H. P. Lovecraft: Where Imagination Leads

One of the perks of having literary kids is unusual and interesting dinner conversation. Lovecraft has been a topic lately so I thought I’d run this one again.

Glass Planet

One Christmas not so long ago my oldest daughter gave me two books; a New King James Bible and The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft.

It’s not every day that you get such a delicious slice of the ideological spectrum plunked down in front of you in such concentrated form.  I haven’t dug deep enough to know specifically how Lovecraft regarded the Bible but his disdain for “the bland God of the Baptists,” organized religion and meddlesome religionists seeking to inflict their holy torment upon the world at large is well known.

Not that I looked at my Christmas presents as cosmic combatants.  I was happy with the Bible because it’s my favorite book for all the reasons you would expect from an evangelical Christian as well as a few you might not.  I especially like the King James even without thee and thou.  And Lovecraft is one of my…

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Principles of Psalm Singing

TheWeeFlea.com

There have been many questions and a few objections to the article on why the whole church should sing psalms.  In todays  follow-up article we look at the main objections and then at some further practical principles to help us Sing Psalms.

Objections to Singing Psalms

  1. They are OT – This is usually said by those who have a view of the Old Testament as some kind of pre-Christian document with little direct relevance to the NT Church.  Ironically these self-styled ‘New Testament’ Christians are going against New Testament Christianity which used the Old Testament as its Bible – they added to it but they never took away from it – and they never regarded it as a sub-Christian document.   There is also no NT replacement for the Psalms.
  2. They are hard. – So are many things in the Bible.  Are we only going to accept what we find easy…

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A Revolutionary Question for the Evangelical Church (and the Participants at the “Sing” Conference)

TheWeeFlea.com

There is a wonderful conference going on just now in Nashville – one that I would dearly love to be at! This could also be a revolutionary conference which may have a catalysing effect upon the whole American church.

Keith Getty’s Singwill have 7,500 participants – mainly pastors and worship leaders. It will be addressed by people such as John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, John Piper, David Platt, Ravi Zacharias, Nancy Guthrie, Ligon Duncan,  Paul Tripp, Tim Keller, Stuart Townend, Trip Lee, Shane and Shane and many others.

And the theme for this year is the Psalms.   Although I am not able to be present I hope to be able to listen in on-line. But I thought I would ask one question of my American brothers and sisters (and my English,  Irish, Australian and Scottish) which genuinely puzzles me –

Why don’t you sing psalms?

It’s a genuine question to…

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Gone Is Gone

I didn’t respect my dad until it was too late.

I didn’t give him a hard time or ignore all his advice or completely fail to appreciate how hard he worked to keep a roof over our heads. I didn’t tell him to go jump in a lake, as I’ve seen others do. I just knew I was better than him. That’s all.

It was easy to do. All those crazy, silly, sometimes scary things that made Dad Dad were just, you know, Dad things. Simple as that.

My dad died when he was 83. It was a hard time for my sister and me but, by God’s grace, I had started to wise up. A little. After all, here I was, a 53-year-old man with a wife and a job and kids and a mortgage, ambitions on hold while all that gets taken care of, and now this. There was math to do and time to be spent and emotions to balance or keep in check while he went through the horrifying process of dying like a fighter and the only options and decisions available to us were bad ones.

The hospice called in the middle of the night to tell me he died and I should come and say goodbye. He looked peaceful. All that struggle is over stuff was true enough but I could only hope his eternity was equally peaceful. I had no control over that. The only thing I had the power to control was the way I’d treated him for half a century.

Maybe if we’re supposed to evaluate our lives in comparison to others I can say, “Not bad,” but the reality is I have nothing to be proud of. Know how I know? I’m a dad, that’s how. I’m on the receiving end.  I know what dads need to be dads and I gave precious little of it to mine.

You can’t be a parent without the respect of your children. It’s that simple and that basic. Neither can you “earn” the respect of people just entering the world, with no standard apart from their constantly shifting moods and desires. They’re new. They don’t know the ropes. They have to be trained into things like respect and wisdom and love and concern for others. From the moment their lives begin they owe you literally everything but it takes years and years for them to grow into the recognition of the simple truth. That’s why we are commanded to honor our fathers and mothers right now rather than waiting until we are persuaded that they deserve it. They will never reach whatever cockamamie “standard” we form out of our youthful ignorance and self-centered rationalizations. By the time they “earn” our respect, our basis for that respect is corrupted like a bad computer file, riddled with our own patchwork of baseless expectations and self-conceived blindness to true value.

If we withhold respect then we are disrespectful. We prefer the ego-stroking satisfaction of judgement to the nourishment of love.

Nothing cripples a man like knowing he’s not respected by his kids. It’s the second worst thing in the world for him. The worst thing in the world is knowing he’s powerless to compel respect for Mom. There is no child-rearing formula, no strategic reasoning, no magical Biblical principles or parental-empowerment snake oil that can overcome a child’s insistence on not respecting Mom. They don’t have to if they don’t want to and you can’t make ‘em.

A dad can take it, if he has to. Even if he’s crippled, he can still get up and go to work and pray for his kids and have faith and look at things “philosophically.” But he can’t live with disrespect aimed at the woman he loves. He can’t live with the inability to protect her. He can’t.

Your kids are the only people in the world with the power to render you truly powerless and actually reduce you to failure.

I don’t know how much of this kind of stuff went through my dad’s old school head back when I was better than him but this post isn’t really about him. I just know I did these things, sometimes gleefully, always with the unquestioned assurance of my superiority. Now that I know better, it’s too late. Now that I have enough life behind me to review and reflect upon I find regret.

You may think regret is one of the negatives, like anxiety or envy or self-doubt. The problem with regret is that it’s legitimate. It’s a simple response to the truth. If the object of your regret has departed this earth, there is no remedy. I will never be able to make things right. My dad is not looking down from heaven or watching over me, hanging on my every word. We all know it doesn’t work that way no matter how many pretty things we tell each other on Facebook.

Gone is gone.

 

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“Down to the Wild Blue Yonder” Recipient of Bewildering Stories’ Annual Review Awards Edition

Bewildering Stories’ Annual Review, 2017

“Down to the Wild Blue Yonder” has been selected for Bewildering Stories Mariner Awards edition. These stories, poems, essays and dramatic works are judged to be the years’ “best of the best” by Bewildering‘s editors. I am pleased and honored to be part of such a great publication.

Click here for the story:

Down to the Wild Blue Yonder

And here is my bibliography at Bewildering Stories:

Harry Lang Bibliography

 

 

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Out of Sight

“No, Mommy!” protested six-year old Sarah Reid.  “It’s too scary!  People will get scared!”

Beth Reid looked at her daughter’s eyes peering out from the holes cut in the old sheet.  The ghost costume was a Halloween classic and Sarah liked Casper the Friendly Ghost.  Seemed simple enough to a busy adult but kids were never simple.

“I know what to do,” said Beth as she rummaged through a desk drawer that was only opened to stuff in things that had no place else to go.  She soon found a big red Christmas bow, which she stuck on top of Sarah’s head.

“What do you think?” she asked hopefully as she held up a mirror.  “Now they’ll know you’re a friendly ghost, not a scary one.”

“Okay!” Sarah agreed as she picked up the plastic Jack-o-lantern with the open top, imagining the candy that would soon overflow.  “Let’s go!”

The eastern sky still held traces of ashy gray behind dark screens of skeletal tress as Beth and Sarah joined the parade of monsters, princesses, comic book characters and last-minute-anybody’s-guess presentations wandering along the suburban street.  The smoky smell of the fallen leaves swishing around the bottom of Sarah’s costume and the radiant, golden beams of candlelight shooting from the Jack-o-lanterns made thoughts of cackling witches and bristling black cats impossible to avoid.  The spooky chill it gave Sarah was, well, spooky but deliciously fun.

“Okay, baby,” said Beth as they came to Mrs. Jorgenson’s house, their first stop.  “Remember what I told you.  Ring the bell and shout, ‘Trick or treat!’ when she opens the door.  I’ll be watching.”

Sarah started up the walk but didn’t let go of Mom’s hand.  “Come with me,” she pleaded, pulling as hard as she could.

“All right,” agreed Beth.  She was in no hurry to not be needed.

The door flew open before Sarah could reach for the bell, releasing a flood of laughing, well-disguised characters of various shapes and sizes, all clutching bags starting to bulge with the evening’s haul.  “Hi Mrs. Reid!” chirped one or two as they passed.  “Hi Sarah!”

Sarah didn’t recognize any of them.  She hoped Mrs. Jorgenson hadn’t heard them call her name.

“My!” exclaimed gray-haired Mrs. Jorgenson, a slight, jovial woman who sometimes babysat Sarah and her brothers when Mom and Dad went out.  The heavy aroma of a dinner that included cabbage filled the little house and Sarah could see Mr. Jorgenson sitting in the dining room, reading a newspaper.  “What a pretty little ghost!  I like your bow,” she added as she slipped two candy bars into the Jack-o-lantern.  “Now let’s see.  You must be… Joey Fein?”

Sarah giggled.

“Melissa Stuart?”

“No!”

“I give up,” sighed Mrs. Jorgenson, virtually overcome by exasperation and bewilderment.  “Who is in there?”

“It’s Sarah!” she announced, struggling to lift the sheet without letting go of the Jack-o-lantern.

Sarah soon picked up on the confusion between what was genuine and what was pretend.  Mrs. Jorgenson certainly saw Mom standing there, yet she really seemed perplexed…

Sarah decided that confusion and good-natured deception must be part of the fun.

They went laughing from house to house, marveling at the transformation Halloween had wrought upon the neighborhood, stopping to guess at who lurked behind disguises or gab with neighbors, friends and classmates.  As the night went on, Sarah inched closer to flying solo up to the bright, friendly porches and doors but could never quite keep up her nerve.

Before long they found themselves around the corner and halfway down the block.  This street gave her a little shiver.  There was one house with a big, shaggy hedge and broken pavement that was scary even in the light of day.  In fact, all the kids were told to stay away from it.  They never went down the street by themselves and always walked on the other side.

“Hi, Beth,” called a voice from the darkness.  It was Mrs. Fein, with Joey in tow.  Sarah knew it was Joey because the helmet of his homemade Stormtrooper costume was falling apart and it was easy to see his face.

“Hi Rachel,” said Beth.  “Did you get that permission slip for the field trip?”

Sarah sighed, knowing the two of them would talk forever.  The wind was getting chilly and her pumpkin head was full and heavy.  It was time to go home.

“Can I go across the street, Mom?” asked Joey, who was old enough to do things like that with a minimum of supervision.  Permission was granted and Sarah was alone with the two forever-talkers.

That’s when she realized they stood at the foot of the broken pavement leading through a gap in the shaggy hedge and up to the dark old porch of the scary old house.

As the two moms talked and talked Sarah got an idea.  She’d been to a lot of strange houses that night, only to discover fun inside.  The spooky houses usually turned out to be the most fun of all.  Maybe this one was fun, too.

Getting up all the six-year-old nerve she could muster Sarah slipped away from the talking moms and glided up the walkway, feeling like a real ghost.  The sheet did its best to bunch itself up under her feet as she climbed the steps but she soon made her way to the darkened doorway and found the bell.

Beth and Rachel were shaken from their mom-talk trance by the blaze of the porch light and a little voice shouting, “Trick or treat!”

“Sarah?” called Beth.  “No, honey!  Not this house…”

It was too late.  The door opened.  A dark silhouette stood out against the light from within.

Beth and Rachel were on the porch with magical swiftness, hearts pounding, ready to face what they expected to find at the door.  They were surprised to see a stout, middle aged woman clutching a handkerchief.  Her eyes were red but she forced a smile as she spoke to her little visitor.

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “I don’t have any candy.”

Noticing the perplexed looks on the faces of the two mothers, the woman explained.  “You expected to find Charlie, didn’t you?  I’m his sister, Doris.  Charlie’s been sick.  I came down from Doylestown to stay with him three months ago.”

“Oh,” said Rachel.  “Well, we won’t bother you.  Come on, Sarah.”

“You don’t have to worry,” said Doris.  “Charlie passed away last night.  His doctor said the stress of the appeal was too much for him.  He always was sensitive.  Anyway, the conviction was overturned.  His name is coming off the registry.”

“I see,” said Beth coldly.  She had followed the media accounts of the case closely.  She was not happy with this piece of news.

“There was more to it than the news reports said,” Doris went on, her voice tense and exhausted.  “It wasn’t as simple as they made it out to be.”

“Is it ever?” challenged Beth.  “Come on, Sarah.”

Sarah wasn’t exactly sure what to do.  She knew this was serious and Mom was mad at the lady on the porch.  Mom told her not to talk to strangers.  Did she get the lady in trouble?

She took a Hershey bar from her Jack-o-lantern.  “Here, Mrs. Doris,” she said.  “Everybody should have candy on Halloween!”

“Thank you, dear,” said Doris.  “Thank you very much.”

“And here’s one for your brother,” said Sarah, handing over a Three Musketeers bar.

“Oh, but, I told you… my brother isn’t here.”

“If he’s a good brother he won’t mind if you have it,” said Sarah, who did not yet understand what passed away meant.  “Is he a good brother?”

The lady couldn’t answer.  She just nodded and went back into the house with her candy bars.

The mothers were quiet as could be as they walked down the broken pavement and back through the gap in the hedge.  Sarah couldn’t imagine what could keep them from talking.

“Fine!” Beth finally said.  “I’ll bring her a casserole tomorrow.  You have to bake her a pie!”

“I can do that,” replied Rachel.

They both acted mad but they were both going to make something delicious and bring it to the lady.  At first Sarah was confused but then she realized she had stumbled upon one of life’s great truths.  Grown-ups pretended way more than kids.

“Come on, Little Miss Sunshine,” said Beth, taking Sarah’s free hand and leading her back around the corner.  “It’s a school night and you still need a bath.”

Sarah hated baths but looked forward to the warm, sleepy feeling she got when she was all dried off and in her pajamas, ready for bed.  She had a whole pumpkin head full of candy.  The old, dark house was no longer a mysterious menace.  Mom and Mrs. Fein had a new neighbor.  And she hadn’t scared anybody.

It was a good night’s work.

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Why Do You Support Monsters?

You have to ask yourself why you support monsters.  Until you can answer this question about yourself you really don’t have the wherewithal to engage in meaningful debate.

When Jesus says, “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble,” why is your answer “Not so, Jesus.  It is merciful, compassionate and progressive to kill the ‘unwanted’ ones?”  You need to answer that question about yourself.

When you resort to hiding behind ‘science’ without understanding or acknowledging that science is exactly how we know the unborn are human beings from the moment of conception and feel excruciating pain when the curette slices or the saline scalds you have to stop and ask yourself why you look away from science instead of being persuaded by it.  That’s a question you really need to answer about yourself.

When ethics, morality, the evidence of your own eyes and conscience tell you “These are people and it’s wrong to kill people,” and your answer is “Conscience avaunt!” you really have to ask yourself what makes you that way.

You have to ask yourself why you’re proud to dehumanize the most helpless among us.  You have to ask yourself why you regard it as a badge of honor to side with monsters instead of defending their victims.  You can’t credibly defend this great evil until you know this most elementary thing about yourself.

Why do you support monsters?

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