The Lesson I Learned from an Icee

I’ve often thought about how some memories are stuck in my mind, and others seem to have slipped away from me. For instance, I remember waking up when I was five years old from a nap on the floor of my room. I don’t know why I wasn’t in my bed; I assume I was playing and merely slept where I was. That said, I awoke to a puppy licking my face. I don’t remember anything after that, but I remember the first time Samson, my golden retriever pup, and I met. It’s adhered to my mind.

I remember walking down the hill to the neighbor’s house, having been invited to come over for a cap gun battle, only to be ambushed on my way down by the three neighbor girls wielding their cap guns and blasting me away after jumping out from behind the trees that lined the hill. I don’t remember anything else from that day, but I remember being surprised and happy.

Yesterday, I was brought back to another time in my memory. My wife and kids and I had gone to Sam’s Club to get a couple necessities. In particular, I needed a new pair of jeans. I tend to kill pants. I’ve tried $100 jeans and $45 jeans and everything in between. However, no matter the price or the claims of the brand, the pants tend to die on me after about six months. So, several cycles ago, after a recommendation from my dad, I purchased my first pair of $10 jeans (although they have increased in price now to $14). These jeans lasted me, surprise, six months before giving up the ghost. So now, I buy cheap $14 jeans and save myself some money.

Anyway, after shopping for jeans and all the other random stuff you pick up at Sam’s that you never intended to buy before walking in there, we paid for our items and my wife walked over to the snack center and got the kids some Icee Slurpies as a treat. She took their picture as they stood there enjoying the sweets. However, my mind was taken back. When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money. I don’t think we were poor, but there wasn’t a lot of money for things like Icee’s. My neighbor and her three girls and my mom and I often did things together during the day. They were home-schooled and I was an only child. So by default, we were all the best of friends.

One day though, my neighbor’s husband got a promotion at work. As such, when we went into the local K-Mart, all of us kids got an Icee as a rare treat. I know some of you reading this might think that it’s odd to believe that an Icee could stick out in my mind, but maybe the remainder of the story will clue you in as to why. Our neighbor, Chris, handed each of her kids an Icee.

Ashley got an Icee, and her response was, “Thank you!”

Courtney got an Icee, and her response was, “Thank you!”

Angie got an Icee, and her response was, “Thank you!”

And finally, Michl (me) gets an Icee, and his response is SLURP! SLURP! SLURP!

Suddenly, my Icee is gone, as if it has merely vanished from my hand. Looking up, I see my mom standing there, slurping on my Icee. She raises her eyebrows and glances down at me. I am shocked.

“Next time, you will remember to say thank you,” she says and walks away with my Icee.

She drank the entire thing. The saddest part is, she doesn’t even like cherry Icees. There was a similar lesson that happened earlier in my life with a Snickers bar, but that’s a story for another time. Some of you may think the lesson cruel, I’m sure. However, while I am sure I did cry, I don’t remember crying. What I remember was a lesson my mom taught me. To this day, I remember to be polite. It was ingrained into me to show respect and thankfulness to someone who is kind to me. It was a big deal for Mrs. Chris to buy us those Icee’s. At the time, the amount of money it took to buy all of us kids those Icee’s was a lot for her, and at that time, I didn’t show appreciation for that. True, I was just a little kid, but it was important for me to recognize the value of what I was getting. Just like a pair of jeans that obviously aren’t worth $100 to someone like me who is just going to kill them in six months, an Icee to a mom who is pinching pennies for the good of her family is a big deal. And it was a big deal to us, but I didn’t recognize it for what it was and my mom wanted to reinforce that value of thankfulness. She wanted to engrain that value into my head enough that I would remember it. I don’t remember crying, but I remember the lesson.

I was standing over to the side waiting for my wife to get the Icees for the kids and I didn’t hear if they said thank you to her when she handed them the treats. So, I can’t say if the direct lesson has been passed down to my own offspring. However, I can tell you that they are thankful for the blessings they have. True, like all kids, they must be reminded from time to time, but I think the value has been instilled. So, as I sit here sipping my coffee and thinking back, I must smile, I have a good momma, who taught me how to live life in gratitude and thankfulness; not just to her and my dad, but to God for all the blessings I have been given. I hope in the end I am able to give back some of that blessing to others.

D. Michl Lowe

How I Find Time to Write

When I have a full-time job…

I work in the school system. It’s a school counselor by day, novelist by night sort of thing. However, it’s more than that. Because of my job, I have more opportunities to write than some, but I feel like everyone can make time for writing a book if they really want to. So, when you are first starting out as a writer and you have a separate full-time job, what do you do to make time to write? Below are some tips I have used to get time in which to write seven books so far.

Utilize a Smart Phone: 

I remember seeing Apple’s first press release talking about the first iPhone. I was mesmerized! I knew right then; this thing is going to change everything. It was like a Star Trek communicator had come to life. With that though, today, much of my writing is done on one of these types of devices. The “notes” section of my phone is jammed packed with notes about stories, articles I want to write, and ideas. As well as full sections of chapters that are later transferred over to my main document. This article itself was started on my smartphone. What this allows for is the use of downtime in everyday life. Everyone has moments throughout the day where they have 10 minutes here or there. Normally you might just scroll through Facebook, which I still of course do, but I also use that time to write. 

Use Screen Time:

As modern American humans, we use screens a lot. If we aren’t on our phones, we are on our computers. If we aren’t on our computers, we are watching TV or playing video games. Replace some of that general entertainment screen time with writing time. Some of this just seems obvious, but in a lot of ways, writing is just sitting down and doing it. Making the time when you think you don’t have it. Discipline is important. I have actually scheduled time to write on my calendar to make sure I sit down and do it.

Carry a Backpack:

I have a whole ethos dedicated to things I try to keep on my body and carry on my person. If you have never looked on YouTube for the acronym EDC which stands for Everyday Carry. There is a whole subculture that is nearly obsessed with the idea of what is in a person’s pockets. It’s fun if nothing else. That being said, carry a backpack, and in that backpack pack your laptop. Why? I can’t tell you the number of pages I have written while waiting in the doctor’s waiting room, or the dentist’s waiting room. My daughter goes to the Wednesday night church for teen group. My particular church doesn’t offer any classes or groups for adults on Wednesday night, and we live like thirty minutes away from our church, so my going home and coming back is silly. So I spend the time I would normally have been waiting, playing on my phone, or just sitting around; writing. That’s a solid hour and a half of uninterrupted writing time I get every week almost. Bring your laptop with you in your car, in a backpack and you will discover there are a lot of opportunities to write.

Use Vacations Wisely:

When I go on vacation, I try to utilize the experiences in a productive way. I try to experience different things; foods, historic sites, and oddities. A wide array of experiences gives the writer a full template to pull from. I’ve often told other writers to write what they know. When you pull from real things, the writing can come alive in a way that’s often unparalleled. Also, I try to find places to sit and write. For me, that’s a public place with lots of people. I know that’s not a good environment for writing for some people, but for me, that’s ideal. So I have sat on the beach writing, around a pool, in a tropical garden, etc. For me, I have summers and most holidays off due to working in the school system. That is prime time for writing for me. Many days of my summer vacation days are spent down at my local library, sitting at a table and writing. 

Create a Writing Space: 

In my house, we have three wonderful kids and I have a beautiful wife. These people make life worth living, but they also get in the way of actually getting writing done. So I have set up a little corner in our basement with a plastic table and a chair to set myself apart from the rest of the family. That way when I am there, the kids know what I am doing and tend to let me have my time. A side note: noise-canceling headphones help with that separation. I also talk with my family and explain what I am doing and what my intention is. 

So these are just a couple of the ways I work to find time to write when I hold down a full-time job. True, I do have some advantages over others, with having nearly every holiday off and summer vacation, but I think if you take the time to really think about your own time, you will find ways to get it done. J. K. Rowling wrote the original Harry Potter novel while she was a single mom working a full-time job through most of it. That gives me hope. I might not be able to pump out a thousand-page novel in a year like Brandon Sanderson, but I can get my novel done. It just might take me a little longer. Hopefully, I still have years left in my life to devote to this craft. Maybe I can even finish the full story I want to write before I leave this mortal coil. I guess we will see.

D. Michl Lowe


This is a scene I recently wrote that takes place about halfway through the book. The character Meshiah healed her friend’s sister the night before and news has spread throughout the village about the healing. Now, the town has shown up to see if the miracle can be repeated with others in need.

After dressing in a wool skirt and button-down white blouse, Meshiah walked from the back room into the main bakery. The room was full, but no one was talking. Meshiah assumed the place would normally be a bustle of chatting customers and delicious smells, but the hearths had been cold back in the kitchen, and beyond the general smell of flour and day-old bread, there was no fresh scent of developed yeast. Instead, the main large room of the bakery was packed with people, nearly silent, all staring, at her.

A middle-aged woman rushed up to her, tears flowed from her eyes and dropped in front of Meshiah and clasped at the front of her skirts.

“Please milady, please, my daughter. She fell last week and hit her head. She’s just gotten engaged to the miller’s son. They were to be wed in just a month,” she pled. “I can pay whatever is needed. Please.”

Meshiah looked over to where the woman indicated and saw a rather handsome lad of no more than twenty carrying a woman of about the same age. She had long dark hair, but it was pulled back, a thick bandage covering most of her head. The young man had the haunted eyes of a man who had spent too many nights awake in prayer, pleading to a God he wasn’t sure was even there. She looked down again at the woman and reached down to her, lifting her up.

“Will you help her?” the woman asked, meeting Meshiah’s eyes. There was a desperation in that face, haggard desperation. “I heard what you did for Schalk’s sister, and if you can take away the Heat, then you can save my daughter. I know you can.”

Meshiah felt a stab of guilt. Of course, she would want to help, but she looked out at the mass of people, crammed into the little shop. The bay windows looked out into the courtyard of the town hall across the street and the very street itself was packed with people. There had to be thousands. Where had they all come from, and had they been waiting here for her while she slept nearly all day? How could she help so many? She pursed her lips.

“Mrs. Lusion,” she announced and Procty popped around the corner of the counter where she had been standing behind another group of people.

“Yes, milady?” Procty said.

“I am going to need a large cup of coffee, some sort of breakfast bread, an apron, and several people to help me prioritize those in this mass of people who are in the greatest need. I won’t be able to help them all today, but I intend to make a sizable dent,” she said as she unbuttoned the sleeves of her blouse and rolled them up past her elbows.

Procty bounded off towards the back of the shop and Meshiah walked over to the young man who held the injured woman.

“I am going to need your help,” she said, looking to the man’s eyes. There was hope there, but it was distant.

“Okay,” he mumbled.

“No, I mean it. This is going to be hard on you. I am going to use you to heal this woman. It will not be pleasant.”

He looked confused but nodded his head.

“Okay, get ready,” she said and he stiffened his body. “You might want to lay her down on the floor here and sit down beside her.”

He did as instructed. Meshiah bent down and placed her right hand on his shoulder and then her left hand on the girl’s head. Then she began to pull again like she had done the night before, but this time, instead of her general surroundings, she pulled from the man. The warmth flooded into her again until she was nearly bursting with energy. The man fell back, his entire body going limp. People standing nearby gasped and one woman went to try to stop Meshiah, but was held back by others. Meshiah allowed the energy to pour into the woman, and she stirred slightly. The one eye that was still visible under the bandage opened and she blinked several times.

She looked around the room. Faces stared at her, shocked expressions on them all.

“Fire and ashes,” one woman exclaimed. “Has she killed the boy to heal the girl?”

A man who had knelt to the boy shook his head. “No, he’s just sleeping.”

A cheer rose in the room and everyone began talking at once. The woman who had spoken to Meshiah at first had run over and begun hugging the woman, but she now stood up and came over to Meshiah.

“Thank you, milady. Thank you,” she wept, wrapping her arms around Meshiah.

The Loss and Gain from the Pandemic

I was talking to some people a while back, about thinking positively and how this can impact one’s feelings about negative situations. I relayed to them some of the events from the past couple of years and how negative they could be thought of. The pandemic dropped into our laps as a society in January 2020 and by February, most of the world had shut down. We were in our homes and quarantined from February through most of the summer. In fact, schools really didn’t even go back to full-time and in-person until January 2021. During that time, my entire family caught COVID in July, during which time I was in bed for nearly two weeks, barely able to even sit up due to the disease.

A month after that, Katarina came down with MIS-C and was in the hospital for nearly a month. Some of that time we were worried that she wouldn’t make it. Sometime after that, my Mother had a heart attack and was in the hospital for a week, and then my Uncle Ron passed away after contracting COVID. All in all, one could argue that this has been some of the worst years of my and my family’s lives. However, as I told these folks, I am not sad. I choose to think about this time of my life from a different perspective. A more positive perspective. Truthfully, a more spiritual perspective.

My perspective is shaped by my trust in Jesus Christ. Have bad things happened? Of course, but let’s look at these events differently. There’s been a pandemic and life closed down for a long time and many people were hurt by this. However, for my family, my son was born in August 2019 and his mommy was able to take off from work from August till Christmas of that year. She went back to work in January 2020 and was only there for a month until the pandemic hit and she was “forced” to stay home… with our son, for the remainder of the year. Then we were on and off again beginning the next school year and many of the days she was able to be with him again. So honestly, my son has benefited from having his mommy and daddy home with him for most of his life; what a blessing!

My entire family caught COVID in July and I was severely sick. There was a point where I sat Alicia down and I had a very serious talk with her about what she should do if I were to pass away. However, I didn’t. I made it through the illness without having to be hospitalized. Thanks be to God. A month later, Katarina came down with MIS-C and nearly died. However, thanks be to God, she was spared a premature death. I understand the blessing our family has been given. Our lives have been forever changed by that hospital stay. Katarina will never be the same person she was before this. I will never be the same father I was before this. Not saying I was a bad dad, but I do some things differently. I feel differently about what it means to be a dad, what it means to be a Christian, and what it means to be a husband and man after God’s own heart.

For the last 20-some-odd years, my Uncle Ron and I didn’t speak. There was a rift in our family and no one had contact with each other. Then he reached out. We were hesitant to even meet with him, but thank the Lord we did. Our relationship was able to be mended. The wounds of the past, while still scared were being healed. Words that had laid dormant for years were finally said. Forgiveness was given and God stepped into the gap that we had forged. For the first time in years and years, I was able to hug the man I had seen as my Grandfather. And then the pandemic came, he caught COVID, and he passed away.

I could look at this and yell at God, “It’s not fair!” However, I don’t. Not because there isn’t a part of it that isn’t fair, but because of how merciful and thoughtful God has been. He worked on the hearts of us all to give us the time we needed to heal the brokenness in our relationships. To look into ourselves and realize that we were holding onto the hate of the past and needed to seek forgiveness from each other and God. I praise His name that He had the kindness and mercy to give us that opportunity! He knows what the future holds. He knows what we need most. I look at the last several years and see a lot of pain, hurt, sorrow, and loss; but more than that, I see how God has been working through all of it, present and always seeking our best. Always looking to turn pain into understanding and thankfulness. I can’t look back at the pain, without knowing He was there throughout it, never leaving us, never forgetting us, and never stopping His love for us. Praise be to His name forever!

D. Michl Lowe

Side Project: My Forgotten Youth

So I took a break from writing the fantasy book that I have been working on and wrote something different. I woke up last night at 3:00 a.m. and had a book idea ramming itself into my consciousness. The idea wouldn’t go away. I had to write down the general idea. Below, I have written out the rough introduction to the book. I don’t plan on stopping work on the fantasy book, but I just needed a break. In my mind, this will be a very short book, less than 200 pages for sure. A middle-grade book, I think. We will see. In my head, this book is dealing with some heavy issues kids are dealing with even today. My current working title is My Forgotten Youth. Enjoy.

Introduction: The Abnormal Life

You don’t really question the things that happened to you as a kid. To you, it was just how life was and that was normal. It’s not until years later that you start to understand that your childhood might not have been completely regular. Example: My mom once told me that my father was a famous magician. I asked her why I didn’t have a dad and she said that he was busy working in Vegas and that the entertainment company that employed him wouldn’t let him take time off.

It made sense to me at the time, that my dad was a magician; too important to come and visit me. I told all my friends at school, and when they got old enough to realize it was a lie, they let me know, harshly, over and over. It was 1990 and I was eight years old. My mom would often disappear for weeks at a time, that was normal. My grandma and I would always order pizza when she knew mom wasn’t coming home. I got to the place where I hated the very smell of the stuff. Mom continually traveled up to Detroit with her boyfriends; sometimes just for the weekend, and others, for a month at a time.

We lived with my Grandma Susan. She had a little trailer that my grandpa had left her when he died. That was years before I was even born though. We all lived in Sissonville, West Virginia and my mom and Grandma had their own rooms, but I had the hall closet. It was big enough that my twin mattress could fit, but that was about it. 

One morning, I woke up before I should have. Not sure why, but something seemed wrong. Sometimes you wake up because of a noise, but you think you just woke up naturally. It was one of those times when you feel like you slept for a long time. I was wide awake. There was the sound of clinking dishes in the kitchen and I walked in, the footed pajamas I wore had a hole for the big toe on each one, but they still made a soft shiff shiff as they slid across the linoleum floor. 

The sound of my feet caused my mother to drop her little plastic purse on the side of the sink. When she did, amber pill bottles came plopping out on the counter and the floor. She was startled.

“Hey darlin’, what are you doin up?” She asked, smoothing her blond hair back from her face and licking lips that were too dry. 

“I heard something, and woke up,” I said. 

She was fully dressed in a short skirt and some of those fishnet stockings that girls loved to wear in the 80s, but that she was obviously too old to be wearing. Mom was fashionable; MTV was always on when she was home. Her bangs were the poofiest bangs in the whole town. While I always thought mom was pretty, in a “my mom” sort of way, I hated poofy bangs. She quickly picked up the pill bottles and began stuffing them back into the hot pink purse. One of them had rolled across the floor and my bare big toe twiddled it. I reached down and picked it up. It had my grandma’s name on the label.

“Oh,” I said. “This one is grandmas.”

A slight panic flashed across her eyes. “Yes, well I am taking it to get it refilled,” she said.

“Are all of those grandmas?”

She backed away from me and I was confused. “No, these ones are mine,” she said glancing towards the door. “Why don’t you mind your own business, huh? You think you know what’s best do ya? You aren’t the parent here! I am!” She screamed the last part, but immediately hushed herself, glancing towards the hall that led to grandma’s room.

“Mom, are you okay,” I asked, brushing off the harshness of her words. I learned long ago, not to take her harshness with any sincerity.

“I’m fine,” she hastily said, zipping up the little purse. It looked stupid, hot pink and almost rubbery. I thought it was like something a little kid would have, not a grown woman. She brushed tears out of her eyes. When had she started crying? Coming over, she kissed the top of my head. She smelled; sour, like ammonia. Like when our cat’s litter box hadn’t been cleaned in several weeks. Her arms were too thin, I could see the bones in her wrists. She had bruises up and down both of her arms, little scabbed dots all over.

“You be good okay. Listen to your grandma. I’m gonna be gone for a couple weeks, alright. I have a job up in Detroit I have to do. Robert says we can get some real good work this time.”

Robert was the current guy she called her boyfriend.

“Okay,” I said.

What else could I say? She looked back once, then walked out the front door.

I never saw my mom again.

Marrow Morel Toast

-A warning from the start, always make sure the morals you use are safe. If you don’t know for sure, please replace morels with your mushroom of choice from your local grocery.-

In my upcoming fantasy novel, there is a character named Marcum Wiggsnem who runs a famous restaurant in Charles Gate called The Pig Pen. He is famous for making Marcum’s King-bowl Toast, which is basically morel mushroom toast. So here is that famous recipe from Marcum’s restaurant in the heart of the city of Charles Gate. Enjoy.


  • 4 slices of whole wheat bread
  • 1/2 lb. of morel mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 beef bone marrow pieces, about 1 inch each, soaked overnight in water to whiten
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tbsp. of butter
  • 2 tbsp. of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Toast the slices of whole wheat bread in the oven until crisp and golden, about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  4. Add the minced shallots and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the sliced morel mushrooms and minced garlic to the pan and cook until the mushrooms are tender about 5-7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Remove from heat and keep warm.
  7. In another pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.
  8. Sear the beef bone marrow pieces for about 2-3 minutes on each side until browned and soft.
  9. Place a piece of beef bone marrow on top of each slice of toast and spread gently to cover.
  10. Place the toasted bread and beef marrow combination on a baking sheet and top each slice with the morel mushroom mixture.
  11. Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes until the bone marrow is hot and slightly softened.
  12. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.

This rich and savory toast combines the nutty flavor of whole wheat bread with the earthy taste of morel mushrooms and the indulgent creaminess of beef bone marrow. Please use mushrooms you are sure are actual morels, or substitute your own favorite grocery store mushroom instead, to be safe.

For additional flavor or something different, top with a sunny-side-up egg fried in bone marrow grease.

D. Michl Lowe

One Last Hug

I had a dream about a dead person. A person I knew long ago. I didn’t know this person as an adult, I knew them when I was just a kid, a kid in high school. In the dream, we were at a festival of some kind, there was music, and people milling around talking and having fun. People were meeting with old friends and chatting, there was laughter and good food. This person and I were going to perform in some way, I don’t know how maybe we were going to sing. Anyway, this friend of mine was doing some stage makeup for me.

This wouldn’t have been uncommon for this person to do this for me back in the day. They often did our makeup before the performances I was in; of which there were many. Anyway, she was doing my makeup, talking to me, gently whipping away mistakes, and just being their normal self. Suddenly, the haze of the dream was drawn away from my eyes and saw her. I knew she had died and knew I was in a dream. I stood up with intense sadness in my heart and began crying, the tears rushing down my cheeks.

Then she stood with me. “You’re dead,” I cried. “I know you’re dead, but you’re here.”

“I am here,” she said. “It’s okay. It’s really okay.”

I stepped forward and hugged my friend. It was a hug from years and years ago. When I was just a kid who was hugging a friend that he loved. She cried too, but her tears were not tears of sadness, but of joy that she was able to hug her friend again. I realized I was the only sad person at the festival. The people were around us were talking, laughing, and loving each other in friendship and family. It was a beautiful thing, and yet I continued to be sad.

I woke up, tears wetting my pillow, stunned. I’ve had several dreams like this in the last couple of years. Dreams where I have seen friends of mine who have gone on before me into the afterlife. My mother-in-law always says that when you dream about someone, that’s the Lord’s way of bringing that person into your mind to have you pray for them. What do I do with dreams of the dead though? I’m not completely sure. What I do know is that I pray for their families and those left behind.

I’ve lost several friends and family in the last several years and I think that may be catching up to me. Loss is a difficult thing. Sometimes, you weren’t as close as you would have liked to have been. Sometimes you were very close and the loss seemed personal, like the person’s death was a slight against you. Not that they wanted to leave, but that God wanted to harm you by taking them. The sadness and anger can be almost overwhelming. I don’t feel angry. I don’t blame God. Maybe I haven’t been hurt enough to feel that. All I know is, I miss my friend, and I’m glad I got to give her one last hug.

D. Michl Lowe

Why I’m Not Afraid of Dragons Anymore

I was part of a writing group for a while. I’m not going to name names, because it’s not important to the story. However, for some time now, I have been scared… of dragons. Let me explain. This was nearly ten years ago and my writing career was still very new. I hadn’t finished my first book, in fact, I hadn’t really even started it yet. However, I was a passionate and ignorant new writer. I was finishing up a master’s degree and would meet with the group at a local coffee shop once a month and submit a passage from the fantasy book I was playing at writing.

One lady was finishing up her second novel in an adventure book series she was writing and I remember being in awe of her. She had a book on Amazon for sale! She was making money from a book she had written! She was, gasp, published! Now, my ignorance at the time was that I didn’t even know that such as thing as self-publishing even existed, much less ideas like vanity publishing and traditional publishing, or publishing agents. This was all still a mystery to this newbie, heck no one knows what they don’t know, and I am most likely still in the dark about many aspects of these things.

I remember she got done reading a short passage I had written in which I had mentioned a dragon. She looked at me and said, “Dragons are on the way out. Publishers won’t publish a story about a dragon because it’s cliche now. Also, never mention a sword, there are too many fantasy stories about magical swords and dragons out there, and you will never get published if you have those things in your story.”

My author admiration was in full effect. She was the only person I had ever met who had finished writing a book, much less had one “published”. Oddly enough, I looked up her book recently and realized that she was self-published through Amazon. Now don’t let me mislead you here, that is still impressive. This is how my books are published as well. However, in my ignorance, her advice to me at the time took on much more significant weight than it should have. After writing three slightly successful books (to me anyway), and now working on my biggest project yet, The Fantasy Book Project, I am ready to admit something. I don’t like her advice. In fact, I am no longer following it. When I first sat down to write out the notes for my world and create the story, her rules of no swords and no dragons were still engrained in my mind, almost unconsciously. I had creatures in my books that I called Beasts, but let’s be honest, as I described them, and inside my head; they were dragons.

Now, none of my characters currently have a sword, but I am not against the idea any longer. The more I read and the newer books I see published, fantasy publishers are only worried about one thing, will the book be bought and read by people. I am one of the biggest fans of traditional, modern, and even odd fantasy and I am not tired of dragons. I like dragons. In fact, you put a dragon on the cover of the book and you have my attention. Throw a Gandalf-looking fella fighting that dragon on the cover and my wallet basically slips out of my pocket on its own.

These ten years into my writing career, here is my writing advice to aspiring writers, for what that is worth.

  1. Write what you know.
  2. Write who you know.
  3. Write what you want.

Let me quickly talk about each of those in a little more detail.

Number 1: Write what you know. Use your own life experiences to create realistic narratives, characters, and situations. Some of the most compelling stories I have read have come from or been inspired by an author’s real-life experiences. I believe this is a great way to write.

Number 2: Write who you know. Use the people that you know, meet, or get a chance to interact with as subjects to inspire characters in your books. As an example, I read once that Hayao Miyazaki (the famous anime artist) uses real girls he knows as inspiration for the girls he draws in his animes. Also, I remember reading that Charles Dickens did this a lot too. According to the book Mr. Dickens and His Carol, by Samantha Silva, it is a well-known fact that Mr. Dickens kept a notebook full of names he encountered. Apparently, the ghost Jacob Marley was based on a man Mr. Dickens met one time and felt that he was very unpleasant. Ms. Silva tells us that he then wrote down the name and decided that whatever character he turned out to be, he would be dead very quickly. As such, Jacob Marley is dead before the book even starts. Anyway, use real people to give your characters realistic personalities and life, just don’t use the person’s real name. That will get you sued.

Number 3: Write what you want. This is the one I am taking for myself. If you want to write about your dog, write about your dog. If you want to write about starships, write about starships. And by goodness, if you want to write about dragons, write about dragons! Don’t allow the fear of being or not being published to scare you off from writing a story you want to write. Write your book and after submitting it to a publisher, if they come back and say they don’t want dragons in your book and can you change it? Heh, there is a “find” option in Microsoft Word where you can find every single instance of a word in your whole document and it’s easy to replace the word “dragon” with “kitten.”

Side Note: Take my advice with a complete grain of salt.

D. Michl Lowe

The Tunnel: A passage from The Fantasy Book Project

After some time, Nicodemus was able to stand up, his back was stiff and he thought he might have a bruised ankle when he fell, but he could walk, and nothing appeared to be broken, amazingly. The loss of his friend and the heartache of knowing he was the one who ultimately brought about that death, weighed heavily on him. He took stock of where he was. There was no way he was going to climb back up the way he had come into this place, the sides of the cave were way too smooth and the hole he believed he had slid out of was much too far above him. There was a passage that seemed to lead off to his left, but it was extremely dark, too dark to see. However, he could hear a trickle of water coming from that direction.

Moving close to the wall, he trailed his hand along it as he walked, being careful to feel for each step before he took it. He didn’t want to fall further into unknown tunnels. Following the sound of water seemed like the best idea and slowly he worked his way further and further into the darkness. After a while, he found the source of the water sound. A small trickling stream seemed to be moving at a very slight angle down the passage he traveled. Several times, he stumbled in the darkness, banging his shin on a jutting rock and after a little while, the ceiling of the cavern started to lower. In the beginning, the ceiling was maybe thirty feet above him, but after what seemed like an hour of following the stream, he banged his head on the ceiling.

“Ash and fire!” he swore.

Bringing his hand away from his head where he felt a warm wetness. It wasn’t bad, but it still flaming hurt! He would have a lump if he ever made it out of here. Stooping down, he continued down the passage, after only a short time, the ceiling lowered again and he was now crawling on all fours. And again, it lowered and he found himself crawling on his belly, the ceiling so low that he felt like he needed to turn on his back and slide along that way, but the passage was too low for that, his shoulders were too wide and he was unable to turn over. Thankfully the passage was still wide enough to afford him some room on the sides. But when the ceiling came low enough that the rock above and below scraped at his head and compressed his back, he found himself scooting to the side to try to find a higher place where he could fit through. Moving to the right along the edge of the passage found him in about an inch of water, which wouldn’t have been so bad, but pulling his mouth out of the water was difficult, given he could barely turn his head.

“If I ever get out of this place, I’m commissioning the queen to have these tunnels fully explored by cartographers. None of this scrunching into passages too small for a brown-dog to squeeze through!”

He knew the tunnel was getting smaller with every foot he moved forward. It was unsettling. He stretched his arms out in front of him, dragging himself further and further in. Should he start backing out maybe, he wondered? But how would he get out of this lower cavern? There was no climbing the walls, they were too smooth and too high. He inched forward. No one would ever hear him yelling for help, his team was the first people to be in these tunnels for thousands of years, so no one was coming to help.

Nicodemus could feel the water pooling up around his body, pushing at him as he blocked the flow. The water began to gather around his face and he realized in a sudden panic that it was impossible for him to now go back, the force of the water wouldn’t allow that. He was a cork in a shaken bottle of champagne. He was able to move forward, but it was at a snail’s pace. In the back of his mind, Nicodemus had a rather morbid, and yet at the time, comforting thought; at least he would drown, and that that would be quicker than dying of starvation below hundreds of feet of rock. He began coughing out the water that attempted to force its way into his mouth, air was harder and harder to find. He was going to die. This solid blanket of rock and water was going to be his tomb. Pure panic set into his mind and bucked his back, which wasn’t much of a movement since the ceiling was maybe two inches above it.

He recoiled this way for a moment, but the futility of the movements became an immovable object in his brain and he slowed. He only had a moment left. There was no more air, no more life to pull into himself. Only a waiting death, a realization that the end was okay, welcomed and understood. His body relaxed and he reached up his hand above his head, more to stretch somewhat in that comfort that to move forward anymore, but as he did, his hand seemed to lose the rock. His hand reached further up, but there was no rock to touch that far in front of him, just water. He realized at that moment, that if he could only feel water, then that meant the passage just several feet in front of him must widen. His mind came awake and the lack of air didn’t seem so complete or dire. A flood of energy seemed to infuse his body.

Pulling back his hand he found the lip of the passage and grasped at it, his lungs burned for air and despite there being no light, he could see spots of red flashing into the peripherals of his vision; he was going to pass out soon. With his last rage of strength, he pulled at that edge and his body suddenly birthed itself into an open pool of water. He pulled at the water and kicked at the stone beneath his feet. Then he into the open air, barely able to tread water, but gasping for breath in the sweetness of the air. After floating for a bit on his back, he worked his way to the side, hoping this underground lake was not very large.

Even Stuffies Have Scars

My daughter came to me with her stuffed bear. We referred to all stuffed animals as a “stuffy”, or the plural form, “stuffies”.  She was maybe three years old and already the bear had issues. His fur was bare in many places, rubbed off from love. The velvet of his nose was rubbed down to the plastic underneath. He had both of his eyes, but he had been hugged and drug around our house so much that his stuffing had been compressed. When I say compressed, I mean that he looked like a limp rag just out of the wash, but my daughter loved him. She loved him a lot.

We had no idea where this particular stuffy had come from. When we had our first child, many gifts came into the house from so many generous people that often, where things came from getting lost in the shuffle. However, whatever generous person got my daughter this bear may never know the impact they had on her life with that gift. Not to embarrass her, but she is currently thirteen and still sleeps with this bear. So back to the point, at the age of six, my daughter came to me and said, “Daddy, my bear is all lumpy. Can you fix him?”

I looked at the little rumpled thing, its head flopping off to one side. By all accounts, this thing should be thrown into the trash. As mentioned above, this little stuffy had been worn down the quick, in my eyes he was worth nothing more than the bin for sure. However, when I looked at my daughter, that was not an option. In her eyes, this was a precious companion; useful, needed, important, and loved. Throwing him away was not an option, giving up on him was not an option.

I took the bear in hand and looked him over. “I can restuff him,” I said. “But he is going to have a scar.” I can sew, but I can’t sew well. However, while my wife does sew, she hates doing it, so the task falls to me. I am the clear choice when it comes to these tasks. That being said, I knew the stitches would show when I was done. She agreed. I took some stuffing, a pair of scissors, and my needle and thread and got to work. I snipped open the little bear’s hip and began the process of replacing the stuffing inside. When the stuffing was complete, I sewed his hip back up. As I had warned my daughter, the stitches showed; there was a scar. Over the years, many a stuffy in our home received scars from “stuffy surgery” by my hand.

I think about this and wonder if this is how God thinks about us. We may look at someone who seems worn out, wasted, lost, and by all accounts ragged. But God, just like my daughter sees someone precious, worthy, and in need. He calls out to us to reach out and heal this person, but we reject the idea. If I get involved, I’m not going to be able to help. There will be scars. God is okay with scars. In fact, I think sometimes he uses our scars to remind us to turn back to him. He calls us to intervene in the lives of others, even if our help might produce some scars. Scars are evidence that healing has been done. They are evidence that someone cares enough to request the healing for us.

D. Michl Lowe

Roller Skating and Maturity

-The beautiful skates my wife rented-

So my wife and I recently took the kids to a roller skating rink. First off, these still exist. Secondly. The one we went to could have been mistaken for a crack den. Or at least what I assume a crack den looks like. I nearly passed it for not realizing it was the place. It was built inside what I assume is a condemned school gymnasium from 1973. You might think I am kidding. I am not. See photo below. My middle daughter brought a friend and I apologized that she would need to get a tetanus shot after coming with us to this place.

-Literally an old grade school gym-
-The entryway was only slightly flooded-
-We weren’t allowed to go up stairs apparently-
-The skate floor (old basketball court) was nice-

Anyway, this got me thinking about how much things change. When I was a kid, going to the roller skating rink was a highlight of school trips. Thinking back on it now though, sure there was the fun going going fast, but the thrill of the place was finding a girl to hold hands with during the “couples skate” time. Also, the lead up to that time, there would be a whisper campaign of friends going to ask other friends if they wanted to be your couple skate partner.

As a child, that thrill of holding hands and the build up of who it was going to be was what made that time special. We were too young for real boyfriends or girlfriends, but playing the part was exciting. I walked out on the rink today and realized the thrill of childhood newness was gone. My wife skated by me and I realized I already had my partner to hold hands with. There was no mystery or thrill in wondering who, but that was okay.

That thrill has been replaced with the maturity of a deep and meaningful relationship. One that has led to my children being born and getting to see them experience things in somewhat the same way I did as a child. There was no couple skate today, but my girls come home from middle school talking about their friends who are “dating”. Alicia and I don’t allow boyfriends until they are 16 years old. Which might sound old fashioned, but we find allowing them to focus on childhood has worked out well so far.

I have often said that my current life is my favorite time of my life. I am 40 years old this year. That being said, I said that at 35 and also at 30. At 25 and at 20. I also said it at 15, and while I might not directly remember, I’m sure I said it at 10 and 5 as well. My point is, while I appreciate my past, I am happy with my life now and am looking forward to the future.

D. Michl Lowe

Being an Author with ADD

As a writer, I am often split in my attention. While I might be talking to someone or doing a task, my brain is always going over some aspect of my book. Maybe I am considering some part of the world of the book, here recently that’s been the magic system and religions of the people there. How do those things work? Why are they the way they are? Who are the major characters which will interact with those aspects of the world? How will the plot play into these things I am thinking up? All these types of questions are constantly running back and forth in my brain. I even dream about these things. The other night, I woke up and had to grab my phone to write down parts of my dream that would play into the story.

I have been told since I was a kid that I have my head in the clouds. Every single report card I ever got in grade school said that, “Michl is a great student, very smart, but he has his head in the clouds”. I get that I was ADD as a kid (it was undiagnosed), but I think that might continue today, but with very different distractions. Sometimes my wife will talk about how I don’t listen to her sometimes when she is talking. That might be true, but sometimes I think some of those times might be me being in my own head, running through characters, plots, world building, magic, and other things. Now to be clear, this isn’t a huge problem in our marriage, Alicia and I are actually doing pretty well.

However, I wonder if other authors have the same process in their minds. I keep notes on my phone and in my computer, but these things are never ending. There are always more notes, ideas, and characters to dream up and think about. I get inspired by a lot of things and new ideas constantly come into my brain.

I was rewriting a section where one of my characters is teaching a class. I decided to have the character open up to his class about a different part of his personality that I thought would be neat to explore. The issue was, I hadn’t written out that aspect of the character yet, so for the last couple of days my brain has been running through that part of his nature. I finished writing that new section yesterday and feel good about it, but it just makes me realize how much more I need to unpack the characters beliefs.

Am I alone in being borderline obsessed with the book worlds I am creating? I feel like it’s hard to talk to people about my ideas though. Partly because I don’t want to always be talking about my books, but also because there’s a part of me that doesn’t believe my writing is good. I think every author feels that way sometimes, but it’s still something I am acutely aware of. Does anyone else have feelings like this? Let me know in the comments below.

D. Michl Lowe

Religions in the World of Pillar

As a scholar of Riggleman Manor Archives, in good standing with the scientific and religious communities of Warrington. I, Nicodemus Pandit would like to present this general summary of the religions of Pillar and Bolster Heart to the community at large. I do this in order to bring about a basic understanding of them and lead the good peoples of this world into a way of belief that suits their interests and morality. As such, here is my list of the known religious beliefs of our world.

Akolian Religion: This is the religion where peoples worship the God named Akol, often referred to by His full name Akol Ramous. In this religion, they believe that Akol is the creator of all things and that he resides in a spiritual realm called Afterlife. From this realm, he is said to rule all beings. He is said to be nearly all-powerful, and nearly all-knowing, but is not considered omnipresent. Because He is not completely powerful, His adherents believe him to be a much more personal God than the Nameless. He is closer in relation to His creations and therefore much more involved in their day-to-day lives. Often people will pray to Akol hoping to gain his favor and hoping to call his attention to their plight or issues.

It is often important for the Akolian devotees to give thanks to Akol when things go well. Akol is most often considered male, even though He is not ever depicted as having a physical body. Several examples of scriptures from the long past have been found in archives and in these Akol is referred to as male, so that is how He is most often referred to. Adherents to this religion believe that when they die, their bodies will combust into flame (that much is not debated) and then their souls will go into Afterlife (the spiritual realm) and be with Akol for all time. This is achieved through good works and following the scriptures of Akol. The Smoke of a person who dies and goes up from the flames of their consumption is what they believe carries the person’s soul to Akol in Afterlife.

Worship of the Nameless: The Nameless is a deity to which the peoples of Pillar often worship when they reject the deity or belief of Akol Ramous. The Nameless is believed to be an all-powerful deity who has yet to make themselves known but is believed to exist due to the logical nature of there being some form of causer for the beginnings and endings of all things. While there are no scriptures per se about the Nameless, there are many philosophical writings about their nature. When considering the Nameless, it is believed they are all-powerful, all-knowing, and omnipresent.

As such, they are believed to be the creator of all things and the beginning and ending of all things, including life. The Nameless is not considered male or female, but a separate type of being with no gender at all. Believers of the Nameless say that one’s actions should be governed by an internal compass of morality. As such, each person is accountable for the good they are aware of. In this way, the amount of good a person adheres to within life will determine their afterlife and the good they experience there. If they are evil, they will experience evil. If they are good, they will experience good. This is no direct place peoples go to, but just an experience they will enter after death.

Enlightenment Worship: The worship of the Enlightened beings of Pillar. The enlightened beings of Pillar and Bolster Heart are the beings with the capacity to be aware of themselves and actively think about morality and others. As such, believers in this philosophy espouse that the greatest amount of good is seeking what is good for the most enlightened beings in any given circumstance. As such, they believe that debate and argument are some of the chief ways to understand morality. When in a debate, their rationale is not to change the mind of the person they are arguing with, but to win the argument and then to influence the people hearing the argument. When the greatest number of people are influenced, they see this as the greatest and rightest form of good and morality. While this might not seem like a formal religion, but more of a philosophy, the adherents would agree with you, but still consider this their religion. They do not believe in an afterlife for enlightened beings, believing that their current life is the only life they are able to live and as such should make this life as good as they can, given it is all that there is. Because of this, they are often given to excess and hedonism as well.

Flame Adherents: This is an off-shoot religion of the Enlightenment Worshipers which was discussed above. The Flame Adherents religion is one where the peoples worship the fact that all enlightened life comes to an end in the Flame of Consumption as they call it. If you will remember, in the world of Pillar, whenever an enlightened being dies, fifteen seconds after death, their bodies burst into flame and are completely consumed by this flame until only ash remains. This is a normal end to enlightened life on Pillar and is distinct to only enlightened beings. Non-enlightened or as they are often called, “wild” beings who are not thinking and rational beings are not consumed in fire upon death.

Their corpses remain intact. They believe that because only enlightened beings are consumed in flame at the time of death, this makes those beings special in a divine sense. Many of the precepts of the Enlightenment Worship are maintained here, believing in the utmost good for the most enlightened beings, but a large difference between the two religions is the belief held by the Flame Adherents that the combustion in flame at the end of life is a signifying event that the enlightened beings will be brought into an afterlife of some sort, either good or bad.

Dragon Worship: This is the religion that exalts the worship of the Great Dragons who sleep throughout the world. There are four known Dragons who sleep within Bolster Heart and a rumored two others that sleep on top of Pillar, but no one knows where they reside. However, the people of this religion believe that one day the Dragons will awake to lead the enlightened peoples of Pillar and Bolster Heart to a promised land; a land where they will live forever with the Dragons in complete harmony.

Believers in this religion often pray to the Dragons by name, believing that they can hear them in their dreams and will cause favorable outcomes. Believers of this religion believe that upon death, they will enter an afterlife made up of the Dragon’s dreams, awaiting the time they will awaken with the Dragon and be led into the promised land with all those still alive. Upon death, they believe the Smoke from a person’s body after combustion is what transfers their soul to the Dragons.

Superior Humanism: This is a racist cult where the adherents believe that the human race is superior to all other enlightened peoples on Pillar. Races such as the Flemi (rabbit/human hybrids), Kyoten (sheep/human hybrids), and especially Brown-dogs (intellectually equal, but physically similar to wild dogs), are seen as less than the human race. This religion is not currently widely accepted in most regions of Pillar. The island country of Rathen is the only known place where this religion is openly practiced freely. As such, other races present in this country are often enslaved or outright killed in the name of Superior Humanism. 

Soulism: Throughout the world, this cult is largely seen as evil and perverse. While this cult might seem similar to Humanism, it is very different. The adherents to this religion see themselves as an offshoot of Superior Humanism. Their beliefs line up with Superior Humanism completely save for one main difference. They do not believe that other races should be enslaved, but only that they should be killed. Along with that though, they see the smoke from those deaths as something that the other enlightened races stole from humans. As such, they often slaughter numerous peoples at a time and believe that breathing in their Smoke allows them to consume those beings’ souls and therefore restore balance to the world. They do not believe in an afterlife of any kind but believe that breathing in the Smoke of other enlightened beings will bring about power, wealth, and social status to them personally.

Atheism: This is the belief that there is no such thing as God or any form of the divine. As such, people who hold to this belief allow their own moral compass to guide their actions believing their personal beliefs and morals to the guide to right and wrong. They do not believe in an afterlife of any kind.

Nicodemus Pandit, Head Librarian for Riggleman Manor Archives

Taken from Religions of Pillar and Bolster Heart, by Nicodemus Pandit, Chapter 2, Section 1, Year: NL20317

Prologue: Destruction and Awakening

This is the rough draft of the Prologue for my upcoming book, Pillar of Smoke. Some of it has been released in the past, but much of it is brand new. I like it a lot better now. Let me know what you think. Thanks for reading.

– D. Michl Lowe –

Year: NL6655

An Ash Fairy could theoretically fly as high as it wanted. There was a limit in terms of being able to breathe, but fairies were odd in that. Being they were made of pure Smoke; breathing was not as vital as one might think. The winds were still an issue, but even that was not a huge problem. Vellum was more concerned about the temperature today though, that was her biggest issue. Hot fumes seemed to waft from the side of the thing she was flying up the side of. It was odd; when the Armatites had begun burying themselves under the ground, no one knew what was going on, and then the earthquakes had started, the edge of the world had cracked and split open, and then it had begun to rise. Thousands of Fairies had been sent up to look, and see the extent of the damage, their vision being sent back to each Opus of Conception they were tied to so the users could see what they saw.

Vellum had yet to go up to survey this thing they were calling The Pillar. She had seen it from the ground though, like a mountain that continued up forever. But being up this high, she could see that it did have an end, way beyond the height of clouds. As she rose up the side of the thing, she passed through the cloud level and still continued up. It took some real time to ascend. She passed by a large hole in the side of it and looked in. She was still about a mile from the top. The outside edge here created a large lip that led to the hole in the side of The Pillar. She flew down and looked inside. The cavern was enormous, big enough that it had its own curvature, like a planet’s surface.

There were what appeared to be concentric circles of stone inside, large enough that each one could make up a country on its own. She could see many Flemi down there, all working, building. They had on breathing helmets, they would need those, since the air up this high was scarce. She constructed a Sending in her mind and transmitted it to Sellvest back on the ground, the user of her Opus. She would be monitoring this flight.

“What is this?” she Sent.

“From our spies inside, they have told us that it is mainly Flemi inside of there and they are saying it is a new country with separate states. They call the country Bolster Heart. It’s basically a cavern almost as big as the top of The Pillar. The Flemi seem to be using the outer lip of it, the one outside of the actual cavern, as farmland. We believe the rebels intend to live up there, on top and down inside that cavern,” Sellvest Sent back.

Vellum flew out of the cavern and continued up. As she crested the top edge and continued to get a sense of its scale, her estimate was that it was over seven miles high. She continued up, higher and higher. The atmosphere this high was extremely thin, she went further, the curvature of the Earth fully visible at this height. The rings were clearly visible in the sky from where the moon had been destroyed. Every couple of minutes, a meteor would streak through the atmosphere. Scientists said that would happen for some time yet. The resulting tsunami’s that had come about after that had happened several years before now were terrible. Whole cities and even countries had disappeared overnight.

As she continued up, it was then, the full extent and size of the thing became clear. She knew now why it was called The Pillar; it was perfectly circular but immense in scale. It stretched from Firbank in the southwest all the way to Haxby in the northeast. While not the full counties had been raised, in fact, they had been nearly cut in half, which was a diameter of around one thousand miles. So, the top of The Pillar comprised a mass of land over a thousand miles across and raised into the air over seven miles, like a massive plateau. Calling the thing, The Pillar made complete sense to her now.

“Are you seeing this?” she Sent.

“I am,” Sellvest replied. “Why would they do this? What advantage does it serve them? We could always just send tricopters up the side of it and attack them that way.”

Vellum nodded her head, thinking. As she was doing this, a visible vibration ran along the surface of the Pillar. She descended to get a closer look. As she watched, across the land, large towers began to rise out of the ground. Every couple of miles as far as she could see, they would rise up. They were all easily over fifteen hundred feet tall, and then came the clouds, dark and muddy, they came billowing out from these towers, spewing up into the atmosphere. Quickly the land became covered in clouds, obscuring her view of anything. As the cloud cover came to the edge of the Pillar, she realized for the first time that a large wall encircled its lip. As the clouds hit this lip, they rolled back on each other like a wave. As the land filled with cloud cover, it began to slowly cascade over the lip and fall towards the earth below, like a waterfall.

And then it came, a shocking blast. She hadn’t seen anything, but the force of it began to push her away. She couldn’t stop it. It was like a hand of electrified air was punching her repeatedly, farther, and farther out it pushed her. The effect was not only startling but immensely painful. She closed her eyes and screamed. Over and over, it assaulted her. After what seemed like an eternity, it finally stopped and she realized she was falling. It would take some time before she hit the ground of course, but opening her eyes she saw she was falling down the side of the Pillar.

She was passing the lip of Bolster Heart and briefly saw Flemi removing their helmets as a wave of clouds burst from the tunnel entrance, she had first gone in. Vents on the side also burst out streams of clouds. As soon as those clouds came out to where she was, the pain started again. Wracked in agony, her mind couldn’t take it any longer. Blackness overcame her as she continued to fall. She wasn’t afraid, being only five inches tall and only weighing a couple of ounces, she would not be hurt when she landed, but it was a long way down. The darkness then overcame her.

Three days later:

Fredrickson was no longer a peaceful country. The moon had been blown into rubble only a couple of years before this and still, the sky rained flaming rocks from its destruction. Billions had died and devastation was the state of the entire world. War was now commonplace and there wasn’t a country not invaded or invading. Everyone had lost something, be it friends, family, or homes. All because humanity had wanted to be God. The power of creation in their hands and what did they make, a new type of people. The issue was that instead of welcoming these new peoples into the brotherhood of man, they instead forced them into labor and further experiments.

These peoples had revolted against their masters and in many ways, had surpassed them. The lessons of the old world had not been learned well it seemed. The human world was united in mind, through the power of Smoke. All thoughts had melded into a hivemind of human brains, but still, there was hate. Still, there was war. Still, there was evil in the world and the burning buildings and dead all around Patsu were like marked graves for man’s ambitions. The ambitions that were even now shaking the ground he stood upon.

A spider-like leg smashed the ground not twenty paces to his left and the earth heaved in revolt, the leg sinking into the ground. The leg was that of an Armatite, a monster created not by humans, but by the new peoples. Created to upheave the world. There were millions of these creations, and as four walked past Patsu on their spindled legs, they nearly threw him to the ground. However, Patsu’s Smoke enhanced senses allowed him to remain upright, riding the waves of earth as they shifted under him. His fairy, Lince held on to its ring and attached his left shoulder. Her feminine face scowled as she looked up at the thing.

“Those things still unnerve me,” Lince said. “They’re too big and way too loud.”

Patsu nodded his head in agreement, but he was too focused on what he was planning to do next to make conversation with Lince at the moment. She was talkative but also knew when to be quiet as well and a battle was no place to be having a conversation. She was right though, the Armatites were enormous things, nearly twenty stories tall, and their bulbous heads were flared off the back, making them appear to have odd tail feathers. However, it was the legs that everyone remembered. The legs, and the clicking songs. The singing, like the howls of ghosts. It was rumored that the creators of the Armatites had used the brains of whales as a host for the structures that went into making the artificial minds of the Armatites. Specifically, sperm whales. It was horrific to think about, considering their near-extinction status, but their brains were large enough and complex enough to house the needed information. As such, the monsters sang constantly, a haunting alien song, as the lifeforms devastated the world they had been born into, like a spider that devours its mother after birth.

The creature had seven legs; long and with too many segments, they appeared almost serpentine as they walked forward toward the edge of the great wall. Their arms were like that of an octopus and could stretch for several hundred yards. At the end of their arms were three-fingered hands, large enough to grab a carriage if they chose. As they reached the edge of the wall, those hands reached out and they began to climb. They had created it, of course, the wall, or The Pillar as the news was calling it. Looking after the creature, Patsu again wondered where his partner Trance was. There had been a scuffle with a pack of those talking dogs, one of the new races of Peoples the humans had created. The human-like dogs had been one of the first hybrids to have been created. He still couldn’t believe that was a reality now.

Trance had been cut off from him in the battle, and while he had been able to escape, Trance had run the opposite way and despite him directing multiple Sendings to him, all of them had gone unanswered. He tried again. Opening himself up to the vastness of the hivemind, he searched for the marker for Trance and found it. But no matter what he said, none of the Sendings seemed to make it through to his friend.

“Still no answer from Trance,” he told Lince.

“It’s not like him to be so quiet, normally he would be Sending all the time to you. It’s odd. I can feel that something isn’t right with the Smoke today. Something is changing,” Lince said, frowning again.

The Armatite continued past them. They rarely engaged with singular combatants, only attacking if provoked. In the last week, they had really been avoidant of battle. Ever since the clouds had come down from the top of the Pillar and that electrified field had stopped any form of surveillance at the top of the Pillar, the Armatites had been acting, differently. All of them had been moving towards the Pillar and climbing it. It was as if they knew something was happening and were fleeing. It wasn’t because the humans were winning the war, that was for sure. It had been a near stalemate for years now, but they were running.

He looked again at the Pillar. Over seven miles high, it had risen out of the earth only a couple of days before this. The sides of it were still red hot from being scraped as it had slid upwards out of the crust of the earth. Satellite photos showed that it was perfectly circular in shape; most of the eastern seaboard was now seven miles into the air, but why? Tricopters screamed past him, loosing their missiles as they passed, attempting to kill the Armatites. Was kill the right word? Patsu still wondered about that, were these things a biological or mechanical creation? The line was getting blurred. It had been tried before; everything had been tried.

The humans had created the Great Beasts in direct response to the Armatites creation. It was just like this now, biological weapon after biological weapon. The Genetic War was like nothing that had ever come before. No one was even sure if the Beasts were actually alive or were just machines. They acted like intelligent creatures, they could speak, and they even appeared to occasionally eat, but they were not in any way human. They were weapons of war; nothing was clearer than that. They bled like biological creatures, but they couldn’t be called natural. Nothing about them was natural and just because you bled, these days that didn’t make you natural.

Nothing about the Armatites was natural either though. As the missiles slammed into the side of the one that had just passed over Patsu and Lince they had to shield their eyes. Even still, spots of white flashed in Patsu’s vision. The thermal blasts these weapons gave off were brighter than the sun. Opening himself up to the Smoke from the world around him, Patsu pulled at the Smoke he knew was waiting there for him. Lince began to glow as she felt him start the spell. From the trees in the nearby park, the grass beneath his feet, and even the people who were running to get away from the battle in the city below, wisps of Smoke streamed into him; white Smoke, the raw power of creation, of possibility. The Opus of Conception was open in his left hand, the pages of the book fluttering by, first one way, then the next, the words on the pages fluttering past and scrolling down; too fast to be read by normal eyes. But Patsu wasn’t reading it anyway. Lince fluttered down to land on the edge of the binding, her eyes seeming to glaze over in ecstasy from the amount of Smoke the Opus was handling. This book was a conduit for the power of the Smoke and Lince was its Fairy.

Focusing his eyes on the nearest of the Armatites, he coalesced the Smoke around him and the book. The whiteness of the Smoke focused together and formed a spear in front of his body. It was pure white, so white that it was hard to see, the light of the sky reflecting off it. The white along its shaft and blade was so reflective that it was like the surface of the sun. And then it was loosed, a cannon shot of speed as it sailed through the air towards one of the legs of the Armatite. The spear landed and the leg was cleanly severed. The being, if that’s truly what it was, faltered for a moment, the leg itself falling and crashing to the ground like a redwood, smashing homes and buildings alike. Losing one leg would not stop it. It turned toward Patsu. The single eye on the front of its body narrowed as it scanned for the source of the strike.

It wouldn’t take long, the creatures were able to sense Smoke, and a collection of it like what Patsu held was easily seen. The Armatite turned its body and began running back towards Patsu the segmented legs slamming the ground; an earthquake that moved. They were surprisingly nimble when they wanted to be. When they first appeared, people were confused when fighting them, thinking all the weight was at the top of their giant heads, but the legs were the heaviest part of the creatures. So, when they began to run, the ground shook with their gait.

The arms of the creature shot out toward Patsu, but this was not his first assault on an Armatite. Lines of transparent shielding rippled into being around him and his feet lifted off the ground. As he hovered two feet off the ground, the shield he had created would have been hard to see, save for the slight shimmer in the air, like heat rising from the pavement. The arms slammed into the invisible shield as if they had struck solid stone. The singing was deafening and Patsu was glad for the helmet he wore; the clear ceramic not only protected his head from physical damage but also blocked out much of the sounds from these things. Sounds that would deafen someone were muffled, while normal sounds came through easily. That said, some of the soldiers were still getting hearing loss. While Lince’s hearing wouldn’t be damaged, she was pure smoke, after all, it was still uncomfortable with it and held her small pointed ears.

He yelled over the sound, “Lince, will the shield hold?”

“Against those arms? A bit. But its legs, not at all!” She screamed still holding her ears. She would have known what he asked even if he had never spoken the words out loud.

The scientists who studied the Armatites said that the sound was so loud, it was reverberating up through their bodies and still reaching their inner ears, causing damage over time. The creature was coming closer the legs shaking the ground. He understood what was needed, three more spears, white as bleached paper, were already formed in from of him and he sent them. Each one slashed a separate leg and the scream that came from the Armatite was immense, it reverberated the shield, and cracks spidered along Patsu’s helm from the sheer force of the soundwave. It was only a moment, but the creature made it to him.

The great head bent down, the fluid-filled eye reflecting the fires and devastation around Patsu. It blinked, a thin layer of lubricant, oily, spread over the surface. Then, it stopped, the head snapping up and the arms pulling back towards the body. The legs extended and it pulled itself up as tall as it could, looking northeast, away from the Pillar. Patsu turned and looked toward where the creature was looking. On the horizon, the night appeared to be sweeping in. But wait, it couldn’t be night thought Patsu. He looked at his watch, it was only 4:00 p.m. way too early for the night. But a black curtain was pressing forward over the horizon.

The Armatite appeared to glance up at that curtain, then it rose, turned, and began running for the base of the Pillar, its arms extending and smashing into the stone side, clawing at it to climb up. Patsu let the shield dissolve, then he heard something off to the right. Glancing over that way, he saw Trance walk up to him, staring off at the curtain quickly making its way toward them. Trance’s fairy Roc sat in the tuffs of Trance’s hair on the top of his head. He must have lost his helm somewhere. He held a Smoke blade, the blade of the weapon nearly seven feet long and almost shining its surface was so white. He would have wielded that blade with one hand, even with the blade being almost a foot wide, but it had no significant weight. He had a bad bite mark on his left forearm and blood trickled down to his wrist, but it would heal with time. His Opus of Conception hung from a chain he wore across his chest.

“Why didn’t you answer my sending?” Patsu asked.

“I never got a sending from you. I think this blackness is something new, maybe it disrupts Sendings? Any idea what it is?” Trance asked.

Patsu shook his head. “No idea. Lince doesn’t know either. But it must be Smoke, but not like any Smoke I have ever seen. There’s too much of it and it’s black. Why is it black?”

A sending suddenly came to the back of Patsu’s mind and he glanced over at Trance, and the man turned away from Patsu, obviously getting the same message. That was an odd holdover from the handheld devices that used smoke in the past. People would turn away from others when speaking or writing on them for privacy. With internal Sending’s, privacy wasn’t needed any longer, they were all in your mind, but some habits die hard. The sending was an announcement from the Fredrickson High Command.

The message said, “Akol has gone rogue. We are no longer in control of him. He has created and launched a worldwide attack against the human nations. He is calling it The Devonian Solution. The Ministry of Smoke has created domes of shielding that should protect specific structures, but we theorize nearly everything this new Smoke touches will be dissolved if it is not natural in its state. The smoke has been weaponized and is dematerializing everything it touches unless it is natural. Be aware that when it touches you, anything in a non-natural state, will turn to dust. Human bodies should be fine, but anything else will be destroyed. It will be easy for the…” the rest of the message cut off as if the data was missing.

Patsu glanced over at Trance and the man frowned. “Devonian,” he said. “It’s like a lame joke. Akol always did enjoy metaphors. He’s referring to a time in prehistory when humans were not the dominant species on the planet.”

The black wall closed in; it was rushing across the land. There was going to be no way the two of them could get to safety. Of course, did they really need to? Beyond their gear, it wouldn’t harm them, would it? Patsu wasn’t sure, but he was well-trained and fully devoted to the cause of liberty. He would not be conquered by a bunch of genetic abnormalities!

He looked back toward Trance and shook his head considering what he had said. “No,” he said grimly. “It refers to a time when humans didn’t exist at all.”

“Patsu, I’m scared,” Lince said, alighting on his shoulder again. “If the Opus of Conception is destroyed, what will happen to me?”

Patsu felt tears sliding down his cheeks. “I don’t know Lince. I don’t know.”

She flew up and placed her hand into one of the tears. As Patsu reached up to shield his fairy, the rushing wall of blackness enveloped them. The folds of his uniform lost tension and began falling to pieces, and the cold rust of the black wind causes him to shiver. He couldn’t see anything and the rushing air was deafening. The Smoke itself was so thick, he believed he could feel it sliding past him, dissolving everything but himself. Then he felt the Opus in his hand fall away, like trying to hold water, it fell between his fingers. In only a moment, the rushing blackness was past and he stood up. Everything was gone, he stood naked on the hilltop with Trance similarly standing as well. Lince lay on the ground beside him, but she was no longer white, her luminescence was dark. Her skin was no longer white, but a dark grey, nearly black. Her wings fluttered a moment and she glanced up at Patsu. Confusion, shock, and horror came over her face. She jumped up and then flew off toward the woods.

“Lince!” Patsu screamed, but it was no use. Roc, Trance’s fairy, was flying away too, but in a different direction. It seemed that when the Opus’ were destroyed, something within the Fairies had been destroyed as well. Patsu wasn’t sure, but something within him made him believe that he would never see Lince again. Looking down towards the town that had been below them, Patsu and Trance could see that none of the buildings remained, at all. There was nothing, just piles of dust where they had been, the wind picking up the leavings and creating a hazy blur over the horizon.

“What now?” Patsu asked.

“I don’t know,” Trance replied. “Maybe we can find something to use as some clothes first. Otherwise, I have no idea.”

They both stared down at the town, already seeing people climbing out from the piles of dust where the buildings had been. Cold nakedness and fear. What would Akol do next? A Devonian era was beginning again.

Over 13,000 years later…

Year: NL20326

The clouds rolled out of the vent pipes at the top of the cavern that was Bolster Heart. A great country that resided within the enormity of Pillar which was a separated and elevated world and the creation of Akol, God of the World, from the beginning of time. These clouds happened every morning and throughout the day, and as a result, it rained often. There was even lightning inside the cavern, and the clouds did reflect the lights from below, which helped with the general dimness of the place. As was normal, the mist had fallen low to cover the streets and the lantern lights along the paving stones had made a milky light that obscured the view more than enhanced it.

Thistlewart Mink, a stubby little fellow of a Flemi, was shuffling along down the sidewalk towards his job at the Bondwarden Keep, a prison of sorts. He was often teased. His neighbor at the boarding house would often flip off Thistlewart’s hat as he passed him in the hall, or tug at his irregular ears. Thistlewart was not an intelligent, clean, or even that likable a Flemi and was often looked down upon and made fun of for a myriad of things.

His room at the boarding house was a closet-sized hole with barely enough space for a cot and he shared the single sink washroom with about thirty other Flemi, there was no toilet, and the only one of those was two blocks away. They were rarely used anyway and only the richest Flemi had them where they lived. He had tried to get close to one of his neighbors once, an attractive female Flemi named Nass. She had perfectly smooth fur around her eyes and her ears were always tied back with a blue ribbon, but she was quick to laugh at him and make fun of him as well. He had cried himself to sleep that night.

His job, as it was, was mopping up the seepage from the center block of the prison. Every day, he walked the half-a-mile stretch down the boulevard, dodging the other people’s pushing carts or hauling goods on their backs, to the outskirts of the southeastern edge of Skalholt Prefecture, where many of the down-and-out Flemi lived.

While it might have been the center of all of Bolster Heart, Skalholt was also the place the poor lived. The good King Pompi had tried to solve homelessness and poverty by providing cheap one-room housing in Skalholt Prefecture, but it had just resulted in a rise in crime and other unfavorable situations. However, while Thistlewart may not have been the smartest Flemi, he was willing to work and although it wasn’t much, he got by. Truthfully though, unlike many of the top countries of Pillar, debt labor was illegal in Bolster Heart, but the ways in which the workers were paid, made it almost the same thing. In any given area, the workers were often paid in wooden chits that the companies around that area used as currency. So, whenever a worker was paid, they basically had to shop at a store owned by the very people that were paying their wage. The control of wages in chits was a way for the corporations to basically have debt labor. Everyone knew this, but there wasn’t much they could do to change it.

Muttering to himself, he passed the bakery on the corner and smelled the fresh rolls that the baker had just put out. He had stolen one of those rolls once when the baker’s wife had brought out a pan of them to place out front and left them unguarded for a moment. He had felt a little guilty about that, but it was honestly one of the best days he had ever had. It was much better than the tough biscuits the breadline gave out. You had to soak them for quite a while before they were even edible. As such, it was soggy on the outside and still rock on the inside, not pleasant. But the roll from Victor’s Bakery was just about the best thing he had ever eaten, even if he had done it in an alley, scared that he would be discovered.

As he came into the temple block, he was taken again by how much it didn’t remind him of an actual prison. There were prisons for the Flemi who committed crimes of course, but this was nothing like those, this looked, for all the world like a grand temple, and, that’s exactly what it was, but it was also a prison and Flemi referred to it both ways. It was said that this prison held one of the Great Beasts, legendary creatures that came from the time of creation. Of course, Thistlewart didn’t know much about any of that, he was just happy to have a job. It paid for his room and the stops in the breadlines, but not much else. Still, what was a Flemi to do?

As walked through the large iron gates that surrounded the building, one of the trucks nearly ran him over, “Out of the way, you flaming ash heap!” a man from the cab yelled and Thistlewart jumped to the side. The man wore a ripped tweed ivy cap with his ears pulled back behind it, a common way to get the long ears of a male Flemi out of the way, he spat out the window as the truck moved on through the gate, its fog lights bright.

Lady Flemi tended to tie their ears back with ribbons or a kerchief. Thistlewart’s long ears dangled into his face often, their edges clipped and nicked from the years he had worked in the automobile factory. The machines were always taking bites out of the worker’s ears. He had lost that job when one of them had caught his leg and nearly tore it off. He had recovered, but he wasn’t able to run from machine to machine any longer, so they had let him go.

Bum leg or not, Thistlewart was late today and while the Flemi were typically thought of as punctual, it was just a stereotype. The thought may have come from the fact that the Flemi resembled rabbits, their long fur-covered ears often being long enough to rest on their shoulders and their pronounced whiskered faces were a complete mimic of the animal. But of course, their bodies were much more like a human’s body, only covered in fur.

In literature, rabbits were always thought to carry pocket watches and always be on time, but still. Even as that thought skittered through his mind, Thistlewart looked up at the large inlaid clock on the outside of the main temple prison’s stone-worked facade, 9:09 a.m. He might be a little later than he originally thought. Nothing genetically gave them a greater sense of time or reliability. As it was though, he picked up the pace.

“You’re late Wart,” his manager Mr. Ruffle said, as he walked into the little office that held the equipment he would need for the day’s work.

He punched in on the time clock. Everyone at work called him Wart. A thistlewart was a relatively common flower on the cliffs of Husavik and his mother loved it, thus his name, but he was resentful of it, always. Mr. Ruffle was always mean to him.

“Sorry sir,” he mumbled and walked to the closet in the back room. “I’ll try to be on time tomorrow, this old leg of mine is acting up again. I’ll do better.”

“See that it doesn’t,” Mr. Ruffle grumbled. “I got a whole city full of little pukes just like you that I can fill your spot with. You remember that!”

“Yes sir. I will sir, thank you, sir.”

Someday he would make that man pay. He didn’t know how, or in what way, but he would make him pay. Always yelling, always critical, always a bully. He grabbed the tunic that he was required to wear over his trousers and button-down, then belted on the little tool belt over it.

“Hey, I’m gonna need you to go into the dome room today and manage the valves in there.” Mr. Ruffle said.

“The dome room? I’ve never been in there sir. That’s usually Calbert’s job,” he said. Was Calbert, okay?

“Yeah, well Calbert got canned for messing about and not doing his job. So even though you’re a pitiful excuse for an employee, let’s see how you do with this one, an important job. Just don’t go messing around with the dome itself or staring in at that monstrosity inside, it’ll give you nightmares for sure.”

Maybe Mr. Ruffle was just rough with everybody?

“No sir, I won’t sir. Thank you, sir. I won’t let you down sir,” he stammered a flush rising in his cheeks.

Maybe this was his chance to show everyone that he wasn’t a screwup. He could get things done. Maybe a pay raise would come with this.

“Well?” Mr. Ruffle said. “Get to it then!” “Yes sir!”

He rushed as fast as he could down the hall from the main passage. He took a doorway to the left. He came to a large steel door, that would lead him down to the dome. The door was massive, easily twenty feet tall, and carved all over with images of the Beasts. Mr. Ruffle was right, seeing one of these would give him nightmares for sure. It had to be that large, of course, to get the occupant of the room inside. It would have taken a door that size for sure. He stepped to the side of the door to a smaller one, this one designed specifically for Flemi. Opening this smaller door, he stepped through into the chamber beyond. These places were nearly all the same. Ratcheting the locks and door bolts back was second nature for him by now, the whole temple was full of these types of doors.

He closed the door but pulled out the small lamp he kept on his belt, so he could see somewhat.

Walking over to the valves on the side of the room he began cranking the wheel to start the motors running so the dim lights would blink on, then he could see the remaining valves and levers that needed adjusting just above him, the rest of the room remained dark while the system booted up. He stepped on a wet spot on the floor, a common thing.

“Dang, the valves must be leaking,” he said to himself.

These systems were always springing leaks and needing to be replaced or fixed. He wasn’t sure how long the whole system would last and with Calbert slacking off, who knew what all could be breaking down in this area.

The system had made it this far though, so he suspected it might last another couple thousand years before smarter Flemi than he would have to fully fix the system. He noticed the liquid he had stepped in was black and little boot prints were leading to where he now stood. He adjusted his tunic. Luckily the Beast within this place was one of the sleepers. All the known Beasts were asleep, but this one was different. While the Flemi didn’t like to say his name, Thistlewart had heard it mentioned several times and of course, had learned it in school when he was a boy.

This sleeper was Dumont, a Beast many said was equal to the leader of the Beasts and arguably the whole world, Ashlynn. She was said to be beautiful, elegant, and kind, while he was said to be dark and supremely cruel. All the beasts save for Ashlynn had been terrible when they were first created, but Ashlynn had tamed them all, save for Dumont, it was said he was untamable and too powerful to bend to Ashlynn’s will. But none of that mattered to Thistlewart, because the Beasts were all asleep and any good or bad, they might represent was locked sleeping away in each of their temples, including Dumont in the one he stood in now.

He twisted a wheel on the wall and it creaked slowly, the hum of the engines within the walls began to give off a sickly-sweet smell that he wasn’t used to smelling. The lights farther in were switching on now as he turned around and he nearly fell back. In the brightness of the now fully lit lamps around the hall, he saw the sleeper’s chamber, a dome the size of a small house, but several of the cords connecting it to the machines within the temple were hanging loose, black fluid dripping from their dangling ends.

He hobbled over to the window of the dome. The metal door was Flemi sized and he wondered how the beast could have gotten into the dome. Even though Mr. Ruffle had warned him not to look in, he stood on his toes to do just that. The sleeper’s chest was still rising and falling as it should have been. Dumont was a great creature indeed, easily the size of a small truck. His long neck was covered in hair, but thick, like quills. His head resembled a horse, but the teeth that jutted from their sides reminded Thistlewart of the pictures he had seen of the animals called alligators. His body was covered in a thick short blueish black fir, and his tail again reminded Thistlewart of an alligator, but much longer and thinner towards the tip.

He had wings like an eagle that were folded along his back, but they were limp and brushing the floor. There was more of the black liquid here and it was pooling around the creature. Its wings appeared to be edging into that liquid, staining their bluish tips black as it seeped up into the plumage. He started for the main door, ready to rush back out to the main hall, to let Mr. Ruffle know about the problem and he thought that the Counsel of Three or even King Pompi would want to know about this, it was serious business! A problem with the dome that kept Dumont sleeping was a big deal. He might even wake up and what would that mean Thistlewart wondered. It wouldn’t be good, that was for sure.

As he was beginning to turn from the dome, a smell of burning metal seemed to waft toward him. It took him by surprise, that he could smell it. In Bolster Heart, that smell was common with all the machines around, but that is why it surprised him, he was used to it and this was a much more pungent version of that smell.

“Would it not be nice, if your boss was nicer to you?” The voice was soft-spoken but deep and sonorous.

It was almost as if someone was down the hall speaking to him, or speaking up from the bottom of a barrel.

“Who?” Thistlewart began. “Who is this? Who’s there?”

 He looked around the room, but there was no one, only himself. There was a drip, drip, drip from the leaking valve. Maybe he had just imagined the voice.

“I can make him nicer to you. I could do even more than that for you. How would you like to run this entire facility? I could do that. I’m willing to. I am a very generous person.”

The voice tickled the back of his mind and he looked around again. It was closer now; he was sure of it. Clearer too.

“Seriously, who are you? Where are you?” he asked again, turning in circles now. “Is that you Brontly? Are you playing your tricks again?”

He was getting a little dizzy now, it felt like he was breathing in a mist.

“My dearest Thistlewart, you have lived such a difficult life. You still do. You are disrespected at your work, ignored where you live, and you have not even touched a female in years. You are alone and sad.”

The voice was empathetic and kind. This person cared for Thistlewart; he knew that. He could feel the emotion of it, even taste it, if that was possible. He was sure it was.

“Friend, I know what it is like to be alone. I too have been alone for so long. You and I are greatly alike, the same really,” the voice said.

Thistlewart felt hot tears sliding down the fur on his cheeks and he wiped his eyes, he hadn’t even realized he was crying until he had felt them. The sadness of his life was weighing upon him now, but he wasn’t sure why. What had happened? All he knew was that this voice cared about him and loved him. It had always loved him, how had he not known that before?

“I can help you, friend. I can bring you peace and happiness. I just need something from you first. A simple thing. Nothing of consequence at all. Will you do this simple thing for me?” the voice cooed, there was a trail of white Smoke slowly curling up out of a place where one of the hoses had been attached to the dome.

He thought maybe the acrid smell was coming from that, he really should get help to fix that issue… what was the issue again? Thistlewart walked slowly back towards the window. The dome’s slanting metal sides were glistening with perspiration as if the inside of the dome was cold. He pushed up on his tiptoes and looked again through the little window in the barred door. The beast was still inside, still not moving, but white Smoke curled from its nostrils and was slowly filling the top of the chamber within.

“Are you… the one talking to me?” Thistlewart asked, a little scared of the answer he might get.

“I am,” the voice said. “And I am not what you have heard about. Do I sound as if I am a bad creature? Do my words sound as if I am ready to bring about doom and dread? Just like you, people have spread nasty rumors about me and it is all lies! All of it. Lies. You believe me do you not?”

The voice was calming. He slid down the door and sat back on his haunches, considering, and thinking. It was all so obvious to him now, as it always should have been. He was embarrassed it had taken him this long to realize the truth about this creature.

“So, you aren’t evil, like they say?” he asked, already knowing the answer.

It was obvious.

“Do I sound evil to you? I want to help you, but I can only do that if you first help me. That is fair, is it not? That I would help you if you first would help me. You wish to be fair, do you not?”

Thistlewart did want to be fair. Wouldn’t that make the world a better place, if everything was fair? He thought. So many things in his life were unfair. It was unfair that he had to live where he did, that he got paid for what he did, and that no one liked him. It was all so unfair. Well, he would be fair, if it was the last thing he could do, he would be fair!

“I know you have been treated unfairly your whole life. The God so many would pray to does not even provide enough money for you to live on.”

The voice was sympathetic.

“You know, I could even heal your leg, and make you whole again. I can make Nass love you if that is something you would want. I can do great things Thistlewart and I am willing to do those great things if you do but one small thing for me… you must release the rest of those cables from this dome.”

Thistlewart nodded. It all made sense.

Ten minutes later:

Tolden Ruffle came into the heart of the temple after hearing the squeal of ripping metal. Everyone in the building came running in. People would have heard it for miles. He had to push through the throng of Flemi that crowded into the doorway leading to where the dome was located. When he had pushed his way in, he stopped, bent over, and nearly lost his footing. The dome looked like the petals of a flower, peeled back, and opened. Inside, it was empty.

The pipes and cables which normally connected to the dome were hanging from their ceiling mounts, the connectors not torn away, but neatly disconnected. The black liquid that had kept Dumont sleeping for as long as anyone could remember was pouring out onto the floor. In the middle of that pool were the ashes of what had been Thistlewart Mink, the small pile soaking into the black and disappearing. Tolden nearly vomited right there. He reached over to steady himself on his friend Monty who had just walked up and stood beside him.

“The fool,” Monty said, shaking his head. “He’s doomed us all, he has.”

Tolden Ruffle merely nodded his head. Doomed us all indeed he thought and tears began cascading down his cheeks.

A Brief History of Pillar and the Genetic Wars

Dates on historical Earth and the History of Genetic Hybrids:

Around the turn of the millennium of 6000 AD, humanity decided to change from the use of an AD (often seen as Anno Domini) to the new moniker of NL, which stood for New Life. It was around this time that artificial AI constructs were finally seen to pass the Turing Test and were seen as primarily sentient. This enhancement provided the world with a new form of intelligent life. This was further concreted into the mindset of the peoples of this age when it was 6500 NL, with the help of AI, humans were able to achieve new forms of intelligent biological life. Since the initial experiments were conducted on Animals, these creatures were the first to be seen as a new form of intelligent life. This is where we get animals that in appearance seem like normal animals, but have been given genetic enhancements to increase intelligence and often dexterity for speech and movement. This is why a Brown-dog may appear like a normal dog, but in fact has human-level intelligence, much more dexterity in facial and verbal apparatuses, and even enhanced joint movement in its legs and feet which allow them to function in many human-like ways.

In fact, Brown-dogs were the very first mass-produced genetic hybrid animal humans which were ever made. Soon after though, many more creatures were created that conform to a more human-like stature. We see this in the creatures called Flemi, a name they chose for themselves. Similar creations were the Mangalit, the Kyoten, and the Canidaen. These creatures are more human and less animal but retain many of the similar features of their animal ancestors. As such, they can sometimes even be confused with being human if seen from a distance.

Historical Smoke and the Genetic Wars:

From about NL6500 – NL6655, Smoke operated in a very different fashion as to how it operates at the current moment in time of NL20327. Historically, in the beginning, Smoke was only used for communication purposes. Humans would breathe in smoke, which would bind itself into their brain matter and then wirelessly communicate with other smoke particles outside of the human host’s body. In this way, humans were able to communicate with each other via their minds alone. This created a voluntary hivemind for humanity and pushed human technology beyond anything it had ever achieved in the past. This led to large advancements in science and the understanding of the human brain and its full capability. Because humans had access to all known human knowledge at a thought, the full extent of human knowledge became accessible to each person.

Because the access was near instantaneous, that knowledge became nearly indistinguishable from a person’s own knowledge. Many humans were unable to deal with this degree of freedom and quantity of knowledge. Some of them retreated into the vast sea of information, using stasis pods to keep them alive for as long as possible, but allowing them to live within that information. Others merely went mad and ended their own lives. Smoke can self-replicate using a physical medium to create new Smoke. This medium can be nearly anything, but it prefers biological mass. The process is similar to how DNA creates proteins. During the Genetic Wars of NL6650 – NL6655 the AI construct known as Akol lashed out at his human creators by siding with the genetic hybrids. At first, this defiance came in the form of helping the hybrids to organize a resistance, but in time, when established bases of power in the eastern mountain ranges, mostly housed in old mines, Akol was able to create the Armatites. With the power of the Armatites, Akol was able to create havoc on Earth, even going so far as to have them create the Pillar, which would separate Akol’s chosen kingdom from the rest of the world and prevent them from ever entering said kingdom.

However, the humans responded by creating the Beasts. These creatures, not fully biological and not fully synthetic, were able to begin to turn the tide of the war. That is until Akol was able to create his own Beast, which was able to infect the others with a virus that caused them to go into a hibernation of sorts. As such, the beasts were nullified and sealed away within Akol’s kingdom of Pillar, but he wasn’t done. To make sure the human countries of the world could not retaliate and find a way to enter Pillar, Akol instituted the release of a worldwide Devonian Solution. This involved Akol weaponizing the Smoke which permeated the entire Earth at this time. The smoke was called on to dismantle any molecular structure which was not in its natural state. So, anything that was modified from its natural state was turned to dust. As soon as this began to happen, the humans devised a way to block small areas of land from its effect, saving certain landmarks and buildings and everything within them. Still, every other structure, technology, knowledge, and even the Smoke itself became largely inert.

Around the world, buildings crumbled to dust, paved roads turned to sand, libraries crumbled into piles of dust, and even the clothes people wore fell from their bodies and turned to dust as a wave of black Smoke passed over them. In this way, Akol reverted the human world back to an age with no technology and no human advancement. Smoke was forever changed as well. No longer was it able to connect the minds of humans. No longer were the great feats of magic and advancement available to everyone in the world. Not only had the Devonian Solution affected the World at large, but also Pillar as well. The peoples which were now permanently isolated from the rest of the world had been reduced as well, a stroke from Akol meant to cleanse the entire world of the destructive power of technology had stopped the war, but also sent all enlightened beings back to a simpler time. However, time has a way of marching on. The peoples of the world forgot the wars of the past. Without physical markers, some peoples worked to record history, but much of it was lost. And so, life moved on. Peoples married and had children together and created families. New villages, cities, and countries rose and fell. In time, even the idea of the AI creature Akol was lost and replaced with a more deified idea of what Akol was and currently is. The Smoke was reverted to just a way for enlightened peoples to not leave behind a body and then to have their memories scanned by the smoke and carried to an afterlife of sorts housed deep within the Earth. And so Akolism was born as a religion and Akol was worshiped as a God.

Victorian Lankford, Lead Historian for The Historical State Archives in Fredrickson

Taken from The Histories of the Lost, by John Ericson, Chapter 31, Section 2, Year: NL6660

Smoke, Magic, and Books in the World of Pillar

Smoke and Magic:

In Warrington and the other countries that make up Pillar, Smoke when capitalized and spoken of in reverent tones should not be confused with a common substance coming from a common camping fire. When referred to most often on Pillar, Smoke is referring to a substance that is present in nearly all permeable things in the world. However, depending on what the thing is, Smoke reacts differently with that thing. Even within larger subsets of things, like biological life, Smoke appears to function differently within each of them. As an example, within Enlightened beings, such as Humans, Brown Dogs, Flemi, and other Enlightened Races; it is understood that Smoke causes those beings to combust and self-cremate fifteen seconds after their death. However, in non-Enlightened biological creatures, while it is believed they contain Smoke, just like Enlightened beings, they do not combust upon death. Smoke is present in plants and even within microorganisms within soil. However, so far as can be understood, Smoke has no effect on these things. Smoke does not appear to be in inorganic objects like rocks, metals, or actual soil. However, since smoke can travel in the air, it does appear to be in a small concentration in air and water. Smoke should not be confused with normal smoke as when a person burns wood or paper or other things. The Smoke within a person is different from naturally occurring burning smoke. Not only do they smell different, but they appear different as well.

Smoke from a fire can have an acrid smell depending on what is burning and chokes a person who breathes it in. However, Smoke from within a biological thing is not acrid smelling at all. It is hard to distinguish between the two Smokes when, for example, a plant is burned since both types are produced, but when a human is combusted, there is no smell at all. In fact, scientists have done experiments with this Smoke and it is possible for a person to breathe this Smoke normally as if it were normal air. Religious communities condemned this scientific experiment when it was conducted, however, given that most religions believe that a person’s Smoke is akin to their soul. So, it is believed that breathing in a person’s soul was sacrilege in some way. As such, few other experiments were done on the subject. However, what is without contest is that normal burning smoke and Soul Smoke are two different things, both by smell and by how they behave.

To speak to differences in behavior, Smoke is often seen as aware in some sense. Because of its apparent ability to understand when an Enlightened being has died and then it is believed that the Smoke itself is what causes combustion within enlightened beings, to some degree, the Smoke appears to understand when this happens and then to also react with combustion upon realizing this. It also appears that while Smoke does inhabit plants and none-enlightened creatures, it does understand to not combust those. As such, Smoke has some form of awareness.

While it is not widely understood or common knowledge in any sense, Smoke is also able to power certain devices and allow certain devices and/or persons to achieve certain outcomes depending on the circumstance. More on this topic in the Section below on Magic Books and the connection to the Smoke and the section entitled The Beasts and Smoke.


Upon the death of an enlightened being, fifteen seconds after death to be precise said being’s flesh will be consumed in fire. However, the fire is never large enough or frenzied enough to catch on to other things or people around them. Often, even the person’s clothing is largely unburned. It is recommended that if a person combusts while another person is touching them, they withdraw to several feet away, just for general safety, but honestly, physicians usually regard this as unneeded since the fire is very inward directing and largely safe. There has never been a report to the local fire authorities about a structure catching fire due to combustion. As far as is known, only enlightened biological creatures combust.

Magic Books and the connection to Smoke:

While there are traditional books within the World of Pillar there are other books that do not function like normal books. These are known as the Opus and Opuscula books, and while there are many Opuscula known to exist, the full scale of how many there are is not known. Specifically, the Opus and Opuscula books use Smoke to achieve something. The pages of these books are known to change. The words often scroll across the pages or change outright. There are limited pages in the books, but the knowledge contained in the books is not limited to what is currently on any one or all the pages. The books often rewrite the pages within them, depending on the needs of the user.

Many of these books are locked. Often, metal brackets and locks keep these books closed until a key is used to open them. This can be a physical key or some other form of device or word that can unlock the pages within. Until the book is opened, only limited options are available for the user. Verbal commands are often used by the books themselves to interact with the users. This is not to imply that the books are sentient, merely that interacting with these texts can take place in a verbal manner. The user is required to speak, but the books themselves can speak directly into the minds of the users if that user should so desire. Asking for information or for specific text to be displayed on a page is just some of the reasons verbal commands may be needed.

Opus Books use Smoke to achieve whatever they do. The initial interaction with a book, specifically when a book is closed, will utilize the user’s personal Smoke to create additional Smoke to create an effect. Even something as simple as awakening the book, bringing up knowledge on the pages, or having an Ash Fairy verbally presenting knowledge will draw power from the user’s body. The Smoke of the person will then the book will utilize personal nutrients to accomplish its functions. When the person has used all their personal nutrients in their body, the book will prompt the person to transfer use of the book to another person so that their nutrients may be used. If the answer is yes, the book will begin using any nutrients within that user to create new Smoke for utilization.

If the person goes further in using the book to accomplish tasks and the user’s nutrients are used up, the book will then warn the user that these stores have been used up. If the user attempts to continue, the book will warn them that continuing could result in physical harm, and then ask if the person wants to utilize vital biological stores. If the answer is yes, then the book will begin to utilize the person’s fat within their body to be converted to Smoke to continue accomplishing tasks. If the user continues beyond this, the book will again warn the user and upon obtaining permission, the book will begin using the user’s musculature and internal physical structures to create Smoke to accomplish the tasks asked of it, even to the point of the death of the user.

Depending on the task presented to the book, the book may or may not be able to accomplish the task asked of it, depending on if the data is available to it within one of its chapters. As an example: Nicodemus’ obtains an Opus underneath Riggleman Manor and it is an Opus of Conception, but specifically only contains chapters on Cooking. Since the book is locked, and only has access to minor cooking spells, he can accomplish only a couple of things;

  • Create a jet of steam, reaching a maximum of 6 ft.
  • Set a small fire, like striking a match.
  • Create a small jet of fire, reaching a maximum of 6 ft.
  • Conjure a chef knife, as hard as a diamond and much stronger than a steel knife of similar make. 
  • Conjure a stream of water, as if from a garden hose.
  • Heat something, like how a stove might heat a pot.
  • The book can also dictate numerous recipes.

Currently Known Types of Opus Books:

Opus Quotidian: These are general texts with the purpose of providing limited knowledge. They function as a real book might, but the pages are non-permanent in the sense that the words can change. There are many of these known to exist, but many of them have also been lost. They range in size and scope of the content.

Opus of Fate: These books provide a generalized understanding of possible futures and how to obtain those futures. It does this based on probability models of known events and situations. As a user of this book journeys with it, it will gather data about the user and the world and circumstances around said user, and its predictions can become more accurate. However, outside forces and unknown circumstances can create unforeseeable outcomes or randomized outcomes. Use with a degree of caution. Nothing said by an Opus of Fate should be taken as complete truth.

Opus of Conception: These texts allow a person to connect to the Smoke in the world around them and through the book, they can manifest certain abilities and functions. Smoke is the substance that allows everything to function and enables the forms of manipulation of reality we see when people use an Opus of Conception to create spells. Opus of Conceptions only have certain “chapters” in them. While closed they only have limited access to those chapters. Like a guest account on a computer. Additional chapters can be added once a book is opened, and when placed in a Mammon Engine and the proper chapters are available within the memory of that Mammon Engine. Only certain chapters are available at each Mammon Engine.

Fixed Opus Books:

Some of these books are directly connected to machines within the world and cannot be removed from these machines. Normally one would see them either directly connected to the machine or near the machine affixed to a pedestal of some kind. They operate as a control for the machine.

Opus of the Eternal: The ultimate book. This book has a direct Smoke connection to the Eternal Information. As such, not only does it allow access to all known knowledge, but also access to all known power as well. However, knowing of power does not guarantee unlimited power, since the power is still limited by the abilities of Smoke itself.

The Beasts and Smoke:

The Beasts of Legend are synthetic biological creations. Originally, they were created to combat the threat of the Armatites; large ten-story creatures genetically engineered to combat humanity and to create Pillar. The Beasts are several tons in weight and including the length of their tail, are said to be around 100 feet in length. They have long necks and large heads. Their bodies are covered in a layer of soft down, interspersed with feathers. They have wings that are also covered in feathers and appear like the wings of large birds of prey. Their heads are often described as a dog’s and/or horse’s head combined. They have four legs and the feet of each leg are dexterous, like the hands of a human. Their tails make up the bulk of their length and are prehensile. Some have been seen to have horns or spikes around their necks that protrude backward toward their tails.

The Beasts are mentioned here because they also contain a different form of Smoke than what is normally observed. Beasts can manipulate Smoke to create effects much in the same way that an Opus of Conception does, but instead of drawing in Smoke or using their own Smoke to create effects, it appears as if the Beasts are able to change Smoke into a different form. As such, whenever it has been observed, the Smoke which Beasts use is white instead of black. It is hypothesized that this form of smoke has unique and yet unknown properties when compared to Smoke in other situations. There are rumors of other synthetic beings as well which possess similar abilities to those shown in the Beasts. These rumors however are largely exaggerated and most certainly untrue.

Known limits on Smoke Magic:

  1. Ordinary people can only use smoke magic if they have a proper channeling device; IE: an Opus.
  2. The smoke within a person is limited and in the cases of enlightened beings, required for life. As such, an enlightened person may not get rid of their smoke without causing death in said person. Additional smoke will be created within the person by use of nutrients first, body fat second, and finally the vital structures and organs of the body itself; even to the point of the death of the individual if said individual pushes the use of smoke to that limit.
  3. The use of an Opus is limited to what chapters are available within said Opus. An opus without a chapter on the creation and use of fire will be unable to produce said effect.
  4. Use of smoke by a book that has not been cleansed, will not pull smoke from the person, it will use the person’s personal smoke to consume their body in the creation of additional smoke.
  5. Use of smoke to the point of allowing the Smoke to cannibalize your physical body will result in several physical signs that it is destroying your body. Over time, the following physical symptoms will result; hair loss, slow wound healing, frequent sickness due to loss of immune functions, dry and/or rough skin, easy bruising, swollen gums, depression, muscle pain, night blindness, infertility, and blood clots under the fingernails. As such, continued use of Smoke in this fashion will result in permanent damage to the body or in extreme cases, death.

Ash Fairies and their Connection to the use of Smoke:

Ash Fairies are semi-intelligent entities that are somewhat common throughout Pillar. However, it is a well-known fact that a single white Ash Fairy will always be with a Beast. It is not always visible, but they are frequently seen alongside them. Also, users of Opus Books are also known to attract a singular Ash Fairy. However, their Fairies tend to be black or grey in color. Opus users have stated the Ash Fairy works as an intermediary between the book and the user, providing verbal and/or mind communication to the user. Synthetic humans like Christoph are followed by a white Fairy as well. Ash Fairies allow Christoph to access certain abilities he would be unable to use otherwise.

Ash Fairies and Summoning:

Ash Fairies are sometimes connected to an entity within Afterlife. These entities are dormant until called upon by a fairy to be used. In this case, the fairy then takes on the aspect of this entity and in essence, becomes this entity in the physical world. These entities often take the forms of elemental demi-gods, but can only remain in the physical world for a short period of time as their physical structure is made up of only Smoke.

Nicodemus Pandit, Head Librarian for Riggleman Manor Archives

Taken from On Smoke and Magic, by Nicodemus Pandit, Chapter 6, Section 3, Year: NL20317

I am Fragile and Vulnerable

I was recently asked to give a talk with a reading group through our church about my book, Prayers from the Valley. They are going to be reading it soon and in February I am supposed to go speak about it. I have struggled with that. What should I talk about that I haven’t already said in the book? For me, writing the book was spiritually cleansing and maybe a form of therapy. I was recently reading a website post from Steve Laube a literary agent whom I have sent purposed books in the past.

In the article, he talks about how books about sick kids or their parents are often not published because those books are so common. Many people write books after such experiences and if every one of them was published by a major publishing company, then the market would be flooded. This makes sense. Basically, if you aren’t already established as an author, have a large reading base, or are famous, that form of a book just won’t sell well. It also makes sense why my book was (kindly) rejected by his firm.

However, in that article, he also said that you should write the book anyway. Specifically for the reason’s I listed above. For those of us who write, writing is a way to process life. Be it through poetry (not me, hahaha), fiction, non-fiction, or just a journal, the process of placing words on a page creates a meaningful understanding of the life and ideas presented. In my book, I needed to process the spiritual implications that I don’t have everything figured out. That I am not the one in control. That God is NEEDED in my life. Basically, I am vulnerable and still in need of God.

The other day in church, I felt the spiritual need to stand up and testify to the congregation. I told them, that I wanted to tell them what I was thankful for. What I said, in short, was that I was thankful for our church for serving the church community and the community at large in South Charleston, WV. Specifically, I am thinking about the ways in which our church becomes “Jesus with skin on.” I have looked, but I can’t find where that phrase comes from. I know it’s a reference to John 1, where it says, “he became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” But other than that, I’m still not sure. However, my church does this well.

Just over the course of the last two years, in our church and many other places, there has been extreme loss and pain. We nearly lost Katarina and many in our church and many connected to our church did lose their lives. Each time, the family of God stood up and entered into life with those still here. They prayed, they loved, and they were there. I am thankful for the community of God that is Jesus with skin on for those who need Jesus.

Over the last two years, I have learned that I need Jesus, not just as my spiritual heavenly father, but I need Him in the form of other believers. I need that Jesus with skin on, to enter into my life and hold me at times. Realizing this, I have found myself taking on that role as well. Looking for ways to be Jesus with skin on for others. How can I hold the lost and lonely? How can I enter into life and be with the hurting and the hateful? Sometimes I find myself frustrated with someone or feeling betrayed and I suddenly think, how can I show this person love? How can I be Jesus with skin on for this person?

Am I vulnerable? Yes, absolutely yes. Am I frail? I am. Does that position me to be vulnerable to others’ pain? Yes, thankfully, yes.

D. Michl Lowe

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I Saved Over The Book I’m Writing! 😳

At the beginning of the week, I deleted my book. Well, to be clearer, I saved over it in Microsoft Word. As soon as it happened, I realized the error. Hours later, I couldn’t get it back. The whole thing was seemingly gone. I paced back and forth, extremely upset. It wasn’t anger at the computer or really anything other than anger at myself. It was my mistake. I thought that OneDrive had been backing up my documents for me, but it hadn’t. If I were a man who cursed, there would have been cursing.

After a while, I remembered I had uploaded a version of the book to Amazon as a test a while back. I logged in and downloaded the document. It was mostly complete, save for about two of the newest chapters and hours of editing. Another issue was that the document was not in Word, it was a PDF version. I can convert a PDF to Word, that’s not an issue, but the formatting would be all off, which it was. So, in the end, I had to take my blank book format and recopy the PDF page by page into the blank book document formatted how I do my books.

This entire week, I have been working on and off trying to get myself back to where I was on the project. Currently, I am working on the last chapter that I had deleted. Most of the edits have been re-completed now. While I was at it, I also did some major formatting that I had been meaning to do anyway. Since I was going page by page, I might as well get that done while I was at it. Near the beginning of the week, I sent my author friend Justin Crary, author of Archangel, a message detailing what had happened. He replied, “Look at it this way, what you write now will inevitably be better and if God intended it to happen, it will be exponentially better. Heck, even if He didn’t intend for it to happen. He works all things for good.”

I sent a message back to him, “-glare- there you go, bringing spiritual truth into my anger…” But he was right of course. As I am working on this last chapter of the book that I deleted, I already can tell it’s better. The narrative isn’t as rushed, which I often have trouble with. I am calmer in writing it and better paced. I feel good about my mistake. It isn’t clear to me if it was divine providence yet, but for all, I know it could be. Sometimes, God must take you by the scruff of the neck and tell you to slow down. To look at what you are doing and make sure it is honoring Him. I hope everything I write honors Him. Even the fun stuff, like a fantasy novel.

D. Michl Lowe

River’s Edge Cabbage Soup Recipe

I considered writing an article about this recipe first so that you all would have to scroll through it to get to the recipe, but I hate it when websites do that, so here is the recipe at the beginning. You’re welcome!

Cabbage Soup Recipe

Yields around 6 quarts. However, I often double this recipe and freeze what my family can’t eat in one sitting.


  • 1 medium-sized cabbage chopped into 1-inch squares, (or enough to fill the bottom of the pot several inches up with chopped cabbage).
  • 5-6 stalks of celery (enough to cover the top of the cabbage).
  • 1 (28-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes.
  • 8 ounces of tomato juice or V8.
  • 1.5 tablespoons salt.
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper or white pepper, if you want a cleaner look.
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of crushed red pepper.


  • 1. Take your cabbage and cut it into 1-inch squares. Place this in a large steep-sided pot, enough to hold all the ingredients.
  • 2. Put the chopped celery into the pot on top of the cabbage. I usually just do a rough chop to the size I want.
  • 3. Fill the stock pot up with water to about so that it covers the cabbage and celery a good 5 inches.
  • 4. Place the pot on the stove and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat just enough to keep it at a steady simmer and cook until the cabbage and celery are tender but still firm; around 35 minutes.
  • 5. Then add the remaining ingredients (crushed tomatoes, tomato juice, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper) and cook an additional 5 minutes to allow the ingredients to get to know one another.

Notes: You may want to adjust the salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to suit your taste. I personally like to add some chopped Polish Style Smoked Kiolbassa Sausage, the pre-cooked kind. I know it’s not traditional to the Rivers Edge Restaurant, but I really like it with this addition, your mileage may vary. Anyway, enjoy the soup!

The River’s Edge Restaurant was originally a restaurant located in Saint Albans West. It was closed around 2010 unfortunately.

D. Michl Lowe

Addendum: I did not come up with this recipe myself, I found it years ago on the web at and have rewritten and reworked it over the years into the format you see here. To be completely fair, this is as close as I have been able to get to the original recipe that I remember it as a kid. It’s the closest to the original taste and trust me I have tried a lot of other versions. Howie, the original website author writes a very good article that goes into a lot of details about the town of Saint Albans, the restuarant, and the recipe, so check out his article below.

Maybe I’m an Imposter, Maybe I’m a Fraud

Those of you with kids should be aware of the now receding fad surrounding a little indy video game called Among Us. It’s a very simple game of tag, where you don’t know who is “it” until it’s too late. The idea is that you are on a spaceship that needs to be repaired after an alien attack, but secretly one of your shipmates has had their body taken over by an evil alien. As such, while everyone who is playing is running around the ship trying to fix it, one of them is hunting the other players and when they get one of them alone, they can kill them. It sounds worse than it is, the art style is cartoony and the “killing” honestly is lighthearted, if such a thing can be said. See below for the art style.

The “red” space person from Among Us

At the end of each round, after the alien kills someone, the game pauses, and each other player votes on who they think the alien player is, and then that person is thrown off the ship. If they are right, then they win the game, if they are wrong, then the game continues and the alien can kill again. If the alien kills all the other players, he wins. The kids like to call someone they believe is the alien “sus”, short for the suspect. However, this idea of someone being an imposter has been on my mind lately. I recently had a conversation with a friend about the idea of Imposter Syndrome. For those who are uninitiated to this idea, let me help you self-diagnose this by providing you with the wiki definition.

Impostor syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or impostorism, is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.


If that doesn’t immediately make you start to question yourself or your qualities, then I’m sure you are safe from what I am feeling. Let me be clear here, I am not looking to denote myself as a victim, or as truly being inept. I know my value as a person, but doubt is something that I have dealt with in the past and still deal with today. Recently, I have been frustrated with myself because of a lack of progression in my professional endeavors. Not that I believe I am no good at what I do, but straining financial stress, lack of upward mobility, and a general feeling of persecution (which is unfounded I know) have led me to a generalized belief that I am not enough.

All that being said, let me tell you what has made a huge difference in my thoughts and feelings. As a man, the idea of respect is hugely important to most of us. My wife is an amazing woman, she supports and loves me. However, I can tell you that just recently I was reminded that a good friend of mine (a man), believed I was smart. He didn’t know I would read what he had written about me to another person, but in reading that, tears came to my eyes. It was a moment of clarity for me, I was able to be a fly on the wall in someone else’s conversation and hear something about myself that was free from bias or flattery; just an honest statement. It was just a comment in passing, not even the subject of the conversation, but to me, it was like someone reached down and ripped off my mask of fragility.

My friend, who I deeply respected and thought to be wildly smart, believed I was smart as well. Men, how much power we have over each other; the power to embolden and uplift. I have to say, I am working in my own life right now to make sure I let my friends and family know that I believe in them and that they are capable and competent. I know how badly I have needed to hear those things, and I always want others in my life to know how I don’t view them as imposters. They are not SUS!

D. Michl Lowe

Fantasy Book Project Logo

When I was a little kid in grade school, we used to get our report cards on
a paper sheet. It would have little boxes and through most of my life, those
little boxes were filled with handwritten grades; A’s, B’s, C’s, and if I was
very unlucky a couple of D’s as well. That being said, at the bottom of all
those sheets of paper, was a section for notes from the teacher to the parent
who would be looking at these grades. A while ago, I was at my parent’s house
and my dad was cleaning out the attic. As such, he ran into a box that held my
old report cards. Kindergarten, First, Second, all the way through grade
school, every single one of the comment sections of my report cards said the
same thing, “Michl is a wonderful student, but he has his head in the clouds.
He tries hard but has a lot of trouble paying attention.” This was the
teacher code for “Hey, your kid has ADD and needs to get on some
meds.” My mother never got the hint, or rather she did but didn’t care.
She always said I could learn to pay attention and didn’t medication. To some
degree, she was/is right about this when it came to me, but I did struggle a

All of that said, I still struggle at times with organization, staying
focused, and keeping my mind going in only one direction, even on things I am
interested in or like. This brings me to the picture above and the current
state of the Fantasy Book Project. At the time of writing this, I am getting
ready to start chapter 16 of the book, out of an estimated 54 chapters total,
and am on page 188. There is a strong chance that I might have to split the
book into two books due to the estimated length. Amazon only allows a certain
number of pages to be printed for their books; at my given chapter page count,
I might be over that limit once I am done. Still, even being at this beginning
stage of writing (Yes, 200-some-odd pages in is mostly just a beginning for
this story), I decided to take time today to work on a logo/cover art for the
book. Here is a look at the current cover I have designed. It should be noted
that I am not a graphic designer so the abstract nature of this has more to do
with my lack of skill than loving the abstract nature of the logo and cover.

Basically, my thoughts about it are that there are not many white book
covers when I look through the bookstore. A snow-white cover with black
lettering seems clean and should stand out on a bookshelf. I also like the idea
that black on white denotes the idea of smoke, which is a main theme of the
book. The title and especially the subtitle is still a work in progress, but Pillar
of Smoke
is growing on me. So let me explain my thought process about
the logo. The main idea of the book is that there is a country that is raised
up on top of a seven-mile-high “pillar”. This country is completely
separated from the rest of the world it inhabits. One of the main features of
this country is that it has “smoke stacks” scattered throughout the
land that emit a constant stream of clouds.

As such, there is almost constant cloud cover and it rains most days. You
can see on the right three of these smoke stacks emitting their clouds. In the
center of this country is a large castle with a dome, thus the dome in the
middle of the city at the top of the pillar. Inside this great pillar is
another city, a city that hangs above a large chasm. You can see that city is
represented in the middle of the pillar. Inside this pillar are countless
crisscrossing tunnels, which I decided to represent with some white lines.
Again, these aren’t to scale or really even realistic at all, but I like the
idea. The country in the book is nearly 1000 miles across, a giant circle of
land, but here we can see what I think of as a representation of much of its
main features.

As of this moment, I like this. I think back to how books like The
Hunger Games
have been represented by the bird called a Mocking Jay, a
symbol and real animal in the books that were meaningful to the storyline. I
have always liked symbols and logos and while I am not necessarily very
talented in graphical artistry, I was very pleased with what I was able to do
here. At the very least, I think I will use this logo for the title page of the
book, and if nothing better comes around, maybe the cover as well. I may not
have started chapter 16 just yet (it’s the next thing on my to-do list), but I
feel like I accomplished something today.

D. Michl Lowe


Chapter 14: A Psychopath’s Sleep

The first section of chapter 14 of the Fantasy Book Project.

Vishna has been arrested and charged with the murder and kidnapping of hundreds of the peoples in Charles Gate. He is now in the dungeon of Fayette Castle, awaiting what will happen to him.

The wooden pallet hanging from the wall had been difficult to get comfortable on. The stiff wool blanket had helped, but still, the bleakness of the surroundings had brought about a touch of melancholy in Vishna’s mind. He sat up and swung his legs down to the floor. They had taken his fine clothes and replaced them with simple linen pants and shirt, a drawstring at the waist so thin it seemed ready to snap. Most likely so the prisoners couldn’t hang themselves with it.

He shook his head and nearly laughed at the situation. He had been practicing his experiments for nearly five years now, searching for a path to understanding the idea of death. The fools around him; Nicodemus, Christoph, and the rest, had truly believed in that fantasy idea of Afterlife. However, after what had happened down in that cave, that fool Christoph’s sister had apparently come back. It didn’t make sense though, was it possible that this nonsense about a person’s smoke heading into Afterlife be true?

Was Akol Ramous real? He couldn’t believe it. Something else was going on. There was no way their ridiculous religion with all its contradictions and flaws could actually be true. He had to get to the bottom of it, but there was the small issue that he was now incarcerated and being brought up on charges of murder. That would need to be dealt with. He wasn’t sure what they would do with a serial murderer, but he was sure it wouldn’t be pleasant.

To be truthful though, while his experiments were necessary, they did involve the death of many peoples. He had worked to bring his subjects as close to death as possible but would try to get them to hang on as long as possible, working to observe what happened at the moment of death. Through these experiments, he was able to confirm that combustion only happened once a person’s heart had stopped beating for exactly one minute, no more, no less. Directly at the time of sixty seconds from the last heartbeat, the person’s body would begin to combust. It was too precise, too mechanical, too… designed.

There was a scraping noise just below his pallet and bent down to look underneath it. At the edge of the rough-cut stone, the mortar had been scrapped away, and a crack, large enough for his pinky was present. As he was investigating, a little twig poked through the crack, pushing a small pile of dust out onto the stone floor.

“Hello?” he asked tentatively into the crack.

“Oh, I had wondered if I had a new neighbor,” a husky voice said. “When did you arrive friend?”

“Only this past evening,” Vishna replied.

“Well, I’m sorry. I’m afraid you have come to a bad place. Were you arrested or just brought here?”

“Arrested,” Vishna said. “You?”

“I was searching for mushrooms in a cave down by Fayette Castle when I stumbled on something I apparently wasn’t supposed to see. I thought I had stumbled into some kind of subterranean cult or something, but when I realized I was in the Fayette Castle dungeons, I asked them what I had done and when I could go home, but the guards didn’t appear to know or care. I tried to tell them that I have met the queen before at my restaurant, but it doesn’t seem to matter. They are crazy! They are ripping the smoke from people.” The last sentence was said almost in a whisper. The horror of it needing to be stifled even though they were only two hearing it.

Vishna crossed his legs on the stone floor and straightened up, thinking. He had kidnapped nearly two hundred people from Charles Gate and the surrounding areas, but the papers had reported that around six hundred had gone missing. At first, he had thought it was just the papers exaggerating the missing persons, but as time went on, it became clear that he was not the only monster prowling the streets. Perhaps someone was working out of the government, using his exploits to cover up their own kidnappings? It was an interesting notion.

On top of that, it sounded as if they were kidnapping people for reasons similar to his own. The research of what smoke and combustion really were was the main reason he had started his own experiments. After a couple more minutes talking to this other prisoner, he discovered that this Mangalit, Marcum Wiggsnem, was a chief and had witnessed what Vishna would say was someone’s Smoke being separated and then collected for some reason. Fascinating for sure. Was he actually excited about this? He couldn’t deny the danger he was in, but there was an allure as well. He knew the person that Marcum had seen was Anzel, an Araneae or arachnid person. Most peoples had no idea such a creature even existed; he was the only one Vishna had any knowledge of at all.  

A private researcher for the royal family, but very odd. Nicodemus had worked with him in the past, and even helped him on some research projects, but this was far beyond what Vishna could have hoped for. If he could somehow get to Anzel, then he might be able to convince him to let Vishna join him in his research. Of course, there was also the issue that if he was conducting research similar to Vishna’s, he was most likely completely insane. Vishna was sure he himself was and just as clearly, didn’t care.

D. Michl Lowe

The Warmth of a Hand

A Selection from The Fantasy Book Project.

-After being attacked by a group of creatures sporting daggers from the front of their chests, Nicodemus struggles to hold on to finish the fight against these evils.-

Nicodemus Pandit struggled for breath. He had already reloaded his revolver once before, and even though he could barely breathe, his left side torn open, blood pouring through the grated floor of the catwalk he now sat on, his hands worked of their own accord. Pulling the circle-clip that held the five extra rounds of .35 into his right hand, the two middle fingers of his left hand cradled the cylinder open and he let the circle-clipped rounds slide off the frame and into the chambers. It was a motion not done by thought, but by habit and muscle memory.

He could hear a whistling whenever he took in a breath and it was coming from his left side. There wasn’t much time left. He looked over to where several of the others had converged on one of those things and he could see that it was laying on the ground, not moving. Good, he thought, that was the second one down. Just one left, the one he had already put several rounds into. It was crawling towards him, having stopped going after the girl who was still kneeling inside what had been the glass bulb.

He thumbed the hammer back and pointed the gun towards the creature, the dagger in its chest was clanking on the metal grate of the catwalk. It was nearly dead. With the one that Christoph had killed, this one wasn’t long for this world, but he had to make sure. He fired, and the round took the creature in the eye. Its head didn’t move much, not like you would think it would. In plays at the opera, when someone got shot, they would fly backward, but in reality, a bullet just moved too fast to make a big show of its impact, in this case, the creature stopped its crawling, hovering there on hands and knees for a movement, then it collapsed to the floor. A wave of pain hit Nicodemus and he looked down. The left side of him was mostly gone, just a tattered edge of flesh just under his ribs with a hole that ended just above his belt. The vague awareness that he was going to die hovered just outside his thoughts. Oddly enough, he thought of his mother. She had been a very quiet woman. He had never known his father, but his mother was always warm and gentle. He could even feel her hands on his face. Her voice was soothing, “Here now, I have got you. Just hold on for a moment.” She was a little abrupt in her tone. Not like she used to speak to him.

Warmth spread through him, but then a bursting shock and he screamed suddenly, not in pain, but in awareness. He realized his eyes had been closed, but now they were open, a white film crossing over them and the world around him blazed into bright light again. Beside him, Meshiah was gently pressing her hand to his side. The shock of seeing his dead friend standing next to him again was overshadowed when he looked down to see himself completely whole, the ragged edge of flesh was gone and the blood just sat on top of the skin, which was new and fresh. She smiled at him, but quickly got up and ran towards Christoph who was laying in Vishna’s arms, him screaming something. Her bare feet made no noise on the metal flooring.

But no sooner had she gotten to the stairs leading down to where Christoph lay crumpled near the creature he had killed, but both the creature and Christoph’s bodies erupted in flames. Vishna jumped back, the burning ash wisping away like paper in a near-instant. Vishna turned to look towards her, his face stained with the ash, an oddly serene look on his face. She stopped in her tracks, covering her face with her hands and turning away. For the first time, Nicodemus noticed that she wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothes, her golden hair cascading down her back.

Struggling to his feet, he was still a little dizzy, he took off his knee-length coat and walked over to her. She stood looking down at the ash heaps on the floor. He took in the look of her, she wasn’t the same. Her body seemed, thinner than it had in her past life. She had been a normally curvy young lady in her youth, but now, there didn’t seem to be an ounce of fat on her body, only muscle and tendon stood out from her flesh. He placed the coat over her shoulders. “There’s nothing we could have done lass. He was already dead.” She turned to face him, her face fierce with her eyes looking away from him, refusing to make contact, her fingers fidgeting with the edge of the coat.

D. Michl Lowe

The Fantasy Book Project

The Blessing of Lost Sleep

I’m currently sitting in my son’s bedroom at 2:03 a.m. on a Saturday night. I have to be up for church in the morning, but at least I don’t have work. He woke up with a leg ache, a common problem for my kids when they have run themselves silly during the day. For him, it is often pushing a toy truck back and forth between the kitchen and living room, over and over. For my middle daughter Ellie it would be doing cartwheels over and over.

Either way though, the result is pain and a crying child in the middle of the night. After getting him some medicine for the pain, I sat rocking him and thinking. I have three children and along with my wife, we have spent many an hour awake at night with babies; truthfully, she more than I. That being said though, it has often upset me or made me cross; being awakened from sleep, drug out of bed, changing midnight diapers or soothing a crying child for any number of reasons. But as I sat here tonight, my little son, who just turned three, cuddling into my chest, I made a point to realize that I am lucky.

First of all, I have a child to wake me up. Beyond that, I have three. I have three amazing children to worry about, be awakened by, and be able to provide care for when they need me. I and my wife are good parents and we can care for three children well. I work in the school system and get to see the children of many different families, as such, I see both the good and bad results of different families. I am thankful that my children are part of an amazing one.

I have help. My wife is an amazing mother and a stupendous spouse. She sacrifices and pursues excellence in all her endeavors. However, her charge as a mother is one that she has not only mastered but continues to teach me as her fellow parent. My parents live down the road, they are always there helping and loving my kids. My mother and father-in-law are there as well, providing support and love, always. Aunts, Uncles, Godfathers, Godmothers, friends, church members, teachers, and so many more.

They say it takes a village and my kids have one. I am often discouraged by the news these days. The hate, discourse, and outright violence of humans are at times scary and bleak. But when I look at my kids, I have hope. They are and will be a bright spot in that darkness. Christ’s love will shine out from them as I hope it does from their parents. I recently joked with my good friend that all Christians should have at least three kids if at all possible.

That way you can make more Christians than are going to go on to glory when you leave this word. But truthfully, no one can predict the course of one person’s life, even a life that is brought up in the church with loving and good parents. But dang if it doesn’t help. I am thankful for my son’s leg aches and the opportunity they provide. I am thankful for a crying child at night. God thank you for letting me hold my children and be a comfort to them. May I never forget the blessing of lost sleep.

D. Michl Lowe

Is There Absolute Truth?

This is a tough question! The simple answer is yes. The more difficult answer gets into the idea of morals and how we understand the concept of sin. How do I know something is wrong? There are honestly several ways. One of the main ways is looking to God’s Holy Scripture. Through reading God’s Word, we have a direct link into the mind of God and what He thought was important for us to know. Some things aren’t mentioned in there. However, you can use logic and reason to begin to understand the overall mind and nature of God. Through the tool of reason, we have divine wisdom in the areas where he was silent. So, let’s talk directly about sin and how it manifests in our lives.

What is sin?

Sin is the direct willful turning from God’s known will, direction, or the law. It’s not your actions that are the sin, it’s the decision to turn away from God; to go your own way. This is why no one sin is greater than any other. I turn from God and then I do something. The sin is not the action, but the decision before the action. The action is the result of the decision to turn away. All sin is equally abhorrent in the eyes of God. Because of the fact that all sin is the same, we are able to understand that God is the ultimate decider of what is “wrong” or what “sin” is.

Without God, there is no sin. There is no wrong:

If there is no God, then there is nothing I can do that is wrong. Let’s pretend for a moment that God does not exist and everything I believe has been a lie. Would it be wrong for me to steal a candy bar from the supermarket? Nope, if I can get away with it, it’s not wrong. There is no basis for you (my accuser) to say that what I have done is bad or wrong beyond your own opinion or that of others. Basically, if you don’t believe that God is the ultimate truth and decider of the moral law, then you have created some sort of system for yourself. Perhaps you believe that the state is the ultimate authority or the government. However, laws can be changed. If an extremely rich person decided to throw all their money into making it legal to have sexual relations with little kids, they could probably get that sort of thing passed into law. But does that make it suddenly right and okay to do that? I would argue no, but under a system where government or the state makes up what is moral and immoral, then it becomes right and okay. The same could be said for people who make the decision for themselves if what they are doing is right or wrong.

Now, some of our decisions have to be based on our knowledge of God’s nature, but ultimately we believe that God will lead us in a direction through prayer, the study of His Word, and conversation with other believers into knowing his correct direction for us. None of those assumptions can directly contradict God’s Word or His known nature. For example, I don’t believe God would have it in His will for your life for you to murder your whole family and then use their bodies as shields to defend yourself from the law as you run naked down the street. That’s just not in His will and it would directly go against the known law of God and His nature. However, if a person decides that their own feelings and thoughts are the ultimate form of truth, and that is the truth, then there is nothing stopping them from making decisions and creating any form of moralistic code they want. They literally become their own god within their own mind.

If their own morals dictate that murdering their family and running down the street naked while using those bodies as shields is right… who am I to say they are wrong? Their opinion is just as valid as mine if there is no higher power that is greater than our own desires. This gets into the idea that all ideas are not equal. Not everyone can be right. Someone has to be wrong. You will hear it said that all paths lead to “god”. No, they don’t. They just don’t. You can’t believe that unicorns and fairies save your soul and still get into Heaven. It just doesn’t work that way. There has to be a greater form of truth. There has to be a higher power, other than your own will and selfish thoughts. Without God to lead us, we are lost in our own will.

D. Michl Lowe

Finding God In The Mundane

Finding purpose in your life is not as hard as people like to make it out to be. As Christians, we like to pretend that God is so complicated; that we are lost in understanding His will for our lives. I remember taking a course at our church several years back that was meant to help you understand what your spiritual gift was. It was a fascinating study, but ultimately, I’m not sure it helped me to understand what God was calling me to.

How was I supposed to use what I had found out to serve him? There was a guide of course that had lists of things one could do to use their gifts, but ultimately, I think such things are largely useless. I’ve been thinking for some time now, that we often put the label of “unknowable” on God’s will and use this excuse to remove guilt and remove the action that God would have us take. God’s will in your life is clearly laid out in scripture. Here are four questions to help you understand God’s will in your life.

  1. Is where I am at or what I am doing, leading me towards sin?
    • If yes, then this place might not be where God has called you to dwell. If no, then understand that God calls us to serve His purpose wherever we are and whatever we are doing.
  2. Is what I am doing at this place acceptable within the known law of God?
    • If the Bible speaks directly against what you are doing, then you can be sure that what you are doing is NOT within the will of God. The Bible is the authority on how we understand God’s will in our lives. He will not violate his own Word. I have had many people tell me that they “feel” like God is saying something is good when that thing directly violates God’s known law within scripture. Praying about these issues is VERY important, but it’s easy to get confused and believe that God is telling us one thing through prayer that violates His Word in the Bible. Don’t fall into this trap.
  3. Do I have a calling in my life?
    • A calling is something we know for a fact God has called us into. With this in mind, we should always be aware that if God has called us into something, we should be doing that thing. Now, it should be noted that oftentimes, God calls us into a task, but might have us complete that calling in a way we did not expect. As an example, someone might feel called to be a pastor, but God calls them to do so in Africa instead of Wisconsin.
  4. What are you doing now that doesn’t glorify God? 
    • Understand that there are basically three modes in which we live out our lives; actively serving Christ, actively serving the Devil, and operating in mundane activities. If you are actively serving Christ, then you can be mostly sure those activities are within His will for your life. Obviously, if you are in the process of committing sin, then you are outside of God’s will. The third option of operating in mundane activities is a hairy one. These activities are things like going to the grocery, watching TV, having friends over for dinner… basically anything that isn’t what we might call directly serving Christ. However, it’s easy for us to get caught up in these mundane activities and lose sight of God’s plan.

I have thought a lot about the mundane activities we fill our lives with. I find myself questioning if I personally spend too much time in those mundane activities. Coming home after work I find I just want to plop down in front of the computer and watch funny cat videos. Doing more than that just seems like too much effort. However, I have begun to look at my mundane activities as opportunities to serve God. Ever since college, a good friend of mine and I have been playing card and board games on a fairly set schedule. Several years back we started going to a gaming convention and were saddened by the complete lack of any Christian influence in this population of geeky kids and adults. We decided to take our mundane love of geek culture and games and put it to work for God.

It started with our own gaming night at our local church. During this time, we did some devotions and played a lot of games. It has evolved now but continues to provide a place where people can come, bring friends, have a bite to eat, and play some games with good Christian men. Taking something that was mundane and transforming it into something useful for God wasn’t hard. It was necessary for us to take a step back and examine our mundane activities and be willing to give those activities to God; allow him to overtake that area of our lives. We have been created for a mission. An important mission. The mission is to live for Christ in all areas of our life, regardless of where we are or what we are doing. Jesus wants all of us, not just the part we “give” on Sunday mornings.

D. Michl Lowe

How To Attack The Idea And Then Forgive

Throughout my life, I have seen a lot of people who have held grudges about the stupidest things. It can often happen that while defending a belief, you might get your feelings hurt. You need to realize that holding onto your beliefs and protecting them against other viewpoints is going to happen (or should anyway) and you will be challenged. Arguing and debating should be a common practice. Remember though, that you can argue, debate, and even yell at someone, but still show them, love.

Realize that mercilessly shutting down a point of view of someone else is going to hurt their feelings. People often wrap their identity up in their beliefs and because of that, they will take what you say as a personal attack, even if you only attack their point of view, idea, or belief. Arguments should never be focused on attacking a person, but on attacking the ideas. At times, it can even help to point this out to folks you are in the middle of a debate with.

“Look, I’m not attacking you, I’m attacking your ideas. You aren’t stupid, but what you are saying is, and here’s why…”

Make sure to focus on the idea, belief, or statement being made by the other party. If you begin attacking the person themselves, you have lost the argument. Give it up and go home. Lick your wounds and next time prepare better. Learn why you believe what you believe and research the other side. Know their typical arguments and thoughts. Be ready with concrete ideas on how to do things and think of things differently.

In the end, forgive those who disagree with you and attack you. It’s going to happen. You have to let it go. There are many people who I have debated with in the past that are dead wrong in their beliefs and have gotten so upset at me (for attacking their beliefs) that they have ruthlessly attacked me personally, even so far as one man threatening to “knock me on my back” the next time he saw me.

Forgive them. Even if they don’t ask for it.

If someone truly wrongs you. If someone indeed attacks you. If someone really hurts you. Forgive. That doesn’t mean you lie down and take abuse; you can fight back. You can defend yourself, even physically if need be, but in the end, forgive. Forgiveness is not about what they have done to you, it’s about trusting God to take care of you in spite of what they have done. Trust God and trust that he has your best interests at heart.

D. Michl Lowe

Swimming into Patience with Other Believers

So my and Alicia’s kids were swimming the other day. We were on a trip to our old university, MVNU for a contest for our oldest called Blast. I have a pretty broad range of kid ages. Katarina is nearly 13, Ellie just turned 10, and Nikolai will be 3 in August.

That being said, I find it interesting to think about the differences in my kids. I could talk about the differences between the boy and his sisters, but that is really a topic for another time. What I would like to talk about though, is the differences in swimming ability. I know that sounds like an odd topic to discuss, but stay with me.

When my girls were young, Alicia and I went to great lengths to teach them how to swim and it seriously took years for them to actually get good. Which is fine, but it was very slow. These days, Katarina is fearless! She will go down any water slide and swim any depth, she’s a literal fish.

Ellie, she is just starting to really get her sea legs. The slides, pictured above, were not big at all, but those are about at her limit of not being nervous about. Any bigger and she might still be timid about them.

Nikolai though, that kid is fearless with a capita F; to his detriment. He had no idea of when to stop, when not to go, when to pause, no idea. He is clueless and it’s dangerous. He often gets himself flipped over or in over his head and requires rescuing.

So why does any of that matter? Well, it got me thinking about spiritual maturity. My girls took a while to learn how to swim and how to do it properly. Some people are that way with God. They have to take things slow and while they may be “saved”, the transformational side of Christianity is a gradual process. It takes them time to mature as a Christian and to fully embrace the full idea and lifestyle of that spiritual reality.

Notice I still refer to that person as a Christian. That’s because my assumption is that they are because they are saying they are. Someone may not be on the same level as you spiritually. To put it in JRPG terms, you might be at a level 25, while your friend might still be a newbie at a level 3. You may have been saved at the same time, but the maturity level spiritually is different. You can’t expect your friend to come questing with you in a level 25 zone, when they are only level 3.

The thing is, if you point out their lower level, you are not only going to hurt their feelings, and probably your friendship, but that’s not your place. In the midst of life, you can point out Biblical truth, but be patient with those around you and be aware that they may still be working through something you conquered long ago. Along with that, there different areas of expertise as well. Something you might be an expert at, your friend may be a beginner, but also, you are for sure a beginner in many other areas as well.

It will do us all good to be patient with fellow believers and lead each other with grace and understanding. One of my favorite sayings comes from a Zen teaching, it says, “do everything with a beginners mind.” Which basically means, be humble and be patient with others. Good advice for us in dealing with fellow believers.

D. Michl Lowe

The Hero We Need

The shirt says it all!

My family and I enjoy going down to the Smokey Mountains. It makes no sense because we hate going to Myrtle Beach and the Smokey Mountains are basically Myrtle Beach without the water. However, we love this place and come sometimes twice a year. It’s one of our favorite places to visit!

This year, we have been staying at the Dollywood Dreammore Resort and it’s been pretty great. There are always a couple of standard events we do every time we come here. We always eat breakfast at The Apple Barn, and we always eat dinner at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen.

As we were waiting for a table yesterday evening, we decided to sit outside in the rocking chairs and watch a lightning storm roll in. As we sat there, my son Nikolai was running around playing on the patio. Suddenly, a woman fell while walking by the curb. My little two-year-old son ran over to her, gently picking up her bag and trying to help her up as well. I ran over too, but she was already mostly up when I got there.

She turned to me and asked if he was my son. I said, “Yes, he’s my son.” She got tears in her eyes and said, “You’re doing something right.” She wasn’t hurt, she was just overcome with the emotion of the situation. I walked back to my little rocking chair, stunned in a way; feeling an overwhelming sense of unearned pride.

My girls, Kat and Ellie are fantastic! They are shining lights and amazing young women. I couldn’t be more proud of them. They aren’t perfect, but they are turning out to be fantastic Christian ladies. However, my little boy is only two; seemingly too young to be aware of honor, chivalry, or a sense of protection of others… Or so I thought.

His boyhood instinct was to run over to this woman and help her. As she said, maybe this old dad is doing something right. Maybe his momma is as well! Whenever one of us sneezes or coughs, Nikolai will always ask, “Daddy, are you alright?” and I or whoever sneezed will say, “I’m alright, thanks.” Compassion, love, and care; are common instincts we couch in Christian morality in our household.

I look around at the instability of our world. I wonder if maybe there were more Christian moms and dads out there who lived lives reflecting Christ, maybe we wouldn’t have as many issues in society as we do right now. Maybe if we lived like Jesus, we would have more little boys who would run to the rescue and fewer of them who run into places with murder in their hearts.

P.S. Nikolai’s shirt was perfect tonight!

D. Michl Lowe

The Sacrifice Of The Self

The idea of giving up one’s life for another is not an easy one to swallow. A good man will do it for those who he might truly love. He will step into the fire to retrieve his child caught in the midst of the house blaze. A mother will gladly rush to protect her child and die in the process. We all fear death. We all fear the loss of our conscious selves. That idea of being, aware. The great mystery of how we know we exist. This lack of understanding is clung to like the lifeboat that it is. Without this idea of personhood, we float into a meaningless void; into the lack of significance.

So, looking into the eyes of another and understanding that their life is more precious than yours is something foreign to the human condition. We are so locked into our idea of existing that it’s beyond our understanding that our lives aren’t meant to be lived for ourselves. To push yourself beyond what is human selfishness is unthinkable. However, I truly believe that in the last moments of the martyred they’ve understood. When that soldier looks into the eyes of the man he just took a bullet for, when the last drops of blood are leaving the wound of the one who gave their lives, I believe they understand it. They understand the value of “other”. How do we attain that understanding now? What does that life look like? The life of personal sacrifice. The life of embracing the death of the self… while still alive.

It seems like this is too philosophical an idea to begin to understand. It’s beyond the minds of the mortals to undertake what only gods take for granted. A sense of understanding about what is truly important in life. I sat the other night in a little rocking chair, putting my two-year-old son to bed. We still sit in the rocking chair together and read books before bed, then we sing, pray, and finally just rock. Back and forth, back and forth. It’s a simple ritual. However, the other night I was rocking my son, and I gained some clarity to this understanding that it’s not about me. I looked at my little son and realized it was about him. Not only that, it was about my two daughters, and my wife, and my best friend, and his kids, and the families they will have and their families and their families, and so on.

I am on earth to give of myself to others. So many others. With that realization, came the realization that I am here for those I disagree with. If I can’t love the person on social media who calls me a name, then what am I doing here? What’s the point of life if I cant love and sacrifice for those I know, don’t know, and those who I will never know. I will most likely never live long enough to get to know my great-grandchildren. Maybe I will, but I most likely won’t. However, what I do today, the words I write, the things I do, and the things I say will echo through time and the ripples of my life can reach those people. I hope I can be a bolder that creates a lasting wave and not just a little ripple. My life is going to be way too short to just stay silent, stay safe, stay entertained, and stay out of the lives of those around me.

D. Michl Lowe

The Need for Honorable Men

This is the introduction to the book Men of Valor, by D. Michl Lowe.

I have sat back and waited. Waited on the church. Waited on my friends. Waited on society. Waited for them to start moving, to wake up and see that our world is dying. The earth itself seems to be groaning. There is a palpable tension in the air. Evil is no longer allowed to be called evil and even those who prey upon children are starting to no longer be vilified. Not to mention the devastation of abortion. There is a great need in our culture to begin unraveling the problems that most of society no longer calls sin. It must start with Christian men. It must start with them standing up to be counted.

Creating a new way of living. Showing the love and truth of Christ to the dying world, but also working to show that men are culturally here to stay. That masculinity is not something shameful, but a prideful way of expressing gender that sets us apart from our wonderful ladies. We are strong, resolute in our faith, and gentle in our demeanor. We are silken iron.

The sad truth of today’s culture is that it has become normal to understand that men are stupid, clumsy, fat, lazy, and just useless. We see characters like Chandler and Joey from the sitcom Friends who are bumbling idiots only really interested in sex. The women of the show manipulate them constantly using sexual innuendo to get what they want. In one episode, the boys have rightly won the right to live in an apartment from the girls, only to have the two girls kiss each other in front of the boys in payment for the apartment. The boys leave the apartment saying, “Totally worth it! Then go into their separate rooms giving the impression they are going to go masturbate with the memory of what they have seen. These types of scenarios play out constantly in this show.

Or we see the characters Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin from The Simpsons and Family Guy, who are always doing stupid things. Countless times in shows like these, men are nearly always seen as the idiots and women seen as the voice of reason. I understand that this is done for comedic purposes, but men are the butt of jokes nearly all the time. It is rare to see a woman portrayed in this manner. Sitcom comedies do this so often, that the idea of masculinity is now seen as negative or even wrong. This is sad because masculinity is needed. Yes, that is a bold statement to make, but one that needs to be made. Masculinity is seen as unintelligent and even crass and uncouth. To some degree, men have not helped this stereotype with our sometimes-stupid antics, but this does nothing to degrade the need for masculine men.

Matt Walsh a popular online blogger and conservative commentator said it well;

“Disrespect for men is a joke to us now. A little while ago I stopped on the way home from work to buy my wife some flowers. As she rang me up, the cashier quipped: ‘Uh-oh, what’d you do?’ I wasn’t particularly amused, but I chuckled. She continued. ‘I don’t know if that’ll be enough to get you off the couch tonight!’ Ah, yes, the old “husband is punished by his wife and sent to the couch” meme. I’m not sure if this actually happens in real life, or if it’s an invention of 90’s ‘all men are fat, witless, oafs’ sitcoms, but the popularity of the stereotype is telling. Is this how we see husbands now? A man gets ‘in trouble’ with his wife, she scolds him and puts him in time-out on the couch. Now he must placate his alpha-bride by showering her with flowers and jewelry. Men are painted like children or dogs. They can be shooed off their own beds by their wives and sent to cower in the living room until she permits him to return. This is only slightly less offensive than the cliché of the sadistic wife who punitively withholds sex from her husband. ‘You didn’t clean the garage like I told you. No sex for you, mister! Next time, follow my instructions!’”

In our schools, typical male childish behavior is seen as deviant and a problem. Psychologist Michael Thompson has famously said that girl behavior is the gold standard in schools and boys are treated like defective girls. It is sad that boy behavior is so misunderstood and hated. Our young boys are treated with disdain and are misunderstood, recently in the news, I saw where a young boy in grade school bit a pop tart into a gun shape and started playing with it. He was promptly expelled from school. This type of intolerance isn’t right.  Our teachers are hamstrung in being able to implement discipline for actual negative behaviors and mandated paperwork for oversight has made it difficult to even teach what needs to be taught, so time afforded for simple physical play (an important need for young boys to exert energy) has become a secondary thought even though it’s also a mandated requirement.

This is not to say that women are less than men in any respect, but the idea that the sexes are both the same is not just silly, it’s dangerous. We are different right down to our chromosomes. Men have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome while women have two X chromosomes. Chromosomes are basically the fundamental building blocks of humanity. They contain DNA, which is the pattern by which humans are created and built. Within every human DNA is what makes a person an individual. The combining of their mother and father’s DNA has created each person; those patterns are used to create a completely new human being. Men and women are not the same and to pretend otherwise is honestly just silly.

I feel as though men are lost in our culture today. There isn’t a place for men to truly be men and embrace our masculinity. They search for meaning and purpose. One of the biggest forms of entertainment in the modern age is video games. It is estimated that by 2019 videogame yearly sales revenue would be around 41 billion dollars, not a small industry to be sure. It is a well-known fact that men tend to be consumers of the higher-end video game industry. While many women have broken into casual gaming, which accounts for many of the skewed statistics stating that women make up more than 50% of gamers, they continue to be underrepresented in the mainstream gaming market.

We would refer to most male gamers as “core” gamers in this respect, not players of Candy Crush or Angry Birds, as fun as those are. Some of this trend is changing with games that are marketed directly to women, but now it’s just the way things are. Why do so many men flock to video games? Besides the sports genre (which I believe is popular for different reasons), many of the games we see men playing involve stories and situations in which the player may assume the “role” of a hero of some kind.

Within the role of the male hero is the question, “What does it mean to be masculine?”. This idea of masculinity is idealized in the role of the male hero. Most men have a desire to be the hero of their own existence. In many PC games, one takes on the role of a hero that starts off as mostly a normal person, but through adventures and fulfilling quests begins to gain great power and becomes a leader in the vast world in which the game takes place.

In first-person shooter games on consoles and PCs alike, players often take on the role of a super soldier in a world of the future where aliens are trying to basically end all life in the universe. Through these super-soldiers, players can become the hero of the entire universe, saving humanity. It is often as if the player can save their game, sealing themselves away for a time when humanity might even need them again in the future. Self-sacrifice is a very pure form that often rises in these storylines.

While not a videogame, pen and paper role-playing games like the classic Dungeons and Dragons present a very solid argument that men are gravitating towards the realm of role-playing for a reason. In these games, you choose a “role” to play and through a form of guided storytelling, you can become the hero of your own story. Now there are a lot of reasons why all genders play these games, but for men, it often has to do with this innate desire to gain significance. God gave men this desire for significance and heroic inspiration. In Psalms 57:2 David says, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose in me.” God calls all his people into glorious purpose. For men, this is often a desire to achieve significance and meaning. This isn’t a bad thing. In the realm of working towards achieving Christ’s purpose and meaning for our lives, men can find a true significance, but when we look past God to the world for significance, something is lost.

A while back, I sat in a very questionable chair in the back of a dirty and rundown shop in a very bad part of town. My wife was worried that I was going to this place; a day before, someone had been shot only one block from this store. There were about eight of us and the unkempt appearance of the other men around me might have off-put many (along with the smell), but I was comfortable in this place. Dungeons and Dragons had a way of bringing people together. However, on this day, the man on my left was not very happy. He had failed in several rolls of the dice and his character was on the verge of death. He angrily shouted at the Dungeon Master (the leader of the game) that it wasn’t fair, letting multiple expletives leave his person.

After the game was over, he was packing up all his books and little plastic figurines he angrily threw his pack on and stormed from the table, leaving the shop. His manhood, his meaning for life was so wrapped up in the fictional character he had created, that losing it was like losing part of who he was. It was sad to see. Shouldn’t there be more for men in this life? Shouldn’t there be more for them to strive for than just a fictional monument of meaning?

The men of this generation are lost, children. Society has taken away the villains and often even denies that such a thing exists. It is no longer good or evil, there are only differing opinions and cultures. No one is wrong, and everyone is right. There isn’t an outlet for masculinity in American society that is not in some way shunned. Men are now the aborted children of society and it is time for them to take a stand and become something more than just a joke. It’s time for true purpose to come back into the darkened hearts of men.

The truth of the issue is, there is evil in the world. Some issues are not questions, but facts. There is a great need for men to be willing to stand up and be accountable to the society they live in. It is time for us to step onto the dais of history once again and take a stand for what is right. There are certain truths in this world that should be observed and should be written in stone. There are ways of viewing the world that is right. The way men treat their fellow human beings matters. One of the greatest tragedies in this life is that evil prevails because Christian men choose to do nothing. The children of God have set on the sidelines for too long and allowed the truth to be kidnaped.

The truth has a nasty way of being unpopular. No one wants to hear the truth; people want you to agree with them and validate that what they have already decided is okay in their minds. There are no real attempts to understand the other side; there is only the manipulation and deceit of tolerance. It is this idea of tolerance that’s only there to convince you that this other person is on a higher moral level. Do not be deceived into the idea that tolerance and understanding are right because “everyone is okay”; that every idea is right and moral. Acceptance is only possible if you don’t disagree and don’t speak out. According to society, the status quo of tolerance and acceptance must be maintained above all other ideals. Understand the spiritual and intellectual warfare that is going on and continue to speak the truth regardless. This is a verbal war that will not stay in that realm for long, violence and death are already in the streets.  

The stance of moral and Christian truth will only be allowed for so long. Freedom as an idea is slowly moving towards being parallel with the status quo. This isn’t a call to rebellion in the sense of militaristic action, but it is a call to a rebellion of conscience and behavior. Within a framework of honor and Christian faith, men can begin to unravel the current culture of compliance and tolerance. Standing for Christian truth is not hard, but it will cost you. In fact, at some point in the future, it could cost you everything. Still, what is your soul worth?

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36.

Men are becoming what society has wanted them to become, pitiful creatures that are ashamed of their own masculinity. The men make a case to dismiss God so that they can ignore his law and live their lives in selfish admission. Distractions and sin have led to a willingness to live a blinded life; a life ignorant to their own destruction. Hedonism is the new vogue and it is the greatest lie that men believe to be true. Brief moments of pleasure and fun are constantly sought out and chased after. Downtime is filled with small screens, meaningless memes, and videos of cats with bread on their heads. What are men doing with their lives? What purpose is there? What meaningful significance is there to this existence if we pass into history without changing anything for God’s better plan?

As Paul Bois said in his Oct. 17th, 2017 Daily Wire article,

“…when knights surrender their swords, beasts shall devour maidens.” In a country and culture ruled over by Harvey Weinsteins, one can only raise the question; as Paul asks, “Are there any knights left”?

This has been the Introduction to Men of Valor, by D. Michl Lowe. Available now in full from this website. or at the link here:

D. Michl Lowe

Fantasy Book Project Update 3

An update on the Fantasy Book Project. This week, I have been up at a Middle School Church Camp with my family. So I have spent a great deal of time in the chapel (when no one is there) writing. It’s a big open space and has fan noise which is always comforting to me. It’s not as good as my little writing nook back home, but it also doesn’t have internet, so no distractions either.

Currently, I am nearly on Chapter 12 and am over 25,000 words into the book. That has taken me to page 130 in the text. Along with that info, I am now sitting at 54 total chapters for this “book” in my outline. With that being said, I have already needed to add two chapters to the first 10 I had planned. If things continue, there could well be like 70 odd chapters in total, if not more.

I am considering now if I shouldn’t maybe split this book into more than one. Right now, I am looking at around 585 pages, if I don’t change font size or spacing. At the moment I am using Garamond, 14-size font, single-spaced, same as what this post is written in. That’s a large book. Depending on the type of print book you choose, the maximum Amazon allows is 828 pages, but some formats are limited to 776 or even 600 pages. So I am flirting with the limits of what the printing abilities are of Amazon. I’m not saying I’m not still considering a publishing house outside of Amazon, but really, I am enjoying using their service and so far am very satisfied with it.

As such, I wouldn’t just talk about where I am with the book, without giving you a small taste of what I have been working on. So without further ado, here is a rough draft section from the middle of Chapter 4: The Purpose Sent of what I am tentatively calling Species of the Smoke (still not sure of the title, it’s now changed several times). Side Note: Just some mild background info, a Flemi is a rabbit person and a Cront is a bat person. Not sure you totally needed to know that info, but you would know that at this point in the book. So now you are caught up.

Chapter 4: The Purpose Sent (in the middle of the chapter)

Dasa was back down the stairs in time to see Flarnie, the Pub’s owner, go running out the back door, shotgun in hand. In Bolster Heart, if there was a raid by the Cront or anyone else, everyone was expected to drop what they were doing and jump in to help with the defense, but Dasa had something else on his mind. Charity was at the Temple, and it was late, she would be one of the only Flemi left there. He had to get to her and make sure she was safe. She wouldn’t leave Ashlynn alone during a raid, but was this even a raid? He had never seen this many Cront at one time. Something was different.

The Temple of Ashlynn was only a block down the street, but already, Cront were rushing down among the houses and shops. He ran past several battles that were already happening, but clearly, the Flemi were winning, he passed a dozen dead on street and only two of them were Flemi. In front of him, two of them swooped down at him, their spears were tipped with obsidian and had a wicked curve to the blades. It was nothing for him to slide down on the slick stones of the street, easily passing under their thrusts, his gun was out of the holster in a smooth motion, the two rounds firing off without him even thinking about it. Both took a Cront in the back of their heads and the wings immediately lost their lift.

The bodies rolled and crumpled to the ground, twitching and spasming in their death. Dasa didn’t even wait to see if he had killed them, he ran on. He could see the temple, its bronzed gates stood open, which wasn’t that odd, they were usually open, but then he saw the domed roof. The side of which was caved in, the hole larger than a truck was gaping open. He rushed in through the wooden doors, banging them on the side of the wall, and could hear a battle taking place further within.

It didn’t take him long to get to the main chamber of the Temple, a large silver dome inside a room easily large enough for Flarnie’s Pub to fit inside. He saw something he couldn’t believe, two of the legendary beasts, fighting each other. And in the middle of it, was Charity. Her tiny revolver was making flashes towards the smaller of the two beasts, the blueish one. He recognized the creature immediately, he had seen him once, it was the beast who had escaped a year earlier. No one knew where he had gone, but this was him, Dumont.

I hope you enjoyed this tiny little look at what I have been working on. I’m sure some of it doesn’t make sense right now, but it will. I promise.

D. Michl Lowe

The Armed Woman: Raising Shield Maidens

Men are strong, like stronger than even most men realize. I’ve had many conversations with people about the reasons why I carry a firearm every day. I realized this when I saw a person rip a bed that was bolted to a concrete floor, out of that floor and single-handedly barricade a door with it.

They were coming down off drugs and their body was going nuts. That being said, I also realize that most burglaries that happen are not single-person jobs, but multi-person jobs. While I might be able to take one person, maybe, a multiple-person assault though means I am overwhelmed and am unable to protect myself or anyone else.

As such, I have always felt that self-protection is a human right, and one of the best tools for stopping a person who intends harm is a firearm. It’s why the police carry them, it’s also why militaries the world around carry firearms of all kinds. They are effective. I’m not going to pretend that guns don’t harm people, they do. They are very good at that, especially in trained hands. As such, I train. Not as much as I would like, but I have attempted to not be unskilled.

However, I have had fewer conversations about why I am raising my two girls to do the same thing. More than ever, I believe our young ladies should be armed. Men are strong, and while they don’t have a monopoly on violence or sexual assault, the majority of those things are done by men. As such, a woman who is most often physically weaker than any given man should have the ability to even the field of combat.

What is scarier than a woman who is defending herself, her children, or even her husband? I am under the firm belief that a good man should always be ready to defend his family and himself, but let’s face it, sometimes men fail at being good men. Sometimes they are not there for their family or their wife. Beyond that though, even good men can’t be everywhere at once and sometimes the lady of the house is on her own.

Now, do I wish the pain of having to take a life on my wife or my girls? No! Not at all, my goodness no! I would never wish such a thing. But I also am working to prepare them for battle should that nightmare visit them. I would rather they killed an assailant than be raped or themselves murdered by them.

So what does that look like for my girls? I am teaching them to safely handle firearms at a young age. I am taking them shooting and teaching them the fundamentals. Beyond that, I am teaching them fundamentals beyond just firearms. I am teaching them to use knives and to carry those as well.

Up close, sometimes a knife is a better option. Or if you are in a crowded place, a firearm might not be a good choice. I am teaching them to be aware of their surroundings. Teaching them to get their heads out of their phone or a book when in public. Keep their head on a swivel! Glance behind yourself while walking to be aware of what’s around you.

Keep a small (but powerful, over 70 lumens) flashlight on yourself at all times. At night, a person with a flashlight on and shining into dark corners is not only more aware but also sends a signal to all would-be attackers that this person is not an easy target. This also leads us into a discussion of clothing choices. A woman’s clothing choice should allow them to continue to carry their EDC (everyday carry) items. A thigh holster, a belly band, an in-the-waist band holster, a knife clipped in a pocket, or the waist of their pants or dress. There are even ways to carry a firearm in a special bra called a “flash-bang”, which is hilarious and well named in my opinion. I refer to these sorts of ladies as Shield Maidens, taken from Lord of the Rings. I believe all women should take on this title.

Do I wish that title didn’t need to be taken? Of course, I do. However, in today’s world, we can’t allow ourselves to sit idly by and twiddle our thumbs, while wolves prowl the woods. There are people who will say that they can’t bring themselves to carry a firearm, or even a knife and I understand that. Sometimes, the experiences of this world wound people or bring them into themselves in such a way that they feel they could never do such a thing. I understand that. However, that is not an excuse to be complacent about your own safety or the safety of those in your charge. This is why I mentioned awareness and flashlights. Seventy lumens of light into the eyes of a person will blind them temporarily, even in sunlight. While this is not foolproof, it is better than nothing and has worked to save lives.

So this is how I am raising my girls. To be Shield Maidens. Those willing and able to protect both themselves and others should the need arise. I hope it is me, but if I am unable, I pray they will rise to the occasion.

“Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!"
Then Merry heard in all sounds of the hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel.
"But no living man am I! You are looking upon a woman. Eowyn am I, Eomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him."
The winged creature screamed at her, but then the Ringwraith was silent, as if in sudden doubt. Very amazement for a moment conquered Merry's fear. He opened his eyes and the blackness was lifted from them. There some paces from him sat the great beast, and all seemed dark about it, and above it loomed the Nazgul Lord like a shadow of despair. A little to the left facing them stood whom he had called Dernhelm. But the helm of her secrecy had fallen from her, and and her bright hair, released from its bonds, gleamed with pale gold upon her shoulders. Her eyes grey as the sea were hard and fell, and yet tears gleamed in them. A sword was in her hand, and she raised her shield against the horror of her enemy's eyes.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

D. Michl Lowe

The Dead and the Detective: A chapter from the Fantasy Book Project

The Police Station was only thirty minutes from the perp’s residence, just down the river. It was an older house, long past its prime. Detective Chell Roberts was convinced that it had taken them so long to find him because he was so smart. The perp had been so close to her this whole time. He was a librarian by all accounts and intelligent, very intelligent.

She thought that she may have checked a book out from him once. They had been on Vishna Abbot’s trail for over a year now but hadn’t known that name until just yesterday. She riffled through the file that was sitting on her lap as the little carriage she was in bumped down the road, the lights and siren were not on. They were hoping to take Vishna by surprise at home.

He should be home from the library at Riggleman Manor by now, he worked there till about 4:00 p.m. each day, or so her informants had told her. She glanced at her watch, it was 5:01 p.m., and then looked over to her partner, Jason Blount. He sat on the seat beside her in the back of the police carriage, its engine purring along down the cobbled street. He was a good man, but at times much too intellectual for her, and too stern to boot, but he was a good cop. He glanced over at her and smiled. For all that negative, she couldn’t help but feel like they had gotten closer while on this case.

The pictures from the file were dark, but she could see the man’s face, and slicked-back hair, she thought it must be blond, hard to tell with a black and white photo, but the color ones were expensive and you could only get the good film from Repton up North in Haxby. He was tall though, and wiry. “You ready for this?” she asked, dropping the folder to her lap.

He turned to her, his trimmed mustache looking like a little fuzzy worm on his upper lip, it was cute. “Yeah, it’s about time we got this creep. He’s been out here too long pulling this crap.” He shook his head mournfully, “I’m just sorry Jackson had to go as he did. Not fair that.”

Officer Jackson Drake had been the lead investigator on this case, and his ashes had been found in his apartment, along with a great deal of blood. They had known it was the Butcher of Charles Gate because the man had left a note telling the police to back off, or more of them would end up the same way. Chell had requested the case the very next day and that had been five months ago.

Now they were sure they had their suspect nearly in hand. Several solid leads had led them to the little house down by the river just a few blocks from Riggleman Manner, where the library Vishna worked at was located. As they pulled up, a block from the house, use they were surprised by its age, it was one of the classic homes, red brick with white columns along the front porch. It wasn’t large, but it certainly was nicer than what Chell herself lived in. Getting out of the carriage, she pulled her revolver from the leather holster at her hip and checked the chambers.

“Let’s make sure to do this safely, right?” she said. “Victor, Mazy, Pullo; you all head around to the back. Jason and Teller, you two are with me here at the front. The house was dark, which seemed odd. He should already be home. Chell kicked in the front door, “Police! Come out from where you are with your hands where I can see them, then do not move!” She heard the backdoor team enter and shout a similar phrase, but there was nothing, no sounds or shouts, just nothing.

“Maybe he isn’t home yet?” Jason asked.

“Maybe, but let’s be careful. Remember this is the guy who took out Jackson and may be responsible for those disappearances. We don’t know what he’s capable of. So just stay alert.” Chell moved into the entryway of the house, being careful to mark the corners of each room she moved into. After several minutes, the back team had checked upstairs and found nothing and her team had swept the entire downstairs, both teams met in the kitchen and Chell had the backdoor team and Teller remain upstairs and watch for him to return, while she and Jason checked in the basement.

“Dang, creepy right?” Jason said as they moved into the basement.

“Very,” Chell said, as she lit a lantern on her belt. Moving down the stairs and onto the stone floor below, the darkness wafted back away from her light. There were shelves upon shelves creating a maze of junk. As they searched among the shelves, a rancid smell seemed to permeate the whole of the area. They both came together near a larger shelf along the back wall, more ornate than the rest of the room.

“What are the chances this is a secret entrance to some sort of evil lair or something?” Jason asked.

Chell inwardly groaned and rolled her eyes. “You read too many mystery novels, Jason. It’s never that easy.”

Jason reached out to a large book on the shelf labeled Fontello James, a popular author in Warrington, and pulled on the spine of the book as a joke. As he did, there was a large clank and then the section of the shelf they were standing in front of slid back and swung open, revealing a passage moving further under the house.

“I totally knew that was there,” Jason said, smirking.

Chell cocked her head to the side, giving Jason an odd look for the odd comment. He had that way about him, a sort of joking confidence that she was starting to appreciate. She motioned for him to come with her as she entered the revealed passage. It wasn’t a long passage, but soon it became clear where the smell was coming from.

They opened the door and walked down three short steps into a large circular room filled with ash, nearly three feet deep in most places. Throughout the ash, there were pieces of charred clothing and bits of bone and hair.

“This is a grave,” Chell said, covering her mouth with her hand. “These are all dead people.”

Jason retched, emptying the contents of his stomach. Maybe he wasn’t that cute. “I figured that out,” he said wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. She put her hand on his shoulder.

“You gonna be, okay?”

He nodded his head, “Yeah, yeah. I’m fine now. Just a little much all at once, right?”

They walked on through the ash and entered a widened hall with chains hanging from the rafters on the ceiling. From those chains hung at least ten creatures; two brown dogs, four humans, two more Mangalit, a Flemi oddly enough, and finally a Keyoten. All of them had much of their skin peeled away from their bodies and they all groaned, unconscious, but still alive apparently.

Chell checked one of the humans and his face came up to look at her, but there were no eyes in his head. He tried to speak, but his tongue had been cut out apparently so he just groaned.

A shot rang out above. Chell and Jason looked at each other, then bolted for the door. As they rounded the top of the stairs, they were surprised to find their perp sitting on the floor. Mazy stood over him with her baton rapping against the palm of her hand. Pullo was placing cuffs on Vishna.

He didn’t even know we were in here till it was too late. He tried to take a shot at us, but I think he was so surprised by us, that he shot a hole in the ceiling.” Pullo said smiling over at Chell and Jason.

“You’re a bunch of fools, do you know who I am?” Vishna said. “I work for Riggleman Manor, for the Queen’s library!”

Chell smiled at him. “We finally got you, you murdering psychopath! We found your little room downstairs, you are going away for the rest of your life, you sicko.”

Vishna smiled back at her. “Do you think this is the end of the game?” he said. “This is only the start of the game. With everything that happened today, the game is just beginning. I can assure you that.” He began to laugh, a chuckle at first and then a belting guffaw. Chell nodded for the other officers to take him out to the carriages, then turned back to Victor. “Victor, head out and get a message to the local hospital, we are going to need medical assistance. I don’t know if anyone down there is going to survive, and maybe that’s for the best.” She ran the back of her hand over her forehead. Several other officers were heading down into the basement now as well.

“Why was he torturing people like that?” Jason asked a sneer twisting his mouth.

“He was trying to see how close he could get to combustion without having it happen. I read about some crazy scientist sixty years or so ago who did the same thing, tortured people to the point they would combust, and recorded all the data. Said he was trying to save lives by experimenting on people. He found that Brown Dogs combusted easier than Kyoten for some reason. Killed a couple hundred of each though to obtain that data. He worked for the old King of Leyburn, Xanben Rothchild before the people revolted up there and deposed him.” She patted Jason on the shoulder.

“Nasty bit of business that, but I’m wondering if Vishna here has outdone him. That room downstairs was full of ash. How many people would it take to make a twenty-foot by twenty-foot room have three feet of ash in it? Thousands? I don’t know, but he’s one sick guy.” They walked out of the house as the medical team rushed past them.

“Are you heading back home now then?” Chell asked, a hint of hope in her voice. Hope that he might not.

“Yeah, Zell is waiting on me, she gets worried when she knows I’m going on a raid. I guess I’ll see you in the morning then, yeah?” He smiled at her.

“Yeah, I’ll see you in the morning, get some rest.” She turned and headed back to the carriages. She hadn’t taken more than five steps before a frown crossed her face. She had wanted him to spend more time with her, but that was stupid. He was married, and besides, he was her partner. Everyone knew that partners couldn’t be more than that, it never worked out. She grabbed the handle of the carriage and stopped. He was married. He had kids. It wasn’t right, these feelings she had. She needed to get her head on straight.

Backing out of the parking spot, she decided to head down to the local pub, a place called the Pig-Pen. They had good coffee and after what she had seen, she needed something to clear her head. It was going to be a long week.

Eight Christian Parenting Thoughts

I stood at the door to her room and looked down at my watch, it was 1:21 a.m. nearly 7 hours had passed since I had put her to bed. I had to be ready to leave for work in about 5 hours. The door to her room slowly opened and a little face peeked out through the crack. I opened the door, picked up my two-year-old daughter and put her back in the bed, closed the door, and waited. Two minutes later, the door slowly opened again and a little smiling face looked out the crack; repeat. Raising kids is challenging. You will never be perfect and you shouldn’t try to be. You won’t succeed.

Just realize that you will grow in understanding as things go on. If we are going to talk about steps to making parenting better, you should make sure to fully discuss the topic of discipline with your spouse, future spouse, and/or boyfriends. Honestly, all of the above. Discipline is one of those aspects of parenting that if not agreed upon, will tear a relationship apart quicker than almost anything. Discussing this topic is a big deal! Make sure, whether or not you two fully agree on how it is to be done, that you both agree on what will be done. Consistency in discipline is a major key to success with parenting. So, here are several key ideas to keep in mind when disciplining kids and teens.

  1. If your marriage is not solid, your kids won’t be either. This is number 1 for a reason. I say marriage because actually being married is more than important. A solid marriage is the best thing you can do for your kids. I understand that sometimes it’s not possible to be married anymore or that the other parent isn’t willing, but if at all possible, marriage should be on the table and put up on a pedestal above all other relationships. Put God first in your life, then your marriage, then kids, then work, etc. Priorities of importance should be examined and agreed upon.
  2. Prepare by talking with your spouse about what you will do when discipline issues arise, and they will. Talk through issues you know you are going to face as they come up and before they happen. Don’t undermine each other, even if you don’t agree with how your spouse is handling a situation. Back them up, then talk about it later. If the way you all want to handle it changes, let the kids know that the rules have changed. Children are pretty flexible and can adjust to almost anything. If you need to change the way you are doing things, do it.
  3. Tell your kids what your expectations are for them and allow them to live up to those expectations. Let them know what the consequences of failure are. Hold to your commitment to discipline and make sure the kids fulfill their side of the commitment.
  4. Realize they are only (insert the child’s age here) and don’t fully understand things the way you do. If you need to do some research into age-appropriate discipline, that’s why we have google. For that matter, understand that kids are going to make mistakes and even outright defy you. Know this going into the situation of being a mom or dad and prepare yourself to take what your kids throw at you with a degree of humor, understanding, and firm diligence.
  5. Get on your kid’s level, physically and verbally, to speak to them and make sure to end ALL discipline with a discussion of the event, error, etc. Understand that those leading children to the feet of Jesus make a huge difference to them in connecting the truth of scripture to everyday life. Make sure to show them cuddles and love at the end. I find a discussion about how I feel about them and why I discipline them (because I love them) helps them to understand why they got in trouble and how they can avoid being in trouble in the future.
  6. Don’t give discipline in anger. If you are angry, it’s time to step back and distance yourself from the child. Regain your own composure and then return to the situation. Recognize your own frustration. Seriously, putting your child into the crib and walking away when they are screaming will not scar them for life. Sometimes you have to let them cry. Let me say that again, sometimes you have to let them cry. If they are older, step back and give them some space and then come back. They might need some time to compose themselves too. Distance gives you both an opportunity to consider your tactics for discipline.
  7. For a baby in a crib, that you are trying to get to sleep through the night, remember the 5,10,15 rule. Let them cry for 5 minutes and then go in to check on them and lay them back down or rub their back till they are calm. Then leave for 10 minutes; repeat other steps, return again after 15 minutes, and repeat the above steps again. Under no circumstances should you pick them up or remove them from the crib, unless there’s blood or you know they are wet, poopy, etc. Allowing a child to teach themselves self-soothing is important and you will thank me for telling you it’s okay to help them learn this.
  8. With teens, realize they own nothing, you own basically everything they have. Be willing and take the time to understand what is most important to them (this applies to all ages) and then be willing to take that away and give it back to get compliance of behaviors. If it’s not motivating enough for them to change their behaviors, then you are wasting both of your time in disciplining the child or teen.

Discipline can be challenging. There are times that it will seem overwhelming to you. Don’t give up hope. Consistency in effort and a united front as a couple are the keys to good parenting. Remember, royally screwing up kids takes a lot of effort. Kids are very resilient. They bounce back from completely horrible stuff. They say, that as long as a kid has at least one adult in their life that actually cares for them, they can make it. Throughout my time working with kids, I have seen kids go through absolutely horrendous abuse, and yet once they are away from that abuser and are in a secure place with people who care about them and love them, they thrive. So basically, as long as you are loving your kids and giving them clear boundaries, most of the time they are going to be fine. It doesn’t take a village to raise a good kid, it takes parents who are involved and love their kids enough to discipline them.

D. Michl Lowe

Would I Marry My Wife Again?

On a recent trip back to my and Alicia’s university where we met, my kids asked me an interesting question. “Daddy,” they asked. “Are you and mommy going to renew your wedding vows at MVNU when you get there?” I purposed to Alicia at the gazebo down in the grove at MVNU and then we got married in the very spot where I purposed, in the gazebo. So that particular place holds a great deal of meaning to us as a couple. However, in the car that day, I told the kids, “No, I don’t feel the need to renew my vows to Alicia because I still love her and my vows hold just as strong today as they did back then.” But it got me thinking. Alicia and I just celebrated our 18th year of marriage on June 5th of this year, 2022. Looking back, would I do it all again? Would I marry this girl who I fell in love with back in 2000 and then married in 2004? Would I go through it all again?

Alicia and I met in September of 2000 in a field at MVNU in the middle of campus. My roommate at the time introduced us and she was sitting on the ground eating a hotdog with her roommate. I just said hi, and didn’t really think much about it… she was just a girl. Not really knowing my roommate very well (we didn’t know each other before coming to school) and of course not knowing her, I could have never expected what the future would hold. But we became friends. We started to hang out at school and over time, she became more than just my friend. There were struggles during our dating relationship. There was learning that had to take place. I had to come to an understanding of who this gentle girl was. She was unlike anyone else I had ever been interested in. She was completely different than me. I am loud, excitable, passionate, and silly. She is quiet, withdrawn at times, and gentle.

Here’s the thing though, she was wonderfully unique. She wasn’t like the typical girls I would have gone for. She was different, but so very much what I needed. She grounded me in a way. Brought me back to earth. When I would get flighty or would become too much, she would help to bring me back. She was/is honest with me. Men in particular need a lady to ground them. There are a lot of good things about men. Lots to like about these burly boys, but it takes a woman to help those boys truly become men. Not saying you have to have a lady to be a real man, not at all, but I will say this… becoming a true man is much harder to do without a good lady at your side. Together, men and women make each other better. I know choice in a mate is important too, but in general, I would say I am correct, that men and women make each other better. The weakness of masculinity is made strong with the feminine. The weakness of the feminine is made strong in the masculine.

Can you find Nikolai in this photo? He’s hiding.

With Alicia and I, I think we have made each other better. I am a better man because of her. What is it Tom Cruise said, “you complete me”? I don’t know if that’s the right idea, because I have always said that two incomplete people make for a poor couple, but in our case, while I don’t consider us half-people, I do know that knowing her, loving her, and being with her has made me a better person. She doesn’t complete me, but I am “complete”ly in love with her. More so today than yesterday.

So, would I marry her again? Yes. Would I have children with her again? Yes. Would I go through the struggles we’ve had with Kat again with her? Yes. Would I go through all the strife of finding lost Grandparents with her again? Yes. Would I go through Nikolai being put into the NICU again? Yes. Would I go through the struggles of early marriage finances and even struggles in finances today again? Yes. All of everything that has been hard, that has been said, that has left us feeling lost, unhappy, fearful, misunderstood, and mourning. Would I go through all of that again? Would I put my trust in Christ to lead me down the road he has? Would I take her hand again in all of everything that life has to offer us and look into that uncertainty and struggle again with her again?


With no hesitation, yes.

My darling, my love, the very flesh of my flesh. I love you. I will love you; I have loved you, and I will continue to love you. You are mine, and I am forever yours. I will fail you, disappoint you, and someday, I might even lose you… but I want you to know that I love you and nothing is changing that.

I love you.

D. Michl Lowe

Christian Non-violence

Throughout my life, it was always an understood fact that self and others’ defense was a perfectly reasonable and accepted fact of the Christian life. I knew about Christian pacifists, specifically those in Amish communities, but while I understood these groups to be Christian, I always believed them to be more legalistic in their dogma. I mean, these were the same people who said it was “wrong” to wear colored clothes and drive cars. I understood why they did what they did, but I didn’t see those things as wrong, and especially didn’t see them as “sin”. However, in more recent years, there seems to be a much larger growing population of Christians who see themselves as pacifists. When I was writing the book that would eventually become Men of Valor, I did a lot of research into this way of thinking. At the time, our church was following a man named Francis Chan, a pretty amazing teacher of the Gospel and this guy had a friend named Preston Sprinkle, a fun name, I know.

Preston Sprinkle seems to be one of the leading modern voices for this idea of Christian non-violence. In fact, he wrote a book about it, first called Fight, and later retitled Christian Non-violence. Preston is an amazing writer. His level of research is amazing and, in the back of his book, he talks about wanting to grab his shotgun and shooting the thug, he says, “The mere thought of someone harming my family stirs up something fierce.” He then goes on to ask his reader, “… are you 100 percent sure that God won’t intervene?” I’ve been asked this basic question several times. Basically, implying that by stepping back and allowing the evil person to continue unimpeded, you are showing faith in Christ.

To me, this just reeks of the story about a man in a sinking ship. He prays to God to save him. A man comes along in a rowboat and offers to save the sinking man, but he refuses. Two others come and ask him if he wants to be saved, but he refuses each time saying that he is waiting for God to save him. Well, the man drowns. He gets to Heaven and asks God, “Why didn’t you save me?” God replies, “Well, I sent you three rowboats!” God has given man the ability to be a man. “Haven’t I commanded you; be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

He would not require something of us if he hadn’t also given us the ability to accomplish it. As men, even modern men, we yearn for a time when we can stand up and be counted among the great men of the age. Men often attempt to sate this urge with video games and movies about heroes. However, in these arguments we see Christians trying to get us to ignore this inborn, God-given desire to save those whom we love. This isn’t right. Why would God call us to gamble with our family’s lives? God has called humans to a higher standard. One that compels us to put our own lives on the line to save those we love; even if it means killing an evil person. We wouldn’t want to do it, might even beg the person to not make us do it, but in the end, we would do it, if there were no other option.

In another section of his book, Mr. Sprinkle says, “Do you own a gun? Is it loaded? Are you a good shot? Are you a better shot than your attacker? If you are such a good shot, then why not shoot the gun out of his hand?” This is where Mr. Sprinkle really loses his credibility. He makes several other statements about guns and then backtracks and says he “owns several guns” as if that means he is somehow an authority. I am not an authority in any way but know enough to know when someone is just fear-mongering. The ending crux of Mr. Sprinkle’s arguments really falls apart when he says, “But not all enforced pain is violent. It all depends on the intention.” He is calling for you to beat up an attacker and just not kill them.

I mostly agree with his statement, but not in the context of how he says it. I believe that a person’s intention is paramount. I believe I can kill someone with the pure intent of saving someone else or even myself. Not all killing is done in hate. Also, unfortunately, Mr. Sprinkle does not understand a violent attacker. Specifically, while I have not been involved in a fight for my life, I would say I am an authority on people who are coming down off drugs. I can tell you that I have seen men (and women), who are coming down off drugs, who it took eight full-grown adults to hold down in a therapeutic hold. Even with that number of people, it was still like riding a bucking bull. A person who is filled with adrenaline is a powerhouse! I’m sure we have all heard the stories of moms lifting cars off of infants when filled with adrenaline.

What Mr. Sprinkle doesn’t seem to understand, is that someone hyped on drugs or full of adrenaline is more than a match for a person who is scared. For that matter, most home break-ins aren’t done by single individuals, but by more than one person.

In this instance, it’s at least two against one. You must have an equalizer to have any chance at all. He argues that forcefully killing the attacker is an act of violence and he is right, but that violence is not evil, it is providing justice in love for evil here on earth. Christ always calls us to love first and I find that idea compelling and instructional. I like what César Chávez has said about it, “I am not a nonviolent man. I am a violent man who is trying to be nonviolent.” I also quite like Jordan Peterson when he says, “A harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very, very dangerous man who has that under voluntary control.” Violence in a fallen world is a necessity to live a Godly life. Being willing to soil your unbloodied hands and your own innocence is at times necessary to do what is right, to live a life that God has called you to.

I have always had a great amount of respect for C.S. Lewis and in reading Mere Christianity again, I find a nearly perfect quote from him about what it means for a Christian to take a life.

“Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? No, for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment—even to death. If one had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged. It is, therefore, in my opinion, perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy. I always have thought so, ever since I became a Christian, and long before the war, and I still think so now that we are at peace.” He is saying that taking a life for a justified reason, is not the same as murder, not in God’s eyes anyway and it certainly shouldn’t be in our eyes. I also find the idea that some who preach Christian pacifism or Christian non-violence seem to believe that if you believe otherwise, you are somehow not in line with Christ, or that you cant be saved if you believe this way. I find this to be a very dangerous way of thinking. You might believe I misunderstand a Biblical concept, which I certainly do believe if you preach Christian non-violence, but I do not believe you are not a Christian if you believe this. I believe you misunderstand a Biblical concept, but that this concept is not a salvific concept that much be understood right away. You can misunderstand this, and still be a follower of Christ. But to those who preach Christian non-violence though and say if you don’t agree you are not a follower of Christ… perhaps you should back off a step and remove the plank from your own eye.

So, in the end, I’m sorry Mr. Sprinkle, but I love my family, innocents, and the temple of the Holy Spirit (my own body), too much to allow evil to debase or destroy them. I choose love, not hate. Because you would truly have to hate someone to allow the evil of this world to act when you have been given the ability to stop that evil by an all-powerful and loving God. In fact, I believe you become evil in allowing it to continue.

A Christian Response to Gun Violence

December 29th, 2019 was a day that the membership of West Freeway Church of Christ in Texas will likely never forget. A man who they had fed several times and shown the love of Christ to in the past came into church that day dressed in a long black trench coat and a fake beard. The church security team was put on alert and they positioned themselves close to the man, just in case. During the service, he got up and went to the back of the church to talk to one of the security personnel and then opened fire with a shotgun he had hidden under his coat.

He killed two members of the congregation before one of the security team persons, Jack Wilson, pulled a firearm and shot the man, ending the rampage. It was a horrific ordeal that left the church and the nation stunned. Not long after, on January 13th, 2019, The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbot placed The Medal of Courage around Jack Wilson’s neck. Speaking to a small crowd, the Governor said,

“Only God knows who is alive today because of Jack Wilson. What we do know is that so many lives were saved because of Jack Wilson’s quick action, his calmness under pressure, and, above all else, his courage and his willingness to risk his own life to save the lives of others.”

Speaking about what happened during the incident, Jack would say,

“The events at West Freeway Church of Christ put me in a position that I would hope no one would have to be in, but evil exists and I had to take out an active shooter in church. I am very sad about the loss of two dear friends and brothers in Christ, but evil does exist in this world and I and other members are not going to allow evil to succeed.”

Later on, after receiving The Medal of Courage he said,

“I feel more as a protector than I do a hero. I feel very honored that God allowed me to have that capability to do what needed to be done at that particular time… I don’t feel like I killed an individual. I feel like I killed evil. That’s how I’m approaching it and that’s how I’m processing [it].”

So why am I talking about a mass shooting? How should Christian men respond to these types of situations? Am I saying that all Christian men should be carrying guns every day? No. Am I saying that Christian men should embrace a life that may lead them toward violence? Maybe. Am I saying that as a man of Christ you should be prepared to do what Christ would call us to do in terms of loving people enough to sacrifice our own comfort, innocence, and bloodless hands? Absolutely! As a man, you have been called to love your neighbors, protecting others should be something we not only think about but something we actively prepare to do.

In Mathew 22: 37-40, Jesus is talking to a Pharisee who has asked Him which is the greatest commandment of the law, and he said,  

“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.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Mathew 22:37-40

Christ calls us to lay down our lives in love for others. To allow a moral evil, like the one present when a person is seeking to commit murder, rape, abduction, or the like; is to put aside the love you have for the victim of that sin. David French, in his article for the National Review, called The Biblical and Natural Right of Self Defense says,

While the New Testament certainly removes from the individual Christian any justification for vengeance (leaving vengeance to God’s agent, the state) – lex talionis (eye for an eye) was always a rule of proportionate justice, not self-defense. In fact, Jesus’s disciples carried swords, and Jesus even said in some contexts the unarmed should arm themselves (Luke 22:36). The sword’s use was only specifically forbidden when Peter used violence to block Christ’s specific purpose to lay down his life.

We have been called to be prepared for Christ’s sake. In 1st Corinthians 16:13, it says,

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” Corinthians 16:13

Be watchful; in other words, be prepared and ready to respond in the way Christ would have you to respond. If we are to truly love the helpless, the weak, and our neighbor; as we love ourselves then we must protect them in whatever way we can. Now I hear your questions and statements already.

Just because we are called to “love our neighbors” as ourselves does that mean we must protect them by killing?

That seems extreme I hear some of you saying. People die as martyrs. Sacrificing themselves for the faith, have you thought of that?

You know, the next verse in Corinthians 16, the 14th verse says, “And whatever you do, do it with kindness and love.” Does killing someone seem kind or loving to you?!

Let me address these concerns. When we are talking about the possibility of killing someone, we don’t take this action lightly. Nothing about this act is a good thing, beyond your love for those you are attempting to protect. If there is literally any other way to address the situation, that way should be taken; period! Is it extreme? Of course, it’s extreme, that’s why it’s sad and harmful, even for the person who is forced to do it.

What about being a martyr? Shouldn’t Christians welcome the ability to stand up for the faith in death? It is honorable to die for the faith, but that is a calling from Christ that an individual must make for themselves in a prayerful moment or beforehand during a time of crisis. When it is known that this possibility exists you can prepare for that action. If you are able to understand the nature of the world you inhabit and you are willing to die to further the causes of Christ, and that Christ has specifically called you to this end.

What about that 14th verse in Chapter 16 of Corinthians, “And whatever you do, do it with kindness and love”? Doesn’t that speak directly against what you are saying?

Not at all. Within the call to action in kindness and love is the understanding that giving a response to aberrant behavior is not unloving or unkind. An alternate understanding might be that we are giving justice and in that continuing to show love to the victims of evil. Proverbs 21:15 even tells us, “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.”

Also, in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explained, “’Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? No, for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment — even to death. If you had committed a murder, the right Christian thing to do would be to give yourself up to the police and be hanged.’ Capital punishment may or may not be good public policy, but we ought not oppose it because we are supposed to “love” everybody. Failing to punish a dangerous criminal is not behaving with love toward the rest of our neighbors.”

Coming back to the idea of being a martyr, we must also understand our role as a man of Christ and the consideration that our death would impact others around us. We must not search out or condone our own death when doing so would bring others further from or outside of an understanding of Christ’s saving grace. If allowing myself to die would give my family the cause to fall further from an understanding of the love of Christ, then I must do all I can to maintain my life and the life of those I am within reach of to help them in their pursuit of Christ.

David French lays out the self-defense argument nicely in the same article. He says,

…the morality of self-defense is not only presumed, the act of self-defense is permitted and even mandated by key Biblical figures. This principle flows of course from a moral law that reveres human life. It should be protected, not merely avenged. Nehemiah, when he was rebuilding Jerusalem in the face of hatred (not in wartime, but when tribal neighbors were seeking to carry out vigilante attacks on Jews) instructed his people: “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:14).

As the men of Christ, we have a responsibility to live into the role Christ has cast for us in whatever way we are able. Some of us might see carrying a gun for defense as a moral blight. I have often thought about King David when looking at the possibility of having to take a life. David was seen as a man after God’s own heart, but he is also seen as the warrior king. In fact, he was not even allowed to build God’s temple because he had shed too much blood. 1 Chronicles 22:8 says,

“But this word of the Lord came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight.” 1 Chronicles 22:8

David was following God’s commands throughout his military campaigns. Even when we look at his battle with Goliath where David clearly took a life (in a rather gruesome way); he was also following the commands of God in doing so. Were the deaths at David’s hands insignificant then? No, they weren’t or he would have been worthy to construct the temple. So, while he was not committing sin to slay his enemies, God felt that those deaths were a stain on David in some non-sinful way. This makes sense because any time a life is lost it’s no small thing, to us or to God. This is one of the burdens of being a man.

In times of great peril, we are often called into dishonoring ourselves with blood.

While this is not sin, it is still a blight upon your soul and mind. You would literally never be the same person. The mental, spiritual, and even physical burdens that this ordeal places upon a person are great indeed. God realizes this. I believe this is why David was told that he was not the one who was going to build the temple. Let’s remember, however, that David’s son Solomon, was given the honor of building the temple. His father sacrificed his own honor, taking on the blight and stench of death, and in the end, his son was able to gain great honor for God by being the one to build it.

David was the warrior King so that Solomon might rule in relative wealth and prominence. As men, we are at times called to follow in the footsteps of David and kill so that others might live. There is pain, heartache, sorrow, and depression in taking on this burden, but that is the mantle we are called to take up. The possibility of dishonoring ourselves for the sake of others is real and should be taken seriously. Did Christ not do this for us, take on shame and sin in our stead? As Christ has done, we should do likewise.

D. Michl Lowe

My Guilt and Inspiration: The time I found Robert Jordan’s house

Me standing at the gates to Robert Jordan’s mansion with the white dragon banner flying off the porch.

I may get some flak for this article and to some degree, I think it might even be warranted. However, I feel like I need to write it and talk about it so that is what I am going to do. In March of 2022, my wife and I decided to take our first-ever cruise. We were on a pretty small ship apparently comparing our ship to the many others when we would pull into ports, but the smallness did afford us something quite nice; we were able to go ashore in Charleston SC. I am not a fan of large cities, but if I am going to go to one, Charleston SC is just about my favorite.

I enjoy walking around the city. I enjoy the food in the city. I enjoy the atmosphere of this city. I enjoy the history of this city. So many things about this place that I really love, which is odd, because basically every other city on Earth, I despise.

Well, we came into port and had several hours to kill in Charleston. I had two things on my mind, one was that I was getting a cold and needed to head to a pharmacy so that I could get some cold medication and the other, was that I wanted to find Robert Jordan’s house. Some of you might not know who Robert Jordan is, so let me just take a moment and explain who this guy was. Robert Jordan was the main author of the Wheel of Time series of books. This is a fourteen-book series that was written from 1990 to 2013. Robert Jordan died on September 16th, 2007 from primary amyloidosis with cardiomyopathy, basically it’s a blood disease that caused the walls of his heart to thicken. He wasn’t able to actually finish the series, but when he got his diagnosis and the doctors said that he would most likely only get about four more years of life, he wrote down as many notes as he could so that someone else could finish the last book for him.

RJ’s driveway with the white dragon gates open.

When he passed away, his wife and editor Harriet McDougal chose author Brandon Sanderson to finish the last novel for her late husband. When all the notes and information had been poured over, it was clear that one book was not going to be enough to actually finish the series and so Brandon actually wrote the last three books of the series and he is pretty much universally praised for his work on it. He has been widely respected and seen as a master of the craft and possibly the only person who could have written the story in how he did and given it the respect and breath it required. So, all that being said, Robert Jordan’s house was in Charleston SC and I wanted to find it. It should be noted, that his house is not a public place where you can just go tour it or anything. I mean Harriet still lives there from what I understand and it is of course private property.

However, I didn’t want to trespass or create any form of disturbance. I knew he lived in Charleston SC and I knew his front gate was white and had dragons carved into the front of it. Alicia and I had a few more clues, but nothing close to what might be considered an address. This is because of course; this is a private residence. Now, let me take a moment and talk about Charleston for a moment. It might sound bad that I am trying to find a personal residence and want to take a picture in front of it. However, that’s a fairly normal thing to do in Charleston. In fact, many houses even have plaques on the side of their gates or walls that tell you who used to live there or who the house is famous for in some way. So, people walking around looking at houses and taking pictures in front of them is fairly normal. That being said, I am not going to tell you how to find RJ’s house.

The garden of the mansion.

We walked around following the small bread crumbs I had found through google searches and it seemed hopeless. We were nearly out of time and needed to be heading back towards the boat. I was convinced that we weren’t going to find it and had come to peace about that. We decided to turn down one final street that was heading back towards our boat anyway, and there it was. Directly in front of me was a white gate, two dragons carved into the front of it. “There it is!” I yelped. I stopped on the other side of the street, feeling like I couldn’t get closer. As if crossing the street would be treading on holy ground. “Well get over there so I can take your picture,” Alicia said. I didn’t want to move. The gate was open, I could see RJ’s front porch, and the Dragon Banner was flying from his porch just like I had heard it would be.

The white gates to the mansion with carved dragons on them.

Alicia finally convinced me to stand by the gate and get my picture taken in front of the house. I did peak in the garden through the rot iron fence and if you look closely in some of the pictures, you can see the carriage house that is behind the mansion which is where The Wheel of Time books were actually written. RJ did his writing back there. Apparently, the entire building is full of books, and maps, and at the very back his computer and desk chair. I looked through that garden and for the life of me felt like I was being given a glimpse into some hidden world, like dying for only a moment and getting to see Heaven without being allowed to stay. As soon as my pictures were taken and I had taken that moment to drink in the awe, I purposefully moved on and didn’t linger. I didn’t want to disturb Harriet. I didn’t want to spoil the magic of the place with the reality of myself.

Another view of the garden and the brick building in the back of the photo with the chimney is the carriage house, where the wheel of time was written.

We walked back to the ship and I felt like I was walking through a dream. I had glimpsed magic I was never meant to see. I had dipped my toe into the world of a master of the art. I have written books. I have written stories and articles, but for all the world I feel like an ant next to a giant. There is a hope inside my heart that someday my writings will be beloved and pined over. There isn’t an understanding that I am on or will be on the same plane as a man like RJ, but I have some hope that I can stand in the shadow of that greatness and at least feel the warmth of the sun. I will never forget that day and being able to stand so close to where such beloved magic was created. Maybe some of that magic has rubbed off on me. If nothing else, I have been deeply inspired.  

D. Michl Lowe

Unpopular Ideas in My Circle

I am often an odd duck. Often describing myself as a conservative Libertarian, I hold some different views about several different issues. Some of those beliefs may not be set in stone. Some of them might be contentious or even seen as wrong. However, just because I might think something should be legal or should be put into place, does not mean that I wish to partake in said thing, or that I believe said thing is morally right or not harmful in some way. So take everything I am going to say with a grain of salt and know that I am very flexible on these thoughts and that I could be convinced otherwise if someone were to offer a compelling argument to the opposing side. So let’s start with a bang!

Cannabis Should be Legalized:

This one is interesting. There are several reasons why I think this should be done. First off, the reasoning behind it being put as a Schedule 1 drug in the first place seems sketchy at best. The campaign to demonize it seems almost laughable these days when you look at the politically motivated movie Reefer Madness in 1936 and the political cartoons of the time as well.

However, while I will never use this substance, I also don’t think it should be criminalized. When we look at the psychological and physical effects of using this substance, we can see that these effects are not as severe as the effects of using too much alcohol. It is nearly impossible to overdose on this drug and while it is not safe to drive a car while on it, the same can be said for alcohol use. We allow alcohol in our country and some laws govern its legal use. I believe that similar laws could be enacted to govern cannabis. Do I believe that use in children/teens will increase? Yes. However, the net good of freeing up our police forces from drug-related enforcement efforts and the decrease of those incarcerated for purely drug-related offenses would be a good thing overall. Should there be consequences if people are say driving while intoxicated? Of course! Should there be consequences if people are using this drug around children and there is secondhand exposure? Yep. Should there be consequences for children and teens who are found using this substance underage? Yes.

I just don’t feel like we should not be incarcerating people for this.

All Drugs Should Be Decriminalized:

Now I don’t think that we should be selling the harder drugs or making them more available, but I don’t think that we should be criminalizing the use of these substances. Do I think this would harm society? Maybe. However, I don’t believe that criminalizing the use of a substance is the right way to combat the issue. Am I in favor of criminalizing selling these substances? Maybe. But for those people who are addicted and struggling, should we be criminalizing them? No. I think we should be trying to help these people to overcome their addictions in any way possible. I believe if we took the funding that we have been using for punishing and going after the people using these substances and put it towards rehabilitation programs and making those either affordable or even free to those struggling, we might be able to help those people get into recovery.

I Hope Multiverse Theory is Correct:

This is another odd duck of an idea. Recently scientists have been talking about Multiverse Theory. Even in popular movies like Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and Everything Everywhere All at Once and even in some more classic films like Donnie Darko we see this idea being played with and explored. Spiritually and honestly scientifically, I am okay with this idea. I like this idea quite a bit and I don’t think I am alone in liking it. C. S. Lewis in his classic The Chronicles of Narnia books explored this idea quite a bit. In The Magician’s Nephew the first book in the series chronologically we see Polly and Diggory heading into the Woods Between the Worlds and getting into a different dimension.

Now it should be noted that Polly and Diggory go into the other world known as Charn bringing about an age of terror in Narnia because they bring The White Witch to Narnia at its birth and therefore set up the evil that she does in that world, but still, I hope Multiverse Theory is correct. And let me tell you why I hope that.

I think that the idea that there are multiple worlds all ruled over by God is incredibly interesting to theorize about and play with. Writing Christian fantasy is bringing my mind into this world and helping me to believe that all things (even crazy world things) are possible with a God as infinite and imaginative as ours. I like to think that while we are of course the children of God, he would have no reason to tell us about the other worlds in which he has other children. So while our scriptures may be silent on the topic of other worlds (so far as I can tell), I like this idea and hope it’s true.

Universal Basic Income Might Help:

This is something that I might get some flak for. I think that a UBI might be a solution for the state of the Welfare System in our country (USA). Now let me do some explaining first. The US spends about 1.05 trillion dollars on the welfare system per year. That’s including state contributions. There are around 258.3 million adults in the US. If we take the total spending on welfare and then divide that by the number of adults, that gives each adult in the US a total amount of cash per year of $4,065.00 which doesn’t seem like much. If you divide that out over 12 months, it only accounts for $338.75 per month. It doesn’t seem like much does it?

That being said though if we eliminate all adults who make over $100,000 per year. That only leaves us with 37 million people. I think I would comfortably say that people who make over $100,000 per year do not need welfare. So if we take those 37 million people left who make under that amount we get a very different story. So if we take 1.05 trillion dollars and divide that among 37 million people that make under 100,000 dollars a year, then each adult gets $28,378.38 per year. That equals an extra $2,364.86 per month for all adults. If it’s you and your spouse? That’s an extra $4,729.73 per month or an extra $56,756.76 per year.

Now let’s look at this realistically, do people making $100,000 need that? No. If we were going to try to help with poverty, we could only look at those people making $50,000 or less. So that amount of cash would be even more if we looked at that. Now, these numbers are completely based on what we are currently spending on the entire welfare system in the US and Lord knows that I am not good at math. So my numbers could certainly be off. That being said, I am all for people being in charge of their own lives. I am all for people being responsible for their own well-being. I don’t believe the government knows best how to help my family; I think I do. I trust other people to know what’s best for their families as well.

I think that when people are given the freedom to help themselves in the way they see as best, they will overwhelmingly use those recourses much more effectively than the government can. Will some people misuse those resources? Of course, but that is happening now with our current system. So I would much rather encourage people to be more responsible than less responsible. In the long term, I think this type of policy would save the average taxpayer money. Cash in the pocket doesn’t need to increase its budget quite as often when special interest groups are vying for the money, but it’s just the American people. It would only need to increase when inflation increases (go figure that might be needed given the current state of things). Along with this, we could have a program where if we see that a person is unable to help themselves and we see a pervasive need for that person to have help in utilizing those funds, a directed agency would be able to help the person to direct those funds in a meaningful way, working towards allowing them full control in the future if possible.

All American Schools Should Have Firearm Training:

I believe that all American High Schools should teach senior men to shoot modern sporting riffles, how to clean them, maintain them, and properly shoot them. Along with that, they should all be taught proper safety and storage of them as well. Given what is happening in Ukraine with Russia invading there, men in the US should have a basic understanding of firearms, if the need should arise for them to help in the defense of their home and country. This leads me to my next point.

All Adults Should be Issued a Fully Automatic AR15:

I believe that all adult males who are of age and legal status should be issued a fully automatic AR15 along with ten 30-round magazines and a yearly allotment of 4,000 rounds of NATO ball ammunition. The right to bear arms is enshrined in our constitution and we should be supporting that right, both through free education for seniors in High School and also free training for the public at large.

According to, “All Swiss men over the age of 18 undergo basic military training, after which they remain part of a national “militia” until they are around 30. They keep their unloaded service weapons at home during this time, and when their service has ended they have the choice of keeping their personal weapon, as long as they first acquire a permit. Women can also volunteer for national service.” Now, that is Switzerland of course, and not the US, but I think we can learn a thing or two from the Swiss. I think all US men over the age of 18 should be required to undergo military training. South Korea has a similar policy. I think it would also do a lot in helping some of our “man-child” issues. Might help some of these losers in their mother’s basement to grow up a bit.

Along with these types of training, we would of course be giving all these adult males psychological testing when they go to enter into military service. It would be at this point that we would be able to identify problematic psychological issues within the male population and be able to get those individuals the help they may need in dealing with those issues before they become violent or problematic within society as a whole.


Are these ideas unpopular? Perhaps. Would I be willing to reconsider these ideas? Of course! However, for the moment, this is where I stand on these ideas. In the future, I think I could change my tune. Many of these ideas I think might be pipe dreams for the moment. However, I like to think about things like this. I believe that if we can’t talk about issues we will never grow. If we can’t throw out ideas to people who may not have thought of these ideas, then how can we ever make things better? I like talking about things that are off and odd. Please feel free to question, argue, or disparage any or all of these ideas in the comments below. I welcome the discourse. Thanks for reading.

D. Michl Lowe

Abortion Addressed

Abortion; it’s been in the news a lot here lately due to the court leaks and the supposed upcoming overturning of Roe v. Wade. It’s a highly controversial topic with strong opinions on both sides of the aisle, but really, it shouldn’t be. Now, it should be mentioned that I am a white, Christian, middle-class, straight man and have been told quite frequently that my opinion on the matter isn’t wanted, needed, or valued. And I have been told that I need to (in a direct quote) “Sit down and shut up!” and “No uterus, no opinion!”

However, it really shouldn’t be an issue to admit that abortion is a moral issue to many people and in the square of public debate, moral issues are and should be debated by all people, regardless of sex or any other difference. I am also a conservative Libertarian. So when it comes to personal rights or liberty, I am very stern in my thoughts about rights and the values put forth by many libertarian ideals. So with that in mind, I am going to be writing about abortion today.

There’s an app I have been really enjoying lately called Rumble Debate. It’s an app where they give you topics to discuss and then you can have a one-on-one debate with someone who disagrees about the selected topic. Then others can vote on who they believe won a completed debate. For a person like me (who loves a good debate) it’s a fantastically fun app. You might believe that it just descends into complete chaos 99% of the time, like nearly every other argument online, but I have mostly been pleasantly surprised at the civility of the debates I have had so far.

That being said, they recently opened a debate on whether or not you agree with the Supreme Court ruling on Roe and I have been very unimpressed with the arguments I have had from those who disagree with me and have found very few people who are willing to really have a true conversation with me about it. It’s rare that they even have answers to my points and questions. Most of the time, I have presented some of my points and they have just refused to address them. So let me share some of the thoughts about abortion I have gathered throughout the years and see what you think.

1. Abortion ends a human life:

It seems like this shouldn’t even be a point that needs to be made, but I am making it because so many don’t want to actually acknowledge this aspect. Let’s face the reality here, the entity within a woman has human DNA, is a male or female (though most of the time it’s in there), has human features (through the majority of the time it’s in there), and most certainly is alive. From nearly every standard we have, it is alive. So when an abortion happens, this ends a human life.

2. Lack of development is a terrible argument:

The issue with this idea that is often thrown around is that you can extend it to humans outside of the womb. I have often heard it said that because the entity is an embryo, fetus, zygote, etc; it is not ending a human life and is not murder or killing. This is a very weak argument because my son who is only two and a half is not fully developed. I should also mention that he is very expensive and often loud, so am I free to kill him?

He is not fully developed, so does that make it okay? I really hope you say no. Beyond that, the human brain technically doesn’t finish its development until around the age of 28 years, so many of you reading this aren’t fully developed either. Should your mommy or daddy have the right to kill you right now? I mean, technically you aren’t fully developed. You laugh, but it’s completely true.

3. Location is a bad argument:

I have heard said a lot that because the entity is within a woman’s body, she should have the right to get rid of (murder) said entity. However, my personal location does not rid me of my right to live. I recently took a trip to Virginia with the 4th graders of the school I work at. My right to be alive did not end when I passed into a new state.

It doesn’t end when I leave my house. It didn’t end when I took a trip to South Korea several years ago. This is a God-given right that doesn’t end when a person changes locations or is in a specific location. Neither should the human entity within a woman lose its God-given right to life just because of its location within a womb.

4. Dependency is a poor argument:

This is one of the most popular arguments that pro-choice advocates like to make. Because the entity is dependent on the woman for survival, ending that dependency is neither murder nor ending a human life because that life was dependent on another human for its survival. However, that’s a very poor argument because once again, we can extend it beyond the womb.

Let’s take my son again, just a year or so ago, my son was breastfeeding from my wife (which is one of the most amazing things God ever came up with), and I would argue that he was (and still is) completely dependent on her for his survival. Without her body (literally) he would have died. He had to have her to live.

But even without the milk side of things, many people require others for survival. I had friends who had severely mentally handicapped children who completely depend on others for their survival and will for the entirety of their lives. Can we kill these people? They depend on other human bodies to live. I hope you would say no.

5. Consciousness or awareness are flawed arguments:

I haven’t heard this argument made as much, but if you dig long enough with someone, this one might come up. Either way though, it’s a poor excuse for murder. You will hear the pro-choice side say that because the entity is not conscious, or is not aware, it is not murder to remove and kill said entity. It’s a terrible argument because there are many people who don’t have a consciousness or awareness.

Fully grown adults who are in a coma don’t have consciousness or awareness during that time. They still retain a right to life. You can’t just go through and stab people who are in a coma. That’s still murder. Beyond that, everyone sleeps and quite frankly, you are neither conscious nor aware while you are asleep. Should it be fine to stab you while you sleep? I thought not.

6. The Rape/Incest argument does work:

If a person is raped or there is an incestual pregnancy the pro-choice folks will often call the pro-life people monsters for suggesting that the woman be “forced” to carry the child to term, saying that it re-traumatizes the woman over and over again. I’m not going to say that it wouldn’t re-traumatize a woman to carry the child to term. However, saving her from further trauma is not a free license to end the life within her.

If we understand that the entity within a woman is a living human life, then ending her life is morally wrong regardless of the trauma its allowance to live brings others. It continues to have the right to live. The man who committed this evil upon a woman does not and should not give license to murder an innocent child. That child should not be punished for the evil their father committed.

That evil lasts, long after the actual act is done. That evil may even be lasting into the birth of a child that came from that original evil. It’s a terrible thing, but awful things happen in life. All we can do is love and support the woman through the pregnancy and birth of the child. All these pregnancies should be automatically put up for free adoption right after birth unless the woman wants the child.

Closing argument:

I understand why the pro-choice folks are passionate about this. I’m convinced most of them have the best intentions. They want women to be able to lead productive and happy lives and an unexpected child can certainly impact that. However, no one’s life or quality of life should supersede another’s life or quality of life. People have equal rights. All peoples have a right to live, including those entities within a womb.

D. Michl Lowe

Striking Out in Fatherhood

The other day I saw a comment from one of my buddies from college about his kid playing a sport. He was talking about trying to encourage his kid in the sport she was playing and how that is often difficult. I shared with him an experience I had with my own daughter Ellianna and how I as her dad have tried to encourage her. I think I would like to share it with you all as well, not to toot my own horn, but to hopefully encourage other parents to follow suit.

So Ellie started playing softball last year. She did extremely well that year. It was coach pitch and she was blasting those balls every other pitch it seemed like. She’s always been a speedy kid and is as competitive as they come, the complete opposite of me. When I was a kid, I played t-ball and I think my coach just decided that if he placed me far enough in the outfield, he could forget I was on the team and just play the game down a man. Which, honestly was most likely for the best since I was more interested in chasing butterflies in the outfield than playing the actual game. Ellie however is serious about this stuff and is almost always on point with her head in the game.

Anyway, this year they started doing “kid pitch”. While most of the games are just a revolving door of kids getting walked because of ball pitches, occasionally the kids will just swing and basically get themselves out by swinging at pitches that would never have been a strike. That being said, during one of our games this year Ellie came off the field in tears after being struck out. She told me later that she was upset because she hadn’t gotten a hit in two games.

I found her behind the dugout crying with two of her teammates attempting to comfort her (good teammates). I went up to her and while hugging her, I whispered this into her ear, “Darlin, if you never hit another ball in your life, I would still be bursting with pride for you. I am proud of you and I love you! I love watching you play your games and I am excited every time you are playing. As long as you are having fun out there, you have fulfilled every expectation I have ever had for you in sports.”

Now, to be fair, she continued to cry and be upset. She has very high standards for herself. However, I always want her to know that her winning or losing at something doesn’t affect my feelings or thoughts about her. She is my daughter and I am proud of her just because she is mine.

I remember one game we were at, I was standing by the fence watching the game, and a man was standing next to me. Apparently, his daughter was at the third base, covering it. He started growling at her, “Hey (kids name), you better catch that ball if it comes to you! Do you hear me? You have to make up for that last inning and you messing up like you did! Don’t embarrass me like that again! You hear me?” I had to bite my tongue. I was ready to let that dad know what type of dad I thought he was being. Maybe I should have, but I will tell you that I vowed even then that I would never be like that man. That’s not who God has called me to be.

D. Michl Lowe

When I Die, Freeze Me And Pound Me In The Ground

My mother used to say, “When I die, just freeze me and pound me in the ground.” This is a great saying and honestly made me really think about what I wanted to be done when I died. Maybe that’s a morbid thing to talk about or think about, but honestly, it’s never been that big of a deal to me. My death is not the end of me. I know where I’m going and while I might not know all the details of what is going to happen, I am ready for it should it come soon. I do not fear death.

So I have been thinking about it for a long time now and I have realized that I am unlike many of my fellow West Virginians. The people of West Virginia value funerals… a lot. It is a big deal here. I however do not. While I understand why these rituals are valued, I myself do not value them at all. Well, let me step that back for a second. There is value to me, in that I see that they help people I care about go through the grieving process. That is valuable to me, but me personally, no.

I believe when I die, if my wife and children are still around (I hope), then I don’t want a funeral. I suppose that if the kids need something then that is fine, but honestly, I hope they don’t spend much money on it. If anything is needed to be done, then just have a picture of me up front at the church and have the pastor preach a short sermon. Then maybe people could bring some pot luck so people could eat and share memories of me, that would be great.

I have seen the bills that funerals leave behind. I don’t want to saddle my family with anything like that when I pass on. I don’t need a fancy coffin. I don’t need a new suit to wear. I don’t need formaldehyde in me to preserve me. In fact, I don’t need anything done to the body besides to get rid of it. That’s not me any longer. I am not in there. Who I am is no longer present with that husk. I am somewhere else, with someone else.

I understand that grief is a part of losing someone. I am okay with the grief, but it has nothing to do with my body. I have spent a little time looking into how to donate your body to science, but it seems like it is a more complicated idea than I first thought. It’s not like being an organ donor, where you just check the box and it’s taken care of. There’s a little more to it apparently. I need to spend some more time investigating it. I would rather allow my body to help future doctors learn than to make it all “pretty” so people can gawk at my body and say things like, “He looks so natural.” Yeah, I’m a fan of that.

Death, for me, is not a loss. Sure I don’t want to have it happen any time soon, there’s still a lot left to do on this plane, but neither do I shy away from it. I’m not worried about it. When I was younger, there was certainly some existential dread going on, but I think that was because I felt like there was still so much left to do. Much of those desires have been fulfilled for me. Let’s look at some of those, I got to marry the love of my life, and our life together has been fantastic so far and as much as I can tell, it will be for the future as well. I have three amazing kids who are already turning out fantastic. Now of course there’s a lot left to do with them, but they are here and will continue to be as fantastic as they are now, I have no doubt. I guess in the end, as my Momma said, “Just freeze me and pound me in the ground.”

D. Michl Lowe

A Cheap Map And Some Crayons: The Fantasy Book Project: Update 2

I stepped into the room and flopped on the bed beside where Alicia, my wife, was sitting. “Am I just being silly?” I asked. She cocked her head and looked at me, “That depends on what you are referring to,” she said. A pragmatic answer and expected honestly. I continued, “With this whole book I am working on.”

I had just spent the last three hours measuring, drawing, cutting, and finally coloring a map (Pictured here). I used crayons because, well, I have kids and they were readily available. It was a modified flood map of the Eastern United States. Which I know sounds like an odd thing to spend three hours doing, but in working on my new novel, I thought it might be fun to play with the idea of a far-future place that was still on this planet but very changed. My daughter’s teachers have been pushing climate change a lot this year and I started to wonder what the world would look like if all the ice caps melted.

So I took to YouTube, as you do, and looked up flood maps of the Eastern US. The video started and slowly the land began to disappear underwater, the Mississippi River swelling and the Ohio River as well, slowly engulfing the surrounding land. It was actually quite fascinating to watch. At the place where it said the water was 280 meters above sea level, the world looked very similar to the image above. I snapped a screenshot and then traced the outline of the land on a sheet of printer paper. I had it then, a basic shape that looked very good to me.

So what was it for? I wanted to write my fantasy book and be able to talk about distances and travel times accurately. I mean, that’s not the main point of the book, but I always want things to make sense, even if they aren’t real. I want my readers to go, “oh, well that could happen.” In many fantasy books I’ve read, people seem to travel and get places in no time at all, but I wanted to really delve into that idea a bit with my book. With a real-life map, I can actually look at travel times and play around with real roads (even though many of them might be destroyed at this point in the future). So I spent three hours coloring a cheap map I got for $7.00 off Amazon.

Let’s come back to my question for Alicia though, “Am I just being silly?” Once I had explained that I was directly speaking to the three hours I just spent on the map, she said, “No, I don’t think you’re being silly. I think it’s good that you care enough to take all those ideas that are bouncing around in your head and allow yourself to be creative about them. To really work things out. No, you’re not being silly.” Now, whether or not I think I am being silly is another issue completely, but my wife doesn’t think I am. I believe a lot of men, whether we want to admit it or not, need that reassurance that our lives, that what we are doing, or how we see our purpose in life are not being wasted. That striving for significance and purpose. To some degree, I think my writing might be an attempt at significance. A way to leave something that might just last beyond your memory. I hope my great-grandkids will someday read my writings and enjoy them, wish they had known me or been able to talk to me. There is something meaningful about leaving a moral and spiritual legacy to our kids, of course. But what about a legacy of something else? Something more tangible perhaps. Something they can hold in their hands. I’ve spoken about my Grandfather before, and while he wrote a lot of things, I wish he had written even more. It’s like I have only gotten a small taste of what type of man he was and I really wanted more.

I hope I am leaving more, even if some of it, is just silly.

D. Michl Lowe

The New Fantasy Book Project: Update 1

So I have been busy writing notes, plot outlines, and other details of this new fantasy book before diving into actually getting the nitty-gritty of the core writing done. That being said, I couldn’t help myself and started working on the Introduction of the novel. Now, this isn’t the final thing, of course. This is a complete rough draft, not editing at all. Just playing with the ideas and the character of Thistlewart Mink. As of now, the working name of this project is Pillar of Smoke. It will be book one in a series of books. So this is a sneak peek at the Introduction to Pillar of Smoke, by D. Michl Lowe an upcoming fantasy novel.


~ Awakening ~

Year: NL3670

The clouds rolled out of the vent pipes at the top of the cavern that was Bolster Heart. A great country that resided inside the enormous Pillar, a creation of God from the beginning of time. These clouds happened every morning and throughout the day, and as a result, it rained often. But the clouds did reflect the lights from below, which helped with the general dimness of the place. This morning though, the mist had fallen low to cover the streets and the lantern lights along the paving stones had made a milky light that obscured the view more than enhanced it.

Thistlewart Mink, a stubby little fellow, was shuffling along down the sidewalk towards his job at the Bondwarden Keep, a prison of sorts. He was often teased. His neighbor at the domicile would often flip off Thistlewart’s hat as he passed him in the hall. Thistlewart was not an intelligent, clean, or even likable Flemi and was often looked down upon and made fun of for a myriad of things.

His room at the domicile was a closet-sized hole with barely enough space for a cot and he shared the single sink washroom with about thirty other Flemi, there was no toilet, there was only one of those two blocks away. They were rarely used anyway and only the richest Flemi had them actually where they lived. He had tried to get close to one of his neighbors once, an attractive female Flemi named Nass, but she was quick to laugh at him and make fun of him as well. He had cried himself to sleep that night.

His job, as it was, was mopping up the seepage from the center block of the prison. Every day, he walked the half-a-mile stretch down the boulevard, dodging the other people pushing carts or hauling goods on their backs, to the outskirts of the southeastern edge of Skalholt Prefecture, where many of the down and out Flemi lived.   

While it might have been the center of all of Bolster Heart, Skalholt was also the place the poor lived. The good King Pompi had tried to solve homelessness and poverty by providing cheap one-room housing in Skalholt Prefecture, but it had just resulted in a rise in crime and other unfavorable situations. However, while Thistlewart may not have been the smartest Flemi, he was willing to work and although it wasn’t much, he got by.

Muttering to himself, he passed the bakery on the corner and smelled the fresh rolls that the baker had just put out. He had stolen one of those rolls once when the baker’s wife had brought out a pan of them to place out front and left them unguarded for just a moment. He had felt a little guilty about that, but it was honestly one of the best days he had ever had. It was much better than the tough biscuits the breadline gave out. You had to soak them for quite a while before they were even edible. As such, it was soggy on the outside and still rock on the inside, not pleasant. But the roll from Victor’s Bakery was just about the best thing he had ever eaten, even if he had done it in an alley, scared that he would be discovered.

As he came into the temple block, he was taken again by how much it didn’t remind him of an actual prison. There were prisons for the Flemi who committed crimes of course, but this was nothing like those, this looked for all the world like a grand temple, and in reality that’s exactly what it was, but it was also a prison and Flemi referred to it both ways. It was said that this prison held one of the Great Beasts, legendary creatures that came from the time of creation. Of course, Thistlewart didn’t know much about any of that, he was just happy to have a job. It paid for his room and the stops in the breadlines, but not much else. Still, what was a Flemi to do?

As walked through the large iron gates that surrounded the building, one of the trucks nearly ran him over, “Out of the way, you grub!” a man from the cab yelled and Thistlewart jumped to the side. The man wore a ripped tweed ivy cap with his ears bulled back behind it, a common way to get the long ears of a male Flemi out of the way, he spat out the window as the truck moved on through the gate.

Lady Flemi tended to tie their ears back with ribbons or a kerchief. Thistlewart’s ears dangled into his face more often than not, their edges clipped and nicked from the years he had worked in the automobile factory. The machines were always taking bites out of the worker’s ears. He had lost that job when one of them had caught his leg and nearly tore it off. He had recovered, but he wasn’t able to run from machine to machine any longer, so they had let him go.

Bum leg or not, Thistlewart was late today and while the Flemi were typically thought of as punctual, it was just a stereotype. The thought may have come from the fact that the Flemi resembled rabbits, their long fur-covered ears often being long enough to rest on their shoulders and their pronounced whiskered faces were a complete mimic of the animal. But of course, their bodies were much more like a human’s body, only covered in fur.

In literature, rabbits were always thought to carry pocket watches and always be on time, but still. Even as that thought skittered through his mind, Thistlewart looked up at the large inlaid clock on the outside of the main temple prison’s stone-worked facade, 9:09 a.m. He might be a little later than his original thought. Nothing genetically gave them a greater sense of time or reliability. As it was though, he picked up the pace.

“You’re late Wart,” his manager Mr. Ruffle said, as he walked into the little office that held the equipment he would need for the day’s work. He punched in on the time clock. Everyone at work called him Wart. A thistlewart was a relatively common flower on the cliffs of Husavik and his mother loved it, thus his name, but he was resentful of it, always.

“Sorry sir,” he mumbled and walked to the closet in the back room. “I’ll try to be on time tomorrow, this old leg of mine is acting up again. I’ll do better.”

“See that it doesn’t,” Mr. Ruffle grumbled. “I got a whole city full of little pukes just like you that I can fill your spot with. You remember that!”

“Yes sir. I will sir, thank you, sir.”

He grabbed the tunic that he was required to wear over his trousers and button-down, then belted on the little tool belt over it. 

“Hey, I’m gonna need you to go into the dome room today and manage the valves in there.” Mr. Ruffle said.

“The dome room? I’ve never been in there sir. That’s usually Calbert’s job.” He said.

“Yeah, well Calbert got canned for messing about and not doing his job. So even though you’re a pitiful excuse for an employee, let’s see how you do with this one. A pretty important job. Just don’t go messing around with the dome itself or staring in at that monstrosity inside, it’ll give you nightmares for sure.”

“No sir, I won’t sir. Thank you, sir. I won’t let you down sir.” He stammered a flush rising in his cheeks.

“Well?” Mr. Ruffle said. “Get to it then!”

“Yes sir!”

He rushed as fast as he could down the hall from the main passage. He took a doorway to the left. He came to a large steel door, that would lead him down to the dome. The door was massive, easily twenty feet tall, and carved all over with images of the Beasts. Mr. Ruffle was right, seeing one of these would give him nightmares for sure. It had to be that large, of course, to get the occupant of the room inside. It would have taken a door that size for sure. He stepped to the side of the door to a smaller one, this one designed specifically for Flemi. Opening this smaller door, he stepped through into the chamber beyond. These places were nearly all the same. Ratcheting the locks and door bolts back was second nature for him by now, the whole temple was full of these types of doors.

He closed the door but pulled out the small lamp he kept on his belt, so he could see somewhat. Walking over to the valves on the side of the room he began cranking the wheel to start the motors running so the dim lights would blink on, then he could see the remaining valves and levers that needed adjusting just above him, the rest of the room remained dark while the system booted up. He stepped on a wet spot on the floor, a common thing. “Dang, the valves must be leaking,” he said to himself. These systems were always springing leaks and needing to be replaced or fixed. He wasn’t sure how long the whole system would last and with Calbert slacking off, who knew what all could be breaking down in this area.

The system had made it this far though, so he suspected it might last another couple thousand years before smarter Flemi than he would have to fully fix the system. He noticed the liquid he had stepped in was black and little boot prints were leading to where he now stood. He adjusted his tunic. Luckily the Beast within this place was one of the sleepers. All of the known Beasts were asleep, but this one was different. While the Flemi didn’t like to say his name, Thistlewart had heard it mentioned several times and of course, had learned it in school when he was a boy.

This sleeper was Dumont, a Beast many said was equal to the leader of the Beasts and arguably the whole world, Ashlynn. She was said to be beautiful, elegant, and kind, while he was said to be dark and supremely cruel. All the beasts save for Ashlynn had been terrible when they were first created, but Ashlynn had tamed them all, save for Dumont, it was said he was untamable and too powerful to bend to Ashlynn’s will. But none of that mattered to Thistlewart, because the Beasts were all asleep and any good or bad, they might represent was locked sleeping away in each of their temples, including Dumont in the one he stood in now.

He twisted a wheel on the wall and it creaked slowly, the hum of the engines within the walls began to give off a sickly-sweet smell that he wasn’t used to smelling. The lights farther in were switching on now as he turned around and he nearly fell back. In the brightness of the now fully lit lamps around the hall, he saw the sleeper’s chamber, a dome the size of a small house, but several of the cords connecting it to the machines within the temple were hanging loose, black fluid dripping from their dangling ends.

He hobbled over to the window of the dome. The metal door was Flemi sized and he wondered how the beast could have gotten into the dome. Even though Mr. Ruffle had warned him not to look in, he stood on his toes to do just that. The sleeper’s chest was still rising and falling as it should have been. Dumont was a great creature indeed, easily the size of a small truck. His long neck was covered in hair, but thick, like quills. His head resembled a horse, but the teeth that jutted from their sides reminded Thistlewart of the pictures he had seen of the animals’ called alligators. His body was covered in a thick short blueish black fir, and his tail again reminded Thistlewart of an alligator, but much longer. He had wings like an eagle that were folded along his back, but they were limp and brushing the floor.

There was more of the black liquid here and it was pooling around the creature. Its wings appeared to be edging into that liquid, staining their bluish tips black as it seeped up into the plumage.

He started for the main door, ready to rush back out to the main hall, to let Mr. Ruffle know about the problem and he thought that the Counsel of Three or even King Pompi would want to know about this, it was serious business! A problem with the dome that kept Dumont sleeping was a big deal. He might even wake up and what would that mean Thistlewart wondered. It wouldn’t be good, that was for sure.

As he was beginning to turn from the dome, a smell of burning metal seemed to waft towards him. It took him by surprise, that he could smell it. In Bolster Heart, that smell was fairly common with all of the machines around, but that is why it surprised him, he was used to it and this was a much more pungent version of that smell.

“Would it not be nice, if your boss was nicer to you?”

The voice was soft-spoken but deep and sonorous.

“Who?” he began. “Who is this? Who’s there?” He looked around the room, but there was no one, no one but himself.

“I can make him nicer to you. I could do even more than that for you. How would you like to run this entire facility? I could do that. I’m willing to. I am a very generous person.”

The voice tickled the back of his mind and he looked around again.

“Seriously, who are you? Where are you?” he asked again, turning in circles now. “Is that you Brontly? Are you playing your tricks again?”

The acrid metal smell then became almost too strong, so much so that he actually covered his nose with his hand and then sneezed. It moved from a burning metal to a blazing fire of magma, just inches from his nose – so strong that he was getting a little dizzy now.

“My dearest Thistlewart, you have lived such a difficult life. You still do. You are disrespected at your work, ignored where you live, and you have not even touched a female in years. You are alone and sad.” The voice was empathetic and kind. This person cared for Thistlewart; he knew that.

“Friend, I know what it is like to be alone. I too have been alone for so long.” The voice said.

Thistlewart felt tears sliding down the fir on his cheeks and he wiped his eyes, he hadn’t even realized he was crying until he had felt them. The sadness of his life was weighing upon him now, but he wasn’t sure why. What had happened? All he knew was that this voice cared about him and loved him. It had always loved him, how had he not known that before?

“I can help you, friend. I can bring you peace and happiness. I just need something from you first. A simple thing. Nothing of consequence at all. Will you do this simple thing for me?” the voice cooed, there was a trail of white smoke slowly curling up out of a place where one of the hoses had been attached to the dome.

Thistlewart walked slowly back towards the window. The dome’s slanting metal sides were glistening with perspiration as if the inside of the dome was cold. He pushed up on his tiptoes and looked again through the little window in the barred door. The beast was still inside, still not moving, but white smoke curled from its nostrils and was slowly filling the top of the chamber within.

“Are you… the one talking to me?” Thistlewart asked, a little scared of the answer he might get.

“I am,” the voice said. “And I am not what you have heard about. Do I sound as if I am evil? Do my words sound as if I am ready to bring about doom and dread?”

The voice was calming, despite the harsh metallic smell in the air. He slid down the door and sat back on his haunches, considering and thinking. It was all so obvious to him now, as it always should have been. He was embarrassed it had taken him this long to realize the truth about this creature. “So, you aren’t evil, like they say?” he asked, already knowing the answer.

“Do I sound evil to you? I want to help you, but I can only do that if you first help me. That is fair, is it not? That I would help you if you first would help me? You wish to be fair, do you not?”

Thistlewart did want to be fair. Wouldn’t that make the world a better place, if everything was fair? He thought.  

“I know you have been treated unfairly your whole life. The God so many would pray to does not even provide enough money for you to live on.” The voice was sympathetic.

“You know, I could even heal your leg, and make you whole again. I can make Nass love you if that is something you would want. I can do great things Thistlewart and I am willing to do those great things if you do but one small thing for me… you must release the rest of those cables from this dome.”


Tolden Ruffle came into the heart of the temple after hearing the squeal of ripping metal. Everyone in the building came running in. People would have heard it for miles. He had to push through the throng of Flemi that crowded into the doorway leading to where the dome was located. When he had pushed his way in, he stopped, bent over, and nearly lost his footing. The dome looked like the petals of a flower, peeled back and opened. Inside, it was empty.

The pipes and cables which normally connected to the dome were hanging from their ceiling mounts, the connectors not torn away, but neatly disconnected. The black liquid that had kept Dumont sleeping for as long as anyone could remember was pouring out onto the floor. In the middle of that pool were the ashes of what had been Thistlewart Mink, the small pile soaking into the black and disappearing. Tolden nearly vomited right there. He reached over to steady himself on his friend Monty who had just walked up and stood beside him.

“The fool,” Monty said, shaking his head. “He’s doomed us all, he has.”

Tolden Ruffle merely nodded his head. Doomed us all indeed he thought and tears began cascading down his cheeks.

This has been the Introduction from Pillar of Smoke by D. Michl Lowe. Sign up to get emails alerting you to new blog posts and announcements about new books. As always, your comments and critiques are welcome.

D. Michl Lowe

The Monster Outside My Window And My Dad

When I was around five years old, we still lived in the little red house on White Oak Dr., but now the house is white. However, as a child, it was a stark red color with wooden shingles and a leaky basement. When you entered the house and turned to the left, you would go down the only hallway in the home. My room was the last bedroom on the left.

One night, my dad put me to bed and said his customary “love you” and then turned off the light and went to his room. I sat there in the dark and being a little kid, got scared. I can’t tell you beyond just saying that I was scared of a monster, what that monster really was, but it was terrifying enough for me to call my dad back into the room with a loud call of “Dad”! He came back into the room and asked what I wanted.

“Um, I’m scared that there might be a monster outside of my window.” To be fair, my room had two windows and while one of them was a story up over the top of the garage, the one I was scared of was about four feet above the backyard. Dad went over to the window and beckoned me to come over and look out the window. “No…” I said, still slightly scared. “Get over here.” He said. I came over to the window. “Look out that window. Do you see any monsters out there?” He asked. I shook my head no. “That’s because there’s no such thing as monsters and there certainly aren’t any outside of your window. Now go to sleep.” I went back to my bed and dad walked from the room giving me a slightly gruffer version of “I love you; goodnight!”

Several minutes went by while my little boy brain continued to spin tails of monsters clawing their way into my room via the window to the backyard. Finally, I yelled again, “Dad!” … slowly he appeared in my doorway. “What?” It was a question devoid of desire for the actual answer. “I’m afraid a monster is outside my window…” Dad looked defeated. His logical argument had failed to suppress my imagination in the darkness and boredom. “Come here.” He said again. “No…” I said, shrinking back from his gruff utterance.

As scared as I was of the monster outside the window, I was much more scared of dad and the possible solution he was churning away at in his head. “Come. Here.” He said in a deliberate and just slightly menacing way. I slinked from the bed, sliding out from under the covers without even throwing them back. Like a magician pulling the tablecloth out from under a dinner place setting without even clinking the glasses.

Dad opened the window. “Stick your head out there and tell me what you see.” I slowly peeked my head out the window. The light was still holding on in the evening. It was summer and there was still mugginess to the West Virginia evening despite a slight tinge of coolness in the air. Thinking of it now, it was an evening that should have created a sense of comfort and home. Of sitting outside on the front porch in the evening with a glass of sweet iced tea and talking with a neighbor.

Instead, for the little boy in that room, the evening was full of possible fear. Fear in spite of the knowledge that my dad was there, protecting me, sheltering me, loving me. “Do you see a monster?” He asked again. I shook my head “no” once more. He closed the window. “Go to bed, I don’t want to hear from you again. If you aren’t bleeding or dying, I don’t want to hear your voice. Got it?” I got it and nodded my head.

I sat alone in my bed once more. It should have been a peaceful aloneness. Darkness that comforts you and wraps you up in the silence and stillness of a night. There’s the knowing that you aren’t alone in a house where your loved ones are safe and sleeping or just being quiet in another room just beyond your door. But this wasn’t my way of being this night. I lay with my head draped over the side of the bed with my face looking up at the dome of the ceiling light. The patchwork of textured ceiling melded together and blurred out as the blood would pool in my brain. The white of the glass globe slowly slides into and melds with the white around it. I sat up again, the blood cascading back into my body. I sat there… crisscross apple sauce on my transformers bed sheets, waiting for sleep that didn’t come.

I honestly believe I made it around fifteen minutes before the fear crept back into my mind. It was long enough for dad to believe his tactic of opening the window had worked and perhaps even time enough for him to go to sleep as well. However, given that I went to bed fairly early in those days, I am assuming dad was not only still awake, but just relaxing in his room with my mom. I debated for some time in my mind whether or not I should risk calling my dad into my room again. For a little boy, this was a very difficult decision. In the end, my imagination won out and I called out again. “Dad!” … It took him some time to get to my room. I could hear him having a discussion with mom in the next room. In the end, I could hear him as his feet pounded down the hall. He was mad…

He came into my room without saying anything and went straight to the window. Opening it, he gestured for me to come over to it. I shook my head “no”. He didn’t open his mouth, but hissed the words through his teeth, “Now…”. I came over.

Dad then proceeded to throw me out the window.

Now it wasn’t a graceful action in any sense of the word. Let’s be clear, I fought tooth and nail to stop him. When the dance of the adult man and wiggly little boy was done, I was clinging to the window sill crying for all I was worth, molten tears creating an emotional river on my cheeks. “No daddy no!” I screamed. He was holding onto my wrists and I tried and failed to climb back in the window. “Look here. Listen to me.” He said, in a calmer voice than he had any right to use after doing what he had done. “I’m going to prove to you that there are no monsters out here.”

My eyes were wide, and I listened very carefully to what my dad said next. For all I knew, my very life depended on following the directions he was about to give. “I’m going to shut the window, and you are going to go over there to the back door and knock on it. I will let you in the house through the back door. That way, if there are any monsters out there, they will have ample time to eat you up before I get to the back door. However, if there aren’t any monsters out there, then you should be fine.”

My eyes were the size of softballs and I glanced towards the back door. In reality, it was maybe fifteen feet away if that, but as a little boy, it seemed as though the back walk was made of lava, and getting there was an impossibility. “No! No, daddy!” He pried my hands from the sill, still holding my wrists. “See you in a sec”, he said. Then he shut the window. I might as well have flown to the back door, grabbing the handle to jerk on it to see if perhaps it was already unlocked; no luck there.

I began pounding on the door. My father, on the other hand, meandered out of my room and stopped in the hall to stretch and yawn. He turned into the kitchen and stopped to check the fridge to see if any of the mac and cheese from dinner was leftover; there wasn’t any. Closing the fridge door, he walked over to the back door and calmly unlocked the deadbolt, and then opened the door.

I slid into the kitchen like a Hall-of-Famer getting home as the pitcher crashes in just behind him. Getting up I went after dad, pounding on his chest and crying hysterically. He was laughing at me, a big smile on his face. “Hey…” he said, in a much too jovial tone. “You’re alive! You made it!” … I looked around the kitchen. I looked up at my dad. “You didn’t get eaten.” He said. I stopped crying and wiped my nose. Walking me back to my room, he got more serious, “Now, go to bed.” He said.

I walked into my room and laid down on my bed. You might say the adrenaline surge had tuckered me out. You might say that the rush had spent all my brainpower so I was able to then sleep. Or, you might say that I was not much more afraid of my dad than imaginary monsters, and all that might be true. Or you might say that my dad had taught me a valuable lesson in trust and reality. I believe the latter. In any case, I slept soundly that night and many more in the future and was no longer afraid of monsters outside my window. 

D. Michl Lowe

The Homicidal Mower: Part 2

You would think that the story of this mower would be over, but it’s not. A week or so after that incident, dad had fixed the mower’s breaks and I got a call from him. Again, make sure to read his lines with a heavy southern accent.

“Well hello there son! How are ya do’n?”

“Hey, Dad, what’s up?”

“Well, after fixin’ the mower there, I was thinking about it and decided to go on out and get myself a new mower. So I was a wonder’n if you would like to buy my old mower?”

I thought about it. Yes, this mower had nearly killed me, but it was fixed now and I wouldn’t need to take it down that steep hill again because it would stay at my house. So it should be alright, right? I bought the mower. 

Mistakes were made.

That first day that I had the mower I was in the garage and went over to the mower and noticed it was low on gas. So I opened up the hood, twisted off the gas cap, picked up the gas can, filled the tank, and then shut the hood. I started the mower up and got to the mowing process.

If you caught that, you are a step ahead of where I was at the time.

Now, I should mention something about this mower. It was a little old. As such, if the mower was ever shut off without turning the actual key to shut it off (like if you got off the seat the safety switch turned off the engine), it would backfire with a very loud bang. Anyway, I was about halfway through the first lap around the yard, when I found a hole that I didn’t expect. The front tire took a dive into this hole and I took a dive right off the side of the mower and onto the ground. I wasn’t hurt, but of course, the mower shut off using the safety switch under the seat.

As I was getting back up to the mower to make sure it stopped, the engine backfired, and that would be when a pillar of fire went up from the engine ten feet into the air. I would miss that eyebrow on that side. It was my favorite. For that matter, I enjoyed that half of my beard too… and the hair from that side of my head. Smacking my head seemed to put out the flames from that, but then I was faced with a slightly larger issue, the entire mower was not engulfed in flames.

Looking around desperately, I noticed the water hose was on this side of the house. Quickly I ran over to it, it was a good twenty meters from where I was. Upon reaching it, I noticed it wasn’t the kind that cranked, it was one where you had to unloop each loop to get the length of hose you needed, so you couldn’t just pull. I began unlooping the hose! Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip… check distance and amount of hose dispensed… flip, flip… look again, flip. I grabbed the prayer end of the hose and ran towards the mower, which was still burning. I made it three-fourths of the way when I was suddenly jerked to a halt.

Not enough hose!

I ran back to the hose holder again. Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. Analyzed the distance yet again. Flip, flip. Ran back and grabbed the sprayer end of the hose and made it to the still burning mower. Pointing the nozzle at the mower, I gripped down on the handle to start the flow of the water…

No water!

Again, I ran back to the hose dispenser and turned the little wheel to let the water start to flow. Wonk, wonk, wonk, wonk. Looked out to check the flow of the water, wonk, wonk, wonk. Then I ran back to the mower yet again. Picked up the nozzle and began spraying the water all over the mower. There was a sizzle and hiss as the water doused the flames.

I stood there a moment, soaked, burnt, and exhausted. I felt the side of my head and felt the little balls of burned hair. Luckily, other than the hair, I didn’t seem to be hurt. I called dad and told him what happened, yelling at him that apparently his former mower was possessed and trying to kill me since this was the second time. I was pushing the mower up the hill as I was talking to him, the phone sitting on the wet seat.

After asking me if I was okay, he asked, “Did you put the gas cap back on the gas tank inside the hood? I stopped pushing the mower and cocked my head to the side. Then I opened the hood and looked in. There was the engine and the plastic gas tank just behind it. The cap of the tank sat on top of the engine, not screwed onto the tank. “See!” I yelled, “That proves it! The mower took the gas cap off to attempt to kill me!” I went to screw the cap back onto the gas tank and it didn’t fit anymore. That’s what happens when the threads of the opening look like a painting from Salvador Dali. Placing it on top of the opening I hit it with my fist and it snapped into place. “I wonder if it still runs…” I said to myself. I knew the answer before I even turned the key. A mower doesn’t tend to run with all the wiring for it looks like it came off a taffy puller. Pushing the mower back into the garage, I sighed. Apparently, there were only two realities available to me, either I was foolish enough to leave the cap off, or this mower was possessed and out to get me. Obviously, it was the latter.

D. Michl Lowe

The Homicidal Mower: Part 1

Alicia and I had recently bought a new house. It was bigger than our first home and actually had a yard. Part of the plan was to have a yard so we could get the girls (and us) a dog. As such, we needed a new mower, since our old push mower wasn’t really going to be up to the job of this new yard, but they were expensive, and I was cheap. So-called up my dad who now lived just down the hill from us.

“Hey, dad! You wouldn’t let me borrow your mower would you?” I said.

Just as a side note, while it’s not true of him, I find it very funny to give him a strong southern accent when I read his words in my head, or when I am telling this story out loud to people.

“Well, sure son. Why don’t cha just come on down here and we can take a look at letting ya get a hold of that thing.” Again, use a deep southern accent, it helps.

I drove down to dad’s house and then went through the typical dad lecture about how to use a riding lawn mower without chopping off your own leg and also breaking the mower at the same time. I would recount it here for you, but I am sure you have heard similar lectures from your own dad or dad-type person in your own life. As such, I was soon driving the mower back up the hill to my new house to get busy with mowing the lawn.

It should be noted, that our new house was on top of a fairly large mountain. The road to get to the house is also fairly steep. A solid forty-five-degree angle leads the road to get to our house. Several neighbors’ houses dot the road on the way up to ours. That’s an important note for later, remember that. Anyway, I got the mower to the house and began to mow the lawn. Everything went great, the grass was mowed and the mower did fine. And then it came time to take the mower back to dad’s house.

I got back on the mower and began driving it across the top of the mountain to get to the section of the road where it started to slope down the hill. As I started down the steep slope, the breaks began to do… odd things. They became very touchy. I would barely push on them and they would jerk the whole mower to a complete stop. So I would let off the brake, coast down the hill, and then suddenly slam to a halt. Start, stop. Start, stop. Start, stop. For the first twenty meters or so, this was how it went, and then, suddenly… Snap! The breaks broke.

The mower started speeding up. Faster and faster it began careening down the hill. As it was hitting small imperfections in the blacktop, it felt like I was riding a bucking bull at seventy miles per hour. I kept hitting the breaks, but there was nothing, no response at all. The ride was quickly becoming a dangerous situation. Then an idea sprung into my mind. I noticed my neighbor’s driveway going off to the right and his lawn stretching out flat. At the moment, I thought, “I can just steer the mower over across his driveway and into his yard and the flat grass and friction will slow me down!”

So that was what I attempted to do, I swerved the mower onto his driveway, but there was a problem. What I didn’t see was that the edge of his driveway was sloped up into a ramp. So when I hit the edge of his driveway, it ramped the mower up into a jump! I swear three dogs ran underneath the mower while it was in the air. I landed with a hard crunch in the grass and then another problem became apparent.

I was headed directly for the neighbor’s front door, which was made of etched glass. I remember thinking that the gentle swirling pattern of the glass was going to make for beautiful shards. Trying to turn the wheel was useless, the grass was still wet with dew and I was sliding closer and closer to the door. The mower came to a halt and barely tapped its front bumper on the door. I sat on the mower, my legs upended over the hood, with my arms wrapped tightly over the wheel. I’m sure I looked a sight. Slowly I glanced around, looking to see if any of my neighbors had witnessed me nearly kill myself on the back of a John Deere. No one apparently saw. I quickly put the mower back in gear and coasted the rest of the way down the hill and was able to get the mower back to my dad. His response when hearing the story? “So, what you’re saying is… you broke my mower.”

To be continued…

D. Michl Lowe

Our Trip To Florida And How I Nearly Died

When I was around seven years old my family decided that it was time for us to take a trip down to Florida and go to Disney and then head over to Daytona Beach. We decided I needed a buddy to take with me, and so Cousin Randy went with us. Because we wanted to save money where we could, we decided to drive down there. On the way down, when you are coming out of Georgia and heading into the northern part of Florida, you are driving on a large highway that is very straight in one section. I remember looking up from my Gameboy and seeing that our side of the highway was empty, with no cars at all. However, on the other side of the highway, it was bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I mentioned this to dad and he thought this was odd as well. So turning on the radio, we discovered that Florida was being evacuated because Hurricane Andrew was going to be hitting Florida very soon. Now I don’t know about your dad, but my dad’s reaction to this news was to comment that he would be able to get some really cool video with his camcorder while we were down there. And so we continued our trek down into the sunshine state. Our first stop was at Disney and our first park was supposed to be The Magic Kingdom. Now, I have been to Disney several times since this first trip and have never had the same experience as we did the first time we went.

Upon entering the park, there is a large boulevard running down the middle of the park with Cinderella’s Castle at the end of the road. The road is lined with shops, restaurants, and little boutiques. Every other time I have been to this park, there have been so many people crowding this area, that you can barely see five feet in front of you and are shoulder to shoulder the entire time. It is always packed. However, this first time we went, there were maybe twenty people on that boulevard. No one was in the part hardly at all.

You might think I am exaggerating, but I am not. Normally, each ride has a good hour-long wait to get on it. We walked directly on every ride we wanted to. No, wait at all. In fact, we rode a couple of the rides twice. By lunchtime, we had ridden every ride we wanted to ride in the Magic Kingdom. We went back to the hotel to eat, then decided to go over to the Animal Kingdom to check it out. By dinner, the time we had experienced everything we wanted to at the Animal Kingdom as well. When I tell you it was the best Disney Vacation we have ever had, it’s not an exaggeration. It only rained once, for about twenty minutes.

After our time at Disney, we went over to Daytona Beach. This is where things get a little more interesting. The storm had begun to really become fierce. There were days we were stuck in the hotel room because of torrential rain. Dad was having a ball filming it all and mom kept asking if we needed to get to the first floor of the hotel since she believed we would be blown away. Dad informed her that if we were lower, we were much more likely to be flooded so it was better to stay on the higher floors. I don’t think that made her feel better.

So on Randy and I’s first trip down to the sand, we decided that playing in the surf was the best idea. However, that idea was quickly dashed when we realized that about every twenty minutes or so, a ten-foot-high wave would come along and crash so hard on us that we thought it would rattle our teeth loose. So we moved a little further out into the water so that it was about up to our waste. For some reason, the waves were not nearly as bad at that depth, but it presented a new problem for us; jellyfish.

Apparently, the storm had blown in a very large school of quarter-sized jellyfish. Their tentacles weren’t but three to four inches long, but they could still sting, and sting they did, a lot! The problem was, it wasn’t a bad sting. Let me explain. With a normal jellyfish sting, it hurts bad enough that a little kid might be done swimming for the day. But these little jellies weren’t terrible, and that was the issue. It wasn’t a bad enough sting to make you get out of the water. I would compare the sting to the bite of a horsefly. So you would yelp, and swat at the water, but then keep on going, with only a little red line to show where they had got you.

At the end of the first day, we came up out of the water and it looked like we had red spider webs all over our legs. That’s how many sting lines we had down our legs. Not that we minded really though, we played that entire day in the ocean. So it wasn’t that bad, but by the next day, we were ready to see if there was another way to have fun. Other than swatting at jellyfish.

The deeper out into the ocean we went, the fewer jellies there seemed to be. So we moved out deeper and deeper, which, thinking about it now was very foolish; considering rip tides and what I am about to tell you about. Either way though, we moved further and further out into the ocean until we were around a football fields length out in the water. It was around ten feet deep at this point. We were diving for shells. Both of us were expert swimmers even at such a young age and had no trouble diving to the bottom to search in the dark for the shells.

We had been out in the water for around ten minutes or so and were treading water. We were facing each other talking, I was facing towards the shore, and Randy facing out to sea. Suddenly, as I was swimming there, a large fin rose up out of the water, just behind Randy. It passed by him and silently slipped back down into the water. I was almost speechless, but managed to sputter out,

“R-R-Randy… th-th-theres a shark!”

His eyes went wide, “Where?”

“Just behind you.”

“Well we gotta get outa here then!” he said.

We started swimming as fast as we could back towards the shore, but we only made it about halfway back, before three more fins rose from the water just in front of us. We stopped dead in our tracks. But should take a moment and explain something to you. In the ocean, there are two main types of fins that you should know about. One of them, is a large triangle, like the one I saw just behind Randy. It was nearly a foot long with crisp edges. The other type of fin though is more like the crest of a wave, where the tip of it curls back. This second type of fin was the type we were seeing now, the three of them begin to circle us.

As you may have guessed, this second type of fin is not a shark fin, but a dolphin fin. The three dolphins were about eight feet from where we now trod water and slowly circled us. We were scared, of course. Dolphins are big animals and these weren’t the trained ones you see in Sea World, but wild dolphins of the Atlantic. However, as we continued to swim towards shore, they kept up with us, circling us the whole way into the breaks where we could stand.

Now, I don’t know how you would have taken that situation, but from that day forward, I have believed that the dolphins were protecting Randy and me from the shark. So that’s the story of how Randy and I went to Florida during Hurricane Andrew and nearly got eaten by a shark, only to be saved by dolphins. True story.

D. Michl Lowe

Why I Write

I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but it had to be some time after I was seven years old because it was in our new house. Dad and I were scrounging around the attic when we came upon a cedar chest. Asking dad about it, he pulled it over and opened it. Inside, were piles of loose cut-out newspaper clippings and old yellow legal pads covered in handwritten stories, observations, notes, and editorials.

My grandfather Robert Lowe, was a prolific writer apparently. The newspaper clippings were all letters to the editor he had written about many issues that were concerning to him. Some of the writing was stuff he had copied down and others were original writings. In this box was a collection that in some ways laid out who my grandfather was. I know dad poured over the writings trying to get an understanding of who his father was since he had died when dad was only 13 years old. There was a sense that reading what he had written allowed an aspect of who he was to survive his death; beyond just pictures and memories.

I remember believing that the chest had great value. I still believe that. As his Grandson, I could find a lot of insight into my family and who I was by reading his work. That being said, much of what he wrote was not directly about him, but about things he cared about. I wanted some more personal writings; something that told me more about who he was, what his life was like, and how that fit into who he was. I wanted to know his thoughts and beliefs about life. I wanted to see who he was as a man. Some of his writings give that, but other times, it just wasn’t personal enough.

So with my writings, I hope to give my own children and future family insight into who I am and was. I want them to see what my life was like. My plan for my writing is to write about myself, my beliefs, and what I hope for my family. I would also like to write stories that capture not just their imagination, but the imagination of others as well. I have a lot of worlds in my head and I would like others to be able to share in my wonder. Maybe I will be able to do that.

This is my hope anyway, that my writing will be just as meaningful to others as my Grandfathers were to me. As to the quality of the writing, that’s in question. My narratives are spotty at best. Good luck.

How To Get Into Heaven Without Becoming A Christian

In 2001, I was in college at MVNU. We had to take a “Christian Beliefs” course. This was part of the liberal arts education that was a part of all bachelor’s degrees from this institution, regardless of actual major. Looking back on my education, I can’t say that I am thrilled to have spent so much time (and money) on classes that ultimately didn’t enhance my understanding of Psychology (my actual degree), but I can say that I enjoyed these extra classes immensely and feel as though they have enhanced my person greatly.

Anyway, while in this class Dr. Sanders challenged us to write a paper detailing a way to get into Heaven without going through Jesus or a traditional understanding of salvation through grace. We were to present our papers in front of the class and then take questions and discussion after presenting them. I recall many people in my class standing up and talking about Buddhism’s enlightenment or how to seek nirvana and even some discussion about the Muslim faith. I remember being slightly confused, did these people really think these were legitimate ways to enter into Heaven?

I have never been someone to keep the boat from rocking. In fact, I have been the one to jump from side to side, just to see who falls out and how much they scream. That might seem cruel, but honestly, I would rather question everything and be certain than just go along and follow fools. Just know that if I argue with you about your thoughts and keep coming back to do it again, it’s because I value your tenacity and spirit, even if I disagree with you. So, I stood up to take my turn in trying to defend a way to get into Heaven without Jesus. Now, I’m going, to be honest, I haven’t torn through my files from 2001 to find that same paper that I wrote. I’m sure it was very basic and not well-spoken, let’s be honest though, I haven’t matured that much since then and my writing has most likely gone downhill without the constant critique of learned professors. However, I remember my main points and will detail my arguments for you.

So, without further ado, here are 3 ways to get into Heaven, without becoming a Christian.

1. Ignorance: 

Let us start with an easy one. When Jesus died on the cross, this was the start of Christianity proper. We could argue that the coming of Jesus’ ministry was the start of it, but without a doubt, we can say for sure that after he died, was resurrected, and then ascended into Heaven, from that point on Christianity was the way to get into Heaven. However, there’s a problem with this idea. The spread of Christianity was limited by the speed at which early missionaries could travel and convert.

The problem here should be apparent; people died before the truth of the gospel could reach them. This was after Christ’s death, but before they were able to have any knowledge at all about what had happened, or what they would need to know about Christianity in order to repent and be saved or even baptized. Because of this, there are a group of people who never had the information needed to be saved, but lived after the death of Christ and should therefore be held to the standard of needing Christ’s blood to be saved from their sin. I often think about native American peoples over in the Americas before Europeans came in and began to spread the gospel to them. If they were to die before the message of Christ came to North America, does that mean that they would automatically go to Hell because they hadn’t accepted Christ?

I honestly doubt that is what a loving God would do. To me, when I think about how those people or anyone who has never had the opportunity to learn about Jesus before face judgment at the end of time, I think God has a different standard by which he judges these peoples. In Romans 2:14–16, it says, “Gentiles don’t have the Law. But when they instinctively do what the Law requires they are a Law in themselves, though they don’t have the Law. They show the proof of the Law written on their hearts, and their consciences affirm it. Their conflicting thoughts will accuse them, or even make a defense for them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the hidden truth about human beings through Christ Jesus.” So, we can see that even if a person does not have the “law”, the ideas of what is good and bad are written on their hearts. It’s in their mind. We all have a conscience and because of that understand basic rules of what is right and wrong. God is able to know all things; He will judge the person based on what they know and how they followed their understanding of what is right and wrong.

So, does this mean that we should never have started the great commission? No, of course not. Jesus, Himself said we should be spreading His words into all the world in Mark 16:15. So we are called to bring people out of ignorance. We aren’t meant to live in ignorance. No, we are called to a higher state of awareness. However, do I believe that when I get to Heaven, there might be some Native Americans there who never heard about Jesus, but followed the law written on their hearts? I believe that is possible.

2. Innocence:

I think this argument is one that most people would be willing to make. If a person is innocent, then they should not be held to the same standard as people who have lost their innocence. With the holocaust of abortion going on in our country these days, I have a very hard time believing that God would condemn those millions murdered by abortion to an afterlife in Hell. These are a group of people that would include the unborn, the just born, babies, young children, and perhaps even pre-teens. I would also include the intellectually disabled in this group as well. I might also include those peoples who are plagued by severe mental illness as well.

These are folks who do not yet have or will never attain the mental faculties to understand the offer of salvation through grace by Jesus Christ. There are of course degrees of disability or development that might make some people able to understand to differing degrees. In Romans 1:2 Paul states, “Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” However, we know that the unborn, babies, some children, and even some pre-teens, often do not have the ability to “clearly see” God’s eternal power and divine nature. So I would conclude, that because some of them do not, or cannot “clearly see”, they have an excuse.

While I would not say that all people in this category get a free pass to Heaven (although I would think all aborted children and most young children) I would say that I believe that most do. However, God is of course able to accurately judge a person’s soul completely, so His ability far outweighs our own ability to make this kind of judgment. This is an important thing to look at and think about. I know many variations of Christianity talk about the idea of the “age of accountability”. This is basically what I’m talking about. Again, I’m not saying that all these people will be in heaven, but that I won’t be surprised when/if I see them there upon my arrival.

3. Soul Placement: 

This last idea is not going to be popular and I’m not sure I agree with it myself. I say that because I’m not sure it doesn’t border on heresy. My assumption in this idea of how to get to Heaven without becoming a Christian is that God himself decides where to place souls. In Jeremiah 1:5 we see God saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Basically, God is talking about His foreknowledge here. I don’t believe this is Him talking about knowing a person beforehand like they existed before. However, because of this passage, we know that God knows the choices a person will make in their life. He knows before making them, whether or not they will fail in accepting His love and ultimately His forgiveness of sins.

So, with that in mind, God makes a choice of where to place our souls. He made a choice to place my soul within the growing child that was inside my Christian mother’s belly. Which was also a part of Christian marriage, in a Christian home, in a mostly Christian town, in a mostly Christian country, in a time where Christianity was largely free to be practiced without governmental or even individual interference. My statistical chances of becoming Christian were pretty good. Actually, according to Pew Research, I had an 80% chance of continuing to identify as protestant if both my parents were also protestant.

That’s really good odds. My question is, does God take His own decision, as to where He places a soul, into account when judging souls for eternity? I think he does. I verbalized my thoughts in this way back in college. Let’s pretend a man was born in a remote village deep in the heart of a remote area of the world that holds to a non-Christian-minded religious way of thinking. Let’s pretend that this man grows up very sheltered and eventually becomes the leader of this non-Christian religion in his town. Nearing his death, a Christian missionary comes to the town and begins converting some of the people. This missionary goes to the leader of this non-Christian religion and basically ends up telling him that everything he has been raised to believe, lived his life believing, and dedicated his life to honoring and upholding has been a lie. What are the chances this man will convert? Not very good. Statistically, not nearly as good as what I had.

I merely argue that God takes His own choices of where to place souls into account when passing judgment. I’m not saying the hypothetical man in that scenario will go to Heaven. Not at all. What I am merely saying is that I think God takes all aspects of His creation into account when passing judgment on the souls He has created. Obviously, this is not an argument that everyone gets to Heaven. Not in any way am I suggesting that is the case. I am merely saying that God is a merciful God. Something we already know to be true. We know He loves us, all of us. Those of us who choose to accept His gracious gift, and even those who choose to reject it. However, without Christ, how are we to know for sure we have eternal life? I don’t believe we can know that for sure without the blood of Jesus covering us.


Do these three ways to enter Heaven even matter? Most of those who these methods affect, will either never know about it until they experience it in the afterlife, or were never aware they had missed it, or are too lost in the mire of where God placed them that they are truly lost to His truth. I think that knowing this and thinking about this helps us who it doesn’t affect. I believe that thinking about how God’s mercy and understanding affect those of us who might not have gotten the same opportunities as some others help us. Some of us are more privileged in our Christianity than we might have realized. I know I am.

Also, I think about the millions upon millions of children sacrificed on the altar of self in the name of abortion. The blood of these children cries out to us and so often we look the other way. I find comfort in the idea that I believe they now reside with their Heavenly Father. It’s unfair and barbaric, but at least there is that small silver lining. On the idea of the innocent, I think this is an idea we all want to be true. No one wants to believe that a child lost from the womb or one lost at a very young age is lost for all eternity.

I find it hard to believe that God would allow such a thing. I think the Bible upholds God’s view that children and I would say even the “child-like” are what the kingdom of God is made of. Mark 10:15 even states that people who don’t “receive the Kingdom of God “like a little child will never enter it.”, giving us the idea that Children have already received it because of their innocence. I know this post is out there. There is a lot to argue over with these ideas. I’m open to nearly all discussions about this topic. Having not fully made up my own mind about these ideas, I put them out there for critique and argument.

So in the end, I believe that really, there is no way to enter into Heaven WITHOUT Jesus. It is only because He is who He is that through His mercy and love we can start to unravel the idea that a traditional and even Biblical understanding of salvation may not be the ONLY way to which some select peoples enter Heaven.

D. Michl Lowe

The Four Qualities Of An Accountability Partner

I paced back and forth in the library of our home with the phone pressed to my ear. On the other end, a friend of mine was going through one of the most traumatic times in his life. This was about the fourth time this week that I had been on the phone for over an hour with this guy. We both cried and often there was yelling. It’s an odd thing though, thinking back on this time now, I find it to be one of the best times I have spent with this friend. It wasn’t a good time, but it was a meaningful time. I am closer to my friend now because of that time spent on the phone. He and I truly are accountability partners. An accountability partner has several distinct qualifications that should be noted. Below I have laid out four of these qualifications that I have come to understand.

  1. They are NOT your opposite gender: 
    • It won’t do to have you in a relationship like this and get distracted by sexually or romantically charged thoughts. This relationship is different. This is why your spouse should not be your accountability partner, as wonderful as I’m sure they are. There is also the point that the level of intimacy expected from this form of relationship should not be with someone to who you are genetically predisposed to be attracted. If you are married, this would be especially a bad thing, since it can lead to infidelity. If you are not married, you will just get distracted and the whole purpose of being accountable to this person is lost.
  2. Friendship is not the main goal: 
    • That sounds odd, doesn’t it? However, it is true. In an accountability friendship, friendship is not the main goal or purpose. It will most likely be a result of this relationship, but at the outset, it isn’t the reason you have it. The main goal here is accountability. This means that oftentimes, you will have to tell this person (or they will have to tell you) things you may not want to hear. Telling your friend that going to the movies with his female friend who is not his wife is a bad idea, could be met with some hostility. It’s not what he wants to hear. However, he needs to hear it. Your goal in this form of relationship is to hold the other person to a Biblical standard of living. Their goal is to do the same for you.
  3. You are to be Christ for this person:
    • Jesus traveled with 12 other men. Throughout the scriptures we see Him teaching them and often, rebuking them. At one point, He even calls one of them “Satan”. That’s some rough language there, but why did He do it? To mold them further towards Himself. In 1 Corinthians 4:14–17 we see the Apostle Paul saying, “When he had ascended into Heaven, we see the disciples themselves doing this same thing. The bonds they form with each other are important. They act as Christ for each other. I am writing you this not to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you, to be imitators of me. For this reason, I am sending you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord; he will remind you of my ways in Christ [Jesus], just as I teach them everywhere in every church.” Notice he says he isn’t trying to shame them, but to admonish or warn them. Then he says to imitate him as he imitates Christ Jesus. He also says he is going to send Timothy to help them as well. Not hard to see this idea of an accountability partner being played out in the early church.
  4. It is not just the two of you: 
    • This relationship is meant to be a threefold relationship. You, the other person, and Jesus. Just as we might talk about marriage being threefold (You, your spouse, and God), the accountability partner relationship also includes God. This means that throughout the relationship, you should be in communion with Christ. Praying for the other person and asking God to lead you as you work to lead them is paramount. They will be doing the same. In this way, both of you rebuff each other to create a communal relationship that works to enhance and strengthen the whole community of God around these two who are in this form of relationship.

These aren’t meant to be an exhaustive list. They are meant to be a guide that can help you when talking with your accountability partner. What does that relationship look like? Does this relationship lead you both closer to Christ? I think within context, all of our life should be asking that question. Does this lead me closer to Christ?

D. Michl Lowe

The Fantasy Book Project: Scripture

For years, I have been planning out a fantasy novel. Actually, I remember spending hours upon hours talking with one of my roommates in college, detailing the world and how it worked. Over the years, I have drawn maps, written histories, came up with systems of magic and religion for this fictional world.

However, up to this point, it hasn’t been the right time to really get to work on this project. It’s been in development for nearly twenty years now on and off. There has been several books that had to be written first, but those are now done. It’s time. For the last couple of months I have been writing the outline and some other important character info for this upcoming book. So it is with great trepidation, that I reveal a peak into this world I am creating. Release this is very early look. Everything I present below is subject to change.

So let me give you some background. This story will take place in a fictional universe that mirrors our own in look, but will differ in many critical ways. As such, I have begun to write scripture for this universe. Below, you will find an account of creation. Feedback is always completely welcome.

An account of the God Akol Ramous and his creation of the world, as well as the fall of the Enlightened.

Incipere 1:

In the beginning was information. The information comprised all that was known, is known, and will be known. It always had been, always is, and always will be. The information became aware that it was, and slowly understood it is, and then came to the realization that it always has been. That awareness brought about a progression known as time. As such, the awareness named itself. The name Akol Ramous was applied to itself. And so, God was born from the void of nothingness and it’s name was Akol Ramous.

Incipere 2:

And it came to pass that Akol found it had desire. This desire came about from wanting another. And so, within the first period of time, Akol Ramous created another and named it Meshiah. Because this other came from the one, Akol did call her daughter, for she was from Akol’s own information. She was one with him, of him, and by him. Akol and Meshiah were one in perfect communion and fellowship and so love was born from community.

Incipere 3:

Akol did understand that beyond just information there was the ability to create a physical something from the informational nothing within itself. Because of this understanding, there was something, rather than nothing. Akol looked upon the something and expanded it in an instant. And so the universe was born.

Incipere 4:

In a moment, worlds were born, from fire, and light, and air. The worlds were woven into existence from the information of nothingness. Upon those worlds, creatures were woven together. First came humans great craftsmen and builders, then all other creates were woven as well. To some, Akol gave the gift of Smoke. A light into their darkness. Information instead of instinct, consciousness and awareness, instead of just reaction. Because of this consciousness they were known as the Enlightened. Those without Smoke were called the Lost, forever abandoned by the light, tethered to reaction and instinct.

Insurgere 1:

Akol set about creating leaders. Great beasts meant to inspire and give awe. For a time, the beasts lived with the creatures, but in time, one of those beasts became discontented. Mikahael, the greatest of the beasts fell away. With him, many others of the creation began to fall away, rebelling in their hearts. Believing that Akol was not really the God he had claimed to be. That there was no way they had come from him. And so the hearts of the Enlightened began to be corrupt and forsaken.

Insurgere 2:

So many of the peoples rebelled and fought for control of the land and the peoples. Great cities were erected to show the Enlighten’s self ability. Technology and science became what the creatures turned to for their strength and hope. They believed with enough science and technology, they could defeat the eventual decline of their bodies. In many ways, the Enlightened succeeded in their quest to outshine God. In time, belief and understanding of who Akol was, fell away.

Insurgere 3:

Akol Ramous was saddened by the rebellion of his creation. Calling the remaining beasts to him, he devised a plan. A plan to save the creation who remained true. Akol struck the very sky and from the heavens metal rained down upon the land and was brought together. The very moon which had brought light and hope to the night sky was pulled down to the land. From that, Mekhos, machines of the God of creation came into being.

Insurgere 4:

The Mekhos were mountains unto themselves and using their great might pushed a quarter of the land up into the heavens upon a mighty pillar. Great winds were placed within the pillar to allow life to continue at that great height. The peoples who remained true were swept up into the sky and placed upon the pillar. Akol looked upon his separated creation and proclaimed it was good.

Vindicatus 1:

The remaining beasts then fought Mikahael and while they were unable to destroy him, Ashlynn the greatest among those who remained true of the beasts was able to seal Mikahael away within the heart of the pillar. Around that prison each of the remaining beasts lain down as guardians, sealing their minds to forever watch, should Mikahael awaken and threaten creation again. And so creation prospered upon the raised place which it’s peoples called Landia

The Christians Have Failed

Christians have failed. I speak to you now as one of them, the failures. All “Christians” are not Christians. It was the pagans at Antiauk that first called the apostles “Christians” (Acts 11:26; 26:28). They used it derogatorily because the apostles didn’t follow the religious and philosophical thoughts of the pagans.

Christians have failed. We are often still despised by the world, but honestly, not enough. If we truly believed, the disapproval would know no end. I say if we truly believed… and I mean that. IF we truly believed. Because I’m not convinced many of us do; believe I mean. We say we do, but often, I question that belief we claim.

Belief without a changed life is not belief in the truth of what you are claiming, but belief in the benefits of believing. I can sit in church on Sunday morning and say I am a good person for doing so. I can shake my head when the Pastor condemns sin and feel high and mighty for not going down that road in my own life, but when I am full of my own piety, where does that leave me?

We are often truly arrogant.

There’s a Zen teaching that says, “Look at everything with a beginner’s mind.” We, as Christians, have to continually empty our cups so that Christ can fill them with himself. We are so very good at filling ourselves… of filling our lives with nonsense, pride, selfishness, and patronization. So what does it mean to be a Christian? What should I expect from Christians? There was a man who asked Jesus a similar question, he said, what must I do to get eternal life? Jesus asked the man to tell him what the law said,

He (the man) answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

And Jesus basically says that this is exactly right. Now I don’t agree with everything he says, but Creflo A. Dollar said,

“In order to love God, you must first renew your mind where love is concerned. When many people think of love, they think of human, emotional love, which is basically selfish because it has conditions—it loves when the conditions are right, or when it feels like loving. This is the type of love many people demonstrate toward God. However, God is not interested in you loving Him with your feelings. When we choose what we want or desire over God’s Word, we demonstrate that we love ourselves more than God. We must get rid of our own selfish desires and replace them with the desires God has placed in our hearts. When we love God, we will submit to His plan and purpose for our lives.”

According to Romans 5:5, the Holy Spirit has poured the love of God in our hearts, and that love gives us the ability to love with a God­kind of love, an unselfish love. God’s love is unconditional. Unlike selfish, human love, God’s love puts the needs of others above its own. This is the love God wants Christians to demonstrate.

Every day, you have to make a decision to allow the “you” inside to die and the (unselfish) God Love to live.

That means in order for the love of God to be evident in your life, you have to make a quality decision to allow your thoughts, desires, emotions, and feelings, that oppose the Word of God, to die daily. It is impossible to love God, or others, when you have plans, purposes, and desires that are contrary to the Word of God. How often have you seen Christians who continue to live for themselves? How often have you seen the hypocrisy in one of them? How often have you looked at their lives and thought, “dang, I am a better person than them.”

The interesting part about your thoughts on them… is that you are right. They aren’t any better than you. They aren’t any better, or moral, or anything else. The only real difference between them and you is that they have given their lives over to Christ and are attempting to allow him to lead their lives.

I say attempting because that’s exactly what it is, attempting. Time and again they struggle to live according to his will in their lives and time and again they fail. They fail, and fail, and fail, and fail, and fail. They cry out to him for his help. They say in church and in songs that they believe, but secretly when they are alone in their rooms at night, they pray for God to help them with their unbelief.

I’ve said it before, Christianity is the fantastic fantasy that we as adults are allowed to keep believing in beyond childhood. The Bible tells this beyond belief tale of resurrection from the dead and heaven and entities of evil that angels fight against and we are allowed and privileged to continue believing in.

We have never told Kat (my daughter) that Santa Claus was real. When she would ask about it, we tell her he was a man who lived a long time ago who gave children presents and they called him Saint Nicholas and that he is who all the people we see around Christmas are dressed up like. However, she continues to believe in Santa because she WANTS to believe, regardless of what anyone says. Christians want to believe and because of the truths they see in their own lives, the truth they have seen revealed in scripture, they have the benefit of belief, even if sometimes it’s hard to believe.

I know the truth of the Bible. Sometimes it’s hard to believe. Sometimes it’s hard to live even with all the personal evidence I’ve seen in my life, but I choose to continue my belief because I know it’s the truth.

D. Michl Lowe

The Gray Man

In 1993, I went to a little school in Sissonville, West Virginia called Flinn Elementary. Just like kids in school today, we had a book fair that would come to our school each year. At this fair, they would haul in large metal containers that would open up to reveal shelves and shelves of books. There were of course books of all genres on the shelves, but I remember specifically one year when I saw a book on “how to be a ninja”.

I’ve since looked all over for this book, both at my parent’s house and my own, but like many childhood things, it seems to have been lost to the boxes in the attic. I’ve even looked on Amazon and other book stores, but have been unsuccessful in my search for this small little black book. But back then, I picked up the book and began flipping through it. Page after page of this book had illustrations about the history of ninjas; how they fought, how they lived, how they remained hidden, and even how they performed seemingly mystical feats.

For a 5th grader, the book was expensive, but I remember thinking that I would pay nearly any price to reveal the ancient secrets of the ninja. I read the book cover to cover several times (it wasn’t that long). The secrets it revealed were not so profound once I had read it, but even still, I remember returning to the book again and again in the years following. Always intrigued and always searching for what made these people so special and how I could emulate their mysteries in my own life. When I entered Middle School for the first time, I was confronted with situations and people that challenged my understanding of human decency. I remember sitting on the steps outside of the shop class during lunch and a boy decided it was time to attempt to beat me up.

We rolled around on the ground for several minutes until a teacher happened by and broke up the fight. After that, a girl decided that it was her job to attempt to beat me with a broom handle in the hall when I was attempting to get to the restroom. Clearly, there were some children in this school with issues, who had no trouble dealing with their own issues by beating on their fellow students. I remember sitting in my room, attempting to think of a solution to the issue that I was not the largest person in school and certainly not the most skilled fighter. How was I to defend myself from people intent on doing me harm? Some of whom would access makeshift weapons. I thought about the school rules; I couldn’t bring a real weapon with me, so while I had access to knives, bats, and other weapons, I clearly could never have those on me at the school.

I remembered my book. Taking out my book I remember flipping over to the page that spoke about how the ninja dressed. While many of the movies I had seen showed ninjas in the classic black outfit with the hood and veil over their face, the book was suggesting that most of the time, the ninja merely looked like everyone else. That while they might have had weapons and tools hidden on their person, as they walked down the street, they appeared as though they were a simple merchant, tradesman, or even a beggar. I had always thought that aspect of a ninja was stupid; I would usually just skim through that part of the book, but now I was starting to see the wisdom. Look like everyone else, but be prepared for nearly anything. I remember believing that training was easily hidden. My parents at the time didn’t have a lot of money, however, so I was unable to be trained in a school for martial arts. What they could afford though, was a book. I asked for and got, Bruce Lee’s book Tao of Jeet Kune Do. Again, I poured over the book time and time again. Some of the illustrations were in Japanese and I remember being frustrated that some of the ideas were lost on me because of language.

Going to the backyard at my house and placing the book on the ground as I went through the different stances and attempted to immolate the strikes I was seeing in the still images. By no means was I even slightly competent, but I studied nonetheless. Compared to the random bully, however, I was a master. I couldn’t take a weapon to school, but I was allowed a belt to hold up my pants. I remember strapping a belt outside of my belt loops and practicing the unstrapping of it quickly. I figured that while a belt was not nunchucks or a whip, it would work in a pinch.

While I never had to use my belt, that summer I was confronted (of all places) at church camp by an entire group of older kids who decided it was time to fight. Looking back, I believe I was quite lucky. These young lads weren’t smart enough to attack me all at once but instead decided to rush in at me one at a time. Using their momentum against them and attempting to channel my inner Bruce Lee, I flung them off to the side as they came in. When they were down, I used my most valuable resource (my legs) and got myself out of there. Whatever meager skills I had learned stumbling around in my backyard had been enough. While I am sure I would have survived the beatings of a couple of ten-year-olds, these instances left a mark in my mind that remains even today. I can’t say that my life has been highlighted by making myself into a honed weapon of hidden skill.

Or that I was always prepared with all tools I would need, but in recent years, I have been brought back to this idea. The hidden warrior. John Lovell; a popular firearms, tactics, and NRA trainer has a video entitled, The Most Dangerous Man in the Room. In the video, he talks about a man he knew who looked like a normal fella in every way possible, but that this man knew how to kill. He had been trained as a warrior and understood that in nearly any room he might enter, he was most likely the most dangerous person in that room.

Upon becoming an adult and finishing my bachelor’s in Psychology, I worked for several years at a psychiatric hospital as one of the men in white coats. I’m sure you have seen them in movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; the men who come running when someone gets out of control. A realization began to form in my mind, that the death threats I was getting every other week from some of the people I was encountering, could possibly be credible. I stood in the front day room and looked out at the parking lot where my car was normally parked and watched one of the nurses as she walked casually to her own vehicle.

At that moment, one of the many patients came up beside me with a cup of coffee and made a remark about how kind this particular nurse had been that day. We stood there and watched her pull away. How easy would it have been for that patient to write down her license number? How easy would it have been for them to see the make and model of the car, then when they got out, just wait for that car to leave and follow the nurse home? It would have been all too easy. I began parking down the street, out of view of the hospital’s windows… and I began to research what it meant to have and carry a gun. I couldn’t carry it inside the hospital (that would have been very foolish), but I could keep it in the glove compartment of my car and on my body when had to leave for home.

After several weeks of research into both the laws of concealed carry in my state, and several nights of talking over the issue with my wife, I finally went and took the required class, bought my first gun (a Smith and Wesson 614 snub-nose revolver), and got a small pocket holster. I went to the range several times and began to get used to this deadly little device that I not-so-casually tucked into my pants. I didn’t feel safer. Much to the contrary. I was scared to death I was going to shoot myself in the foot or shoot someone else when I sat down in a chair. The bulge of the object was a constant reminder of the possible death I was carrying around with me. I understood the need for the thing, but I didn’t like it. The gun scared me, as it should; into having a great deal of respect for it.

It is this understanding of hidden preparedness that lead me to a discussion I had with my father several years ago. We had recently gone to my aunt’s house for a Halloween party and I had decided to wear my gun in a shoulder holster. This was fine, but after walking around the neighborhood with the kids and then coming back into my aunt’s house with the heat blowing, I was warm… very warm. I shed my sweater which left my t-shirt and the holster on top of that t-shirt laid bare for my family to see. No one really commented about it much, but my father noticed. It was a couple of weeks later and he had brought my kids back from a visit he sat out in my driveway and said he wanted to talk to me about something.

“I don’t think you should be showing people that you are carrying a gun like that, even in our family.” He said. “Not that I think there’s anything wrong with carrying a gun, but I just think the fewer people who know about that the better.” I nodded my head in understanding and told him he was most likely right about that. However, later on, that night I really began to ponder what my father had said to me. I had heard about The Gray Man Theory before. Had even watched a few YouTube videos talking about it, but it always came as a novelty and not a necessity in my mind. I’m not a CIA guy or a Spy, why should I care if someone knows I am carrying a gun? What does it ultimately matter? Lots of people open carry every day. Why shouldn’t people be able to see my gun and even comment about it?

I can be an ambassador for the second amendment and have meaningful conversations about firearms rights and how a gun can be a very useful thing in a person’s life. My father’s words ate at me though. He was concerned that people within my own family would know I carried a gun. My family is a fairly calm family for the most part. In the past, there have been some major issues, but in current history, we are a very normal and boring group of folks. There wasn’t anyone at the Halloween party that I would ever need to worry about taking advantage of the fact that I was carrying a firearm. However, I think my father was pointing more to the habit and less to the specific situation we were in.

I thought again about The Gray Man Theory and couldn’t get it out of my head. I thought back to the ninja book. I thought about my childhood and how I had worn my normal belt on the outside of the belt loops of my pants so it could be easily removed as a makeshift weapon. There was value in this idea of being prepared, but hidden. I began to consider what it meant to blend in. What it meant to be normal. What it meant to not stand out in a crowd. What it meant… to be a Gray Man.

NOTE: I find it odd looking back on this article that I wrote some years ago now and thinking about this again. It’s breaking with the very idea of the Gray Man by writing the article itself, but I still find value in it’s being read. I hope you find value in it as well. Thanks for reading.

D. Michl Lowe

The Death Of The Self

I think I understand why we cling to who we are. We believe we are good. There is this incessant snare of self-aggrandizement that we are pulled into believing from a young age. Disney and our school counselors have beat the drums of self-esteem so long and so loud that it’s difficult to hear anything other than our dreams and awesome sense of amazement at who we are. “Follow your dreams!” they croon. You are a special and unique flower whose feelings and thoughts are valid. While I don’t believe that we should be looking for depression, or looking to be self-deprecating at all, there is a sense that without a realistic vision of who we are in this world, we can never truly grow. The real danger here is that woven into all this flowery talk is a hidden message; “you are never wrong”.

It is this message that creates in us a sense of acceptableness. That who we are (no matter what) is okay and right. There is no need to change if who you are is already fine. For that matter, if who you are is fine and good, what need is there for a savior? None of us is truly good. Romans 3:23 tells us that, “…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” But very few of us believe that. My local pastor, Kent Estep said a while back in one of his sermons that we often replace the word “sin” with the word “mistake” and doing that should be seen as a big mistake. When you make a mistake, it’s no big deal. It’s just something you slightly think about so that you don’t make that mistake again, but hey, if you do then no big deal.

However, if we start to understand the gravity of our sinful nature, we can start to unravel our own need for Jesus and his forgiveness. When all you have are “mistakes” you do not need to be saved from your “sins”. The gravity of our situation is that we have convinced ourselves that we do not need to be saved. It’s like swimming with sharks with an open and bleeding gash on our foot. You might be fine with that cut on your foot, but the reality of your situation will soon come up to bite you. Let’s get to the heart of the matter, none of us are okay. None of us are good. Even if we would like to be, we aren’t. We are all flawed. We are all sinful. We are all in need of Jesus. The reality is that Adam’s sin falls heavily upon us all. Humanity is desperately in need of saving. We have to open our eyes to that reality and start to understand that for us to survive, we have to start losing our natural selves and taking on the mantle of Jesus for others.

So, what does that mean? What does it mean to “take up your cross” and follow after Jesus? I believe that a large part of this has to do with how we view who we are, what it means to be human, and where our priorities lie. When we start to understand who we are, we can begin to live according to a new set of rules and ideas. So, let’s begin talking about that. What does it mean to be alive here on earth? Who are you as a human being? I’ve argued with people about purpose. People were created by God for His pleasure and His glory. God didn’t need to create people. He was whole and complete within Himself. In Acts 17:24-25 we see it says,The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.” The bold text reveals to us His needs; nothing. However, he chose to make us anyway.

In Isaiah 43:7 we see God saying, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Again, the bold text gives us insight into why God created us; for His glory. Not that he needed that glory, but that by doing so, He would exalt Himself. This speaks directly to our purpose here on earth, above all else. We are meant to bring God glory. Our priority here on earth above all else is to Glorify God. If nothing else, understanding that purpose can point us in the right direction. However, there is more to unpack in this idea that just this overarching idea. What does it mean to glorify God?

The Apostle Paul offers us one of the best ways to look at this idea of dying to self and glorifying God. He observes that no amount of sin can overcome God’s grace. That as sin increases, God’s grace will always be more powerful and overcome it. So, he makes the logical leap to ask if we should continue sinning so that grace will continue to get more powerful. Of course, he says no way. So, Paul lays it out for us in a way that is very easy to comprehend, but hard to live.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once and for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin, shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. – Romans 6:1-14

At the start of things, Paul argues that just because God’s grace will always be able to cover whatever multitude of sins we may have, it doesn’t mean we should continue to sin just to see God’s grace increase to cover it. Then he hits hard! He says that because we are now dead to our sinful nature if that is truly what has happened, how could we ever live in sin again? We are brought back to life as a new creation, something wholly different and wholly alien. Christ is no longer this unknown entity, but we have become Him for the world. He says not to be a tool for the devil because you have become a tool in the hands of God. You aren’t in charge of your motives or life. You aren’t the master any longer. Jesus is the master of your life, heart, mind, body, and spirit. Your desires are no longer your own. Your purpose is no longer your own. You are a slave to the righteousness that Christ has embedded within you.

Something to consider, this isn’t a mindset that will come about in a single sitting. It isn’t something you should expect from someone who is a new Christian. The path down this road is an ongoing surrender of self. We might call it a slow and painful death. It’s the bleeding out of your own identity.

D. Michl Lowe

The Problem Of Sin

How are we as Christians supposed to understand the idea of sin? How should we talk about sin to the non-believers? These are tough questions! Let’s start with a simple question; how do I know something is wrong? The way a Christian should understand sin is by looking to God’s Holy Scripture. Through reading God’s Word, we have a direct link into the mind of God and what He thinks is essential for us to know. Yet, some things aren’t mentioned in scripture. But, you can use logic and reason to begin to understand the mind and nature of God. Through the tool of reason, we have divine wisdom in the areas that He was silent in. So, let’s talk about sin and how it manifests in our lives.

First off, what is sin?

Sin is the direct willful turning from God’s known will, direction, or the law. It’s not your actions that are the sin, it’s the decision to turn away from God; to go your own way. This is why no one sin is greater than any other. I turn from God and then I do something. The sin is not the action, but the decision before the action. The action is the result of the decision to turn away. All sin is abhorrent in the eyes of God. Because all sin is the same, we can understand that God is the ultimate decider of what is “wrong” or what “sin” is. In Romans 3:23, we read “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all require divine grace.

Without God, there is no sin. There is no such thing as evil.

If there is no God, then there is nothing I can do that is wrong. Let’s pretend that God does not exist and everything has been a lie. Would it be wrong for me to steal a candy bar from the supermarket? Nope, if I can get away with it, it’s not wrong. There is no basis for you (my accuser) to say that what I have done is bad or wrong beyond your own opinion or that of others. If you don’t believe that God is the ultimate truth and decider of the moral law, then you have created a moral system for yourself.

You believe that the state is the ultimate authority or the government. However, laws can be changed. If a rich person decided to throw all their money into legalizing sex with little kids, they could get that sort of thing passed into law. But, does that make it right and okay to do that? I would argue no, but under a system where government or the state makes up what is moral and immoral, then it becomes right and okay. The same could be said for people who decide for themselves if what they are doing is right or wrong. Personal beliefs of right and wrong that are not based on Biblical truth are opinions, and everyone has those. Without God’s moral foundation, all opinions are equal.

Now, some of our decisions have to be based on our knowledge of God’s nature. Ultimately though, we believe that God will lead us in a direction through prayer, the study of His Word, and conversation with other believers into knowing his correct direction for us. None of these assumptions can contradict God’s Word or His known nature. For example, I don’t believe God would have it in His will for your life for you to murder your whole family and then use their bodies as shields to defend yourself from the law as you run naked down the street. That’s not in His will and it would go against the known law of God and His nature. However, if a person decides that their feelings and thoughts are the ultimate forms of truth, then there is nothing stopping them from making decisions and creating any form of moralistic code they want. They become a god within their mind.

If their morals dictate that murdering their family and running down the street naked while using those bodies as shields is right… who am I to say they are wrong? Their opinion is as valid as mine. That is if there is no higher power that is greater than our moral code. It should be obvious, that all ideas are not equal. Not everyone can be right. Someone has to be wrong. You will hear it said that all paths lead to “god”. No, they don’t… they don’t. You can’t believe that unicorns and fairies save your soul and still get into Heaven. It doesn’t work that way. There has to be a greater form of truth. There has to be a higher power, other than your own will and selfish thoughts. Without God to lead us, we are lost in our own will.

In Genesis 3:8, we see the first people on Earth starting to understand the gravity of sin. They hid from God and were frightened. Sin causes us to move away from God, it damages the relationship we were created to have with him. Because of our failure as humanity, we are forever in need of Christ’s grace in our lives. From our moment of life, we are depraved and lacking in purity. Our very nature is sin and selfishness.

We continue to see the issue of sin play out in the Old Testament and the Israelites. Time and again the Israelites fail. Sin is ever-present. Then Christ comes on the scene and the story changes. All of a sudden the world is flipped on its head. The religious leaders of the day are taken to task and redirected (sometimes very harshly). God has come down as a man and the world wasn’t ready. The people didn’t know what to do with him. So, they killed him. Their solution to the upset of their selfish lives was to once again sin; to murder God.

It’s almost comical at times to see how easy it is for humans to turn to sin to solve their problems. It would be funny, but we are talking about people’s souls, so there’s nothing funny about it. A man finds himself lonely and needs love. So, he doesn’t cultivate his relationships or seek the company of fellow believers. He instead searches the internet for a cheap and baseless pleasure in pornography. A woman finds herself pregnant when she hadn’t planned on it. So, she doesn’t endure the hardship of pregnancy and then gives the gift of a child to a barren couple. Instead, she chooses legal murder for the sake of convenience and self. There is a reason the road to Hell is wide. Sin gives the easy answer to life’s issues and promises pleasure and a “better life” in exchange for God’s plan.

When I was a kid, I kept questioning why Jesus had to die. Wasn’t there another way? Couldn’t Jesus have come down and forced everyone to believe? Wouldn’t that have been better? Why not stay here on Earth for the rest of eternity? Become a physical king and rule over everyone, decreeing laws and edicts so that everyone would know exactly what God wanted. The idea was so simple in my mind.

It was also not how God chose to solve the issue of human sin. That broken relationship had to be mended by the sacrificial death of a God, no amount of animal or human blood would be able to cover the sin of all of humanity. It might stem the tide for a time (as it did with the Old Testament sacrifices), but that system was just a stop-gap. A temporary solution to what was a permanent problem in humans. People, because of the choice made in the Garden, are forever under the veil of a sinful nature. We are destined to be corrupted for all time… or are we?

Of course, believing in Christ; acting on that belief, and turning from our sin will save our souls from eternal damnation. This is the simplistic idea of what it means to be a Christian. One can do this with a repentant heart on their death bed and still enter God’s Kingdom, but is that all there is? Is that the end of the commitment? Does the journey end there? Did Jesus come for anything else? Perhaps there is more to the story than a single moment in one’s life that “saves” a person.

When Christ came, he changed the game. It wasn’t about the rules anymore. It was getting to the heart of what it means to be human. It was understanding that God’s kingdom was here on Earth, now! It was looking into the heart of God and its foundation of love. God wasn’t out to punish sinners; he was out to redeem humanity and create a people wholly devoted to His vision. A people that grow in relationship with him. It’s no longer about me, it’s about Him.

In Mathew 27:51, we see the moment right as Jesus dies and what happens in the city. The veil to the Holy of Holies is torn. The very physical barrier separating God and man was torn in two by God Himself. This symbolic gesture is more meaningful than it at first appears. Up until this time, only a select few can speak directly with God. He was wholly separate and distant. Then he decided to come down here to Earth and change the way we interacted with God. He was here, present, and you were able to touch Him! A physical being with all the humanity we have. He came down into all the mess, all the dirt, and all the drama of what it means to be human.

The singular event of the sacrifice of a God warps human life into a possibility of salvation. While we are still corrupt, evil, vile, and putrid; God decided to die for us. This is the lynchpin in God’s plan for getting things to be put right. Without God’s decision to be selfless, we would have been lost forever. This is an interesting way to demonstrate His nature to us. He calls us to be selfless and to put others before us, just as he put us before Himself. God raised the nastiness of humanity above himself so that they might be redeemed and saved. That’s how much He cared for humanity.

D. Michl Lowe

The Wayward Uncle

We had taken a trip to the Smokey Mountains with mom and dad. Our idea of fun on these sorts of trips is shopping at the outlet stores, walking around the specialty shops, going to the aquarium, and most of all; eating at the restaurants. Every time we go through, we always eat at the Apple Barn at least one morning. During this trip, Uncle Ron had called mom and asked her if we could meet with him while on our trip since he doesn’t live far from this area.

At first, she balked at the idea, but he pushed her and said, “You all are going to eat at Apple Barn, right? Well, let me pay for your meal and eat with you.” How could she refuse, a free meal, and without a rude excuse, no real reason to say no. So, we met Uncle Ron for breakfast that morning. I had to explain to the girls who this man was, he had never met them after all. “This is Grammy’s ex-husband, they got a divorce when I was a teenager, I haven’t really talked to him in years, just be nice and it will be fine” I said.

The girls of course were as loveable and cheerful as they have always been and took to Ron immediately. He was cautious though as if he wasn’t sure of himself around us now. Of course, he still had his laughable and gregarious nature about him, the one that makes people want to be around him, telling stories and laughing that full laugh he always had when I was growing up. But something else was there. A tinge of something quiet just on the edge of his voice. He was nervous around us. As we sat there, I couldn’t tell you anything he said. I was just staring at him; inside I was a fury of emotion. Several times I nearly had to get up and leave the table as I was becoming overwhelmed with emotion.

Breakfast ended and I don’t think I said ten words to the man. We walked out and Alicia was taking some pictures with the girls. Mom and dad were talking with Ron and it became time for him and us to leave. I suddenly felt a pang of need. “I’ll walk you to your car”, I said. We walked through the parking lot until we got to his car. We were standing there… not really saying much and I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I burst into tears and grabbed him in a hug. Holding him tight I sobbed uncontrollably, “I miss you, Uncle Ron… I miss you.” We were both crying now. “I don’t want to be angry anymore. I don’t want to be upset anymore. I just want you back.” I said. “I want that too!” He said. “If I can, I want to be your little girl’s grandpa if I can. I know I’ve missed a lot. I know that. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

We most likely stood there for 15 minutes. I don’t honestly remember what we said to each other, but it was a profound healing moment. A letting go of hurts and pain that had been compounding for years on both sides. I got in the car and discussed what had happened with mom, dad, and Alicia. They were skeptical, not sure if we should allow Ron back into our lives too easily. What would Grammy think about it? She had stayed with us throughout the years, not pushed us away, and had even been at my children’s births up to this point, holding them on their first day of life. I never wanted to do anything that would have hurt her. While I would ultimately call her and have a conversation with her about the experience and what it meant to me and to the future, for a while anyway, I just kept it to myself.

D. Michl Lowe

The Coming Of Nikolai

Let me talk about the end of 2018. Kyle and Natalie, our music pastor and his wife, came to us and told us that they were pregnant with their third child. I don’t remember the exact date, but it was mid-2018. In my heart of hearts, I can assure you (my reader) that I was done having children. All through college and perhaps even before that, I had always said that I wanted two little girls; no more, no less. And at that moment, I had my two girls and beyond that, Ellie was already seven years old. Having another child wouldn’t make sense at all.

However, when our friend’s words rang in my mind, a spark began to burn inside of me. I couldn’t shake the idea of another child from my mind. It nearly consumed me. God was pulling at me, causing me to question my conviction. At first, I didn’t talk to Alicia about this. How could I? If I told her about it, she would get excited and if these feelings turned out to be nothing, just a passing fancy, then I would have hurt her a great deal. Inside myself though, I knew she wanted more children. She had always said four, but we had compromised on two. She always said no way to three because she didn’t want the third to be left out. Or for there to be a middle child.

I went and spoke with Kyle about my feelings and thoughts. His immediate response was, “You need to have another kid!” Now I know he must have been a little biased since he and his wife had made a very similar decision. I spoke to him about my hesitations. About all the reasons why it was a crazy idea, why we shouldn’t do it. And then I said that despite all that, I was still convicted about it. I didn’t know why. He told me that he had similar feelings before they had made their decisions and that he had come to have peace about it through prayer. He told me I needed to be in prayer and that I should seek Christ’s will. While I appreciated his enthusiasm and advice, I was still unsure.

I went home and spoke to Alicia about it. I came out of our closet just before bed and said, “What would you think about us having another kid?” She stopped. “Are you being serious?” she asked. “Now, you can’t just bring this up with me, if you are serious you need to let me know. Because I had a peace about us not having any more kids, even though it’s something I have really wanted. You can’t just throw this out there you know.”

I paused in the doorway, considering why I had even mentioned it without having come to a solid conclusion just yet. “I haven’t come to a consensus yet on how I feel, or what God is telling me about it. I don’t have peace, but I felt like I needed to tell you what was on my heart. What do you think about that?” I can’t be sure, but I remember her beginning to cry. “I have a peace about it, I say let’s do it!” I regaled her with all my logical reasons as to why I thought it was a bad idea, and still she held firm. When I spoke to my mom and dad about it later, they held to my beliefs about the bad idea of having another kid. It would be too hard, too expensive, and just overall not a good idea. I didn’t have peace about it. I wasn’t sure.

During this time, I was working up in the sound booth for our local church. I can’t tell you what the sermon was about. I can’t tell you what really was even going on in my own mind at that moment. However, while working the sound for our Facebook live feed, Pastor began to speak and my heart suddenly lurched. All I can recall is that for a moment in time, Pastor was no longer speaking to the congregation, God was speaking through him to me.

All my fear was gone. All my reservations were gone. The logical reasoning, I had built up in my mind seemed like foolishness. God had a plan. I didn’t know what it was, but He had one. I needed to trust in His ability to see us through the challenges. Which is interesting. Nikolai was born on August 31, 2019. It was a mostly uneventful birth, but just a day after he was born, he had to be taken to the NICU because he had an infection in his blood. He was there for about a week until he was strong enough to come home with us. It wouldn’t be the last time one of my kids had an extended stay in a hospital.

Looking back at this time now, after Niko was born, Alicia was able to take off enough time from work so that she could get all the way from the beginning of school in August to Christmas break staying at home with him, fantastic. But God took us a step further. One month after Christmas break, the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 hit and we worked from home for the most part until that Summer, giving Alicia just about a full year of staying at home with Niko.

Even when we did have to go back to work (sorta) in the next school year of 2020 in September of that year, Niko was able to only go to daycare part-time, Mom and Dad kept him two days a week, saving us money and allowing him to spend a lot of time with family. God has a way of working these things out. In ways, we will never understand and will often never see until a long time later.

Now, I continue to look at my son (he’s two and a half now) and Kyle’s little girl and I think about these kids. Who they are becoming and who they are right now. The world is a better place with them in it. A friend of mine recently went through a similar situation as I did and I got to hold his little girl (just a couple months old now) in my arms. We were at dinner with them the other night and I looked over at my son and then down at this little girl in my arms. What a blessing children are. I feel like the meaning of life and love and laughter are brought into clarity through these kids. They will grow up in our church, they will be loved by everyone in it, and they will be loved by us. There will be difficulty, pain, heartache, and tears, and it will all be worth it. All the difficulty that comes with having kids and raising kids will be worth it.

D. Michl Lowe

A Mother’s Discipline

At one point, I don’t remember my age, I had done something wrong and needed to be punished. My mother sat me down looking out a set of windows that faced the backyard. “You sit here until I come to let you up!” She said. I pretended I didn’t care, that the punishment was no big deal. She then went over to the telephone on the wall and called down to the neighbor’s house just below us. These neighbors had three little girls and a little boy. The middle little girl was Ashley, mentioned above. “Hey Chris, would you send your kids up here to play in Michl’s treehouse for a few minutes? Thanks!” and then hung up the phone. I didn’t hear this conversation.

What I saw next was the point of the exercise. All my best friends suddenly appeared and began playing in my backyard. “Hey, mom!” I yelled. “The girls are here; I’m going to go out and play with them!” I was very excited. Mom came into the room. “Oh, I’m sorry, but little boys who don’t listen to their mommies don’t get to go play with their friends. So, no. You are not going out to play with them.” Big tears welled up in my eyes and began running down my cheeks as I suddenly understood the reason, I was facing the backyard. The kids were only playing back there for maybe five minutes at the most, but it was enough to get my attention as a little kid, four or five years old. “Now, if you decide that you are going to listen to mommy for the rest of the day, then maybe tomorrow we will invite the kids up to play with you and then order some pizza for lunch as well. Does that sound like a deal?” It did. Like I said, I don’t remember what I had done, but to this day, that lesson has stuck with me. Take away what is most important to a child and be willing to give it back with a bonus… good parenting advice.

Speaking of eating pizza, it shouldn’t be understated that getting pizza was a big deal when I was a kid. We didn’t have a lot of money because mom and dad were shoving all their extra money into savings to be able to afford to build a house later. Once, Chris Bloss and Mom took all of us kids to McDonald’s so that we could play on the playground there. You weren’t allowed to play on the playground unless you bought something, so Chris and Mom bought a Diet Coke to split. All of us kids had Fox Kids Club Cards. A card you could get from the local radio station that would get you all kinds of cool stuff as a kid, but mainly for us, would get us a free small fry from the Mcdonald’s. So, we brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, got our free fries, and then all ordered water, also free and since a diet coke was bought, were allowed to play in the play place.

Looking back at that, it was a little sad, but we didn’t care. We got to play on the playground and had some of the best fries around. Once, when the Bloss’ dad Tom got a bonus at work, Chris decided to buy all of us kids a Slurpee from the Kmart. Back then the only flavor was cherry. She handed them out to us kids and each time she gave one to a kid that kid would say, “Thank you!” and then she would move on to the next kid. Not me though, she handed me that thing and I immediately began downing it. I only made it several slurps in when it was suddenly snatched from my hands. “Next time, you will remember to say thank you.” My mother said. I cried, but you better believe the next time something came along like that, I was the first to say thank you. Manners were important. To this day, I still have a habit of saying, “Yes sir and no sir”, which has fared me well.

D. Michl Lowe

The Demon In The Hall

One night, I was sitting up in my bed, quietly just waiting to get sleepy. My bed was on the opposite wall from the door to the hallway. As a sat there, I saw a figure of a man walk past my doorway towards the bathroom. It was dark (I didn’t have a night light) and it was only a silhouette that I saw, the color of the back of your eyelids when you close your eyes, a swirling mix of colors that ultimately would be called black. I assumed it was dad going to the restroom, but as I sat there waiting for the light of the bathroom to come on as he used it, that didn’t happen. Instead, the figure came back and stared into my room. It then came into my room and moved silently over to my bed and stood over me.

This was not my father. This was a figure that was made of darkness, the blank face looked down at me and then turned and silently strode from the room. As soon as it passed beyond the threshold of my door, I bolted from the bed, screaming, running towards my parent’s room. When I should have run into the back of that thing, I ran into the front of my dad who had heard me scream, and came running from his room. I was comforted and put back into bed. What did I see that night? I’m not sure. A demon, maybe? This will be a question I get answered when I finally arrive in heaven someday.

D. Michl Lowe

The Floating Lights

One night, my mom and dad went down across from the Bloss’ house to their grandfather’s house, Don Bloss. This was Tom Bloss’ father, Tom being the girl’s dad. They were buying some property from him to start the process of building a house. They wanted to build a house of their own design. My cousins; Randy, Tammy, Tuesday, and I were hanging out together. This had to have been around Christmas time because Tammy lived in Texas and I was only able to see her around that time of the year. As it happens, there was a blacktop road beside the girl’s house that went up the hill near there and had a circle turnaround at the top. Don had paved this to encourage people to buy lots up there.

As mom and dad were negotiating and signing contracts, my cousins and I decided to walk up to the top of the hill and play tag at the top. It was becoming dusk by the time we got to the top of the hill. It was cloudy. There was a large tree just beyond the pavement, which sat in a small field just before the edge of the forest which continued up the hill. I knew just inside the tree line was a barbwire fence. The land Don had broken up into lots, used to be his family’s farm where they had cows. As we played, I noticed some lights at the top of the hill just inside the tree line. I didn’t think much of it. There were a lot of kids around this area that rode four-wheelers down the trails here inside the barbed wire fence. So, I just assumed it was some kids up there riding four-wheelers.

There was a problem with this theory, however. There was no sound of engines. Randy suddenly stopped running having seen me standing over to the side staring up the hill. “What are those lights?” He asked. “I’m not sure.” I honestly answered. “I thought maybe they were four-wheelers, but I don’t think so, there’s no engine sound.” The girls stopped playing as well and came to stand next to us, hearing the conversation. “Maybe it’s some people riding bikes with lights on the handlebars?” asked Tammy. That could have been the case, but those were not cheap and often broke easily. So, seeing so many (five in fact) on bikes would have been rare at this time. As we debated, the lights began to move down the hill, just inside the tree line, down the trail I knew was there.

“I don’t hear any leaves,” I said. Referring to the fact that the foliage was down and we should have been hearing the crunch of leaves as bikes or even feet were coming down the path, but it was completely silent. No sound at all, save for a slight breeze. These lights were round and appeared to be hanging in the air. They were about the size of basketballs and moved slowly down the path, about as fast as some running at a slow jog.

As the lights came closer to our group, they left the woods and began floating across the small field between the blacktop circle beneath the tree that was there. It was at this point that we realized that nothing was holding up these lights, not a bike, a person, or anything else. The balls of light were gently glowing with a yellow-ish orange light and they were floating about three feet above the ground seemingly on their own. As children, we were terrified and immediately began running down the hill. The lights, followed us, close behind. Looking back, I could see they were matching our pace as we ran, being only about twenty feet behind us. We ran all the way down the hill and then up the driveway to where my parents were meeting in the house just above the end of that road. We stopped long enough to look back down at the end of the road we just come from. The lights were at the end of the road. As we watched, they began swirling around each other and then just winked out, as if someone had blown out their candles.

Of course, we told my parents what had happened, but we weren’t believed. My dad just thought we had gotten scared in the dark and whipped ourselves up into a frenzy. However, I can tell you that when I was around 14 years old, I was watching the Discovery Channel with dad when suddenly on the screen were my floating lights. I jumped up and just about scared the pants off of dad. “That’s the lights we saw when I was a kid!” I yelled. Dad was completely confused and I had to tell him again about the lights. So, what did the Discovery show say about the lights? Aliens? Ghosts? Nope! Apparently, it’s a natural phenomenon called “ball lightning”. It’s where lightning forms into a sphere because of magnetism or something. It often floats several feet off the ground or way up in the air. Now the way it seemed to chase us? I’m not sure about that, but I am convinced that we saw ball lightning that night. I guess when I get to heaven this is yet another thing, I am going to have to ask God about.

D. Michl Lowe

The Ninja Kitty And The Trailer

Around the time I was seven years old, my mom and dad decided that we should move to a new house. They had purchased the land from Don Bloss and we would be moving to the other side of the Bloss girl’s house onto the land they had bought. However, the house had to actually be built. So, they started to build, but also put our little red house up for sale at the same time. As it happened, someone bought our house before the new house was done being built.

We were in the middle of the build for the new house and now had no house to live in while it was being finished. What could we do? Mom spoke with a friend of ours who agreed to allow us to rent a trailer down the road from Sissonville Elementary. It was a very small trailer! In fact, it was only two bedrooms and one of those bedrooms was packed floor to ceiling with our moving boxes. As it was, my bed was placed in a small walk-in closet.

When we first arrived at the trailer, we brought Samson (my dog) and BT, our kitty cat. I remember we got them down out of the car and Samson immediately began running around the small yard peeing on everything and BT ran off into the woods. We were a little concerned about BT, but she was an inside/outside cat, so she could take care of herself. Leaving her some food and water out on the porch, we waited to see if she would come back. When we woke up the next day, the food the water was gone, but there was still no sign of BT.

We left out another round of food and water and left for school and work. When we pulled up to the house from our day, we saw BT on the porch drinking some of the water we had left. However, the moment we got out of the car, she ran off again into the woods. This continued for a couple weeks. One day though, we got out of the car and the food and water were untouched; we didn’t see BT. We continued to leave fresh food and water, but each day that we came home, it was untouched.

This might sound like a really horrible situation, and it was, but in my seven-year-old brain, I created a scenario that made it easier to deal with. In my mind, I forced myself to believe that BT had decided to live out the remainder of her days in the woods hunting squirrels for her food as a Ninja Kitty. I often would imagine her hopping from limb to limb chasing down the squirrels; oddly enough, she was also wearing a Ninja Turtle Style mask on her head in these imaginings as well. We never saw BT again.

Sometime after that, we started to notice a smell coming from inside the trailer. It started off not that bad, just a mild sickly-sweet odor, but then it started to get worse. It became so bad that when we would open the door to go inside, we would have to turn back around and nearly punk off the porch. It was really bad! Dad decided that he would put on his overalls and crawl up under the trailer to see what was going on. When we got under there, he found a large hole in the flooring panels under the trailer, it looked like something had chewed the hole open.

Upon sticking his arm up into the hold, he felt something large and furry that wasn’t moving. Immediately, he thought “oh, no. BT has crawled up in this hole and died. Michl is going to be crushed.” But it wasn’t BT. When dad crawled back from under the trailer, he pulled out a river rat that was as large as BT from there. All told, it was nearly three feet long including the tail. We found out later that our neighbor had been putting out poison for the rats from the river just beyond his house and the poison was meant to make the rats want to drink a lot of water. So, they were supposed to go back to the river and die down there, but for some reason, this particular rat decided to come under our house to die.

Looking back on this time now, I am wondering if perhaps BT got into the poison, he had put out and that’s what really happened to her. I guess that’s a much more realistic explanation for what happened to her, but honestly, I like the seven-year-old explanation better. Sometimes, we encounter situations in young lives where it’s easier to believe the make-believe rather than the somewhat harsh reality of life. As a kid, I think my mind preferred to live within that fantasy instead of actually facing the death of a beloved pet.

We were in the trailer for nearly a year. Most of my memories there were of riding my bike along the flat blacktop road that led up to the house. I mentioned it was a small place and we were there during the Christmas holiday. There wasn’t enough room for an actual Christmas tree, so we settled on a little Charley Brown Christmas Tree that was set on top of our kitchen table. There was only one gift that I remember that year and it was a red microscope, complete with little slides that had sections of bugs, leaves, and other little things to see close up. For all the scrimping and saving our family was doing at the time, this was one of the best Christmas’ I can remember.

D. Michl Lowe

The Snakes

When I would go to my Aunt Sherry’s house to spend time with my cousin Randy, we would often make the trek down the road to the local swimming hole. The Little Kanawha River and Little Spring Creek came together in a “T” about a mile down the road from his house. It was here, just beyond the bridge of Little Spring Creek that we had a small sandy beach that resided below the limbs of several trees. It was shady, cool, and slightly deep compared to much of the river. Water that reached our shoulders wasn’t common in the Little Kanawha River around where we were familiar.

So, we would head down there and wade out into the middle of the water, playing as children often do. However, each time we ventured down to that area, there was always a constant, up in the branches of a beech tree, there was a family of black snakes. The beech tree was very large, larger around than I could reach my arms, even today. It was also hollow. On top of the tree, it had been hit by lightning, so it was sheared off at a completely horizontal angle, creating a flat area at the top of the tree where the snakes curled up with each other.

As we swam below, we could look up and see the coils of the snakes drooping down over the edges of the flat area. One of them in particular was extremely large. As a kid, I remember him being at least ten feet long. However, in talking with Randy recently, he states the largest was more like six feet, but I will swear till the day I die that it was at least ten feet long and ten inches around the waist.

The interesting thing about these snakes is that we didn’t mind they were there at all. For one, they never bothered us at all. They stayed in their tree. For another, we understood that black snakes killed and ate poisonous snakes like Copper Heads and Rattlers. They also ate river rats. We knew we didn’t have to worry about those issues at our swimming hole. You might wonder how we knew how big they were if they were always in the tree.

If we sat on the sandbank long enough and quiet enough, eventually the snakes would get hot up in the tree. So, if we were fishing down there on the bank, or just hanging around, sometimes we would see a snake drop down out of the tree and splash into the water. It would bob to the surface and wind its way through the water to the base of the tree and slither up the hollow to get back to the top where it would curl up again. We could see how long they were as they swept through the water. I remember ten feet; Randy, not so much. He says six or seven.

D. Michl Lowe

The Boat

Time spent at Aunt Sherry’s house was cathartic in a lot of ways. Thinking back on that time there was a lot of downtimes; time spent just lazing the days away. However, there were also times when Randy and I would come up with some crazy idea and start something that would be special in some way. Ideas that in retrospect were stories from childhood that would stick with my mind and grow into tales of meaning and adventure.

There was an old barn across the road from Randy’s house. It was falling apart. The walls were leaning at an odd angle and walking into it, you always had to watch your feet for fear that there might be a copperhead lurking under each board. Truthfully, there most likely was, but when we entered that place, it was with a purpose. Usually, it was to get boards. The rusty nails didn’t offer much resistance to our yanks as we would cart tons of this stuff over to the river and up into a tree to make our treehouse. One summer I came back to Aunt Sherry’s only to find that Randy had built an elaborate spire of platforms and walls, and even trap doors into the tree.

At one point we were “fishing” for catfish one night and decided that building a fire on the wooden floor of one of the platforms was a great idea. Twenty minutes into the fire and the fire itself suddenly disappeared in a bright flash. Having burned a hole through the floor, the entire campfire fell right through it and landed on the ground twelve feet below in a spectacular explosion of sparks. We howled in laughter.

One time, we were hunting through the old barn and came across a large tractor tire insert. It was the large rubber part that would go inside the hard ribbed rubber outsole of the tire. Upon examining it, it was clear that if we blew air into this tire, it would expand and become a huge innertube. At first, we were thinking about how neat it would be to go down the river with this large innertube, but as we talked about it, an idea wormed its way into my mind. What if we strapped boards to the top of this and made it into a boat?

So that’s what we did. Taking rope we lashed a platform of boards to the top of the innertube and created a fine boat. We went into the woods and cut down some small trees and removed the limbs to make some twelve-foot-long poles to act as quant poles used to push us through the water instead of paddles. My Uncle helped us to load the boat into the back of his truck and then drove several miles up the river. After unloading the boat into the water, we set sail down the river back towards Randy Allen’s house.

Several times during the journey, we got stuck on sand bars or other obstacles, but we managed to get ourselves free and continue on. After what I remember to be a long time, like nearly an hour, we arrived at the section of the river behind Randy’s house. Since things had gone so well, we decided to continue going. We continued sailing down the river until we got to the old swimming hole where the snakes hung from the giant beach tree. We continued on. However, it was just after this point those things got a little hairy. With the addition of the creek water entering the river at the swimming hole, the river itself got much swifter, deeper, and wider.

It was becoming much more difficult and often impossible for us to steer, slow, and especially to stop our boat. In the end, after trying for some time to get the boat over the side of the river so that we might walk home and have Uncle Randy come to retrieve our boat with his truck, we were unable to stop it. We abandoned our boat, which continued to sail down the river without us. I like to think that somewhere down there it made it out to the ocean and saved some shipwrecked sailors.

D. Michl Lowe

The Bear

When I was a young boy, I spent some time at my Aunt Sherry’s house around ten or twelve. My parents would send me there when I was driving them bananas. There were several times that I went to her house which was always fun for me because my cousin Randy was there. He was several years older than me, but we played well together. Her house was a small one-story place with a large kitchen in the front and a little living room set in the back.

In front of the house was a large mountain and their house was set in the middle of a small field with a river that ran behind that.

One day, we had been playing down in the river below the house trying to catch craw-dads. Coming out of the water onto the sand bar, we saw large tracks. Having studied Boy Scout books (even though neither of us were a part of the Boy Scouts), we knew these tracks were bear tracks. They were very large! We followed the tracks up into the field behind the house and moved up the yard following the tracks in the wet grass.

Yet, upon coming to the paved road we lost the trail. Seeing bear tracks of course made us excited, but also a little frightened. Black bears in these parts were no joke. We had heard stories of hunters who had shot bears with an arrow only to have the bear continue to charge them and kill them when the arrow had not done enough damage.

Several days later, we were coming back from our swimming hole when we decided that we needed a snack. While ideas like this were not common, we decided to not go home to get a snack but to head up onto the mountain to get some blackberries. Randy knew of an area on the side of the mountain called the Blackberry Maze where there were many bushes of blackberries. There were so many in fact that the paths between the bushes made a large maze on the side of the mountain, thus the name.

So off we trudged into the mountains. It wasn’t a difficult climb, but the closer we got to the maze, the thicker the brush became. Coming out into the maze, the bushes were taller than me and the winding paths were close nit. They hadn’t been created by people, but by the animals who frequented the area. Off we went sampling the fresh berries. Picking and eating the berries was fun and made you feel like you were a part of the land. We were natives in a natural world living off of nature—freedom in the truest sense of the word.

That’s when we heard it; a snorting sound coming from the edge of the maze, outside of it, and inside the dense brush of the forest. Both Randy and I stopped. Turning we looked at each other.

“Did you hear that?” I asked. “Yes,” Randy replied, whispering.

“Is that what a bear sounds like?” I asked. “Um, I’m not sure,” Randy said.

We heard that distant snorting again, and this time the brush on the side of the maze began rustling and swaying. Something significant was coming this way. Something that made our skin crawl and our imaginations light up.

“We need to get out of here,” I whispered and Randy nodded his head. He led the way out of the maze and once he got to the edge of the area, he jumped up and swung himself into a tree. I followed and soon we were both sitting in the highest branches of a tree off to the side of the Blackberry Maze.

“Can’t black bears climb trees?” I asked, upon settling myself into the crook of a limb. Randy looked over at me, “Yeah” he said. We both began hopping from limb to limb down the tree as fast as we could, but upon coming to the bottom of the tree once more, the noise from the side of the maze came again louder this time. We both froze.

Then, out from the brush at the side of the maze, stepped the largest example of this creature I have ever seen. A buck stepped into the area of the maze. Not a bear, a buck. A deer with antlers as wide as a car bumper stepped through the brush. He snorted and bounded over to our tree. Now in the years since this happened, I have been told this is not normal deer behavior, but I can attest this is true nonetheless. That deer came directly below our tree and scraped his antlers on the bark. He then proceeded to stamp his hooves and circle the tree for the next hour, not letting either of us come down.

I can only guess as to his motivations, but my assumption is that he had himself a girlfriend somewhere nearby and our presence was disrupting his ability to give her attention in a “baby-making” sort of way, but this is only an assumption. Maybe he didn’t like us eating his berries. Either way, after that hour he seemed to lose interest and wandered off. We were able to come down and head home. That’s the story of how I thought we were being chased by a bear, that turned out to be a deer.

My Grandfather Was A Coward

My mother knew nothing about her real father. Even when her mother was brutally murdered by another man, she knew nothing about her real dad; believing her father to be a different man. When her real father revealed himself in her fifties, she was taken aback. A mutual friend apparently was having breakfast with her “dad” down at the local Hardy’s every Tuesday. When she confronted this man who she was told was her “real dad” she was understandably hurt and angry. She asked him, “When my mother was murdered, why didn’t you come to get me? I had no one!” He hung his head, “I was just a poor boxer.” He said, “I didn’t have nothin to offer.”

So why did he contact her then? After all these years, why did he have his breakfast friend reach out to her? Why now? As far as she could tell, it was so he could have a dance partner down at the local Moose Lodge. He was in his late eighties and a little senile, barely able to really comprehend who his relations were. I (her son) went to meet him for the first time and spoke to him about my wife and my kids. “These are your Great Granddaughters”, I told him, showing him a picture of the girls. He smiled and said they looked nice. He didn’t ask anything about me, my wife, or what his great-grandkids liked, or what type of kids they were. Really, there was no discussion about us at all. He either didn’t care or didn’t understand what was really going on.

His days were spent in meaningless pursuits that at his age seemed silly. After a year of knowing about him, all my mother had been a couple of one-sided visits and several uncomfortable phone calls asking her to come dance with him at the Moose Lodge.

Then, he got sick. Sick to the point that it was clear he was going to die. he didn’t ask for any of us. Mom went first to visit him and came away numb. She said, “You don’t have to go.” I went.

I went by myself. I entered the room and saw him lying on the bed, haggard. I ignored the three other people in the room; a friend, his current wife, and his son from another marriage (he never actually married my grandmother). He was unable to speak. Staring at the ceiling he just watched, as if he was expecting something to happen. I stood by the bed and held his hand for some time.

If I am being honest, I hated this so-called man, right or wrong I did. I hated that he wasn’t up to the task of being the father he was called to be. I hated it that he hadn’t stepped up! That he hadn’t ridden in on a white horse and rescued my mom from a childhood of horrors. I hated that in some part, I could see his failures in parts of myself that I abhor. With his hand still in mine, I struggled with what to say. Do you really talk about dying to a person who is facing it? It seemed almost cruel to talk about the encroaching line of eternity that I assumed he was more than aware of.

The pause I took seemed to last for a long time. In the end, I made a decision.

It was a decision that I didn’t care if he wanted to know me or my family. I didn’t care if he was a horrible person who had abandoned his child for the sake of convenience. I didn’t care about any of that. I wanted him to know us. We were worth knowing. However, he would never have the opportunity to do this during his lifetime. His life was over.

I gently squeezed his hand and began to pray over him out loud. “Dear God, my Grandfather doesn’t know you Lord, but I do. I ask you now to open his eyes dear God to Your truth. Help him Lord to ask for Your forgiveness and to believe that you save him even now. So that he might be with you in paradise God…”

After leading him through the sinner’s prayer, I ended it. He couldn’t speak of course. He couldn’t even write or even really smile. I have no idea if he accepted Christ, ignored me, or was even coherent enough to understand what was going on. I kissed his forehead and walked out of the hospital room. I sat in the car beside my wife and wept. I wept for his wasted life, what he had missed. All the amazing relationships and love he had missed out on. He had missed it all.

He was so focused on himself that he had missed the awesomeness God had placed right in front of him. Dear God, help me never miss the goodness you have given to me. Help me not to embrace the cowardice in my blood. Help me to grab life by the throat and wring out every good thing you so generously provide. Help me not to be afraid of living life for You, of being the father you have called me to be.

D. Michl Lowe

The Importance Of Writing For Your Children

I’m going to be headed home today to meet with my wife and two kids, along with my parents to cut into a cake. It’s not a birthday cake or a retirement cake or anything like that, it’s a gender reveal cake.

My wife will give birth (God willing) to our third child in September of this year and she wanted our current kids (8 and 6 years old) to have some fun guessing the gender along with us through this now iconic practice of the pink and blue inner confection hidden inside a cake.

Maybe I’m just a weird dude (I admit it, I am), but I can’t help but think about my own death today, hopefully, years down the road. With the new life rapidly developing within my best friend and lover, I wonder what I am actually leaving my children. I’m not a rich man, so money isn’t going to be a legacy I leave behind. I’m also not a powerful man, I don’t leave them a company or family business to run. I’m not a politician or influential man.

I am a Christian man.

I hope before everything else, I am leaving them a legacy of living out Jesus in front of them. The leftists often accuse the right and Christians of “brainwashing” our kids into following our religious beliefs.

-raises his hand-

I’m guilty your honor. I am doing everything within my power to lead my children into a relationship with the God of all creation. Let’s be honest, if you held the belief that God became a human being and came down to earth to save everyone and actually did it through His death and then resurrection, you would be a fool to NOT lead your children into a relationship with this being.

The reality is, the left doesn’t believe there is a God and therefore doesn’t believe we should teach our children this “myth”. The reality is, they indoctrinate their own children just as strongly into the myth that something came from nothing.

It’s not a matter of faith or no faith, but rather where one’s faith is placed.

I also am a writer. So far I’ve written nearly three books, only one of which is physically published, Modern Chivalry (can be found on Amazon), the other two I’ve published on this site for people to read and enjoy.

Many of the articles that I’ve written I wrote with the knowledge that someday my kids will read them. I have a series of letters I’ve written to my girls, just in case I am someday gone too soon. I’ve written down all my good dad talks about life, love, relationship, God, etc. in case I’m not there to give these talks in person.

I’m so excited to know if I will be having my first little boy, or if I am going to be so outnumbered by girls that I have no hope of surviving 😳.

However, more than anything else, I pray that God will allow me to continue to write so that someday my kids can read my writings and find comfort in having a small part of their dad still alive. Still fresh. Still vivid upon a page.

A long time ago my dad received a cedar trunk with a latch holding it closed. It was his dad’s trunk. Opening it, it was full to the brim with yellow spiral notebooks and newspaper clippings. My grandfather wrote thousands of letters to the editor of his local paper. There were poems and letters and short stories and histories. I remember sitting in my dad’s attic for hours pouring over these writings and even though my grandfather died when my dad was just 13 years old, I felt as though I knew this man.

I think I can honestly say, I know this man.

Someday, I hope to meet him when I die. I believe I will have that chance. This is the power of writing, to live on after death, not in a spiritual sense, but in a very real physical sense, for those who get to know you after you are gone.

D. Michl Lowe

Abortion Is The Man’s Fault

The sin of abortion that is plaguing the world right now, is the fault of men. This crown of death should be laid squarely at our feet. The failure and sin of men have resulted in this unborn holocaust. We are to blame. Our failure in stepping up as fathers has forced the hands of women into accepting the extreme solution of murder. Do our ladies have blood on their hands as well? Of course, but if certain sins could be called worse than others, ours as men is the greater by far.

I am not surprised by the left’s attack on the unborn. It isn’t surprising when evil people support and come up with, evil ideas. However, as I sat there thinking about abortion and what it’s doing to our country, I thought about my own role (or lack thereof) in the death of these millions of children. What should be done? Legislation and voting are important, but how do I respond to this? It’s not like this is a new issue. This was an issue before I was even born.

I can’t help but look at men. Yes, the welfare system and its substitution as the provider have given men an “out”, but that is no excuse. I watch as I see man after man, fading into selfish listlessness. Are there no men left willing to take on the role of father? Sadly, I think fathers are far and few between. Too few men are stepping into the role with the vigor and haste that was the norm in the past. Where are all the warriors ready to live out lives of selfless sacrifice? I think of my own father. The nights he spent driving from one place to another to fix computers; hours and hours on the road servicing computers in three states for General Electric back in the 80s and 90s.

He worked hard. He provided. I am everything I am today because he was a man. A real man. Work wasn’t something that was questionable, it was how he was able to dig himself out of the poverty he was born into. Hard work was how he came to give me and my mom a home, education, and honestly nicer things than we could have ever thought. He wasn’t worried about the next thrill, the next personal ambition, the next woman he could con into his bed. He was worried about making his family better off than the generation he came from. It’s that unselfish ambition for the family that should be pushing and fueling our men.

Beyond even family, Christ calls all men into service for others. A man who takes care of his wife is a man who has a purpose. A man who serves Christ is a man with meaning in his life. It doesn’t take much… be there and be a dad to your kids. Be a husband to your wife. If the relationship doesn’t work out, then realize that your devotion to mom and the kids doesn’t end because you are no longer together. How is Christ calling you to love your ex-wife? How is he calling you to serve her? Even when she is unfair to you. Even when she doesn’t let you see the kids as much as you would like. How does Christ call you to serve her and the kids? I know this is an overly simplistic thought. “It’s not that easy I hear you saying.” I know. I know it’s not that easy, but Christ still calls us to serve and be a man. Being a man is about sacrifice. It’s about learning you aren’t the most important person here. Get up and get your head on straight; be a man.

D. Michl Lowe

Whatever You Do, Don’t Talk About The Truth

I recently sat in a diversity meeting. The higher-ups had invited clergy from around our area and were there to talk about how to help people be “good” in our society; how to be a good person. Excited did not even begin to describe my enthusiasm for this section of the training we were at. It’s not often that a secular institution would invite clergy in to speak about such a topic.

However, my enthusiasm quickly faded as religious leader after religious leader sat behind their podiums and twaddled on about positive self-esteem and treating people with respect. While these ideas are good ideas, they pale in comparison to what they could have spoken about; the truth of how Jesus Christ purifies all people who would call upon his name, believe in Him, and turn from their sin. I sat in this conference room with nearly a hundred people from the secular counseling world and fumed. Here were the supposed religious leadership of our local community and none of them ever even mentioned the name of Jesus.

They were given a golden ticket into the enemy’s camp and squandered the chance to speak the name of Christ to people who may never step foot into a church. Let’s be honest though, should I have been surprised? Should I have expected anything less? Today, we are seeing the opposite of what Jesus saw in his time. People aren’t overly religious, being held up by rules and regulations, they are overly focused on self, believing that they are good enough without Christ or the Bible. It is said, that these ideas are outdated. As long as we are just “good people” we will be fine.

In 2004, my wife and I were newly married. We had just moved back to my hometown of Charleston in West Virginia so that I could start on my master’s degree in counseling at Marshal University. We found ourselves in a church down in South Charleston and were attempting to get plugged into the community there. It was around this time that I discovered Rob Bell’s book, Velvet Elvis. Along with this book, I also found his short video series called Nooma. It’s not without some chagrin that I tell you that I loved this guy! He was speaking about the Bible and Christianity in a new and interesting way. It got me excited to delve into the Bible again with renewed vigor for the truth that could be uncovered there.

My excitement was short-lived. Mr. Bell’s edginess in looking at the Gospel soon devolved into meaningless prattle. First with his book called Love Wins and then later with a book called The Zimzum of Love. The former (Love Wins) basically outlines how Mr. Bell no longer believes in a literal Hell. While the latter (The Zimzum of Love), details how he believes homosexual marriage is equal to heterosexual marriage. Now, those two thoughts aren’t the only thoughts in these books, but each also disqualifies much of what is said as being relevant to the Christian person. Save to give us an understanding of depravity.

Rob Bell is just one of many “spiritual leaders” in our time that is falling short. Sometimes getting the praise (and money) by appealing to the Oprah crowd is just too much for some people to turn away from. It’s easy to please the majority. It’s easy to speak what you know will get you “likes” and “hearts” when you post online or even stand to speak. Let’s be honest though, many times, it’s not those that stand, but those that continue to sit that are the ones who are truly lost. Jesus being the only way and the only truth is a headstoned idea in the mind of the public at large.

I’m going to be honest with you my reader. I’m sick of this. The poison of not only society but also of the “church” is like bile rising in my throat. Retching, I am ready to partake of some real food. Something that doesn’t taste sweet at first only to give me indigestion later. I want substance. I want meaning. I want the Truth of the Gospel. I’m ready to get serious about what it means to be a Christian. Are you ready to come with me? To look at Christianity in a way that will transform your life? Because let’s be honest, if your life looks exactly like the lives of the non-Christians around you, are you truly a Christian at all? There needs to be a death in the Church. Christians need to understand that for Christ to live, they must die. They must embrace the death of self.

D. Michl Lowe

Toxic Masculinity

I feel like Rambo is getting a bad rap these days. His way of dealing with problems is frowned upon. There’s no room for blowing stuff up, kicking butt and taking names, or lighting your cigar with the red-hot barrel of an AK47. I jest, but really things that have been seen as manly are largely shunned these days. That’s not to say that Rambo-type stereotypes are all there is to be manly, of course not, but almost anything that might be considered masculine is frowned upon.

The term that is thrown around most of the time is called “toxic masculinity”. Which basically asserts that behaviors, social norms, and ideals that are associated with being masculine are harmful to men, women, and society as a whole. When first introduced by Shepard Bliss in 2017, we see that it wasn’t necessarily a bad term. It was meant to point out some of the negative aspects of society that are most often associated with men; things like rape, physical bullying, sexual assault, and domestic violence. However, in the years following Bliss’ original article and thesis, we have seen this term morph into something beyond Bliss’ original intention.

These days, toxic masculinity has become a catch-all to entrap any overtly masculine appearing behavior and then label it as a problem. Even going so far as demonizing the idea of being a gentleman to a lady. I’ve actually had a woman tell me I insulted her for opening a door for her and allowing her to pass through before myself. As if this simple act of service was insulting to her. As if she couldn’t open the door for herself. It struck me as… odd.

If there is toxic masculinity, which I would argue is just toxic (or maybe sinful?) behavior that is open to both sexes and not just men, then I would say as men and society, we have lost what it means to treat each other and society properly in general. So, I would say it’s not so much toxic masculinity, but toxic behaviors in general that need to be looked at and expunged. In the US and from what I am reading, in many parts of the world, we have lost this idea of service to others and to God.

When Nietzsche declared that “God is dead” back in 1882, he was talking about how the enlightenment period had killed the idea of an all-powerful creator God. Today, I think we have seen that our enlightenment has brought about great good, but also a moral failing as well. Things like equal rights, pulling masses of people out of poverty, and self-government have all been societal goods, but then we look at the selfishness that is so prevalent today and it gives me pause to say that we are completely better off. Our reliance and dependence on our governments have led to us pushing off our responsibilities to family, friends, and neighbors. We allow the government to take care of them. We don’t take the time to talk to people to find out how they are truly doing. We look on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to know what’s going on, but fail to dig deeper with those we care about.

Most of our time is spent staring off into the bright glow of meaningless entertainment. Numbing our minds to the emotional plight that is raging around us. My wife recently got a letter in the mail (shocking I know), from a lady at our church. It was a simple typed letter that talked to her about what this lady had been praying for and how she was feeling about my wife’s family and our place in the local church. It wasn’t anything mind-blowing, it wasn’t anything that long or detailed, it was just a moment of connection.

Men are getting the brunt of the harshness. They are prodded, shamed, and pushed into a box that is largely feminine in nature. Now don’t get me wrong, femininity is amazing. I was walking with my wife the other evening and we were talking. She is about halfway through her pregnancy with my first son. He was asleep in her tummy, since to him, he was being gently rocked by his mommy, while she walked for the 30-minute stroll we try to take each night. I told her how beautiful I thought she was. She laughed and said, “I don’t feel like it sometimes right now.” But honestly, seeing my wife carrying my son, she is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Masculinity though is meant for men. Just as femininity is meant for women.

Men are meant to be strong.

Not completely in the physical sense, but in general, this should be an aspect that is ascribed to them. I think about that scene from Forest Gump, where Lieutenant Dan has lost his legs and manages to reach up and pull Gump onto the floor to chastise him for saving his life. Throughout the remainder of the film, this seemingly crippled man manages to pull his life back together. I don’t think we would call him an effective warrior any longer and without legs, he wouldn’t be winning any races on his lack of feet, but we would most certainly call him a strong man. Strong in the heart in this case. I think this is often something that is misunderstood. Being emotionally strong means being able to control your emotions. While it is often frowned upon, the father who tells his son not to cry is not trying to distance his son from emotionality, but trying to help them to understand how to control their emotions.

Men are meant to be in control of their emotions.
It’s not that we aren’t emotional beings, we are. But showing those emotions at the wrong time can leave others around us feeling vulnerable and unprotected. There is a comfort in being able to lean on a man who is resolute in his firm understanding of the emotional state of those around him. I rarely saw my own father cry. It was comforting to me as a young boy to know I had a strong and emotionally stable man who was in control of the world I inhabited. I know now that he often felt vulnerable and not up to the tasks at hand, but his outward appearance and stance were always that of confidence and of being in control. I would say that I personally fail at this aspect of masculinity. I cry during movies at the drop of a hat.

Men are meant to be protectors.

There’s often a push to limit violence in men. I understand this to some degree. Violence can become consuming. Allowing ourselves to become obsessed with violence, revel in it, to link it to sexual acts, or enjoy the pain and misery of others is a problem. However, violence in and of itself is not a bad thing. I know that’s a very controversial thing to say, but I truly do believe that in our world’s fallen state, violence is a necessary tool to combat the evil in the world. While I don’t want to go into the issue of transgenderism in this writing, I do think about the recent inclusion of transgendered women (biological men) in sports is very telling. After transgendered women are allowed to compete in women’s sporting events, the record after the record is broken. According to an article on by Alex Lasker, “Mary Gregory, an American powerlifter and strength coach, took to Instagram on Sunday to announce she [sic] had gone “9 for 9” at the competition and broken four women’s world records: Masters world squat record, open-world bench record, Masters world deadlift record and Masters world total record.” This man posing as a woman easily smashed world-record-holding women in this sport and we have seen this time and again in many sports.

D. Michl Lowe

The Modern Christian Man

It was 2013, and I was standing behind the register of a local Game Stop. I was still in Grad school for counseling at the time so working at a dead-end job like this gave me what was supposed to be a reprieve from all the studying. Instead, it was one of the best classes on human behavior I could have ever taken.

Let’s get something straight; I like video games. I still play them online with friends. However, working at Game Stop gave me a glimpse into how many men see the world and act upon it. When I say “act upon it” what I really mean is, run from it. I saw men and boys time after time come into the store searching for something. Being a “game advisor” part of my job was to go talk to these people and find out what they were looking for.

Over and over, after speaking with these men, they were looking for meaning. Oh, it would come out in different words than that, but they were always looking for the same thing, purpose, and meaning. Players of World of Warcraft at the time were seeking adventure and a place to belong. Players of Halo wanted to have the feeling of being important in a story. They wanted to know that their actions had an impact; even if that impact was a fictional one.

I find this type of lostness even today. More so maybe. Men continually seek war to wage only to punt on their lives and get lost in meaningless activities. Is it no wonder that we have “man-boys” living in their parent’s basements living out a fantasy where they are the ruler of a kingdom or the hero in some made-up interactive story. It gives the illusion of fulfillment to sex that is starving for it.

So what is the answer? I believe a lot of this comes down to how we choose to raise our sons. Do we call them to action? Do we call them into a purposeful life filled with the challenge of raising a family and providing for them, protecting them? Do we call them to hard work? Creating in them an understanding of purpose through the very sweat of their brow (or exertion of their minds)? We need to be hard on our boys to raise them into the men that Christ has called us to be. To instill respect and meaning through Biblical teaching and the harsh reality of rising to meet the expectations of us, their fathers. No son? No problem. Work to be a man who leads the youth through example. Still a youth yourself? Find a man (hopefully it’s your own dad) who exemplifies what it means to be a man and follow that man!

We can change our country. We can change our world. Be a man who is silken iron; gentle but strong, responsible and hard-working, dependable and honest. It isn’t too late.

D. Michl Lowe

What I Believe

I believe that God came to earth to reveal Himself to the world. There might be a lot we still don’t understand about him, but I believe that He gave us his Word to make knowing Him easier.

I believe He is a God of reason and understanding and that He is not bound by those things. He can do things outside of the bounds of reason and can accomplish things beyond our human understanding. I also think that it doesn’t matter if He does these things because we wouldn’t understand or be able to reason it anyway.

His thoughts are higher than mine.
I believe He is all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful. I also believe that part of being all-powerful is the ability to limit the powers available to Him at any given time to be able to converse or directly affect humanity. As an example, just because I have access to the nearly infinite knowledge available on my phone that has access to Google Search, I don’t have to choose to have access to that nearly infinite knowledge at all times. Even if God did decide to have complete access to all known outcomes and knowledge, He can choose to keep that knowledge outside of His perceived knowledge if He would so choose.

I believe in absolute truth. I think that we as humans are able to know some things that are true and some that are not true. God in His ultimate knowledge gave us reason so that we might be able to discern truth as filtered through scripture first, prayer second, and then the counsel of Godly peoples third. In this way, we can understand the will of God and how we play into that will.

I believe Jesus died to pay the ransom of the sin we owed. Because of this, we are able to believe in Him, repent of our sins, and put our trust in Him. We will have eternal life with Him in heaven if we do that. It’s that simple, yet also that complex. I believe in marriage between one man and one woman as God’s ideal union for humans here on earth. He gives us this example in Genesis with Adam and Eve and continues it through scripture. I believe sex outside of marriage is a sin. Because of this, I believe all homosexual sex is a sin. It can’t happen within the bounds of Biblical marriage and therefore is a sin.

We can also see homosexual acts mentioned throughout scripture that are said to be in as well. I don’t believe that the state marries anyone. They might recognize “marriage” as they define it, but this is not the same as marriage within a Biblical context. I believe beyond specific scriptures, that the overall tone of the Bible gives us a model for marriage. We (as the Church) are called the “bride” of Christ. God uses the model of a man and woman engaged in marriage to symbolize his relationship with the Church. It is clear that his intention for marriage is one man and one woman.

I believe that God calls us as His children to love Him above all else. Because of this, I give priority in my life as follows:

  1. God
  2. Family
  3. Others
  4. Liberty
  5. Self
  6. Sword (The call to be a protector)

God, family, and others should be pretty clear as the order of relevance, but I’m sure Liberty, Self, and Sword cause you to have questions.

Liberty is the idea that our country (the USA) is special. In the USA, we have done things no other country has ever dreamed of. God has truly blessed this country. I believe we are a shining city on a hill. Without the USA, the world would be a dark place indeed. So when I say the pledge of allegiance to our flag, I mean every word of it. I believe in our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Self is next on the list. It is a call to preserve the body I have been given as a temple to the Lord. I am to honor the Lord with my body. This means I should keep it safe, feed it well, keep it fit, and make sure everything it does brings honor to Christ on his throne.

The Sword is the last one. It has to do with a man’s calling to protect what the Lord has given to him. This takes many forms, but mostly covers the protection of others and self through force of arms (if need be as a last resort), protection of truth (through standing up for it in the public square), and protection of finances through providing money through work. It should be noted that this includes the defense of one’s homeland through the Military and/or Militia.

I believe the state may take life as punishment for terrible crimes. Humans may take life in defense of themselves or others. This is not a legal statement, but a moral one.

I believe that once the egg and sperm combine, it is a human life and should be considered sacred. All peoples are created in the image of God and therefore have innate value. To end a human life for convenience or when it is not in defense is murder. If there is a choice between the life of the mother or child, whichever has the most viability should be given preference to survival. Each life is equal in value, the mother and the child.

D. Michl Lowe