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?

Friends, Love and Other Things

I had a Freedom Friday post dedicated to Black Friday scheduled for today, but I felt the need to push it forward a week so I could write about something else that’s been on my mind. [Update: Pushed the Black Friday post to next year.]

Friends forever.

Friends forever.

I recently visited the blog and Twitter feed of a longtime author friend of mine. In the interest of respecting their privacy, I’ll use they and them as a means of address. About this friend, I’m overjoyed to have learned they’re in good health again. They were going through a rough time last year—hospital, surgeries, going to sleep and not knowing if they’d wake up. Yet, despite the chaos, they pulled through. Today, they are healthy, exercising, eating right, and have a renewed sense of accomplishment and productivity. I admire their will to live and their ability to bounce back from such a devastating blow. To me, they are the truer hero than the fictional characters I write about on an ongoing basis.

Cancer is an insidious disease. It tears apart families and destroys lives. I hate it and wish medical research would hurry up and find a cure. Regarding this author friend of mine, their family is no stranger to the dreaded disease. And, from what I’ve pieced together, it seems to have resurfaced. I’m not sure what I can say here: I hope for the best? get well soon? No matter what I say, it never seems enough. The words sound fake, and I wish I could do more.

I guess the only sincere thing I can say is that my thoughts are with you.

Anyway, I have a few things I would like to briefly touch on for the remainder of this post.

First, Aristotle once said this about friendship:

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.”

I can’t say how beautiful a statement that is. It captures the essence of two people bonded to one another by a single heart. Oh, how devastating it would be if one-half was no longer there. Holidays wouldn’t be the same. Birthdays wouldn’t be the same. And the other half wouldn’t be the same.

Second, friendship and love are siblings:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

“Love never ends.”

Oh, to love and be loved in return.

Finally, the “other things” portion. As the end of the year approaches, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for coming to my site and offering support.

At the risk of sounding preachy, can I be so bold as to ask something of you?

Appreciate those around you. Never let them go. When they’re no longer there, it’ll be too late to say I love you. Be kind to one another and give to those in need. And—live to make every breath count.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Do you have friends you’re cheering for during their trials?

Time Is Precious

This has to be my favorite time of year. With the days getting shorter and the nights growing colder, I don’t miss the sweltering heat of summer. But I’m sure if I live through six months of frigid arctic weather, I would grow weary enough to want to have the sun back. Just, not right now, though.

The Woods

The Woods

I can’t believe how quickly October went by. I was talking with a friend of mine the other day telling how this month disappeared. Then again, I did have a book release, so that did make the time fly. Nonetheless, my friend felt time has been speeding along while all we’re doing is enjoying the ride.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the woods while the leaves were turning colors and I had the opportunity to have my camera with me. Actually, I went out to take a few photos, so the opportunity was a planned event. As I walked through the woods enjoying the scenery, I noticed how quiet it was. I noticed it before, yet it never hit me quite as dramatically as that day.

I sat on a log and took it all in. I could hear the leaves rustling in the wind. The squirrels were dancing along the perimeter foraging for food. And the air was still warm, left over from the summer.

The Woods - A week later

The Woods – A week later

A week later, I went back to that same spot and the leaves had all but changed to a brilliant orange. Gone was the multi-colored tapestry nature gladly spreads honoring those who venture nearby. In its place, a bed of leaves surrounded my feet. A cold wind ran through my jacket as I sunk my hands into my pockets. And the gray sky made everything barren-looking. I couldn’t believe how quickly everything changed.

I’ve been noticing that quite a lot lately. I’m not sure why that is. In the town where I live, construction has overtaken major roadways. What used to be a peaceful area now bustles with workers. They’re improving the area. At least that is what I think they’re doing. I notice it more when I have to drive through it, running errands.

How quickly things change.

The log

The log

This time of year calls for nostalgia, wanting for things to be the way they were. I miss those days when things were simpler, when I didn’t have all the responsibilities I have today. I’m longing for those people who were once in my life, but are no longer there. I miss them. Their ghosts come and go, yet the present remains the same.

Time is precious and there’s no escaping it. What is today will become yesterday. Let’s enjoy every moment.

[Another Freedom Friday post inspired by fall.]

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

How do you view time? Does this time of year also spark a longing for the way things were?

The Angel

Her eyes met his and her heart stopped. She never thought it would ever happen to her. But happen, it did, and she wobbled on her feet with the whiff of his scent. By the time her pulse began to beat again, it was too late—she knew she was his forever.

The AngelThat autumn evening was like any other. She left work thinking if she caught her bus, she’d make it home in time to watch an episode of her favorite show on TV. It was dark, but the street standards lit the sidewalk to her usual spot. What she hadn’t counted on was the bus arriving early. She raced in hopes the driver would yield to her sudden appearance in the side mirror. It didn’t work. The vehicle blew smoke and left her behind. It wouldn’t be for another fifteen minutes before another came along.

Alone, she thought of heading back to work and waiting there. Something, though, kept her from returning. It could have been that instance where the rustling of the leaves caught her ear or how the air smelled as if it was just about to rain or the way the wind gently patted her skin to tell her everything was going to be all right. Whatever it was, she stayed, enjoying the moment.

Minutes passed and she noticed a shadow from the corner of her eye. Fear gripped as the thought of violence seeped into her head. It lasted a short time. Somehow, she knew she was safe. The shadow emerged into the light.

She had never seen anyone like him. His eyes blue. His hair black. And, although he towered in stature, she could make out the faint, warm smile dancing on his lips. Time slowed to the beat of her heart, which was non-existent. There must have been a reason she had missed her bus, she wondered. Was it by design? Fate?

When the clocks started again, he asked, “What’s your name?”

A stranger asked her name, and if it were any other circumstance, she’d tell him it was none of his business. Instead, she gulped, then answered, “Kate.”

“Hello, Kate.” He said. “My name is Henry.”

Henry. Henry, she thought. If all the angels in heaven went by the name Henry, the world would be a better place. What did Henry do? Was Henry an actor? A writer? A painter? Had Henry a wife?

“Beautiful evening.” He lifted the collar to his jacket, and slipped his hands into his pockets. “I’ve seen you taking this route every day. Do you live far?”

Another crazy question. Henry, what are you doing to me? I can’t answer that. I don’t know you. But I want to know you. I do! She said, “I live a few blocks from here.”

Henry smiled.

The lights to Kate’s bus flooded the street and when she turned to say good-bye, he had disappeared. Later that night, she tossed on her pillow for hours with thoughts of him running through her head.

Several days went by that she hadn’t seen Henry anywhere, neither at the bus stop or on her way from work. One afternoon during her lunch hour, Kate strolled through the park adjacent to the spot where they first met. The gray sky reflected her melancholy mood. How a man she met only briefly could become such an obsession caused her to stop under a tree where the ducks fed in a small pond. Studying the ripples in the water, memories of Henry’s slight smile filled her soul, warming her.

When she spun around to head back, Kate noticed the tree again. This time, the brass plaque planted at its foot came into view. She’d never seen it before. Crouching to get a better look, she wiped the dirt from its surface to reveal the engraving:

“Donated in memory of Henry McAlistair, a generous supporter for the global preservation of wildlife. b. December 19, 1909 – d. September 26, 1939”

It can’t be, she thought. That’s almost a hundred years ago. It can’t be him. It just can’t.

Below the letters on the plaque, debris covered a photo. Kate violently rubbed the dirt from the face of it as she tried to catch her breath.

It can’t be him, she muttered. It can’t be him.

When his eyes appeared in the photo, she dropped to her knees with her jaw hanging.

It was him.

Years along, the seasons changed. As autumns turned to cold, bitter storms, and the wind yielded to the sun in the spring, twenty summers had left Kate alone, still thinking of the man with the compassionate eyes named Henry.

On September 26, a brisk fall morning, Kate left her apartment, headed for her bus and stepped into the street. She didn’t feel the impact. All she remembered was someone screaming, “Someone call 911!”

As the light in her eyes faded, she felt a hand touch her shoulder. When she set her gaze on the one whose warmth took away the pain, she now understood why she hadn’t seen him again until that morning.

It was him. Henry. You’ve come back, she said to herself. You’ve come back for me.

Kate died that day, but witnesses stated they’d seen a stranger comforting her those moments preceding her passing, holding her hand all the while she was smiling. When asked to identify the man, the same answer came—it happened so quickly that he had disappeared in the crowd.

[I’d written this stream of consciousness, first draft Freedom Friday post in an attempt to capture my feelings about autumn.]

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What do you like about autumn?

My Tools

I’ve never been much of a tools guy. While other men may enjoy collecting tools, the only thing my tools collect is dust. Yep, not much of a handyman, if you know what I mean. If I had it my way, I’d sit on my rump and enjoy the summer sun while I hire someone to look after everything that needs fixing around the house. Actually, that’s not too far from the truth.

My Tools

My Tools

For this Freedom Friday post, I’ll be talking about my tools—what I do with them, and what I think I ought to do with them.

Let me start by saying, I have a lot of tools. I’m going to qualify that statement. I have a lot of tools I didn’t purchase on my own. What’s more? I have a lot of tools my wife purchased for me. There’s a hint in there somewhere.

It all started a few months before my wife and I got married. One day she noticed I didn’t have that many tools and decided to do something about it. Well, I didn’t have that many tools because I didn’t like working with my hands. Anyway, let’s keep on topic. One Saturday evening, I popped over to her basement apartment for a movie night. At the time, Star Trek: The Next Generation was one of our favorite shows and we agreed that she’d tape the week’s episode and we’d watch it on the weekend when we got together. There was a period when we could only see each other on weekends since she lived on one side of the city and I lived on the other.

Although Toronto wasn’t as big as it is today, travelling back and forth in a beat up Honda made the one-hour trip interesting. I once broke down on the highway and had to call for a tow from a gas station ten minutes away. Let me say this, ten minutes is nothing to walk. But when it’s cold, with no cellphones available at the time, and you’re heading up a rural pass in the middle of the night—I’ll admit—it got kinda creepy.

Anyway, back to the story. When we finally settled into a cuddle, she remembered she had something to give me. We did that all the time and we still do. Sometimes we don’t give each other gifts during those mandatory days of giving—Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthdays, etc.—but we’ll surprise each other with gifts throughout the year for no apparent reason other than to show our affection for one another. Besides, gifts mean more that way when we don’t have to give the gift out of obligation. All right, ‘nough said about that. Where was I? Right, her gift. She gave me a gift and it was heavy. I didn’t have a clue as to what it could have been. All I knew was she’d always given me things that I needed or wanted. Much like today.

I unwrapped the present, and there in front of me was a screwdriver tool set with a variety of bits and ratchet heads. Believe me, when I first saw it, I wasn’t sure why she would have given it to me, considering I wasn’t a tool guy. Let me tell you. That gift was a stroke of genius. I still have it in its original case.

Since she gave it to me, I’ve hung pictures, taken apart phones, computers, built shelving, put up curtains, built desks, cupboards, tables, chairs, wired cable and more. Do I sound like one of those $19.99 TV commercials?

Adding to my collection, she’s given me a hammer, pliers, drill bits, a drill, of course, measuring tapes, more screwdrivers, a few bottles of crazy glue and garden equipment.

Like I said, if it were up to me I’d sit on my rump and hire people to do the jobs around the house. But I’ve grown. I’ve changed. I’ve gone on to build two basements with my tools—very different from doing nothing around the house.

And it all started with a toolset my wife gave me.

It’s true. Sometimes starting small does bring big things in life.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What’s your favorite tool? Are you a collector or handy-person?

Jade

She’s rich, he’s not. They’ve known each other for four years, yet they’ve never met. She wants a party and he’s invited. Her red dress excites him and the way she dances, like something out of her ballet recital, makes him crazy. He’s wanted to kiss her since tenth grade. Women Who Wow Wednesday celebrates Jade Butterfield, the free spirited beauty from the movie Endless Love.

Gabriella Wilde as Jade Butterfield

Gabriella Wilde as Jade Butterfield

Throughout high school, she lived an invisible life. She didn’t have many friends. Her brother was the only person who cared what happened to her. When David (Alex Pettyfer) comes along, she has all she can do to resist the urge to be with him. How can a girl resist David’s interpretation of love?

“I think love comes first. At the end of the day, what’s more important than that? You know, I’ve seen it firsthand. I know what it’s like when it’s there, and know what it’s like when it’s not. That’s what I wanna find. True love. The kind that you fight for, that you always put first. That makes you wanna be good and do better. And not just with any girl. But ‘the’ girl. And when I find that, that’s all I need.”

They have two weeks together. Summer.

Jade (Gabriella Wilde) doesn’t have to put a mask on with David. She can enjoy shows, theater and dance with him. No one has ever come into her life before to make her feel so free. She’s always had someone control her life, whether it was her father or someone else. Real freedom comes to Jade being in love with David.

Jade Buterfiield

Jade Buterfiield

The realization sets in of how sheltered Jade was growing up. Her new motto becomes, “Let’s be young and dumb.” She has an awakening that sparks something in her to bring her to life.

Her father, though, believes David is not right for his daughter. He can’t accept the fact that Jade’s in love with him. He will do anything to keep her and David apart, including digging into his past for anything that he can use against his daughter’s boyfriend.

Ultimately, Jade’s father doesn’t believe David’s good enough for his daughter.

From there, things get complicated.

Love is worth fighting for. It is. Jade can’t move on without David, even if she has another guy pining for her affection. No matter what anyone says, she will always be his. No one can control what she feels, how she thinks. No one. How does she feel?

“My first love was everything all at once. The kind you never fall back from. Never try to. Never want to. A love so big, so strong, it never dies, never fades, never loses its electricity. The kind of love you fight for.”

If anything’s certain about Jade, she’s her own person and lives a full life without anyone telling her what to do.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Have you seen the movie Endless Love? What did you like about it?

Jamie Sullivan

I don’t talk about God much. If anything, I sometimes hint at what I believe, but I don’t make it a personal mission to preach. I leave that job to the preachers. I’ve had folks, though, who have asked me what I believe, and it’s with some reservations I tell them.

Mandy Moore and Jamie Sullivan

Mandy Moore and Jamie Sullivan

In the movie A Walk to Remember, Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore), however, doesn’t hold back. She loves God, and she’ll take every opportunity to show it. You see, Jamie comes from a strict Baptist background. Her father (Peter Coyote) is the town’s minister and her mother passed away some time ago. She enjoys lending a hand at the orphanage, working with animals, and taking care of her father. No one’s ever asked her out on a date, but she’s quite fine with that. She’s happy living a quiet life away from what the other teens at her school are doing. Her most prized possessions are the sweater she wears every day and her bible.

When Landon Carter (Shane West) walks into Jamie’s life, she doesn’t think anything of it. After all, he’s part of the popular crowd and to other girls, he’s worth falling over to get his attention. If anything, she’s happy to have a new friend, regardless of his troublemaking ways. Jamie considers him an accomplished goal. Her number forty-two on her to-do list—to befriend somebody she doesn’t like.

Jamie’s to-do list also contains some other notable goals such as spend a year in the Peace Corps, make a medical discovery, be in two places at once and get a tattoo. Her number one goal is marry in the church where her mother grew up and her parents were married.

Aside from Jamie’s lofty ambitions, she’s also not shy with speaking her mind. Thinking Jamie to be a pushover, one of Landon’s friends stands on the receiving end of her quick wit:

Dean: If there is a higher power, why is it He can’t get you a new sweater?
Jamie: He’s too busy looking for your brain.

Jamie Sullivan

Jamie Sullivan

Another aspect of Jamie’s character is having the wisdom to see where things are going with her friendship with Landon. She asks him to promise he won’t fall in love with her. A silly request, but she asks it anyway given her circumstances.

The funny thing is how can Landon help not falling in love with Jamie? The truth is more powerful than fiction as is Jamie’s friendship with Landon. They can’t run from feeling what they feel for each other, but more importantly, Jamie sees Landon’s love by everything he does for her. His actions speak more than words.

And this is where I have to stop. I can’t continue without revealing spoilers. Suffice it to say, Jamie is selfless in every way a person can be selfless. She loves Landon more than words can express. And she is more of a woman than anyone could ever imagine hadn’t it been for Landon walking into her life.

I’m proud to feature Jamie Sullivan for this week’s Women Who Wow Wednesday post because she represents freedom—freedom from the typical Hollywood love story, and freedom from the heroine stereotype often posed in stories like this.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What do you think of A Walk to Remember? What do you think of Jamie Sullivan?

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.

Love is flowers in full bloom.

Love is flowers in full bloom.

Allow me the liberty of this Freedom Friday post to share my deepest desire with you. That desire is to see others help those less fortunate through genuine acts of kindness motivated by love expecting nothing in return. To give in love so as others do not lack. Perhaps one day they, too, will love in the very same way, helping those who need it most.

Therefore, love is giving of our time to a cause even if it seems silly at the time. Love is filling the bowl for the homeless at the local soup kitchen. Love is returning money to the shop owner who gave you too much in change. Love is giving up your seat to the pregnant woman on the bus. Love is saying please and thank you to the waiter who treats you poorly at the restaurant.

Love is picking up the neighbor’s mail when they are on vacation. Love is buying groceries for the family down the street whose father lost his job when his company made his position redundant. Love is waking up five every morning to give the folks next door a ride to the train station because they can’t afford a car.

Love is cleaning the home of a friend stricken with illness because they can’t do it for themselves. Love is driving a friend home from an activity knowing how far they live and doing so would be out of your way. Love is helping a friend pick up furniture from a secondhand shop, lug it two flights of stairs to his apartment while hoping the good deed won’t irritate an already bad back.

Love is giving a warm smile to the individual who hates you, just as you would show warmth to your own family. Love is uttering uplifting words to that spiteful person who badmouthed you behind your back. Love is not allowing bitterness to enter your heart in spite of what others do to you.

Love is hugging. Love is kissing. Love is crying for loved ones who have achieved their dream.

I’m sure you can find other ways to love. The list is endless. It may simply be a matter of listening to that still small voice gently leading the way. Whatever we come up with, nothing compares to the joy we feel when seeing happiness in the eyes of the recipients to our selfless act of kindness.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

How else can we help? What more can we do to show our love for others?

Giselle

Once upon a time, in a faraway kingdom known as Andalasia, lived a maiden with whom the prince would share true love’s kiss. Her name was Giselle, and she dreamed of holding hands and dancing with her one true love.

Amy Adams is Giselle in Enchanted

Amy Adams is Giselle in Enchanted

How many of you think this is Sleeping Beauty? Show of hands, c’mon. How about Beauty and the Beast? Anyone for Shrek? I threw that last one in to see if you’re paying attention. Disney has the whole princess theme down pat. They even had it working in the movie Frozen. Well, it did have two princesses.

In the film Enchanted however, true love’s kiss is a bigger deal. It’s what brings ever-afterings so happy—that’s what the song says. The opening lyrics declare that to spend a life of endless bliss you’ll just need to find who you love through true love’s kiss. Pretty catchy, don’t you think?

Enchanted Giselle

Enchanted Giselle

This is where Giselle (Amy Adams) comes in. She’s the free-spirited embodiment of pure optimism. Her cheerfulness is so infectious that people dance in the street when she’s around, they sing in full choruses in the park, and even the animals gather to help with her chores. There’s nothing too difficult for Giselle, there’s nothing impossible for her.

That is, until we meet the prince. A real winner here. He believes in true love’s kiss, too. As soon as she drops into his lap, he’s dreaming of being married to her in the morning, finishing each other’s duets, and in years to come, reminiscing of how they grew love through true love’s kiss.

It gets better from here, but I’m not going to spoil it. Suffice it to say, Giselle learns what real love is all about. This includes the pain and the emotion attached to real love, the hardship and work behind it all, and the growth that takes place when real love hits someone who doesn’t expect it.

No matter how many times I watch this movie, and no matter how many times I listen to her voice, I always experience joy knowing I can relive my favorite moments over and over again. If anyone deserves to be part of Women Who Wow Wednesday, it’s Giselle, not because she can slay a dragon in one fell swoop, but because of her sense of wonder noticing the world around her. That childlike innocence captured on film makes her someone everyone ought to know in real life.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

What did you think of Enchanted? What did you think of Giselle?

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