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Monday, December 8, 2014

Can One Be a Practicing Homosexual Christian?

A Critique of Matthew Vines' Biblical Views on Homosexuality

[caption id="attachment_1137" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Yale historian John Boswell considers the icon of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus to be an example of an early Christian same-sex union reflective of tolerant early Christian attitudes toward homosexuality based on this icon depicting what some claim is a religious wedding with Jesus as best man and still surviving writings."]Icon of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus[/caption]

Matthew Vines is a practicing homosexual Christian. For many Christians, labeling him as such immediately raises eyebrows. As he concedes, the traditional understanding of homosexual behavior labels it a sin. By all rights, an honest Christian would not willfully live in sin.

Mr. Vines took a two-year break from college to prove scripturally that a gay Christian could practice a loving and monogamous homosexual relationship without sinning. He addresses six biblical passages most often used to prove homosexual behavior is a sin, showing how traditional interpretations have missed the mark. By dismissing them, he hopes to show that homosexuality itself is not intrinsically sinful, though its abuse, like heterosexual desires, may be sinful.

His presentation, distilling his two years of research, can be found on YouTube or you can read the transcript. The video is over an hour long, so get comfy and some snacks if you go that route. He's also written a book on the topic, which I have not read.

I'm sure Matthew is a sincere Christian. None of what follows questions his relationship with God. I am not his judge. But his exegesis of the passages he focuses on is flawed on several points, causing him to fail in his goal to present homosexuality as not sinful according to the Bible.

I should note that my critique of Mr. Vines' exegesis and conclusions from the Bible are not a basis for social or legal disrespect against those with homosexual leanings or behaviors. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. That leaves Jesus who can, and He has a history of forgiveness, not throwing stones.

The motivation for this critique, however, is to ensure we get the proper diagnosis so that the correct remedy for our healing can be applied. If a patient has cancer, it harms the patient for the doctor to argue that they don't have a disease, delaying treatment that could save their life.

If any homosexual behavior is sinful, as traditionally understood, it is so because it corrupts our created nature and infects us with death. To misdiagnose the sinfulness of a behavior or attitude through faulty Biblical exegesis bears serious eternal consequences.

I would hope Mr. Vines would agree we don't want to fall into the trap of justifying sin so we can satisfy our own desires. I'm sure his intent is not to do that, but I believe, based on the following, that is the practical outcome of his presentation.

Matthew Vines' Assumptions

First, it should be noted the assumptions he holds. This is clearly stated in a blog post explaining why he took two years away from college to study this topic:
Could it be true? Could it really be that this holiest of books, which contains some of the most beautiful writings and inspiring stories known to mankind, along with the unparalleled teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, also happens to require the emotional and spiritual destruction of sexual minorities? For any of us who learned to love the Jesus who called the little children to him, whose highest law was that of love, and who was a fierce defender of the downtrodden and the outcast, this simply did not seem possible.

As one will notice in reading his material, he assumes if homosexual behavior is intrinsically sinful, then anyone experiencing homosexual desires will loath themselves and be destroyed as a person. He even goes so far in one blog post to suggest that being tempted with desires is sinful, despite that the Bible says Jesus was tempted as we are, but did not sin. (Heb 4:15) He confuses sexual attraction with lust. An easy mistake to make as many people do. Simply finding someone as sexually attractive does not mean you have a strong desire to have sex with them such that given the opportunity, you'd take it.

If this assumption were true, we'd all be destroyed as persons since we are all tempted to sin. We are all born with sinful desires. The Christian solution to self-loathing isn't to redefine them as not sinful, but to partake of the healing and redeeming grace of God in Jesus Christ. The assumption that homosexual behavior, if it is sinful, will result in the destruction of the person and therefore can't be sinful because God would not destroy a person, requires the elimination of our fallen, sinful condition, and any activity to be sinful.

Consequently, he is presented with a problem in his view. He either reconciles the Bible with his belief that being romantically involved with another man is not sinful, or he feels condemned to being ostracized by family and churches, not to mention his own self-loathing at having such sinful desires and the consequence of never being able to fully love romantically. To avoid being destroyed as a person and rejected by God, he feels he needs to show that fulfilling his desires is not sinful.

While his concern over this issue is understandable, it does create an inherent bias in interpreting scripture, making him prone to either miss key points or subconsciously ignore them. On some points he can't be faulted, for he is only reflecting common misinterpretations propagated by many other Christians, which he accepts without questioning. Many Christians hold a secular view on marriage rather than a Biblical one, for instance.

I won't touch on every argument he makes, only those that have a problem.

Views on Marriage

The first issue he deals with, after some introductory remarks as to his dilemma and acknowledging the traditional views of homosexuality, is the Bible's statement that God created a woman for Adam, not another man, which is used show that God did not design for men to mate with other men.

Mr. Vines deals with this by focusing on the following verse: "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." Mr. Vines makes the assumption, as many have, that God is saying it is not good for any man to be alone, lonely, without a companion. But for people like himself, a woman is not a suitable companion. A traditional view of homosexuality would condemn him to a life of aloneness and rejected by God and man because he could never fully love those he was drawn to.

There are several issues here, which we don't have the time to fully explore, but I'll start with the exegetical problems first.

The first problem is the assumption that when God says that it is not good for man to be alone, God's concern is Adam's lack of a companion to fully love. Mr. Vines believes God created Eve to primarily deal with Adam's loneliness. Therefore, it is also the primary purpose of marriage.

Within the full context of the passage, this assumption does not follow. God never said it is not good for man to be lonely. Rather that he was alone. Adam was the only human in existence. That's being alone in a way none of us have experienced.

Likewise, this comment is directed specifically to Adam, not every man. The Hebrew word for man is Adam. When the translators decide to translate it as man or as a name is purely arbitrary based on their understanding of the context. It is well within context for this statement to be directed to this man, Adam. It was not good for him to be the only human in existence.

But this verse doesn't tell us why it was bad that Adam was alone, though the context gives us the primary reason. God had created the plants and animals to produce offspring after their kind. God gave Adam the first recorded command, "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Gen 1:28)

Adam had a problem in being alone. He could not fulfill that commandment. He need a helper to do what God wanted. Without an aid, he would be the first, the last, and the only human to ever exist. After God had said everything was good He created, He said it was not good that Adam could not produce children after his kind.

This is highlighted by God bring the animals before Adam to name them, but also to find one that could be that helper in multiplying and filling the Earth. None of them would work for that purpose.

The defining basis for marriage comes not from God saying it wasn't good for Adam to be alone, but from the following:
And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Gen 2:23-24)

This verse is quoted by Jesus to define what marriage is, indicating that through the joining together of a man and woman in the flesh, God joins them into one flesh. (Mark 10:6-8) Most literally fulfilled by the designed biological outcome of sexual union: a child.

These verses make it clear that the purpose of marriage is to form a new biological family unit by leaving father and mother, and joining into one flesh with a spouse. While companionship is an important facet of marriage, it is not its basis.

The reason for this should be clear. To have companionship doesn't require marriage. It can be met through very good friends, some of who may be as emotionally close or closer than a married couple. Companionship and the averting of loneliness doesn't require marriage or sex to be fulfilled. But the joining of two into one flesh, designed to produce offspring, only happens in a marriage. Indeed, according to Paul, the act itself bonds one to a harlot as well as a spouse. (1Cor 6:16) Which is why sex outside of a marital commitment is so harmful, it is an abuse of the marital bond created by the act.

Within the context of the first two chapters of Genesis, clearly God's concern over Adam being alone is not lack of companionship, but the ability to multiply more of his kind.

Mr. Vines laments that the traditional interpretation of homosexual behavior, for those whose sexual attraction is for the same sex, prevents them from finding suitable companionship, being married, or having a family. Yes, it does prevent such from being married, because their sex produces no such bond. That's because it is biologically impossible for homosexual sex to procreate and have that biological family.

Yes, they can have a legal marriage, but that is all it is. Yes, they might adopt or use a surrogate so a child is from one of couple—which actually unites them maritally with the surrogate parent—and have a very loving family. That doesn't change reality. Homosexual sex cannot produce a family.

The reason for this reality can clearly be seen from logic. Take out the element of procreation from sexual intercourse, what do you have left between that couple? Two people who love one another and are enjoying an intimate pleasure together. How does this differ from any pleasure friends enjoy with each other? Only in degrees and perhaps intimacy, but it is the same principle.

Where then does one draw the line between friends, a romantic couple, and marriage? In what way would such a sexual relationship, devoid of any purpose of sex other than pleasure, create a marital bond any more than sharing an ice cream cone or going to see a movie together would? How would such sex result in joining two people into one flesh?

Without a basis in reality, it doesn't.

Bottom line, to find companionship and avoid loneliness doesn't require marriage or sex. Biblical examples include David and Jonathan, Paul and Timothy, Jesus and his disciples, especially Peter, James, and John. Loving someone can be done apart from a sexual relationship. What the traditional understanding means isn't that a homosexual can't love another or can't have a companion, only that sex with them is prohibited.

In any case, the interpretation that "not good for man to be alone" equals "he needs a companion because loneliness is bad" is not only a logical fallacy, context suggest that it was not God's primary purpose in creating Eve.

We need to address one other statement Mr. Vines makes in this section. He points to Jesus' statement that a good tree produces good fruit, to suggest that the traditional view results in bad fruit due to not creating a nurturing environment free of judgment and guilt. I know this is predicated upon the idea that he has these desires, they are part of who he is, and that God made him that way, not a result of the Fall.

But his logic fails here too. To demonstrate that, let's apply this to other sexual orientations. I know a man personally who, since he was a preteen himself, has been sexually attracted to preteen and early teenage boys. It isn't something he chose. It is an attraction that's been with him all his life—he's in his forty's now.

According to him, he has been tempted on more than one occasion to participate in sexual play with such boys. But he knew it was wrong, not to mention illegal, and so didn't. He was caught with underage porn and spent time in prison for it.

Based on the logic of Mr. Vines' argument, my friend is part of an even more persecuted sexual minority than himself. He had to hide why he was in prison for some time from fellow prisoners for fear one of them would execute the death sentence themselves. He experienced a lot of guilt and shame not only for what he did do, but also what he wanted to do but didn't. His name is now on a sex offenders list. If people find out, he is ostracized and discriminated against. There is some pretty bad fruit from his perspective, including never being free to fulfill his romantic desires.

So do we tell him a committed, monogamous sexual relationship with a young boy is not sinful? Does the bad fruit he's experienced mean we need to revamp our beliefs to include such sex as an alternate, healthy, and morally correct lifestyle? Or despite that, do we still call it sin and tell him he can never have the romantic relationship he internally desires?

I know, Mr. Vines will probably offer reasons why such a relationship is wrong that doesn't apply to adult homosexual relationships. However, that isn't the point. The point is traditional teaching on homosexuality is that it is a sin. If Mr. Vines' argument wouldn't negate something that we likely both agree is a sin, he is asking traditionalists on this matter to do what he would not be willing to do.

I've spent some time on this point because it is central to Mr. Vines' motivation and argument. It demonstrates that by coming to the text with a predefined agenda, he has seen only what would support his view while ignoring evidence to the contrary. We'll see this happen more than once in examining the Scriptures he focuses on and conclusions he comes to about them.

Genesis 19: Sodom and Gomorrah

Some Christians have used the story about God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah as an example of God condemning and punishing homosexual sin. This is due to the men of Sodom wanting to sexually rape the two men, who were actually angels visiting Sodom to evaluate its wickedness. Therefor it was concluded the sin God destroyed the two cities over was homosexual behaviors. Thus deriving the term, "sodomy" in reference to oral and anal sex acts.

On this passage, I'm going to agree with Mr. Vines that this passage cannot be used to prove homosexual behavior is sinful. While obviously homosexual behavior is one activity they were guilty of, it was one among many they were guilty of, including rape, inhospitality to strangers, among others. While someone convinced of the sinfulness of homosexual sex would by default include that in why they were condemned, those who don't see it as sinful can easily conclude it was ancillary to the sins for which they were actually condemned. The chapter itself, nor anywhere else in the Bible, ever points to homosexual behavior specifically as to why they were condemned.

I will highlight a point he makes in this section that becomes one of his dividing lines in justifying homosexual behavior.
There is a world of difference between violent and coercive practices like gang rape and consensual, monogamous, and loving relationships.

He is comparing it to the difference between a heterosexual relationship that is "consensual, monogamous, and loving" which most people approve of, and rape which most don't approve of no matter the orientation involved. That is a valid distinction when we are talking about that intended to be good becoming abused, like rape does with sex. But this begs the question. The subject at hand is whether homosexual sex is inherently sinful, whether it is a abuse of sex in God's design. Once again, substituting another sin into that paradigm, it wouldn't float. "There is a world of difference between violent and coercive practices like gang rape and consensual, monogamous, and loving child-adult romantic relationships." Maybe on some levels there are differences, but it doesn't make the sin any less sinful.

But he is right. It is a losing battle to use this passage to prove homosexual sex is sinful. The other two Old Testament passages, however, are a different story.

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13

As Mr. Vine reports:
They read: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” And 20:13 goes on to say: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”

Well, there we have it—for many, the biblical debate is now over.

Of course it isn't over for him. The reason he feels these verses don't prove homosexual sex is sinful?
And the reason for that isn’t that their meaning is unclear, but that their context within the Old Testament Law makes them inapplicable to Christians. . . . And in Acts 15, we read how this debate was resolved. In the year 49 AD, early church leaders gathered at what came to be called the Council of Jerusalem, and they decided that the Old Law would not be binding on Gentile believers.

He asks why, out of the various laws of the Old Testament that were nullified by that council, should we make exceptions in this case? The answer is in the council's decision itself, which Mr. Vines conveniently fails to tell his audience:
Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. (Acts 15:19-20)

As reported on Wikipedia's definitions of the Greek word translated "fornication":
According to the New Testament Greek Lexicon, it is defined "illicit sexual intercourse", which is then further defined as "adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.", "sexual intercourse with close relatives", "sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman" and "metaph. the worship of idols".

The council who said the Old Testament laws didn't apply to Gentiles also made a list of exceptions, among them, sexual immorality. For this argument to work, Mr. Vines has to show that homosexual sex is not sexual immorality. As Mr. Vines said, the text is pretty clear in these two passages. God considers them a corruption of His design.

He does attempt to mitigate the sinful label by showing how the use of "abomination" and the death penalty applied to other things we no longer consider sinful, but again, it clearly says, "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman." Being this deals with sexual mores and the Jerusalem council did pass down the laws concerning sexual sins to Gentile Christians, his argument doesn't hold water that these no longer apply to modern-day Christians.

Romans 1:26-27

Mr. Vines considers these verses to have the greatest weight, being it is in the New Testament and talks about same-sex relationships for both men and women.

Before we get into his defense, we'll quote the verses so we're all on the same page.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Mr. Vines examines the context of idolatry in which this discussion takes place, and how these verses expand upon that concept by exchanging the real for a replica of the real. The sin listed above takes what is natural (real) and replaces it with what is unnatural (not real). All well and good to this point.

Then to show these verses don't condemn homosexual sex in total, he uses two arguments. First, he points to a specific parallel between the idolatry argument and what he considers the sin Paul is referring to in these verses. Mr. Vines suggest that for these verses to work within the exchange concept Paul is using, the people referred to had to be heterosexual. If they are homosexual, they would not be making an exchange.

But then you have that pesky word "natural" and "unnatural." The traditional understanding has always been that man by nature is heterosexual, and so homosexual desire is unnatural, that is, against nature. That is still an exchange and fits the context of Paul's idolatry argument. Human nature as God designed it is being exchanged for one that violates that design. Paul's context doesn't exclude the traditional interpretation.

So this means he needs to understand Paul's use of the word 'natural" in a way that supports his view: that a homosexual person's nature is to be homosexual, not heterosexual. God created gay people that way, and so is their natural state. Then points back to the concept noted above, that there is a difference between lust which Paul is referring to here and a loving, consensual, monogamous homosexual relationship that, he proposes, Paul is not talking about.

How does he do this?
But before we leave this passage, we also need to consider how Paul himself uses these terms in his other letters and how the terms “natural” and “unnatural” were commonly applied to sexual behavior in his day.

He then proceeds to talk about one verse that illustrates this difference: 1 Corinthians 11:13-15:
Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

He points out Paul's use of nature here does not mean the nature of something, but refers to the customs of the time, as this is often referred to in these verses, and is why today it is not a big deal for women to have short hair or men long hair. Therefore we should be interpreting nature in Romans 1 to be speaking not about created human nature in general, but about what is considered natural for a specific person in a specific time and culture.

But hold on a minute. We're making some assumptions here. I don't fault him, for it is a common understanding of these verses that hair length is a cultural issue back in Paul's day that doesn't apply to us. Or does it?

If true, why are Biblical men often depicted with long hair? Even in Orthodox icons dating back to the early centuries of Christianity, many of them show men saints that according to my grandparents, look like the hippies in the 1960s. Why have monastics since the earliest days reflected the Old Testament Nazarite vow of not cutting any hair, and have been considered holy for it, not disgraced?

If we take nature here to really mean the nature of men and women, his statement makes perfect sense. He's not making a statement about appropriate hair length in Roman culture, he's pointing out that by nature, women's hair grows longer than men's. They wear it as a crown of glory. Paul doesn't give us a measurement of short and long. His description is relative of men and women in general. If the hair is not cut, women's hair by nature will grow longer than a man's.

But why did Mr. Vines pick this one verse among several? Because all the others use the word 'nature" to speak of the nature of something, not culture, and so wouldn't support his argument. I'll select three out of the list to prove my point.
For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. (Rom 11:21)

We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles . . . (Gal 2:15)

Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. (Gal 4:8)

The natural branches of a tree are the ones that grow on it. A natural Jew is born as one, not added in. Idols are not a god by their nature, which is only wood and stone.

It is clear Paul's use of nature refers to what is naturally derived from it. So, it is natural for a woman's hair to grow longer than a man's if not cut. It is natural in how God created man to be heterosexual. This coincides with our discussion earlier on marriage.

To interpret natural as Mr. Vines does, we'd have to ignore how Paul uses it in nearly every other verse. It can't refer to the customs of the time, and even in the 1 Corinthian passage, it is not a given it refers to cultural customs there either.

In effect, Mr. Vines, motivated to justify homosexual sex in Scripture, fails to see key problems in his exegesis of this most important passage. By assuming the premise that the traditional interpretation must be wrong, he fails to address it on its own terms and instead, seeks loopholes to justify his position.

1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10

There are two words at issue in these passages usually taken to be speaking about homosexual behavior: arsenokoites translated as "abusers of themselves with mankind" in the 1769 King James version, and malakos, translated as "effeminate" in that same version.

Concerning the term for "abusers of themselves with mankind," which is found in both passages, Mr. Vines points out the word is not used often in Greek, this being the first written instance of it. The few later uses include a more economic exploitation, usually of a sexual nature. Thus he concludes this word doesn't prove Paul is talking about homosexual behaviors.

He also addresses the point that the Greek word is a compound word of "man" and "bed," which might refer to homosexual activity. He rightly points out that the parts of a compound word frequently don't give a clue to their meaning, his prime example being "honeymoon."

He either fails to connect the dots here or intentionally ignores them. If Paul's use of the word is the first recorded instance, he may have even coined the term, then the meaning of the compound parts do have bearing on the meaning, more so than a word with a long history.

Take "honeymoon" for instance. Do the compound parts of it bear no meaning to the term? Not according to its etymology:
1540s, hony moone, but probably much older, "indefinite period of tenderness and pleasure experienced by a newly wed couple," from honey (n.) in reference to the new marriage's sweetness, and moon (n.) in reference to how long it would probably last, or from the changing aspect of the moon: no sooner full than it begins to wane.

If Paul used a relatively new word, its compound parts have a much more important role in why Paul chose that word, no matter the context latter people might have used it in. The closer to the source, the more etymology plays into a word's meaning.

The Greek word translated as "effeminate" does have a wider use. Literally it means soft, but can also refers to fine clothing, cowardice, or the passive sexual partner among males. Because of its varied meanings, Mr. Vine concludes there is no way to know if Paul had the sexual meaning in mind.

The thing about Greek words is meaning is highly dependent upon context. That is why there can be such varied meanings for the word. Take the other meanings and see if they make as much sense. Will God refuse entrance into the Kingdom based on being soft? Wearing fine clothes? Having feminine traits? Because you've been called cowardly? None of those options make much sense since none of them are sins. The only potential meaning left that fits the context is the activity a passive homosexual partner would be involved in. Which is probably why so many New Testament scholars land on that meaning in this passage. (Note the footnotes in that link.)

We should also note a side argument Mr. Vines makes in reference to some translations using homosexual instead of effeminate. He does note that most later translations refer to homosexual acts or practicing homosexuals, but takes pains to point out the ancient world of that time did not have a concept of same-sex orientation as we do today. So to put the word homosexual in there doesn't fit.

The issue is more one of equivalence. While they certainly didn't use our term, they were aware of those who had a preference for such sex and regularly participated in it. The concept, while not as developed, was known. Just because a modern word is used to convey the meaning isn't suggesting they had the same conception of same-sex orientation we do today.

That said, I would agree if these two passages were all we had, it would be a weak position upon which to base homosexual behaviors as sinful. But combined with the others and what follows, these two verses merely serve as additional supports.

Now we'll address a passage that Mr. Vines missed.

Mark 10:6-9

As Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees asked Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife. They knew the answer, as Jesus asks them what did Moses say, and they tell Him. The answer was yes, it is lawful.

But they received from Jesus much more than an answer to their question, hoping to trip Him up. They received Jesus' teaching about the purpose and foundation of marriage. The verses say:
But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

Point 1: God made them male and female.

This takes us back to the beginning of this article where we discussed this point. Here, Jesus is using it as support for what follows. He then says, because of this fact . . .

Point 2: Marriage is founded upon the joining of male and female.

Without a male and a female, you don't have a marriage. Jesus lists this gender difference as the reason a person leaves their family to start a new one. Specifically leaves father and mother . . .

Point 3: To become one flesh.

Jesus quotes this from Genesis as the goal of marriage. Not companionship. Not to avoid being alone. The goal is to unite the two into one.

He mentions one flesh specifically. That is a physical term referencing sexual intercourse. It happens physically on two levels. One, the sperm and egg DNA mingle with one another. Two, the potential for children the act is designed to create. There is no more literal fulfillment of the two becoming one flesh than a child.

But it is not mere sexual intercourse by itself that creates the marriage, but because . . .

Point 4: God joins them into one flesh

Sexual intercourse is the sacramental act God uses to join two people into one flesh. The sex act by itself is powerless to make the two into one. It is God that joins them, based on the reality that God created a male and female and the need to unite them into one.

Marriage isn't about being able to legitimately have sex with someone. It isn't based on legal certificates and laws, as most homosexuals tend to see it. It is based on a male and female being united into one flesh.

It isn't about denying homosexuals rights in saying they cannot be married, but that it is physically impossible because there is no becoming one flesh for such unions. Without that, you do not have a marriage, you have very close friends.


As previously noted, the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 didn't burden the Gentile Christians with following the Jewish law, except for a handful of exceptions. Among them, they did pass along the laws concerning fornication. The definition of fornication is extramarital sexual relationships as spelled out in Leviticus.

The question Mr. Vines is attempting to answer is whether all homosexual sex is considered to be fornicating and thus sinful according to the Bible. He hopes to prove that the Bible does not label a loving, committed, and monogamous homosexual relationship as sinful by addressing six passages often used to show the Bible does condemn such behavior.

While he does make some good points, his exegesis of the key passages fails to make a tight argument. His assumptions that homosexual behavior is not itself intrinsically sinful, that not having sex with someone leads to them being alone and unloved, that marriage is primarily a social and legal concept based on mutual love, causes him to proof-text the Bible to derive the conclusions he spent two years seeking to find.

He failed to prove his point.

What he did do was to highlight the predicament homosexuals face. Here I'm defining homosexual as being someone whose romantic passions are fixated on members of their same sex. Such people are faced with the predicament that the only people they are attracted to have a sexual relationship with are considered off limits in that regard under the traditional understanding. Given that, it is understandable the desire to reinterpret these Bible passages to make such relationships permissible. However, as I've explained above, whether one has a strong preference for something, even if born with it, doesn't define whether something is sinful or not, nor that God is unloving to suggest fulfillment of that preference is not in our best interest.

His conclusions go counter to God's design for marriage and sex. He misses key issues in his exegesis of the scriptural passages he uses that invalidate his conclusions. I cannot agree with him, in good conscience, that the Bible does not consider homosexual behavior, even a loving and monogamous one, as sinful.

The good news is Christ died for our sins. If homosexual behavior is a sin as has been traditionally taught—unlike merely the presence of homosexual desires—then it can be cleansed and healed under His blood and life like any other sin.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Reality Game - Day 58

I'll keep this short, as I need to get to bed, but wanted to update my readers.

I've worked on the novel three days in a row. Thanks to getting an extra hour Sunday morning, and starting around 12:30 am on writing, in 5.5 hours I wrote 2265 words.

This morning, less time. Started writing at 3 am, and ended 3 hours later at 6 am. Wrote 1447 words in that time.

I also decided I might as well do NaNo officially, though I don't know if I'll hit the 50K mark or not. I know there are commitments that will get in the way. Like tonight, I'll need to write a article for my Tuesday column at SpecFaith blog. That usually takes  a good hunk of the night, so not sure if I'll get any writing done on the novel. If I do, it won't likely be enough to keep me caught up..

But at least at the moment I'm on track to make 50K. Since I type so slow now, I have to find around 5 hours a day on the novel, at least 4, to stay on track. We'll see how it goes. For now, a decent start and the novel is progressing along though I'm still not sure where it is all going. Or how they are going to get out of the mess I'm putting them all in.

I asked for prayers for Natalie last time. Now all four of them need it. Jeremy, Mickey, Bridget and Natalie if you want to pray by name. :)

Here's the summary:


Day 1: 444 words
Day 14: 456 words
Day 18: 687 words
Day 20: 1041 words
Day 33: 652 words
Day 56: 1162 words
Day 57: 2265 words
Day 58: 1447 words


Novel total: 9925 words

Friday, October 31, 2014

Reality Game - Day 56

Been a while since I've worked on the novel. Just so much going on. But I wanted to commemorate the first day of National Novel Writing Month. I'm not officially doing NaNo this year, but I'm still going to make an attempt to do as much as possible on this novel, amidst my other commitments. Maybe it will inspire me to get this done so I can point to one major accomplishment this year.

Anyhow, woke up this "morning" at 1:30 pm. Did morning routine, checked email, snail mail, couple of forums. Then helped my wife get Halloween decorations up in the yard. Then fixed dinner, as it was my night (stir fry pizza). Then sat with her handing out candy until after 9 pm. After hauling in the electrical decorations, I messed around for a while. Then she went to bed and I did a little bookkeeping on her business. Then around 2:30 am, I sat down with some candy to work on the novel.

Typed until a little before 5 am after getting my bearings on the story. During that 2.25 hours, got 1162 words written. So sat down to type this up. A little more progress. We'll see if the NaNo spirit will inspire me.

I'm writing more into the dark than usual on this one. Vague idea where it is going, but no idea where it will end up. Last scene I wrote, I've already got one of the characters  into some hot water that I'm not sure how she'll get out of it. Pray for Natalie. No telling how this will turn out.

You know you're a writer when you ask people to pray for your characters. lol.


Day 1: 444 words
Day 14: 456 words
Day 18: 687 words
Day 20: 1041 words
Day 33: 652 words
Day 56: 1162 words


Novel total: 6213 words

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Reality Game - Day 33

I've done some writing since the last post. I wrote  a blog post for my infidelity blog, and one for SpecFaith (which went live yesterday). As most readers of this blog are aware, I finished writing and editing my short story for the anthology.  Posted that on the blog Monday. Additionally, I rewrote the first devotional to my Christmas book. It was too esoteric for kids and most adults. So I took a different approach.

So despite lots of other things going on, have got a decent amount of writing done.

Tonight, I returned to the novel. Didn't get a lot of time in on it. Added another 652 words in almost one and a half hours. Decided I needed to get the bookkeeping done and get to bed. So I'm keeping this short. Hopefully have more to report in the days ahead.


Day 1: 444 words
Day 14: 456 words
Day 18: 687 words
Day 20: 1041 words
Day 33: 652 words


Novel total: 5051 words

Monday, October 6, 2014

Orion's Integration

Note: the following short story is dedicated to Steve King, the husband of my writer friend, Lee King. Steve died of cancer recently after a long battle. May he find peace through his journey into the known unknown.


[caption id="attachment_1114" align="alignright" width="256" caption="Wormhole Travel: A digital image by Les Bossinas for NASA"]Wormhole Travel: A digital image by Les Bossinas for NASA[/caption]

"Hard to believe we're finally here." Jill brushed her shoulder-length, brown hair behind her ears.

Daniel nodded as he adjusted a setting on the scanners. "At least we can say the money for this trip paid off."

A vast array of light and color spun in the blackness of space outside the portal of the spherical spacecraft dubbed Giclas. So named after the nearest system to their destination: GJ 3379 or Giclas 99-49, the closest star to Earth in the Orion constellation.

However, they didn't travel a little over eighteen years at near-light speed to check out the red dwarf. A probe could have accomplished that much cheaper. No, Earth Space Center had invested billions to verify the existence of the first stable wormhole just beyond the star.

From what Daniel could see, the odds they had found one looked good.

Jill focused on her instruments. "I recommend we slow to one quarter light speed. We're close enough to obtain preliminary sensor readings. We need to find out where the event horizon is."

"Do it."

Jill pressed a few buttons before running her right fingers down the throttle controls until it read one quarter. The thrusters kick in, pushing Daniel forward. Several minutes of deceleration would be required to reach the new speed.

Jill stared again at the worm hole. "Honey, you want to know something crazy?"

Daniel shifted his gaze to his wife. Dressed in her underwear—being they were the only two humans in eighteen light years distance, uniforms seemed pointless—she turned her blue eyes toward him.

"As if where we are isn't crazy enough. What?"

"Despite all the training, now that we're here, I'm scared to go in."

Daniel nodded toward the wormhole. "You'd be crazy not to be scared."

"Remember the phrase from that old TV show: To go where no man has gone before?"

"How could I forget."

"Did you ever think how that applied to everyone?"

"No. Do tell."

She spun her chair to face him. "Simple. Change the 'no man has' to 'I've never'."

Daniel smiled. "Ah. Where I've never gone before."

"When we were married, I was excited, but scared. I had high hopes, but I didn't know what pains we'd face together either. We were explorers of our unknown."

Daniel pointed to the swirling cosmic drain. "Though no one has been here before, or ever gone through a wormhole, for me and you it would be the first time no matter how many might have been here before."

"Yes. Everyone is an explorer of life. Everyone is scared when facing the unknown."

Daniel mulled over her words. "Question is will we live though this experience to tell anyone? Are we also explorers of death?"

The probe's signal flickered out. It had entered the wormhole and given them an introductory picture of what to expect. Gravitational forces were within tolerance levels, at least for the first few kilometers in.

They sat on the edge of the event horizon—on the edge of discovery or death.

Jill punched buttons, now fully dressed in uniform. This historic moment would be recorded. In the event anyone ever saw the vid, best to be professional.

"Sending the data to Earth Space Command. In a few years, they'll at least know we made it this far." A whoosh vibrated the ship as a communication array shot toward Earth's system at near-light speed.

Daniel leaned back in his chair and swiveled to face Jill. "This is it. There's nothing left but to go in."

Daniel stood, and Jill followed. They wrapped each other in a hug. Skin on skin, lips on lips, heart on soul. This could easily be their last moments together. Her body squeezed against his reminded him of all the memories they'd shared. To think this might be the end seemed unfair, but he knew eighteen years ago that this day would come.

Her lips parted from his. "I love you."

"Forever." Daniel gently planted another long kiss as he pulled her tight against his own body.

They released each other with a sigh and seated themselves at the controls. Daniel activated the video and sensor recording. He faced the camera.

"This is Commander Daniel Miller and Lieutenant Jill Miller of the spacecraft Giclas. The first stage of our mission has finished successfully. We have arrived at the wormhole and can verify it is here. We've done preliminary studies of the phenomena and sent that data back to Earth. This recording, should we make it back to Earth, will be a record of this historic moment. We've checked all systems, finished all needed task."

Daniel turned to Jill. "Lieutenant, take us in."

"Yes, sir." She raised the throttle and the ship lurched forward as engines responded with a whine.

Daniel watched the event horizon inch closer on the sensor display. He felt like he did the first time he had jumped off the high-diving board at the public pool as a kid. He would reach the point of no return and fall in.

"Here we go," Daniel called out as they pierced the edge of the horizon.

The ship quivered for a second, then the wormhole sucked it in. Dazzling light, colored like a rainbow, swirled about them. Though Daniel didn't sense any movement, sensors showed the end of the entry had disappeared, along with the stars of their galaxy. Pulsing lights and colors radiated around them.

Daniel glanced at Jill. Her eyes beamed back at him. He grinned. "We're not dead yet. What speed does the ship register?"

She examined her display. "Same speed we entered the wormhole."

"Doesn't feel like we're moving."

She frowned. "What if we aren't? We have no idea how long this will take. What if the trip takes months or years? Or if we aren't moving, we'll sit here forever?"

Daniel scratched his head. No telling how long to reach the other end. "Accelerate to zero point seven five light speed."

"Yes, sir." She reached for the controls.

In a flash the light of the wormhole vanished to be replaced with stars. Sort of, anyway. Not nearly as dense, and they appeared blotchier. Off in the distance two planets sat in space. One of them radiated light like a star, yet didn't appear to be on fire. More like the whole planet shined with its own glory.

The other planet, however, lay dark and lonely. Even the light from the first planet appeared to be absorbed by it. Like a benign black hole floating in space.

"Wow!" Jill stared at her display. "You'll never guess what sensors are picking up."

"How far?"

"Not sure. Spectral analysis is telling me those lights we're seeing aren't stars. They're galaxies."

"Galaxies!" Daniel rubbed his eyes. "That's why they're so spread out. We're not in a galaxy. But where? And why are two planets floating this far out without sun or galaxy?"

"Oh my." Jill hit more buttons. "I can't believe this."


"Sensors are reading numerous wormholes surrounding these two planets."

Daniel swung around. "Seriously?" He breathed in deep. "Like all the galaxies of creation are tethered to this location with wormholes. Where are we?"

"You haven't realized it yet?" a man's voice rang from behind them.

They both swung their chairs around. Daniel shielded his eyes. Whoever he was, the light emanating from him blinded Daniel. His heart pumped hard and his body trembled.

"Who are you?" Daniel managed to get out.

"Do not be afraid." The man touched Daniel on the shoulder. Daniel stopped shaking and the blinding light dimmed. Daniel lowered his arms. A bearded humanoid man stood before them, dressed in clothing much like their own.

Daniel breathed deep. "Who are you and where are we?"

The man smiled and stretched out his hands.

Daniel examined them, then fixed his eyes on the man. "So?"

"Don't these scars tell you anything?"

Jill gasped and covered her mouth. "Jesus?"

The man grinned.

Daniel shook his head. "No, no, no. This alien is reading our thoughts somehow, and appearing as someone familiar." Daniel pointed to the two planets. "Next thing you know, he'll tell us those are Paradise and Hades."

"Excellent, Daniel. You're showing progress."

"Seriously?" Daniel rubbed his forehead. He glanced at Jill who appeared to be mesmerized by him. "So if those are Paradise and Hades, that means we're dead. Did the wormhole really kill us? This is the afterlife?"

The man's face fell. "You've been close to death for a long time. But you are not supposed to be here yet. You'll need to return."

Jill nodded. "That was the plan. Take initial readings and return through the wormhole if at all possible."

Daniel pointed into space. "Yes, and future expeditions would return to explore further based on our findings."

The man grinned. "Of course. The tower of Babel all over again. Look, return as soon as possible. Wait too long and you may be stuck here. Right now I can't guarantee you'll end up on Paradise."

The man vanished. The control room grew darker in his absence.

Daniel shook his head. "We had better go back. Do you have all the sensor data you can get?

Jill jerked her head toward him. "What?"

"Sensor data? Is there any more to get?"

"Oh." She swung her chair back around and examined her display. "No. We'd have to land on a planet to get more. I'm done."

"Good. Turn this ship around. Let's see if we can get back to our galaxy."

"Yes, sir."

Her formality reminded him of the video. He pressed the button to stop recording. "We should have him on the video. Which is good, because they'd never believe this otherwise."

Within a few minutes, Jill had accelerated the ship toward the wormhole. She stood and held out her hands. "Congratulation, Honey, we did it."

He met her halfway and fell into her embrace. "Yes we did. And we're not dead."

"Not yet, anyway." She glanced over her shoulder. "We're almost back to the wormhole. Then another eighteen years to Earth."

Daniel smiled. "The last eighteen were some of my happiest days, because I was with you. I imagine the next eighteen will be just as great."

"That's so sweet of you to say. There was a time I didn't think you wanted me around."

"I was a fool. Too caught up in my work to realized I had missed out on what was important." Daniel's lips met hers as they sank into the event horizon of the wormhole.

Darkness. No stars, no planets, no ship. Daniel lay on something. A beep pierced the void, then another. A regular pattern emerged, reminding him of a heart monitor.

Light glowed in the distance, growing stronger. Cloth rubbed against his fingertips. Pains in his back and butt throbbed into existence. He lay in a bed somewhere. His eyes. He should open them.

He moved muscles that at first resisted, but gave in and responded with a jerk. He quickly shut them as light flooded in, blinding him. He remembered the alien claiming to be Jesus. Memories surfaced. Something must have gone horribly wrong in the wormhole. Was Jill okay?"

The beeping sped up. A shuffling sound met his ear. Footsteps. Jill must be okay. He cracked his eyes open, giving them time to adjust. A blurry face hovered over him.

"Oh my God."

That didn't sound good. He tried to call to her, but his parched throat couldn't create a sound. He opened his eyes wider, and Jill's face came into focus. She was smiling, but tears ran down her cheeks.

She fell onto his chest, sobbing. "Oh thank you, God. Thank you!"

A door opened and footsteps hurried into the room. Where did this person come from? Nurses scurried around him, busy taking his pulse, blood pressure, adjusting things.

Another woman entered. "Give him some water. About five CCs to start with." She moved over Daniel. "Mr. Miller, can you understand what I'm saying? Nod yes if you can."

Daniel forced aching muscles to nod his head yes. A straw entered his mouth.

"Take some water, Mr. Miller. Not too fast."

Over the next few minutes, nurses took readings and asked him questions. The water helped him to start talking again. Finally they started leaving the room. The doctor parted with the promise of scheduling an MRI.

Jill pulled a chair up beside him and held his hand. He squeezed it.

She laughed. "You don't know how long I've waited to feel you respond."

Daniel smiled. "Eighteen years?"

Her smile fell. "How did you know?"

"Obviously we're back on Earth. The last thing I remember is reentering the wormhole. I'm guessing something put me into a coma for the eighteen year trip home."


"Yeah, you know. In the Orion constellation?"

She blinked her eyes.

"Remember, we met Jesus on the other side of the wormhole?"

She sighed. "Honey, we never left. You were involved in a car accident. You've been in a coma for the past eighteen years."

Daniel would have been more animated if his body wasn't so weak. "But it was real. All the time we spent in the spaceship together, alone. We became so close."

Jill smiled. Her blue eyes sparkled. "How sweet. I'm glad I was with you all that time. I had about given up hope you'd ever be with me again."

"Well, I'm here now. Ready to explore life with you."

Jill cradled his face in her hands. "I'm just glad you've come back to life."

"Well, I've explored death enough to know that life is all we have, here and in the next life. Forces you to put things in perspective. I've got two people to focus on. You and the man on the other side of that wormhole."

"A man?"

He squeezed her hand. "You called him Jesus. Long story."

She grinned and reached down to hug him. He found the strength to wrap his arms around her shoulders. Exploring new things was scary, but he had experience in that department. Who says the trip didn't happen. It was real, coma or no coma.

He could tell Earth Space Command exactly where to find that wormhole, but he wouldn't. People weren't ready to explore death. Nor would they expect to find life. Most didn't believe the man on the other side of death's wormhole.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Reality Game - Day 26

As I mentioned last week, I didn't expect to do much writing on the novel. On two different days I'd done some writing on a short story, and clocked in around 400 words on it. I found two words I threw together as a title, "Orion's Integration." Until today, I didn't know where I was going with this story, but the end revealed itself today.

I had awaken shortly after 1 pm. Had a "day off" from working with my wife, but had to run to the bank after taking care of bookkeeping another errand, and make dinner: fried fish, mac and cheese, and steamed broccoli. Still had some time to work on the short story this afternoon, and was able to add another 500 words in an hour and a half.

Spent the evening with the wife after cooking. Watched a movie, ordered some products she needed, she went to bed around 1 am. After I finished some bookkeeping, fixing the front door knob, I grabbed some snacks and sat back down to write.

From about 2 am until 6 am, I typed away. Finished the short story, adding another 1550 words during that time. The short story clocked in at almost 2500 words. Not a speed demon, but that makes my total word count for today around 2000. Not bad. If I could do that every night, I'd finish that novel within a month.

Orion's Integration I'm writing for our local writers' club anthology. But I'll probably post it here when I get it edited. More on that later.

Today was when I'd hoped I would have finished the Reality Game novel. As it is, I'm just under 5000 words on it. For October, I need to edit my Christmas devotional so it will be updated and ready for the Christmas season. I don't expect that to take all my time this month, so I hope to continue to plug away at the novel too. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Until next time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Reality Game - Day 20

More progress on the novel, though I just remembered that I should have been working on a short story for our Writers' Club anthology. Deadline, October 1st. I planned on submitting an original short story, one or two previously published ones, and maybe a few poems. I pretty much have one week left to pull all that together.

This Tuesday was a little weird for me. Last night I wrote my blog article for Spec Faith. Started it later than planned, so was up until almost 8 am getting it done. I knew I'd at least need to sleep until 2 pm. When my alarm went off, I could tell my body wasn't ready to go. I had a critique group meeting starting at 2:30. Thought maybe I'd go after pulling myself together. Better late than none, but I just couldn't motivate myself.

I ate some breakfast and checked email. By the time I started to think about printing out a section to take to critique, it was getting to be 4:30. Since it ends at 5, not much point. So still feeling groggy, I spent some time on the infidelity forum. My body demanded more rest, so took an hour nap until 7 pm.

Wife came home after I pulled myself out of bed. We realized we never bought the fish for me to fry, so we ended up going to grab some BBQ at a local place called Holy Smokes. Very tender and delicious. A ton better than what I subjected Grace to in Dallas last year. We watched "Yesterday's Enterprise" while we ate, a popular episode o f ST TNG. We'd finished going through the Firefly series (boy, sure wish there were more, just enough to whet your appetite), so I picked back up on Extant, a science fiction series I've been picking at here and there.

Finished that. Had a Skype call with my daughter in Mississippi. Watched a few YouTube videos as I didn't feel like doing much of anything. Briefly considered just going to bed early and actually having a morning before work in the afternoon because I didn't feel in the mood to do anything.

But by the time I got my wife to bed and did the bookkeeping for her business (light today), it was nearing 12:30 am. I saw I could have a good night to get some writing done. So I took my meds, answered some more threads on the infidelity forum, then by 2 am I was sitting down at my computer with prunes, cashews, and a hot cup of peach tea.

Typed away for an hour and a half and got in 1000 words. Not too shabby, all things considered. Not as fast as I used to type, but faster than I've been of late. Better than the 600 in an hour and a half I did last time. That finished out Chapter 2. I have vague idea where this is going, but not sure yet how it will develop. These stories tend to have plenty of plot twists and turns in them, and I'm focusing on the relationship dynamics more too. Especially after what happened in the last book, Virtual Game. Spoilers!

So decided by the time I wrote this blog, I'd be ready for bed. Getting close to 4:30 now, so I'll get some decent sleep before the alarm wakes me at noon. So at least this strange day involved making more progress on the novel. But I'll probably have to take a break the  next few days to get that short story written, compile my submissions, write part two of my infidelity blog post on trust, and try to take over the world. So getting words in on the novel may not happen until later this week. We'll see how it pans out. Wednesday, however, is more cleaning work. All afternoon and don't usually get back until around 8 to 9 pm.


Day 1: 444 words
Day 14: 456 words
Day 18: 687 words
Day 20: 1041 words


Novel total: 4399 words

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reality Game - Day 18

Bottom line, I'm probably not going to make my original goal of finishing this novel by the end of the month. But I've not given up. Work, writer's club, my weekly SpecFaith blog, Infidelity blog and discussion participation, left me little time. Not to mention all the little "must get done" tasks like fixing a flat, special church services, getting the car registered, etc. You know the drill. Then there is simply a lack of energy issues at times too.

That said, I have made some progress. One positive is I saw my neurologist last Monday, and she upped my dose. That has made typing a little easier and speedier. Not as fast as I was before Parkinson's set in, but faster and with less mistakes than I have been of late.

Last week I put in another 456 words on the novel. Until tonight, that is all I'd done on it since 9/4. I was up late last night writing a blog post for my infidelity blog, around 1000 words. Realized the subject was too big, so labeled it part 1. Planning on part 2 this coming week.

So last night I hit the sack around 5:30 am, and woke up at 7 am. We headed off to church. Came home shortly after 2 pm. Then went back to sleep after checking email and responding to one message from my infidelity group. Woke up around 7 pm. Relaxed. Watched some videos on YouTube while my youngest son (20) finished up dinner. We ate while watching the latest Dr. Who episode and an episode of Star Trek TNG from season 3. Then my wife and I pulled it together, and went grocery shopping by 10:30 pm. Returned home shortly after midnight, then put groceries away, made sure trash was out, put her cleaning supplies back in the van (she gets up early on Mondays to clean a car dealership's office before it opens). Once we settled down, she went to bed around 1:30 or 1:45. Don't recall which.

That is all a pretty normal Sunday for me. Sometimes I get more sleep on Saturday night than an hour and a half, but rarely a whole lot. If I get in three hours, I'm doing good. I catch up  during my extended Sunday afternoon nap.

So after checking on the infidelity forum and responding to a couple of people, I returned to the kitchen to clean the griddle and my smoothie cup. Stocked up on raw cashews and prunes, then retired to my computer to see if I could get in some writing while my meds were in full bloom.

Started on that around 3:30 and wrote until around 5 am. During that time, got in 687 words. Crazy. I remember getting in that many during a 30 minute timed writing challenge during Nano in previous years. Now it takes me three times as long. Even with the upped meds and making it easier to type, it isn't back to normal. I'll just keep writing anyway.

So now I'm taking time to write this blog, then I'll head off to bed to wake up around noon. Monday night I'll need to write my SpecFaith blog post, which usually takes most of the night as well. It usually ends up being close to 1000 words. I'll keep plugging away at this novel until it is done.


Day 1: 444 words
Day 14: 456 words
Day 18: 687 words


Novel total: 3358 words

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Reality Game: Day 1

I've been slow to get started back on this book. Will take some doing to finish it by the end of the month. We'll see how it goes. Lots of stuff going on in my life right now. But figured I'd document the progress both for accountability and encouragement.

Didn't get to writing until around 3:15 am. Woke at noon, then started a vegetable and shrimp stew in the crock pot. Then it was off to clean a house and a business with my wife. Arrived back home around 9:30 pm. Ate dinner while watching an episode of Star Trek, TNG. Season 3, Episode 1. After a some task and getting my wife to sleep, I did the cleaning business bookkeeping. That brought me up to 3:15 when I opened up my manuscript and the database.

Spent a little time reacquainting myself with the story. Had written 1771 words on the first chapter last November before shifting gears to something else. In my outline, I don't have anything written for the climax. I recall the general direction I was taking this, but obviously there is much left to discover.

By way of reminder, I generally create an outline of the major plot points for a novel. It helps me to have a clue where I'm going, but I like to fill in the details as I write. So I don't do a scene by scene outline. That evolves as the story progresses. But I find having the major plot points and any sub-plots tying into it helpful so I'm not wandering in the novel wilderness much. But rarely has one of my outlined climaxes happened exactly as I had envisioned it.

The only exception to that are my episodic novels like Reality's Dawn. I had a general progression in my head, but didn't know what each story was going to be about until I sat down to write it, or how it would resolve. My science fiction novel, Revolution, is such a novel as well. I've written five chapters/episodes on that one. Hope to do more on it by next year.

For normal novels, I've only written one by the seat of my pants fully. My first novel which remains unpublished. I'm about 2/3rd of the way done on a rewrite of it. All the rest I had the major plot points mapped out before I dug in to writing it.

This time I decided to forgo finishing the outline and see where the story takes me. I know some of the direction I had intended to go and the main conflicts and plot twist I was going to throw into the mix. No idea how they'll get out of the hot water I'm going to put them into, though.

So around 3:30, after getting my bearings, I started writing. Getting back into the characters came easy enough. Spent one hour and ten minutes, until 4:40, to write 444 words. For my Parkinson's slowed hands, not too bad actually. As you can tell, this isn't going to be Mr. Speedy. I need to find more time to work on it if I'm going to finish it this month.

But it is past my bedtime, so I'm calling it a night, writing this blog, and heading to bed by 5:30. Ha. The funny thing is I've written more words on this blog post than I did on the story. But I finished chapter 1, got back into writing it, and it is great to be back at it. We'll see if I can make more progress in the days to come.


Day 1: 444 word


Novel total: 2215 words

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mid-Year Adjustments

Yeah, I know we're past mid-year. But I've been giving this some thought since then on what to do.

The problem? If you go back to my new year goals, and what has happened since, you'll see the problem. The two serials I planned on putting out monthly, nada. The books I intended to edit, publish, or write--no movement. In fact, until last week, I'd not written one piece of fiction all year. So not only am I not going to make my goals, but I won't show any progress on them at all if I don't change something.

In my evaluation on what I need to do differently, I've come up with a strategy. One item in that strategy involves my approach to my list of projects. Part of what happened is it quickly became obvious that I didn't have the time to swallow that whole elephant. I hadn't planned in taking bite-size pieces. So when potential time to write did pop up, I was faced with a huge job, and no plan on where to take the bite my time afforded me. So it was always easier to opt for some other task.

So my first task is to prioritize what projects I'm going to work on aside from my weekly commitments. That's why I'm writing this post. Both to let my readers know (all two of you--you know who you are) why the blog and my announcements of new books have been silent this year, and for my own benefit to go through the process of doing this.

I'll add, I think I need to start off with writing something. I need to get back in the game on fiction. Who knows, I may even blog my progress, however long it takes.

I'll also state that I've decided to get out of Nano mode. Nano is short for the "National Novel Writing Month" annually held in November. That is often abbreviated to NaNoWriMo (the first two/three letters of each word) and Nano is obviously even shorter, being the first four letters of that. I first did Nano in 2006 and didn't have a break until 2011 (due to the effects of discovering my wife's infidelity that year, and the rush to get my non-fiction How to Make an Ebook out before Christmas). Most of my novels have been written during the Novembers of those years.

In other words, most of my writing the rest of the year didn't involve novels. Those only happened in November, and the last three years, that happened only once. The more I've learned about successfully making this my primary income and job, the more it has been obvious I need to put out a lot more than one novel a year. One a quarter would be a good goal to shoot for. But even two a year would be a step in the right direction. To do that, I need to start treating every month like Nano, not just November. Write a novel. When finished with it, start a new one with a short break. If it takes two months to write it instead of one, so be it. But consistently write something most every night.

So here is my list of projects/bites I'll do starting this week in order of priority. I'm going to take my list from earlier this year and organize it.

  1. Reality GameVirtual Chronicles series. Need to pick up where I left off, which is like chapter 1 or something. I started it for Nano last November, but didn't have the gumption to finish it, instead worked on writing a Christmas devotional.

  2. Edit the 12 Days of Christmas devotional I did and republish by the end of November.

  3. The Magic Within – Need to edit for my publisher so she can finally publish it, if she still has a mind to.

  4. Healing Infidelity Through Faith – Follow up to Healing Infidelity, written more specifically to the Christian market. Need to finish writing it and working toward getting it published.

  5. Rebellion – My serial experiment. Partially written. Need around another 10 chapters/episodes for the first novel.

  6. Poetry Book – Need to finish editing and publish.

  7. Anthology – An anthology of stories I've written in 2013 – 2014, mostly 2013 unless the rest of this year becomes productive.

  8. Devotional – Finish writing a devotional on the parables.

  9. Introducing Orthodoxy - Write/compile articles for this book, then edit and publish it. A goal I've had since 2003.

I could list more, but that will do for a start. Also, the ones further down on the list may get reshuffled as they rise on the list. The new series, for example, which The Magic Within starts, I've written another book which needs serious editing, and the first few chapters of a third book. Planning two more books in the series for a total of five. I didn't include all those projects. Plus I have the outline and several chapters written of a YA dragon story that I tried to do in 10 days last year. That will get added to the list. I have half of my first novel I ever wrote rewritten that I want to eventually get back to, and the two other books I'd planned in that series. I'll be doing good to get all that done before I'm unable to write or die. So the actual list is quite long.

First up, however, this week is to pick up writing Reality Game again. Though I could finish it before then, I'll shoot to finish the first draft by the end of September. Stay tuned for my progress on that novel. We'll see if this fourth book in the series ends the story or not. I'm interested to see how it turns out myself.

Now that I've got my bites lined up, my other plan is to free up time by cutting out activities I don't need to do. I've already stopped following one busy blog that tends to suck up a lot of my time. I'm going to be more selective about what I allow to take away time from my writing job.

We'll see how the rest of this year pans out, and how fast I cross items off my project list. It already feels more doable.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Hole

As readers of this blog may have noticed, my grand plans for writing this year fell flat. Taking mid-year stock, I'm working my way back into writing. I'm offering today a flash fiction science fiction story. One step at a time. Enjoy.


[caption id="attachment_1089" align="alignright" width="300" caption="A simulated Black Hole of ten solar masses as seen from a distance of 600km with the Milky Way in the background (horizontal camera opening angle: 9°)"][/caption]

A sharp beep sounded through the small office. Jane pressed the com button. “Captain Riley speaking.”

“Captain, we've arrived at the black hole.”

“I'm on my way.” She spun from her black, high-back chair, around her oak desk, and through the door onto the bridge.

She settled into her metallic, cushioned chair perched over five stations and a screen displaying a swirling mixture of light and matter draining into a hole in space squarely in front of her.

“Darby, have scanners located the Hawthorn?” Jane studied the screen in hopes of spotting the troubled ship.

“No, Captain. Still searching.”

“Any com signals from the Hawthorn, Kirka?”

“Not yet, Captain. Scanning all frequencies.”

Jane tapped the chair's arm. Jerry should have been more careful. The Hawthorn was to study the black hole, not become part of it. If it wasn't for the other fifty crew members aboard that ship, she would have gladly let the black hole have Jerry and his ship.

“Captain, I have a signal.”

“Put it through.”

The image of the black hole vanished and a black man, trimmed beard, narrow face and short hair, filled the screen.

A smile spread across his face. “Lizard Lips! I should have known you'd be my rescuer.”

Three heads turned her direction, struggling not to smile. Jane assumed the other two didn't turn because they weren't successful. The nerve of Jerry to address her that way in front of her crew.

She rose from her seat and stepped forward. “This is Captain Bower of the starship Arizona. What is your status?”

Jerry's eyes widened. “Playing it formal I see. Well this is Captain Rider of the science ship Hawthorn. Our status is we need a tow out of here.”

“Why haven't you been sucked into the black hole yet?”

He shrugged with a smirk. “We're too ugly. The hole doesn't want us.”

Jane breathed deep to keep from exploding as muffled snickers filled the bridge. “Captain!”

He frowned. “I don't know. We're in some kind of no man's land. Enough power to keep from being pulled in, but not enough to escape. Our power won't last forever.”

Kirka called out, “Captain, I've triangulated their position. Coordinates sent to helm.”

Jane nodded. “Acknowledged. Dune, set a course no closer than ten kilometers to those coordinates. We don't want to make the same mistake Captain Rider did.”

“Yes, Captain. Executing.”

Jerry's lips lost their smile. “Jane, ten kilometers may be too close. We thought we were being safe. It's as if the event horizon reached out to us.”

“Any further out and the gravity beam may be too weak to keep a solid lock on your ship.”

“Just be careful.”

His genuine concern threw her off balance. “Uh . . . acknowledged.”

Within fifteen minutes, Dune announced, “We're positioned ten kilometers from the Hawthorn. Coming to a full stop.”

Jane faced the science station. “Darby, lock onto the Hawthorn with a gravity beam.”

He pushed a few buttons. “Lock established.”

“Dune, reverse course and see if we can't free the Hawthorn.”

“Executing, Captain.”

The engine grumbled under the stress. Lights dimmed as energy drained into the engines as they played tug-of-war with the black hole.

“Captain,” Darby yelled over the noise. “We're losing the lock from the pull of the engines. We'd have to move in closer to get a stronger one.”

Dune turned to Jane. “We've not moved the Hawthorn, but we are being pulled toward them.”

Jane pounded a fist into the chair. “Full stop. Release the gravity beam.”

Jerry frowned. “Too ugly to take. Too pretty to release.”

“Dune, move us away from the black hole.”

“Executing, Captain.”

The engines rumbled. Dune shook his head. “Captain, we're not moving. We're caught too.”

She stood up. “Impossible.”

“I tried to warn you,” Jerry said.

She gritted her teeth. “Your warnings need a warning. 'Don't trust him.'”

All five heads glanced her direction, eyes wide.

“You're never going to let that go, are you?”

“You stood me up. Next time I saw you, you had another victim wrapped around your arm.” Jane sat in her chair. She didn't mean to air her dirty laundry to the crew.

Jerry sighed. “Looks like you're trapped in more than one black hole. I had hoped time would heal that wound.”

She didn't respond. He had left a hole in her when that happened, true enough. A hole sucking her life away.

Darby snapped his fingers and danced them over a series of buttons. “Of course.”

Jane shot a stare his way. “Do you have something, Darby?”

He spun around in his chair. “Time. We're in a time bubble.”


“The gravitational forces of the black hole create a time differential the closer you get to the event horizon. That's why we couldn't locate or contact the Hawthorn until we also entered the time bubble.”

Jane nodded. “So it isn't the gravity holding us in place, but time.”

Darby pointed at her. “Exactly. Moving away produces the illusion of standing still.”

Jane faced the screen. “Captain Rider, did you . . .” Static filled the screen. He had left the time bubble. “Dune, full throttle away from the black hole.”

“Executing, Captain.”

Jane leaned back into her seat. Perhaps Jerry was right. She had been immobilized from lack of forgiveness in her own private black hole. Maybe moving forward, even if it didn't feel like progress, was the way to escape both black holes.

It gave new meaning to the old phrase, “Time heals all wounds.” Or in this case, the hole in her heart.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Mind Game Sale: $0.99!

That's right. Mind Game, book one of The Virtual Chronicles, is going on sale for my birthday (7/16). From 7/16 through 8/3, the ebook, which normally sells for $4.99, will be on sale for:


That's right. For just under a buck you can enjoy the first installment of the exciting space opera adventure. Here's the description from the back cover.
They said it was just a game. A game containing the most realistic virtual reality ever. Little does Jeremy know that this game will send him on an adventure to a distant galaxy, encounter strange aliens, fight dangerous battles, and struggle to rescue himself, his friends, and thousands of players from a dictator's trap. It will test not only his courage, but his trust in others and loyalty to his friends.

Join Jeremy, his scatter-brained friend Mickey, and his annoying sister Bridget as they embark on a journey like no other, and go where no virtual reality has gone before.

Still need more info? How about reading a sample chapter or two?

The ebook is available at the following locations


Barnes and Noble




Then be sure to read the sequels:

Book 2: Hero Game

Book 3: Virtual Game

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Monkey Madness

I've not kept up this blog as originally planned, due to an increase in working in my wife's house cleaning business and probably over extending myself. Seems any time I plan to do extra writing, the work load increases giving me less time for writing. Good for paying the bills. Bad for getting much writing done. I'll keep working on it. Stay tuned.

Until then, I'm treating you to a special story. Back in 2007, I participated in a contest at Ray Gun Revival Magazine (no longer in operation). It had to be under 500 words and deal with "space monkeys." I entered the following story, and ended up winning 3rd place. It also appeared in a special edition of the Ray Gun Radio podcast which is still available.

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the story!


I told headquarters their idea proved they had developed a case of monkey madness. Never give a monkey a man's job. But did they listen? No. They trained and installed monkeys through the whole fleet. And now I'm sitting up in bed, a monkey holding a ray gun to my head.

"We're taking over the ship," the leader signed to me. "You've been holding out on us, and we want our due." He bared his teeth. "Are you going to hand it over willingly, or shall we take it by force, Captain?"

I signed back, "How about a third option? You would get a lot further if you simply did your jobs."

Hoots and howls arose among the group of monkeys filling my quarters. The leader stayed focused on me and smiled one of those cheesy monkey grins I'd seen on old TV shows. "We put up with those jobs so we could take over. Stupid humans didn't see this coming." He raised his head upward in a victory howl.

"Yeah, I guess you're right. You pulled one over on us." Actually I hadn't been totally blind to the possibility. "I'll need to give the order."

He swung his limp hand at the com panel. "Remember, we have a ray gun trained on you. One false word . . ."

I paged the kitchen. "Release the bananas."

"Aye, Sir," crackled back over the com.

"Truth be told, I have a few in my quarters." I pointed at a locked storage door.

He nodded and jumped up and down. I opened the door and passed the bananas out. Hoots and monkey calls rang through the room. Soon they crammed the well preserved yellow delicacies into their mouths. Smacking noise vibrated through the room. Ten seconds ticked by before they all dropped dead in quick succession.

Food remains one of the most powerful weapons. In this case, the poisoned banana.

A call rang through the com. "Engineering, Sir. The monkeys are all dead, but we have a problem."


"The navigation controls have been set to fly us into the nearest star."

"Unset it then." I felt impatient despite myself.

"Can't. The master controls are in a room so small, only a monkey could access them. We would have to tear through the anti-matter bulkheads to override and change course."

I pounded my fist on the desk. Blasted monkeys! I told headquarters the idea reeked. Especially monkeys designing ships, much less operating them. They've made monkeys of us all.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Gas: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Extra bonus story for January, a micro-fiction: under 100 words (99 to be exact). Easy to read between tasks. Enjoy.


Timmy tugged on his dad's trousers. "Dad, my teacher said gas is bad for the Earth. Is it?"

"Well, it does pollute the air. Exhaust belching from tailpipes—"

"No, I mean like, stuff in the air, gas."

He nodded. "The air is full of gases like hydrogen, nitrogen, oxy—"

"No, Dad. I released some gas. Did I destroy the Earth! I've gotta know!"

"Ah...well, I doubt it. Flavored it a bit, maybe, but I think Mother Earth will handle it fine."

Timmy breathed deeper. "That's good. We can turn the stove off when we get home then."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Starry the Space-Hippie Spy - Chapter 1: Far Out, Man

For the free monthly serial fiction for 2014, I decided to revive a planned series I had intended to do some years ago. I'd written only this introductory story and never came back to it. The premise is a husband and wife spy team go on missions for the system government, Plenary Organization of Planets (POoP) under the cover that he is a comedian. A bit of James Bond, comedy, detective, and space opera. What more could you want? Sit back and enjoy the ride.


Starry the Space-Hippie Spy Cover"Time for our next mission." Starry Skyward held his wrist-vid up.

Tramal arched her bald head closer to listen. "About time. We'll dock with the Armageddon soon."

Her scent rose from sweat beading on her neck. He didn't know why, but it always smelled sweet to him. His attention drifted to the beauty of her translucent skin and the gentle pulses of her spine-ridges through her thin blouse. "I'm feeling a little hot. Are you hot?"

She cracked a smile. "Aren't I always?"

Dolan cleared his throat. "Mind if I join the party?"

Starry jumped and looked at his wrist-vid. He felt his cheeks flush. Dolan's chubby face, surrounded by a thin film of sandy hair, filled the screen.

"Sorry, Boss." Starry cleared his throat. "What's up?"

"Explosions, that's what."

Starry glanced at Tramal. "You suspect the Armageddon will be next?"

"Yes. The Planetary Intelligence Tribunal believes the Armageddon is the next target of the terrorists."

Starry twisted his mouth. "Inside job?"

"We believe so. Most likely one of the groups out to destroy the Plenary Organization of Planets."

"It's easy to gin up support against POoP, but dang hard to find anyone for it."

Dolan frowned. "Starry, do you know how many of those jokes I've heard? We get those comments all the time from the public, I don't need my agents shoving it in my face too."

"Sorry, Sir. But they should have considered that when they named the organization. I do stand-up for a living you know, can't help it."

"You're an agent for a living, the stand-up is your cover. Keep it straight." Dolan narrowed his eyes.

"Yes, Sir."

Tramal sighed. "Can we get back to the mission, guys?"

"My wife's right, let's flush the POoP and get back to the mission."

Dolan rolled his eyes. "We believe one rebel integrates himself into the crew and gains access to sensitive engine areas. He disables the fusion containment collective, allowing the fusion process to burn out of control and destroy the ship. They all have the marks of an inside job, which is disturbing."

"I'll say," Starry said. "Your filtering of recruits leaves something to be desired."

Dolan leaned over his desk. "Leave the recruiting process to others. Your mission is to find this saboteur before he blows up another ship. Got it?"

"Yes, Sir," they both said.

"Good. Make contact once you're off the ship. Transmission ended." The screen blanked out.

Tramal placed a hand on his knee. "Why do you antagonize him?"

"You're touching me. Read my mind why don't you?"

"I can only get impressions of intentions that way. I know you're enjoying his reactions, but why is my question."

Leave it to a Hilmosian to make that distinction. "It's an Academy thing. You would've had to have been there to appreciate it."

Her face color flowed from pale gold to a light blue—her business mode. "We'll be docking within two minutes, and we still need to plan our strategy."

Starry craned his neck to the port window. He could see the Armageddon's polished hull glancing beams of sunlight into space. A thin body running through a hollow tube rotated on a magnetic track. Two engines flared from the outer hull and one from the back of the main body. "Well, I suggest we go in, track down the bad guy, and take him or her out."

"What kind of plan is that? Do I always have to come up with the plans?"

He smiled. "Why do you think we make such a good team? You plan, I execute."

"Yeah. Right."

The ship docked. Air locks locked. Soon they entered the receiving hall of the Armageddon. The Captain and officers awaited them amidst metal so clean Starry could see his reflection waver as it followed them. Echoes of his and Tramal's boots reverberated through the high-ceilinged room, leaving the impression of a sparse life aboard the starship.

The Captain stretched out a hand. "Welcome aboard. I'm Captain Raleigh." He nodded to the man next to him. "This is Commander Speller, my second-in-command. He oversees the operational administration of the ship."

The Commander frowned, as if he would rather they weren't there, but nodded.

Starry nodded back. "Looks like you could use some laughs on this ship."

The captain chuckled and slapped the stoic Commander on the back. "Yes, we could use some laughs. We've been through a lot the last several months heightened by the fear of blowing-up at any moment. I can't wait to hear your routine."

Tramal reached out a hand to the Commander. "Do you think the saboteur is here?"

The Commander hesitated, then shook her hand. "No ma'am, I'm sure he isn't."

"Commander, show these people to their quarters."

He saluted. "Aye, Captain." Then he turned and proceeded down the hall. "Follow me."


"You can put the luggage over there." Tramal pointed to a corner.

Three ensigns dragged the suitcases into the room and dropped them in a pile. The last one, huffing and sweating. "You have a lot of luggage, Ma'am."

Starry cupped his palm to one side of his mouth. "Guess you've never been married before, have you?"

"No, Sir."

"While single, you are a pack rat, but once you are married, you become a pack mule."

"Good one, Sir." He exited the room.

"I would say pretty lame. I hope you have better stuff tonight."

"Hey, I can't give my best stuff away before the show."

Her lips turned up. "Oh, the responses I could say to that. You're wide open."

Starry checked his zipper then pointed a finger at her. "Be nice."

She pulled out a small rectangular device from a suitcase. "Have I ever been any other way?" Before he could answer, she pushed a button and screaming hard rock music blasted through the room. She rotated around, bopping to the beat, and then sauntered to a spot next to a mirror on the wall. The unit had uncovered an eavesdropping portal. She slid out the back of the unit a nearly transparent film and stuck it over the wall where a bare pinprick could be seen.

The film replaced themselves with pre-recorded images of them sleeping, chatting, taking baths and the like. Computer scans would integrate the images with the current room layout whenever they were in the room.

She continued scanning while Starry finished unpacking until she had found them all. Then she shut the music off; they could talk freely.

Starry sat in a chair by the table and ordered a glass of tea from the computer. "Specify kind," the computer responded.

"Chamomile, iced, no sugar."

"Thank you, your beverage will arrive in one minute and ten seconds."

"Computers leave out all the mystery."

"Speaking of mystery, I didn't detect any attempts to deceive from the Captain."

"And the Commander?"

"He didn't like us here...I felt he hid something. He's one to watch."

"Bring up his service record."

Tramal tapped on her wrist-vid. "Says he's been with the ship for five years now."

Starry scratched his head. "Can't be him then. Who has signed on recently?"

"The Chief Engineer and an Ensign assigned to navigation."

"Either of them previously assigned to the Bolgart?" Starry waited patiently while she searched. The Bolgart had been the last of five ships to go down.

"Hum, yes. The Chief Engineer. His name is Chris Stanson."

"Bingo!" This could prove to be an easy assignment. "Let me see his photo."

She held her wrist-vid to his eyes. "Why don't we go eat in the mess hall. Maybe we'll spot him."

The door light lit up and beeped. "Right after I've had my tea, Babe. Have a seat."


Chatter filled the mess hall: a long narrow room full of tables and chairs bolted to the floor met a counter dividing the dining area from the kitchen. Metal covered every inch, giving the room an impersonal feel. Nevertheless, people clustered around tables offset the Spartan atmosphere.

Starry and Tramal filled their trays with the day's special. To his pleasure, Starry discovered the chief engineer at a table by himself. He pointed at him for Tramal to follow.

"Is this seat taken?" Starry put his hand on its back and waited for Chris to respond.

"Go ahead, I just sat down myself." He didn't bother to raise his head.

"Thanks. My name's Starry, by the way, and this is my wife, Tramal." They sat their food down and pulled themselves up to the table.

"Oh, the funny guy, right?" He glanced up at Starry and then checked out Tramal. "You're a Hilmosian, aren't you?"

"Yes, I am. And you're an Earthling, aren't you?" She held out her hand.

"Yes. Obviously." Instead of shaking hands, he dropped his gaze down to his plate. He hadn't taken a bite but seemed to be playing with his food.

"Hey, there's something in your ear." Starry reached over and pulled a coin from it and tacked a tracking device onto the back of his ear. "Now you're rich. Don't spend it all in one place." He tossed the coin onto the table. It rolled until it fell to a circling stop.

"Cute trick, but old."

Starry shrugged his shoulders and examined Chris's meal. "Yum, smells good. What is it?"

Chris put some on his fork, raised it to his nose, and sniffed. "Seaweed salad with the 'house' dressing. Looked better at the counter."

"Wow, brings back memories. I grew up on seaweed salad. Botanically grown on the ship, right?"

"He grew up on a space ship." Tramal stuffed a forkful of fish into her mouth.

"Here, you can have it. I'm not hungry."

"Thanks!" Starry dragged the plate to himself and filled his mouth with the salty leaves. "Pretty good. My mom cooked it better, but still, pretty good."

"I don't suppose you've heard any recent news about the Bolgart have you?" Tramal paused for a moment, awaiting his response.

"Me? No. Why would I have any news?" Chris's eyes darted around and then he focused on his hands.

"Mess halls are where we get our news. Kind of grass roots level, you know."

"Why not news-vids?"

"They only tell you what POoP wants you to hear. You get the real low down here."

"Or a lot of bloated opinion." He rose from the table. "Sorry to leave you, but I have duties to attend to. Hope your show goes well."

Starry swallowed a mouthful of seaweed. "You aren't attending?"

"Sorry, I have station duty tonight. I'll have to catch a different show. Now, if you'll pardon me..." He nodded and stepped through the hall and out the door.

"Well, I don't have to be a Hilmosian to read his body language. You see how he reacted when you brought up the topic?"

She nodded. "What I'm more worried about is tonight while you're doing the show would be a perfect time for him to set off the reactors."

"At least it means I could go out with a bang."

Tramal rubbed her forehead.

He shrugged. "Okay, during the act, why don't you track him and keep an eye on him. If he starts messing with the reactors, take him out."

"That'll go over good: 'But Captain, your engineer worked on the engines so I took him out.'"

Starry winked at her. "Just don't blow our cover."

"But you said I plan, you execute. What happened to that?"

"Well, you know. I've got a show people are dying to hear."

She groaned. "Just finish your seaweed before I cram it down your throat."


A crowd filled the rec-room. Starry noticed the Captain and Commander, grim as ever, at a front table. He spotted Tramal slipping out the back door. He knew she could handle herself, but he worried anyway. He sucked in a deep breath as a man on the narrow stage introduced him.

"And now, here he is, Starry the Space Hippie!"

He bounded onto the stage and waited for the clapping to die down. "I grew up with some groovy parents. Dad would always say, 'Yeah man, we're really far out now!'

"We traveled on several space ships, wherever we could hitch a ride. I had free love and free trouble . . ."


Starry entered their room after the show. Tramal sat at the table staring into her wrist-vid.

"Well, the show's over and I'm still alive. How did it go?"

She sighed. "He worked on the thrust engines all night. Never came close to the fusion reactors. Then his shift ended and he left to get some zees." She held her wrist-vid for him to see. "Right now, he's in his quarters."

"I'll bet he is the one, though. He's just playing his hand carefully. We might have aroused his something's-not-right radar at supper." Starry stretched and yawned. "I'm ready for dreamland."

"Not without me you don't." She stood up and grabbed him around the waist, then pulled his lips into hers for a few seconds.

Starry reveled in the familiar warmth and love. They broke for air. "I hoped I would meet you in my dreams."

"Who said I was talking about dreams?" She kissed him as they fell onto the bed.


"Take your hands off those controls or we'll fire!"

Starry shook his head. Chills raced across his body. As his eyes focused, the engine room filled his vision. His hands rested on the fusion reactor control panel.

"What the . . .?" He examined himself. Not one piece of clothing covered his body. "What am I doing here?"

"That's what we want to know. Step away or we fire."

Starry glanced around. Several guards with Erupter-class ray-rifles surrounded him. He backed away and held his hands up. "I don't suppose anyone has a spare set of clothes?"

"Mind telling us, funny guy, why you're in the engine room initiating a containment field shutdown?"

Starry shrugged. "Honestly, I don't know. If I had planned this, do you think I would 'sneak' in naked? Give me a little more credit."

Chris entered the room and stopped when he saw Starry. First his face fell, but then his jaw firmed and his eyes narrowed. "So, you're the one who killed all my friends. You no account, son of . . ." He shot towards Starry.

Several of the guards grabbed him but not before Starry ducked a swinging fist. They pulled Chris back.

"Seriously, I didn't do it." Starry felt desperation take over. He couldn't be locked up while the real killer still roamed the ship. But how did he get here? Why was he shutting down the containment field? He didn't even know how to shut down a containment field.

"You lying dog!" Chris struggled to free himself from the guard's grip. "You're caught in the act."

"He's right," the head-guard said. He motioned with his rifle. "Time to lock you up. We already have guards going to arrest your wife and accomplice. We tracked her studying the engine room layout last night. Obviously you two are a team. A team that will now be out of business, thankfully."

Starry slumped. "Can I at least get some clothes from my room? I'm a little cold." Goosebumps covered his arms. "Not to mention some of these guards seem to be staring a little too longingly at me."

The head-guard shook his head. "Always the comedian to the end, eh? Now you can entertain the executioner." He examined Starry with a grimace. "But first, we'll drop by your room to cover up this sorry excuse for a body."

Several rifles followed Starry as he exited the room. He hoped none of the guards carried enough resentment to take it out on him. They would probably get no more than a slap on the hand for killing the "saboteur."

But, more disturbing, Chris didn't act like someone who had blown-up the Bogart much less planned to take out the Armageddon. Either he had pegged the wrong man or Chris put on a good act. If an act, they would all die soon. If they thought they had caught the real criminal, he could finish the job unhindered.


The door to Starry's quarters slid open. The leader pointed to two of his three men. "You two, guard the door."

"Ay, Sir," they said in unison and took up positions on either side.

He shoved Starry into his room, ray-rifle still trained on his head. "Get on your clothes and don't go slow. We'll start going through your luggage while we wait." The door closed behind them.

"Sure, why not. Just don't open the green one over there." Starry pointed at the pile. "It's my wife's and she doesn't like people going through her stuff."

The two men exchanged grins and chuckled. "Why don't we start with that one?"

"Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you." Starry opened his suitcase and grabbed the filter nose-plugs.

"Where's the latch on this one?" One of the men had it in the air, rotating it to get a better view.

"See the hole by the latch? Stick your finger in and it'll open right up." Starry shoved the plugs firmly in.

"Oh, I see it." He stuck his finger in the hole. A gas shot into their faces and they collapsed onto the floor in a twisted pile of bodies.

"Cool, works every time." He reached down to straighten the men out. "You can come out now, Babe."

A larger suitcase unlatched and opened. Tramal stretched. "Thank goodness, my joints ached in there. The computer warned of a forced entry and I—" She stopped upon spotting him naked. "Who was she?"

"No one. I woke up at the controls of the fusion reactor, in the process of shutting down the containment field. One minute I'm going to sleep in your arms, next I'm standing naked in front of several armed guards. Like I sleep-walked or something."

"Really?" She put her chin in her right hand. "It wasn't meant for you. Don't you see, the rebels use mind control to explode the ships. They must have meant to control someone who wouldn't arouse suspicions. Like one of the crew who works here."

Starry scratched his head. "And somehow I ended up with it by accident. But how? The members of the crew I had contact with were the Captain, the Commander, and Chris, the Chief Engineer."

Tramal's eyes widened. "The salad. The cook prepared it for the chief engineer, but you ate it instead. There had to be Delirium in the dressing."

"Delirium? You're saying I'm crazy?" Starry began undressing the two guards.

"Well, I'm not saying you're not crazy, but no, not in this instance. Delirium is a chemical used to control people. By coding the chemical signatures, it creates the pathways in the brain's subconscious to carry out commands at a pre-determined time."

"How come you know so much about this? You haven't used it on me, have you?" Starry pulled the guard's pants around his own waist and buckled the belt.

She winked at him. "Maybe, maybe not. I'm not telling."


"Don't you think we had better focus on the task at hand? If I heard correctly, we have two guards outside our door, two asleep in here, and a scant few minutes to clear our names." She tucked the guard's uniform-shirt into her pants.

Starry jerked his shoes on harder than needed. "Yeah, right. Ignore the issue. Meanwhile, why don't you send those guys back an hour in time while I create the masks."

She pulled what appeared to be a flashlight from her suitcase. "One hour it is," she said as she dialed it in. Then she put the unit on the forehead, back, and sides of each head. A red light glowed while on one spot, and she moved it to the next location when it turned green. "The last hour of their lives never existed. No tattle-telling for them."

Starry unwrapped a sheet of mask paper and laid it over the head-guard's face. He shined the red activating-light onto the paper and it molded into a perfect replica. He peeled the mask off and carefully placed it onto his own face. "Did you get the recording of the head-guard while you were in the suitcase?"

"Yeah, here." She held her wrist-vid close to his mask and tapped on the screen a few times. "There, say something."

"Do you ever go out with other men?"

"Perfect, you sound just like him. And no, I don't. Nor do I stalk the ship at night, naked, scaring everyone." She accepted the mask from him and placed it securely onto her face.

"You should try it sometime. A real hoot." He chuckled. "Here, put this cap on."

"Thanks. Tie those two up and I'll prepare our alibi."

"Oh? What alibi?"

She lifted a vial into view. "Delirium, of course."

"I knew you were using that!"

"Every good undercover agent has to use all tools at their disposal." She put a drop into a small box and held it to her wrist-vid. "But no, I've not used this on you. This stuff cost too much."

"Oh, so now I'm not worth it, is that it?"

She put the box on the table and tapped her screen. "Now, Dear, you're worth it." She grabbed his face with her free hand and shook it back and forth. "But I don't need it to control you." The box beeped.

Starry twisted his mouth into a frown. "I give up."

Tramel smirked. "See?"

Starry shook his head. "So, what did you program the Delirium to do?"

"Once injected, it directs the person to go straight to a computer and download all information he or she knows about the sabotage plans via voice recording and send it to headquarters."

He took the injector from her, filled with the drop. "Just as good as a confession."

"But make sure we get it into the person who put the chemical into the dressing, or we'll be sending a worthless confession to headquarters."

"The guards are tied, gagged, and under the covers. They won't have a clue when they wake up."

She shoved the cap well down her head. "So, they're undercover guards."

"Hey, I was going to say that."

"I know. You're way too predictable." She pecked his cheek.

Starry sighed and slid his cap into place. "Let's go."

The door slid open and they stepped through. Starry faced the guards. "We've had a change of plans. We have bound them and put them on the beds. They're confined to quarters. Don't let anyone in or out with a rank lower than mine."

"Aye, Sir."

Starry and Tramal marched to the kitchen.


Starry slipped through the open doors into the Mess Hall. Several people milled around; various groups of crew members sat at tables eating. He glanced at Tramal. "How are we going to know who the culprit is?"

"Deductive reasoning, my dear Starry." She winked.

Nothing to do but take the direct approach. He moved to the order counter. A young man approached them.

"Where's the head-cook, Scrub?"

"Just a second, I'll get her." He scurried to the back.

Five seconds passed before she came out with the young man on her heals. "Yes, what can I do for you?"

"What's in your house salad-dressing?"

The cook's brow wrinkled. "Well, the usual. Oil, salt, pepper, oregano, a little lemon spice."

"Any 'secret' ingredients?"

She cocked an eye at him. "Planning on starting a competing brand, are we, Jarrel?"

"No. I can taste something, but I can't put my finger on it. I can't sleep thinking about it."

"Poor baby." She patted Starry's cheek. "Guess you aren't going to get much sleep for a while, are you?"

This trail led to a brick wall, but she ranked as the most likely suspect. He would have to take the risk, their window would soon close. He waved her closer. "I'll let you in on my secret."

She leaned over and Starry reached for her shoulder as he drew near to her ear, palming the injector.

Doubt flooded over him. He couldn't inject her. "Psssst, it's a secret: I can't tell you," he whispered in her ear.

She pulled back with her hands on her hips, a frown on her face.

"Guard Jarrel!" a commanding voice rang out. The Mess Hall buzz abruptly died.

It took Starry a moment before he responded, forgetting he wore Jarrel's face and clothes. The Captain and the Commander approached him. Starry stood straight and saluted. "Yes, Sir."

"I don't recall receiving any reports on the status of the two who were arrested? Why are you in the Mess Hall getting something to eat?" The Captain asked.

"I wasn't, Sir. I was . . . investigating."

"Investigating what?"

"My house dressing," the head-cook said.

The Commander's face reddened.

The Captain's eyes narrowed and his face grew stern. "Let's go to the holding cell where the captives are, Guard. You'll give your report to us there."

"But Sir, I had a valid reason for wanting to know about the salad dressing."

"Out with it then."

Starry felt the eyes in the room staring at him. "It's classified, could you two come in close?"

The Commander grunted and frowned, but drew in with the Captain. Starry put his right hand on the Commander's neck and shot the chemical into him. He flinched as if a fly had landed on his neck, but said nothing.

"I have reason to believe the house dressing was spiked with a chemical."

The Commander gritted his teeth. "We've caught the ones who are exploding ships all over the fleet, and you're investigating chemicals in a house dressing? Your orders are to take care of the criminals we did catch. Move it!"

"Yes, Sir."

The Captain and Commander followed behind Starry and Tramal in silence. A few seconds ticked by as they turned down one hall, and then another.

"Stop," the Captain said.

Starry turned back and saw the Commander approaching a com console. The chemical had taken effect. But what would he say?

"Patch through to headquarters and send the following message. This is Commander Arnold, second-in-command of the starship Armeggedon currently assigned to the Corona Cluster. Concerning the sabotage of several vessels of our fleet, I do not know who has conducted these operations."

Starry shook his head. They were dead meat now. Do we gas the Captain and the Commander and tie them up too? He glanced at Tramal and her eyes told him she didn't have any idea how they would get out of this either.

"However," the Commander continued, "I do have knowledge of the method employed. Coded Delirium is injected into the food of someone assigned to engineering. The code activates the victim at a specified time to shut down the fusion containment field, creating a breach and subsequent explosion of the ship."

The Captain's eyes were as big as golf balls and his mouth hung open. Starry gave Tramal the thumbs up sign.

"Additionally, I had been drugged, most likely at the Academy, so I would add Delirium to the house dressing of the chief engineer's salad to disable the fusion containment field."

Starry's mouth fell open. He saw Tramal's face light up. "Jackpot."

"Jackpot, indeed." The Captain whirled around. I'm sorry Guard Jarrel. You were on the money with this one. You'll be getting a huge promotion out of this. I would never have guessed. But how did you get him to confess?"

"Found some of his Delirium, and re-coded it to use against him. I knew I had to be sneaky about it as long as he ranked me."

"I'm highly impressed with your work. Obviously our comedian guest was a victim of this drug instead of the culprit. We're lucky he ended up with it instead of someone from engineering. We wouldn't have had a chance."

"Right, Sir." They both saluted. "With your permission, I'll take Commander Arnold into custody until we can determine if he is safe, and I'll free the two we have in custody. We'll also need to initiate scans on all food supplies for Delirium."

"Yes, yes, by all means. Carry on." The Captain turned and left.

Starry wrapped hand restraints around the Commander's wrists and headed toward the holding cells with his new prisoner.

"How did you know the Commander did it and not the cook?" Tramal asked after they had deposited the Commander in his cell and headed back to their room.

"Elementary, my dear Tramal. Body language. The cook told me she didn't do it, but the Commander did. Knowing he oversaw the administration of the ship, including food supplies, and you had sensed he hid something, his reaction to me said, 'I'm guilty' as if he had it written on his forehead."

"If you're so good at reading body language, what am I saying now?" She glanced up with soft, longing eyes.

"Hum, you're sweating, so you body says you want to get out of these disguises as soon as possible and into my arms."

She laughed. "I guess you can read body language."

Starry commanded the guards at their door to leave. Then, giving the bound guards in their room a little more gas and memory wipe, they pulled them into the hall and left them there.


The overhead vid-screen came to life as the transport shuttle pulled away from the star cruiser. The news flashed on and who else did Starry see but Guard Jarrel being interviewed. He tapped Tramal on the shoulder and pointed at the screen.

"I hear you're getting a big promotion for this amazing piece of detective work." The reporter thrust the mic into Jarrel's face.

"Huh, yeah. Promotion, I'm being told."

"What evidence first tipped you off?"

"Huh, that's...classified. Sorry."

"Can you tell us anything about how you saved the fleet from certain annihilation?"

"Well, huh, it's all so fuzzy. Like some surreal dream. But I can say my mind is working all the time, even when I'm asleep. I get a lot done when I'm asleep." He stared at the floor. "Apparently."

"There you have it folks, people like him make heroism seem so easy. Back to you, Henry."

A beep from their wrist-vid interrupted their entertainment.

"Yes, Sir. Starry and Tramal here." Starry held up his hand so Tramal could see.

"Congratulations." Dolan's face focused on the screen. "You not only kept the Armageddon from blowing up, but found out the source of the problem. We're testing everyone, including myself, for the presence of Delirium and counter-acting it if found. All the students at the Academy who had been drugged had one teacher in common. Professor Quin. Evidence uncovered in his quarters links the Professor to the rebels. He masterminded this whole operation. We owe you two a big debt."

"Cool, we can retire." Starry showed his best poker face.

"Who said anything about money. We'll pay you with excessive praise. Your wage will remain the same."

"That's gratitude for you." Starry frowned.

Dolan smiled. "I thought the son of space-hippies wouldn't be so hung up on money. All you need is love, right?"

"Love, yes. Love for Tramal. Love for food. Love for gadgets. Yes, gotta have love."

Tramal broke in. "Yep, all you need is love, doesn't say what you love though, does it." She laughed

"And a little Delirium of my own would be nice too." He grinned at Tramal. Her laughing died off.