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Archive for the ‘plots’ Category

Guns, Games & Cold Love: What Happened to the Golden Rule?

In Children, hate, love, plots, terror on May 25, 2013 at 8:57 am

A booking photo of Colorado shooting suspect James Eagan Holmes is shown in this handout supplied by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office in Centennial, Colorado

The lights were off and people of all ages sat innocently in their seats, eyes riveted to a silver screen. Twelve of them did not leave the theater. Fifty-eight left in ambulances.

It was midnight and a mother and three of her children were sound asleep. They would never wake to greet the morning. By dawn, her husband, too, would be dead.

She was still asleep when her dreams ended. It was dark when four bullets sunk into her head; she will never know that her son used her own guns to murder her and 26 others at the elementary school nearby.

My heart aches for the victims and loved ones of these heinous crimes. James, Nehemiah and Adam, once young men with families, talents and promising futures, are now suspects in three of the most unconscionable murderous rampages in our nation’s history.

What made them do it? What were they thinking? Where was their love for others? What made their love grow so cold?

Many are weighing in with answers to all of these questions from every angle. Do a Google search and you will find a plethora of speculative articles that place the blame for these mass shootings on bad parenting, guns, parents with guns, inadequate gun control laws, illegal drug use, mental illness, psychotic breakdowns, lack of security in our schools, violent video games, bullying, and more.

If you read my column on a regular basis, however, you know that I prefer to do a Bible search. No, I do not find answers in my Bible to why specific people in my country are shooting each other, but I do find specific causes for the current condition of our society.

For instance, in Matthew 24, Jesus describes what the world will be like just before he returns. After delivering a mind-numbing list of cataclysmic natural disasters, international revolutions, economic collapse, religious persecution, deception and betrayal, he reveals the answer to my question above: “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Matthew 24:12 NKJV

Lawlessness, adjective. 1. contrary to or without regard for the law: lawless violence 2. Being without law; uncontrolled by a law; unbridled; unruly; unrestrained: lawless passion 3. Illegal:  bootleggers’ lawless activity

Notice this word, lawlessness, is an adjective. Pardon the English lesson, but that means that it modifies a noun or pronoun. People are nouns. People are modified by lawlessness; their behavior changes, and it isn’t pretty.

Forgive me if it sounds like I am over-simplifying the dark complexities behind the motives of mass murderers, only God is able to do a thorough root cause analysis on such heinous offenders. But knowing our human struggle with evil, he graciously established a legal system to govern societies – to keep the peace, foster goodwill and nurture love – all the things that reflect his myriad attributes.

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Again, my heart is broken for the traumatized survivors and victim’s families and loved ones of these terrible crimes. I don’t pretend to understand why young people find assault rifles glamorous or how they can aim them at their own parents, brothers, sisters, or grade school children and pull the trigger over and over. What I do understand is that love won’t grow cold when society collectively protects the laws of the land and we love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

Top Photo: "A booking photo of Colorado shooting suspect James Eagan Holmes is shown in this handout supplied by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office (Handout) (Handout/Reuters)"
Bottom Photo: Susan Montoya Bryan/AP Photo; "A bouquet of flowers adorns the entrance to a home on Jan. 21, 2013, where a couple and their three young children were found shot to death south of Albuquerque, N.M. The couple's 15-year-old son, Nehemiah Griego, is facing counts of murder and child abuse in connection with the shootings.

Deliver Us From Evil

In choices, God, help, Jesus, judging, parenting, plots, terror on May 22, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva

“America took my kids away from me,” said a woman who is wanted in the U.S. on a felony charge; a woman who left her two sons here to fend for themselves.

This woman, the mother of the Boston bombers, wailed and screamed into a camera on the other side of the world, blaming America for framing her sons, suggesting that we poured red paint all over Boston’s Boylston Street to simulate blood and stage the unconscionable bombing in April.

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva rocked back and forth in her seat, flapping her arms up and down at what appeared to be a press conference from Dagestan, crying, “I thought America was going to, like, protect us, our kids, it’s going to be safe,” she told reporters. “But it happened, opposite. My kids just — America took my kids away from me.”

I do not begrudge a grieving mother her words while in a state of shock, and rarely do I write opinion pieces on news stories, but this particular rant smacked me in the face.

America is many things, but we did not stage the bombings in Boston that killed and maimed our citizens like a Hollywood movie set just so we could create a reason to kill her sons. While details are still flowing in on the Boston bombings, my point is simple: America is not responsible for the choices those bombers made. Those boys researched how to make those bombs. They planned their entire route and where to place those bombs. They stood there on our streets with utter contempt for us and detonated those bombs without as much as a flinch. They walked calmly away as everyone around them instinctively rushed to help their fellow Americans.

No, Mrs. Tsarnaeva, America didn’t take your kids from you. You left them here and they took our welfare checks, they took our pressure cookers, they took the lives of our citizens and maimed hundreds of innocent Americans who were out celebrating patriotism.

As disturbing as this woman’s claims are, hers is only one voice amongst a growing army of radicals who believe that America is evil and must be eliminated. That is downright sick. To some of you, it stinks of Nazism, for you remember all too well the atrocities Hitler perpetrated on the Jews. But America is not the only target of radicals. Dictators around the world continue to spew their venom of hatred towards other nations and people groups.

Such is the voice and the ways of evil, right? I mean, what can we do? We are just innocent citizens minding our own business, working for a living and hoping none of that crazy stuff happens in our town, or on our street, right? Ask that of the couple whose boat became famous the night Suspect #2 climbed into it to hide from the cops. They were just minding their own business in their quiet little suburban home and in an instant the entire world was watching every movement in their backyard.

My fellow Americans, now is the time to fall on our knees and plead with the God who formed this great nation to intervene on our behalf. Now is the time to put our faith and trust in the only One who can conquer the forces of evil in our land. But know this: God gave us a will. He doesn’t interfere with our lives unless He is asked. It’s time to ask.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Deliver us from evil.

The Un-lived Life of Russell Stone, Part 6

In Bible, child abuse, death, divorce, fiction, God, plots, trust on October 3, 2011 at 9:29 pm

A Novelette

by Cheryl Courtney Semick

Mrs. Stone’s journal shakes in Rachel’s trembling hands; the poem devours her like quicksand. It is 8:15 AM.  

The ink on the page dripped with pain. I read it again…

 

He died at 8

The funeral was at 12.

He emerged a zombie at 18

Married at 21.

It died at 24.

The second wedding

Was ’94.

5 years later it too dissolved.

Now he lies with me –

Un-alive at 53.

Mr. Stone died at eight? Our records show 1:03. She dated this last night, so he was still alive; must be years. I knew Mr. Stone had been married prior to marrying Mrs. Stone, but twice before? And what’s the whole zombie thing?

My thoughts were interrupted.

“Rachel?”

I jumped at her voice, her journal stuck in my hands, my gaping mouth void of words. Mrs. Stone stood staring at me from across the room. I have no recall of hearing the door open or close.

“Do you want to know?” She whispered.

I could only nod.

She crossed the room, took the book from my hands and alighted on her late husband’s bed. Stroking the fresh bedspread, she unfolded the un-lived life of Russell Stone.

My soul is not big enough to contain all that Mrs. Stone relayed to me that day; much of it fell on the floor, never to be heard by another ear. What lodged in me was an education far beyond my Ph.D.

“In ancient times, invading armies would rob the city’s temple, take all its holy objects and burn it to the ground. Such practice was strategic. These barbarians knew that in desecrating the sanctuary, they could subdue the entire nation and cripple their soul.

“It is no different today, though invasions are far more clandestine. Savages infiltrate homes and rob the temples of children—the holy objects of their precious souls: innocence, trust, a pure connection to God, are all pillaged and defiled in the most heinous way. These children survive physically but live unlived lives.

“Mr. Stone was a victim of sexual child abuse?” I whispered. She nodded, her eyes on the floor.

I’m sorry to say I couldn’t find much pity for the deceased. Don’t get me wrong, I am repulsed by such crimes and fiercely advocate the death penalty for sexual child abusers. But Mrs. Stone’s revelation didn’t add up. Mr. Stone’s behavior contradicted the archetypal sexual abuse victim. He exuded confidence, a gentleman’s gentleman; a self-made man.

I looked at the clock. I had a half-hour to get to the courthouse to finalize my divorce and could not afford to partake in her drama another minute.

But I admit I had a more personal reason for keeping pity for Mr. Stone at bay. It just so happens that this same story is what drove me to file for a divorce from Steven.

To be continued….

_______________

Read from the beginning…

Why Travel this Christmas?

In Bible, Christ, Christmas, faith, Jesus, love, plots, Scripture on November 27, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Thanks to the underwear bomber who ruined Christmas, the friendly skies have turned dark. Travelers over this past Thanksgiving took to the highways in record numbers in order to avoid scanners and strips searches at airports. But travel they did and, regardless of the obstacles and inconveniences, nothing stops travelers at Christmas.

Little is known about the Wise Men who traveled from the east to find the Christ Child. Their appearance, barely a few sentences on the pages of Scripture, dissolves so quickly, it begs the question as to why they have commanded such prominence in the telling of the Christmas story.

Like a side plot, the Wise Men weave into the narrative, unwittingly stir up trouble, present their gifts then sneak out of the country in fear of their lives. That’s it. But why? They were astrologers! Sure, there was one star that was brighter than the others, but what drove them to lay extravagant gifts at the feet of a two-year-old in a faraway land? Why travel if the star was the prize? They could study the sky and its heavenly bodies from their own rooftop.

Clearly, it wasn’t about the star. If that’s all they were seeking, why bring gifts? No, it was the One the star pointed to that drew them to Judea. They knew from their studies of ancient Hebrew writings that this star heralded the birth of a king—a very special king—and they were driven to worship Him no matter what that journey entailed.

Their quest, hardly a passing curiosity, undoubtedly absorbed years of their attention prior to the arduous journey. It was a quest that has inspired millions, including me—souls who will not rest until they find the Christ Child of Christmas.

Fortunately, we don’t need to travel to a physical location to find Him. Our pursuit is one of faith. Believing that God is Who He says He is, that Jesus is Who He said He was, that the Bible is God’s inspired Word and that the story is not over until He says it’s over.

Yes, finding the Christ Child involves travel, but the land we must traverse to reach Him is that of our own heart: the mountains of lies and false doctrines, the valleys of pain and past hurts; the rivers of tears and misunderstandings and the deserts of loneliness and discouragement.

Why travel through such horrible conditions? Why leave the comfort of our habits and familiar surroundings to pay homage to an ancient character in a story that could possibly just be a fable perpetuated by religious fanatics? There is only one reason, and it throbs ceaselessly in every human heart from birth to deathbed: Love.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

That verse, John 3:16, like the Christmas story itself, is still to this day, the simple, uncomplicated reason why millions still travel to places of worship on a silent night in December.

It is the reason we stand in long lines of impatient shoppers to possess gifts for our loved ones—a reenactment of the extraordinary lengths to which God went when He wrapped His precious Son in human flesh—the perfect gift.

Love and hope, and the promise of an eternity of peace and goodwill, is that not the quest that calls to your heart every day of the year?

Travel to see the King this Christmas, He is worthy of your most extravagant gifts.

9/11

In change, choices, healing, memorial, plots, prayer on September 11, 2009 at 1:56 pm

They went to work.

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That’s all.

They boarded a plane.

That’s all.

One plot.

That’s all.

They’re gone.

But that’s not all.

We will never forget.

Backup

In Christ, Easter, God, Jesus, plots, resurrection on August 17, 2009 at 8:24 am

It was easy to believe.  It still is for many, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Attache full of money

The body of Jesus is gone, said the guards who had been assigned to secure his tomb. There was this great earthquake, so we fell over and then there was this bright light so we were blinded and when we came to, his body was gone.

The body was stolen, end of story. His disciples simply stole his body and then perpetuated his claims, that’s what you are to say. If anyone says he was resurrected, they are lying. If anyone challenges you, we’ll back you up. And, here’s a year’s salary for your faithfulness.

That’s my paraphrase of the scene in Matthew 28:13, 14 between the chief priests and the Roman guards who were stationed at Jesus’ tomb the night of his burial. Poor guys, couldn’t even guard a dead man.

What’s more outrageous is when the chief priests – the very ones who represented God on on earth – heard eye-witness accounts from Roman guards, they stomped the story into the ground, replaced it with a lie and paid off the witnesses!

Not only did these priests have the blood of God’s Son on their hands, they denied first-hand witnesses to his resurrection.  Their sin would not go away. They did what every human does when they refuse God – they cover and hide.

Like Adam and Eve. Except their devices of covering and hiding were more sophisticated. Buy off the guards, replace the truth with a lie and promise backup.

If you don’t think lying could get any more sophisticated, then you don’t watch the news. This ancient technique of recalibrating the truth is now common practice. And, those who perpetuate lies always have a backup plan. You have to! Lies cannot support themselves – they have to have backup.

Jesus’ story, on the other hand, needed no backup. He went to the cross willingly. He died to make payment for the sins of the world. He rose again to give all who believe in him a second chance to get it right. He was the second Adam. No backup plan in case his sacrifice didn’t ‘work.’ No payoff to his disciples to assure his story would be spread throughout the world.

All the manufactured devices on earth cannot suppress the truth.  God is truth. End of story.

Lord, help me to face You and not cover my sins, nor hide from You. Thank You for paying my debt to You, for being who You said You were – for doing what You said You’d do. You are the Truth.

The Next Chapter

In books, career, God, Jesus, plots, publishing, Uncategorized, Writing on June 23, 2009 at 7:46 pm

If you study the anatomy of a book, you’ll find its chapters consists largely of suspense, as in, what’s going to happen next? Writers craft words in such a way as to keep that book in your hand so you cannot put it down until the very last word.

Open Book

I have always viewed my life as a book with each season being a chapter. However, I’ve spent most of my adult life bemoaning the fact that the past chapters of my life contained mainly horror, fear, and tragedy. It never occurred to me that such negatives build hope in the reader. After all, which of us does not have a built-in cheerleader that starts cheering whenever they encounter an underdog?

It’s true. We all rally around those who have suffered injustice. We have a natural desire to right the wrong, to reverse the outcome or aid the victim. Many who have been ‘reading’ my life ‘chapters’ have rallied around me – even those of you who regularly read my newspaper column. I have been so blessed by many of you as I’ve written my stories on this page, month after month, year after year – can you believe I’ve been writing for the Community Word since 1998?

Here I am at the fourth paragraph and am still toying with my point. You must know by now that I plan to build suspense and then hit you with it all at the end! Ok, where was I?  Oh yes, chapters. If you’ve followed this column, you know that I acquired it on the heels of a court battle. I was a victim of domestic violence one cold February night when my teenage son rescued me and drove me away from a near strangulation – an act that closed the door on my radio career.

But God opened a window.

An essay contest sponsored by Children & Family Services offered me an opportunity to nominate a local family who was instrumental in my rescue from that night of horror, and I won! A wonderful woman, Suzette Boulais, was captured by my essay and referred me to her friend Bob Renner, then owner of CW. Bob offered me this column and a new chapter in my media career was born.

Many chapters have come and gone since. I had always liked writing, but it was more of a hobby. I certainly did not qualify for a career in television, having only a ‘face for radio’ (the camera and I are not speaking), so my print media career was born. I embraced it here in this column and have since become a co-author and soon-to-be author. I now ghostwrite books for a living and I could not be happier.

But, last month a page turned and I found myself at a much unexpected new chapter. Are you ready for the BIG NEWS? I’m leaving Peoria.

After 11 years in Central Illinois, I’m moving back to live near my family by my home town. Now, when I bought this house – my House of Grace – I thought I was home. I thought this is where I will live out the rest of my days.

But God had another chapter to write in my life.

It seems Peoria was a healing ground, a place of preparation. I thought it was the last chapter, when actually it was a pivot point in the plot of my life.

I leave here as a full-time freelance writer, healed, cleansed, stable and content with whatever God has planned for the climax of the book he is writing titled, Cheryl Courtney Semick. Who knows what glorious things he has planned for me! I used to fret about my future. I used to wallow in pity over my past chapters. Now I anxiously await the turning of each page, anticipating the Author’s point and purpose for creating a story with me as its protagonist.

I’ve learned much here in my Peoria home, the most clear lesson being that life boils down to two choices: live by fear or live by faith. Everything we encounter, every path we follow, every place we end up is based in either faith or fear. I chose faith when I stepped into print media and stayed in the town where my life nearly ended. I couldn’t run any more.

I faced my greatest fears in Peoria. I realized that fear isn’t a place or a person – it’s a choice. Jesus faced the ugliest of all fear when, at a wicked cross he put his faith in God, his father, trusting that his story would not end in a cruel death – that there was a happy ending.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NIV)

I am eagerly anticipating the events that are written in the end of God’s book, the Holy Bible. If you’ve not read it, you’re in for a big blessing! I don’t want to ‘ruin it for you’ but let’s just say that the ‘underdog’ becomes the Prince and justice is served!

Having Kids

In books, Children, kids, Moms, plots, publishing, Writing on May 1, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Having children doesn’t always involve diapers and new mommies don’t always have kids.  Sounds like I’m heading into a metaphor, doesn’t it?  You got me.

To an empty-nester like me, motherhood is all about birthing books.

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Of course conception is the most fun.  A thought, an idea or a dream plays around in your mind pretending to be plots and titles, scenes and scenarios. But until one germinates it is just fantasy.

Writers, who entertain such titillation without a commitment to capture those thoughts on paper, or to develop them into publishable means, exist with the frustration and disappointment of a dreamer.

For years, my writing life was just that – until I got tired of staring at books and imagining my name on their spines.

I had become disgusted with my non-committal attitude toward my craft and exhausted by day dreams. Since my teen years, when a word winked at me or a phrase whispered in my ear, I, the willing prisoner, would stick my hands in the air and cry, Ok!  I give up! I had no clue how to arrest the wild onslaught of creative energy.

Instead, I’d be carried away captive and existed in a cell of false belief that someday I would just morph into an author.  I still have stacks of nothing books stuffed with unfertilized seeds – tales that will never be told.

When I finally got busy learning my craft and taking it seriously, I still had to fight off the temptation to sit and dream. I’d often get lost in thoughts of standing in a bookstore, reaching for my offspring, bound and stamped with my name, flipping through the leaves of the work of my days.  I’d imagine the feel of its cover in my fingertips, squeezing it and stroking its letters in unbelief, thinking, did I give birth to this beautiful child?

The other fight I encountered by choosing self-discipline was the work itself. Give me the baby all bathed and wrapped in soft a cuddly blanket, resting contentedly in my arms and everyone around me saying, “What a beautiful baby!”  Yes!  That’s what I want!  To drive to the bookstore, walk to the shelf and just pull my book off and see it complete, bound forever in its own identity.  Forget the labor!

Then a fear emerged. What will I do when my child is grown and gone?  How do I send my book off into the world wrapped in a box only to arrive at some publishing house where it may be shelved or thrown away, unread, unopened?  How do I cope with the thrill and pain of watching it be read, then hearing all about its flaws and reasons why it’s not good enough to print – to be cut down, edited, critiqued and rejected by strangers?  My precious child, of whom I labored day and night to create, I’d rather not give birth to you than to send you into a world so cruel and watch your life be so treated!

mystery murder suspense

The 'Novel Vigilante'

Enough drama; authors become authors because they birth books. Authors become Moms when they raise books.  And so I must engage in the shameless self-promotion of my first child.  My novel, The ‘Novel Vigilante’ will be published later this month!  Come see all my ‘kids’ at www.ccsemick.com.