Letters to my Son: Letter 3

Dear Son,

I write to you again because I love you. You already know this, I hope, but I can’t help but remind you. It’s truly a gift of God, that I can love you as this, even not knowing whose nose you’ll have, if you’ll have my wide, flat feet or your mother’s beautiful ankles, or my family’s weird tooth gap or her family’s perfect teeth. I can love you because you are my son, infinitely precious in the eyes of the God who gave life to my rotting bones.

Hard times come upon us all the time. It is rare the season of life that is without trouble. My prayer is that God will bless you and I and your mother, that your childhood at least should be happy and innocent. But I know that when you become a man yourself, you too will have to shoulder the burdens of life, and this fallen world being as it is, you are likely to have to bear that yoke earlier rather than later.

Sometimes those hard times may not even be ‘that bad.’ There are people starving in Africa, after all. Terror in Afghanistan, Siege in Syria, Oppression in China, Spiritual Desolation in Japan, Nuclear Threat from North Korea, Cartels in Colombia – suffering abounds wherever you look. Here in America, we have it as easy as anyone ever has. We have so much food that our number one disease is over-eating. Everyone who has somewhere to live has a phone, electricity, TV or Netflix (TV may not exist by the time you’re born), and likely at least one personal computer in the house.

And with as much as we have materially, we have a poverty of the spirit. Our neighbors often as not know nothing of God, and live their lives as though all there were to it was their paycheck and their bills, the concrete all about and the toys they distract their aching hearts with in the few hours of free time they have. Though we’re well kept, we live as slaves to our toil. We may not have a Pharaoh and his taskmasters to whip us, but nowadays we’re more than capable of doing the job ourselves. We’ll lash ourselves into a frenzy to get the newest gadgets, shame ourselves into toiling the long hours for the approval of others, and crush our hopes until we can push through our labors with dull, glassy eyes.

And yet my son, the answer is not to run away. Sin has covered the world all the same, that all men and women live unfree, born to toil with the sweat of their brow. The freedom the world promises you will leave you broken, enslaved to chasing the next pleasure and grinding down your bones for grist to buy a precious second of fleeting amusement.

The answer is to find the right master. The master of the Earth will take everything away from you, whether you saw that in the contract or not. But the Master of the Heavens, the Lord of the Universe, the One Who Is – there is nothing you can give Him that He does not own. He will never ask of you more than you can give, for everything you have He gave to you first.

My son, your work here on Earth is not for a paycheck. It is not to feed yourself. It is not for joy, for glory, for achievement nor pride nor satisfaction of a basic sense of manliness. I have worked for all these reasons, and I have seen how hollow they become when the going gets tough.

The only reason that can keep you satisfied as you sweat your life into the dust is the Promise. The Promise that when this transient life is through, all that which the World promised but could never fulfill will be given to us in its most perfect and holy, original and just form. The Promise that though this life is filled with strife and aching labor, the life which God promises is one where we shall never sleep, because our rest will be in the Lord. We will never need eat, for God shall satisfy our hunger. We will never lust, for God’s love will be enough. There across that far sea, there shall be no need of tears, for in the final days, God Himself shall descend to us as Christ come again to wipe away our tears.

We labor because God has placed us in labor to reach those whom He desires be saved. And before you worry about being worthy of fulfilling God’s purpose – trust in Him. He made you, and He knows you. And if it seems that you cannot do what He asks you to do – have faith. Pray. Our God does not make mistakes. Your seeming failure now may become later the seeds of faith in another, or shall be the cement which strengthens your faith in His Providence.

He is God, the Three in One and One and Only. To know His Will, read His Word, heed its wisdom, and obey His commands.

I love you, my Son.

Love,

Dad

Letter to My Son: Letter II

Dear Beloved Son,

Father’s Day was yesterday, and quite by accident, I happened to write a letter to you on that day. The coincidence amused me as I went to bed a few hours ago, and now I’m awake again, and I have another letter to write to you.

I thought I’d remind you that I love you. I want to admonish you to remember that, even when it seems to you like I don’t. I want to tell you that when you are thinking this, tell me. The case should never be that I don’t love you – I don’t know how it can ever be true. I love you, even now, when I have not yet beheld your face, nor even placed the ring on the finger of your mother.

When it seems as if my face is turned away from you, it is not because my love has dried up. It is because I am an imperfect father, and like my father before me, I’m not always good at showing my love. I know this will be the case even if I do become worthy of being called your father and your mother’s husband.

I want to warn you son, that we all go through rough times. Even now, the woman whom I think will be your mother is in Japan, having just survived an earthquake, with an even worse one waiting to happen. She is now asleep, trusting in the Lord to keep her safe – and her worry is not for her safety, but for social isolation from her missionary team.

Loneliness can kill you son. Even if you’re like me, and you shun human company, preferring to immerse yourself in your own thoughts and musings, the loneliness will gnaw away at the fabric of your being until there’s nothing left but bone. Irregardless of our inclinations, God did not make us to be alone. He made us to have a partner, He made us to assemble before Him, and He made us to be with Him in the garden, until we turned our faces away from Him who loved us.

You will meet people you don’t like. You may end up like me and mostly meet people that, though probably nice as can be, you don’t want to give the time of day to spend with. The thing to remember is not your standards, what you want, your desires, what you need, but what they need. It is those who seem to have it the most together who are often dying on the inside, stricken by loneliness, besieged by sin, suffering under spiritual assault, or languishing in the thirst of their soul in a barren world.

The secret to being content in your friends is not necessarily to find the ones whose interests and hobbies you share, for while those friends may be amusing to distract yourself with, if you have nothing deeper in common you will be ever thirsty for something that you can’t name.

The secret to friendship is to love your friend more than yourself. To give up your time and your affections for another person without demanding likewise in return is to imitate Christ, the Christ to whom I pledge my life, the Christ who laid down His life for we who killed him, the Christ who came to preach forgiveness to sinful Man, knowing that we would ridicule Him for it.

Do not merely treat others as you would treat yourself. Serve others with your heart and soul, and you will find that not only are they happy, your own cup of joy shall overflow, welling up into a spring of eternal life, if you do this in the name of Christ.

You are not alone, my son. For if one part of the body of Christ suffers, so do we all. If one cries, all mourn. If one laughs, all cheer with her, and if one prays, so all shall we join in, being of one Spirit and one Brother and one Father. I have more to say on this, so I’ll write again soon, but know this:

I love you. Your mother loves you. And most importantly,

God loves you. To the stars and planets and seas and animals He spoke and they came into being, but for you, He took clay and molded you in His hands, in His image, and gave you His own breath of life. He did not merely command of you to be – He made you with care and love, before even the foundation of the world.

Love,

Dad

Letters to my Son: Letter I

Dear Son,

Son, I’m writing this to you because I love you. I don’t know you yet, but I hope that when we meet, I will be a man you can happily call Dad.

But until we meet, there’s a lot that I have to do. I’m not your father yet. I’m a rotten man, a hypocrite, a rebel and a stubborn goat who will hear the truth preached to him all the day long and still not heed the words of wisdom. I’m unworthy in every way to be your father, and it frightens me that I might never become that man.

Or it would, if I did not have a better Father of my own. He’s not the man whose funny crooked teeth or thick hair I inherited, but He has been as much of and far more of a father than the one who conceived me.

To point, I want to be a good father to you. My father provided for me, but there’s quite a few lessons and points of guidance which he never gave to me, but which God graciously provided to me by His providence when I needed it, and even now He continues to lead me for His namesake – and I fully expect that when I see you, He will still be guiding us, me and you both. He is your Father too, and He knows you better than I ever will, for He made you with His hands, and breathed life into you in your mother’s womb.

I’m a writer, my son. That means that when God gives me good thoughts and words, I write them down. Right now, in my youth, it doesn’t seem like there’s much else that I’m good for, so it’s what I do whenever I’m not earning my wages. And that is one of the tough truths that we have to wrestle with under God. There are things we want to do, things we would want to spend all our days doing nothing but, and yet we cannot. Writing is not profitable. It is risky even to try to make a subsistence living as a writer, because unlike a standard 9 to 5 job, there’s no benefits package and no overtime pay. You live off of royalties, advances, and ad-revenue, depending on what you write. You have to practice for years just to get into the craft, and then once you’re in, you can never stop practicing.

And right now son, I’m afraid. I’m ashamed. I’m not brave enough to risk it all to get my dream career. I’m afraid of shaming myself in the eyes of those who love me by forsaking conventional labors for my writing. I’m afraid that I am just indulging laziness by wishing for this. I’m afraid that I would be acting in pride to gratify the desires of my flesh, and forsaking the God who has delivered me from my sins many and myriad. I’m ashamed already at the ungodly desires of my heart, the unrighteous intentions of my flesh, of my weakness in entertaining these traitorous thoughts.

Son, there will be a great many people in your life who will tell you to ‘pursue your dreams.’ They will tell you life is an open book, that the possibilities are limitless, that the world is your oyster.

They are lying to you. The world is not an oyster, it is a barren field. There is much possibility in it, but to extract from the bitter soil your dreams will require of you undying toil, remarkable luck, and toil again until your very bones wear out. To fulfill all your earthly desires by your own hands will consume you like a flame until you come to the end of your road and wonder what you gave up your life for.

Do not desire the things of this world. Even good and glorious things like fame, like doing something you love for a living, these things should not be your heart’s desire. Your desire must be in the Lord, or you will die unsatisfied. I know, because I chased these things and even baser desires for too long in my life, ignoring the appeals God made so gently upon my heart.

Please, my Son – do not be like me. I am not proud of my writing. I am good at it, and I know I was unarguably better at it than many of my peers in school. And there is some joy when I write well, a finely put together sentence, a good day which brought forth more words than usual. And if you become a writer like me, my son, by no means do I discourage you.

But if you are a writer, I want you to do one of two things. If you want to write because you want your name on book covers, because you enjoy it, because you’re good at it – don’t quit your day job. Secure your living first, and indulge your passion when the sun sets. Please, think hard before you give your life to art.

Did I say two things?

My son, no matter how much I want to give you that dream, of being able to do nothing but write for a living – I can’t offer it to you now. I don’t have that dream. I wonder if I even have the self-discipline to manage it if I wasn’t so hemmed in by shame.

God loves you. And if God wills it, it will happen. But when you pray to our Father, you cannot have doubt. You must know what you want, want it truly, want it for the right reasons (read: the glory of God’s Kingdom, the salvation of the unredeemed, and the deliverance of His people), and be faithful that God can do all things.

The Lord knows no doubt. He knows no fear, none of the vacillation that you see in this letter. He is not afraid of being shamed, He is not afraid for His reputation or his 401K or His marriage prospects. He is our bold and fearless King, who humbles all the wicked and proud of this world and heals the sick, feeds the hungry, and shelters the weary. It is our good and gracious God who liberated me from the lusts which consumed my whole being, our kind and merciful God who spared my grandparents from rapacious invaders and conveyed them safely to America, our holy and generous God who gave to me the woman who will be your mother, blessing me a million times in excess of that which I deserve – including by giving me you to rear and teach.

All the gifts you will enjoy, from your food, to your shelter, to your parents (hi there) to the nature present as it may be, to every single talent and ability of your body and mind – all these come from God, and they are purposed for His glory – that all should hear His Word, call upon His name, and be rescued from their evil. As our God smites the wicked so He also redeems them, saving awful sinners like me, who did only evil in His sight with no regard for good.

Our God – and I hope your God – is a delightful savior, who makes my heart sing with joy as I write this very line. For I know that a day will come when these worries will trouble me no more, when I will finally find rest when all I have known is toil. I love my God because He is good, because He first loved me when I was unlovable, and never expected a single thing in return but that I would believe in Him and look to Him as Father. And even these things are gifts from Him, to be given back to Him with loving shouts of praise.

I love you, son. I will write to you again soon. Please take to heart all that I have said, and treasure the wisdom I struggle to pass on to you.

May the peace of God be with you, offspring of mine.

Sincerely,

Dad.

Le Tome of Bread – Le Origine

Pierre, Le Tome of Bread – the First Bake

Foreword: this story is best read aloud in an exaggerated French accent. It just is.

Pierre wasn’t, and then he was. In the musty darkness of the bakery, Pierre knew nothing, though he held many words within his pages. And then, suddenly, he knew – not quite everything – but he knew a lot more then he did before.
Mostly about bread.
But the precise origins of how Pierre came to be are not a subject for a storyteller such as I – that is a topic for a wizard, or perhaps a bookbinder to tackle. I can only speak of Pierre’s deeds, not his birth.
But I know that when Pierre came to be, he was in a bit of a shock for a while.
He was rather passive with his fate. First the baker who owned him was baffled, then terrified, and quickly accused his wife of being a witch, which was not quite true, but suffice it to say, having exposed her identity on accident, he was not bound long for this world. So Pierre changed hands after being left on the shelf of a friend’s house the day before his bakeshop home exploded in a ball of green fire, and demons rampaged through the city for several weeks as the now-moderately-infamous lich Naghali of Borkindor summoned moving demons to help relocate her lair from the sewers of the sleepy small town to a more scenic location in a cliff city perched over the Bottomless Pit of Pitiness. There was some confusion in the whole affair, and while no one was seriously hurt (except for Naghali’s unwitting husband, who was incidentally evaporated in her transformation except for his head which is even now kept in a jar), there was considerable confusion and mistaken property destruction due to unclear instructions to the demons on where exactly she wanted the black dragon yearlings kenneled.

In that time Pierre thought much about the contents of his pages, wondering what meaning these numbers and proportions had and these descriptions of sights, smells and tastes which before he never had known (not having a nose, or eyes, or tongue was something of an impediment to the newborn book.)
Until one day he was left on the counter while his new owner baked a loaf of bread to celebrate the defeat of the demonic invasion – and as he read out the recipe in Pierre’s pages, that old, leather bound book finally understood his purpose, and cried out in revelation, “No monsieur! That recipe is TERRIBLE! Use the one with the almonds! I promise you, you shall live forever!”
Unfortunately, his owner thought the demons were returning in book form, clutched his chest in agony, and died on the spot of a massive heart attack.
After a brief investigation by the city watch, during which Pierre continually cried out for someone to open his pages and finish the bread, the house was declared haunted, condemned, and scheduled for demolition. Just as the priest was blessing the demolition crews to enter the house and smash it down with hammers, an alchemist by the name of Gormiron, who had lost his house in the Great Moving Siege, ran in the door, sat in the hall, and declared he had squatting rights.
Frankly glad to be rid of the accident-prone alchemist (more on his reputation later), the city did not object, and Gormiron was given possession of the ‘haunted’ house. However, even now having a house with literally zero rent, Gormiron still struggled with a truly astronomical debt from his numerous failed experiments, and it seemed like they would throw him in the can, when he discovered he was not the only tenant of this dilapidated, moldy city cottage….

 

Would You Look At That

In the space of less than an hour, eight people liked a single post.

That’s the most I ever had.

And I thought it was a trash post.

Nothing earthshattering here (yet, anyways.)

Well, I don’t want this post to be entirely vestigial, (though I’m burning with scientific curiosity to figure out what gets the views and why) so I guess I’ll make it about something not so great and holy and mysterious as the Lord, since He has not yet struck me with words today.

But that will have to be in the next post, so as not to contaminate it with the inanity of this one.

The Flock

They look up to you,

Eyes brightly blinking,

Feathers ruffled and wings flapping,

Their little minds flitting-

A moment there, and a moment gone.

 

Small, darting, a blink of thought,

A twitch of sight, attention brought,

They’re not bright,

Incapable of flight –

Yet adoring all the same.

 

How eagerly from your hand they’ll eat,

Content to have the crumb of crust,

Overjoyed at a spatter of meal,

They hop over your toes,

About your legs circling and squawking.

 

What love and affection,

How simple and untroubled –

No creased forehead,

No mistrusting glares,

But the soft, tone-deaf cluck

Of contentment,

Harmony amateur.

 


 

A not particularly good poem I feel as though I practically vomited up. I couldn’t help it really.

I was just out feeding my chickens, and I suppose it’s a commonplace enough sight – but there’s something charmingly simple in the way they swarm over you, squawking and clucking and milling around your feet, staring up at your hand as they wait for grain to fall from your fingers with an eagerness comparable even to a Labrador. Sure, a cynic will be quick to point out, “They only love you for the food you give – you’re just a walking meal.”

True enough, but are we any better? How well can we trust the affection of those around us? Any cynic can, with sufficiently logical-sounding arguments, disassemble the whole of human relations into a series of trust-based transactions built on the necessity of cooperation for survival. In many ways your garden-variety corporation differs little from a flock of animals – to the cynic, both are merely a band of individuals who shelter together for their own individual well-being. If things get tough for other members, the only justification to helping them out is that it must benefit the self in some way. This is the extent of flesh relations, what the flesh and cerebellum alone can rationalize.

We are not good to one another because we are all human. If humanity were all we had to rely on – I can only point to the decadence of Rome, the savagery of Gaul, the depravity of the Levant, the myopic slave-mongering of the West African kingdoms, the bureaucratic tyranny of Imperial China, the callous culling present throughout every epoch of the Russian civilization, our own American history with slavery – and while some might cry that Man has often justified his actions with God’s own Book, allow me to highlight the operative clause:

Man has justified his actions.

It is when Man desires to justify himself that he leads himself into error, and abandons himself to his evil as thoroughly as the ignorant pagan.

This essay must be continued another time, sadly. But allow me to end on a message of hope, not despair.

Though Man is adrift in a sea of our own wretchedness, evil from head to toe, whether it be our hands or our muttering hearts which drip with blood, we have a savior. We have One who is better than us, One who, though receiving only hatred and contempt from His people, chose to love us past the point of death. He asks little of us, compared to what He has already given us in our lives here on Earth, even before we believe on His name. He loves us with a courage and a compassion palely reflected in the broken body of the mother who shields her child from bullets with her body; in the beating heart of the volunteer who for his small republic goes to battle against the pitiless foe, though he knows he will not return home; in the eyes of the king who wields the power to take life and liberty – and seeing a guilty man before him, broken and pleading for his life even as he admits his wretchedness – spares his life.

From God comes a love that neither you nor I will experience whilst trapped in our flesh. Only when freed by the Spirit will we taste of it, and only in the final sanctification within the halls of the New Jerusalem will we truly feast.

So, do not treat your fellows cynically. Do not mistrust their love or suspect them of manipulation. That is not for you to know. But merely imitate Your Lord, and love them ever more, and love Your Lord even moreso, with all your heart, body and soul. Upon these commands is founded the whole of His Law.

Race to the Red Light

It’s fun sometimes, on an afternoon drive home from the warehouse, to observe the people who around me are making the same commute.

Fun is too strong a word. Amusing is more appropriate.

Watch the Honda Odyssey swerve across four lanes of traffic to go screaming down an exit ramp doing 65 in what will soon be a 35 zone. Take note of the open topped Ferrari driving ten below the limit, inducing the flash orange Dodge Charger behind him to cut in front of you with inches to spare, gunning it only to get stuck behind a dump truck. Or maybe you’ll be making a turn down a small city road past empty parking spaces when a girl with a top-knot and a frappe blows through those parking spaces in her daddy’s Audi A8 and nearly removes your right side mirror. See the Cadillac Escalade who in rage guns it to get around you and races towards the red light 50 feet ahead.

Why do we want to go so fast (the Ferrari notwithstanding)? What do human beings get out of getting 50 feet closer to home, at the risk of pulling a stupid and killing themselves with erratic, wild driving?

And why does this impatience carry over into the rest of our lives?

I can only speak for myself, being neither God nor one of His angels – but I know that I’m impatient. I have a decent enough job cutting metal at 12 an hour, and I’m trying to figure out how to get to 50,000 a year (preferably in two years or less.) I already have a contract to write adventure supplements for an RPG, but I want to have a publishing mill for stories and books. I want to marry my girlfriend (now would be nice!) but – I’ll be brutally honest  with myself – I still struggle day and night to stay above the temptation to look at pornography, praying to God for courage and resolve and for forgiveness and mercy to this dirty wretch down here.

Everything in its own time comes – for every thing there is a season, so sayeth Solomon. And like so we are admonished again and again in the Proverbs to lean on the wisdom of God and not on our own understanding of the world: (3:5) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding.”

There is no profit in racing to the finish line, for first place in the race that we can run on our own feet of flesh and bone is death. Wait upon the Lord and run His marathon, and when your bones are all worn to dust and your flesh shriveled by time, though your feet will be tired, your soul will be rested. Wait for the Lord’s deliverance or seek your own salvation – one will see you safely aboard the Inheritance, and the other will find you bailing water out of a sinking hulk.

Worrying is like racing to a red light. God will deliver you when the time is right; why waste your gas?