Category Archives: Last Day of Forever

Another Satisfied Reader

Satisfied Reader

Sent to me by a friend. Obviously, The Last Day of Forever makes a good summer beach read. That one is a first edition.

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The Brave Rifles

Near the end of my book, The Last Day of Forever, I have my main character, Ethan, as a young second lieutenant in a unit called the 1st Regiment of Mounted Riflemen out in New Mexico Territory. They did exist—and still do. Here are some highlights of what I discovered in my research for this portion of the book and this particular regiment.

3rd ACR copy

The Regiment of Mounted Riflemen was created as a very early version of a modern mechanized infantry regiment, in a manner of speaking, that is. They were mounted on horses and rode to the fight, but once there, they dismounted and generally fought on foot. They were also issued rifled muskets instead of the usual smooth bore muskets the infantry of that period carried (prior to 1861) or the much-hated Dragoon muskets carried by other mounted troops. The Dragoon muskets were inaccurate, and the ball was prone to rolling out of the barrel if the barrel was pointed downward. In my book, I have the Brave Rifles armed with Sharps carbines. I could not determine if they were actually so armed prior to the Civil War or not. Some mounted units were indeed armed with Sharps during the prewar period, so I took a little artistic license on that point.

The Sharps carbine was a breech-loading weapon (verses muzzle loading, which means it was loaded from the back or breech end instead of the muzzle end). This made reloading much faster and easier, especially on horseback. The cartridges of the early model Sharps were made of paper and contained powder and a bullet. The trigger guard/lever was swung down, dropping the breech block to expose the chamber for inserting the cartridge. Once loaded, the lever was returned to the closed position, and the breech block closed with a sharp edge clipping off the back of the paper and exposing the powder to the priming charge. A primer cap was inserted over the nipple. Pulling the trigger dropped the hammer on the primer, igniting it and in turn the powder charge. Being rifled, they were much more accurate and had longer effective ranges than the other smooth bore arms of that period. Later model Sharps used metallic cartridges that were fully self-contained; projectile, powder, and primer cap all in a brass case. The longer rifle versions of the Sharps became favorites of buffalo hunters. If you ever saw the movie Quigley Down Under with Tom Selleck, it was a Sharps rifle that Matthew Quigley used.

Sharps Model 1853 Military Rifle

1853 Military Sharps

The Regiment of Mounted Riflemen was formed in May of 1846. Under various names, it has seen action in all of America’s major conflicts since then, including The Mexican-American War, The Indian Wars, The Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I and WWII, as well as service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was in the Mexican-American War in 1847 that the regiment got its nickname, “Brave Rifles,” and its motto, “Blood and Steel.” After several major engagements, the exhausted regiment was visited by General Winfield Scott. He had come to order the regiment to Churubsco for an even more difficult battle. He removed his hat, bowed low, and said: “Brave Rifles! Veterans! You have been baptized in fire and blood and have come out steel!” Even today members of the unit greet each other thusly: An enlisted trooper renders military courtesy to an officer by saluting and yelling out “Brave Rifles!” The officer will return the salute and reply just as loudly, “Veterans!”

The regiment is also thought to be the origin of “Gringo,” the modern Hispanic slang for an American. The regimental marching song, which dates back to the Middle Ages, is named “Green Grow the Rushes, Ho!” Legend has it the Mexicans slurred the “green grow” into “gringo.”

In 1848 the regiment returned to Jefferson Barracks, MO where it was originally formed, and in 1849 was sent on a grueling march all the way to Oregon Territory. Two years later, they returned to Jefferson Barracks and were officially designated as the 1st Regiment of Mounted Riflemen (previously without the “1st” designation) because the Army expected to raise two more such regiments. That never happened.

In 1851 the regiment was ordered to Texas, and in 1856, they moved further west into New Mexico Territory. (Ethan joins the regiment in 1860 and resigns in early 1861.) They had a very large territory to police and never enough troopers to do so.

With the advent of the Civil War, all mounted regiments were organized as cavalry, and the 1st Regiment of Mounted Riflemen became the 3rd US Cavalry Regiment. They fought in the Civil War, mostly in the western theater, first in Texas and later in Missouri, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

In 1866 the Brave Rifles were ordered back to New Mexico Territory to campaign against the Indians.

Old_Bill_Cavalry_Mascot_Poster

In 1898 the Brave Rifles arrived in Tampa, FL for deployment to Cuba during the Spanish American War. The famous western artist, Fredrick Remington, was visiting the regiment’s camp. One of the regiment’s NCOs, Sergeant John Lannen, caught his attention as representing what Remington considered to the epitome of the American cavalryman, and he sketched him. The drawing eventually became known as “Old Bill.”

During World War I, the regiment deployed to Europe and saw only limited action, but during WWII, they traded in their horses for armored vehicles and were reorganized as the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, serving in Europe. It was troopers from Troop B, Reconnaissance Squadron of the 3rd ACR that were the first Americans to cross into Germany, albeit only a short excursion to prevent the Germans from blowing a vital bridge.

The Brave Rifles served in Iraq during Desert Storm. In 100 hours, they covered over 300 miles, rolling over three Iraqi divisions in the process. They also served in Bosnia and more tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2011 they were renamed yet again as the 3rd Cavalry Regiment and traded in their heavy armor for lighter and faster Stryker armored vehicles. They are currently based at Fort Hood, Texas.

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Rachel Meets Her Rival – Excerpt

At the risk of giving away too much of the story plot of An Eternity of Four Years, here is a short scene at a grand ball in Washington when Rachel meets her rival, Aimee de Beauchamp, for the first time. If you have read The Last Day of Forever, you will know Aimee was chasing Ethan while Rachel was “exiled.” Enjoy.

•••••

PrintThe ball was in one of the hotels near the capitol. Its ballroom was elaborately decorated with gas crystal chandeliers, gilded moldings, and fine draperies. The room was a sea of soldiers in dress blue uniforms, politicians in formal wear and white ties, and lovely women in fancy ball gowns. Miles took me around the room and introduced me to so many generals and politicians that I lost track of their names. Several asked me to dance and questioned me about my portraits.

“Captain Herndon tells me you are the finest portraitist in Washington. I must see your work. My wife wants a portrait of me now that I have been promoted to brigadier. Do you think you can fit me into your schedule?”

“I do have a waiting list, sir, but we can work something out.” After the dance I gave him my calling card.

“I shall be calling upon you, Miss Rachel.”

“And I shall look forward to it, sir.”

Miles intervened and took my arm. “Don’t I get to dance with the girl I brought?”

“Of course, Miles.” And he swept me out onto the floor and spun me around until I was dizzy. I was having a marvelous time. Washington is nothing like Gettysburg!

We retired to the punchbowl for refreshments. As Miles was reminding me of the names of those I had met and needed to remember, a woman called out in French-accented English, “Miles, is that you? It is you!”

Miles turned to the voice, and a shocked expression swept over his face. “Aimee?”

“Aimee?” I said softly to myself as my Analee eyebrow went up. I turned to see a beautiful young woman making her way to us, a broad smile on her face.

Aimee swept into the conversation with a flourish worthy of the finest stage actor. Miles was speechless. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your lovely, new lady-friend?” she asked, nodding to me.

Miles looked to me anxiously before beginning the introductions. “Mademoiselle Aimee de Beauchamp, may I present Mademoiselle Rachel Whitcomb. Rachel, Miss Aimee de Beauchamp.”

That broad smile of hers fell from her face such that I would almost swear I heard a thud when it hit the floor. She glared at me for a moment and seemed unable to speak, but she soon recovered. “You are Rachel? And may I call you Rachel? I feel as if I already know you…”

“Of course…” but she did not allow me to finish, and frankly, I am glad she did not, for what I was thinking of saying was not flattering.

“And you must call me Aimee. We are almost old friends, aren’t we?” Getting no immediate response from me, she turned to Miles. “Miles, aren’t we like old friends?”

Miles could barely get in a nod before she continued, “I must say, Rachel, you are as lovely as Ethan said you were. That’s a beautiful gown; it shows off your trim figure so nicely.”

I did not have a chance to respond before Miles attempted to regain control of the conversation. “Aimee, I thought you were in France?”

•••••

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New Cover For The Last Day of Forever

For those interested, I have a new cover. I like this older Rachel much better. It is a period photo I Photoshopped slightly to make her just a bit less plain looking, mainly her eyes and mouth.

Cover B1

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The Brains of the Confederacy

Judah_BenjaminIn both of my books, The Last Day of Forever and, especially, An Eternity of Four Years, a gentleman by the name of Judah P. Benjamin plays a part. Judah P. Benjamin remains something of an enigma because he destroyed his private papers at the end of the Civil War, and in spite of leading a very public life as a successful attorney, planter, politician, and statesman, some aspects of his personal history remain cloaked in a mystery and speculation.

He was a most unusual man for his times and by all accounts very intelligent, a skilled debater with a gift for oratory and a ready smile.

It is said the ladies of Richmond adored him, but he had his detractors as well as those who admired him for his considerable intellect and outgoing personality. Jefferson Davis considered him one of his closest confidants with the writings of Davis’s wife, Varina, offering a small peek into his personal life.

Judah Phillip Benjamin was variously know as “the Jew,” “the Hebrew,” or “Davis’ pet Jew,” referring to his small stature (barely over five feet tall). Later historians sometimes refer to him as the “brains of the Confederacy.” During the war, the North derisively called him “the South’s evil genius.”

He was born to a family of Sephardic Jews in St Croix in 1811. When he was still a child, his family eventually settled in Charleston, SC, a southern city known for its religious tolerance. He attended Yale at the tender age of 14 but was expelled because of unspecified “ungentlemanly conduct.”

Benjamin then headed for New Orleans, where according to Bernard W. Korn in his volume on that city’s Jews, he arrived “with no visible assets other than the wit, charm, omnivorous mind and boundless energy with which he would find his place in the sun.” He remained a bachelor for several years, and at least one historian suggests he was a homosexual, but there exists no evidence beyond speculation to support this.

He clerked in a law firm and studied the law. Since fluent French was required to practice law in Louisiana, he needed to learn that language. To earn money, he tutored French Creoles in English and taught Natalie Bauché de St. Martin in exchange for her teaching him French.

In 1832 at the age of 21, he was admitted to the bar, and a year later, he married Natalie with the wedding in St Louis Cathedral. The couple moved into a four-story townhouse on Bourbon Street that is today a strip joint called “Temptations.” It seems the marriage did not work out for reasons unknown. Historians suggest Natalie was such a problem child her family was glad to be shed of her, and later, rumors of infidelity were associated with her. They had one child, a daughter, Ninette.

Benjamin became a successful lawyer in New Orleans and bought a plantation downriver from the city, Belle Chasse*, and built a fine home for his wife and daughter. Natalie, evidently, was unimpressed and decamped with her daughter for Paris where they remained for the rest of her life. Meanwhile, Benjamin experimented with different strains of sugar cane and became something of an expert on that crop.

The Louisiana Legislature elected Benjamin to the U.S. Senate where he became famous for his eloquent and fiery oratory. (Senators were appointed by the Legislature then.) Benjamin was the first Jew to serve as a U. S. Senator. He was twice offered to be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court and declined both times. He would likely have been approved and would have been the first Jew on the U.S. Supreme Court.

With Louisiana’s secession in 1861, Benjamin became one of Jeff Davis’ closest advisors even though Benjamin had once challenged him to a duel. Davis first appointed him as Attorney General and then Secretary of War, but the Confederate Army existed mainly as untrained volunteers with supplies for waging war very scarce. With the Confederate retreat from Cape Hatteras, Benjamin was accused of failing to reinforce the garrison. He took the blame and resigned, but he did so to hide the fact that the Confederacy simply did not have the forces to send, and that weakness needed to be hidden from the enemy.

Davis then appointed Benjamin to Secretary of State where he was also in charge of the Confederate Secret Service and Confederate spies up north. It was in that capacity that my character, Ethan, has dealings with him in An Eternity of Four Years.

Very early in the war, he was one of the first to argue for recruiting the slaves into the Confederate Army, offering them freedom if they served. Near the end, when the situation was desperate for the South, he brought it up again in a speech and was renounced for it. He also suggested freeing the slaves to get France and/or England to enter the conflict on the side of the South, or at least recognize the South as a sovereign nation, opening the door to much needed war material from Europe. Again his ideas were rejected.

The war ended with the Confederate government on the run. Davis was captured, but Benjamin was not, only because he separated from the group the day before and made his way to England. There he became a successful barrister and was created a “Palatine silk” as the Queen’s Council.

With his health deteriorating and suffering from diabetes, he was injured in a fall in 1880. Judah P. Benjamin died of a heart attack in Paris in 1882 and was buried there in Père Lachaise Cemetery under the name of “Philippe Benjamin.”

In 1938 the Paris chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy erected a plaque over his grave.

JUDAH PHILIP BENJAMIN
BORN ST. THOMAS WEST INDIES AUGUST 6,1811
DIED IN PARIS MAY 6,1884
UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM LOUISIANA
ATTORNEY GENERAL, SECRETARY OF WAR AND
SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES
OF AMERICA, QUEENS COUNSEL, LONDON

Whatever your opinion of Judah P. Benjamin might be, one must agree he was a most amazing person and largely an unknown but significant figure in American history.

*Note: This link will take you to an image of Belle Chasse Plantation. It has long since been torn down. You can adjust the size of the image with the sliding bar at the top.

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The Paperback Version of An Eternity of Four Years is now available!

Book 2 1Finally! It is done! I have been teasing you long enough.

The exciting conclusion to the two-part epic of the Legend of Rachel and Ethan, An Eternity of Four Years, is finally finished and published. Both the Kindle digital version and the paperback version are available at Amazon.

An Eternity of Four Years picks up the story four days after The Last Day of Forever ends and carries the reader through the turbulent years of the Civil War with Ethan searching for Rachel to mend what was broken between them.

If you haven’t read part 1 yet, The Last Day of Forever, you need to read it first. Either book can stand alone, but reading both in order fills in a lot of back story and detail you will find both interesting and helpful to your reading experience.

Get ’em while they are hot! And don’t forget to go back and post a review. It will help the books get visibility and credibility.

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“An Eternity of Four Years” is Published!

Book 2 1The exciting conclusion to the Legend of Rachel and Ethan, part 2 of the Catahoula Series, is up for sale at Amazon. However, this is the digital Kindle version. The paperback will be available soon, probably late next week.

The Kindle version is available for only $.99 for a limited time only. This is to allow my friends to get it at a reduced price.

You can scoop both up for only $1.98 total. Such a deal! 😉

If you don’t have a Kindle device, you can download the app for your computer, your iPad, or your phone for free. Use the device you want it on to get the app.

 

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About THAT flag — and other thoughts.

Battle_flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America.svgIn The Last Day of Forever, Ethan is a slaveholder, albeit by proxy; his father was the actual owner. He inherited them at Morgan’s death and promptly freed them. His underlying and unacknowledged (at the time) motive was his dislike for the “peculiar institution,” but his excuse was to save Catahoula Plantation through the coming war.

In An Eternity of Four Years, he began the war owning another slave he won in a duel, Blue, and he promptly freed him as well. But he discovered he could not distance himself from the institution of slavery with the simple stroke of a pen. He was sucked into the war on the side of the South (it was that or hang), but Blue stayed with Ethan for reasons of his own, remaining a constant reminder of the institution throughout the war.

While Ethan began the war somewhat reluctantly, he did believe he was defending hearth and home from the Yankee “host” about to invade his country and state. This was a common view of many southern soldiers, most of whom were not even slave owners. As the war dragged on, it became obvious to Ethan the war was about far more than defending his home, and he was on the wrong side of history. But the oath he took and “honor” compelled him to fight on even though his heart was not in it.

What was the war all about? If you answer the North fought to free the slaves, you would be only partially right. If you answer the South fought to keep the institution of slavery, you would be only partially right.

Initially, the North fought to save the Union, and though Lincoln wanted to free the slaves, he knew northerners would abandon the cause if he made the war about slavery. And they did once he announced his Emancipation Proclamation. Many northerners refused to join the fight after that.

The war was really about money. Isn’t it always? For the South to leave the Union, it would mean a terrific loss of tax revenues for the United States. For the South, the slaves represented a huge financial investment. It was their belief that only the black man was capable of laboring under the hot conditions found in the South. Remove that source of labor, and the southern economy would collapse.

But sooner or later, slavery had to end, or the Constitution of the United States and everything standing behind it was a farce. Someone once said of slavery, the South had a tiger by the tail; it could neither hold on forever nor let it go, lest the tiger consume it. The Civil War forced that issue, and the tiger is still feasting on the South.

Now, some 150 years after the war, we are embarking on the rewriting of history, using the excuse of political correctness as our guiding light. That, my friends, is a very slippery slope. Already, we have seen calls to ban all merchandise depicting the Confederate battle flag (AKA the Southern Cross, not the Stars and Bars), while at the same time, Nazi symbol merchandise is still available and happily sold by some of those hypocrites banning the Confederate flag merchandise. There have been calls to cease distribution of movies like Gone With The Wind—archive it forever, take down statues of Confederate officers and politicians, rename streets named for Confederates, and even rename military posts. As if these actions will change anything! They will not. The divisiveness will only get worse. Will we see book burnings next? A crystal night where southern businesses will be trashed? Anyone whose ancestors were slave owners will face persecution?

We are NOT a racist country, but we are rapidly becoming one. I was born and raised in the South, and I am here to tell you, in my lifetime, I have seen the racial attitudes of southerners dramatically change for the better. But in the last six or seven years, all that progress has been reversed. Ironically, it is being driven by those who claim, falsely, they are not racists.

God help us!

Where does it end? Short answer: It does not. The New American Taliban, focused on symbols rather than substance, will not stop until everything they view as offensive is destroyed—exactly like what we see the Taliban and Isis doing in the Middle East today—no difference!

I leave you with these comments by General U.S. Grant from his memoirs of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Consider that they were spoken by the victor after four years of a brutal war.

“I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.”

America’s slide down this slippery slope will not end well, and what is at the bottom is a monster none of us want to even think about.

Wake up, America!

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“Nostalgia” AKA PTSD

Cover B1“Nostalgia” plays a significant role in the lives of both Ethan and Rachel in my books The Last Day of Forever and An Eternity of Four Years. It was officially defined and named Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 1980 to describe the mental issues suffered by Vietnam veterans. But it existed long before that, at least as long as war and trauma have been visited upon mankind. It was known by other names during different periods of history. It was called “shell shock” in WWI and during WWII, it was called “battle fatigue.” In the mid 19th century, during the American Civil War, it was called “nostalgia.”

That term was coined by a 17th-century medical student to describe the anxieties displayed by Swiss mercenaries fighting away from home. It was described as a form of melancholy.

The Greek origin of the English word is nóstos álgos. Nóstos is usually translated “homecoming” but carries the idea of returning home after a long journey to find that everything is the same, yet just a shadow of what it had been before. Álgos refers to pain. Literally, we have “homecoming pain.”

I think that 17th century medical student had in mind the pain of a soldier returning home after a war to find that while everything may look as it did before he left, he sees things differently because stressful wartime experiences have changed his life perspective, usually not for the better. Depression, nightmares, and anger are often symptoms.

Book 2 1I believe nostalgia is related to the saying, “seeing the elephant,” often used by soldiers during the American Civil War and since. The idea behind “seeing the elephant” is that of the profound disappointment and disillusionment associated with having one’s “grand” notions about war dashed by the brutal reality of the killing fields. It suggests the soldier has seen enough, and he is sick of all the misery, pain, and death. He has “seen the elephant,” and it was an exceedingly ugly beast.

Nostalgia, or known by its current title PTSD, is not limited to veterans of war. It can be caused by any manner of stressful conditions such as rape, witnessing something terrible like an accident or death, a near death experience, or really anything that can leave a profound and lasting impression of fear or anxiety. Ethan suffered his first bout of nostalgia as a result of his witnessing the death of Cornelius as a child of three, and later as the result of losing Rachel, followed by what he saw and did during the war in places like the Shenandoah Valley, Sharpsburg, Chancellorsville, and especially Gettysburg and its aftermath. Rachel also “saw the elephant” and it affected her as well.

Both Rachel and Ethan had come from a comfortable lifestyle of plenty in a time of peace to one of horror and death in a time of war, a war described by author Paul Fussell as “long, brutal, total, and stupid.” Should we not expect such might affect a sane person?

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Ethan the Christian

Ethan6B REDUCEDIt should be obvious from reading The Last Day of Forever and An Eternity of Four Years that Ethan’s faith plays an important role in his character. Sometimes he succeeds as a Christian and sometimes not. Christians are not perfect, although some critics of the faith suggest we ought to be so 100% of the time. For them, seeing a Christian fail can be a moment of triumph when they can point a finger and loudly exclaim, “Hypocrite!”

If you have ever read the Bible, one fact should strike you: It is full of “hypocrites.” Of the many characters in the Bible, only one is without flaws. All the rest in some way fail, often spectacularly. They are, after all, fallen individuals, not plaster saints, and God lays out their failures for the rest of mankind to see and learn from.

One of the most interesting examples of this is King David and the Bathsheba affair. I believe, having assumed the throne after so many years of being hunted by Saul, he became arrogant. Success can do that. I think 2 Samuel 11:1 suggests this when it says, “It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah.” David’s place was with the army in the field and not back in Jerusalem strolling on the roof of the palace to become involved with Bathsheba.

You would think someone like David, “a man after God’s own heart,” would have admitted his lapse in judgment immediately following his night with Bathsheba. But no, when she became pregnant, he doubled down and arranged the death of her husband in a misguided attempt to hide what he had done. Arrogance begat lust, and lust begat adultery, and adultery begat murder. Sin is like that.

It was roughly a year after the event before David finally had a “wow” moment concerning what he had done. A year later! Along came Nathan the Prophet to tell a story that backed David into a corner, and he ended up convicting himself. Only then did David finally recover from his denial and accept his own failure—and face his discipline. I have no doubt that during that year, David frequently had moments where he considered what he had done was wrong, and I have no doubt but that each time he rationalized it away somehow. To get well, you must first admit you are sick.

Christians are not perfect, and Ethan is not Jesus Christ. He loves God much like King David did, and like David, Ethan sometimes fails to measure up to God’s expectations. And like David, sometimes Ethan gets a little smug and full of himself, and it catches up with him. He refused to accept responsibility for his failures and more importantly, he refused to seek the remedy, preferring instead to seek relief in a bottle. When a Christian is out of sorts with God, he can sink so far down that there is nowhere to look but up.

I intentionally wrote Ethan’s character as “flawed” and “human.” After reading an early manuscript for The Last Day of Forever, my wife commented, “Ethan is too perfect.” My reply was, “Wait until you see him in An Eternity of Four Years.” After experiencing success out west and returning home to find Rachel waiting for him, he seemed in command of his world and his life. His smug “victory dance” before the mirror in the closing chapter of Last Day is a hint of “pride goes before the fall”—and of things to come.

One point I wanted to make in these two books is God orchestrates our circumstances. How we react to them is our choice. As Blue tells Ethan in Eternity, “Adversity makes you bitter or better, but you choose which.” And also in Eternity, Rachel summed up the underlying theme of the books when she challenged Doctor Johnson with Romans 8:28. (I’ll let you look the passage up.)

So, surprise! I am a Christian, and like Ethan and David, I admit I am not perfect. I admit I sometimes don’t seek the solution I should seek. I admit my faith is sometimes weak, and even on occasion, I choose “bitter” over “better.” In other words, I’m a work in progress that will see perfection only in eternity. If you wish to call Ethan or me a hypocrite, that is your choice, but at least do so with the understanding that none of us are claiming the status of deity.

To get well, you must first admit you are sick.

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