Review: Chronicles, Volume One

I received this book from my son Kristopher for Christmas way back in 2004. The book is a lot like Bob Dylan … different and genius. We start in 1961. We witness some history in him signing his first record contract.

It is an odd memoir that is as inspired, impulsive, and to a degree as eccentric as Dylan’s greatest music. He never tells us what he is about.

Biography lovers will find it wanting. You get near, but not close to Dylan. He chases “rabbits”. It reminds me of someone talking in to a tape recorder and then having it transcribed – word for word.

With a title of “Chronicles, Volume One”, when will we see Volume Two? Save your money. Borrow the book from the library, unless you are a big Bob Dylan fan. Read in January 2005.

Poem: An Army Dad

An Army Dad

Once he lived at Fort Lewis Washington.
It was mostly cloudy, cool, and rainy.
Through his window was Mount Rainer.
With a snow capped top all year around.

Young soldiers came into the army,
And in the morning they would be running.
You could hear the sergeant calling cadence,
Troops with antiphonal voices responding.

So far from home and yet not lonely,
Many others would miss their family.
His wife was there to love him.
He never asked if she missed her family.

The thump and boom of artillery,
Could be heard during the night hours,
As could the whoop whoop of the helicopters.
He had America to defend.

She found a church and had her faith.
Tobacco and alcohol helped with his stress.
She would pray and cry for him,
While he volunteered to deploy again.

So far from home and yet not lonely,
Many others would miss their family.
His wife was there to love him.
He never asked if she missed her family.

He could run almost forever.
She ran to her friends at church.
He was named the outstanding young officer,
Married to the army more than her.

Then he became a first-time father.
By four months, she was not a teenage mother.
Then he volunteered to deploy again,
Volunteering without ever thinking about them.

“Who’s that?” the little boy asked as he pointed to his father?
The boy didn’t have a clue who the man was exiting the airplane.
And it broke the heart of the Army father,
As he realized the years he had thrown away.

© 2007 – Jimmie A. Kepler

The poem was originally published as: “An Army Dad,” Poetry & Prose Magazine, June 2011. Volume 1, Issue 9, Moonchild Designs, page 35.

Writer’s Life: Thinking and Liberal Arts Curriculum

Albert Einstein said, “The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.

“My undergraduate education is a liberal arts education. My major was history and my minors were English and military science. My Master of Arts degree is in Religious Education. My broad-based liberal arts education did more than prepare me for a job. It allows me to compete in the marketplace of ideas.

It has been thirty-seven years since I heard then university president Dr. Wendell Nedderman say I had met the requirements for my bachelor’s degree. Within minutes of his pronouncement, I raised my right hand and received my commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army through the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).

I did not make the military a career. Three years of active duty followed then I headed to graduate school. I was amazed at how ready I was for graduate work. I knew how to read, write, study, do research and research papers, and how to think.

My University of Texas at Arlington liberal arts education taught me how to think independently and make sound judgments. I learned how to expand my horizons, discover new perspectives, and acquire the tools to defend my point of view. My education helped me learn to reflect on life, have a moral and historic compass where I can distinguish good from evil, justice from injustice, and what is noble and beautiful from what is simply useful.

How have I paid the bills? Working as a commissioned officer in the US Army, a minister, corporate trainer, Internet Coordinator, IT Support Analyst, and IT Systems Administrator have been my day jobs supporting my thirty-one plus years of freelance writing.

Employed in Information Technology I find it interesting to see how many persons have an undergraduate degree in the liberal art disciplines. These people know how to think outside the box. They have excellent critical thinking skills. They have great oral and written communication skills. They accept, embrace change and know how to successfully deal with it.

What else have I done with my history degree? All the above plus I have published over two dozen magazine and trade journal articles in over a dozen publications though the years. I have published poetry through the years. I have written over one-hundred book reviews. I have a website “Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews”. The site is a 100 best websites for history buffs. I read and review military history books published under more than a dozen different imprints. I have a publisher/editor reading the first five chapters of the historical fiction novel I am working on.

Younger coworkers often ask how I know so much about a variety of disciplines. They say I am a modern renaissance man. My answer: I have a liberal arts education from UT Arlington.

How committed am I to liberal arts education? I have three grown children and a son-in-law – all have liberal arts degrees. One is employed in a senior business management position, a second is a teacher, and the third has worked in customer service and information technology fields.

Devotional: Proverbs 21 and God’s Sovereignty

In my Bible reading this morning I read Proverbs 21. Proverbs 21 verse 1 immediately caught my attention. I meditated and reflected on the implications of Proverbs 21:1.  I read the verse in several different translations. It often times helps me secure the meaning of the verse. Proverbs 21:1 deals directly with the attribute of God’s sovereignty.

Proverbs 21:1 (King James Version) – The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

Proverbs 21:1 (English Standard Version) – The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.

Proverbs 21:1 (New American Standard Bible) – The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.

Proverbs 21:1 (New International Version) – The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

Proverbs 21:1 (New Living Translation) – The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases.

The verse is a reminder, no, a wake-up call that God is in charge. He is in control. I recalled a couple of Bible verses that point this out, God being in control. Romans 8:28 is the first verse that came to mind.

Romans 8:28 King James Version says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”.

Next Ephesians 1:11 was remembered.

Ephesians 1:11 King James Version says, “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:”

The phrase “all things” means everything.  It tells us that God is over everything. So, if we go to the Bible and look for specific examples of the “all things” that God is sovereign over we can find a never-ending list.

Here are ten examples of God’s Sovereignty found in the Bible (italics mine):

  1. GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER THE DECISIONS OF KINGS – Proverbs 21:1 – The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will. — That was the verse I read this morning.
  1. GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER THE LOSS OF OR THE GAINING OF WEALTH – Deut. 8:18 ; But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth…”
  1. GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER THE LOSS OF FAMILY, WEALTH AND HEALTH – Job 1:21 He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
  1. GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER ALL DECISIONS – Proverbs 16:33 – The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.
  1. GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER THE BIRDS – Matthew 10:29 – Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them(the sparrows or birds) will fall to the ground apart from your Father.
  1. GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER ALL KINGS AND NATIONS – Daniel 4:35; All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven      And among the inhabitants of earth;    And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’
  1. GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER TRAVEL PLANS –  James 4:13-15 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”; yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.
  1. GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER SUFFERING IN THE LIVES OF CHRISTIANS – 1 Peter 4:19 – Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right,
  1. GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER THE REPENTANCE OF A PERSON – 2 Timothy 2:25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
  1. GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER THE SPIRITUAL MATURITY OF THE BELIEVER – Hebrews 6:1-3 Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permits.

What I was reminded of this morning was God is sovereign. He is in control. His plans ultimately are accomplished.

This is an original devotion written by Jimmie A. Kepler on March 21, 2012.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License by Jimmie Kepler.

Devotional: Proverbs 20 and The Sin of Pride

Proverbs 20 greeted me this morning as I had my morning devotional and a cup of coffee. Solomon’s wise sayings in Proverbs 20 teach about:

  1. how drinking too much wine isn’t wise,
  2. respecting authority,
  3. the need to work and not be lazy,
  4. walking in integrity,
  5. respecting parents,
  6. honesty in business practices,
  7. the value of a good reputation,
  8. and much more, etc.

The more I read the more I thought to myself, “I don’t touch alcoholic beverages. I respect authority. Heck, if I don’t like or respect the person in an office or position I at least esteem the office/position they hold. I usually don’t speak bad things about them.”

Then I read the following proverb and was convicted: “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin?’”  (Proverbs 20:9)

As soon as I read this verse, the Lord chastened me by bringing up recent sins to mind.  He reminded me of the sin of pride. I battle pride daily … pride of education, pride of where I live, pride of my intellectual capabilities (see, I am prideful just in listing them!) …

He reminded me I am only a sinner saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He reminded me of my secret sins that I sometimes forget He knows. He stabbed my heart reminding (no, convicting me) of my need I need to confess and repent. “If we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.

Instead of just reading verses this morning and patting myself on the back because of how good I am, I realized how I’m not good enough.  None of us is good enough to deserve God’s grace.  I’m realizing more and more each day that authentic Christianity isn’ t about being a good person.  To me, it’s about realizing my need for Christ, being thankful for what He did for me by dying for my sins, and having a deep relationship with him by spending time with him and pursuing him.

How are you doing today?  When you read Proverbs 20:9 above, what sin does the Lord bring to your mind?  Spend time confessing those sins to the Lord, and be thankful for his grace when we weren’t good enough to deserve it. And like the rain falling in north Texas this morning, God’s forgiveness can wash away the confessed sin from your life.

This is an original devotion written by Jimmie A. Kepler on March 20, 2012.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License by Jimmie Kepler.

Writer’s Life: The Personal Nature of a Rejection

Click on picture to read rejection email.

You’ve heard it all before … never take a rejection personally … send out that manuscript (poem, story) to another market and keep on keeping on when you get the rejection.

We’re constantly told by day job co-workers, family and friends that less than one percent of all writers “make-it”. “Make it” is defined as being able to quit the day job and live on the earning from their writing.

You know the stories. You’ve heard the tales. You could share all the negative garbage well-meaning others have dumped on you.

It’s hard not to take the rejection personal. I received two rejections this week. One was especially hard to accept. The magazine had sent me an initial email back in January saying they liked the short story enough they were referring it to a “review committee”. I wish they had never told me it was going to the review committee. That got my hopes up just to be shot down two months later.

I chuckled a little when the rejection email arrived. I had this bizarro version of Sally Field’s second academy award best actress acceptance speech come to mind. I could see myself with tears streaming down my face screaming “you hate me, you really hate me”.

I knew they were illiterate and didn’t recognize good speculative fiction … then I was honest to myself … it didn’t meet their current needs. I knew what I had to do. I would rework it, pray over it and ship it out to ambush the next unsuspecting editor.

The editors have a heck of a job, don’t they. I would hate to read all the wanna be writer fiction they get.

What am I trying to say? Hang in there. In the last week I sent the first five chapters to a publisher who only agreed to read them because one of her authors recommend me to her. This is either a kind, courtesy read by the editor/publisher or a massive example of good luck or providence on my part.

On the flip side, I am looking for some computer contract work to help pay the bills. I have two writing conferences I want to attend later this year. I need a sale or two, a contract with a nice advance, or some contract work to get the needed conference money. One of the conferences is near my home in Dallas, Texas this September. It is the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference.

Even if you’ve heard it before I want to remind you — don’t give up your passion for writing. I was told in a  college senior level creative writing English class that it takes about 10,000 hours to master a craft. That’s true for playing the guitar, piano, writing poetry, or writing the next great novel. If one works 40 hours a week for the 52 weeks in a year that’s only 2080 hours. 10,000 = 5 years+ of full-time work.

So, get to writing … and master your craft. I’m still working at it. As an editor told me back in the 1980s … you’re not the best writer, but you write saleable copy, write to specification, and meet deadlines. It’s writers like you that will ultimately succeed. I’m still trying … and I’ll make it.

Sacrifice On the Steppe: The Italian Alpine Corps in the Stalingrad Campaign, 1942-1943

As a lifelong history buff, military history enthusiast, former US Army officer and holder of a BA degree in history, I find myself pleasantly surprised from time to  time when I encounter a book that fills a void in my historical education. “Sacrifice On The Steppe: The Italian Alpine Corps in the Stalingrad Campaign, 1942-1943” written by Hope Hamilton and published by Casemate is one such book. The idea for the book originated when the author listened to her uncles’ reflections of his participation in World War II.

When Hitler had Germany invade Russia in June 1941, Prime Minister of Italy Mussolini declared war on Russia. He quickly sent a hastily organized Italian Expeditionary force of 62,000 men to join the Russian campaign even though Adolf Hitler discouraged such a move. Italy was unprepared militarily. Mussolini’s motivation was to join Hitler in receiving the spoils following an imagined rapid Nazi victory against Russia.”

Hope Hamilton’s book draws on personal interviews, exhaustive research and the written accounts of Italians who participated in and survived Mussolini’s tragic decision of Italian involvement. Mussolini compounded his mistake by sending even more troops the following year. The author does a good job of showing the human side of the Italian involvement on the Russian front. This is not a scholarly work on the tactics and logistics of the Italian involvement. Rather, it is the story of the people who made the terrible trek from Italy to Russia to support their German ally. The German’s had little trust of and kept the Italians minimally informed and I believe misused the Alpine troops by not maximizing the troops mountain fighting ability by their placement along the Don River.

The author does a great job of telling the soldier’s story. Her writing style focuses on the individual accounts of the soldiers. She discusses how the Alpine Corps was caught up in the German campaign capture Stalingrad in the autumn of 1942. She takes us through the Soviet offensive that followed in late November. We experience the collapse of the entire Axis front and the Alpine Corps’ withdrawal to the Don. I could have used a more background about the Stalingrad Campaign. The book does not take a strategic view of the campaign. Little attention is given to the big picture. The story is told from the Italian point of view instead of looking at it from the Axis point of view.

The book includes good notes, is well indexed, and has a great bibliography. I enjoyed the book. If you are looking for an after action report of the Italian participation or a critical analysis of the campaign this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for a good overview and an understanding of what the Italian soldiers experienced then you’ll enjoy the book. I give it four stars. It is a must addition to any military historian’s library. It is a good first volume to fill a long void of an English language account of the Italian involvement on the eastern front.