Tag Archives: hope

Season of Gratitude

As I write this, we are enjoying Thanksgiving. Its historical context remains as a remembrance of salvation through altruism, and its enduring value, even with reduced emphasis of its history, is as a reminder that we are the recipients of blessings. As moral and faithful people, we should by implication dedicate ourselves to an “attitude of gratitude.” To institutionalize gratefulness, as the holiday achieved, only strengthens us individually and societally.

Life is not all blessings, of course. This experience we pass through on the road to eternity is at once a trial and training. On the way, it presents challenges building us in the same way we exercise our bodies with weights. The weights are a constant. But they seem lighter as we grow stronger, and then we lift more as God is willing.

One of my weights this year is the passing of a dear friend, one made in the course of online interaction and who I never managed to meet in person over a span of more than twenty years. I first knew Robyn under her AOL screen name of “Woblynyetski,” and eventually she became simply “Wobs.” She had the distinction of being a survivor of breast cancer that whole time, facing her continually ongoing treatments with optimism and dignity and without a shred of self-pity or despair. As such, she remains one of the brightest souls I’ve met on my own road.

Facebook eventually replaced AOL, of course, and until my exit from that intrusive, overbearing, repulsive, ideologically reprobative platform last year, it allowed us to keep in touch. Afterward, we occasionally corresponded in email … until one day my last send went unanswered.

I found her obituary via an online search and knew her fight to the finish with cancer was over. The disease never did win, for she took every one of those little bastard cells with her and accounted for millions more in previous battles.

I wish I could say with assurance she traveled on under the grace of Christ. Wobs, you see, advocated and promoted Scientology. As I know from the account of an acquainted author friend, whose mother herself was another author of prominence, L. Ron Hubbard expressed an aim to organize his own religion as a means of accumulating wealth. I have no reason to doubt her mother’s account, as the man was, at the time, their family friend and frequent visitor, and the organization he later spawned continues to reap a certain financial levy on those whom it attracts.

Robyn knew of Jesus. I never heard her discount the testimony of the New Testament or show any hostility toward Christianity. Rather, I had the distinct impression that she made available, aside from any motive of its founder, the supposedly scientific methods of self-improvement Scientology advocates, I’m convinced, out of her sincere motivation to benefit others.

Robyn was one of most cheerful and loving friends I’ve known, and it’s easy to draw distinctions between her and those who give me far less hope. One cannot avoid them if interested in what Thomas Jefferson so aptly phased, “the Course of human events.”

Truly evil people make the news almost daily. They hoard billions, they rise to the highest levels of government, they pursue fame until they’re known in every corner of the world, discount God’s work of life, and they debase themselves in what the physical plane can offer until they are exhausted. And when their expended souls stand to be judged, and there is no voice to rise in their defense, they will be utterly without hope. What futility. What terror. What tragic myopia. Hateful, hard-eyed, avaricious bundled tares who could not be dissuaded from betting everything they had on the wager that there is no God to judge them will only wait for their inevitable verdict.

Scientology makes just this bet. Did Robyn? I wish I had asked. My intuition says she did not, extrapolating from the influences evident on her soul. The name of Jesus did not repel her. I saw life in her eyes in every selfie, and I witnessed love in her every action. Her patron spirit was bright rather than coiled in darkness, and it’s knowing her that gives me hope that her soul found its advocacy in Christ as she rose to her assessment of the investiture of caring with which she had been bestowed.

I myself cannot diminish the evident love in the sacrifice of Jesus and reduce it to an excluding point of doctrinal legalism. I reject the notion that salvation is the result of something we do, and rather embrace Paul’s assertion that it is the result of grace through faith not of ourselves.

I sense God’s work succeeding where He wills, and through many divergent avenues. For it to be otherwise would represent Him as less able in what He does than I’m prepared to accept. Suffice to say I have found my essential premises surviving shrill voices accusing me of ecumenism or heresy, as they’ve done for a decade after The Anvil of the Craftsman first appeared.

Jesus touches whatever soul He will, which afterward can never be the same. He is a facet of what we see in the combined workings of the Trinity to bring about His own ends.

Absent His patron spirit, life is lived otherwise than what I observed in Robyn. The lost are predated along their way by the distractions of the enemy, and too many of them are fixated on living well rather than as they should. What should have been an orientation toward gratitude has been replaced by the spiritual poison of deadly, sinful pride.

Pride is not necessarily a bad thing when justified by worthwhile accomplishment. The feeling encourages us to work harder and achieve more, and as such is edifying. Sinful pride arises from rewarded avarice and the gratified lust for influence the dark patron spirit of the lost is happy to indulge. Evil dulls the sense within us that there is something beyond ourselves worthy of our worship and allegiance, and so cuts us off from an essential life lesson we need to grasp in order to come through it truly alive.

Seeing none of that over a long association with Robyn is what gives me hope. Our entire time I made no secret of my own faith, so she was witness to a quarter-century of discussions in the various arenas of ideology that we shared. Robyn found her way along through grasping what she could, and I must hope she’s safe now … where light and life and joy abound, and where those who choose to love at their core are preserved by what Jesus did, being a blessing as his announcing angels declared: “to all the people.”

My last correspondence with her, now some six months past, contained a single concerning note, that Robyn had subjected herself to COVID vaccination. I have no idea what the effect was on her immune system, but there is plenty of evidence of the mRNA infusion being detrimental., as the sudden appearance of cancers afterward in others warn. I truly hope she did not, as so many others have, suffer from the advice of people she assumed in confidence to have her best interests in mind. That my precious friend would have perished from trust would be a travesty.

There are many aspects of life of which I wish I could be sure, and yearn to have more fully appreciated my many blessings … but to have known Robyn as my friend was surely one of them, and I am thankful that I knew her.

In the end, we have the voice of the Spirit to guide and inspire us, people to cross our path, and things to do as we’re led. Of what I’m certain includes the convictions that we need to love, we need to trust, and we need to believe it all means something. Most of all we need to be grateful, because gratitude is a key that unlocks a future warm and bright instead of unimaginably horrid. One fate or the other never ends, as Jesus was here to assure us.

I wish you a deeply meaningful Thanksgiving and a joyous follow-though to Christmas!

Choose to love. -DA

*****

In production news, the Editress is currently working at 19% Production Edit on Boone’s first and last adventure, Two Years with Master Quan, as told (in part, anyway) to a little girl who asked. Look for the seventh novel of Boone’s File next year!

First Made Proud

It’s a sad fact that the realm of politics is as close to religion as the godless can manage. It never really occurred to me to write any other sort of novel, as the genre of political fiction afforded plenty of opportunity to best say what compelled close to a million-and-a-half words. The essential themes therein are what have allowed my storytelling to remain relevant to the point that, ten years on, my first novel remains visible in the stack of its genre on the free side of major venues where e-books come alive.

Pride. Wisdom. Courage. Cowardice. Love. Hate. Indifference. Fiction is effective only when it is relevant to the real world. One could not be transported otherwise, and immersion is the kick that keeps a reader coming back for more.

The first one’s free, kid. Actually the first three. But I digress.

Effective novels compel continued attention, and those stories arise from conflict. There is a cosmic struggle in human nature between basic morality, the edified character that values humility over pride, and empathy above predation. The base elements of deficient humanity are largely characterized by a sense of entitlement to impose one’s will. Pride may target individuals, hierarchies, paradigms, and the tenets of natural law itself.

Pride stops only when stopped, whether by intervening strength of character or the inevitable consequences defining The Way Things Are, as current events often show.

And current events are a show, all right. One featuring copious amounts of often airborne dung. The collision of thesis and antithesis produce the synthesis of a good historical lesson or a satisfying novel’s payout as does the chemistry producing gunpowder from blending less volatile materials. That said, more than once I have looked at headlines rising out of current events and thought, “The Editress would make me tone this story line down for the sake of plausibility.”

Pride is an epidemic in today’s society, and doesn’t give two morning grunts about wisdom, much less about faith. Pride drowns out the lessons of past lives in a cacophony of self-congratulatory accolades, and where wisdom watches and listens carefully, hubris wishes to speak instead. It’s driven by the need to be heard and obeyed, a weakness manifesting in insatiable control issues. Pride can find its own god in the nearest mirror. People stricken with pride, as invariably are my antagonists, cause most of the problems in the world.

The prideful couldn’t conjure faith if they tried. It is a worse situation than ignorance. They have been abandoned to themselves, and the faith not of ourselves preserving us is denied them. They been left to their own minds, and may God some day have mercy on their souls as He has on ours.

Where we have faith, hope, and love, they have baiting, dross, and hubris. They troll while we attempt to edify. We build, and they burn. We are mindful of eternity, and they struggle on against deception screaming that the physical plane and our present lives are all that is.

We’ve been told otherwise, and so have they. By the grace of God we listened, and that makes all the difference in eternity.

The current political climate is one giving the political Left all the rope it need to hang itself, and that scaffold is rising like an ideological Tower of Babel. More of their own number than ever are walking away, and the defections will render unsustainable any moral authority by which they hope to operate. The non-Western world, China, Russia, Persia, and Islam, have long political memories, unlike the West and the U.S. in particular. They are watching, with an interest that should make your blood run cold, as our political extremists debase themselves drunk with perceived power. Their buzz is actually death throes from the political establishment.

“You’re wrong. They’re stronger than ever.” I was told that in an online forum by a hopeless contrarian who couldn’t force himself to absorb the points I’m trying to bring across now.

Hopelessness is another lie of the enemy. You know who was strong in 1939? Hitler. Six years later, his thousand-year Reich has been flattened by the Hammer of God for daring to strike the Almighty’s chosen people.

Pride did that. Pride will wreak similar havoc on overreach and arrogance wherever it overtakes the assumptive and unmindful. These ash layers of history don’t striate themselves, and today Adolf Hitler’s remains nourish the base soil of some parking lot in Berlin.

Overreach is repulsive, because no one likes a loser. And the more extreme one’s folly, the greater number will see what’s coming prior to the victim of his own self-wrought circumstances.

The appreciation of freedom, as a result, is breaking out like a virus. Winter gives way to spring as a chill waiting to abate. The sun is on its way.

I try to not make these columns a sermon, but without testimony the soul of a believer is barren. Without something to say, fiction is flat and uninteresting as distilled water. Without a spiritual journey, a character in fiction or real life is less embraceable than otherwise would be.

Life gives one the choice between hope and fear, and the delivery from fear is the reason Christ appeared in our own historical epoch to be documented by the very ones to whom he was delivered to be crucified in our place. Hope in any circumstance arises just as He did if we remember this.

A century ago, people my age had been born during the Civil War, and had lived the time of westward expansion that followed to the first Great War prideful, as opposed to rational, nationalism wrought. They were, as we are now, strung between two times, trying to piece together the mysteries of how men and nations ought to order the world.

Pride and faith were in conflict then as well. Some would listen and others race ahead in blind ambition. These things have all happened before.

The basis of character is the realization that Emmanuel—God With Us—is an ongoing commitment on His part. We are not alone in this unless we close that door ourselves. The great unseen host of witnesses on our every side are whispering their advice as loudly as allowed while He tarries, not willing that any of us should be lost.

Be one of those who ‘ll absorb the lessons to be had in the last chapter. You’ll find, as often happened to me, that in fact the story doesn’t end there at all.

Choose to love, -DA

*****

In production news, the Editress continues progress, now one-eighth through her final editing in Ritter’s sixth and concluding novel, and one marking his return to present-day Bosnia in ‘Sister’s Shadow.’ Look for it at the end of summer, should God be willing for us to see a fifteenth title through.

From China, through Rome, to Hope

Writers are readers first and forever. Once we appreciate the mind-to-mind transmission of ideas and scenes as a craft, words take hold of us. Afterward, it’s our turn to draw from the inkwell and take up our own purpose. What results is a snapshot of sorts, at times representing very well its author’s essence, as preserved through transcription.

Lately, I’ve been working my way through Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, an emperor of Rome in the second century following the birth of Christ. Not an undertaking for the easily distracted or weak-willed, these twelve Books comprise the man’s personal notes, set down for no one but himself. In this they are similar to George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation, composed as a means of self-edification.

The nature of truth being what it is, the date of a valid premise is irrelevant. What is, in a broad enough sense, always has been and ever shall be. Yet today, we may reliably draw on the prim, intellectual propriety of Washington, the Stoic observations of Aurelius, and the selfless clarity of Lao Tzu, whose Tao Te Ching predated them all.

The study of history, apart from the rote memorization of timelines, is also a quest for past perspective. That, if you’ve not noticed, is a factor powering my fiction: the deep points of view relating the personal factors driving its characters—good, evil, strong, and unenduring—to act as they do.

It is something more than an arbitrary delineation dividing history in the period before the birth of Jesus and the epoch Anno Domini. Regardless of any secular designation as Before Common Era or CE, the point of demarcation is the same. To a lesser extent, the line of time in the ebb and flow of cultures, viewed as history, will be reflected in the microcosm of our personal experience. Each of us will have our predating, transformative, and later periods.

Washington, of course, wrote in the context of a Christian culture, one whose eventual adoption of our founding documents acknowledged rights given universally and an essential dependence on blessings bestowed to the reverent. Aurelius worked at the dawn of the Church and from the perspective of a pagan and Stoic, though his text alternates between poly- and monotheistic language. Lao Tzu penned his eighty-one chapters wholly in his own pre-revelation context and more than two thousand years ago.

I was struck almost immediately by the similarity between Lao Tzu and Aurelius. Both depended on naturalistic observation in a moral presentation of natural laws. Likewise marked by a serene acceptance of the overall state of affairs, this is presented as one best lived within rather than striven against. Self recedes in such philosophy as perspective broadens. Each of these wise men, however, reached the limit of their individual vision. Though the What, Where, and When of their reporting is valid, it is also limited in supplying the Why.

Why is an important component of understanding, as it aids repeatability, which in turn helps assure a given lesson will be passed along. Why helps define the observations of validity resulting in the universal canon of natural law.

Why is also the reason we divide history at the point of the appearance of Christ. Without His mission to validate its prophecies, the testament of Judaism would have faded alongside the competing sects of the time in which it flourished, crumpling into the sands of history with the ruins of its Temple. Because He arrived, we can assign rational hope to scriptural promises yet to be fulfilled. In portraying Why on Calvary, He allowed us to assume our place in everything going on, just as Christ exemplified and proved a sure hope through demonstrating the Resurrection.

Absent this resultant Christian assurance, the benefits of anticipation are lost for the faithless. Life fades into nothingness with each year, day, hour and moment of time. Standards of behavior become relative without guiding moral absolutes, and wandering follows to varying ends.

Moral strength isn’t enough. Lao, once his calligraphy brush dried, rode into the desert to die, sick at heart of the ways of men. Aurelius found his end disappointed in a son whose upbringing failed to reflect in its results. Both were denied a sufficiently broad vision to bestow hope, yet allowed wisdom enough for their observations to endure through many centuries. To what end we can debate without knowing, but not without something to which we might, in our present era, hold onto.

God, in His essence as embodied in the mission of Christ, has an inclusive plan for those receptive to wisdom. His equations balance our inadequacy with overwhelming sufficiency in our favor, somewhere, I need to believe, past legalistic boundaries and strictures set in limited understanding. The brightest of us see only, as Paul said, through a mirror darkly, on a path toward clarity as starkly terrifying or joyously fulfilling as His just judgment or coverage in grace might decree.

Such questions on the way from here to there remain worthy of consideration. Truth remains what it is, now as in times past: a treasure sought by the living.

Choose to love, -DA

*****

In production news, my ninth novel and Boone’s fourth, now approaching the three-quarters mark in primary editing, continues toward an early summer release. We remain optimistic this will occur in June, but also are determined to hold off until it’s ready, and without applying arbitrary deadlines. You should expect a read worth the wait, once the second half of Boone’s File launches with Meat for the Lion.

The Ellipse

Your life and mine began under a point of brilliant light. All else that we perceive had the same genesis. You life is not an accident of nature. It has a purpose, and that purpose is within the plan of a loving God.

Most living things know this intuitively. They grow and beget, and when the end comes, the natural creatures accept it with peace. What is, is. What has passed ahead is waiting. Existence need not be more complicated than that.

Complication arises from denial. Opposing a process that will occur in any event only wastes energy any creature could more productively harness. Denial is one such opposition, and the realization of this has led to my image of the Ellipse.

Anything that exists in the physical plane does so for a finite amount of time. It begins under the Right Hand and the Eye of the Craftsman and proceeds from the Light. It will return, as that is the engineered purpose in being. We are works in motion, while the Craftsman is eternal. To be separate and apart from Him is a temporary condition. We travel an elliptical path, cast on our way. We reach apogee and begin our return. Every created work will do the same.

The Ellipse has an inside and an outside. One can face the Light traveling his circle, or face away. One can look forward to the journey ahead, or peer backward trying to regain that which has fallen irretrievably behind. It is not difficult to perceive the more beneficial attitude.

Why turn away? All you will see is a shadow. A starkly defined silhouette against a temporal foreground is a poor image to keep of what you actually are. Facing away from the Light, you deny yourself all warmth, comfort, and hope. You can pretend that the Light is not there, but it is a reality, and your not believing will not make it go away.

Turn yourself to the inside of the Ellipse, toward your Source. Reach out your arms in gratitude and praise. Feel the light on your face, the Glory so rich that you cannot see anything beyond. Let the warmth of that love hit you head-on, penetrate you, and justify your existence. Keep it in front of you all through the journey of your circle, and you too, like all natural creatures, will have no fear of closing the arc.

When it is over you will be complete. Your time will be done, and your eternity will begin. The Light need not come as a surprise when the outside of the circle turns to face it in any event at the end of days. The Craftsman was and always will be there. It is our greatest comfort as works in His portfolio.

Choose to Love, -DA