Another Surprise

As I’ve written before, I’m often surprised where my writing goes when I write. A few nights ago I was writing a chapter were Annay, my heroine, is walking through a crowd of refugees who are all mourning for their lost families and homes.

Annay sits by herself and is remembering her own loss and something needs to pull her back to the current situation. The “point” of the chapter is for her to start understanding corporate grief. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make the transition, but as I got to the point, someone in the crowd started to sing. Slowly others joined in the song until enough people were singing that it pulled Annay back.

And so now in the middle of my story I start to write the words to the hymn they are singing.

… hold fast our hearts, as we call on your grace.

When our world falls apart, and we feel all alone, let us remember your unending love.
When our strength is all gone, and we can’t carry on, let us depend on your unending love.
When our plans have all failed, we have nowhere to go, let us attend to your unending love.
When our hearts are restored, we are lifted on high, let us all sing of your unending love.

And then I wrote some more of the story. When I finished, I felt like something was still undone, and I realize that I had part of a song written down and part of a melody stuck in my head. I tried to use Garage Band to write it down, but with no luck.

So I was sitting there wondering what I should do and I remembered a friend of Nigel’s who has written some music. I got up the courage to call her up and explained my problem. She was very understanding and even seemed excited at the opportunity to help me. For the next 20 minutes I sang into the phone and she played notes on her piano. Since the song is about pain and troubles, but ends with God being our hope and joy, I ended up crying as I sang.

Since then I’ve tried to write the four verses of the song, not for the book, but for my own sense of completion. I’ve finish 2 and ½ verses and I’ve sent them off to my friend. It really is surprising what happens when I write and how so much of what I write seems to be God ministering to me. We do have an amazing God.

Try walking alone through the life that we live
Our defenses fail against attack
Before our fall into deepest despair
Hold fast our hearts, as we call on your grace
When our world falls apart, and we feel all alone, let us remember your unending love.
When our strength is all gone, and we can’t carry on, let us depend on your unending love.
When our plans have all failed, we have nowhere to go, let us attend to your unending love.
When our hearts are restored, we are lifted on high, let us all sing of your unending love.

As we run the race that you’ve put before us,
As the task seems more than we can bear,
Before we stumble and suffer defeat,
Give us your strength and vision and power.

missing verse

We turn back to you after being alone
Finding your embrace …

Is playing D&D evil?

I posted this originally over at fairiesfantasyandfaith, but figured I’d post it here too.

The questions was, “Should Christians read fantasy books?” One commenter said that reading was okay, but playing D&D was stepping over the line. This was my response.

I’ve been an avid SciFi and Fantasy reader since my High School days. I’ve also played D&D since then. I remember once in collage we were having a discussion about whether playing D&D was evil. One of the guys in the group told us, “Once my parents were giving me a hard time about playing D&D. They said that I was worshiping the Devil by playing. I told them, ‘I don’t worship devils, I kill them.'”

I think D&D, like all fantasy, isn’t inherently evil. It is how you use it that maters. Now I’ll grant that perhaps D&D is more like a loaded gun, and it easier to get pulled off into the dirt than with a game like Monopoly, but them maybe Monopoly is a bad comparison.

When my kids wanted to start playing, I offered to be their Dungeon Master. It gave me a way to connect with my kids, to watch them to make sure the game wasn’t leading them places that I didn’t want them to go, and it gave me a chance to put some lessons in front of them.

One lesson in particular stands out. We were starting a new game and the kids had all made their characters. The characters were hanging around town looking for something to do. A woman runs into town, obviously very upset, and asks if anyone can help her. The characters said yes. She tells them that her husband, a lumberjack, is three days late coming back from the woods. Will they go look for him.

Several things happen along the way, but eventual they find the lumberjack’s camp, but no lumber jack. They discover wagon tracks, and follow them. After a few days they catch up to the wagon and discover that it belongs to dark elves, and that the lumberjack, a couple other people and a few monsters are being taken away as slaves.

So now they have to decide what to do. They decide that there are to many dark elves and that fighting them would be a bad idea. They talk about just leaving, but some of them want to succeed at the rescue. A couple of the characters decide to go talk to the slavers and discover that the lumberjack is for sale.

This is where the group dynamics really got interesting and some of the kids had their eyes opened. A discussion between the characters, and between the kids, developed talking about wether it was good to pay the slavers for the lumberjack. Some of the kids thought that saving his life was worth any price. Others thought that paying the slavers was morally wrong. After ten minutes of talking the discussion ended with five kids wanting to pay and two saying no. The five said they they were going to vote on it, and of course won the vote. But the two refused to put up their part of the ransom.

Two of the five then started threatening the two, even threatening to kill them if they would not help pay. After another ten minutes of talking, another one of the five offered to pay the shares of the two characters who didn’t want to pay. And so they collected the money, paid the slavers, and returned the lumberjack to his wife. The lumberjack paid them back the money they had spent to but his freedom, plus a reward. The party decided to give the two characters their share of the reward, even though they didn’t put any money in. Those two players then gave their shares back to the lumberjack and wished him well.

At the end of such adventures the DM give out points for the monsters killed and for playing well. The kids were surprised and pleased when the two characters who wouldn’t pay, got extra experience points for sticking up for what they believed. Which of course launched them into another ten minute discussion about the rewards for doing what’s right, and not just doing what’s fun.

For me, and I believe for the kids too, it was a very satisfying experience to wrestle with each other about right and wrong, and why we do right. An I don’t think I could have ever had that discussion with these seven kids if I hadn’t been able to take them out of their day to day lives and put them into a fantasy world, where I could ask the questions, “Why would your character do that.”

When Stories Write Themselves

When a story starts to write itself, it is often a glimpse in to the heart of the writer.

Often when I’m writing, I find that the story goes places that I didn’t expect. I have been trying to allow this drifting to occur, because, I’ve noticed that usually what comes out has some deep meaning for me. Whether this is the leading of the Holy Spirit, my right brain getting a chance to speak, or just a synergy that is occurring between the threads I’m trying to weave, these unexpected twists have been therapeutic for me.

I finished a chapter of my novel this week, which turned out different than I had planned. The scene involved the protagonist of the story, Annay, as she deals with her own anger at not being able to do more to stop the orc attacks, and watches a husband and a cleric deal with guilt over letting the husband’s wife die.

The scene was suppose to end with the high cleric talking to both of them about why they shouldn’t feel guilty. As I wrote the story, I got to the point where the High Cleric, Ralph, was ready to make his speech. In context it seemed like he should talk to the husband first, and then talk to the young cleric in private. As I started to write his words, it became clear to me what he needed to say.

Robert lifted his head, “Am I guilty of murder? Am I going to hell?” The tears were gone, his voice quiet, but steady.

“No Robert, you’re not going to hell. What you did today was not murder, it was mercy. You didn’t want your wife to die, but you found the courage to let her go because you knew that was what was best for her. She was going to die whether you told her it was okay or not, but because you did tell her, she was able to die knowing that you loved her, that you cared more about her than you did yourself.”

Then he took the young cleric aside and talked to him.

“Michael, I know this has been tough on you,” Ralph started.
“She died. It’s my fault.” Michael stood there with a somber expression on his face, his cloths ripped and dirty.
“Why do you think its your fault?”
“I didn’t have enough faith. I asked for God to heal her, but I must not have believed that he could do it. I failed.”
Ralph put one hand on each of Michael ‘s shoulders and looked him square in the eyes and said slowly, pausing after each word, “You did not fail.” Ralph pulled his hands to the side and then grasped Michael’s shoulders again. “God used you to do what he needed you to do. God gave you the power to stop her bleeding. Why did he do that?”
“So I could save her life,” Michael almost cried.
“I’ll put it to you that God gave you the power to stop her bleeding, not so you could save her life, but to give her the time she needed, to do what she needed to do before she died.”
“What did she need to do? She didn’t do anything.”
“You don’t think so. What happened between her and her husband?”
“They talked.”
“About what.”
“I don’t know, I was busy trying to save her life.”
“Think about it Michael. What just happened to Robert?”
“He lost his two sons and his wife to the orcs.”
“Did he? The orcs took his sons away from him, that is true. But did they take his wife from him?”
Michael’s expression changed as he started to think about what the two had talked about. “No, I guess they didn’t. Robert let her go, because it was what his wife wanted.”
“Right,” Ralph managed to smile. “God allowed her to live long enough so she could say good bye to her husband, long enough to allow him to say good bye to her, and to do one more heroic thing for her. Because of you, Robert will always remember today as the day he gave his wife to God, not the day the orcs took her away.”

Later than night I was thinking about where this had come from. What thing in my life could have triggered this kind of thought – that by letting his wife go, instead of having her taken away from him, it could change the whole way he looked at her death.

In talking with a friend, it became clear that I had a similar, but different experience when I lost my son. When I was told that my son was dead, it was very surreal. I’m sure I was in shock. When I went in to see his body, it didn’t feel real. It didn’t look like my son, the body was pale – like some plastic mannequin.

When we where ready to leave hospital, I excused myself and went back into the room with my son’s body. I stood there next to him and remembered the times I stood next to his bed and had watched him sleep. Almost by instinct, I slid my hand under his shirt and onto his chest. So many times I had placed my hand on his chest to feel his breathing and to feel his temperature. This time I didn’t feel his breathing, but I did feel warmth.

His face and arms were cold, but I could feel the warmth of my son’s life still in the unmoving body. Feeling that warmth made the whole thing real for me. I cried. I knew he was leaving me and that this wasn’t some cruel joke. Feeling that warmth, was a gift from God. It tied up my son’s life from when I held him as a baby, until I held him for the very last time as a fifteen year old.

I could have just left the hospital without going in to see him again, instead of following the urging I felt. I could have just looked at him instead of moving closer. I could have listened to myself when I though, “this is silly, why do I want to touch him,” instead of allowing myself to be led. I could have been angry, instead of feeling my love for my son and thankfulness that I could connect with him one last time.

I didn’t get to have one final talk with my son, like Robert did. I didn’t get the chance to tell my son it was okay that he was going home. But in that time I did get to talk to my son, and I did get to give my son to God. My son was taken away from me, but I was able to give my son into God’s hands, because it felt like he was waiting for me to do that.

Beyond the Beyond

My First 140 character story

Her heart’s beating stops. The air in her lungs forces its way out. Senses fade. Thoughts race, then nothing. Only her spirit is left.

Black, then white, fading to blue. A forest comes into focus. Whole, unbroken, no longer victim of an accident. People walking towards her.

“Mother!” Running into her arms. Long hugs, tears of joy. “I’ve been waiting for you Julie.” Joy pauses. “Who will raise my son?”

A handsome man approaches. Julie smiles at him and immediately likes him. He comes to her and hugs her. She lets this man hold her.

“Mother, I love you,” the handsome man says. Julie steps back, “What?”. “It’s me, John”, he says. “What?” she repeats. He holds her again.

“How? you’re only ten,” Julie says in a whisper. “I was only ten on the day that you died,” John whispers back. “I missed you so much.”

“But?” she asks. “I survived. I grew. I never forgot. The pain faded, but I always missed you,” he says. “I got married; you’re a grandma.”

“Heart attack in my sleep,” he explains, “It took a long time to die. There were tubes in my body and needles in my veins. But I died.”

“And you were here waiting for me,” John says. “After all the years of missing you, you were here to greet me and hug me. Thank you”

Julie sits down, John sits next to her holding her hand. “Look, here comes Amy! You’ll just love Amy.” A beautiful young girl comes running.

The girl throws herself at Julie and wraps her arms around Julie’s neck. Julie’s heart sings within her; she loves this young girl.

“Hi, Grandma. You look just like your pictures.” Julie looks at John and then back to the young girl.

“This is your granddaughter, Amy,” John says, “You two are inseparable.” Julie doesn’t know why, but she knows it’s true. “I love you, too.”

“I don’t understand,” Julie says. “You will,” John replies. “It takes a while,” and John laughs at himself. “I made a joke.”

“There is no time here, just events. You can relive them as often as you desire. You’ve just gotten here, but you’ve been here forever.”

“You were here to greet me when I first came, and you were here for Amy. In fact you were the first to meet Amy; it made it easier for her.”

“And now you’re here to meet me?” Julie asked. “Yes, because we love each other. That’s what Heaven is all about,” John said as he smiled.

“We have forever to experience God and to share experiences with each other. If your up to it, let’s go met Dad, you’re important to him.”

Welcome to my new blog

Greetings and intro to Unremembered Loss

This is where I will be sharing all things Hathrae. For those of you who don’t know yet, Hathrae is a small blue green planet not unlike out own Earth. It is located in the Soj system, where the stories I’m writing take place.

The first published story is a short one about one woman’s journey to heaven. I wrote it as an exercise both in writing a 140 character a day story and in exploring what it might mean if heaven was outside of time.

The main thrust of my writing, however, is towards my novel Unremembered Loss. I’ve just passed the 53 thousand word mark on my way towards 100 thousand. Of course that’s just the first draft.

In the mean time I’m starting some web projects where I will be exploring the world of Hathrae, and the backgrounds of the major characters of the book. Stay tuned for more information and the announcement of the web sites.