What has 80 years taught us?
Today is the 80th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
1994 — Four elderly men stood before me. They had asked to talk to me, and I was very, very nervous. One of them was shaking with emotion and all I could think of was somehow I had offended them with something I had written in the play they had just seen.
Let me explain.
In 1994 I wrote and directed a play entitled “The Night Gift” about a “family” of workers in a Christian greeting card company trapped together in their penthouse office on Christmas Eve. My good friend and our best actor, Larry Robison, asked me to write him a bit part as an old curmudgeonly gentlemen. Larry would play the elderly Mr. Collinbird and at a pivotal point in the play, I wanted to change the mood from humorous to serious. Up to that moment, Mr. Collinbird had been hilarious and frankly, senile. The members of the office began to share their most memorable Christmases. When it came to Mr. Collinbird, everyone was expecting another silly story. Instead, he began to tell a very moving story about his childhood.
Mr. Collinbird told the story of Christmas,1941 when his father did not return from Pearl Harbor. The young boy went out into the woods and cut down the family Christmas tree on his own. During the tale, Larry “became” the young Collinbird and I came out on the stage dressed as his father with blood on my chest. I told my “son” he was now the man of the house, and I would not be coming home for Christmas.
It was a simple five-minute scene meant to change the tone of the play and to catch the audience off guard. They would be expecting Collinbird to be silly but instead they got a very poignant, moving story of the child who became the man. After the first night’s play, Larry came up to me and said there were four men who wanted to talk to the author of the play. These were the four men who now stood before me.
The trembling man wiped at his eyes and this is what he said:
“I wanted to thank you for honoring the men who fought in World War II. We are World War II veterans and I was at Pearl Harbor. Thank you for honoring us on Veteran’s Day.”
I was stunned! It suddenly hit me that this was Friday, November 11th, the original date for Veteran’s Day! I never intended to honor WWII veterans, but God had different plans. God knew who would be there that night and God knew they needed to be honored by the simple scene in this play. The play was performed for two nights only and as impressive and shocking as the first night’s response was, I was not prepared for what happened the second night.
After the second night’s play, Larry escorted an elderly woman up to me and introduced us. She also wanted to meet the author of the play. This is what she said:
“My brother died at Pearl Harbor, and I have been mad at him and mad at God ever since. Tonight, you helped me to say goodbye to my brother and to find peace with my Maker. Thank you!”
How do you respond to such a statement? I was truly humbled!
It would be eleven years before I wrote and produced “The Homecoming Tree”, a play telling the story of the young Mr. Collinbird, now Daniel Collinsworth. The story was based on my parents’ lives during WWII. They lived in a boarding house atmosphere and their relatives came to stay with them as the war unfolded.
To prepare for that play, I sat my parents down along with my brother. This was in 1999 (all three have now passed on) in front of an old-fashioned slide projector with photos from their lives. I recorded two hours of them talking about their lives growing up during the Great Depression and living through the second world war. What a precious, priceless treasure trove of wisdom! Those stories became the basis for the play.
In 2018 I released a novelization of the play. In the novel, a modern-day businessman finds himself suffering from amnesia and sent back in time to 1941. His elderly boss is a young boy in 1941 and “Ray” is taken in by the kindly owners of the boarding house. In a scene from the book, Ray knows that something terrible is going to happen on Sunday, December 7th but can’t remember. When the news arrives on the radio, he has an unusual experience where he is both in the present and in the past, seeing not only the young boy whose father is at Pearl Harbor but the old man who remembers what that day brought to his family. Here an excerpt from the novel:
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy,” A different voice now. Wasn’t that President Roosevelt? Darkness swam into cloudy light, and an old man sat next to him on a couch. Blood trickled from a wound on the old man’s temple. His pale blue eyes were opened, and he stared off into space. It was as if the old man was talking in his sleep. Who was he? Why did he have a wound on his temple? Where was Mikey when you needed him? Mikey? Who was Mikey? Hadn’t he stopped the mugger? But not before the man had shot him. Ray swam in clouds of confusion as the old man continued to talk.
“I remember it all. How could I forget? The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was complete. The attack came in two waves. The first hit its target at 7:53 Hawaii time, the second at 8:55. By 9:55, it was all over. Behind them, they left chaos: 2403 dead, 188 destroyed planes and a crippled Pacific fleet that included eight damaged and destroyed battleships. It is rumored that a Japanese commander made the statement ‘I fear all we have done is awakened a sleeping giant.’ My family listened to the reports of the attack on Pearl Harbor on the radio. We saw the news footage at the newsreels at the movie theater. I imagined my Daddy as one of the brave pilots who actually made it into the air to attack the enemy. But, the truth was he was probably on the ground at Hickman Field and never made it into the air. In the days to come, we would wait anxiously for news from my father. But in the confusion and chaos after Pearl Harbor, the government was more concerned about entering the war against Japan and Germany. They didn’t have time to track down one missing soldier. With only days left until Christmas, my mother, sister and I cared nothing about putting up Christmas decorations. We just wanted my Daddy to come home.”
Ray saw smoke billow; flames consume shattered airplanes, wings, and fuselages with the red dot of the rising sun moving through the bright sky. The world shuddered and contracted around him as evil and death warred for supremacy in his life and the world. The image of a woman with blonde hair floated in front of his eyes. She reminded him of Peggy Lou, but she wasn’t quite the same woman. A young boy ran across his vision chasing a small dog. The same old man who had been speaking floated across his mind. His face was swollen and bruised. Was the old man dying? They were all dying. The world was dying, drowning beneath a flood of blood. Ray swallowed and tried to cry out in horror.
“No! Don’t let it be so! Stop it! God, stop it!” He pleaded, but the world continued to swirl around him nonstop. The old man’s eyes opened, and he mouthed something Ray could not hear. Then, his features changed and smoothed and became the face of a young man and he was back in 1941.
The novel is set in 2001 at the beginning in a country reeling from the terrorist attack of September 11. Many adults remember that day and the horror and terror we felt at the sight of the World Trade Center collapsing in real time on our television screens. We also reeled under the report of the other downed airplanes, one crashing into the Pentagon.
Today, eighty years after the horrific attack on Pearl Harbor, we live in a world that is once again on the brink of chaos. Pandemic, Chinese aggression, Russian invasions, inflation, and the most egregious, hatred and division across our land on so many issues. The attack on Pearl Harbor united our country against an evil enemy and pulled us together in the cause of the effort of good to defeat evil.
I salute the families whose loved ones died at Pearl Harbor. I am thankful for every person who has ever served in our military to defend our nation against evil aggression. It is no longer fashionable to be patriotic, but we must remember what our country stands for as written in the opening words of the document that would change the world: The Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
So important those words: truth, created, equal, Creator, life, liberty, happiness. But most important inalienable. That means simply something that can never be taken away by human effort; something truly transcendent.
Today, my prayer is that we will recognize these words as a reflection of the Creator God who made us all equal in His image. If we truly recognize this, then the words of Paul in the book Galatians take on a fuller and more foundational meaning:
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28
We are all one, united, equal regardless of ethnicity, gender, social standing, and the list goes on. Christ united us in one body, adopted into His unity. Notice how important is the first part of those verses: “in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith”. We have abandoned faith in that transcendent source and have made ourselves gods and goddesses. Be careful. This disconnect from a Creator God is exactly what drove the despots and dictators of the past to elevate themselves to a level of godhood. And we see clearly how those situations turned out.
Today as we thank those who sacrificed their lives in the purpose of defending a country determined to honor “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” let us realize that such a sacrifice means nothing if we do not honor the transcendent Source of all truth and love!
“The Homecoming Tree” is available at all online book stores in both print and ebook format.
The Warden and the Wolf King Book Review – Part 3
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”:
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Rachel Starr Thomson
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.
You’re Just Being Paranoid!
I watched the sword impact with the woman’s neck and, thankfully, the news channel cut off the feed before it got too grisly. The newsfeed had originated from a soccer stadium on the other side of the world. I couldn’t breath and glanced over at my wife sleeping soundly in our hotel room bed for an afternoon nap. I quietly eased through the curtains and out onto the balcony. In stark contrast to the images of a real execution in Afghanistan I had just witnessed, the magical world of Disney’s California Adventure stretched out below me in the fading evening sun. My cell phone rang and I settled into a chair. My pastor was calling to see how our trip to California was going.
“Not too well, Mark.” I said. “It just seems that everyone I meet is so narcissistic, so self centered. It’s all about me, me, me. And, on live television I just witnessed a fanatic faction executing women in an arena for being caught in public with their ankles exposed. What kind of a world is this? I’m sitting here overlooking a Disney theme park in a state that is known for its self absorption and on the other side of the world crazy, fanatics are killing women because of a little exposed ankle flesh!”
“Well, I’m having a good day, too.” He answered sarcastically.
I went on to apologize for being so negative. And, I shared with him my growing sense of evil all around me. For weeks now, I had become increasingly enveloped by a cloud of oppression and despair the likes of which I had not felt since I went through my horrific depression years earlier. It was as if some great, unbound evil was coming preparing to pounce upon the world. I’ll never forget what I said next. “Mark, I think Satan is about to perpetrate a horrible evil on America unlike anything we have seen in decades and we are totally unprepared for the spiritual repercussions. God is trying to get our attention. And, the sad thing is, if something horrible happens the very person we will blame is God! And yet, we have escorted God right out of our daily lives and we will wonder how God let this thing happen.”
Something Evil This Way Comes!
I am an apologist. I don’t apologize for being a Christian. I defend the truthfulness of the Christian faith. The word “apologist” comes from the Greek word apologos. This word appears in the scriptures, 1 Peter 3:15-16. “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” That word “reason” is apologos and it means to give evidence as if you were defending yourself in court.
When we talk about the topic of evil, we have to consider the different types of evil. Fuz Rana from Reasons to Believe states: “Philosophers and theologians recognize two kinds of evil: moral and natural. Moral evil stems from human action (or inaction in some cases). Natural evil occurs as a consequence of nature—earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, diseases, and the like.”
Why Do I Write About Demons?
Because I have stared the enemy in the its face and I will not back down again!
When was this? My first encounter with pure evil took place shortly after I finished medical school during my interniship. I was an intern just seven months after my graduation from medical school rotating through the emergency room. It was a cold February night and a raging icestorm had transformed Shreveport, Louisiana into a crystalline wonderland. Unless you were driving in the stuff or if you were homeless. Dozens of people were crowded into the emergency room waiting room trying to stay warm. The ER was divided into the surgical side and the medical side. If you were a victim of the “knife and gun club” you came to the surgical side. If you could walk through the door under your own power, you came to the “Walk In Clinic”. This is where I found myself on that cold, frigid morning.
“Groundhog, it’s your turn to see the next psych patient.” One of my team members informed me. I never figured out why my nickname was Groundhog, but it was appropriate given it was Groundhog day, albeit only 2 A.M. I reluctantly got out of my chair and headed to the far hallway where we kept the crazies. My job was simple. Evaluate the patient to make sure the “psychotic” behavior wasn’t induced by a medical condition and if not, then call the psychiatry resident to come and admit the patient to the psych ward.
A Desperate Plea!
I am giving my last radio interview today on “Violent Video Games and their relationship to Teenage Violence”. And, as has happened to me before, several seemingly totally unrelated events have come together to put all of the past few weeks into perspective.
Yesterday, I reviewed “The Little Seer” for an new author, Laura Cowan. I wondered why God had placed this “divine” appointment in my path when I was already so busy with building a platform for my books and attending the PLATFORM conference. One of my takeaways from the book was the realization of how evil can destroy a life. How the enemy uses his minions to target a person, in this case the character of Tara and not only destroy other people through that person, but destroy the person in the process. I write about demons and spiritual warfare. And, in the years since I have started to do this, I have had personal attacks directed against me by forces of evil. Some of them I have recounted in past blog posts, such as the Devil house in Austin.
Now, let me take you in a lateral move to violent video games. When I started researching the effect of our current culture on young adults way back in May, 2012 as preparation for my update to our Conquering Depression book, I had no idea I would be studying violent video games. My son, Sean, is an avid game player. I have posted his comments on this phenomenon in the past few weeks and I urge the reader to review those posts. Sean began playing video games at an early age on my Commodore 128 computer. Last week, while attending the PLATFORM conference in Nashville, Sean and I had a great time together. On our last day together before I took him to the airport to fly back to his lovely wife in Austin, we stopped off at one of favorite haunts, Best Buy. There is nothing quite like geeking out with your son at Best Buy! As we walked through the door we entered the first “zone” and it was video games. Sean paused, looked around and made an amazing statement. “This used to be my area.”
Used to be? I looked at him in amazement. He went on to say he had practically given up playing video games, specifically violent first person shooter games in the weeks since he and I started talking about this phenomenon. Wow! I was impressed. Let me say this again. The boy has been playing video games his entire life — heavily immersed in video games — hours on end — online with his friends! And now, he has practically given them up! This was a stunning revelation to me. Why? He was tired of the only option for advancing a story — to kill or be killed. There is more to a story than this. There is more to life than this!
Yesterday at dinner, I sat across from my daughter, Casey. She is 25 and is still living at home battling epilepsy and migraines. She has suffered from seizures since age 8 and the story of her life is one of heroism and defiance to this horrific disease. She is one of the strongest people I know on the face of this planet. Recently, we have discovered that her seizures are migraine auras. We are changing out her medication completely. This has left her on an emotional roller coaster as she weans herself off of one drug and onto another. As a consequence, Casey has led a very sheltered life. And now, most of her friends are online — girls in distant parts of the country. Yesterday, I saw in her a deep oppression, a deep depression, a weight of worry and anxiety unlike anything she has faced. Instead of her online friends encouraging her and helping to build her up, these girls are sucking the very life out of her. Surrounded by needy, emotionally labile friends, Casey is desperately trying to please her friends; to help her friends; to encourage her friends. Only the energy is flowing in one direction — over the wifi into the world of ether and faceless “friends” leaving her listless and emotional empty.
This is the bane of their generation. They cannot exist without the internet and yet, all human relations become virtual. There is a danger of becoming isolated and disconnected from real people and, reality. This is the danger of addictive video games, as I have said in my interviews. This is the danger to this generation; a loss of interpersonal relational skills; a deepening, oppressive, paralyzing isolation into a totally self centered world where the greatest danger is becoming your own god.
Last night all of this came together in a sudden and shocking realization. Was Casey like Tara in “The Little Seer”? More specifically, was she like Aria, the main character? Isolated and alone at the hands of jealous, evil oppressed “friends” and not realizing her own special beauty as a “daughter of God”? I gasped as the realization settled in. Thank you Laura for writing your book! Thank you God for giving me insight and discernment.
For you see, my son has been under oppression for years with the evil that naturally resides in the the story of these video games. It had effected him and held him back from a healthy relationship with God. And, now, this is happening to my daughter! I immediately called my wife this morning and we are going to pray for Casey; pray with Casey; bind up the evil forces around her; and help her see that she is a beautiful, radiant daughter of God; meant for happiness and joy; meant for a life filled with light and love; meant to be so much more than the punching bag for a bunch of selfish, anonymous souls suffering in solitude on the internet.
So, here it is in a nutshell. We live in a world full of evil. It is growing in influence and power every day. It’s greatest ally is our isolation and loneliness. For in our solitude, we risk the danger of becoming our own god. But, there is light in the world. Satan is already defeated and God is waiting right where we left Him. He can deliver us out of this solitude by showing us that we are never alone; we are created in His image — an image of love and laughter and creativity and community and joy. Pray for my children. A selfish request on my part. Pray for your own children as they struggle in this world that is increasingly hostile to God. Be a part of their lives. If you are a young adult, seek the company of others — find real community and stop getting pulled into the false reality of video games that are just that — games. Know when to turn off the console and walk outside into the real world and look around. When you do, you will SEE GOD!!!!!
Book Signing Tomorrow!!!!
When you get this kind of email, it is startling; amazing; humbling. Let me tell you about the book that has changed thousands of lives. It is my book. It is our book. It is your book.
In 1995 I went through a horrific depression and in the aftermath developed tools to help me keep depression at bay. These LifeFilters, as I called them, intrigued my pastor, Mark Sutton. Mark professed to me that he suffered from depression also. This was a shock. After all, if you have enough FAITH, then you should NEVER suffer from depression. Which is a lie from the pits of hell. In fact, the statement that set me free came from my counselor who said to always ask, “What is the lie?” And, who is the father of lies? Satan!
If you think that depression is a spiritual disease then you are WRONG! Depression, as Mark and I discuss in our book, “Conquering Depression” is a multifactorial illness. If you have enough faith, why do you wear your glasses? No! God gave us our minds so we could learn. And, as a physician called by God to medicine, my mind may be the answer to your prayer!
Mark asked me to help him write a book on depression and we did. It was published in 2001 by Broadman & Holman (Now, B&H Publishing). Over the past 12 years, this book has refused to die. And trust me, the publisher has tried time and time again to let the book fade away and have a peaceful death. This past summer, after a change in editorial management, B&H came to Mark and I and asked us to consider updating the book. Conquering Depression lives on!
So, here is the message in a nutshell. Depression is currently approaching epidemic proportions. It’s cause is multiple and our current culture is fostering a hopeless, helpless, depressed populace especially among young adults (see the latest issue of Relevant magazine). In order to conquer depression, Mark and I developed a 30 day plan, a chapter a day, along with the tools of the LifeFilters. Our approach is that depression is a physical, emotional, and spiritual disease. You have to use a comprehensive approach with a doctor, a counselor or psychologist, and a Christ centered community for spiritual support.
If you are suffering from anxiety or depression this book is for YOU! If you love someone who may be depressed, this book is for YOU! Come by tomorrow and let’s chat. I’ll be signing copies of this book and I’d love to meet you. This is a new year. The old year is gone as Eric Peters sings in his wonderful album “Birds of Relocation”. But, soon, our current hopeless, helpless, dark, nihilistic culture will depress you. When it does, have the tools you need to “Conquer Depression”!
Okay, so in my last post, I told a very bleak and scary story. We live in a state of fear and there is a reason. In my two books in the “Chronicles of Jonathan Steel” I deal with this state of fear and its cause, EVIL. Want to read a good book that has an ultimately redemptive message? Want to see what evil is REALLY like? Want to know how you can have assurance that evil will not win the day?
Pick up a copy of “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” and “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon”. If you like Ted Dekker, Tosca Lee, Stephen King, or Peretti, you will like these books. They are written for men, women, and older teenagers.
Have these two books changed lives like the depression book? In fact, they have. I received an email from a man who read both books and then passed them on to his younger teenage brother who was dealing with doubt about his faith. After reading both books, the younger brother came to his older brother and they had a conversation about the young man’s faith. The books helped the younger brother strengthen his failing faith in Christ. In fact, both books are a good alternative to the Twilight Series or Vampire Diaries. If you want to hear what people are saying about these two books, checkout my tab for book reviews.
Tomorrow, January 5th, drop by the Shreveport LifeWay on Youree Drive between noon and two PM. I will be signing all three books and giving away FREE TEE SHIRTS. Even if you don’t buy a book, come by and support our local Christian book store! Come spend some of those Christmas dollars! I’ll see you there!
Evil Crouches at Your Door!
Let’s call him Ben. Ben was small, frail, about 4 years old. He had tousled blonde hair and pale blue eyes and translucent skin with dark blue veins visible just under the surface. In the brief time I took care of Ben, he never said a word. He never uttered a sound. I was a junior medical student charged with caring for Ben on the pediatric wards. His parents were stiff and silent on what had happened to Ben. They just found him in his bed still, quiet, and motionless save for the occasional blinking of his eyes and the rise and fall of his chest.
It was the late 1970’s and a new machine called a CAT scan was available at another hospital in our city. I traveled with Ben in the ambulance to a huge, brightly lit room. Against the far wall was a monstrosity of a machine with U shaped arms that spun and slid like some 1930’s science fiction machination. Ben was so tiny in the center of this huge machine. It would take 30 minutes to image his brain but there would be no problem with Ben holding still. Ben did not move. Today, that same scan would take 2 seconds.
As I watched the images slowly appear on a monitor, the radiologist sat beside me and sighed. He pointed to the white rim of Ben’s skull. He touched the dusty screen over a white blob in the center of Ben’s brain. Blood. Fractures. I was sick to my stomach.
Later after bringing in the police, the parents admitted to placing Ben’s head in the window sill and repeatedly closing the window on his head to get him to stop crying. Ben died in my arms, unloved, rejected, but not alone.
I have looked evil in the face. Evil is real. It is not a quirk of the synapses. It is not a chemical imbalance. It is not an environmentally produced “disorder”. It is an entity. I saw it lurking behind the feigned tears of Ben’s parents. I saw it in the manic face of a young girl I am convinced was possessed by that evil. I saw it in the relentless stare of a patient who vowed to kill me and eat my liver. I felt its caress on a lonely night in a bed and breakfast in Austin, Texas when I was trying to finish my book about the influence of these evil forces on our world.
I saw it last week. I saw it many times this past year. Last night, my best friend Mark Riser gave me a book for Christmas on theology. I randomly opened it and read a paragraph. It was not a random sampling it turns out. Basically the section was on evil and there was a thought placed there for me to ponder. Maybe our culture is more fascinated with evil than ever in order to pull our attention to the big acts of evil so we do not notice the insidious, quiet, tiny touches of evil as it infiltrates our lives.
The big evil last week was the killing of over two dozen innocent people including children. But that “big evil” came at the expense of dozens of tiny caresses of evil. “He was a quiet, thoughtful person.” “He was so nice.” “I can’t imagine why he did this.” You hear these kind of statements all the time when such a tragedy occurs.
Jay Strack, a motivational speaker back in the mid 1990’s once said when he went scuba diving, it wasn’t the sharks he feared. Rather, it was the multitude of minnows that can nibble you to death. We focus on the “big evil” and miss the accumulating influence of a thousand tiny evils that poke and prod and erode and puncture so much so that one day we find ourselves being bled to death; our resolve, our compassion, our mercy gone and we snap. The big evil takes us and we smash a tiny boy’s head in the window sill or rip a sink out of the wall or take up a gun and kill.
Don’t miss this. Each of us is totally and completely capable of carrying out the kind of “mindless, senseless” violence we saw last week. Don’t think for a moment that you or I are above it. We aren’t. We are imperfect, broken souls on a journey toward forgiveness; love; completion; release. Why are we such broken creatures? Why can we not pull ourselves up out of the muck; above these base emotions and actions?
Jesus of Nazareth had many things to say about evil and here are just three:
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’”
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
Jesus seems to be saying that evil originates in our hearts and minds. WE are the source of evil! How is this possible? If evil is real then how can it also be in us and yet not come from us? Ah, this is the mystery of all time. Our scientific culture wants to assert that we are but highly evolved animals; that we have no true spiritual side; that we do not have a thing called the soul. Such talk is of the supernatural and the supernatural does not exist. It is but a figment of our imagination.
But, Jesus seems to be saying that there is something within us that quickens at the sight of art and beauty; that resonates to the sound of music; that seeks and connects with that most abstract of things, love. And, because we are broken; ruined by this disconnect with the divine; we allow evil to take the place of good; to let darkness rule instead of light. There are only two choices — dark or light — good or evil. One will prevail in our hearts and mind and will rule the day. It is simple, Jesus taught. How then do we push the evil into the dark, powerless corners of our live so that good prevails? One more word from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth:
“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.”
Ah, we can fight the urges; suppress the evil impulses; push the destructive thoughts away but if we DO NOT have something positive to fill the void, then the evil will return more powerful and more controlling than ever. Look at history. Those who started down the path of evil; those who allowed the minnows to nibble away at their conscience; slowly, inexorably drowned in the sea of evil and became hardened; solidified by evil. For them, there is little hope of return to good; to return to sanity; to return to a world filled with light. Think of the Nazi holocaust, how insidiously a nation desiring to merely rebuild from the ashes of World War I became an engine of worldwide destruction and the killing machine of the Holocaust. Think of Stalin, ruler of Russia desiring to rebuild his country after the devastation of World War II deciding to quietly eliminate a few political enemies for the good of the state. Estimates are that he probably had between 50 and 100 million of his own people executed! There are dozens of such stories just from the twentieth century alone. And, no sane person would ever disagree that Adolph Hitler was evil.
I have no answer for why the events of last week took place. But, our actions should be to reach out in love, compassion, mercy and prayer to the families of the victims and the perpetrator. And, in our response we have once again turned to God. Where was God in the midst of this tragedy? Right where we left Him, out in the darkness; away in the shadows; escorted out of the picture by our culture for we do not need Him in our world of materialism, naturalism, and the promise of answers to all our quandaries from science.
What we cannot solve with our equations and our theories is the mystery of the human heart and the human soul. Jesus solved that problem. He taught that the heart must change and can only change through a realization that He is the Light. This season whether you believe in God or not; whether you worship the baby born in a manager or believe it is all a myth; seek to fill your heart with the Light of the Love that Jesus showed to us. And, when you do, you will find peace and goodwill toward all men.
“Enemies of the Cross” will take your breath away!
It was almost a year ago that I had a visitor to my hotel room in the middle of the night; a visitor that was most unwelcome; a visitor from the depths of hell; a visitor from the imagination of Greg Mitchell.
I had flown to Orlando, Florida to visit Charisma Media while my wife was spending a week with her bridge girlfriends on the beach. I arrived late at night and settled into my dark and foreboding hotel room with only a few more pages left of Greg Mitchell’s “The Strange Man”. I finished the book and had that odd mixture of anticipation for the next book and a sense of fulfillment at the satisfying conclusion of a great story. Around two in the morning I awoke in the empty bed, suddenly aware my wife was not with me but somebody was definitely in the room! I glanced at the corner of the room and something moved in the shadows. Instantly, my mind flashed back to the strange man and his “gremlins”. I jumped out of bed, turned on all the lights and made certain the room was truly empty. Then, I said a series of prayers and finally managed to drift off to sleep.
The time has come to pick up the story of “The Strange Man” in book two of the “Coming Evil” trilogy, “Enemies of the Cross”. The latest book by Greg Mitchell picks up right where book one ended. I had scheduled a week off for writing on my fourth book and planned a trip to Austin, Texas to see our son and his wife. My wife and I stayed at Lakeway Resort and Spa on Lake Travis so my wife could have a relaxing “spa” week. I must confess, I did not get much writing done. In fact, I got very little done and it’s all Greg Mitchell’s fault! I started “Enemies of the Cross” and could not put the book down.
Each night, as I relaxed at the end of the day, instead of sitting down in front of my laptop, I picked up “Enemies of the Cross” and read until midnight. Fortunately, my wife was in the room with me and that helped keep the “gremlins” at bay. Now, I don’t want to provide any spoilers. To talk about the book is to give so much away. There are many surprises around each dark, shadowy corner and Greg Mitchell has set the reader up for the final book in the series. So, here are my five conclusions about “Enemies of the Cross”.
First, from page one, the story hits the ground running and never stops. There are pauses here and there for character development and to allow the reader to catch their breath. Once the darkness of the lake takes on a more human persona, the story moves with breathtaking speed. Greg Mitchell has set up one suspenseful scene after another and slowly builds the tension and suspense until I ached with anxiety. In a good way! I can tell that Greg loves a good monster story and the pacing of the action scenes keep the reader in “boo!” mode most of the time.
Second, this book focuses on Jeff Weldon, the brother to Dras, the main character in book one. Jeff is the pastor of the local church and Greg does a masterful job of taking Jeff down the slow and grinding pathway to self destruction. Jeff’s obsession with his brother’s fate endangers his church, his marriage, and ultimately, his life. Just as Stephen King took his main character in “The Shining” down the long, dark hallway to the nether regions of madness and violence, so does Greg take Jeff down, down, down into the basement of sin and fury and anger and self revulsion. But, along the way, Jeff has moments of redemption and moments of enlightenment and even manages to share the Gospel with a wayward soul Jeff has drafted into his cause. Does Jeff ultimately meet his doom? Or, does he find redemption? You’ll have to read the book to see what happens in the final conflict between Jeff and “the strange man”.
Third, Greg does so such a masterful job of creating monstrous creatures that pop off the page. He has a fine and delicate balance between describing the creature and leaving enough to the reader’s imagination. I had recently watched John Carpenter’s “The Thing” from 1982 and then the new “The Thing” that came out last fall. Greg Mitchell’s monstrous creations were every bit as terrifying as the images in those movies mostly because of my imagination. Yes, the presence of evil in “Enemies of the Cross” is well depicted and frightening and horrifying. But, the reader shouldn’t let that deter them from reading the book. Just read it with the lights on!
Fourth, “Enemies of the Cross” fills in some of the gaps in the story from the first book. Greg Mitchell left many of the details behind the history of Greensboro out of the first book, I am sure on purpose. He hinted that there was a power behind the sudden appearance of “the strange man” in the first book. In “Enemies of the Cross” Greg brings into the light, the secretive, power hungry entity behind the events that are taking place in Greensboro. He fills in bits and pieces of the history of the town and takes the reader down into the dark places beneath the town where the real evil dwells in service of “the strange man”. The “mythos” is deepened and fleshed out in a very satisfying way.
Fifth, “Enemies of the Cross” shows the corruptive power of sin and evil not only in the life of Jeff Weldon, but in the life of Rosalyn. Rosalyn was left at the end of the first book with the mystery of why Dras tried to save her. In “Enemies of the Cross”, she is still the focus of the strange man’s obsession and throughout the book, he continues to try to possess her. Does she give in? Does she fall to his seductive ways? You’ll have to read the book and find out.
Finally, I just want to say that the power of love shines through “Enemies of the Cross”. Jeff and his wife, Isabella, become increasingly estranged but their love is a triumphant power over the evil in town. And, ultimately, it is the realization that God is in control, even when things are darkest, that strengthens that love.
I recommend reading “The Strange Man” first, if you haven’t read it and then picking up “Enemies of the Cross” the minute you put the first book down. You will not be disappointed. Greg Mitchell has done a masterful job with his story, his “monsters”, and his devotion to the power of God in all of our lives. Now, I’m waiting anxiously for the “Dark Hour” to fall and to see what happens in the final book in the trilogy.
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