Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Another Lonely Night - A Flash Fiction Story

Another Lonely Night - A Flash Fiction Story
By Steven R. McEvoy

It was a cold and stormy night. And yes, even as he though it he knew it was a cliché but that was the thought that came to mind. He was standing with his back to a small copse of trees, staring off into the storm coming from the east. Storm usually came with the west wind, those few that did blow in from the east were harsher, colder, and meaner if weather could be said to have intent. Advent was well under way. And the mans thoughts were oscillating between the readings from that weeks Sunday liturgy, and reflecting on all the decisions that had brought him to this point. In a month he will turn 50. To be honest longer than he ever expected to last. As the saying goes it is not the age but the mileage, and he had felt past due for an oil change going on nearly 20 years now. He had been standing pondering in the storm so long that the snow had piled high on the cape of his oilskin coat. If someone were to come along and he were not to move they would wander right by.

But not many would be out on a night like this, and even fewer would be off the roads and paths, so the chance of him being disturbed were slight. Based on the layering of clothes and quality of his gear he was warm enough except for his face. And yet he continued to stare into the wind. His trifocals were in his breast pocket. And things in the distance were fuzzy, but no blurrier than the falling snow would make it if his eyes were still young. He no longer was certain what the future held. In fact, most weeks he just tried to make it through the week and to mass 2 or 3 times. It was the sacred that kept him going. Getting up each morning and walking to work. Doing the chores when he got home at night. Reading and writing until it was time to rest for a few hours and start it over again.

It is the ritual in the day, the ritual in the weeks, the ritual in the seasons that have become his focus. From prayer first thing in the morning giving thanks for a new day, to prayer before bed, the examination of conscience, to look back on the day before bed. What was the successes of that day, what could be improved upon and what were the failures. Each day striving to become 'the best version of himself'. Each day striving to learn to be and be good at being. He had seen much in his 50 years, and he had had more than his share of problems along the way. But God had always provided. There were so many miracles in his life. From being the oldest of three boys who all made it to adulthood, to fathering three. One was a priest and one was a nun, the other well she reminded him most of himself and had had her ups and downs.

He is not sure when he became a grumpy old man. Maybe he always had an inner geezer. Maybe it was all the damage done in his youth, both physically and emotionally. He had felt for years like he was fundamentally broken inside and no longer was able to keep it buried. His thoughts wandered to the next Sundays liturgy, Gaudete Sunday, or the third Sunday of Advent was just days away. The rose vestments will be worn in church this weekend. Father A does not like the pink. But it is the turning point. We are more than half way through Advent and this Sunday we light the pink candle and celebrate.

Finally, he turns and shakes the snow from is coat. He starts the trudge through the fields back to the main road to work his way home. He is giving thanks for the near silence, just the muted sounds of the wind that has settled won, and the light snow falling. He walks with his head high, almost challenging the storm to pick up again. He strides through the drifts. And he prays. For often that is all he has left. He just prays, for often that is all he can do, and at times all that matters. So he walks home with one glove off and the rosary beads moving through his fingers.  

(Top photo courtesy of Maggie Clark.)

Note: This story was written as a piece of Flash Fiction, written in one sitting and between 300-1500 words. Editing was minimal. It is in part a way to process, and in part a sign of hope. And to be honest the first fiction I have attempted in a long long time.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Love Is Patient, But I'm Not - Christopher West - Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist

Love Is Patient, But I'm Not:
Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist
Christopher West
Beacon Publishing for
Dynamic Catholic
ISBN 978-1635820065
eISBN 9781929266661

I came across this book last month in an email from Dynamic Catholic. I was immediately captured by the title. I knew this was a book I had to read. And I picked up the eBook the day after that email. And boy did I need to read this book. And I know I will read it again and again. I read this book in one day over three sittings this first time through. And have already put it back in my reading list to reread it in a few months and take my time with each chapter as I do.

The introduction of this book begins with these words:

"I grew up believing that I was only "lovable" if I got my act together. I had to be a "good boy" to be worthy of God's love, or anyone else's. Be perfect (read: be a "saint") and then you'll be loved. Such was the impression made on me by a falsely pious upbringing. 
Having shared my story with audiences around the world, I know I'm not the only recovering perfectionist out there. It's a sadly common but tragically misguided impression of what it means to be Catholic. There is so much wrong with this view, not the least of which is what it means to be a saint. Saints are not perfect people. They are people who know that they are perfectly loved in all their imperfections. They abide in that love and it fills them with the infectious joy of the gospel."
And further on he states:
"While many of the lessons I've learned flow from my experience as a married man, these reflections are not only intended for married people. Regardless of a person's state in life, every one of us is involved in a great variety of human relationships, all of which can benefit from entering more deeply into St. Paul's hymn to love."
And from this starting point Christopher West goes on to give so many personal examples from his own life and his own struggles that You cannot help but be inspired to work for change in your own life.

The chapters in this book are:

One: Love Is Patient
Two: Love Is Kind
Three: Love Is Not Jealous
Four: Love Is Not Boastful
Five: Love Is Not Arrogant
Six: Love Is Not Rude
Seven: Love Does Not Insist On Its Own Way
Eight: Love Is Not Irritable
Nine: Love Is Not Resentful
Ten: Love Does Not Rejoice At Wrong, But Rejoices In The Right
Eleven: Love Bears All Things
Twelve: Love Believes All Things
Thirteen: Love Hopes All Things
Fourteen: Love Endures All Things

Throughout the book are a series of grey boxes, they contain a short quote and then a series of questions for reflections or action. An example from chapter one is:

"Love is patient. Oftentimes, I am not. Lord, teach me to love. 
How do I respond when others inconvenience me or act in some way that I'd rather they didn't? Am I quick to react with dismay, disdain, or aggression? 
What experiences shaped me growing up that may be affecting the way I respond to others' and my own faults throughout the day?"

There are between 1 and 4 of these reflection sections in each chapter. The chapters with only one are at the end of the chapter, those with more are interspersed through the chapter.

At the beginning of the conclusion to this book Christopher states:

"In his Theology of the Body, St. John Paul II spoke of three "infallible and indispensable" means for living an authentic marital spirituality (these apply just as well, of course, to any Christian life): 
A deepening life of prayer Regular confession of our sins Frequent reception of the Eucharist 
At first, this might just sound like "standard Catholic stuff" that you've heard before. Sure enough, it is. But John Paul II's "spousal theology" gives us a fresh, mystical perspective that you probably didn't hear about growing up in the Church. I'd like to conclude this book by taking a brief look at how his "spousal lenses" illuminate this path of authentic marital spirituality."
And then he proceeds to expand on each of those three points. As stated this was a book I really needed to read. And will read again and again. This might become one of those books I read yearly for years to come. The lessons are simple and clear. The examples at times warm and encouraging and at times raw and completely transparent and vulnerable. Thank you, Christopher, for sharing so much or your own story in this book. And thank you Beacon for publishing it for Dynamic Catholic. Last year I was pressured to create a list of my Top 10 Catholic Books List if I were to be doing it today this book would be on it! It is a book I need and a book that will help almost anyone in their relationships, with spouses, children, coworkers, and with friends. An excellent read!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Monday, 11 December 2017

Brothers A Prequel Novella - Corinna Turner - I Am Margaret Book 0.5

Brothers: A Short Prequel Novella
I Am Margaret Book 0.51
Corinna Turner
UnSeen Books an Imprint of
Zephyr Publishing, UK
ISBN 9781910806586
eISBN 9781910806616 UK Editon
eISBN 9781910806593 US Edition

This short novella is an extension of the incredible I Am Margaret series. The series is one of my favorite reads over the past few years. And Corinna Turner is fast becoming one of my favorite fiction authors. She currently has works out in three series and soon two stand alone works. I have read almost everything that she has published today, and think the writing is very good. My only fear is that her work will be prophetic. But her speculative fiction in this and her Tomorrow & Yesterday series present a bleak look for the future. But a look that we need to consider. For far too often life has ended up imitating art. But let's get back to this specific story.

This short story is an excellent read. For those familiar with the I Am Margaret series, or for those who just love short stories and want an introduction to this dystopian world. The story is told in alternating chapters by the two main characters Joe and K. Joe Whitelow is a young boy whose birth was unregistered, this means he is not a citizen, he is just spare parts and his number is up. But Joe did not know this fact until they came to collect him. K is Kyle Verrall, older brother of Margaret from the I am Margaret books. He is also trying to flee the EuroBloc and make his way to the Vatican Free State so that he can study to become a Priest and join the underground. He has spent a lot of time planning and preparing for this. But on the night he executes his plan things take a turn he never expected. Now Joe and K are travelling together trying to escape EuroBloc. The chapters sometimes tell current events, and sometimes the two remembering back, to give the back ground of how we ended up here. 

This story deals with an oppressive government. Two strangers that are thrown together and must learn to trust each other. It is the story of learning when to forgive. And it is the story of learning about faith, and for one learning how to share your faith. It is also in a big way about trust. 

This novella is an excellent read. I read it through twice. The day I got it and again the next morning because I could not stop thinking about it. It is more than strong enough to stand alone, but also fills in some back story for the I Am Margaret series. I highly recommend both this novella and the series so give it a try I am sure you will not be disappointed.  

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Corinna Turner:
I Am Margaret Series:
0.5 Brothers (Prequel)

1.0 I Am Margaret
2.0 The Three Most Wanted
3.0 Liberation
4.0 Bane's Eyes

5.0 Margo's (Attempted) Diary & Notebook
How Snakey Got His Name (Short Story)

Yesterday and Tomorrow Series:

Tomorrow's Dead

unSPARKed Series:
1.0 Drive!
1.1 A Truely Rapror-Ous Welcome

Other Books:
Mandy lamb & the Full Moon

Author profile and interview with Corinna Turner.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

Second Sunday of Advent 2017 A Reflection

2nd Sunday of Advent 2017

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. Today's readings at mass are:

First Reading Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Responsorial Psalm 85: 8-13 Response 7
Second Reading 2 Peter 3:8-14
Gospel Mark 1:1-8

The new church year is under way. We are now a week into the new church year. Christmas is fast approaching and this season of Advent, sort of a mini Lent or Lent Lite, as it was referred to in last nights sermon,  is under way. The first verse of the first reading is Isaiah 40:1 "Comfort, O Comfort my people, says your God." What is our comfort this season. I find that i struggle more in December with my emotions,my anger, my anxiety more than any other time of year. I do not enjoy shopping at the best of times, I especially do not like shopping from mid November through to mid January. I find the business, the hustle and bustle too much. I would rather just stay home with my kids and a book or a good family movie. 

Bot the first reading and the Gospel reinforce the message of 'Prepare the way of the Lord!' I need to prepare for him. I need to be working on myself. on becoming the best version of my self. For far too many Christmases I have felt like an outsider, on the edge looking in. In many ways I am fundamentally broken. I need the restoration that Jesus brings. I need the healing of the Holy Spirit, on my mind, in my body, and my spirit. But in order to do that I need to be receptive. I need to truly repent, to turn around, to allow the work of God to heal the old wounds in my life.

Repentance is mentioned in all three readings today. For almost two years now I have been praying to live more joy. Some days I do better than others, a gratitude journal has helped. But this month it has been a real struggle. What are you struggling with at the moment. What do you need to turn away from, or turn towards. Let this season star changes in you that will last well beyond Christmas. 

Related Posts:

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Arrow Bringer - Lisa Mayer - The Aletheian Journeys Book 1

The Arrow Bringer
The Aletheian Journeys #1
Lisa Mayer
Arrow Bringer Publishing
ISBN 9781512230864

I do not remember how I came across this book. It is in a genre that I have been reading more of over the last two years. It is catholic fiction, and it is marketed more towards the young adult audience. The book is in part written in homage to Narnia, and one of the main characters was reading it to the other. The book does have that Narnia feel to it. It has that classic good vs evil plot.

The two main characters are both teenagers. First, we have Evangeline - Evie, who has just learned that she has terminal cancer, leukemia, and is then approached in what she believes to be a dream by the Arrow Bringer, a Christ figure. Evie was adopted and has two younger siblings, twin sisters. And everything she had planned for her future will now not happen. The second is Shawn Lawrence, his father was a marine who died in a car accident. Bot of them have had dreams about Aletheia.

And no somehow, they have both been transported to this very different world. Aletheia has always been under the protecting of the Arrow Bringer. But no one has seen him in a long time. And there has arisen a movement that doubts the old stories. We have a King who has lost faith and destroyed the silver arrow, the symbol of the bringers protection. Dragons have returned and are ravaging the kingdom. a powerful figure arrives claiming to be the Arrow Bringer, but he requires abject obedience. Evie, Shawn and their new friends from the kingdom of Aletheia. Both of the people from Earth must battle not only a new world and culture but battle within themselves to determine what they really believe, what they are willing to fight for, and what they might be willing to die for.

This story if packed full of action. We have weapons and weapons training. We have Voyages by sea and battles with enemies with the power to appear out of smoke. We have characters that will be challenges to make sacrifices, maybe the ultimate sacrifice. And we have the reminders of a God who loves and sends his son to serve.

This story is very well written for a first published novel. The characters are fully fleshed out. The action, drama, and tension is well paced and maintained throughout the novel. The settings, and description in the scenery and battles I excellent. One of the scenes in Voyage of the Dawn Trader that always caught my attention is when Lucy and Edmond are looking at the paining and comment that it looks like a very Narnia ship. This reads like a very Narnia book. This is the type of story that the Kings and Queens of Narnia would haven enjoyed readings, or the type of tale that all creatures true to Aslan would have told and retold. And I look forward to my children being a little older and reading it with them. A great read and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Books by Lisa Mayer:
Aletheian Journeys Series:

The Arrow Bringer
Jairo's Battle
The Helper's Blade