And the winner is …

The winner of my giveaway via the Christian Book Lovers Blog Hop Jodi Woody, who entered by every possible means. It was the Twitter entry that won! She will be receiving an e-mail notifying her of her win.


Giveaway – The Christian Book Lovers Hop


July 1: It appears that the hop is over! I’ll have the winner posted here before the end of the day. I had a number of comments via social media, so I need to collate the entries.

No, you don’t have to hop up and down or run around. You just have to hop from blog to blog with your fingers. The Christian Book Lovers Hop is sponsored by The Readers’ Realm and Spirit Filled Kindle.

How does this work? Well, this is a first for me. Yes, I’ve done giveaways for my company (Energion Publications), but I haven’t done one on a blog hop, and I haven’t done one from my personal blog. Each blog on the list offers something free to readers, and also links to the list of blogs who are participating in the hop. You’ll find this list at the bottom of this post. Be sure to check out the other offers.

So what am I giving away? (Get to the point, you say?)

I’m offering one copy of my book Stories of the Way, a collection of short stories designed to challenge your thinking about spiritual things. And since that’s a fairly small book, and just a $9.99 value, I’m also offering one more of my books (+ Tales from Jevlir, you choose), and one book you can choose from my company’s catalog (main imprint, EnerPower Press, and Enzar Empire Press). That’s a total of three free books! If you’re the winner, just let me know which additional books you’d like when I notify you that you’re the winner.

How do you enter?

Just comment on this post. Since I’m trying to track comments on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ as well, sharing the link or commenting there should work as well. You can have one entry for each of those three social media platforms. Just comment or share.

One thing I’ve learned from previous giveaways is that occasionally someone wins and then I can’t contact them. Make sure that I can discover who you are so I can let you know you won. Worst case, check back here and look for a comment and post announcing the winner.


June Christian Carnival Has Been Posted

… at The Chic of Domesticity.

A Ripple of Anger

He wasn’t really very angry. He’d call it just a bit past annoyed. The conversation with his wife had gone the wrong direction, and he was angry enough to be tense.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of any persons, places, or events to anything in real life is purely coincidental. Copyright © 2013
Henry E. Neufeld

It wasn’t a major incident. The driver at the light had gone through just a little late. Late enough to be going through on red. He’d seen her face looking his way as he raised that middle finger. It made him fell better, or so he told himself.

She was having a bad day. Having someone show her the middle finger put her over the line. She was normally patient, but that nasty man at the light had no business making an obscene gesture at her. She was in a hurry! She hadn’t been very late at the light. And because she was in a hurry, and she was so angry already, when the driver in front of her was slow to get moving (on his cell phone) she laid into her horn and kept it going until the car got moving.

He, in turn, was receiving bad news on the phone. He had taken about all he could take, and that woman behind him laying into her horn was just too much. He got moving, but pounded on his steering wheel and yelled obscenities, which nobody at all heard.

His next turn was onto the entrance ramp to the interstate, followed by a merge. Because he was so angry he was driving too fast. He knew it, but he didn’t really care. How dare that woman rush him! He sped up some more to cut in directly in front of a pickup truck.

The pickup truck driver was distracted. She was saying something to a child in the back seat. She barely avoided a collision. She was angry enough already at the child, and having this driver cut her off sent her over the edge. She knew the offending driver could hear her, so she yelled at the child instead. He started crying.

The child was also angry. He didn’t think he’d deserved all that yelling. He decided to work it out by throwing his toy truck at his mother in the front seat.

His mother was just about to change lanes, and just as she should have been looking in her blind spot, the toy truck hit her. She didn’t see the truck in the lane to her left.

The truck driver hit his brakes. Hard. But the laws of physics were against him and nearly thirty vehicles behind him.

Nobody really understood why the driver of the pickup truck made that turn at that moment. How could they?

“How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!” — James 3:5b (NRSV)

What is a Classic?

I’ve posted before on the idea of what is great literature and what is not, and particularly on the tendency of some people to become gatekeepers over the distinction. I personally reject the very idea of reading lists. If people think my reading is eccentric (it is), or that I have not read certain pieces of supposedly classic literature (in many cases, they’re right), that’s fine with me.

Sam Sacks enters this debate (not with me on my tiny blog, but with the heavies) with a post Canon Fodder: Denouncing the Classics on The New Yorker site. I call attention to it because I think it’s interesting, but I also think it tends to miss the point. This is because it falls into the trap of thinking that a word must have one referent. There are at least two senses of “classic,” at least as I would use them. First, there is the classic that is so great (in my opinion), that it deserves to be read widely. Thus I will use the term “classic” of literature that might not be old enough to be considered a classic by more normal people. (The question is, which is to be master–that’s all!) The second use is illustrated by my parenthetical quote. A classic is something that has worked its way so far into the way we think about things that it would be helpful for you to have read it in order to understand your own culture. But in my view you won’t make it through any good sized list without neglecting something anyhow. So I make no apologies for leaning my literature reading a bit more to the contemporary than “true literati” would find acceptable. I’m not a “true literati.” I’m just a publisher. (Note the use of scare quotes, or in this case, perhaps, disdain quotes.)

In any case, I remain convinced that choice in reading is personal, and that you can objectively determine if literature is popular or influential, but not whether it is good or not. That’s a matter of taste. Mostly.


April 2013 Christian Carnival Posted

… at On Planting Seeds. Some good stuff here!

Can I Let Go of Sadness?

At first I really didn’t want anyone to know.

Well, that’s not quite accurate. I wanted my wife to know, but only so that she would fell less alone in her pain. But otherwise I didn’t want anyone to know.

But as I think back on that time, I have to admit that wasn’t accurate either. I didn’t mind if other people knew about the sadness. I just didn’t want them to talk about it, and even more I didn’t want them to make me talk about it.

Unlike most stories on this blog, this story is as true as I can make it, and you are free to use it in any way that will be helpful.

It was just a depressing time. A couple of weeks before, I had been watching Hurricane Ivan approach. My wife and I have a simple rule. If there’s a storm above category 1 approaching the coast near enough, we’re out of here. But our son James was in the last few weeks or even days of his life, and we couldn’t move him far enough to get away from the storm. I tried to discuss it with my wife, but she just told me she couldn’t handle one more decision. “Just tell me what we’re going to do,” she said. So I worried (a lot) and prayed (a little)–how often that’s the case when we most need the opposite!–and decided we’d go to a friend’s place that was much more hurricane-ready than ours.

After the storm we’d seen the devastation around the area. But our house was still there and even had power–partially. James wanted to be back in his house, so we moved back. Struggling with the limitations left by the storm didn’t help at all.

But James was able to be in his own house when God called him home. It is now going on 9 years, and just typing that sentence still brings tears to my eyes. I’m sitting in the same room, in reach of the place where his hospital bed was located. I can see him now.

I’ve had people tell me that it can’t be as bad for me, because James is my stepson. I hope they’re wrong. If it gets harder than this, I don’t want to experience it. I don’t even want to know about it.

For days I would regularly hear his voice somewhere else in the house, clearly enough that I would get up to go to where he was, only to suffer the shock of finding he wasn’t actually there. While I haven’t heard that voice for some time, I can still picture everything. I see the bed. I see James. I see his little dog Barnabas under the bed waiting and watching. After James died we thought we’d lose Barnabas as well. But after about two weeks, he decided he’d make do with Grandpa. I wasn’t James, but I took him for his walkies. But there would still be those moments. I’d usually walk Barnabas in the morning and as James went to school, he’d stop the car and greet his dog. For as long as Barnabas lived, he would stop on those walks and look at any cars that passed by, waiting for the right one.

I had to learn to talk about it. It wasn’t just for me. Jody and I found that when we taught about just about anything, if the subject of bereavement and loss came up at all it would take over the conversation. There were so many people suffering and wondering why. They wondered if there was something wrong with them. Shouldn’t they be joyful as Christians? But still the sadness is there.

And so I’d talk about it. How does it work? My wife and I experience this grief differently. For her, it’s Christmas, James’s birthday, and the anniversary of his death that bring back the memories. For me, I remember mostly the day in June when I called his doctor and got the results of a set of tests. They said that the cancer was back–again. James had extracted a promise that I would call him as soon as I got word, no matter what. I should confess here that he was definitely more courageous that I am, and less willing to tell himself a happy story in order to avoid the reality. Then I had the task of telling Jody. She was on a mission trip and out of reach by phone. My only option was to send an e-mail, and then spend the hours waiting for her to get it (via an unreliable dial-up connection), knowing what kind of devastation it would wreak when it arrived. June is just a bad month for me, every year.

It’s a depressing story, isn’t it? It’s also as true as I can tell it, every word.

But it isn’t the whole story. I want you to know that I don’t have a bunch of answers. I can’t tell you why James died, except for the basic science. That’s what cancer does. I don’t have a list of wonderful things that will make it OK. Oh, I do have a list of wonderful things that he accomplished in his life, and even things that were accomplished by his death. But they don’t make it OK. None of those things make me feel repaid in some way for the fact that I never got to see him march in a college marching band, or get married and raise a family, or become a professional musician.

It’s not that I can explain why. But I can say this: God is with me. God is with us. There are things we cannot understand, things we probably will never understand, but we do have hope, and we can have joy.

For every one of those times when I sit here with tears in my eyes thinking about the loss, there are many more when I remember James with joy, and celebrate him in my heart. I remember the day he’d just gotten his learner’s permit. We were headed to Panama City, Florida, a bit over a hundred miles. Jody had explained to me that it was my job to teach James to drive. She couldn’t handle the teaching. As soon as he knew he’d have his permit, he started talking to me about driving. By the time we were backing out of the driveway, he’d concluded he would just drive the first few miles. As those miles passed, he thought he could drive to the interstate. Was that OK with me? It was. We got to the ramp, and he thought he’d just try getting on the interstate. (In case you’re wondering, he was very good behind the wheel. I had high expectations and he exceeded them.) Once we were on the interstate and had gone a few miles, he figured he’d be OK until we got off the interstate again. Driving in a strange city, he told me, would probably be going too far. But then we got off the interstate and it didn’t seem so bad. He didn’t get out from behind the wheel until we were parked in our friends’ driveway.

Then there was the fact that no surface anywhere was safe. If he had drumsticks, he’d be beating rhythms with them. If there were no sticks, hands would do. You always knew you had a drummer in the house. If you suggested he should stop, he’d look shocked that anyone could mind the sound of a bit of rhythm.

I don’t think it’s a matter of letting go of the sadness. I think it’s right for me to feel loss when I remember James. He’s in a better place, but I miss him. I’m going to continue to miss him. There are the moments when the loss is as strong as the original moment.

But so is the presence, so are the memories, and so is God.

I can be sad, but also joyful. I can feel loss, but also gain. I’m in much less danger of forgetting that I’m a pilgrim and a stranger in this land, waiting for my true home.

As Christians, we don’t need to forget. We don’t need to deny. We need to keep everything in perspective. Consider the incarnation. Jesus is fully human. He experienced our sorrows and suffering. But Jesus is also fully divine, capable of lifting us above. We can’t forget either one. We can’t let one take over for the other (Hebrews 2:9-18, 4:14-16, 7:26-28).

We don’t need to deny. We don’t need to forget. But we also don’t have to let the sadness rule our lives. We have the means of living with and living through.

We can rejoice!

(This story was written for and submitted to the one word at a time blog carnival – sadness.)

Christian Carnival Time

At Learning {one day at a time}. Check it out for links from around the Christian blogosphere over the last month.

Next Christian Carnival

February’s Christian Carnival will be at Learning {one day at a time}.  The carnival will post on or soon after February 6, 2013.  Submit your favorite post published within the last month using this form on our blog by Tuesday night.

We Have Always Failed

“It’s very simple. We need to ask for surrender terms,” said the deputy commander of the city militia of Qenixtlan. His words fell clearly on the silence in the conference room. “The reason is also simple. The fact is that the Grand Empire’s army always succeeds. They win every battle. But we always fail. We have never won a single battle.

Copyright © 2013 Henry E. Neufeld
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, place, thing, or event in the real world is purely coincidental.

The commander looked around the room. He saw the failure on every face. Nobody believed that there was any reason to fight. No matter how horrible the stories were of how the Grand Empire of the Sun treated conquered peoples, there was not one person who was willing to take the risk resistance. However badly they might be treated if they surrendered, it would be much worse if they resisted and lost. And in their minds, they had already failed.

And he knew that they were right, at least about the history of failure. Their city had been conquered four times in the previous century. Their militia had proven quite capable of arresting thieves and rounding up juvenile delinquents. Every time they met a foreign army in battle, however, they lost. The only reason they were independent right now was that their last conqueror had simply collapsed about a decade ago.

He looked around the room, and he knew he couldn’t fight it. Not today, in any case. “Very well, then,” he said. “You are dismissed. The militia is disbanded.” He stood up and walked out the door without meeting anyone’s eyes.

It took a several minutes for the shocked men to leave the room. They were stunned. Everyone would complain. It was expected. Nobody actually believed they would succeed. Why should they? It was true that they had never won a single battle against a foreign invader. They had a truly unbroken record of failure. But there was a tradition to uphold. The commander was supposed to lecture them. He was supposed to exhort them. He was supposed to raise their morale by telling them they could succeed. They wouldn’t believe it. Likely he wouldn’t believe it either, but they would all pretend. Then when the enemy attacked, they would stand for a few minutes for form’s sake before they dropped their weapons and raised their arms over their head.

The word spread through the city. Some people started collecting a few possessions and loading them into carts so they could escape the city before the enemy arrived. The king wanted to call the commander in to ask him what he thought he was doing. What negotiating platform would he have if he didn’t even have a militia? There would be no reason for the invader to offer the city any kind of favorable treatment when they could simply march in. But the commander could not be found.

The next morning people were shocked to see recruiting posters all over town. They were signed by the commander and they read: “All those who are willing to resist the invader should report to a point one kilometer north of the city at the old fortress at noon today. Only those prepared to fight should report. We will form the Regional Defense Militia.”

It was signed by the missing commander.

Men looked at one another. Everyone was hoping that his neighbor wasn’t going to go meet north of the city. Then some of the younger men grabbed whatever weapons they had and headed north. Soon some of the older men, shamed by the action of the younger men, headed north as well. By noon, there was quite a crowd at the fort. Almost all of the same men who had been in that comfortable conference room were there. Even the deputy commander had showed up.

Somehow those who were used to being leaders found themselves inside the courtyard. It wasn’t comfortable like the conference room downtown. It wasn’t in all that good of repair. Since the fort was only intended to help resist invaders, nobody paid much attention to it. After all, nobody had successfully resisted an invader in living memory.

The commander raised his hand. Amazingly, silence fell in the room, though there was still quite a bit of noise coming from outside where the crowd had gathered.

“We are the Regional Defense Militia,” he said. “We just came into existence. We will send messengers to all the towns, villages, and farms within a week’s travel and invite them to join us in fighting the enemy. And fight we will. We will stand. We will not surrender. We are the Regional Defense Militia of Qenixtlan, and we will win, because we have never failed.”

The entire group broke into cheers. They didn’t know why, but they even believed it.

But the commander knew. He knew these men knew how to fight. He knew they were willing to die, if necessary. But they had known—not believed, but known—they were going to fail.

And that is why the southern border of the Grand Empire of the Sun is located just to the north of Qenixtlan. Three times they have sent their armies to take the city, and three times they have lost.

The commander will tell you this is because for the first time, they have encountered an army that has never failed, never lost a single battle.

(See Ephesians 6:13, or perhaps 6:10-20.)

(This story was written for and submitted to the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival – Failures.)