Geralyn Wichers

"Life is a great adventure, or nothing"

The Misunderstood Power of Christian Art: Part 3

I’m the person who skips through the ‘preachy’ sections, searching for the part where the romance and adventure begins again.  I’m the person who sighs heavily when the beleaguered protagonist falls to his knees.  I’m the one who rants on demand about how I can’t stand God’s Not Dead.  But why?

In Separating the Pulpit from the Novelist’s Pen, I talked about the notion that novels and movies must contain sermons and ‘lessons’.  I’ve often felt guilty for not relating to these parts.  I DO believe those sermons, right?  I do believe that God isn’t dead, and that faith is rational.  Heck, I’m a homeschooled, choir singing, Sunday School teaching Christian nice girl.

Meanwhile, I’ve been writing stories with curses, clones, clandestine romance, gladiator-like fighters and zombies.  I toy with profanity, and dance in the grey areas between darkness and light.  True, wisdom often dictates that I go back and censor myself, but eventually I had to decide that there isn’t something wrong with me.  I was just called to something different.

I am convinced that each artist must fulfill the role that only they can fill–be it in the genre of Christian fiction, or in the mainstream genres.  And mainstream is where I belong.

The Box Opened and I Jumped Out

reading-262425_640I expect that Christian fiction, as an industry, was developed to provide a clean alternative to mainstream book genres.  This is certainly needed, because what passes as a ‘romance’ novel these days is more like soft-core pornography in written form.  Even genres that are not pegged as romantic contain a lot of this material.  Furthermore, the cynicism and nihilism present there might be useful to provoke thought, but as a regular diet it is not beneficial.  Essentially, the mainstream lacks truth.

However, in our efforts to provide an acceptable alternative, I feel we have created a sanitary little ghetto that we dare not poke our heads out of.  We keep to the basic basic plot of mission, failure, wise sermon, repentance, miraculous victory and positive resolution.  We recoil at the mention of sex, wash the blood out of our violence, and skirt wide around vulgar language.

That’s not wrong, but I don’t like it.

In the genre of speculative fiction, writing becomes even more tricky.  Draw in clones, immortal characters, or magic and theology is no longer straightforward.  Christian authors begin day-long debates over if clones can have souls, if magic can be attributed to the Holy Spirit, or if granting characters immortality is unbiblical.

“But immortal people don’t even exist!” I say, “Suspend the theology for a second.”

So I guess you could say I left the genre to get out of the box.  I want to honour God, make no mistake, but I need the artistic freedom to tell a story without having to check off the boxes or screen it through a certain size of filter.  As I said in the first part of The Misunderstood Power of Christian Art, censorship should come from wisdom or conviction–not out of fear of what people will say.  To tell a story I have to go places that are uncomfortable.  I make no apologies for that.  Sometimes one must look past the surface actions and words, and look at the ideas and feelings being imparted, and the questions that may be raised.

The Mainstream Isn’t in the Christian Aisle

The clean offerings of the Christian genre are an excellent alternative for Christians, but are they effective in outreach?  Are mainstream readers buying Christian books?  Some are, perhaps, but for the most part ‘religious stuff’ is unintelligible to them, and ‘Christian’ isn’t a keyword they are searching for.

Christians have their books, their truth.  Who will tell the truth to unbelievers?  I want to.

So many blogs are spreading gossip, spewing vitriol and cynicism.  I want mine to be positive, speaking hope about personal change and good relationships.  The shelves are full of books that glorify violence, sex, self-indulgence and manipulation.  I want mine to be about purpose, integrity in adversity, hope and sacrificial love.

I want to tell the truth in a world of lies.

The First Seed

I see my role as preparatory.  My generation neither knows, nor respects the Bible.  Their gospel is tolerance, and ‘awareness’ is their salvation.  If I quote chapter and verse, I might as well be quoting Dickens.

But do they have a purpose to life?  Are they fulfilled?  Does their life have a foundation?  I once asked a coworker, about my age and an atheist, what he based his life on.  He had no idea.  I don’t think he’d considered this.

That is precisely the kind of question I’d like to raise.  I want to be the salter of the oats, so to speak.  Or at very least, provide a good story that is full of good principles, not lies.

Missional Media

In the past, authors reached the world through a publishing company.  But in this age of the independent author (indie), the writer engages and markets through social media.  The reader might stumble across my book, but just as likely they will meet me first.  I may start a conversation with them on Twitter.  They may read my blog.  I may have met them on Facebook and connected over a shared interest.  Writing is increasingly ‘missional’ that way.  I go to them.

Therefore, what I DO is just as important as what I say.  Make no mistake.  I cannot sit in my basement (as if a third floor apartment could have a basement… but I digress) and write.  I have to genuinely care about people, wade into the stream of social media, notice, encourage, speak out.  I can’t claim to be good at this, but the potential in it is breathtaking.

To Conclude the Series

Christian art is a nebulous thing, if my wobbly definition can be trusted.  But though it’s hard to pin down, we cannot fear it.  It is the primary medium by which my generation absorbs information.  Who better than Christian artists to reach them–especially the young artists.  They understand the technology, the language, the cultural references.  They are the ‘indigenous missionaries’ of North America.  They shouldn’t be minimized, or forced to conform.  Rather, empower them to produce the best music, film and literature they can–full of grace and truth.  And encourage them to take it to as many people as they can.

 

The Misunderstood Power of Christian Art: Part 1

The Misunderstood Power of Christian Art: Part 2

Recommended Reading:

Tim Downs, Finding Common Ground

Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

Dorothy Sayers, “Why Work?”  The whole essay is available in PDF form here.

 

 

 

 

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The Misunderstood Power of Christian Art, Part 2.

Christians are obsessed with truth, and rightfully so.  We bear our statements of faith with pride.  We have the knowledge.  We have the proof.  But do we have the medium?

Tim Downs said:

“In the last forty years both the quantity and quality of conservative Christian scholarship have exploded.  Evangelicals today are able to marshal more impressive, scholarly information on behalf of our position than ever before.  We now have, by anyone’s standards, world-class philosophers, theologians, and scientists on our side.  It’s no exaggeration to say that evangelical Christians have experienced a literal renaissance in our science.

Unfortunately, there has been no corresponding renaissance in our art.  We have more to say to our culture than ever before, and less ability to say it in a persuasive and compelling way.  We are enamoured with our content and cannot understand why the world isn’t fascinated with our latest proofs and evidences.”

In a generation brainwashed by film, television and music, carried along by the jet stream of social media, the Christian art industry has yet to catch up.  Music and film has increased in quantity and quality, yet the mainstream hears about it only if it is controversial.

We shove our artists to the front, put the Bible in their hands, and say “Preach!”  But what if a sermon isn’t what we need?

Preaching: The Only Messenger?

There is a point in many Christian novels where the main character reaches his lowest point.  They have expended their resources.  Their mission or relationship has failed.

Cue the entry of a wise friend who opens the Bible, quotes verses, and shows them what they need is a Saviour.  And you just know that when the protagonist falls to his knees in prayer, victory is around the corner.

Or say a movie is made about a farmer.  He’s not a Christian, and this is readily demonstrated by his workaholicism and regular drinking binges.  One summer, the corn crop he is counting on is ravaged by a hail storm.  The farmer throws everything into replanting while there is still time.  But this is thwarted by persistent rain.  His financial future is bleak, but worse, his wife leaves him because of his drunkenness.

If you have seen three or four Christian movies, you can predict the end.  The farmer will hit bottom, and while wandering in a hammered state, ready to end his life, a Christian will rescue him and clean him up.  The Christian will tell him that he needs Jesus, and the farmer will fall to his knees.

His crop will be saved, and his wife will return.  He may, in fact, become an evangelist.

Rarely does a movie or novel break this mould.

The Power of the Covert

Every novelist knows the adage “show, don’t tell.”  Telling, or explaining, is considered weak writing and rather insulting to the intelligence of the reader.  Sermonizing is precisely this: telling.

I saw a powerful example of ‘showing’ recently.

In the movie Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey plays Ron, a low-brow cowboy with HIV who begins smuggling illegal medication to treat AIDs.  His foil is Rayon a transgender man, now woman, who is dying of aids.  Rayon is played by Jared Leto, who is by all accounts, a heterosexual man.

The empathy and passion Leto put into the role is evident, even from the short clips I watched.  Rayon is no cardboard cut-out.  She is a feisty dreamer, but also a deeply hurting person who just wants love.  You can see it in her eyes.  Though I am uncomfortable with her lifestyle, I cannot look away.  I have to say, “this is a person, and I kind of like them.” (I cannot recommend that movie, by the way.  I decided against watching it because of graphic content).

At no point does an actor turn to the screen and say, “Accept this person!  You are a bigot if you do not accept this person!”  Neither do they say, “This is a good lifestyle!”  I accept Rayon because I cannot deny her personhood anymore.  I empathize.

Create empathy within the heart of the viewer, and you have won the greatest part of the battle.

Catch and Release

I also see that if the art is not used as a carrier for preaching, it is often used as bait.  For example, a prominent evangelist often uses free concerts with Christian rock bands to draw people to their crusades.  Likewise, Christian movies are often marketed as ‘witnessing tools’.  Does this work?  I don’t know.

But there is a level of dishonesty about it.  It says, “We are like you.  We like what you like.  Come, try our music,” and then slams the audience with an altar call.

In fact,  sermonizing such as the ‘basic movie and novel plot’, can also be inherently dishonest.  It wants the reader to believe so badly, that it makes ‘pie-crust’ promises, easily broken.  Will the farmer’s wife come back the day after he believes?  Probably not.  He may win her back after months of trying, with the wisdom and strength of God.  But faith isn’t the magic bullet we sell it as.

Let the Artists Be!

I feel like our preachers and theologians have convinced artists that their work is useless if not didactic.  Sort of a ‘why can’t you be like us?’  But if we believe in the priesthood of all believers, we must value the artist as much as the preacher and not force one to conform to the mould of the other.

Dorothy Sayers said:

When you find a man who is a Christian praising God by the excellence of his work – do not distract him and take him away from his proper vocation to address religious meetings and open church bazaars. Let him serve God in the way to which God has called him. If you take him away from that, he will exhaust himself in an alien technique and lose his capacity to do his dedicated work.

It is time to let artists be.  Let them do what only they can truly understand.  And when they have served in obedience to the work, and to God, the message within their art may be greater than any sermon you could insert.

Read Part 1: Defining Christian art, and the artist’s mandate, here.

 

 

 

 

 

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What makes art ‘Christian’?

I’ve talked about my disgust for the movie God’s Not Dead, and how I discarded Christian music.  After I released We are the Living, I had a couple of good conversations with people simply because it wasn’t a “Christian book”, or at least, I wasn’t sure their junior high kids should read it.

I feel the concept of Christian art has been misunderstood, and, as it is a subject I am passionate about, I thought it was time to discuss my philosophy of faith and art with you over the course of the next few posts.

In the field of imparting ideas, the piano and paintbrush are more powerful than the pulpit.  Not to put down preaching.  It is wonderful.  But art has power to cross boundaries that sermons cannot, and that is why it is important that we as Christians understand it.  A preface: while informed by Scripture and Christian artists and thinkers, this is my humble opinion.  No doubt it will evolve as I do.

Can Christian Art be Defined?

Art is loosely defined in the New Oxford American Dictionary as:

  • The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
  • Works produced by human creative skill and imagination.
  • Creative activity resulting in the production of paintings, drawings, or sculpture.

No explicit mention of film, literature or music is mentioned, but I expect there is little doubt that these are part of the arts.

But what is Christian art?  This is much more slippery–like a wet football, in fact.  Here is the definition I’m going to work with: Christian art is that which is produced by a Christian, in obedience to, and to the glory of God.

But what glorifies God?  That is where things become more difficult.

What is the Call of the Christian Artist?

Madeleine L’Engle said, “The artist must be obedient to the work, whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a small child.  I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, ‘Here I am.  Enflesh me.'”  If God calls his child to art, the art becomes his or her duty.

But the manifestation of that art is their unique calling.  Some will be called to hip-hop, like my friend Malcolm.  Others will write speculative fiction, like me.  And some will write Amish romances (which I neither understand nor enjoy, but others love), some will do acrylic paintings, and some will dance.  Some will write to a strictly Christian audience, and some will write to a mainstream audience.  Each field needs Christians who are obedient to the works God has prepared in advance for them (Ephesians 2:10).

Art is the work of the artist, and as Dorothy Sayers said, “Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.”

My Philosophy of Christian Art

I believe Christian artist must be these three things:

  • Excellent.  The Christian must perform or create their art to the best of their ability.  Where they lack, they must practise, research, and submit to mentorship by more accomplished artists.  There is no half-heartedness here.  There is no ‘I won’t memorize my lines for the church play’.  There is no ‘I’m not getting paid’.  It is your best, or nothing.
  • Courageous.  When you are inspired to a work, the decision to do or not to do must be based on conviction and wisdom, not fear or selfish ambition.  I believe this applies, especially, to censorship.  Censorship is sometimes necessary, but it should not be because you are afraid to not conform, or because you want people to like you.  Rather, it is because you think you’ve transgressed beyond God’s laws, or good sense.  The truth is NOT always sweet to the ears.  Just because it is scary does not mean it is wrong.
  • Truthful.  Christian art cannot fall victim to denial, self-indulgent fantasy, or a lack of integrity.  This is not to say that it cannot be ‘fictional’.  I’ve often said that just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean it’s not true.  Simply, Christian art must not engage in deceit, nor try to make the receiver believe an untruth.

The Opportunity

The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 5:1, “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (ESV).  What an excellent description of our mandate as artists!

When we are obedient to the work, we produce what is good, right and true, and we expose darkness. This takes courage, for sometimes the darkness we expose resides within us, and we wrestle with our selfish desires as we create.  But out of this courage comes work that can probe where no scholarly literature or sermon can go.  That is the nature of art–to bypass the well-guarded gates of the mind, and go straight to the soul.

Which means that art can be very dangerous as well.

In the next post I will discuss why I departed from the genre of Christian fiction, and where Christian art may go awry.

Suggested Reading:

Dorothy Sayers, Why Work?  Read this excellent essay on the sacredness of work here.

Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water.  A rambling but inspiring account of her philosophy of Christian art.  I really enjoyed her perspective.

 

 

 

I’m a short, stocky, beginner runner.  Full disclosure here.  I make my runs sound epic, but they’re only as epic as a nine minute plus miler can make them.  I am a competitive, stubborn son of a gun who knows just enough to make me dangerous.  Dangerous to myself, that is.

I learned this the hard way on Saturday.

It was technically my third 5K, but the previous one, with the dubious title of ‘Electric Donkey’ was fun but not timed.  I was determined to prove myself this time around, and show myself what I could really do.  I visualized shaving a minute and fifteen seconds off my previous time.  Simple enough.  I’d been working on my speed and stamina.  5K was now a short run for me.

But practice and theory can only go so far.  After warm up I was amped and ready to go but everyone else was milling around by the registration tables and quibbling about where the inflatable finish line was supposed to be.  Time dragged on, and forty-five minutes after I’d been told the race was to start, we lined up.  I was a bundle of nerves by that time.  The air horn blared, and I bolted.

I was out of breath in minutes.  I thought it was nerves.  I’d settle in and find a rhythm.  But five minutes passed, then ten, and I was still struggling.  I know now it was because I was pushing myself far too fast, but I had nothing to gauge my pace by.  As we ran past a race marshal, I faintly heard her over my music: “Halfway there.”

That was when I knew I was in trouble.

In the final mile, my legs were so heavy I could only keep them moving by force of will.  My chest was ready to burst, and I was angry.  I ripped my headphones out of my ears and choked back tears.  It didn’t matter.  I was finishing, damn it.  These legs wouldn’t stop.

I saw the finish line and the clock.  The time was still under my goal time.  I tried to kick into a sprint, but all I could muster was a laboured trot.  I made it, just five seconds over my goal.  My sister told me, after the fact, that I looked pretty bad.  She has pictures to prove it–me, with my head back at an awkward angle as I stumble toward the line.

With Grandpa after the race.

With Grandpa after the race.

I’m so embarrassed, but mostly I’m scared now.  I have another race next weekend.  What if I crash and burn at that one too?

Despite my pep-talks, research, and strategizing, my training run this afternoon was no better.  I was so angry and discouraged as I walked home afterward.  I had to force myself to quit beating myself up.  I had a bad day.  No, I had two bad days.  Live and learn, right?  I’m not good enough to be this mad.  But I am.

I have this term that I learned way back.  I call it ‘the wall’, or sometimes ‘the pain threshold’.  It means that point in which the mental or physical pain reaches a level that can no longer be ignored, and you have to decide to gut it out or quit.  In running, mental and physical seem to converge to create a perfect storm of torture.  And that’s just at my pitiful 3-5 mile distance.  I can’t imagine what 26 miles must be like.

This is the moment where your strength has failed you, and you dig in deep to see if you have something to keep you going.  This is where you win over yourself, or you become a has-been, a failed New Years resolution, a lost dream.  This is where you get to decide between “I tried to do that once” and “I did it.”

I guess I’m standing at the wall, now.

It’s a good thing I dropped cash on that 5K next weekend.  I’m too cheap to quit today, and too dang stubborn.  I might not do a personal best on Saturday, but I need to race again.  If nothing else to get over this fear and prove that this is just a speedbump, and greater things are yet to come.

 

 

 

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Does anyone ask you the questions you desperately want to answer?

People ask me all kinds of things, but rarely am I asked about what really matters to me.  These are the things I want to talk about, and truly be listened to.  In the presence of my friends and family I talk about them, unasked.  But I feel that they don’t want to hear about it.

Do you feel this way too?

I want to be asked.

I want to be asked “What have you been doing at work lately?”

Silly, right?  People ask “how is work?” all the time.  But that’s the sort of question you’re required to answer ‘fine’ to, or ‘busy’.  Maybe they’d accept a long answer, but I get the distinct feeling that if I went on a five minute rant about the product I was coating that week, and what went wrong, and about how I nailed that one coat to the exact percentage, their eyes would glaze over.

I want to be asked “How were your runs this week?”

I’d love you forever if you’d listen to me talk about running Abe’s Hill for the first time, and my 5k on the weekend–and then ask “then what happened?” like you mean it.

I want to be asked “What are you reading these days?”

Plato–The Republic, and Lord of the Rings.  Ask me about Plato, and why I’d even pick it up.  Ask me about what I’m learning from those books.  Gosh, look at the size of the three-in-one volume of Lord of the Rings.  Doesn’t it just beg to start a conversation?

Ask me about my writing projects and don’t look too shocked when my eyes light up and I expound on clones, and the archetypal city, and the righteous poor, and the adventures of some ‘made up’ character.

The problem is…

The problem is that I don’t ask the right questions either.  If I were observant, and not all wrapped up in myself like I tend to be, I might know the right questions to ask YOU.  The questions that make your face light up like a Christmas tree.  The ones you can deliver a spontaneous fifteen minute lecture on.

I stumbled across one of these questions by accident, this summer.  I’d had difficulty connecting with a coworker, a gentleman from Bangladesh, until one day I asked him “Are you following the FIFA World Cup?”

Yes!  Yes he was.  He was following Argentina.  He’d followed Messi since the soccer star was a much younger man.  He (my coworker) had actually played soccer in college.  And off we went–because college led to discussions about our families, and once you start talking about your families you have lots to go on.

I began checking the World Cup stats every morning so I’d have something to say to him when we passed in the hall.

Doubtless, asking a good question won’t always have the same success.  But I’ll warrant that if I’d regularly pose purposeful questions, I’d often stumble on good answers, perhaps even on a new friend.  But this won’t happen if I’m not looking, using Sherlock Holmes powers of observation to discover what makes people tick.

I’m not good at that, I admit.  But I realize now that I can’t make people take a genuine interest in me.  All I can do is provide that loving courtesy to others, because I truly believe that to listen is to grant deep respect and honour to another.  We need to be listened to.  It is psychological oxygen, to borrow from Dale Carnegie.

What to ask?

So tell me.  What do you want to be asked?  What is that thing, buried deep in your chest, that you NEED to talk about?

I WANT to ask.  Forgive me if I forget to look.

 

 

 

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An excerpt from my recent novel, We are the Living, a post-apocalyptic love story.  A more tender scene–at Mom’s advice :)

I examined his face. There was the beginning of a mask tan on his face. “Do you have to wear the mask all the time?” I asked, in a feeble attempt to redeem myself.
“No,” he said, no elaboration. He took another forkful and chewed slowly, the muscles of his jaw bunching and relaxing in slow, deliberate movements.
“I’m sorry. Perhaps not while you’re eating…”
“No, it’s fine,” he said after he swallowed, “I get along well there.”
“Yeah,” I said, half-laughed. “It looked like you’ve hit off with them.”
His lips twitched. “Heck of group of soldiers, in their own way.”
“Soldiers?”
He shrugged and laughed sheepishly. “Not really. None of them actually are—heck, they have MP5 submachine guns from the army, but about all they know about them is how to pull the trigger. It scares the hell out of me.”
“Yes it does!” A man about my age with a respirator hanging around his neck plopped down beside Liam. He fixed me with a stare that was a little wild. “After Liam teaches us, we’ll know which end to point.”
“Oh, shut up.” Liam grinned, but his eyes flicked toward me. “Even Kayla knows which end of the gun to point, and she’s probably better shot than you.”
“I don’t want to think about that, Liam.” For all my big talk, I didn’t want to think or talk about shooting. Panic, like bile, rose in my throat. I’d had dreams of the grey-eyed infected, still wearing a business suit, flying backward in a pink spray.
I felt Liam’s gaze on me again.
Max leaned in, his rubber mask clunking on the table. “Is he right?”
“Leave it, Max,” Liam said.
“You’ve shot infected?” he asked.
Liam grabbed Max and pulled him back onto the bench. “Leave it!” He turned to me. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up.” His navy eyes said he could guess what I was thinking. And then his lips twitched. “And Max is generally an idiot. Ignore him.”
I pushed away my plate. “I’ll be fine.” I’d be fine, but I wouldn’t be eating. I couldn’t expunge the image from my mind that quickly.
Liam sighed, elbowed Max, and stood up. “Walk with me?”
We slipped out of the courtyard, across the piazza, past the rusted-out Siena truck, and meandered down the road toward the east wall, all without speaking.
As we turned around at the far end of town in front of Rudy’s wheat beds, we paused and stood facing each other in the middle of the road.
“Are you sleeping any better, Kayla?” He asked.
“A little.” It seemed that my sanity had returned after joining the greenhouse crew, as if belonging brought life back to me. “You?”
He shrugged. “About the same. Listen, when Max was… yammering back there. What did you see?”
I looked up at him and gulped. It all flashed before me again. Grey eyes. Lipstick. Poof! The gun knocked me on my ass as her blood sprayed all around. I forgot to breathe.
His warm, rough hand closed around mine. “You tell me yours, I’ll tell you one of mine. No judgment, I promise.”
I swallowed. “I saw… I saw me and Simone in the back of that truck we took from the GI. We drove into the pack of infected, and I shot this one. She was in a business suit and then she just… disappeared.”
Liam flinched hard, and I could almost see the scene play out on his eyes. “I didn’t see that. I’m sorry.”
I swiped at my eyes. “Your turn.”
“I keep dreaming about Alex,” he said. “I’m driving faster and faster toward Torino and I can hear him screaming in the back of the truck.”
I was gut-punched. “He didn’t scream.”
He pressed his lips together, hard. “When we get to Torino, it isn’t him dead in the truck. It’s you.”
“Oh God.”
We stared at each other, with the full weight of our shared horror hanging between us. It drew us together slowly, and I sagged against him, my face pressed into his neck. We didn’t cry. We were past sorrow.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered into his warm skin.
His hand slid up and caressed the back of my head. “Just don’t die, okay?”
“I’ll do what I can. Same to you.” I lifted my head and stared him in the face. “You take care of yourself, okay? Wear your mask, and sleep, and talk about… talk about this stuff.”
His face tightened and he sighed, “I’ll see what I can do.”
We began walking up the hill, slowly. “It bothers me that you aren’t armed here,” Liam said.
“That’s not Father Lucien’s style.”
“It’s my style,” Liam said, then quickly added, “Though I wish it wasn’t.”
“But do you need to fend off the infected any more?”
Far away a truck started up, and Liam glanced up the hill before looking me in the eye. “We’re not concerned about the infected. It’s the GI.”
The words I’d planned to say disappeared from my mouth. I blinked up at him.
He propelled me onward. The piazza was in sight. “I haven’t seen them recently. Don’t worry.”
“I wish you’d stay.”
“For my safety?”
“Yeah.”
We paused at the tailgate of the truck. Max and the other guy were already in the cab. Liam would be riding in the back, alone.
“I know I’m being stubborn about this,” Liam said quietly. “But I have my reasons, okay?”
“I’ll take your word for it,” I whispered. I reached out and touched his hand, and the look in his eyes squeezed the breath out of my lungs.

We are the Living is available on Kindle and Paperback through Amazon, as well as on Kobo.  You can read further samples here.

Notime

“I’m afraid to die before I’ve really lived,” he said.

Funny the things you talk about on late shifts.  We stood over our tank of coating suspension, the peristaltic pump chugging the soupy, white mixture from one tank to the other.  I don’t know why we were talking about death–death by drowning, death by fire.

I paused.  In my hand, the hose bucked and splattered goop on the shiny steel receiving tank.  “Yeah, I know what you mean.”  But in my head I thought, but how do you know that you’ve really lived?  As I thought over my twenty-four years, I realized that I’d packed lots into them.  I’ve travelled, I’ve graduated from college, I’ve written a book.  But had I really lived?

A couple weeks later, a school friend’s nineteen year old brother died in a drowning accident, and it brought the subject back to my mind.  My own brothers were going out to the lake, and inwardly I shouted don’t go!  I want to keep you here!

I suspect that the years we have are never enough once they’re gone.  I had twelve happy years with my Grandma (Mom’s mom) before she died of cancer.  But when I think about her I remember that, the last day I saw her healthy and alert, I spent playing video games.  Would that one more day have been enough?  No.

It annoys me that people say “Two more days until Friday.”  When I catch myself saying “My shift is half over,” I rebuke myself.  Heck, we spend tens of thousands of hours at our jobs, but we’re so eager to just get them over with.  My Grandma (Dad’s mom) told me, today, that the older you get, the faster they go.  It’s like being pinned to a railway car, flying downhill toward a brick wall (she didn’t say that–I did).  But we are unmindful.  We try to make our railcar go faster!

What are the chances we get to the end of our lives and decide we’ve ‘really lived’?

I’m realizing that I need to be a heck of a lot more deliberate with my time.  I’ve got to dream, then make goals, and then work my butt off before my railcar reaches the bottom of the hill.

Dan Waldschidmt said “We all want that extra 6.25 years of conquest.  But when we have a zillion minute by minute considerations just to decide whether to stay in bed or get up and ‘conquer,’ most of us choose comfort.  It seems small at the time–after all, it’s just one hour.  But the results are life changing.  Literally.  The decisions that you make hundreds of times a day build your future.  They all count.”

I’m not doing well in this area right now.  After the release of We are the Living, I hit a big-time slump.  I’ve yet to pull out entirely.  My blogging has been sporadic.  I have little interest in social networking.  I don’t feel like writing.  My new project has been neglected for days at a time.

It’s time to kick my own butt.  If I can make myself go running after an exhausting workday, when my knees hurt, or when it’s cold and raining, I guess I can make myself write (do what I love!).

There isn’t a moment to waste, is there?

 

photo credit: Ebowalker at Pixabay.com

Last night I ran around a section near my childhood home (a section being a square mile of land).  I parked my car at my former church and warmed up in the silent parking lot.  The sun blazed in my eyes as I huffed and puffed the first mile.  As usual, I wondered why I was torturing myself again.  But I settled into a nice, easy rhythm, and turned the corner onto the next mile road and into the shade.  The humid air sunk in around me, redolent with sweet poplar sap.

How many times have I driven these roads?  First, in the back of Mom’s minivan to and from Grandma’s house, and church.  Then, I’d drive myself to youth group and early morning music practices.  I know them so well, but on foot they are unfamiliar.  Which houses have dogs that might chase?  The roads are silent, and I can hear the slightest crash in the bush.  Probably a deer, or a bird, but what else?

“I’ve become such a city girl,” I lament.

Runkeeper tells me I’ve travelled two miles.  I begin the third side of my square.  The sun has sunk behind the trees, still sweat trickles from the knot of hair on the back of my head.  I look up as I pass by the faded red barn, and the complacent cattle on the corner.  Three miles.  I turn the corner, and can see the ancient evergreens by the church, one mile away.  There are dead garter snakes on the road, and I imagine that they raise their heads and nip at my heels as I go past.  I close the square, and walk back to my car.

As I showered off at Mom and Dad’s place, I realized just how absurd this seemed.  Never, in my childhood years, would I have dreamt about running those gravel paths.  They seemed too far to go, even on a bicycle.

Times, they are a changing.  I contemplate which miles to combine to run a 10K, or even a half marathon, and I smile.  Maybe that is not so impossible after all.

In a few hours it will be my birthday.

I’ve been absent from the blogosphere this week, due to the pendulum swing of my schedule.  While on day shifts, I try to make up for the lack of social life while I’m working evenings.  My brain has been packed, and much of what I’ve come up with to write is so snarky I don’t dare infect you with it.

So, in hopes of soothing my soul and inspiring you, I’d like to share ten things I’m thankful for–at the dawn of my 24th year.

In no particular order…

1. Strawberry the Car

20140305-205529.jpgThis week I’ve logged a lot of miles in my magic carpet.  I picked up the print edition of We are the Living from the courier (an hour and fifteen minutes away), I went to dinner with two college friends, and before the week is out, Strawberry’s little wheels will take me to my second 5K race.  Since I got my own car (after 5 years of waiting) I’ve been granted a whole new level of freedom.  I’m grateful for that.

2. A job that challenges me.

I’ve worked at the pharmaceutical plant for a year and a half now, and the job has yet to get easy.  That’s perfect, even if it is frustrating at times (like today).  As long as it keeps me learning I won’t get bored or stagnate.

3. I work in pyjamas all day!

Scrubs, actually, but they’re just as comfortable.  Some people don’t like wearing a uniform, but I wouldn’t change it.  They’re loose, modest, and save on laundry.

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4. Coffee

Mmm… coffee.

5. Autumn is coming

Now, this also means that winter is coming, which in Manitoba is a six-month affair… but let’s not think that far.  I look forward to the crisp air, the falling leaves, and pumpkin everything–except those fake pumpkin syrup things every coffee shop hawks at us.  Ew!  Pumpkin cheesecake (sugar free, low carb) is on the birthday menu tomorrow.

6. Stevia

The secret to healthy living, as far as I’m concerned.

7. Coworkers who are also friends.

I’ve had some excellent coworkers over the last three years, and I’m pleased to still call many of them friends.  Work is so much better with them!

8. WiFi at home

Wow, what a relief to not have to drive, walk or bike to find WiFi!  As a blogger, it was getting a bit ridiculous.  I was single-handedly supporting every coffee shop in town, I think.

9. The Electric Donkey

Also known as my next 5K race, and what has been motivating me for the last month.  I’m so excited!

10. My family

We’ve had some wonderful visits lately.  Our bonfire pit has added another six inches of ash to its layers, I think.  They’re the best people to hang out and drink coffee with on a Saturday evening, and I look forward to celebrating my birthday with them tomorrow.  I’ll bring the cheesecake!

So tell me?  What are you thankful for?  Feel free to comment with your own lists.

 

 

In honour of Labour Day weekend, here are two awesome videos that made my eyes well up.  Never mind that one is a commercial for scotch and the other for life insurance.  These two commercials got it right.  Watch and enjoy.

Geralyn

Unsung Hero

A young man’s kindness may not bring him fame, but it will make a difference.  Wow, this one nails it!

I Read Your Book

An elderly man learns to read for a special purpose.  Oh this one made me choke up!

 

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