The Furious Longing of God

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I’m reading a book by one of my favorite Christian authors, the late Brennan Manning. If ever there was a prophet of Grace in our time, it was him. The book is called The Furious Longing of God. He is also the author of the beautiful, and transformational book, The Ragamuffin Gospel.

Well, I haven’t been able to rush through this book to the finish because he writes things that are so powerful to me, that they stop me. I have to pause. I have to think about it and savor what I have already read before moving on to something else.

I wanted to share something of what I have read — a story he related in the book that so moved me and astounded me that I can’t get past it until I share it. It’s about the time he was ministering in a leper colony in Carville, Louisiana. It’s the only leper colony in the United States, just 20 miles southwest of Baton Rouge. He would go often to visit the victims of this cruel disease.

He recalled one experience that brought me to tears. He said that when he was there one time, a nurse came running to him and asked him to come quickly to be with a woman named Yolanda, who was dying.

He took his holy oils with him, to anoint her, and he went into her room and sat on the edge of her bed. This woman was only 35 years old. Just five years before, she was a stunning woman, he surmised. He said she wasn’t just cute or pretty, but a blinding physical beauty. He said she had the largest, most mesmerizing, translucent brown eyes he’d ever seen. Her cheekbones were high. Her long brown hair was to her waist, which was slender and beautiful. But that was before the disease took her.

As he sat there, he saw a disfigured face, nose pressed against her face, mouth contorted, ears, distended. She was a woman with no fingers. All she had left were two little stumps. Her husband had divorced her, unable to deal with the stigma of being married to a leper. He had also forbidden their two sons to visit. The father was an alcoholic with violent mood swings, so the boys didn’t dare disobey. She was abandoned, dying alone.

Brendan anointed Yolanda with oil and prayed with her. When he turned around to put the top back on the bottle of oil, he said, “the room was filled with a brilliant light.” He thanked God for the sunshine, because before it had been raining and gloomy.

When he turned back to look at Yolanda, he said he was astonished by what he saw. “Her face was like a sunburst over the mountains, like one thousand sunbeams streaming out of her face, literally so brilliant I had to shield my eyes.”

She told him that she was very happy, and he asked her why. She said, “the Abba of Jesus just told me that He would take me home today.”

Earlier in the chapter, he had talked about the French biblical scholar, Pierre Benoit, saying that he believed that the Abba of Jesus spoke to his son the words from the Song of Songs, 2:10-14, as his son hung naked, nailed to a cross.

As Brennan sat with Yolanda, and she expressed her happiness, his face streamed with tears, because she told him what the Abba of Jesus had told her. It was this same passage – the one that is believed to be what Abba told his son as he died.

COME NOW, MY LOVE. MY
LOVELY ONE, COME.

FOR YOU, THE WINTER HAS
PASSED, THE SNOWS ARE OVER
AND GONE, THE FLOWERS
APPEAR IN THE LAND, THE
SEASON OF JOYFUL SONGS HAS COME.

THE COOING OF THE TURTLE-DOVE
IS HEARD IN OUR LAND.

COME NOW, MY LOVE. MY
YOLANDA, COME.

LET ME SEE YOUR FACE. AND
LET ME HEAR YOUR VOICE, FOR
YOUR VOICE IS SWEET AND
YOUR FACE IS BEAUTIFUL

COME NOW, MY LOVE, MY
LOVELY ONE, COME.

Just six hours later, Yolanda was gone, swept up into the love of her Abba. Brennan was more astonished when he learned from the staff of the colony that Yolanda was illiterate and had never read the Bible, or any book in her entire life. Brennan said he had never told her those words in any of his visits. He said he left the colony that day a man undone.

Now, I can move on. But, this story will stick with me and one day, I hope to hear those words welcome me into my Abba’s arms. I remember reading that passage and weeping, to think that Abba welcomed Amber, and later, Brennan himself, in this same way.

Thank you, Abba for your love. Thank you for souls like Brennan’s, and Yolanda’s. Be with all who read this, in your grace. Let them feel your furious longing for them.

My Hard Lessons

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Lately, seems I’ve had a rash of being foolish when it comes to people. That’s how it feels, anyway. I try to believe the best, but the best is not what everyone is willing to give. Sometimes, people are deceitful. Sometimes, they will take advantage. Sometimes, they are not trustworthy. So, what am I supposed to learn, and why do I feel like such a dope?

We’ve been involved, as most know, with a man who has taken advantage of the fans of Knights of the Dinner Table, ourselves, and many others. At one time, I thought of him as a friend. At one time, he had me convinced that he was a sweetheart, a misunderstood guy with problems, but also a lot of talent. I still think he has talent, but, sadly, it’s marred by his inability to tell the truth or to be honest about anything, and his insatiable appetite for money (and his willingness to trample people to get it). I won’t go into more detail here. I’ve already said plenty about him, but it’s just part of my story here.

During the last few months, we’ve been involved with a man we hired to put in some concrete areas at our house. Talking to him on the telephone, he was a personable, friendly guy who really seemed eager to work. He talked about his kids, and how he was going to give us a good deal. He came out, did a minimal amount of work that wasn’t even done right, took a chunk of money and never came back. He had two funerals in those months, and excuse after excuse not to come back. When he eventually called to get the inspector to come out to our house so we could proceed, I have no idea what he was thinking.

The inspector took one look and said it was criminal what this guy was doing. He told us we needed to fire him and take him to court to get our money back. He told us we would win if we did. It’s not something I like doing, but, my husband and I have to do what we have to do. We’ve had to hire someone else and that person needs to be paid. So, now we have had to play hardball and the fellow isn’t too happy about it. Turns out he is also a convicted felon, of at least two crimes in Florida. So much for my being able to judge who’s a good person or not.

It’s a real struggle for me to keep from writing everyone off and not ever trusting myself, or anyone else again. But, that isn’t me. It sure would be easier. But, it wouldn’t be better.

Yes, I have learned some lessons. Hard ones. Not all of them are negative. I’ve learned that just because someone seems nice, doesn’t mean they are. I’ve learned that I do have a right to question the honesty of people without being a terrible, mean-hearted person. I’ve also learned that it isn’t all me. I’ve learned to stop blaming myself for everything that happens. People who rip people off are jerks. That’s not my fault. It’s theirs. I’ve also learned that I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of people thinking that just because I try to be kind and loving that I should just be willing to put up with anything. Wrong. Not any more. You need me to run an errand for you? Sure thing. You want me to buy your stories hook, line and sinker? Give me a good reason, and don’t lie to me. I hate being lied to more than anything. Well, it’s up there at the top of my pet peeves anyway.

So, I guess this is a notice to future liars, cheats and people who feel entitled to steamroll over people like me — take a hike. Better yet, how about taking some responsibility? How about changing your life? How about making amends? I still hope these people will change, get better lives and stop hurting people. But, that doesn’t mean I’m responsible for helping them do that. That is on them. It’s between them and God.

I’ve learned another thing. There are way more wonderful people in my life than crappy ones. But, the crappy ones sure do sour the experience. I can’t let them though. And, I won’t. Yes, I will fight back. But, you are not my entire life. I have a life, and in spite of the traumas and obstacles that I’ve faced, it is a good one. I have wonderful, loving friends and family. I have people I can trust completely. I have a support system, and it is a great one. I’ve got a husband I love, who is extremely capable and creative. He knows what to do to handle people like these, and he does it with a positive attitude. I admire that.

In the end, yes, I have been ripped off and shaken up. But, money is not all there is in life, and it can be made again. People who are dishonest can never know what it’s like to have friends that they can trust, however. They burn through them like trash, because that is how they treat them, and that is how they think of them. Then, they wonder why they are lonely. So, I still have to remind myself that hard lessons can be learned, mistakes can be recovered from, and life will go on. I just have to keep my head up, my eyes and ears open, and my mind awake. To my real friends, I know who you are. To the liars, cheats and thieves out there? Move on along. This girl has stopped playing your game.

An Open Letter to Ken Whitman

Dear Ken,

Most people know that a lot has been going on between us, and that is sad to me. I won’t go into detail. Lots of other people will and have. That’s not my purpose here. I have no interest in dragging out sordid details and giving people more to gossip about. I don’t blame people for talking about it, or wondering, but, that is not my thing, however much you might believe otherwise.

I know that you hate me and my husband. I know you continue to say things about us to people, and paint us in a very negative light. That hurts, but, I have no interest in lashing back at you. I really see no need for that.

What I want you to know, and what I’ve always wanted you to know is where I’m coming from, why this project meant so much to me, and why it hurt so much that you seemed to become an enemy to us. I find that very sad. I thought you were a friend. That’s how you came to us, wanting to do this project. You were kind, funny, loving and warm. You wanted another chance after having hurt others before and you seemed to want to change. I wish you had been sincere. I believed you. Makes me a bit of an idiot now, I know.

You see, you dedicated this movie to my sweet Amber. This person is the one I gave birth to, with brain damage. She’s the one I cared for 24/7 for 23 years. She’s the one I had to let go of in 2011, and who took half of my heart with her when she left. Her memory is not something to take lightly, or to drag through the mud. So, what has happened with the project has deeply wounded me. Not that you care. I know you don’t. Never will believe you again. But, that doesn’t mean I hate you.

I don’t. In fact, I care about you, strange as that may seem. I know you don’t believe that. I know you think we’re out to get you. That’s not even in my heart, but, if that’s what you need to believe to sleep at night, go ahead.

You have a lot of talent, Ken. You really do. But, that talent is wasted because you cannot be honest. I’m not sure why, perhaps something happened to you in childhood. Perhaps your ADHD is the cause. Perhaps you are a sociopath. I’ve read up, and you do fit that profile. If so, I know that you cannot change, and that is sad. I’m sorry about that. You have to go through your life without a conscience, if that is true. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

What I want to say to you is that I hope you do take some responsibility for the wrongs you have done. I get no satisfaction in that, outside of the fact that I know it will be good for you. You cannot heal anything if you don’t. You have to stop making excuses, stop shifting blame and own up to what you have done. There is a part of me that believes you need to go to jail. Yet, that doesn’t mean I hate you. It means that you have done things so wrong, that justice would be served by you being locked up, IMO. But, that is not up to me. Whatever it takes to make you accountable is what I want to see. Because even though I don’t hate you, I hate that you have hurt people I care about, and you keep doing it.

You think, and have said, that I’ve gone behind your back to dig up dirt on you. No. Didn’t happen. What did happen is that people flocked to me to ask me what was going on. And, then, others came and told Jolly and I their stories of how you’d hurt them, the lies you told them, and the financial strain you’ve put on them. I could give more details, but that’s not my place. I respect their privacy.

Do you know why people came to us? Because they trust us. We’ve built a reputation over 20 years of treating people with respect, caring about them, loving them even. People trust us because we have been honest. We’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. When I mess up, I apologize. And, I want to apologize to you. I apologize for losing my temper in private messages and using bad language in my anger. That wasn’t right of me, and I’m sorry.

You see, taking responsibility for your mistakes is healthy. It is actually refreshing, to just be honest. People forgive you when you’re honest. And, even though you will never admit that you did wrong, I do forgive you, Ken. I hold no ill will toward you, though that doesn’t mean I don’t think you need to be stopped from hurting others. I think you need to be stopped and people need to be warned. As of this moment, you are not trustworthy. People give you money, and you don’t care about them. You take it, and do what you want, gleefully, then you despise them for wanting what you promised them. That’s sad, Ken. Really sad.

At the premiere, I hugged you. I know you probably think that was fake, or for show. I did it because a friend had told me I needed to forgive. That person was Dave Kenzer, the fellow you apologized to, but then failed to meet up with or even text to let him know you weren’t coming. But, I’m sure he forgives you for that. He knows he has the law on his side. He has no need to hate you. And, I don’t hate you, though I’m fairly certain you hate me. I’m sorry you’ve let things come to this place between us.

You know, if you knew me at all, you’d know that I hate confrontation. I hate drama. I want nothing to do with it. You think I went and stirred things up, well that is the last thing I’d ever want to do. But, I also hate to see people lied to and hurt. That’s when I stand up, when I hear about people being hurt. When I see people I love lied to, I have to speak up. And, I love the cast and crew of wonderful people that you put together but now despise because they had the audacity to want to get paid and asked questions that exposed your lies about our company. I was so shocked. I actually trusted you before that. I was a real fool. For that, I apologize, not to you, but to the people who believed in us and therefore let you have their money for this project.

I cannot change that. But, the wonderful thing is, those people forgave us for trusting you because we were honest about it. Not only that, but in their love and respect for us, they have rallied around us to help the premiere and after-party happen in spite of your temper tantrum with Jolly. People we didn’t even know stepped up to help get the actors to the premiere. They donated talent, product, and money to pull off a wonderful gathering. As I looked around the room that night, I realized something. I realized that Jolly and I are very rich — maybe not in monetary things, but in the friendships and love of so many great people, from all walks of life and places around the world. No matter what happened between us, no matter how much drama and pain we suffered because of you, we won, because we have the love and respect of people that is priceless. And, what is sad to me is thinking that you will never have that. I feel sad that you won’t ever know the joy of having real, honest, loving relationships with people because you seem to only want their money. You don’t see them for who they are — the real true wealth that we are thankful for.

I wish you the best, Ken. I wish you to take responsibility, receive forgiveness, and learn from your mistakes. I wish you can find something to do with your talent that will bring beauty and laughter into the world, without the heartache that greed and dishonesty has tainted your past projects with. This is all I’m going to say to you. I’m moving on. Goodbye.

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My Gen Con Report

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Yesterday, the last of our after-the-convention guests departed and now I reflect on the wonderful madness of the past week and a half. There is so much to tell. I might have to break this into two parts.

First, let me say that there was a part of me that wished I could stay home and not go. I’ve been to a lot of them and, well, I’m just tired. But, I knew that our friends from Australia, Tash and Tony, would be there. That motivated me more than anything else. Then, there was the KODT Live Action Series premiere. I knew I had to be there for that.

This was something I was dreading, to be honest. Most people know about the mess that became of the Kickstarter that was run by D20 Entertainment, so I won’t go into it. But, the emotion and strain of dealing with it was almost overwhelming to me. Thanks to some lovely people at Zombie Orpheus Entertainment, we had some of the actors for the KODT movie there at the premiere. But, I was mostly worried about two things: whether backers would be able to get into the premiere, and how I would react upon seeing this person (and how he would behave). I have never felt such severe stress – to the point of my body wanting to just give out on me. I felt like I might collapse, or be sick. Arriving at the premiere, however, the fears were allayed a bit by seeing all of the people there that I love: our fans, the actors, and the partners at Kenzer and Company. Still, seeing Ken was terrifying to me. It wasn’t until my “guru” Dave Kenzer came and gave me some wise, encouraging words, “Forgive,” and heard the actors say, “We’re right with you” that I felt strong enough to walk through that door.

And, my fears were very much allayed from that point onward. The premiere went better than expected. The movie, itself, while rough and unfinished in a few places, was really very good. The audience was laughing throughout, and it was so great to see that the hard work had paid off.

It was so wonderful afterwards to see some of the actors signing autographs for fans. Their faces were glowing with pride. It was a true high moment.

Afterwards, thanks to ZOE, we were able to throw an after-party, one that Ken had canceled. Mikey Mason, the musician and comic, entertained, along with our friend Cahira, who belly-danced. The room was filled with happy conversation, music and laughter. Vendors at the convention, having heard about our distress, donated items to give away to party-goers.

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So, the biggest event at Gen Con ended well and I saw just how rich we were, with people of good will, loving us, supporting us, and banding together to help. I cannot thank ZOE, Gen Con itself (which donated a hotel room and more), and the vendors for their amazing care. It warmed my heart.

The main part of any convention for us is manning our booth in the Exhibitor’s Hall. This year, we had an amazing squadron of four young ladies, Dave Kenzer’s daughter, Samantha, and her friends, to help us work the booth waiting on customers cheerfully, in costume, each day. They brought a lot of joy and light to the booth.

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Another highlight of the convention was meeting the 7-year-old daughter of our friend Craig. They shared our room, and I was so moved and delighted to have this young sweetheart in our lives for awhile. I even had the honor of playing tooth fairy to her while they were out playing a game. My wallet and heart was lighter thanks to this opportunity. I even included a pink Sharpie so she could sign autographs. She was dressed as Link throughout the convention, posing for pictures with other costumed attendees, and so she needed to sign autographs. It boosted her spirits to have a feeling of being someone people would like to remember. During the convention, she bought a stuffed armadillo that she named Smiley. Jolly and Craig and I would do silly things with the armadillo to make her laugh. She has a wonderful laugh. Jolly ended up buying another one, and calling it Arden, claiming he was Smiley’s brother. Text photo messages of Arden in differing poses and of Smiley, have continued to flow back and forth ever since.

We were graced with tickets to the True Dungeon by one of our fans, and big Kickstarter supporter, Luke Heller. It was nice to be able to take our group through this event, even though I was extremely tired and achy after having worked a booth all day. My body was not as willing as my spirit. But, what I liked about the activity was the fact that it was given in love and enjoyed thoroughly by our friends.

As Gen Con drew to a close, more hard work loomed over us. We had a booth to take down (and thanks to the volunteers who helped we broke it down in record time). We had a truck to load (waiting in the queue was a bit of a patience tester, but Jolly was able to spend the time visiting with the wonderful Larry Elmore). Then, we had to pick up our dog, head home with the truck and unload it. It was a long, long day. The next morning, we were up to turn in the truck and await our special guests from Australia, who honored our house with their presence for two days. Our friends from Idaho, Carolyn and Chris were able to stop by for a night as well.
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So, in spite of the stress, hard work and sore feet,the entire Gen Con experience was an overall triumph for us. As we now buckle down back to our regular work, we are excited for what the future holds for the products we hope to put out for our fans to enjoy and the conventions we will be attending, such as Game Hole Con and Gary Con. See you all around the game table soon, I hope. Until then, thanks for the great memories.