Monday, December 31, 2012

Goal Setting: Step Three

Scoring and Prioritization

Once you've got your list, the next step is to figure out which set of goals you think are in front of you to work on right now. There are two different metrics I used for scoring my goals, Importance and Timing. The scales (feel free to adapt them however you like) Looked like this (with examples from my list)

1. Downright silly (Target shooting with a large caliber rifle)
2. Less Silly, But still (Go into Space)
3. This has some redeeming quality (Have a sword)
4. This is Neat, Great, Cool Etc. (Sail on a tall Ship)
5. This will help me or someone else in the long run (Have a woodshop)
6. Expresses some core value (Have a book published)
7. Passionately Expresses some Core value (Learn to Grow fruits and vegetibles)
8. Shares my Core Values with others (Perform together in a show with M.M.)
9. Grows my ability to share my core values (Mentor a writer)
10. Mission Critical, Without accomplishing this I missed the mark on a core value (Be an evangelist)
A. I could start now (Thank an old friend for his influence in my life) 
B. I need to do some other things before I can start (A trip to Isreal)
C. I can't control when I get the opportunity to do this (See a solar eclipse)

Obviously, the extent to which one goal or another fits the scale can vary, the point is to figure out the most important goals you can start on now. Once you've got all your 10-A's figured out you've got a short list of goals that are lined up with your values that you can choose from to get started on.

Goal Setting: Step Two

The "Popcorn List"

Time to start writing the Popcorn list. It started from the concept of the Bucket List i.e. "things to do before I kick the bucket." In our version, each item on the list is a popcorn kernel, which we'd like to see "pop" in our lives. If we've surrendered our lives to the lordship of Christ, then we've also surrendered our goals. When the kernels pop, we get the opportunity to act on those goals, if they don't they stay on the list and wait for another time. Either way, what we're writing here is the completely unfiltered list of 101 things that we want over the next 3 or 5 or 10 years. As a junior in college my horizon was 10 years since my next 3 years were heavily invested in school, now, as a graduating senior I'll be looking at a 3 year span. 

The kernels end up looking a sentence with 3 parts. It always starts the same...
"In 3/5/10 years I will..."
Then in the middle there is an action, of which there are a few different kinds:
  • Do (Write a book ) 
  • Have (a Camera)
  • Be (a Distinguished Toastmaster)
  • Learn (fluent Sign Language)
  • Go (to San Francisco with*** someone who loves it, you know who you are.)
Then finish with the specifics (I've given examples of each category in the parenthesis after each type)

I recommend that you start with a few categories to brainstorm on, which can come from your interests, your core values, or just one of the Goal types like "Be" or "Have." For example, mine were: Writing, Learning, Haves, Relationships, Physical, Be,Go, and Build. Those categories got me to about 80. After that things did end up getting a little sillier, but the point is to get beyond what you might normally think about, I know that I discovered some interesting things about my self in the last 10-15 goals as I was fishing at the bottom of my brain to fill out the last couple goals.

It's time to brainstorm, that weekend we spent an afternoon on this part. So set aside a good block of time, get comfortable, and start writing!

*** This "with" piece of some goals is very important, since a number of my goals revolved around getting to know a friend better or sharing some experience together. I won't have accomplished the goal of getting to San Fransisco unless I've got somebody by my side to tell me the stories and show me the places that I need to see. A few of my categories were a name, followed by the goals I have for the two of us.

Goal Setting: Step One


This is the beginning of a short series of posts about goal setting, it describes the process that about 10 of the men in my spiritual family went through to set some really meaningful goals for the coming months and years. That retreat was about 2 years ago. 10 men cooped up in a 3 room cabin in the woods, in upstate New York, in the depth of winter. It was a very intense weekend of focused work (a few of us even fasted), and it was a critical point in my life that kicked off a number of the best decisions I ever made. I've accomplished a number of the goals on that list. Since we're coming up on the new year, and I'm going through the process again, I've decided to share a little bit of what I learned that weekend. Happy New Year!

Step One: Digging down to core values.

Imagine a bunch of managers fresh from the airport sitting around a hotel conference room at 8 in the morning, ready for a day of learning about how to be more effective managers. They're sporting power suits, fancy watches, holding their executive pens and their notepads. They aren't expecting what's about to come.

The man they've all paid to come see walks into the room and, after introductions and a few warm up exercises  asks them to concentrate, close their eyes, and imagine the following scenario.

     In your mind's eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one, Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music. You the the faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there.
     As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today. All these people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.
     As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers. The first is from your family, immediate and also extended ... the second speaker is one of your friends... The third speaker is from your work or profession. And the fourth is from your church or come community organization where you've been involved in service... Now think deeply. What would you like these speakers to say about your life? - Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Habit 2
The man they've come to see is Stephen Covey, and you can imagine the atmosphere in the room. Tense silence. They were all thinking they would get a few new management techniques, and they are plunged into a soul searching exercise that brings them face to face with their own mortality. The power of this method is that it immediately shows the real value of the things that we spend our time and energy on. No one in that room wants his coworkers to say "he climbed the corperate ladder with the best of them" or his best friend to say "boy, he really had the nicest cars"

We start at the foundation of our goals, our core values, or what Covey calls our "center."

Once we have written out their speeches, we can start to distill our values from what they say. For example, I wanted a coworker of mine to be able to say that I was "passionate about the best - not just good enough, mature beyond his age, hard working and kind." I encourage you to write as specifically as you can, have in mind specific stories they might tell about you to show those values.

Find the things that repeat, for example, all of the people that spoke at my funeral mentioned that I was passionate or wholehearted about what I do, and nearly all of them mentioned something about not letting people around me (including them) stay stuck. So I ended up with wholeheartedness and  "not-enabling" (I'd love suggestions for a way to say that in the positive) as core values. All told you should have anywhere between 5-10 core values.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

IX: More Folly and the Usefulness of Equilibrium


My Dear Nightshade,

     You insufferable, careless, idiotic git! It has been less than a week and you allowed your man to stumble into the most dangerous man on that whole campus, when he just happened to be there. The pariah of a man is not even a student there! More to the point you had been well warned of his influence within the dossier I sent you. Then, as if your ignorance to the danger wasn't enough, you let your man, (who was once so deliciously afraid and shy) share his goals immediately with the man.
     Worse than all of that; I can read, with perfect acuity, your intentions. You did not lazily slide into this disaster, by Belphagor, no! You caused the whole mess. I spent a few years instructing first years as a adjunct at the training college before this post as senior tempter opened up, and never in all of the simulations and role playing that was done was so naïve a plan conceived. Never once! Allow me to guess your motives, I will wager your compensation on it. If I am wrong in a single detail you may skip your corrective training with impunity.
     Firstly, you have allowed him to pray consistently for fellowship with christian men. You surely believed that since fellowship itself is a wandering generality to him that he could pray for it with little ill effect. An inexcusable oversight. Again you have made the mistake of viewing our battle as your patient views it, not as it truly is. I might accept that you saw the fact that with all his intentions he had failed to act on them, and that prayer would be an appropriate substitute for action. I could almost appreciate your realism, but our enemy is too vigilant to project our superior philosophy onto His own illogical strategy. He values the pathetic creature's intentions, sees into their “hearts,” as it were. In the case where your man has a desire to follow the enemy and an intention to do it, prayer is the absolute last thing that you should allow him. I will have to write to you more fully on the subject of prayer at some time, but I have not the time to instruct you on the subject now.
     So there you were, allowing him to pray specifically for fellowship with other Christian men, and not only for the fellowship, but with a specific set of goals in mind thereafter! If there is one thing you should never allow your man it is a clear veiw of his goals and the path to them.
     Enough of what should have been done, you have already (although you have been inexcusably tardy in doing so) discovered your folly, let us move forward. Your situation is more dire than ever before, the enemy is sure to be working hard against your every move, and your task will be doubly hard. Subtlety is the key, drive him to the path of relative goodness, a short stint in the wrong direction to convince him he deserves time to himself, which however he uses it will be infinitely less dangerous than whatever the enemy, via this new influence, has planned.
     In fact, I will elaborate on this topic briefly. Your situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. This tool of relative goodness, which I have discussed before, will be very useful. Any time that you can fix in his mind the idea that he deserves anything, even if it has no vice in it, you have done a good thing. One of the excellent byproducts of our progress in the last decades is the death of work ethic. Boys and men alike are punctuating their entertainment with work, rather than the other way round. They begrudge each demand on “their” time, (how funny that they believe themselves to have ownership of it) and move to entertainment or dissipation quickly after each task, however brief. In the past only through slavery and oppression were the humans allowed such luxury, and then only a select few. There are exceptions, but through the cunning application of technology we have managed to make this new addiction to entertainment the rule. In the case of the disciple, (you are outmatched here, and you may as well start planning for that possibility) we can use the pattern to more subtly undermine the enemy's work.
     Allow me to write in parable. In their sciences (primitive as they are) they have discovered that the final state of any system in nature is equilibrium. Reactions take place, and the system finds it's lowest energy state. Any reaction, no matter how violent, must end and when it ends the system finds equilibrium. This is a useful idea. Patently false, but useful. The humans' simpleminded physics or chemistry could never account for the alchemies that drive our deepest infernal mechanisms and schemes, let alone the grand mystery of the Enemy's creation... would that our researchers could unravel that skein. I digress.
     Equilibrium! In this case let your boy go to social gatherings, meet new people, work on homework (the most harmless, by far) but at each turn press upon him the desire to return to his comfortable, natural, equilibrium state. If you do this well, then you will have your man believing that he needs to set aside time in his comfort zone in the same way that he must take time to sleep, and he will be driven to it just as powerfully. Define as clearly as you can the boundary of a world, outside himself, over which he can believe he has exclusive control. This is not so hard as it seems, especially now. You would think that the obvious truth that nothing in their physical realm can belong to them in any real sense would cross their mind but in a pathetic imitation of our own grand avarice their desire to contol and own blinds them to the impossibility of their really owning anything. It doesn't matter how large the area that he carves out for himself is. Some men retreat to their homes, and the endless journey of home improvement, finding just the right color, building the new addition, furnishing the perfect room. Others simply retreat into a computerized world.
      Whatever the space, real or imagined, physical or ideological, once a man believes he can control it, and he deserves to control it, there is no man, however firmly in the enemy's camp that you cannot win for our father below.

Your Affectionate Uncle,


Tuesday, December 11, 2012



It is a century and a half before Jesus was born, Isreal is conquered, Jerusalem is occupied, and the world is undergoing a cultural revolution of a scope unrivaled in the millennium before or after. Hellenization. The propagation of Greek thought and culture from Spain to Syria. Throughout Israel, many Jews are giving in to the prevailing winds of culture, forgoing the study of the Torah as it is outlawed. Some go so far as to un-circumsize themselves so as to appear as gentiles in the public baths and gymnasiums. God's home on Mount Zion has been desecrated, a statue of Zeus erected, and pigs slaughtered on God's altar. Hellenizing influences have declared all out war on the traditional Jewish way of life, and by all appearances, they have won.

God still needed the Temple. So the Hanukkah Miracle began.

A Priest by the name of Maccabee led a rag tag geurilla offensive against the most powerful, most disciplined army in the world. They ran, much like their fore-fathers ran into battle after battle in Canaan, with no hope of victory. They picked a fight with a giant. They gave their all and against all odds they regained the city, and the Temple. Those who survived the campaign walked, battle weary, into the temple and started the work of re-dedicating it. Destroying the Statue of Zeus, scouring the temple of anything that might be unclean. All that work done, imagine their dismay at the sight of only one sealed container of consecrated oil. Only one day's worth of oil to light the Menorah that must burn for eight. They gave their all, they fought with everything they had, they were spent. They had nothing more to give, and it wasn't going to be enough.

Then God showed up, as he always does, when his people give everything they have. The oil lasted through each day of the week that it would take to re-dedicate the Temple. From then on God's people celebrate the Feast of Dedication, The Festival of Lights. One more example of God's intervention on behalf of his people so that each and every event could lead to the culmination of every tradition and Holy day, the Ultimate Passover.

Celebrate it because Jesus celebrated it (John 10:22-39), and celebrate it knowing that it is one strand in the Messianic thread that runs through the tapestry of history.

Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, December 3, 2012

2012 Spiritual Birthday

It's my spiritual birthday! I was baptized 4 years ago today.

"...and who knows whether or not you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this." 
- Esther 4:14

If I didn't know any better I would say it was luck. I've studied enough probability and stats to know that it's not likely that the one guy who had what I was praying for was standing right there. Literally. Right there. That's only if I didn't know any better. Knowing what I know now it was the result of a whole lot of hard work, a well trained perception, and just a little bit of an old, wise, and very Jewish Mordicai raising his shoulders in a shrug that says "perhaps God is at work here." I wasn't the first or last freshman he met that year, or even that day, probably. I was just the one who wanted a fellowship to meet with, who just happened to be praying for it just as he walked by, and when I opened my eyes to eat my salad he was asking me, "mind if I sit here?"

I studied the scriptures with him and a few of his brothers in Christ, the more I heard the more I wanted in. This was what I had been longing for and never knew. I saw men bound together by a bond I had never seen the likes of before, and more than that I saw men and women bound to Truth more securely than I had ever seen before. The Apostles Teaching. The way that the first Christians did things. The way that the men who walked with Jesus taught them. What other way could there be?

It didn't take long for something to get in the way. There are forces out there who would just assume see me floundering in my faith, and... perhaps they acted. I managed to connect myself in my first few weeks of my schooling with a two groups of Christians, one that professed to follow the apostles teaching, and another that was convinced that I was at risk of joining a cult. 

I will say 3 things about that and move on.
1.) "Judge a tree by it's fruit." - Matthew 7:16
2.) "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother." -Matthew 18:15
3.) "You'll never really know a man till you walk a mile in his shoes" - To Kill a Mockingbird

So I heard their accusations, I took a look at the fruit, and I haven't quite made it a mile yet, but I'm working on it. I kept studying, and I learned enough to know that I wanted to be baptized. I wanted be converted the same way that the first century Christians were. I saw this as the answer to the prayer that I had prayed 3 years before.

I was baptized. A lot has happened since then. More than I can write about now.

"Who can say if I've been changed for the better? Because I knew you, I have been changed for good." 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

2012 Prayer Bivouac Report

A Breif Primer:

     For those of you readers out there who weren't at the 2012 Ekklesia Prayer Bivouac (much more accurate term than "retreat") I will summarize the tools we learned. For a more in depth, secular look I recommend "The Tools" by Stutz and Michels. I'll try to pair my summary to Scripture so you can get that side of it more clearly. One way or another, this will not cover the topic in full. 

Feel and Release: Getting after God's heart concerning emotions

The Basic Premise: God wants us to be free and feel deeply (Scripture: The Psalms!)

The Basic Problem: We often find ourselves in one of two extremes that keep us from the ideal.
     -The Minimizer: Buries and numbs emotions to keep them from controlling their life.
     -The Maximizer: Amplifies emotion to feel deeply, but is often controlled by emotion.

The Tool: When emotion is threatening to control your state, allow yourself to feel it fully. Once you've felt it fully, give that feeling over to God and release it. There are a lot of methods for doing this, use what works, but the two that we explored were:
     -Can I let it go? Will I let it go? When will I let it go?
     -"Coal in the Ocean" the hottest coal of emotion is quickly fizzled in God's grace

Bring it on: Overcoming Pain

The Basic Premise: God wants us to act on his will without fear, even when it hurts. 

The Basic Problem: Running towards fear or pain is hard! Especially when it's easy to turn back.

The Tool: Any time you're hesitating to do something you want*** to do. Go through these 4 steps:
1) Imagine the worst possible pain you could experience while doing the task
2) Begin to approach that pain (think of it as a cloud) while thinking (or saying) "Bring it on"
3) While you are in the cloud think/say "I love this pain" ("Consider it pure joy when you face trials")
4) After you've passed through the cloud, imagine the unlimited possiblilities on the other side of that pain, and think/say "Pain sets me free"

The Minimizer's Dilemma:

     With all that in mind, the Minimizers (like me!) out there who have tried that first tool can testify that it is really hard to know when to use that tool. Chances are we have decades of emotions we've buried, precisely because we didn't want them to control our lives. I wanted to get all that stuff out but I was afraid to feel it!
     - I'll go crazy if I try to bring all that stuff up
     - I'm not supposed to get angry
     - I can't even remember all the reasons why I feel this way it's been so long
     - I'm just not built that way, I handle emotion differently
     - If I let someone know how much I felt, they'd think I'm hyper-sensitive/weak
     - The strong thing to do is to grin and bear it
     - Et cetera, ad nauseum and that's just the list that I could come up with.

     The fact of the matter is that I've gotten disconnected from my heart, and I've got to break through a few walls before I can rebuild that pathway. There are layers of *numbness* and layers of *pain* between me and my heart. Breaking through numbness is a story unto itself, one that I don't fully understand. Breaking through pain, on the other hand, is where the second tool comes in.

How all that works:

The Goal: I want (and God wants me) to be able to feel the anger/resentment/guilt/junk that has been blocking the path to my heart for so long, and then give it to God.

How To Get There: 3 ideas (Paired with Psalm 55:4)
"In God I will put my trust"
1) Trust and Obey: If I'm going to become a man after God's own heart, I need to be connected to my own heart. God is going to provide the strength and help to get through that transformation. I will trust in God.
"I shall not be afraid"
2) "Bring it on": I want to feel that pain, however emotionally taxing, so that I can get that much more connected to my heart, and God's heart. I will run ahead and not be afraid.
"What can man do to me"
3) "Feel and Release": Once I can run at that pain full speed, I can allow myself to feel it (the anger/resentment/guilt/sadness) fully and release it to God. No matter what that pain is, nothing anyone (including myself) has ever done to me can overwhelm God's ability to feel, forgive, and strengthen.

***A note on "Should": In my experience anywhere you say should is a place you need to use the "Bring it on" tool, but more importantly I recommend removing "should" and "ought" from your vocabulary all-together. That's a blog post or speech in and of itself.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Sukkah moments come
and go quickly, lost to time
temporary life

each tick flies away
holding clock’s arms back - replay
profits us nothing

march only onward
to everhome’s waveless shore
present eternity

Friday, August 17, 2012

VIII: The Importance of Espionage


My dear Nightshade,

          It has been some time since you have responded to my letters, and I am beginning to grow concerned. I understand that my tone has been adversarial of late, but that is no excuse, and I will not relent. In my defense, I simply could not resist sending the Department of Compensation's new instructional and motivational video; the torments are so much more... poignant when presented in that medium. That being said, additional discipline from me is no excuse for your moping. You have begun the most important journey of your boy's life. Play your cards right, and you can win him back. Your recent incompetence has not entirely erased the good work you had done earlier, and you will have significantly more leverage as he navigates the unfamiliar territory of the university.
          He is in a circle of entirely new people, and he has the opportunity to build from scratch. My experience shows that that a man's patterns are most pliable during times of dramatic change such as this. Get your boy, in this first week, to choose just once or twice to stay in his room, rather than attend social events, and his newly developed extroversion will fade quickly into the much more familiar social fear you worked up in his heart years ago. Getting him to eat meals alone is critical. Solitary entertainment of any kind is invaluable. It goes without saying that any time alone with a computer is a golden opportunity, I suspect that even you can find the leverage to capitalize on it.
          Despite your lack of correspondence, my sources within the infernal police have worked up a dossier on your situation (portions of which are in the portfolio which I have attached). You have many senior tempters working in close proximity to you. While you isolate him, be sure not to isolate yourself! Get in contact with all of your new colleagues, as their collective knowledge is sure to contain hundreds of tools which you can use to your advantage. Above all else, be sure to study the portfolio I have sent, and do your homework on the threats that are present in your area. I did not have time to read the full report that the infernal police sent to me, but I saw enough to know that you are traversing a minefield of the enemies agents. The stakes have been raised, Nightshade, and you must avail yourself of the intelligence you have been given. I repeat, study your surroundings.

Your Affectionate Uncle,


Thursday, August 9, 2012

VII: On Generational Curses


My Dear Nightshade,

          If only I could take back every word of praise that I wrote in my early letters, how is it, that in so short a time you have forgotten everything about the proper use of generational curses. It is well that I pressed you for your plan before your put it into practice. A boy's relationship with his father is one of the enemy's favorite tools, and if you cannot bring yourself to refresh your knowledge on the subject before you scribble out a plan at this most critical of junctures, you are sure to fail.
         Your plan is so beyond repair that I have not even bothered to append my comments to it, and will instead endeavor with you to start from scratch. Allow me to start by saying that you managed to place your finger on only one aspect of the generational curse. Yes, your boy, like his father, experiences inadequacy intensely. A freshman at the training college could have told me as much. From you, a graduate, I expected at least half a dozen other angles. I do not have time to lecture you in the identification of vices, and so I will attempt to address the still more glaring error in your scheme.
          The main point of generational curses is not simply to perpetuate some vice. Our researches have made that task simple enough for any individual. The point of generational curses is the passing on of a system of belief. Do not take me the wrong way, vice often begets vice. We can certainly use that, but the more important thing is that habitual vice always creates patterns of victimization, enabling, and numbing around itself. If, for example, your boys father was an alcoholic, your best option would not automatically be to make him an alcoholic.
          Allow me to draw an example from my own experience. I once worked on a man whose father was a compulsive gambler. If I had attempted to push him down the road of gambling I would have failed miserably. The man knew all too well the effect gambling had on his father's life, the arguments in the house which lead to a messy divorce, the subsequent drinking, debt, and depression. He saw the fruit all too well. I wouldn't gain one iota of traction if I had taken that approach, as you would so sophomorically suggest. Instead I used the pain that the son felt for his father. That pain is so close to selflessness, so close to the enemy's heart. With that pain, I was able to stump the man's spiritual growth altogether with the lie that he could somehow save his father from his bad decisions “if only...”
         He gathered more and more material accomplishments, became influential, wealthy, and well liked by his community. All the while becoming more dangerous to our cause, if he should ever turn his heart to the enemy's will... but he would never change his course. He spent his whole life running, while never once considering where he was going. No time for introspection, only comparison. No time to consider the soul, only the appearance. He strove and strove to manufacture an appearance attractive enough to gain the approval of (and thereby influence over) a man who was terminally incapable of approval. I would happily allow him to attend church, say his prayers, and even act altruistically, because I knew what he could never know. I knew that I had entrenched the importance of appearances so deeply in his mind that he could do nothing, however selfless, for anyone but the crowd that was watching, and subconsciously for his father. In public, he was a smiling upstanding citizen. In private, he was a nervous wreck... a boy juggling a man's responsibilities and just barely keeping it up; his anger flared, his selfishness burst out in binges of seemingly justified indulgence. How fortunate, in this case, that it is only the private man that matters in the end.
          You do not have that extreme of a case, and you do not have anything like the skill I had at that point in my career. However, the principle remains. You cannot simply stamp the boy with his father's vices and expect them to stick. I expect a much more complete plan from you in the near future. If you are to recover this case, you must take every advantage of the window of opportunity you will receive when the boy leaves home for his schooling.

Your Affectionate Uncle,


Saturday, August 4, 2012

XII: Covert Operations & Sabotage


My Dear Nightshade,

          I suppose it is time I wrote to you on the tricky business of infiltration. You are entirely alone in your efforts to distract your patient. However you must think like your patient; while you only have control of your own actions, you must keep in mind the goals of some larger group. Not the Church at large, that would be an nigh unimaginable work, the cogs of which turn well below even my own considerable authority. Your focus is to be the church as it manifests itself in the few dozen souls surrounding your man. I would encourage you to begin (if you haven't already begun) corresponding with some of the more senior tempters in that organization. They have, in the past, done some good work, and there is a realistic possibility that the infestation that is currently plaguing our efforts in that city may yet be stamped out. That goal is well outside your purview, and should not even cross your mind, lest you allow yourself to be deluded to the current state of affairs. If you are to be of any help at all in this cause, you must learn the process by which such a victory is made.
          That process, on a different scale, does not look so very different from the one that I described in my letter concerning the subconscious mind. Except in the place of a man's subconscious is a group conscious. To sneak attitudes and ideas past the scrutiny of a group conscious is both easier and harder. Harder, because the walls that must be surmounted are, even in a weaker group, the sum of all the experience and knowledge of the group. Easier because in anything but a worst case scenario, there are holes in those walls which are clear to us, that we may exploit. Those holes are, of course, invisible to the humans, and are the products of the raising, culture and experiences of the group. Even in the earliest days of the outbreak, there were opportunities for this sort of attack. For example, our predecessors did not lose any time in dividing the churches between jews and gentiles, who by necessity had wildly varying understandings of the role of old testament law in the new arrangement. In a group of gentiles, a strain of deliciously shallow legalism could take root as they strove to prove themselves worthy of the attention of their jewish brothers. Or the exact opposite approach could be taken, and licentiousness could become the byword of a reactive church's existence. These early dichotomies are simple demonstrations of the principle.
          It is vital, even if a hole in the defense is discovered that at least one (perferably more) of the humans understand group conscience to be a vote or debate. Ideally, something like “We all say our opinions, and we settle at the mean.” If one man, in such a arrangement can shout louder or speak more persuasively the result moves closer to his opinion. This is exactly the sort of thing we want, then the defenses can only ever be as great as the sum of those involved, and are rarely that efficient. In such circumstances divisions, bitterness, resentment, and all manner of delightful distractions may be achieved. If, however, the group conscience is ubiquitously understood to be a striving for a principle that is larger than the group itself, and by extension the individuals therein, the situation is much more dire. They multiply, rather than add their defenses, and are watchful against any insurrection within their own understanding, whether it be your ham-fisted fumbling or  my own subtle craft. Any attack on this ground will be quickly rooted out and foiled.
          As I said earlier, you are simply to take this into consideration in your own schemes. If I should receive one iota of suggestion on your part, last months corrective training will be a pleasant memory.

Your affectionate Uncle,


Friday, July 27, 2012

X : The Art of Infiltration


My dear Nightshade,

            You have written me time and time again on the subject of the subconscious mind, and I think it is time that I address it. The man's conscious mind is not only aware of your existence, but has given you a name. He doesn't speak to you of course, we could use that, build up a delicate little paranoia about him. Be that as it may you must work to keep him from doing anything at present, keep him as far from his own will as possible! Distracting him from his true identity for even a minute is a victory at this point, Nightshade, every second that he spends without distraction he grows closer to the enemy, infects more of the people around him with that horrid mystery, increasing the torments your incompetency has piled up for you tenfold what they would be if you could only throw him in front of a bus.
            His subconscious is a tool, one that you learned to use very early in your schooling. However, using the subconscious to draw to distraction will require a mastery that only comes from experience that you have no time to acquire. In this, as in all things we do there is a delicate balance between not enough and too much. Each thought is a contraband that you must sneak past his judgment, into his conscious mind. Make it too close to your will, and he will see it outright and toss it into the fire, “take it captive” as the enemy calls it. Make it too close to his own will, abominably close to the enemies, closer even than he knows, and it will be innocuous, and worthless to your cause. This delicate balance is complicated further still by the uncomfortable truth that every attempt you make that is found out will increase his ability to sniff out your deceit the next time.
            Enough of the consequences of failure, you will have more than enough of those come time for review, on to how you may redeem yourself. (How unfortunate for you that the enemy is the only source of genuine miracles, the realms of hell are much more realistic, as well you know.) The technique is simple enough, though it requires careful planning. The first step is to choose the  destination you would like to reach, it is best to chose a well worn road especially for your first attempts. In this patient I would say your best bet is to continue to harp on the lustful thoughts that you have planted so deep in him. Yes, you might say that this is the vice he is most aware of, and you must realize that his defenses will be very high against an all out assault. However, catch him with a few “innocuous” thoughts (call them plans, not fantasies, which he will reject outright), and he may follow you. Do this well for a day or two, and a direct attack with memories or a tried and true fantasy, mixed with his “plans” will be assured to have a positive affect. 
          For example, try to convince him that anything that is that “beautiful” in his mind cannot be entirely dismissed, he will want to extract the passion and desire in these plans which seem to him virtuous from the lust that is inextricably braided with them. Here you have got him, he may even obsess for hours, indignant that he cannot participate in the exquisite poetry of marriage and intimacy, after all he has been so “good” for all this time and knows who he would like to marry, and is much more ready than his peers who have rushed into the engagement. How delightful it would be if you could work with Wartwitch to get the fool and his woman to simply elope, She has proven to be singularly incompetent in that regard. Between the two of you the my confidence in the inevitability of our ultimate victory is nearly shaken. It is well that our fate does not rest on the shoulders of insignificant tempters such as yourself.
          Returning to the point, the more of these thoughts you dump on him at the appropriate time the better, as long as you tend the fire of indignation and pride, and none of his precious brothers stamp it out, he will be yours to lead further and further from his will. If you can salvage this case you will not even need my recommendation to enter the lower levels of administration, you may even be given a position on one of our infernal science teams. The stakes grow by the day, Nightshade. Your situation has been desperate for some time now. I have included (as usual) the latest edition of the informational brochure published by the department of compensation on the house for incompetent tempters. Do read it this time, and write back to me your reactions (be specific!) to the torments described therein. Fear is a wonderful motivator, and I think you shall need every bit of motivation you can get.

Your affectionate Uncle,


Friday, July 20, 2012

VI: Philosophical Thermodynamics, Among Other Things


My dear Nightshade,

          If nothing else, you are consistent... deftly, you have made some small good of horrid circumstances (and go on to boast about it as though it were you who tempted Eve.) Yet, you do not see that you are taking exactly the opposite (and I would say wrong) path from the one you started so well on. Surely you must see that, as you lead him from isolation to social sin you lead him past that fatal centre where the enemy wishes for him to reside! 
          Everything in our work is a pair of equally desirable extremes framing the enemy's will. He desires a man to be passionate, we push him to lust and rage, or pull him into cold stoicism. He desires a man to respect the unseen, we push him to become a magician, or pull him into pure materialism. Every sin we can tempt a man to is some excess or dearth of a quality that the enemy has placed in him. There is perhaps something to be said for an unstable philosophy that bounces back and forth between the hot and cold. Heated rage one day giving way to icy cynicism the next. Glass, treated similarly, will shatter.
        But, forget all that Nightshade, philosophical thermodynamics will do you no good if you keep forgetting your first lessons as a tempter. Habit, Habit, Habit! So you say that you have created an egotist out of him, what of it? In each change of course you allow him to acquire some characteristic the enemy so desires him to have. As he made his way from isolation to the centre of attention, a thousand seeds, and I am by no means exaggerating, of self esteem and efficacy were sown. So in constantly scheming to drive him into more and different sins you will drive him right into the arms of the enemy. 
          Allow me to provide a successful counter example, as I begin to suspect that you do not have a proper respect for the full weight of experience that is behind my advice. In my sophomore temptership I saw it fit to produce exactly one gentle nudge towards gluttony at a critical point. Yes, gluttony of all things! I simply cemented the one simple idea that he alone is looking out for his interests, and my job was reduced to monitoring his long, slow, (admittedly boring) decline into increasingly selfish habits. He became an insatiable connoisseur of absolutely everything. Food and Drink, travel, furniture, servants, friends, each increasingly unsatisfactory as time went on and novelty became unattainable. One simple maneuver, and his selfish soul acquired the uniquely savory flavour of genuine, shameless, avarice.
          Pick your course and stay with it, this is no time for acrobatics. Attack this new self esteem. Get him started on a dozen things he won't finish, and use his father as much as possible. I feel compelled to write to you concerning that topic as well, (since you have so readily forgotten the rest of your basic training.) Send me a draft of your plan in that department, so that I will know how elementary my instruction must be.

Your Affectionate Uncle,


Sunday, July 15, 2012

New York City Looking out, Looking in

     From the very first moment that I saw the skyline I knew that the last time I saw those lights, I was a totally different person. It snuck up on me, I wasn't ready, and now here I am staring at a city, knowing that there are millions of people milling about living their lives, their pains, their joys, their plans and routines, hopes and despairs, their dreams and their shattered unrequited dreams. And I can feel it. I hear it, welling up like a great big choir singing the same song in brilliant harmony, singing out their emotions. The same song with the sobbing vibrato of a mother who can't begin to understand her son, and the clear shining tenor of victory. I see it in moving color, trains, planes and automobiles, with their passengers weaving courteously, angrily, despondent and bored through the veins and ventricles of the city.

     The first time, all I could sense was the smell. Ugh, that aweful smell. Burning... whatever, spent gasoline, garbage, rotting sewer, and human, millions of people sweating in the summer heat. I saw the lights and the buildings, but they were mountains to me, beautiful, but not inhabited. And the people I did see, I saw over-bored and tired locals, and the empty exuberance of tourists. I was supposedly there as a mission worker, learning the trade of urban missions. Feed a few homeless people, watch kids in depressed neighborhoods, administering the standardized test to determine passage into that next eternal grade level in life, giving out review cards and cheat sheets to help people pick the right answers. I'll admit it was a life changing experience for me, I took away a lot, but I didn't give anything that lasts.

     But now, there's something totally different. I look at buildings and I see stories, I look into eyes and I see souls. I look at a city and I feel the weight of the sheer humanity of it all, and I can bear it, barely bear it, with borrowed strength. You might call it empathy, and I might call it that too, for lack of a better word, but that great big word isn't big enough. It's perception, awareness, attention, processing, feeling, and acting played out over and over again a thousand times as I look sight to sight. And at each step my heart, my mind, my soul are each more capable than ever before. I perceive in 12 dimensions, I am aware of so much more, and my attention is drawn to the real stories I see (not my own imagined could be's) I can process with the people I see, feel what they feel, and I'm compelled do or say something... anything to let them know that I'm here, I'm real, and there is a love flowing through me I want to find time to share.

     There is something really satisfying about knowing that, despite the radical nature of these changes, that 18 year old me wanted to learn everything that I know now, he wanted to be who I am now, and now after all this time, and by no fault of his own. He made it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

V: Rebukes and Last Resorts


My dear Nightshade,

     You are losing him! To your credit you have recognized the fact, and have implored me half a dozen times this week for guidance. That credit and a soul lost to the enemy will buy you exactly the same punishment as your cousin.
     You ask me again and again what to do, and I will tell you that my answer is the same: that your one hope is, and has only ever been, to isolate the boy. His years of insecurity and social ineptness are not so far behind you, what have you lost in that short time that he has thrown off the wonderful shroud of fear you cast over any social interaction? How could you let him get to the point that he could, withoug a moment's hesitation, accept an invitation to an all-nighter with a youth group at his church despite the fact that he knows none of it's members. I have read reports from that front and there are a hundred reasons you should do everything in your power to keep him from that event. The greatest of which being his getting anywhere near that passionate youth pastor, five minutes genuine sermon from that pariah and you will have years of repair to do. 
     Everything short of direct tyranny should be considered, and if you should see an opportunity for that without revealing yourself, I daresay you might find the scourges of the infernal police for disobeying an order from the lowest parts of hell a deal kinder than the punishment for losing a soul. I leave it to your judgment, and wash my hands of anything you might attempt to rectify this. You have made a very desperate situation here, and you should spare nothing in bringing him back to the happy state of affairs of just a few months ago.

Your Affectionate Uncle,

Thursday, July 5, 2012

IV: Beginning of Blunders


My Dear Nightshade,

     You incompetent, foolhardy twit. What could possibly have possessed you to think that you could cultivate a friendship without any report to me? Here you have been carrying this on in secret, until you complain that the boy is leaving behind his solitary tendencies asking me to guide you back. How can I help you at all if you confidently strike out on your own. Though I do appreciate your distrust, and your spirit of individuality, you will accomplish nothing if you do not take full advantage of the advice that I have to offer. For now, I must endeavor to clean up your messes.
     If you allow this to go any further the boy will surely be cured from the months of good work you have done to make him a lone wolf. Surely you realized that the goal in all of your work up to this point was to create a skulking solitary man of blurry and jaded morality, if any at all, and here you are sending him off to a friends house every other day during the summer like you were creating one of their heartwarming coming-of-age films. Eugh...
     My disappointment and disgust aside, I must now work with what you have given me. You tell me that you have been working with the the other boy's charge, Einglomp, who is now on his second temptorship. Thank our father below for that fact, putting together two rookies on this most important case would surely spell disaster; that is of course if your blunders have not done so already. Be sure that you pay attention to his lead, he has done good work leading his boy down the comfortable path of relative kindness, goodness, self-control, and morality. These things, fatal in any real measure, are the tools kept closest at hand by any skilled tempter. Only the most depraved of human souls will continue living in a way they know to be somehow worse then the way they perceive the humans around them to be living. Convince them they are at least “as good as” their fellows (not so much better as to be “un-democratic,” mind you) and they will make their way gleefully into small sin after small sin with the lightness of conscience that only comes from skimming along the top of their own standards, unaware of any other standard by which a man may be judged. Another, perhaps, more social method of the minimization I discussed in my last letter, largely irrelevant in your case. However, this sense of relativity is not a harmful thing to allow your boy to be taught.
     Do not allow him to take up the other boy on his challenge to join the football team. I think I can see into your reasoning as to why it will help your cause, and I am sure that Einglomp has been filling your head with his praises of the boisterous pride of locker-room banter as a source of every sort of youthful vice. Do not be so foolish. Your boy is an all together different case which needs isolation and brooding if there is to be any chance for success. If the road to hell were a formula our researchers would have found it by now. Do everything in your power to keep the boy at home as often as you are able for the rest of the summer, and if he must go, for hell's sake, do not allow him to ride his new bike. The blasted contraption is deadly, for all his feelings of empowerment in conquering the fear that you built up from that wonderful little spill, piled on top of an unhealthy appreciation for the beauty of nature. Keep the boy off it!

Your affectionate Uncle,


Friday, June 29, 2012

Light Speaks

Light is everlasting
while darkness cannot stay
Light speaks eternal
what darkness cannot say
Light uncovers boldly
what darkness hides away
Dark deceives the dying
while Light shows them The Way

Thursday, June 28, 2012

III: On Delusions


My Dear Nightshade,

     What I meant to say, my dear boy, in mentioning the boyhood crushes in my last letter, is simply that you would stop pestering me with them. Yes, I am well aware of the wonderful little trysts he imagines in his head, and your subsequent delight. Yes, I am well aware that these are particularly helpful to your cause in getting him to be fully addicted to sexual fantasy, I have used the technique several times myself. However; I am also fully confident in your ability to handle this most simple of temptations without my aid, or advice. Honestly, Nightshade, as Undersecretary of the department, I have much more important things to do than to read your jubilant stammering about his latest day dream, and how well it kept him from real productive thought for it's duration. I have been assigned to advise you, not to get to know you. It almost seems as though you have slipped into some delusion of the enemies concept of family. Eugh... it makes me sick to think of bringing any two separate and competing wills that close to one another. Be sure that you have no illusions as to the nature of my instruction, lest I have need of sending some reminder of the consequences of such heresy.
     That being said, I am encouraged by your more useful reports of the boy's growing addictions to solitary dreaming, and sexual fantasy. These, simultaneously, draw him away from any real change of heart, and also produce a charming frustration by way of a mutual exclusivity of ideals. On the one end he is an introvert and would really just like to be left alone, and on the other he experiences an aching for intimacy and romance of a kind so far from what our enemy really intended that it should minimize the unfortunate side-effects of real setting aside of self for another, mutual help, and selflessness that spawn from healthy relationships. Play these chords against one another properly, and you will create a wonderful reclusive cynicism. From here it is not so far a fall to still greater and greater sins; ending, if all goes as planned, in something like sociopathy and an eternity of knowing exactly the one decision that led him into our grasp, and not the enemy's. That is, of course, many years of skillful guiding down the road, but it is not entirely remiss to have goals, my dear boy. There are positions in the administration opening more and more frequently these days, and a skillful young tempter, such as yourself, would be most welcome to join the ever downward climb on the lowerarchy, should you be able to win such a fabulous victory for our father below.
     The key to achieving this kind of victory is minimizing and denying the impact that such thoughts, feelings and actions have on his heart. This task, unlike many of our struggles against the enemy has become an increasingly simple one. This culture has distilled every kind of vice to concentrations and potencies that were simply unheard of in any other time in history. The everyday abuse of hard liquor in my day cannot hold a candle to the latest productions of our infernal researches. The humans, (with only the slightest nudging) have created naturally occurring vice that only direct tyranny could have achieved in the past. Go with me on this for just a moment, Nightshade. Technology has advanced to the point that any man can not only watch, but participate in literally hundreds of murders (imaginary though they may be), and delight in them nearly as much as we devils do. Better yet, a teenage boy with all of the grit and guts of a kitten can experience the kind of sexually aggressive tastes that once only emperors and kings could afford and carry out. Just imagine the amount of empathy or compassion a man can have left to his use after all that imagined domination. Domination, mind you, that has been tied inextricably to the success and pleasure centers of his brain. How will he accomplish any real goal or improvement; or establish any healthy (oh, so complicated) intimacy when he is just minutes away from a satisfying victory or sexual encounter in a world that is completely under his control? All the while, if anyone should grow wise to the effect these fantasies have, they are comforted with the delicious little lie, “at least they aren't actually...” fill in the blank. Sleeping around... going out and gunning down their classmates... They may even be so deluded to think that these fantasies act as an outlet for their appetites. Their ever increasing appetites. Don't you see! How marvelous a machine it is, that promises satiation, and leaves only the desire for more, and more, and more still! All achieved by the simple method of minimization. If they could only see the poisonous mire that they have day after day poured into their subconscious, they would go mad! That is just the point, Nightshade. They can't see it. They can't feel it, and day by day they are armed with a greater and greater defense against the protests of concerned friends and family who can!
     I cannot be too overzealous in my teaching of this often overlooked tactic. So many tempters are caught up in creating the conscious evil doer, one who chooses evil for it's own sake. They mistake the means for the end! Let him believe that his thoughts and actions are not in fact evil, that it is better than “actually” carrying out the act, that it is the best and only safe alternative. Then you will have him in a vice only the most skilled of the enemies agents will be able to crack, and you will have all the tools at your disposal to keep him well away from them.

Your Affectionate Uncle,


Friday, June 22, 2012

II: A Summary of the Dossier


My Dear Nightshade,

     Still more good reports! I have picked up the dossier on your boy's church and I find much good to be said of it. You say that he is disenchanted with it, that it does nothing for his sense of awe, or his fantastic imagination. In that case keep filling his head with the challenge that “If this is all there is then...” Never let him finish it of course, just let it be a simmering question in the back of his mind. The moment he becomes certain he becomes an unknown quantity, there is nothing you can do to push him from his “then” being “then I will find some real believers out there” or “then I will live a life of debauchery because nothing matters in the end.” Your goal is a foggy doubt, an uncertainty just vague enough to not be worth inspecting, one that will slowly settle into his being and after 30 years of life will be so ingrained into his existence that nothing can shake it.
   You tell me that he has recently been “confirmed” as a member of this church, a meaningless ceremony to him and the enemy. As you surely have read by now in the correspondence between Wormwood and I, (another delicious churning of the stomach, that you should learn from his blunders!) the repetition of passive habits reduce their hold. Ergo; the more this boy plays at church and sees the adult men and women around him acting in a similar fashion, treating it quite seriously, the more he will grow to think that faith, represented by the church he attends (what a helpful delusion there) is foolish, and a waste of his time. This is effective whether the adults he observes are legitimately in the enemies camp or no, he believes that they are all a bunch of fakes, and is not too far off in most cases (Oh, that we could capture those enigmatic few that dare to thrive in such an environment... It chafes me, Nightshade, that they can find anything of the enemy there, let alone a faith that protects them from even our most competent tempters.). If it remains self centered this is a wonderfully useful feeling, so far as it goes to make him shun all faith as farcical, but never let him turn it out to others so as to become indignant that so many men and women have dedicated their lives to such trumpery. That conclusion is far too close to the idea that surely this sort of hypocrisy could not have existed for 2000 years and there must be something more behind it, which he could find if he asked, sought, and knocked. Those three things are precisely what you are to keep him from doing, because if he does the Enemy will be at his side in an instant, and you will left out of his thoughts, having pushed him that direction all along.
    You also tell me that he is beginning to have crushes on the girls in his classes, do not let these little lusts (while delightful) distract you from your main goal of making a lone dreamer out of him in the end. Boyhood crushes seldom produce any real steps along the path to our father below.

Your affectionate Uncle,


Friday, June 15, 2012

I: By Way of an Introduction


My Dear Nightshade,

     The report I have received on your previous work on this, your first temptorship, and the subsequent spite of your older school-mate and cousin Wormwood's will (that delightful warming of the stomach, though no compensation for his complete failure to provide any real food, is an added reward for your success) reminds me of what spectacular advances we have made in our methods, and the general state of things up on Terra-firma. Even so, you have out-classed your peers by far in your work on this most difficult case. I have even forwarded some of your work to Slubgob at the training college, would all our tempters be at once so ambitious, and innovative.
     Do not let any of my praise go to your head however. I have been requested to join you as your adviser to assist you in a most important, and difficult struggle; one that, as skilled as you have shown yourself to be thus far, will require everything you have learned in your tenure at the training college. As you heard in my address to the training college (though you were not graduating I trust that your own fear of failure spurred your closest attention to a senior Tempter) I spoke of the relative flabbiness of most souls, and indeed more and more of the humans have grown to be completely ignorant, insipid, and best of all comfortable. Your patient is nothing of the sort, the boy has an imagination on him, and the wonderful work that our research has done to lessen the dangers of that sort of thing is completely impotent in his case because he is guarded by a most prudish sheltering from even a shred of popular culture. A culture of noise and clap-trap in which Bell-weather souls are proud of every sort of vice, and lead millions of would be candidates for limbo skipping mindlessly down the smooth sloping path to our tormentor's kitchens. Oh, what a disadvantage it is for us it is when the human children find some other entertainment, titillating their minds with books, and art, and play. Ugh, the little creatures imagining wonderful stories and creating worlds of good and evil, playing the hero all the time. All the while the enemy watches smiling, as he always does... everything is in his favor, Nightshade, even the invented worlds of little children prepare them so wonderfully for His understanding of the spiritual realms, with cute little morals all pointing to the ridiculous fallacy that one man's good can be the good of all, teaching courage, and that most annoying search for something more to life. All that being said, we can use this to our advantage, due to some fairly recent advances.
     Humans of this type, whether they have survived our barrage of entertainment, or they have missed it altogether are easily drawn into the alternative realities they create. Let him read, play games, and watch movies so long as their grandness and fantasy keep highlighting how dreadfully dull “real” life is compared to these other worlds. In the time that I worked as a tempter it was my duty to always show the dullness of real life, and lead men to the conclusion that dullness was ordinary, proper, and mature. Your duty, particularly with this patient, is to work diligently at furnishing him with grander and grander fantasies, and to avoid anything that approaches the battle that is constantly taking place between us and the enemy. If I am to help you in this case you must provide me a report on what your aims are for the next few months and years, I should hope that you have planned that far ahead, this boy will need every bit of guiding you can give him, his imagination and lively mind raise the stakes of the game. A single misstep could mean a lifetime of watching from the outside while the enemy shields him from your grasp. I trust you are aware of the consequences.

Your affectionate Uncle,


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Out of Respect For Mr. Lewis

Since I do so respect C.S. Lewis, whose work is being here imitated (as the highest form of flattery). I would like to quote his introductory admonition, as it applies as much to my work as it did to his, along with a brief admonition of my own.

The Preface of C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters

     "I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands.
     There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. The sort of script which is used in this book can be very easily obtained by anyone who has once learned the knack; but ill-disposed or excitable people who might make a bad use of it shall not learn it from me.
     Readers are advised to remember that the Devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle. I have made no attempt to identify any of the human beings mentioned in the letters; but I think it very unlikely that the portraits, say, of Fr Spike or the patients mother are wholly just. There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth.
     In conclusion, I ought to add that no effort has been made to clear up the chronology of the letters... in general the diabolical method of dating seems to bear no relation to terrestrial time and I have not attempted to reproduce it. The history of the European war, except in so far as it happens now and then to impinge upon the spiritual condition of one human being, was obviously of no interest to Screwtape."

C.S. Lewis
Magdalen College
5 July 1941

     I too, will have no part in the education of how these dialogues are obtained. Whether or not I have "the knack" remains to be seen, I only hope that I do not prove to be one of those ill-disposed or excitable people Mr. Lewis had so warned.
     Screwtape is still a liar. Should you begin to recognize any of the humans in this account, (or any of the demons for that matter) simply know that even if a person is one in a million there are 7000 people just like him interspersed all over the world. I will follow in my predecessors footsteps and make no effort to identify the subjects of this correspondence, I would recommend that you do the same.
   The chronology of the letters may seem to make some sense at the beginning, but as Nightshade's blunders catch up with him later in the correspondence (and oh, how they do catch him) his frantic and desperate scrawlings are met with much less frequent responses, and the terrestrial events that inspire Screwtape's attention to his pupil are less easily divined. Screwtape is, for his part, a very patient devil; but he, like all of his ilk, has his limits.

Alexander J. Turner
Maplewood House for Young Warriors
24 June 2012

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Down To Business.

So here's the deal. I'm trying something new, mainly because I think that something new must be tried.

Over the summer I will guarantee significant posts every Friday. "Wow," you say, "that's a lot of writing." Good news I've already got most of it written. The first few weeks will be a story that I could never actually publish, because the style, ideas and character(s) are shamelessly stolen from C.S. Lewis' Screwtape letters, which will likely be a theme I return to occasionally as experience allows but since I can't publish it you have the benefit of reading it as I go. In the mean time tell your friends, I think that this is really some of my best writing, and I want it out there.

That being said be prepared for a start this Friday on a new adventure in Blogging (other updates might happen during the week, but again, you can be sure of Fridays this summer)

Thanks to my (few) loyal readers!

Schedule initiate!

Friday, June 8, 2012


Silent city sleeps
as mist forms a drop that creeps
dripping down the glass

Quiet thunder rolls
Distance dulls powerful sound
Storm is on the way

Flash of day at night
Raindrop stopped in its swift flight
                           a portrait of Life

Wind wakes the writer
Sleep stolen by stormy skies
Redeemed by lightning

Storm done calm Returns
Thunder rolls away again
storm decrescendo

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Growth Haiku


Building skyscrapers
stand firm where once only birds
or storm clouds could go

Tunnel through mountains
traveling where once was stone
dark place filled with light

Bridges traverse space
arches over the abyss
obstacles below

Moving faster now
running seems to cyclist slow
all surpassed by flight

Changing the landscape
make straight paths and overcome
not bound by nature

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Heart of the Creator

I've found my medium. There is something really positive about being able to know that there is one thing that you are tolerably good at and love doing. It's a high that doesn't go away. Then, just in case I get used to that high, I can think about ways that I can use my voice for God's purposes and it comes right back.

I'm convinced that everyone has a medium, some way that they can best express themselves. Some medium that is as natural as breathing that puts it all out there. You almost always know when someone has found it. I know a few guys who can write their souls into a song. I've seen a laugh made from yarn. I have seen doodles that would bleed if you cut them. When we find this medium we create things that no one else can create. When we see these creations do what they are created to do, we watch like proud parents knowing that our kids are going to be alright after all, despite all our shortfalls.

I am also convinced that this is the heart of God in us. He created us and his joy is made complete when he sees us live out what he created us for (to love Him and each other). The mini-creator in us does the same. We breath life into our poems, our songs, and our art and send them out into the world with their wobbly knees and trembling hands, and whether we smile or wince at each stumble we can't help but glow with pride when they take their first confident step into the world. I see a spike on the blog stats, and I know someone out there is reading. I hear the brief silence after my speech and I know that I've just touched the hearts of my listeners.

It's taken no small amount of courage to let these fledgling works out into the open, but the encouragement I've gotten from all of you out there has given me the confidence to keep after it, and not be afraid of failure.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lessons from Les Misérables (Part 5)

This is the final post in this series, a word in closing at the bottom, but here, more quotes!

"There is incomplete immensity in nature" -22399
This quote echos an idea C.S. Lewis wrote in the 4 loves when speaking of the "nature lover." When man takes nature as a teacher, he will learn whatever he came to learn. In Hugo's words, man's desire for knowledge fills in the incompleteness of nature, and the lessons he learns there will take on nature's immensity, like a magnifying lens turned on the object of man's curiosity.

"No sword is simple. Every blade has two edges; he who wounds with one is wounded by the other"-22723
A well written reprise of the old adage.

"... It depends on society to save itself, it is to its' own good will that we make our appeal. No violent remedy is necessary. To study evil amiably, to prove it's existence, then to cure it. It is to this that we invite it."-22737
Another poignant call for non-violence in the midst of the revolution. I believe that this is the truest form of revolution. Prove to a men that there is an evil in their midst, and I am convinced that they will act to remove it, to cure it. To study evil is easy enough, the most harmful of them are often omnipresent, easily observed to the eye that is not calloused. Proving, and persuading is the difficult task. Influence is needed, and respect, to prove the existence of an evil to those who are blinded by it.

"Only a civilizing people should be a manly people. ... He must be neither a delittante nor a virtuoso: but he must be artistic. In the matter of civilization, he must not refine, but he must sublime. On this condition, one gives to the human race the pattern of the ideal." -22776
This is something like the call for masculinity that I have made in the past. It is interesting to consider this, now that France and the French have become something of a byword for the effeminate and the connoisseur. I have much more respect now for the France of the 19th century, and the leadership they brought to Europe as a democratizing force.
"Matter exists, the minute exists, interest exists, the stomach exists; but the stomach must not be the sole wisdom. The life of the moment has it's rights, but the permanent life has its' rights also." -22800
A call for moderation for the sake of the eternal. The one addition I would make is that when one has properly assessed the weight of the moment and the permanent, the moment becomes subservient to the permanent. Reverie in the eternal leads to neglect, reverie in the moment is hedonism. The truth is found by placing the moment not simply below, but laying it as a foundation which supports and serves the eternal, that each moment might be exalted by its' light.

"The pupil dilates in the dark, and the soul dilates in misfortune and ends by finding God there." -23440
Simply, the path to God is through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Without the quiet of misfortune, we cannot hear the still small voice of God.
And Finally, I will allow the author to speak for his own book, that you might be encouraged to read it:
"The book which the reader has under his eye at this moment is, from one end to the other, as a whole and in detail, whatever may be its' intermittences, exceptions and faults, the march from evil to good, from the unjust to the just, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from rottenness to life, from hell to heaven, from nothingness to God. Point of departure: matter, point of arrival soul. The hydra at the beginning, the angel at the end." -22811

I hope that this has been as encouraging to you as it has been to me. I hope everyone will put this book on their reading list. It has enlightened me to many of the intricacies of the human heart, and has lit a fire in my soul to fight for freedom, justice, and truth wherever there is darkness.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lessons from Les Misérables (Part 4)

Getting Close to the end! I think part 5 or 6 may be the final installment. For now, there is yet more to be seen!

"Intellectual and moral growth are no less indispensable than material improvement." -18475
In improving the plight of the poor, it is clear that welfare, on it's own, is no help at all. It is a half step in the right direction. Half steps, as we know, avail nothing. Education of the mind and soul must be paired with material improvement if we are to genuinely aid the poor, and we must aid the poor.
"If there is anything more heartbreaking than a body perishing for lack of bread, it is a soul dying from hunger for light." - 18477

"One of woman's magnanimities is to yield." -18539
An interesting expression of the female gender role, a topic I have made it a point to tread carefully around (See my post on the role of Men)  I will not comment other than to say that I have experienced this magnanimity myself, and know it to be one of the best expressions of love in a romantic relationship.

"Of all the things which God has made, the Human heart is the one which sheds the most light, Alas! and the most darkness."- 18544
That which has the highest capacity for good, by necessity has the greatest capacity for evil and corruption. Brilliance is found at the heights of human achievement and love, and in the depths of humanity's darkest hours. Great influence may pull men from the mire, even to the clouds, or it may drive them down to suffocate in the darkness. We, of all God's creation, hold this power over the hearts around us.

"It is a strange claim on mans part that love should lead to something."-18661
It is a lie that our culture has sold to us that love need be anything more than simply love. That somehow agapé and phileo are crippled where eros soars. It is like saying that trees were made for building houses. A house is a wonderful thing. A house built from immature trees; however, from sticks and branches, cannot last or keep out the elements. Trees make an admirable abode for the woodsman and adventurer, and are beautiful in their own right.

"Assasination is more of a crime here than elsewhere; we are under the eyes of the Revolution, we are the priests of the Republic, we are victims of duty, and must not be possible to slander our combat." -20564
Spoken by Enjolras after one of the men at the barricade has killed a bystander. This seems to be parallel to the idea that disciples are under the eyes of the world. What might be acceptable for any man is a shortfall for the disciple, and each of the wrongs of the disciple become abominable in that he becomes the "Priest of the revolution" when he takes up the call. As it is said during the Eagle ceremony in Boy Scouts "Your actions have become a little more conspicuous."

A final note on (the now far more seasonal) springtime weather

"Nothing is so worthy of admiration as foliage washed by the rain and wiped by rays of sunlight; it is warm freshness. The gardens and meadows, having water at their roots, and sun in their flowers, become perfuming-pans of incense, and smoke with all their odors at once. Everything smiles, sings and offers itself. One feels gently intoxicated." -22375

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lessons from Les Misérables (Part 3)

And we're back to Les Mis after a short hiatus.

"Happy, even in the midst of sadness, is he whom God has given a soul worthy of love and of unhappiness! He who has not viewed the things of this world and the heart of man under this double light has seen nothing and knows nothing of the true. The soul which loves and suffers is in a state of sublimity." - 15968
Seeking to explain the paradoxical joy in selflessness.
"God's whole policy consists in making slopes less steep." -15807
This is one of my favorite quotes from the whole book. Particularly when one thinks of iniquity as a slope, this artfully encapsulates the story of Christ. Where there are walls, God makes hills, and eventually plains.

"And then strange to say, the first symptom of true love in a young man is timidity; in a young girl it is boldness" -16598
All too true.

"If you are a stone be adamant, if you are a plant, be the sensitive plant, if you are a man, be love" -17255
One of the points that I like to make often when I talk about creativity is that there is nothing greater for the creator than to see is creation do what it was meant to do. This is a great example of that concept.


"To meet the needs of this conflict [crime], wretchedness has invented a language of combat, which is slang." -18182
An interesting chapter, which covers the corruption of language that is slang. It certainly makes me pause to think of all the people who speak in some corrupted form of English (obviously Les Mis covers the topic of French slang.) There is on one end the simple slang of expediency (or ignorance) which is innocent enough. On the other hand there is the kind of slang discussed here. Invented in the prisons and alleys of the urban underworld, and brought into the light by the glorification of a life of crime. (Primarily in this day and age, Ebonics and rap, respectively.) One who enters into this slang speaks a language dredged from the subconscious of the night. Fear and hatred of authority, violence,crime, and all other sorts of vice are imbedded into this language. A poet may use it to good affect, but care must certainly be taken. Further to the point...
 "The words are misshapen and stamped with an indescribable and fantastic bestiality" -18222


"Is the under side of civilization so much less important than the upper side simply because it is deeper and more somber? Do we really know the mountain well when we are not acquainted with the cavern?"- 18203 
This idea expresses well the need of any man who wants to be the love of Christ in the world (or do any real good at all) must become comfortable among the under side of civilization. Here I think, that the knowledge of hearts is as much as stake as civic knowledge. The discipler as much as the law maker must become "acquainted with the cavern" if he is to be able to accomplish his aim.


"In this world, evidently the vestibule for another, there are no fortunate" -18237
While this statement seems to be defeatist, I cannot help but see the hope imbedded in it. That this world must lead to another, and that those who have vested themselves in that other world, rather than this one, might count themselves fortunate.

I'll end this post on a similar, (if mirrored) tone as it began.
"He who says light does not, necessarily say joy. People suffer in the light, excess burns. The flame is the enemy of the wing. To burn without ceasing to fly,-therin lies the marvel of genius
When you have learned to know, and to love, you will still suffer. The day is born in tears. The luminous weep, if only over those in the darkness."