The inspiration behind “Strange Walls” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 5 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

One of the things you learn as a foster parent is to never say a negative thing about a child’s biological parents. It doesn’t matter the backstory. Every child has a longing for a good relationship with those who gave birth to him/her. To speak negatively about a child’s mom or dad is to attack that longing.

“Strange Walls” is a story about such a longing, told through the eyes of a 17-year-old boy in foster care. Abused and neglected, he simultaneously both loves and hates his father and longs for the good memories before his family was torn. Within the raw emotions, it is within those memories that a hope for the future is found.

Of Stars and Space (and other stories) is available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Kindle is immediate delivery; print is print-on-demand and may take a few days before the order ships.

“Strange Walls” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “Strange Walls”

There is a funny thing about being a kid in the system. Good people, like the Isaacs, mean it when they say they are there for you. Their love is genuine. In time, you figure that out and even begin to feel love for them.

And then you hate yourself.

It’s like you’re betraying where you came from, even if where you came from involved too much alcohol and yelling, and not enough hugs.

The inspiration behind “Flowers for Every Day” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 4 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to inspire a story. This is true of “Flowers for Every Day.” It is, indeed, a short story, one of the shortest in the collection, and a simple story about lifelong love.

So, where did the inspiration come from? A song.

The Gray Havens is one of my favorite bands. On their debut album, they have a song called Gray Flowers. The chorus starts with the line, “He brought her flowers every day.”

That’s it. That’s the inspiration.

Sometimes, that’s all you need.

You can read an excerpt of “Flowers for Every Day” below.

Of Stars and Space (and other stories) is available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Kindle is immediate delivery; print is print-on-demand and may take a few days before the order ships.

“Flowers for Every Day” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “Flowers for Every Day”

The young man watched as the young woman stepped into the room. She stood tall, though she was of average height, and held her head high. Brown locks with waves of curls were pulled and pinned near her left ear. Her golden-brown eyes scanned the crowd until she found the two other girls she was looking for. Then she smiled and waved.

“Who is that?” the young man asked.

Another young man, shorter and stockier than he, glanced up. “I don’t know. Maybe she’s new. Wait, Robert, where are you going?”

Robert had already stood and moved away from their seats before his friend had finished. He smoothed his dress shirt and adjusted his tie. The school concert was set to begin in ten minutes, leaving him enough time.

A vase of fresh flowers sat on a table near the entry. He plucked one, a white daffodil, and approached the group of three with a smile.

The inspiration behind “Burn” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 3 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

Several years ago, an online magazine ran a lengthy story, filled with pictures, of the Burning Man festival. Going to such a festival would not be my thing, but the story and images captured my imagination. I tried several times and failed to take those images and turn them into a story about a trip to Burning Man.

Around the same time, I had a doctor misdiagnose me with a symptom linked to quite a few serious neurological disorders. It is never fun to have such a fright, but I was able to link one of those disorders with the Burning Man story.

What developed from that was not a story about a trip to Burning Man, though such is a side piece to the narrative. Rather, came a story of a young man with a clock ticking faster than most of us experience. It is a story of finding purpose and love, and holding onto faith in the face of death.

It is at the same time a tragedy and a triumph, a reminder to let our lives burn bright, no matter the hand we’re dealt or the years we’re given.

You can read an excerpt of “Burn” below.

Of Stars and Space (and other stories) is available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Kindle is immediate delivery; print is print-on-demand and may take a few days before the order ships.

“Burn” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “Burn”

The previous summer, after his freshman year, Jackson journeyed to Nevada with college friends. For a week they lived on the salt flats with thousands of others, giving and receiving, dancing and sharing, all waiting for that final night where the statue in the middle crumbled to ashes in the flames. Burning Man, they called it. Listening to his stories, I wanted to go. But I was seventeen and dad said no.

I would have to wait. Then Jackson suggested, “We can do our own.”

With the fire dying, I collapsed onto the blanket and wiped my face. Somehow, I managed to crawl into my sleeping bag. I folded my hands behind my head and stared at the sky. Miles from the nearest city and the air crisp and clear, the Milky Way stretched in its long, bright band.

That’s how I fell asleep. One of my favorite memories.

And if you’re reading this, then I’m dead.

Celebrate the Diversity in Others (Letters to My Son)

Dear H,

Right now, for you, people are people. You don’t yet understand all the many ways one person differs from another. With time you will.

As you grow, learn to appreciate the diversity in humanity. In fact, you’ll have to fight to appreciate the diversity in humanity. For you see, in a broken world, we often live comfortable with those who are similar to us and suspicious of those who are different.

This should not be. We are all created in God’s image and nothing about our backgrounds change that, not social class, not economics, not ethnicity, not education, not political beliefs, and the list goes on.

Far from making us uncomfortable with each other, certain differences are meant to be celebrated. The differences in our tastes, our abilities, our skin, our cultures, and our dreams are part of God’s creative beauty infused into the story of humanity. While we should all long to be like Jesus, being like Jesus doesn’t mean that we all think, look, and act exactly like one another in these good differences.

We should neither try to force others into our mold nor should we refuse to surround ourselves with a diversity of others. Instead, we should celebrate the good things that make you you and me me, and enjoy the multifaceted expressions of God’s creation.

Love,

Dad

We are one body with many, different parts.

1 Corinthians 12:12

Image source: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The inspiration behind “First Date” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 2 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

Writer’s block is frustrating. You sit at your computer, stare at your screen, wanting to write, longing to write, and yet your brain produces nothing. Maybe you manage a few lines, but then you reread them, hopelessly disgusted, and hit delete.

In a recent bout with writer’s block, I told my wife, “I need some ideas.” She thought for a moment and began to list some out. One thing that she mentioned was “love story.”

If you know us, you know the gist of our story. If you don’t, let’s just say that I was a little awkward (I’m being kind to myself). “First Date” is a love story that captures some of that awkwardness. On the whole, the story is fictional, of course, but as I wrote parts of the story of budding love between a widower and his first wife and then between him and a new love, several aspects were quite familiar.

You can read an excerpt of “First Date” below.

Of Stars and Space (and other stories) is available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Kindle is immediate delivery; print is print-on-demand and may take a few days before the order ships.

“First Date” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “First Date”

“Dad, we need to talk.”
“Um. Okay.”
“We’ve been worried about you.”
“Yeah, we want you to be happy.”
“We were thinking that you need a lady in your life.”
“Boys…”
“You work so hard to care for us, but we’re older now.”
“Yeah, almost grown.”
“So, we set you up on a date.”
“You did what?” I stared at my three boys who stood between me and the tv.

The inspiration behind “Addict” (Of Stars and Space)

With the publication of my collection of stories, Of Stars and Space, this is part 1 in a series of posts about the inspiration behind each of the twelve stories.

“Addict” is a story that was a few years in the making but only recently came together. I wanted to address the topic of addiction from what I have seen walking along side, in various capacities, those who battle addiction.

For some, realizing the hurt they have brought to their family, those they love most, becomes an anchor for fighting their past. For others, sadly, as much as they love their family, they still struggle to overcome and breakaway.

“Addict” follows a young man, a father, who has both hurt and been hurt. His son becomes his inspiration to fight, but when an old love returns, will it be enough?

The first six stories in the collection are what I call “stories of life, love, and loss.” This is a story of complicated love that seeks to balance hope and the realities of living in a broken world.

You can read an excerpt of “Addict” below.

Of Stars and Space (and other stories) is available at Amazon in both Kindle and print formats. Kindle is immediate delivery; print is print-on-demand and may take a few days before the order ships.

“Addict” and Of Stars and Space, © 2020, Michael Bergman

Excerpt from “Addict”

Daniel showered, standing for longer than usual under the cascade of warmth. He had been attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings for the past six months. That night was the first round-robin meeting where he detailed his past beyond his name and addiction.

“Part of me wishes he hadn’t found me,” he whispered to the group. “I hate myself for thinking that.”

After twenty minutes, Daniel turned off the water, dried himself, and pulled on a clean pair of shorts. Quade had already fallen asleep. The boy lay on his back with a stuffed dog tucked under his left arm. He was still a little boy but on the verge of becoming a man. Daniel watched him for a moment and listened to the soft snores.

“I’m glad you did, though.”

Always See the Worth in Others (Letters to My Son)

Dear H,

You love to look around. Whether it is church or a restaurant, anywhere with people, you will look around and observe. You take it all in for a few moments and then you start smiling and waving.

As you grow up, keep looking around. As you do, look at others for their value and worth.

The world has its fair share of people who are mean to others. Don’t be another voice in that crowd. After all, every person you see is made in God’s image. Every person is filled with worth, value, and dignity. How you treat others can help them realize this.

We’re to “honor everyone,” the Bible says. I’ve heard people say, “If you want my respect, then you have to respect me.” But, H, it doesn’t matter how someone treats you. You can’t control that. You can control how you respond. You can control how you treat them.

Treat them with dignity, even if they try to make it hard. Show them their value through your kindness. Help them to see, above all, that they matter to God. Let your life be a shining light.

Love,

Dad

Honor everyone.

1 Peter 2:17

Image source: Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Dance to the Music in Your Heart (Letters to My Son)

Dear H,

It’s fun watching you as you near one. When music plays and you hear the rhythm, it doesn’t really matter what it is, you grin and start to dance. They’re silly baby dances, but you have fun.

Something happens to most of us when we grow up. We stop dancing, at least in that same way.

As a baby, you get to just be and do. Yes, some things, like all people, you need to learn to do–like walking and reading. Other things, like all people, you need to learn not to do–like hitting daddy in the face and trying to steal his glasses. As you grow up, though, you’ll start to feel the pressure not to be and do but to be like others and do what they do.

We want to fit in. And we should want friends and companions, but here’s the thing, son: Don’t change who you are just to fit in with people who look, act, and dress the same as each other.

God makes each of us different. He gives us the same purpose–to love him more than you love anyone else and to love others as much as you can. But even with that shared purpose, he has given you your own personality, experiences, talents, likes, and abilities.

Let those shine. Be you.

For sure, be the best you you can be. Be a you who loves Jesus and others. But be you by dancing to the rhythm in your own heart.

Love,

Dad

It’s you, God, who paint my life on your canvas. You shaped me inside and out. You put me together, built me, while I was still in my mother’s womb. For this I praise you: You’ve made me unique, a wonder, just like all the works of your hands.

Psalms 139:13-14

Image source: Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

Pursue Happiness (Letters to My Son)

Dear H,

Life is hard. You’ll figure that out in time. So, here is one of the best pieces of advice I can give you in light of that: Pursue happiness, the best you can.

Some will tell you that life isn’t about being happy. Some will say that God isn’t all that interested in your happiness. They’re wrong. The truth is: God is more interested in your happiness than you are and one of his aims for your life is to bring you into eternal happiness.

But here’s the thing about that: God does not intend for you to pursue happiness apart from him because there is no true and lasting happiness without him.

Some might tell you that you’ll find more happiness without God. And it’s true, there are momentary delights in many sins, but that’s the thing–they are just momentary delights. Their end is ruin and sorrow once the pleasure has passed. It is, rather in God and from God that you find “abundant joy” and “eternal pleasures” (Psalm 16:11).

Some might tell you that following Jesus is too much of a burden. That is only true when we let it be. Following Jesus is about love and joy and freedom. Yes, it challenges things in ourselves, especially that pull of sin and pride. When we embrace the challenge, though, we find rest; because, Jesus’ “yoke is easy” and “burden in light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Pursue happiness, son. Make it your life’s ambition. Seek to bring happiness to others. Above all, let God be the one to define and provide such happiness for you.

Love,

Dad

Happiness is found not in the advice of the wicked, the way of sinners, or the gatherings of mockers. No, true happiness is found by the one who delights in God’s word and ways.

Psalms 1:1-2

Image source: Photo by Stan B on Unsplash

God Is Relentless (Letters to My Son, “Five Things” part 5)

Dear H,

There are five things in life that I always want you to remember. The fifth is this:

God is relentless.

You’re almost one. You love to be chased and tickled. So full of energy, you could play the game for hours–me crawling around on the floor trying to catch you.

But I get tired. And sometimes I even feel old. Usually, I have to stop and crawl into my chair, exhausted, before you’re ready. What can I say? I’m only human.

God, however, never grows tired. He never grows weary. He is pursuing you and he will pursue you as long as it takes. Even if you try to give up on him, he won’t give up on you.

If you give to him your heart and life, he will take you and mold you and shape you to be the man he intends for you to be–to be a man of love and peace and grace. For life, you see, is a journey. Walk the path with God and even when you feel tired and lost, he will be with you, leading you home.

Love,

Dad

I know this to be true: God began his good work in you; God will keep working until that day Jesus returns and you are whole.

Philippians 1:6

Image source: Photo by Donna Borzyskowski on Unsplash

Today’s post is inspired by what Eugene Peterson would whisper to his children each night: “God loves you. He’s on your side. He’s coming after you. He’s relentless.” You can read the full story at The Christian Post.