Friday, July 4, 2014

The Hero's Call

Today is our Independence Day. As you enjoy the barbeque and the fireworks, be safe and remember those who fought hard for your freedom. Thank a soldier today and hug your children.

This is also my father's birthday. He was an amazing man. I have written about him before. The Fourth is like that for me, a day of remembering. I am thinking of him today.

This month: Freedom.


To begin our Quills topic, we have a guest author!

Author of  Awakening, the Ydron Saga
Ray's Website

Here is a taste of what Ray has to say:

Freedom is a difficult concept to wrap one’s mind around. It doesn't refer to things one is permitted to do. The possibility that permission can be revoked implies constraint, and constraint implies license. One who is licensed is on a tether and tethers can be yanked, or tied to something. On the other hand, lack of all constraints whatsoever leaves open the possibility of trampling on the rights or freedom of others, and such acts lead to consequences. Consequences, of course, are tethers. So are laws. And since we live within a society, and society is governed by laws, it begs the question how can anyone be truly free?

Read more on Robin Lythgoe's Blog.


Author of As the Crow Flies and two short stories
Robin's Website

Freedom...  As tough to grab onto as a cloud, but weighty as the earth itself. As Raymond pointed out, it's a difficult concept to pin down.

"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." --Nelson Mandela

Right away we see that freedom does not, cannot, exist by itself ... (read more!)


Author of Oathtaker
Patricia's Website

As today is July 4, it is appropriate to give thought to the concept of freedom. What is it? What does it mean to me? How does it play into my fantasy novel, Oathtaker? defines freedom in several ways ... (read more!)


Author of the short story Sanguis Dei and the poetry collection: Light and Dark  

I love the 4th of July. Not just because of the BBQs or the fireworks. In fact, my dog hates the fireworks, and runs to me for comfort. Her fear is a reasonable thing and though she doesn't understand, she points to one of the reasons we send those rockets skyward. The colorful explosions inspire us and are a visceral reminder of the noise and smoke of battle. We oooh and ahhh, but the cannon-loud "duds" that made me cover my ears as a child, while designed to be beautiful, also make me soberly recall those who have gone before.

Thankfully, because of men like my father and uncles and my oldest brother (and probably yours, too) most of us will never know these fears up close. The honorable men who journey to foreign soil to hold tyranny at bay go to protect their families and their homes and something we can't see or touch. I don't know what it was like for them to be under the guns, on the shores, in the trenches though I have heard tales both frightening and humorous. My keenest imaginings are merely a shadow of what occurred there. How then can I be so touched, so moved by celebrations across the nation? The practical application of the sacrifice of these good men is that I am free. Free to write, to speak and to dream up whatever mayhem I can conjure. What they put on the line for freedom, their very lives, I see as the ultimate expression of love.

"No greater love has any man than this--that he will lay down his life for his friends." Sounds like sacrifice, but that is precisely the point. It is the deepest sort of freedom to let go of fear and do what is right because it is right. This truth shapes my life. It intricately shapes the characters I create. My heroes fight to preserve freedom and they struggle against oppression. They do it because I have seen it in action. We are in this world together and we must stand up for those that are not strong enough to do so for themselves. That is the hero's call.

May your celebrations be full with remembering and with the joy that comes from freedom.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Social Media Spotlight

Thanks for joining me and my fellow writers for:



Good morning! How are you? Please, let me know in the comments how your May went, I'd love to know. I am still pounding out my first draft of the first book in the Sons of the Dead series. Some of the characters are giving me grief, but that's how my characters can be. Especially the "borrowed" ones like Ricoh, Mikkayl's twin brother. I'll have to explain that one of these days, but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. That is where this month's Quills comes in.

As promised, we're beginning a new Quarterly Quill Feature: Social Media Spotlight. This month, we're talking about Pinterest and what a clever and valuable tool it can be for writers and readers alike. If you've never heard of Pinterest, here's how Wikipedia describes it:
Pinterest is a visual discovery tool that people use to collect ideas for their different projects and interests. People create and share collections (called “boards”) of visual bookmarks (called “Pins”) that they use to do things like plan trips and projects, organize events or save articles and recipes. There is also a like feature to save certain pins that may not fit with a board. The site was founded by Ben Silbermann, Paul Sciarra and Evan Sharp. It is managed by Cold Brew Labs and funded by a small group of entrepreneurs and investors.
I'll let you enjoy what the other Quills Authors have to say and I'll meet you at the end of the piece.


Author of As the Crow Flies and two short stories
Robin's Website

Authors + Readers + Pinterest = Connection and Creation

I love Pinterest ( If you haven’t been to the site, it’s an awesome visual discovery tool. Sometimes I spend more time on the site than is practical, but it’s such a nifty, exciting site for so many reasons: You can admire beautiful pictures, learn amazing things, find heart-warming photos and stories, laugh at memes, and collect all kinds of ideas. ALL kinds.

For readers and writers it’s an excellent place to share ideas.

As an author, I gather visual story research: interesting places and people, buildings, maps, customs… The neat thing about this is that readers can look through these pictures and gain some insight about the world where a book is set. How cool is that? Check out my board for “As the Crow Flies” and you—yes, you!—can see what Crow and Tanris look like. You can see the moors they crossed, and the dragons atop the temple pillars. Go look, I’ll wait. Here’s the link:

I also have inspiration boards for characters, landscapes, armor, castles, dragons (of course), and fantasy-related things. When the reader looks at these pictures I’ve collected, they get a peek into the way I’m thinking. What’s more, they can contribute, too, and get involved in the process of creation. How? Pinterest has it covered. They’ve provided a button at the top of a pin (picture) that says “Send.” Click on it, add a message giving your thoughts (“This would fit as the temple in Hasiq perfectly!”), and type in the author’s name or email address. Voilá. Couldn’t be easier. And many authors have a “follow me on Pinterest” link on their websites, so you can track them down even when they’re using tricky names.

I love looking at the pictures people send to me and hearing their ideas. It’s wonderful to discover how they’re seeing things, and it’s a great help for developing even more stories. So what do you think the Temple of Nadimesh looks like? Show me! I can’t wait to see!


Author of Oathtaker
Patricia's Website

Author of the short story Sanguis Dei and the poetry collection: Light and Dark  

I have a bulletin board in my office. One glance at it and I can SEE college class schedules letting me know who is where any time of the day. I don't have to rifle through manilla folders in a file drawer for my dog's next vet appointment. I can always see the flower my daughter made for me when she was ten, the pictures of my kids I don't put in frames, the doohickeys and special things I like to keep in view. I even have an embroidery hoop and one of those magnetic gyro rail toys pinned to it.

My Pinterest boards are like that. If you look at my open boards you will see some of the many and varied things that I like to keep "before my eyes." I use this amazing tool to supplement my writing much the way Robin does (we are partners in this game, after all). I follow many white rabbits and fall down many virtual rabbit holes to leap out in places I never imagined I'd wind up. That is its beauty. As a writer, I see things in my head in brilliant technicolor before I write them down. Sometimes whole stories flash by and I can't type fast enough. I express myself in written words, but I think in images, in scenes and facial expressions and Pinterest helps me capture them. I have always wished that I could let others see just exactly what is in my head. Pinterest lets me do that. It also lets me wander the minds of artists who post their work on their boards. I can utilize their talents to show others how I see things in my stories and promote their work at the same time.

The process of discovery that goes along with the mechanics of saving pins to my boards is akin to working with art directors, special effects geniuses and award winning maestros. I am the producer and Pinterest my secretary. To pin is even easier than saying, "take this down." One image can be a place marker for reams of information. It's free to use and it is absolutely fantastic. I've only just begun to explore the endless realms of possibilities.

As for the trouble I mentioned that my characters are giving me--if you look at the faces of the twin brothers on my Sons of the Dead board, you might understand why.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Steel Wool People

Everything connects to what I write. People who advise those of us who write (some writers themselves, others know... "experts") suggest that writers should "write what you know."

Shelly feels for my lack of genius... ;D 
I'm experienced, but no "expert." I know a lot of stuff. Not "blow your mind" stuff. (Without mucus your stomach would digest itself!) Not "know everything" stuff  (like that guy over there). Just, average, ordinary, common sense stuff. Let me illustrate.

In response to the Great Chicken Soup Boil Over of 2014, I rolled up my non-existent sleeves, got out the ol' elbow grease and cleaned the gas stove in the apartment. When I say stove, I mean it. I did not clean the oven which supports the stove. Don't look at me like that. Contrary to popular belief, I'm not insane. No, my mother did not have me tested. I just *know*. Anyway, my subconscious pushed me to shame over how the stove looked. The schmaltz was dry, so it didn't smell like chicken soup any more but really, it looked, ah, untidy. Yeah, let's go with that. Seriously, the oven was of no consequence to me. I have writing to do!

Moving on. Other than the stove-top itself, there are three parts to each burner that can be removed and scrubbed to within an inch of their cast-metal lives.

I call these:

  • The Grate Thingy -- on which we put pots and/or pans--not at the same time. Generally. I call this the "Catcher's Mask". We'll refer to that as the "Grate" from here on;
  • The Round Thingy -- the cap that prevents (I think) the gas and flame from going "due up". Technically, I believe the proper name is The Flat Round Thingy, but for the sake of simplicity, let's call it the RT;
  • and the Flame Dispersal Unit (FDU) -- you know, that Thingy which supports the RT.
I removed the initial offending Grate (front burner on the right side - okay, my right side while I'm facing the oven, not the oven's right side). I tried to clean it with a dishcloth. HA! I tried the sponge wrapped in nylon. Not even close! I set the first Grate down and moved on to the second Grate. Same problem. I set them both in the sink and tried to clean the first RT. Better, but still... not enough. 

Light Painting looks AWESOME!
I knew then it was time to get out the best abrasive object known to kitchens since abrasive objects were known to kitchens: Steel Wool. If you're not familiar with it, Steel wool, "also known as wire wool or wire sponge, is a bundle of strands of very fine soft steel filaments. It is used as an abrasive in finishing and repair work for polishing wood or metal objects, cleaning household cookware, cleaning windows, sanding surfaces, and to produce sparks while burning in light painting." Is that cool or what??

I use the kind with the pink soap in it. Smells awful when you get it wet. Like iron supplements when they get stuck in your throat cause they're not manufactured for consumption by ordinary humans. Mutants, maybe. But baby, steel wool works.

I wet that sucker up and went to scrubbing the first RT. It didn't take long, either. You have never seen an RT shine like that! I took off the other two Grates and put them in the sink (they're the biggest things so I saved them for last) and scrubbed clean all the RTs. The FDUs are a little harder. They've got bumps on them for allowing the dispersal of the flame and those things can be pointy. I scrubbed them until they annoyed me and rinsed them and the RTs off. Lovely! Well, certainly "acceptable". 

Then I tackled the Grates. The Grates and the FDUs could be cleaner. But honestly, for that I needed protective gloves. I don't like them. I can't feel things when I'm wearing them and they make my hands sweat. I might as well have my hands in the water cause they don't keep them dry! They might protect me from the pointiness and the nasty steel wool fibers (there's a whole story about my oldest brother in the Navy and steel wool, by the way. That's for another day, too.) but I'd be dropping things constantly. So, no gloves. My fingers still hurt. 

I scrubbed up the stove top, too. Wiped it all down and put everything back together. None of the burners would light. I could smell lots of gas, but the spark wasn't catching. I realized that I hadn't dried things off enough. 

Now, I'm a funny sorta bird. When I picked up one Grate to move it and dry the RT and FDU under it, I left it on the drainboard. I put the next Grate over the dried Burner Unit and dried the next one and so on until the first Grate wound up on the last burner. Somehow, I think it helps spread the wear and tear, but I don't do it on purpose. Didn't. 

All clean! 

Well, except for the oven. Another day, another blog post.

Steel Sponge!
By now, if you've come this far, you might wonder how this relates to writing. I know I'd be wondering that about now. Fact is, in my life I have Steel Wool People. These are not the cuddly ones, the encouragers, the smilers. These Steel Wool People are the abrasive ones who get under the grease and grime I let myself sink into. Present and past, they get under the dirt and scrub me clean again in a way that the soft scrubbers, the huggers and encouragers can't. 

Don't get me wrong. I love the huggers. I'm a hugger. I'm a weird mix of hugger and steel wool. I don't have a name for me. My mother, though, she was the best sort of encourager. She hugged me every day. She told me how smart, how valuable, how loved I was all the time. She showed me how to love others and her words of love could fend off the words that bully even when she wasn't around to see that happen. She was the first person to tell me that the opinions of people I didn't know, who didn't love me, didn't matter. I got through a lot of teasing that way and held my head high because I knew she loved me all the time, no matter how grimy I got, metaphorically speaking. (If I needed a bath, then she pulled no punches!) 

But I'm talking about the other folks, like my Father. He hugged me too, and loved me, there's no doubt, but he was a straight shooter. He was The Steel Wool Man, for sure. The truth-sayer, the drill sergeant. He was the one who said the hard things in hard ways because he knew when I needed a push to shake off the bad habit or the self-indulgence that left me dull and less efficient to the task at hand. Like steel wool, he scoured away the old -- the self-pity, the depression, the fear of not being good enough -- and left me ready for the lavish love my parents together bestowed. He was not unkind to me, ever, nor rude. He did not pick on me, or make fun of me. He got to the root of the problem and helped strengthen the me within fighting her way out. And when I shined, he pointed to how bright I was. 

He told me two things about my first novel that make me "shine" even to this day. He said, "I didn't know my little girl knew so much about war," and "there's too much sex." Honest, loving and abrasive. (No, you won't see that novel anytime soon. ;D Maybe someday. Minus the sex because if there is another thing I've learned from my Steel Wool People when it comes to writing, it's that less is more.)

I had a teacher in high school who was a Steel Wool Man in some respects. When one assignment had us choosing poems by our favorite poets, I choose Kipling. What? I was 17! I had a sore throat, so when I had to read my poem, I apologized. I introduced the poem and he said, "We'll forgive you for Kipling." I didn't know then what his objections were. I understand now and I look back on it as a very Steel Wool comment. 

My writing partner, Robin, is Steel Wool for me and my writing, through and through. She knocks off the rough, gets down to the bare metal and the result is brilliant.

These people, the huggers included, inspire my writing, I try to give my characters some Steel Wool People in their lives so that the hero is never really standing alone, even when the Bad Guys think he is. The heroine is kicking butt and taking names because within her soul she has the steel of such people embedded. It keeps her grounded and keeps her moving. 

They keep me moving. My husband is a Steel Wool Man and I love him for it more every single day. He polishes me and doesn't let me sink into those defeating habits which can drag me down. He makes me shine so that I can paint the world with the light I create. My sons and daughter tell it straight, too, and my daughter's help with my tales is invaluable. Thanks to them, I'm no where near done giving off sparks. 

Who makes you shine? Who are your Steel Wool People?

Friday, May 2, 2014

New First Friday Feature

Thanks for joining me and my fellow writers for:



We've all been very busy this month. Patricia is editing, Robin is moving and at my house, the end of the semester approaches. My three children are all in college heading into finals week. In addition to listening to speeches, assisting with projects and generally being mom, I am busily pounding out my current first draft of the first book in the Sons of the Dead series. 

This means that on this fine First Friday my fellow Quills and I aren't presenting a topic. Instead, we're taking this opportunity to introduce a new, once a quarter spot on Social Media. We'll be talking about things like how to connect with readers, how to world-build and share samples through the various available apps for the computer, tablet and phone. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Wattpad and Pinterest will be just a few of the ones we're going to toss around. 

I hope you'll join us next month! 

Author of As the Crow Flies and two short stories
Robin's Website


Author of Oathtaker
Patricia's Website

Author of the short story Sanguis Dei and the poetry collection: Light and Dark  

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Our Favorite Reads Could Become Yours!

Thanks for joining me and my fellow writers for our First Friday Feature:



Author of As the Crow Flies and two short stories
Robin's Website

The collection of books I like is pretty large, but the Books I Love are actually few. I considered Lawhead’s Hood, but Kristie nabbed that right up. No surprise, there! (And with good reason, too.) I talk about Tad Williams’s series, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn rather a lot, so it’s clearly time for something else. If you haven’t read the Damiano Books (I’ve also seen them in a one-volume set called Trio for a Lute) you are missing a real treat.

Damiano is set against the backdrop of the Italian Renaissance where faith-based magic is real. A wizard’s son, an innocent, a musician, Damiano is befriended and instructed by the archangel Raphael. To save his city from war, he sets out on a quest to find a powerful sorceress. Along the way he is beset by betrayal, disillusionment, and death—and still he must confront the power and darkness within himself in order to protect those he loves. Damiano wants to use his powers for good, yet he’s certain that since he’s a witch he’s automatically damned.

MacAvoy’s prose is beautifully lyrical, and her settings come alive with allusions to historical events, people, and society. The characters are real, they’re believable, and they face truly difficult issues. She has a talent for revealing how lovely, wonderful and terrible the world can be, and how difficult the struggle to know what’s right and wrong.


Author of Oathtaker
Patricia's Website

Recently I read a couple works I found worthy of including in my list of favorites: the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson and the Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks. In the Sanderson stories, characters “spin” magic via their use of different metals. In the Weeks stories, colors fuel the magic. I found only one real fault with Mistborn. While Sanderson drew a believable young female protagonist, she was not “whole” for me, perhaps because I found the relationships somewhat lacking. Having said that, the magic system is highly creative and great fun. As to the Lightbringer series, I found the characters fun and believable and the personal relationships, which are central to the story, satisfying and genuine. As a bonus I laughed out loud—fairly frequently.

As I consider these tales, I see a common denominator: each delivers a “new” world and unique magic. For Sanderson, it is the characters’ use of metals to “read” others’ emotions, bring about certain events, travel and communicate. For Weeks, it was the magic of colors to create things and the way those who wield the magic of different colors are prone to certain personality characteristics. These authors delivered something outside the standard fantasy tale (complete with a wizard and a troll and a fairy and an elf … and so on and so on). Each delivered a new kind of magic and a new category of fantasy character. Best of all, each opened a new world to me—a world in which I lost myself—if only for a time …

Author of the short story, Sanguis Dei and a poetry collection, Light and Dark

When faced with the topic for this first Friday, Books We Love, I immediately considered the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but a commentary or review of any of those would take far more than my allotted space. Besides, by now, everyone knows the tale because of the movies.

Instead, let me share with you my love for author Stephen Lawhead and his revisionary telling of the story of Robin Hood in his King Raven Trilogy consisting of Hood, Tuck and Scarlet.

In Hood, we are introduced to a young man--heir to his father's lands--who takes only his own pleasure seriously. When Norman invaders arrive and wreck havoc, he tries to buy back the land, but finds himself pursued, his life in danger. He abandons his father's kingdom and people and runs to hide in the greenwood. There, Bran ap Brychan discovers the old growth forest in Wales is more than meets his wayward eye. He must come to grips with the mystery of this living, breathing entity. More than that, he must claim it in order to survive and become what he is truly meant to be: no common thief as the Nomans think, but a man with a mission ordained by forces far beyond his ken.

Lawhead writes with enviable knowledge. His research is deep and reveals fresh, relatable insights to times gone by. He draws the reader into the intricacies of politics, intrigue and life of ancient times that are not so very different from our own. His writing reflects in subtle and clever ways on our modern ideals and behaviors. I enjoy reading his books more than once--the mark of a great author. When I do, I am drawn again into a kinship with my own Welsh ancestors and Lawhead makes me yearn for that rich past.


Join us next month for a new topic!

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Question of Honor

Welcome back to our First Friday Feature of our Fantasy writers group:



This month, we are asking our main characters (yes, our fictional characters - what, you don't have imaginary people in YOUR head?) a two part question: Do you consider yourself honorable? Why or why not?

I think the answers took us to some interesting places! See for yourself ...


Author of As the Crow Flies and two short stories
Robin's Website

When I first thought about which character I would ask this question, I leaned strongly toward Sherakai dan Tameko, the protagonist of my current work-in-progress. And why not? He’s one of my favorite fictional people and often on my mind, particularly as I’m writing his story. But… there was Crow, leaning against the doorframe with his arms folded and that familiar cheeky gleam in his eyes.

Here is his answer, in his own words:

Honorable? I declare that I am, although my friend Tanris will gladly tell you that my perspective is completely off kilter when it comes to morality of any kind. He exaggerates. Let me ask you this: is it honorable to watch my friend's back? Yes, and I have watched Tanris’s on numerous occasions, and do not listen to him when he snidely asserts that it’s because I always let him go first into dangerous situations. Of course I do. He's the warrior, not I.

Is it honorable to teach young people a profession and to always be aware of their surroundings? Yes, and I am in the process of teaching our young ward everything I know. Well, most of what I know. We’ll see if some day she warrants such extensive knowledge. Tanris, of course, disapproves of my part of the curriculum. She should be taught honesty and hard work, integrity and other such lofty characteristics. I agree.

It's important to be able to tell if you’re being lied to.

It's important to recognize the hard work of others. Their education will net a better profit.

And integrity, my friend, is a two-edged sword. Even a non-warrior knows that. High moral principles can put a man in an uncomfortably tight spot. One needs a certain amount of flexibility in their integrity.

Is it honorable to ignore the gifts of the gods? They have bestowed upon me unequaled talents and skills. I turn a blind eye to them at my own peril.

Is it honorable to save the lives of countless countrymen? Yes, I say! And I humbly assert that I have done so—at much personal risk. Yes, yes, I will give credit where it is due: Without Tanris's strong arm, sharp blade, and peerless brawn my efforts might have gone unrewarded. As it is, the reward isn’t exactly tangible. Yet…


Author of Oathtaker
Patricia's Website

The question posed to me, Mara Richmond, an Oathtaker bound by a life oath I willingly swore for the protection of my charge, is: am I honorable? I ask myself what it means to be honorable. I suppose it is to act in accordance with principles of fairness and integrity; to be worthy of high respect; to be creditable. Great Ehyeh, I know I seek to be honorable, but can I truly say that I am or, even if I am at this moment, that I will continue to be so?

When I swore a life oath to protect my charge, I put my own life on hold and received, in exchange, continued youth. For so long as my charge lives, I am bound by rules that forbid me from a life with another. I sought to become an Oathtaker, trained for years to do so because—well, because I was running from a family that used me and, truth to tell, from a promise I had made and—and had failed to keep. Now I find myself bound by an oath, the breaking of which could cost me my very life, and I wonder if I will have the strength to see this through to the end.

Who could have known, who could have guessed, that within just heartbeats of my taking my vow, I would meet Dixon? Who could have known, who could have guessed that in the same moments within which I spoke those fateful words Dixon would be released from a similar vow he had previously sworn? Now, I find myself searching for understanding. How could Ehyeh, the master and creator of all things, have allowed this to happen? Am I bound to spend the life of my charge with a heart I fear may simply stop beating? I never intended to love him. Having been betrayed in the past, I thought I was immune. . . .

When Dixon, who was freed from his oath upon Rowena’s passing, looks at another, my heart trips. But should he not seek happiness now? If I were truly honorable, would I not encourage him to find another? He has become my right hand, my confidant, my friend, my— No, not my lover. That would be a breach of my oath that would have me removed from my station. But it does not mean that I do not long to be. . . .

Then, there are the girls, my charge, Reigna and Eden, the first ever twins born of the Select, clearly foretold in prophecy, and the current ranking members of the first family. Even if I wanted to deny my vow and abandon them to be with Dixon, even if the cost of such treason would not ultimately be my own life, could I do so? They are but infants, yet I am all they have ever known; I was there from their beginning. Would anyone else know them as I do, love them as I do? Would anyone else be willing to sacrifice for them? What cost would come of my abandoning them? Besides, if not me, then who? To leave them would mean I would have no say in determining in whose care they would be kept. Moreover, suppose I did break my vow and abandon the girls, would Dixon not anticipate that one day I would break any vow I might have made to him? Would he not always doubt me, watch for my failure? I remind myself that I have failed before. Would Dixon’s inability to trust me be a price I would be willing to pay?

So, I return to the question at hand: am I honorable? I suppose time will tell. But for this Oathtaker, being a woman of honor means living in the state of pain that comes from loving someone while subject to my oath, someone I long for but cannot have. . . .

Author of the short story, Sanguis Dei and a poetry collection, Light and Dark

As I often do when issues arise, I sit in my office chair and look to the other seating in the office waiting for one of my characters to "have a seat" as it were. Mikkayl Arrayn, main character of my current work in progress, takes a seat. Mikkayl is a half-elf mage, cursed (as he sees it) with the ability to see visions of the future. He doesn't just sit down, mind you. He relaxes. He dusts back a raven curl from his temple and his bright blue eyes sparkle. He sprawls a bit in the chair, one leg over the cushioned arm, casually barefoot. He rests his hands comfortably on his muscled belly. He's wearing a burgundy shirt open at the neck where gold thread embroiders the mandarin style collar over cream colored knee pants. Mikkayl dresses impeccably in simple elegance. Opulence is not his way, but he would look so very good in opulence. 

So, there he sits and I pose the question at hand. Here is his answer—

Mikkayl Arrayn: Honor is judged on such a varying scale. "Do I consider myself honorable?" According to whom? According to the people I've helped, yes. According to the people I've hurt, no. Those I've hurt would call me - and have called me - scoundrel, demon, halfer - all manner of not-so-nice things. Even those I've helped would lift me above what I am to make something more out of me and I, scoundrel that I am, would like the praise. Is that honorable? I don't think so. So, no, I do not consider myself to be honorable. Why I don't is not the sort of thing one talks about in polite company.

Even so, you've asked me and I rather like you, so I will endeavor to explain.

I know what I've done. One does not forget the motion that takes a life or the feel of blood splattered across the skin of the hand that has shed it. The cloying smell of death clings to memory. I've made choices that hurt those who have done no wrong, for no greater reason than to save my own skin. There is no honor in that. I have defended the one I care for above all others, hurt others I care for to do so and not always because it was the right thing to do but because I could not live without him. And then, in an effort to save myself pain I did not think I could endure, I have hurt him; a thing unforgivable.

I am not honorable. I am loyal. I see the good I ought to do and endeavor to do it. I try to be fair-minded, but honorable? I have a very long way to go to be honorable by a standard that I respect, and I am in no hurry to get there. For instance, if I thought you would hurt my bond mate, I would skin you alive and feed you, living piece by living piece, to the dragon. I would savor every drop of your blood and every scream you uttered.

That is not honorable.


Join us next month for a new topic!

Friday, December 20, 2013

To my Brothers and Sisters in Christ

Dear brothers and sisters,

Let me start with this:

Luke 2
Living Bible (TLB)

About this time Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the nation. (This census was taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

Everyone was required to return to his ancestral home for this registration. And because Joseph was a member of the royal line, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, King David’s ancient home—journeying there from the Galilean village of Nazareth. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was obviously pregnant by this time.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born; and she gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn.

That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly an angel appeared among them, and the landscape shone bright with the glory of the Lord. They were badly frightened, but the angel reassured them.

“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem! How will you recognize him? You will find a baby wrapped in a blanket, lying in a manger!”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven,” they sang, “and peace on earth for all those pleasing him.”

When this great army of angels had returned again to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Come on! Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They ran to the village and found their way to Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. The shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story expressed astonishment, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and often thought about them.

Then the shepherds went back again to their fields and flocks, praising God for the visit of the angels, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had told them.

I watched A Charlie Brown Christmas last night.
I've read all about Phil Robertson this week and A&E's reaction.

Let me ask you: What is Christmas all about?

Is our faith a card? Is it a toy to be sold? Do we "Duck the halls"? Why should we even deck the halls at Christmas, buying light strand after strand, wreaths and trees and gifts? I submit we do these things for US, for our pleasure and Not in honor of an infant and a moment's fleeting peaceful expression on the face of a troubled teen mother who KNOWS her son is born to save the world. Though we like to pretend it's because of "Baby Jesus" or quiet snowfalls or Peace on Earth (I don't think I know what peace on earth looks like outside the sleeping face of an infant, honestly.) I suggest that if we celebrate it ought to be because of the whole package.

We have a problem, my beloved. Even we who claim the Name of Christ forget -oh, so often!- that we were born separated from the love of God by the sin of our parents and theirs all the way back to the first people who defied their Creator and named themselves Authority. Yet, unaccountably from our point of view, God loved what he had made. Us! He loved us. He saw all we did wrong. He saw all the ways in which we defied him every single damned day of our damned existences, but he made a promise that his love for us was stronger than our sin. That was always his promise; it was not a contingency plan. He knew when he made us that we were good, not perfect and that we were not going to survive on our own.

What was that word? Sin? What *is* sin, anyway? Someone famous recently defined sin by starting with something he considered to be sin: homosexuality. That's like defining a circle by saying it's circular. To be honest, I believe that we like to comfort ourselves by starting at such a point. We like to say, "Wow, yeah! Never been there! Whew, dodged that bullet! That sure is sin!" Now, I know that's not what he meant and anyone who really reads what he said will understand that he actually meant so much more than that. But for the rest of us, really? "Never been there"? When we do that, we fail to "get it" Big time.

To understand the sinking ship we're in, to understand "sin" we must begin by starting with perfection. We must look at the one who knew no sin and did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. I'm talking about Jesus, the Son of God. The one sent to redeem. Did you know that he, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his advantage? Instead, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-- even death on a cross! You can read that in the book of Philippians. Do you get what I'm saying here? He made himself nothing! He was born in that lowly stable with the smell of animal feces and dust and blood and water and all sorts of people coming and going to save US from the depths of our willful rejection of God's authority over us.

Oh, My Amazing God.

Sin, my beloved, is every lack of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God! Sin is not just murder or adultery or stealing or wanting what others have. It's not *only* sex outside of marriage. By the way, that's Biblically defined as EVERY kind of sex outside of marriage - get it? That thing you called a "fling" in college with the co-ed, BOOM! That's sin, brother, or -hey- sister. It wasn't "innocent exploration" it was against the law of God. You with me? We're ALL in the SAME boat. Remember, I'm talking to those who already claim the Name of Christ. Sin is our quiet "white lies" that we think "hurt no one". It is OUR laughter at the inappropriate joke that takes someone made in the image of God and makes fun of them. It is OUR love of money over God. It is OUR failure to love our children and our frequent, almost gleeful attitude of frustrating them to the point of anger. Sin is putting our wants, our desires before the soul penetrating worship of the One who made us. We need to repent, beloved.

Sin is debt. Sin is buying that "one last Christmas present" on credit when you KNOW you haven't got the money and shouldn't spend what you haven't got. But you do it anyway because, "Hey, it's Christmas!" Jesus didn't come to be born, to live a perfect life and to die so that you and I could get that Wii U for our kids when they're already treating their bodies less like the temple of God and more like the temple of Consumerism. Was he born in that stable so that we could buy stocking stuffer Duck Dynasty iced-tea cups and Si-gnomes or bobble heads for everyone on our foolish "lists"? No. By God, no.

Now, before you all decide to lynch me, understand that I love giving gifts. I think it is a fine thing to honor God in that way, but often it gets in the way of the truth we need to be telling one another. He was born, grew and in his thirties died a gut-wrenching, suffocating, horrifying death on a cross So that WE could do our jobs - and that job, my brothers and sisters is to go to others around us who are dead in those very same sins we so like to live in every day and show them the ONE who makes them alive. He lived again so we could be made alive! Do you remember that? He lives so that we could stop being conformed to this dying world and be transformed by the renewing of our minds! That renewal doesn't happen watching programs on A&E, either.

It doesn't help anyone to point to one sin and say, "start here and move outward." Every single day we still sin against God. In every thought that is not captive to the will of Christ. In every moment we conform to a world that values things above our fellow men and our fellow men above the Almighty who lives and reigns forever and alone deserves our utmost praise.

The good news is that when Jesus died, so violently and painfully on that monstrosity of a cross that we like to turn gold and wear around our necks and give as gifts (I know, I have several. I keep them, but I've stopped wearing them - I'm not saying you should, it was my personal conviction), he broke the power of sin. Sin was cancelled by his blood for everyone who believes. The ONLY reason we're not headed straight to Hell, where, by the by, we were headed on our own before he saved us (eternal separation from God IS the essence of Hell, my friends and it does not start when we die, it starts when we are born in rejection of God. Jesus plucks us from that road.) - the only reason is because God intervened and died for us to restore us. But sin - it is ALL the SAME. That lie you told to your boss about being sick last week when you really weren't? That's the SAME as having sex outside of God's perimeters for sex. That putting someone down because they wore socks with sandals, calling them names or thinking you're somehow better than them because they aren't ... well, *you*... is the SAME, in the eyes of God, worth the same death of his beloved Son, as murdering the unborn. There are no "worse" or "not as bad" sins, see. There are sins that have consequences greater than we can imagine because of the number of people they damage - but we damage ourselves with each sin committed. Nevertheless, these things can all be forgiven by the shed blood of Jesus, resurrected by the power of the Father.

You and I, we need the Savior. If you think you know him and you find "little" lies okay, then you don't. If you think you know him and you mock or slander someone's sin as "worse" than yours, or someone who is "different" from you; if you think it's fine, as it seems a lot of folks who call themselves Christians do by making fun of those they call homosexuals rather than getting to know them and loving them as Jesus commanded, then you don't know him.

The shepherds told everyone about what the angels said - the Messiah is born! Salvation is at hand, people!

Christmas is not about taking up banners and shouting "Merry Christmas!" to drown out those saying "Happy Holidays" when they don't know what you celebrate. How sad that our love for Jesus isn't so obvious on our faces and in our treatment of others that they know we celebrate Christmas at a glance. Christmas is not about defending a wealthy brother who maybe should have been more circumspect in defining sin by the God we sin against rather than the sins we commit. I'm fairly certain he can defend himself - but I do stand by his right to speak his faith and, as with all who defend what they believe, to endure the results of proclaiming those beliefs. We should never doubt for a moment that the world will come after us for stating what we believe. There is no tolerance for faith in God among the living dead.

That's not the point of this article, however; or the point of Christmas.

My point, my hope for you this Christmas is that you get to know Jesus. Re-Learn what Christmas is ALL about: the Son of God who was born to exhausted parents in that stinky stable for the hope that his horrible death on that cross would bring because HE LIVES again for YOU and for ME and everyone, every single person that he has chosen to make his own.

That's the Good News and that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Hark, the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

-Charles Wesley

As an interesting aside, if you are curious about what the Robertson family has to say about Phil's interview and the subsequent uproar, read here: The Robertson Official Family Statement.