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I am not worthy.

I work in the darkness. I am a radiologist and in order to view the diagnostic images on my monitors, I must keep the room dark. I am surrounded continually by shadows. It is my world.

For the past few months, those shadows have slowly, inexorably moved into my world outside of work. They have slowly and quietly slipped along the floor and the walls and the ceiling with cold tendrils of blackness. The shadows have embraced me.

When I am strong; when I am attentive to the moving of God in my life, my mind, and my soul; when I pay attention to that still, small Voice; when I am seated at the foot of the cross the Light presses back the shadows. But, when I am weak; when I am troubled; when my attention is captured by the immediate and the urgent instead of the important I am distracted. I fail to look over my shoulder at the creeping darkness. I take my eyes off the Source of Life for my every breath.

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The Warden and the Wolf King Book Review – Part 3

wolfkingpic2

I wrote about Leeli yesterday. But, today I want to finish with three truths I took away from the story. These may not be the messages that Andrew intended, but they are messages I took away from this wonderful story. So, what did the characters and the story of “The Warden and the Wolf King” teach me?

Evil does not always take on the expected form, particularly in the beginning.

Every good story must have a compelling and dangerous villain. From book one, I have been waiting impatiently to find out more about Gnag the Nameless. Try as I might, I could not imagine what Gnag looked like. He was not only nameless, he was faceless! Was he a reptile? Was he a wolf? Was he some other hideous manifestation of animal/man crossover?

I must confess, when I finally met Gnag the Nameless I was, well, underwhelmed. This was the creature responsible for an evil wave of Fangs overtaking the world? Really? Surely we can do better than this, Andrew. But, I trusted Andrew. I knew that the best villains are not necessarily the most vicious appearing villains. The best villains are subtle, almost ordinary, and certainly instill a sense of overconfidence in those who oppose such a villain. Hmm. Sounds remarkably similar to our own Enemy. He is subtle. He moves behind the scenes. And, he assumes a pleasing or nonthreatening appearance. But, he is NOT nameless!

Andrew does not disappoint in the area of bringing out the worst in Gnag. I cannot even begin to describe the events but there is no way any reader could ever be disappointed by Gnag’s ultimate plan and his ultimate appearance.

My take on this was how the Adversary works quietly behind the scenes in our lives. He places obstacles and crises in our way to trip us up. He throws his minions at our daily lives. We get frustrated, angry, and disillusioned and we often don’t even know why. The Adversary at this stage is truly nameless, faceless, and loving every minute of it. And then, through a glimpse of Truth through the eyes of Spirit, we see how Satan has tried to stop us from doing good. And now, in the light and in the open, the Adversary becomes the Beast that he is. And that is when we must choose — fight or flight — stand and engage in spiritual battle or run away and hide. Andrew has shown us that the fight can be intimidating and we can think we are losing but God will bring us the victory over an adversary who is already defeated! Thank you, Andrew for that insight.

The plan we have for our lives is not always the plan God has for our lives.

Kalmar did not want to be a king. He just wanted to indulge his artistic expression. This desire to avoid what others wanted him to do with his life led to his big mistake of singing the song that converted him into a wolf. Of course, being a wolf placed him in the desperate situation of fighting to retain his true identity and forced him into the very situation that led him to king like behavior. Andrew deftly and authentically shows Kalmar’s struggles in the final book. He takes Kalmar literally all over the place and through the story, Kalmar grows. Not only does he end up becoming the King, but his reluctance to be the king is the very thing that makes him a good king — the servant king.

In my own personal life, I know that God has taken me down paths I never imagined. Becoming an author, a dramatist, an apologist, and a public speaker was not in my plan. But, through the years of crises and refinement in the fire of depression, God has taken me to the place in life where I have found my purpose. And, in finding that purpose, I have found true joy. Unfortunately, the joy often comes at a price as we see in “The Warden and the Wolf King”. You just need to read it to see what I mean.

Running from God will leave us confused and unhappy and out of phase with the world. When we turn toward God along the path we have been avoiding, true fulfillment happens and we glimpse the eternal plan of God and see our place in it.

Janner just doesn’t want to be the warden. He doesn’t want to have to take care of his little brother. He wants to read. He wants to settle down in the huge library of ancient books; to get lost in the lines of poetry and essays and stories. And yet, in his desire for this we see his unease, his displeasure with a sense that everything is not quite right for him. He reluctantly takes on his role as warden with disdain and ultimately guilt. Of course, we see Janner’s brave protection of his brother in spite of his inner monologue of guilt and despair. And, ultimately it is Janner’s journey I most identified with.

Ultimately, we want to do God’s will for our lives and at times, we resent that. But, we know it is the good and right thing to do so we press on. And, in the perseverance, God begins to shape us and mold us into the person He intends us to be. Then there comes that moment, when our vision transforms from the momentary to the eternal and we see through God’s eyes the grand plan unfolding from the beginning of time and our place in it and we give in to that plan; we open our mind and our heart to the inevitable; we lose ourselves in the glory of His purpose with no regard for the price. And, in that moment we are most like Christ; a pale reflection in truth but still a connection with the sacrificial Lamb that is our salvation.

Thank you, Andrew for a wonderful tale that works on so many levels to convey Truth to a world drowning in the Adversary’s lies. I know that children (and adults) will enjoy this wonderful tale for a long, long time. And, I hope that we haven’t seen the end of the Jewels of Annieria.

To Find this book use this link.

For Andrew Peterson’s official book site this is the link. And Andrew’s personal site is here.

I gladly and with great anticipation received a copy of this book for this review. Readers of the first three books may feel appropriately envious!

Check out these other reviews of “The Warden and the Wolf King”:

Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Pauline Creeden
Vicky DealSharingAunt
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Rachel Starr Thomson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

 

And, if you would like to check out a special offer for my three books in the Jonathan Steel Chronicles, go to the order page at 11thdemon.com.

The Warden and the Wolf King Book Review Part 2

wolfkingpic2Bitter disappoint burned in my chest. I had just found out I was being released from my 5 book contract with Charisma after my second book. It was late on the first night of Hutchmoot 2012 and I wandered the beautiful grounds of Redeemer Church in Nashville crushed and weepy. I made my way back into the sanctuary to listen to our hosts regale us with song and sat on the last pew. In front of me, a young girl, probably 5 or 6 squirmed on the pew beside her mother, restless and bored. On the stage Andrew Peterson was about to sing a number from his newest album, “Light for the Lost Boy”. He told us this story:

An artist told about growing up without knowledge of God. But, somehow he knew there was Someone to watch over him, a secret Companion. Later in life, this man came to know Christ and realized that God was always with him in the quiet, desperate moments of his life. Andrew decided to write a song about this secret companion. Then, he paused and called out to his daughter. The girl on the pew in front of me snapped to attention and with great delight ran up to the stage to sing with her father. As they sang, “The Voice of Jesus” I wept silently with joy that even in the midst of my depression and disappointment, the voice of Jesus still whispered hope and love. When she joined in with her father at the end of the song, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and a hushed, reverent stillness gripped us all. In that moment we heard not just the voices of Andrew and his daughter. We also heard the Voice of Jesus. My despair lifted and the music calmed my soul and brought me a measure of sorely needed peace.

I tell you this because when I read of Leeli in “The Warden and the Wolf King” I hear the voice of Andrew Peterson’s daughter raised in song. In fact, song and music are integral to the story of this novel and permeate throughout the narrative. This shouldn’t surprise me. Andrew Peterson’s songs are more than catchy tunes. They are deep, thoughtful reflections on our life in this imperfect world and the redemption we find in Christ’s love.

Song is so important to the story of “The Warden and the Wolf King”. I remember reading “Lord of the Rings” as a teenager and being impatient when I came to long verses of song lyrics. Most of the time, I skipped over them. And, although the songs’ words gave some framework for the world of Middle Earth, I could have done without them.

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The Warden and The Wolf King Book Review — Part 1

wolfkingpic2I was sitting at an outdoor table under a tent with my son Sean when Andrew Peterson plopped down next to us and began to eat his dinner. It was a cool September evening in Nashville at the 2012 Hutchmoot. Talking to Andrew was like talking to a long lost friend. The conversation meandered to children, much like the three jewels of Annieria in the Wingfeather Saga. Andrew scrunched up his face, shoved his nose in my son’s face and proclaimed: “You better behave, Sean me boy, or your father’ll have you hoisted up the petard!”

I’m sure Andrew doesn’t remember this. He said things like that to everyone at Hutchmoot, but we remember it well. And, it is that spirit of random abandonment to reality that flows through the Wingfeather Saga.

Being a alumnus of two Hutchmoots, I can easily see in Andrew’s writing his love for Buechner, Lewis, MacDonald, Tolkien, and Wendell Berry. He blends elements of fantasy, swashbuckling, and allegory with a touch of parable throughout his works all set against a lushly realized landscape. Now, I am an author of a book series. I am currently in the final edit on book four and I can tell you it is not easy keeping all the story lines coherent and moving in parallel. One of my pet peeves is with authors who set out to write a book series and run out of creative energy early on. They create immersive worlds, stunning characters, and set up elaborate plot lines and then just get lost in their own maze. The list of book series I have given up on is long. By book four, you can tell you are lost in a forest along with the author and there is no way to get out unless you turn back (reboot your story) or open up the Pandora’s box of contrivances and let loose the deus ex machina.

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A Song All Dads MUST Listen To!

First, let me say I want to thank everyone having me on their radio shows this week. I now have 11 interviews!

In one interview that will air sometime tonight, I talked quite a bit about the relationship between father and children. Here is one of the most powerful music videos I’ve seen in a while from one of my favorite singers and authors, Andrew Peterson.

Now, one more thing. My son sent me another interesting link about video game violence:

http://www.polygon.com/2013/1/14/3875420/video-game-violence

The author makes a very valid point. While violent video games do cause changes in behavior, it is the responsibility of the player to use common sense and moderation. Ideas have consequences and it is not the idea that carries out the consequences, it is the person acting on those ideas. And, yes, there are lots of non violent video games that can involve the entire family. This situation reminds of me of Walt Disney. He would take his two daughters out on Sunday afternoon to the carnivals along the shore in Los Angeles. Back then, these carnivals were dirty and trashy with the lowest common denominator human being working there and the rides were half broken and would not allow a father to enjoy them with his children. All Walt could do was watch. But, he saw an opportunity to change that dynamic. He imagined an “amusement” park where things were clean, employees were clean cut, motivated and engaged; and where the attractions provided something for the entire family to enjoy together. He created Disneyland and the rest is history.

Maybe we parents need to consider doing this with our kids. Enjoy some positive, fun video games together as an alternative to the violent ones. Encourage them to participate with the entire family, even if it is for just a short time. The video gaming industry is beginning to get this idea and if we, as consumers, encourage these kind of experiences, maybe we can have a positive impact on the future of our children!

Don’t You Want To Thank Someone?

There was an empty chair at the table this Thanksgiving.

My father passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 98. Even though he had been living in the nursing home for the past three years, I always brought him home for the holidays. Every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Fourth of July, my father would sit at the head of our table. And, always, he would lead us in prayer and sing us a song or two.

My father’s singing idols were Tennessee Ernie Ford and George Beverly Shea. Although his voice was weaker and weaker as he aged, when he switched to his singing mode, from somewhere deep within this clear, deep, resonant voice would boom out a song in perfect pitch.

And so, this year, more than any other, I am thankful for my father. His absence has made me realize how much I came to depend on hearing that voice raised in song. “Don’t you want to thank someone?” is a more than just a question. It is a song written and sung by Andrew Peterson. The last song on his newest release, “Light for the lost boy”, this song brought tears to my eyes just a few weeks before my father’s death.

I used to be a little boy

As golden as a sunrise

Breaking over Illinois

When the corn was tall

 

Yeah, but every little boy grows up

And he’s haunted by the heart that died

Longing for the world that was

Before the Fall

 

Oh, but then forgiveness comes

A grace that I cannot resist

And I just want to thank someone

I just want to thank someone for this

 

Those are just a few words from this incredible song. I did not grow up in Illinois, but the corn grew tall in my father’s garden here in Louisiana and one dark day atop the tall tree I realized the world was broken and no longer the glowing, innocent thing I had lived in for my first ten years. It was atop that tree, above the vampires that lurked in the dark shadows and the werewolves with glowing yellow eyes that waited for me in the blackberry bushes and the myriad monsters of my imagination that my fear of the worlds I had only until then imagined became the beasts of approaching adulthood. Just as real. Just as dangerous. Just as deadly.

I write about vampires and werewolves and creatures in the dark because we live in a broken, fallen world. We try desperately to understand it and to dissect it and to equate it and to reduce it to laws and axioms that fit neatly into a science textbook. Equations we can control. With them we hope to tame the beasts but to no avail. Rather, it takes imagination.

During a midnight walk, J. R. R. Tolkien told C. S. Lewis that his atheism was no more than a lack of imagination. Here are some other words from this incredible song:

Now I can see the world is charged

It’s glimmering with promises

Written in a script of stars

Dripping from prophets’ lips

 

But still, my thirst is never slaked

I am hounded by a restlessness

Eaten by this endless ache

But still I will give thanks for this

 

‘Cause I can see it in the seas of wheat

I can feel it when the horses run

It’s howling in the snowy peaks

It’s blazing in the midnight sun

 

Just behind a veil of wind

A million angels waiting in the wings

A swirling storm of cherubim

Making ready for the Reckoning

 

Oh, how long, how long?

Oh, sing on, sing on

 

And when the world is new again

And the children of the King

Are ancient in their youth again

Maybe it’s a better thing

A better thing

 

To be more than merely innocent

But to be broken then redeemed by love

Maybe this old world is bent

But it’s waking up

And I’m waking up

 

‘Cause I can hear the voice of one

He’s crying in the wilderness

“Make ready for the Kingdom Come”

Don’t you want to thank someone for this?

 

I am so thankful for the power of my imagination to open up the doorways of my heart and mind to the REALITY of God! I am so thankful my silent companion standing in the gap between my soul and the monsters of my brokenness is real and loving and forgiving and the author and finisher of this universe. I am so thankful for the times of failure and faithlessness and doubt so that I could search those shadows again and find Him waiting there right where I left Him. I am so thankful my father showed me the love of God! I am thankful for each and every reader that has trusted me to fill a book with words that are more than echoes of futility. Rather, they are words that lead slowly but inexorably to the Word, the Logos, the One who became flesh. And, for that, I am thankful.

Look around you in the aftermath of this hectic and busy season of empty thanks and muted praise and awkward family gatherings and frantic hours of shopping. Stop and look into the shadows. There may be beasts among us, and I am sure there are. But, there is a quiet, abiding companion following, following and watching over us. My father sang of this companion in his powerful voice. He sang of a Father that is greater than any earthly father could ever be. A Father who sits at our table; who sings the story of our lives into being; who longs to love us and redeem us and hold us in his arms. Think on this with an imagination that is a poor reflection of the image of God and you will find in your heart and in your soul the need to thank Someone!

Final Post on Hutchmoot 2012 — Conquer Depression!

I have seen the hand of God this summer in ways I have never seen before in my life. He reached out to me from the utter blue and totally changed my direction. I am the co-author of “Conquering Depression” published by B&H Publishing way back in February 2001. We had given up on producing a new book and I had decided to move on to my fiction. But, God started stirring things up.

First, I did the RIGHT thing back in May. I said, “God, I am giving up on any future with a new depression book. It is in your hands. Show me the work you want me to do. I will no longer worry about this book. Instead, I will focus on my fiction books.” The next day, an email arrived from our agent telling us we should write a brand new book on depression. Well, I wasn’t completely convinced. I was working on the prep for my fiction books with another publisher. But, I reached out to my co-author, Mark Sutton. Turns out he was in the worst depression he had in years! The last thing he wanted to do was write a new book on depression. He just wanted to see the sun rise again!

I won’t belabor the details, because I can’t really go into them but in July, we were offered an opportunity to do a new book and possibly an entire series! Out of the blue! With no input or planning on our part. Literally, an editor walked up to me at a publisher’s meeting room and recognized me and asked to meet regarding a new book on depression. I mentioned it earlier in my previous post that I felt at that time God might be telling me depression was my top priority instead of fiction. And, that came to pass while I was at Hutchmoot!

Now, here is what I want to share. I don’t know what each person took away from Hutchmoot. I am convinced it was totally different and totally unique for each of us. God told us exactly what we needed. And, I would bet that it wasn’t exactly what we WANTED! I needed to hear that a new depression book was essential! That it was needed! I had decided that only older people suffered from depression. Imagine my shock to learn that many of the under 35 crowd (the majority of Hutchmoot attendees) are churned under by depression. In fact, I would say we are on the cusp of an epidemic. God showed me this as I have said in the previous posts.

God told me in no uncertain terms, “Bruce, get with the program. Don’t just do a halfway job on updating a depression book. Give it everything you’ve got. Now! Today!” I heard God speaking.

And so, I met with my co-author yesterday. We spent six hours going over the tentative plan for the book. But, I showed him some really important things. I told him about Eric Peters and Jason Gray’s “Recovery Through Song” session. I had made copious notes and now several phrases that both men used will become brand new chapters in the depression book. I played Eric’s “Voices” for him. He wept and we will be doing a chapter on the voices that can lie to us. I played him some of “Light for the Lost Boy” and we talked about a mutual acquaintance of my son that Mark Sutton knows well who has lost his faith. We talked about all the “lost boys and girls” who are alienated by our culture. So, we will have a chapter on that! We will be building a website as a platform for this book and we are VERY excited about it.

And here is what I want everyone who attended Hutchmoot 2012 and everyone who planned and worked at Hutchmoot to know. God used this simple gathering for a huge purpose. I walked with God into that meeting and, as Phil Vischer said, God showed me the work He wanted me to do. I could NEVER have seen this without Hutchmoot. So, Pete and Andrew and Eric and Jason and all of you wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ, one day someone will send us an email and say, “Your depression book saved my life.” and you must understand that you had a hand in that. Your love and compassion and devotion to God will play out in ways we can never know. People will come to find hope and peace and joy again because of the influence of Hutchmoot.

So, here is what I’d like to offer. We want to begin to build a database, if you will, of testimonies regarding depression. When we launch our new book in the summer of 2014 (tentative plans) and open our website, I’d like to have as many video, audio, or written testimonials as possible to put on the website. So, here’s the deal. If you would like to be a part of the “Conquer Depression” project, simply let me know. Drop me an email through the form below. I will send you a link to my Dropbox account and you can put anything in there you want — a video, an audio recording, or simply something in writing. And, I have about 50 of the current “Conquering Depression” books as promotions. They are hard to find, but you can order them online and book stores will order them for you. But, I’d like to offer you a copy FREE of charge. Now, this is the current book and the new book will be ten times better thanks to Hutchmoot! But, if I send you a book, and it helps you, we would love a follow up testimonial for the website.

Mark Sutton and I struggle daily with depression. Remember I said he was in the deepest depression in years? Once the ball dropped in July and we were offered a possible new book deal, he changed totally. Turns out his current episode was due to chronic illness, a simmering infection. Once treated, he was different man and now his on fire to write this book! Satan is already after us and attacking both of us. Satan is the father of lies and his biggest lies are the ones that discourage us and send us into his darkness. Help us fight that! Join us in “Conquering Depression”.

 

In the form below, note it is NOT FOR COMMENTS. Simple fill it out and send me your email and I will get back to you with more information.

Hutchmoot Day 2 — Part 2 — Looking for Light

What brought you to Hutchmoot?

What do you do?

Two questions every attendee asks at Hutchmoot, even if you know the face and can’t quite remember the name and the details associated with that name. And, this year, there were 86 more of us to meet than before.

My son, Sean, tried to succinctly convey his job. By the third day, he had it down to a finely tuned summary. You see, while completing his masters degree in media studies, he became an intern at Texas Impact. In Austin, this organization is a political action advocate for inter-faith issues. They monitor issues coming before the Texas legislature (meets every other year) and then posts those issues pertinent to faith based living on their website. They follow various religious traditions and their efforts to change culture through their influence on local government. Maybe. I think I got that right. Bottom line is that Sean works on the website and social media and video editing and video capture and is now the main tech guy for Texas Impact. I have watched him grow and mature as he has dealt with the unhealthy interface between politics and religion. And, it is very unhealthy.

Coming to Hutchmoot, Sean had a couple of goals. Spend time with his Dad (woohoo!) and to see what God had to say to him. You see, Sean is an excellent writer and storyteller and is insanely creative. But, he doesn’t write books or stories. He writes notes and composes his thoughts into the most incredible conversations I have ever had with ANYONE. Sometimes, I wished had recorded one of our conversations and had it transposed so I could remember all the cool stuff he said. Yeah, my Sean is one cool dude and I am so proud of him.

But, Sean is not without his struggles. He and his wife, Jennifer, are struggling with some personal issues related to his church in Austin. I can’t go into details. These issues are substantial and deep and very, very important to them. But, God spoke to Sean in so many ways at Hutchmoot. And, he heard something totally different from what God said to me. Imagine that? I think this is the singular most important thing to understand about Hutchmoot. It is not only where we come to meet other Hutchmootians in one of the grandest and coolest koinonias in the universe. It is also where we come to meet with God. God speaks in the midst of this incredible gathering — uniquely and individually to each one of us. And, he spoke to Sean in ways only Sean can share with you.

But, there is one last event on Friday I must mention. There were many smaller moments through the lunch and afternoon. One encounter was with a former employee of one of my current publishers who confirmed what an incredible team is now in place compared to a few years back. Again, I can’t go into details but it was another “chance” encounter that God led me to in order to reassure me that my updated book on depression should take front and center attention RIGHT NOW!

Friday night. Sean and I followed the new iOS6 map app on my iPhone 4Gs and it worked perfectly, thank you very much! We pulled onto Lipscomb University campus and I was stunned. I did not know this place existed. As we walked across the campus from the parking garage I felt the cool wind on my face and there was God again, speaking, whispering in his quiet manner, surrounding both of us with His undeniable Presence. I wanted to go back to college again! I wanted to start afresh, anew at this campus filled with soaring red brick edifices and bustling, smiling students and a fresh appreciation of the importance of LEARNING in such a God centered environment.

We went into the auditorium to await this night’s debut of Andrew Peterson’s “Light for the Lost Boy” concert. As Sean and I waited we continued a conversation about a mutual acquaintance who had lost his faith. I don’t mean had doubts. I’m talking about moving from Theism to Atheism. How did this happen? How could someone who has been a professed Christ follower for most of their life walk away from God?

Folks, it is a simple and short journey from our doubts to forgetting the One who created us. How quickly we forget our blessings! How quickly we turn our backs on God! I know. It happened to me. I will talk about my crisis of faith in a future post. But, my heart was so burdened for our friend. What could either of us say? What could we do to convince him how wrong he was for just tossing away his faith in God? Now, I am an apologist. I’ve studied Christian apologetics now for 14 years. Apologetics was an answer to my crisis and it has given me a rock solid faith. Or has it? Hadn’t I just gone into a dark depression over this book deal? How quickly had I forgotten God? Pretty darn quick!

My point is that providing logical arguments and sound evidence is not the answer to those who leave our faith. The leaving is one of questions and doubts that are deeply imbedded in our quest for Eden. It is born of utter deep pain. While at a book signing for my first book, “The 13th Demon” at a book store in Austin, Texas a middle age woman asked if the book was appropriate for her teenager grandson. “He’s lost his faith. He is now an atheist. What can I do?” Now, my internal apologist wanted to take over but instead I sensed the pain. I asked her what her grandson’s life was like. What was his relationship to his father like? What came out was a sorrowful story of a broken relationship. You see, we look at God many times through the lens of our parents. We stack them up against God and when they let us down, we transfer that disappointment to God. As with this woman’s grandson, I feared the loss of faith with our friend was at the expense of a very important broken relationship. More on this later when I post about Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales.

If you have not listened to Andrew Peterson’s new album, you have missed out on one of the truly great works of music and lyrics in the past ten years. Yes, it is that incredible. You must listen while reading the lyrics until they are firmly seared into your mind. Andrew kicked off the concert introducing Caleb, the band composed of two of Steven Curtis Chapman’s sons (He was in the audience about two rows behind us). Then, he came back from a break and began the concert. If you have ever had the joy of sitting through “Behold the Lamb of God” Christmas concert you are well aware of Andrew’s ability to carry a concept from start to finish. Where BTLOG takes us from Genesis to the Resurrection, “Light for the Lost Boy” carries us from birth to death; from innocence to disappointment; from lostness to grace; from the Big Question Mark to the Big Exclamation Mark. As the songs unfolded before us, I wept, I smiled, I hugged my son, I laughed, and I exulted in the utter sheer joy of being in God’s presence.

For, Andrew encapsulated my entire journey of faith in those songs. My lostness in the woods wandering but sensing a hidden companion. As a child, I wandered the pasture and woods of our 62 acres listening to the stillness, the quiet, the thunder. I remember one startling moment after my dog, Rusty died when at the age of 10 I climbed the “tall tree” in our front yard higher and higher struggling through the branches, tearing my skin, bumping my head until I reached the giddy top of the tree swaying and dancing in the evening breeze and I wedged myself into those small top branches and gazed out over a sea of trembling, weaving green tree tops stirred by the hand of God and I felt Him there, felt His presence wrapping me up in love and understanding and saying, “My son, I feel your loss; I know what it is like; you lost a pet; I lost a Son.” I was there in that tree in that moment in that concert and God stirred within me the memory of His presence. It was shortly after that incident in my life that I surrendered all to Christ. There were many journeys to the top of the “Tall Tree” in later years. Many moments with God at the top of my world before my innocence and trust in this world died and I realized it is irrevocably broken and bruised. No Eden. No Garden. Just this — living on the edge of Theism and  Atheism.

And, hearing those songs, some of which were written by Andrew for his children was especially wonderful for me to hear with my son sitting beside. He has always chided me for a statement I made in his early years, “Son, you’ve never lived until you’ve climbed a tree” something he has never done. After the concert in that wonderful walk across Lipscomb campus I shared with him the story of the tall tree. And, I saw dawning within his mind a new understanding of his father. “Dad, you have lots of stories. You need to write them down.”

Indeed!

Hutchmoot 2012 — Day 1 So Many Rabbits

Thursday afternoon and it is around 530 PM. My son, Sean and I can smell the wondrous aroma of dinner wafting up the stairs from the basement of Redeemer Church. We were sitting in the sanctuary with 184 other people attending the 2012 Hutchmoot. I watched as Andrew Peterson smiled and looked out over the crowd. He welcomed us and then said something that in any other creative conference in the world would be a sign that we are all in big trouble. “Welcome to Hutchmoot. I’m not sure what is going to happen but here we are.”

Yeah, Hutchmoot is like that. Well planned and well co-ordinated thanks to the ever awesome hard work of Pete Peterson. But, exactly what each person is going to take away from the conference is uncertain. At least to us. Not uncertain to the One who spoke the world into existence, the One who holds the universe together, the One whose Story is unfolding all around us, the One who invites us to be a part of that Story.

An hour before my son and I left the hotel for the conference I received the email I had been dreading. One of my current publishers was “releasing” me from my contract. Just an hour away from the most wondrous creative conference of the year and I get this bad news.

But, you know what I thought? Instantly, I knew that God had something very specific to reveal to me through Hutchmoot. God is in control. This was no surprise to him. In fact, this development was the next plot point in my story. He wrote it. My job was to play my part as truthfully and as faithfully to the Author as I could. So, it was with heavy heart and a growing sense of depression that Sean and I set out for Redeemer Church for the opening of Hutchmoot 2012. The dark clouds were gathering and blotting out the shining light of the sun that I had hoped would illuminate the next four days. I felt my world contracting and squeezing down, pressing in on me with the bitter oppressive realization that my Dream was dying. Twelve years of hard work culminating in a five book contract were now a total and complete waste. God, where are you? Why?

I was understandably subdued at the most excellent dinner Evie had concocted for all of her “so many rabbits!”. Sean and I sat outside under the tent at an empty table waiting for others to join us. No one joined us. I guessed it was for the best. I wasn’t very good company. But, it gave Sean and I a chance to talk for over an hour. He lives in Austin, Texas and I live in Shreveport, Louisiana. We seldom get to see each other and already the past twenty four hours together had been fantastic. Now, Sean sensed the need to comfort his father. And, I sensed the need to pull out of my funk and make the time we had together the best it could be. The food helped.

That evening, Hutchmoot 2012 kicked off with one of my favorite events. The Square Peg Alliance, the alliance of independently minded singers and songwriters that Sean and I had grown to love performed for us. It was a totally random, unplugged affair filled with gaffs and laughter and wonderfully real performances. As the songs filled the air and swirled around us, I felt my mood lightening. Just a bit. It wasn’t the end of the world. Things would get better. I would move on with my books. God was in control.

I slipped outside for a moment to call my wife, Sherry. She was in Chattanooga staying with friends of ours. I had told her briefly about the email and we talked for a while as I wandered around in the still, cool night outside of Redeemer Church. I went back inside and sat on the back row. In the row in front of me were Andrew Peterson’s three children. His two sons sat at the end of the row listening with intense concentration to the music. His youngest daughter, Skye was stretched out on the seats with her head in her mother’s lap. She was the typical young girl, twitchy, bubbly, moving all around, staring at the ceiling, mouthing words, perhaps even bored? Andrew Peterson took the stage to sing us the last song of the night. He asked if Skye was in the room.

I watched in wonder as Skye’s eyes lit up and she sprang up from the seats with childlike energy. She bounded up the aisle to the stage. She joined her father to sing a song. She joined her father! I suddenly saw a ray of hope. I was here with my son. And, Andrew Peterson would be singing a song from his latest album “Light for the Lost Boy” about a son and his father. Suddenly, a framework appeared, suddenly the plot thickened, suddenly I saw that God had planned all of this. I was here with my son for a reason. All was not lost. I was not wandering through the misty woods alone.

And then, Skye and her father sang a song, a powerful and yet simple song, The Voice of Jesus. Moments before, Skye had been the typical energy filled, mind wandering child but now she was focused and engaged and sang with the voice of a child in perfect harmony these incredible words:

I know you’ve been afraid

Don’t know what to do

You’ve been lost in the questions

I don’t know what to say

I’m sure if I were you

I’d proceed with some caution

But I want you to know

When the joy that you feel

Leaves a terrible ache in your bones

It’s the voice of Jesus

Calling you back home

I know you’ve got a lot

Spinning in your head

All this emptiness fills you

Maybe you could try

Laying in your bed

To ask the silence to still you

And you might hear a beat

On the door of your heart

When you do, let it open up wide

It’s the voice of Jesus

Calling you his bride

Once upon a time there was a little boy

Who wandered the forest, abandoned

And he heard in the leaves

And behind every tree

The sound of a secret companion

Following

So listen, little girl,

Somewhere there’s a King

Who will love you forever

And nothing in the world

Could ever come between

You, my love, and this Lover

So when I kiss you at night

And I turn out the light

And I tell you you’re never alone

It’s the voice of Jesus

Calling you

It’s the voice of Jesus

Calling you his own

There it was. The refrain for my first day, closing up my depression and despair into a simple realization that I am not alone and although I am now wandering through the woods, if I stop and gaze carefully into the fog and mist and listen with intense concentration I can hear the voice of Jesus calling me His own.

After the concert, Sean and I hung around and met four guys from San Diego and bless his heart, Ryan lifted my spirits to the heavens. We talked for about thirty minutes just standing there in the aisle while the singers broke down their instruments. Ryan, you will never know what that conversation meant to me! Never! You helped me refocus and repurpose Hutchmoot. Jesus was speaking and I needed to listen.

Just a reminder that I still have a few books left for the free giveaway of “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” in preparation for the release of “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” on October 16, 2012. If you want a free book just fill out the form below and there is no obligation.

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