My Books

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Blooming Blossom and the Pitiful Pepper

I went to edit beside a swamp yesterday. And then I found a bridge, a lovely little thing of weathered planks. The water that crossed under it was so still it made the Georgian clouds reflect out of it with such brilliancy, for a moment I doubted whether I was looking up or down. The greens are so intense here it makes this New Mexican blink and wonder if I have stumbled into Narnia when  it was first created; it feels as if I could drop a piece of metal and a lamppost would grow. Everything grows!

But while I wandered this morning, as that sun began its climb, I ran across something that gave me a different sense of wonder at that beauty of this creation. There was an unplowed field fringed by pine trees (absolutely towering pine trees, of a very vibrant green) and the sun was making them look a sort of hazy gold this morning as he rose behind them. It was beautiful so I stepped in to see it better. And nearly crushed a flower beneath my boot before I even saw it there. But once I spotted the yellow and purple blooms scattered around the small patch of sand at the top of the field, I noticed little else. They were delicate and almost shining in the early morning sunlight, but their simple beauty wasn’t what really gripped my attention.

Every blossom in that field was turned towards the sun. The stalks were bent seeking it, the flower’s heads turned and tipped, all admiring the yellow orb that brings us light and heat, eager to gather the food they needed for the day. It was as if every fiber of the plant was waiting on the sun, focused on it completely, drawing all their joy, and health, and the strength to do their duty from that single bright thing.

Have I ever turned to the Son that completely? That eagerly? The whole of me focused on Jesus as those flowers were so joyfully turned towards their sun? They drew their beauty from it. The petals shone in the bright light, perked high, drinking in the sun, and without knowing it emitting their own little bit of joyous sunshine straight into my soul. Our Son is ready to give us the same sort of reflection. We draw all our health, our joy, our strength, our spiritual food… all of it comes from Jesus Christ the Son. And if we are turned to Him, utilizing the power He offers through His light, the reflection comes off of us. Joy shines off a devoted Christian with all the brightness of the Son it comes from.

I weeded a garden today. Did I mention everything here grows? That includes the weeds, of course. The crabgrass was surrounding the pepper plants, overshadowing them, keeping them from gaining the strength they needed. Oh the pepper plants were still there. They were still pepper plants, they didn’t get plucked up with the weeds and thrown into the rubbish. But they were meager things of a sort of sickly yellowish green, and there was no fruit, or even a promise of anything coming from them.

There are the shining saints, turned towards the Son; and then there are the choked, overshadowed pepper plants. Both are Christians, both will be in heaven, both are loved by our Lord. But which one shows His beauty? Which one makes fruit? Which one creates more plants to praise our Lord?

I want to be a shining flower. I want to turn towards the Son. And follow that Son as it moves through my life, like the sun moves through the sky, and during the dark nights I want to be waiting for that Strength Bringer to reappear. I want to weed my garden and drink in the sunlight and gain the strength to shine and produce fruit.

Everything grows here. I think I am too. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Peaceful Musings

The world is at peace this morning. I would say it's still, but it’s not really. The birds are busy, and I can hear cars buzzing around me off out of sight somewhere. But peacefulness pervades my tiny corner of the immense world. I don’t know how long it will last, just as I don’t know what scenes will be greeting me next; the adventure of road-tripping is only knowing a part of where you are going. A name on a map is just a name until you get there, and see the scenes that make the name what it is. 

I’m out adventuring with the family right now. Instead of the usual wild browns and dusty delights, and prickeldy green cactus, I’m looking at Pennsylvanian trees, grass that is so perfect it almost begs for a New Mexican to go frolic in it, and summer dandelions and bright pink bushes. My little sister brought me a perfectly formed dandelion in seeded ‘blowing state,’ which my little brother aptly termed ‘a wishing flower.’ I let it sit next to my tea and cookies for a bit before duly wishing and blowing the seeds into the wind to make more flowers. One tried to plant its way into my keyboard, and after all, why not? There are flowers growing in my writing right now as I type. It’s a bit overwhelmingly green and gorgeous, honestly. But the differentness simply brings another level of delight; I don’t see these types of sights every day, so I had better enjoy it while I can. And who knows where I’ll be going next, and what kind of flowers will find me at the next stop.

Instead of a corgi on my foot, I have a miniature dachshund on my lap as I type. And while it may not bring the same delight as knowing it's my dog sleeping there, a warm lap from a kind, living thing still evokes peace no matter what the next hour may shape itself into. (And when adventuring with my awesome adventuresome family, there is no telling what the next hour may bring.)

I’m in the backyard, and from where I sit I can see a cup of milk and leftover sandwiches from yesterdays picnic with eight little people, all eight and under, and it reminds me of the chaotic joy and happy noise of family and friends near; and lets the quiet of the moment sink in deeper. When I look straight ahead the yard sort of fades away into a tree-filled grassy stretch that draws my mind to all the millions of people who have walked this land since our country’s founding, the history of their stories unfolding day by day, and the wonder of a time that shapes itself around billions of individual lives, that are all caught up in God’s vast book He writes through the ages. And my instant of lazy peace on the back porch seems to take on a deeper shade of both delight and meaning as I know I’m a part of it.

My moment of peace is peaceful, but the world around me really isn’t. I hear the busy hum of people going about their business, I know behind me in the house my mom is busy getting the rest of the family ready for the day, and somewhere out in the town my aunt is grocery shopping since we’ve seriously depleted their milk stores already. The peace that floods me is an internal thing. It isn’t just the pretty birdsong and the overwhelmingly lovely green. It isn’t even the sense of the depth of history that saturates this state. My peace is deeper then the plants, deeper then the rich earth that feeds them, even deeper then the thrumming story that’s been acted out on this continent since it was created. My peace comes from the One who was there before the trees, the history, or the continent.

How can God look down on such a weak, lazy sinner as me, and save, and love, and even instill His own peace in my soul? I am humbled this morning as I sit watching the birds circle above, and feel the simple dog’s heart beating on my lap. The birds and dogs do what they were created to do. So often I don’t. But the Hound of Heaven always tracks me down, fights my battles, and sets me on the path again. He continually gives me a reason to keep living, and more, to keep striving for holiness. My purpose is set, my goal is firm, and my King is unswerving in His goodness. I have nothing to fret over. I have the world to fight for, but nothing to fret over.

There is a deep, deep peace that comes with knowing where you’re going. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Sneak Peek

The time is getting closer, the draft of the book is getting better; the first Dreaded King will soon be out and about, to add to the stores of memories dealing with books you have read, that delightful place where the stories just keep circulating and you can pull them out and look at your favorite parts again and again... And obviously I am rambling. Too many late nights recently. Here is a sneak peek of the very beginning, the introduction to the work. Enjoy!

     Really, this is a very difficult book to explain. Well, it is not exactly that it is difficult to explain, but that it is difficult to believe. Decidedly difficult to believe. I suppose starting at the beginning is the best way to tell you about this book you now hold in your hands. (Aren’t hands marvelous things? What would we do without our hands! I sometimes spend minutes sitting and staring at my hands marveling at their usefulness. But just a moment, I wasn’t speaking about hands… oh yes.) 
     It was in the year 1912, in the country of Venezuela. I was there with a scientific group searching for a fallen stone, thought to have been chipped off of our moon by a collision with an asteroid some two weeks before. We found the moon rock, much to the delight of Bernard J. Alton. (A friend of mine from schooldays. We used to slip away from the mathematics class and go hide under our bunk, he with his books on astronomy, and I with my ancient texts for translating. At least we did until that rotten Smidge Miler caught us once and reported us. But dear me, I’ve done it again. Where was I? Oh yes, at the beginning.) 
     Alton was delighted with the rock. I thought it a fine find, and wished him many happy returns of his moon-rock day. But as he extricated the simple grey stone from the Venezuelan ground, it fell in two. And when it fell in two, a box fell out. Now this excited some bewilderment in my friend Bernard J. Alton, but it was the first thing of real interest that had happened to me that trip, asides from sitting upon the cowcatcher of the train pouring sand on the rails to act as brakes for the ancient railway engine. I immediately stepped forward and studied the object. It was a simple metal box of very shiny silver appearance, but was inordinately heavy. I was obliged to open it there as it was very difficult to move. And inside I found a collection of documents. 
     Perhaps you are beginning to understand why this is such a difficult introduction to write. This whole episode is a bit impossible to believe, really. And yet as firmly as (if you will pardon the expression) my name is A. Arthur Simpson, that box came from a rock hurtled from space, and inside it held documents from another planet. Documents, I might add, written upon another planet. Which of course meant someone must be there, living on that other planet, to do the writing. But before you begin to shout “aliens!” and close this volume as entirely irrelevant to anything resembling reality or even interest, let me assure you that as I knelt on the churned up bug-filled Venezuelan dirt glancing over the top page, my eye landed upon a word that I understood to be ‘beans.’ This led me to surmise the writer was of human origin. Recall we had to have the Rosetta Stone before we could even begin to understand some ancient writers of our own Earth’s history, and with these space texts, if you will, at the first cursory glance I recognized a word similar enough to ancient Hebrew I knew its meaning. 
Alton would rather forget the box had come from the stone, as getting the scientific community to acknowledge a cosmic rock would be difficult enough without the problem of explaining a box of documents contained in the rock, and so I took the box home to Worcester, Massachusetts. (A wonderful town, you really ought to come and see it if you have not already. Though the name is a bit difficult for strangers to pronounce, and their attempts give those of us who live there great enjoyment and hilarity. Why, there was a couple just a week ago who… Wait, I was speaking of the documents.) 
     It took a good deal of work, for the language was not strictly Hebrew, or even greatly related. But it had enough clues, over a course of some years I managed to translate the pages into English. Despite the interruption of the Great War and the economic downturn of my nation. And really, I feel rather proud of myself at the effort. (Three cheers for myself!) But back to what was contained in the documents. They were a collection of historical writings about a planet named Planistah, whose people seem to have been distinctly worried about a catastrophic plague striking and wiping out the entire population, worried enough that one person compiled these pages and sent them out into the wide vastness of the universe. 
     Naturally, at this time you are shaking your head as you look down your nose at this page, or you are laughing so hysterically that someone is summoning an ambulance thinking you have gone off your head. But I assure you the documents are real. Allow me to explain briefly how this remarkable event came about. 
     We know very little of the ancient world of our own Earth. What we do know comes mainly from the documents recorded in our Bible, and there are chapters of genealogies in Genesis spanning, goodness, how many years! All we know of these ancient, ancient times is a few scattered names. We are told someone learned how to make music, someone made tents, another someone was a great hunter. And according to the documents that fell from the midst of Alton’s cosmic rock, a man built a spaceship and sailed off to see if he might colonize another place. And apparently he succeeded. I realize this sounds ridiculous to us in these modern times, conditioned as we have been to think of antediluvian man as uncultured idiots. (Conditioned, I must remember to send my grocers a list of toiletry items… Wait, where was I?) 
     Remember that the curse is taking its toll day by day, and it is a biblically and historically sound idea to assume those who walked the planet shortly after Adam and Eve were rather smarter than we are nowadays. And looking at mankind throughout the years you will see we have always been fascinated by the universe. People now are saying another war is brewing, and I have heard rumors from government friends of mine that a missile of drastic and unthinkably advanced capabilities is being considered. (If you are not cleared to know government secrets forget I mentioned that.) And after such an invention is realized, who can say? We might even set foot upon the great silver queen of the night one day. But whether you believe its story or not, the documents state categorically that Planistah was settled by an ancient race from Earth. 
     When I learned this it cleared up many questions I had about the texts. For example, I had wondered why such a foreign place would have people who seem so very similar to those wandering the streets of Worcester. But it was clear enough when I realized they descended from the same stock. And that also made me understand why the atmospheric conditions and ecosystems were so similar to our own; humans are quite fragile creatures, and the pilot of that remarkable ship would have sought out just the right sort of place to survive, a place very like our Earth. And the fact that dogs and tomatoes seem to be present was now acceptable; the settlers from Earth carried more than people when they went exploring among the stars. Another major question it explained for me, was how many of the words speak of ideas that were easily translatable into English. Take ‘dragons’ as an example. I have spent hours pondering over how these reptilian-like animals came to be called ‘dragons’ when so many other animals have names peculiar to Planistah (and truly untranslatable into English). My conclusion, after looking at the history of both planets, is that the settlers of Planistah had seen many similar animals upon Earth and the name carried over. This act of carrying over names for things which we know here on Earth, and which translate into English, may be seen fairly often in these texts. (Note the language of the texts is nothing like English, and the words do not express things as English does. [The grammar is really quite detestable compared to most languages that have developed upon Earth!] It is simply from my careful study and diligence that I am able to extract the ideas of the words and put them in an understandable form for those of us here on Earth. Words convey ideas, that is the essence of language; an idea for a solid item, such as a footstool, is stably factual and fairly easily translated no matter what language it is expressed in.) This similarity of items is seen, for instance, in the use of bows and arrows, cooks and inns, lanterns and suns, and throughout the work. And the descendants of the ancient people who walked after Adam and Eve walk the streets of Worcester and the soil of Planistah. Naturally their history is very different from ours. But the people are very similar. And so are their needs. Which means so are many of their developments. And it follows that many of the meanings of their words are also very similar. 
      I could tell you a number of things about Planistah and its peoples (the texts are many and varied delightfully, with legends and history and myths and songs and poems and… I think you understand, I will move on). But that would be to add work to my already prodigious and skilled work. Instead I present my translations of the original texts. There are a myriad of fascinating accounts in the documents from the box, in time I hope to publish them all. (I realize the remarkable nature of this work is going to make publishing difficult, and do not expect it to happen in my time. Perhaps in my son’s time. Or my grandson’s, perhaps then people will be willing to accept it.) But there is really only one full tale, the others are scraps of history, mostly burnt up by the heating of the box inside the cosmic rock as it flew through space and forced its way through Earth’s atmosphere. It seems to be a contemporary tale for the compiler of the notes, and I hope and pray the cataclysmic plague which is hinted at did not strike, for I have come to feel almost as if I know the authors of this text. It is this account, as the most interesting, the most complete, and (I think) the most heroic out of the documents that I now bring to you. I have striven to make my translations as clear as possible, and added in footnotes of my own to help explain the words peculiar to Planistah that could not be easily translated, and included a glossary in the back to allow you an easy way to access those words you desire to understand better. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter are from a little book titled, A Collection of Wisdom, and will I hope give you a small flavor of that far off planet. The text labeled this account, The History of €hærlêm the Third, Dreaded King. I have somewhat shortened the title, and will present it to you in installments, as I complete the translations, since it is a long tale. But one that will, I hope, bring you great enjoyment. 

[The text begins here.]