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28
Jan

“Slowly I Turned”: Directing My Own Funeral

Any time I deal with people, I find that an event that normally would have nothing whatsoever to do with me suddenly takes over my life. I suppose that’s why I don’t like dealing extensively with people. My routine this week got overthrown by an unexpected event of the previous week. One of my coworkers suffered a bereavement—her father died. I myself never met the man. If I didn’t work in the same office as his daughter, I would never have known his name or anything about him.

 

It’s an interesting experience, attending the funeral of someone you don’t know. Apart from the natural tendency to choke up at the sight of others’ grief, there’s no involvement in the emotional currents and undercurrents of the hour. It wasn’t a bad funeral, as they go, but I thought it was a little thin. Possibly it suited the man being remembered—I don’t really know. But it started me thinking, which is often a dangerous thing. Still, “it is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2, ESV). I expect that’s why some people are so reluctant about funerals. Considering one’s own mortality isn’t exactly the most popular pastime.

 

I don’t mind it so much. For one thing, since I live in the assurance of the resurrection, it doesn’t frighten me as much as it might. Mind you, there were some things about this particular funeral that I found plenty disturbing when I thought of them happening at my funeral. So I decided to lay down a few ground rules for when that day comes.

 

Firstly: anybody who shows up to my funeral wearing all black had better be in full formalwear and prepared to present a musical/dance number. I mean it. I know it’s traditional, and I know it’s supposed to show respect for grief, but honestly—I had my “black” period, and I’m over it. (Sure enough, as soon as I write that, I realize that I’m wearing a long-sleeved black t-shirt, charcoal gray yoga pants, and a black zip-up hoodie. Whoops. But my socks are fuzzy and bright purple, so there.) I fully believe that those of us in Christ who suffer the loss of a loved one should not grieve as others do, who have no hope (see 1 Thess. 4:13ff). There had better be plenty of color at my funeral. Otherwise, first thing I’ll do at the resurrection is find every single member of that crowd and give each a swift kick in the tukkis. Yes, I hope that I will be missed, but not so much that the color leaches out of my memory.

 

That brings me to a second point. There had better be a fair amount of giggling going on at my funeral. I enjoy a good laugh. Every funny, embarrassing story you ever knew about me is fair game. That’s just what my life has been like: always leaning toward the absurd. Think about it. What else would you call it when someone born cheerful ends up with depression? A top student working a string of low-wage, low-respect jobs just because she happened to be born a writer instead of something more employable? Something is seriously wrong if my funeral doesn’t have at least a few participants laughing into their Kleenex.

 

(Oh, yeah. By the way, I like to be prepared for any eventuality, especially the really obvious ones, so please make sure there is a box of tissues available to each pew. Not the kind with lotion in them—they smear your glasses when you try to wipe off the mist of eyelash-spatter after you’ve been crying. And not the cheap ones that double as extra-fine sandpaper. That’s just mean.)

 

What else? No organist leaning so hard on the hymns that they (hymns, not organist) start to bulge at the edges. To be honest, I’d prefer a full worship set to get people warmed up for the story-telling. I once mentioned to my sister that I’d like “Revive Us Again” played at my funeral, just to see how many people caught the joke. I won’t hold anyone to that, but I do insist on songs about eternal life, not about loss. “A New Name In Glory” wouldn’t be a bad choice, as long as it’s played at a decent tempo. Fortunately, at my church nearly all our pianists tend to play songs too fast, so I don’t think I’ve got much to worry about there. (Let her rip, ladies. No holds barred.)

 

Absolutely, positively, no creepy saccharine poetry about me always being all around you after I’m gone. On the issue of embalming versus cremation, I want neither to be laid out like a tray of cold cuts nor to be stood in a pseudo-Grecian pot on somebody’s mantle, but above all I have no intention of being vaporized. I intend to have a specific location, thank you, after death as well as beforehand. If afterward I happen to venture somewhere near you, you’ll know it. Believe me, you’ll know. (In other words, you’d better hope that that specific location is a plot of ground in some out-of-the-way corner of a garden somewhere. I’d hate to think what I might get up to if God let me wander around just for the fun of it.) I don’t know that I have much to fear in terms of poetry, though, because anyone who knows me well enough to contribute to my funeral service HAD BETTER KNOW ME WELL ENOUGH TO KNOW WHAT DOESN’T SUIT ME. (Ahem.) But I digress.

 

A curious thought just came to me. “Slowly I Turned” is about things that hinder me as a writer, right? Of all the topics I’ve discussed, however, this is one that doesn’t really hinder me at all. I don’t just mean that it’s conducive for me, though it is. I can always think of something to say about my own demise. But this is one of the really breathtaking (yes, and daunting) aspects of being a writer. It doesn’t matter if I am no longer here; if you are reading this, then somewhere in the world I have left a part of myself. Death is no great hindrance to a good writer, apart from the trifling difficulty of finding new works by him or her. The impact remains, though the hand that struck the blow will never be lifted for another in this world. I think that’s magnificent. How many vocations can say that? Not sure I can live up to it, but I do my best.

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28
Jan

Don’t Miss Out On Your Free Makkarios E-book!

Remember: now through January 31, you can download a copy of H.M. Snow’s newest book, the young adult fantasy/sci-fi crossover Makkarios: Come Together from the Kindle store. Don’t miss out!

26
Jan

O Frabjous Day! (or, Tomorrow Makkarios V1 is Free!)

Remember: starting at 12:00 AM Friday January 27 and ending 11:59 Tuesday January 31, you can download the Kindle version of Makkarios: Come Together ABSOLUTELY FREE! I’m so excited– Callooh! Callay!

Don’t keep it secret. We want everyone to get a chance to read this new book, so spread the word.

21
Jan

Routine, Resolutions, & Resolve

I’m back! Well, I say that, but I have been sitting here at the computer for some time now without any sense of direction for this post. I’m only here, frankly, because I set a schedule for writing here. This past holiday season reminded me that I need the structure of routine. It provides an anchor for my creativity. Without it, I’m not only unproductive—I end up getting myself into pointless mischief. The way I see it, if I’m going to indulge in mischief, the least I can do is make it productive.

 

The first thing that leaps to mind at the beginning of a new year is, of course, resolutions. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that it is forced to mind. At no other time of year is the average consumer so heavily pressured into investing in weight loss and exercise options—and oftentimes alternatives too, most of them improbable in the extreme. I begin to wonder if there are any other New Year’s resolutions.

 

Me, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. I don’t believe in them. They’re contrary to human nature, mere artificial constructs with no lasting roots in life. Just look at the January weight-loss frenzy: when I belonged to a gym, I hated going during January. I went on a regular schedule year-round, and yet suddenly for about a month I ended up shouldered aside by temporary athletes who didn’t know a tricep from a glute. Fortunately, the rush always ends by mid-February. I suspect it isn’t conscious realism that drives them out, but good old-fashioned habit. Change doesn’t happen because of an arbitrary catalyst like a date on the calendar. In terms of weight loss and health, genuine change tends to happen only after traumas like heart attacks and cancer scares.

 

Also, I believe that New Year’s resolutions are nearly always aimed in the wrong direction. How many of those who resolve to lose weight really ought to be forming a resolution to form a more realistic self-image, or to cherish the body as God’s creation and treat it accordingly? If you resolve to change the symptoms without dealing with the underlying disease, your resolution is destined to fail.

 

That’s why I make daily, not yearly, resolutions. It’s good to have a long-term goal, but every long-term goal consists in several short-term resolutions built up over time. One doesn’t live in the long-term. Every day holds its own challenges. Some challenges recur on enough of a regular basis that they need a special level of resolve for a person to face them. For instance, I resolve to get up every morning and go to work without complaint. Given the stresses of my job and my intense dislike of it, that takes a good deal more endurance than a resolution to balance daily exercise with a healthy diet. It is one of the small steps toward my biggest resolution: to live daily in glad obedience to my Lord, so that I may please him more and more each day. This isn’t something that can be decided on a whim. It takes resolve, which builds habits, which create a structure on which I can build a life of godly grace, beauty, and service.

 

I think that resolution is challenging enough to be going on with, don’t you?

20
Jan

Perfect Opportunity: Free e-book!

Your attention, please! For five days in a row– Friday, January 27 through Tuesday, January 31–the Kindle store will offer the first volume of my new Makkarios series free. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce your friends to a great new book (if I do say so myself). Download a copy for yourself; gift a copy to a friend. All that matters is that you spread the word!

Download Come Together

Volume 1 in the new Makkarios series

14
Jan

“Slowly I Turned”: The World Turned On Its Head

One each appointed day (multiples of seven, if you hadn’t noticed), I’ve been trying to cultivate the habit of coming home from work, turning on my computer, and putting together each post for this blog before I do anything else. Today, I had such a soul-sucking day that I just couldn’t write. Sometimes when this happens, I need to put myself in a better frame of mind by reading a book or watching a movie that makes me laugh. Today, it didn’t work. That’s because today’s drain wasn’t just the constant irritation of work-as-usual, which consists of sensory overload and an abundance of petty sniping between coworkers. Today someone attacked my faith. Not personally. I’m pretty sure she didn’t even know what she said could be taken personally by someone like me, because I do not fit her preconceived notion of a Bible-believing Christian. She belongs to the raging ultra-liberals. She does good work with underprivileged black kids and participates in teachers’ union politics to defend her profession. If you asked her to draw a picture of a Bible-believing Christian, she would sketch something out of a tabloid, a creature with teeth numbering in the single digits and an IQ only slightly higher, born to suppress other people’s liberties by bludgeoning them with a hardcover King James. You see, she doesn’t actually know any. Or she doesn’t recognize any, although she might exchange greetings with at least half a dozen on a regular basis as she walks through the halls of our school, because (as I said) they don’t fit her preconceived notions—her prejudices, if you will.

 

I owe a big thank you to my newest Facebook friend, Joel, because when I posted my frustrations he responded with the usual Christian reaction: They don’t object to other religions, only to ours. I’m glad he did, because he made me uncomfortable with my own perspective on this incident, and through that discomfort I emerged from my funk at last. I hate the usual reaction, specifically because it is a reaction. I hate having my thoughts, emotions, or actions dictated by those of another. I always have hated this with a passion—just ask my mother. (Poor Mom. The older I get, the more I admire the fact that she and Dad raised me to adulthood without resorting to infanticide.) Reactionary thinking drives me absolutely spare because it means I’ve yielded the initiative to another. Call me contrary, but it’s true.

 

That’s part of the reason why writing is so important to me. I need space to compose my thoughts into an order that pleases me, all the more so when my emotions are stirred. Writing is a way to think out loud in a deliberate, unhurried manner, safe from the rudeness of interruption that so many argumentative people fall into when they feel that my ideas are less worth hearing than their own rebuttal. If I can put my thoughts in order via print, whether in ink or in pixels, I can retrieve my sangfroid (also important to me, as you might have guessed). A charitable spirit is impossible for me without at least a pinch of sangfroid.

 

Thus, through the wonders of asynchronous communication, I have come to a conclusion about the teacher I mentioned previously. I’ll tell you what I told Joel: this is not a battle I must fight. As soon as I begin to consider it in that light, I might as well concede defeat. There’s a much better way to consider it. You see, I grew up in a very safe environment, a world where all I really knew was the community of believers and a few approved outsiders. I have never suffered a substantial challenge to my beliefs, because everyone around me agreed on the same basic—I don’t know if I’d call it courtesy. Perhaps I’d better refer to it as shared social mores. I no longer have this buffer around me, and that’s a very good thing. I must hone my abilities. I can write fantasy for my own enjoyment, but there’s another side to my persona. I have a fiction self and a nonfiction self. I am designed to be an apologist, I suspect. Such a person can’t afford thin skin. So, in that sense, I owe God thanks for bringing me my prejudiced activist colleague. In order to take and keep the initiative, I need to begin to find ways to communicate with her in an honest and charitable manner. I refuse to fall back on typical reactions. I can’t afford it, since I never know whether I might be the only member of the community of believers to cross paths with this woman in a given day. I need to find ways to make it clear who I am—who I really am—so that the Lord Jesus might make himself known to her through me. That is what “Christian” means: Christlike one. It is my great privilege to be the image of Christ. She gives me a chance to do just that. Therefore, she is a blessing to me. How can I be any less to her?

12
Jan

MLK Day– Free Novellas!

Tell your friends– heck, tell your enemies, as long as they read Kindle ebooks. On Monday, January 16th, Amazon’s Kindle store is offering Faerie Tales for Travelers and The Wolf King Ascends for free!

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