A friend (Tim George) lost a longtime family pet. A young family, friends of ours, recently spent the night in the hospital with their handicapped little girl after an hour long seizure, one of many she's survived. This country is sinking to unimagined lows as a direct result of this president and his corrupt administration. People have been searching for work, lost their healthcare, and are fearful of how they can survive in this economy. Families have lost loved ones in Afghanistan and around the world, soldiers sacrificing their lives for their country's freedom and the Constitution. Pastor Saeed has been imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith, beaten repeatedly and sent to a notoriously bad prison, and the president just made a devil's deal with Iran without insisting on the American pastor's release as a part of it.
Sometimes it's overwhelming as the sorrows mount up and the tears gush. Losses, disappointments, frustrations, sorrows. We can't always handle them. They can overwhelm and suffocate. Tear apart and leave emptiness.
For us who believe in Jesus Christ (John 14:6), we know this is the temporary, but we've faced enough sorrows of our own to know that certain events rock our souls, shake our foundational faith, and leave us damaged for a season. We pray and fight in the spiritual realm. We beg at times for relief, for solace, for rescue.
We're careful not to offer clichéd rhetoric that neither soothes nor satisfies. We often listen, sit in the quiet of sadness, and hope the work of the Lord will be seen in the land of the living. We know He misses nothing, never slumbers or sleeps, and that He will eventually work all things together for good. It's just that right now, at present, in the moment, it's impossible for us to grasp those thoughts and remember that Truth always prevails. Even when we can't see it.
If this is a season of sorrow for you, if only because you ache for the condition of our beautiful land, if your spirit is crushed, remember this:
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
Father, comfort us all in this time of evil. We're desperate for you. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light. In him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
We're not talking kisses and hugs here. We're talking football. We're talking about the politically correct invading a sport where gifted athletes, who are no less fallible in their humanity than you and I, compete on professional teams for a pre-season of four games and a regular season of sixteen games. From the end of the regular season, the playoffs begin for the best and the season ends for the rest. The Super Bowl is the ultimate goal. The victors of the AFC play the victors of the NFC.
I love professional football. According to one Boston well-respected sportswriter, those of us who love this sport are borderline psychopaths. Really. Because we appreciate the precision passes, the smashing skills of running backs, the blocking schemes, the pass rushes, the concise interceptions against all odds and favor since that receiver is now considered "defenseless".
My favorite defensive back (and, yes, I am prejudicially a homer) Richard Sherman, who is also a Stanford graduate and well-spoken (when he's not smack-talkin') intelligent young man, spoke candidly about concussions and injuries. Refusing to concede to the current climate of the NFL which is intent on restricting the sport from certain kinds of hits, Richard said every athlete knows the risks of playing the game and intimated you'd be lying if you pretended not to know. He told a reporter he once experienced the symptoms of a concussion but chose not to mention it so he could continue playing and even made an interception later in that game.
To bring the leftwing politics into a sport is to determine that "they" can control it and make it perfect by orchestrating exactly how the athletes should play the game. Make it less "violent" so there will be fewer injuries and concussions because it's not right that young men should bash each other around in a game. If you recall, many public schools have eliminated playing with actual balls on playgrounds, substituting Nerf balls, stopped Dodgeball and every other game the left believes could be potentially hurtful or injurious, both physically and emotionally, to kids. (Yet these same people champion the slaughter of unborn children. Paradox anyone?)
The utopians have invaded the NFL and are being accommodated by the Commissioner Roger Goodell to echo their "concerns" and mimic the politically correct assumptions about how football should be played. It's disgusting, unfair, and typically sissy-fying a tough and hard-played sport with subjective rulings by inconsistent referees who throw those yellow flags on perceived "illegal" hits in one game and the same hits are not penalized in other games. The rules are expanding and limiting and interfere with the love and enjoyment of the game.
Professional football is played by the best of the best. Incredible athletes, some of impeccable character and others who lack it, join together to work as a team, competing at the highest level to acheive the goal of winning the Super Bowl. It's a hard-fought journey to get to that level, and injuries play a significant part along the way. The intangibles such as teamwork and chemistry must mix with superior talent and all come together just right to win a Super Bowl.
When those who have no business doing so step in to ruin a sport, it's just one more area of our lives where control is being exercised to make everything better. As is usually the case when they do this: it's ruining the sport and making another little corner of life less enjoyable and less reasonable.
Father, the arrogance of humanity is personified in the desire to control others' lives. Please help them to see the arrogance for what it is. You are the only perfection. There is none on this earth or in any of us. We are sinners. Our only hope is in you, Jesus. Amen.
A writer's tears . . . frustration when the story won't gel, or the words don't come, or the tempo seems off, or the characters won't cooperate. Small things in this world, but to the isolation of a writer in the zone, these things can raise the blood pressure, cause a surge of anxiety, and remind us of our utter humanity and failures, plus they accelerate our humility, reverse our concentration, and keep us looking up to the One who gives us words, peace, and a more complete sense of reality.
Although this is the life in which we function, we must remember the dire needs of others, the spiritual focus which slips aside so often. People are dying spiritually every day. And nothing is more important than their souls. Eternity awaits us all, and it isn't an imaginary journey to a heaven or a hell. It is either or.
Sometimes the tears are rerouted . . . where they can do the most good.
Father, help us keep the perspective you desire for us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Believe me, I'm not making any comparisons of real courage (i.e. Tom Cruise's notorious comments of his work being equal to that of soldiers in Afghanistan) to what can be found in the resevoirs of creative storytelling. I'm speaking strictly of the creative courage it can take to tell a story like it needs to be told. Will you dare to write it the way it will be truthful and complete in its honesty, or will you comply with the often restrictive nature of Christian publishing? Is the acceptance more important than the reality of telling it "like it is"? What is the standard for your writing?
Father, please help me to be honest and real in what you have for me to write. Always. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Revenge is the third entry in the Degrees of Darkness Series by Winter Austin, published by Crimson Romance and due out November 11th (2013).
We're reunited with Remy LeBeau attempting to put his past behind him once and for all by returning to New Orleans where all but two of his former associates on the police force believe he died in the Katrina tragedy thanks to the arrangements of his former father-in-law and District Attorney Paul Dumond. His former partner on the police force Jared Savard knows he's alive because he thought he killed Remy when he raped and killed Remy's newly pregnant wife Marie. Paul Dumond made it easy for Remy to disappear and relocate in Dallas on the police force where he's a detective with his partner, former Marine Heath Anderson. Dumond made it clear the arrangement meant Remy could never return to New Orleans.
Remy never expected to fall in love again after the horrors of losing his wife Marie and barely surviving his knife wounds, but after his initial meeting and subsequent go-round with the red-headed rodeo spit-fire Cody Lewis in the first book of the series Relentless, he's fallen hard and reasoned the only way they can truly be together is to confront the forces that have been trying to kill him, introduced in the second book Retribution. With the information he gained in Retribution he's determined to locate and eliminate his former partner and whoever is responsible for giving Savard the orders for the death of Marie and now himself.
The blow-up he expected from Cody takes place when he denies her request to accompany him, intending to protect her from the evil he's pursuing, and he leaves with her furious declaration that she won't wait for him echoing in his senses. With his mandatory month long vacation handed down from his superior, he leaves Dallas and rides his Harley to his only remaining confidante with whom he worked on patrol in New Orleans, Victoria (Vic) Slater's home. Secretly, they intend to solve two things: who is "Alphonse" who's been ordering these horrible killings and could it also be connected to the cold case deaths of Vic's parents?
In a regretful turnaround Cody, her best friend Kim, Luc Santorini the investigator, and Heath head to New Orleans to find and assist Remy before he manages to get himself killed. Kim's on a mission to find out information about her birth mother's death, and Cody and Heath are geared up for finding Remy, starting out on Bourbon Street.
Remy sneaks into town planning to ambush Savard's underlings until he gets the information he needs. Hitting hard and fast, he gets some information but not enough. In the meantime Savard's Voodoo backfires on him and the clang of fear begins to motivate his actions. "Alphonse" learns of Remy's presence, and all hell breaks loose.
The twists tease the reader in the background, the tension amps up, the hot-headed Cody manages to alienate her best friend, Heath tries to handle Cody and Kim, Luc turns up useful and compelling discoveries while Remy and Vic try to figure out what they've missed.
Winter gives the reader a true depiction of the real New Orleans, famous for its corruption much like Chicago. We feel the darkness and evil that floats through the Bourbon Street bars, and we sense the cold murderous spirit about to wrap itself around Remy and his friends.
Revenge is an exciting tale of love, loss, the desire to put an end to the long standing evil that surrounds Remy's life so, if he can survive his mission, just maybe he can find some real happiness. Toward the end, survival looks tentative, but the intense climax and settled ending proves satisfactory on many levels.
Cody's character grew on me, but she drives me (and herself) crazy with her over-reactions and self-induced struggles. In this book her courage and toughness is admirable and fits with her strong-willed personality. Remy is the strong, stubborn Cajun who's smooth, sultry, and savvy when he needs to be. It's hard not to fall for him. The bad guys are definitely bad with a little Voodoo and a lot of cold, hard evil.
Real romantic suspense, this third edition in the Degrees of Darkness Series manages to be my favorite. Faith issues remain mostly in the background, and profanity is used occasionally. I recommend you begin with Relentless, proceed to Retribution, and thoroughly enjoy Revenge by Winter Austin.
And finally I gotta say: that is one fabulous cover for this novel.
Father, thank you for Winter's imagination and talent. Thank you for her diligence and determination. Please continue to give her meaningful characters and stories and the time to complete what you've given her to do. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
I realize and am quick to admit that what I may think is absurd when it comes to dishing out writing rules might not be agreeable to publishing professionals. Does that change my mind? Nevah . . .
I will also agree to a certain value in establishing writing rules in order to direct those who failed to learn - or were never taught in today's public school systems - what is proper grammar, the basics of English, literature, constructing essays, term papers, stories, and book reports. And the difference between formal "proper" grammar and the spirit of writing fiction which includes working dialogue for the novel's timeline, can contain slang expressions, and, if contemporary, does not rely heavily on the lack of contractions.
I think it's absurd to require certain eliminations as if there is never a need for particular elements of style, words, situations, etcetera. Prologues, for example, are said to be useless. Adverbs as well. And multiple other "requirements" to get a manuscript past the initial reader. To insist upon a certain uniformity in writing quashes the opportunities for writers to demonstrate unique styles and express atypical voices. To demand adherence to a set of rules decimates originality and instead creates predictable, boring literature.
Which is absurd.
Father, so much in this world is absurd. Sometimes it's hard to look past it, ignore it, combat it, and sift through it to find and embrace the beauty and truth. We're desperate for you, Lord.