"Cakewalk"

A steady breeze fought against the summer noonday blaze and swept across the gentle slope at the feet of the Chornauren Mountains. Unfazed by the heat, a small form in tattered clothes struggled on its way, one foot dragging behind, twisted, making a rasping noise as it slid upon the rocky ground.

Must… reach… Khordûn…

There were a few leagues to go yet. This was the difficult part, the part where Neldon had failed so many times before. The northern end of the Chornaurens was dotted with mines, property of the dwarvish kingdom he wanted to reach. He had to avoid them as long as possible, to delay contact until he could reach the city gates.

But many other creatures made their homes in mountain caves, creatures much less reasonable, far less diplomatic.

Less reasonable than dwarves… Neldon thought with a chuckle.

Save energy. Don’t think. He gave himself one more thought, goal in mind once again. Khordûn.

The twisted foot scratched through dirt and gravel as Neldon struggled on.

The ‘Marches were mostly wide open spaces, untamed, difficult to traverse safely by day, perilous by dark. He had been lucky last night; the moon was waning, but it was still near full. Even that limited light kept many of the mountain’s denizens in their caverns, and so he had shambled along all through the night.

There was no pain, no sense of the withering heat, no thirst or hunger. There was only the next step forward… never turning, always pointed for the gates of Khordûn.

The word had come to mean “hope” to Neldon, and so much more than that. If he was to survive, if he was to escape his daily torment, Khordûn would be the answer. The elves of Lanaloth were too far away to the south, and the human settlements across the plains were too small to help– what few survived the Bloodsworn invasion during the winter. Aelwyn might hold an answer, but that was a day’s travel past Khordûn at a healthy pace.

In the distance, Neldon thought he heard the sounding of a horn, and he scanned the sparse growth for cover. A few paces to his left, the stony ground rose sharply about half his height, and the tangle of bramble there would help. He turned hastily, lurching forward.

His injured foot caught on the sharp rocks, taking him off balance. Unable to fully catch himself, he slammed into the ground and thought he heard another bone break, this one in his arm.

A second horn sounded, and he heard shouting, too distant to make out. He had no time to worry about the injury, let alone get back on his feet. Crawling forward, pushing even with his misshapen foot, he half-lurched, half-skittered into his chosen hiding place.

Panic set in as he listened for approaching voices. He hadn’t expected to be spotted this far out. Had he attracted too much attention on his last few attempts?

The deep voices drew nearer, and he would have sighed in relief if he could. At least they were dwarves, and not goblins or worse. Dwarves of Khordûn. My only hope.

If they would listen this time.

“…saw it over there, I think!” one voice called.

“Sure moved quick if it were one o’ them again,” said another, a female with a tone of authority. “Spread out, lads. Be lookin’ out for others. They raid in packs.”

They raid at night, fool. I come each time alone in the light of day.

Stop thinking so much! Above all else, Neldon knew he must not be detected. A few stray thoughts here and there would not arouse Palla-Nel’s suspicion… or so Neldon hoped.

“Ya see anything?” the leader called out.

“Just rock and thistle down here,” a voice replied from nearby. “Strange, don’tcha think it, Ma’am?”

“What’s that, Torhalin?”

“Well, as ya said, there oughtta be a pack of ‘em about these slopes if there’s a one. But there ain’t. An’ you heard Hammerhelm’s patrol talk how they saw just one the other day too.”

“A scout, then,” she replied tersely.

Neldon peered through the bramble looking for the source of the nearby voice. The dwarf stood four paces from Neldon’s little refuge.

“I just–“ the dwarf continued. “It ain’t good sense, to come scout in the daylight across open ground.”

She ignored him and stamped further up the incline. The dwarf shook his head.

My chance… Neldon thought. Khordûn…

“…help… …me…”

The raspy whisper was just enough to get Torhalin’s attention, and the dwarf looked about as Neldon whispered again. “Help… me… …please…”

“…quietly…” Neldon whispered, but it was too late.

“It’s over here!” the dwarf yelled, and the others came lumbering down the hill, chainmail clinking, axes and hammers drawn.

Neldon knew this attempt had also failed, but he clung to a small hope. He rose from hiding, and spoke as clearly as he could muster.

“My name is Neldon Darowdin, from the town Delfindor. Our town was destroyed by a lich, who is now attacking you by night. He has–“

“Shut up, ya bag o’ filth!”

The squad leader roared as she sprang through the air, hammer swinging down toward the decayed form. Neldon tried to dodge, but the stroke connected with his right arm, tearing the skeletal limb from his ravaged body, scattering pieces of rotted flesh down the hill.

“The lich, Palla, is–“ he continued, salvaging what remained in this opportunity. But her next stroke tore through his jaw, shearing skull from spine. As his head fell away, she spun back around to plant the spiked end of her hammer deep in the undead creature’s ribcage.

By luck, the skull landed upright, and as the sickly green glow of undeath faded from its eye sockets, Neldon watched the other dwarf closely. Torhalin stared back, lips parted as with something to say, brow furrowed considering this strange event. Perhaps the message would get through this time. Someone would recognize the name from decades earlier.

Neldon returned to the black, the empty void. There was an advantage, however small, to the psychic bond formed when Palla consumed Neldon’s body and became Palla-Nel.

Neldon reached out tentatively, listening for any reaction from the lich at the loss of one of its slaves. Palla-Nel’s focus remained fixed on digging deeper under the mountain, seeking… always seeking. Seeking what, Neldon did not know, but while Palla-Nel’s attention was diverted elsewhere, Neldon could take another husk and send it on his fool’s errand.

This was the easy part. Just one simple, overriding thought filling the new husk’s head as it lumbered off. Khordûn. Must… reach… Khordûn.

"Prosetry" Piece 3

Last “prosetry” piece. This one’s definitely just prose thoughts instead of a rhyming rhythm like the first “prosetry” piece I posted. This comes from a time when my wife and I were evaluating a lot of the things we’d believed — not questioning our core faith doctrines, but a lot of the particular “flavor” of Christianity that we had been pursuing for years. It started to seem like some of what our churches said was incredibly important actually wasn’t, and how we had been taught to go after our faith (or perhaps how we chose to go after it) seemed more painful and misguided than powerful and beneficial. For me, this was a bit of “I want to make sure I get the basics right.”

 

I’m desperate to know what You see in me; what You believe I can be. I’m desperate to live up to Your standard, like a child wanting to be like his father; only I try a little too hard sometimes… and sometimes I don’t try at all.

I’m desperate to be approved, to be holy, a vessel You can use. Only I don’t like the path I’d have to take to get there. Isn’t there a shortcut I can follow… perhaps go from ministering to resurrection while skipping the part about a cross. Then I’d have no part in You. I’m desperate to have part in You.

And though it’s deemed incorrect to say it, I feel defeated, weary, maybe broken… though I don’t know what that means. I only know that I can’t turn my back, and I can’t stay here… but I’m afraid to move on.
What more must I face? Haven’t I done enough? Well, it’s not works that save me. Haven’t I believed enough, then? I don’t really know what to believe sometimes.

All I can do is follow, and I don’t even do that very well. But here I am, walking after You on this narrow road that some time ends in Heaven. And I see that sanctification isn’t as fun as it sounded when the preacher shouted “Hallelujah” and the music played. But it’s in this place that You do Your work, and it hurts to see flesh die. But it hurts to see flesh live.

So I walk down this lonely road, desperate to take my foot off this jagged stone and lay it down on streets of gold.

"Prosetry" Piece 2

I’ve forgotten what it meant

that You reached out to the leper.

You saw the need and You responded.

I’ve forgotten what it meant that You ignored the condemning cries

and told the sinner, “Go and sin no more.”

I’ve forgotten what You came for.

Sitting with the wicked,

yet separated by Your virtue…

I separate myself by venue.

You reach down into the gutter

and lift up the one in need.

I’d be afraid to get dirt on my Sunday best.

My Christian tie could get ruined.

And You loved those You saw

as You traveled by foot from city to city.

I try not to get caught speeding,

since someone might see the fish

or the church bumper sticker on my car.

Miracles followed You.

They don’t seem to catch up with me.

You did all You could

to make the message known,

while I get scared someone might ruin

the gold edge of my Bible as I witness,

armed with a leather-bound book.

You were armed with a heart of love,

and You died innocent between two thieves

to heal the one who was sick but never knew it.

I’ve forgotten what it meant

that You reached out to the leper,

but now I remember Your touch.

And though nine others forget,

I’m coming back to thank You,

And I’m bringing some of my sick friends.

"Prosetry" piece 1

This was a piece I wrote a long time ago for a couple reasons. 1) I wanted to try making a sort of rhyming rhythm instead of a strict poetic structure, and 2) I was dealing with a lot of frustrations about going back and forth between the positive goals I wanted to reach in my personal life and the stupid decisions I would often make that brought negative consequences. The Apostle Paul writes about the struggle with sin in 1st Corinthians that “the good I want to do, this I do not do, but that which I hate, I find myself doing all the more.” I can relate.

Innocent lies change before my eyes
into chains, unbreakable ties, despite my cries for grace;
not because You somehow failed to respond,
but because I rely upon my own strength,
not practicing what You teach me to do,
doing instead as I choose, I abuse
the mercy I’ve received from You.

I preach what I do not practice;
I practice what I do not preach, and the fact is,
I’m weary of this, saying, “Master, Friend,”
with a kiss of betrayal,
choosing to fail instead of asking to stand
when You’ve said I can.
Will You practice what I preach about You?

I know it’s been said that I’m free to come boldly, to confess;
my only hope nothing less than that in Christ I receive
Your reprieve and righteousness–
I’ve been blessed beyond a deserved curse
and yet worse is that I act as though I’ve earned it,
trust in my own merit; how can You bear it
when You see this pride in me–
Your Spirit burns jealously for me to live faithfully,
to give myself unreservedly;
abandon myself to Your grace again
so that when I come to this place, my Friend,
I will be the humble one, come undone,
that You may have Your way in me;
let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done.

Proof-Reading Our Message

I’m studying the craft of writing, and one of the books I’m reading talks about the requirement for a writer to “take the reader there” in the story, wherever the “there” is that you want them to be. In other words, I know what I picture as I’m writing a story, but am I writing it clearly enough, descriptive enough so that what the reader “sees” is what I’m seeing? It’s common for new writers to assume that the reader will get the same picture as the writer, because the writer’s mind sees the full picture and fills in the gaps in the story.

At the Tuesday Bible study I go to, we were reading in Acts 4 and talking about what sort of message we should be presenting to the world. It hit me that perhaps many of us in the Christian community are like those new writers. We know what we mean to convey, and our minds fill in the gaps, convincing us that we’re actually communicating the Gospel accurately when we might not be doing it as well as we want to.

I’ve mentioned this book, unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, in another thread. They take statistical research from polling data and show exactly what this generation thinks about Christians, the Church, the Gospel, etc. Then they talk about what Scripture tells us, and how we might better reflect Christ and the Gospel to a world that doesn’t know Him.

To me, their research is like taking what we’re “writing” and giving it to someone to proof-read. As I’ve been writing, I’ve been reading my stuff to my wife. Seeing her respond how I want, laughing at a joke or saying “whoa” at something shocking, and hearing her thoughts on the story– that all tells me that she’s getting it. In those parts, I feel like I’m taking her “there.” Other times, I see how she doesn’t laugh at a joke or doesn’t respond to what I thought was powerful. When she asks, “What does that mean?” then I know I haven’t written that part well, and I change it.

I’m not saying go buy this book. What I’m saying is, the short version of the book is that the world sees us as hypocritical, only concerned with making new converts, anti-homosexual (opposed to the people, not the sin), sheltered from reality, too political, and judgmental (not in the good sense of making moral judgments about right and wrong, but condemning everyone who is “not us” and de-valuing them).

I know that many might say, “Well, Jesus said the world would hate us, after all, and the Gospel message is an offense, so it’s no surprise that people don’t like us.” I thought about why the Apostles were imprisoned in Acts 4 and 5. I realized that they were imprisoned because of what God was doing in and through them, and because of the power of the message they preached. The religious leaders wanted to stop the message, and trying to stop the Apostles was the way to do it.

In contrast, I thought about the unChristian people in my life and the evidence presented in this book, and I realized how very few of the people I’ve dealt with have had issues with the Gospel. More often than not, they haven’t even gotten around to dealing with the Gospel because they can’t stand the messengers. As a result, they don’t care what the messengers have to say.

All I’m saying is, can we honestly suppose that (in general) we’re doing a good job of “taking our readers there,” making sure that the image we see is accurately described in the message our lives convey?

"Pearl-Harboring" People

On December 7th, 2009, I found myself at Pearl Harbor Naval Station, Hawaii. 

While getting to my lodging on the day prior, I came across a memorial on the base, near the chapel. It is a fountain with eleven small columns in the center, each with a pane of glass that has information about one of ten ships damaged in the attack, along with dates when – if the ship was salvaged – each rejoined the fleet. The eleventh pane bears this inscription:

“In recognition of all the gallant men and women, military and civilian, who performed unprecedented deeds of bravery and heroism in the service of their country at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941;

In memory of the brave men who made the supreme sacrifice while serving on the vessels that were sunk or damaged in the attack;

In admiration of the military and civilian crews who salvaged and returned to meritorious service all but three of those vessels;

In lasting tribute to the spirit of these people, may we find everlasting peace.”

It was a serendipity to have been here at this particular time.

My trip to Pearl Harbor Naval Station sparked a little historical research. I read up on the attack on Pearl Harbor, of course, but I also looked at the Japanese military motivation for the attack, and the American response. I already knew that–up until December 7th, 1941–we were not at war with either Germany or Japan. We declared war on Japan as a result of the attack, and Germany decided to declare war on us for that declaration. Apparently, we pretty much said, “Bring it!” to the Germans and declared war back. Anyway, I digress.

One of the Japanese admirals spoke of the tactical victory at Pearl Harbor as a strategic loss. The Japanese were preparing to conquer the Philippines, and they attacked the United States because they thought we would rush to the Philippines’ defense. So they thought they could prevent us from being able to aid the Philippines by preemptive strike on our Navy.  But the American leadership had specifically planned that America would NOT rush to the aid of the Philippines. The Japanese attack (obviously) aroused great anger, and we responded by throwing all our strength into the conflict. The Japanese admiral said that by winning that particular battle, Japan lost the war.

It strikes me from personal experience (what I myself have done, and what I’ve seen my fellow Christians do) that we have a habit of “Pearl Harbor-ing” those who do not agree with us 100 percent.. Too many people have found themselves under sudden and devastating attack by the Christian community just because of something they said or did which put them “clearly” on the enemy’s side in the eyes of church-goers. I’ve read a number of accounts from seekers, such as a woman going to a women’s Bible study who comments about abortion and doesn’t follow the approved party line, and then finds herself under attack from literally the entire group. Or it might be the person who out of ignorance asks, “What’s the big deal about (fill in the blank)?” and gets blasted by multiple comments clarifying just how evil that particular sin is.

I know that defending the truth and teaching Godly standards are important parts of accurately representing Christ. We can’t just call good what God calls evil, nor can we sweep it under the rug.

I just wonder if sometimes we manage to push away people who would otherwise be drawn to Christ in us… if we win the minor battle by showing them what’s so bad about whatever sin, but we lose them in the process. I know for a fact it happens. I wonder, can we not do better?

Small Beginnings

After (not much) cajoling from a few people whose opinions I value, I agreed to start a blog. I don’t quite know what I will do with this thing, but I’ll probably use it to post various written pieces, songs, poetry, and the occasional rant. There might even be some life mixed in, as I watch four insane children grow up around me.

If nothing else, I take this as an opportunity to share my life with anyone willing to go past a “Like” on Facebook, a “Hey man” at work, or a “Nice to see you, Brother” in church. If you’re reading this, it’s probably because on some level you know me already. So thank you for taking the time to let me share a little more.

There will possi-probably be a religious bent to much of what I post… but based on past experience, I suspect it will be a little too secular for some of my Christian acquaintances, and a little too Christian for some of my secular friends. Hopefully I can find that middle ground where anyone on either side of that equation knows that I respect them even if we disagree on a particular topic.

If there’s one piece I’ve written that closely communicates my religious feelings, it is the piece below. I feel that’s a good choice to begin with on this site, because it’s an attitude I hope I never abandon.

I’ve forgotten what it meant

that You reached out to the leper.

You saw the need and You responded.

I’ve forgotten what it meant that You ignored the condemning cries

and told the sinner, “Go and sin no more.”

I’ve forgotten what You came for.

Sitting with the wicked,

yet separated by Your virtue…

I separate myself by venue.

You reach down into the gutter

and lift up the one in need.

I’d be afraid to get dirt on my Sunday best.

My Christian tie could get ruined.

And You loved those You saw

as You traveled by foot from city to city.

I try not to get caught speeding,

since someone might see the fish

or the church bumper sticker on my car.

Miracles followed You.

They don’t seem to catch up with me.

You did all You could

to make the message known,

while I get scared someone might ruin

the gold edge of my Bible as I witness,

armed with a leather-bound book.

You were armed with a heart of love,

and You died innocent between two thieves

to heal the one who was sick but never knew it.

I’ve forgotten what it meant

that You reached out to the leper,

but now I remember Your touch.

And though nine others forget,

I’m coming back to thank You,

And I’m bringing some of my sick friends.