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My friend Earle and I disagree. A lot. And that’s okay. But more about that later. First let me tell you about Earle.

I have a pair of very good friends—Valerie and Earle Gardner. Valerie is a talented author of medieval fantasy. (Check out her “Blood of Ancient Kings,” “Dracona’s Rebirth,” and “Servant Queen,” written under the moniker, V.J.O. Gardener.) Earle is not an author. He is simply a great guy. He is clever, inventive, intelligent, and above all, friendly. He is the kind of guy who will help anyone at any time. Valerie, Earle, and I have been friends for years. We’ve spent countless hours together at Renaissance faires, writers’ conferences, and other events—anywhere we can sell our books.

When I do my medieval weapons shows/presentations/workshops, Earle and Valerie pack up my arsenal (often with the help of their adult son, Thomas), transport it to the event, and set up the tent/pavilion and the display. They man the arsenal, keeping everyone safe and making sure no one walks off with one of my lovely, lethal treasures. They carefully monitor the weapons as they are passed around among the patrons during the show/class. They carefully wipe off every single weapon—more than eighty pieces and growing (who knew swords, spears, and axes—oh my!—proliferated like that?)—to get all the fingerprints off the high-carbon steel so the swords won’t rust. After each class, they help me answer questions, help keep everyone safe (and above all protect my weapons), and basically make sure everyone has a wonderful, enlightening time. At the end of each day, they pack up the weapons, pavilion, etc., and transport it all home (or store it safely away for the next day). After the event, they transport the entire arsenal back to my home and help haul it back up to my office (a.k.a. “The Armory”).

I have had two major surgeries in the past two years—I’ve had my Achilles tendon repaired and a total knee replacement. For a couple of years before that, when I was in extreme pain and taking medications to control that pain (medications that made me very sick and didn’t do all that much to mitigate the pain), Earle and Valerie did ALL the work for the workshops—except for the teaching itself. Physically, it was all I could do to teach the classes. I couldn’t do any of the physical labor. When we loaded up from my office, my family and some of my neighbors would help haul things up and down the stairs, but the rest was all Earle and Valerie. (Thankfully, I am able to help out more and more now as I’m slowly regaining my strength.)

But there’s more.

Earle has invented and constructed clever and durable display stands for my various suits of armor, breastplates, helms, and spears. Valerie has sown coverings for the helmet stands and for my English longbow. Earle has engineered containers and strategies to safely transport the weapons. He is constantly thinking of ways to improve the displays and the process. The man is a genius!

Now, why would Earle and Valerie do all this? There is certainly some mutual self-interest involved. Valerie sells her books and I sell mine at these faires, conferences, and other events. Often, Valerie and Earle will do an event out of town that conflicts with my service in the Tabernacle Choir—so I can’t attend—but they take boxes of my books and sell them right along with Valerie’s. Sometimes, we sell a lot. Sometimes, we sell few. Sometimes, Valerie sells more than I do and visa-versa. But we are selling books. So, there is that aspect, to be sure. But Earle is there, pitching both Valerie’s books and mine to anybody who is interested. But that’s not all there is to it. Not by a long shot. There has even been one event where I was allowed to sell books (because I was invited to participate), but Valerie was not. And yet, they both came and did their thing anyway. I am constantly amazed and profoundly grateful. I cannot thank them enough.

So why? Why, especially on those occasions when there is little or nothing to gain, would Earle and Valerie do all this? Because they are just great people.

Now back to my opening statement.

Earle and I disagree about a LOT of things. A lot of IMPORTANT things that we are PASSIONATE about. We have strong, often, conflicting opinions. We’ve had discussions online and in-person about these important things. They have never devolved into arguments. Not once. We’ve never even exchanged an angry or a harsh word. Not once. And while we can find common ground many times, I don’t think either of us has ever converted the other to the opposing position on anything. We’ve exchanged ideas, opposing viewpoints, and left it at that.

And that’s okay. We can disagree about fundamental things and still be friends.

What a concept!

Earle has never once accused me of hating people who are different. He has never accused me of despising the Earth, clean air, clean water, or bunny rabbits. Earle has never called into question my character or my honesty. Not once.

Today, I texted Earle out of the blue: “Kirk, Picard, Janeway, Cisco, or Archer?”

His response was “What?” (I’m pretty sure he thought I might have been on some serious drugs. Or that Ferengi had stolen my phone.)

I replied, “Star Trek captain.”

His response? “Janeway.”

Seriously? Janeway?

Okay, so Earle is very clearly WRONG on this fundamental and important issue. The correct answer is obviously Kirk (or possibly Archer).

(Actually, John Sheridan is THE best, but I didn’t give Earle that option, now did I?) But, Janeway???? Janeway?????

<sigh>

Guess what? We are still friends.

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“What do you want to happen?” That’s what my wife asked me Thursday afternoon. We were discussing a rather important plot point in my latest work-in-progress, “The Witch and the Devourer of Souls” (a sequel to “The Witch of White Lady Hollow” which is coming this December). A lot of things hang on which way this particular plot point goes. (And no, I DON’T have the book all plotted out—that doesn’t work for me.) I’d been stewing about this point for more than a day. So, Cindy and I were discussing it on the phone as I was driving into Salt Lake City for Tabernacle Choir rehearsal. (Yes, we discuss HORROR as I prepare for Choir. It works for me.)

I thought for a moment, but just a moment, and then I said, “That’s not the right question.”

“What’s the right question?”

“It’s not important what I want to happen. What’s important is what would happen. What would the characters really do? I mean, in real life?”

THAT is one of the reasons why I cannot plot out my novels—because if I force a character to do something that is, well, out-of-character, the story NEVER works. It isn’t honest.

So, Cindy and I discussed the plot point further, and in the process of talking things out with my favorite (and loveliest) sounding board, it came to me. I realized exactly what the character would do, whether or not it served my immediate story needs. And it worked. It actually made the story better.

Because I let the character be himself. Or herself.

Notice I didn’t say I let the character do the right thing. Not everything a character, even a protagonist, does is good and right. Human beings don’t always do the right thing. I don’t always do the right thing. I try, most of the time, to be a decent person, but I, like everyone else who has walked the earth (except for Jesus Christ), fall short. People have flaws. People has quirks. People are selfish and selfless. We are brave and cowardly. We are petty and noble. And all at the same time.

We are human.

The great adventure of being human is to strive to overcome our faults, to strive to better ourselves, to rise above the dirt and the filth. And even more important than bettering ourselves, we need to help lift our fellow travelers on the road to eternity.

But lifting is not forcing. I can’t force my characters to be good or to do the right thing. If I do that, the story doesn’t work. Ever. That would make me a bad writer and a dishonest storyteller.

And in real life, trying to force someone else to be good or to do the right thing is, well, Satanic. That was Lucifer’s plan. Forcing others to be good doesn’t make them good. And worse, it makes the one doing the forcing evil.

Heavenly Father’s plan is the opposite. He teaches us, He leads us, He may even chastise us along the way, but He lets us fail. He lets us fall. He lets us hurt ourselves and those around us. Because He will not force us to be good. But when we are ready to pull ourselves out of the muck, He sends His Son to help us, to cleanse us. But He will never force us to be something we are not. He will only help us to become who we want to be. He gives us situations, circumstances, trials, difficulties, and fellow-travelers that can help us to grow and to become. But He will never force us.

I want my characters to grow, to progress, to learn, to become better. But I can never force them to do that. It just doesn’t work.

“The Arawn Prophecy” is one of five finalists for the 2018 Whitney Award for Best Speculative Fiction!

Coming soon!

The Arawn Prophecy

Coming soon!

The Whole Armor of God

Silent Night

So humbled and blessed to have been a part of this.  Merry and sacred Christmas.

I love the game of Fizzbin.  I haven’t played since college, but…

What is Fizzbin, you ask?  Oh, you poor, uncultured, geek-challenged…  I’d wager (if I were a betting man) that you are deluded enough to think that Jean-Luc Picard was the greatest starship captain ever, which OBVIOUSLY is not the case.

Fizzbin is a glorious game played with a standard set of playing cards.  And the “standard” set of playing cards is ALL that is standard about Fizzbin.  You see, the rules of Fizzbin change constantly, depending on the day of the week or whether it’s day or night or just how gullible you are.

Fizzbin was brilliantly invented, on-the-fly, by Captain James Tiberius Kirk.  Here is one of the craziest and funniest scenes from Star Trek (yes, the ORIGINAL series):

When I was in a sophomore in high school, some brave and clever trekker compiled all the rules of Fizzbin, added a few more to make it more interesting and complete, and published them.  Once I educated my friends about the glories of Fizzbin, we would get together on some Friday nights and play.  (Yes, as a matter of fact, I DID go out on actual dates with real GIRLS.  You know, pretty humans of the feminine persuasion?  I was, after all, a geek—not a nerd.)  I don’t remember all the rules, but I DO remember that in the case of a tie, the winner was determined to be the first one who could pin his opponent to the floor…

Here’s a link to the rules as originally published in 1976:  http://nazarenespace.ning.com/profiles/blogs/just-for-fun-how-to-play-fizzbin-only-trekers-will-get-it

If Fizzbin sounds confusing, well obviously, it was meant to be.  After all, it was invented by the greatest starship captain to confuse those who held Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy captive.  And it worked.  Fizzbin saved the day!

Imagine, though, if real life were like Fizzbin.  Imagine if the rules constantly changed, sometimes without our knowledge, and what was right was suddenly wrong…

The ancient Greeks and Romans (and the Norse, as well) believed in gods that were, well, mercurial.  The gods changed their minds.  A lot.  And mere mortals were constantly tossed about by their divine whims.  One could anger the gods without knowing it.  One might anger one god even while gaining the favor of another.  What a way to live!  But then again, the gods were jealous and petty and FLAWED.  In other words, they were modelled after mortal patterns of behavior.  The GODS reflected US.

But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob does not change.  The great Jehovah does not vary from His eternal course.  He turns not to the right hand nor to the left.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Some practices may change (e.g., going from a three-hour meeting block to a two-hour meeting block on Sundays or changing from home and visiting teaching to ministering or being forbidden to eat pork and shrimp), but eternal truths do not change.

I recently read about a group of “faith leaders” blessing an abortion clinic, saying that the murder of the most defenseless among us is a “godly act.”

Oh, my.

How could we have possibly convinced ourselves that evil is now good and good is now evil?  Because we think we’re smarter than God?  We imagine up unto ourselves a god who changes with the times.  Modern churches seem to morph and twist themselves to suit the prevailing wisdom of man.  “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9)  Things that were unconscionable not so long ago are now celebrated and called “godly.”

Sometimes we listen to General Conference and hear the voice of the Lord as spoken through living prophets and apostles… and we are offended.  Why?  Because we have become invested in something we know is wrong.  Because we think our circumstances or that of someone we love must justify our standing in opposition to what the Lord has said time and time again, has been saying for millennia.  We seem to expect that the Lord will someday “figure it out,” that someday the Lord will see things OUR way.  Because we are now more enlightened than the exalted Being who sees the end from the beginning?

I’m currently reading the Book of Job in my personal scripture study.  Job does NOT understand why he has been afflicted.  His friends think it is because Job has sinned.  We have all sinned, yes, but Job maintains his integrity and asserts that he has lived a godly life.  At the end of the book, the Lord rebukes Job’s friends, but the Lord also rebukes JOB.  The eternal Jehovah tells Job that He knows and sees all.  He sees what Job does not and cannot.  And how does Job respond to this rebuke?  Job humbles himself before the Lord.  Job REPENTS.  He submits to the Lord’s will.  Because the Lord is perfect.  The Lord does not change.  He is omniscient.  And after Job humbly submits to the Lord’s will, the Lord blesses Job doubly.

God does not change with the times.  Jesus Christ is smarter than I am.  He knows all.  And I take great comfort in that.

Because, after all, as much fun as a game of Fizzbin can be, I don’t want to live my life that way.

When the author offered an ARC to review his new book, I was curious. Having not read his previous novels, I was intrigued by the premise of combining the genres of Christian fiction, LDS fiction, and horror. I wasn’t disappointed.

The story is well crafted and researched. I loved learning about the lives of the Roman legionnaires as I met Marcus. The trials of being a former princess, now defeated as a slave, as I met Maelona. The conflicting emotions of loving a human, but being compelled to kill those who do evil, when I met Branwen. I say met, because that is what it felt like. The characters are easily pictured, well written, and easy to connect with.

The word “Prophecy”, as written in the title, plays a major part in the story. Marcus has the Gift of Prophecy, and each chapter begins with one quoted. I enjoyed the challenge of first trying to determine the meaning, and then discovering it as the chapter played out.

Don’t let the idea that this is part of a series, or the horror genre, turn you away. There is enough back-story given to catch you up with the extra characters, and Mr. Belt does a wonderful job of letting your imagination fill in the details that constitute the horror. This story is easily read as a stand-alone novel. Bravo, Mr. Belt!

Cydnie Dial
South Jordan, UT

I once had the privilege of meeting James Doohan (“Scotty” from the original Star Trek television series). He was a genuinely nice guy and very gracious to me personally. However, when I first met him, I noticed immediately that he was missing the middle finger of his right hand. Of course, I didn’t ask him how he lost it. I was fifteen at the time, and I thought it might be rude.

I immediately sought out a mutual friend who told me that Mr. Doohan had landed at Juno Beach with a Royal Canadian Artillery Unit on D-day. It was his first combat experience. Let me say that again—D-day was his first combat experience. James Doohan was a bona fide WWII hero.

Being a young, rabid trekker—I was never a trekkie, and yes, there’s a difference—I had seen all of the original Star Trek episodes, most of them many times. This was in the unimaginably distant past when we didn’t have DVDs or VCRs. I had to run home from school to be able to catch the show in local syndication. And from that day forward, I watched every episode, paying special attention to Scotty, looking for that missing finger. Although extra care was taken not to show his right hand directly, there were times when it was unavoidable. I was astonished to find that, while I had never noticed the absence of a finger before, once I had “eyes to see,” it was easy to see it—or rather to not see it.

Mr. Doohan personally inspired many, many people to pursue engineering and astronautics. He was awarded an honorary degree in engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering where half the students polled said that “Scotty” had inspired them to study the discipline.

But it was Mr. Doohan’s passion for Shakespeare that inspired me. Mr. Doohan told me that his greatest ambition was to play King Lear. As far as I can determine, he never achieved that goal. And that is a shame, because he was a great actor. He would have made a great King Lear. Perhaps he is playing Lear for the angels now.

After meeting Mr. Doohan, I took a special interest in the story of King Lear. I read the play a number of times. I was most fascinated by the story of Edgar, Edmund, and Gloucester. Here was a tale of love, loyalty, and betrayal, of hatred and madness, of violence and horror, and of honor, sacrifice, and friendship in the unlikeliest of places. King Lear is Shakespeare at his tragic best.

Time’s Plague, while inspired by King Lear, is not a retelling of Shakespeare’s play. I have borrowed character names and themes—Shakespeare himself borrowed and adapted stories from other sources—but I have not attempted to repaint the Bard’s masterpiece with a sci-fi brush, except perhaps in the very broadest of strokes.

At its heart, the central theme of King Lear and Time’s Plague is blindness, both physical and spiritual. Lear cannot see Regan and Goneril for what they are. He cannot see Cordelia’s love. Gloucester cannot see Edmund’s perfidy or Edgar’s nobility and loyalty. And this spiritual blindness costs him his eyes.

Which brings me back to Mr. Doohan. After Star Trek, he had a hard time getting work. Nobody could see past “Scotty.” And I, for one, believe that this cost the world a truly great King Lear.

C. David Belt
August 7th, 2018
unwillingchild@hotmail.com

“Time’s Plague” is scheduled for release in September.  And here is the front cover by Ben Savage, Cover Artist Supreme!

Times_Plague

“The Arawn Prophecy” was a beautifully crafted story. I was drawn in by characters so well-written, I could have sworn I was there with them. This was a story built around keeping faith during times that seemed to contradict everything, and rising above and becoming stronger for it.

Kimberly King – Logan, UT

“The Arawn Prophecy” drew me in and made me feel as though I was part of the story. I joined Marcus Scribonius “Audaxus” as he fought physical battles in the Roman army and struggled with matters of faith and temptation. I joined Maelona as she transformed from slave to princess. As their relationship changed from fear to love, I felt the emotions they were going through. I joined Branwen while she was having her own inner struggles with her feelings for Marcus. I joined them all on their journey to fight the wicked priests of Arawn as they put their fear behind and found the courage they needed to face what could possibly be their last battle. I did not want the story to end! I couldn’t put the book down.

Thank you for an amazing, exciting, wonderful journey, C. David Belt!

Carrie Farnsworth – Kaysville, UT

I just watched a great movie–in my head, from reading this outstanding story! Attend the tale of Marcus Scribonius Audaxus, Roman legionnaire extraordinaire! Having suffered the loss of his mother at the hands of wicked men, Marcus joins the Roman army and grows to become a great leader. Also having been baptized by an original member of the Quorum of the Seventy, an elder named Aristobulus who served with Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry, Marcus experiences many great challenges that test his faith, including fighting with extremely wicked men who worship Arawn, Lord of the Dead. Marcus is not only valiant, courageous, humble, faithful, loyal, and full of integrity, but he has a special gift of receiving prophecies that proves to be a great blessing to him and those he loves. His steadfastness, courage, faith, and his love prove to be a great catalyst in causing two beautiful women, a slave-turned-princess named Maelona and a mortal-turned-vampire named Branwen, to fall incredibly in love with him. This love permeates the story and plays a role in tying together the past with the future as the heroes who defeated Lilith (see Belt’s “The Children of Lilith”) learn all about Marcus and those who nobly fought beside him. These two heroes honor Marcus and his descendants in a final act of selfless love, and then the final prophecy is fulfilled. ‘Tis an epic tale of great magnitude and a tear jerker in the end!
John Abercrombie — Bountiful, Utah

I used to love the movie Braveheart.  I mean, I loved it.  Such an inspiring story of courage!  Like great bagpipe music, it stirred my blood.  (And to those who might say, “There’s no such thing as ‘great bagpipe music,’” I say, you have never heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing “Amazing Grace” with bagpipes…)

I teach classes on Medieval weaponry and armor at writers’ conferences and Renaissance faires—“Swords and Spears and Axes, Oh My (Medieval Weapons 101).”  I have collected a rather large arsenal of ancient weapons— some are truly ancient, while most are battle-ready, museum-quality replicas of actual museum pieces.  I pass the swords, spears, axes, war hammers, maces, daggers, etc. around and allow participants to heft and handle them, while I sing songs and tell tales from history and talk about how those lovely, lethal objects were actually used.

At writers’ conferences, the purpose of the class is to allow authors and aspiring authors the opportunity to describe combat with a greater degree of accuracy, and in many cases, to wisely choose which weapons their characters should use in their stories.  At the Ren faires, I’m attempting to infuse a greater love of history and a love and respect for the brave men and women who stand between us and the darkness and have done so throughout history.

In my classes, when I talk about the Battle of Bannockburn, I ask, “How many of ye have ever seen the “entertainment” known as Braveheart?  (I call it an “entertainment”, because it’s a Ren faire and movies didn’t exist in whatever time period is being portrayed.  Also, I do my classes “in-character” to match my full Scottish garb, including kilt.)  In answer to my question, a great number of people raise their hands, including myself.  Then I ask, “How many of ye ken it’s all a pack of lies?”

That elicits a laugh.

Then I list off some of those lies—

“Nobody wore kilts at the time.”

“William Wallace was a nobleman, nae a commoner.  He was Laird Protector of Scotland, fer cryin’ out loud!”

“William Wallace was a Lowlander, nae a Highlander.”

“William Wallace did nae cry, ‘Freedom!’ as ’tis impossible tae yell anythin’ when your diaphragm has been removed, which is part of the mode of execution known as drawing-and-quartering.”

“There was nae ever any such a thing as prima nocta.”

“Robert was a true Scottish patriot, nae a craven political maneuver.”

“Oh, and the princess?  She was six years-old when Wallace died and had ne’er been tae Scotland.  So… that did nae happen.”

So when, to my dismay, I learned of all the inaccuracies and blatant lies that were portrayed in that beloved movie, I did some research of my own on the screenwriter who wrote the movie (who claims to be a descendant of William Wallace and whom I will not name here).  When questioned about the non-historical nature of the film, he said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

Well, I simply can’t do that.  Yes, I know I’m writing fiction, but I want to keep the story as close to the truth as possible.  No, “want” isn’t a strong-enough word.  I need to stay as close to the truth as possible, otherwise, the story rings false.  But, especially in the case of this story, I am fighting Hollywood tooth and nail.  Ancient Rome has been depicted many times in film, and so, increasingly, has first century Roman Britannia.  And the inaccuracies are often stunning.

So while I am no scholarly expert on this period of history and this setting, I have painstakingly researched in order to keep the details as accurate as possible.  And I have consulted with a former professor of antiquities, a friend of mine in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  In fact, I have talked his ear off.  And he has graciously and patiently listened and advised.

So, as you read this story, I am going to challenge (and decimate) many of the images that Hollywood has spoon-fed into your minds.  (By the way, decimate is a very interesting word with Roman military origins.  It didn’t mean then what it means today…)  So, please be prepared to set aside many of your preconceived notions.

Here’s one example—did you know that there were only eighteen Roman male first names in use during the first century?  The main character is named Marcus Scribonius.  And in his century (Roman military unit) of eighty men, fifteen other men would have the first name of Marcus.  So at this period, one would never refer to Marcus Scribonius simply as “Marcus.”  One would almost always use his first name and his family name—Marcus Scribonius.  Only in an intimate setting would he ever be called “Marcus,” and then only if there were no other Marcuses in the room.

Another example—the Romans, while obsessed with bathing, did not use soap (and, yes, soap was around at the time).  They cleaned their skin by rubbing olive oil into the skin, and then scraping it off with a flat, hook-shaped instrument called a strigil.  I have to admit, when I discovered this little fact, my mind was officially blown.  And they washed clothes in urine.

And in spite of what you have seen in the movies, the Roman short sword known as the gladius was not used to hack at the enemy.  It was a thrusting weapon, used to stab at the enemy.  So there was none of this sword-clashing-on-sword fighting in the Roman army.  In fact, legionnaires were not trained in one-on-one combat—they trained and fought only as organized units.  And they were extremely effective.

If you have read my other published works, you may recognize certain characters and circumstances, and I hope that will bring you joy.  If you have not read my other published novels, don’t worry—you will still be able to fully enjoy the story.

For me, this has been a fun ride—all of it, including the late nights of historical research.  I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

John Dickinson (1732-1808) is not the best-remembered of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, and that is, in my not-so-humble (and almost always correct) opinion, a profound shame, especially today.

Dickinson was a member of the Pennsylvania delegation to the Second Continental Congress, and in that congress, he was the leading voice AGAINST American independence.  In fact, when it came time to sign the Declaration of Independence and to pledge to each other their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, Dickinson resigned from Congress, refusing to sign.

His reasons for doing so, when viewed strictly through a modern lens, seem misguided at best, self-serving, unamerican, or even treasonous at worst.  However, to do so would be to do a great and loyal American a terrible disservice.  Dickinson was a true American patriot and an honest and selfless man who laid his life on the line for his country (meaning, the U.S.A.).  He argued forcibly that American independence was wrong at that time, because he believed the colonies could not win a war against the greatest military power in the world at the time (Great Britain), he believed the colonies would need the help of a great foreign nation (and we did—France) before we could declare independence, he believed we needed a national government in place before we could declare independence (he was one of the authors of the Articles of Confederation and insisted they be completed first), and he believed that violence was not the answer to settling the dispute.  While I am grateful that the voices for independence won out (and that very narrowly and only by a miracle—and by that, I mean Divine intervention), I can understand all of Dickinson’s arguments.  A lot of what he said made a lot of sense viewed through the lens of 1776.  What Dickinson did, he did out of deeply held principles.

After refusing to sign the Declaration and resigning from the congress, John Dickinson enlisted in the militia and served with the Continental (U.S.) Army.  He served faithfully and bravely.  In fact, at one point, he refused a commission and served as a lowly private.  After the revolution, he continued to serve this nation until the end of his life.

John Adams (1735-1826, Second President of the United States) led the push for independence, and he and Dickinson were bitter and vocal opponents in congress.  But when Dickinson refused to sign the Declaration, Adams said of his opponent, “Mr. Dickinson’s alacrity and spirit certainly become his character and sets a fine example.”  In other words, he praised his rival.  Even though they were political enemies in a cause they both held to be of supreme importance, they respected each other as human beings.

Can we not today learn from Dickinson’s and Adams’s example?  We can disagree strongly over issues we think to be of vital importance and still not resort to HATRED and VIOLENCE against those with whom we disagree.  Dickinson was WRONG, but he was SINCERELY and HONESTLY wrong in his firmly held principles, and he was still an HONORABLE and a BRAVE man.

Mr. Dickinson was a true American patriot.  May we learn from his example.  And that of his adversary, John Adams.  To do less, would be unamerican.

July 3nd, Salt Lake City, UT

Home again, home again… 

Not much to say about the travel itself, but I do have a few parting words about my last tour with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. 

It has been my great and humbling privilege to sing with the Choir on this tour.  I learned a lot of lessons about obedience and humility.  I learned more lessons about enduring pain, and sanctifying pain as an offering to the Lord.  I did suffer and endure pain, and weighed against simply singing in the Choir on this tour alone, I’m not certain it would have been worth it.  But as an offering to the Lord, I am grateful that I was able to sacrifice in the service of my Savior. 

As we sang “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” and, especially last night, “Come. Come, Ye Saints,”  I reflected and wept in gratitude and wonder at the limitless grace of my Lord, Jesus Christ. 

I am grateful that my wonderful, lovely Cindy is here, with me.  She is the most tangible evidence of the perfect love of my Savior.  She had to put up with a lot from me on this tour.  And I am humbled that she did put up with me. 

My knee surgery is scheduled.  Relief from my pain is coming, but the road has been difficult.  But I don’t count the cost, because I was allowed to sing on tour once more with the Lord’s Choir.  There are many choirs that belong to the Lord.  I am humbly and eternally grateful to have been a part of this choir for the past eleven years.  So very few get to have this privilege, and I am very much aware that it is NOT because I am more talented or more deserving than others.  I am not.  I am just very, very blessed—and undeservedly so. 

And my pain is nothing compared to what my Savior has suffered for me. 

And so, for every moment I am privileged to participate with this Choir, I will continue to work very hard, to memorize every piece of music, to sing every note as perfectly in-tune as I possibly can, to strive to improve—right to the end of the last performance.  Because, no matter how hard I try, no matter how hard I work, no matter how difficult it might be, I will never DESERVE this calling, I will never be ENTITLED to this calling.  I will simply be humbly grateful. 

At the end of this tour, I recognize that so many people put in so much work—many of them with very little recognition—who made this marvelous experience possible.  Simply saying, “Thank you,” is not enough, but I say it anyway.  Thank you. 

Oh, and I got some great writing done on “The Arawn Option”. 

On the airplane home, we sat in front of Elder and Sister Pingree.  He said to me, “The level of consecration shown by the Choir is impressive.” 

That’s what this tour was to me—consecration. 

July 2nd, Seattle, WA

What?  No SEAHAWK for guest conductor?  Didn’t the Choir leadership read my blog post?  Don’t they listen to me? 

Well, apparently not. 

We had the Washington Secretary of State.  And she was a lot of fun.  (And she was a lot prettier than Russell Wilson…) 

Great concert, and my last tour concert ever.  <sigh> 

Tonight, I sat next to the timpani.  I actually learned a lot about that amazing instrument.  For example, I had no idea you can cover two octaves with those four drums, because you can change pitch on the fly! 

I also learned that the puddle underneath a tuba or trombone is CONDENSATION, not spit.  (You see, spit comes out in long strings.  So you can tell the difference.  But yes, it does come out of those brass horns…) 

Before the concert, Cindy and I went down the waterfront in Seattle.  We did some shopping and had lunch.  But that’s really all the time we had to sightsee in Seattle. 

When they fed us dinner at the venue (between the rehearsal/sound-check and the actual concert), we got to the end of the food line.  There were forks and knives and napkins.  And a little sign that said, “All these items are compostable.”  Yep, our forks and knives were bio-degradable.  Just stew on that for a minute.  You see, Seattle just passed a law OUTLAWING plastic utensils and straws.  So now you get to put compostable forks and spoons in your mouth.  Yeah. 

Tomorrow, we fly home. 

 

July 1st, Seattle, WA

Another travel day, with the added twist of crossing the border back into the good, ol’ U.S. of A.  On CANADA DAY, no less! 

It was supposed to be less than a three-hour bus ride.  (A three-hour tour.  A three-hour tour.  The weather started getting rough…  Actually, the weather was GREAT.)  We got to the border station, and of course, we all had to get off the bus and go through customs and immigration.  The customs and immigration portion was QUICK.  No problems.  The line for the bathroom after we got through ICE was… longer.  And I DID notice that the ladies’ line moved much more quickly than the men’s.  (They were timing themselves.  No, literally.  I’m not kidding.)  But soon we were on our way. 

Suddenly, however, traffic started to slow.  (The tiny ship was tossed.  If not for courage of the fearless crew…)  Our AWESOME bus driver quickly figured out that we needed to take an alternate route.  We found ourselves travelling down skinny back roads.  (We passed a restaurant called “The Cedar Stump” which had a sign which read, “Rest your rump at the Cedar Stump!”)  We traveled back roads for an hour, some of it in stop-and-go traffic. 

The entire delay was caused by a fatal highway accident.  At one point, I saw a car inverted on the interstate, and Cindy saw a car inverted on the grass median.  We later learned that an “impaired” driver was driving north in the southbound lanes (our lanes). 

The final result (which for us, thankfully, did not include a fatality) was that we got to our lovely hotel in downtown Seattle an hour late.  HOWEVER, our bus started out third (3 out of 11 busses).  We arrived FIRST.  The other busses were delayed by up to three hours. 

Bottom line?  Our bus driver was AWESOME!!!! 

Tomorrow, we have a few hours to sightsee, and then we have our final concert.  Personally, I’m PRAYING for a SEAHAWK to be our guest conductor.  Russell Wilson!  Pete Carroll!  Come on!  It would be totally awesome!  Besides, I want to make my son, Jacob (who doesn’t WANT to join the Choir), insanely jealous!!! 

BTW, our welcome dinner (our last meal together on tour) was fantastic.  It had pork with Walla-Walla Sweet Onions!  (And yeah, the meal was delayed for a bit, so everyone could get there and eat it…) 

My last tour is coming to an end.  One more full day and one more concert.  And then it’s home on Tuesday, and I no longer get Cindy all to myself…  Talk about depressing… 

 

June 30th, Vancouver, BC

The Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver.  This older venue was not built for a choir and orchestra of our size.  So, space on stage was very tight.  But BEHIND stage, there was a passage that we had to pass through.  It was cramped—only one line of people could pass through at a time.  I literally had to duck my head in places (and I’m not that tall).  I kept thinking, “The Phantom of the Opera is there inside your mind…” 

From where I was sitting (yes, I was sitting for the concert), I was right behind the trombones and the tuba and just to the right of the percussion section.  I couldn’t see anyone else in the Choir.  I couldn’t hear anyone else singing.  I could only hear myself, the trombones, the tuba, and the drums and cymbals.  Boy, could I hear the cymbals! 

I learned three things at this concert: 

1.       Since I couldn’t see anyone else clapping, I had to be absolutely certain I was correct on the songs where we do synchronized clapping. 

2.       I had to be absolutely certain of every note and every word (since I couldn’t hear anyone else singing).

3.       An ENORMOUS puddle of spit forms at the feet of a trombone or tuba player. 

Tomorrow, it’s Canada Day, and that’s also the day we return to the U.S.A. 

 

June 29th, Vancouver, BC

We are BORING people!  We are in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and what do we do on our “recovery/sightseeing” day?  We slept in (or at least I did), we ordered room service for breakfast, we went to Boston Pizza for lunch (I had French onion soup at Boston Pizza—at a pizza joint!), and then we went to the movies!  We saw “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (which was very good, BTW).  Then we went shopping (and by that, I mean GROCERY shopping TWICE).  Then we came back to hotel.  We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant and split a steak (which was EXCELLENT).  Then we went up to our room and watched Mission: Impossible 3 on my laptop. 

That was our whole day!  Other people did EXCITING things.  Not us.  Nope.  And you know what?  It was a lot of fun being boring with my bestest girl. 

 

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