Sometimes I stand in the darkness and feel its power. It is smothering; dampening; oppressive; crushing all hope. Today near dawn, I stood in the darkness and felt the power of that hopelessness. This is not the world I anticipated. Gone are the tenets of unselfish love; of benevolence; of respect for others — religious beliefs included; of manners and kindness; of true love. Gone is my God, seemingly erased and eradicated by a new god that looks back at me each morning from my own mirror and from the countless perfect snapshots of a billion selfies. Gone is kindness and empathy and warmth. Gone is dialogue in the face of endless monologuing.
“You saved my life.”
I’ve heard these words before. Usually, they come from a total stranger through an email or a letter; someone who has picked up “Hope Again” and the LifeFilters and found them an answer to a desperate prayer for help. Let me be honest. I NEVER take such a statement lightly. Every time someone expresses this to me or to Mark Sutton, I am equally shocked and humbled.
This past Sunday, I shared a story with my family at our annual Hennigan Family Christmas Party. I won’t detail the story. Just know that the point of that story was to share with my family how a seemingly painful and potentially fatal encounter in my childhood served as the source for something I did later in life that had a profound influence on the lives of others. In this case, four veterans of World War II and an elderly woman who had lived in bitterness for years because of anger over losing her brother in the attack on Pearl Harbor. In both cases, a simple scene in one of my plays echoing that event in my childhood had the unexpected consequence of bringing these people profound peace and reconciliation.
Granny Wendy: So… your adventures are over.
Peter Banning: Oh, no. To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.
It was January, 1992 and I was lost and alone in Los Angeles. In looking for the hospital hosting my radiology meeting I had somehow ended up in East L.A. a most unsavory and dangerous place. In the days before GPS, I had to rely on a map and somewhere I had made a wrong turn. I said a silent prayer for safety and slowly made my way through the prostitutes and drug dealers converging on my vehicle. God was with me that day and I made it safely out of that area of the city and found my destination. At the end of the meeting that evening, I hit the interstate and headed back toward my hotel on the grounds of Disneyland. There, I would be safe and protected from the harsh world of reality I left behind. There, I would find magic. And, I desperately needed some magic in my life.
Even though I had only reached my mid thirties, a deep and darkening oppression eclipsed the California sun. My wife and two small children were tucked safely at home back in Louisiana and this country boy was a stranger in a strange land. I could not shake the feeling of dread and depression as the days passed even though I was staying just across the street from the “Happiest Place on Earth”.
And so, I decided to go see a movie. Just down the street in Anaheim I entered the darkened theater and sat through a showing of “Hook”, Steven Spielberg’s dedication to all things Peter Pan. And, in that movie, I found something deeply disturbing. I found myself. The character of Peter Banning, once the young, impulsive Peter Pan, had grown older and his self absorbed exterior of narcissism and type A behavior was disturbingly familiar to me. In one telling scene on an airplane, he chastises his son:
Peter Banning: (To his son, Jack) Jack, my word is my bond.
Jack: Yeah, junk bonds! [Jack hits the ceiling door in the plane with his ball, and causes the oxygen masks to drop down and scare Peter half to death]
Peter Banning: What in the hell’s the matter with you? When are you gonna stop acting like a child?
Jack: [laughs] I am a child.
Peter Banning: Grow up.
I did not realize it at the time, but I was already descending into the shadow world of depression. In just three years, I would spiral downward, every downward into complete and utter self destruction. By 1995 I would experience a total meltdown.
I bring this up because the actor who played Peter Banning was, of course, Robin Williams. To say I, like many in the world, was greatly disturbed by Robin Williams’ suicide is an understatement. Robin Williams was one of the funniest men in the world. His frenetic and manic antics made so many of us laugh. But, I knew, I just knew what was really going on inside that head. I knew because I have many of the same inclinations as Robin Williams. He has spoken many times about his depressive episodes and how he used his laughter to cover up the tears. Unlike Robin Williams, I was blessed to never fall into the world of addiction. But, I did find myself face to face with the specter of self imposed destruction.
Recently, someone very close to me heard the voice of destruction. I cannot share who this person is, but they shared with me how they heard a voice as if someone were sitting on their shoulder and urging them to hurt themselves. We discovered that this inclination was due to medication. And, thankfully, once the medication was changed those voices lessened and hopefully, will go away.
I have heard it said you should always “follow your heart”. But, I want to caution anyone about listening to emotions. Emotions are temporary. They change like the seasons of the year or the angle of the sun during the day. Our “heart” can often hear the voice of our emotions and we should be very careful what we listen to. In our previous book, “Conquering Depression” Mark Sutton and I have spoken often about the danger of making major decisions based on emotions. If my dear loved one mentioned above had acted on those voices, those emotions, the outcome would have been catastrophic.
I saw a Tweet about Robin Williams. It showed another famous character of his, the Genie from Aladdin. An image showed the Genie hugging Aladdin and the words reflected the idea that as the Genie, Robin was finally “free”.
Let me caution anyone very carefully, as I am sure Robin Williams’ family would, that contemplating self destruction is never the best answer for gaining “freedom”. There is a lie here that death is somehow a better alternative than living everyday with emotional pain. Remember, emotions change and they can BE changed. Mark and I will soon be releasing our new book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression”. What has amazed us over and over are the testimonials of those who read our previous book and felt that it “saved” their lives. Something in our book changed their emotional outlook.
I mean, how can you even wrap your brain around that outcome! Something I experienced; something I worked through with the help of God and my family and friends; something I endured in spite of the voices calling for me to give into the terminal darkness; something I managed to write about — to bleed all over the page — to bear my soul has helped someone in their moments of utter despair? Thank you God for allowing me to have that outcome. And, God I pray now for anyone who is feeling the heavy hand of self destructive emotions and I pray for every family touched by suicide for peace and understanding and the strength to endure.
For, I believe anyone can find hope again. I will miss Robin Williams. I am sorry his pain was so unendurable that he chose the path he did. For those of us left behind struggling with a world that seems absolutely insane; a world that makes no sense at times and yet, a world that still has moments of peace, tranquility, and hope — my prayer for you is that you NEVER make major life changing decisions in the heat of your emotions. Pause. Pray. Think. And reach out to someone for help!
This blog post will appear on our Conquering Depression website. And, we have not spoken about our current book on that website because the new book is coming out. But, if you need help now — please seek it. Talk to your doctor. Talk to your family. Talk to your friend. Buy a copy of “Conquering Depression” and use the LifeFilters. It’s only about $10 and then, you can pick up the new book in September. But, don’t wait for help. Get it now!
To Robin Williams’ family I say thank you for sharing this incredible man’s talents with the world. I close with another quote from “Hook” — a movie that made me see that I had to become a child again and see the world through the eyes of my children:
Peter Banning: [sees Tinkerbell on the Peter Pan statue] Tink!
Tinkerbell: Say it, Peter. Say it and mean it.
Peter Banning: I believe in fairies.
Tinkerbell: You know that place between sleep and awake? That place where you still remember dreaming?
Tinkerbell: That’s where I’ll always love you… Peter Pan. That’s where I’ll be waiting.
We all need to believe in something. If you have followed my blog and if you check out our new website, you know Who we believe in! And, He is waiting to give you hope again!
Bad news first!
We are experiencing an epidemic of depression in the United States. That shouldn’t be a surprise! What is really worrisome is the level of depression among our “millennials”, those who are between 20 and 30 years of age!
In February, 2001 Mark Sutton, my former pastor and co-author and I were privileged to publish our book, “Conquering Depression: A 30 Day Plan for Finding Happiness”. Within a few months, the world would change forever with the events of 9/11. In the years since our book came out, we have seen it become a “strong backlist seller”. What that means in publishing lingo is this was a book that wouldn’t die! Publishers give books about a two year shelf life unless they end up on the best seller lists. Our book never made it to the best seller list but it just kept on selling.
First, there are no good practical books on depression for Christians. Trust me. I know. When I went though my depression back in the late 1990’s the only books I could find were far too clinical and used “case studies”. Frankly, it was like trying to read a textbook! When you are depressed the LAST thing you are able to do is to read a textbook! Read the rest of this entry
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.
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.
Summer is here along with the heat and humidity. I wrote in my last post that soon I will launching a website dedicated to depression and our new upcoming book, “Hope Again: A 30 Day Plan For Conquering Depression”. So, I dug through my previous posts and found this little story I wrote for the now defunct website, Posterous. It is set in the dead of winter, a reflection of the cold, dead feeling one can experience with depression. But, it is a story of hope!
Awake My Soul
I do not move.
I am quiescent and still.
Movement for me is pain. Life is pain.
The trees outside are harsh and bare. Winter has stripped them of vigor and life. Gray fingers claw at the even grayer sky. Even the clouds do not move. The air is still. No wind. No breeze. No life.
My daughter has placed me here on the porch. I feel the sting of cold on my cheeks but I can ignore it. I have ignored all feeling for months now. Since Tom died, I have had no reason to move.
My daughter has wrapped a scarf around my neck and tucked it into the woolen sweater Tom gave me last year for Christmas. I can still smell him on it when I choose to acknowledge my sense of smell.
The air is so cold, it numbs my face. The numbed is numbed even more.
“Why is she out there on the porch?” That is my son-in-law inside the warm house.
“I’m tired of her, Richard. I can’t take this anymore.” My daughter has tears in her voice. I cannot feel them. I cannot touch them. The tears mean nothing to me.
“She’ll freeze to death.” Richard says.
“That’s the idea.”
There is a profound silence. And then, subdued sobbing; quiet, subtle.
A white flake shimmies down the still air and lands on my nose. I choose not to feel it melt. So intricate, so beautiful in its design — one of a kind — it dies on my cold skin. It dies on the already dead. For, she has left me to die out here alone; cold; still; frozen.
The sliding door opens behind me and a waft of warm air bathes the back of my head. I cannot feel it on my neck for the scarf. Richard’s shadow falls over me from the lights inside the house; lights that try in vain to chase away the gray.
“You’ll have to forgive your daughter, Mom.” He says behind me. “She is very frustrated and wants to leave you out here to die.”
“I’m already frozen.” I whisper and he leans over me. His breath touches my forehead.
“Did you say something?”
“I’m already frozen.” I said more strongly. “Let me finish dying.”
My lips pull apart and I realize they have frozen together. I feel the pain as the first real sensation I have experienced in months.
Richard squats beside my wheelchair and for a second, I choose to notice the strong profile of his face; his angular cheekbones; his gently stubbled chin; his clear eyes. He is watching the trees.
“Winter is hard for all of us, Mom. Spring is coming. I want to tell you a secret. It is a deep and abiding secret that no one can know.”
More flakes are falling now and caressing my cheeks. I choose not to feel their gently touch. One lands on my cornea and I blink involuntarily. I must not do that again. But, try as a I might to ignore his statement, the attraction is there. What secret is he talking about?
“What secret?” My voice is a bare whisper.
“Virginia is stressed out because we have chosen to take a journey. It is a long and tedious journey and we will be gone for weeks. She doesn’t know what to do with you during that time. She can’t leave you alone. And, she isn’t going to leave you out here to die.” His breath streams away from him, a living thing full of warmth and moisture and the snowflakes eddy and swirl.
“Rawanda. In Africa. There is a little girl. She needs a family.” He turns his head to me and his gaze is full and hot on my face. Tears mingle with the snowflakes. “She needs to know her grandfather. She needs to know what he was like. Only you can tell her that.”
Another snowflake hits my eye and melts. The moisture runs along my eyelid and I feel a hot tear trickle down my cheek. No! I cannot let this happen! I cannot feel!
“Will you come with us to Rawanda? Will you come with us to get your granddaughter?” His eyes are full and round and wet and the snow is covering his bare head, peppering his shoulders.
I feel something deep within stir from a slumber of unforgiving anger and frustration. The black dregs of my depression begin to drift away as the warmth stokes itself in my heart. No! I want to scream. No! I want to hold onto the stillness; the inertia; the coming of winter’s death. I try to ignore Richard’s gleaming eyes and his warm breath and when I subtly avert my gaze a flash of bright red burns my retinas. A lone flower dares to challenge the grayness from my camellia bush. The snow flakes are covering it now and it wants to be seen; it wants to look upward to the hidden sun for life and warmth; it wants to live.
The chair creaks; the ice breaks across my knees and I push, push, push up and out of the heaviness of my crypt of sorrow and I stumble to the flower. I brush away the snow with shaking hands and my tears anoint the petals with life. With life!
Awake my soul!
I turn to my son-in-law who is standing with his mouth wide open and the snow covering his head and my daughter stumbles through the open door with her hands pressed to her tear streaked face and I feel the ice crack as I smile. “When do we leave?”
A week or so ago, I posted a blog sort of in answer to another blog post by a young, millennial atheist. Her blog is fascinating and necessary reading for anyone who professes to be a Christ follower, especially if you call yourself a “religious” person. Here is the link to her post: “This is Why We’re the Atheist Generation”. Well, I got slammed from well meaning “Christians” and from “atheists” who refused to return to the “manacles of the mind”. The comments came so fast, I decided to pull the post and regroup. But, there was one comment from a writer and novelist whose book I reviewed in the past. I asked her if I could post her comments as a guest blog. I find that her analysis of the current state of the church and its relationship to the twenty somethings out there is spot on. I asked if I could post her comments and I encourage every professing Christian and every church goer (whether a practicing Christian or not) to read her comments with a fresh mindset and respect. It gives us all great insight into what our “church” is doing wrong and what it is doing right in today’s world. I find it ultimately encouraging.
Millennials Leaving The Church: The Story of a Child of Evangelicals
Laura K. Cowan
for Bruce Hennigan 6/15/14
I am the child of Jesus People, radical hippy Christians, who were near-original members in a charismatic, evangelical church that grew out of an ecumenical Protestant-Catholic community in the Sixties. My parents lived in Christian communes with their friends, pooling their money, praying together with Catholics in a setting I didn’t realize was rare until I grew up (grateful for that example of unity), reaching out to the community around them to share their faith. Sounds a little weird but all right, doesn’t it? I think most people’s hearts were in the right place. I know a lot of wonderful people who came out of that movement.
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.”
I am broken and sobbing as I sit here before the bright and brilliant screen of my computer. It has been a hard summer and early fall. Health issues have clouded the sunny world I usually inhabit. Pain and fatigue have blunted my optimistic outlook on life. In the midst of the pain and crises of the past few months, there have been moments of rapturous joy. We finally closed the book on the cause of my daughter’s seizures and now, on a new medicine, she is finally blossoming and growing into the full person God intends for her to be. That alone should be enough to fill my cup with joy and thanksgiving. But, I am, after all, a Hennigan. My late brother once repeated a phrase from, of all places, HeeHaw (if that name means nothing to you, count your blessings!). “That Hennigan luck strikes again — if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!”
The rosy outlook I have on life is but a patina barely covering my pessimism and paranoia. I am always looking over my shoulder or waiting for the other shoe to drop. I can’t relax and just accept that God has finally answered my prayers for my daughter. What does that say about my reliance on God? God’s answered prayers just aren’t good enough? Isn’t it so typically human to focus on the bad at the expense of the good work God has brought to our life? When God delivers we are immediately grateful but then we, like Oliver, hold up our bowl and say, “Please sir, can I have some more?” When is God’s bounty every good enough?
I have had several brushes with death this summer. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t quite that bad. But, at the time, I wasn’t so sure. Crushing chest pain cannot be taken lightly. Sky high blood pressure isn’t something that will be cured with a couple of Tylenols. My poor wife has suffered through so much with me, with our daughter, and with her mother this summer. Through it all, she has managed to maintain a sense of total and complete reliance on God. She is fortunate to not have the Hennigan “luck”. I thank God for her every minute of every hour of every day.
Which brings me back to now. Here I am sitting before my computer. My co-author Mark Sutton and I have finished an update to our depression book. The cover has been chosen. The bios are adjusted to reflect the changes in our careers since 2001. The release date is set in stone. This is happening! Mark has completed his final edit of the book and sent it to me and now it waits patiently for my final ministrations. This should be one of the happiest moments of my writing career.
But, all I can see are the cracks in the cement. I am flailing away at my other book, “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” trying to get that book out before the end of the year. I am dealing with publicists and cover designers and editors. I am excited about the book. I think it is, hands down, the best book I have ever written. I am stoked about the message — the care with which God protects us from the enemy and his lies. The indisputable fact that God has placed His hand on us and has given His angels the charge of protecting our fragile state.
But, I also know the reading market has softened when it comes to these type of books. Maybe it is the glut of zombies and vampires and magic and fantasy in the world right now. Maybe Christians are tired of reading such Christian speculative fiction. I don’t think so. God is in the Story all around us. I have made sure God is in my story; my book. But, will anyone buy the new book? Will all of my hard work be for nothing? Am I just wasting my time and God’s time?
Such doubts haunt me. They make me pause as I begin to place my hands on the keyboard. These thoughts seize my mind; frigid now and cold in despair. Walk away, Bruce. You are a failure. This is a waste of your time. Go watch television. Go play a video game. Go eat something. Forget this fight against the enemy.
Do you feel my despair? Has this ever happened to you? Just when you are on the brink of massive success in the name of God, you give up and walk away?
Then, like a spark of warmth and light; a flickering ember of hope rose from the ashes of my perceived failure. I stumbled (Right! As if there are really such things as coincidences!) across Laura Story’s newest album. Her song, “Blessings” was a salve for our wounds when we were dealing with our daughter’s illness. There in the list of songs on her newest album was a simple title, “He Will Not Let Go”. I clicked on the song in iTunes and listened — and wept! Here are the lyrics:
It may take time on this journey slow
What lies ahead, I’m not sure I know
But the hand that holds this flailing soul
He will not let go
There may be days when I cannot breathe
There may be scars that will stay with me
But the deepest stains, they will be washed clean.
And He will not let go.
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay
When grief has paralyzed my heart
His grip holds even tighter than the dark
I’ve heard it said
This too shall pass
The joy will come
That the hurt won’t last
So I will trust
That within His grasp
I am not alone
For He will not let go
Go to http://www.laurastorymusic.com and purchase this new album RIGHT NOW! Listen to every song; every word. For here in this song, God has brushed away my pain and my sense of failure. God’s light chases away the dark, smothering lies of the enemy. God shows me in the struggles and triumphs of another believer’s life that I too can be victorious over this moment of paralysis.
And so, I put my hand to the keyboard.
I put my mind to the task of putting BOTH books out there. Someone needs to hear the message God has placed in the simple words of this broken man; this sinner saved by grace who is walking a path he never chose to walk.
Each word I type, each thought I convert to words on this page; each drop of blood that falls from my wounds leads to the foot of the cross — to my Savior. When I feel gravity grip me and the fall is coming I stop for a moment suspended in doubt and I close my eyes and I see the nail scarred hand reaching out and taking mine in its terrible but powerful grip and I remember with tears in my eyes and endless gratitude in my heart that He will not let go!