My First Balticon! Why This Event is Special

My First Balticon! Why This Event is Special

33527076_1266975076780596_6166677699583541248_nI think I’ve alluded to this story a few times here or there, but I wanted to make sure I expressed why Balticon was something special to me.

About four years ago, I attended my first Balticon. I heard about the guests, and couldn’t help but drive straight to the event.  It was like paradise for aspiring authors.

The first night, I was wide-eyed and awestruck as I stumbled into a dining area and realized several authors (including one I think particularly highly of), were just hanging out and chatting like regular people and stuff.  So I took a seat at a table with said respected author and a bunch of us just talked.

During the conversation, I’d mentioned how many rejections I’d gotten and how I was worried I wouldn’t get published.

The author (who will remain nameless because while I wish this person knew how much of an impact that conversation had on me, I never want to try to imply an endorsement) asked how many books I’d written. I think I’d finished four manuscripts by that time. Author told me about self publishing. Author took away the fear I had regarding self publishing. Here’s this best-seller and huge community influencer talking to rando-wannabe #273,99, and Author is nothing more than encouraging.

We didn’t talk about any of my books in particular. We talked about overdone tropes. We talked about world building. We talked about the permanence of dark fantasy, and Author simply told me to go for it.

During that same convention, I met the man I hope will one day be my agent. I haven’t trapped his attention yet, and I have several agents I think I’d work well with, but this is the guy I’ll confess is number one on my draft board. That happened during a conversation I had with him.  I was wandering the halls (trying to stalk Author without earning a restraining order) when I saw the agent sitting by a small, handmade sign that read, “I’m an agent. Pitch me your book.” I pitched him Bob Drifter. It didn’t grab his attention, but he gave me a touch of feedback and it helped make the story better.

The point is, I was this young man who wanted so desperately to be an author, and Balticon was this warm, encouraging environment devoted to the craft I wanted to have as a profession. I can say with absolute certainty that I’m not where I am now (this soon) if I didn’t go to that Balticon. I’d gone to a few others as an attendee, and now, here I am, selling two books at the convention that set me on the path to getting published.

I can’t really express how this feels. I’ve come to ave more realistic expectations for what happens during conventions, but I’m still excited to be here, hitting a major genesis point for my life. It’s full circle, but not complete.  I still have a lot of growing and learning to do. I still have a lot of work.

That said, I’m happy to be here and look back on how far I’ve come.

I hope to see you all at the convention. Whatever your goals or nerdish habits are, this is a place you’ll enjoy seeing.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Advertisements

Balticon Sale! 2 Books 99 Cents Each

Bob_Caught_99_SaleGreetings all,

First, sorry for no review on Wednesday.  I was handling something. I’ll let you know more about that on Sunday.  I should be on track for a Saturday post though.

That said, on to the news! In celebration of Balticon, An Unusual Occupation and Caught are each #99cents May 25-28! Don’t miss this chance to get two great books for a total of $2.

Hope to see you all at the convention if you’re in the Baltimore area!

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 12

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 12

See Part 1 here.

See Part 2 here.

See Part 3 here.

See Part 4 here.

See Part 5 here.

See Part 6 here.

See Part 7 here.

See Part 8 here.

See Part 9 here.

See Part 10 here.

See Part 11 here.

Patience

With my mom back in her home, I’m happy that things are starting to gain a sense of routine. Routine is something I cherish. It keeps life moving. It helps everything feel like it’s all OK.

It even feels a bit normal. I called home. My mom was more interested in my relationship with my girlfriend than seemingly anything else. That’s a strength my mom has always had. Whatever is going on in life, she wants to know we’re OK. If anyone were to ask why I feel my mom is the best, I’d reply that it’s because my happiness is her priority. She and the family are working to get the house ready to sell, and the first thing she asked when I called is if I need any new clothes.

It’s startling to be honest.  I sort of struggle with that. I try to show she’s raised me right by not needing her, and she’ll never stop wanting to provide for me.  It’s one of the cornerstones of love.

What I want to be happy is for this to be over. I’m mentally exhausted at work. I’m exhausted with the pace I’ve been turing out stories. And this concern for my mom is always right there in the back of my mind.

So today, I speak about patience. I don’t feel I’m bad or sinful for expressing my desire for this trial to be over. However, I do realize that my purpose is to preserver.  God wants us to stand strong through adversity. Doing so shows God we trust him and have faith in him.

I had a bit of a high-and-low moment at work last Friday. One the high side, one of my friends watched me teach.

“I don’t know how you keep bringing that much passion every day.”

I replied, “Are you ready for the answer?”

He nodded.

“When you know you’re doing what God wants, it’s easy.”  As true as that is, I was, again, pretty arrogant.  My point was that we should always evaluate what we’re doing. If we’re suffering, there’s a reason and purpose.  My argument was that sometimes suffering shows us we’re not doing what God wants.

Less than an hour later I vented (it was venting, but I shouted, loudly) to my friend and team lead about an issue that came up.  Someone wasn’t aware of a change we had to make. That person didn’t know why the change was made. He went to talk to our mutual boss about it.  When you have some 30-something (at least) instructors working with more than 120 students in four different iterations of the same course, things are bound to fall through the cracks. My anger and frustration took the wheel, which means I turned from God in that moment, hours after I said it’s easy to do what God wants.

The fact is, it’s not easy to do what God wants.  The reward, the joy I feel when I know I’m doing what He wants is priceless. That doesn’t mean there won’t be trials, and I failed that test. I failed that test less than an hour after I talked about keeping one’s mind on serving God.  This is because I lack a skill that’s critical to being a good christian: Patience.

Romans 12:12: “Be Joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

I’m not often patient in any manner. Now, in this portion of my mom’s treatment, all there is to do is wait. At work, when things took an unexpected turn, all I needed to do was wait.  I didn’t.  This is something I need to practice and demonstrate in my life.

There’s a phrase I’m currently studying in some christian circles. “Let go, and let God.”  I’m not honestly one who believes that if I just sit idly praising God, things will just fall in my lap.  At the very least I’m not so foolish as to think I can work outside of God’s will. I’ve mentioned before that one has to work toward a goal and then wait for God to enact His will in His time.  But that patience has to become a regular part of my life.

Romans 8:24-25: “For in this hope, we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Everything that happens, not matter how horrible it may seem at the moment, is for our own good. For those who wish to dispute this, I feel compelled to note the words “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This sort of puts a sharp, unsympathetic modifier on things. This verse clarifies that God works specifically for those who love him and those who’ve been called.

Some, like Paul may suffer so that they might hear God’s call.

So, to create context, let’s establish some necessary assumptions.

  1. Those who don’t love God may or may not suffer, but their acts, though permitted by God, are not for the good of those individuals unless that good is intended to bring those people to hear God’s call and come to love him, which is the greatest good there can be.
  2. The ultimate good is a life alongside Jesus when he returns to Earth.
  3. Glory is promised to those who love and honor God, but that Glory is defined as the love of God. Some people consider glory to translate to “what I want.”

That third aspect of context is the one that really gets some people. I’ve spoken frequently about things I want, but each of those desires must be secondary to loving and honoring God. That’s the glory. If one recognizes that as the definition, then one can understand a major question of religion.

“If God loves us, why does he let bad things happen?”

Paul lost everything. He was imprisoned and later executed for loving and following God, but he maintained faith and conviction because he understood his ultimate glory was already guaranteed.

Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

At this point in this journey I find myself “wanting.” I want to get married. I want to be better at my job. I want to be a best seller. And, I want my mom to be cancer free.

I feel confident that most who read this wouldn’t blame me for any of these desires. The hammer meets the nail when one realizes those are all worldly desires. God may or may not choose to allow any of those things to happen. I’d obviously praise God for each of those things if they happened just as I praised God by telling my coworker I have passion when I teach because I believe that’s what he wants me to do.  But what do you do when you don’t get what you want?

What was your motivation for following God? Readers, if you follow God because you believe he’s the ultimate  “Godfather” giving you things in exchange for what you give, I’m compelled to tell you to pray. Pray for understanding and wisdom. You don’t follow God because of the earthly things you might get. You follow him because you love him and fear him.

So if I’m denied every single one of those earthly desires, what I should and will do is praise him. Praise him and testify that this, like all things, is ultimately for my good. I might not see it. I might not understand it. It might be a test, a test I’ve failed a lot in recent days.

I have a dissagrement at work, and off I go, shouting and yelling because I’m afraid.  This demonstrates no faith in God and no respect of this will.

My girlfriend’s divorce isn’t final, and I fail to control my mind and body, ultimately seeking out fornication to satisfy my fleshly desires.

My mom has a few turns in her treatment, and I balk when my sister calls for help (see Part 7).

Why should God bless me if I keep turning from him every time my life is going well when measured by earthly desires and accomplishments?

Is that who I really am? I am I that hypocritical? Am I one of those who responded with, “Only just let me” when Jesus says, “follow me.”  See the Gospels.

This is my repentance. It’s hard to be christian. It’s hard to follow God because you have to always follow him. I’m as faithful in prayer as anyone I know. I’m great at rejoicing in hope.

Now, in this portion, where I must wait, and I’m sad and hurting because I want my mother to be okay, I must be patient.

Pray for me in this readers. Pray for me that I might learn to be as calm and happy in my trials as I am in my joys.

 


 

Questions and Revelations

What happened at work?

Honestly, nothing. There were things I was very afraid could or might happen. But it was a hole lot of wasted anger and frustration over nothing. This amplifies my shame, readers. Things have gotten blown out of proportion in my life and in my workplace. I won’t assert they are more or less than any business or school, but I have to be better than I am in how I respond to them, even if they go result in my persecution or suffering.   In this case, it was all fine by the time I left that day, but I think I learned more from this instance than I ever have. I fear the next time something like this comes, but I hope that I’m ready for it.

What do you mean “bad things happen for my good”?

Just what I said. Listen, I sometimes get frustrated at people or religious books that proclaim bad things happen for good reasons just as I get frustrated at those who smile and say to perceiver or not want worldly things when they seem to have an awful lot of worldly things.  That’s jealousy, plain and simple. I’m not pretending to know your pain. But here’s some of mine:

I come from a family created through rape and brutalized by molestation.

I’ve seen children of those I love given away for adoption.

I’ve seen a child burned (not killed, but badly burned).

I’ve seen parents of those I love die.

I’ve seen dreams of people I love crumble.

I’ve told young men and women who wanted nothing more that to be storytellers for the Navy that they couldn’t do that.

It hurt. I wept. Most times I have to let a student go, I weep.

I have nightmares about this.

I’m not comparing my suffering to yours. But I have suffered, and I will suffer more. They were horrible. They were sad. Some of those things took me decades to come to terms with.

How was any of that for my good? For starters, I exist. I’m alive. Ester’s rape was a horrible thing. The molestation in my family wasn’t any better. But here I am, a man at the end of a long line of tragedy, a faulted, flawed, sinful man, but one who understands God loves him, and forgives him these sins.

Here I am, a man who feels like he had to fight through years of abuse and heartbreak, and now I’m about to become a part of a family with three boys, who might just need exactly that kind of knowledge, so that I can help them through their parents’ divorce. Is that how I want things to happen? No! But I’m better for it. I’m more prepared for future, harder trials because of it.

It’s easy for non-believers to point at the bad in the world and wail, “What sort of God would allow this?”

My response is a God who knows what’s to come. A God who’s calling others to action. A God who loves us enough to prepare us. Yes, he tests us. He allowed Satan to wipe out Job’s family. Job’s my favorite story. I don’t know that I could fill his example, but he suffered that so that he could be an example.

Jesus: God sent his only son to earth to die for our sins. Oddly, I’ve never heard anyone argue about that. I’ve never heard any non-believer say, “What father would ever sacrifice his son for anything?”

First off, Jesus also chose to die for our sins. He loved us so much he willingly died, obeying his father’s will and paying for all our sins.  How much do you imagine either actually enjoyed that?

I’m not saying don’t be sad. I’m not saying look to tragedy with a smile.  I’m simply stating my firm belief that as a child of God, everything that happens to me is for my own good.

Do you look forward to the next test?

Oh there’s no way that’s not coming. Even Peter was tested three times just as he denied Christ three times. Honestly, I don’t look forward to any of my trials or tests. Jesus didn’t skip to the cross and smile as they nailed him to it. He was, however, far more benevolent and honorable as he endured those things. So must I. No. I don’t look forward to it. But I do long to show God I can endure. That means I have to be put in a position to endure though doesn’t it?

If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog.  I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.

Thanks for reading

Matt

A Thin Line Between Loyalty and Boring. The Value of Conflict Between Supporting Characters

A Thin Line Between Loyalty and Boring. The Value of Conflict Between Supporting Characters
civil-war-cap-tony-179110.jpg
Image from comicbook.com

I’m making my way through my TBR pile, and I noticed something in a book that drew my attention. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s probably not a good thing. I’ll keep things vague because there’s enough bad pub out there regarding books, and I’m not in any way trying to bash anyone. However, we can look at what some people do and make notes.

We have a  main character who has a sidekick. This sidekick is loyal and steadfast. My argument is this character might have reached the point to where that steadfastness is not only hard to believe, but has become boring because no matter what the main character puts that sidekick through, the character simply keeps being this amazingly helpful, understanding person.

While I’ve recently come to believe that conflict in stories is a must, and I think authors should find as many opportunities for conflict as possible, I’m not in any way saying there needs to be some sort of fight scene or argument in every scene. Sometimes you need tension. Sometimes you need support. The thing is though, no one can be stalwart and reliable 100 percent of the time.

From a human perspective, even lifelong friends get frustrated with one another. My brother-and-I are such close friends and so well regarded, that family members have on occasion asked one of us what we wanted and then bought it for the other.  When I go shopping, I just buy something I really want and give it to him. That doesn’t mean we’ve never fought. From that same perspective, friendships are tested through adversity. The point in live isn’t to always agree and support each other.  Support is a thing, but support doesn’t always imply, helping or (more importantly) rolling with whatever the MC wants.

From a writer’s perspective, any author should be seriously worried when character reactions or actions become predictable. Predictable characters are boring, and boring characters lead to unread books.

Disagree?  Let’s take a look at some of the most famous “friends” in fiction or entertainment:

Let’s get the obvious out of the way.  Didn’t we all see Civil War? I mean, the movie made metaphorical-astro-bucks in theaters. Wasn’t that story (in movies and comics) all about putting allies at odds? That sort of conflict takes this analogy a little farther than I want though.  What about the most loyal sidekick ever?

samwise-gamgee-samwise-gamgee
Image from writingishardwork.com

Samwise Gamgee: The guy tagged along with Frodo through everything. Some may Sam is the actual protagonist of the story.  while I think he was the hero, he wasn’t the protagonist. The protagonist in any story is the one who has a clear goal and encounters obstacles. The main goal of Lord of the Rings? Destroy the ring. Yes, Sam just wanted to protect his friend, but it’s not as neat as those wearing fond remembrance glasses think. For starters, Sam didn’t hear about the tale and shout, “Frodo can’t go unless I do!”  In fact, he was caught eavesdropping and ordered to follow Frodo.  The very beginning of their journey wasn’t based on friendship and support; it was based on Sam being yanked into this mess because of being nosey.

Yes, Sam was stalwart through perhaps 95% of the whole story, but there was rising conflict and an eventual clash of wills and break-up. Sure it was short lived, but Sam and Frodo argued about Gollum, which ended in Sam saying he can’t support this path. Yes, he returned, but that return as all the more heroic because the audience understood and believed how frustrating it would be.

So writers, I’m not saying the friends or sidekicks of the story need to argue at every page or end up on opposite sides of the conflict, but no one real or fictitious, can walk in the shadow of an MC and not encore some of the emotional strain, turmoil, and resentment the MC encounters.

Writers should be aware of what the MC is putting that sidekick through, and respect that those challenges have a toll on that friend. Every Robin ever has had some major conflict with Batman. Sometimes it was a conflict to earn a place beside him, and sometimes it was a more literal conflict. No one liked Jason Todd until he came back and tried took on Batman.

mat-cauthon-hat-3-wheel-of-time-mat-by-dragoninstall-567-x-632
Image by Dragoninstall taken from agrimarques.com.

There’s another side. There are characters who get boring for the opposite reason. They almost never seem willing to support or help out that MC.  Mat Cauthon was a very hot and cold character for me.  I frankly resented him sometimes for how quickly he was ready to abandon Rand and how stubborn he was about pretty much doing anything. I understand part of this was an aspect of his arc and his fatal flaw, but he infuriated me, and there were times when I just wasn’t interested in him because I didn’t want to read another ten pages about how he wanted to avoid the situation. That said, I absolutely bawled when he mentioned a certain prank from way back in Eye of the World (I’d really appreciate anyone who remembers what that animal was by the way. I can’t seem to recall it. Might be time to read that series again.)  Mat ended up working for me because he inevitably was loyal. He fought it every step of the way, but he did come through in the end.

Consider this as you write. Tension and conflict, even between the closest characters, can make that relationship stronger.

Thanks for reading,
Matt

 

Story Review: The Death Mask from Posh Bytes by C. Rose

Story Review: The Death Mask from Posh Bytes by C. Rose

51RWebyS42L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Spoiler Free Summary:  In The Desk Mask, from Posh Bytes by C. Rose, Beetle is a mortician who’s tired and lonely. Thyme is a woman who just lost a mother she never really had. As Beetle is about to finish his final service, he realizes he has the chance to do something he’s never done, and doing so means giving Thyme something she’s never had.

Character:  It’s been weeks since I’ve read this book, and this story alone would have qualified as one of my favorites of the year so far. Beetle and Thyme really resonate with me. Watching those two was such a charming experience.

Exposition: Here’s where I freely admit that the type of story this is probably has me thinking unfairly high of the story as a whole. There is a lot of exposition that takes some of the drama and joy out of the story. The telling exceeds the showing. I didn’t notice as much because I was so enamored with the characters and their story. It felt a tad like UP. If someone else were to read it and not feel the same, I’d wager this is because this hit the right sort of emotional button with me and it might not with others. The exposition isn’t so bad as it slows things down. Please understand the difference. If it had far too much exposition, no amount of charm from any one character would be enough to hold my interest. More accurately, it’s fair to say this story simply relied a bit more on telling us how things went than showing us.

Worldbuilding: I can’t recall any of these characters overlapping, though it’s probable there’s an Easter egg in there somewhere I don’t remember. Here though, the conflux of character and theme left me feeling a lot like a pleasant summery blend of UP and Speaker for the Dead. To be fair and honest, I’m not saying this story reaches that level of power, but it resonates with those themes and connects to the same emotional scale.

C.-Rose-276x300Dialogue: The absence of Valerian detracted from the dialogue. I’m of the opinion the author knew and associated with that character most (Note: I’m discussing development of character and not similarity in behavior). This dialogue probably got a bit forced, but it was natural enough.

Description:  Like with Supernova, this story relied on description more, and I could tell the author took more time with it. I hope to see more from Rose at some point, and if that happens, I hope she combines some of the elements that make these stories stronger.

Overall:  This is my favorite story of the anthology. Supernova was powerful, but I’m a comedy guy, not so much a tragedy one. That’s not to say that The Death Mask didn’t have it’s share of sad moments, but I felt far more uplifted (no pun intended) at the end of it than I did with Supernova. I mention this because I feel strongly that these two stories alone would be worth the price of the entire anthology.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Announcing the April Book Cover of the Month

Announcing the April Book Cover of the Month

Hello everyone,

We’ve just wrapped up another month. This was a solid month with an amazing (and possibly the most historic) comeback.

We had 5,885 votes this month.

The competition was pretty close up until about the halfway point. Then one book stopped playing around and took off. That was some amazing support to be honest.

The March Book Cover of the Month is…

 

 

51yF0lij+0L

The Unlicensed Consciousness by Travis Borne! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.

Let’s look at the stats!

Lenders received 434 total votes.

Siren’s Lure by Frost Kay managed to come in second, which means she gets a second shot at a Book Cover of the Month Award.

But for now, let’s look at this month’s winner!

Amazon:

(START BLURB)

When dreaming becomes an occupation…but it’s no picnic and what must be done is not for the faint of heart. Very few can do it successfully, or stomach it, until Amy comes along. She’s special, but not for any reason you’d imagine.

Jump twenty-five years into the future where the last of humanity survives in the last city, a quaint town surrounded by a great wall. Science is limited, except in the facility where technology stabilizes the world of dreams, where consciousness itself is harvested in exchange for protection.

When the unexpected happens Jim is faced with a gut-wrenching decision that could change everything. But it’s what his malcontent self had always wanted, right? Travel beyond the solar system, through wormholes, into The NOTHING—The SOMETHING as some call it, then explode out; to the edge of the universe, realms unrecognizable—and depending on his choice, possibly into a world of doom purposed for the unimaginable. But is this really just a dream, a MAP as labeled by Ted and the other scientists?

Journey into a vast desert with mezcal-drinking Felix in his clunker pickup where secrets run deep. Meet Mister Quain Renmore in a world unimaginable; he wants to disclose more than he’s allowed to—beware of his slaps and kicks. Push the boundaries of the system, testing its limits with newfound powers. Will it burst through causing the ultimate surge, or is it already too late? And will it even be enough to save them—the drone army has already punched through the defenses! Head to the safe room, pack in tight while Amy, Jim, and the lenders battle against all odds to pull off the impossible.

Experience the beginning where it all started, 25 years ago. Powerful companies race to develop AI, and one man with a prescience greater than your typical mortal manages something special by working nearly 20 hours per day. He’s rudely blunt and tells it like it is. But can he tear down the walls that hold him prisoner to a world of hate? Will he realize, he doesn’t have to go through this alone. Hatred forged from years of abuse and mockery, once a nerd but now a king, haunted by terrible speculations of a perspicacious mind he knows things will take a turn for the worse and decides to unfold a chair, pop open a beer and watch it all burn, but now…has everything changed? He finds someone special across the border in Mexico, but can newfound love assuage the demons raging war inside his mind. His immense mental capability is balanced by a terrible trio that bullies his rational and sanity.

With a select group of friends and a rescued heart, will he alter the plans? While there can be no stopping the coming destruction, could he and his team pull it off anyway? Maybe, with the assistance of another very special mind.

Horrific terrors delivered to your spine, encounter myriad dream worlds, learn lessons from goodhearted characters like old Nanny at the fair, laugh at red-headed Myron, Amy’s wacky chainsaw-wielding school buddy going ballistic on tourists in the canyon map. Cry when new love is born, also cry when trust is shattered.

A warning to all readers: attempt to retain your lucidity while things snowball for civilization, fires rage, and volcanoes vomit. Bear witness to mass destruction on a comprehensive scale—but just as the lights are about to go out for good: along comes Jim, Amy, Rico, and the lenders, assisted by head scientist Ted—in the future; Herald, the love of his life, and his friends—in the past. Can Herald and his team outrun the approaching nightmare in the hover-jet? Can Amy and Jim slip through where all others have failed? Will a species prove itself worthy? Will a beacon for intergalactic assistance be heard, and if so will it arrive in time to save the final stragglers?

(END BLURB)

I’ve added The Unlicensed Consciousness to my TBR. (For those who are new to the deal, I buy the Book Cover of the Month to read and review in the future. I buy all the winning covers. I’ve already bought MarchFebruaryJanuaryDecember’s book.


Feb_Cover_Collage
Here’re Travis’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about him and his work.

I’ll try to find out who did that cover. Truth is interviews are a bit hard to arrange on my end these days.  I’ll try to get back on track, but things are looking a bit busy lately (in a good way).

The May Book Cover of the Month is almost set, and that contest will launch June 1.

I will continue to identify and select covers for each day from Amazon’s New Release section for fantasy and science fiction. If you follow and like my Facebook page, you can see what covers will make the bracket.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 11

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 11

See Part 1 here.

See Part 2 here.

See Part 3 here.

See Part 4 here.

See Part 5 here.

See Part 6 here.

See Part 7 here.

See Part 8 here.

See Part 9 here.

See Part 10 here.

Resurgence

 

My mom’s final treatment was just a few days ago. We were never able to get her back up to all the treatments with which we started, but the final round of radiation happened, and mom went home for a few weeks of recovery.

This alone is worthy of praise and glory to the Lord.

It may or may not be the beginning of the end. I wonder a lot of things in regard to this story as it unfolds. I wonder how many people I’m reaching. I wonder how many of those people are reading it, waiting to see how this next series of events unfolds. How many will believe if doctors are willing to remove the rest of the tumor when my mother goes to have her MRI. I worry more over who will decide to never believe if the MRI reveals the tumor is still too large or worse.

I’m still not nearly smart enough to understand medicine or how things should go. I live in willful ignorance in that regard. I wish I could go back to the days when I believed a kiss from my mom could heal nearly any wound. Knowledge has eliminated that degree of blissful naivety, but I do tend to think that once a person goes to a doctor and gets treatment, that person will be fine.

The fact is, I don’t know what’s supposed to happen. What I do know is that whatever happens is God’s will. The past few weeks have seen me fall all the way back to the sin and filth that I’d started this journey fighting to climb out of. This week as seen me climb back out with a little more perspective and a lot more desire to be more Christ-like.

I trust in God. I believe in my heart that he will rid my mother of this illness. That doesn’t mean this round of treatment as the last round, but I pray it does, and I’d ask all believers to pray the same.  But if you’re reading this as some sort of “test” to see if that “God thing” really works, I fear I may have misled you into a false idea. God isn’t some sort of supernatural Walgreens. A relationship with him isn’t some transaction in which one man offers a degree of prayer or praise in exchange for this or that. Also, the blessing a life with God offers are so much more than any Earthly return.  After all, Earth is at this time, resistant to the will of God. That’s not to say God doesn’t bless us. The point is everything that happens, good or bad, is from God. Seeking Earthly gain is observably turning from God. Fixating on God an living a life devoted to him will have several blessings, the most important of which is salvation and a life with Him.

God is perfect. His will is immutable. His design is without flaws. My mortal belief is based on faith but neither immutable or flawless.

So then I wonder about those who are reading this and wondering what will happen if things don’t work out for my mother. The fact is that, statistically speaking, there is a percentage of people reading this, wondering, for whatever reason, if I’ll turn away.

I would be sad. I’d be devastated. I promise I’d take some time to morn and seek out comfort.  But even if the worst happens, it would only be another part of the test to see if I’m truly devoted, and I am.

The fact is, every time I’m at my worst. Every time I’ve been as low as I can be, I’ve reached out to God, and come out feeling stronger and closer to him.  What frustrates me is how often I realize my pain and suffering is usually more a result of what happens when I walk away from God. I’m not asserting in this case, though it is possible, that God is punishing me. I’m stating that when we walk away from God, life inherently gets worse.

Premise: I don’t want to follow a life of God because that means I’ll have to give up my worldly desires.

I’m not in that group, but I know there are those who do.

The idea is these people want to live a “full” life and “get everything they can” from it.

The sad irony in this situation is that this thinking makes it impossible for you to live a full life and get everything you could. This isn’t because God will take it from you, it’s because you’ve forsaken yourself. The world is inherently selfish for just those reasons. If everyone in life does what they want and takes everything they can, it creates a confrontational setting in which those things (because money, fame, and sex) are all limited resources. The fact is everyone can’t be rich. Everyone can’t be famous. It’s ridiculous to think so. Fame is the condition of being known or talked about by many people.  The definition I’m looking at now also continues to assert that that recognition is based on achievement, which is also limited. Everyone can’t win a gold medal. Everyone can’t do something first. With that logic in mind, everyone can’t be famous, because there are only so many ways one can achieve things and, therefore, only so many ways one can be notable.

So people want. They want that “full” life and the want “everything they can get,” but when they don’t receive these things, they grow bitter. They grow depressed. They grow angry. They suffer. The fact is, Christians suffer as well, but not to the degree that those who demand worldly things ultimately do.

For starters, non-belivers ultimately die, and regardless of the existence of Heaven or not, those people don’t go to Heaven. So their lives may, unfortunately be full lives of suffering because they never “got everything” they wanted. Yes, the suffering ends, but there’s no bliss afterward because they’re dead and get nothing after that mortal life. This idea saddens me.

Now, a believer may also suffer his whole life. However, the end of this mortal life will not only end his suffering, but result in joy everlasting.  This alone would have been enough to convince me to devote my life to God.

I may never be a best seller.  While my current marital prospects look blissfully outstanding, one of us could get hit by a bus, and those prospects could end, so I may never get married despite reason to believe that’ll happen (very soon). I may never have children. I may never have children of my own blood. I may never retire comfortably and be able to spend my days reading, writing and providing fellowship with people. These are things I want. They may even be things you want.  Well, the truth is we’re not guaranteed anything in life. Scripturally speaking we don’t even deserve anything. However, as a saved Christian, I’m guaranteed a life in the kingdom of Heaven with God.

I’m a driven man. I want to do and have so much. I won’t lie about it. But the thing I’ve always known is I don’t want to give up that life in Heaven nor the additional blessings I could receive if I continue to do more and fellowship more with God.

When I was at my worse, I will confess my greatest temptation to reject the will of God and forsake him. The first thing that saved me was the fact that I simply knew there was a God. And, since I knew he existed, I knew that forsaking him would not only cost me everything on this Earth, but the life in Heaven I eagerly await.

How does this tie together? I’m speaking to those reading this and wondering “how it will end.” I’ve already told you what I believe, but what I can also tell you now is that whatever happens, I’ll only seek to praise and worship the Lord more. What suffering I endure now is nothing compared to my life after Jesus returns to lay claim to his throne. Yes I will be sad. Yes I will suffer. Yes I will cry. I’ll wonder, “why me?” and “Why my family?”

I have done that and will again.  I’m still learning. I’m a work in progress that sadly not remotely where it should be now and nightmarishly far from where it should be in the future.

The previous weeks were reminders to me of how I can’t stop doing more. And this is the challenge to believers.

I hope, with all my heart, you’re currently doing everything you can to glorify god and server His will. At the very least, I hope you’re doing more than I am. The trick is to never get as complacent as I was. Never stop and look around thinking, “This is it!”

Serving God isn’t an item on a to-do list. And I’m a man who loves his to-do lists. It’s a way of life the way all pursuits are. It’s the most important pursuit. I lost sight of that. Though prayer and fellowship, I’ve reached a place where I feel better.

That makes me feel great. I’m more relaxed at work. I’m able to focus on what tasks I place before myself. I’m a better listener to those I love. I’m more willing to meet new friends and form new bonds.

I don’t think I’ll ever pronounce my freedom from sin, and that’s because I’m afraid the moment i make such a proclamation, temptation will waylay me again just to mock my arrogance. This has given me a new perspective, and it’s with this prospective that I’ll leave you.

Do you remember those old cartoon villains from the ’80s?  I think about Mum-Ra and that guy from Inspector Gadget. Every week they came to harass our heroes, and they lost every week.  But, they always came back. This is how I’m starting to see sin.

Before, I thought of sin like a more effective villain. A force that was sometimes more powerful than I am. This made me inherently more likely to succumb because I already believed I might. I have a respect for sin, but instead of thinking of it as a powerful villain that I might not be able to beat, I remember those more adorable, far less-terrifying villains. If I fall to sin, it’s because I choose to. I’m the same guy from the last segment of this story. I know hare hard it is to face a sin and overcome it. But making the sin the problem, shifts the blame from the one to  whom it belongs. It’s still a fight. It’s still hard. But if I look at sin as one of those goofy 1980s cartoon villains, I’m suddenly more confident and more aware that if I lose, it’s because I didn’t fight it. I’ve always known that, but the mind-shift puts more accountability on me.

If I stumble, and I’m human, so I will, I’ll pray for forgiveness and repent as all saved Christians do, but I won’t pretend it’s because I couldn’t beat the sin. Not any more. I’ll understand there’s a weapon I refused to use, a teammate I denied receiving help from.

I’ve face the very sin I’ve been referencing the past few weeks during this one. I’ve beaten it back.  Now I can’t help but hear, “You win this time, Gadget!”

The same is true of the cancer my mom fights. She’s not giving up. When I spoke to her on the phone, she wanted to know about my girlfriend and what my plans were (that marital status should change…soon). She was also concerned and wanted me to know this fight has had costs.  Mom will have a lot of recovery to do. The thing is, I’m just praying I get to keep my mom. Everything else is stuff I can deal with later. Step one, pray that God removes this cancer from her. Then we, as a family under God, can work together from there.

 

 


 

Questions and Revelations

Where did this assurance come from?

Filling my spirit more and fellowship. I read more of the Bible than I used to. I already fellowship 100 times more than I did. (That isn’t saying much. I was, and am, severely lacking in that regard.) My and my girlfriend talk more about what the scripture says and how God wants us to handle various situations. The more I do this, the less I’m tempted, and the stronger I feel when I’m faced with temptation.  The more you focus on God, the Bible, and Fellowship, the less those other things, whatever they are, will bother you. There will be suffering. Any who serve God will suffer because the world will try to pull you from Him. But if you persevere through that, your glory is guaranteed.

How much more do you read and fellowship?

Honestly I don’t track that sort of thing. I know it’s more because I pointedly worked to increase how much I talk about God and how much I read the Bible. The trick (and something I’m working on) is to make God a part of your day, not just a thing you do. Again, don’t make God an item on your to-do list.  Make pleasing and serving God your ultimate goal, and let your to-do list form under that primary principle. I’m not claiming a complete 180 shift. What I try to do is walk a little closer (one of my favorite hymns) to him each day. I feel ashamed that I can’t just flip. I should. Every man should.  But rather than give up because I haven’t, I just keep turning, and soon, my spiritual ship will be heading in the right direction. The proof that it’s right is how good I feel regardless of my circumstances.

When will you know if the treatment worked?

A few weeks? I’ve heard two, and I’ve heard a month. So I have a nice window with which to work. It’s with this that I ask for your prayers. I also ask for fellowship. If you’re a believer, please, post relevant aspects of scripture. I’m asking because this will give me strength in the coming weeks, and the more I can look to scripture to see how I should handle the next few weeks, the more I know I’ll be ready. These can be verses of encouragement or advice, but I ask it if you if you’d be kind enough to spend the time.

If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog.  I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.

Thanks for reading

Matt