Counterweight to the previous post. A friend of mine.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2. Cor. 5:17
The adoration of men, that is.
16So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the LORD; 17and he said, “Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. 2 Samuel 23:16,17a
Reports of the latest evangelical train-wreck/another minister falling victim to his success evokes several painful thoughts. The first is a wince of recognition. I watched the church I was a part of for 22 years morph into a smaller but no less sordid creature. The second is the sad, all-too-common snare of conceit and ministerial success. Without humility and perspective, it breeds arrogance – an ugly parody of godly authority. “Don’t believe your own press” an older man told me when I took a full-time ministry position. Genuine success has more to do with God honoring His Word, the Death and Resurrection of His Son, and His response to peoples’ needs and faith than any human ability, cunning, or position. Easy to remember when you start – easy to forget after a measure of accomplishment.
I’m not diminishing the reward and recognition of faithful service, nor am I undermining the concept of ministerial authority. My problem isn’t authority – it’s with bad authority. And ministers seem to be doing a fine job of ruining their credibility without me. Even allowing a measure of exaggeration and plain old peevishness in the report, this kind of rampant hubris, duplicity, and gullibility is a kick in the stomach to the testimony of Christ and the public credibility of his people.
Yes, Jesus remains true and faithful above the squalor and squabble. He is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. He’s the Savior. But I wonder if He gets tired of all the squandered opportunities.
Jesus saves. He’s the only one you can trust all the way to eternity.
Further reading for those considering full-time ministry. (I’d make it mandatory, if I could.)
Used to be I took pictures of everything. Every suncatcher, repair, cabinet, hanging panel… After nearly 15 years, it’s only large or interesting projects.
Here’s a pair of sidelights for a private residence in Osterville, MA. Client requested simple but elegant, and of the four options I sketched, this was her final selection. Lead and zinc came construction, clear waterglass with pale gray granite and bevel borders. 30mm faceted jewels add a bit of sparkle at major lead joins.
I still marvel I get paid to do this. It’s a genuine blessing.
There’s a large multi-piece commission on the horizon, with arts and crafts cabinets, a door lite, and two large Tiffany-style landscapes.
Writing-wise, I’m hammering out a scene from the next Clar1ty Wars collection, titled “Under Strange Stars”.
Some of the coolest cyberpunk/sci fi shirts I’ve seen on the interwebs. Perfect for gaming, RPG sessions or con-wear, I picked up this little gem for summer.
Browse their selection and enjoy. Yes, you need one. LINK HERE
* Major geek-cred if you ID the quote without cheating. First comment with the correct answer gets a paperback copy of Shift Tense.
Story from the next Clar1ty Wars installment.
PROLOGUE: AN OCEAN OF STORMS
“– the Check-In at Gate E –”
The man in the deep padded leather couch studied the domes’ apex. Sixteen arched struts joined in a polished steel navel twenty meters overhead. He marveled: it was a flawless join – perfect welding. Not robotic, the man knew: human hands had drawn an electrogas welder over those seams. Some forgotten laborer in a cheap pressure-suit decades ago; skilled and conscientious despite appalling wages and the relentless hazards of deep space construction. An anonymous artist. A serf under a foreign sun.
And now, perhaps for the first time, surrounded by all the black and chrome minimalist opulence, someone finally recognized the only authentic achievement in the room.
The man stopped staring, surveyed the empty lounge. The Executive Lounge. He bristled at the title. More like executive waste. Here he was, one person in a bubble of light and warmth and oxygen that could easily house fifty. Oblivious, entitled, decadent, the Profligate wrung wealth from the sweat and air of thousands of people slaving in the outer stations – people like the nameless worker – then flaunted it in places like this. Profane is it was.
God damn them all.
The tall windows encircling the room swelled with deep, star-dusted black. The lights at the spaceport’s landing pads were bright enough to edge the rough gray of the crater lip in the windows on his right. Without a reference, he couldn’t gauge the distance, but the glass panels were so clear, he swore he could have stepped out one of the frames and bounded across the dark basalt.
He snorted. The electro-stat needed to keep this view dust-free for a month probably cost more than he made in a year. More squandering. He ground his teeth. His old suit, a few hours oxygen, a good ship, and he could be far away from this blight, this mockery, back where God spoke in the endless silence among the frozen dunes. Back where he belonged.
But no. Leaving wasn’t an option. The Prophet had declared a great and effective door was open – only for a season. They must move swiftly, at any price.
“– Jumaat please report to –”
And what a price. He tugged his shirt collar for the hundredth time. The tie was still tight, but not knowing how to retie it, he feared loosening it further. The jacket, with its smooth, iridescent silk, bunched under his arms and cinched around his waist. This mission must have cost the brothers dearly; the outfit, a new identity, a Movado Charm, this Shuttle ticket. Yet he had been assured even such extravagant sowing would reap a thousand-fold reward. How then could he refuse?
God willed it. He was coming home.
Drop City was below the horizon. He craned his neck nonetheless, hoping against reason the blue and white orb would peek into view.
He calmed himself. This was a layover – a minor delay. Lakshmi Lunar Station was one stop from the end of his journey; he’d be planetside soon enough.
If he wanted, he could watch the azure oceans and pearl-swirled clouds until they broke atmosphere. After all, Executive Class view screens tapped video feed from all around the shuttle, even the cockpit.
Fifteen years ago, he had been certain he was gone forever. Sentenced to permanent indenture to the biotech giant Genzyme, he been assigned to their deep-space arcology near the gas giant Zang Guo. That day, booster’s shuddering, he had elbowed his way to a bulkhead seat and stared for hours out a tiny porthole, first at the receding pale blue orb, then when the tears dried, at the stars.
There was so much light. He had been stunned to think of space as bright; a billion suns scintillated in the void. The farther out, the clearer they were. Sorrow begets revelation begets rebirth. This too was from the hand of the Almighty.
That was long ago and he was here now. Today.
A wall screen beside him pinged on. Twice his height, it blossomed in high-def color. Are they blind as well, that it needed to be so huge? At least the Auto-Serve had stopped pestering him about alcoholic beverages.
Two News Net personalities began blathering about a mega-storm south of Drop City’s equatorial land-chain. Massive oceans and twin moons conjured furious weather patterns on a gigantic scale, and Drop City’s southern hemisphere was particularly volatile. Oceanum Procellarum, they called it. An Ocean of Storms.
“– please report to the Check-in at –”
The broadcast’s satellite imagery flashed a cotton swirl arcing across a bed of jade-blue. The inane, frowning faces of the newscasters gazed thoughtfully at projected path icons and wind speed data as if they were divining arcane symbols of life and death. Raging thousands of kilometers wide, the storm churned northward toward the capitol.
He smiled at that. He realized years ago irony was God’s most common figure of speech. A storm was coming indeed.
“Will Mr. Tenuk Jumaat please report –”
He froze. Panic tingled down his spine. Why were they calling him? Had he missed something?
His cell leader had drilled vigilance into him: every step closer brought another level of surveillance. Threatened, defensive, the Orbital Corporations and their TTA lackeys layered it around their dens: soldiers, monitors, retinal scans, voice and facial recog-ware, chemical and biological sniffers… Paranoia revealed their corrosion, their weakness. He can never relax.
He glanced around without moving his head, checked the reflections in the glass. No CE uniforms burst in, no security turrets sprouted up, no micro-drones…
“Will Mr. Tenuk Jumaat please report to the Check-In at Gate E.”
He stood, swept his hair back, smoothed his jacket. Slender, with dark, delicate Malay features, he looked every inch the refined technocrat. The skin next to his eyes was still tender from where they lased the crow’s feet smooth. Spacer Squint would have been a dead give-away – something Mr. Tenuk Jumaat would never have.
No, everything was fine. He pulled disdain on to his face like a helmet visor and strode out the door.
Twin female TTA attendants, eerily beautiful in their bio-sculpted symmetry, perked up as he approached the desk.
The one on the left smiled as bright as an arc-light. “I’m so sorry to disturb you, Mr. Jumaat. We are personally informing all our Executive Class Passengers the storm system has delayed all in-bound flights to Bradbury Space Port. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
The one on the right checked her station screen. “TTA Control is re-routing shuttles as we speak, It shouldn’t be more than a twenty minutes before we have you on your way.”
Relief washed through him but he nodded thoughtfully, just like the newscasters on the wallscreen. “No worries. It’s the season for storms, right?”
“Exactly,” she said.
Glass-wise, in the last two weeks I’ve made a large beach scene window, a pair of half length sidelights, sandblasted two full-size kitchen doors, made five leaded-glass panels for cabinets, twenty-four fish suncatchers, five blue-star banners, one Chicago city flag, drawn up a set of full-length sidelights and started two panels for personal projects. Make hay while the sun shines…
Writing, I’m scribbling in the gaps: lunch, after dinner, thirty minutes here, an hour there. Page count is increasing, however slowly. I’ll have another section of Grim Fall soon-ish.
Lots of work is a good problem to have, but the writer in me almost wishes for winter.
*uttered by street busker in Halifax, N.S decades ago and now part of our family argot.
Stumbled across this idea skimming the aether last week. Don’t recall the specifics, but it was some ministry’s call to arms, and it’s been a thorn in my mind since. So wait a sec… ‘art’ needs to be redeemed?
Seems to me it’s one of those high-sounding but utterly inaccurate statements. As a Christian, I believe people need redemption, sure. But if by ‘redeem’ you mean demand artistic endeavor conform to a specific morality or ideology, then all you’ve done is reduce it to propaganda.
As I understand it, ‘art’ is a synergy of techniques mastered and the artist’s exploration/expression. It’s a reflection of person’s soul. Directly or otherwise, who they are comes out in their work. Censorship is a dubious panacea, a definite placebo when it comes to genuine transformation and rehabilitation. Redeem the person and renewed paradigms will manifest in their creations.
I remember the brouhaha over JKR’s Harry Potter books: dire warnings of occult, ghosts and magic, the likelihood of demonic possession if read, the oft-repeated/quoted “interview” wherein she declared her desire to indoctrinate children into Satanism, (which, in a phenomenal lapse of discernment, was lifted from The Onion) I was ostracized by church leadership for defending her and the books, for questioning the source of information, for drawing parallels to Lewis’ Narnia and Tolkien’s Middle Earth… ‘If you need to criticize YA books, (why?) then advise people on Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy’, I said. He has stated his contempt and agenda in real interviews as well as his novels. His convictions are explicit in his work.
Speaking of often-quoted, (at least by me) Flannery O’Connor said “Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see and they will not be a substitute for seeing.” ― from Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose
This is one reason I don’t have a problem with Christian crossover artists, or what the market now terms ‘Inspirational’ art. If they’re diluting their convictions for cash and fame, that’s lame. But if an artist’s faith informs and infuses their work, more power to them. A sermon is not a symphony is not a painting is not a novel. Individuals need to be true to the medium they work in and artists shouldn’t have to shoehorn homilies in their pieces to avoid charges of heresy or compromise. So back off and look to your own soul. They are obeying their calling, employing their gifts, and reflecting a facet of the manifold grace given them.
After all, isn’t that the idea?
* In all fairness, I don’t think the top poster is real. At least I hope it isn’t.
*No sooner do I decide my next writing project, my work schedule fills up with serious commissions. Ah well, “The best laid plans…” Too much work is a nice problem to have, particularly for an artist.
Here’s chapter two of the Post Apocalyptic fantasy, currently titled “The Grim Fall.”
The snow stopped on the way back to Black Sands. Hunched against the cold, dragging the sledge, Addas was too busy not breaking a leg to notice the exact when. The ridge trail though the pass was treacherous at the best of times, but the storm had draped a coat of ice slick as lies over every rock and hole. Each step was a wager. Wasn’t until a huge shadow skimmed the ground, something long-tailed and jagged, that he looked up.
It was vanished in a blink, swooping behind snow-piled crags, its screech shattering the brittle air behind it. Addas threw down the ropes and abandoned the sled, floundering through drifts to the nearest ledge. He tucked himself as far back as he could, shivering against ice-ribbed granite, craning his neck, javelin ready. The bloody carcass lay in the open thirty paces away like bait, or an offering. Depending…
All manner of things roamed these mountains now. It was six kinds of stupid to stand and see what turned up. Hide and peek was the smart game, fear the key to staying alive.
Near the end, when Chalk was wheezing, hacking up bits of lung, he would yell at Addas to pack a big dose of it whenever he went outside. The world had turned a darker shade of murderous, the old orc snorted; fear would keep him breathing better than anything else.
Addas was the only scavenger past the gate today. Two leagues distant, he’d get no help in a real fight.
But he was used to that. So Addas studied the grimy vault of the sky while his teeth chattered out a hundred count.
The storm had hammered the clouds into a blanket of dirty wool stretched over the peaks as far as he could see. In the west, a pale sun oozed behind them like a wound under gauze, its sick light bruising their edges purple and yellow. The dark stone scarps of the Unakas rose like walls all around him, a north wind moaning off their peaks. Other than the creak of snowfields on the mountainsides, the uplands felt as still as a crypt.
Not that quiet was ever a sign of safety – usually the opposite – but with no second shriek, no new slice of shadow, Addas finally thrashed his way back to the sledge, warily took up the ropes and shouldered on.
Two hours later, he stood bone-tired and shaking in the ruins of Gruumsh’s Henge, overlooking the settlement. Down slope – five hundred paces to be exact- squatted the thick walls and mawing cave, the entrance to the Black Sands. Addas could see the second watch crowded around glowing braziers, weapons stacked, their thick armored shapes bunched like cattle. He watched them as he flexed warmth back into his hands, almost feeling the delicious burn of the coals, smelling the singed hair, the baked iron and body stink. At this hour, cooking smells would be wafting up out of the mine tunnels. Smells of home.
“Home. ” He spit out the word.
Truth was there was nowhere else to go. The thought of going down the slope, through the gate and descending into mouth of the cave chilled him. Addas almost felt safer here, in the big outside, in the freezing rubble. Almost.
At least out here he could catch his breath with no one jeering, booting, shoving him into the next filthy job. Privacy like this, moments alone were rare as eggs, and Addas snatched them whenever he could. He soaked them in, squirreled them away like the memory of sunshine against the dark.
Addas had discovered this refuge by accident years before, in the wretched, blighted weeks of the Grim Fall. The world tearing itself apart, he’d been thrust from despair and confusion straight into Chalk’s cruelty and the orc clan’s contempt. Refugees were boot-scum and a plague; more mouths to feed, strangers who took up space. Anyone not blood-bound to the clan was kicked, lashed, abused. He and the other fugitives fought dogs for scraps and a place to lie down. Only those who worked could stay. Being youngest and a half-breed at that, when Chalk wasn’t beating lessons into him, Addas emptied the shit pits, two buckets at a time.
He studied the calluses on his palms and kicked a lump of brown ice. It skittered and smashed against a stump of carved granite. Two rows of them, broken pillars, lined either side of the hilltop. Gruumsh’s Henge had been the heart of greenskin power for centuries, the orc deity’s stone colossus bellowing perpetual defiance from its sacred plateau across the circle of the world. Hordes of pilgrims would gather every year for his bloody, brutal festivals, pledging blood, strength and eternal fealty.
Part citadel, part arena, part temple… it was one of the first casualties in the war, smashed like an egg by some Elvish godling’s wrath.
The temple’s massive stones had been heaped into walls around the settlement’s entrance, but the feet were rooted too deep, too solid to break apart.
Out of sight, out of the biting wind, ankle deep in filthy slush, Addas squatted in the lee of the Boots, two gigantic mounds of marble – all that remained of Gruumsh One-Eye’s great statue. The Black Sands clan dumped their filth there now. And Addas had brought most of it up the slope two buckets at a time.
The wind bit into his skin and the shadows were lengthening on the mountains. Addas sighed, turned to pick up the ropes. Then he spotted the tracks.
They came straight up the valley, made a wide path churned by riders. Lots of riders. Whoever it was had scuffed through the icy crust down to the mud; a shit-stain on a swathe of frozen linen, arrowing right toward the main gate.
Caravan wasn’t due for another month, Addas mused. Raiders then?
He crept out of the stones’ shadow to peer down at the walls again. Cocked his head for screams and ringing steel, but the only thing drifting on the air was oily smoke off the fires. Everything was business as usual.
Not raiders. Then who?
Forewarned is forearmed, he remembered Chalk saying. Addas coiled the sledge’s ropes, set them down, then slid down the reverse slope out of sight of the walls and crouched beside the trail.
He traced a deep print with his finger. Not paws, so it wasn’t wargs. Not that there were many of the giant hyenadons left alive, but a few had survived with the orcs and goblins who fled underground. They were reserved for clan chiefs and favored warriors.
The tracks weren’t split-toe great boars either, so it wasn’t Orcs from the Craters either. Weather this time of year ruled them out anyway. No, the hard crescent imprint meant shod hooves, which meant ponies. And ponies meant Dwarves, and Dwarves meant trouble. Graspy, bearded little feckers.
Dwarves any day set the Orc Chief on edge. Large bunch of stunties pounding at the gate unannounced would make him nastier than usual. And seeing as slop runs downhill, the Chief would vent his spleen on the clan, and the clan would take it out on him.
“Shit and shit again,” Addas spat.
He almost turned around right then. Almost.
Chalk had told him about his ‘bolt hole’ the week before he died; a tiny hollow on the western cliffs. There was enough kindling and unicorn to hold him a while, providing he was sparse about it.
Addas looked up at the sky and wondered how much daylight was left. Enough to reach the cave before night? Time ran strange these days, sometimes greasy fast, other times the sun seemed nailed in place. Freezing was better than a beating any day.
But if the Chief sent anyone to round him up and they found him, not only would the beating be worse, but he’d lose a good hiding spot. And maybe get kicked out for good.
Between the sword and the cliff, ain’t you? Chalk sniggered in his head.
“Even dead, you don’t leave me be,” Addas muttered.
The wind dragged a wheezing cackle off into the crags. Resigned, Addas clambered up and shouldered the ropes.
Maybe Snat would have something up his sleeve, he thought as he started downhill.
Money already asserts itself,
as will the need for prayer
and that each must find their way
to the God that seeks them.
I have little of the first,
plenty of the second
and the third is not mine to give.
But if I could pass on just two
gifts to my children,
(one for their bones
and one for their blood)
they would be Calvin and Hobbes