How to Love Unconditionally

What does unconditional love mean? How does it apply to those people who have harmed us? We could easily dismiss them and move forward. That is a realistic choice.

But how different would that make us from everyone else?

Would it not be more constructive to love our enemies in spite of their hatred toward us.

The high road is a far better road on which to travel.

Of course, we could never reach this decision without some help.

Love God

I recently read in the bible a reminder of what it means to love unconditionally.

Matthew 22:37-39 says, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (NIV).

To love God—to really love God—means to do his will. His will is for us to worship him with joy and gladness in our heart.

And why not?

How to Love UnconditionallyHe sustains all things, great and small. His power infuses life in the largest of galaxies to the tiniest of particles. He set laws in motion for us to experience the wildest of sunsets to the most incredible of sunrises. His hand glides over the oceans imbuing his strength to the deep, so as we may marvel at his glorious handiwork.

When I kneel before him, I give him praise for his wonderful majesty over my life.

I would not be breathing, if it were not for him.

I learned unconditional love by his love for me. I did not ask God to love me. He does it because that is who he is.

God is love.

Once I learned that, loving others came easy.

Love Others

Oh, what a world it would be if there were no more wars. Oh, what a life it would be if we could only resolve hatred in our hearts instead of on the battlefield.

When we reach that point in our lives that it makes more sense to allow God to work in us than to take matters into our own hands, that is when we finally allow love to work his will in our relationships.

God is love.

If God lives in us, it is easy to let a slight pass. It is easy to say to those emboldened to offend us, “I forgive you.” It is easy to see the other person’s point of view. It is easy to understand their actions. It is easy to fall asleep at night and not hold on to things for the next day. It is easy to make amends with those who do not want to make amends.

It is easy because unconditional love does not hurt, destroy, ridicule, hate, put down, torment, or devastate.

Unconditional love is just that.

Love.

Transformation

Seven weeks have passed since I last wrote. Right now, I am not quite sure how I can express my gratitude to all of you who have sent me the kind words you did. Believe me when I say that your words have lifted my spirit and allowed me the ability to keep moving forward.

As many of you know, I have taken a much-needed rest from blogging. It is not a decision I made without consulting my family and friends. Quite honestly, I have missed the daily grind of producing three posts a week while also maintaining a rigorous writing schedule for my future books. However, the time away has given me the opportunity to reevaluate my life from a spiritual perspective.

Before I continue, let me just say that I am fine. I had a scare in early January when a problem in my neck had resurfaced, and as time went on it had steadily gotten worse. I had something similar happen to me four years ago when my left arm went numb due nerve problems stemming from my neck. So imagine how I felt when the same thing was happening to me all over again. I could easily have pricked my left index finger and not feel a thing.

I am still not ready to come back in full force, but when I do, nothing will stop me from completing my life mission. You have my word on that.

So why am I here, then?

I have had something happen to me. For those of you who believe in a higher power, this is one of those stories. I will understand if you feel uncomfortable for what I am about to tell you. If you want to leave, I will understand. A few months ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of a miracle as well. But miracles do happen, and it happened to me.

This is the part where you can keep reading or stop, because this is the part where I bring God into the picture.

For several years I have done nothing more than write about zombies and about the horror genre. I have written about other things, too, but most of my writing, especially my books, focused on the zombie apocalypse. Now you might wonder what could have possibly happened to me that would have caused me to rethink my creative direction. After all, the zombie genre is hot. What writer would not want to be a part of it?

To give you a bit more context, during my time away I was also going through a transformation of sorts where I felt a calling to do more with my life. The more I resisted, the more it became evident to me that there was more happening than what I would have wanted to admit. That resistance came from a root of bitterness that had sprung from deep within my soul. I had no idea it was there. It had been there for years, and it took me by surprise when I eventually began dealing with it this weekend.

And when I say dealing with it, I mean going militant in order to flush it out of my life. This entailed a lot of bible study, a lot of prayer, and going back to church. That last part is the kicker. I have not been back to church in two decades. I have attended annual Easter and Christmas services in the past, but only because I had to, not because I wanted to. When I went back to church yesterday, I went back because I wanted to.

And that is when the miracle took place. The root of bitterness left me, and I could feel God’s spirit flow through me, filling every part of my being. I had someone pray over me, releasing me from the burden of sin. I could hear God’s voice telling me that salvation is now mine. Some may laugh, but it did happen, and I will forever lay testimony to his glory for him taking me by the hand so as he may lead me to still waters.

There is more.

In all this, something else happened. I think I now know what I need to do. All the writing I have done, every single post I have written, every book that I have published has been nothing more than training for the real writing.

After praying about it and talking it over with my family, I think what God wants me to do is write about everyday people and about how God touches their lives. The real superheroes are those folks who go to work every day and are examples for everyone else to follow while God works through them to perform great miracles. I believe that. I believe it so much that I confess I have written a superhero book called Resilience, but I will set it aside as a means to glorify God by presenting him my industry instead. More than anything, I would like him to work through me so that I can give honor and glory to him. It might sound crazy, I know, especially after everything that I have written about in the past.

But let me ask you this—are not the craziest ideas the ones that change the world?

So in the next little while, as I try to figure this whole thing out, you may see more of me, writing about things I may have not written about in the past. And I might create things I did not know I could create. Because, really, what I want to do above all else, is glorify God with the works of my hands.

It may seem like a crazy idea, but the craziest ideas are the ones that change the world.

I Can Never Say Goodbye…

This is going to be a tough post to write.

Sometimes life throws you circumstances you just have to deal with on your own. I have to admit that I have had my trials. I would like to think, though, I have always possessed the fortitude to overcome them. Call it determination. Call it perseverance. Maybe. I call it the will to do whatever it takes to succeed.

I have been writing three posts weekly since December 17, 2012. As of next Wednesday, I would have completed 500 posts. I cannot say how grateful I am to have accomplished so much since that humble Monday Mayhem post that started it all. To put it into perspective, 498 posts at 500 words per post comes to under 250,000 words over the course of 3 years. Add to those numbers the three books I have published, weighing in at another 250,000 words, and you can quickly see a pattern.

None of it, and I say this from deep within my soul, none of it means anything without you the reader to have visited, liked, or commented on all my work. What can I say other than thank you. You are amazing. You are the one who has made JackFlacco.com a place where people can talk about anything, including life, and not be afraid.

Life. My dream was to provoke thought, interest and ideas in the impossible, no matter how improbable those ideas may have appeared to be.

Unfortunately, something has taken precedence in my life. The only thing I can say is for the next little while I have to look after my health.

In the meantime, something has to suffer. I will attempt to continue writing my books. I will continue to think about the future, but I cannot continue writing the weekly posts. You have to know it is not something I take lightly to have come to the decision of stopping. Stopping is not something I do well.

I am hoping the future will look brighter once I take care of what I have to do to carry on.

What does this feel like?

It is like telling one of your best friends you can no longer be friends. As much as it is the wrong thing to do, it is absolutely the right thing to do. How can you tell your friend you are no longer kindred spirits? That is how it feels—like I have ripped my heart from my chest and thrown it into an abyss where nothing can escape.

I plan to keep this site up during the time I am away. I am not sure when I will be back. I am hoping a few weeks. All I know is writing has been one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life. I cannot say how honored I am to have had the opportunity to interact with each and every one of you. You certainly have made my life a joy to live. Nothing will ever replace that memory in my mind.

Thank you so much for your incredible support. I really do love you all. I will keep you in my prayers. May God bless you in everything you do.

In a bit. I promise…

Jack

What I’ve Learned

I typically don’t write about God. I try to keep my topics light and free from controversy. I’ll write about other things instead, like morals, the law and what is right. But about the G-word, I’m never quite sure if I say too little or if I say too much. And I find it risky because I don’t want to alienate readers who read my blog for entertainment purposes only.

The Holy Bible
The Holy Bible

However, there has been a development in my life. Last year this time, I had promised myself that I would read the Holy Bible from cover to cover. To keep me on track, I went ahead and entered a chronological reading plan into my phone that would remind me daily of my goal. I say chronological because there are various reading plans out there that allow a person to start reading the word in various ways. I chose chronological because I’ve always wanted to gain a historical perspective to the writings than simply reading it for literature.

With that in mind, I’m happy to say that as of December 31, last year, I completed my goal of reading the Holy Bible from cover to cover.

What can I say about the whole thing? I can only describe it as an experience.

I learned there is a God.
I learned God would not give me a test he doesn’t think I can handle.
I learned that no matter how many times I sin, God would forgive me.

I learned about faith.
I learned about hope.
I learned about love.

I learned that I mean something to God and he will do anything to save me from the penalty of my sins.
I learned that as smart as I think I am, God is smarter.

I learned to be patient.
I learned to be kind.
I learned to love.

I learned what real peace is all about.
I learned to sleep better at night.

I learned a lot more, but those are the big ones. Apart from the experience of historical reading, I gained a huge understanding regarding human nature. For instance, I found a whole book called Proverbs chalk full of golden nuggets of wisdom dedicated to dealing with human nature. One of my favorite sayings I picked up from the book is “Go to the ant, you sluggard.” It means those who are lazy should have a look at what the ant does. The ant harvests in the fall to live through the winter. It also means, like an ant, I should always stay busy. Hard to get into trouble when I’m busy.

Yet, of all the things I’ve learned, I think loving God and loving others is the most important. I don’t want to sound preachy, but to me it made enough an impact to promote a change in how I act—a change noticeable in my writings and to others.

At least, I hope it’s noticeable.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Have you ever wanted to read something cover to cover but never had the opportunity to do so? If so, what?

Christian

From the moment he saw her he knew his life wouldn’t be the same again.

In 1899, Christian (Ewan McGregor), a young writer with big dreams, goes to Paris to make a name for himself. In the process, he finds something else entirely different.

Ewan McGregor as Christian
Ewan McGregor as Christian

Today’s Wednesday Warriors looks at Christian, a love-struck poet who finds purpose in Baz Luhrmann‘s turn-of-the-century Parisian cabaret called Moulin Rouge.

Everyone knows her as the Sparkling Diamond. As a courtesan, she is anything but. Satine (Nicole Kidman) sells herself to anyone who can afford her. To Christian though, she becomes his love:

Satine: I can’t fall in love with anyone
Christian: Can’t. Fall. In love? But, a life without love, that’s. Terrible.
Satine: No, being on the street, that’s terrible.
Christian: No! Love is like oxygen!
Satine: What?
Christian: Love is a many splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love!
Christian: [bursts out into song]

Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge
Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge

Yet, in spite of his affection for the beautiful woman, he has a lot to learn:

Christian: Wait. No, please wait. Before, when we were—when you thought I was the Duke, you said that you loved me, a—and I wondered if—
Satine: It was just an act?
Christian: Yes.
Satine: Of course.
Christian: Oh. It just felt real.
Satine: Christian, I’m a courtesan. I’m paid to make men believe what they want to believe.

Nicole Kidman as Satine
Nicole Kidman as Satine

Even knowing the worst about the Sparkling Diamond does not diminish Christian’s love for her. To complicate his life, The Duke (Richard Roxburgh), an affluent patron to Harold Zidler’s (Jim Broadbent) Moulin Rouge, wants Satine all to himself. He is willing to pay handsomely for her services—something Christian does not fully understand even when Satine is trying hard to keep their relationship a secret:

Zidler: The Duke holds the deeds to the Moulin Rouge. He’s spending a fortune on you. He’s giving you a beautiful new dressing room. He wants to make you a star. And YOU’RE DALLYING WITH THE WRITER!
Satine: Harold, that’s ridic—
Zidler: I SAW YOU TOGETHER.
Satine: It’s nothing. It’s just an infatuation. It’s nothing.
Zidler: The infatuation will end. Go to the boy; tell him it’s over, and the Duke is expecting you in the tower at eight.

As much as Christian will proclaim his love for Satine in song, he can’t help but allow jealousy to enter his heart:

Christian: Where were you last night?
Satine: I told you. I was sick.
Christian: You don’t have to lie to me.
Satine: We have to end it. Everybody knows. Harold knows. Sooner or later the Duke will find out.

The greatest thing...
The greatest thing…

The words to the eventual final moments of their relationship comes to Christian after seeing Satine succumb to The Duke’s wily inclinations:

Christian: [to the Duke] This woman is yours now. I’ve paid my whore.
Christian: [to Satine] I owe you nothing. And you are nothing to me. Thank you for curing me of my ridiculous obsession with love.

...you'll ever learn...
…you’ll ever learn…

Christian loves Satine so much that he can’t bring himself to accept her lot in life. There is, however, one lesson Christian will never forget, and that is:

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

[Author’s Note: Having written this post December 16, 2014 to kick off my new Wednesday Warriors series that premiered December 17, 2014, I held off publishing it because of its lack of conclusion. Months later, I had revisited it hoping I could come up with something better than relying on the film’s main premise for an ending. Then it dawned on me that the film ended like a Shakespearean tragedy, much as I had written this post months earlier. Therefore, I decided to publish it today as is because I feel there really is no other way to conclude this post other than to reflect the film’s true message about love.]

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Have you seen Moulin Rouge? What do you think of Christian’s love for Satine?

The Airport

The other day I went to pick up my wife at Toronto Pearson International Airport. I wish the circumstances for her trip could have been better, but that’s life. Nonetheless, I used the time in a way I hadn’t imagined and I thought for Freedom Friday, I’d share my experience.

Toronto Pearson International Airport
Toronto Pearson International Airport

Her flight came in delayed, which isn’t unusual since things like that happen. Instead of grumbling, as many of the others who were waiting for their loved ones were doing, I found myself watching those around me. People-watching is something I do a lot. I try not to make it obvious, as it takes a certain skill to watch people without garnering attention on oneself. I’m not speaking from a spying perspective, but from a natural curiosity of what people do when they think others are not watching.

For instance, I saw a young woman sitting by herself studying the crowd with a sign on her lap. She didn’t readily hold it up, but grabbing a quick peek, I found she was part of the Pan Am Games welcoming committee. I assumed either she was waiting for an athlete or an official arriving from the same flight my wife was on. I was wrong. Eventually, she rose when a man approached her from another flight, and she said his name. She also had assumed wrong. The look on her face told the whole story. Disappointment. Embarrassment. Defeat. She quickly raised her sign and waited until the right person appeared. Somehow, she was self-conscience holding up the greeting sign.

Airport Reunion
Airport Reunion

The other scene that piqued my interest was the joy a mother and father experienced when their daughter rushed into their arms. Water flowed. Embraces were strong. The grins on everyone’s faces could have powered half a city block. All those movies where you see people slamming into each other at the end is reminiscent of this scene. The emotional impact from the event couldn’t stop me from smiling. I’m still trying to figure out why those emotional moments affect people somewhat the same way. Oh, how wonderful is the power of a hug!

Of course, no people-watching session would be complete without the screaming kid. The parents looked as if they had gotten off the flight from hell. The father was dragging the baggage from behind and the mother was pushing the stroller while holding her bawling daughter. It was awful. The kid wouldn’t stop crying. She wanted to get into the stroller but her mother had stuffed the front seat with a carry-on. Poor kid. I know the father was about to blow. The veins in his neck had bulged and he was turning red by the second. I think they had all they could do from loosing their minds. Poor parents.

Eventually, my wife arrived and we drove out to eat. But having noticed how people behaved, I wondered something. I wondered if there was anyone watching us.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Have you watched people lately? If so, what have you learned?

Anniversary Week—Part III (2014)

December 17th was the one-year anniversary when Jack Flacco: The Official Site went live. In celebration of this milestone, I will present the Top 5 Most Popular Freedom Friday posts of 2014.

But before anything else, allow me the gift of your attention to thank you for supporting me during 2014. This certainly has been a year of surprises, for sure. For instance, if you’re curious as to how many views and visitors I had this year, you can read this week’s Monday Mayhem post for site statistics. Also, in keeping with my wanting to express gratitude, I wouldn’t have thought my book would have been the success it is today without the help of my review team and all those who paid me kind words after its release. Thank you so very much, folks!

Onward. When choosing the Top 5 Most Popular Freedom Friday posts, I first wanted to present them based on amount of views. The more I thought of it though, more it didn’t make sense. For instance, a visitor may pop into the site and hit the same post several times within the day. I didn’t think it fair, considering there could have only been two visitors for that day and a hundred views.

Next, I thought I’d use comments as the benchmark. You know, the more comments a post has, the more popular it is. Again, I didn’t think it represented a good way to measure popularity given I can comment on my own post a dozen times and push it ahead on the popularity scale.

No, what I used is the number of “likes” a post has garnered throughout the year. It will not only present a fair representation of popularity for a post but also prevents users from gaming the system with multiple “likes”.

Okay, now for the list. You’ll notice that for fourth place we have a tie. Other than that, it’s straightforward. Are you ready? Here it is.

The Top 5 Most Popular Freedom Friday posts of 2014 (including the three-way tie for fourth place):

  1. Spring in Canada
    Spring in Canada

    Sweet Moments“That moment during a hot summer day when the clouds above you churn and you know it’s coming. The smell of burning wood on a cold winter night and all those memories flood your mind of how it used to be when you were a kid. How sitting on the park bench while the wind…” ~72 likes

  2. Photo credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
    Photo credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

    Writing“As many of you know, and as some have noticed, I don’t talk about writing. There’s a reason for that. I’m sure I’ll get my hands rapped because of this declaration, but I think it’s important to talk about, since this is the rare and possibly only occasion when I will speak freely about this. One of…” ~69 likes

  3. Love is flowers in full bloom.
    Love is flowers in full bloom.

    Love Is…“Love is helping the elderly carry groceries to their car. Love is holding the door open for those behind you. Love is making hot soup for someone sick in bed with a bad cold. Love is forgoing our needs in order for others not to need. Allow me the liberty of this Freedom Friday post…” ~56 likes

  4. Toxic Perfectionism
    Toxic Perfectionism

    Toxic Perfectionism“I have a confession to make. I’m not sure if this is the right forum to admit this, but I’ll give it a shot. I’m going to write this in stream of consciousness without editing any of it. Let’s see how far I get for this Freedom Friday post. The confession. If you haven’t figured…” ~55 likes

    John Grisham Books (Credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)
    John Grisham Books (Credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

    Reading“I wasn’t much of a reader in my young adult life. I mean, I would read the occasional textbook, newspaper and the back of a cereal box, but I never considered myself a fiction reader. In January 2013, that all changed. I had gone through a transformation of sorts months earlier and one of the…” ~55 likes

    Groundhog Day
    Groundhog Day

    Groundhog Day“Every February the second or so, my kids and I pop some corn, grab a few drinks, and ease into our seats in front of the TV to lose ourselves in the movie Groundhog Day. It’s been a tradition in our family for quite a while. Every few years even my wife joins in on…” ~55 likes

  5. In the depths of life
    In the depths of life

    Life“I write about zombies. There, I said it. I write about the atrocities zombies commit on humans during an apocalypse that should never have happened. I write about the horrors of being undead. I write about death and how it’s not the end but an unpleasant beginning for those chosen to die a second death…” ~54 likes

That’s it! Thanks for a great second year here at JackFlacco.com. Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be back next week with more posts for your reading pleasure. Have a great weekend!

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Do you have a favorite Freedom Friday post you’d recommend to your friends?