so much more!  He wishes to inundate, to inebriate, to drown us in His love and then raise us to new life.  The more we offer to Him, the greater the opening we give Him, the more of Himself He can give to us.  The sooner we can be transformed into springs of Living Water the better, for the world is thirsting.

Yet, we can remain closed to Him.  We can stand at the cross and offer Him nothing.  And, though He longs to give us everything, we can refuse.  We can remain utterly dry.

Likewise, we can offer Him wine mixed with gall.  We can turn to Him insincerely, not because we truly desire Him, but because we want to please a friend or family member, keep up appearances, or just because everyone else seems to be doing it.  We will go through the motions of offering Him something, but, in reality, we will have given Him nothing.  Just as he rejected the wine mixed with gall, so to will He reject empty gestures and vain words.

But, if there is even one shred of sincerity in our offering, even one drop of water in our hands, He will accept it.  He will take what we give to Him, and His love will come upon us in a torrent.

And there is yet more.  He will ask us to tell Him what we thirst for, what we most need.  He invites us, even from the cross, to offer Him our desires.  He knows we thirst, too, and He longs to satisfy the longing within us.  Perhaps that is what most satisfies Him, to give us that which will most satisfy us.

He is thirsting, and so are we.  Shall we keep everything to ourselves, or shall we give Him to drink?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reflection: "My God, My God..."

"My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?"

Did Christ lose His faith?  Did the Son of God call out in agony not simply because of physical pain, but also because He no longer believed in His Father?

Read superficially, this despairing cry seems embarrassing for Christians.  The Messiah appears to be admitting that He was not really the one, after all.  When He most needed His Father's divine intervention, it was not forthcoming.

Yet these words have never been a source of scandal to the Church.  Why?  There are several reasons, the foremost of which may be that they are the first line of Psalm 22.  When we read the whole text of Psalm 22, we see that Jesus is not expressing His disbelief in His Father; rather, He is expressing His profound trust in the Father.  Psalm 22 may begin with an expression of abandonment, but it ends with joy and triumph.

The 22nd psalm is a prophesy that details the suffering and triumph of the Messiah.  Like the Song of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13 through chapter 53), it details His torture at the hands of those who hate Him and His eventual victory.  Psalm 22 ends with a declaration that all nations will know and serve the Lord, and that all who have died will be raised again so that they can bow down to Him.  These thoughts dovetail well with Christ's teaching of the resurrection of the body and the mandate He gives to the apostles to "baptize all nations."

Yet, to deny that Jesus felt no separation from His Father is to deny His full humanity.  He was afraid in the Garden.  He did not want to die, but He chose to do His Father's will, albeit with a heavy heart.  Perhaps that is what makes Him so wonderful; even when He feels completely abandoned by His Father, He still does His Father's will.

There is a great comfort for us in that.  When we feel cut of from God and utterly alone, when we feel as if there is no one else in the world who stands beside us or has compassion for us, we can remember Jesus' example.  He did His Father's will when everything within Him and everyone around Him told Him to abandon His mission.  His love for His Father was deeper than those feelings.  That should tell us something about the nature of real love.

There will be times when we feel abandoned by God.  There will be times when we can detect no trace of His Presence anywhere.  Indeed, some of us will endure long periods of this feeling of being forsaken.  But we must not give up.  We must not abandon our mission.  Christ persevered to the point of death for our sake.  Can we not do the same, for His sake?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Reflection: "Woman, behold..."

"Woman, behold your son.  Behold your mother."

When Jesus told His mother to behold her son, He did not mean Himself.  Her devotion to her Son was constant, and she beheld every pain, every sorrow He endured without His calling attention to them.

No, what Christ does is ask His mother to turn aside from her complete devotion to Him, and to see that the man standing beside her, one of Christ's apostles, is now her son.  She is asked to give to him the same love she gives to her Child.  In one of my favorite movies this scene is depicted in a way that shows Mary too weakened by her grief to stand on her own feet.  She leans against the apostle to keep from falling.  I think of it differently.  I think it was the apostle who leaned against her for support as he beheld his Master's death.

That one apostle represents the whole Church.  Certainly, the Blessed Mother does not rely on the Church for support.  The opposite is true.  The entire edifice of the Church is propped up by Mary's love.  Her fiat made her the Mother of God and Mother of the Church.  God Himself incarnates in her womb; God gives Himself to her.  Likewise, the Church is given over to her.  She continues to be the shelter of the Body of Christ.

Christ commanded the apostle to behold his new mother.  That command is no less binding on Christians today.  Mary is the Mother of the Church because her Son has willed it so.  Mary is the example of faithfulness to God.  Mary draws people to herself not for her own glory, but so that she can lead them to her Son.  Where will she take us?  To Bethlehem, yes, and to Nazareth.  But also to Jerusalem, to Golgatha; to the foot of the cross.

And to the upper room.  We must not forget that Mary was with the apostles on the day of Pentecost.  When the Church was born in the Fire of the Holy Spirit, Mary was there.  When the mighty wind blew through that room, banishing fear and bolstering courage, Mary was there.  When Peter went out and told the people that Jesus had risen from the dead, Mary was there.  Mary was with the Church from the Church's very foundation, and she is with the Church now.

So why should we Christians not rely on her strength in our sorrow?  Just as she comforted the apostle at the foot of the cross, so too does she offer us comfort in our sadness.  She understands our pain as only a mother can.  She intercedes for us and teaches us to intercede for each other.  When we pray the Hail Mary, we both beg for her intercession and join in her prayer.  Consider the words of the prayer now, but speak them as if you stood with her before the cross.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
Blessed art thou amongst women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

The words take on a different feel when said in the shadow of the dying Christ.  They illuminate the face of His mother with a different light.

Christ offered His love to us on the cross.  Of course part of that offering is the gift of Mary's love.  The woman who loved Him so well as He grew will not fail to love us as we grow closer to Him.  The woman with the strength to comfort the apostle even as she witnessed her Son's Crucifixion will not fail to strengthen and comfort us in our trials.  The woman who said, "Yes," to God will not fail to help us say, "Yes," to the Son of God.

Mary beholds us, as her Son commanded her to do.  We must remember what He told us; we must remember to behold Our Mother.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Reflection: "Today, you will be with me..."

"Today, you will be with me in Paradise."

The good thief is assured that he will go to heaven.  Despite his sin, he will make it into Paradise.  All he has to do is die with Christ.

I often forget that part of the story.  The good thief had to die with Christ to gain everlasting life.  What a wonder, to die alongside God.  Only two men ever had the chance.  But only one was promised heaven, because only one repented.  What is the lesson?

It is not enough to simply suffer and die, even alongside Christ.  We must suffer and die with Christ, in union with Him, or our suffering is in vain.  We must unite our suffering with His, and to do that we must first repent.  We cannot unite ourselves to Christ if we do not repent.  You cannot take a man's hand if your own hands are curled into fists.  You cannot accept eternal life if you do not first let go of your sin.

We are going to suffer in this life.  It is unavoidable.  The question is, shall we suffer alongside Christ or with Christ?

To be alongside Christ is to recognize He is there and then to shut him out.  We do not like the demands He makes of us: purity, generosity, humility, constant prayer, seeking and granting forgiveness.  Or maybe we participate in certain rituals and acts of charity not because we love Him, but because we gain some benefit from doing so.  Or perhaps we know all about Him, but do not take the time to know Him.  There are many things that can put us in this position; each one a crystalline barrier that let's us see Christ but not touch Him.

To be with Christ is to repent, and thus shatter the barrier and embrace Him.  And be embraced by Him.  To live with Christ is to try to conform our wills to His Will in everything, including our finances, our sexuality, and our leisure.  To suffer with Christ is to have compassion for others, to make sacrifices for strangers, and to accept physical pain and weakness as an opportunity for spiritual renewal.  To die with Christ is to give Him everything we have, everything we are, and let Him use that gift as He chooses.

The bitter truth is that we are all thieves.  We have stolen pleasures that do not belong to us.  We have misused gifts that do belong to us.  We have lied to ourselves and each other about our condition.  But we know the truth.  We all sin.  We all suffer.  We all die.  We all are sentenced to Crucifixion.  And Christ is there, waiting for us on the cross, inviting us to join Him in Paradise.  Only one question remains.

Will we merely die alongside Christ, or will we die with Him?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reflection: "Father, forgive them..."

"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."

Intercession.  That is the first gift Christ offers from the cross.  He intercedes with His Father on our behalf.  He pleads for our absolution, even as He hangs on the cross fashioned from our sin.  He begs His Father to consider our ignorance, to look with pity on our sin-darkened intellects.

The Jewish authorities and Roman soldiers did not really understand what they were doing.  They thought they were preserving their people from error or protecting the social order.  They did not understand Who Jesus was.

But can we really claim ignorance?  We, who claim the name, "Christian," can we also claim that we do not know what we do when we sin?  Can we ask God to excuse our intentional failings because we did not know what we were doing?  In this age of instant access to information, ignorance is a weaker defense than ever before.  We rarely accept it as an excuse for poor judgement.  We expect one another to be informed.

But raising consciousness is not the same as having a well-formed conscience.  Even when a depthless well of information is available to us, we rarely draw wisdom from its waters.  There are books and websites that offer detailed knowledge about every subject.  Yet, to paraphrase Denethor, for all our subtlety, we have not wisdom.  Why?

Because wisdom is not something you gain by bloodless means.  Words on a page, be they in a book or on the internet, do not purify the sin-stained will.  Only the crucible of self-sacrificial love burns hot enough to blast the impurities out of our nature.  The waters of the Jordan are not sufficient.  The Blood of Christ and the Fire of the Spirit are the only agents capable of purging our iniquities.  We must go out to the desert to hear John the Baptist, but we cannot stay there with him.  To learn true wisdom we must travel with Jesus to Jerusalem.  To Calvary.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," say both Psalm 111 and Proverbs 9.  Only when we are awestruck by an encounter with God do we begin to understand.  Only when the numinous assaults the mundane, only when the sacred invades the profane do we have the chance to learn real wisdom.  Awe draws us into relationship with God, and that relationship is the foundation of wisdom.  And nothing is more Awe-ful than the Crucifixion.

The cross shows the sincerity of God's desire for a relationship with us.  It tears the veil "woven over all peoples," and heaven erupts through the rent seams.  The tool of torture becomes the instrument of rapture, for, in breaking the God-Man's body, it restores the relationship between Man and God.  "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do," does not simply excuse our ignorance, but also replaces it with the wisdom of eternal love.  With one hand He removes our shame.  With the other He bestows a share in His glory.

But there is a deeper truth.  Christ does not act alone.  All that He does, He does in obedience to the Father, in union with the Spirit.  He does not simply offer Himself to the world; the Father offers Him to the world.  He does not merely give us His example; He gives us the Holy Spirit.  Remember, the first word of these last words is, "Father."  From His first breath to His last, Christ has come to reconcile us to the Father.  He offers us forgiveness so that we can be in relationship with the Father just as He is.  Just as the Father offers the Son, so too does the Son offer the Father.

Wisdom comes from a relationship with the Living God.  Wisdom is alive.  But it can be gained only at the foot of the cross; at the pierced feet of the dying Christ.  Death must be endured before it is defeated.  Life must be given up so that it can be received.  We know this, but do we really know it?  Is it the breath in our lungs and the blood in our hearts?

We do not know what we are doing, but that may not matter so much in the end.  Christ knows what He is doing.  Our salvation comes not from knowing what we have done, but what He has done.  It does not come from knowing ourselves, but from knowing Him.

Let nothing keep you from knowing Him.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Reflection: The Seven Last Words of Christ

Tomorrow I'm going to begin a series of reflections on the Seven Last Words of Christ.  The series will end on Good Friday.  Holy Saturday will feature a poem, and then Easter Sunday will have another reflection about a different word.

The text I'll be using is as follows:

"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."
"Today, you will be with me in Paradise."
"Woman, behold your Son.  Behold your mother."
"My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"
"I thirst."
"It is finished."
"Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."

I'm not a Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew scholar, so I'm not going to claim these (nor any other Scripture selections I cite in English in the course of these reflections) are the definitive translations of Biblical verses.  But I am going to be picky with my words, since I am a writer.

These words are powerful, and I hope that my reflections, uh, reflect at least a little of that power.  I figure any writer whose work reflects a little bit of divine light is making the world a better place, especially this time of the year.  Hopefully my mirror is sufficiently polished.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fiction: The Blind Wizard's Journal 3

This is my favorite entry so far.  I hope you like it.

            The spell worked.  Perfectly.  We are one.
            We were not prepared.
            Our minds were not ready for the overwhelming tide of sensations and emotions.  And thoughts!  We nearly drowned in each other's thoughts.  I felt sense of self slipping away, like incense in the wind.  Mirrin's confidence and faith and joy were so great!  To feel them was to bathe in wonder and terror.  It was like when the Diamond Focus was destroyed, but even more intense.  The world was meant to have that magic.  My mind was not meant to meet hers so directly.  My naked thought melted against hers.
            I cannot give words to what it was like to experience her femininity for the first time.  It was not simply her otherness, but her feminine otherness that was so alien and unintelligible.  It is familiar now.  I am accustomed to it.  But it is still utterly different and... and I just cannot put words to it.
            She said that she was staggered by my thoughts and feelings, too.  All the magecraft that is instinctive to me was incomprehensible, raw idea to her.  And the discipline built up over the years, my defense against the mage-ache, was terrible and frigid steel.  My sense of magic was too acute for her.  It caused her pain at first.  And my sight.  She said it was just a dead spot in me, like a rock in a field of grass.
            My masculinity was not so inscrutable to her as her femininity was to me, but it was still daunting.  She did not speak much of it, but she seems to have caught on to something that delights her.  I remain mystified, and that delights her even more.
            We meld only when we touch, skin to skin.  Brushing my hand against her cheek makes a comet of her presence streak through my mind.  A passionate kiss is a torrent, a riot of her being invading my own.  Making love is indescribable.  If everyone felt this way the first time they made love, there would be no adultery and no divorce.  It is unthinkable to desire anyone else after such an experience.  Mirrin is more a part of me than my breath and blood.  Perhaps we are being recompensed for our spoiled honeymoon?
            She is a wizard, now.  She can use my talent as readily as I can, and she feels no pain.  It is ironic that the very thing that made Idoun so formidable, his painless spellcasting, was the thing that cut him off from all other living things.  His self-love literally stopped his heart.  His arrogance isolated him from every other being in Lariel.  Yes, he was nearly invulnerable.  But vulnerability is part of real love.  What torment it must be to exist for hundreds of years and be unable to love.  Now that he is truly alive, he feels everything again.  He must feel fear most of all.
            Mirrin is not afraid of magic.  When we meld, she can wield my power deftly, now that we have trained each other how to use each other's bodies.  We are still learning the best ways to move with each other, and we are experimenting with different types of clothing and armor.  We cannot always hold hands in battle, and we are discovering what to keep covered and what to leave bare.  Modesty is a concern, but practical needs will be what determine the final shape of our armor.
            The sun is climbing higher, and I have work to do.  I must return to darkness for a while and speak with Tak.

Any comments?  I'd love to see them!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fiction: The Blind Wizard's Journal 2

I've been thinking more about how the Blind Wizard and his wife, and I have some more of his journal to share.  I hope you enjoy!

            I love my wife, and she loves me.  Our love brings our minds, bodies, and souls into constant contact.  There are times when it feels almost like we are one being, thinking and breathing and loving with one will in two bodies.  Or maybe more like two wills in one body.  I do not know if I could tell the difference.
            In less than an hour we will be uniting ourselves in a way more intimate than any other.  It will be more profound than when we make love.  It will be more lasting than when we cooperate to accomplish the many tasks set before us each day.  Our souls, our very wills shall be united.
            Tak has taught me a form of magic that can bond my soul to Mirrin's.  I do not believe it is possible for anyone else to cast the spell.  Because we are married, and because she was bound to the Coriura as I was, Mirrin and I may be capable of exerting our wills through each other's limbs.  Just as I can see through Tak's eyes and move his fingers, so too will Mirrin and I be able to share control of our bodies.
            Our child will not be harmed; she will not be affected in any way.  I have prepared Mirrin's body, and my own, so that our daughter will be safe.
            Safe if we survive.  Just as there is a chance that a Champion may die when he bonds with the Coriura, so too is there a possibility that Mirrin and I may die when we attempt to bind ourselves together.  It is a small chance.  But it is not insignificant.
            There was no Scripture that could offer us guidance.  We have prayed together, and thought together, and meditated.  We do not believe the risk is too great.  We do not think going through with this plan is sinful.  Idoun is too grave a threat for me to face as I am.  If the spell works, then we shall be able to resist him much more effectively.  It is our duty - not just mine anymore, but both of ours - to protect the people of Lihn.
            Mirrin will be here soon.  I must finish the preparations, and pray.

More Blind Wizard tomorrow.  As always, comments are welcome!