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Thursday, December 20, 2012

How Storytelling Conveys Truth Better than Non-fiction

That is the title of my first guest article at the Speculative Faith blog. I stumbled upon a website discussing the way descriptive storytelling affects the brain, and it gelled some concepts in my head. Being I'd been invited to do a guest blog, I wrote the article for that blog. Check it out if you get a chance.

How Storytelling Conveys Truth Better than Fiction

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Yippee for Christmas! by R. L. Copple

As I've been doing for the last few years, I'm presenting to friends, family, and fans a Christmas short story as my Christmas gift to you. Thanks to everyone who has read, supported, and been a friend over the past year, and I pray into the new year as well. Now, enjoy my new Christmas short story: Yippee for Christmas!

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away that amazingly looked a lot like Texas, there lived a king named Loren. King Loren ruled a kingdom full of joyous, peaceful, and loving people. For they had much to be thankful for. From the mountain ranges in the west, to the plains in the north, to the ocean beaches on the southern coast, and the forest in the east, rarely was heard a dissenting voice. Crime gained no foothold here, as no one lived in discontent. It was Heaven on Earth.

What you say? Impossible? One would think so, save for one basic fact. The biggest celebration in this kingdom happened every December 25th on Christmas day. Each year, the king threw the grandest party in his castle, not sparing neither Christmas turkey, Christmas ham, Christmas tamales, or Christmas picante sauce. No child left without a present from the king. The whole kingdom celebrated Christmas.

What? Oh, you're wondering why this created their private utopia? Not because of the food, but because of what they celebrated: joy, peace, and love. The celebration reminded them all year long to practice these virtues, and so they did with the utmost fervor. They celebrated and practiced these virtues so well that all crime vanished, no one starved or lacked a roof over their heads, and no one complained over what they had, didn't have, or what their neighbor had that they didn't. The focus on joy, peace, and love overshadowed everything else.

One Christmas eve, King Loren's death ended his reign. The funeral line processed in a solemn march through the city as adults and children lined the streets. The normal joy of the season fell silent against the night of the king's life. Everyone reminisced about the good king's deeds and heroic decisions, and the most honorable kingdom in the world under his rule. No one shared a negative word against him, so great was their love for him.

King Loren's rule fell to his oldest son, Xander. Before the festivities of Christmas began, the lords of the land installed King Loren's son to the throne.

As King Xander examined the solemn crowd in the usually festive hall, he said to them, "My loyal subjects. Ever did my father find joy, peace, and love in the Christmas celebration. We can do no less in honor of his memory. He would not be pleased to find us sad on this day, lest we forget all he has taught us. So let us lift a glass to his memory and celebrate this festival as if he is watching, for he very well may be."

Heads nodded and smiles filled the sea of faces sitting around tables laden with all sorts of Christmas foods. Hands reached for glasses to join in the toast, all except one. One hand raised above the growing hum of voices and said, "My lord, I have a complaint!"

Gasps raced across the hall; talking halted. The king, along with every other eye in the crowd, stared at the man with the upraised hand. King Xander scratched his beard in disbelief. "Kind sir, are you from our fair kingdom? For complaints are rare with our people who celebrate and practice joy, peace, and love throughout the year. What possible complaint will you bring before us on this august day?"

The man lowered his hand and stood. "My lord, I am new to these parts. I had heard of the joy, peace, and love of this land, and wished to join such worthy festivities. Now that I am here, I feel excluded, for I am not of your religion. Would not it be more inclusive of all faiths who also celebrate joy, peace, and love, if we gave this holiday a new name? I beseech you to consider this request so that I too, and those who follow other faiths, are free to celebrate with you." The man sat down.

All eyes turned to the king in anticipation of his words. King Xander stroked his beard for a moment and then said, "Long has it been the tradition in our land, set by my father, to call this day Christmas. Yet your argument is sound. I will put my wise men to the task and by next Christmas—or whatever it will be called—we will have a new name. So be it."

The lords replied back, "May the king's will be done." The man smiled, and the celebration continued through the day as it had for many years.

Shortly before the next Christmas...I mean, whatever it would be called, King Xander made an announcement in his court. "My dear subjects. Last year, I declared we would find a more inclusive name for our celebration of joy, peace, and love. After much consultation with my wisest counselors, we have settled on that name.

"Beginning this year, it will no longer be referred to as Christmas, but Yippee! You will no longer have a Christmas tree, but instead, a Yippee cactus. Santa will no longer deliver Christmas presents; he will leave children Yippee presents. No longer will you hear Christmas in your songs. Rather you'll hear songs like, 'Yippee, Yippee time is here. Time for laughter, time for cheer...' Instead of hearing the story ''Twas the Night Before Christmas,' you will hear, ''Twas the Night Before Yippee.' All references to Christmas will be changed throughout the kingdom in favor of the new name to commemorate joy, peace, and love: Yippee!"

The hall erupted in a glorious, "Yippee!" followed by clapping and shouts. They had never felt more inclusive.

Christmases...I mean, Yippees came and went for seven years. Each year the celebration grew grander to outdo the last. But other changes emerged over the seven years. Crime rose from nearly non-existent to 30%. Complaints became the norm instead of the exception. Despite doing more in the Yippee parties than his father, King Xander received notices of discontent about them and a good many other government services as well. Joy, peace, and love declined even while their virtues were lauded.

At the eighth annual celebration of Yippee, King Xander put on another exciting Yippee party at his castle. After listening to a rousing rendition of "Yippie Bells," and a fun sing-along with the king of "O, Yippee Night," the king sat at the head of a table filled with Yippee turkey, Yippee ham, Yippee tamales, and Yippee picante sauce. By this point, King Xander had also added his own touch to the menu: Yippee figgy pudding.

King Xander stood, raised his glass of Yippee wine, and then said, "My loyal subjects, each year at this time we celebrate the virtues of joy, peace, and love: the founding principles of our land. So I toast with each of you that these virtues will prevail among us and that our country will always celebrate their values and benefits."

A couple of heads nodded. Many said, "Whatever." Hands wandered toward glasses to join in the toast, all except one. One hand raised above the growing grunts, and an eight-year old boy said, "My lord, I have a complaint!"

A few, "What's new?" comments echoed among them as eyes focused on the king's response.

King Xander waved his hand. "You'll need to take it to the complaint department. It is open on Mondays through Fridays from noon to one o'clock."

The boy stood. "I have a question then. Why?"

The king's forehead wrinkled. "Why what?"

"Why do we celebrate joy, peace, and love? Especially when there is so little of it."

King Xander moved his mouth as if to talk for two seconds before emitting an answer. "Why? Because my young lad, you are not able to remember the joy of my father's reign. The celebration of these virtues is what provided such prosperity and harmony in our land for many years. We have fallen from that ideal, I will grant you, but that is no reason to not celebrate their glorious effect upon our kingdom."

The child shook his head. "But why celebrate something that ain't happening?"

King Xander scratched his head, then turned to the wise men seated on the left side of his table. "Answer the boy's question."

The wise men stared at each other to see who would give an answer. Five seconds passed, then the oldest of them stood. Wise Joseph—King Loren's trusted adviser and the one, lone dissenting voice concerning the Yippee celebration change—bowed to the king.

Wise Joseph faced the child. "In the ancient writings, the angels appeared to shepherds in the fields by night. Upon arriving, the angels declared a message of great joy, and upon departing, they shared the words, "On Earth, peace." That is, peace and goodwill among men. But these virtues were not the purpose behind their celebration. Rather the angels pointed to One who would infuse joy, peace, and love among mankind. It is not the virtues we celebrate, but the god-man who came from Heaven to give us joy, peace, and love." Wise Joseph returned to his seat.

Silence prevailed for five seconds. Then the child asked, "Who is this god-man?"

The king stared at the boy, then raised his hand. "My loyal subjects. I fear we have made a grave mistake these past eight years. In our attempt to be inclusive, we have excluded the very person who instills these virtues into each one of us. Knowledge of and living by His words have diminished, and therefore, so has joy, peace, and love. From this moment forward, we will return to calling this celebration Christmas. We will have our Christmas trees, our Christmas foods, our Christmas presents, and yes, even our Christmas figgy pudding to celebrate the Christ through who we are made joyful, peaceful, and loving. We are not inclusive by excluding anyone, most especially the guest of honor, but by inviting all to join in His celebration. So be it."

The lords raised their glasses. "May the king's will be done." Loud clapping and cheers arose from the celebrants.

And so the kingdom celebrated Christmas once again, and a measure of joy, peace, and love returned to the land over the following years. What? You want to know what happened to the ideal kingdom? Once corrupted with the knowledge of evil, the kingdom is rebuilt one person, one heart at a time as they partake in the redemption of the God-man and find true joy, peace, and love abiding within. The ideal kingdom reigns in such persons, and it is this truth that the people of King Xander's country learned to celebrate.

Yippee for Christmas!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lisa Godfrees Interviews Me

Lisa Godfrees recently reviewed my book, Mind Game, which she really enjoyed, so she asked me if I'd be up for an interview. So, like, yeah! So, by jove, she did, I answered, and she posted. I'm blushing a bit with the praise, but she asked some good questions you may not have seen on many of the previous interviews. So check out her author spotlight on me, the "spectacular R. L. Copple" as she puts it.