I am afraid.
I’m not, pardon the pun, afraid to admit it.
There is a lot of hatred out there.
News. Internet. Blogs. Facebook. Instagram.
A lot of hate and anger.
Most of that hate and anger is directed at Christians. We are the new pariah; the new villain. Christianity is intolerant, hateful, judgmental, phobic. Think of a vile adjective and it has been hurled at Christians.
What is our response? Hunker down. Bunker down. Retreat into our communities of like minded people.
Take a look at one of those inwardly focused communities. There was a class of very religious men. Devout. Faithful to the rules. Pure and clean and undefiled. These men had very little love, mercy, or compassion. In their eyes, if you were suffering it was a punishment. Maybe you were at fault. Maybe your parents. Someone, somewhere was to blame for your misery.
This class of religious leaders were feared by the people over which they presided. They called anyone who deviated from their teachings as hypocrites. When they saw someone suffering, they passed on by. After all, the sufferer deserve what they got!
Into this morass of religious perversion a lone man appeared. He taught something very radical.Read the rest of this entry
I noticed the decrease in the noise coming from outside our airplane. We were about 45 minutes into a 2 hour flight. It was far too early for the airplane to be slowing down for its descent. Along with the change in sound level, I noticed a queasiness in my stomach. I glanced out the window at the cloud level beneath us. Perhaps it was just turbulence. We were supposed to fly over a cold front moving through Alabama toward our departure city, Atlanta. I continued to read my book and noticed the persistence of the queasiness. I am prone to motion sickness and after ten or fifteen minutes I decided there was something not quite right about the motion of our airplane. I glanced across the aisle at my wife. She was asleep as usual. I could never sleep on a flight. I don’t like flying at all. I never have.
“When it’s your time to go, it doesn’t matter if you are in an airplane or not.” I’ve been told. But what if it’s the pilot’s “time to go”? My father passed away in October, 2012 at the age of 98 and he steadfastly refused to fly. Why? Because in the event of a crash he didn’t want “to wake up dead.” Hmmm!
The intercom crackled and this is what the pilot said. “Well, we are on descent for a landing in Birmingham.” Our destination was Shreveport, Louisiana — not Birmingham! “Just to let you know we have lost one of our two engines and we cannot get it restarted. There is no need for alarm because we can fly perfectly well with only one engine. But, we are making an unscheduled landing in Birmingham for safety’s sake and to check out the engine. We’ll be on the ground in ten minutes.”
On the ground in ten minutes. Not necessarily the best choice of words! My heart skipped a few beats and I reached across the aisle and grabbed my wife’s hand. She was wide awake now having heard the entire message. We looked at each other wordlessly. What can you say? We could very well die. If the other engine failed, we became a flying brick — very little chance of gliding to a safe landing. So, we prayed. It was all I could think to do.
Curiously, I was not panicky. I should have been. I was a bit nervous, but that sickening feeling of impending doom never settled in. There was nothing I could do. I was at the mercy of the pilots and their skill level. The flight attendant merely smiled at us. It was a forced smile hiding her own nervousness. As she bustled down the aisle to make sure we were all belted in, the smile never broke. She had made a connection with my wife who is always gregarious and reaching out to other people to know more about them. She put a hand on my wife’s shoulder. “I knew something happened a few minutes ago. But, we are going to be fine.”
We landed without difficulty just like any ordinary landing except for the firetrucks racing down the runway keeping pace with our airplane. We all applauded at the landing and then fell silent at the sight of men clad in silver hazmat suits waiting at the gate. We pulled up to the exit ramp and the flight attendant immediately opened the door. But, the jetway stayed retracted.
“We will sit right here for a few minutes.” The pilot assured us over the intercom. “While the mechanics check out the engine. We’ll let you know in a few moments whether you will be deplaned or if we can get the engine fixed and take off again.”
Take off again? No way! I wanted OFF that airplane. It only took about 5 minutes and the jetway pulled up to the doorway. In the meantime, the flight attendant said over the intercom, “Don’t be alarmed at the fire trucks and the fire men. This is standard procedure whenever there is a engine, uh, engine, uh, malfunction.” The unspoken word was ‘fire’. She kept her cool and never uttered it.
We left the airplane and hurried into the Birmingham terminal. I glanced out the window at our aircraft. The right engine looked perfectly normal — no smoke or fire. My wife and I settled into some seats to await our fate.
Here is where things got very interesting. I am a people watcher. I love to see how people respond in unusual situations. What transpired over the next 4 hours did not disappoint me. The lady sitting next to me settled in beside my wife and they instantly struck up a conversation. I wandered down to the restroom to relieve myself and wash my face.
It took about an hour but the decision was made that a new airplane was being flown from Atlanta to take us on to Shreveport. We landed at 130 PM and we were told the airplane would land about 320 PM. A short, dumpy man sitting next to me began to mumble. “They are liars. Consummate liars. All of them. Don’t believe a word they say. If they are breathing they’re lying!” These comments returned every time there was an announcement. Mr. Grumpy continued to spew forth his vile pessimism endlessly for four hours. Over and over, he called everyone in earshot a liar. As time passed, he added curse words to his mantra. He called up the airline on his cell phone while announcements were being made overhead to chew out some hapless airline employee on the other end of the line. I finally had to get up and walk away.
Eventually we had a departure time of 4 o’clock and my wife and I and her new friend walked down the terminal to find some lunch. We settled down for an hour and my wife and her friend soon exchanged life stories.
Here is my first observation.
Women have an unlimited capacity for bonding together, even between total strangers. My wife and Vicky took only about 5 minutes to establish a level of friendly intimacy it would take a man and his friend to discover in a life time. Meanwhile, the men in the waiting room were either cursing or talking to their business destination about being late, or in one case, talking to a wife to make sure their life insurance was up to date. Business as usual for us, guys. No mawkish emotionalizing on our part UNLESS it was to ream out the airline for delaying our arrival at our destination. Men, we could learn a thing or two from our wives.
After returning to the gate area, I was amazed as I watched three men come to the desk and request some kind of refund or remuneration for the inconvenience of our our delay. Each time, the person was told that giving out cash or vouchers was not the policy of the airline when there was an equipment malfunction. All of these men went away angry and soon our waiting area was host to “twelve angry men”. However, Mr. Grumpy still took the prize. Our new airplane landed at 4 o’clock and we had a new departure time of 4:20 PM. We would be arriving in Shreveport about 5:30 PM four hours later than our scheduled arrival time. I went to the restroom and while standing at the urinal noticed that Mr. Grumpy had arrived at the urinal next to mine. He was still complaining and cursing as he emptied his bladder. I felt sorry for his body parts — they could not walk away from his complaining. But, at least he had one inseparable friend he could complain to who would never talk back!
Here is my second observation.
My wife and I were on a flight from Atlanta to Shreveport when one of the two engines malfunctioned. We could have died. But, the two pilots managed to land us safely in Birmingham. Our inconvenience ended up being a four hour delay. I would say that is more than adequate payment in exchange for our lives! Instead of being grateful we were alive, some of us were demanding money in exchange for inconvenience and others were calling the people who saved our lives “liars” and other names I shall not repeat in mixed company. I leaned over to my wife and said, “Instead of complaining we should all be grateful we arrived safely without incident and we have a flight home on the same day!” Funny how things can change if you have the right attitude!
We loaded up on the new airplane and settled into the same seats. My wife’s new friend sat beside me and asked if I had heard the complaints of “Mr. Grumpy”. Seemed everyone had. He was way back behind us safely belted into his seat and I felt sorry for those who were around him for the duration of our flight home. We had a new crew and the same flight attendant. Just before boarding, I had watched the senior pilot take his bags and walk down the terminal. I wanted to run up to him and thank him for landing us safely. In retrospect, I should have. Instead, all he heard were strident voices of complaining and cursing. The man saved our lives!
After we took off, the flight attendant was delivering drinks and paused to speak to my wife. She told us they had put her on another flight but without a flight attendant, we would not have been able to fly home, even with a new crew. She insisted on finishing out our flight to make us feel more comfortable. She shared all of this with my wife. My wife thanked her for smiling and trying her best to make us feel safe. It was then the flight attendant delivered the bomb shell. She told us she had been flying with the two pilots on our original flight for a long time. And, then she told my wife that those two pilots had just completed training the day before on a flight simulator in, guess what emergency? You got it! They had just trained in the emergent scenario of landing an airplane with only one engine! My wife glanced at me and I got all weepy and wiggly inside. God was in control! This wasn’t a random series of events at all. She smiled at the flight attendant and said “That was God.” The flight attendant nodded. “Yes, I agree.”
Here is my third observation.
And, here my foundational beliefs do bias my conclusions. I recently posted on Speculative Faith and I was not received kindly by some of the commenters. One commenter said that we place too much emphasis on sharing the Truth with a capital T as Christians. That sometimes creating something of beauty is just that. Just go with it! Another commenter said my devotion to defending the truthfulness of the Christian faith was tantamount to being a “talking head”. Hmmm. Maybe all this God talk is overdoing it. Why don’t we just sit back and enjoy the ride?
Let me state unequivocally that everything I believe, everything I cling to, every rational shred of intellect, every emotional feeling of pain or love comes from my absolutely unshakable conviction that there is a God who brought this universe into existence and has designed it and built it for His glory and that He has invited us to be a part of a grand and wondrous Story that is unfolding from the very beginning of time and space until the end of it all. And that God, the triune God of the Bible, can be known, can become a companion that dwells in our laughter and in our light and is always there in our darkest moments even when we choose to be Mr. Grumpy or seek some type of material compensation to salve our tortured souls. It is a sad commentary on our central pride and arrogance that it takes a terrible crisis to make us stop and examine what is real and what is truly meaningful in our lives and that is not hubris or things — rather it is people and souls and time spent in the glow of God’s created beings — our companions on this journey toward forever — that will last beyond this universe into eternity. And, when we arrive at that conclusion and we finally see dimly with God’s eyes this terrible and wonderful Plan that is unfolding around us then we find true joy and true peace. For ultimately God will show us always that He and He alone is in control. He is God and I am not. I’ve seen His job and I don’t want it! Like our stalwart pilot who walked away lonely but triumphant his ears filled with jeers and curses — God endures our grumpiness and our demands for the material and our arrogance and our ego and loves us still and continues to deliver us from the enemy. His amazing love is truly unconditional!
Someone once said that faith is walking to the edge of your circle of light and taking one more step into the darkness. I disagree. Faith is knowing that beyond the failing light of our lives there is more than living and dying in the darkness — for God is there also waiting for us with an open hand to take us safely through the darkness into the ultimate Light of His love and glory. And that step we take, that hand we reach out can only happen because we have seen the evidence of His power and His plan and His love. Faith is acting upon that knowledge and being willing to put aside our own selfish point of view and see the world, the universe, eternity from God’s perspective. When we do we realize that our darkness is His light!
“I’m not as strong as you think I am. I am very afraid.”
Many of you have been kind enough to read my posts about my daughter’s struggle with migraines. At the age of 9, my daughter went through a grueling ten day ordeal in California. She underwent 24 hour EEG monitoring attached to a 25 foot tether and isolated in an ICU room. It was the worst time of her life, she told me recently. Although that event was 17 years ago, her memories of those days remain strong. She now has to go through these tests again, this time for her migraines. When she learned about this back in April, she was adamantly against the tests.
For weeks she has been in limbo, too afraid to face those tests again. I have always regarded her as the bravest person in the world for all of the struggles she has faced with her disease. I was shocked when she told me she was afraid. I shouldn’t have been. In spite of her courage, she is tired of fighting this unrelenting, chronic disease that is robbing her of the quality of her life. But, her two best friends, Angelique and Sarah have agreed to go with her and stay with her if she will have the test.
And so, next week, my brave daughter will once again face the most horrifying days of her memory. Only my wife and her will not be alone. She will have friends with her. Please pray for her next week as she struggles to find the courage and the faith to face this one more time.
I visited the mall in Dallas today that inspired the opening scene in “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolfdragon”. By the way, both “The 13th Demon” and “The 12th Demon” are excellent summer reads. One of my fans sent me an email this past week asking about the next book. He is re-reading “The 13th Demon” to get ready for the next book. Wow! I am humbled.
Anyway, I thought you might enjoy seeing the ice skating rink and the tiered mall where Jonathan Steel, Joshua Knight, and Atchison, the skanky lawyer were sitting in the opening scene. The Chinese restaurant is gone and now replaced with a Subway. Go figure! But, you can also see the maintenance catwalk that inspired the scene. Of course, I am not going to tell you which mall it is. Come to Dallas and explore and you will find it.
Which brings up another development.
Will there be a next book? Yes. I am currently working on a deal to release “The 11th Demon: Cult of the Chimera”. The Jonathan Steel Chronicles is not dead yet! If all goes as planned, you will see the next book right here on this website available by the end of October as promised.
To give you some hint as to what the book involves here are some intentionally vague statements:
The story begins in 1963.
There is an arcane chest filled with an evil secret.
Yes, Steel and company end up moving into Robert Ketrick’s creepy house (from “The 13th Demon”).
You will learn a terrible secret from Cephas Lawrence’s past.
You will learn what drove Theophilus Nosmo King to a life of drug addiction.
Vivian gets a new love.
An old enemy returns.
Finally, you will learn that the Dark Council is NOT the only evil organization in the world!
I will bring periodic updates to the website so keep track.
Resistance is Futile!
My Borg friends will understand this statement. If you are not familiar with the Borg and you are an aspiring or published author, you will probably recognize a better version of this statement: “Resistance is Inevitable!”
In February, I attended the Platform Conference featuring Michael Hyatt. I had the opportunity to sit at the table with Michael (yes, we are on first name basis — at least for my part!) and I had a follow up “coaching” session with Michael four weeks later. What I learned from that conference is priceless. Authors today MUST build their own platform as publishers no longer provide marketing and publicity for their authors. I am also now a member of Platform University and I strongly recommend Michael’s book, “Platform” and considering a membership in the university.
But, what I wanted to talk about in this post is Resistance. Michael devoted an entire hour to this topic and frankly, I didn’t want to hear it. Let’s just say I was resistant to the idea that my writing career meets resistance. That is a huge chunk of denial!
I would recommend buying the book and reading the entire section on Resistance but I’d like to hit a few highlights of how resistance presents itself in my writing:
There are two sources of resistance: external and internal. I have very little control on the external sources of resistance. These are often related to the changing world of publishing. But, these sources can also be very close to home: children, day jobs, aging parents, health issues, etc.
But, there are some forms of internal resistance we should consider:
1 — Writer’s Block. I have NEVER suffered from writer’s block! Ever! For me, it is a matter of finding enough time to sit down and do a “creative” dump of all the ideas whirling around in my mind. But, in March, I took a week off to write and for four straight days, I sat in front of the laptop and did NOTHING! Blank! Empty! So, how do you overcome the resistance from writer’s block? I realized that in my study, I have surrounded myself with creative “cues” that unlock the creative forces in my mind. But, in a strange location those cues are gone. I had to develop another way to stimulate my creativity. So, I just started writing on the blank page — just putting down thoughts and ideas as they flew through my brain. Soon, by day five, I was cooking with gas!
So, what do YOU do to break the writer’s block? Share some tidbits with the rest of us.
2 — Procrastination. Well, I’ll talk about that later.
How do YOU overcome procrastination?
3 — Fear. This is a BIG one. Who am I to write? Where do I get off thinking I can be a published author? What will people think about me when they see what I’ve put down on the page? Do I dare bleed all over the page?
Fear is the biggest culprit for me. Fear of rejection. Fear of criticism. Recently, out of nowhere, an email arrived from someone I’ve never heard of. Turns out this person had somehow gotten their hands on a script adaptation I wrote back in 1988 of a play called “The Living Last Supper”. When I was handed the original play by my fine arts minister at the time, I was told the play was out of print. I was asked to adapt the clunky, sort of King’s English version to a more modern sounding version and to shorten the dialogue so a group of inexperienced deacons could play each one of the disciples. I adapted the script. It was so successful, our church performed it for eight straight years. During that time, I was asked for the script and I shared it, ALWAYS informing the person that it was an adaptation of the original play.
Well, this stranger took me to task for plagiarism. He accused me of passing off my adaptation as the original play. How in the world did he even get a copy of my script? I hadn’t dealt with that script for over 16 years! But, the man insisted I do the “right thing” and withdraw the script and put a disclaimer on my website. So, I did. I did so out of outright fear! What if this man ruined my albeit tiny, but growing writing career by calling me a plagiarist! I realized I had to do the right thing and correct a wrong I was not aware I had committed. But, it was still MY responsibility!
And, here is the final solution for Fear. I always stop and ask myself, “What is the Lie?” Am I a plagiarist? NO! Am I worthless? NO! Can God use me for His work? YES! Fear can be conquered so simply by asking this one question. And, here is why. Who is the Father of Lies? SATAN! Who is the Father of Truth? GOD! And, from fear and anxiety and procrastination and even some of those external sources of resistance, the TRUTH will set us FREE!
Oh, by the way, I seem to recall a little verse that says something like this:
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:6-8 ESV
(I want to be sure and give the proper source so I will not be accused of plagiarism!)
How do you handle fear? Share some of your wisdom with the rest of us!
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!