Yesterday’s Blog: Not Fearing The Lord Is The Beginning Of Wisdom

I was reminded of this post yesterday and thought it was worth remembering. So here it is again.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
 Proverbs 9:10

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
Psalm 111:10

I’d like to pass on one of the greatest gifts I was ever given by my spiritual mentors today. Mostly, it’s a gift I have from my father. It’s a dangerous gift; a gift that in itself is frightening, and is far less common than I believed, growing up. It is the gift of not fearing the Lord.

Of course, most Christians would say they know that the phrase “fear of the Lord” as found above and in other places in Scripture means respecting Him, not “being frightened of God.” But so many people, whether Christians, followers of other faiths, or atheists are very obviously frightened of God. And like any other fear, this leads to denial, anger, viciousness, and an obsession with safety that swallows up everything else a man or a woman is meant to be. And this places the Gospel of Christ in deadly danger.

Christians who are frightened of God are the worst witnesses that Christ can have. My father knew this instinctively, yet so many do not. And in my travels I have seen, met and heard of Christians who act as though their God is so small and so petty, that He will let their souls — yes, the souls he died for — slip through his fingers as though they were game pieces. We have in the Church Christians who are frightened of people who are gay, of people who are Democrats (yes, and of Republicans), of people who dress revealingly, of people who swear. We have people who are frightened of unbelievers, and people who are frightened, laughably, of getting a receipt that informs them they have been charged $6.66 for their fast food meal. And though this is pathetic and saddening, it is not yet damning.

What is damningly worse, is that we have Christians that are so frightened of God, that they dare not investigate their own faith, and ask questions of their own Scripture. The Bible is an ancient text (actually, the Bible is many ancient texts) written in very foreign languages to people who quite literally lived on a different planet.* It demands investigation and training to read it with wisdom. As I grew in the faith, I asked questions of my father about God and about Scripture, and I got answers. They weren’t always the answers that I wanted. They weren’t always answers that were satisfying. They weren’t always answers, I discovered when I was an adult, that I could accept. But I was never made to feel like a fool or an apostate for asking them.

What a different experience this was from that of so many of my friends who went to their parents, or teachers, or pastors, and were rebuffed, shamed, or even abused for simply having questions. Who were taught that asking a question of God was somehow tantamount to disrespect, or even heresy. Who were given no mercy for the crime of being curious children. I’ve met these people again and again and most of them have walked away from God, never looking back, because God was too frightening and too arbitrary to stay around. They found that the only safe course was to deny that God exists at all, because He was presented to them as a little tin dictator, dealing out death in return for questions. But I am not sure that they are the worst off. They may hear of Christ again, from better ministers and, having had the courage once to turn away, may find the courage to turn back again to the God who offers salvation.

What is worse than this is those who stay in the Church, frightened to death of their own God, desperately singing praise and preaching a Scripture they do not understand and dare not investigate, lest the wrath of their terrible and unforgiving God fall on them. They justly earn the mockery of the world because they don’t know their own religion as well as the people who hate that religion. They become a laughable parody of the Church: a faithful, quivering mass of followers too scared of their own God to know him as well as their enemies do. And they pass along their deadly fear of the Lord.

We must not fear the Lord, but live in a faith strong enough to challenge Him. Strong enough, like Moses, to ask to see God in the face. Strong enough, like Christ, to ask for a way out when the pain of the cross seems too great to bear, and yet to continue on. We must have the strength of Job, who, when he was alone and surrounded by cowardly friends, had faith enough to demand justice at the hand of God. And to do so in the face of his friends, who feared the Lord. They feared Him so much that they dared not ask for goodness from him. No, they threw their friend Job right under the bus of karma when he was suffering, even though he had never done anything but good to them. Because if Job did not deserve the evil that was falling on him, then they would have to face the more frightening truth that they themselves might not deserve the prosperity and health they were enjoying. They would have to face the fact that tomorrow they might be where Job was now. They would have to face the terrible truth that they too lived by the grace of God, over whom they had no control. So they told Job that what was happening to him was justice, to reassure themselves.

And what did God say to these fearful men? He said “Go and make sacrifice, for you have not said of Me the thing that is right, as my servant Job has.” Job was right. He said of God the thing that was right, even as he demanded justice. And that is true faith: faith in God to be good to us. We have too many “faithful” Christians who are so afraid to do anything, that they do nothing, or worse than nothing because they fear that God is a hard master. Jesus told us what is happening to those who bury their talent, clutching their tiny bit of grace to themselves out of fear of punishment: they have no part in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 25). The world rightly laughs at this “faith” and shuns it.

It is a hard, hard thing to trust God. He expects a lot of trust, because He is ultimately trustworthy. Yet any faith that does not trust in this God is a foolish faith, and much, much harder.

Fear not, my friends. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, perhaps. But trust in the Lord is the end.

*Still the Earth. But a very different Earth. Stay focused, friends.

Dear Stabby: The Obedient Rebel

Dear Stabby,

Our patients have just had their first child, and the turn of their thoughts is horrifying. They are positively brimming over with thoughts of all the wrong sort! Impulses to support one another and their child. Long-term plans for reforming wasteful spending habits and sinful recreation! They are even considering the idea of spirituality — which they have long regarded as a joke — seriously. What do we DO?

Sincerely,

Panicked in Pennsylvania

Dear Panicked,

Calm down. Plans are easy. When the human vermin actually DO something, it’s time to worry.
First of all, whatever you do, do NOT fight their charitable impulses toward their child. The Enemy spent billions of years of the most disgusting effort imaginable to ensure that you would fail. In fact, even if you succeeded, you would be likely to awaken Shame, and that is the first step to repentance. Let them lavish their affections on their horrible larva. Encourage it to the exclusion of all else. In this way, they will have no time for each other’s failings or weaknesses. In fact, with very little effort, you can get them into a contest, in which they will both drive each other to exhaustion in the name of “the baby.”  It’s the best sort of game, because unless they BOTH refuse to play, the one that stops first loses. If you play your cards right, they’ll be divorced within three years.

But assuming you can’t do this, the child itself will quickly become your greatest ally, especially in the United States. It’s not really a person yet, just a cavern of Needs and Wants, and thanks to the first great victory of Our Father Below, all of these are utterly devoted to itself. And in the culture your patients are attempting to raise their child in, they are likely to find no help in making it anything else.

Now, the very fact that this is the first time you’ve had serious problems with your patients tells me that they have been brought up as Rebels. Rebellion has always been the fashion in that country, but until recently, it has been impeded by a real faith in something greater than itself. It is still one of the last great strongholds of the old Church, of course: we have never been able to make Revolution in the United States result in the great paroxysms of hatred that convulsed France, Russia and Germany. When it was not the Church that interfered, it was patriotism, or worst of all, the idea of fair play. The best we have been able to do is a slow boil of resentment, although the racial sentiment that is growing may finally allow us a real chance for genocide. But that is another matter.

Nowadays, the Rebels in the United States have taken over to such an extent that there is hardly anything to rebel against. They have won. But since they know how to do nothing else, that only means that they must seek out something to rebel against, or even create it. And that is pushing the whole country to extremes of behavior that would once have been unimaginable. Your patients’ children, brought up in such an atmosphere as this, will hardly be able to escape the impulse to rebel themselves. They have no other example, and practically nothing to obey.

Is it not a marvelous thing we have at last accomplished? The human cattle, believing themselves free, do exactly what we wish, which is to find more and more to rebel against. At any hint of opposition, or thought that they may have gone too far, they will explode in a sort of joyous rage: at last they are opposed. It is too wonderful to be borne! They will destroy that which dares to gainsay them. Or, as is becoming more likely, they will ignore and deafen themselves to it if they cannot, since it is hardly possible for beings without the least hint of discipline to actually persevere in a fight. Of course, we do not want them to fight. We merely want them to, in the words of an old joke, “knock over the pieces, shit all over the board, and declare victory.”

Keep this principle in mind, and you will soon have a family of victorious rebels, each free from the imprisoning desires and “love” of the others (for desire is all they can mean by love), each victorious, and each completely obedient to our call.

Regards,

Stabby

Late Reviews From Avalon: The Chaplain’s War

The Chaplain's War by [Torgersen, Brad R.]

I had the privilege of meeting Brad Torgersen for the first time at this year’s DragonCon. I had known him online for several years, and he was gracious enough to agree to blurb my book, All Things Huge and Hideous earlier this year. He was also very (needlessly) apologetic that the blurb had not worked out. (It was just a matter of bad timing; Brad had been deployed for a very long time, and my request came as he was finally getting to come home. A lesser man wouldn’t have even tried to help me out). But I appreciate Brad’s service even more than the blurb.

At the Baen Roadshow, Brad was also giving away copies of his debut novel, The Chaplain’s War, along with his soon-to-be-Dragon-Award-winning The Star-Wheeled Sky. Because I’m a rather obsessive person, I elected to take a copy of The Chaplain’s War, which Brad signed for me.

So on the flight home, The Chaplain’s War was my reading, and all I can say is, it wowed me. It reminded me of nothing so much as one of my early-adulthood favorites, Ender’s Game. Only it seemed to me to reach more deeply into a question that Orson Scott Card didn’t get to until the sequel Speaker For The Dead: How do you make peace?

The story itself is a bit reminiscent of Ender’s Game. It concerns humanity’s war with the mantis-cyborgs, a race much more technologically advanced, and controlling a much larger stellar empire. In fact, we learn early on that the mantes have already exterminated two other intelligent species, and there seems to be no reason that humanity would not become number three on their list. But that all changes when an alien Professor has a conversation with  Harrison Barlow, the Chaplain’s Assistant in a mantis POW camp. The mantes have no concept of God, and the Professor wishes to understand this strange idea that all three of the mantes’ victims have shared.

What follows is an intricate but action-packed story of humans and aliens working together and fighting against each other to survive. In fact, it occurs to me that this is Ender’s Game meets Enemy Mine. Interwoven through the story of Barlow’s capture by and eventually his diplomacy to the aliens is the story of how he became a soldier and a chaplain’s assistant in the first place.  It’s a story that masterfully blends questions of faith and honor together through a cast of beautifully real (and flawed) characters.

I can hardly wait to find time to get to The Star-Wheeled Sky and its eventual sequel. And I’m honored to count Brad Torgersen as a friend and supporter.

Ad Majorem Gloriam Dei

I hesitated to write this blog post. There were a number of reasons I didn’t want to write it. Part of me felt that it would be arrogant, or that it might come off as preachy. That I might be wrong. It involves some vulnerability, and it involves some risk. But in the end, it is true, and I felt called to do it. So here goes.

I don’t know any writer on the way up that hasn’t dealt with jealousy on some level. That hasn’t dealt with feelings of complete inadequacy, with the feeling that life was unfair. With the feeling that writers who broke out big did so unethically, or because of who they happened to know, or because of other people’s bad taste. I’m sure there are some of them: those who never really had to deal with rejection because their first novel was snapped up right away, and those genuinely good souls who are just virtuous enough to celebrate with others as much as they would for themselves. I wonder which of those two is rarer? I have no idea, but I dearly wish that I were one or the other of them.

We’re not supposed to talk about those feelings. And it’s GOOD that we’re not supposed to.  Those feelings may be inevitable, but they are made much, much worse when we speak from them or act upon them. We’re supposed to say success isn’t pie and that someone else’s success doesn’t mean your failure. Despite the fact that in some cases (such as competing for anthology slots) that’s exactly what it does mean. But it doesn’t matter. Ethically, morally, we should be glad for the success of others. Celebrate them. Lift them up.

I have failed at fighting these feelings a lot. I’ve struggled against them hard. I know I’ve done better than some and I know I’ve done worse than many. I won’t even speculate about “most” because honestly I have no damned idea how “most” people do. My failure is inexcusable. But it’s not unforgivable. Because that’s the nature of forgiveness: the inexcusable is what forgiveness is for.

Last week, I got some news. It has the potential to be utterly life-changing news. And it also has the potential to be nothing more than a high-level rejection. It’s good — unbelievably good — that I’ve risen this high. But I still have potential to fall all the way back down to where I’ll have to start all over again.

And talking about this? It makes me afraid. It makes me afraid because of stupid reasons, like superstition. If I talk about this, it won’t happen. Because of self-centered reasons. There are people out there who will be glad to see me fail. Because of paranoid reasons. There are people out there who might figure out how to sabotage me. And honestly? For moral reasons: Karma or God knows that I haven’t supported others like I should have. I deserve to fail.

But here’s the thing: I do deserve to fail. That’s not the end of it, though: as much and as little as I deserve to succeed, I deserve to fail. Because whether I succeed in this or fail in this, it really isn’t about deserving it. No one in this business deserves a career, deserves an award, deserves a publication. They get those things, or not. One of the pieces of advice that I value most highly , I got from the writer S.M. Stirling at DragonCon 2018. He said, “Most authors have no idea how they got where they are, and the role chance played in getting there.” I believe he is correct on this.

But if there’s been something I’ve appreciated as I’ve hacked my way up the great mountain of publication, it’s been those willing to talk about their failures, and what it’s done to them. In a sense, this blog post is about joining them, in the hopes that I will be helpful to others, as they have been helpful to me. One of those who deserves special mention is Steven Barnes, because of some recent posts on failure and success. Something he posted, and which I wish I could find now, but I can’t, talked about a recent failure of his: for a brief moment, he believed some lies. That he wasn’t good enough. That people were yanking him around just for giggles. And then he had to consciously remember who he was, what he had done, and what was important. And do the next good thing in front of him as a father, a husband, and as a writer.

Now that is amazing, for two reasons: one, because it’s the testimony of a man who has not, even through the kind of success I would (not really!) kill for, lost sight of what is truly important. Secondly, despite that success, he admits that he has not become immune to failure and the bad feelings it brings. He can DEAL with them, but he isn’t IMMUNE to them.

Right now, I am doing everything I know how to for this opportunity to succeed. And right now, there’s just nothing I can do except 1) Wait and find other good things to do, and b) pray like crazy and ask others to do so for me. I’m praying for this like I’ve prayed for nothing else in my life except for my marriage and my children. I want it very, very badly.

Now, I know exactly what the right thing to say is. The right attitude to have. The right thing to say is very old: it’s in the oldest book of the Bible. It’s what Job said: “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

You know, it’s going to be devastating if I don’t get this. But so what? Job was devastated too. And he had far more reason to be.

But this is where I stake my faith. But not, and this must be clearly understood, upon whether I get good news or not. No, I stake my faith on the Lord, who promises that all things work out for good for those who love Him. But I’m still going to pray for what I want, and trust that eventually, that I will receive, that I will find, and that the door will be opened. This is where I pray and what I pray for. I know a lot of people would like to see me succeed. There may be some who would like to see me fail. Oh, well. If that’s what you find pleasure in, then I’m afraid I can tell you from personal experience that it’s a truly awful thing enjoy.

I suppose I’m a little afraid of what people’s reactions will be to say that I’m praying for this. Will they say, “If you get good news, will you say it’s because you prayed?” Hey, I don’t know how prayer “works.” I’ll be too busy being happy about it t even ask that question. Will people say, “Are you trying to butter God up?” No. At least I really hope not. God isn’t, in my experience, very butterable, although if you think that would work, I think you have a weird view of God. I’m also, I suppose, afraid that as much as I’m trying to do what’s right, I might still be wrong.

No, I’m staking my faith on just saying this. Because I can’t really lose: this victory is now won. This is the moment where I can say, before I know the outcome, that I trust (as best I can) God with it. If I get this, I will be overjoyed at the blessing, and God is glorified. It means I really enter the conversation that is literature, and on a whole new level, and I am blessed.

And if I don’t get it? Well then, though it will hurt like poison, then I have at least had this conversation. And that’s a different blessing. And I learned just a couple of days ago that more people are listening to it than I sometimes think possible. And along with John Milton, who is damned good company for a writer, I remember they also serve who only stand and wait. I may not be able to speak with much grace if that happens. I’ll be badly hurt. But I will have done this, ad majorem gloriam Dei. That’s what’s really important, and what’s right, even if I might forget it for a time. I pray that I will not, and that God gives me the grace be His witness in success and in failure.

I Lied. And Sold Something.

Having titled this post, I feel I really must hasten to add that I didn’t sell something BY lying. I don’t do that.

No, it’s just that I’m mortified to realize that my last blog post, over a month ago, said that I was “starting to be able to bring the blog back.”

I so was not able to do that. I really thought I was, but then the school year struck back and ate all my free time again. So I won’t make that promise again. I really do HOPE that I’ll be able to do this more regularly, but as the semester winds down, NaNoWriMo is heating up. I’m over halfway done with my 50k words, but Thanksgiving doesn’t promise to be much of a break, so this could be interesting.

Finally, in unrelated news, Cirsova has picked up one of my favorite short-shorts I’ve ever written, “Adeste, Fideles.” I hope you will all enjoy it.

New Snippets! And a New Blog Post! And New Links!

Hoo-boy, what a month it has been.

Folks, starting a school year with elementary-school age kids, AND a new job, AT a new school, when it’s the first time both your wife and you have ever worked full time?

It’s no joke.

I am incredibly blessed to have all these opportunities, but I do not deny that it has been frantic and hectic. Good, but not relaxing. And some things have suffered.

This blog is definitely one of them. But I’m starting to be able to bring it back.

Over the past week, I have been fixing and improving book links. My new books are available over on the right sidebar: $3.99 for ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS and $2.99 for THE GIRL WHO WASN’T THERE. In addition, if you want a taste of each, I have brand NEW SNIPPETS UP FOR EACH ONE in the SAMPLE SNIPPETS link above.

I hope to have new snippets up soon. Also, I have confirmation that I have sold a new short story: no shit it’s a CHOOSE-YOUR-OWN-ADVENTURE LOVECRAFTIAN NIGHTMARE. Never thought I’d sell it, but Stupendous Stories has picked it up!

Thanks for reading, friends.

DragonCon AAR: Legends and Dragons and Book Sales.

DragonCon was beyond awesome this year. Here are some of the highlights:

Thursday, I met with my publisher, Jason Rennie, and we helped to set up Bard’s Tower, a well-known bookselling staple of DragonCon (and others). Alexi was awesome, allowing Superversive Press to sell our books through the Tower.
I mean, okay, they were going to have featured signings, and I was going to have a chance to sell my book to passers-by, but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

Friday, we opened. In between the aforementioned selling copies of my book, among others, I ducked out to sit on panels about Arthur and the Round Table, and Cordwainer Smith, one of my favorite Golden Age authors. Four people bought books, the first of them being the awesome Dave Butler, award-winning author of the Witchy War series. I picked up his first book in the series, WITCHY EYE, as a prize last DragonCon. This year, I managed to pick up the third from the Baen Roadshow, who was giving away books to all active-duty military, teachers, and librarians. Thanks, Baen Books!

Butler DragonCon

I also met Brad Torgersen for the first time. Brad was nice enough to agree to blurb ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS earlier this year, and is just a great guy to meet in person

Saturday was a big day at the Tower. It began with a new experience for me: it was the day I got to collaborate on the upcoming redesign of the cover for ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS. By the end of the day, I had sold 90% of my books, including a copy that I gave away to Jim Butcher (mostly so I could say I did).

All-Things-Huge-and-Hideous-Kindle

Then I was able to reconnect with my Clarion mentor Tim Powers, who introduced me to a fellow Writers of the Future place-winner, Carrie Callahan, who I now consider a friend. Late that night in the Speaker’s Speakeasy, we both enjoyed an hour’s conversation with Larry Niven, who is certainly one of the greatest influences on my own work. That was amazing.

Finally, Sunday I managed to sell out. My last book went to an awesome lady who cosplays Dark Helmet, and thought the book was a riot. She actually came back and said that she’d found it hilarious and even brought a veterinarian friend with her. I also got to see Brad Torgersen win his Dragon Award for A STAR-WHEELED SKY. And Brad was later kind enough to spread the word about THE GIRL WHO WASN’T THERE! So DragonCon ends with a Dragon Award Winner recommending my books!

The Girl Who Wasn't There - KDP Cover

All in all, it was a wonderful con, and God has truly blessed me in giving me this chance to meet and work with such fine people.

Surprise! SCI-FI NOVEL RELEASE!!

It is with great pleasure that I announce the publication of my first science fiction novel, The Girl Who Wasn’t Thereby Digital Fiction Corp.

The Girl Who Wasn't There - KDP Cover

Besides having an awesome cover, it’s my salute to the spirit of Robert Heinlein’s juvies, and the first book I can unreservedly recommend for kids. AND it’s on sale for just $0.99 on Kindle through Labor Day! Just in time for DragonCon! If you’re there, drop by Bard’s Tower! Paperback soon to follow!

Dragon Con Schedule!

Greetings, loyal readers! A week from now, I’ll be in Atlanta! Please stop by and say hello at my panel:

Title: Bringing More Seats To The Round Table: Diversity In Medieval Stories
Description: Arthurian legend was great for slaying dragons and creating Damsels In Distress. But we want the damsel picks up a sword and save everyone else. Join our panel of authors as they discuss the White Knight trope, fix Arthur’s round table and share their favorite non-traditional medieval era tales.
Time: Fri 01:00 pm Location: Augusta – Sheraton (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: Milton J Davis, E.K. Johnston, Tony A Ballard-Smoot, Esther Friesner, G. Scott Huggins)

Unfortunately, I have just learned that my second panel, ALL THE SUBS, is scheduled to begin 25 minutes before my flight leaves on Monday, and I will NOT be able to attend unless it is rescheduled.

Title: All the Subs
Description: Fantasy is filled with all kinds of stories, but sometimes a trend pops up that turns into a sub-genre. Supervise? Gamelit? LitRPG? Cozy? Noir? There are so many, & a few that don’t really fit in any…yet.
Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: Embassy EF – Hyatt (Length: 1 Hour)
(Tentative Panelists: L. Jagi Lamplighter, James A. Hunter, Aaron Crash, G. Scott Huggins, Cat Rambo, K. M. Herkes)

Finally, I will be at Bard’s Tower in the Dealer Room, helping to sell many fine books including, of course, ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS. Please stop by and say hi!

All-Things-Huge-and-Hideous-Kindle

Eggs Contain Eggs

Sorry that Tuesday’s blog is late.

Just what, please tell me, have we come to as a society? So, I’m at this camp for reasons, and they’ve put up the menu for breakfast where over 100 people eat together. Among other items it includes:

Eggs (contains eggs)

Seriously, people, I shit you not: Eggs contain eggs. Is this really where we are now, that we have to emphasize that a thing is itself? My six year-old should be able to tell that eggs are in eggs. Which is it: do we really think that people are that stupid, or do we think that people are that schemingly litigious. Because either one is a bad sign. I’m sorry, I’m no fan of Scrooge’s “decrease the surplus population” philosophy, but at this point, we can’t afford to have you around if we need to clarify to you that eggs contain eggs. Because people I happen to like have to share this planet with you, and I really can’t handle the possibility that they might be around you if you should suddenly fail to grasp the more complicated concept that, say, people die when you kill them.

If it’s the latter, then could we please just have the lawsuit already? Because here’s how it should go:

LAWYER: “Your honor, my client suffered grievous injury at Camp Muckymuck because the defendants failed to advise him that the eggs served for breakfast contain eggs, an allergen that he advised them he was allergic to.”

JUDGE: “I sentence you and your client to be deprived of the oxygen you wasted for the length of time you billed him for, plus the time you have been in my courtroom, thus returning it to those who will use it more wisely.”

<BANG>

“Next case.”

And at this point someone screeches FOOD ALLERGIES ARE SERIOUS! YOU SHOULDN’T MAKE FUN OF THAT!

Hey, yes, they ARE serious. So serious that if you have them, you really need to pay attention. I certainly wouldn’t object to the OTHER notices on the board. Here was one:

Granola (contains wheat)

Now THAT makes perfect sense. Not all granola contains wheat. Someone might assume it didn’t have any. But can we please just agree that there’s a huge difference between that and recognizing that a thing contains the thing? That a thing IS itself? Please. This is why people from other countries make fun of us. They figure we must really be this dumb. There’s a certain point at which protecting us from ourselves actually hurts us. And it was some time before this.