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If you’ve been following along this week, the blog has been dedicated to publicizing the upcoming film, The Conjuring2, directed by James Wan, and starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. I’ve done this for a number of reasons; first, because I’m a fan of the 2013 original. Second, because it’s a rare film that can scare the pants off without descending into a morass of gore, language, and nudity. Yes, that’s right; unlike Friday the 13th, or It Follows, there is no onscreen sex here. Third, the screenwriters–Chad and Carey Hayes–are believers. Fourth, and truly the biggest reason, is that although evil is depicted as formidable, it is nowhere glorified. Fifth, if we are believers ourselves, we absolutely hold to the fact that there is a real, unseen world which intersects with ours (“God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth”). Moreover, the Bible itself tells us that the “weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” And that, friends, is exactly what one sees in a Conjuring movie: the mighty power of God overcoming the spiritual forces of wickedness.

So just to sum up: evil is depicted as real, formidable, but not all powerful. It is not glorified, or presented as something desirable. In the end, as all such battles between God and evil must, God wins. And when He wins we win.

The first movie ended this way:

conjuring-quote

That, in my book, is a bold way to end a Hollywood movie in the 21st century.

But you didn’t come here to read my musings on horror films, faith, or the ongoing battle between good and evil; no, today you came for the swag. 😉 I did say I was giving away a Conjuring2 prize pack. So, in partnership with Grace Hill Media and Warner Brothers, I offer you the following:

Conjuring2 Giveaway

In the prize pack are:

2 reusable plastic cups

a leather bound journal

2 t-shirts

and a pair of tickets to see the film

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’re experiencing any of the following, you might be an aging male. I’m sorry.

1) In addition to having a mind of their own, your eyebrows appear to be the only part of your body rich in HGH (human growth hormone).

2) The foliage in your ears is denser than that of the Amazon rain forest.

3) In the choice between sleep and sex, you choose sleep every time.

4a) Nocturnal emissions no longer refers to, well, you know, but rather the number of times you have to get up to empty your bladder.

4b) It also refers to the amount of noxious gas emanating from your supine form during the night hours.

5) You have two sets of glutes; one where it belongs, in the seat of wisdom. And the other, well, it’s usually referred to as a “beer belly.” Even though you, at your doctor’s behest, have long since given up beer.

What signs and symptoms of aging have you observed in yourself?

Are you tired? Do you know what it’s like to try to sleep, only to toss and turn? And then sleep fitfully, only to waken early to answer nature’s call? Do you shuffle through the days, dreaming of your next caffeine fix? Do you long for another world because the thought of continuing on this way is just too exhausting to contemplate?

Have you been there?

I’m there, too. In the first Addams Family movie, someone asks Wednesday what she’s dressed as for Halloween; she replied, “I’m a homicidal maniac. We look just like everyone else.” And so it is with folks suffering from chronic conditions: we look just like everyone else, but oftentimes we’re dying on the inside. For myself, I have a cocktail of maladies which each contribute to an overwhelming exhaustion. I have thyroid disease, anemia, sleep apnea, and insomnia. I try to compensate for these things through a variety of means: vitamins, supplements, medicine, a CPAP machine, and caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine. There are days when I can easily consume half a gram of my favorite alkaloid. Beyond that, when one is this beyond tired, the body tries as one of its strategies to replace the lost rest, to fill the energy gap with food. I’ll eat things I don’t normally eat, hoping I suppose to top off. Even as I write this I’m slouched in my chair almost Stephen Hawking-like in my posture. Writing is as much an emotional endeavor as it is an intellectual one, and I’ve not had any emotional energy to spare. So the very thought of stringing words together in some kind of cohesive, cogent manner just makes me want to run away and cower in fear.

I just don’t have what it takes right now.

And I’m afraid I never will again.

This is why it’s been so quiet around these parts. I mean I used to love it here. I loved sitting down and writing. I loved the interaction with readers. But I feel like my mojo has exited stage left.

I feel like a shell of my former self. I mean I’m getting through, but it’s not fun. Don’t misunderstand: I don’t feel depressed, but I sure don’t feel like myself. It’s far easier to kick back, and watch TV than it is to make these words march across the page. To actually do something creative. It used to be fun! What happened to that? Where is that guy? I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be him. Then again, I figure that’s okay: he’s still here. He’s just passing through a difficult season right now. He’ll be back. He’ll find purpose again.

Jesus isn’t done telling his story yet. Else why does He allow him to continue on?

His grace is sufficient. <–I’m holding onto that. And if anyone tells me this is my best life now, they best get acquainted with fisticuffs fairly quickly. ‘Cause Homie don’t play.

Would you look at that? The words are still there. Who would have thought?

Bless you for reading.

How do you deal with your tiredness?

  As a teen, I read continously as a means of escaping what I then saw as a quotidian, banal, meaningless, dysfunctional existence. All white plastered stucco on the outside, and while not wanting for food and shelter, my upbringing was nevertheless starved of affection, notice, approval. As a latch key kid, there were really no boundaries, and thus no real sense of security. And without security, there was no feeling, no bedrock, of love to fall back upon. 

So I read to feel something, anything. To know I wasn’t alone. To know that, as bad as I perceived things to be, some folks had it worse. Oftentimes, these folks were the characters at the heart of a Stephen King story. One of my favorites was Pet Sematary. I read that book through three times (something I didn’t normally do) in rapid succession. Due, I think, in part to its sheer visceral appeal, but perhaps unconsciously also to its parallel to my own (limited) life experience up to that time. Consider:

1) The Creeds move was supposed to make their lives better, bring them closer as a family. Likewise, my dad’s promotion, transfer, and my family’s subsequent move west was supposed to do the same. In neither case did that prove to be true. Both families ended up falling apart.

2) In both life, and art, there was a father haunted by demons he couldn’t shake; both, while the specifics are of course different, succumbed to their unholy siren song.

3) While my cat was named Cornelius, and not Church, I lost him in a neighborhood accident. Whether animal, or a vehicle, got him I don’t recall.

4) Much like Judson Crandall in the story, we had a kindly older neighbor named Johnny. Like Louis in the book, my dad spent many a night drinking with him.

These are but a few of the ways in which life imitated art. Though as I said I wasn’t likely tuned into at the time, being an isolated, largely self-involved teen. I just share this as a means of explaining the book’s hold on, and power over, me. It appealed in ways I couldn’t then even begin to understand. Much in the way I couldn’t understand why my dad grew more and more distant. More and more closed off; until he just wasn’t there anymore at all. Like Louis Creed, he had his secrets, and those secrets destroyed a family.

Family is what I wish to write of today. As a husband and father myself, I’ve seen the devastating effects of my own secret sins wreak havoc on my family. Things, as they do in Pet Sematary, have a way of finding is out. And there is usually hell to pay. Oftentimes in art, as in life, warnings are given; yet we stubbornly, steadfastly choose to trudge right past them into our own (metaphorical) burying grounds. We believe somehow, as Louis Creed does, that it will be different for us–that we’ll, if not totally unscathed, escape the brunt of the consequences. That is basic human nature.

It is this power of temptation to work upon the mind, and heart, its wiles which lies at the heart of the Pet Sematary.

You see after reading it three times, I did not again revisit the Pet Sematary until just recently. Perhaps as a married man and father, knowing the general content of the tale, I was afraid to? This is likely. Perhaps it was because I knew that tales have a way of growing with us as we grow older? Yes, this, too.

So with trepidation and not a little dread, I reread the book. My worst suspicions were confirmed. Rather than diminish, the power of the book had grown. For what man among us, and despite the dire warnings, if he called himself a loving father, would not be tempted to do exactly as Louis Creed does? That is the insidious appeal and power which King has placed at the heart of Pet Sematary. Louis Creed is everyman who, when faced with a devastating loss, turns to the only way he can see out of it. It’s his fault, and by God (or other means) he’s going to fix it.

Only never works out that way, does it? Despite trying over and over again, we never can quite manage to squeeze some good out of something bad.

That, my friends, is the power of temptation, and the sway under which all of us on this side of the grave live.

God help us all, darling.

This isn’t a story I want to tell; rather, it’s one I have to tell. It may seem to meander some as I set it stage, but every word represents the truth as I understand it. 

First, the distant past. It would seem that seventy some years ago, my paternal grandparents split up because my grandfather was abusive (they had two daughters at this point). Later on, they tried to reconcile, and my dad was the result. Sadly, the marriage didn’t last, and my dad was forbidden from knowing his dad (or his dad’s side of the family). I’m told he saw him for the last time at the age of twelve. Fast forward to the early fifties, and as they were playing my dad and his sisters found out their mother was remarrying that very morning. I’m given to understand that neither my aunts, nor my dad, had any idea about the nuptials.

Not too long thereafter, at the age of fifteen, my aunt came down with a case of the pregnants. My understanding is that, at some time after their wedding, my step grandfather began touching his step kids. For instance, kids being kids they would have the radio on at night; because it was ostensibly loud, dad would come into the room to turn it down. Apparently, the radio’s knob isn’t what he fiddled with. It was, again, at this time that my aunt got pregnant and moved out. 

As is so often the case, no one talked about it at the time; it was much, much later that folks began to compare stories. There were other things, too: this same man would stay up late watching “snow” on the television. He also apparently jabbed babies in the back of the hand with his fork should they dare reach across his plate at the dinner table… By the time I was born, he was older, nearing retirement age. Perhaps he had beaten whatever demons afflicted him? Who knows? What I heard is that despite what my parents knew about the man, I was left there as a toddler (my grandmother was home). When my mom picked me up, she smelled a funny smell. In fact, she called my cousin, stating that “his sweet baby face smells like semen.” Whether this is true, or not, I’ve no idea; it is however entirely consistent with the man’s character.
Blessedly, I have entirely no memories of this incident. What I can tell you is that, as I briefly sketched out above, it’s not the only such story to swirl around this man. In fact, upon her deathbed, my grandmother threw her hospital tray at him, inviting him to “Go to Hell!” Apparently, she could no longer ignore the the reports she heard, and wanted to clear her conscience in light of her impending demise.

Ladies and gentlemen, abuse is cyclical. Growing up, my dad was distant. Sarcastic and cutting when he was present, but all the awhile emotionally unavailable. He was long gone before he ever left our family. I can’t say with any certainty what he went through as a child; he’s never spoken to me of it. In fact, we don’t speak at all.

That is the legacy of abuse. It destroys families and shatters lives.