My Books

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Glory to God in the Lowest

The sky was iridescent orange, with streaks of pink, and yellow, and deep purple underscoring it all. Our lonely mountain stood right in the middle of it, solid and unchanging in the midst of the fading sunset. A glance out the other car window showed the silvery brilliance of the full moon beginning to peek over the jagged peaks of the Organ Mountains, heralding the beauty of the night before the blazing beauty of the sun was even done for the day. Over the speaker system in my car a Christmas hymn was playing:

“What child is this…?”[1]

The Maker of the sun and moon.

The Creator of colors.

The Master of our souls.

And he lay crying in an animal’s feed bin.

Cold. Frightened. Helpless. Homeless.

The wonder of it caught me by surprise this year. Every year it hits me, but it hit me harder than usual this time. Jesus Christ, the One who makes the intricacies of a butterfly wing, and the song of the whale, and each new cloud, the One who spoke all the universe into existence…a baby? A real live wrinkled helpless pink thing, looking uncomfortably like a chimpanzee? Really?

Unutterable love!

Unfathomable mystery!

This is a plot twist no human could ever create. Humanity tells stories about false gods, stories of half-gods even. But the half-gods are always weaker than the “real things,” contemptible, and usually sprouting from a rather evil beginning. This story…this is fully God and fully man. This is the true Creator of all things, the Ruler of every soul ever made, the Highest of high kings, the very essence of goodness, One Who is holy, holy, holy…He is the One to enter a virgin’s womb…Fashioned and formed over nine months like every other human, born in the same bewildering, painful, messy way we all came into this world.

The wonder of it all!

The open-mouthed unexpectedness of this thing called Christmas!

The hope!

Oh, the hope. Our only hope. Humanity broke the world. We broke ourselves. We broke ourselves to the point of being dead. Think crossed-out eyes, skull and crossbones, dead. No life, no breath, nothing to the soul but a lifeless hunk of indiscernible, putrid gunk. But God chose to step in. He chose to show His glory, how loving He could really be. Hope was spoken the same day we broke everything. Hope was breathed into humanity in our darkest hour. It was a spark that stayed alive through Israel’s line for thousands of years, hundreds of generations. There was speculation and wonder over what the hope would look like solidly. But no one ever guessed the awesome, majestic, utterly ridiculous unexpectedness of the truth. God as a baby. A tiny thing that can do nothing for Himself except bellow at the top of His lungs when He’s hungry or upset. A baby that had to learn to walk, learn to speak; He had to learn it of His ordinary, fallen earthly parents. Don’t you know that was a trial for both the parents and the Son? A baby who grew, taught like the Master He was, and…died. What?! Wait, that can’t be right.

Unutterable mystery! He took the gates of hell by shocked surprise. Satan thought he had won when Christ died. In reality it was the un-guessable plot twist.

The Master stroke of the ultimate Story-Teller.

And it all began in a manger.

The angels felt the wonder of it. They were awed, shocked, amazed, and delighted to the point that they just had to find someone still awake that dark night to blurt out their praise of this incredible story just beginning in David’s little hometown. We grow too used to Christmas. We sing the same songs. We put up the same decorations. We look at the same manger scenes. Take a step back this year. Don’t step back and see it with the eyes of a child. Step back and see it with the eyes of a grownup who is open to wonder. We know more than children. We can be awed in a deeper way than a child. But we have to let ourselves wonder. Don’t let callousness slip into you this Christmas. Step back. Think about the lyrics of the carols you’re singing. See the baby in the manger with renewed eyes.

Remember what He was.

Remember what He became in Bethlehem.

Remember what He came to do.

Remember where He is now.

Yes, now…Jesus Christ lives. He is watching you this very moment. Forget about Santa watching you when you sleep, Jesus Christ is really there, eyeing you every moment of your life, granting you the breath that goes in and out of your lungs this very minute! That baby…the King of Kings…He is real. Long live the King! Forever and ever. No wonder Herod was upset. He had good cause to fret. A new King was born into the world that starry night in Bethlehem. But it wasn’t a new King at all. It was the oldest of all Kings. Sleeping in an animal’s feed bin. Cold, bewildered, only shepherds, a carpenter, a housewife, and barn animals to admire Him. Oh, and angels. 

This is one of the oddest stories ever to reach our ears. And it is all true. Oh the wonder of it!

“There has fallen on earth for a token
A god too great for the sky.
He has burst out of all things and broken
The bounds of eternity:
Into time and the terminal land
He has strayed like a thief or a lover,
For the wine of the world brims over,
Its splendour is split on the sand.

“Who is proud when the heavens are humble,
Who mounts if the mountains fall,
If the fixed stars topple and tumble
And a deluge of love drowns all-
Who rears up his head for a crown,
Who holds up his will for a warrant,
Who strives with the starry torrent,
When all that is good goes down?

“For in dread of such falling and failing
The fallen angels fell
Inverted in insolence, scaling
The hanging mountain of hell:
But unmeasured of plummet and rod
Too deep for their sight to scan,
Outrushing the fall of man
Is the height of the fall of God.

“Glory to God in the Lowest
The spout of the stars in spate-
Where thunderbolt thinks to be slowest
And the lightning fears to be late:
As men dive for sunken gem
Pursuing, we hunt and hound it,
The fallen star has found it
In the cavern of Bethlehem.”

-G. K. Chesterton, Gloria in Profundis

[1] Lyrics by William Chatterton Dix

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Not Alone

     “The watch feed went dead and Pete spun on his heel to march the other direction. He paced up the plane toward the cockpit, his features set and his heart heavy. Fifteen pairs of eyes kept glancing at him (seven of their rescuees were children, whose eyes were plastered on the tv, as they avidly devoured a Disney movie Pete had flipped on for them). The wiry old Akim, pastor of the small flock, stood up and offered the young man a smile as Pete spun around again at the cockpit door.
     ‘Come, brother,’ Akim said in Arabic, laying a hand on Pete’s shoulder. ‘Come, kneel with me and we will pray for your Jojo. And this brother you speak of.’ Pete blinked at him for a moment, obviously having to recall his mind to be able to understand the man. Akim knelt, his hand still on Pete’s shoulder, and the Parabaloni dropped gratefully beside him. Pete bowed his head with this old man he hardly knew, and let his overwhelmed thoughts speed out to the God Who knew all his sorrows and cares, however weighty or petty they might be, and listened with intense gratitude as Akim lifted up Jojo and Yousef, speaking the words Pete couldn’t quite bring himself to say out loud. Another strong hand landed on Pete’s shoulder. Then another, and another. After a moment he found himself surrounded by this small band of brothers and sisters, as they all knelt on the soft carpet and prayed for the Aziz family. Pete was overwhelmed. He let himself kneel there, and found every prayer was one of intense thankfulness for this gift of united hearts under Jesus’ cross. He only knew a few scattered names from this underground church. But they spoke his heart for him when he had no more heart to speak it himself, asking for salvation for the Aziz household, for safety for Jojo, for deliverance for Yousef’s soul…Pete let himself be overwhelmed and didn’t try and fight it.”

 –Scene from Chapter 4 of Running with SJ

I keep communion cups. Not from every time I partake of the Lord’s table, but I do keep them fairly often. I sit them on the dresser in my closet, and every so often my eye catches them. A little stack of old plastic cups. Most of them are from my church, obviously. But some are from congregations across the states, that I’ve had the opportunity to join of a Sunday. When I pull open my closet door, looking for something else, and see that junky stack in the corner it reminds me of two very beautiful things.

First, a warm joy fills me, speaking of a grace showered on my soul, a Father bringing an unworthy daughter to His table, and an unspeakable hope that flutters in my heart and tells me I will reach the marriage table of the Lamb. He has called me His own. “My God, my God, why have you accepted me[1]!” my heart cries out again when I spy that little stack of cups, and an overwhelming joy tells me that Jesus loves me. Like the old children's song. He really loves me! He calls me again, and again, and again, to sup with Him. To remember His blood and broken body, given up willingly for me at the cross. “I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep[2].” One of the beloved flock of God Himself, trained to recognize His voice, and called over and over to His own table! It is a beautiful reminder. But not the only thing that comes to mind when I see those old cups.

Someone gives me those cups. A brother passes it to me, and bids me come to the table with him. A sister sits behind me, head bowed in prayer, silently offering up praises and petitions to the same Father I'm praying to as I sit, cup in hand. When my eye catches that strange stack of cups, it brings to mind the communion of the saints. All the people around me, praying to the same great God, Who not only deigns to hear our prayers, but commands us to bring our cares and sorrows and joys and delights to Him. Every time I take communion, in any truly Christian church around the world, I am surrounded by people with the same heart. Very divergent lives, and incredibly variant personalities, but people with the same destination and the same source to their joy. People with the same Father. It is a family table that I gather round of a Sunday morning.

     “Jojo Aziz had left home with the knowledge she might never again have a home in this world, at least not for years and years…And here she was, two weeks after landing in the West, surrounded by family and friends, all of whom she had a deeper bond with than any outward observer might guess. It wasn’t just that they had stepped in and risked their lives to save hers, and shared a rousing adventure with her already. That helped. But it was more that these three gathered here were the right kind of men. They were men who had been taken in their broken sinfulness and had their very natures twisted back round till they were right. Right with God, right with their fellow men, and right with themselves. Just like she had. It wasn’t a comfortable thing to admit you were fallen and broken from birth. But the aftermath of throwing yourself on a heavenly Father’s love, admitting nothing but grace could make you right again, was remarkable.
     As Jojo Aziz sat in that mountain meadow, laughing and listening to these three Christian brothers, she realized being made right did more than just save her eternally. It gave her this. Fellowship, in a deep, real way, with people from all backgrounds. She was flung into more than just her Father’s arms, she was flung into a new family. Algy’s greeting when he had first met her came back to her mind, and a broad smile spread over Jojo’s lovely face, though her eyes were tellingly moist. No matter where she went now, the world over (though some of them might be hidden away), there would be someone with this connection, someone she had a deeper bond with than mere common likes and dislikes. And at the end of her race she would come to a world where everyone had that deep bond and joy, with all tears wiped away and her Father’s arms opened wide…Algy’s words rang true in her mind, and Jojo whispered them to herself as her eyes rose to take in the rocky cliff side, a sprinkling waterfall tumbling down it, masking the Parabaloni HQ from obvious sight, and listened to the swift conversation and laughter of her brother and new friends.
     ‘Welcome home.’”

– Scene from Chapter 10 of Running with SJ

It is more than mere sentiment when we call our fellow Christians “brothers.” Christ has united us in a real, deep way. “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another[3].” We are not alone as we walk this earth. It is both a highly encouraging thing, and a convicting thing. How many of your fellow Christians did you even say hello to in church this morning? How many names do you know in your own church body? How many families going to your church have you had over for dinner? How many have you bothered to ask, ‘What can I pray for you this week?’ We are supposed to be a body under Christ. We are meant to be working together. To be building each other up, and even to be helping in the material ways. Bring a meal. Offer a night of babysitting. Maybe just take the time and effort for a good conversation before you run off for lunch after church on a Sunday; you may never know how much a warm hug and honest interest in a brother or sister’s life may mean to them.

Never think you walk alone.

Christian, every time you come to the communion table, remember your Savior first. That is why you're there. To commemorate His shed blood and broken body, His love for you. But take a moment to look around you. So many souls, so many personalities, so many lives! All of them intertwined with yours in the ultimate goal of building a kingdom for this Savior Who died for you. Thank God, we do not fight this war alone.  

“For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confess,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest,
Alleluia! Alleluia[4]!”

[1] “Mystery of Mercy” by Andrew Peterson
[2] John 10:11
[3] Romans 12:5
[4] “For All The Saints” by William H. How

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Ballad of the Cross-Country Gentleman

While looking over something else, I came across this silly poem I wrote years ago. The morality of a man ducking his creditors might be a little skewed, but the silliness is definitely intact. Enjoy laughing at the poor poetry too, I certainly did. 


There once was a man that was named Don Quintoe,
With so many bills he didn’t know what to doe,
So he threw up his hands, said “Away with these bills!”
And he ran through the door to the road to the hills.
His creditors heard, and didn’t like this at all,
So they took to the road and they vowed they would maul,
That bold Don Quintoe, who was having such a ball,
Out where the sun shown free, and he owed nobody.

CHORUS: “I am Don Quintoe,
“I owe and I owe,
“But I’ll not go away
“Till the queen you lay,
“At the feet of this Don,
“The cross-country gentlemon!”

He ran and he ran, and rejoiced at being free,
Till he did look behind him and then he did see,
Those men who resented his having defected,
And were determined to see their bills paid.
They were behind, as has already been said,
But did I tell you they were also ahead?
Don gasped in his shock at the creditors sundry,
And promptly decided to go cross-country!


Away Don did go, up and up he did run,
Away from the hot road bathed by the warm sun,
He ran till he came to a dark forest’s mouth.
This forest was dark, deep, and ran from the south;
Should he enter a place so dark it erased
The sun (for branches together so tightly laced)?
Evil things must dwell there to live out of the sun,
For good things exist without that orb none.


Don entered the forest, with nary a peep,
Though he knew that doing so was a great leap,
And as soon as he came, adventure he found,
For into his sight a huge creature did bound.
This beast had great horns, twice three, on top his head,
His eyes looked as though he was never abed,
And he growled at our Don, “What do you here, mon?”
Quintoe took a deep breath and then said the Don,


“What Queen?” said the beast, his brow creased hard with thought,
“I don’t know,” answered Don. “But it does rhyme a lot.”
“Hold hard, Don Quintoe,” growled the enormous beast,
“I know of a queen, and in beauty not least,
“An evil ogre’s cellar she does lie beneath.
“Who also has a good fortune to bequeath.”
“A fortune?” said Don, pricking up his large ares,
“Lead on, beast; to rescue this fair queen I do dares!”


The beast led Don deep, deep into the dark wood,
Till at last in front of the ogre’s house they stood.
Don did shake in his boots, till he thought of his bills;
“No ogre is worse than a man unpaid who sills
His goods to those who cannot pay all that he asks.”
And the knocker Don took and in danger did bask.
“Bang! Bang!” went the door, for the knocker was large,
And soon through the door the great ogre did barge.


“You’re who?” said the ogre with a gleam in his eye,
Don answered him not, but gripped his staff for to die,
He lifted his staff and the ogre did see,
What looked like the trunk of a very large tree
Coming down on his head, but he sidestepped instead,
And grabbed for Don with his sharp, horrible claws.
Don stepped aside fast, and rapped him but good,
And the ogre did fall right where he had stood.


Out the queen she did run, the good Don to see,
And a punishment fitting she did decree,
On the ogre who had kept her so painfully,
For all of Don’s bills she then transferred you see,
To the ogre who lay in the depths of the wood.
But Don she did wed; and he found he could
Buy what he would, yet now he could pay,
And Don lived quite happily on from that day.

And sometimes

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Mark Three

Jesus Christ sits within,
Teaching those who listen in
“Lord, your mother for you calls!”
Someone outside bawls.
Jesus pauses in His talk,
Looks about on those who flock
Gathered near to hear His words.
“Who binds me in familial cords?
“Behold, they stand here near Me!
“For all those who God’s will shall see
“And do such, these are my family.”
Oh how shall I describe this ably?
That Christ could look on me,
He Who knows my heart to be
A well of slime and ink-black sin
(Without Him no good within has been)
That me the Lord of all declares
“This one shall be my coheir.”
Oh world of wonders, chief delight!
That I partake of this, poor wight?  
Jesus looks on me in love,
Familial closeness from above…
And yet what says He, so good and dear?
“All those who God’s will shall hear
“And do, these they are that stand near me
“And of my family these shall be.”
To do God’s will is a joy indeed
Which draws us thus to be His seed.
God grant me patience His will to do
Through all in life that might ensue!
The Christian life is not meant to daze
Or lounge about with slothful laze.
We are meant to live in love,
To do the will of God above.
Each day I rise my thought should be,
“How shall I please my Lord, let’s see…”
Thus shall I be drawn in near,
To be Christ’s family dear.
It is strange for us living here
To this doctrine clearly hear.
But God cares what we do
And this ought to be thought through.
“Those who do God’s will,”
Says Jesus Christ, without a frill,
“These shall be my brothers true.”
We ought to think of it in lieu
James says those who obey,
Their assurance thus will weigh.
Grace saves us without a doubt.
But Jesus says to those about
God’s will should not be ignored
By those he would take to ward.
Rejoice, brothers and sisters mine,
For this your bloodline is divine!
Yours is Christ, Christ is yours
Let your heart take off and soar
High above the world so drear
To Christ's teachings draw in near
So serve God well
And as a brother dwell. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Charlie and the Ordinary People

Last night I stole a few minutes to sit up and write in my room, before sleep entirely overpowered me. I lit my candles, soaked in the atmosphere of being surrounded by books, gave my corgis a pat, and started to write more of the fifth and final DK book, Splitting Heirs

Charlie and Turner, two of my characters from the Dreaded King series, got themselves into an interesting conversation. It started simply enough, Turner Hitchley (the outgoing, bad-grammarian, fiery tempered, ten-year-old orphan from the streets) got lonely as his best friend and protector is currently out on king’s business. So when Turner started telling his part of the story, he wandered up to the castle to visit his next best friends. The following conversation came about, and I thought I would share it with you.

     “We did ‘ave an adventure, we five, didn’t we?” Charlie speaks up after a minute.
     “Sure did. But…it don’t end well did it? I wish it had turned out different. I’s sorry that…Ah, never mind.”
     “What, Turnah?”
     “Well…” I says, sort of hesitating. Then I shrug and go into it. Somehow I don’t care if Charlie thinks I’s silly. I won’t ever have mentioned it to Arvi. “In the stories Layah and me likes to read and all, whenever there’s somebody what don’t seem to fit, what don’t have a place really with the others, you know, by the end they always turn out to be the lost heir, or the one with the special skill, or something. The one what fixes it all. I guess if this were one of them stories, I’d have turned out to be important, and could have fixed it for everyone. But it’s real life, and I’s just Turner Hitchley, and I’s sorry I weren’t the surprise ending and so we’s stuck with it.” Charlie’s funny choking laugh filled the kitchen, but I don’t mind and just grin a little sheepish at him. He leans closer, still grinning proper, as he answers.
     “In real life, Turnah Hitchley, if you look through Scripture and ‘istory, tha important ones are joost who you describe, tha ones everyone tends ta ovahlook and say don’t mattah. But it isn’t because they turn out ta be tha important ones in ‘umanities eyes. No, God looks down and chooses tha most unlikely charactah ‘e ‘as made and says, ‘That one. That weak-kneed, simple-minded, cowardly one, I am going to use ‘im; because when I work through ‘im, everyone knows it is Me, as that poor fellow nevah could do it on ‘is own.’”
     “Thanks a lot,” I grinned at him, and he laughed again.
     “In your case, you said yourself, you aren’t tha one in this situation. But, Turnah, I think you are wrong…You ‘ave ‘ardly been an idle companion in our travels, little friend. And that is anotha oof tha quirks about real life and ordinary people, Turnah. Tha ordinary people ooften turn out ta be tha moost valiant and smart and useful, even if they are not tha ones soomone might choose if they ‘ad ta pick ah hero. It is tha ordinary ones who shape tha world, not by suddenly finding out tha orphan is rawlly tha long lost prince with tha only ability ta save tha situation, but by being brave and good and standing oop for something when they are tha only ones there ta stop evil. Coome, cheer oop. I am very glad it was ‘joost Turnah Hitchely’ who ‘as been our faithful friend these past months.”

I’m sure you’ve all read the sorts of books Turner mentions; the world is in dire straits of some sort, and one band of heroes is trying desperately to save it. All the time there’s this one extra person, a character who makes you wonder if they are there for comic relief, or if there is something up…and lo and behold, the “extra character” turns out to be the only one that can unite a people, or wield the right blade, or whatever it might be. (Many of you are probably thinking of one particular book at the moment, which shall be nameless as we don’t want spoilers for those who haven’t read Volume 1 of *ahem* that set yet.) As I was nearing the end of Splitting Heirs, I nearly made Turner Hitchley turn out to be one of those “important people.” But I didn’t like it. At all. After I had taken that part out and turned him back into the “ordinary” Turner, I began to realize, like Charlie, that he was better just as he was, a normal little boy, plucked from the streets and given a decent life with good people, an ordinary character who is willing to stand up for those he loves, with bravery and honor. For a number of reasons he was better that way.

None of us are truly ordinary, not with God’s image stamped on our person, our own unique blend of DNA and personality, and our eternal soul. But at the same time, especially in America, we are all extremely ordinary. There are no kings here, no lords or ladies, no barons and baronesses. We are all quite ordinary really. Yet we are all faced with choices every day. Minuscule some, life altering others, but every day brings choices in its wake. As Turner Hitchley comments in a different part of the book; “There ain’t always a way out. Not in real life. But there’s always a right way.” Life is a matter of choosing the right way, with each decision that comes up. Being faced with a choice and choosing the path that will please the God Who made and loves us, and the choice that will be the best for all those God has placed in our life. Often that means sacrificing what we want, putting our own desires to the side, and elevating another’s, deliberately choosing something that is difficult for us but that we know is right. Have you noticed? This is beginning to sound like the definition of a hero. How often have you been called heroic today? Probably not often. But really, we are all either the heroes or villains in our own stories, and our stories intertwine with the stories of each person around us as we move through the day. Choose the right way, make that tiny sacrifice (or that enormous one) that puts other’s good above your own, and be the ordinary hero; not the villain, who acts from pure selfishness.

Charlie’s examples that he points out to Turner are just as true. It is God’s way to choose the youngest son (Gideon, David), the cowardly poor speaker (Moses), the inconsequential fisherman (Peter), or even the villain (Paul). He takes the unlikely, changes their heart, pours His strength into their soul, gives them a mission, and proves that with God all things are possible. We all have a mission given straight from God’s hand. We may not have been given it in a flash that took our sight on the road to Damascus, or from a burning bush, or even something as obviously epic as being called to missionary work. Your mission might be to train a child not to stick their finger in the socket and to love and serve the God who made them, or it might be to go to work nine-to-five in order to shine God’s light to your co-workers and bring home a steady paycheck. Regardless of the way your life looks, you have a mission when you wake up in the morning. God has chosen you to serve Him, and He delights to show His strength through your very ordinariness. Are you proving to the world that God can do anything, through you?  

It is the ordinary ones who shine the brightest. A king, or action hero, people expect much of them. When an ordinary person does the unexpected, it shines out like a brilliant white flash of goodness in a dark world. It staggers those who see it, they stumble back a step, shaking their heads, wondering where that came from. And if we are doing our jobs properly, they might just look up to answer that question.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

July 4th, 2016

"Why was he here? That was what he had to remember. Simeon lay still with his eyes closed, working on remembering the past few days. There was something wrong, something…his homeland was in danger again. The thought of America in trouble, his beloved USA, sparked through him and rushed his comprehension to the next step. Scenes from various times in his life washed over him, green landscapes and rich Virginian history, tall trees and rugged beauty of Washington, oceans and seals of California, and the beautiful varying browns of his wonderful New Mexican home. With the scenic pictures came the memories of people, so many people, all rushing across his mind in an instant; friends he had grown old with, church families, coworkers, millions of faces glimpsed over the years in airports, and subways, and through car windows. They were happy, carefree faces, living in a land that let them be free and earn their living, and grow their lives. And it was all jeopardized again. Not his America. Simeon forced himself to draw a deep breath and put his mind to work on his situation."
-Simeon Lee, from Adelie Angst

It's not easy to define and express a love of country. There is a certain hesitation, I think, in expressing something that we feel so instinctively and deeply. And yet when love is there, when it flames in us strongest is when we start to do something. That is the instinctive way we respond with all things we love. A sharp sense of loyalty and love, of pride and joy in something, makes us want to do something for it. In the case of our salvation, Jesus' blood covering us fully and heaven being made sure for us despite ourselves, it inspires such glorious love and gratefulness, we go out and tell others, and strive to live godly lives for the One who has saved us for Himself. A delight in our wife or husband might show itself in a spontaneous gift, or even something as simple as a sudden dance step to a favorite song. When we look out on our land and feel that influx of love for all that it stands for and means to us, we don't stop and soliloquize (or at least most of us don't). Instead we head to the voting polls, or our Chamber of Commerce meeting, or even to clean the trash off the highway; we go do something.

This is how it should be. Especially in America, the freest nation on Earth. We the people are ultimately in charge of who is elected and thusly what laws are passed and how our country acts. That can be hard to live with when times are changing, as we are seeing in our nation now. We are no longer a Christian nation, not in firm fact, but are swiftly descending deeper into becoming a pagan nation. But I still look out on my city, and my nation, and feel that love and joy in my own land.

"All the beauty I had seen in my travels, the eyes that had met mine, the astounding variety of tree species, the greater variety of personalities, the diversity of the regions, and the deeper thrumming rhythm of beauty that went on always under and within the ancient kingdom that I called my own, coming from its history and traditions and ancient trees and songs and epic poems…all of it flashed through my mind…I had always had a love for my country, but I think it was that moment when I felt our combined fates hung in the balance that it woke to its full. And a great longing came in me to see my kingdom revived, and relieved of evil, and God’s kingdom advanced within my own."
-Charlie, from Dreaded King: Reign Falls

We should still be striving to see God’s kingdom advanced within our own. The current situation might look hopeless, but that doesn’t let us out. Not by a long shot. We who were born in America have more than just the right to strive to see our nation righted. We have the duty to do all that is in our power to see righteous leaders elected, and evil laws struck down. Yes, it should grieve us to see evil sprout in our country, and especially to see it condoned.

"On all sides we hear to-day of the love of our country, and yet anyone who has literally such a love must be bewildered at the talk, like a man hearing all men say that the moon shines by day and the sun by night. The conviction must come to him at last that these men do not realize what the word 'love' means, that they mean by the love of country, not what a mystic might mean by the love of God, but something of what a child might mean by the love of jam. To one who loves his fatherland, for instance, our boasted indifference to the ethics of a national war is mere mysterious gibberism…'My country, right or wrong,' is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, 'My mother, drunk or sober.' No doubt if a decent man's mother took to drink he would share her troubles to the last; but to talk as if he would be in a state of gay indifference as to whether his mother took to drink or not is certainly not the language of men who know the great mystery."
-G.K. Chesterton, from The Defendant

Maybe we can't do much. But that is the worst reason possible to do nothing. Those who assume their one little act can't change the world will never change anything; including themselves. But those who step out for consciences sake and do whatever they can, for love of God and country, those will help their own conscience and might just end up changing things for the better. Christian, why are you here? "…to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.[1]But why are you here? Do you think God has placed you in the nation He has, in the time period He has, for a reason? If you don't you need to rethink your ideas of His sovereignty. If you do…don't you think you ought to be casting about for the best way to do that glorifying and enjoying you're supposed to be doing, in the time and place you're in?

"The great Master Gardener, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and a wonderful providence, with his own hand, planted me here, where by his grace, in this part of his vineyard, I grow; and here I will abide till the great Master of the vineyard think fit to transplant me."
-Samuel Rutherford

You are not here by accident. Never fall for that lie. And your little act might be the catalyst to more than you can imagine. To look back at history, think of D-Day. The allied troops pressed down on the beach, the German fire getting closer and closer to gaining their position...What made the difference? It wasn't a general's brilliant order. It wasn't even a clever concerted attack. It was Private Jones, or Smith, who saw he was going to die if he stayed still and decided he would rather die trying than lying still on the beach. One man got up and ran toward the German lines. Another saw his courage and followed. Then another. Slowly, man by man, they began to break through. Never underestimate the power of one person taking courage in both hands and doing what is right. Will we change America back to being a Christian nation? I don't know. But I do know this: 

"For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and He is the governor among the nations."
-Psalm 22:28

In the end, God is the real ruler over America. If He judges her for the blood of the innocents and the evil she has willingly accepted, then that is what will happen. If He pardons her, and heals our land of our iniquity and brings a revival of His grace and righteousness sparking through the country, then that is what will happen. But I never, never want it to be said that I went down idle with a dying nation. I want to be fighting for the right, wherever God has me, fighting for His right.

Never compromise the right. For any reason. Don't let people convince you to accept the best of two evils. Fight tooth and claw to see evil done away with and shunned in this country. To quote a current fad:

"This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world - 'No, YOU move.'"
-Captain America

Never, never compromise the right. If you lose what is most important, what does it matter what you win? Stand up, Christian. Fight for the country you've been given, and don't lose heart when it looks like you're alone. No Christian can ever be alone, for we have God in our hearts and on our side. America is still the freest nation on earth. She’s sinking, fast, but don't stop fighting just because you don't see an easy end. There may be an unhappy ending. But I would rather see an unhappy ending with honor than a peaceful one with dishonor. Never compromise truth and always do what you know is right.

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
-2 Chronicles 7:14

[1] Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1 

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Young Effect

Entertainments play on our senses differently. Each separate type comes to us wrapped lovingly by hands that have spent hours and hours trying to convey a thought, a sensation, a story. And each different type of entertainment brings us that in its own fashion.

Movies can take you places you have never been, and leave your imagination whirling with sights and sounds you would probably never have come up with on your own.

Words in a book, well, those paint images that your mind brings to life on its own. Every person pictures Frodo Baggins a little different in their minds when they read the Lord of the Rings. Words have a very lasting impression, partially because they paint the scenes…but we bring them to life. Our own imaginations craft the sceneries and the faces of the heroes and heroines. The skill of the author leads us where he wants us to go, and each of us takes away a bit of our own impression; our imaginations create worlds when we read.

But what of music?

Music makes you feel.

There is a place inside you where pictures and words only sometimes reach; but music has the key, and can slip in whenever you allow it in your life. Music has a direct path to our emotions, and to the thing called ‘beauty’ inside each of us. People might define it differently, or have no definition at all, but we all recognize beauty when we see it or feel it. And music bids us feel that beauty, and sparks sensations of joy, sorrow, excitement, exultation…

I have always known that. It is a rare moment that I don’t have some song playing, around the house, in the car, wherever I happen to be. But this week I was introduced to a new set of music and reminded more forcibly of the power of song. A man named Adam Young has begun a project; he is creating soundtracks to events that mean something to him, because it is something he has always wanted to do. Go to his website here: Adam Young Scores. Choose an album, hit play, listen for a moment, and then come back and keep reading as it dances in the background. Whether you care for the style or not, I think you will be moved. As I listened to these songs this week, I was reminded of what music does to us. It inspires emotions and tells a story in a way that movies and books can only sometimes accomplish. We feel what the creator of this piece of art felt when writing it. Adam Young’s scores are certainly not the only pieces of music to do this, but they stand out as a beautifully clear example that makes my point.

Apollo 11 is charged with excitement, hope, and triumph, as well as times of sweet longing and solitary peace.

The RMS Titanic, you hear the ebullient elegance of the beginning of the voyage, and then? Play the second half of the album, and I dare you keep a smile on your face. No, you find yourself so saddened. Even when I merely hear the music without paying attention to what event it speaks of, the sorrow creeps into my chest as the music plays.

The Spirit of St. Louis, you can sense the charged excitement of the takeoff, and then the miles and miles that drift under Lindbergh’s plane, with only slight variations across the Atlantic. You feel the beauty and monotony at the same time.

This blog post is really just a note to say thank you to God, I suppose. Music is such a constant part of my life I had forgotten how much I take it for granted. Finding a new set reminded me of one reason why music is truly a gift from our Creator. No other art form (at least that I have found) has such a swift and complete entrance to our emotions, or such control over them. It takes us places so quickly, and yet we find we go so willingly, following the beauty as it leads us through a proverbial nosegay of wonder-filled emotions.
Don’t be afraid of the effect music has on you. Pick an old favorite, or try a new album today, and really listen. Let it invade you. And as you find your heart touched and blossoming under the skill of the artist, remember to offer thanks to the Great Artist Who put music in this world for us to discover and create and use.

To God be the glory, great things He has done![1]

[1] From “To God Be The Glory,” words by Fanny Crosby

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sleeping Dragons

"When the dragon awoke, trouble flared again.
He rippled down the rock, writhing with anger 
when he saw the footprints of the prowler who had stolen
too close to his dreaming head. 
So may a man not marked by fate
easily escape exile and woe
by the grace of God." 

-from Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf

The shrieking brakes of the car behind you bring your heart into your throat, as you grip your wheel and wait for the impact on your bumper. But it doesn’t come. The driver behind you looked up, saw your car stopped at the light, and managed to slam on his brakes in time. Your breath comes out in a tight sigh and your prayers of thanks fly to heaven as the light turns green and you drive on. Ten minutes later you’ve almost forgotten the incident, and forgotten that moment of fervent thanks breathed out to a sovereign God. When we see or feel a danger averted our thanks are genuine and profuse. But what of the rest of our lives, as we breathe and move in a world filled with dangers?

How many times have we tread past the “sleeping dragon” and only the grace of God has kept us?

I was breezing through portions of Beowulf this afternoon and those lines stopped me. The runaway slave that slipped into the dragon’s lair (little guessing, it seems, that a live dragon lurked still within) and carried the cup back to gain his master’s favor… that man hardly guessed how close he had come a fiery demise. But as the ancient author points out, how often do we walk glibly by dangers of our own?

Living every day as we do, it’s so easy to forget that it is a miracle we wake up at all. I’m not trying to scare anyone here, or make you paranoid about getting out of bed, but am only pointing out the reminder I got from an Old English poem today.

Don’t forget to thank God for protecting you, even through the dangers you never knew lurked nearby. And be glad your danger isn’t a sleeping dragon.

(An Andrew Mayer illustration of Beowulf facing down the dragon.)