Friday, November 18, 2011

A Climate of Encouragement

It's gray, dreary, and raining in Seattle. Two degrees colder and it would be snowing at my place. I'm stuck at home sick, miserable, and I don't feel like writing a blog post. We can't change the physical climate--don't believe everything you read in the newspapers on that subject--but we can all use some emotional climate change from time to time. Jake, my autistic grand-nephew, is good at that. His story is up on a couple of blogs.   (Friday, November 18 post)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Veteran's Day Tribute to a World War 2 Vet, John Wegley

     As Americans, we have celebrated Veteran's Day, in various forms and with different names, for nearly a century. Perhaps the greatest sacrifices for our nation and for our liberty were made by more than 16 million men and women who, during WW2, fought for our freedom, our way of life, our beliefs, and our survival as a nation. Well over 400,000 of this "Greatest Generation" died in that war.
     Today I want to honor one of the living WW2 vets. Since these men and women are all in their late 80s or in their 90s, they are a rapidly dying breed. John Wegley, one of 13 siblings, is in his mid 90s.
     If you ask him, he will tell you, matter of factly, what the war was like. He will just say, "I did what I had to do." Before we recount his war experiences, it is important to know his roots. His father was a Volga-River German. When the Bolshevik revolution was in its infancy, these early, ruthless communists killed John's grandfather by starvation, because he wouldn't give them his crops--crops his family needed to survive. John's father fled with his family to Germany and from there took a ship to New York. They became legal immigrants on Ellis Island. John's mother kissed the ground when they stepped off the ship. They traveled across the US, settling in California's central valley. Nine years later, John was born.
     John was a young man, mid twenties, when the war broke out. He entered the army and was sent to Europe. His most memorable stories came from later in the war, before and during the Battle of the Bulge.
     John was a rather small man, about five foot five. But he had a strong arm, good hand-eye coordination, and a lot of courage. Numerous times his squad would find themselves pinned down by a German machine-gun nest on a hill above them. His buddies looked to John in these situations. Accepting it as his job, he would, under whatever cover his comrades could provide, crawl as near the nest as he dared. His strong arm could toss a grenade an incredible distance, and when he threw one ... nothing but net! He and his buddies could safely advance.
     John had another ability that saved his squad's life. He was raised in a German-speaking home. He spoke German, with the accent of a German, and flawless West-Coast English.
     During the Battle of the Bulge, the front changed rapidly from day to day. The Allies would surge forward at one point while the Nazis gained ground in another location. John's squad dug in for the night, several miles from the front. When they awoke in the morning, it became apparent they were many miles behind enemy lines.
     John developed their strategy for escaping. By hiding during the day and traveling only under the cover of darkness, they moved toward what they believed was allied-held ground. Encountering German squads and encampments was inevitable. In each case, John spoofed the Germans by his wits and languages skills. He either elicited the required passwords or talked his way through without giving them. After several days, he brought his entire squad safely to Allied territory.
     John Wegley is my uncle. He is the last son among his living siblings. His baby brother, my dad, died four years ago. Dad was a WW2 veteran also, but young enough that he was deployed with the occupation troops after Japan surrendered.
     I'm sure there are many other WW2 vets like my Uncle John. However, I know his story, and wanted to share part of it with you as we remember the Greatest Generation on this Veteran's Day.

H. L. Wegley

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My MC’s Got a Problem, Guilt
One of my main characters (MCs) in a romantic-suspense novel I’m currently planning has a big problem. He was actively engaged in criminal activity so morally base that, even though he has repented and is no longer involved in the evil activities, he is tormented by guilt. He still views himself as guilty and, because of that, unlovable. Enter the heroine, who sees a wonderful man she could love if she can somehow free him from whatever is holding him prisoner.
Ravi Zacharias captured my character’s problem in a statement he made on a Slice of Infinity commentary entitled, Where can we go with the guilt.
Guilt has, in fact, become the cornerstone of all neuroses according to some psychologists. Would it not be wonderful if we could find a way of removing it completely?  --Ravi Zacharias
In grappling with my character and the story’s plot, I needed to look first at the cries of the human heart that drive us at the deepest level of our being. Some may propose slightly different existential issues, but I chose to approach the problem with my character by assuming we all want to be loved, but we also want to be loved because we are lovable, i.e. because we are good enough to deserve it.
Guilt makes us feel that we aren’t lovable. Sometimes people will reject love that is offered them because of their feelings of guilt. Some end up in mental institutions. Some commit suicide.
A song called Beautiful (use the link to listen), written and sung by Bethany Dillon, expresses our desires to be both lovable and loved. Note the words in the first chorus:
I want to be beautiful
Make you stand in awe
Look inside my heart,
and be amazed
I want to hear you say
Who I am is quite enough
Just want to be worthy of love
And beautiful
How can we achieve this lovable beauty when we are so flawed in our very natures? Bethany Dillon answers the question near the end of the song, with a modified version of the same chorus:
You make me beautiful
You make me stand in awe
You step inside my heart,
and I am amazed
I love to hear You say
Who I am is quite enough
You make me worthy of love
And beautiful
As a Christian I understand she is talking about the work God does in our heart, making us new and forgiving us. But it is insightful to look at how God has chosen to deal with our guilt. Rather than sending Christ into this world, God could have simply said, “I view you as forgiven. Go. Be happy.” That might have been nice, but I’m not sure we could have truly been happy, because our crimes (sins) wouldn’t have been paid for. Justice would not have been served. Some measure of guilt would remain.
Guilt remains unless we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that our crime has been paid for and we have been absolved from the guilt and its penalty, because full payment has been made. For a human being, full payment requires their death. If they pay by death, they aren’t around to be lovable or loved. Not in this life.
God, who wrote the moral code on our heart, knew all of this about us in advance, and He planned the remedy. The demands of justice and love are met simultaneously and uniquely in Christ Jesus. By either  modern or ancient standards, Jesus Christ's manner of death would be adequate payment for any human crime. As we identify completely with Christ, we realize justice has been served. Only those who fully identify with Him have the means to deal with personal guilt – let alone have a means to satisfy the demands of a righteous, just, and holy God.
There is no other place one can look, no other worldview, religion, etc. that deals with the guilt issue in a way that actually remedies it. At best other worldviews deny guilt or the validity of its causes (e.g. atheism/humanism, Hinduism, Buddhism), or they offer something totally inadequate (pagan sacrifices).
Some belief systems offer nothing at all except your own bootstraps, e.g. Islam. With no way to assuage the guilt and eliminate the fear of punishment, it’s no wonder suicide bombing exists. It supposedly offers an immediate way of escape. You pay and supposedly you get Paradise. But what about the crime the bomber committed at death? It seems there is another payment to be made, but no life left for the bomber to give … except in the next life. Paradise? It would seem not.
As in the case of my fictitious male MC, the cries of the human heart demand an answer. But the answer must be sufficient, or these cries will continue unabated even though we attempt to stifle them.
How are you dealing with the guilt of your moral and ethical failures? Are you denying the mistakes and/or the guilt, offering nothing, offering something inadequate; or, are you fully trusting in, and identifying with, Christ Jesus, thereby appropriating His provision for you? Your answer to this question will have a profound impact on the way you think, feel, and behave in this world, as well as where you find yourself in the next.
As an author of fiction, I get to “play” God in my stories. My MC will come around. He will find love and become lovable. Will you?

H. L. Wegley