Armour – an allegorical short story

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IMG_1545.JPGThe officers shift uncomfortably in the gloomy chamber, the hostile glow of the strip lights drawing harsh shadows on their faces. Battle report holograms flutter across the expansive circular desk in the centre of the room, rising and collapsing like sandcastles made of light. The men and women study them intently, or at least they pretend to, avoiding the prospect of having to make conversation.

The door slams open and General Huss enters, flanked by two low-ranking blank-faced goons. The assembled officers stiffen to attention as the diminutive leader approaches the desk, the garish gold braid on his jacket gleaming, copious amounts of medals clinking conspicuously. The General leans forward on the desk, eying the people surrounding him with hateful distain.

“Status report.” He spits the words out of his mouth like a curse.

The room is silent. The officers glance at each other, passing the buck around the room with their eyes.

Colonel Avar steps forward. Her jagged features give her a haughty look, a kind of insulted beauty. Her lips are tight, grim and full of bad news.

“The eastern quadrant has all but fallen,” she states impassively. “We are holding the line across the valley region, but we have outrun our supply chain.”

“What of the north? Are you failing there as well?”

“Arteria is under fire but we have a barrage trained on the Mercury Pass,” replies Col Avar, ignoring the barbed questions. “Nothing can get through, but only whilst supplies last…”

The General grips the edge of the desk.

“This is unacceptable,” he yells, throwing back his head in a snarl. The officers flinch at the sudden outburst. “What is your excuse? How is the enemy making a mockery of you? Explain. Now.”

“It’s the armour,” stutters Major Weeking, a ghostly thin man. The General peers at him. Weeking shrinks back, clearly regretting his utterance.

“If you’ve got something to say, spit it out,” says General Huss. Maj Weeking moves forward, hands quivering as he operates the controls on the side of the desk. The holographic battlefield focuses in, displaying a dry canyon, desolate except for a couple of gnarled trees and some wiry bushes. A column of troops move cautiously along the canyon, armoured Rapytr support vehicles trundling along beside, turrets rotating, scanning the terrain.

A shadow looms over the soldiers. With a whooshing crunch, giant metal feet slam into the dusty ground. The troops scatter as the G-Armour unit straightens up, a metal humanoid machine, towering above them.

Before the soldiers can regroup, the G-Armour unleashes its firepower. Shoulder-mounted cannons spray out bursts of energy, scything indiscriminately through the fleeing men. The Rapytrs and some of the more battle-hardened troops return fire, but to no effect. The G-Armour brandishes its phase blade, the melee weapon extension bursting out of its right arm, cutting the nearest Rapytr in two.

The image freezes, the scene flickering on the desk in front of the officers and their leader.

“The voy-bot was knocked offline by a stray shot,” explains Maj Weeking in a sheepish voice. The General stares at the image, scrutinising the enemy armour unit.

“We dont have anything that can match this tech,” Weeking continues. “In terms of firepower, defences, manevourability; well, you can see how it cut through an entire scout battalion. Put two or three of those on the battlefield and, well…”

“I know you don’t want to hear this, sir,” says Col Avar, taking the lead, “but these G-Armour units could cause a situation as desperate as the Sun God campaign.”

“Enough,” screeches General Huss, plummeling the desk with his fist. “Do I have to do the thinking for all you clowns? Are you all too simple to comprehend the one clear weakness of this armour?”

The officers avoid looking at the General, shuffling their feet and glancing at each other nervously.

“The pilot. Without the pilot, the armour is useless. Infiltrate their training centres and sabotage them. In fact, launch strikes against any target that is identified as a centre for education, military and civilian. Attack their launch bases; don’t give them a chance to get a man into G-Amour. Link up with the propaganda ministry and develop a campaign decrying the use of this technology. Undermine it with accusations of unethical practice and crimes against humanity.”

General Huss looks around the room, awaiting a response. The men and women nod their heads vigorously. Someone starts to clap halfheartedly, but falters into silence.

“You have your orders,” says the General, turning away from the desk and marching out of the room, his minders following.

The officers begin to discuss plans in mumbling voices, congregating into smaller groups as they determine their strategy. Although slightly bolstered by the General’s instructions, they all know the truth. No matter how many battles they win, or how many attacks they repel, the outcome of the conflict is written.

The enemy has already won.

Ephesians 6:10-17:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

I hope you enjoyed the story – please comment below with your thoughts and share via social media!

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Same-sex attraction – engaging with the eternal

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The subject of same-sex attraction and Christianity isn’t a new one, but the news of singer Vicky Beeching coming out has recently brought it back into the forum of public discussion. A disclaimer before I go any further; I will not be sharing in this post my personal stance as to whether acting on same-sex attraction is a sin according to biblical truth. If you want to find out my view, get in touch with me offline.

The big question that has been going around my head since Vicky Beeching opened up regarding her same-sex attraction hasn’t been what should she do, but rather what should I do?

Whether or not you believe same-sex attraction/relationships are compatible with biblical principles of sin and morality, the most important thing is that people accept God’s offer of salvation. A relationship made possible by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, who conquered death and paid for our sins.

The big questions: am I a person who can share this message with someone who has identified themselves as anything other than heterosexual on the spectrum of sexual identity i.e. gay, bisexual, lesbian, transgender, etc? Would a person feel they could be honest and open with me? Do I realise that as a heterosexual male, this subject currently has no major impact on my life, and therefore is something I should approach with a full measure of grace and gentleness?

Christians, I’ll leave you with a question. It’s a question for me too. Will you engage with a person’s eternal condition before you engage with their sexuality identity? Yes, there may be issues to be dealt with, but let’s support people to get their hearts right first. Whether you believe God wants to free someone from same-sex attraction or free them to embrace same-sex attraction, let Jesus worry about changing their perspective and behaviour.

One final thought. When we talk about same-sex attraction and engaging with people who identify as other than heterosexual, bear in mind that people don’t wear badges to let you know their sexuality. Some people might wear it on their sleeves, but others might not be extrovert with it at all. There may be people in your social circle who are struggling with their identity and it could be completely unknown to you. Therefore, make every effort to be a person who can be trusted, who someone can open up to. This person could be a Christian already, and could be terrified of the response they’ll receive if they open up. We need to cultivate environments where people are praised for honesty and surrounded with love and biblical guidance. You never know who could be struggling and how isolated they might feel.

The Fall – an allegorical short story

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This post is primarily aimed at Christian men, but I hope everyone will find it engaging and useful.

The rain dripped off his umbrella as he struggled in through the glass-paned door, gripping his briefcase tightly under his arm. Pulling the door closed, he breathed a sigh of relief, leaning heavily against the wall. Stripping off his sodden coat and hanging it up, he lent his umbrella nearby. A pool of water began to gather on the red and black tiles, glimmering in the soft light.

Walking along the corridor and into the kitchen, he left his rain-speckled briefcase on the slab-like oak table and chose a tumbler from the nearby cabinet. He decanted a measure of whiskey and took a sip, his body relaxing like a deflating balloon as the exquisite alcohol slipped down his throat.

He found her in the bedroom, sat on the edge of the bed, her back to him.

“Still quite wet outside,” he offered as he took off his cufflinks, setting them on the bedside table.

No answer.

“The press have been hounding me all day,” he continued, oblivious. “Did you have any trouble? Have any of them tried to get up to the house?”

No answer.

“Come on, dear,” he said, moving over to her. “We’ve got to stick this out together. What’s done is done and we’ll get though it.”

He reaches out to place a hand on her shoulder but she flinches away from his touch.

“What have I done?” The question hangs in the air.

She turns around, revealing a tear-stained face contorted with malice. Grabbing the tablet computer lying on the bed, she stabs at the screen, initiating the playback of a video.

He is on the screen, half a dozen microphones jabbing towards his face. Voices bray and cry out, demanding answers to invasive questions.

He raises his hands in an effort to quieten the mob. They sense that this may be their chance for a juicy morsel and lower their voices.

“As I have already stated at the hearing, I do not deny that I have been led into behaviours which are unacceptable for someone with my role and responsibilities. I am prepared to pay the price for this indiscretion and hope that my honesty will go some way towards making amends.”

The questioning explodes once more, the words running together into a sea of drivel. As he goes to move away, a man manages to accost him, thrusting his microphone out.

“Is it true that your wife set up the account with Friedrickson? Would this have happened without her prior relationship to his organisation?”

Surrounded and taken by surprise, he blurts out an answer.

“Yes, she did. That is to say, the account was in her name. But – “

“So, she compromised you?”

“Well, no, but…”

“If it hadn’t been for her actions, you wouldn’t be answering these questions?”

“Yes, in way. Now I must…”

The thick black-sleeved arm of a bodyguard blocks the camera as the journalists are ploughed aside, clearing a path.

Pressing the screen again, she pauses the video, leaving the image of his harangued face floating there in stasis.

“Honey, you can’t think…”

“You offered me up,” she whispered, he voice trembling with rage. “You abandoned me to those, those jackals.”

“I took responsibility, I was honest.”

“Took responsibility?” She stands up, hands shaking, inches away from him. “You told them that I was to blame.”

“Well…”

Just one word. He didn’t have to say any more. It flew like a poisoned dart, puncturing her soul.

“You were there,” she cried out, anger and sorrow wrenching her voice. “You listened to all of it, the presentations, the pitches. You may not have taken the first bite but you weren’t too fussed about having a taste once I made the first move.”

“Yes, that’s true,” he replies, his voice rising. “But as you’ve just said, you made the first move.”

“Oh, I see. That’s your version of ‘we’re in this together’, is it?” The venom in her sarcasm sears the air.

“But it was you, you can’t deny it.”

“That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect me.” Her words crack as tears run down her face. “You’re supposed to be a man. That means standing by me, even if I get it wrong. You stood by and let this happen. What, were you too afraid to stop me? Or him? No, that’s not it.”

She pushes past him, heading out of the room. She stands in the doorway, looking back, sorrow streaked in black lines down her face.

“The truth is, you wanted what he had to offer, but you didn’t have the guts to take it yourself. So, you used me. You used me as a shield. You have no idea how you’ve hurt me.”

With that, she leaves.

He crumples onto the bed, sitting in silence. Looking down at the tablet, he sees his face on the screen. The title banner running under the image summarises the scene:

“The fall of Man.”

Genesis 3:1-13:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

This is a challenge to all Christian men in marriages and relationships, and to those seeking a partner. Don’t be like Adam. Take responsibility. I think one of the reasons people take so much offence to Paul’s instruction, “wives, submit to your husbands,” is that men haven’t lived up to their end of the deal – “love your wives as Christ loved the church.” (Eph 5:22-33) That’s a sacrificial love which doesn’t count the cost. Praise God that He gives us His strength to do this. Look to Jesus to see what it really means to be a man.

Prayer: Father God, give me the determination and perseverance to follow Christ’s example as I seek to fulfil my role and responsibility as a man. I don’t want to be defined by the masculinity of this world. Help me to take responsibility for my household, to ensure that it is a holy place where You are glorified. Let me do all this in Your strength.

Berserker

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I want to be a Berserker for Christ.

What’s a Berserker? If you’ve seen Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, you should remember the army of elite super-orcs created by the fallen wizard Saruman. When these dark creatures attack the fortress of Helm’s Deep, the Berserkers are the first ones atop the castle wall. Equipped with light armour and a giant sweeping cleaver, these warriors have one purpose: attack. Positioned on the top rung of the siege ladders as they swing up toward the battlements, the Berserker is hungry to wreak havoc against the enemy.

Why do I think the Berserker is a good role model for Christians?

1. They are single-minded.

The Berserker knows their role and they are blinkered to everything else. They see the enemy and they start running, adrenaline pulsing through them, a terrifying war cry blasting from their lungs. Laying waste to the enemy is the only thing on their mind. In the Two Towers movie, one of Saruman’s Berserkers is tasked with delivering a flaming torch to ignite the gunpowder positioned beneath the walls of Helm’s Deep. Despite being feathered with arrows along the way, the Berserker doesn’t flinch in completing his suicide mission.

I want to have this single-minded approach to life, being wholely defined by and focused on my faith. Everything is secondary to the purpose and place God has prepared for me.

Hebrews 12:1, 2:

…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…

2. They are equipped for the job.

You won’t see a Berserker weighed down by heavy plate armour; it may provide significant protection but it slows you down. A Berserker isn’t going to gird themselves with a variety of weapons; they take their favoured tool of destruction and that’s enough. In fact, a Berserker is probably happiest when they strip down to a loin cloth, with their fists as their only weapon. The notorious veteran prisoner Charles Bronson is known for covering his naked body with grease before launching vicious attacks on his guards. Moral issues aside, this stripped-down approach helps him get the result he wants: havoc.

I don’t want to carry anything unnecessary with me as I stride into battle. The only armour, weapons, and supplies I need are those provided by my Lord. Anything else is surplus to requirement.

Philippians 4:12-13:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

3. They aren’t afraid to get stuck in.

Where will you find the Berserker on the battlefield? In the thick of it, drenched in blood, where the fighting is fiercest. If the Berserker is to achieve total carnage, they need to be surrounded by unwitting assailants foolish enough to get in their way. However, Berserkers aren’t always led by bloodlust; sometimes they leap into the fray because they have to protect others. When her fellow crew members are trapped by the inhuman reavers in the film Serenity, River Tam locks them behind the blast doors and faces the monsters alone. As the victim of a government experiment to create brainwashed child assassins, River knows that her unwanted skills are the only thing that can hold off the reavers. She might not survive, but that’s the price that needs to be paid.

I don’t want to shy away from getting stuck in, especially when it’s my responsibility to care for others. I want to stand up in the face of opposition and walk into the crossfire with my head held high. What’s the worst that can happen? I’m already dead to this world so I best start living like it.

Philippians 1:21-26

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

Prayer: Lord, give me the strength to be a relentless force for holiness. Give me a passion for climbing the walls of the devil’s strongholds and leaving a bloody mess in my wake. Equip me with everything that I need and cut away anything that I don’t need. Let others take shelter in my shadow as the arrows of the enemy rain down, and show me who I need to love without counting the cost. Lord, I dream of the day when I see you face to face. Until then, just give me a target.

I let it happen – an allegorical short story

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He got me as soon as I woke up this morning. I felt the cold hard metal grasping around my wrist, clamping shut with an ominous click. There I stayed, locked down and unable to move. That’s one of his best tricks. Once he’s got the first manacle on one of your limbs, you’ve hardly got time to stop all the others closing over your skin.

The chains rasped as they ran against themselves, then pulled taut against me, yanking me out of the bed and onto the floor. My head struck the carpet with a dull thud, the force jolting down my spine.

He stood over me, leering down with that familiar hungry grin. Striding toward the door, he dragged me from the room, my skin scrapping against the doorframe. Along the landing he dragged me, then tossed me unceremoniously down the stairs, my elbows and knees striking the steps, cracks of pain filtering through my body.

That’s how the rest of the day continued. I was on my feet for the most part, stumbling to keep up as the chains pulled on my limbs. Sometimes I didn’t follow fast enough, or tried to take a different direction, but that was when I found myself flat on my back or sprawling forwards, the metal digging mercilessly into my skin, reminding me who was in charge. By the end of the day, as I got back under the sheets, my body was a mess of throbbing bruises and open wounds.

How did it happen? I let it happen. I can blame circumstance, my nature, or others around me, but that isn’t true. I can say that it has been such a long time since he last caught me that this was inevitably going to happen, but that doesn’t cut it.

The question is this: how did he get so close to be able to trap me? He’s a sneak, I’ll admit that; crawling and creeping, lurking in the shadows. The answer: I allowed him to get close. An inch closer, then another inch, and then all of a sudden he’s standing over me in the dark and I’ve lost control.

This morning, I’m ready. I was preparing my battle plan before I let myself succumb to the sweet mist of sleep.

As my eyes open and my faculties return, the shrill tone of the alarm having pierced my slumber, I don’t give him a moment to take the advantage. I’m up in a flash, bulling him across the room, my shoulder catching him under his chest and slamming him into the wall. Always fight back. If you don’t fight back, you haven’t a hope.

He isn’t done. He’s never done. As long as I live he’ll have a reason to keep trying. Razor talons dig into my back, cutting into my resolve. We tumble to the floor, wrestling against each other, limbs locked in opposition. He’s so strong and I’m so weak. So what do I do?

It’s time to summon the power. With a deep breath, letting peace spread throughout me, I ignore the thrashing of my enemy and let myself be consumed. As the power flows through me, I’m like a dry stream suddenly energised by fresh water rushing into the channel. Immortal truths awaken within me, reminding me who I am.

I rise. I stand up, a fist gripped around his neck. He struggles fruitlessly against the power, but I won’t give in. I lift him up, staring into his face. He recoils away; he doesn’t want me to see him as he is, because then it’s clear to see how ugly and undesirable he is.

I release my grip, dropping him to the floor in a crumpled heap. Surely I’m going to finish him off, you’re thinking. The truth is, he’s going to follow me throughout my life, and I can’t kill him off. Once we were one, he and I. We were bound together in an unholy bond, a parasitical relationship where I fed and nurtured him within my skin. However, in a moment of pure brilliance and glory, the bond was broken and he was dragged out of me kicking and screaming. He’ll keep trying to trap me, but he can’t get back in. Even if I falter and lose the fight, the battle is already won and these are his death throes.

This isn’t enough. I’ve won this time but he’ll be back, with different tactics and new ways to exploit my weaknesses. I’ve got to train, gain strength through knowing the truth, go on the offensive, never be content. You can do this too. Get the power, and fight.

Romans 7:21-25:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Prayer: Lord, I want to give you praise because you are greater than any power in this world, physical or spiritual. I’m sorry that I go back to the old dead ways of my sinful nature. Thank you Jesus Christ, for breaking the bond by becoming the sacrifice to pay for sin, once and for all. Holy Spirit, renew your power within me, and supply me with God’s wisdom and strength so I may fight and prevail.

Something old, something new

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As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve decided that I want to refocus my creativity so that I’m not working solely on StoryMechs. In fact, since I’ve made this decision I’ve been much more productive with StoryMechs.

There are some past projects which I had stopped working on, and now I want to kickstart my desire to achieve these targets.

The first of these is to self publish my science fiction short story collection, Resolutions. I picked up the draft recently, and although it definitely needs editing with a fine-tooth comb, I still love the narratives and think readers would too.

I also want to resurrect my aim to write a novel. I started writing a story called This Dark World, a young adult fantasy story inspired by the biblical theme of spiritual warfare, but I found that the theology was too dense to distill into a simple plot mechanism. However, I do have another idea in the pipeline, which I think could bear fruit. I’m currently working on the structure plan, using the A Novel Idea iOS app to set things out. More will be revealed in future.

Those are my old ideas, onto the new. I’ve become a lot more into board and card games recently, and this has sparked a desire to design a game myself. I did try to create a card game based on the premise of StoryMechs, but that didn’t pan out very well. However, lots of lessons learned there, which I’ll share at some point. I’m working on a idea for a strategy card game at the moment, so look out for some insights into my work on that.

Last but not least, I want to start a creative project geared towards a Christian market. My faith is the linchpin of my identity and existence, and therefore I want to use my gifts to serve God directly, as well as indirectly i.e. by doing everything I do as an offering to him. I have an initial idea for something along these lines, but I want to keep myself open to where God leads.

So, only five creative/writing projects to focus on! My plan is to switch focus regularly, to keep things fresh, but also to have some clear objectives to stay productive. I’ll keep you posted on how things go!