Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday's Words for May 25, 2011

My heart goes out to the people of Joplin, Missouri, and to all the people who, over this very tumultuous spring, have endured hardship, displacement, and the loss of homes and loved ones.

How do we make sense of the senseless?

In my life when things have gone wrong, when there've been losses, or tragedies, after the shock has worn off, I try to step back and find some sort of value in the loss. It's not easy, but it does help me to cope.

I put myself into the frame of mind that all things are transitory, and that taking something negative and doing something positive with it is the ultimate victory.

This year, there have been so many instances of floods, fires, tornadoes and
earthquakes—so many occasions where nature has proven to us, time and again, that she's a powerful bitch not to be messed with. When you sit back and think of the number and magnitude of the natural disasters hitting humanity just this year so far, it's devastating.

No wonder so many people so easily believed the End of Days was near.

That sense isn't unique to here and now. There have been other times in our history when people likely felt the future looked just as bleak. Consider what it must have been like to be alive in 1918. The Great War was finally ending, the bloodiest and most devastating war in the history of man to that point. And then, young, healthy adults became ill, and died, of the Spanish flu. Some would go to bed healthy, and never wake up. By the time this great pandemic was over in 1920, between 40 and 50 million people had died.

I'm sure there were many then who believed they were reaching the End of Days, too.
We, who bear witness to the destruction that our friends and neighbors are forced to endure can help. We can donate money, clothing, and food. We can ensure that our local, state, and federal governments and agencies do not drag their heels in setting things to rights.

We can take time to appreciate all that we have, and at the same time recognize how capricious fate can be. I'm certain that most of those families whose homes were destroyed Sunday evening spent the hours before following their usual routines, making plans for the week to come, and never once considered that in such a brief period of time, everything they had would be gone forever.

Total loss of the things we collect, the things that help us define our lives is bad enough, and hard enough to bear; but it's really nothing when compared to the loss of people.

Sometimes you just can't fully recover from the sudden, senseless death of a loved one, of a parent, or spouse, of a sibling or a child.

If you have friends and family who've suffered the brunt of Mother Nature's fury this year, do not lose patience with them if they seem unresponsive to your efforts to assist and cheer them. Truly, there are no words to comfort those whose entire existence has been uprooted, whose family or friends have been torn so brutally from their lives.

Healing and recovery will take time, donations, and a constancy of care and love.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wednesday's Words for May 18, 2011

For those of you who have been faithful readers of mine since the beginning, you know that every once in a while I write an essay that gets me in a lot of hot water.

Today’s edition of Wednesday’s Words may be just such an occasion. I suppose I ought to preface this entire thing by saying, therefore, that the following is my own opinion which I am simply sharing with you for the purposes of discussion.

Apparently, there are a lot of people who believe that the day of Rapture has been revealed, and that day is May 21, 2011. If those who profess it are right, the world is going to face Judgement in just 3 days. Are you worried about this, or frightened by it?

I am not one to mock the faith of others. I truly believe that people ought to follow their hearts; God did, after all, give us free will. That means we are free to believe what we wish to believe, and do what we wish to do.

I don’t make it a habit to proselytize. Those of you who do read my essays on a regular basis doubtless know I am a Christian. I tend to live my faith quietly, saying my prayers in a closet, if you will, mainly because I read that in a Book.

This wonderful medium we use to communicate and learn and share can be used for great good, but it can also be used by anyone wishing to say anything at all. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, in my opinion. People ought to be able to express any opinion they choose to express, as long as they’re not breaking any laws. I have a personal line in the sand that tells me I will not slander anyone, nor threaten them, and that is a standard I believe is prudent.

Most of you who are reading this today are citizens of the United States of America, and you have your wonderful Constitutional right to free speech. I’m Canadian, and we don’t have exactly the same rights under law—but I still believe all should feel free to say what they will.

In the course of my life, I’ve witnessed—thanks to the ever growing, all-encompassing forms of mass communications—many who believe themselves to be modern-day prophets. Again, I’m not one to mock anyone’s faith. I try very hard not to judge others (I read that in a Book, too), for I firmly believe that in the end, it’s all between the individual and God.

One of things I’ve prayed for most often in my life is the blessing of discernment. Yes, I feel something in my heart, but how do I know it is real? I hear someone who has an opinion with regard to the Lord, or matters of faith, and the speaker is charismatic, and what he’s saying sounds good, but again, how do I know it is real?

The gift of discernment would seem to be one not given in abundance, but then I would submit the reason for that is it isn’t asked for in abundance. I believe if you ask for something faithfully you get it (yep, read that, too, in the same Book).

Life is hard enough and scary enough without those who have chosen to be our leaders, those who should be of sober mind and faithful conscience instilling more fear in the hearts of the people who look to them for guidance.

The answer I received when I prayed for discernment with regard to matters spiritual was so simple, I should have realized it on my own. I just ask myself, “is it Scriptural”?

You see, I believe the Lord doesn’t make things complicated for us. He knows our limitations. We don’t have to jump through hoops and send x number of e-mails to prove ourselves to Him. We don’t have to engage in complicated calculations, translating from ancient texts to try and extrapolate dates and times, and seasons, to find the truth, or to be faithful.

All we have to do is answer that one question: is it Scriptural? And with regard to the belief that the world will end on May 21st, according to Matthew 25:13, the answer is no.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wednesday's Words for May 11, 2011

I, and three of my best writing friends spent last week at our very own private writers’ retreat. We decided after the short one we had last September that we’d do it again, and for a week this time. No hotel for us. Instead, we rented a house for our week together.

We arrived on Kiawah Island early Sunday afternoon, after spending Saturday night in downtown Charleston. Having checked in with the rental agency, we received our island “pass”, a slip of paper that would grant us access to the island, and was to be displayed on the dash of our car; but the house wasn’t ready for us, so we decided to go for lunch—after we drove by the house, first.

Kiawah Island is a residential, gated community with private homes, a lot of golf courses, and, as we discovered while driving toward our rental house, alligators.

At least that’s what the sign said. We did wonder if we would have the opportunity to see one during the week. Personally, I thought it was doubtful. After all, we were planning on spending almost all of our time at the house, writing. We weren’t planning on any sight-seeing excursions at all.

We had no formal structure for our week; half vacation, half retreat, we’d do what we wanted, when we wanted. We’d brainstorm, we’d chat—yes, mostly about writing, or books we’d read—and we’d relax.

Ah, but there was that sign, “Danger, alligators”, and you just had to wonder.

One of our group was from Florida and so the possibility of an alligator sighting wasn’t a particularly exciting prospect for her. But with two of us from Canada, and our fourth from Indiana, just the chance of such an encounter reeked of the exotic.

We saw one our first morning there.

Alerted by one of my friends, I stood on the deck, camera at the ready. It took me a moment to see it, as it moved with stealth, barely creating a wake, through the water of the lagoon that abutted “our” property. It swam slowly by, and as we held ourselves very still, we doubted he—or she—saw us.

As it turns out, we were wrong.

After that first day, the alligator—dubbed “Dave”—was a regular visitor, and one day, he was followed by another, whom we called “Roy”.

Did I say visitor? Yes, I did. You see, Dave developed a unique habit. In the afternoon when the sun was shining down with ultimate warmth, Dave the alligator climbed out of the lagoon and stretched out on the lawn, just a few feet from out deck. Fortunately, the deck was about six feet off the ground, and the only way up to us, the stairs, featured a locked gate at the top.

The reactions of family and friends to the presence of our alligator have been fascinating, and not at all what I expected. Ranging from “are you crazy?” (our second daughter) to the sad shaking of a head (my oldest son), to the outraged “damned if I would pay that much only to have alligators on my lawn!” (my beloved’s co-workers) it surprised me that others didn’t appreciate the extraordinary circumstance we experienced.

Were any of the four of us worried or nervous?

Not in the slightest. We all thought it was kind of quaint. Our own personal mascot—or, if you like, since we are all writers of romance—knight in reptilian armor—dozing peacefully yet, we were certain, aware and on guard, protecting the princesses in the palace.