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O.A.K.

I am afraid.

I’m not, pardon the pun, afraid to admit it.

There is a lot of hatred out there.

Everywhere.

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
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Pottersville — A Return to the Past

I’m finally able to type again after suffering pain and neural tingling in my right hand from a disc herniation. I couldn’t let the year end without a blog post. I’d like to share a short story with you. I’ve often wondered what happened after George Bailey’s friends saved the day in my favorite movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I hope you have seen this movie. If not, please, please watch it before 2013 is history. So, for your enjoyment here is my imagination of what happened to George Bailey and his nemesis, Mr. Potter. And, I know the movie is copy written so this is just for fun. Enjoy!

Happy New Year!

potter

A Bedford Falls New Year!

The jail cell was cold and dank. Someone had forgotten to replace the light bulb and only a few strand rays of limpid light fell through the barred window. Even through the thick, ice covered glass of the window, the man sitting in his wheelchair could hear the revelers outside. He snorted and sniffed in anger as he tried to ignore the voices raised in song and celebration.

He rubbed an arthritic hand over his pale face, massaging his downturned mouth. He blinked his heavy eyelids and peered into the dark shadows of his cell for any sign of relief.

“I want to speak to my assistant, do you hear?” He bellowed, not for the first time. His words fell on deaf ears, swallowed up by the cold indifference to his very existence. “Do you know who I am? I’ll have the sheriff throw every one of you in jail!” He grabbed the wheels of his chair and tried to push himself toward the door to his cell. It was a dark, rust stained metal door with a barred window too far above his head to do him any good. He gasped for breath as he tried to push his chair closer. He was not used to moving his own chair. His assistant pushed him everywhere. He realized this was a sign of weakness. He should never have become dependent on another human being.

He came within an arm’s reach of the cell door and banged his fist against the metal. It was cold and rough with bits of rust. “Let me out of here, I tell you! I own this town! I own the sheriff! I’ll foreclose on everyone of your houses, you vermin!”

A shadow eclipsed the wan light coming from the hallway and a face appeared in the window. “Sir, you need to be quiet or we will have you physically restrained.”

The old man squinted toward the window. “This is outrageous! Let me out of here!”

“I’m sorry, but you have been arrested for theft.”

“I want my lawyer.” The old man wheezed and began to cough.

“It’s Christmas day. We can’t find your lawyer.” The man in the window said. “Can’t tell you how good it makes me feel to see you in this jail cell. I was telling my friend, Ernie, how wonderful it was to actually arrest you and throw you in this cell! Let me ask you something. You own the bank. You own every business in town, but one. Why would you throw all that away by stealing $8000 from one of your own bank customers!”

“It was a mistake, I tell you.” The old man wiped tears from his cheek as his coughing session finally ended. “I found that money in my newspaper.”

“Found $8000 just lying around tucked inside your newspaper? Who in their right mind would let  something like that happen?” The man in the windows asked.

“That crazy old accountant, that’s who. He’s lost most of his mind. He’s daffy!” The old man pointed a gnarled finger at the window.

“Oh, so you saw the accountant put the money in your newspaper? If you didn’t want to steal it, why didn’t you tell the accountant he had misplaced his money? Seems to me, you saw a chance to steal something you could never get your hands on, and you took it. And, I’m not talking about the money. I’m talking about the business . . .”

“I know what you’re talking about! I swore out an arrest for the real thief and he should be in here instead of me. Now, go do you job and arrest him and let me go.”

The man in the window pulled away and the old man heard another voice in the hallway.

“Bert, I want to talk to him.” The old man recognized the voice immediately and his face grew hot with anger.

“George, you should go home and be with your family.” Bert said.

“I need to talk to him, Bert. Just a few minutes.”

The old man wheeled himself painfully away from the door and grit his teeth. How should he handle this? He could still get the upper hand. If he planned this carefully . . . The door grated and opened. A tall man stood silhouetted against the light in the hallway and his shadow stretched across the jail cell and covered the old man in darkness.

“I suppose you’ve come here to gloat?” The old man said. “Well, you can just turn around and go back to your scruffy little family. I’ll be out of here in no time and I plan on launching a law suit against you and your firm that will finally crush your building and loan business.”

George stepped into the room and moved to the side to sit on the room’s only piece of furniture, an old Army cot. He held a fedora in his hands and he placed it on his knee. He wore a nice suit with some fraying of the threads along the lapels and a jaunty tie with red and green bows on it. He wiped at his long face and blinked.

“Mr. Potter, I know that I should just sit here and soak all of this in. Imagine. The great Mr. Potter sitting in a jail cell. Who would have thought such a thing was possible?”

Before Potter could open his mouth something exploded against the outside window. Potter jerked and George glanced over his shoulder. Red pulpy flesh dripped down the outside of the window. “Waste of a good tomato.” George said.

A voice echoed from outside the window. “I hope you rot in that cell, Potter!” Other voices joined in, rising in volume, blending into a cacophony of cursing and threats. A whistle interrupted the voices and Bert’s voice was heard ushering the mob away.

“I suppose you put that unruly mob up to this, George. I’ll add that to the law suit.” Potter growled.

George sighed. “Mr. Potter, I don’t have to say a word for the people of this town to rise up against you. You’ve held so many things over their heads for so long that now you’re locked up, they realize you can’t hurt them anymore. No, I don’t have to speak a word. You are your own worst enemy.”

Potter rubbed his hands together. “Well, I guess you’ve finally won, George. So, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’ll speak to the bank board and the city attorney about this mixup in the money and have them drop all the charges. I’ll even forget the law suit. You can go on taking care of your unruly mob of friends and I’ll get back to the real business of running the business of this town.”

“And, the $8000?”

“You realize it was you’re own dim witted uncle that lost that money?”

“And, it didn’t take you long to find it, right?” George said. “Mr. Potter why didn’t you just call up my office and tell me what happened? We could have avoided all of this.”

“George, your building and loan has been a pain in my backside for years. And, suddenly, I was handed the very tool I needed to bury you.” Potter smiled. “I did nothing wrong, George. It was all the doings of one of your employees. He lost the money and your business should have gone under. I refuse to back down from that. But now that you have beaten me, George, I’ll give in. I’ll put you on the board of directors of the bank and award you a sizable portion of the stock and bond options. You can finally have enough money to get everything you want. What do you say?”

George smiled. “Mr. Potter, last night I almost threw away God’s greatest gift to me, my own life. He showed me that the most important thing in this world is not money or stocks or bonds or positions of power. It’s people, Mr. Potter. Friends and family whose lives have intersected with mine. God has used this measly little old building and loan clerk to change the world, Mr. Potter. And, you want to hear something amazing?”

Potter raised an eyebrow. “Do I have a choice? Go on with your sentimental hogwash.”

“He used you, Mr. Potter. You were part of this grand plan of His, too. Now, when Bert handed me this bunch of papers a while ago,” George pulled out a folded bunch of documents from his inner coat pocket and tapped them against his leg. “I was understandable elated. You see, Mr. Potter, the board of directors of the bank met this morning and stripped you of everything. You are no longer the president and owner. They seized your stock and bond options. Then, the bank turned over all mortgages and loans to me. Imagine that, Mr. Potter. The world has turned upside down. I’m in charge of this town now. Not you.”

Potter gasped and his face grew pale. “I don’t believe a word you’re saying.”

George stood up and placed the papers in Potter’s lap. “See for yourself, Mr. Potter. You’re finished, kaput, gone with the wind. You’ll spend the rest of your life right here in this cold, dank jail cell. Even your own assistant turned against you and right now, the sheriff is searching your home for more hidden skeletons in the closets.”

Potter grabbed the papers and squeezed them tightly as veins stood out on his forehead. He hurled them aside and they separated in the air, raining down on the floor in a gentle susurration. “You scurvy little rat! This is far from over, Bailey.”

“I’m afraid it is, Mr. Potter. I’m afraid it is. Now, if you are interested in turning your life around, all you have to do is say a little prayer for help and my friend, Clarence will help you gain a new perspective on your life.” George walked toward the door.

“Who’s this Clarence?”

“An angel, Mr. Potter.” George paused and looked around the cell. “There is one thing you were right about. I came her to gloat. But, I realize I’ve been given a second chance at life so I can’t hold anger and bitterness against you anymore. Mr. Potter, I forgive you.”

“Forgive me? How dare you!” Potter sputtered.

“You might want to consider asking for forgiveness for yourself. Because, when I close this door, either you’ll spend the rest of your days with an angel. Or,” George slowly closed the door until only his face could be seen through the tiny door’s windows. “you’ll spend it with your own private demons. Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter.”

Potter opened his mouth to respond as George disappeared. He glanced around at the dark shadows of his chamber. “Me, ask for forgiveness. Never!” He screamed. “Do you hear me, never!” His voiced echoed into silence and through the window he heard the voices of people singing Christmas carols. “Never!” He whispered.

The papers stirred around his feet and something moved in the blackest corner of his cell. He peered into the shadows and two tiny red eyes blinked.

“Seasons Greetings, Mr. Potter!” a raspy voice echoed through the chamber filling Mr. Potter’s heart with an unfamiliar sensation, dread.

A Desperate Plea!

loneliness_by_mehrdadart

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.

satan2

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!!!!!

 

joy

Just Another Plankeye!

I was interviewed on Nightwatch Radio Tuesday evening. Todd and Hugh and Johnny and I had a great time talking about monsters and movies and comic books. Eventually, the subject of religion came up. After all, I am a Christian and my Christian fiction book, “The 12th Demon” was the subject of the interview. I found it interesting to hear the usual attitudes towards average “Christians” from Todd. And, I can’t blame him! That reputation is well earned. Todd was very gracious in his comments and I had to agree with him. As a Southern Baptist, I can talk about Southern Baptists. But, my comments on today’s blog go beyond my denomination to all denominations of the Christian church.

You see, the accusations that are always aimed at us are universally recognized. They are represented by such words as judgmental, arrogant, holy roller, Bible thumper, and so on and so on until the “H” word is finally uttered. HYPOCRITE! As an apologist, one who defends the truthfulness of the Christian faith, I can’t possibly count all of the times I have heard the number one objection to someone becoming a Christian: “All of you Christians are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites!”

HypocriteI’m in the middle of examining the teachings of a simple carpenter; focusing on his words of wisdom and trying not to focus on his “religious” claims. As I stated in earlier posts, no matter what our station in life I think we can all agree that these teachings of Jesus of Nazareth can be applied to every human being. And, the world would be a much better place if we did. So, just what is a hypocrite? Here is a definition of hypocrisy:

“the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French ypocrisie, via ecclesiastical Latin, from Greek hupokrisis ‘acting of a theatrical part,’ from hupokrinesthai ‘play a part, pretend,’”

 

Anyone who claims to have certain moral standards OR to adhere to certain beliefs and then acts in the opposite manner is a hypocrite. Interesting. Nowhere in that definition does it say: “A person professing Christianity who acts in a manner contrary to the teachings of Christ.”

Although I would certainly say that the above statement would be consistent with a hypocrite, hypocrisy is NOT CONFINED to religion. In fact, I would claim that every single human being on the face of the planet is a hypocrite. We all espouse a high system of behavior or beliefs but we routinely violate those principles with our actions. A simple example would be the claim that I do not lie. Yet, when my wife asks me “Does this dress make me look fat?” I wisely choose to be a hypocrite rather than to become a fool!

What did Jesus have to say about this? Or did he even address it? After all, he was a religious person. And, in the minds of most people if you are religious then by default you are a hypocrite. Was Jesus a hypocrite? Let’s see what Jesus had to say as recorded by his disciple Matthew.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

“You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.”

 

On and on, Jesus used the word, hypocrite. And, here is what is interesting. Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders of the day! He was calling them hypocrites because their behavior and their religious claims were totally at odds. In fact, it was because of these kind of statements that angered the religious leaders that contributed to his death.

It would be very easy to apply these teachings to those of us who practice religion in the 21st century. But, I believe the lessons of Jesus of Nazareth cut both ways. In fact, I would say that his accusations of religious hypocrisy also could apply to our behavior towards one another in general. Look at the specific truth in each of the above statements:

First, we crave recognition for actions that should best be kept to ourselves. When we pray, it should not be for recognition but a private affair between us and God. When we give to those in need, it should not be for recognition but because it is the right thing to do.

Second, we want to tell someone what they “should” do but we fail to stop and look at our own behavior first. What set of circumstances gives us the right to tell others what they should be doing? Frankly, we should practice what we preach!

Third, we set up rules and regulations, just as the Pharisees did, and then follow them to the letter disregarding the necessity for us to ALSO show mercy and forgiveness. Rules are important but never more important than the needs of the one person they are going to hurt or destroy.

Fourth, on the outside, we often appear perfect, polished, poised, collected, in control but more often than not inside we are dying. We are often the walking dead; filled with regret, shame, doubt, fear, suppressed anger, and the like. This one category alone describes almost all of us and we are all hypocrites in this respect. What if we lived in a world where we were honest about our faults and our doubts and our shortcomings? What if we lived in a world where we truly had to rely on each other to get through the day? What if we lived in the kind of world that Jesus longed for us to have — a world of mutual respect, kindness, mercy, openness, giving, and compassion?

Fifth, you don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate these realities. In fact, when we call other people hypocrites, we are ourselves becoming a hypocrite, setting ourselves up as morally superior when in fact, through our judgmental, arrogant attitudes we have just become a hypocrite!

helping-handThis Christmas season, let’s listen to the teachings of Christ. Let’s look at each other through his eyes and see the person within that may be hurting or in need of just a little love and compassion. That could be the greatest gift we could give to someone this holiday season!

The Shadows of Depression Falling, Falling, . . .

The days are growing shorter and night flies across the world in record time. These are the dark days; the cold days as winter and its death grip tightens across the land. As wonderful as the holiday season can be, for some of us, the lengthening shadows bring the cold, hard press of depression to our souls. In a time when we should be thankful and happy, sadness tinges our every thought.

I understand. I have been there and I battle the teasing touch of depression every day. But, I have developed a plan that helps me battle depression on a daily basis. This plan was born out of my two years of counseling and with the help of my Lord. Today, I spoke at length with Armstong Williams on the coming epidemic of depression that is sweeping our land, particularly our young adults. How do you combat this depression?

Let me share some thoughts.

First, invest some time and effort into a creative endeavor. Write a song. Sing a song even if the only person in the audience is the shower nozzle. Write a poem, a letter, a blog post. Pick up some crayons and a coloring book. Find a way to give a special gift of your own making to that loved one this Christmas. Creativity utilizes a totally different part of our brain than that part which is more cognitive and intuitive. Exercising creativity brings a balance to brain chemistry. And, its fun. When you are depressed, you seldom do anything that is fun. Now is the time to indulge yourself. Even if it is to make a cool, colorful ice cream sundae with lots of colorful sprinkles!

Second, take a technology fast. Turn off the cell phone and tuck away the ipad. Don’t message any one for an hour. Go outside and take a walk in the cold sunshine or read a real book. Better yet, try a REAL interaction with someone instead of a virtual interaction. We are becoming increasingly isolated from real contact due to Facebook and Twitter and texting. But, we need to touch and talk to and listen to real people in real time in person. Scary, but I suggest you try it before you forget what it is like to sit at a table with your best buddy and talk over coffee.

Third, invest your time and energy in something that transcends your life. Find a cause that helps others. Serving others can be the best diversion from depression. And, when you invest in a cause that is greater than yourself; that will have lasting impact beyond your life; it gives you perspective. You will find others that may be worse off than you and a smile and a helping hand is what you are looking for so give that to them. Find someone who is suffering from depression and help them out by sharing and talking to them. They might have good advice that will help you. And, vice versa. Turn your “tragedy” into “triumph”. Redeem your depression!

Finally, turn loose of that grudge or that unforgiving attitude. In my book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon” the character of Raven is an assassin who started out as a little girl in love with God. Because of some tragedy in her life, she moved into a life of crime, killing for a living. In the process, because she could not forgive, she died inside. Like the vampires in my book, she is the walking dead; dead inside; dead spiritually; dead emotionally. Until she meets up with Jonathan Steel, a man from her past who reminds her that there is a Love that transcends hurt and death and evil. Being unforgiven has left her numb and depressed. Can she ever find forgiveness? Is there some deed so horrific; so heinous that God cannot forgive? Can you ever find peace?

Like Raven, this question is true for all of us. There are always those in our life we should forgive. And, there are always those in our life who should forgive us. Think about that and if you can find it in your heart, forgive. If you can find the strength, ask for forgiveness. You will find the sudden rush of holy wind that floods your soul will rejuvenate your dying spirit; it will fill you with new life; it will blow away the dregs of depression and leave you healed and restored.

Don’t spend another day as the walking dead. Start conquering depression right now!

 

This holiday season, check out “Conquering Depression: A 30 Day Plan for Finding Happiness” available in all bookstores and through all ereaders. If you’re looking for a good fiction book for someone, check out my first book, “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” and the newest book, “The 12th Demon: Mark of the Wolf Dragon”.

 

CBA – ICRS — Authors, Singers, and Forgiveness — Afternoon Part 1

Be sure and read both parts 1 and 2. But for part 1 of the afternoon, I want to focus on the Membership Luncheon.

First, though, I won a bin of books from the Christian Author’s Network worth $600!

The membership luncheon focused on three things: a tribute to two members who passed on this year, a review of where the future of stored based sales is headed, and a mini concert by Matthew West. For my readers interested in Christian fiction I’ll cover some of the comments of the director of the DBA and the chairman of the board. The Q&A session mainly focused on the future of retail sales of books. The main theme of the DBA for the future is “MORE” so they focused on the idea of making the brick and mortar book stores more than just a receptacle for “foot traffic” but insisted the future is for these stores to move into a role as part of the community. This can be done by adding in areas for people to see the stores moving out and doing things in the community. An example is participating in fund drives and promoting “causes” that illustrate the “love of Christ”. The phrase I hears was “People support businesses that support things they care about.”

 

To that end, the DBA is emphasizing a week of reaching out to the children in need of food in our communities with an emphasis on that ministry the week of Sept. 30 through October 5th and it will be called “Christian Store Week”. He asked that any author who had a favorite “cause” should approach the stores and link support of that “cause” with a store appearance — either as a book signing or a book reading or an offer to donate the “profits” of the author’s book sales to that charity for that day. How this is done through the stores was a little beyond me. They used some fancy terms about “rounding up” the cost of the book and taking the difference between the rounded up price and the list price as using that as the “donation”. The point is that if YOU are interested in being a part of this emphasis, that week would be an excellent week to contact a book store and see if you can participate and support the store.

Another term that surfaced was “showrooming”. In this phenomenon (I am guilty of) the reader comes in and browses books. They then leave and purchase the books on Amazon. They emphasized that there are developing technologies at this year’s show that allow stores to capture those sales by allowing them to be made while in the store and the store gets “credit” for the sales. I believe this model is in place for the Nook and Barnes & Nobles stores. Also, they said that publishers now refer to themselves as “content providers” not just book publishers.

Overall, they did not lament the current state of affairs over E-Book sales. Rather, they were ecstatic that Christian writers and artists were selling content that was of Christian origin, no matter who sells it.

Next, Matthew West go up and sang a few songs. What was moving to me as a writer was the projects Matthew has been involved in for the past two years. He started out asking for stories from his listeners that would serve to inspire songs he would write. He was anticipating “a couple of hundred but we ended up with over 20,000.” He sang a couple of songs I recognized and then introduced his newest song “Forgiveness”. Here is where it got really moving.

 

He showed a video of the story on which the song was based. A mother lost one of her twin teenagers to a drunk driver. She started traveling the country speaking out against drunk driving and the driver received a jail sentence of 22 years. But, she felt moved by God to go and forgive the man. She did and he became a Christian. Eventually, she asked that his sentenced by halved so he could join her in her new ministry. Matthew then sang the song “Forgiveness” based on the story. At the end, he asked someone to come up on the stage and it was the mother who told the story! It was incredibly moving. Not a dry eye in the house!!!

 

And, that was lunch! Talk about getting full!

The End of the Night

I am working furiously on “The 12th Demon” and there are vampires. Then, today’s prompt for storypraxis intrigued me so I wrote this short, short story that captures some of the flavor of the characters in “The 12th Demon”. I hope you like it!

the end of the night

“Why haven’t you ever asked to drink my blood?”

Sebastian glanced at our reflection, rather my reflection in the train window. “We are friends, Jon. I’ve never looked upon you as dinner.”

I pulled his cloak up around his shoulders. He was slumping in the train seat, his cloak rumpled, his hair askew and his features haggard. Gone were the imperious, powerful facial expressions of the vampire I had known for months now. “You look terrible, you know.”

Sebastian shrugged. “I’ve looked worse. You should have seen me during the Crusades. Kill or be killed. Drink or die. Blood everywhere. I was an unholy mess.”

I glanced at my watch. Ten minutes. “Why are you doing this?”

Sebastian turned away from the utter darkness outside the train window and his burgundy eyes were moist. He blinked and patted my hand. “It is time. There is always a time to cease; to pause; to exhale.”

“You don’t inhale.” I said.

Sebastian smiled and his fangs were visible. I glanced around at the other passengers on the train, all still and ensconced in their private worlds. Who would he have eaten? Which mortal would he have claimed?

“I could give you just a little.” I held up  my wrist.

Sebastian pushed it gently away. “Do not tempt me, Jon. You are the reason I have chosen to die, you know.”

I felt my heart quicken. “Me?”

“Yes, you. Pulling me into your world of arcane investigations. Proving to me that their are monsters worse than I in this world. Showing me that the future of mankind is hopeful and you will prevail in time over the creatures of night and blood and death like me.” He turned back to the window. “How long now?”

“Six minutes.”

“I never chose this lifestyle, Jon. It was thrust upon me. But, I chose every victim over the centuries. Some reluctantly. Some with glee. You have given me Choice again. I don’t have to be this way anymore.” He sat upright in his seat and turned so that his gaze was fully on me. His eyes glowed with his power. “Do you think there is a place for me in heaven? Or, will I live forever, again, with the damned in hell?”

I swallowed under the intensity of his gaze. “I cannot answer that, Sebastian. I refuse to believe you have no soul. I refuse to believe that God’s forgiveness would be denied even you. I have to believe that even Judas could have claimed forgiveness.”

He nodded and released me from his gaze. I relaxed. Never would I feel those eyes on me again. I glanced at my watch. “One minute.”

Sebastian adjusted his cloak and his ascot. He ran a hand through his dark hair and like magic, it was straight and full. He was suddenly himself, his powerful vampire mastery filling the air with electricity. “So, it is morning in France?”

“Yes, we will be out of the Chunnel any moment now.”

Sebastian reached over and turned up his palm. “I have prayed to your God, Jon. I seek His forgiveness. We shall see if He will take me in this new morning at the end of the night. Tell Lydia she has chosen a good man in you. Will you hold my hand?”

I took his cold, frigid hand in mine and he turned his gaze fully on me. Light glimmered out the window for a second and with a lurch, the train passed out of the tunnel into the countryside of France. Sunlight gushed in through the window and fell upon Sebastian’s shoulders. He closed his eyes and waited.

Nothing happened. No fire. No ash. No explosion of flesh. His cheeks flared with crimson and his hand suddenly grew warm in mine. I gasped and released it. He opened his eyes. They were bright blue. His mouth fell open and my eyes grew wide. His fangs were gone. He turned and looked out the window and the morning sun fell full on his face. He looked through his own reflection and smiled.

“Jon, I am forgiven!”

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